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Archives: March 2009

Los Angeles Art Weekend Is Back

los angeles postcard.jpgDo you, like us, live somewhere other than Southern California? Then now’s the time to take advantage of all those spooky-cheap cross-country airfares, because Los Angeles Art Weekend is back. After a wildly successful launch year, L.A. Art Weekend’s 2009 incarnation kicks off Thursday with an impressive line-up of special events, public programs, and exhibitions that allow you to experience the best of L.A. art, architecture, design, and film communities in one action-packed four-day weekend.

Where to begin? On Thursday evening, artist Kehinde Wiley will be speaking at the Getty Center, perhaps providing insight into why the world can’t resist his Old Masters-meets-hoodie sweatshirts approach. Alternatively, as if you needed another reason to visit the local Taschen emporium, fashion designer and documentary subject Valentino will be on hand to sign copies of his new book Valentino: A Grand Italian Epic (should you need to make small talk, focus on pugs rather than our friend Alessandra Facchinetti, recently deposed designer at the house of V). The fun continues well into the night with an L.A. Art Weekend kickoff bash at the Hollywood Standard (watch out for chlorine clouds!) featuring a Mike Mills book signing and a post-Punk soundtrack by DJ Michael Stock of Part Time Punks fame. And that’s just Thursday. Click here for the full schedule. And remember, whoever consumes the most culture wins.

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Planned YouTube Redesign ‘Totally a Hulu Approach’

my head hurts.jpgYouTube is taking a Hulu approach to its imminent redesign. Uttering that sentence a mere five years ago would have earned you some strange looks and possibly a tight-fitting strappy jacket (YouTube? Hulu? Is it time for your medication?), but now it all makes perfect sense, even the part about Hulu being run by aliens who feast on tender human brains. Look for YouTube to soon scrap its current navigation scheme—divided into sections for videos, channels, and community—in favor of a layout that highlights YouTube’s premium content as distinct from the user-generated videos that made the site a household name and a Google acquisition target.

The new design will offer four tabs: Movies, Music, Shows, and Videos. The first three tabs will display premium shows, clips, and movies from Google’s network and studio partners, all of which will be monetized with in-stream advertising. Meanwhile the Videos channel will house amateur and semi-pro content of the sort major brand advertisers have shied away from.

The Hulu-ness comes in with the redesigned YouTube video player interface, which will display designate scheduled ads with visual markers and allow users to reduce the brightness of their screens outside of the video frame. “It’s totally a Hulu approach, but that’s best practices right now,” an exec familiar with Google’s YouTube plans told ClickZ.

LIFE.com Launches with Millions of Photos, Ellen DeGeneres’s ’6 Cutest Dogs’

(W Eugene Smith).jpgWant to see the floor of Jackson Pollock‘s studio? Care to seek inspiration from a WPA mural of oyster fishermen? Curious as to what children were crazy lucky enough to brave Disneyland’s brain-jarring teacup ride when the park first opened in 1955? These photos and approximately seven million more are now just a click away on LIFE.com, which launched today. The joint venture between Time and Getty Images aims to “create the most comprehensive photo experience available online,” with everything from archival images from 1850 to constantly added Getty photos of the latest celebrity gala and/or adoption crusade.

But LIFE.com is much more than shimmering Kennedys. The site includes curated galleries of images on topics that range from the sublime (“Spaghetti“) to the ridiculous (“Rethink Democracy with Castles“), while homepage features take you to photos you probably wouldn’t have otherwise sought out (the “Would you Rather…?” section asks you to choose between seeing, for example, “a tapir with a prehensile nose or Marilyn Monroe touching her toes”). You can rate, share, and link to LIFE.com images, and along the lines of iTunes’ celebrity playlists, the site is recruiting big name guest editors. First up: Ellen DeGeneres, who helped to select “LIFE.com’s 6 cutest dogs,” including this 1949 shot of a charming terrier named Asta who had an unhealthy relationship with vacuum cleaners.

(Photo: W. Eugene Smith/LIFE ©Time Inc.)

Spending the Night at the Bauhaus

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If you’re one of those fortunate people who a) still has a job and b) aren’t concerned about lay-offs so you can still do frivolous things like take vacations, we have a recommendation for you. The Guardian‘s Hans Kundnani reports in from Dessau, Germany, where you can stay, at a very reasonable fee, in the rooms once used by students at the Bauhaus architecture school. You can wander wander around halls Walter Gropius designed, visit the classrooms people like Kandinsky and Klee taught in, and take communal showers just like the students in the 1920s would have (the boarding is pretty historically accurate, see?). To us, it sounds like the world’s most perfect get away, and probably to you too — just make sure you clear it with your spouse or significant other first, particularly that communal showering part. Here’s a bit about venturing outside your room:

After breakfast in the canteen where the Bauhaus students used to eat for free (you sit on Breuer stools, of course), I set out to explore the rest of Dessau, which is easily navigable by foot or on bicycles that can be rented from the railway station. The most significant of the other buildings designed by Gropius and the school’s architecture department that are open to the public is the Torten Estate, a housing project consisting of more than 300 terraced one- and two-storey dwellings, which were built cheaply with standardised prefabricated components that could be assembled on site like Lego. Several units are open to the public, including an experimental house made entirely of steel.

