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Archives: October 2007

Scary Abandoned Mansion For Sale in Deserted Town


Okay, not really, but we wanted to stick with the Halloween theme. In reality, it’s the non-scary Kaufmann House designed by Richard Neutra in the desert (but not deserted) town of Palm Springs that’s for sale. And it is being abandoned by its divorcing owners, Brent Harris, and the architectural historian Beth Edwards Harris, who will auction the house off at Christie’s in May.

The Harrises were the same residents who commissioned Marmol Radziner for the house’s massive restoration project to return it back to its original Julius Shulman-worthy glory:

When Brent and Beth Harris first saw the Kaufmann House, it was neither a pretty palace nor an obvious candidate for restoration. Strikingly photographed in 1947 by Julius Shulman, it stood vacant for several years after Kaufmann’s death in 1955. Then it went through a series of owners, including the singer Barry Manilow, and a series of renovations. Along the way, a light-disseminating patio was enclosed, one wall was broken through for the addition of a media room, the sleek roof lines were interrupted with air-conditioning units, and some bedrooms were wallpapered in delicate floral prints.

Now that’s scary.

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Do the Daily Monster Mask Mash


Now we’ll segue into the themed portion of the day to get you in the mood for candy distribution and/or flesh-baring exhibitionism this evening. To possibly fulfill your needs for each of those activities, Stefan Bucher has provided us with a wearable Daily Monster mask, which can be downloaded and assembled in a matter of minutes. Bucher demonstrates the mask’s capabilities above, noting “This is not a blurry photo by the way. This is what I actually look like at 6:30am.”

Yes, Bucher pulled a vampiric all-nighter to deliver the goods. In that spirit, he’s also created a Halloween Monster which even has a very scary ending.

Debbie Millman’s Party Packs the House


As we lamented that we couldn’t be there to toast Debbie Millman‘s book release (and revealed we were drinking ourselves to sleep instead) one faithful UnBeige reader had the presence of mind to document the evening. Jonathan Selikoff got three shots, including one of Millman basking in Massimo Vignelli‘s charm above (those Vignellis sure do get out a lot). He also tells us that just as Simon Williams gave a nice, rambling toast on behalf of Millman, there was a chant of “Debbie! Debbie! Debbie!”

Also spotted by our informants: Paul Sahre, James Victore, Felix Sockwell, Rodrigo Corral (who designed her book’s cover), Khoi Vinh, Scott Stowell and Emily Oberman, plus a report that in the elevator on the way down, a woman said that if a bomb had gone off in the room, the NY design scene would cease to exist. Sounds like our kind of party.

More pics…

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Getting Down to BusinessWeek with Modernista!

bw.jpgWe told you the what (BusinessWeek‘s redesign), the when (issue date: October 22nd), the why (busy, world-weary readers with broader interests and shorter attention spans), and the who (Modernista!), now get some answers to the all-important question of how. Mediabistro’s Noah Davis talked to Modernista!, the Boston-based advertising company that proudly proclaims itself “not for everyone,” and got the full scoop on the BW redesign in the new mb feature, “Hey, Hey, How’d You Redesign BusinessWeek, Modernista?”

BW editor Stephen J. Adler calls the new look “cleaner” and “more understated,” but to us, it succeeds in making the book more “global” in feel. It’s as if they’ve shifted the entire design eastward by about 90 degrees of longitude. OK, the first adjective we went for was “Euro,” but hey, that’s global, right?

You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Color (or Can You?)

sebold.jpg We like a good book jacket story almost as much as we like a good book, and Entertainment Weekly serves one up in a sidebar to their profile of bestselling author Alice Sebold, she of The Lovely Bones. We figured the choice of red and a plummeting bergere for the cover of Sebold’s new novel, The Almost Moon, were inspired by the book’s tragedy-studded plot, which opens with the line, “When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.” In fact, it had more to do with the preferences of Sebold’s husband and fellow novelist, Glen David Gold.

When the folks at Little, Brown first presented Sebold with the concept for The Almost Moon‘s jacket, they pitched a gauzy yellow, with that same fade-out wash and typeface as her giant best-seller, The Lovely Bones. She pointed out that the color too closely resembled the reissue of her memoir Lucky, and her husband pushed for the bracing tomato red. “When I saw it, I was like, ‘enh,’” she says. “But I like the red better. I just think of it as Blood Mountain.”

As for what’s between the covers, Lee Siegel slammed the book in last week’s New York Times, comparing it to “one very long MySpace page” and concluding, “This novel is so morally, emotionally and intellectually incoherent that it’s bound to become a best seller.” We guess you could say that the book had Siegel seeing red.

UPDATE: For more on the book, not the cover, check out our bookish sister blog, GalleyCat.

Saks on the Block?: It’s the Bierut Effect

The word on the street (and in the SEC files) is that Icelandic investment fund Baugur is planning a joint bid for Saks with Dubai-based retailer Landmark Group. Baugur already controls 8.5% of shares in the American department store group, which includes 54 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, 49 Off Fifth stores,, and the specialty store chain Club Libby Lu. The financial media would have you believe that news of Baugur’s stake and the buyout gossip are driving Saks’ soaring share price (shares are up over 25% since September), but we offer another theory: it’s the Bierut effect!

