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Steve Delahoyde

Art Newspaper Releases Annual Museum Rankings, Louvre Stays on Top, Met Rises to No. 2

It’s that time of year again, when the Art Newspaper looks back at the year that was to provide their annual rankings of most popular, and therefore visited, museums and exhibitions across the world. It’s no surprise in the slightest that the Louvre once again captured the top attendance record, as it has for the past billion years or so. In 2011, they his nearly 8.9 million, an impressive increase of roughly 400,000 over the year prior. The other success stories were from the usual roster, the Met for example, broke “the six million barrier” and stole away the number two spot from the British Museum, with lots of help from one of the world’s most popular exhibitions, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” Perhaps most surprising, and the leading talk of AN‘s coverage, is that the world’s most well-attended exhibition didn’t come from the usual three locales, the US, Europe, or Asia, but from Brazil. The Centro Cultrual Banco do Brasil‘s “The Magical World of Escher” landed this year’s top spot, pulling in close to 575,000 people and nearly 10,000 daily. On the opposite side of such positive numbers were the Tate Modern, who saw a dip, despite popular exhibitions like the well-timed Ai Weiwei sunflowers, and MoMA, who had a slight decrease as well. The Art Newspaper‘s whole breakdown of all the numbers can be found here (pdf).

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index Stays Positive for Fourth Straight Month

By our count, we’re now in our fourth straight month of being in the black when it comes to the American Institute of Architects‘ monthly Architecture Billings Index. Our minds are always relatively cloudy, but we can’t even remember the last time that was the case. Looking back through our archives (which is chock full of repeated phrases like “inches up ever so slightly” and “takes another dive”), we see the last time we came close was the summer of 2010, when after three months of growth, you guessed it, the ABI “took another dive.” This month, like those preceding it, haven’t been giant leaps, but we’ve landed at 51.0, up from 50.9 the month prior (anything above 50 indicates an increase in billings and a general look at the health and wellness of the industry). So while not huge growth, we’ll certainly take four months of good news over the alternative. Here’s the AIA’s chief digit bearer:

“This is more good news for the design and construction industry that continues to see improving business conditions,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The factors that are preventing a more accelerated recovery are persistent caution from clients to move ahead with new projects, and a continued difficulty in accessing financing for projects that developers have decided to pursue.”

BMW Guggenheim Lab’s Opening in Berlin Cancelled Due to Threats and ‘Elevated Risk’

Apparently the city of Berlin isn’t as welcoming of branded art projects as New York is. The BMW Guggenheim Lab, which was met with relatively positive marks when it premiered this past August in the East Village, was expected to next move to Germany, where all 2,200 square feet of the mobile structure, designed by Tokyo’s Atelier Bow-Wow, would set up shop beginning in mid-May and run through the summer. As announced back in January, the site selected to host the next stop on a planned world tour was the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, “known for its engagement with social action and public art” and “centrally located.” Unfortunately for the traveling exhibition, they didn’t expect massive push back from left-wing activists. Bloomberg reports that due to numerous threats, “elevated risk,” and planned protests, the Lab has decided to cancel its plans and move elsewhere. Where that “elsewhere” might be (somewhere in Germany? Or moving out of the country entirely?) hasn’t been announced yet.

James Corner Field Operations’ Team Wins Chicago’s Navy Pier Redesign Competition

Anymore when a large urban landscape project is in the works, you could fairly safely guess that New York’s High Line co-designers, James Corner Field Operations, would either be on the short list or had just won (it’s even been speculated that all the High Line enthusiasm could be the next “Bilbao effect”). And so it has happened again, right here in Chicago. Back in September you might recall, the organization behind the city’s Navy Pier, which juts out into Lake Michigan and offers spectacular views of the skyline and therefore should be an inviting experience but is, instead, a soul crushing tourist trap, announced plans for a major, let’s-actually-make-this-place-inviting redesign competition. The original list included teams upon teams of industry heavies, which was then whittled down, somewhat surprisingly, to some less household name teams. In the end, this week it was revealed that James Corner’s group, which also includes Bruce Mau Design, nArchitects, and Ed Marszewski, along with twelve other firms, has won the project. We were initially very excited, but then reason prevailed in the form of the Tribune‘s Blair Kamin, who writes that the project provides both “great promise — and peril” given that “pier officials’ historic tendency to favor pragmatics over aesthetics” which “could undercut a thoughtful conceptual plan.” If you’ve been to Navy Pier at any point, you’ll likely come to that worry as well. And with a relatively small budget as well, we’ll hope for the best, but we’ll do so with fingers tightly crossed. Here’s Corner and Co.’s lengthy presentation video from back in February, and here’s the quicker, animated plans:

Revisiting Art in the Streets

A year after leaving the world-was-his-oyster east coast for the harsh-light-of-constant-sunshine that is Los Angeles, LA MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch finally had a hit on his hands last year with the opening of “Art in the Streets,” an exhibition, as the name implies, all about street art. There was controversy, crowds, constant press, and even arrests. Chase that with a possibly-exploitative benefit hosted by Marina Abramovic, and it was official: Deitch had arrived. For those of you who weren’t able to make it out to LA for the spectacle that was this show, director Alex Stapleton has put together this great documentary about the exhibition, Outside In: The Story of Art in the Streets. So here’s what you’ll be looking at for the next 30 minutes:

