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    Independent Projects opened last night at 548 West 22nd Street in Manhattan, billed as a unique mix of art fair and traditional exhibition (and touted by curatorial advisor Matthew Higgs as an assortment of “40 solo shows”). What did this strange beast look like, exactly? Well, a bit like a place where you could buy stuff but also grope a stranger in a box (Yves Klein’s “Sculpture Tactile,” circa 1957, at Dominique Lévy’s booth), watch a bubble machine overflow itself (David Medalla’s “Cloud Canyon” at Venus Over Manhattan), and trip out to lo-fi techno inside a Haroon Mirza room (Lisson Gallery).

    As promised, there is an eclectic range of work hailing from various eras: A Joan Jonas video performance with sculptural elements at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise; abstract paintings from the ’60s incorporating collaged-in window shades by Robert Moskowitz at Kerry Schuss, who is concurrently showing new paintings by the artist at his Lower East Side location; Duane Hanson’s jarring “Flea Market Lady,” presented by Karma. At Zwirner’s corridor-like space there’s a frenzy of Raymond Pettibon drawings tacked to walls that have been augmented by the artist with sculptural items — including an impaled baseball mitt — and blood-red text (such as “Till we be twit can we nat type,” perhaps a coy reference to Pettibon’s bizarro, semantically adventurous Twitter).

    There’s a lot of raw stuff here: Thornton Dial’s gnarly assemblages and very-mixed-media paintings at Andrew Edlin Gallery; Rosy Keyser’s deconstructed sculpture-paintings at Maccarone, which incorporate things like scrub-brushes and wood; a huge, 22-piece spraypaint-on-linen text work by Stefan Bruggemann, at Parra & Romero. Graham Collins’s sculptures with the Journal Gallery manhandle similarly blunt materials — wood, window tint, bricks — into the refined language of Minimalism. (Virginia Overton, with Mitchell-Innes & Nash, accomplishes a similar feat, building a sort of site-specific triangular fort out of bare wood planks.) A different sort of rawness is apparent at Max Wigram Gallery, where John Giorno has cleanly rendered text paintings expressing thoughts too dirty to reproduce here.

    Conversely, there’s plenty that’s slick and generally pleasant: Sam Falls’s hippy-palette, weather-facilitated paintings at Hannah Hoffman Gallery, for instance, or Nicolas Deshayes’s multi-part “Vein Sections (or a cave paintings),” 2014, at Jonathan Viner, which resembles an elaborate advertisement demonstrating how people reaching for their cell phones can appear to be wielding guns; a series of warm-blue watercolors by Allora & Calzadilla at Gladstone Gallery, based on photographs of water coolers taken at the offices of banks and other loaded sites. Heavyweight Gagosian Gallery has a new series of embroidery-and-precious-stone-on-velvet paintings by Piotr Uklanski that don’t quite know whether to be ironic or decorative. White Columns has ceramic vessels by June Hamper, including several of whimsical cats, which is something I will never, ever say no to.

    So overall, is Independent Projects an art fair or a 40-part group show? I’d advise that you ponder the question for 20 minutes or so at Lisson Gallery’s space, standing inside Mirza’s “Access Boot,” 2014, which turns DJ Misjah’s 1990 song “Access” into a multi-sensory dance party: error-message bleeps and blurts as lo-fi techno. After that jittery, immersive experience — simultaneously annoying and intensely soothing, if that’s possible — those distinctions between art and commerce will seem far less important. 

    Independent Projects: The Art Fair That’s Not
    The interior of Haroon Mirza's "Access Boot" at Lisson Gallery.

