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Archives: August 2011

Ben Stiller, David Zwirner Organize ‘Artists for Haiti’ Mega-Auction

James Rosenquist’s “The Richest Person Gazing at the Universe Through a Hubcap” (2011), one of 26 works donated to the Artists for Haiti auction (Photo: David Zwirner)

Earlier this year, actor Ben Stiller and gallerist extraordinaire David Zwirner teamed up to organize Artists for Haiti, an art auction to benefit huminatiarian efforts in the wake of the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake that took 230,000 lives. Months of work on the project have paid off in the form of a jaw-dropping selection of 26 pieces—most created specifically for the sale—that will go on the block at Christie’s on the evening of Thursday, September 22, in New York. Artists including Jasper Johns, Louise Bourgeois, Chuck Close, Cecily Brown, and Raymond Pettibon have donated works, and they’re not standard benefit-auction fare. Mamma Andersson has contributed a haunting oil called “Night Train” (2011), and Neo Rauch is represented by a breathtaking new canvas of alienated souls poised to break into song in a technicolored forest. In “Le juif errant” (2011), Francis Alÿs depicts a figure traversing a map while carrying the built world on his shoulders. The canvas could function as a new identity for Architecture for Humanity, one of several nonprofits and NGOs that all of the proceeds from the Artists for Haiti auction will support. Learn more about the auction and check out all of the works in person at David Zwirner (September 6-14) or at Christie’s (September 17-20). Click here to watch Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer, who has written a text in the Artists for Haiti auction catalogue, discuss the situation in Haiti during his recent appearance on Charlie Rose.

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More Details Emerge on Director Steven Soderbergh’s Plans to Leave Filmmaking, Enter Painting

Both the film and art worlds were once again abuzz early this week with more information on director Steven Soderbergh‘s planned transition from filmmaker to painter, quitting the former entirely to concentrate on the latter. The whole concept was kicked into high gear this past March, when the director made the rounds saying he was planning on retiring at 50, even dropping by Studio 360 to chat with Kurt Andersen about it. Now, with his latest film, the thriller Contagion about to be released, Soderbergh once again made quick mention of his departure again while speaking with the NY Times, offering a few more specifics on what he has planned for his second act (and how he might turn back around should it all not work out):

Mr. Soderbergh was speaking last month in his office space-cum-painting studio in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, where, having announced his imminent retirement from directing, he will soon be spending a lot more time. Propped against the walls are some of his recent pieces: a pair of striped canvases in red and gray hues and a portrait of the abstract painter Agnes Martin. Mr. Soderbergh, 48, sounded matter-of-fact about the career change. “I’m interested in exploring another art form while I have the time and ability to do so,” he said. “I’ll be the first person to say if I can’t be any good at it and run out of money I’ll be back making another ‘Ocean’s’ movie.”

And here’s that aforementioned interview on Studio 360:

Burning Man ‘City Planner’ Rod Garrett Passes Away

Having never been to Burning Man, the temporary city/festival that pops up around this time every year in the middle of the desolate Nevada desert, we’d always assumed that the whole thing had no planning at all, as a sort of “anything goes” mantra seemed like the guiding principle of the whole thing. Oh but how wrong we were, as per usual, there’s always a much more interesting story lying around the corner. The NY Times this week published an obituary for Rod Garrett, a landscape designer who became the event’s city planner, as it were, in 1997. Over the next few years, Garrett had well-honed “Black Rock City,” the name the temporary site is given, into a finely tuned bit of city planning, with things resembling neighborhoods, city centers, and functional roads. It’s a fascinating read, from both a planning-out-of-nothing aspect, and for those of us who likely will never attend (we’re not big on getting dirty) but are wildly curious about. Here’s a bit:

Mr. Garrett made a list of almost 200 planning goals and began trying to find a way to satisfy as many of them as he could. When he sketched a circle, with the Man in the middle and the system of radial roads, things started falling into place. The area closest to the Man would be reserved for art installations, creating a parklike zone that complemented the “residential neighborhoods” in the same way Central Park makes Manhattan livable. City services like an ice dispensary and a medical station would be concentrated under a temporary roof within the inhabited zone. (Each year Mr. Garrett designed the vast, tentlike structure, which is known as Center Camp.)

Unrelated other than tangentially, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Spud Hilton recently posted this piece, also challenging our “free to do anything” conceptions about the event, about Burning Man’s extremely tight restrictions on photography.

Designers Consumed by Lust as Wacom Unveils ‘Inkling’

When was the last time you can remember that Wacom‘s site was so overloaded with traffic that it was difficult to get it to load? We don’t visit the pen tablet for designers’ site often enough to be able to give that a definite answer, but we’re guessing it’s not all that frequent. However, such was the case yesterday (for us anyway) as word spread quickly about the company’s new product, the Inkling, an ink pen-based device that records your drawings as you sketch them out, again in ink, on a physical piece of paper. Even if you aren’t a regular sketcher, or have always used a tablet just fine, or are from the exact opposite direction and get by just fine with a mouse and don’t plan on ever changing your ways, even you will find this cool. And if sites like Gizmodo, which said about the Inkling that it “may become [their] favorite gadget of all time” are any judge, every designer is either going to be buying one or putting it on their wish list immediately when it’s released in the middle of next month. Here’s the promo video:

First Look at NYC Urban Design Week Schedule

Mark your calendar for Urban Design Week, a new public festival created to celebrate New York’s streetscapes, sidewalks, and public spaces. Today the Institute for Urban Design published the full schedule of events, which will kick off on Thursday, September 15, with the launch of By the City/For the City: An Atlas of Possibility for the Future of New York, a book that brings together design ideas submitted for the By the City/For the City competition. “New York has such an exceptionally rich public realm, and there are so many ways for individual citizens to get involved in shaping their city” says Anne Guiney, executive director of the Institute. “We see Urban Design Week as an opportunity to provide more people with the tools to do just that.” Stock your toolbox at events organized in partnership with more than 50 non-profit organizations, design firms, and city agencies. Among the discussions, tours, and screenings that caught our eye: a celebration on the High Line of trains on film, a walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge, a chat about “Public Art, Science, and the Sustainable City,” and the U.S. premiere of Gary Hustwit‘s new film, Urbanized.