Vocally Critiquing the Typography in Everyone’s Favorite Silent Film, The Artist

Years ago, in those golden days of our youth, our favorite section of the now five-year defunct magazine Premiere was called “The Gaffe Squad.” A small box tucked away on some single page, it picked apart movies for those little mistakes here and there, be they continuity or a distracted grip accidentally being spotted hiding behind a curtain. The section was successful, we think, because not only did it give you the smug satisfaction of knowing that these big shot movie people were in fact fallible, but it also gave you a little peek behind the canvas in a way a PR firm never could. Fortunately, now that our lives are so steeped in the design world, we can still occasionally revisit those feelings when it comes to what’s become a standard on the internet: the dissection of type design in period films. Enter the great Christian Annyas, who invited type designer Mark Simonson to carefully analyze and critique the typography and lettering of the recent Oscar winner, and movie your friends won’t shut up about when you tell them you haven’t seen it yet, The Artist. In general, Simonson gives the film relatively average marks, noting that some of the type they’d selected looks passable for the era, whereas others, such as using typesetting instead of the hand-written or painted style that would have been the method of the day. There’s of course also the usual “that type didn’t come out until 60 years after the movie is supposed to take place!” talk, but we love it as always. In the end, with both this latest type-on-film analysis and back in the good ol’ days of Premiere, it isn’t so much even the careful dissection, as it is knowing that someone took all that time, and their years of knowledge, to lend us a little inside look at something that, for many of us, we might have otherwise had just wash right over us.

Philippe Starck Designs an Electric Vehicle

Let’s face it. Not all of our mansions are conveniently located right next to our docks. Some are even so far away that we might even have to drive to them. We hate that cars are bad for the environment, but how else are we going to get to our eco-friendly mega-yachts? Enter eco-friendly, mega-yacht designer Philippe Starck. This week at the Geneva Auto Show, the designer has unveiled the “V+ Volteis by Starck,” an electric automobile (and not a golf cart at all). Says Starck:

I wanted to offer an alternative. A different answer to return to the minimalist definition to a vehicle. A simple vehicle. Almost a child’s play. With 4 wheels. A steering wheel. And electricity. A vehicle just here to transport. Transport us and our business. Almost nothing.

The V+ itself is as bare bones as it gets, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that the non-golf cart’s chairs are made of PVC cord, the roof is textile, and the trunk is a sort of wicker-like basket. It also doesn’t have any seat belts, airbags, or really anything else that would keep you in any way safe as it reaches its top speed of around 40 mph. Also, lest we fail to do so, we should make sure to mention that this is in no way a golf cart, even though it looks like one, will likely be used as one, and sounds like it functions that way as well. No, this is a $40,000 vehicle of Mr. Starck’s sole creation.

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index Stays in the Postive for Third Straight Month

We, and everyone else in the country, has certainly jinxed it before, but maybe, just maybe, things really are turning around. The American Institute of Architects have released what’s become one of our favorite monthly rituals, the Architecture Billings Index. As you may know, anything above 50 indicates growth within the business of building, anything below and everyone starts getting gloomy and misty-eyed for those halcyon days of the mid-to-late-aughts. For the last three months running, there’s been none of that sadness, with this latest release indicating that things are still in the positive. At 50.9, following a slight dip from an even 51 the month prior, it certainly isn’t champagne and top hats just yet, but after the last couple of years, any slightly-above-water trend like this is welcome relief. However, cautious as usual, the AIA’s resident mathematical soothsayer warns that we’ve seen this sort of thing before…

“Even though we had a similar upturn in design billings in late 2010 and early 2011, this recent showing is encouraging because it is being reflected across most regions of the country and across the major construction sectors,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “But because we still continue to hear about struggling firms and some continued uncertainty in the market, we expect overall economic improvements in the design and construction sector to be modest in the coming months.”

Smithsonian’s American Art Museum Prepares to Launch ‘The Art of Video Games’

Last spring, when the Smithsonian‘s American Art Museum both announced their The Art of Video Games exhibition and asked for crowd sourced submissions for what to include, it brought down their servers for a while as they were inundated with traffic. That was clearly an early sign that this might be a slightly popular show. Now, almost a year later, it’s nearly time to see just how swarmed the museum will be. The exhibition opens on Friday, March 16th, kicking off with a three day festival (pdf) celebrating the launch. Games will be available to play, 8-bit musicians will be on hand to perform, films like Tron and The King of Kong will be screened (the cast of the latter will even be on hand for a meet and greet on Sunday), and a number of panels with industry legends will be sprinkled throughout (the ones with Hideo Kojima and Nolan Bushnell are apparently already sold out). For those outside of DC, or who haven’t been able to get tickets quickly enough, the museum will also be webcasting the events throughout the weekend. We’re no psychics, but we have a sense that this might be a fairly popular show, all the way out through when it wraps up in September. Here’s a description of what the exhibition will look like:

Visitors to the exhibition are greeted by excerpts from selected games projected 12 feet high, accompanied by a chipmusic soundtrack by 8 Bit Weapon and ComputeHer, including “The Art of Video Games Anthem” recorded by 8 Bit Weapon specifically for the exhibition. These multimedia elements convey the excitement and complexity of the featured video games. An interior gallery includes a series of short videos showing the range of emotional responses players have while interacting with games. Excerpts from interviews with 20 influential figures in the gaming world also are presented in the galleries.

Greg Crewdson Documentary to Premiere at SXSW

This writer is suffering a bit today from having endured three hours in a dentist’s chair to get some crowns put in, so instead of a heady and/or lengthy write-up, we instead turn to the magic of video. This trailer in particular has helped us get through the pain and Novocain numbness: Ben Shaprio’s documentary about photographer Gregory Crewdson, Brief Encounters. More than a decade in the making, it documents Crewdson’s film set-like process of capturing almost-surreal, haunting images of small town America. Knowing that the film will have its premiere in just a few days, launching with four screenings in Austin for SXSW (the first on March 10th at the Alamo Lamar) means that it’s that much close to starting a tour, which means it might come to Chicago so we can see it, which was the extra push we needed today to keep our sore head up. Here’s the film’s site and here’s the trailer, which is guaranteed to have you hooked within seconds: