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    Best Canvases on the Catwalks in 2013

    There seemed to be a bumper crop of art-inspired clothing on the runways this year, from New York to Paris to Copenhagen and even Seoul.

    For both women and men, be they couture, resort, or ready-to-wear, the runways charmed style watchers with odes to Gustav Klimt, Andy Warhol, Henri Rousseau, Jean Michel Basquiat, Gustave Courbet and Robert Motherwell— even installations like Olafur Eliasson's "The Weather Project”, as well as Dutch pottery, and the ancient ruins of Sicily. And who could forget how even the queen of minimalism Jil Sander turned to Alighiero Boetti for ideas on how to joyously splash color on otherwise simply- but impeccably-tailored pant suits?

    While some looks, like those from Helmut Lang’s Richard Prince-inspired Fall/Winter 2013 collection can now be seen on the street, others, like Céline’s Spring 2014 collection that channeled George Brassaï, remain hotly anticipated to hit retail next March — not to mention Chanel’s entire trust-fund-kid-goes-to-art-school collection.  

    There are still a couple of months to save up for those latter looks. In the meantime, BLOUIN ARTINFO presents a recap of the 20 best Canvases on the Catwalk looks in 2013, here.

    Best of Canvas on the Catwalk 2013

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    Pussy Riot Freed, Joan Miró Show in Turkey Closed Over Fakes, and More

    Pussy Riot Freed: Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the two members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot who were still serving prison camp sentences stemming from a 2012 performance, have been freed following the passage of an amnesty law introduced by President Vladimir Putin, though they considered the gesture an elaborate distraction from Russia's ongoing humanitarian violations. "If I had a chance to turn it down, I would have done it, no doubt about that," Alyokhina said. "This is not an amnesty. This is a hoax and a PR move." [Guardian, BBC]


    Miró Show Shut Down Over Fakes: An exhibition of works by the Spanish surrealist Joan Miró at the ARETE gallery in Ankara, Turkey, was shut down after the artists foundation claimed that some of the roughly 60 pieces on view were fakes. The gallery, which acquired the works from galleries in the U.S. and Canada, will be receiving a visit from the artist's foundation in the new year. "We are waiting to learn which of the pieces are fake so that we can go back to our suppliers," ARETE owner Emre Sefer said. [AP]

    Is Conceptual Art Really Art?: Since acquiring Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo's seminal collection of conceptual and minimalist art in the early 1990s — including pieces by Donald Judd, Robert Smithson, and others — the Guggenheim Museum has been grappling with many of the fundamental questions posed by those movements' artists, about the authenticity of the art object, and the status of copies and reproductions. "People are always asking us, ‘What does the artist want?’ — as if that’s a simple, monolithic thing," said Jeffey Weiss, the Guggenheim curator in charge of the Panza collection. "It turns out that it’s one of the most complicated parts of the whole process. It’s not just him and us. It’s the changing him and the informed us." [NYT]

    Vasari's "Last Supper" Still Spoiled: Giorgio Vasari's enormous painting "The Last Supper," which was badly damaged — some said beyond repair — when Florence flooded in 1966, is slowly being restored by the Opificio dell Pietre Dure and the Getty Trust, and its five poplar panels were recently reassembled for the first time since the flood. [NYT]

    Jury Upholds Seller's Privacy: The jury in a federal court in Dallas agreed that an agreement to keep secret Marguerite Hoffman's identity as the seller of a major Mark Rothko was violated by collector David Martinez and dealers Robert Mnuchin and Dominique Lévy, but the judge awarded Hoffman much less than the $12.4-22.4 million she was seeking in damages — she will have to choose between $500,000 and $1.2 million. [WSJ]

    Nobody Happy About Nazi Loot's Handling: With Nazi loot restitution cases attracting a great deal of attention in the wake of Cornelius Gurlitt's trove being seized, the U.S.'s special envoy for Holocaust issues, Douglas Davidson, paid a visit to Berlin to pressure the German government to return the works to their rightful owners expediently; meanwhile, George Grosz's heirs are renewing their calls for MoMA to return three works by the artist they say were stolen by the Nazis in 1933, highlighting U.S. museum's similarly fraught record on restitution. [Jerusalem Post, USA Today, TIME]

    – Some 66 works from Cheech Marin's renowned collection of Chicano art are on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in the exhibition "Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection," through March 23, 2014. Says Marin: "I'm the Chicano Johnny Appleseed out there, spreading his seeds." [WSJ]

    – The 10 top-earning art auction lots of 2013, which cumulatively brought $669 million, accounted for more than five percent of the year's total global auction revenue. [Forbes]

    Eliseo Garza Salinas, the director of three museums in Mexico's Nuevo Leon state, was murdered during a robbery at his home in Monterrey. [Latin Times]


    See Artists' "12 Trees of Christmas" at TEMP Space

    Cleveland Museum of Art Acquires Major Indian Painting Collection

    Third Louvre-Crystal Bridges-High Museum Collaboration Focuses on Portraiture

    Here Are Your Frieze New York Exhibitors for 2014

    Superman-JFK Comic Donated to Presidential Museum 50 Years Late

    A Fresh Perspective on Paul Guiragossian in Beirut

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Please note that this will be the final Daily Checklist of 2013. We'll be back on January 2, 2014.

    Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina speaks to the media

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    Long the purrrview of hobbyists and portraitists to the rich and quirky, cat art went mainstream in 2013, landing at revered institutions like the Metropolitan Museum, White Columns, and the Brooklyn Museum, all the while maintaining the genre’s quirkiness through events like the Active Space’s “Cat Painting Takedown” and a medievalist’s discovery of a set of inky paw prints in a 15-century manuscript. Here and meow, a selection of the most paw-some works and exhibitions of cat art from 2013.

    MOST HU-MEOW-NITARIAN CATS: “The Cat Show” at White Columns

    Writer, artist, and cat enthusiast Rhonda Lieberman’s “Cat Show” was the runaway hit of the summer and featured feline-inspired work by over 50 artists including Cory Arcangel, Mike Kelley, Barbara Kruger, and Marilyn Minter. During the show’s run, the gallery also played host to real life rescue cats each week (from Social Tees Animal Rescue) that Lieberman named Bruce Meowman, Claws Oldenburg, Frida Kahlico, and, for that purr-formance artist extraordinaire, Meowrina Abramovic. By the end of the exhibition, 25 cats had been adopted. The cats in residence program also continues onlineWatch ARTINFO video HERE. 

    BEST DRESSED KITTIES: The State Hermitage Museum’s Czarist-Style Cat Portrait Series

    Though the State Hermitage Museum has long been known for its troupes of feline pest-control cats-in-residence, this year it also commissioned Uzbek artist Eldar Zakirov to create a series of ornate and rich feline portraits based on czarist-era works in the institution’s collection, from a white kitty in a handsome, red court chamber herald’s jacket, to another sporting the smock of a court confectioner.

