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Archives: September 2008

Donald Trump Still Endlessly Fascinated by Shiny Things

donald trump.jpgWe couldn’t resist adding one more tidbit from Nicolai Ouroussoff‘s discussion of his top picks for the wrecking ball: a terrific anecdote concerning the critic’s brief lunch with Donald Trump several years ago. It was a sedate affair until Trump “seized on the topic of Mar-a-Lago, his palatial estate in Palm Springs.”

“Have you ever watched craftsmen apply gold leaf?” he asked, his eyes lighting up. I hadn’t. “You really have to see it,” he said. “The sheets are so thin that if you hold one up to the ceiling and blow, it takes the shapes of the molding. It just sticks there.”

Extending his fingertips in front of his lips as if they were supporting a sheet of gold, he blew into the air.

For Ouroussoff, the moment “summed up the magic of Donald Trump. You may find his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue gaudy, but doesn’t its cockiness makes you grin?” For us, it reads like a symbolism-soaked encounter out of Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man crossed with To Have and Have Not. “You know how to apply gold leaf, don’t you, Nicolai? You just put your lips together, and blow.”

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Nicolai Ouroussoff Pens Demolition Wishlist

demolition man.jpgIf wishes were wrecking balls…well, then Manhattan would have some gaping holes courtesy of Nicolai Ouroussoff (who wouldn’t look half-bad in a hard hat, we must say). The New York Times‘ Man on Buildings recently penned a demolition wish list for Gotham, because, Ouroussoff notes with a Dickensian flair, “Even the most majestic cities are pockmarked with horrors.” Although notable for its restraint when it comes to the AT&T building (“Its farcical Chippendale top was an instant hit, and a generation of architects grew up believing that any tower, no matter how cheap and badly designed, could be defended if you added a pretty fillip to the roof”), Ouroussoff’s list is both ruthless and amusingly annotated. Here’s what he’d just as soon see vaporized:

  • Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. “One of the city’s most dehumanizing spaces: a warren of cramped corridors and waiting areas buried under the monstrous drum of the Garden.”
  • Trump Place. “A cheap, miserable contribution to an area of the city already in need of some mending, this luxury residential complex is about as glamorous as a toll plaza.”
  • Javits Center. Sorry Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, but this building “cuts Midtown off from the waterfront,” while a “black glass exterior gives it the air of a gigantic mausoleum.” Why not repurpose it for “housing [rather] than as a shed for dog shows and car fanatics”?
  • Annenberg Building, Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Resembling “either a military fortress or the headquarters of a sinister spy agency,” this hostility-evoking structure is the product of “a vision conceived without compassion.”
  • 375 Pearl Street. “A unique kind of horror,” it frequently compels Ouroussoff to “throw [his] cellphone at the building.”
  • Astor Place “would seem more comfortable in a suburban office park.”
  • 2 Columbus Circle. Shield your eyes, lollipop fans, for he finds the new Museum of Arts and Design “a mild, overly polite renovation that obliterates the old while offering us nothing breathtakingly new.”
  • New York Goes Mad for MAD

    MAD bus.jpg

    If you didn’t get MAD enough with our earlier round-up of critical reactions to the newly opened Museum of Arts and Design, stay tuned, as we’re heading inside later this week. Meanwhile, the talented Amanda Barrett,’s associate director of marketing for events and education, was on site at last week’s gala opening and made the below video for us with her trusty flip camera and the assistance of video production oracle Weston Almond (note their right-on-the-money soundtrack selection!).

    Who did Amanda spot among the VIP-studded crowd? Countess Marianne Bernadotte of Sweden draped in a gold cape, Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (who MAD should tap for what we imagine is a massive collection of pins and brooches). Among the design dignitaries in attendance were the dashing Yves Béhar (who designed the Swarovski chandelier in the grand atrium), Wendell Castle, Karim Rashid, and Chris Hacker, chief design officer of Johnson & Johnson. Also among the guests of honor? The wonderful and charisma-oozing Michael Bierut, who designed the museum’s new graphic identity. “It’s based on the building’s circles and squares…and of course Columbus Circle itself,” Amanda tells us. “He chose Futura because of its perfectly round ‘O.’ Move over, Helvetica!”

    School of Visual Arts Launches New MFA Program in Documentary Filmmaking


    Our good pal Steven Heller dropped us a line to let us know that the place he spends a lot of his time, the School of Visual Arts, has launched a brand new MFA program that we wish we could drop out of working life and move to NY to attend. It’s the two-year Master of Fine Arts Degree in Social Documentary Film, which will begin in the fall of 2009 and will feature a roster of instructors that make our hearts skip a beat. Maro Chermayeff, the producer and director of the PBS series, Carrier is set to chair the program and other instructors include Michael Epstein, Susan Froemke, and fantastic cinematographer, Bob Richman. If you’re in the market for a graduate film program, it sounds just spectacular. And might we suggest that one of the first projects the SVA’s new students in the program work on be UnBeige: The Untold Story, so we can be involved to? Because, really, you wouldn’t believe the skeletons we have in our closets, especially in Stephanie’s.

    Le Corbusier: The Man, the Myth…the Sex-Starved?


    In an election year, you are treated (punished?) with list after list trying to set the stories straight about candidates or damage their credibility with dished dirt and facts and figures. Similar, but not political, is this piece from The Independent, “Seven Pillars of Le Corbusier,” who is about to have his fame nudged up a bit higher as the Royal Institute of British Architects gets set to mount a major exhibition about the already iconic architect. In the piece, they focus on the man himself, from his insane work ethic to his possibly being sex-starved. It’s a great batch of information on the starchitect-before-”starchitects”-was-a-term, seeing the profession in more of an artistic light than is usually the norm. If you consider yourself a fan, it’s strongly recommended reading.