Michael Bierut‘s eye-catching chopped-up checkerboard identity for 83-year-old Saks Fifth Avenue launched on January 2, 2007, as we told you last Christmastime. Inspired by the boldness of two of our favorite artists, Franz Kline and Barnett Newman, the new identity system slimmed down Tom Carnese-for-Massimo Vignelli‘s 1973 Saks logo, placed it inside a black square (paging Kasimir Malevich!), and subdivided that square into 64 smaller ones (a move that surely pleased Sol Lewitt in his final days). The result? An infinitely modular system that has popped up on everything from Saks shopping bags and ads to store rugs and an Ellen Tracy skirt.

As our handy graph above indicates, Saks’ monthly sales (as measured by percentage change in comparable store sales) since the launch of the new logo have consistently outperformed those of 2006 and 2005. In June, things took a tumble, but we have an explanation for that outlier: Bierut’s book was released on May 24th. Clearly, all of the Bierut-lovin’, would-be Saks shoppers were spending their money elsewhere in June, not to mention busy reading (there were 79 essays after all).

Apple Goes For Smug, Dash Doesn’t Dig It


By way of Daring Fireball, we were passed along over to Anil Dash, for his piece “Smug Ugly” about Apple taking its smugness a little too far in its new OS X. The story goes, when you’re looking at a handful of other computers on your network, the ones that are not Macs, are displayed as “aged-looking monitor and a crash computer” (see: Windows’ “blue screen of death”). While it’s clearly meant as a joke, Dash says it isn’t very funny, and we tend to agree, particularly when he gets right into it:

Arrogance is ugly. If you claim to care about aesthetics and design, it’s in your interest to keep from being completely tacky and lacking in taste.

To be honest, there’s really only room for mocking everybody else if you’re absolutely flawless. And even then, it’s pretty bad taste. I’ve seen exactly what it looks like firsthand to see people take cheap shots and make snide comments about their nominal competitors, and it invariably makes the complainer look worse than the ostensible target. When the company you’re taking a shot at is Microsoft, that’s saying a lot.

When Banksy Gets Rich, All His Friends Do Too


Speaking of art, by way of Archinectwe found this story in the Telegraph a lot of fun: “Art Sales: Graffiti Draws a New Crowd.” It asks the question, “what happens when Banksy sells a painting at the recent Frieze Art Fair for $323,000?” and then immediately answers: everything else in his style of graffiti-esque, street art starts commanding huge amounts too. This writer doesn’t know much about the art world, really, but we kinda guessing that, if you’re curious about how the economics of that industry work, here’s your primer.

Virtually unknown five years ago, Banksy’s auction record soared at Sotheby‘s earlier this month when a painting sold for $323,000. A print that could find no buyer at auction two-and-a-half years ago at $300 sold for nearly $9,000. It’s the sort of mark-up that appeals to the young City traders and hedge-fund managers who are a driving force behind this market, says Ralph Taylor of Sotheby’s, who has assembled a special street-art section for his next contemporary art sale in London on December 12.

Apart from Banksy, he will have original works by Antony Micallef and the collective group known as Faile, whose first works at auction this month quadrupled estimates, selling for between $36,000 and $39,000 each. Both are represented by the Soho gallery Lazarides, where their work regularly sells out.

Francesco Vezzoli Guggenheim Show Bewilders and Confuses Everyone But David Byrne (That’s Our Guess At Least)


ArtInfo has a great, lengthy, three page review of this weekend’s star studded event, Francesco Vezzoli‘s staging of the play Right You Are (If You Think You Are) at the Guggenheim in NY. Cate Blancehett was in it and people like David Byrne, Peter Sarsgaard and Natalie Portman were in the audience. But unlike, say, a regular play that made any sense, this was more of a piece of performance art. And if someone will read all three pages of this review and please let us know just what is going on, we would really appreciate it. We got about five paragraphs in and our brains melted. Still, in terms of art, it sounds pretty cool (i.e. if Peter Sarsgaard thinks it’s great, then so do we).

Executives Talk After the Big Money Does Its Work: More on the Attik Sale


Going back to a story from yesterday about the big sale of Attik to Dentsu America, it looks like the eggs have all been put into the like-minded basket and executives from both sides are speaking about the sale. You can find the whole press release here (PDF). A little bit:

“When ATTIK initiated discussions with Dentsu America, we viewed it as a brilliant business decision for their agency, which has built a solid reputation on ground-breaking
creative for 20 years and wants to continue to grow exponentially,” said Tim Andree, Chief Executive Officer of Dentsu America, Inc. “With Dentsu, the world’s largest agency brand, ATTIK will attain that growth. We at Dentsu America stand to gain from ATTIK’s impressive creative credentials, plus its leadership position in digital and alternative media and its deep understanding of the Gen Y demographic.”

Meanwhile, there’s been even more discussion floating around about the purchase, including this story in AdAge, “Dentsu Pays Big for More Toyota Business,” about the very hefty bag of cash Dentsu used to swing Attik over to their side.