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  • 02/10/14--11:58: San Francisco
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    NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art hiked up the hemline — in fact, deconstructed the whole skirt — on its “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” exhibition today, offering a sneak peek into the artistry and process of the mid-20th century couturier that was so favored by socialites.

    Using the iconic Clover Leaf Ball Gown (constructed in 1953 for Mrs William Randolph Hearst, Jr. to wear to the Eisenhower Inauguration) as a template, the Met remade from scratch the black-and-white confection that can best be described as a feat of both architecture and art that, as the exhibition’s name suggests, stretches way beyond fashion.

    As the model Elettra Wiedemann swanned into the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery, where the press conference was held, wearing the reconstructed gown, it was easy to see how it was designed to lift weightlessly from the dance floor like an ice skater’s skirt in pirouette — even though it weighed 10 lbs.

    Next to Wiedemann, a muslin version — one of five draped study pieces James created — on a mannequin revealed the secret: the skirt comprised several separate panels that when stitched together created volume either horizontally or vertically. The total effect was a cantilevered skirt in three parts: the upper skirt of white satin; a structurally distinct wide band of black velvet, with top and bottom curves undulating in opposite directions; and a hem of white silk faille.

    Certainly not your average ball gown, it’s the kind of garment you have to examine from not more than five inches away to fully appreciate.

    Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Met’s Costume Institute, attributes James’ dedication to details to his start as a milliner in Chicago in the 1920s: “Those same details recur in the 1930s in a half-bias gown or in very architectural skirts in the 1950s.”

    Koda also said he developed a newfound appreciation for a nearly-forgotten couturier like James.

    “I love people who work with materials and are sensitive to what they do or how they act. James didn’t care — he cared about the effect of the materials,” he explained. “The big jump for me was the perceptual shift between fashion designer and artist. There’s something heroic about the way he pursued something to a certain discomfort. He just cared so much about the creative process that he didn’t mind living in virtual poverty at the end of his life, because he was still pursuing this ideal of creating an extraordinary work of art.”

    Koda added: “Studying his work has made me appreciate him much better as a designer because I now understand his approach, [even if it’s so] counterintuitive to my kind of thinking.”

    James had avid fans among his contemporaries, including Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior. Dior has credited James for being the inspiration for his “New Look,” and indeed both couturiers’ designs reflect the silhouette comprising sloping shoulders, a cinched waist and a full skirt. Meanwhile, other iconic designers like Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel were his clients.

    The preview also showcased the Butterfly Ball Gown, a brown silk, chiffon and tulle number (also designed originally for Mrs. Hearst, in 1955) that gave the wearer the effect of a bee-stung bottom.  It’s a fine specimen of a labor-intensive tucking treatment over a body-hugging column sheath, replete with an exuberant volume of tulle at the back — again, best seen up close and personal.

    “Charles James: Beyond Fashion,” will run from May 8 to August 10, 2014, at the new Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Click on the slideshow to preview some of the highlights.

    The Met Hikes Up the Skirt of Charles James Exhibition, Revealing Couturier's Genius
    Elettra Wiedemann

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    Broadway Ain't Beanbag: Diahann Carroll Drops Out of "A Raisin in the Sun"

    The much heralded teaming of Denzel Washington and Diahann Carroll in the new Broadway revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” is not to be. The 78-year-old actress decided to withdraw from her role as Lena Younger, the matriarch in the 1959 Lorraine Hansberry classic, “due to the demands of the vigorous rehearsal schedule and the subsequent eight-performances-a-week playing schedule,” according to Philip Rinaldi, publicist for “Raisin.” She has been replaced by veteran stage performer LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”).

    The announcement placed renewed focus on the subject of the respective ages of the actors in the revival, which was first brought up with the casting of Washington. The Oscar-winning actor is the box-office powerhouse behind this revival of a play that only 10 years ago had a successful Broadway run, starring Phylicia Rashad as Lena and Sean P. Combs as her ambitious son, Walter Lee Younger. At 59, Washington is decades older than Sidney Poitier was when, at 32, he created the role in the iconic 1959 production. Jackson, only five years Washington’s senior, will now play his mother.

    When queried about the issue of age in a recent interview, Kenny Leon, who is directing the revival, said, “When I think about whom to cast in a production, I don’t ask myself, ‘How old are they?’ I ask, ‘Who is the best actor to play this role?’ Denzel has everything in him to draw on the character of Walter Lee. As an actor sometimes you play different ages, different parts of yourself. It’s what we call acting.”

