Tasty Chandigarh Bookcase

Lot 270, Toomey & Co. design auction, 13 dec 2022

Where has this Pierre Jeanneret teak and steel and glass bookcase been all my life? The Central State Library, you say? Can you loot three more to match?

Suddenly I’m rethinking my moral objections to the emptying of Chandigarh for the aesthetic enrichment of the bourgeoisie of the west. [oh wait, I already rethought it.]

[A couple of obsessed hours later update: there is another. A similar bookcase was sold at Christie’s in Paris in November 2021. It had the same estimate, was in what looks to be less attractive condition–and sold for EUR225,000.

The lot essay says Jeanneret’s “crenelated shelves of the Central Library display case recall the undulating glass panels and alternating railings of the interior architecture he had designed.” Hmm. Here is a photo of the cases installed in the library.

Interior views of the Central State Library, Sector 17, Chandigarh, India by Pierre Jeanneret, photo: Jeet Molhothra, via CCA

Lot 270: Bibliothèque from the Central State Library, Chandigarh, est. $30-50,000 [toomey]
Previously, very much related, in that they’re Chandigarh pieces I want: Chandigarh Find

From The Thumbnail Files Of Mr. Walker Evans’ Paintings

Walker Evans, [House with Gridded Panel and Palm Trees], Oct. 14, 1958, tempera on panel, 16×20 in., collection: metmuseum.org

Walker Evans the photographer also painted. Yesterday, art historian/hero Michael Lobel tweeted a selection of Evans’ paintings from the Metropolitan Museum, which holds the artist’s estate and makes copyright claims on it.

The quickest way to describe Evans’ painting is to say he was in the School of Jacob Lawrence. There are 17 paintings by Evans at the Met, plus photos of one–and probably two–others, plus one by his second wife. All are stylized, spare, and flat, painted in tempera on paper or panels. Unlike Lawrence, who often includes figures and crowds in his tempera paintings, Evans’ are landscapes and homes, and buildings, empty of people.

Continue reading “From The Thumbnail Files Of Mr. Walker Evans’ Paintings”

Schindler Pink By (Claudine Schindler and) Stephen Prina

Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It, 2011, installation view, Secession, Vienna
image: Wolfgang Thaler

You may remember Stephen Prina from such blog posts as Stephen Prina’s Exquisite Corpse: The Complete Paintings of Manet helped inspire the 1:1 scale certificates of authenticity for Facsimile Objects.

I remembered him today as Stephen Prina made two housefuls of Rudolph Schindler furniture and then monochromed them all the 2011 Color Of The Year, PANTONE® 18-2120 Honeysuckle.

What I’d forgotten about Prina’s 2011 show at the Secession in Vienna [which also showed a] was that it was based on a memory from the 1980s of stumbling across a Schindler built-in desk that had been painted pink, and which had been ripped from its original site, and put on display in a La Brea Avenue shop window.

Continue reading “Schindler Pink By (Claudine Schindler and) Stephen Prina”

WilliWear Showroom by SITE, 1982-87

Screenshot of SITE’s WillieWear Showroom and a building they scavenged, from James Wines’ GSD presentation. photos: probably Andreas Sterzing

SITE founder James Wines spoke at Harvard GSD last night for the first–but hopefully not last–time in his 90 years. [It was great, and available online. s/o Alexandra Lange]

Though SITE is most frequently brought up in an architectural context for their BEST Products stores, a project that jumped out at me from Wines’ talk was the 38th Street showroom he and SITE partner Alison Sky created for WilliWear, the groundbreaking ’80s street fashion label of designer Willi Smith. SITE and Smith both had a love for found materials, salvage, junk, and the fabric of the city. Wines talked about how Smith took him on inspo trips to seedy gay clubs on the West Side, and then they’d jack construction material, hardware, plumbing, fencing, bricks, you name it, which ended up artfully installed in the showroom.

