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Archives: January 2011

Quote of Note | Anna Sui

“I love history. I love art. I like to mix it all together, but in the end it somehow has to all make sense. I mean I love ’60s psychedelic posters, but those were originally inspired by the whole Art Nouveau movement. So it’s important for me when I see something I like to go back and find out where it really came from. That’s also a way of educating myself and understanding what I love.”

-Fashion designer Anna Sui, whose spring 2011 collection was inspired by “the dreamy twilight mood and vast heartland lanscapes” of Terrence Malick‘s 1978 film Days of Heaven. Sui will show her fall collection on February 16 at Lincoln Center.

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The Gap Accused of Stealing Flickr Photo, Reprinting Design on Shirt

Last fall, The Gap had a front row seat at witnessing the power of bad press on the internet when they released a uniformly-hated brand redesign, then stumbled into even worse territory when they tried to pass it off as the launch of a spec-based “we need a new logo competition,” and ultimately just killed the whole thing and probably wish people like us wouldn’t bring it up again. However, they give us no choice but to rehash old history because it appears that the company might soon have the internet against them once more. San Francisco hobbyist photographer Chris Devers posted on his Flickr page the remarkable similarities between a photo he’d taken nearly two years ago of an old Jaguar parked on the street and a “Thermal Body Double” outfit for currently being sold as part of The Gap’s Baby line. It’s been less than 24 hours now since Devers posted images of his original photo next to the sales listing on the company’s website, but already the story is gaining some major traction. What’s more, a second party managed to posterize the image being used on the shirt and placed it over the original, thereby offering more proof that something seems fairly amiss here. Here’s from Dever’s original post:

I have various thoughts about what’s going on here — for example, the mind-boggling idea that some unknown factory in southeast Asia somewhere is cranking out thousands of $16.95 tshirts with my photo on them on behalf of the Gap, and yet they never attempted to contact me about their use of my work — but I’m trying to keep most of my thoughts to myself until Gap has a chance to respond.

This certainly isn’t the first time a photo posted to Flickr has been at the center of this kind of repurposing/theft issue, with stories we’d reported on about Virgin and Sears getting in trouble for doing similar things coming to mind off the bat. Those seemed to fade away fairly quickly, but we’re sure to see how well a company as high profile as The Gap fares in due course.

Seven Questions for Better World Books Co-Founder Xavier Helgesen

If your art and design library contains a sizable number of cello-wrapped, sticker-laden volumes whose pages are stamped with the names of their previous institutional owners (“Property of Wyoming Public Library” indeed!), then you have probably discovered the wonders of Better World Books. The online bookseller’s vast selection, low prices, commitment to social responsibility (from carbon-neutral free shipping to donating millions to literacy programs), and kooky brand image make it a must-click whether you’re stocking up on books by Steven Heller (collect them all!) or tracking down an out-of-print exhibition catalogue. The Mishawaka, Indiana-based company is about to kick off “Shop from Work Week” to encourage cubicle-dwellers to shop online when they should be working. “It’s not every day you have the green light to shop from work,” says Better World Books co-founder Xavier Helgesen (pictured), who scours the web for old bikes, bike parts, and interesting cookbooks when not busy with his duties as vice president of textbooks. “Although being in the e-commerce business, I get to call it ‘comparative market research.’” With the procrastination-themed sale afoot, we took some time away from our fashion week preparations to ask Helgesen seven questions about books, branding, and building a better world.

1. First—we can’t help it!—what’s your favorite book?
I love too many books to name for a whole bunch of reasons, but a classic that is really tough to beat is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I remember first reading it in eighth grade and literally falling out of my chair laughing when the Vogon is reading poetry.

2. And what are you reading these days?
On the fiction end, I devoured The Road by Cormac McCarthy in a few days. It was stark and harrowing, but completely addictive. On the non-fiction end, Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver is making me a much better cook and making me love Italy all the more.

