Category:architecture

September 1, 2012

Running Presidential Fence

rnc_fence_narrativemag.jpg

I'm really trying to get this writing thing done tonight, but I just have to point out that Richard Smith's photo of the Secret Service's six-mile perimeter fence at the RNC in Tampa is awesome. It's like if Christo and Serra were cellmates and Cady Noland was their baton-wielding guard.

Fence Comes Down [narrativemag]


UPDATE:

Speaking of Running Fence, there are two historical markers in Marin County commemorating Christo & Jeanne-Claude's 1976 project.

Marker_for_Running_Fence2.jpg

Marker_for_Running_Fence.JPG
see full size images at the Wikipedia entry for Running Fence. Please.

This anniversary marker is located in the quarter-acre Watson School Historic Park in Bodega. An outdoor vitrine contains an installation photo by the artists onto which was added the following text:


Running Fence
September 10, 1976

On September 11, 2001,
the Board of Supervisors of the
County of Sonoma selected this
site to commemorate the contributions of
Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Their vision,
dedication and
perserverance made
the Running Fence
possible. This art
project consisted of:
42 months of collaborative efforts with ranch property owner participation, 18 public hearings,
3 sessions at Superior Court, an environmental impact report and the temporary use of the hills, sky, and ocean.
Rising from the Pacific Ocean south of Bodega Bay the 19 foot high 24.5 moile long Running Fence ran west to east,
following the rolling hills of Marin and Sonoma counties to the Colati ridge.
[Format and italics original.]

Watson School Park is currently listed as closed for renovation. It is not known whether the marker is affected.

Christo_Running_Fence_Marker.jpg

Meanwhile, in December 1976, the County Landmarks Commission in Sonoma designated Pole #7-33 as Historic Landmark #24, and installed a bronze plaque [above] that reads:

CHRISTO'S RUNNING FENCE
September 10 through September 21, 1976

A majestic work of art, 18 feet high 24-1/2 miles long, which extended east-west, near Freeway 101 at Cotati on private property of 59 ranches following the rolling hills, crossing 14 roads, through the town of Valley Ford, and dropping down into the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay. Conceived and financed by Christo, Running Fence was made of 165,000 yards of heavy woven nylon fabric cut into panels 18 feet wide by 68 feet long, hung from a steel cable strung between 2050 steel poles set 62 feet apart. Each pole was embedded 3 feet into the ground and braced laterally with guy wires and earth anchors. The lower edges of the fabric panels were secured to the bottom cable. All parts of the structure were designed for complete removal and novisible evidence of Running Fence remains on the hills of Sonoma and Marin Counties today. This pole #7-33 was erected permanently by Christo at the request of the citizens of Sonoma County to commemorate this historic event.

The County's landmark information lists the site as "containing steel pool [sic] from original art installation."

running_fence_pole_gmap.jpg

I believe this is it, next to the post office. Looks like it's presently being used as a flagpole.

Oh, the Bodega bay Heritage Gallery has a photo of the fancier plaque on the other side of the pole. Also, Running Fence was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Remembering Running Fence was on view in 2010.

If moving it away from that mural didn't destroy its context, I would definitely replicate that, as is, stanchions, flag and all. Maybe a vinyl wallpaper photomural would work.

burden_small_skyscraper_basel.jpg

It's been installed on his Topanga Canyon compound for a while, but Chris Burden's Small Skyscraper (2003) will be on view in Pasadena, at the Armory Center for the Arts. Its dimensions, 35 feet high, with <400sf of floor area, were determined by the LA County zoning regulations for the largest structure allowed without a building permit. The work arose out of bureaucratic frustrations Burden faced when trying to construct a studio on the rural property he bought in 1991.

Though the Armory Center's website calls it "quasi-legal," noting that the outbuilding exemption Burden used has since been changed. And it's not clear that his "hypothetical domestic use" or "added design features, such as a low roof parapet" ever complied with the code in the first place.

Once it crosses his property line, then, instead of this function-based envelope pushing, Burden's transgressive interest transmutes into the sculptural. As he told Helen Stollas for The Art Newspaper,

At first, they [i.e., Burden and the architects Linda Taalman and Alan Koch, who approached him about showing an unrealized architectural project] considered developing it into an actual habitable structure, with sliding glass doors and a one-man elevator. "But I pulled back from that. I like it as more of a sculpture in the shape of a building," he says. "It's in that grey zone it; it could be a building, but when Mr Inspector comes knocking you say, 'Well, that's not a structure, it's art.'"
Which neatly mirrors an actual legal battle being waged at the same time in Southport, Connecticut, where the local historic district filed suit claiming that the 40-ton concrete & rebar sculpture collectors Andrew and Christine Hall had installed on their waterfront property constituted a "structure" and thus required a [love this] "certificate of appropriateness." [The State Supreme Court agreed with the town's argument that it had jurisdiction because the sculpture "is 'affixed' to the land by virtue of its own 'multi-ton weight' and the force of gravity" (emphasis added for awesomeness). The Halls removed the sculpture, loaning it to a 2007 Kiefer exhibition at Mass MOCA.]

Burden's building code experiment also serves as a nice, East Coast-West Coast, LA throwdown to New York's OG, the grandmaster of all zoning envelope illustrators, Hugh Ferriss.

ferriss_four_stages.jpg

The Four Stages, Ferriss's 1922 renderings of the Zoning Code of 1916, not only revealed to architects and developers how New York's first skyscraper regulation constrained the size and shape of their projects; they predicted the city's envelope-maximizing future.

Which is nice, because Burden says there's talk of bringing Small Skyscraper to New York. He told Stollas that there are actually two extruded aluminum-and-2x4 Small Skyscrapers now: the California one, built for a 2003 exhibition at LACE and since installed in Topanga; and a European one, installed for ten days in Art Basel in 2004. "Since it was cheaper to just buy new materials when the work was shown in Switzerland, rather than ship the existing work over."

Look, I'm as stoked as the next guy to see Burden's sculpture, but why would any exhibition of it be predicated on the mere existence of two of them? Will it ever be cheaper to transport a Small Skyscraper than to build it locally? No. So why not build it? Why not build a hundred of them, a thousand, all over the place, a distributed city of Small Skyscrapers, wherever the zoning allows?

Or why not turn them into a platform, use Small Skyscraper's beautiful, minimalist, economical form to map out the invisible bubble of unregulated space and use across the country? Just type in your zip code, and the Small Skyscraper website will automatically generate plans for you to build the biggest permit-free structure/sculpture/structure/sculpture possible in your jurisdiction, too. Marin's would be a doghouse, invisible from the street, while Houston'd be all hey hey, how big you want it? [If you get sued or fined, though, you're on your own.]

But I guess that's my project, not Burden's. Actually, it also turns out to be the dream of Columbia GSAPP's Kazys Varnelis, and probably of any and everyone who's ever bloodied his head against a building code:

Perhaps, we imagine, after a confrontation with the authorities, Burden's audacity might be accepted as his own business and, as our fantasy continues, we hear the sounds of construction in backyards citywide as hundreds, even thousands of small skyscrapers rise into the sky, turning the city into a latter day San Gimignano.
The reason Burden says "there is some talk of bringing them to New York" has less to do with Ferriss or LA or architectural libertarianism, and everything to do with the fact that there are now two Small Skyscrapers. And, because, as "Burden adds, when installed together, they somewhat resemble the Twin Towers."

Sulcptural skyscraper build through a legal loophole [theartnewspaper]
Chris Burden | Small Skyscraper runs from 8/11 [through 9/11] til 11/11 [armoryarts.org]

July 17, 2012

Twin Towers

Add Damian & Cosmas' importance to Joseph Beuys and his renaming in 1974 of the then-new World Trade Center towers after the twin physician saints to the list of things I did not know about but probably should have.

