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Archives: June 2010

Digital Signage Coming to NYC Newsstands

CEMUSA_SALES_2.jpgAs if purveyors of print media didn’t have enough to worry about, now digital is really hitting them where they live—newsstands. CEMUSA, provider of what it calls “street furniture,” has partnered with the high-tech display wizards at Show+Tell to replace the old-school poster billboards on select New York City newsstands (and those swell new bus shelters) with digital signage. Existing poster light boxes will be transformed with sunlight-readable LCD screens. As for what they’ll be showing, expect “an engaging content strategy that incorporates social media, news feeds, real-time HD video broadcasts, and of course—the revenue generating engine—third party advertising,” writes Show+Tell’s Manolo Almagro on DailyDOOH. WireSpring was selected to handle the software end of things, while Almagro credits “the fabrication and engineering ninjas” at Display Devices with figuring out “how to squish a 2 x 2 landscape-oriented matrix of Samsung’s 65″ and (1) 70″ outdoor readable LCD into the existing backlit poster light box,” which sounds rather painful. Look for the new digitally enhanced newsstands and bus shelters to hit NYC this fall.

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More Trouble Over BP’s Museum Sponsorships, Activists Spill Oil Inside and Out at Tate Britain

Following our report last week that protesters had shown up in front of London’s National Portrait Gallery to complain about BP‘s sponsoring of the annual Portrait Prize, this week marked ever more heightened tensions, anger, and action at the Tate Britain, where a party directly celebrating BP’s involvement in the museum’s funding was in full bore. This resulted in not just more protests, but activists spilling “an oil-like substance” on both the interior and exterior of the building (the latter also got feathered). ArtInfo has collected a handful of quotes from both sides of the debate and the Guardian‘s Jonathan Jones has filed this op-ed that the museum is right to take BP’s money and that, in these rough financial times for arts organizations, “If they can get money from Satan himself, they should take it.” Here’s one of the protest groups in action:

California Arts Council Launches Celebrity-Endorsed License Plate Campaign to Raise $40 Million


What better way to get you all revved up than with more license plate news? And maybe this time we aren’t even saying that facetiously. In order to try and raise money for arts programs in state where the government is deeply in the red, the California Arts Council has launched a program called the Million Plates Campaign. They’ve hired the famous pop art painter Wayne Thiebaud to design a new plate, which they’re hoping residents will switch over to from the old plates for $50 ($78 for personalized) and bring in $40 million or more by January to help cover their grants and educational programs. Both Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, the chair of the Arts Council, and her sort-of-brother-in-law (she married into the Shrivers, so it gets confusing), California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, spoke earlier this week on the 20th Century Fox Studios lot to help launch the campaign. Also speaking about license plates, strangely, were Quincy Jones and T. Bone Burnett. And who is going to help from here to get the word out? The official Arts Ambassadors, of course. Here’s a listing of them from Monday’s speech:

Billy Al Bengston, Wallis Annenberg, Jennifer Aniston, Chuck Arnoldi, John Baldessari, Amy Brenneman, T Bone Burnett, Dana Delany, Morgan Freeman, Frank Gehry, Tom Hanks, Anjelica Huston, Quincy Jones, Robert Redford, Catherine Wagner and Rita Wilson.

We had no idea license plates would become the hot trend du jour. Aren’t you glad we’ve been babbling on about them for years? And now that we’ve told you all about this, you’ll understand when Tom Hanks launches a 10-part series on HBO about plate design or you see Frank Gehry hanging around various DMVs.

Swatch Founder Nicolas Hayek Passes Away


The man responsible for saving the Swiss watch industry nearly 30 years ago, and for creating the iconic brand Swatch, Nicolas Hayek, passed away earlier this week due to heart failure, at the age of 82. Notice of his passing was delivered via the Swatch Group, the company Hayek bought and reorganized in the early 1980s, which now owns a variety of brands like Omega, Tissot, and the watch-making arm of Tiffany & Co. The notice was very brief, offering few details, but the NY Times has filed this obituary, providing background on Hayek’s career, including the boom that began in 1983 as the low-cost, collectable Swatch was introduced. Here’s a bit from the official statement:

Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek’s greatest merit was his enormous contribution to the saving of the Swiss watch industry and the foundation and the commercial development of the Swatch Group. Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek’s extraordinary vision enabled him to realize and ensure the sustainability of a strong watchmaking enterprise with high Swiss added value. He is rightly recognized as a leading entrepreneur in this country.

