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Archives: October 2009

Friday Photo: Dexter’s Dream House

(Photos: Antoine Bootz)

crystal skulls.jpgAs we put the finishing touches on our Charles and Ray Eames Halloween costumes, we wanted to leave you with this Friday Photo from the Metropolitan Home Showtime House of earlier this fall. A group of designers that included Richard Mishaan, Pentagram’s James Biber, a team from Surfacedesign (James Lord, Roderick Wyllie, and Geoff di Girolamo), and the dynamic duo of Christopher Coleman and Angel Sanchez transformed a pair of Tribeca penthouses into a parallel universe inspired by six Showtime shows. In honor of tomorrow’s ghoulish goings-on, we’re focusing on designer Marie Aiello‘s multi-room tribute to Dexter, which stars Michael C. Hall as a darkly lovable serial killer. Aiello, who began her career as a television producer, avoided the obvious (blood-red chintz, a bordello chaise, splatter painting) in favor of sophisticated spaces that wink at the passions of their would-be owner. Upon closer inspection, the chic living room (above) reveals a hearth surrounded by a DNA-themed pattern of mirrored tiles and a pair of glittering Swarovski crystal-encrusted skulls (inset), while the Trove photoprint on the back wall is a blurred close-up of Dexter’s face. Our favorite touch? The 1953 Vladimir Kagan rocking chair, a mix of swooping curves and scarred upholstery.

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Quote of Note | Lillian Bassman

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“The women who intrigued me had the most beautiful necks and the most reponsive hand movements. At one point, I found El Greco, and that elongated look became my way of seeing.”

-Photographer Lillian Bassman, whose work is on view through November 28 in an exhibition at the Staley-Wise Gallery in New York City

Isaac Mizrahi and Betsey Johnson Among Designers Contributing to Pet Collar Auction, Hosting Selection Leaves Us Confused


To end this writer’s day on a fun/funny note, we ran across this press release from the North Shore Animal League America, who are gearing up for an upcoming benefit in New York next Thursday the 5th to raise money for their pet rescue/adoption/awareness efforts. The event is called the Fourth Annual DogCatemy Celebrity Gala and will feature an auction of pet collars created by famous designers, from Isaac Mizrahi to Betsey Johnson. Since we’re animal lovers (proof of that here), we were happy about the whole thing while skimming the release, until we ran across this bit about the event itself:

Hosted by award-winning journalist, author and host of Fox News Channel’s Geraldo at Large, Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo? Really? That’s who they got to host the event? Wasn’t there someone else around New York somewhere who might be a better fit? The gala’s website says Rivera got his golden retriever from their shelter, which is great, and he’s certainly a personable guy, but don’t 90% of Americans also find him pretty off-putting? And let’s remember that John O’Hurley lives just up the coast, in Maine. He’s the best part of the annual dog show at Thanksgiving. He wasn’t free? Anyway, while we continue to struggle with our curiosity, here’s a bit about all the designers involved with the auction:

…the gala features a truly unique auction. It showcases an array of one-of-a-kind pet collars created by some of the most illustrious names in the design, fashion and jewelry worlds. Bidders have the opportunity to dress their animals in collars created by designers including Betsey Johnson, Nicole Miller, Isaac Mizrahi, Byron Lars, Stephen Dweck, Lela Rose, Alexis Bittar, Carmen Marc Valvo, Yigal Azrouel, Anna Sui, Christie Brinkley, Marc Bouwer, Lela Rose, Colette Malouf and many more.

Koolhaas’ Burnt Mandarin Hotel Might Still Be Salvageable


Despite the hopefully-misguided beliefs of apparently a lot of people in China that starchitect Rem Koolhaas wants nothing more than to mock them with his buildings’ designs, there’s some positive news coming from the neighbor to his “controversial” CCTV Tower, the badly charred Mandarin Oriental hotel he also designed. It was one of the big architecture tragedies at the start of this year, when an errant firework found its way inside the building, setting it totally ablaze almost instantly, taking with it a firefighter’s life and nearly $800 million poured into the about-to-open project (here’s our report on personally seeing the damage up close back in May). But now Koolhaas’ firm, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, has been back to the scene and have announced that despite its utterly-apocalyptic appearance, the building still seems structurally sound and that the damage might all be fixable. OMA hasn’t said that they will for sure be working to rebuild, plans to move forward do seem likely, and that means that maybe the worst option has been diverted, that the Mandarin would have to be demolished completely.

“The preliminary findings are that the building can be repaired,” said architect Ole Scheeren, the building project’s leader. “It’s still intact and safe. There will mainly be a repair effort, but not a complete rebuilding.”

Marc Ecko Forced to Sell Control of His Label


What do the brands London Fog and Mossimo have to do with fashion mogul Marc Ecko? After this week, they’ve become one in the same. Or rather, all under one big umbrella, as the designer, known for his love of spending lavishly, has been forced to sell off the majority stake in his company to the Iconix Brand Group. This comes after more than a year of Ecko struggling to pay creditors, laying off staff, and trying to sell off portions of his holding to stay afloat, which most are attributing to both the economic crash of the past couple of years and the designer’s history of writing more checks than he probably should have been. Here’s from the NY Post, which announced the news with the headline “Ecko Slam-Dunked“:

“I’ve had a crazy, wild ride. I’ve done a lot of things that have been naive,” Ecko told The Post. “I’ll take my lumps for a lot of things that, in retrospect, were a little indulgent. Life happens. I don’t regret any of it.”