From Marina Warner's generous discussion of Damien Hirst in the LRB:

[Hirst] is named after the patron saint of doctors (usually spelled Damian), who, with his twin brother Cosmas, performed the first surgical transplant when he grafted the leg of a Moor who had fallen in battle onto the stump of a white Christian knight. This operation, depicted on altarpieces in the saints' many churches, can't be consigned to the antique glory hole of weird Catholic legend, for it was crucial to Joseph Beuys's dream of revolution: a vision of inter-racial fusion, of the resurrection and reconciliation art can achieve. In one of his works, Beuys eerily renamed the two towers of the then newly built World Trade Center after the brother saints: did he do so in some wan hope that the towers could be transfigured into instruments of good?

Beuys, needless to say, is second only to Duchamp in importance to the current philosophy of making art.

Needless to say, I would have known if only I'd been a little more faithful in my Brooklyn Rail reading. Because that's where I found David Levi Strauss's thorough, if slightly Nostradominous, discussion of Cosmas und Damian, Beuys' multiple [?] based on a 3D postcard of the Twin Towers.

beuys_cosmas_damian_card.jpg

Once A Catholic... [lrb.co.uk]
IN CASE SOMETHING DIFFERENT HAPPENS IN THE FUTURE: Joseph Beuys and 9/11 [brooklynrail.org]
David Levi Strauss's essay was also just republished as one of those 100 chapbooks from documenta 13 [amazon]

July 14, 2012

Mike Mills Photo-Murals

mike_mills_murals_thehundreds.jpg

So I start looking around for installation/shop shots of Aaron Rose's Storage Unit Fire Sale, which just opened at Known Gallery in LA, and what's the first thing I see? At The Hundreds?

That's right, not decks or kicks or posters. Photomurals. By Mike Mills.

They're vinyl prints, of course, as most giant images are these days, but they are rather awesome nonetheless.

Except technically, they're not by Mills, but of him, spraypainting his messages in his suit. There's "Let's all be human beings," and "Stop Hiding." I called about them, and learned there's are some other ones, "Love is worth it," and "Neither of us can get to heaven unless the other one gets in," somewhere. Ah, here's the latter, in Ann Duray's coverage at Juxtapoz. I like the way the low-res original fits with the vinyl inkjet. Meanwhile, yow, Duray's also got a picture of a larger-than-life full-length of Terry Richardson. Roll that one back up.

mike_mills_known_juxtapoz.jpg

And then that huge pink and white image up top on the opposite wall is also by Mills. Before the Known guy could look them up for me, I found the images on Mills' website; they're all from a 2004 show at the Mu Museum in Eindhoven titled, Not How When or Why But Yes.

Mills mentions the "cross-disciplinary work" of Charles Eames as an influence, but then only mentions furniture, "architecture, films, exhibitions and toys," not art per se. And he's expressed some wariness toward the gallery-centered confines of the art market. Though he's since married Miranda July, who has since been making sculptures that have turned up in public venues, the Biennale, etc.

mike_mills_mu_museum_inst.jpg

Which, it's not clear how he considers these awesome prints, but I bet he'd not think they're art objects in the commodity sense, just large prints, souvenirs from the show that were too awesome to trash in Holland. And then what was that giant, plush reclining Buddha sticking his/her head out of that Mu Museum installation, right? D'oh, no way, scroll down to the last photo there. It's in the show and for sale, too! Rose really stored that thing for eight years? That's gotta be $10k right there. Impressive.

It's kind of interesting to see things outside the "gallery system," though, and how they're considered and discussed--and shown and priced and bought and sold. In the case of these murals, they're unique, and pretty cheap--$1,400 or so, and the big pink one's like $5,000. They roll up for easy storage.