    CREEPIEST CATS: “Balthus: Cats and Girls — Paintings and Provocations” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    While the title “Cats and Girls” has a deceptively child-friendly ring to it, the cats in this exhibition are definitely more creepy than cute and likely a disconcerting symbol of Balthus’s pedophilic impulses. Although we were generally pretty put off by this show, we must admit that a lot of people were charmed by the 40 drawings an 11-year-old Balthus made for “Mitsou” a book that tells the true story of finding and losing a beloved stray cat. 

    MOST FAMOUS CATS: The Second Annual Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker Art Center

    It’s a miracle that the world didn’t end when viral kitties Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat shared the stage at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair, where the Walker Art Center’s second annual Internet Cat Video Festival took place on August 28. Though Grumpy Cat prevailed, taking home the evening’s top honor — which seemed to do nothing to improve his mood — we expect many more internet-famous felines will follow in his paw-steps at future editions of the marquee event on the art world’s cat calendar. Watch ARTINFO video HERE. 

    MOST CURSED KITTIES: “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” at the Brooklyn Museum

    This summer the Brooklyn Museum looked no farther than its own permanent collection to find 30 artifacts depicting domestic cats, lions, and other felines that point to the significance of the cat in ancient Egypt. A gilded sculpture of a lion-headed goddess, a bronze sphinx sculpture of King Sheshenq, and a cast bronze sculpture of a mother cat with four kittens nursing are all on view through December 2014.

    MOST SCHOLARLY CAT: 15th-Century Cat’s Paw Prints Found on Medieval Manuscript

    In September of 2012, medieval manuscript researcher and University of Sarajevo faculty member Emir O. Filipović tweeted a picture of an open 15th-century manuscript very clearly marked with four cat paw prints, but it wasn’t until February 2013 that the image achieved viral status, popping up everywhere from Reddit to Gawker. “A truly positive aspect of the story, beside the obvious worldwide promotion of the State Archives of Dubrovnik,” Filipović wrote after achieving viral fame, “is that the document with the paw prints is going to be featured in the Interactive Album of Medieval Paleography, which is maintained by Dr. Marjorie Burghart in Lyon, France.”

    CATTIEST CAT ART CONTEST: “Cat Painting Takedown” at The Active Space

    The Bushwick gallery and studio complex hosted a competitive cat-painting session on November 24, in which more than 20 artists sought to paint the most fantastic feline they could. The results included a stylin’ tabby sporting a hat and glasses, a kitten posing inside the skull of a saber-toothed tiger, a hybrid cat-bald eagle perched in a treetop, and a pair of tiny kitties smeared in blood after a decadent feast. The works were then auctioned off, with proceeds from the sales benefiting the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition.

    MOST CONSERVATIVE CAT ARTIST: Pet Portraitist George W. Bush

    In addition to the pair of perfectly generic sportraits he painted of his daughter Barbara’s cat Eleanor for her apartment in New York, former U.S. President George W. Bush painted an atrocious image of a cat lying in front of a gaudy wood-paneled backdrop, its protruding front paw poorly foreshortened, and its proportions generally way-off. It’s exactly the type of unimaginative and hapless artwork you’d expect from the man who once said: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”

    BEST DISEMBODIED CATS: “Whisker Prints” by Nina Katchadourian

    In a one-week residency at the Island Press in St. Louis, Stanford-based artist Nina Katchadourian used actual cat whiskers to make a series of 17 monotype “Whisker Prints.” Using the whiskers as drawing stencils, Katchadourian created unique works that look like purrfect abstractions of cat-like forms.

    Click here to see the slideshow.

    9 Un-fur-gettable Moments in Cat Art From 2013
     Eldar Zakirov's The Hermitage Court Moor in casual uniform.

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    The Romantic Passion of Joan Fontaine

    Of all the actresses Alfred Hitchcock put through the mill in stories designed to torment their women protagonists, Joan Fontaine, who died last Sunday at the age of 96, was the most defiantly romantic. Even before she chose a screen name meaning “fountain” in French, Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland sounded like someone who couldn’t prevent her emotions from cascading.

    Fontaine twice played brides for Hitchcock: “I” who dreamt she “went to Manderley again last night” in the 1940 film of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”; and Lina McLaidlaw, who fetches up in an ivory tower in “Suspicion” (1941), based on Anthony Berkeley’s “Before the Fact.” In both, the director tasked Fontaine with eliciting the anxiety provoked by loving a complicated man who may or may not be a murderer.

    Both films are set in a Hollywood-fantasy version of upper-class rural England. “Rebecca,” which brought David O. Selznick the Best Picture Oscar, is a Gothic ghost story masquerading as a melodrama. Manderley, the palatial Cornish home of Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), has become a spooky mausoleum for the eponymous first wife who widowed him — a wild adulteress whose spirit is both protected by and channeled by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson). Such is this witch’s effect on the jittery “I,” the second Mrs. de Winter, she almost makes a death leap.

    Fontaine, born like her older sister Olivia de Havilland (who survives her) to British parents in Tokyo and raised in Los Angeles, is a Hollywood-fantasy version of demure English young womanhood, though she is very different in the two films. Though “Rebecca” preceded “Suspicion” by only a year, Fontaine made “I” look about 21 and Lina 30.

    “I” is shy, gauche, and tremulous, a girl intimidated by authority, who initially draws the sneers of the society dragon (Florence Bates) who employs her as a companion, and later those of Mrs. Danvers. Lina, who flees spinsterhood to marry the wastrel and seducer Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant), is more knowing and confident than “I,” but no less burdened by a sense of inadequacy.

    Hot for Maxim, a father surrogate 10 years her senior who had swept her off her feet with Monte Carlo drives, dances, roses, and his decisiveness and protectiveness, “I” exhibits a nervous sexual energy. It’s seemingly attributable to his repression and implicit necrophiliac desire for her rival, the dead Rebecca. She demonstrates her insecurity and frustration by accidentally breaking things. It suggests nothing much was broken on their wedding night.

    Lina demonstrates her insecurity by becoming Johnnie’s enabler in his gambling and get-rich-quickly gambits and schemes. More restrained than “I,” she seems overpowered by Johnnie’s weird priapism, refusing him the right to sleep with her one night — because she fears he will ravish her or kill her?

    Hitchcock delights, of course, in Johnnie’s constantly referring to his beautiful wife as “Monkey Face,” an insult to which she never once objects. Suspecting he wants to poison her for insurance money, she becomes increasingly paranoid; “I,” in contrast, becomes more assertive, heroically so.

    Though Hitchcock was obviously more interested in the suspense generated by these women’s predicaments, there is a sense in which both films are metaphors for the trials of any uncertain bride’s early married life. “Rebecca” and “Suspicion” were made when the Hollywood women’s picture was approaching its zenith, and it’s impossible to overestimate how eloquently Fontaine’s performances must have spoken to thousands of young women viewers embarking, or embarked, on the adventure of marriage. Notwithstanding that some viewers must have taken masochistic pleasure in “I”’s and Lina’s swoony suffering, Fontaine made their devotion to their unstable husbands touching in a way few Hollywood A-listers interested in playing strong women would care to today.