3. Now that we’ve got that settled. How did better Better World Books come about?
Better World Books started with a single college book drive on Notre Dame’s campus in 2002. Our idea was to collect books that the college bookstore didn’t want and sell them online as a fundraising for the local community center. That is still the basic model we use today, though on a much bigger scale.
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University of Iowa Museum of Art Continues Its Battle with FEMA


Roughly two and a half years after a flood ravaged the area, the University of Iowa is still finding itself fighting an uphill battle in trying to restore its UI Museum of Art. The building it had been housed in was damaged by the swelling Iowa River during a disastrous flood in the summer of 2008. After the water level had returned to normal and damages were assessed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to help finance the repair and restoration of the building. This would have been ideal were it not for the insurance issues that arose post-flood. Insurer of the museum’s collection, Lloyd’s of London, told the museum that given the chance of another flood, they would not take the risk of offering insurance again in the museum’s current location. When the University approached FEMA last year with a request to not simply repair the building, but to move to a new, less water-adjacent area, they were denied the funds. Six months later, the University’s appeal of that decision has also been rejected, with FEMA still arguing, despite receiving information about the insurance issue, that “the UIMA suffered less than 50 percent damage and that it could be restored to use as a museum.” Still putting up a fight, the university is now planning on taking the case to both the state-level Homeland Security office as well as FEMA’s headquarters in Washington.

Milwaukee and Carnegie Museums of Art Place Their Super Bowl Bets

As has now apparently become par for the course, the tradition of museums betting art over the outcome of a big game is continuing this week leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl. Last year, you might recall that the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art established a friendly rivalry along with a wager involving pieces by Claude Lorrain and Joseph Mallord William Turner. And to a lesser extent, in that nothing was changing hands, the two architecture critics from the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Blair Kamin and Inga Saffron, respectively, got into a battle over which city was architecturally better ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs (we won here in Chicago, of course). Now that the Steelers and the Packers are set to duke it out at the end of this week, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art have agreed to put their art on the line. If the Steelers win, the Carnegie will be loaned Caillebotte’s Boating on the Yerres. If Green Bay takes it, the Milwaukee Art Museum will get their hands on Renoir’s Bathers with a Crab. The two museums have issued a joint press release, with a few good-natured swipes thrown in for good measure:

“I’m confident that we will be enjoying the Renoir from Carnegie Museum of Art very soon. I look forward to displaying it where the public can enjoy it and be reminded of the superiority of the Green Bay Packers,” said [museum director Daniel Keegan] of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“In Pittsburgh, we believe trash talk is bad form. We let the excellence of our football team, and our collection, speak for itself. It will be my great pleasure to see the Caillebotte from the Milwaukee Art Museum hang in our galleries,” said [director Lynn Zelevansky], of Carnegie Museum of Art.

Jon Stewart Joins Board of National September 11 Memorial and Museum

How nice it is to be back after a long weekend away. But instead of telling you all about what this writer got up to, telling funny anecdotes, letting you know what sorts of interesting things he talked to people about, let’s instead jump right into the news (we’ll get personal and catch up later over some coffee, okay?). First up, following the recent announcement that the National September 11 Memorial and Museum had teamed up with the internet start-up Broadcastr to share tagged audio recordings, and some two years after the news that actor Billy Crystal had joined the organization’s board, late last week comedian Jon Stewart was voted onto the board as well. Last year Stewart had served as the host of a fundraising dinner for the organization and according to Julie Shapiro at DNAinfo, following his commitment to discussing legislation surrounding September 11th on Comedy Central‘s The Daily Show, Mayor Bloomberg requested that the board offer him an invitation to join them. Said Stewart to the NY Times, “Luckily for me, it appears as if they’ve done 95 percent of the hard labor on this. So I’m hoping to help in any way I can offer. I’m like their intern at this point.”

Friday Photo: Attack of the 20-Foot Roses

(Photos: Paul Kasmin Gallery)

Record snowfalls have turned New York City into a pure white canvas for Will Ryman‘s bright pink and red rose sculptures, now in full bloom along Park Avenue between 57th and 67th Streets. The writer turned artist (who, as the son of Robert Ryman, knows a little something about all-white surfaces) created the monumental flowers as a kind of tribute to his hometown. “With these roses I wanted to do something that was larger than life and site-specific,” he said in a statement. “In my work I always try to combine fantasy with reality. In the case of ‘The Roses,’ I tried to convey New York City’s larger than life qualities through scale; creating blossoms which are imposing, humorous, and hopefully beautiful.”

