Friday, June 30, 2006

Joan Didion and a summer downpour

Joan Didion read tonight at Central Park SummerStage from two books, chosen as bookends to her married life. Now I can't remember the title of the first one, written about arriving in New York City in the summer at age 20, but the second one, of course, was The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). The rhythm of her reading underscored the rhythm of her writing, emphasizing her careful consideration of the words she chooses.

The rain began to fall as she read the first excerpt, but stopped as she read the second, the wrenching account of her husband's death from a heart attack in 2003 as she prepared dinner.

As Philip Gourevitch began his interview following her reading, the sky opened up, sending everyone shrieking out onto 72nd Street.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Douglas Gordon: Timeline

I passed Douglas Gordon: Timeline a couple of times on my way to the Dada exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, but I didn't pay much attention to it. Its entrance was off-putting, somehow, with mirrored text on one wall, and I finally went in only to kill a half hour before the museum closed.

"In his most well-known works, Scottish artist Douglas Gordon (b. 1966) addresses the familiarity and popularity of moving pictures by manipulating, reframing, and superimposing them to alter viewers’ perceptions."

And then I suddenly realized that I had seen his work before, in the exhibition Double Vision, at Dia, when it was still located in Chelsea. Double Vision paired Douglas Gordon with Stan Douglas, both of whom used dual video projections, and was up for an agonizingly long time span of more than a year, from 1999 to 2000. I remember going in grudgingly, thinking "When are they going to change this already?," and then being freakishly mesmerized by both pieces, watching them repeatedly.

Douglas Gordon's installation was based on the 1949 film Whirlpool, by Otto Preminger, but he had manipulated the film so that its projection resulted in a flicker that mimicked the act of hypnosis. Gordon had separated the odd- and even-numbered frames to create two videos, filling the missing frames with black leader. The two were projected side by side, with one a mirror image of the other.

This installation is part of the MoMA retrospective, but it's not the most memorable. My favorite was a three-screen projection showing the face and hands of a conductor leading an orchestra performing the score for Hitchcock's Vertigo. The Times criticized this particular work as "humorless," but I enjoyed the play of light and shadows against the music.

snide & happy, this show is for you!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Most popular

Lately I barely scan the New York Times headlines online - I just go straight to the most e-mailed list, which is usually heavy on the "lifestyle" articles. Setting new standards for laziness...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Blogs I read

Anyone who starts a blog probably began by reading many of them, and I am no exception. Beyond high-traffic sites like Gawker, I was routinely checking out Chowhound (for restaurants) and Brownstoner (real estate). Soon I was bookmarking dozens of sites and reading them daily. Most blogs would have a column of links to these other places, something I haven't done yet out of laziness and indecision - sort of my life's motto. If I did, though, the following would be my top candidates.

A million would-be food writers
It started out with food blogs: Specifically, a link from the ever-informative NYC Nosh led me to The Girl Who Ate Everything, which was my favorite for a long time. Written by a 20-year-old Chinese-American NYU student with a self-deprecating sense of humor and apparently boundless energy, it is an antidote to cloying food blogs like Chocolate & Zucchini and Orangette; the latter two are more like women's magazines (Orangette recently announced her engagement with a photo of her ring), and have legions of fans who comment enthusiastically on every post with the kind of adulation usually reserved for Latin pop stars or saints.

I soon ventured further afield, to Blue Lotus, written by a Canadian woman living (and cooking) in "exotic suburban Tokyo." I also like the charming Milk & Honey, written by a Southern California woman, maybe because we have the same taste in food and music (Plum Galette and Belle and Sebastian).

Meanwhile, where were all the art blogs?
It sounds strange, but it took a little while to find the art blogs. A couple of bloggers seem most influential in terms of Web traffic: Ed Winkleman, who runs Chelsea's Plus Ultra Gallery and explores provocative topics (in art and politics) that attract large numbers of comments, and the very plugged-in Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes, who is based in Washington DC and has written extensively for the mainstream media.

Also influential is Anonymous Female Artist, who trashes the male-dominated art world in about as articulate and informed a manner as you could hope to find, with plenty of salty language and dead-on insight. ("For a while now, painters have either been participating in the re-investigation of personal allegory or watching it unfold from the periphery. Either way, we've all noticed mature artists turning inward; building narrative directly from the experience of painting..." Or "I wish we'd all stop giving irony so much undue attention. The 90s were ironic, in the true sense of the word, but I don't think artists are still using it the way critics claim they are. I think irony now, at least in mature art, is unintentional - the byproduct of insecurity; the dilemma of how to move forward...")