    Fontaine’s naturalistic flow in “Rebecca” — which Hitchcock had to coax from her — earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination, though it was her less tactile work in “Suspicion” that won her the award. Though ambitious and well-connected — Selznick, Howard Hughes, John Houseman, Aly Khan, and Adlai Stevenson romanced her — Fontaine subsequently made an erratic career. Noticeably, though, she continued to be attracted to films about women in love with rogue males.

    She was 25 when she persuasively played a 14-year-old smitten with a composer friend (Charles Boyer) of her family in Edmund Goulding’s “The Constant Nymph” (1943); one of her most physical performances and a personal favorite, it earned her a third and last Oscar nomination. In Mitchell Leisen’s “Frenchman’s Creek” (1944), another du Maurier adaptation, she was a 17th-century aristocrat in love with a French pirate.

    More startling though was Nicholas Ray’s “Born to Be Bad” (1950), in which Fontaine excelled as a girl with a sweet veneer who ruthlessly manipulates her way into San Francisco high society. Before and after her marriage to the wealthy industrialist (Zachary Scott) she steals from a woman (Joan Leslie) who has supported her, Fontaine’s Christabel beds the bohemian writer (Robert Ryan) who also loves her. Their expressions of mutual lust remain something to behold, though Christabel luxuriates as much in her viciously achieved social triumphs. Anne Baxter’s cunning ingénue in the same year’s “All About Eve” might have flinched at competing with Christabel.

    A religiose conviction in romance remained Fontaine’s strongest suit, however. Thus, she was at most affecting as Lisa Berndle, a Viennese woman who is saddened and inexorably weakened by her lifelong unrequited love for a concert pianist (Louis Jourdan) in “Letter From an Unknown Woman” (1948).

    He does not recognize Lisa as a teenaged neighbor he once met when, years later, he impregnates her during their only tryst — nor when they meet for the third and last time. Even more so than she did in “Rebecca” and “Suspicion,” Fontaine conveyed in Max Ophuls’s masterpiece the terrible vulnerability of a woman consumed for all time by the first flush of idolatrous passion. There’s no leading lady now so invested in the idea of love or so borne along by romanticism.

    Joan Fontaine in Hitchcock's 1940 "Rebecca"

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    VIDEO: 1890 Van Gogh Painting Now on Display in Washington, D.C.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers” by Vincent Van Gogh is now on display for the first time since 1966 at the National Gallery of Art.

    The Dutch master’s sweeping work of art is believed to have been painted in France, just weeks before Van Goghs suicide in 1890.

    It belonged to Van Goghs brother, Theo, before being sold to a German collector whose son sold it to Paul Mellon in 1955. It remained in the Mellon’s Virginia home, until now.

    The public last saw it during an exhibition devoted to works owned by the Mellon family in 1966.

    Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, Van Gogh, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.,

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    Glen Berger and “Spider-Man”: Traitor, Toadie, or Truth-Teller?

    In Glen Berger’s utterly engrossing autopsy of a disaster, “Song of Spider-Man,” the author writes, “If you’re trying to decide if it sounds better for the press to call you a ‘traitor’ or a ‘toadie,’ things have clearly not gone according to plan.”

    If this is what it takes to write a memoir that promises to be an instant theater classic, then bring on the deceit and ass-kissing. As a co-author of  “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” Berger had a front-row seat to the making of the highly-controversial and trouble-plagued musical, which will end its Broadway run on January 6. In its wake, the show leaves a $60 million loss, a humiliation for its composers, Bono and the Edge, serious accidents suffered by its cast members, a series of lawsuits, a traumatic reversal of fortune for its original director, JulieTaymor, and now this riveting memoir. 

    During its three-year stint as Broadway’s favorite punching bag,  “Spider-Man” generated reams of copy, fodder for late-night comedians, and endless parodies. It seemed as though there could be nothing left to say or write about the much-maligned show. But Berger, stung by what he saw as the gross misreporting in the press, felt compelled to try to set the record straight. 

    Moreover, he was party to a virtual a coup d’etat when it became increasingly clear that Taymor was unwilling to make changes that the creative team and producers deemed necessary if the show was to have any chance of success. When the director became aware of “Plan X,” a course of action created behind her back, she bitterly told her friend — whom she had picked out of relative obscurity to collaborate with her on the show — “You have no soul.” Taymor was eventually fired and replaced by Philip McKinley. Berger himself saw his own work revised when writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was also brought in to salvage the musical. 

    ARTINFO recently spoke with Berger about the experience of working in the trenches alongside a woman he would later betray and what that has taught him about the complex nature of collaboration and the deluded dreams of show people.

    Why did you write the book?

    Here’s one answer: I suddenly got this overwhelming feeling that I was destined to write it. “Spider-Man” turned me into a superstitious person. After everything was done, I began asking in an existential way, “Why did this happen in the way that it did?” When I was hired for this gig in the first place, I had this sense, “Yes! Finally the universe has figured out how to make everything up to me.” [Laughs]  And when all that craziness went down, my reaction to the universe was, “Really?” And so it left me in a sort of perplexity until after we opened. And then I realized I wasn’t destined to write “Spider-Man, the Musical.” I was destined to write a book about the making of “Spider-Man, the Musical.”

    Did it give you any pause to write a “tell-all”?

    My agent had suggested that I write a book a couple of months before we opened and I thought, “No way will I write a tell-all.” I was thinking that it was just a little sleazy. But then after the show opened, I thought, “Why does it have to be sleazy? Why can’t it be a really earnest recounting full of compassion and hearts worn on the sleeve and all that?”

    It reads like an apologia to Julie. Is that what you intended?

    Let me put it this way — the story of me and Julie from one perspective? Who cares? But on another general level, just the idea of the blooming and withering of a friendship over the course of a collaboration is sort of a fascinating topic. But an apologia? I mean, there’s just a sort of melancholy for how events unfolded. I think that few relationships are put under such a strain. It’s not that one or the other did anything toxically wrong, you know? It’s just the way that the events played out that made the future untenable.

    You don’t spare yourself in the book. You even bring up the press image of you as either a traitor or a toadie.

    Look, I don’t feel like I was either one in real life. But my first objective in the book was to get at the truth and to do that you have to be willing to throw yourself under a microscope as much as anybody else. When it comes to the press, the way that one is portrayed is based on the limited number of inches that reporters have and the number of eyeballs they’re trying to reach. Nuance gets lost, things get misconstrued, and people get misinformed. That was one of the objectives of my book, to provide a little more context for how everything unfolded.

    In the book, Julie said this show is cursed. Do you believe it was cursed?

    Well [laughs], yeah! Early on there’d be people who said the show was cursed and Julie would say, “Pshaw.” And eventually she came around to that opinion and the same thing happened to me. You don’t believe in such things. And then these things start happening. Some of it just snowballs and then it’s hard to escape from it. Once a meme gets formed, it’s very hard to change the narrative.

    Do you think the media was somehow out to get Julie and “Spider-Man”?

    I think everybody in the world had some sort of opinion about it but that happens all the time. When Julie’s movie, “Across the Universe,” came out, it was characterized as polarizing. There were some people who loved it and some who hated it with a real vengeance, and it had to do with the fact that she was using the Beatles. And “Spider-Man” was certainly similar.

    Do you think Julie got a bad rap on this show?

    Among the many reasons that I wrote the book was to push back against some of the conventional wisdom that has formed about some of the people. The idea that Julie was somehow profligate when it comes to budgets, I didn’t see that. Or that Bono and the Edge’s music wasn’t good. If people heard those original demos, they’d hear the music in a new light.

    What seemed to get some critics’ ire up is what Mark Harris wrote in his review of your book in the New York Times that the show itself was “conceived in cynicism,” that it was a “craven lunge”—

    What the hell! Nothing gets me more upset than that sentence! That sentence has haunted me night after night when I think about this entire dynamic between critics and writers. Did I not spend the entire book saying that was not the case? What that means is that Mark Harris read this entire book with a pair of goggles on. Mark Harris wasn’t there for six years. He wasn’t there with Tony Adams [the original producer] or at the original meetings with Julie and Bono and the Edge. As I say in my book, it was indeed conceived in a sparkly type of idealism, perhaps a naked and naïve idealism. It wasn’t about the money. It was about having a vehicle and enough of a budget to really deliver something that was going to just blow the tops of people’s heads off. And maybe we did that but not quite how we envisioned it.

    You mention that the people involved had “a nausea for pop culture.” Then why a comic book?

    But the whole point of the show — not just Julie but every true comic book fan realizes that these comic books are not disposable! The themes are ancient and deep and epic. What attracted Julie to it wasn’t the fact that it was pop culture. She mentioned more than once and so did Bono and the Edge that far from being disposable, there was something deeply embedded in it that was truly resonant.

    What did you learn about collaboration from the experience?

    Well… collaboration is a lot more complex and mysterious than one might even suspect. Respect is important, an open mind and an open heart.

    And trust?

    Yes. And one thing I hadn’t put together so much until recently — how do I put this? — If you’re too vulnerable then your collaborator is not going to speak as openly and freely as your collaborator might.  This is true of all of us. We unconsciously calibrate how we speak to [people] based on that.

    Are you talking about Julie? Was she too vulnerable?

    Yeah. I hope this doesn’t come across as criticism because it’s not meant as that but the interesting thing about Julie, especially in the business she’s found herself in, is her need to constantly project a strong persona. What you don’t realize on a conscious level is that, in fact, especially in periods of high stress, she’s actually very insecure and vulnerable. And when you’re in that state, if you bring up something that cuts too close to the bone… If that happened at times in the collaboration, then Julie would just get up and leave the room.  

    And so you didn’t bring up issues that you should have because you were afraid of what? Unleashing her formidable anger?

    In the case of Julie, you didn’t tell her, not because you were intimidated by her but because you could sense the vulnerability behind the persona. Maybe you don’t want to be yelled at, maybe you don’t want to set her off, but it also puts a spanner in the collaboration and in the work. In a potentially fruitful collaboration, you should be able to say anything. But we’re always making these unconscious assessments and calibrations based on vulnerability and fragility. And that happens in all relationships — friends, parents, a husband and wife. 

    Do you think “Spider-Man” will indelibly mark your career?  

    I will not let that happen. It’s just a show! It’s a play! I’m working on a new musical now [“The New Frontier”]. It’s about a folk trio in 1962 who used to get along famously and create these fantastic harmonies and now they can’t be in the same room together to finish one more album. I worked out this plot before “Spider-Man,” but I wouldn’t blame any reviewer for bringing up some parallels. The title is inspired by a 1960 speech by John F. Kennedy. But he wasn’t talking about a piece of land. It’s the landscape of hopes and dreams, that space between people that we’re always trying to cross. 

    Glen Berger

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    VIDEO: Freed Pussy Riot Members Vow to Continue Protests Against Putin

    KRASNOYARSK/NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia – Two members of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot freed from prison on Monday derided President Vladimir Putin’s amnesty that led to their early release as a propaganda stunt and promised to fight for human rights.

    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, shouted “Russia without Putin” following her release from a Siberian prison, hours after band mate Maria Alyokhina, 25, was freed from jail in the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod.

    The women had two months left to serve but walked free days after a pardon from Putin freed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky eight months before the end of his more than 10-year jail term, decisions widely seen as intended to improve Russia’s image before it hosts the Winter Olympics in February.

    “It is a disgusting and cynical act,” Tolokonnikova, looking relaxed in a black coat and chequered shirt, told Reuters at her grandmother’s apartment building in the snowbound Siberian city of Kransoyarsk where she was jailed.

    Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sentenced to two years in prison for a profanity-laced protest against Putin in a Russian Orthodox church in 2012 after a trial Kremlin critics said was part of a clampdown on dissent in his third presidential term.

    The case caused an outcry in the West, but there was much less sympathy for the women at home than abroad. They had been due for release in early March.

    Putin, who denies jailing people for political reasons, has said the amnesty would show that the Russian state is humane.

    The measure, however, does not benefit opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is barred from elections for years by a five-year suspended sentence on a theft charge he says was Kremlin revenge for his activism. Putin, in power since 2000, has not ruled out seeking another six-year term in 2018.

    Alyokhina echoed critics who said the amnesty was far too narrow and not an act of mercy but a political ply by Putin.

    “I do not think it is a humanitarian act, I think it is a PR stunt,” she said in comments to the Russian Internet and TV channel Dozhd. “My attitude to the president has not changed.”

    Tolokonnikova, who staged a hunger strike earlier this year and drew attention to stark conditions and long hours of mandatory labour in the jail where she was previously held, said she would fight for prisoners’ rights.

    “Everything is just starting, so fasten your seat belts,” she said, suggesting Pussy Riot - jailed for a “punk prayer” in the main cathedral of Russia’s dominant faith - would continue to use attention-grabbing protests to make their point.

    “We will unite our efforts in our human rights activity,” Alyokhina said in Nizhny Novgorod. “We will try to sing our the song to the end.”

    Bundled in a thick green prison jacket and with her long curly hair loose, Alyokhina said she would have rejected the amnesty if that been an option. She said she wants to focus on fighting for the rights of those still behind bars.

    “I’m not afraid of anything anymore, believe me,” she said.

    In an about-face, Putin unexpectedly pardoned Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos oil company chief who had been in jail since his arrest in 2003 and conviction in two trials that critics said were punishment for challenging the Kremlin leader.

    Khodorkovsky, who was freed on Friday and flown to Germany, said Putin is seeking to improve his image while also showing that he is confident in his grip on power after weathering large opposition protests and winning a third term last year.

    Putin wants to send “a signal to society and the world that he feels secure and is not afraid”, said Khodorkovsky, who supporters feared would remain in jail throughout Putin's tenure, in an interview with Russian magazine the New Times.

    The amnesty is also expected to spare from trial 30 people arrested after a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling. They face charges punishable by up to seven years’ in jail.

    A pro-Kremlin lawmaker said he thought the amnesty and pardon would help to remove irritants in ties with the West.

    “Political grievances against Russia will shrink somewhat,” Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s parliament, said.

    But Putin has said the amnesty was not drafted with the Greenpeace activists or Pussy Riot in mind. In an annual news conference last week, he described Pussy Riot’s protest as disgraceful, saying it “went beyond all boundaries”.

    Rights activists have estimated the amnesty will free fewer than 1,500 of the 564,000 convicts in Russian prisons. Another 114,000 people are in pre-trial detention, the government says.

    A third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed last year when a judge suspended her sentence on appeal. 

    Pussy Riot, Vladimir Putin, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina,

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  • 12/23/13--12:38: Best Jazz of 2013
  • My ambivalence about year-end top-10 lists (or any top 10s not associated with ESPN or David Letterman) hasn’t changed much since last year. Yet if I look at these choices less as a winners’ circle and more as a distillation of larger stories and basic truths, I begin warming to the exercise. The story told by my list here was also last year’s best story, and among jazz’s longest-running tales: the deepening and broadening of Afro-Latin influence and expression within jazz’s ranks. I could have composed a reasonably satisfying top 10 this year solely of CDs by Cuban musicians. Such a list would have clouded my point, however, because a big part of the story is that Cuba is, well, just part of the story: Specific traditions from Puerto Rico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and beyond are coming into clearer and more distinct view, not to mention a finer integration of the varying strands of tradition from regions within Cuba itself.

    Here’s a prediction: In 2014, there will again be fools rewriting the worn-out premise that jazz is dead or dying and in need of a savior musician or next big stylistic wave. What those critics really mean (correctly, too) is that no single brand of jazz will ever again occupy a central place in this country’s popular culture and music market. Get over it. When I look at the year-end lists of smart jazz critics — there are plenty to be found at Francis Davis’s poll for NPR Music and at the website of the Jazz Journalists Association— I see mounds of worthy music from both stars and lesser-known musicians, much of it deserving of anyone’s top-10 consideration, none of it suggesting stylistic trends, and most of it challenging conformity. The lesson: Stop looking for a musical meteor that isn’t coming and instead take in the terrific constellation that now forms jazz.

    Best Jazz of 2013

    Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba30 Years: A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America (Advance Dance)

    Pianist Michele Rosewoman first presented her New Yor-Uba ensemble at Manhattan’s Public Theater in 1983. It was startling then for its balance of unfettered jazz improvisation and undiluted Cuban folklore within a complex and often grand structure. It still is, as recorded here for the first time.

    Dave Douglas QuintetTime Travel (Greenleaf)

    Trumpeter Dave Douglas released a gorgeous CD of hymns last year, featuring singer Aoife O’Donovan and a brand-new quintet. On this purely instrumental CD, the quintet’s dazzling communion is the sole focus.

    Miguel Zenón & The Rhythm CollectiveOye!!! Live in Puerto Rico (Miel)

    Though his signature quartet is New York-based, for this release alto saxophonist Zenón led a piano-less quartet with fellow Puerto Rican musicians, recorded at Taller Cé, a short-lived performance space in San Juan, where he grew up. The fire and intricacy of rhythmic tensions is stunning.

    Steve Coleman and Five ElementsFunctional Arryhthmias (Pi)

    Coleman’s music is highly influential and yet no one can duplicate the layered and textured sounds and forms his groups produce. This edition of Five Elements features standout former members Anthony Tidd (on electric bass) and Sean Rickman (drums) alongside two stirring players just beginning to make bold marks as leaders themselves — guitarist Miles Okazaki and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.

    Tim Berne’s SnakeoilShadow Man (ECM) Last year’s elegant debut by this quartet suggested a breakthrough for the alto saxophonist. Here, the group rapport based on Berne’s idiosyncratic compositions grows firmer and yet more daring. (Worth noting is pianist Matt Mitchell’s elegance and sensitivity; he’s also one key to Dave Douglas’s quintet.)

    Charles Lloyd/ Jason MoranHagar’s Song (ECM)

    The bond between tenor saxophonist Lloyd, who is 75, and pianist Moran, 38, within Lloyd’s working quartet is a wondrous thing to behold. Here, it’s just the two of them, in duo, with Lloyd also playing alto saxophone and bass and alto flutes. Jazz is often best understood through personal relationships and the flow of information across generations. Here’s more proof.

    Pat MethenyTap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels, Vol. 20 (Nonesuch/Tzadik)

    Save for some drums, this is all Metheny, on various guitars and other instruments, including piano, marimba, flugelhorn, and the Orchestrion, a one-man electromechanical orchestra of his own creation. He’s immersed himself in one deep pocket of Zorn’s growing body of Masada compositions to create mesmerizing music, rich with the nuances and details that reward repeated listening.

    Gerald Cleaver’s Black HostLife in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy)

    I’ve heard nothing quite like drummer Cleaver’s quintet, nor do I expect to soon. Here are discrete tunes that satisfy yet are constructed from and defined by the timbres and interplay of freely improvised jazz and experimental electronic music.

    Pedrito MartinezThe Pedrito Martinez Group (Motema)

    Percussionist and singer Martinez stands out within Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba group. He anchored an all-star cast paying tribute to Spanish flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla. Yet his true identity and full collaborative powers shine best in the quartet he’s honed since 2008 through his three-nights-a-week residency at the midtown Manhattan Cuban restaurant Guantanamera. Here are dizzying rhythmic webs, songs within songs, and the thrill of real Cuban rumba transformed into something as hip and irresistible as great pop.

    Wayne ShorterWithout a Net (Blue Note) With his current quartet (pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade), the eminent tenor saxophonist, now 80, has scripted a daring late-career chapter largely by eschewing song forms for improvised ebb-and-flow. Here the quartet digs yet deeper into the elegant challenge of his music and, joined by the chamber ensemble Imani Winds on the 23-minute “Pegasus,” it begins to realize yet grander ambitions.