    Carroll, of “Julia” and “Dynasty” TV fame, was expected to bring a certain glamour to the role of Lena, originally created both onstage and in the subsequent 1961 film by Claudia McNeil, an imposing presence with gray hair and scale-tipping heft. Jackson may yet bring to the fore a more stylish Lena, as envisioned by Leon, in this tale about a black Chicago family whose members differ on how to spend a $10,000 insurance check. Walter wants to invest it in a liquor store; Lena in a house in the fictional white middle-class section of Chicago known as Clybourne Park.

    As someone who has more recent stage credits than Carroll (last seen on Broadway in 1982 in “Agnes of God”), Jackson is unlikely to be tripped up by the demands of rehearsals or performances. But there’s no question that theater can be an exhausting exercise. That makes all the more impressive the continuing commitment of such octogenarians as Estelle Parsons, who at 86 is starring this season in “The Velocity of Autumn”; James Earl Jones, 83, who just finished an Australian tour of “Driving Miss Daisy”; and Angela Lansbury, 88, who was Jones’s co-star in “Daisy” and who is now prepping for her featured role in a West End production of “Blithe Spirit.”

    The fact that the theater relies on the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief makes it a more forgiving arena when it comes to age. Ethel Merman, at 58, recreated the title role in “Annie Get Your Gun,” playing opposite Bruce Yarnell as a romantic interest — he was 27 years her junior. Mary Martin flew around in the musical “Peter Pan” at 47. And in 1909, at the age of 65, Sarah Bernhardt famously played the 19-year-old Joan of Arc. As recounted in Elizabeth Silverthorne’s biography of the legendary French actress, in the course of the play the inquisitors would ask the Maid of Orleans how old she was. At this point, Bernhardt would slowly turn to face the audience and proudly declare, “Dix neuf!” (“Nineteen!”). The response was ecstatic.

    (l) Diahann Carroll (r) LaTanya Richardson Jackson

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    23 Questions for Painter and Knick-Knack Collector Jiha Moon

    Name: Jiha Moon
    Age: 40
    Occupation: Artist
    City/Neighborhood: Atlanta, Georgia

    The title of your show at Ryan Lee Gallery is “Jiha Moon: Foreign Love Too.” Where did that title come from?

    The body of work for my solo show with Ryan Lee Gallery is a continuation of my work from my solo show “Foreign Love,” which is now at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina. It originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. As a foreigner living in the States myself, I often think about what authenticity really means and I think we often misunderstand it. The title is from this idea of how we often fall in love with what we think of as foreign or exotic to us.

    For that show you also created ceramic objects for the first time. What was it like working in a new medium? What techniques did you use?

    Clay is something that I have always been attracted to and wanted to try. Ceramic has a long history connecting East and West. As an Asian American artist, this is such a rich area to explore and to research. I actually enjoy the unexpected and uncontrollable process of kiln works. Not everything comes out perfectly, but I’ve learned what to expect from this process.

    I have been exploring the idea of Asian blue and white ceramic, celadon and crackle glazes that people easily associate with Asian ceramic works. For example, I put together some old pine trees and Angry Birds as part of a landscape drawing in the manner of blue and white style on ceramic.

    Also, learning how to do things in a ceramic studio, I purposefully make pots and vases non-functional. I’ve learned that many ceramicists often distinguish between functional and decorative work. As a painter this notion was a bit harder to accept, and I started making ceramic works that look like they are broken. However, these works were built perfectly and sliced and put together before they went to the kiln. Nothing was broken but they are meant to look that way. My ceramic work has influenced my own painting work as I work back and forth between two studios.

    Your show at the Weatherspoon Art Museum recently opened and you just had a solo exhibition at MOCA Georgia. How does it feel to be getting that kind of institutional recognition?

    I was in an important museum group show called “One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now” at Asia Society in 2006, which Melissa Chiu curated; at the Drawing Center in New York in 2008; and had a solo show at the CUNY Graduate Center that was curated by Katherine Carl. I moved to Atlanta in 2006 from Washington, D.C. and have lived here ever since. Atlanta is the city that I have lived in the longest except for my hometown, Daegu, South Korea, where I grew up. It is such privilege to be recognized and have several museum shows in the South in America.