With the right personnel decisions, Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek also ensured that his ideas and beliefs will live on and that continuity is guaranteed in regard of shareholders, Board of Directors and the Group Management Board.

Remembering Tobi Wong (1974-2010)

sunjar.jpgThe death of 35-year-old Tobi Wong over Memorial Day weekend came as a shock to the design community. Friends, fans, and colleagues reacted with disbelief when the designer’s death was ruled a suicide. New York Times writer Alex Williams explored “The Mysteries of Tobias Wong” in a Sunday Styles feature that remembers Wong’s elegant wit and elaborate pranks while illuminating the circumstances surrounding his tragic end. Wong suffered from serious sleep disorders, including chronic sleepwalking. “During episodes, Mr. Wong would rise from bed in a zombielike trance and perform elaborate tasks (bill clients, make funny outfits for his cats) that require agency and concentration, if not full consciousness. At times, his sleep problems took the form of a related disorder that researchers call sleep terrors—essentially, a half-waking nightmare state that the subject is unable to snap out of,” writes Williams. “Given this history, many people who were close to him believe that his death was not an act of will, but, like other sleepwalking episodes, a bizarre out-of-character act that ended tragically.”

Jeff Koons’ BMW Art Car Fails to Finish at Le Mans

FRENCH TWIST. Koons at the Paris unveiling of his BMW Art Car earlier this month.

The seventeeth BMW Art Car, customized with a rainbow of good vibes by artist Jeff Koons, was expected to be a real contender at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race, but while it may have bested the competition in aesthetic appeal, the BMW M3 GT2 was forced to retire early. The Art Car was involved in a race incident when another car ran off the track to avoid the BMW, which was driving at a slow pace, according to Le Mans. “It’s unfortunate,” said Koons, “but it’s part of racing.”

BMW’s selection of Koons to join the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, and Jenny Holzer in creating an Art Car was announced in February. Koons later offered a preview of his design concept, which he said was influenced by everything from energy and “subliminal design work” to Christmas lights and sweet victory. “To me, it’s really important that the team wins.” he said at an April press conference. “Winning is the most important aesthetic.”

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In Brief: On Spec Work, Beyond Architecture


  • The battle over spec (try before you buy) design work continues. Last Thursday, AIGA Metro-North convened what was billed as “a civilized dialog between advocates and opponents of speculative branding and design work.” Expecting a heated debate, AIGA recruited New York State Supreme Court Justice Colleen D. Duffy to keep the peace as moderator. Benjamin Kessler was on hand to watch the sparks fly and found some suprises. Panelist and AIGA executive director Ric Grefé, for example, offered a nuanced take. “Where I had expected fire and brimstone, I got downright Obama-worthy dancing between the two sides of the argument,” writes Kessler. Read his full report at Graphic Design Forum.

  • We’re big boosters of architects expanding their practices to include everything from interiors and furniture to jewelry and undulating rubber boots. Fingers crossed that someone offers Gehry a perfume deal (FrankGehrance? Eau de Frank O.?), because we’d buy it for the bottle alone. The AIA takes on the “Beyond Architecture” trend in a July 7 panel discussion at the Center for Architecture in New York City. Alexander Lamis of Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Annabelle Selldorf of Selldorf Architects will discuss how their firms have organized their product design practices. The multitalented Donald Albrecht will moderate. Fingers crossed for goody bags.
  • Benjamin Genocchio and Nicolai Hartvig Take the Lead as ArtInfo Adds Bureau in France


    Following their now-established online presence here in the US and the launch of ArtInfo China this past April, the Louise Blouin Media empire is growing a bit more with yesterday’s launch of ArtInfo France. Like China before it, the new site will be written entirely in the audience’s native tongue, French, given that’s who will be reading it. It will be run by a new Paris-based editorial group, along with contributors and various freelancers, all overseen by the company’s Vice President of Editorial, the newly-former NY Times critic, Benjamin Genocchio, and its new Editor in Chief, Nicolai Hartvig. Here’s a bit about the branching out from Louise Blouin herself:

    “We are delighted to reveal this new extension of ARTINFO, as it embodies the company’s goal of fostering culture beyond borders,” comments Ms. Blouin. “France possesses such a significant and rich history in the arts — it is our responsibility to enhance and lend accessibility to our growing international audience by sharing our depth of knowledge through this modern platform.”