    Coulda, Maybe Shoulda, Made That List

    Andy BeyThe World According to Andy Bey (HighNote)

    Terence BlanchardMagnetic (Blue Note)

    William ParkerWood Flute Songs (Aum Fidelity)

    Chucho Valdés & the Afro-Cuban MessengersBorder-Free (Jazz Village)

    Kidd Jordan/Hamid DrakeA Night in November (Valid)

    Matthew ShippPiano Sutras (Thirsty Ear)

    Bill FrisellBig Sur (Okeh)

    Cécile McLorin SalvantWomanChild (Mack Avenue)

    TarbabyBallad of Sam Langford (Hipnotic)

    Oliver Lake Big BandWheels (Passin’ Thru)

    Craig Taborn TrioChants (ECM)

    Allen ToussaintSongbook (Rounder)

    Ones to Watch

    Jonathan FinlaysonMoment & the Message (Pi)

    Matt MitchellFiction (Pi)

    Yunior Terry & Son de AlturaMi Bajo Danzón (Palo Santo)

    Trombone ShortySay That to Say This (Verve)


    New York Art QuartetCall It Art (Triple Point)

    Jack DeJohnetteSpecial Edition (ECM)

    Earl HinesThe Classic Earl Hines Sessions: 1928-1945 (Mosaic)

    John ColtraneSun Ship: The Complete Session (Impulse/Mosaic)

    Clifford JordanThe Complete Strata-East Sessions (Mosaic)

    Most Charming

    Allen ToussaintSongbook (Rounder)

    Randy Weston & Billy HarperThe Roots of the Blues (Sunnyside)

    Albert Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben StreetTootie’s Tempo (Sunnyside)

    Click here to see a slideshow of Larry Blumenfeld’s 2013 list of stand-out jazz artists.

    Best Jazz of 2013
    Some of 2013's top jazz albums.

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    Pop culture is inherently weird. It’s built into its DNA. To survive in this world as a pop star — whether it be music, television, film, or just famous for being famous — you have to surprise your audience and your critics. Doing the same thing, over and over again, is boring. People want new, new, new all the time. Which is when things get weird. It’s a familiar narrative: You think you know what I’m about? Then watch this. Things are about to get crazy. It takes many forms: pop stars change their image or sound, make weird public statements, or start lashing out. There is no clear trajectory; it’s all in the name of reinvention, like shooting spitballs in the wind. Here, ARTINFO picked the five weirdest things to happen in pop culture in 2013.

    Miley Cyrus

    The twerk heard ’round the world. Her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards was pointless and offensive and certainly weird. But the worst part? Even your grandma knows what twerking is now.

    “Jane Got a Gun”

    Director Lynne Ramsay’s Natalie Portman-starring Western was looking great, until the director decided to quit the film by not showing up on the first day. A new director, a few cast changes, and lawsuit later, the film looks like a dud.

    Pop Stars Performing for Dictators

    For this writer, this will go down as the year when pop stars decided it would be a good idea to take money from dictators before making sure they weren’t human-rights abusers. Jennifer Lopez and Kanye West were among the stars who let the dollar sign blind them this year.

    Spike Lee Kickstarter

    This one was weird, but also oddly perfect. Spike Lee went to Kickstarter to raise funds for his new movie, a vampire sex comedy set in Brooklyn. That’s enough for my money, really. But then Spike started offering prizes like old sneakers and front-row New York Knicks tickets.

    James Franco

    What did James Franco do this year that was weird? How about everything.

    Click on the slideshow to see an illustrated list of the weirdest moments in pop culture in 2013.

    The 5 Weirdest Moments in Pop Culture in 2013
    Miley Cyrus performs onstage during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

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    ARTINFO Videos from the Best Restaurants in NYC 2013

    The New York Times is out with its list of the ten Best New Restaurants of 2013 and Blouin ARTINFO was ahead of the curve in featuring the cream of the crop during the year.


    In July, we featured a video tour (VIDEO ABOVE) of Chef Wylie Dufresne's next venture following the success of WD-50, Alder, which features a more casual approach. 


    Located in the East Village, Alder is Dufresne’s take on a traditional tavern with a modern American twist. While WD-50 has only tasting menus, Alder’s extensive food and cocktail menu reinterprets New York City’s diverse food culture using cutting-edge culinary techniques. Among the highlights are Pigs in a Blanket made with Chinese sausage, Japanese mustard, and sweet chili sauce, and Chicken Liver Toast with cornbread, grapefruit marmalade, and cracklings.


    And in October, we heralded the arrival in Brooklyn of chef Paul Liebrandt’s provocative French cuisine at The Elm, in Williamsburg.


    Lauded as one of the most influential chefs in New York, Liebrandt left his five-year gig at the now closed TriBeCa fine dining hotspot, Corton, to focus on his latest venture. Unlike the refined and quietly elegant setting of Corton, The Elm (like Wylie Dufresne’s second venture) takes on a more casual approach. The 70-seat restaurant, devised by Parts and Labor Design, adopts an industrial aesthetic with exposed beams, modern light fixtures, and a 30-foot wood framed vine installation, inspired by McCarren Park across the street.


    Even the forward-thinking menu, concocted by Liebrandt and Executive Chef, Mazen Mustafa, pays homage to the simplicity of dining with four distinct categories: Raw, Sea, Land, and Shared. However, the French fare offers a touch of eclectic flavors, inspired by the chef’s global travels. Their creation, Early Autumn Beets with Tomato Aïoli and Bacon XO Sauce, is taken from a recent trip to Hong Kong. (VIDEO BELOW)

    Paul Liebrandt and The Elm

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    Randy Weiner's "Queen of the Night" Evokes a Lost World

    Immersive theater, the growing trend to blur the lines between performers and audience, will reach an apotheosis of sorts on New Year’s Eve with the opening of Randy Weiner’s “Queen of the Night,” at the Diamond Horseshoe supper club in the Paramount Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Hotelier Aby Rosen has poured $20 million into renovating the 6,000-square-foot space, where the legendary Billy Rose once held sway in the 1930s and ’40s, to prepare for the lavish spectacle, which is loosely based on Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” A press release describes the show thus: “The Marchesa presents Queen of the Night, a dark debutante ball for her daughter Pamina. Queen of the Night is a fusion of performance, music, circus, cuisine, design, and nightlife that welcomes the audience into a wholly interactive entertainment experience.”

    Theatrical impresario Weiner has made no bones about the fact that he finds traditional theater too hidebound. This has been perfectly clear since 1999, when he and his wife, the director Diane Paulus, placed “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a disco setting in “The Donkey Show.” “I think when there are no rules, then the experience is endowed with curiosity and heightened theatricality,” Weiner told me recently. “I think in those circumstances, it’s not a bad thing to feel lost and confused.” He added that emerging from such an experience “makes you think about your life in a new way.”  

    Weiner has explored those elements in productions that meld the contemporary with the retro, from The Box, his burlesque place on the Lower East Side, to “Sleep No More,” Punchdrunk’s smash hit at the McKittrick Hotel, which gives a 1930’s noir sheen to “Macbeth.”  

    For “Queen,” Weiner has assembled a first-class team of artists, including Tony-winning set designer Christine Jones (“American Idiot”) and Shana Carroll, the co-artistic director of Les 7 Doigts de la Main, the troupe that has embellished the current revival of “Pippin,” directed by Paulus, with its dazzling circus arts. Adding the fashion element to the extravaganza are creative director Giovanna Battaglia and fashion designer Thom Browne. Leading the 33-member cast in the genre-bending spectacle are Martha Graham dancer Katherine Crockett as the Marchesa, and Steve Cuiffo (“The Elephant Room”) as Sarastro. The creative team includes Simon Hammerstein, the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein. His participation adds a nostalgic luster to this immersive experience, given that Billy Rose and Oscar Hammerstein were early 20th-century titans in the history of New York’s nightlife. The producers have announced a six-week engagement, which will be followed by other spectacles in the same space.

