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Archives: September 2009

Armed Thieves Stage Daylight Heist of Magritte’s ‘Olympia’


It’s been a little while since our last museum heist story, but one just happened late yesterday and it’s a doozy. The Guardian reports that two men, armed with pistols, staged a daylight theft of Rene Magritte‘s “Olympia” from a private museum in Brussels. The painting, which is of Magritte’s wife, is estimated to be worth more than $4 million, which the thieves snatched after making threats to museum officials and visitors, forcing them to kneel and keep their heads down as they made their getaway. Fortunately, no one was hurt and experts in stolen art feel that the heist won’t turn out very fruitful for the thieves, given the general familiarity with the painting, or will be held for ransom and then (hopefully) safely returned or abandoned.

Yves Behar’s Strange Quote About European Designers


Occassional model, underwear designer, and the first Brit Insurance Design Award winner, Yves Behar, has stirred things up by doing a quick bit of generalizing about the whole of Europe. In talking to Design Week before appearing with Alice Rawsthorn at an event in London, he said the following:

“I think designers in Europe too easily take the back seat,” says the Swiss-born industrial designer, based in San Francisco. He adds, “In Europe it is quite static, but it’s great [for a designer] to be creative with the parts you’re expected to be creative with and creative on the business side. People [on the West Coast of the US] believe we can change things.”

We have all sorts of weird feelings about this quote. Was it taken out of context? Does Behar really believe that most of Europe is segmented like that, designers and business people? That’s doesn’t seem to ring true at all. And what’s that bit about only designers on the west coast being business savvy? The whole thing just seems unusual. If it is true that Behar does believe this, we recommend that in the future, maybe he should follow the Jonathan Ive method by just keeping quiet about his European emotions.

Zaha Hadid, Hiroshi Sugimoto Among 2009 Praemium Imperiale Laureates

(From left: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Long, Zaha Hadid, Alfred Brendel, and Tom Stoppard)

Today the Japan Art Association announced the winners of the twenty-first Praemium Imperiale, the international arts prize established “in memory of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu to celebrate the human spirit as expressed through the genius of the world’s artists.” The 2009 laureates are Zaha Hadid (architecture), Hiroshi Sugimoto (painting, a category that apparently encompasses photography), Richard Long (sculpture), Tom Stoppard (theater/film), and Alfred Brendel (music). Each winner receives 15 million yen (approximately $165,000 at current exchange rates) and a ticket to Tokyo, where they’ll receive their medals in an October 22 ceremony headlined by Prince Hitachi of Japan, who Wikipedia describes as “currently fourth in line to the Chrysanthemum throne.” This year’s crop of Praemium Imperiale laureates joins a roster of 104 artists that includes everyone from Frank Gehry and Jasper Johns to Ingmar Bergman and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Artists are nominated for the prize through international committees in each of the five fields that make recommendations to the Japan Art Association’s board of trustees, which ultimately selects the winners.

Seattle: Home of Clever Unemployed Architects


If you happen to have a trip planned to Seattle anytime soon, we just have to give you a quick heads up so you don’t get confused. If you see someone walking around offering advice about joists or how to properly put in a brick sill, don’t be alarmed. They’re just out-of-work architects who have taken to wandering the streets. We assume this is a regular thing in the area because first we told you about unemployed architect John Morefield, who had constructed a booth in a Seattle farmers market which offered architecture advice for just five cents. Now we learn that he isn’t alone, as out-of-work architect Jeff Soule has taken to hanging around wealthy Seattle neighborhoods wearing a sandwich board advertising his services. And apparently it’s been working okay for him thus far, with Soule receiving a small handful of contacts while he paced up and down several blocks. So when in Seattle, just be on the look out for them and please help them out however you can. It’s rough out there for architects right now.

Maria Pinto and Hart Schaffner Marx to Design Chicago’s 2016 Olympics Delegation Uniforms


If you’ve not been within about a 200 mile radius surrounding Chicago, you’ve likely been spared all the pro and con arguments about the city’s bid to land the Olympics. It’s been a lot of talk about taxes and relocation and all sorts of unpleasant things. But it will all be over soon, one way or another, as the city who gets the games in 2016 will be decided in just over a week. And when the official announcement is made in Denmark, the Chicago delegation headed there is set to look fairly sharp, as it’s been released that two of the Obama‘s favorite Chicago-based designers, Maria Pinto and Hart Schaffner Marx, are behind the outfits the traveling group will be wearing. Pinto, you’ll recall, designed Michelle Obama‘s nomination night gown and the Des Plaines-based Hart Schaffner Marx has long been on President Obama’s must-call list. Will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Maarten Baas ‘Designer of the Year’ for Design Miami/


Dutch designer Maarten Baas is certainly no stranger to the Miami design/art show scene, most recently with his melty furniture presentation last December. But while he already had close connections, now he will remain forever attached, as Baas has this week been named “Designer of the Year” by Design Miami/. The award places now places him in the company of people like Marc Newson and Zaha Hadid, who have also taken home the prize. And, like previous years, with the title comes the call to create a special installation for the design/art show (his will be called “Cabinet”), which will be revealed when everything kicks off December 1st. So you’re all prepped with your Baas trivia, we recommend hitting up Dezeen, for their nice batch of photos of the man in action and Wallpaper* for a nice recap of his career thus far.