One Man's Treasure [thehundreds.com]
Aaron Rose Fire Sale at Known Gallery [knowngallery]
Graffiti, Mike Mills, 2004 [mikemillsweb.com]
Not How When or Why But Yes,

burton_crystal_palace.jpg

Check out Charles Burton's 1851 proposal for turning the first modern building into the first modern skyscraper:

Design for converting the Crystal Palace into a tower 1,000 ft high! in commemoration of the World's Fair and as a repository of science, art, manual and mechanical operations.
Which is all well and good. I'll let skyscraper historians figure that one out.

I'm wondering if there was a commonly discussed plan to install a replica of Stonehenge in Hyde Park, though, or if this, too, was Burton's innovation.

burton_palace_stonehenge.jpg

The crazy era slips piling up in this one painting make me wonder if this was bought in 2011 by a time-traveling 1990s Verne Dawson.

Lot 171: C Burton, 19th c, sold for £6,600, 19 Jan 2011 [bonhams.com via things magazine]

ALL HAIL SAURON

Nice hack. I didn't realize James Bridle made the awesome ALL HAIL SAURON placard at the The Shard laser show; I just thought he spotted it.

Anyway, Phil Gyford thinks placards could become a platform, a way to integrate protest into the fabric of everyday life. It'd be fresher, he argues, and less invisible than bumper stickers or t-shirts.

And as much as I'd love to see Barack Obama get met in the Oval Office by someone wearing a Katharine Hamnett-style STOP THE WAR ON DRUGS or STOP FRACKING t-shirt, I think it only underscores the point that such deployments are still rely on a media to make or preserve their contextual power.

I don't think that's what Gyford's suggesting, though; his placard-a-day proposal is speaking truth to power by everyone speaking truth to neighbors and people on the street.


Of course, imagine placards manage to catch on, and to survive the regulation and censorship that already befall t-shirt wearers and bumper sticker sporters, who've been kicked out of public [and privatized public] spaces and fired from their jobs and blurred out of reality TV shows. They'd get professionalized--in fact, they already are. The "it's not a billboard; it's a hapless guy with a sign!" free speech loophole is the advertising medium of choice for apartment complexes and suit outlets.

Or it used to be. Now it's public performance art and a highly evolved sport. Last year San Diego-based Aarow Advertising held the 1st Annual World Sign Spinning Championships. The company's founders, then 18-yo, say they invented signspinning in 2002 as a way to save themselves from what was "pretty much the worst job in the world," standing on a busy corner holding a sign.

anf_noelyc.JPG
image via noel y.c.

As for the rest of us, how many people would communicate anything different than the message of whatever corporate brand tribe pushes their buttons correctly? Placards would become shopping bags with worse ergonomics.

helmut_lang_shopping_bag.jpg

Which reminds me, I just found this OG Helmut Lang shopping bag in our storage unit. I would totally carry that into every Prada store in town. STOP PATRIZIO BERTELLI.

Placads for everyday life [gyford via dan phiffer's twitter]

Welcome to another episode of The VW Years, greg.org's ongoing mission to seek out firsthand accounts of John Cage and Merce Cunningham's VW Bus.

These are some mentions of John Cage in The Living Theatre: Art, Exile, and Outrage,, John Tytell's 1995 history/biography of Living Theatre founders Judith Malina and Julian Beck, which were compiled by Josh Ronsen and posted to silence-digest, a Cage-related mailing list in 1998:

"At the end of September, they visited Cage and Cunningham who had expressed an interest in sharing a place that could be used for concerts and dance recitals. Gracious, unassuming, the two men lived in a large white room, bare except for matting, a marble slab on the floor for a table, and long strips of foam rubber on the walls for seating. The environment reflected their minimalist aesthetic. Cage proposed to stage a piece by Satie that consisted of 840 repetitions of a one-minute composition. He advised them not to rely on newspaper advertising, but to use instead men with placards on tall stilts and others with drums." --pg 72

...