    A scene from Queen of the Night, now playing at the Paramount Hotel.

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    In my opinion, the Yule Log, which burned bright on my television set during my entire childhood courtesy of local New York station WPIX, will always be the best Christmas movie. I certainly spent many a morning staring at it with wonder, enraptured by its existence. But, of course, I understand some people don’t consider sitting around watching a log burn on their television a “good time,” so we’re here to help. Looking to watch something during the Christmas holidays? ARTINFO has selected the 10 best Christmas movies of all time. Some of these we suggest not watching with the whole family, unless your family is a dysfunctional mess. But really, whose family isn’t?

    Click on the slideshow to see ARTINFO’s list of the top 10 Christmas movies.

    The 10 Best Holiday Movies to Watch on Christmas
    A still from "It's A Wonderful Life" directed by Frank Capra.

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    The Best of the ARTINFO Newswire in 2013

    Surveying the last year of stories on In The Air, the ARTINFO newswire, we’re struck by the non-stop interaction they show between the art world and the broader world of popular culture. From Lady Gaga’s Jeff Koons-designed album cover to George Bush’s own artistic coup — making people forget his distressingly awful presidency with his impressively mediocre paintings — 2013 was a big year for the mainstreaming of contemporary art. Also popular were stories about naked men in museums (some invited, others not), the much-ridiculed Danish royal family portrait, and masterpieces of modern art made from toast. Here they are, the best In The Air stories of 2013.

    – In February, the very first of former U.S. President George W. Bush’s paintings — a pair of nude self-portraits set in his bathtub and shower — were revealed to the world, setting in motion a year-long obsession with the failed politician’s minor achievements at the easel.

    – We sought out the aesthetic opinion of another U.S. President — Theodore Roosevelt— on the occasion of the Armory Show’s centennial, perusing the former chief of state’s review of the historic exhibition, in which deemed Marcel Duchamp’s infamous “Nude Descending a Staircase” less compelling than the Navajo rug hanging in his bathroom.

    – The Norwegian artist Ida Skivenes made our mouths water in March with her series of toast-based artworks based on classics of modern art history, from Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian, to Edvard Munch and Jackson Pollock.

    – As the slow New York summer of group shows got underway, we picked our favorites based solely on their most distinctive features — their titles — crowning “I want that inside me.” at Feature Inc. the season’s best, before publishing an addendum in which Marianne Boesky’s “Sunsets and Pussy” prevailed.

    We found a really easy way to earn an invitation to James Turrell’s under-construction volcano crater lair: You just need to visit all 82 of the large-scale projects (in 26 countries) covered in his forthcoming book “The Turrell World Tour.” Easy.

    – At the height of the Lady Gaga-Marina Abramovic mania this summer, a parody news website “revealed” that the performance artist has actually been playing an elaborate prank on the pop artist, fake news that many of our readers apparently took as real because it was so hilariously plausible.

    – South African artist Reshma Chhiba’s “walk-in vagina” installation, created on the occasion of the country’s Women’s Month festivities, rubbed members of South Africa’s Hindu population the wrong way.

    – On September 1, an audacious art crime rocked the community of Sedro-Woolley, Washington: A 22-year-old male, naked and bleeding, broke into the Sedro-Woolley Museum and began reorganizing the objects in its storage facility.

    – In a less disturbing incident involving a naked man in his 20s at a museum, the opening of the “Masculine/Masculine” show of male nudes at the Musée d’Orsay was attended by a 26-year-old gay rights supporter identified only as Arthur G., who walked around the opening in the buff before a security guard asked him to get dressed, which he did.

    – An exhibition by Chicago-based artist Kurt Hentschlager at Pittsburgh’s 943 Gallery was shut down after the immersive installation called “Zee” caused three visitors to suffer seizure-like attacks.

    Jeff Koons made a nude sculpture of Lady Gaga with a strategically placed gazing ball for the cover of her new album “ARTPOP.”

    Thomas Kluge’s portrait of the Danish royal family, with its incomprehensible lighting, Photoshop-like discontinuities, and and creepy children, was crowned the strangest and most compelling royal portrait of the 21st century.

    – The court decision paving the way for the demolition of New York’s graffiti center 5Pointzset an important precedent for future efforts to preserve graffiti murals.

    We stalked Leonardo DiCaprio for about an hour during Art Basel in Miami Beach’s VIP preview, and it was actually quite boring.

    – Our two longest-running series, “Art World Missed Connections” and “Instagrams of the Art World,” continued to turn up online ephemera chronicling art-lovers’ travels and loves.

    YEAR IN REVIEW 2013, Benjamin Sutton

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    From retrospectives of reclusive couturiers and honoring the memory of a whimsical magazine editor to mannequins that talk and sing, this year’s fashion and jewelry exhibitions have captured imaginations, inspired discourse, and even caused confusion: Who could forget, for instance, the amusing smorgasbord of punk-inspired outfits on the red carpet of the Met’s "Punk: Chaos to Couture" gala?

    Here are Blouin ARTINFO’s picks for the top 10 fashion and jewelry exhibitions around the world in 2013.

    "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk"set a new bar for multimedia exhibitions, using animated and talking mannequins to show off the French designer’s greatest hits for both men and women.
    October 25, 2013 to February 23, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

    “Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!” is a breathtaking inside look into the life of woman who, although marked by extreme melancholy, emerged as one of the most important patrons of British fashion.
    November 20, 2013 to March 2, 2014 at Somerset House, London

    “Virgule, etc…in the Footsteps of Roger Vivier”with about 140 shoes traced the artistic legacy of French accessories house Roger Vivier with an installation inspired by classic art museums.
    October 2 to November 18, 2013 at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris

    “Jewels by JAR” was the Met’s first-ever exhibition devoted to a contemporary jeweler, shedding light on a particularly press-shy design genius.
    November 20, 2013 to March 9, 2014 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

    "Alaïa" gathered 74 creations from the personal archives of the Tunisia-born, Paris-based, fiercely private, diminutive couturier, Azzedine Alaïa, whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion.
    September 28, 2013 to January 26, 2014 at the Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

    "The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950-1990"focuses on showing how the storied Italian jeweler has elevated fine jewelry into objets d’art with 150 pieces, some from the personal collection of screen siren Elizabeth Taylor.
    September 21, 2013 to February 17, 2014 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco

    "Punk: Chaos to Couture" was the Met's Costume Institute’s attempt to trace the metastasis of the punk spirit across contemporary fashion collections.
    May 9 to August 14, 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

    "Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced" explored the meteoric rise to fame of the first African-American designer to gain international stature, with vibrant colors, metallic fabrics, and slinky silhouettes that clung to the body.
    March 22 to July 28, 2013 at the Museum of the City of New York

    “Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo” explored how the Mexican artist used fashion — particularly her taste for traditional Tehuana garments — as an extension of her socialist and feminist convictions.
    November 24, 2012 to January 31, 2014 at the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City

    “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” was the first exhibition to document the formative influence of contemporary fashion on the advanced art in the period between 1862 and 1887.
    Feburary 26 to May 27, 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New Yor

    Click on the slideshow to see the 10 best fashion exhibitions of 2013.