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    Photo London Announced, Hitler Watercolor Heads to Auction, and More

    — Photo London Announced: A week before the 18th edition of Paris Photo opens its doors, a new photo exhibition has entered the ring: Photo London has announced its intentions for May of 2015, including a 60-gallery program and ambitions to be “the best photography fair in the world — bar none,” according to organizer Michael Benson. The fair will apparently also serve as a restitution of sorts: “When Paris was having its photography moment we were having our Britart moment — I seriously think we kind of just ignored it,” Benson said. [Guardian]

    — Hitler Watercolor Heads to Auction: A painting by Adolf Hitler titled “The Old Town Hall,” dating 1914-15, will go up for sale at Nuremberg’s Weidler auction house later this month. Meanwhile, in light of the Gurlitt trove controversy, returning Nazi-looted art is on the forefront of institutions’ minds — from Ontario’s Art Gallery of Hamilton to the Oklahoma University Museum. [ArtnetToronto StarTulsa World]

    — Was Vincent Van Gogh Shot?: In their 2011 biography “Van Gogh: The Life,” Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith theorized that Vincent Van Gogh, famed for his tragic suicide, was in fact shot by teenaged “hooligan” René Secrétan. Now, in the December issue of Vanity Fair, the duo enlist the help of forensic experts to prove their case. [Vanity FairArtnet]

    — Christie’s Xin Li is on the Rise: The Wall Street Journal profiles the seemingly meteoric career of Xin Li, deputy chairman of Christie’s Asia— from basketball player to model to high-profile art worlder. [WSJ]

    — Jay Gorney Goes Solo: The former Mitchell-Innes & Nash dealer discusses his curatorial plans — including his current booth at Independent Projects — despite having no plans to set up an actual gallery space. [ARTnews]

    — Billy Name Recalls Warhol’s Death: In anticipation of his upcoming show at Milk Gallery, photographer and Factory alum Billy Name recounts what he remembers of the tragedy: “I found Andy lying in a pool of blood and kneeling down. I took him in my arms and started crying. Andy said, ‘Don’t make me laugh, Billy, it hurts too much.’” [NYT]

    — Philippe Van Cauteren, artistic director of Ghent’s S.M.A.K. Museum for Contemporary Art, will be the curator of Iraq's pavilion at the Venice Biennale. [ArtForum]

    — In light of 7-year-old painter Aelita Andre’s success, the Atlantic delves into the phenomenon of the “child art prodigy.” [Atlantic]

    — The London cabinet of curiosities that is Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors will be converted into the “The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History.” [ArtDaily]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Independent Projects: The Art Fair That’s Not

    Andy Warhol “Exposed” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

    Christopher Williams Models the Chicken, Smashes a Car

    Discovering the Rijksmuseum's 20th Century Photography Collection

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

     

    Photo London will take place from May 21-24.

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    Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé at Christie's

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    A collection linking the leading design figures of the 1950s is being auctioned at Artcurial in Paris from November 7-10, featuring the desks, chairs, lamps, sofas and other furniture creations of such greats as Le Corbusier, Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand and Gio Ponti.

    A total of 140 lots of furniture and design objects will be offered. Apart from the French and Italian masters, there is also a section on Scandinavian design (including Philip Arctander and Poul Henningse), Pol Chambost’s coloured ceramics, hanging lights by Ettore Sottsass, and pieces by the more contemporary Gabriella Crespi.

    To see Blouin Lifestyle's highlights from the sale, click through the slideshow.

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    Charlotte Perriand
    Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret
    Jean Prouve & Charlotte Perriand
    Gio Ponti
    George Nelson
    Hubert Le Gall
    François Xavier Lalanne
    Pol Chambost
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    BLOUIN Lifestyle Pick: 1950s Design Greats
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    Charlotte Perriand's Lacquered aluminium and pine "Maison de la Tunisie" bookshelf
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    Courtesy Artcurial

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    The Tastemaker: Pascal de Sarthe's Hong Kong

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    Highlights from "Faking It"

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    Impressionist and Modern Art at Doyle

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    Week in Review: From Fall Auctions to Rashaad Newsome, Our Top Stories

    — Judd Tully reported on the Impressionist and Modern evening sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

    — Scott Indrisek swung by the inaugural edition of Independent Projects — and also chatted about the fair-cum-exhibition’s “hybrid nature” with organizer Matthew Higgs.

    — Ashton Cooper asked Rashaad Newsome about his upcoming projects, including a show at Marlborough Gallery and a collaboration with Solange Knowles for SELECT Fair Miami.