"the only person Judith admitted caring about was John Cage, "mad and unquenchable" with his "hearty, heartless grin." With Julian, she visited Cage in Stoney Point in the Hudson Valley. ... Julian thought Cage was the "chain breaker among the shackled who love the sound of their chains." Cage collected wild mushrooms, which Julian interpreted as a tribute to his reliance on chance as much as to his exquisite taste. ... [Paul] Williams wanted to help them find a new location that Cage and Cunningham could share with The Living Theatre." -pg 121

"In the middle of 1957, they saw Cunningham dance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to Cage's music. At a party afterward, C&C laughed all night like "two mischievous kids who had succeeded in some tremendous boyish escapade."" -pg 125

"[they] visited Cage in Stoney Point, where they made strawberry jam and gathered mint, wild watercress, and asparagus for dinner. Feeling a surge of confidence in his own writing, he [Julian] gave Cage a group of poems to set to music." -pg 128

"With Judith, Julian, Cunningham, and Paul Williams, John Cage drove from "columned loft to aerie garage" in his Volkswagen bus, smiling despite the traffic and the fact that their search was now in its 4th month. Finally, they found an abandoned building, formally a department store on 14th st and 6th ave, which Williams declare would be suitable for sharing as a theatre and dance space." - pg 129

"Early in December, with Cage's assistance, [Cunningham] moved some of his backdrops into the space. Cage brought with him a variety of percussion instruments--he owned more than 300 at that time--which he donated to the theatre. Julian thought there was a distance about Cage that prevented intimacy and the fullest communication, but he felt Cage's gift was a real sign of the artistic support that would be crucial to the success of The Living Theatre." -pg 140

June 16, 2012

Corcoran Fire Escape

corc_firestairs.jpg

Last fall, right after posting a 1958 press photo of a temporary fire escape stair set up in MoMA's Sculpture Garden, I went to the Corcoran in DC.

And look at that, they have a nearly identical fire escape tucked right in back there, by the vacant lot that once held their future. I suspect this is the staircase Sanity used when she fled the Corcoran board room several years ago.

Previously, slightly related: "epic-scale scaffolding" at the NGA

lichtenstein_sachs_bath1.jpg
Roy Lichtenstein, Composition, 1969, image via sothebys.com

With the confluence this week of an incredible-sounding retrospective in Chicago and a bonkers-sounding sale at Sotheby's, I was reminded of one of the weirder things I stumbled across during a dive into Leo Castelli's papers at the Archives of American Art: the bathtub Roy Lichtenstein was commissioned to make for the St. Moritz penthouse of awesome playboy industrialist collector photographer wackjob Gunter Sachs.

According to a letter Sachs sent to Lichtenstein from Paris on October 3rd, 1968, the two had met in Southampton that summer, and they'd already discussed commissioning some paintings for the soon-to-be-legendary Pop Art penthouse Sachs was constructing in the tower of the Palace Hotel. While Avedon and Warhol were creating portraits of Sachs' 2nd wife, the then still-smokin' hot Brigitte Bardot, Lichtenstein was given the bathroom.

Specifically, Sachs wanted him to make some enamel painted panels to go around the tub and sink in the master bath. And he had put together some ideas:

If you permit I would propose that the painting on the large side of the bathing-tub (60x200 cm) should show a girl's face, perhaps with tears in her eyes, looking at a lake with a swan - a kind of modern Leda. On the little side of the bath (60 x 110 cm) I could very well imagine, e.g., a sunset or a moonset over a calm lake. The painting under the lavatory (60 x 200 cm) could figure a landscape in a thunder-shower. In all these paintings, however, it is very important that you respect accurately the dimensions indicated below in centimeters and inches.
OK, then! Anything else?

