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Archives: January 2010

Woman Trips, Tears One of the Met’s Prized Picassos


We’d like to think that we’re something of an educational stop on this vast information superwalkway, and the lesson we’d like you to take home with you this week is to wear non-slip shoes and pay attention to your surroundings, particularly if you’re visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Otherwise, you might follow the disastrous path that an un-named woman took recently when she tripped and landed on Picasso‘s ‘The Actor,’ tearing a chunk off the $130 million painting the museum has had since 1952 and is one of the most treasured works by the artist. Fortunately, the museum says it can fix it:

Immediately after the accident on Friday, the painting was taken to the Metropolitan’s conservation studio for repair. “Fortunately, the damage did not occur in a focal point of the composition, and the curatorial and conservation staffs fully expect that the repair, which will take place in the coming weeks, will be unobtrusive,” the museum said.

Despite the Mets’ “no big deal” attitude, the NY Times wonders just how exactly they will go about fixing the damage, as well as what it will do to the value of the painting. Meanwhile, the Times has a nice rundown of other recent art accidents, all tripping related.

Mumbai to Combat Gridlock with Skywalks

mumbai.jpgIt’s onward and upward for Mumbai. The tightly packed Indian city (population: 13,662,885) will soon be home to more than 50 “skywalks”—elevated sidewalks that sprout from the city’s train stations and allow pedestrians to avoid the traffic-choked roads, many of which are without sidewalks. “Skywalks are quick to build, relatively inexpensive, and only require land the city already controls,” writes Eric Bellman in The Wall Street Journal, which offers a wee stippled rendering of a skywalk along with photos. Plus the city plans to recover the $300 million tab for the skywalks project by selling advertising space on them. So everyone’s happy, right? Of course not. Retailers are grumbling about the drop in foot traffic, while residents complain that the skywalks obscure views and encourage the curious to sneak a peak into private homes. And then there are the design challenges:

While the walkways run over government roads, there still often isn’t space on the ground to plant enough supporting columns. Longer stretches between columns mean the city has to spend more on stronger, lighter materials and thicker columns. Commuters found the early skywalks too boxy and bright, so new ones use curved roofs, dark colors and chrome.

When engineers started digging to build the foundations, they found the chaos on the street continues underground. A few feet down, they ran into uncharted water, electricity, and phone lines as well as sewers, forcing them to redesign whole skywalks. Trying to get the city water authorities or state-run telephone company to shift infrastructure would take too long.

On the bright side? A promising candidate for a Mumbai skywalk mascot has emerged, as the locals have dubbed the first bright, twisting structure “the yellow caterpillar.” Paging Eric Carle!

Jimmy Fallon Perfectly Parodies ’80s Instructional Videos

We like to think of late night television, a world dominated by chunky veneered desks and short on distinctive design elements, in retail terms: if Jay Leno is the Wal-Mart of the late-night scene and Conan O’Brien is (well, was) the Target, then Jimmy Fallon is the Gilt Groupe—young, tech-savvy, and on the rise. One of our favorite Late Night sketches is the recurring “Head Swap,” in which Fallon and “the guy from the graphics department” are continually (and hilariously) thwarted in their efforts to Photoshop one celebrity’s head onto that of another. Even more impressive is the attention to detail of Fallon’s “Video Vision” sketches—spot-on parodies of instructional videos, circa 1987. Settle in and enjoy the most recent installment, on the important topic of fire safety. So good you’ll swear you first saw it at a middle school assembly.

Quote of Note | Suzy Menkes

suzy_M.jpg“I personally find it very unsatisfactory to see clothes only on film, as stills. It is a mystery to me why the great doesn’t take pictures from the back. So much happens at the back of an outfit.

The future of fashion seems to be hanging on the fabrics. When we see people like Alber [Elbaz] using such an extraordinary range of fabrics, or Haider Ackerman using fabrics in such extraordinary ways, the need for touch and understanding of fabrics is much greater. If we were to dump the fashion show in favor of the explanatory video, there would have to be a whole lot more work done on this, a lot more zooming in.”

-The extraordinary Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, on the future of fashion shows

Working Test of Michael Arad’s Sept. 11th Memorial Unveiled


Back in 2007, we told you that Michael Arad‘s September 11th Memorial, “Reflecting Absence,” had been pushed back several years. Instead of opening in late-2009, it was set to open hopefully sometime before the 10th anniversary of the attack. The rebuilding of the World Trade Center site has been plagued with delays from the very start (in that same post, we said that Daniel Libeskind‘s Freedom Tower was expected to open some time in 2010, but that’s been pushed to around 2013 now). However, it looks like there’s been some positive movement recently on Arad’s project. A small test model of the waterfall memorial has been built out in Brooklyn and was unveiled to reporters late last week (the BBC has some great video). The moving sculpture looks promising (and it actually works) and the plans are still supposedly on schedule, with building commencing soon at the WTC site, finished by spring of next year, and hopefully all running smoothly by September 2011.

“One of the things I wanted the water and the design to do is to mark this continuous sense of absence,” Arad said. “These voids, even though water falls into them…they never fill up, they always remain empty, and that was very important to me,” he added.