Empire State Building to Undergo $550 Million Worth of Upgrades and Restoration


You might not know the name W&H Properties, but if you’re in New York, you’ve likely passed by a few dozen of the iconic buildings they manage. Most notable among them is the Empire State Building, which they took to managing just over three years ago. They’ve just announced that it’s time for a good spit polish on the famous building, one to the tune of $550 million. For the next couple of years, it will be a whole slew of upgrades and restoration, trying to return the building to its original luster and getting it a little more up to date. Here are some highlights:

A complete restoration and recreation of the famous Art Deco lobby, long hidden by 1960s “modernization,” along with special entrances and new traffic flow to separate office tenants and their visitors from tourists visiting the building’s observatories.

Renovation of the entire Observatory experience, including the 86th and 102nd floors, with Art Deco upgrades, as well as enhanced visitor queuing and retail areas on the 80th floor.

And this one was our favorite:

Installation of state-of-the-art technology throughout the building.

That can only mean one thing: robots. Lots and lots of robots.

Inside the Tiger-Striped Fuschia Velvet World of Kelly Wearstler

kwearstler.jpgThere are many reasons to admire interior designer Kelly Wearstler: her fearless cabinet-of-curiosities-meets-old-Hollywood-on-an-acid-trip aesthetic, her largely unheralded skill for maximizing vertical space in even the most sprawling of interiors, her unceasing faith in shagreen (we’re with you, sister!). Having gone west to assess Wearstler and her maximal style for a recent profile in The New Yorker, writer Dana Goodyear reveals the designer’s aspirations to lifestyle brand-dom. “Someday, I want to have a store where I’ll sell accessories, furniture, and clothing, like Ralph Lauren,” says Wearstler. First up: crafty wearables that are just as exuberant as the rooms she designs.

For the past year, she has been working on a line of jewelry, scarves, bags, and belts. The collection includes necklaces made from heavy chains for chandeliers and others decorated with drawer pulls; wooden dowels as pendants; leather cuffs studded with upholstery nails; and brass beads from a lighting catalogue strung onto black silk ribbon….A mockup board in her office shows a photograph of her with an enormous tassel fringe in metallic gold wool, the kind that would be used to trim a piece of furniture, draped across her chest as a bib necklace.

Quote of Note | Jonathan Ive

j_ive.jpg“We have assembled a heavenly design team. By keeping the core team small and investing significantly in tools and process we can work with a level of collaboration that seems particularly rare. Our physical environment reflects and enables that collaborative approach. The large open studio and massive sound system support a number of communal design areas. We have little exclusively personal space. In fact, the memory of how we work will endure beyond the products of our work.”

-Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design at Apple

Taco Cart Art Spices Up the High Line

taco marquee.jpg
(Photos: Lisa Sigal and Paul Ramírez Jonas)

high line tacos.jpgArt and tacos! Just two more reasons to visit New York’s High Line, the elevated railway turned idyllic skypark. The innovative art/taco pairing comes courtesy of “Specials,” a roving art project by Lisa Sigal and Paul Ramírez Jonas commissioned by the new High Line Art initiative. “‘Specials’ serves multiple functions, some formal, some social, and some culinary,” explain the artists, who constructed a mobile taco stand from a couple of utility carts backed by a ten-foot-by-four-foot wall. From one side, they serve up (at no charge) assorted varieties of homemade tacos, and on the flip side, they exhibit artwork by the likes of Robert Gober and Allan McCollum. “With each manifestation of this project, a new taco is created, and a new show is curated.”

Last week, Sigal and Ramírez Jonas wowed the crowd with artworks by Fiona Tan and Regina Silveira and fed them potato and corn croquettes with red cabbage and avocado tacos. “Specials” returns to the High Line next Thursday, October 1, with a menu of work by artists who participated in the 1993 Whitney Biennial— including Glenn Ligon, Kiki Smith, and Fred Wilson—paired with squash and mushroom tacos topped with specially blended hot sauce. Follow the art-hungry mob to the 14th Street passage, just south of the 14th Street stair to the High Line, between 4 and 8 p.m.

Previously on UnBeige:

  • The High Line: A River Runs Through It…Both Ways