Quote of Note | Ian Frazier on Theo Jansen

One of Theo Jansen’s self-propelling Strandbeests (beach animals) beside a drawing by the artist depicting the creature’s “stomach” of recycled plastic bottles containing air that can be pumped up to a high pressure by the wind and “muscles” of plastic tubing.

“Theo showed me around his small on-site workshop [near Delft, The Netherlands]. It was filled with tools like vises, saws, clamps, and heat guns for softening the plastic tubes. On perforated wallboards, tools hung neatly inside their black magic-marker outlines. From a workbench Theo picked up a piece of three-quarter-inch PVC tube about two feet long. He said this was the basic element in the Strandbeests’ construction, like protein in living things. ‘I have known about these tubes all my life,’ he told me. (He speaks good English.) ‘Building codes in Holland require that electrical wiring in buildings go through conduit tubes like these. There are millions of miles of these tubes in Holland. You see they are a cheese yellow when they are new—a good color for Holland. The tubes’ brand name used to be Polyvolt, now it is Pipelife. When we were little, we used to do this with them.’

He took a student notebook, tore out a sheet of graph paper, rolled it into a tight cone, wet the point of the cone with his tongue, tore off the base of the cone so it fit snugly into the tube, raised the tube to his lips, blew, and sent the paper dart smack into the wall, fifteen feet away. He is the unusual kind of adult who can do something he used to do when he was nine and not have it seem at all out of place. ‘I believe it is now illegal for children in Dutch schools to have these tubes,’ he said.”

-Ian Frazier in his article on Dutch artist and kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen that appears in the September 5 issue of The New Yorker
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Wanted: Talented Art Director for Men’s Health

We’re tagging this gig as “must-apply.” Men’s Health magazine is looking for a talented art director to join its print and tablet design team in New York City.

In this role, you’ll assist creative team in continuously evolving the design of the magazine, while planning and executing front-of-book and feature layouts. In addition to managing freelancers and contractors, you’ll be tasked with creating forward-thinking info graphics, charts, logos, small illustrations and visual explanations for the brand. You’ll be collaborating with the creative director on a regular basis, while leading projects and maintaining standards throughout.

To be considered, you’ll need at least seven years of design and project management experience. You should have a sophisticated and modern design sensibility, and be able to work well under tight deadlines. Detail-oriented team players with expertise in CS5 and knowledge of 4-color process correction and specification should apply here.

For more job listings, go to the Mediabistro job board, and to post a job, visit our employer page. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

Around the Art and Design World in 180 Words: Museum Moves Edition

  • Anthony Bannon, director of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film (pictured), has begun his last year on the job. He will retire on July 31, 2012, having held the directorship of the Rochester, New York-based museum since 1996. “We have set into place a new and vigorous strategic direction, and it is time for new energy and vision to move that forward,” said Bannon, under whose leadership the museum created three post-graduate preservation schools, forged alliances with museums and universities, and mounted many of the most-attended exhibitions in the museum’s 64-year history. An international search will begin soon, and Bannon will assist in the search process.

  • Jennifer Farrell has been named curator of exhibitions at the University of Virginia Art Museum, where she will be in charge of developing in-house exhibitions, working with outside curators to formulate future projects and advising on museum purchases, among other responsibilities. Farrell was previously director of the Nancy Graves Foundation in New York, an organization focused on giving grants to artists and to preserving and exhibiting the work of artist Nancy Graves.

  • Video: 5 Things You Need to Know This Week

    In this week’s episode of “5 Things You Need to Know This Week,” we give a lesson on human reproduction, talk about the U.S. Open, sit down with Julian Assange, and, oh yeah, cover that Irene thing everyone’s been talking about.

    For more videos, check out, and be sure to follow us on Twitter: @mediabistroTV

    Errol Morris’ Book of Photography Essays to be Released This Week

    You’re undoubtedly a fan of the director Errol Morris because, well, who isn’t? You’ve also proved that you have great taste, hence your presence here on this site, and people with great taste always like Errol Morris. For those of you, like we, who are super fans, you’ve no doubt instantly read Morris’ essays in the NY Times the minute they’ve been posted. Now several of them, those pertaining to photography, have been expanded and accompany additional writing, in a new book released this week, Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography. True to his familiar and incredible method of getting beyond what we think is truth, the book uses a number of examples (most of which had, as mentioned earlier, appeared in multi-part form in the NY Times) to illustrate that simply because there’s photo evidence doesn’t mean that what you’re seeing is accurate or hasn’t been manipulated. It looks terrific and like every other Morris project to date, we’re eager to devour it. Here’s a description from the publisher:

    In his inimitable style, Morris untangles the mysteries behind an eclectic range of documentary photographs, from the ambrotype of three children found clasped in the hands of an unknown soldier at Gettysburg to the indelible portraits of the WPA photography project. Each essay in the book presents the reader with a conundrum and investigates the relationship between photographs and the real world they supposedly record.

    …With his keen sense of irony, skepticism, and humor, Morris reveals in these and many other investigations how photographs can obscure as much as they reveal and how what we see is often determined by our beliefs. Part detective story, part philosophical meditation, Believing Is Seeing is a highly original exploration of photography and perception from one of America’s most provocative observers.

    An excerpt of the book can be found here.

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