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At NYC’s French Embassy, New Bookstore Celebrates ‘La Joie des Livres’

Starbucks is a pauvre excuse for a reading room. Writer Nancy Lazarus visits a splendid new place to curl up with a good livre.

(Jess Nash)
(Photo: Jess Nash)

albertine exteriorThe replica of Michelangelo‘s Young Archer in the entry rotunda of the French Embassy in New York is about to attract a bookish new cohort of admirers: visitors to Albertine, a bookstore, reading room, and event space that opened Saturday in the Stanford White-designed Beaux Arts mansion. It’s located a few blocks south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the original Young Archer has resided (on loan through 2019), after it was moved from the embassy five years ago.

“The goal for Albertine was to open the space to the public and make French culture more accessible to Americans,” said Antonin Baudry, the French Embassy’s cultural counselor and creator of the project, during a recent interview. Visitors will mingle with authors and browse a selection of 14,000 contemporary and classic books from 30 French-speaking countries. Most are English translations, with some titles in French. “We also plan to host two events per week, so it will be a lively place,” he added.

“Albertine will be unique and not have an institutional look,” Baudry said. The space originally served as a grand private library, the same goal as for the redesign. “The spirit of the place was already here,” he noted. “We selected French designer Jacques Garcia since he can manipulate classical forms with contemporary ambience, to give the place its original charm and purpose.” Atelier Premiere, a Brooklyn-based firm of French craftsmen, painted and detailed both floors.
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Wadsworth Atheneum Receives $750K for Reinstallation of Collections

Wadsworth Atheneum

Did you know that the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut is the oldest public art museum in the United States? Now you do. The 172-year-old institution, now in the final stages of a five-year, $33 million renovation, announced today that it has received a combined $750,000 from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG) to fund the comprehensive reinstallation of its collections and to continue related programming aimed at community engagement.

The NEH awarded the Wadsworth Atheneum $400,000 for “the creation of an interdisciplinary gallery with interactive technology” to introduce visitors to the Cabinet of Art and Curiosities: an exhibition of remarkable 17th-century objects, many of them collected by J. Pierpont “Remarkable Objects” Morgan, combined with natural history specimens and other rarities. The space will be part of the reinstallation of European artworks in the restored Morgan Memorial building, slated to open in September 2015. The HFPG grant of $325,000 will fund community engagement initiatives over the next three years through the museum’s “Beyond the Walls/Behind the Scenes” program.

Lucie Foundation Launches Crowdfunding Platform for Photographers

(Patricia Dinu)
A photo from Patricia Dinu’s “Desert of Souls” project, for which she is seeking to raise money through Fotofund.

camera moneyFor photographers who seek dollars but don’t want to get lost in the vast sea of Kickstarter projects, there is Fotofund, a new crowdfunding platform exclusively for photo-based works. The site is the latest initiative of the non-profit Lucie Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting, honoring, and cultivating photographic talent.

Fotofund was created “to provide financial backing to photographic projects through online contributions and to support photography worldwide by bringing photographers’ visions to life.” Distinct from other crowdfunding sites, the platform offers two models: a flexible funding model in which the project creator receives all donations whether or not their full funding goals are met or alternatively, they can select to only receive funding if the full amount of their goal is reached. Among the first campaigns to hit Fotofund are those aiming to create an official archive of the late Jerry Stoll’s photography from the California jazz era, a documentary project showcasing men and women who live off the grid throughout Europe, and a personal interpretation of the music and lyrics of Tom Waits—we suspect “Picture in a Frame” will figure prominently.

Milton Glaser Versus Global Warming

glaser gwIf you, too, had the best of intentions but just couldn’t manage to sit through the PowerPoint deck-plus-Al-Gore-on-a-plane-B-roll that is An Inconvenient Truth, Milton Glaser has boiled down “global warming” and “climate change” into a new campaign that calls out these terms as the clumsy euphemisms they are. The bottom line: “It’s not warming, it’s dying.”

With his signature inform-and-delight tactics, Glaser pairs this grim yet clear-eyed slogan with a roiling green orb that suggests the planet Earth viewed from space—as its expanse of life-sustaining terrain recedes into blackness. On Friday the message debuted as a billboard at New York’s School of Visual Arts, where Glaser serves as a faculty member and acting chairman of the board (look for the billboard on the western exterior wall of SVA’s East 23rd Street building). Spread the word—and the orb—in button form: available in $5 sets of five here. SVA also plans to distribute free buttons on college campuses nationwide.