    What project are you working on now?

    I am working on new paintings and ceramics for shows at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and for the National Academy Museum in New York.

    What’s the last show that you saw?

    Rashid Johnson’s “Message to Our Folks” at the High Museum in Atlanta.

    What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?

    I loved Rashid Johnson’s show. The way he handles the subject and material are very specific and at the same time touching broader and bigger cultures and audiences.

    Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.

    I am an artist and I am also a mother and a wife who is multi-tasking many things at the same time. I get up, check my email, social networks, news from here and Korea online, and go to my studio by 11 a.m. I work in my studio until I pick up my son at his school around 5 p.m., and then come home and cook dinner for my family and spend time with them. After my son goes to bed, I do some correspondence or other business-related work on the computer. If I am not too tired I often go back to my studio by 9 or 10 p.m. and work until I go to bed.

    Do you make a living off your art?

    Yes, so far.

    What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

    Hanji — it’s Korean Mulberry paper. I buy a year’s supply when I visit Korea.

    Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

    Everywhere! I read labels and take pictures of logos on products at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. I am a sponge and observe everything and adopt things into my work. I image Google things all the time, and search words in different languages and read Wikipedia pages constantly. I read articles just as much as digging through art books or going to galleries or museums. Any of these can be inspiring and give me ideas for my work.

    Do you collect anything?

    I collect many things from all over the place. I have hundreds of souvenirs and knick-knacks in my studios. I also collect art often. I try to buy what I can afford but I also have been trading with other artists who I love. My husband and I have quite a nice collection of contemporary art.

    What’s the last artwork you purchased?

    Last year my husband and I bought two pieces from Kansas City artist Jaimie Warren’s self-portrait series. We love her work.

    What’s the first artwork you ever sold?

    I sold a large oil on canvas of my grandma’s funeral painting to one of my professors at the University of Iowa when I was graduate student there.

    What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

    My 4-year-old son, Oliver, screamed at me, “I hate this work!” at the Dali show at High Museum and stomped his feet really loud last year. I got shocked and had to remove him from the situation immediately.

    What’s your art-world pet peeve?

    People who can’t focus on the conversation for a second and keep looking around at art openings. Artists who I don’t know who ask me to introduce them to my galleries at the openings. People who give me stink eyes when I bring my little son to the openings.

    What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

    Any Korean restaurant on Buford Highway in Atlanta, and Koreatown in Manhattan has lots of great fusion Asian/Korean restaurants and fancy bakeries for coffee and snacks.

    What’s the last great book you read?

    Night Studio” by Musa Mayer. I am on and off and still reading.

    What work of art do you wish you owned?

    Any of Philip Guston’s later paintings.

    What would you do to get it?

    Dream big!

    What international art destination do you most want to visit?

    I would love to go to the Venice Biennale next time.

    What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

    I think I am an under-appreciated artist... definitely Asian artists; any minority artist should have more opportunities to be seen and appreciated in the art world.

    Who’s your favorite living artist?

    Sarah Sze, Nick Cave, Do Ho Suh.

    What are your hobbies?

    I like cooking. There is something similar between cooking and painting.

    Jiha Moon, "Mama Dance," 2013

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    LONDON—The contemporary season opened at Phillips on Monday evening with a mild bang, bringing in just £10,433,250 ($17,006, 198) for the thirty-two lots offered. 

    Of those, seven lots failed to sell, for a buy-in rate of 22 percent by lot and 14 percent by value. Three lots sold for over a million pounds and four made over one million dollars. More impressively, three artist records were set. The final tally hurdled the low end of pre-sale expectations, which ranged from £9.3-12.9 million.

    As usual for Philips, the mix featured some younger artists just hitting the international market. Norwegian painter Fredrik Vaerslev’s hybrid abstraction “Untitled (Frieze Garden Painting #02)” from 2011, comprised of house paint, enamel paint, spray paint and nails on pressure-impregnated spruce, made a record £48,750 ($79,463; est. £20-30,000/$32,800-49,300), and Brooklyn-based phenom Lucien Smith’s splashy abstraction “Feet in the Water” from 2012, executed with a paint-loaded fire extinguisher in acrylic on unprimed canvas, brought an estimate-shattering £194,500 ($319,310; est. £40-60,000/$65,700-98,500).