    — Craig Hubert looked into the live music behind the screening of never-before-seen Andy Warhol films at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend.

    — Christopher Williams endeavored to explain his fascination with “chicken culture” at a walk-through of his show at David Zwirner.

    — Sophie T. Lvoff discussed her moody, romantic photographs of New Orleans, on view at Prospect.3.

    — Anneliese Cooper delved into the “Myth and Math” of Saint Clair Cemin’s new works at Paul Kasmin Gallery.

    — Warwick Thompson had nary a positive word (but plenty of less-than-positive ones) for the Royal Opera House’s production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”

    — Scott Indrisek explored the layered universe of Susan Te Kahurangi King’s drawings, on view at Andrew Edlin Gallery.

    — Anna Kats spoke with curator Zoe Ryan about her role in organizing this year’s Istanbul Design Biennial.

    — Thea Ballard checked out the sea creatures foregrounded in Wangechi Mutu’s latest show at Victoria Miro.

    — The second half of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective kicked off at Lincoln Center.

    Nicolas Deshayes "Vein Sections (or a cave painting)" 2014,

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    Herbie Hancock Explores the Different “Possibilities” of Music

    Herbie Hancock doesn’t get the respect he deserves. For years I thought he was lame — the jazz musician who wrote that weird proto-rap song and composed the kind of music they play in places like Starbucks. In part, I was correct in my assessment. Hancock has the curse of the prolific, which means that there is going to be some real questionable material spread out among the classics, which doesn’t always help with a musician’s legacy. But in so many ways that I didn’t realize when I held that opinion, I was dead wrong.

    Hancock played with Miles Davis in the 1960s as part of his Second Great Quintet, and will always be associated with Davis in some way. One was a mentor to the other, but their careers also mirrored each other in fascinating ways — each moved into more free-form, experimental music in the late-’60s and ’70s, which was met with puzzled reactions from jazz diehards. Davis was kicking holes in the wall and then turning his back on his fans when they looked through, while Hancock was doing similar but less aggressive work. Hancock was traveling into space while Davis was digging his heels into the pavement, and both moved back into more listener-friendly territory later in their careers. Their middle, difficult periods were chalked up to growing pains.

    But recently, perfectly coinciding with a pretty deep personal listening exploration I was undertaking into his most far-out material over the years (prompted by a great book called “You’ll Know When You Get There” by Bob Gluck), Hancock’s adventurous side has started popping up on the cultural radar again. In October he appeared on the new album from electronic wizard Flying Lotus, playing keyboard and helping compose two of the tracks, and now he has a memoir titled “Possibilities” (released October 23 by Viking), where he looks back on his career with an amazing amount of clarity and poise.

    The most interesting parts of the memoir for me — understandably, given my recent listening habits — were in Hancock’s post-Miles period in the early 1970s. Still buzzing off the freedom Davis allowed in his band — he would tell members to avoid “butter notes,” to their confusion — Hancock started perusing whatever fresh musical path was laid down in front of him. For a brief period of time, that was the Mwandishi Band, a sextet that featured Buster Williams, Bennie Maupin, and others. They all adopted Swahili names, and began digging back into their cultural roots and applying it to music that was increasingly flowing outside of any traditional structure. Hancock describes in his book the feeling of playing those early shows with the group:

    “As we got deeper into the music we became one big, pulsating creature — all of those guys somehow became me, and I became all of them. It was as if we were inside each other, in a way I had never felt before and have never felt since. It was a deeply spiritual experience.”

    Later, the group would add synthesizers, which provided the transition into the next phase of Hancock’s career, the funkier Headhunters group. Everything began sounding more and more strange, less jazz and more modern but still spacey (on the cover of their live album “Flood,” an illustration shows them literally exploring an uncharted planet). And this was by a group of guys who were not heavy into drugs. They became vegetarians, did yoga, and adopted Buddhist chanting — and weirdly, they became more famous.