Another fearless art blogger is Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City, who voices candid opinions about contemporary artists and industry trends - for example, the proliferation of imitators in the wake of the phenomenally successful young painter Dana Schutz. This kind of candor is glaringly missing from the scores of artists' blogs, most of which resemble personal journals or online meeting places for friends. Art Soldier Jason Laning is an artist, but I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a successful writer - he comes across as affable and sardonic.

Not all art blogs have any writing at all - rather, they are entirely driven by the comments. PaintersNYC operates on a simple but genius idea: Each day, a new painting is posted, and commenters are free to admire, criticize, pontificate, and trash ("I love the cheesy faux spirituality," "there's no scarier combination than good technical skill and bad taste," or "I wish her work was as interesting as her outfits"). The comments were becoming heated and even cruel, with personal attacks among the commenters, until some controls were implemented. Some people mourn the old days.

Other successful art blogs cover specific aspects of the art world, such as collecting. Lisa Hunter's Intrepid Art Collector tackles the specifics of building a contemporary art collection, but devotes plenty of space to other interests and issues.

Well, this could go on and on, and I have to end somewhere. I've got a lot of blogs to read!

Music for a rainy Saturday

Salif Keita - the "Golden Voice of Africa" - is an internationally recognized Afro-Pop singer and song writer from Mali. His newest album is M'Bemba - a highly recommended antidote to the current deluge.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Calculating the annual return for a painting

Well, this was inevitable.

Slate highlights the Mei Moses Fine Art Index, compiled by two professors at New York University's Stern School of Business to track the long-term performance of fine art.

Over the last 50 years, stocks (as represented by the S&P 500) returned 10.9 percent annually, while the art index returned 10.5 percent per annum. And in the five years between 2001 and 2005, art trounced stocks.

The 'poet laureate of pessimism'

This blog should come with a warning: operated by a Leonard Cohen fan. That way, if you're offended by sentimental 1970s ballads, you'll know to look away. (I do like other stuff, so if you're rolling your eyes, give me another chance.)

Even if you don't like his music, look at how he has aged - all men should be so lucky. (Oddly enough, in some pictures he looks like Bob Dylan, Dustin Hoffman, and even Adam Sandler. Google him and check out the images - you'll see what I'm talking about.)

So anyway, I'm delighted to find out that he is the subject of a new documentary: Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Arianna on Fifth

I thought it was her but I just wasn't sure. There are so many clones among New York women of a certain age. Now that I've looked her up, I'm almost certain that I saw Arianna Huffington on Fifth Avenue this week, looking hot yet tailored as she tried to hail a cab.

Anyway it gave me a reason to scrutinize her blog!

See The Huffington Post and The Blog.

Thursday: Slate at 10: Online Media and the Future of Journalism - Writers Malcolm Gladwell, Arianna Huffington, and Norm Pearlstine talk with Slate editor Jacob Weisberg about the future of the industry.

So cute

Meet So Young in her wedding clothes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Power to the bloggers

Earlier this month, Tyler Green pointed out on Modern Art Notes that New York Times art critic Grace Glueck served on the Clark Art Institute's board of trustees, in violation of the paper's ethics policy. Apparently his post had consequences.

From the New York Sun: Ms. Glueck resigned from the board after Tyler Green, writing on, suggested the situation was a potential conflict of interest. Mr. Green cited the Times' handbook of ethical guidelines, which prohibits both staff writers and freelancers from joining "boards of trustees, advisory committees or similar groups except those serving journalistic organizations or otherwise promoting journalism education."

So there.

Best quote of the morning

"McDonald's operating profit in France last year was second only to that of McDonald's in the United States." Zut alors!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dada arrives at MoMA

Dada, at the Museum of Modern Art, is the first major museum exhibition in the United States to focus exclusively on one of the twentieth century’s most influential avant-garde art movements. At the entrance is a monitor playing some footage of World War I, a simple but effective reminder of the atrocities to which the artists were responding. Exhibitions are too often presented in a vacuum, with the assumption that visitors will bear in mind the historical context of the art they are seeing.