    In that somewhat older talent parade, Adam McEwen’s large and impressive abstraction “Rite Aid” from 2011, comprised of graphite on aluminum panel, brought £170,500 ($277,915; est. £150-250,000/$246-410,000), and Nate Lowman’s ghostly ode to Hollywood and Warhol, “Untitled (Marilyn)” from 2011 sold to a telephone bidder for a record £530,500 ($864,715; £400-600,000/$657,000-985,000). The Lowman carried a Phillips’ financial guarantee, meaning the work would sell no matter what kind of reception it got in the firm’s snazzy Howick Place salesroom.  But tonight it didn’t seem to need any help.

    Mark Flood’s rather gorgeous “Pink Summer Day” from 2009  hit a record £80,500 ($131,215; est. £20-30,000/$33,200-49,500).

    Other recently produced creations included Urs Fischer’s aptly titled “Nail Duo” from 2012, executed in galvanized and cast bronze and from an edition of three plus one artist’s proof. It went for £230,500 ($375,715) to London dealer Harmony Hambly-Smith on behalf of Simon de Pury, the former chairman of Phillips (est. £200-300,000/$328,000-493,0000).

    Fellow Gagosian artist Dan Colen had one of his bubblegum on canvas works, “It’s only Natural (The Replacement)” from 2010, but it failed to sell at a final bid of £140,000 ($230,000), short of its secret reserve price (it was estimated at £200-300,000/$328,000-493,000).

    Not all the freshly minted stars corralled by Phillips blasted past expectations. A large-scale Oscar Murillo, “Untitled” from 2011 in oil, dirt, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, drew three bidders and sold for a relatively tame £98,500 ($160,555).

    Moving up the market food chain, “SP56” from 2008, a  96-by-84 inch spray paint on canvas composition by Sterling Ruby in smoky hues of black and gray, sold in the salesroom to an elegantly attired Asian woman sporting high-wattage diamond earrings for £494,500 ($806,035; est. £500-700,000/$821,000-1.15 million).

    Christopher Wool, still looking like a winner after his recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York,  was represented by the richly marked and rubbed “Untitled (P492)” from 2005, in spray gunned silkscreen ink on linen, which brought £1,314,500 ($2,142,635; est. £800,000-1.2/$1.31-1.97 million).

    There was a fair amount of work by German artists, including Andreas Gursky’s mural-scaled overhead view “Ocean IV” from 2010, from an edition of six, which sold for £338,500 ($551,755; est. £300-500,000.$493,000-821,0000). Rosemarie Trockel’s more intimately scaled “Untitled” composition from 1987, made from knitted wool yet appearing cooly minimal and macho, sold for £116,500 ($189,895; est. £60-80,000/$98,500-131,000). Milan dealer Nicolo Cardi of Galleria Cardi was the underbidder.

    “She has some history,” said Cardi, “unlike the new artists, where it’s a very dangerous game to bid on.”

    The Trockel last sold at Sotheby’s London, for £85,200 ($136,707), in October 2012—probably just time to realize a decent appreciation for the seller.

    Another feminist pioneer, Yayoi Kusama, weighed in with “Infinity Nets OPQR,” a densely packed abstraction from 2007 that made £458,500 ($747,355; est. £400-600,000/$657,000985,000).

    Another work from the thin roster of super-stars represented, Gerhard Richter’s powerful but rather petite “Abstraktes Bild 776-1” from 1992—painted in a diffused and blended palette of blues, grays and  pale yellow—took top lot honors, selling for £1,930,500 ($3,146,715; est. £1.8-2.2/$2.96-3.61).

    It was underbid in the salesroom by the aforementioned elegantly dressed woman.

    Andy Warhol’s iconic “One Multicolored Marilyn (Reversal Series)” from 1976/86, which makes the screen goddess look like a ghostly negative, fetched £1,082,500 ($1,764,475), selling to London dealer Marco Voena of Robilant + Voena (est. £600-800,000/$985,000-1.31 million).

    “It’s a fantastic painting,” said Voena moments after the bidding, “it’s never been out of its crate, so in a way, it was a bargain.”

    Young British Artists had a mixed outing tonight, as Chris Ofili’s elephant dung-anchored painting, “The Saga Continues…The Journey from Hell,” from 1997, bought in £450,000 ($739,000) against a much higher esimate (£600,000-800,000/$985,000-1.3 million).

    Fellow YBA Damien Hirst fared better, with the diptych “Night Follows Day” from 2007 selling to a telephone bidder for £578,500 ($942,955; est. £500,000-700,000/$820,000-1.15 million)

    Storied street artist Banksy proved his mettle with two works that went over estimate, including the humorously goofy “Rembrandt” from 2009, in applied googly eyes and acrylic on canvas, which hit £398,500 ($649,555; est. £150,000-250,000/$246,000-410,000).

    A prime example from the resurgent Arte Povera movement, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Uomo con gli stivali al telefono” from 1970, made in the artist’s signature painted tissue on a stainless steel support, sold for £614,500 ($1,001,635; est. £350-450,000/$575,000-739,000). Pistoletto’s subject, casually dressed in a sweater, corduroys and high leather boots, leans against one edge of the frame, holding the old-fashioned instrument in a way that conveys its barbell like weight.

    Voena was the underbidder to the telephone buyer. The work last sold at Christie’s London in February 2007 for £240,000 ($471,600).

    “I thought it had its high points,” said Michael McGinnis, Phillips’s CEO, speaking of the sale’s results, “and it made some good prices.”

    But McGinnis was at a loss to explain the buy-in of the Ofili. “It’s a masterpiece.”

    The evening action resumes Tuesday at Christie’s with “Eyes Wide Open,” a 109-lot single owner sale of primarily Arte Povera material sourced from a private Italian collection.

    A Small Bang at Phillips Contemporary in London
    Gerard Richter's "Abstraktes Bild 776-1 (Abstract Painting)," 1992 which sold fo

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    Boston Symphony Orchestra to Perform Carnegie Hall

    Beginning February 11, Carnegie Hall will present the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the much-admired Bernard Haitink, performing the work of Maurice Ravel. The program, featuring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, includes the Spanish-influenced “Alborada del gracioso,” the poetically inspired “Shéhérazade,” and perhaps his most revered work, “Daphnis et Chloé,” made famous by Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes in 1922.

    Haitink, presently the conductor emeritus of the Boston Symphony, will be celebrating his 85th birthday and 60th season during the 2013-14 season, with a series of shows in collaboration with the greatest orchestras in the world. Along with the Boston Symphony, Haitink will conduct the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. In March, he will mark the 50th anniversary of his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker with a series of concerts. That’s quite a year.

    Founded in 1881, the Boston Symphony is considered one of the “Big Five” orchestras in the country (along with New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cleveland). The group has famously made a summer home at Tanglewood, where they perform large concerts, usually broadcast over the radio, along with the Boston Pops (the Boston Symphony minus its principal players). Film composer John Williams conducted the Pops from 1980 to 1993. James Levine, music director of the Metropolitan Opera, was named music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2004, but resigned from the position in 2011 after suffering a series of health issues.

    Haitink first conducted the Boston Symphony in 1971. He was named principal guest conductor in 1995 and the LaCroix Family Fund Conductor Emeritus in 2004.

    The Boston Symphony will perform at Carnegie Hall on February 11 and 12.  

    The Boston Symphony Orchestra being led by Conductor Bernard Haitink, w

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    So far, the highlight of New York Fashion Week is the array of arresting prints on the runway.

    Bold lines, bright colors and eye-popping motifs were a big theme that complemented, in many cases, plays on proportion as silhouettes were kept straight and narrow, although somehow not at all mannish.

    At Opening Ceremony, the most delightful looks that designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon sent out reminded you of what it’s like to dip your hands in chocolate and stamp your fingerprints everywhere.

    Altuzarra, inspired by the 1970s textiles of Sheila Hicks, sent out an exquisitely tailored collection that was understated yet punctuated with a couple of breathtakingly beautiful coats with neon checkered lines.

    Mara Hoffman translated inspiration from Northern Africa — such as Moroccan rug patterns and Bedouin jewelry — into graphic checkerboard prints and motifs of either black-and-white or clashing colors.

    And at Delpozo, bold orange semicircle shapes lent a refreshing twist to a column gown with delicate flowers at the bust.

    Diane von Furstenberg’s entire runway was a Miami interior decorator’s dream, its graphic black-and-white fan motif being the perfect setting for her 40th anniversary show.

    At Alexander Wang, meanwhile, heat-activated leather clothes with cut-put motifs that changed colors while models stood on rotating platforms helped illustrate the designer’s theme of “extreme conditions and survival.”