The waterfall-filled pools are the centerpiece of a memorial plaza that will take up half of the 16-acre site at ground zero. The pools will be surrounded by hundreds of sweetgum and white oak trees on a cobblestoned plaza; a memorial museum is being built below ground that will open about a year after the memorial.

SO-IL’s Pole Dance Selected for P.S.1′s Young Architects Program

As winter starts to wear on us and the possibility of warmer months some time off in the distant future, it’s that time of year again when P.S.1 announces their selection for their Young Architects Program and releases details of the temporary courtyard park they’ll be building for the summer. This year, it’s the Brooklyn-based firm SO-IL, or Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (those last names standing for Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu) for their piece Pole Dance. The firm is just under three years old, but already they’ve developed projects around the world, from a residence in upstate New York, to a museum in The Netherlands. Below, you’ll find the video they put together for the competition, giving you a chance to see what’s planned for this summer. After the jump, you’ll find a full description of their plans for the courtyard.

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Legendary Designer Behind NY’s Subway Signs, Bob Noorda, Passes Away


As has become standard when sad news arises of a famed designer’s passing, Steven Heller has penned a very nice tribute to industry legend Bob Noorda, who passed away earlier this month due to “complications of head trauma suffered in a fall.” Noorda, of course, was a longtime business partner and friend of Massimo Vignelli, and perhaps his most iconic work was in redesigning the signage for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority in the mid-60s and which are still used today (albeit slightly altered over the years). Heller, per usual, provides a great tribute to Noorda and his work, with lots of interesting details about his projects. Here’s a great quote and quick overview of all Noorda stood for:

“Don’t bore the public with mysterious designs,” Mr. Noorda once said, and he put that dictum into practice. He was a master of spare, elegant and logical designs that caught the eye, from minimalist corporate logos for the Italian publishing house Feltrinelli and the ENI Group of Milan to impressionistic posters for Pirelli, the Italian tire maker.

Art on Paper Folds, But Holds Out Hope for Imminent Revival


The latest victim of the print media crisis is Art on Paper magazine, which has ceased publication. Co-publishers Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett announced the New York-based bimonthly’s closure this evening, noting their hope “that six to twelve months from now, when the economy has improved, someone new will come along and revive the publication, either in print or digital form.”

Art on Paper began in the late 1960s as The Print Collectors Newsletter, a resource aimed at the burgeoning market for limited-edition prints. In the mid-1990s, the newsletter became Art on Paper (technically a spaceless, lowercase affair: artonpaper) and its editorial coverage was expanded to include photographs and drawings. Thereafter, the magazine maintained its commitment to works on paper in all media and recently collaborated with artists including Thomas Nozkowski, Polly Apfelbaum, and Monique Prieto to produce limited-edition works for its “Great Poster Project.”

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Friday Photo: Smart Cookies

(Photo: Barneys New York)

Fortunate.jpgSimon Doonan, that intrepid soldier of fashion fortune, is ringing in 2010 with the help of fortune cookies, lots and lots of fortune cookies. The creative director of Barneys New York and his crack team of window dressers have arrayed the tasty treats in the windows of Barneys stores nationwide to portend a bright future for Céline, the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy-owned brand that lost its groove after the 2003 departure of Michael Kors. Founded (would you believe?) as a children’s shoe store, 63-year-old Céline has been reborn under newly installed creative director Phoebe Philo, who you’ll recall as the erstwhile creator of covetables at Richemont-owned Chloé, where she succeeded Stella McCartney in 2001. Philo’s fantastic debut resort collection primed the fashion crowd for a spring 2010 line that is fresh, refined, and modern—and sure to get major editorial play in every March issue. At least that’s our prediction. As for Doonan’s cookies, they are also a tasty symbol of hope. “We are all embarking on a new decade together, right? It’s scary. What will the future hold? Fortune cookies are a good place to start,” he says. “It’s amazing what you can do with a glue gun and a dream.”

New NEA Program to Fund City Design Projects

R_Landesman.jpgNational Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman and self-described “recovering Broadway producer” Rocco Landesman (pictured) has announced a new program that will provide funds to help U.S. cities plan and undertake design projects or further existing ones. Announced yesterday at the annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., the NEA Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative (MICD 25) builds upon the MICD program, founded in 1986 to transform communities through design. Through the new initiative, the NEA will make up to 15 grants ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 “in recognition of the role that smart design, arts, artists, and arts organizations can play in building dynamic places where people want to live and work,” explained Landesman in a speech yesterday. Any of the approximately 600 cities that have had a mayor go through the MICD program are eligible to apply for a grant.

micd ding.jpg“We are looking to fund planning projects, including the planning of arts districts, the mapping of cultural assets along with their development potential, and the creation of innovative plans to maximize the creative sector,” said Landesman. “We want to fund design projects, to enhance public spaces—such as parks, public buildings, libraries, memorials, streets, and pedestrian bridges. We will fund the revitalization of neighborhoods through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings into affordable housing for artists, studios, and work space. And we want to make sure that citizens engage with the arts by having communities transform themselves through public spaces that have cultural activities—innovative festivals, outdoor exhibitions, murals and sculptures, sculpture gardens, and waterfront art parks.” Cities are advised to think creatively and fast, as statements of interest should be submitted to the NEA by March 15. More information awaits you here.