The West Elm-ification of Gracie Mansion

capizMeticulous historic preservation of a landmark interior meets…West Elm? (If you listen carefully, you can hear interior designer Jamie Drake sobbing quietly in the corner, near the lone pair of Schumacher velvet-upholstered John Boone chairs that has not been replaced by beanbag poufs.) Such is the worlds-collide aesthetic ushered in by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his brood. Last week the family moved from Brooklyn to Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence nestled on the banks of the East River in Manhattan, but not before making a pit stop at West Elm. The Williams Sonoma-owned purveyor of artisan-inflected midcentury homegoods donated $65,000 of Capiz Orb pendant lights (pictured), sofas, desks, chairs, and pillows to the de Blasios–chump change compared to the $7 million of private funds made available for the Bloomberg administration’s Drake-led restoration. In an editorial that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, writer Alexandra Lange considers “The Mayor’s Showroom” and why it might be preferable to live in a museum after all. God save the Zuber wallpaper.

Katz Marks the Spot: New Art Billboard to Welcome Whitney Downtown

katz
Alex Katz’s 2012 painting Katherine and Elizabeth (Photo courtesy Gavin Brown’s Enterprise)

Worried that the spindly and shape-shifting “W” of the Whitney Museum’s fledgling graphic identity will be insufficient to guide visitors to the door of its new downtown home? Alex Katz to the rescue. The artist (and erstwhile J. Crew model)’s 2012 canvas, Katherine and Elizabeth, will welcome the museum to the Meatpacking District in the form of a 17-by-29-foot billboard on the facade of 95 Horatio Street, located directly across Gansevoort Street from the southern end of the High Line and the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney. Announced today, the public art installation will be the first in a planned five-year series organized in collaboration with real estate developer TF Cornerstone and High Line Art.

Herman Miller to Acquire Design Within Reach for $154 Million

dwr chairs feat

Big news in designworld this summer Friday: Herman Miller has agreed to acquire Design Within Reach for $154 million in cash. That sum, enough to buy 26,602 of DWR’s new all-black Eames lounge-and-ottoman combos, will get Herman Miller an 84% interest in the Stamford, Connecticut-based company, which operates 38 retail stores in the U.S. and Canada along with its online and print catalogue presences. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the month.

DWR CEO John Edelman and President John McPhee, who hold the remaining ownership stakes, are slated to stick around to run DWR as part of a newly formed consumer business unit of Herman Miller. DWR had revenues of approximately $218 million in 2013, while Herman Miller booked $1.8 billion in its 2013 fiscal year, during which it announced its purchase of Maharam for just a couple million more than the DWR pricetag.

Dieter Rams (Monograph) Goes Digital

Just in time for vacation reading, Sophie Lovell‘s Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible (Phaidon) is making its debut in digital form. The iBooks edition of the best-selling hardcover is available tomorrow. Reformatted for iPad, the comprehensive monograph delves into the life, work, and succinct philosophy of the famed product designer, now 82, whose wildly influential designs for the likes of Braun and Vitsoe continue to sell briskly worldwide. Tap and scroll your way through many of Rams’ sketches and prototypes, as well as an interactive timeline, essays, and a foreword by Apple design guru and consummate Rams fan Jonathan Ive.

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Frieze Taps Barber and Osgerby’s Universal Design Studio to Design London Fair

frieze art fairNow in its eleventh year, Frieze London is getting a new look. This year’s fair, which runs October 15-18 in leafy Regent’s Park, will be designed by Universal Design Studio. The creative consultancy, founded in 2011 by designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby to focus on architecture and interiors, takes over from fellow Londoners Carmody Groarke, who handled the fair’s architectural aspects (read: supercool megatent) for the last three years. Frieze has previously employed Caruso St John (2008-2010), Jamie Fobert (2006–2007) and David Adjaye (2003-2005).

“The architecture and design of the fair have always been an important part of our identity,” say Frieze founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover. “This year we were drawn to Universal in particular due to their work on interiors and focus on materials. As some of the best designers working in this area, their lateral thinking has been demonstrated by some of their great furniture and even their design for the Olympic torch. We’re really looking forward to them bringing this sensibility to Frieze.” Among Universal’s recent projects are Google Web Lab at London’s Science Museum, exhibition design for Vitra’s Vitrahaus exhibition, and both the interior and exterior of the London outpost of the Ace Hotel.

Chicago Getting Its Own Architecture Biennial

chicago archWatch out, Venezia. The Windy City is getting a biennial of its own. Announced this week, the Chicago Architecture Biennial—billed as the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America—is set to open October 1, 2015 in and around the Chicago Cultural Center. The three-month-long event, presented by the City of Chicago and the Graham Foundation, will be funded through private donations (BP has already chipped in $2.5 million).

“Chicago is the birthplace of modernism in architecture and every architect in the world knows our city’s history of innovation in the field through the work of architects such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe,” says Graham Foundation director Sarah Herda, who will serve as artistic director of the Biennial with architect, writer, and curator Joseph Grima. “The Biennial will place Chicago, once again, at the forefront of the architectural imagination.”
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