    To view these graphic looks and more, including those from Carolina Herrera, Raoul and A Détacher, click on the slideshow.

    New York Fashion Week Gets Pretty Graphic
    FW14 looks at NYFW

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    “Savage Palms, Worn Stones, Moonshine Vision,” at Minneapolis’s Midway Contemporary Art through February 15, is as transcendent and disparate as its title. Julia Rometti and Victor Costales’s collaborative artworks have a mystical quality countered only by their aseptic display. The main gallery is dominated by Worn Contingencies and their shadows (on a Riffian Beach), 2013, 26 photocollages of rounded stones painted with slip, an off-white sandy paint, that appear like phases of the moon. As a companion piece, the artists invited poet Quinn Latimer to write a stone-shaped poem alliterating its many uses, from weapon to grave marker to sacred object. Opposite the photographs stands Plantas Populares–Movimento: Agitato, 2013, a black-and-white 16 mm film of palms waving wildly in a tropical breeze. The clanking projector and flickering images of the windswept plants sharply contrasts with the quietude of the stones. Ediciones del Exotismo Ordinario Internacional Neotropical(Editions of the International Exoticism Neotropical), 2011, mediates between the two works. This ongoing series of photocopied collages on newsprint includes bits of text covering an array of topics from botany to politics. All are instructions in some form: how to propagate tropical plants, how to lead a revolution. The faded inks and fragile paper of this series of formally displayed pamphlets remain neatly preserved in a vitrine.

    In the library adjacent to the main gallery, two slide projectors cast images of a stone onto translucent paper; the images fade into one another, making the rocks appear airy and light. On a shelf next to this work, several black-and-white reproductions of a portrait of Antonin Artaud are decorated with large metal paper clips. A.A. Tropicalizado, or the Three Happiest Days of his Life, 2012, references Artaud’s trip to a remote area of Mexico in search of enlightenment through the use of mind-altering substances. Both pieces maintain the archival aesthetic that predominates throughout the show.

    Despite the appearance of order, links between bodies of works are tenuous and leave room for association. The strongest pieces offer a concise pairing of a natural object and a specific medium, suggesting an uncanny synchrony between the two, an inherent quality that is shared, like the plants in the breeze and the film’s flickering, or the plainness of the round stones and the objectivity of the photograph.

    Click on the slideshow to see images from “Savage Palms, Worn Stones, Moonshine Vision.”

    Julia Rometti and Victor Costales,Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, through February 15.

    A version of this article will appear in the May 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine. 

    Review: “Savage Palms, Worn Stones, Moonshine Vision” in Minneapolis
    Rometti & Costales's "Warm contingencies and their shadows (on a Riffian beach),

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  • 02/11/14--13:17: Online
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    A Pop Up Store will take over Half Gallery on the Lower East Side on Saturday, September 29 from noon to 6 pm.
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    "The Sickest of All Collectors": What Sets Dealer Alexander Acevedo Apart

    AGE: 69
    HAILS FROM: New York
    PRESIDES OVER: Alexander Gallery, 1020 Madison Avenue, New York
    GALLERY’S SPECIALTY: 18th- and 19th-century American paintings, Old Masters and European works of art, Asian art, rare collectibles and historical items, and decorative arts
    ARTISTS SHOWN: Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer, Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, William Harnett, Louis Remy Mignot, Thomas and Edward Moran, Frederic Remington, Gilbert Stuart, and Richard Caton Woodville
    FIRST GALLERY SHOW: William Holbrook Beard in April 1981

    Tell us about your background and your first experiences with art.
    I grew up in Harlem and in the projects in the Bronx, so, needless to say, there wasn’t any artwork hanging on the walls. My first exposure was through my mother’s prayer cards that were printed with Carlo Dolci’s religious paintings.

    Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
    Years later, after returning from the Marine Corps, I moved into my parents’ tiny apartment. Hanging over the sofa where I slept was, finally, a print of the early Hudson River artist Victor de Grailly’s painting Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine.

    What drew you to the business, and when did you open your first gallery?
    I started dealing in coins when I was 12. My hunting grounds were the subway stations from the Bronx to Brooklyn, where I had a network of stationmasters whom I traded with. From sales of coins and rare comics, which I scavenged from a recycling plant run by a friend’s dad, I bought my first painting. It was from the Vincent Price collection, sold at Sears Roebuck in 1966. I sold it immediately and was instantly hooked. Ten years later I opened my first gallery at 996 Madison Avenue.

    What sets your gallery apart?
    A colleague once said that I have no respect for money. That’s true; my gallery is about passions. I never buy with a client or profit in mind. I am the sickest of all collectors: I buy what I love and spend every dollar in my account on it. As a dealer, when I meet someone who feels the same way about a piece, the ownership just seems to transfer naturally.

    Describe the local art market and any changes you have noticed.
    I deal in art for connoisseurs, not for collectors of hot names. Right now there are a lot of lemmings buying lemons and breaking records doing it. So it may seem that the traditional arts have fallen into obscurity, but it’s more that the market is subtler and stealthy these days. Collectors in my crowd are cautious with their money and choices. Madison Avenue has long ceased to be hallowed ground; the party is at the fairs, and the calling card is the artwork itself.

    In which art fair do you most enjoy participating? Why?
    The Winter Antiques Show in New York and Masterpiece London, even though they couldn’t be more different. I love the Winter Antiques Show because it attracts the most knowledgeable American collectors and curators, and Masterpiece has a diverse and informed crowd.

    What has been your strangest, most humorous, or most memorable experience in the art trade?
    In the early ’80s, I bought an unsigned Martin Johnson Heade painting at auction for $90,000. I sold it right away for a small profit to a new client. Later I learned that the man who consigned the work had peddled it with no luck all over Florida for $800. Upon hearing the price it realized, he keeled over with a heart attack. I felt terrible. Three months later his widow pulled up in front of my gallery in a brand-new car looking for “the man who bought the Heade.” Her car was filled with paintings each priced at $90,000. I politely declined.

    If you could own any artwork, price no object, what would it be?
    Hands down, the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck. The best birthday present I’ve ever received was spending a morning behind the bulletproof glass with the team in charge of its recent conservation.

    Beyond the art world, what are you passionate about? If you were not an art dealer, what would you be doing?
    Golf. If I weren’t a dealer, I’d be making divots at the Augusta National Golf Club.

    Alexander Acevedo

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  • 02/11/14--14:08: Singapore
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    Man With a Past: Rodman Primack, Design Miami’s Seasoned New Director

    On March 1, when Marianne Goebl steps down from her position as director of Design Miami, Art Basel’s design-focused sister fair in both Florida and Switzerland, an unusual replacement will be stepping up: Rodman Primack, 39, a practicing interior and textile designer with an uncannily varied—and very lengthy—resumé.

    Whereas Austrian-born Goebl specialized in design in her previous role as head of public relations at Vitra, Primack—a California native whose appointment was announced on Monday—has a decidedly more diverse professional history. Past positions include chairman of Phillips de Pury London, director of Gagosian L.A., head specialist in Latin American art at Christie’s in New York, and a designer at New York-based firm Peter Marino Architect. As a former partner at the Manhattan art and design gallery Salon 94, he’s even been a Design Miami exhibitor himself.

    This range of experience gives Primack a remarkably broad insider’s take on the design and art industries, and on the characters that drive them. “Peter [Marino] was really hard [as an employer], but he is an incredible talent,” he told ARTINFO in an interview at the Carlyle Tea Room (following a thorough assessment of the décor). “Working for Larry is like—he’s just a huge visionary. He would pick up the phone and bug me every day, all day long, which he does do everybody. But I couldn’t have done the next things without him. It was such an important way of learning to see how he runs the gallery, the way he manages both clients and artists.”

    In the decade since he left Gagosian, Primack noted, he’s watched the market operations of the art world change dramatically, as the big galleries and auction houses have solidified control over pricing, now at an all-time high. “That’s part of the reason that I’m so interested in design,” he said. “The design market isn’t so solidified… The most expensive things in [it] are a couple million dollars, if that. So there’s more experimentation, much more room for young galleries and designers.”

    Primack is the first American (and the first man) to lead Design Miami. Unlike his European predecessors, the fair’s Greek-born, Italian-bred co-founder Ambra Medda and Goebl, he developed his design sensibility in the American West—particularly Southern California, a place he describes as “touchstone.”

    “I spent every summer in a home my grandparents commissioned from one of the Case Study architects, Carl Maston, a really beautiful, kind of Japanese-inspired house,” he said. “I would imagine that because that’s my DNA, it will somehow come into the fair.” He has also been influenced by professional exposure to Latin America. He and his husband are avid collectors of Brazilian art and design (right down to a Rivane Neuenschwander ribbon from a 2010 New Museum show, miraculously still tied around his wrist). Whether this augers a shift away from the French dominance in Design Miami’s booths, however, remains to be seen.