RL_crying_girl_M1965.18.jpg
Crying Girl, 1964, enamel on steel, via milwaukee art museum

At first I was kind of blown away by Sachs' audacity to dictate the contents of the images, but then I figured that these were all close enough to subjects Lichtenstein was already doing at the time that it might not be so WTF-ish. [One of the artist's first attempts at enamel-on-steel production was Crying Girl, a painting produced in a multiple of 5, in 1964.]

Oh, and also, there was this: "As I am obliged to finish the apartment before Christmas, it is very important that I get your paintings till November 2nd, 1968." And he'd run the deal through Ileana Sonnabend in Paris.

Apparently Castelli, Lichtenstein, and their lawyer all jumped to work, because a contract went back to Paris within the week agreeing to sell one set of drawings and authorizing Sachs to fabricate one single set of enamel panels at his own expense, with payment due in full upon receipt of the drawings.

And then they hustled the drawings to Sachs' Paris secretary, even though the contract hadn't come back. And Sachs wasn't replying to anything at all, and then in December there's this increasingly testy series of letters demanding payment and signed contracts, which have not been forthcoming, even though the drawings were hurriedly finished and delivered.

"I must tell you that Roy is personally offended by your failure to act," wrote Lichtenstein's lawyer Jerald Ordover. A lawsuit was threatened, even though both Leo and Roy found it "most distasteful."

licht_leda_sachs.jpg
Leda and the Swan, 1969, enamel, 61x311cm, image: roylichtenstein.org

It's not clear how, but things must have worked out, because the works exist. And they turned out pretty much just as Sachs ordered them. Leda and the Swan [above] is two steel panels that could fit around a tub. And the sink piece, Composition [top], was actually in the Sotheby's sale Sachs' family held this week, a year after Gunter took his own life rather than succumb to what's believed to have been Alzheimer's. [It sold for 541,000 GBP.]

UPDATE: Oh, this is interesting. Here's part of the Sotheby's catalogue description for Composition:

Lichtenstein, alongside Warhol, sought a pictorial vocabulary embedded in modes of mechanical reproduction. However, unlike Warhol, who pioneered the silkscreen process to transfer his images to canvas, Lichtenstein set out by magnifying and transferring his sketches by hand in a painstaking process that insistently removed all the expressionistic detail of brushwork, further divesting the image of naturalistic representation. Composition, based on Collage for Leda and the Swan, 1968, is a consummate example of Lichtenstein's Modern Paintings series and of this technique of reproduction.

...

As Lichtenstein played down the idiosyncrasy of the artist's hand in favour of uninflected surfaces that replicate the look of the machine-made, we are compelled to venerate the movement and melody within this picture's unique composition. [emphasis added on the parts that are not applicable to this artwork.]

Ah, no. These panels were authorized by Lichtenstein, but fabricated by Sachs. Here's Gunter: "For the technical execution of your design in enamel I found an excellent German manfuacturer who will be able to transform your painting in a congenial work of Modern Art."

And here's the artist's attorney, Jerald Ordover, writing:

to set forth [Lichtenstein's] understanding of the terms of your commission to him to create the designs, in the form of working drawings, for the fabrication of three (3) enamel plaques...

...You are to have the plaques made from the drawings at your sole expense.

Which, yes, having them fabricated sight unseen in a German factory from drawings is certainly a process for insistently removing the expressionistic detail of the brushwork that plays down the idiosyncrasy of the artist's hand. And almost as interesting as the painstaking process by which the auctioneer insistently claims the artist's hand as a selling point, especially on work where the reason it looks invisible is because it was explicitly absent.

licht_leda_drawing_sachs.jpg
Nov 10, 2011, Lot 225: Collage [sic] for Leda and the Swan, image: sothebys

And the market seems to notice. Last fall Sotheby's actually sold Collage for Leda and the Swan, a full-scale work on paper for the short end of the tub [60x110cm]. Sachs had apparently gotten rid of it early, because its provenance shows it floated through several dealers' hands before settling down in 1989. Though called a collage, it looks to me like a straight-up drawing, overflowing with artist's hand. Which drew pencil lines, then traced them with marker and filled in the rest with acrylic. And it's signed. So it sold for $446,000.

allen_jones_sachs_chair.jpg
Lot 14: Allen Jones, Chair, ed. 6, est. 30-40,000 GBP, sold for 836,450 GBP [!!]