Those do look like shackles, but perhaps they’re just abandoned stevedore gear from the piers? Screenshot of a model in SITE’s WilliWear showroom, from James Wines’ GSD talk

SITE’s simple genius was to #monochrome it all out, painting everything a highly aesthetic, and flattering backdrop grey. A runway rulebreaker, Smith used the showroom for fashion shows, too, which, Wines giddily announced, included much nudity.

Screenshot, ibid.

SITE has used the monochrome strategy in other contexts, to great effect; Wines mentioned how it helps make the public notice each other, and to look good to each other. He didn’t mention Warhol, though, or the Silver Factory, which had a similar effect almost twenty years earlier.

And he didn’t mention if a young Cady Noland worked as an intern at WilliWear, or as a fashion reporter cutting her chops covering these performance art-like shows. But this urban hardwarescape is definitely putting off a Nolandian vibe, which is something I’d not considered before.

Cady Noland, The Clip-on Method, Summer 2021 exhibition at Galerie Daniel Buchholz

Wise also didn’t mention SITE’s design for the Willi Smith retrospective at the Cooper Hewitt. Which, the much-anticipated show opened, haplessly, at the beginning of March 2020 and existed–I can’t say it was open or closed–until the end of 2021. I can’t find any photos; maybe no one saw it in person?

He did mention Rauschenberg as an American Arte Poverist and an inspiration, which Hilton Als had just mentioned, too, in his review of the JAM show at MoMA: “if there is a Black aesthetic it’s about making do, and using what little you have to express who you are.” JAM was Smith’s era, but it’s not clear if it was Smith’s jam; there don’t seem to be any mentions of JAM or Linda Goode Bryant in the Willi Smith Community Archive (yet).

Screenshot of Willi Smith’s office by SITE, featuring what is now called the De-Arch Desk, made of brick, mortar, paint, and glass, from James Wines’ GSD presentation

I did not see the Willi Smith desk turn up in Miami last year. Wines recreated the pile of scavenged bricks and glasstop desk from Smith’s office for Friedman Benda. It is/was available in an edition of 10, though I think he’d respect a bootleg. If you want to head out to a construction site tonight, I’ll bring the car around.

Margaret McCurry Lectureship in the Design Arts: James Wines [harvard.edu]
SITE site [sitenewyork]
Willi Smith: Street Couture [cooperhewitt.org]

Here Are The Coordinates For Michael Heizer’s City

 38°01'59.5"N 115°26'37.0"W 
a screenshot of the googlemaps image of the above coordinates, which is where the label for michael heizer's city used to be until aug. 22, apparently. maybe just not going is the best flex at this point.

Which has apparently been removed from Google Maps? [h/t @bbhilley]

Previously, related, from 2005 (!): Earth Art via Satellite
cf. Peter Morse’s early roundup of looking for Earth Art via Google Maps [archive.org link]
2002: arguing with the guy who wrote for Artforum about not being able to find the Spiral Jetty [sheesh, I was insufferable, but so was everybody else. 2002 really was another internet country.]

Isamu Noguchi’s Stonecutter’s Ceiling

Stone House, 1972, by Tadashi Yamamoto and Masatoshi Izumi, Mure Japan, image: Yoshi Makino/Cereal

Searching for Isamu Noguchi ceiling is highly recommended.

In 1972, the Noguchi’s longtime collaborator, Masatoshi Izumi, built a house next to the artist’s at their stonecutting yard in Mure, Japan. Izumi, who descends from a long line of stonecutters, worked with a plan by architect Tadashi Yamamoto to realize Stone House. Jared Frank wrote about it for Cereal Magazine:

This salvaged cylinder [made from local aji stone, and the basalt core of the first sculpture Izumi and Noguchi created together] still bears the scars of its violent removal, and is the physical and spiritual core of Stone House. It supports a slender truss system that floats over the walls. Painted red at Noguchi’s urging, the grid is flagrantly hi-tech in contrast with the low-tech stonework. Equal parts Superstudio, Cedric Price, and Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture Without Architects (1964), Stone House is a compelling, one-of-a-kind synthesis of competing trends in late modernist thought and design. To this day it remains both timeless and distinctly 1972. Noguchi appropriately dubbed it a “modern temple.”