The designer will be staying on as the company’s top creative officer, but will no longer have complete control in guiding the company. Yet despite what Ecko’s new owner’s CEO may be saying about revenue and earnings being way up, Iconix itself hasn’t been having the best week either, following the company’s release of its reportedly disappointing 2010 financial forecast.

Art Institute Picks Their Collection’s Most Frightening Pieces


As a lame adult now too old to go out to raucous parties, but young enough not to have kids yet, this writer’s connection to Halloween has sadly become distanced. As such, he hasn’t really been on the lookout for much spooky, seasonally-appropriate pieces to share with you here. Fortunately, our pals over at Chicago’s iconic Art Institute have come through at the eleventh hour for us with their recent post to their Facebook page:

In honor of Halloween, we took an office poll: what’s the scariest/creepiest/spookiest work in the collection? Here are some of our picks.

Therein you’ll find ten decidedly scary pieces, like Francis Bacon‘s Figure with Mean (6 out of 10 on the creepy scale), Irving Penn‘s famous The Angel photograph (3 out of 10), and for those with a decidedly popular phobia, Bruce Nauman‘s video installation Clown Torture (8 of 10, regardless if you previously had a fear or not). A thanks to the Art Institute for bringing the high brow to a purposefully low brow holiday. We applaud whoever decided this would be a fun idea, because it most certainly is.

Where the Wilde Things Are

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(Photos: Laura Yeffeth)

As Richard Wilde, chairman of the BFA Advertising and Graphic Design Department at New York’s School of Visual Arts, celebrates his fortieth year at the College, SVA is recognizing him with a dazzling exhibition of iconic works by more than 100 alumni from throughout his tenure. Designed by Kevin O’Callaghan, “The Wilde Years: Four Decades of Shaping Visual Culture” features a This is Your Life-style slate of design stars—including Rodrigo Corral, Drew Hodges (SpotCo), James Victore, Julia Hoffman (MoMA), Archie Ferguson (HarperCollins), Molly Sheahan (BBDO), and Scott Wadler (MTV Networks)—and their greatest hits, from Pepsi ad campaigns and CD packaging for Eminem to theatrical posters and the irresistible book jacket for James Frey‘s A Million Little Pieces. The exhibition runs through Saturday, November 7, at the Visual Arts Gallery in New York City, and the sooner you get there, the more time you’ll have to spend with the giant old-school TV:

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Metropolitan Museum Returns Granite Fragment to Egypt

fragment.jpgIn a kind of cultural patrimony twist on “You break it, you own it,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art today returned to Egypt an ancient Egyptian granite relief fragment that was identified by museum staff as part of a large shrine. The fragment, which has never been on public display at the Met, was on loan to the museum from a collector who claims to have purchased it in the 1970s. It is inscribed with the name of Amenemhat I, who ruled Egypt from 1991 B.C. to 1962 B.C.

Putting the pieces together was Dorothea Arnold, chairman of the museum’s Egyptian art department, who matched the fragment with a photo of a red granite naos, a shrine used to house a statue of a deity, that was missing a corner of its base. The chipped naos in question is located in the Ptah Temple of the Karnak complex, near Luxor. “The fragment on loan to us looked like it might fit this larger work. With my colleague Adela Oppenheim, we found a publication which set out the inscription on the naos in Karnak and we compared that inscription with the inscription on the fragment—the pieces fit together perfectly,” said Arnold in a statement issued by the museum. “We decided that, in these circumstances, the appropriate thing to do was to alert the Egyptian authorities and to make arrangements with the owner so that we could return the fragment to Egypt.” And if we know Zahi Hawass, he’ll be waiting at the Cairo airport with balloons and a cake.

Ink-Saving ‘Ecofont’ Does More with Less

ecofont.jpgIs conserving printer ink and increasing environmental awareness as easy as switching fonts? So say the Dutch creators of Ecofont, a “green” typeface. The font—a modified version of Vera Sans—consists of characters that are full of tiny holes and so requires an estimated 20% less ink to print, according to research that compared the average black surface occupied by Ecofont characters to that of the source font. Ecofont is available as a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. For those who want to create Eco-versions of any typeface, the creators have introduced Ecofont Professional, software that they claim “has an inspiring effect on both employees and customers.” It’s a hole new way to look at font choice.

UnBeige’s Eva Hagberg’s Dark Nostalgia and 50+ Years of SOM


A couple of weeks back, we told you all about UnBeige 3.0′s Alissa Walker‘s great City Walks Architecture. And while we yammered on about that release, we briefly mentioned UnBeige 2.0′s Eva Hagberg‘s upcoming book through Monacelli, Dark Nostalgia, but hadn’t been able to say much more than “It’s coming out soon!” But now that it’s out, we wanted to give it its justly due by saying that we’ve gotten a chance to check it out and have aptly drooled all over its gorgeous pages. It’s chock full of beautiful, mostly dimly-lit, cozy-yet-cool interiors of restaurants, hotels, and houses, all of which caused us to suffer through a variety of feelings, from hunger to sleepiness to, perhaps most frequently, outright envy. It’s a great look at the blending of the modern with the classic.

And while we’re on book talk, with our copy of Dark Nostalgia, we also just got a sneak peek of the not-yet-released, five volume series Architecture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is now ranked highly on our wish list for the upcoming holidays. We’ve only seen the final book, which covers 1997 to 2008, but judging from that, the whole collection should be just incredible. The edition we’ve seen runs through the most high-profile and/or impressive buildings the firm put together over that span of time, making you regularly stop to think “I didn’t know SOM did that one, too!” If you’re an architecture buff, it’s a great batch of information (and if you live in Chicago, where SOM calls home, you really don’t have any excuse not to show some local pride by taking a look when the whole series gets released in mid-November).