    The end of the Headhunters period in the book, when Hancock truly becomes a mainstream figure (in the ’80s he would win Grammys and Oscars), is where the book begins to dip. He was a true innovator, and it’s interesting to hear his stories about his obsessions with technology and experiments with all the different gadgets and computers that were just then coming on the market. But his growing reliance on Buddhism, which he credits with helping him through many of the crises of his life, becomes a narrative crutch in the book. It seems that any time Hancock has a problem, he just chants and it solves itself.

    But Hancock is so understanding of his own faults, and so gracious of the support of others, that the voice on the page develops with ease. It’s hard not to like the guy who is telling you his story, a man who is at peace and continues to be truly invested in musical exploration in a way too few have ever been. He’s comfortable talking clearly about the technical side of music while also understanding that a big part of why people read a musician’s memoir is for the dirt, moving freely through all these different modes in “Possibilities.” The title begins to take on a double meaning — all the choices made in the past, good and bad, and all the musical possibilities of the future still left unexplored.

    Herbie Hancock performs during Canon's Legends In Imaging.

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    Bonhams' Impressionist and Modern Art Sale

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    Smithsonian Plans Revamp, New Museum Triennial Announced, and More

    — Smithsonian Plans Revamp: A $2 billion plan to renovate the Smithsonian proposes new entrances to the museum’s Castle structure, as well as connections between underground galleries. Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, this undertaking would be the largest project on the Mall in over a century. Meanwhile, Ingels has also been called upon to design a front door for the Frank Gehry-designed Battersea Power Station complex. [WPGuardian]

    — New Museum Triennial Announced: Plans for the 2015 New Museum Triennial, curated by artist Ryan Trecartin and the New Museum’s Lauren Cornell, have been released. The roster features 51 artists, including New York-based collective DIS, curators of the next Berlin Biennial. Titled “Surround Audience” — a phrase coined by Trecartin to evoke what Cornell calls “a contemporary condition wherein we are encircled by a ‘smarter’ and more participatory world” — the triennial will open on February 25. [ARTnewsNYTArt in America]

    — Met Reveals Whitney Takeover Show: In her column today, Carol Vogel reveals the name of the inaugural show the Met will hold in the soon-to-be vacated Whitney building: “Unfinished,” an exhibition that will “explore the fascination with unfinished works of art in all media and across time,” set to go up on March 7, 2016. In other news, Vogel touches on the philanthropy of software entrepreneur Peter Norton, who begins his proposed five-museum donating spree with a 75-work gift to the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. [NYT]

    — New York Fall Auctions Wrap-Up: As the dust clears after two weeks of banner news from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, it appears that New York’s fall auctions have amassed a grand total of approximately $2.3 billion. [Bloomberg]

    — Miami Museum Dispute Settled: Former trustees of Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art have reached an accord with the city of North Miami regarding their decision to split and form the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami’s Design District. The new institute will open with two shows in December. [Miami HeraldNYT]

    — Olafur Eliasson Lives on the Edge: “You sit down with Olafur for a meal and he picks up the fork and stares at it for a moment and you think, ‘Oh my god, he’s either inventing a new fork or wondering how to get forks to people who don’t have forks.’ … Somehow he lives his entire life with the urgency of someone who just walked out of the doctor’s office with a dire prognosis,” wrote Jonathan Safran Foer in a profile of Elaisson. [NYT]

    — In case you needed a reason to bang your head against a wall today, Kim Kardashian is coming out with an art book of selfies titled “Selfish.” [Guardian]

    — Chicago advocacy group Friends of the Park are suing George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art in an attempt to block its construction. [Chicago Sun TimesWP]

    — A project supported by Save The Children in Lebanon teaches animation to young Syrian refugees. [BBC]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Phillips Closes New York Auction Week on a Subdued Note

    Billy Wilder and the Suspension of Disbelief in “Billy and Ray”

    At 62, the Security Council Chamber Gets a Facelift

    Marlborough Chelsea Signs Keith Mayerson and Michel Auder

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

    Smithsonian

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    Inside Pierre Cardin's Retrospective