Here are more of Yoshihiro Makino’s photos of Stone House. And a 2018 tumblr post with photos from a Japanese magazine feature.

I went to Noguchi’s Museum and house in Mure when we went to Naoshima in 2006, but I did not know to put Stone House on the itinerary. [1 hour of google map searching later update: it is not next to Isamu-ya, Noguchi’s reconstructed Ed0-era house. I feel better about missing it.]

All The Noguchi Ceiling Of New York

The bedroom of Isamu Noguchi’s studio/house in Long Island City, as photographed by Hans Namuth in 1962 for the New York Times Magazine. via noguchi.org

Since 2020, when the last of a series of worse real estate developers finally removed what was left of the site-specific waterfall and aluminum louvered ceiling Isamu Noguchi designed in 1957 for the lobby of 666 Fifth Avenue, we thought New York had lost its last Noguchi ceiling.

No. There is another.

Isamu Noguchi photographed in his live-work space in Long Island City by Dan Budnik in 1964. The bedroom is in upper left. image: Noguchi Museum Archives via theartnewspaper

The Art Newspaper reports that the Noguchi Museum will restore the artist’s studio and house in Long Island City, and open them to the public for the first time.

Included in that house–really, a living space carved out of a 3,200 sq-ft factory/studio–is a light-diffusing drop ceiling in the bedroom that reminds me of the Fifth Avenue installation. It’s visible in the photo up top by Hans Namuth, for a two-page NYT Mag feature on Noguchi’s novel live-work design, as clipped and saved by the Noguchi Museum.

Noguchi and a Japanese carpenter whose name only comes up in reference to this project, Yukio Madokoro, built a loft bedroom of polished fir plank flooring cantilevered across 6.5 ft high cinderblock walls. It is enclosed by fiberglass shoji panels, and lined with plywood and Transite walls. [Transite is a corrugated panel of asbestos concrete, so maybe go ahead and don’t restore those, Noguchi Museum?]

But “The unusual ceiling,” according to the Times, “is made of long cardboard mailing tubes. It covers fluorescent lights, giving a soft, over all glow of light” that complements the columnar paper lamp in the corner, which would “soon be available commercially.” Indeed it would. It would take a few more decades for Shigeru Ban to bring us cardboard tube architecture, though.

10 minutes later update: OK, it destroys the entire premise of this post, but there are two Noguchi ceilings in New York: one made, and one found. As Amy Hau’s history of the Noguchi Museum points out, the artist chose to keep the original industrial metal ceiling in the space that is now the museum shop/cafe.

With $4.5m funding boost, the Noguchi Museum will open the artist’s home and studio to the public [theartnewspaper]
Factory into Home (NYT Mag, Apr 8, 1962, illegible photos) [nyt]
Altered and Destroyed [noguchi.org]

Previously: Destroyed Noguchi Ceiling

Wotruba Church Model at TEFAF

Bronze model of Carmelite church by Fritz Wotruba, as photographed at TEFAF 2022 by garyschwartzarthistorian.nl

From the report of noted Rembrandt scholar Gary Schwartz’s first TEFAF since 2020 comes this extraordinary surprise:

A bronze model, dated 1967, by Viennese sculptor/architect Fritz Wotruba for a church, originally commissioned by Dr. Madelina Ottilinger for an order of Carmelite nuns. The nuns rejected the design, and Ottilinger and Fritz G. Mayr persevered to have the church built elsewhere in Vienna. It was completed in 1976, after Wotruba’s death.

Remarkably, the chapel seems to follow the bronze model, only in concrete slabs. It’s like Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Building, but without the restraint. Perfect for being exorcising the site of an old Nazi barracks.

If I can figure out who brought this to TEFAF, I’ll add it here. [Update: Thanks to Dr. Schwartz, who emailed to report it is at Sascha Mehringer, of Munich. TEFAF runs through June 30th.]

406 TEFAF Days [garyschwartzarthistorian.nl]

Givenchy’s Diego Giacometti Coatrack

Diego Giacometti, Patère, 76.5 cm long, patinated bronze, from the collection of Hubert de Givenchy via Christie’s

Turns out the Givenchy-Venets still had some Giacomettis to sell after 2017. Of the 1,000 or so lots at Christie’s Paris next month, it feels like half are tables and objets by Diego Giacometti.

It would be weird, franchement, to have the little bronze portraits Giacometti made for the graves of Givenchy’s many dogs.

Diego Giacometti’s window hardware for Hubert de Givenchy’s chateau, just the one window, tho? at Christie’s

And it would be cool but a bit esoteric to get the bronze hardware for one, single, French-style, shuttered window. [Though I am glad to learn new vocabulary: this type of bolt is called a crémone, which differs from espagnolettes because the latter rotate, and are also common on trucks. Trucks and chateaux.] Obviously, you’d have it replicated, which is something Givenchy was not a stranger to.

But since none of the copies Givenchy made of anything is for sale–not his Miro, nor his Picasso, nor his Giacometti tables he had made after he sold the originals–I think the real get here is up top: the Giacometti five-hook coat rack, or patère. It would be perfect in your mudroom, a room which, out of respect for the dead, I believe Givenchy never called a salle de boue. RIP.

Shell Loyalty Lab, Doug Aitken (attr.)

This is a screenshot of a twitter ad for a Shell Loyalty Lab in an undisclosed location.

I have not clicked on the video in the Shell Loyalty Lab ad that is appearing at the moment on my twitter feed. So I cannot say for certain whether the mirror-finished truncated cube structure perched on pylons in an ostentatiously “undisclosed location” is by Doug Aitken, was curated by Desert X, or is in Saudi Arabia.

Doug Aitken Mirage, Desert X 2017, image probably by Lance Gerber

But the aesthetic and conceptual and spectacularizing fact pattern that makes any or all of these things possible, if not downright plausible, in some combination, should give everyone involved in those ventures pause. If I was making work that quickly co-opted by the fossil fuel companies destroying our planet, would I cash the check in the name of critical engagement? is another question I don’t have a lot of confidence in the answer to.

Maraya (Mirror) Concert Hall, Al Ula, architects: Gio Forma, Milano

Of course, the same thing could be said, and has been, about Desert X Al Ula, and the entire tranche of advisers, dealers, and museum directors involved in the KSA’s artwashing and cultural complicity, and yet it persists.

The best case scenario, of course, is that this is all a reference to the monolith, and will thus soon disappear from our consciousness. A worse case is that the monolith was some kind of prequel sponcon, which got temporarily hijacked by its own virality, and Shell’s campaign is now back on track. I guess if there’s a Shell Loyalty Lab at Burning Man, we’ll have our answer.

I cannot tell whose instagram dezeen ganked this image of BIG’s dusty Orb from, but now this brings it home, unfortunately, to satelloon territory, where Ingels really embodies my own ambivalence with this spectacular form perfectly.

Oh wait, but it was Bjarke Ingels who took the mirrored monument to Black Rock City in 2018. Now it all makes sense, unfortunately. I will prepare my apologies to Mr. Aitken, just in case.

The Whitney House

Bring your conservator! image: GSV last month, slightly altered

I have never been able to understand* why the Whitney hates the Whitney so much that they moved out, but they do, and they did. And now, as Katya Kazakina reports at artnet , there’s talk of selling it when the Met’s lease runs out in 2023.

If you lived here, you’d be home now. image: GSV, 2018

Of course, there was talk of selling the building in 2008, too, when the plan to build in the Meatpacking District was a thing. Those rumors were floated and batted down immediately, but also repeatedly, in the Times. Now, with the Met a mess and not exercising the purchase option Kazakina reports was in their original 8-year lease, and the Frick just subletting while its own building is renovated, the question is no longer, “Is it for sale?” but “How much could they get, and who would buy it?” [Or as Kazakina actually put it, “Now, the multi-million-dollar question is: If the building is sold, can it be developed?”]

my 2008 shoutout to Elmgreen & Dragset the first/last time the Whitney went on the whisper market

Kazakina’s list of hypothetical buyers includes a random country, Sotheby’s new owner Patrick Drahi, a future Larry Gagosian foundation, or a condo tower developer** who’d want to turn Marcel Breuer’s museum into “a really ritzy gym.” Which is all well and good–or spiraling levels of cringe, depending, obv–but which also misses the most obvious solution: turn Breuer’s Whitney into a house.