And though I haven't been able to find installation shots wacked out bondage furniture artist Allen Jones tells Sotheby's that he saw them in situ:

Gunther Sachs invited my wife and me to stay in his penthouse at the Palace Hotel, St Moritz, soon after he had acquired my sculptures. It was the most ritzy place I had ever been in. One wall of the apartment seemed to be entirely glass, with a breathtaking view of the Alps. There were Lichtenstein panels round the bathroom, a flock of Lalanne sheep on the carpet and the set of my sculptures. Giovanni Agnelli was at the party and wanted to stay in the penthouse, but Gunther had said that the Joneses were there. Agnelli, thinking that he meant my sculptures, said "don't worry, I won't touch them!" Prominent in the apartment was a large, bullet-proof glass panel with one side splintered in several places. Gunther used to stand behind the glass and invite close friends to shoot him. Their names were inscribed on a plaque next to the glass.
Hahwwhawaitwhaa? Are you kidding me? Where is this bulletproof glass panel and plaque now? Because THAT is what I want to buy.

gunter_sachs_tub_bvogue.jpg

UPDATE UPDATE: OK, maybe my problem is I gave up searching for photos before the Sachs auction. Because in a preview article for the sale, British Vogue ran a 1991 photo by Sachs, of a Leda and a swan in the tub. I didn't realize the Lichtenstein panels went around the base of the tub; I thought they were backsplash-type deals. But with those views, well.

Also, Vogue gushes about "Roy Lichtenstein kitchen-unit fascias and bath panels," which what? I guess the delay in payment wasn't a fatal blow to their friendship, or maybe Sachs commissioned a kitchen from the artist as a make-up. Or maybe a bar, because who needs a kitchen, it's the Palace Hotel, and this bar in the S&M living room looks very Deco-era Roy to me.

sachs_licht_bar_bvogue.jpg

And finally, Vogue doesn't mention a plaque, but does say that guests who shot at Sachs would autograph their bullet hole. And if these aren't bullet holes made by the glitterati of Cold War Europe, then why are they in Sotheby's promo video?

gsachs_bullet_sothebys.jpg

While trying not to steal his thunder, let me just post the awesomely vivid ending to LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne's review of Williams + Tsien's unavoidably flawed Philadelphia museum building now housing the art-centered educational institution known as The Barnes Foundation:

Imagine if the Barnes trustees, in the name of improved access to a supremely great but historically cloistered collection, had declared they were going to produce replicas of its paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and Van Gogh and hang those in a new building on the parkway.

The howls of protest would have been loud and immediate. The idea wouldn't have lasted five minutes.

And yet the notion persists that re-creating buildings is somehow more reasonable or at least less obvious and that new rooms can be made to impersonate old ones without much aesthetic risk. That copies of paintings belong in gift shops and on refrigerators, where their fakeness is self-evident and salable, while copies of buildings can go blithely along pretending to be real. That architecture somehow is different.

Memo from Philadelphia: It's not. [Emphasis added for awesomeness.]

I got a million and 99 problems with The Barnes Foundation, but copying ain't one. Barnes's spaces and installations are geared entirely around the pedagogical system of close looking and cross-referencing which he oversaw. Which makes for a suboptimal museum because it was supposed to be a non-museum by design.

Meanwhile, I love that this fakeness all happens next door to the Rodin Museum, which is full of copies, thereby blithely refuting Hawthorne's analogy without making it any less valid.

Architecture review: A poor replica of Barnes Foundation museum [latimes]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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Category: architecture

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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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Printed Matter, NYC
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