    David Rockwell’s Imagination Playground Prepares to Open, Serves as Focus of a New Yorker Piece


    A little under two years ago, we reported that David Rockwell, the star-studded designer/architect perhaps most widely known for his set design work and his handling of the Oscars for the past couple of years, was preparing to break ground on his first playground in New York. Now that its South Street Seaport-based construction is set to finally be wrapped up in late July and open for business for the kiddies, Rockwell’s serving as the launching point for the New Yorker‘s Rebecca Mead‘s upcoming piece for the magazine, “State of Play,” which talks about the history of playgrounds in the city, Rockwell’s new contribution, and this new trend of famous architects and designers getting into the game (both Frank Gehry and landscape guru Michael Van Valkenburgh have playgrounds in the works). It’s a great piece and a nice kick off to the opening of Rockwell’s first foray into the space. Here’s a bit about the origins of how he got involved in the first place:

    Rockwell, who is fifty-three, developed an interest in playgrounds ten years ago, after becoming a father. Like many first-time parents, particularly those belonging to the urban upper-middle class, Rockwell was nostalgic about the free play of his youth, and lamented the more constricted opportunities that were available to his offspring. Also, like many parents, he discovered that the box in which a toy is delivered is often of more interest to a child than the toy is. Rockwell approached Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner. “He called me up out of the blue and said, ‘I have got little kids, I am in playgrounds and they are great, but they are kind of boring — is there something different we can do?’” Benepe recalls.

    Also related, make sure to check out Mead’s bonus audio playground tour on the New Yorker‘s Out Loud blog. And if you’re eagerly counting down the hours until Rockwell is finished with the “Imagination Playground,” you can check out the project’s construction cam here.

    Cooper Union Founder’s Gelatinous Legacy Revealed!

    jello_yum.jpgYou may know Peter Cooper as the founder of Cooper Union, but did you know that he’s also the father of one of America’s favorite amorphous desserts? It’s true! Among the multi-tasking manufacturer, inventor, and philanthropist’s many achievements is obtaining the first American patent for the manufacture of gelatin. Michael Pollak elaborated on this fascinating historical fact in the Metropolitan section of yesterday’s New York Times, noting that Cooper’s 1845 gelatin patent “was an offshoot of his successful glue factory, gelatin being essentially purified glue. His wife, Sarah, suggested adding fruit.”

    The patent described “a transparent concentrated or solidified jelly containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use,” according to Jell-O, a Biography by Carolyn Wyman.

    Cooper’s gelatin, which sold for decades, and a similar product made by the Knox Company apparently lacked pizazz. That, Ms. Wyman wrote, was supplied by Jell-O’s actual father, Pearle Bixby Wait of LeRoy, N.Y., who in 1897 added colors, flavors and varieties to granulated gelatin. The first varieties were raspberry, lemon, orange, and strawberry. His wife, May, came up with the name Jell-O. In 1899, Wait sold the rights to Jell-O to the Genesee Pure Food Company of LeRoy for $450.

    Wait, a carpenter, allegedly created Jell-O in 1897 whilst whipping up a cough remedy and laxative tea at his home in LeRoy. The western New York town (that wiggles between the one-word spelling and “Le Roy”) remains the home of the Jell-O Gallery, a museum that celebrates the dessert’s rich, translucent history. Meanwhile, Cooper’s other inventions include a rotary steam engine, a method of siphoning power from ocean tides, a method for making salt (does it involve ocean tides?), a machine for shaping wheel hubs, and a musical cradle (glue optional).

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