Continue reading “The Whitney House”

This Neo-Federal Stack Bond Facade

This house at 12 East 82nd Street has excellent and uncommon brickwork.

I made a quick trip to see Cady Noland’s exhibition at Galerie Buchholz on Saturday, but let’s talk about this brick facade across the street?

I’d feel worse about never in my life noticing the extraordinary brickwork if it had been discussed by literally anyone else outside of the 126-page building inventory for the creation of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District, published in 1977.

Continue reading “This Neo-Federal Stack Bond Facade”

The Stairchitecture Is Always Greener

Marble Arch Mound, 2021 by MVRDV for Westminster council, via @danbarker’s epic thread

[JANUARY 2022 UPDATE: MVRDV has published a report of their experience with The Mound, and their analysis of its shortcomings. It is an exhilarating and highly persuasive read, and extraordinary in its rarity; if only more architects would apply their expertise to understanding the outcomes of their designs and the failures of the processes that led to them.]

I have absolutely loved MVRDV’s Marble Arch Mound from the minute I saw it in Dan Barker’s epic tweet thread of visiting it on opening day in July. It hits every rendering vs. reality, experience economy, placemaking spectacle fail button, without costing me a farthing and without having to be my problem in any way. It is an upfront and honest disaster. And unlike some embarrassing and pointless destination stairchitecture closer to home, at least the Mound hasn’t killed anyone. Yet.

The interior of the Marble Arch Mound is finished to a very high level, but is also totally empty. image: @danbarker

A mountain of criticism has been thrown up on the Mound since, but Barker’s take still feels the clearest. He identifies the obvious things, like the cruft of fencing, garbage cans, and signage that delineate paid-access public space; and the nakedness of a new garden draped–it must be made clear–over a scaffold, and looking like a Minecraft skin–to me, a good thing!–but inevitably doomed by comparison to the lush renderings. He points to the complete absence of the promised interior program of a cafe and light installation: was it unfinished, abandoned, or still waiting for an intern to be blamed for not pulling it together?

architect’s rendering of Marble Mound Arch, via @danbarker
Reality: What should freshly draped sod look like, and would we not have called BS if MVRDV put a ping pong table in their rendering? image: @danbarker

And he’s the first to point out what’s probably the Mound’s most significant failing: it’s too short to provide a view of anything except the buildings and construction sites surrounding it. Like so many failures in the UK these days, this one feels entirely predictable and avoidable. And yet here it is.

Stairs to Kriterion, MVRDV, Summer 2016, in front of Rotterdam Centraal Station, image: Ossip van Duivenbode via MVDRV

What’s wild is how right it can also seem on paper. Lure people back to a troubled central commercial district during the pandemic by building a dramatic, temporary Insta-attraction. Get those Dutch architects who built that giant scaffold staircase to the abandoned rooftop in central Rotterdam that one time. No, not that time; the second time. That one slapped.

Two years before Beyoncé played Coachella, Ossip took this other photo of MVRDV’s (other) Staircase

Setting aside the obvious differences in site and program, MVRDV’s two temporary scaffold stair projects, can help see where we are, and where we came from since the Summer of 2016. The Stair to Kriterion was built to the rooftop of a building in front of Rotterdam’s central station. It evoked the city’s commemoration of post-war reconstruction and nostalgia for the long-closed movie theater at the top of the stairs. There was a cafe and an exhibit, but because it had an actual view, it was free, and packed. Though MVRDV principal Winy Maas suggested it should be permanent, it came and went as planned, in two months.

Marble Arch Mound sounds so dissatisfying it will be lucky to make it to January. At least when the leaves fall on the surrounding trees in a few months, they’ll stop blocking the view of the park. Instead of the Dutch throngs, access to the Marble Arch Mound is capped at 1,000 people/day, 25 at a time. This is the trickle of a crowd that was not only supposed to revitalize the shipping street next door, but to buy enough tickets to generate profits for Mound.