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  • 11/14/14--09:53: Miami Beach
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    Hero or Villain: “Banksy Does New York”

    This is my attempt to take Banksy seriously. According to “Banksy Does New York,” a new documentary about the mysterious street artist that screens as part of the DOC NYC Festival on November 14 and premieres on HBO two days later, I have not done that in the past. The use of “I” here is more general than personal. More specifically, the film makes the claim that the media that covers visual art (of which ARTINFO is undoubtedly a part) failed to acknowledge the importance of the hooded trickster’s New York City residency in October 2013, when he produced a new work every day for one month and revealed the contents on a special website. What was not disclosed was where the work was located.

    This sent people scurrying like sewer rats to the far reaches of the five boroughs, equipped with flashing camera phones for maximum efficiency in social media upload-ability. Filmmaker Chris Moukarbel focuses on these self-dubbed “Banksy Hunters,” who spent the entire month excitedly parsing through clues on Twitter and rushing to the next spot Banksy defaced, whether it be an underpass in the heart of the commercial art world in Chelsea or a street corner in East New York.

    Banksy’s supporters see the democratization of his residency, using the street as his canvas and delivering his work straight to fans through non-traditional methods, as a middle finger to the art world. In the process, the film puts him on a pedestal as a populist hero — bringing art back to the people and subverting the networks of the art world that validate work based on capital.

    But this notion is based on a few misconceptions. The first is that Banksy exists as an autonomous artist outside the art world he critiques. Through his embrace and then shunning of commercial dealers, he pretty much created a market for modern street art that wasn’t there before. The creation of the Banksy brand through a process of hype and exclusivity is not dissimilar to the world he rejects, and some would say has even added to the appeal of his work being removed from walls and sold without his permission. One feeds into the other.

    The film has no answer for this because it’s not interested in engaging with the hypocrisy of Banksy’s continued project of straddling the line between the inherent illegality of being a street artist and the fame of being a commercial artist. It presents Banksy’s supposed subversions of the market — selling real prints at a table off Central Park for $60 apiece without telling anybody, in one instance — as examples of the artist sticking it to the man. What it really shows is white dudes buying what they think is cool street art to decorate their overpriced condos. Once they realize the piece of art they bought for cheap on the street is worth a ton of money, they transfer the work back into the networks of capital that flow through the art world and add an addition on to said condo.

    What the film would rather do is blame not just the gallerists and collectors who taint art with money, but the critics as well, who are pretentious and work as a comedically snooty opponent for the narrative the film wants to build. The problem is that the criticism is annoyingly vague. (Not to put to much emphasis on it, but we covered Banksy’s residency in New York extensively.) And if Banksy is all about rejecting the traditional art world, why does validation from the art press even matter?

    What “Banksy Does New York” doesn’t want to admit is that Banksy is taken seriously, and taken seriously to task for the contradictions in his work. His politics are convoluted at best and banal at worst and his work formally uninteresting. Even graffiti community purists don’t accept them, and their “spot jocking” (one artist tagging over another’s work) is displayed in the film as the work of jealous competitors. But as long as we keep creating a false image of the artist as a prophet, critique will never be accepted. Banksy will always be a folk hero and we’ll be the fools. 

    Banksy

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    Week in Review: From Nashville Art to Warsaw Design, Our Top Stories

    — Judd Tully brought us more frontline news from the second week of New York’s fall auctions, including two high-earning Warhols at Christie’s, Jasper Johns’s record-setting “Flag” and Bunny Mellon’s expectation-shattering collection at Sotheby’s, and a subdued sale at Phillips.

    — Scott Indrisek selected this week’s five must-see gallery shows, including Gabriele Beveridge at Elizabeth Dee and Christopher Williams at David Zwirner Gallery.

    — Susan Sherrick explained her decision to launch the new Nashville gallery Sherrick & Paul — and clued us in on the city’s art scene.

    — Matthew Morrison, of “Glee” fame, joined the cast of “Finding Neverland” on Broadway.