Bacardi’s Miami Headquarters Building in Jeopardy as Company Moves Out

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If you’ve been to Miami recently and happened not to have already imbibed too much of the company’s product, you likely caught a glimpse of Bacardi‘s iconic, mural-wrapped headquarters. They’ve been in the very modern building since the 1960s, but now that they’re preparing to move to a larger, blander structure, locals and architecture buffs alike are starting to grow concerned about how to protect the landmark once the company heads out and another buyer isn’t waiting in the wings to move in. Fortunately, groups have formed to try and figure out how to save it, likely breathing something of a sigh of relief at Florida’s now-dismal housing construction industry, as even just a year ago the building probably would have been demolished mere seconds after the last employee shut off the lights as work began on new condos. But they still have an uphill road to climb. Here’s a bit:

Some hope Bacardi will retain the buildings, and perhaps endow them for use as a cultural center. Others say a nonprofit owner, perhaps a foundation, might be the solution. Still others believe the site retains commercial possibilities because of its location on a resurgent Boulevard and the large lot, which has space for new construction.

The fear among preservationists is what might happen if Bacardi unloads the buildings. Because they are not protected as a historic landmark, nothing would stop an owner from altering them or knocking them down.

Michael Gross’ Upcoming Book Ruffles Feathers at the Met

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Speaking of museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is already gathering together its efforts to quell some of the negative scenes that might play out in Michael Gross‘ forthcoming book about the museum, Rogues Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum. According to New York magazine, the museums’ board and higher-ups have been talking about the book recently, trying to figure out who talked, what they said, and how much damage control will need to be done, even threatening to go after Gross and his publisher, Broadway, should they perceive something as particularly libelous. In our mind, like with all “Don’t pay any attention to that thing over there!” efforts, of course, does nothing but draw more attention to the “thing over there” and will likely result in more copies of Gross’ book being sold. Case in point: we weren’t even aware that the book was coming out and now we’re super eager to read juicy stories about all the ne’re-do-wells that run the Met.

The Louvre Retains Its Place as ‘World’s Most Popular Museum’

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Last year around this time you might recall that we reported on the Louvre‘s dominance at the most visited museum in all the world for 2007. Now the annual ranking has once again been released and it’s more of the same, at least up top, with the Louvre still bringing them in in record numbers (approximately 8.5 million people). Though down the line there were some changes. The British Museum moved up to second place, the Tate Modern dropped from third to fourth, and finally an American museum got some high visitation, with the National Gallery of Art pulling up in third place (no doubt aided by all the visitors to Washington D.C. for all the inaugural hubbub. And back to the Louvre really quickly, we’re interested to see how 2009 will play out, now that Nicolas Sarkozy has made it free for young people and educators.

Yoox Moves Forward with IPO Plan

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Betting that (slightly) discounted Balenciaga from seasons past will only gain appeal in a global recession, the parent company of online retailer Yoox.com is moving forward with its planned initial public offering. The Italy-based Yoox Group has named Goldman Sachs and Mediobanca as advisers for an IPO planned for December. Best known for its Yoox.com online store, which has recently added design objects by companies such as Alessi and B&B Italia to its offerings, Yoox also designs and manages online stores for a stable of luxury brands that includes Marni, Emporio Armani, Bally, and Diesel. The company reported €101 million (approximately $134 million) in revenue for 2008, an increase of 48% over 2007.

Photographer Helen Levitt Dies at 95

(Helen Levitt).jpgPhotographer Helen Levitt, best known for her lyrical depictions of New York City street life, died yesterday in her sleep at the age of 95. Brooklyn-born Levitt dropped out of high school and in 1931 took a job working for a commercial photographer in the Bronx. “And I decided I should take pictures of working class people and contribute to the movements,” she said in a 2002 interview with NPR. “Whatever movements there were—Socialism, Communism, whatever was happening. And then I saw pictures of Cartier-Bresson, and realized that photography could be an art—and that made me ambitious.”

That’s something of an understatement. Levitt soon met Cartier-Bresson (during his 1935 stint in New York), befriended Walker Evans, and through him, met Ben Shahn and James Agee, who both proved to be major influences on her work. In 1943, she had her first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and went on to show in Edward Steichen‘s landmark 1955 “Family of Man” exhibition and many, many other shows, including retrospectives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Upon visiting her apartment, a reporter was surprised to find none of Levitt’s photographs on display. “I know what they look like,” she said. “I don’t want to look at them all the time.”

Branding Wombats: Endangered Marsupials Ink Corporate Sponsorship Deal

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(Photo: Warren Clarke)

Branding wombats. Nope, it’s not the working title of Crocodile Dundee IV or a Men at Work comeback album, it’s the goal of “global diversified mining group” XStrata, which has agreed to fund an aggressive, multi-million dollar program to save the endangered marsupial in exchange for wombat branding rights. “Xstrata’s name will appear on everything wombat: from websites to educational DVDs to shirts worn by wildlife workers,” writes Todd Woody in Time. “Xstrata execs will also star in documentaries about the northern hairy-nose [wombat] and speak at media events.” Why wombats, reclusive, nocturnal creatures that have been compared to everything from porcine badgers to Alan Greenspan? Well, they’re rather adorable and massively endangered. “There’s obviously benefit in terms of the way people perceive Xstrata,” said Peter Freyberg, the CEO of Xstrata Coal. Obviously. Note to Crash Bandicoot: we smell a dingo of a co-branding opportunity.

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