    10 Best Fashion Exhibitions in 2013
    Top Lists, Fashion Exhibitions, Jewelry Exhibitions, Michelle Tay

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  • 12/26/13--04:59: The Best TV Shows of 2013
  • The Best TV Shows of 2013

    Television occupies an unusual spot in my ol’ critical thinking brain. On the one hand, there is a lot of junk on television. Like, a lot of junk. Turn on any of the major networks on any given night, and chances are you’re going to land on junk. Terrible, terrible junk. On the other hand, there are a few television programs, a small slither, unfortunately, that are great. There are shows that I watched this year that are better than anything I saw in a movie theater — shows that I became so hooked on, so addicted to, that it felt like a fever dream. There are other shows, I’m sure, that are great but which I didn’t get a chance to see. There are only so many minutes in the day, so few precious minutes to permanently damage your eyesight staring at a screen. 

    “Top of the Lake” (Sundance Channel)

    Before this even came out I was excited about it. Jane Campion is an underappreciated filmmaker, and to get the chance to see her take on a crime story over this much time? I was all in. Thankfully, the show, when it finally arrived in the U.S. after playing film festivals around the world, didn’t disappoint. I watched the entire thing in one day, barely getting up to eat. I can’t say I was this gripped by anything else this year, which is why this is at the top of this list. 

    “Breaking Bad” (AMC) / “Enlightened” (HBO)

    Now, I know that having “Breaking Bad” second on this list, and including it with an HBO show that was cancelled after its second season, is like committing a felony. Both of these shows ended this year, both were brilliant, and both moved me in ways I didn’t think possible. It was hard to say goodbye, but they will always be remembered. 

    “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox)

    Maybe I’m a little too hard on network television. It can’t all stink, right? This show is the perfect example. Now that “The Office” and “30 Rock” are off the air, and “Parks and Recreation” is sadly falling into a slump, this is the only show around that is funny. Granted, it’s not perfect. There are things that don’t work. But it actually has jokes, some things on the show really work, and the network seems ready to give it a chance. I’m going to keep watching it, which is more than I can say for a critical darling like “Homeland.”

    “House of Cards” (Netflix)

    This is still the best Netflix original series to date. I don’t care what people say about “Orange is the New Black” or “Arrested Development.” Those shows are full of fluff. “House of Cards” was lurid, provocative, funny, visually dynamic, scary, and compulsively watchable. You can’t ask for more. 

    “Mad Men” (AMC)

    This is a show you can count on. What else can you say about “Mad Men” that hasn’t been said a million times? It always delivers. It’s always great and surprising. The end of this season, with Don at a (final?) crossroads, means that the show is going to take another turn. I’m excited for it all and sad it will end soon. Maybe it will even make the top of this list next year. 

    Elisabeth Moss in "Top of the Lake."

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    VIDEO: Sculpting Radishes into Art, a Mexican Christmas Tradition

    OAXACA, Mexico – Residents of Oaxaca, Mexico celebrate Christmas with their annual tradition: “Radish Night”.

    In front of the city’s church, thousands come out to celebrate the “roots” of Christmas with radishes sculpted into art. The festival combines traditional folk art and agriculture with figures from the nativity scene and the last supper.

    Radish sculptor Carlos Eduardo Luria says they keep it simple using only wooden sticks and a local plant common to Oaxaca, “the use of glue is not allowed, nor is adhesive or wire, things which are not natural or ecological so that's why reed is used to keep pieces together.”

    From humble beginnings in indigenous agriculture, the tradition has since expanded into a colorful festival and attracts visitors from all over the world.

    Other pieces include Joseph leading Mary to Bethlehem as well as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

    Oaxaca, Mexico, Radish Art, Radish Night, Sculpture,

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    Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Stephen Ward" Receives Mixed Verdict

    After the recent opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Stephen Ward,” about one of swinging London’s most famous scandals, the London critics were something of a hung jury.

    “Lloyd Webber’s instinctive romanticism sits oddly with a social and political critique,” wrote the Guardian’s Michael Billington of the musical, which attempts to vindicate its eponymous hero. “If the show is intended as a blistering attack on the British Establishment’s victimization of Stephen Ward, it is only partly successful.”

    Charles Spencer of the Telegraph opined that the musical, directed by Richard Eyre, was “a delightful surprise” with songs filled with “wit and fun.”

    While most found the libretto wanting, there was almost universal praise for the rich variety of Lloyd Webber’s songs in telling this sex-and-politics scandal known as the Profumo Affair, which in 1963 had a hand in bringing down the conservative government of Harold Macmillan. Two songs in particular caught the attention of the critics: “I’m Hopeless When it Comes to You,” a love ballad sung by Joanna Riding as Profumo’s wife; and “You Never Had it So Good,” which, followed by the line, “You’ve never had it so often,” sets the tempo for an orgy scene.

    In 1963 London, the horny dilemma between prurience and prudishness among the British was brought into focus in the media frenzy that followed the news that John Profumo, then secretary of state for war, had been having an affair with Christine Keeler, a party girl to whom he’d been introduced by Ward, a high-flying society osteopath. The rub came when it was discovered that she was having a concurrent affair with a Soviet attaché during this Cold War period. What is usually fodder for British sex comedies turned tragic when Ward committed suicide shortly before a court found him guilty of effectively being a pimp not only for Keeler but also her friend Mandy Rice Davies.

    Lloyd Webber has stated that he is very proud of the musical and its acclaimed cast, led by Alexander Hanson as Ward and the Charlottes Spencer and Blackledge — as Keeler and Rice Davies, respectively. But the composer has expressed chagrin that it may not be commercially successful given the subject matter and the present climate for regurgitated fare, including movie-to-musical transfers and so-called “jukebox” musicals. All the more credit then to him for once again attempting something as wholly original, provocative, smart, and anti-heroic as one of his most enduring classics: “Evita.” He’s done this with the full awareness that he’s not had a hit musical in 22 years, since “Sunset Boulevard” in the West End. On Broadway, the dry spell has been three years longer, since 1988’s “Phantom of the Opera."

    “The costs of doing musicals have risen absolutely hugely,” Lloyd Webber recently told the Telegraph. “I don’t think I’ve got enough money to do very many more.”

    That has to be taken with a grain of sand since the West End production of “Stephen Ward” is modestly capitalized at $3.25 million and Lloyd Webber has an estimated fortune of $1.3 billion. “Phantom” alone has grossed $5.6 billion and is still going strong. But for a theater artist like Lloyd Webber, it has long since ceased being about money. It’s about vindication. And in that regard, it’s little wonder why he could be fascinated by the unloved Ward.

    Alex Hanson and Charlotte Spencer

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