    — In anticipation of Miami’s fast-approaching fair week, Art Basel in Miami Beach revealed its extensive film program lineup, including an advance screening of Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” and NADA Miami Beach announced an exclusive web preview on Artsy, starting on November 25.

    — Craig Hubert and Regina Mogilevskaya highlighted 10 films not to miss at the Doc NYC documentary film festival.

    — Daria Irincheeva told us why she chose science-inspired art over astrophysics.

    — Maria Jeglinska gave us the lowdown on the Polish design community.

    — Scott Reeder delved into the galactic aesthetic of his art house sci-fi film “Moon Dust.”

    — Anna Kats looked into the restoration of the UN’s Security Council Chamber.

    — Sven Sachsalber decided to spend two days in the Palais de Tokyo looking for a needle in a haystack — literally.  

    Gabriele Beveridge

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    The Salon of Art + Design returned for its third edition in New York, and its second at the ornate Park Avenue Armory. Though the surroundings were lovely, the wares on view were even more impressive. ARTINFO rounded up five of our favorite booths at the fair, which runs through November 17.

    Francois Laffanour

    Laffanour, among the world’s most experienced dealers of Charlotte Perriand furniture, brought especially rare pieces by the Corbusier associate and also by Jean Prouve. Among the most interesting objects in his booth are three pieces circa 1959 from a private house in Paris, for which a friend asked Perriand to design custom Japanese-inspired furniture. One of her hallmark bookcases and an overhead light were among the pinewood objects for that particular commission, which visitors to the fair eagerly ogled on Thursday night. He also brought a custom-made Jean Prouve conference table made for a corporate office and a painting by Takis, a Greek artist who, explained Laffanour, sought to make “invisible forces” like electricity tangible in three-dimensional form.

    R & Company

    The Tribeca gallery migrated uptown with pieces by both established and emerging designers, historic and contemporary. One section of the booth featured ceramics by the Hass Brothers, pulled from the duo’s current show at R & Company. Made with glazes that change colors under modulated light, the vases stood alongside couches and armchairs from Oscar Niemeyer and Sergio Rodrigues. At the other side of the booth were the gallery’s most attention-drawing pieces: a table and ceiling lamp by Los Angeles-based designer David Wiseman. Hand crafted from bronze, the objects’ smooth curves (no joints in sight!) drew sighs of desire from onlookers. “It’s like the Four Seasons of machinery!” observed one besotted visitor.

    Carpenters Workshop Gallery

    The London- and Paris-based gallery showed pieces by French artist and designer Ingrid Donat. Previously represented by Barry Friedman, who was lounging nearby on a curved couch at his own Friedman Benda booth, Donat is now in the hands of her son, one of Carpenters Workshop’s co-founders. His plans for promoting her formidable oeuvre go far beyond the fair — the gallery will release a monograph about her work next year. In the meantime, they showed silver-tone wax cast pieces, the most impressive being a low, rectangular table with circular motifs.

    Cristina Grajales Gallery

    SoHo-based Grajales showed her trademark array of North and Latin American designers last night, but though the selection is familiar, many of the objects were anything but. The most pleasant surprise at her booth was work by Mexico City designer Gloria Cortina, who made her North American debut at the fair with geometric side tables in bronze and obsidian. There was also a Samurai Cabinet

    by Sebastian Errazuriz, one of Grajales’s most popular designers.

    Salon 94

    Errazuriz was also represented at the nearby Salon 94 booth with his “Antiquity” sculpture — an especially fitting piece for the fair because the designer insists that the Classical-style statue is actually a functional object, more so than an art piece. The sculpture is swathed in architectural-style scaffolding, with horizontal bars that serve as bookshelves. Elsewhere in the booth, a veinless white marble chair by Rick Owens and travertine bowls by Kueng Caputo impressed visitors with their unorthodox interpretations of stone.

    Highlights From the Salon of Art + Design
    Salon of Art + Design

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    Highlights from Salon of Art + Design 2014

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    Mark Rothko's Harvard Murals

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    Wallace Collection’s New Show Makes History

    LONDON — What do a laughing Cavalier, a Rubens rainbow, and a swinging lover have in common?