For this, his first public art exhibition, Ryman used stainless steel, yacht-grade fiberglass resin, and automotive paint to create 38 giant pink and red roses that range in height from three to 25 feet. Each of the eight sturdy clusters harbors a similarly outsized brass ladybug, aphid, beetle, or bee. Meanwhile, melting snow will reveal 20 accompanying sculptures of individual rose petals, which have been “scattered” (as much as steel slabs can be) along the Park Avenue Mall between 63rd and 65th Streets. We suggest a Valentine’s Day stroll, “he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not”-style. On view until real buds can take over on June 1, “The Roses” is presented jointly by Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Fund for the Park Avenue Sculpture Committee.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week: The Newcomers

(Photos: UnBeige)

In less than two weeks, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week kicks off its sophomore season at Lincoln Center. While the event’s temporary home—with its faux-travertine facade, courtesy of a snugly fitting plasticene tarp—is being erected between the sliver of plaza between the David H. Koch Theater and the Metropolitan Opera House, we’ll take this opportunity to size up the eight-day extravaganza’s recently finalized schedule. There are 16 newcomers to the MBFW fold this season, including Christian Cota, Tess Giberson, and Frank Tell, an extraordinary talent who promises to transcend recession-stifled cocktail dressing with a fall 2011 line-up that is less precious. “Women don’t want to buy something they will only wear once and then sit in their closets,” says the designer, who last year (at Milk Studios) dazzled us with a luminous runway backdrop that winked at the work of Dan Flavin. “What is needed are extraordinarily crafted pieces that can be worn in an everyday way.” Another label that we’re particularly pleased to see making its MBFW debut is Sachin + Babi, helmed by textile visionaries and embroidery specialists Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia who have parlayed their luxe line of home furnishings into ready-to-wear. Also among those storming the tents for fall are Project Runway alum Irina Shabayeva, Alexandra and Kristen O’Neill‘s Porter Grey label, Elene Cassis, and GUiSHEM, designed by Latin American designer Guillermo Jop.

A+D Museum to Showcase Souped-Up Approach to Green Architecture

As Kermit the Frog or anyone who has applied for LEED certification will tell you: it’s not easy being green. In fact the whole process can be rather dull (and we say this in full support of low-VOC paints and rooftop rainwater collection systems). An exhibition opening February 12 at A+D, the Architecture and Design Museum of Los Angeles, aims to make sustainable design sexy. And so it’s ix-nay on the calming bamboo accents and compost chutes, and in with high-tech projects that promise to leave all previous efforts at green architecture in the dust. Dubbed “SOUPERgreen” for its souped-up take on green design, the show will feature “architectural propositions” by Doug Jackson (Doug Jackson Design Office), Wes Jones (Jones, Partners: Architecture), Aryan Omar (Richard Meier & Partners Architects), Steven Purvis (APLSD Design), and Randolph Ruiz (AAA Architecture). The five newly completed projects explore the way that technology can promote and enhance a more constructive engagement between architecture and the environment. The result? According to A+D, “Architecture that is not only environmentally responsible by quantifiable measures, but which also critically and positively promotes more expressive, exuberant, rad, boss, and totally stoked green experiences.”

Parsons Adds Undergrad Program in Urban Design

For those who dream of coming to the big city…to study the big city, Parsons the New School for Design has introduced a bachelor of science in urban design. According to the school, the new undergraduate degree program is the first of its kind in the United States. “Cities have become far too complex for any one person, academic discipline, or professional practice to grasp alone,” said program director Victoria Marshall, a practicing landscape architect and founder of Newark-based design firm TILL, in a statement issued by Parsons. “Through a mix of studios, workshops, field work, and social science courses, students will critically engage with the aesthetic, cultural, ecological, and political dimensions of urban life.” The four-year program is structured around a series of projects that address the roles of design in relation to critical issues facing cities such as sustainability, global migration, and economic instability, the latter of which students will experience firsthand should they seek off-campus housing. Past your bachelor’s degree days? Parsons is also developing two new graduate programs: an MA in Theories of Urban Practice and a studio-based MS in Design and Urban Ecologies. The newest members of the Parsons faculty, designers Aseem Inam and Miguel Robles-Duran, are at work on the curricula.