    September 11th Memorial and WTC Rebuilding May Finish By 2011 After All


    Well, let’s maybe forget all that talk we reported on a few days ago about the various September 11th Memorial and World Trade Center rebuilding projects not being finished in time for the ten year anniversary. Surely prompted by all of the stories coming out around this past anniversary of all the slowdowns, mismanagement, and general problems being had at the site, the NY government and the money involved in the project (there’s still money somewhere?) have all gotten together to work out a plan to have the entire thing finished in time and, likely to their great hope, remove the pressure and negative press they’ve been receiving a bunch of lately. Here’s a bit:

    City and Port Authority officials were reluctant to discuss the latest proposal because it is still subject to negotiations, as well as approval by authority commissioners. But local politicians and members of the community board that includes ground zero embraced the news.

    “We are working around the clock until Oct. 2 on a report that brings certainty to the schedule and budget for the whole site, including the memorial, and a path forward to completing each project as quickly as possible,” said Christopher O. Ward, the authority’s executive director. “No final decisions have been made or will be made until that report.”

    Behind the Scenes at Yanko Design


    A terrific story over at the Guardian about Takashi Yamada and the meteoric rise of his concept/product design blog Yanko Design. If you aren’t familiar with his site, you clearly don’t know how to use the internet correctly. We’ve long been fans, even celebrating the day they finally decided to relaunch after a much too long hiatus back in 2006. And who doesn’t love a “guy has a good idea and makes it big” tech story? It also hints at the power the site yields in taking what were once just concepts into actual, buyable products:

    “Form beyond function” provides a playful counterpoint to the orthodoxy of the 20th century, where “form follows function” and “ornament is a crime” were the slogans underpinning the Bauhaus-style modernist approach to design. But judging by the number of readers of Yanko Design who say they want to buy some of this stuff, you can go a bit too far the other way.

    Museum of Arts and Design Review Roundup (and On-Site Balloon Attacks)


    Being in Chicago as this writer is, rare is the day that he’s in NY during some big event. But so it was this weekend, as a much too brief trip to Manhattan for a wedding was in store and fortunately the hotel was right around the corner from where the new Museum of Arts and Design was opening. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to join the long lines to go in to check it out, but we did get to stand around and see Jason Hackenwerth‘s crazy Kinetic Balloon Sculpture creatures mingling out front (and almost forcing us into on-coming traffic at one point). But even though we didn’t get to run inside, here’s a quick roundup from the experts: the Tribune‘s Blair Kamin thinks it’s a pretty good new face for the infamous “lollipop building,” flaws and all, but “a second act worth seeing.” The Globe‘s Robert Campbell is of similar opinion, but reminds us that museums have interiors and objects to look at, too, not just architectural details. Meanwhile, the NY TimesNicolai Ouroussoff isn’t having any of it. He just hates nearly everything about the new building, from the inside out, seeing it as a continued whitewashing of New York to make it immediately safe and accessible. CultureGrrl takes immediate issue with that review in particular (“It’s time to demolish Ouroussoff”) and it’s probably the best review of the bunch. But then again, sometimes it’s also nice to hear from a regular person, like our friend Andy, who we left to stand in line as we had to head back to the airport:

    The exhibition was pretty cool. There was a chandelier made of eyeglasses, and portrait made of combs, chainmail armor made up of dogtags. They had pottery and silkscreening and weaving demonstrations. Lots of solid stuff. Sorry we didn’t head straight over there from brunch so that you guys could have seen it.

    Chelsea Art Museum’s ‘Terror’ Cancellation Heats Up


    As a rule, nothing is ever as simple as it looks at first glance. Such is the case with a story we reported on on Friday morning, about the Chelsea Art Museum canceling an exhibit about terrorism because of museum president, Dorothea Keeser‘s dislike of its content and how that so angered the museum’s curator, Manon Slome, that she handed in her resignation. But no, it was not that simple. Not in the slightest. And we return to the original source of the information, Art Fag City, who wound up getting the middle of the conversation in two posts, the first of which comes from talking with one of the artists involved and then with Keeser herself, defending her actions and ideas. Then a second post returns to talking with Keeser about how Slome, after not being able to agree with proposed changes to the exhibition, both cancelled it and resigned in one fell swoop. It’s a lot of confusion, finger pointing, and if you find yourself a bit bewildered by it all in the end, believe us, you’re not alone. Still, interesting to see a big blow-up played out in public like this. We’ll watch and see what happens.

    Designism 3.0, Thrice as Nice

    Designism logo.jpgAnd speaking of the Art Directors Club, Designism is back! The annual forum for creatives and designers to debate their roles in social activism will threepeat this Thursday evening at the ADC Gallery in New York City. “‘Designism’ was developed to explore the state of activism across all media,” says Brian Collins, who conceived the event. “It addresses how designers and creatives can use their careers to drive the transformation we need to make our communities—and the world—a better place. We hope to provoke and inspire people by showcasing great examples of how that’s being done.”

    Collins and Designism 3.0 co-producer Benjamin Palmer have assembled quite the line-up of provocative inspirers: living legend Milton Glaser will speak on the effect of propaganda on design, art, and your psyche; the multi-talented Allan Chochinov of Core77 will present a “Designism Manifesto”; and the propaganda- and manifesto-savvy Steve Heller will moderate a “Design of Politics” panel discussion featuring Glaser,’s Helen Walters, and writer Tony Hendra. Then the fun will get flashy in a Designism “lightning round” of rapid-fire presentations of forward-thinking work and results. Think fast and RSVP here.

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