    Or a quiet lacemaker, an attacking knight, Dutch old masters, and outrageous caricatures?

    The answer is the Wallace Collection in London, one of the world’s most celebrated groupings of art. It has all of these images, collected by generations of English aristocrats. For the first time, it is telling the story behind its story.

    A new show reveals the human factor connected to the canvases: the tastes and personal lives of four generations of the Seymour-Conway family, the Marquesses of Hertford, and Sir Richard Wallace.

    An “exhibition trail” through the main galleries accompanies the lower-ground-floor show, and contextualizes key pieces in terms of family history. The trail moves through the upstairs galleries, with Dutch masters crawling up the walls, and leads into the smoking room’s cabinets filled with Renaissance decorative arts.

    The masterpieces have long been on display in the permanent collection, so the show will not attract visitors purely interested in seeing the next blockbuster. Instead, it aims to enlighten enthusiasts hungry for more history.

    The first three generations of the Seymour-Conway family showed tastes that adhered to the conventions of their contemporaries. The 1st Marquess collected paintings and vedute by Canaletto, and commissioned portraits of his family members.

    A series of caricatures reveals the real intrigue behind this generation — the astonishing influence that Lady Hereford had over the Prince of Wales, the Prince Regent from 1811 and future George IV. Though the relationship was probably innocent, it inspired caricaturists to take a more scandalous view in their satirical depictions of the rosy-cheeked prince, unruly crowds, and bosomy women.

    One particularly striking image, “He Has Put His Foot In It” by Charles Ansell Williams, shows the prince stepping in the mess left by a mean-looking dog with a collar reading Hert (ford). Another nasty looking canine sits behind her with a collar reading (Yar) mouth, after the Earl of Yarmouth (the 2nd Marquess).

    The 3rd Marquess of Hertford, Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, seemed more motivated by the high drama of saleroom bidding than growing a valuable and long lasting collection. A fan of Dutch genre painting, he purchased Caspar Netscher’s “The Lace Maker,” 1662, at a Christie’s sale in 1804. The masterpiece depicts a girl working intently on her craft in solitude; soft light illuminates her delicate face and plain woolen dress in her modest surroundings. Within four years of the original purchase, Seymour-Conway tried twice to sell it at Christie’s. It is good fortune that the painting now hangs on public display in Manchester Square.

    Richard Seymour-Conway, the 4th Marquess, shared his father’s taste for 17th-century Dutch paintings. Like his contemporaries he bought Murillo, French 18th-century furniture and porcelain. He also bought 18th-century French paintings, which weren’t fashionable in Britain during the 19th century. Though he lived a lackluster life compared to his father’s runaway marriage and imprisonment in Verdun, his outstanding artistic eye distinguishes him from his predecessors. He was responsible for purchasing many of the masterpieces such as Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Swing,” Peter Paul Rubens,” “The Rainbow Landscape,” and Frans Hals’s “The Laughing Cavalier.” The Marquess won a furious bidding war with Baron James de Rothschild, buying the work for a huge sum of £2,040.

    The 4th Marquess’s illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace, initially purchased Italian and French paintings and drawings, French furniture, gold boxes, Sèvres porcelain and maiolica. He later acquired the collection of the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, which radically changed the overall collection by introducing European arms and armor, Renaissance sculptures, bronze portrait medals, wax reliefs and Italian maiolica.

    Sir Richard was drawn to weapons and armor for their artistic value not functionality. Museum visitors cannot miss the large equestrian armor, reconstructed to look like a knight raring to attack. However, the much smaller parrying dagger of Henry IV King of France is one of the finest pieces. Given as a wedding gift to Henry IV by the city of Paris, the weapon is damascened in gold, set with mother-of-pearl and radiates elegance and opulence. Wallace paid the exorbitant price of 12,500 francs for the dagger. 

    “Collecting History: The Founders of the Wallace Collection” is on view until February 15, 2015. 

    Wallace Collection

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