All of which was also clear on paper. The Marble Arch Mound is the transparent architectural embodiment of the cultural, corporate, and governmental institutions that brought it into being, of the strategic assumptions, values, and decision-making processes they used, and of the vision, constraints, and compromises they imposed.

Delia Gebrial’s tweet summed up the situation so succinctly, it became part of the headline for the Financial Times’ report on the Mound’s managerial failures: “I saw the marble arch mound today and honestly, i’m besotted and obsessed with how rubbish it is. it truly is a monument to 2021.”

I cannot believe I have a picture of this piece of garbage on my internet website. via bloomberg/citylab

Just as the Vessel embodies Bloomberg-era New York real estate oligarchs’ compulsion for trophy spectacle, whereby an Eiffel Tower to yourself that turns out to be an ill-conceived suicide machine, the Marble Arch Mound captures this privatized, austerity-riddled, authoritarian, kakistocratic, pandemic moment in London with a truly terrible clarity. This Potemkin Village Green of a public building induces amazement and awe, at least from afar. If only it could outlive the political calamity that built it.

Bruce Goff Christmas Tree

Jerri Hodges Bonebrake posing with a Christmas tree she created with Bruce Goff at the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture, image via ou.edu

Bruce Goff was the head of the architecture school at the University of Oklahoma from 1948 until 1955, and though her job title was secretary, Jerri Hodges was the administrative backbone and shadow student of the whole, utopian affair. The architecture school was housed under the bleachers of the football stadium, and the space and Goff’s experimental leanings meant the whole place was abuzz with unconventional techniques, materials, exhibitions, productions, and who knows what.

So maybe this Christmas tree made of a myriad of ornaments, snowflakes, and papercraft decorations suspended in space on vertical strings of beads fit right in, and it’s only us, in the future more conventional and bleaker than Goff imagined, who marvel at it. We should be lucky they even thought to take a picture. The catalogue for the 2010 Goff exhibition “Renegades” says they were doing stuff like this all the time. Also, the library’s online gallery only names her, the print version gives Hodges co-credit for the Christmas tree. [h/t @joshlipnik via @cmonstah]

Chandigarh Find

Pierre Jeanneret, Office Armchair PJ-SI-28-B, India, designed c. 1955
Teak, plasticized string, nylon, aluminum, image: patrickparrish.com

I love Pierre Jeanneret’s furniture for Chandigarh, and I hate the Chandigarh Furniture Industrial Complex. I am relieved that these objects that once were abandoned for scrap are now preserved, but I hate that the cultural context is being stripped away, and that for their value and significance to be recognized, they must be removed and fed through the luxury design machinery of the West. I love seeing this furniture aging and bearing its history, and I hate seeing it stripped and restored and altered into just one more must-have for some instagram junkie to stuff into their Axel Vervoordt McMonastery.

Pierre Jeanneret & Le Corbusier, “Boomerang” Table LC/PJ-TAT-14-A, India, designed c. 1963
Teak, image: patrickparrish.com

I love this stuff, and hate that I want it, but I’ve managed to deal because it’s not like there’s any OG Chandigarh furniture left anyway. Well, Patrick Parrish just kicked the leg off my precariously balanced chair. He is currently showing a collection of pristine, original condition Jeanneret furniture from Chandigarh which has been held for twelve years, and it is utterly exquisite. Everyone who’s ever stripped and dipped a teak armchair and tossed out a horsehair cushion should immediately feel waves of remorse for their design crimes.

Now I love this furniture, and I hate that you haven’t yet sent me $1.26 million so I can buy all 66 pieces for my McMonastery.

I am linking to Patrick’s Pierre Jeanneret Online Viewing Room because it is perfect. The show is IRL until Dec. 31st. There is a book forthcoming. [patrickparrish.com]
Amie Siegel’s Provenance was beautiful and devastating, but has also done nothing to stem the tide, or change the dynamic. [amiesiegel.net]