The New York Times review of the show started out by saying "Now is as good a time as any for a big museum to take another crack at Dada," which didn't sound very promising. The exhibition is effectively a survey covering all the major artists (Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters) and is divided by city (New York, Zurich, and so on). Curator Leah Dickerman of the National Gallery of Art told Modern Art Notes "I just thought Dada hadn’t been well historicized." (Modern Art Notes did a wonderful three-part post about the show, focusing mostly on the war angle.)

Because the show functions so much the way a textbook would, I'll mention what I enjoyed the most. I was not familiar with the Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber - who married and collaborated with Jean Arp, another member of the movement - and her beautiful sense of color and composition. I also was fairly transfixed by the various films on view, which seemed to encapsulate the movement's influences and humor.

'Our Mona Lisa'

Ronald Lauder has reportedly paid $135 million for a 1907 portrait by Gustav Klimt, possibly the highest sum ever paid for a painting.

Lauder referred to the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer as "our Mona Lisa." The painting was seized by the Nazis during World War II, and is now destined for the Neue Galerie in Manhattan. Lauder is a founder of the Neue Galerie and a former American ambassador to Austria.

Modern Art Notes points out that it’s nearly impossible to determine whether this is the highest amount ever paid for a painting, because it was a private sale.

Christopher Benfey calls it a bargain on Slate.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not yet summer and the heat is on

The weather is heating up in New York, so anyone who has a place to go outside the city has already started hightailing it out of here on the weekends. Surprisingly, though, the city has been fairly pleasant so far. Some members of the porcupine clan insisted on watching the US-Italy match in the World Cup on Saturday, a truly bizarre game for both fans and the uninitiated.

But back to art . . .

A band I like - Feathers - was written up in the New York Times.

"Four sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard, on view for the rest of the year in Madison Square Park, make a delightful exception to [public art's] tradition of mediocrity. Not only do they appear vibrantly at home in one of the most successful parks in New York City, but they also nourish this particular park’s character."

Apparently successful artists get restless: "Defections seem to be contagious in Chelsea these days. Long-settled artists are suddenly playing the field, ditching their dealers in favor of galleries with bigger spaces, better locations, stronger connections to museums and collectors and — perhaps most important — a star-studded roster of artists." Oh my, just like Wall Street! Ed Winkleman chimes in that "As an art dealer, I can't help but feel for my colleagues experiencing the frenzy of defections by their big-name artists in these heady days of art market madness."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And so it begins

Lately I have been hearing a lot of gems on the subway. I thought about writing them down, but that seemed ridiculous. But today I just can't resist.

Picture four kids, not quite teenagers, two boys and two girls, on the uptown W train. The two girls get off at Prince Street, and one of them reaches in the subway and playfully smacks one of the boys as if to say goodbye. Train continues.

Smacked boy: "I think she likes me. She's been saying some weird s**t to me lately."
Other boy nods, mumbles.
Smacked boy: "Seriously, she's had a thing for me since, like, sixth grade."

How quickly they learn.

An artist who paid the ultimate price

snide & happy noticed the untimely passing of Southwestern sculptor Luis Jimenez, who was literally killed by his art:

Luis Jimenez, Sculptor, Dies in an Accident at 65

Perhaps because he'd spent his lean years in New York City working in minority youth programs, or because the beloved artists from his childhood were public muralists like José Clemente Orozco, Jimenez wasn't content to succeed within the exclusive realm of private collectors and galleries. "I think there has always been a group of people that responded to my work, but because of the way the art world operates, they probably couldn't afford it," says Jimenez. "With the public pieces, they don't have to buy it. The works are sitting out in a public place." - Texas Alcalde magazine

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New Wall Street blog

New to me is DealBreaker, an "online business tabloid and Wall Street gossip blog" from Elizabeth Spiers, previously the editor-in-chief of and a contributing writer and editor at New York Magazine. According to her bio, she was the founding editor of and was formerly an equity analyst. You can bet that this one will be blocked at the office.

I especially liked the link to Twelve Things Economists Need to Remember to Be Helpful Journalistic Sources:

3. Get over your snobbery about local television news. This is a genuine opportunity to reach the public. Learn to use it. Remember that the local TV reporter’s gasoline-price story this evening will be seen by 300,000 people. Your op-ed will be read by 20,000, if you are lucky. Your journal articles will be seriously read by 12.

Four American flags sell at Sotheby's for $17,392,000

God bless Sotheby's.