    “It doesn’t all have to do with me,” Primack said. “It also has to do with the market, and the market is still interested in French furniture. If anything, I see more and more clients who are interested in Prouvé and Perriand.” (He and his husband are themselves collectors of Perriand, as well as of other European heavyweights like Ettore Sottsass and Michele de Lucchi.)

    It’s too early, Primack said, to talk about what changes may lie ahead for the fair; at the moment, he’s just learning the ropes from Goebl. His real test, he said, will come when Design Miami/Basel rolls around in June. 

    Our full interview with Rodman Primack will be featured in design issue of Art + Auction in April. 

    Design Miami 2013

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    LeBeouf “Performance” Hits LA, Germany Talks Restitution Law, and More

    — Shia LeBeouf’s “Performance” Hits L.A.: On Tuesday, Defamer visited “not famous anymore” actor Shia LaBeouf during his six-day stint staging a performance titled “#IAMSORRY,” at Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles, where LaBeouf was “in situ” apologizing for his sins. While the writer “had plans to ask him great questions, to make him laugh, hold his hand, take off his bag, and convince him to take a picture with [her],” things turned out differently. “When we locked eyes,” she writes, “I was unnerved.” [Defamer]

    — German Parliament to Debate Restitution Law: As news of a new cache of Cornelius Gurlitt artworks comes out this week, the German Parliament is set to debate a law that would eliminate the 30-year statute of limitations to aid in the return of looted art. Originally proposed by Bavaria in January, the law was a reaction to international accusations that Germany wasn’t doing enough to restitute Nazi-looted work. “In principle this draft law is a positive sign,” said Markus Stoetzel, lawyer for the descendants of Alfred Flechtheim, a leading 20th-century German Jewish art dealer. “It shows that the political conscience is in the process of waking up in Germany after lapses in the past. The Gurlitt case has got things moving.” [Global Post]

    — Commissioner Levin’s Next Step: Kate D. Levin, New York City’s cultural affairs commissioner from 2002 through 2013, has been appointed the first fellow at Dallas’s Southern Methodist University. In her one-year appointment at the National Center for Arts Research, Levin, who recently also joined Bloomberg Associates, will work with arts organizations across the country, raise awareness of the center, and help guide its research. The New York Times reports: “The data generated by the research center — which was established in 2012 — ‘will help arts organizations operate successfully and sustainably and inform wider audiences about the extraordinary ways this field can impact communities,’ Ms. Levin said in a statement.” [NYT]

    — Paris Court Hears Graffiti Fakes Case: A Parisian court case in which graffiti artist JonOne accused a dealer of creating forgeries of his work points to the growth and acceptance of the genre. [TAN]

    — Barney at BAM: A look at Matthew Barney’s new five-and-a-half-hour “Mythomaniacal Mailer-Hemingway Mash-Up” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. [New Republic]

    — Marcilhac Collection Up For Grabs: French dealer Felix Marcilhac is set to auction off his collection of Art Deco and Art Nouveau objects at Sotheby’s Paris and Artcurial next month. [TAN]

    — A portrait of writer Hilary Mantel by Nick Lord, which will be unveiled on February 24 at the British Library, will be the first portrait of a living author to be displayed at the museum. [NYT]

    — Shepard Fairey and RISK have teamed up again to paint a wall in L.A.’s skid row in one installment of a larger plan to put up roughly 30 murals in the area by numerous artists. [LAT]

    — The New York Times wrote a great obituary of Nancy Holt, a leader in the Land Art movement of the 1960s and ’70s and the creator of one of its most enduring examples — “Sun Tunnels.” [NYT]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Review: “Savage Palms, Worn Stones, Moonshine Vision” in Minneapolis

    “The Sickest of All Collectors”: What Sets Dealer Alexander Acevedo Apart

    A Night of Fevered Bidding on Arte Povera at Christie’s London

    Man With a Past: Rodman Primack, Design Miami’s Seasoned New Director

    Derek Blasberg to Join Gagosian Gallery

    deCordova Sculpture Park Head Dennis Kois Resigns

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

    Shia LaBeouf attends the "Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version)" premiere during

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