In an auction in New York today, four Revolutionary War battle flags sold for $17,392,000. My source says "It was so exciting to watch."

Four Battleflags of the Revolution: Captured by Lt.-Col. Banastre Tarleton in 1779 and 1780, The Property of Capt. Christopher Tarleton Fagan

The earliest Revolutionary War flags were modifications of British flags. The stripes of the Union Jack were simplified into thirteen red and white stripes signifying the union of the thirteen states. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution for the creation of a national flag. “Resolved that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Does the World Cup have a newfound appeal in the US?

Who says Americans are not interested in soccer? Today all the televisions in the cafeteria were tuned to the World Cup. And there was yelling. This almost beat the time the TV in the reception area, normally on CNN, had been changed to a soap opera.

Can a book dealer trade a watercolor drawing by Maurice Sendak for an apartment?

The nation's 14th poet laureate is named: Donald Hall, a writer whose "deceptively simple language builds on images of the New England landscape." Besides poetry, Hall has written books on baseball, the sculptor Henry Moore, and the poet Marianne Moore.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Artichokes and art-world jokes

Artichokes for dinner - is there a stranger vegetable? Did you know that the word artichoke is taken from the Arabic ارضي شوكي (ardi shauki) or ارضي شوك (ardi shauk), meaning "ground-thorn"?

Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City interviews artists Tom Moody and Michael Bell-Smith about how technology informs artistic production.

Art bloggers are all yapping about "Iron Artist," at P.S. 1 in Queens, a competition that was loosely modeled after the television series "Iron Chef."

I don't know who Hugh Chou is, but he is like the most useful nerdy friend that you could ever hope to have. (Via the Times.)

Ready to face Monday

And to the female director in the Christian Louboutin pumps: Bring it on.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Socrates Sculpture Park

Interstate: The American Road Trip is a group exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park, a scrappy urban park on the East River in Queens with views of Manhattan.

Socrates Sculpture Park was an abandoned riverside landfill and illegal dumpsite until 1986 when a coalition of artists and community members, under the leadership of artist Mark di Suvero, transformed it into an open studio and exhibition space for artists and a neighborhood park for local residents.

The exhibition was curated by Andrea Zittel, the maverick artist currently stationed in the California desert near Joshua Tree National Park, and represents a collaboration between Socrates and her High Desert Test Sites, a collection of experimental art sites. The theme of road trips is loosely and critically interpreted: Most of the artists focused on the grit and tedium of highway travel in America, rather than the romance.

The idea is most literally illustrated by Carolina Pedraza’s bright-green mailboxes, identical except for the addresses stenciled on their sides. But other pieces didn't immediately seem related: for example, R. Scott Mitchell’s tall rectangular tower looked like a bland modern sculpture until I read that it mocks the monotonous, reflective surfaces of office parks.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The weekend is here and the rain has cleared

At least for the moment. (Apparently we can thank Canada for today's clear blue sky and dry wind.)

At the International Center of Photography, "Unknown Weegee" - the son of a rabbi who discovered that the best bad things happen at night.

Zaha Hadid lands at the Guggenheim Museum in her first major retrospective in the United States - a diva who came of age in an era when the Middle East was enchanted by Modernity.

Weegee, Zaha - Zaha, Weegee.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Irish Famine Memorial

In 1980 about one in seven Americans claimed Irish ancestry, and more than 40 million Americans described themselves as predominantly Irish. According to the 1990 census, almost 800,000 residents of New York City and 2.8 million residents of New York State trace their ancestry to Ireland.

Today I finally went to visit the Irish Famine Memorial, a strange structure that has not been warmly embraced downtown.

Dedicated in July 2002, the Irish Famine Memorial located in Battery Park City is devoted to raising public awareness of the events that led to the Great Irish Famine and Migration of 1845-1852. The memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields, and native Irish wildflowers like those found on the north Connacht wetlands of Ireland.

It feels pretty strange to walk along this tiny green landscape and yet feel acutely aware of being in downtown Manhattan - sort of like being suspended at the top of a Ferris wheel and peering down at what used to look familiar. At no point could I imagine myself in Ireland.

The 5 million-dollar monument seems a surreal but intriguing intruder in Manhattan. We duck under the façade's cantilevered "awning" through the ground-level tunnel and pace some 8,000 linear feet of text on the terror and misery of famines worldwide, written in thin bands radiating from its backlit walls. Emerging, finally, on the memorial's eastern side, we mount the grassy hillside to its stone Irish cottage, then, walk to its summit to view the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on the distant Jersey shore.

Read Hunger for Memorials: New York's Monument to the Irish Famine, by Jane Holtz Kay

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Capisce? (Or growing up in New York - the Brooklyn years)

When my family moved to New York, we lived in the predominantly Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for a short time. I was around 10 years old. The area was rumored to be under the Mafia's control, but I have no idea if this was true - it was certainly the subject of constant discussion at my school. My classmates' surnames sounded like a list of the city's major crime families - my best friend was Phyllis Gambino - but their fathers all had average-sounding blue-collar jobs.

Life in Bensonhurst was a cultural collision course for my mother, to be sure, but my sister and I adjusted fairly easily. Because I did not belong to any of the area's other major ethnic groups - I was not black, Jewish, or Puerto Rican - I was mostly left alone. Fitting in required some effort, though, and my mother was both amused and appalled to hear me switch to a convincing Brooklyn accent when talking with my friends. I would have fit in even better if she had let me wear purple mascara and matching nail polish, like the other girls at school, but on this point she would not budge.

One odd consequence of living in Bensonhurst for three years is that I learned some Italian. Not from all the older folks in the neighborhood, though many of them spoke nothing else, but in school. In most New York City public schools, students have the option of learning either Spanish or French, and Spanish is favored overwhelmingly for sheer practicality. But in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the options were Spanish or Italian. My parents were delighted - there was no question that I would take Italian. They met in Italy and spoke Italian to the landlord and his wife, and to their son who lived down the street.

Italian turned out to be much easier than French would ever be later on. And the cutest boy in school was in my Italian class - Michael Lorenzo, who at age 10 was already starting to grow a mustache.

I have forgotten most of what I learned back then, but I did manage to order coffee in Italian on a trip to Italy after high school, and I can still understand a lot of what I see in Italian magazines or on simple television shows, like cooking shows for example. I could also follow the scene in Amarcord when the crazy uncle climbs up a tree, but that's because it's mostly narrated by a child yelling "albero," which is one of the first words you learn.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday: Take rain, add some rain, then finish off with more rain

Three-point-five inches of rain in Central Park as of Saturday night. Time to pull out the DVDs:

Federico Fellini's Amarcord is so damn funny. (Read Vincent Canby's 1974 review.)

Steve Coogan turns up in the odd movie Happy Endings.

I am not quite obsessive enough to do this, but on Modern Kicks I read about a way to catalog your library online. It's called LibraryThing.

Michelle Hailey

Michelle Hailey paints portraits of places in oil or gouache, using perspective to draw the eye through moody landscapes and sometimes stormy skies.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Jeff Koons arrives at Ground Zero

Or just north of it, at 7 World Trade Center, which opened on May 23. Jeff Koons's stainless-steel sculpture Balloon Flower serves as the centerpiece of the new park on the east side of the building.

Another Balloon Flower is owned by DaimlerChrysler and is located in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin (see accompanying photograph). The New York version is a bright metallic red.

I've watched the building go up over the past year (construction has taken a total of four years), and more recently, I've watched the park take shape. It still looks like a life-size architectural model, with identical spindly trees. When I first noticed the sculpture, I did a double-take. It was so generic, and so corporate. And this is the first sculpture to be installed here?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dale sues, Uli pursues, and Peter says woohoo

Dale Chihuly has sued two glass blowers, including a longtime collaborator, for copyright infringement, accusing them of imitating his signature lopsided creations, and other designs inspired by the sea. The suit, rare in art circles, offers a sometimes unflattering glimpse at how high-powered commercial artists like Mr. Chihuly work. The two glass blowers say that he has very little to do with much of the art, and that he sometimes buys objects and puts the Chihuly name on them, a contention that Mr. Chihuly strongly denies.

Swiss businessman Uli Sigg has amassed the world's most comprehensive collection of Chinese contemporary art. " the 1990s I realized nobody was systematically collecting Chinese contemporary art, either in China or outside - not institutions, not individuals. So I decided to create a documentation to mirror Chinese art production."

On Slate, Peter Brooks thinks he may have spotted the first penis to be displayed in the New York Times, in Michael Kimmelman's review of the Girodet show currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum.