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Archives: November 2008

Minnesota Museum of American Art Falls Victim to Financial Crisis, Shuts Down

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Also for our new “Why Do We Even Bother Getting Out of Bed Anymore?” category comes the news from our neighbor to the north that the financial mess has chalked up its first victim. The Minnesota Museum of American Art has announced that it will shut its doors come January. Although they’ve said it will only be on a temporary basis, the St. Paul-based museum has long suffered from a whole string of setbacks, from rising deficits to trimming budgets and staff on a regular basis in an effort to try and make due, so the long-term outlook looks bleak at the moment. And St. Paul is probably a little too far away from Los Angeles for Eli Broad to step in and throw them some sunshine. Here’s a bit:

The museum has been in decline since the late 1980s, when it failed to raise $25 million for a new building and endowment project. It sold its former home in the Art Deco-style Jemne Building, sold off an Asian art collection, changed its name to focus on American art and consolidated its programs at nearby Landmark Center. In the past decade the museum continually downsized, trimming its annual budget from $800,000 in 1998 to about $700,000 last year and reducing full-time staff from 13 to three this summer.

Thom Browne and Shepard Fairey Picked as Two of GQ‘s ‘Men of the Year’

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One guess who made the cover for GQ‘s annual “Men of the Year“? His name rhymes with Marack Tobama. But there’s no surprises there. What was interesting was some of the other selections for notable men. Thom Browne, he of the tight suits, too-short pants (in our opinion), and close-cropped hair, wound up taking home the magazine’s selection for Designer of the Year for his fashion skills and receives a great, lengthy write-up at the hands of GQ staffer Alex Pappademas. For Artist of the Year, that one was connected to the guy on the cover, as it went to Shepard Fairey, largely due to his Obama “Hope” and “Progress” posters. So, overall, a good couple of wins that we approve of. Though after being slighted for People‘s collection of sexy males and now once again by GQ, this writer is a little cranky. And oh no, does this very post signal the upcoming, endless supply of year-end, best-of lists. Ugh.

Revolving Door: David Van Der Leer Gets Guggenhired at the Guggenheim as New Asst. Architecture/Design Curator

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Someone is out there still getting jobs though, we promise. The Guggenheim Museum has just announced that they are hiring David Van Der Leer as their new Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design. Now that he’s leaving Steven Holl‘s firm for greener pastures, he’ll be cutting his teeth in his new role by helping create the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit which opens next year, as well as trying to put something together for the museum’s 50th anniversary. Here’s a bit from Art Daily about Van Der Leer’s credentials:

Prior to joining the Guggenheim, Mr. Van der Leer was Publications and Exhibitions Manager for Steven Holl Architects, where he developed several exhibitions and initiated and produced numerous publications. A frequent lecturer and contributor to such prestigious architectural publications as Domus, Azure, Mark, Pin-Up and the Architect’s Newspaper, Mr. Van der Leer previously worked for architect Rem Koolhaas at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and for 010 Publishers, also in Rotterdam. He earned his MA in Urban and Architectural Theory at the Department of Art and Cultural Sciences at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

Layoffs, Disappearing Projects and Bigger RFP Battles Now Par for the Course at NY Architecture Firms

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After a few more weeks of this and we’re going to have to start a new category for posts called “Why Do We Even Bother Getting Out of Bed Anymore?” Such is the financial despair plaguing, or at least briefly mentioned in, nearly every story we’re reading anymore. It’s right there, front and center in this report from the New York chapter of Crain’s, “Architects Struggle for Business in Downturn.” It confirms how bad things sounded when we reported on the AIA‘s Billings Index looking pretty terrible by running through a series of firms who are seeing contracts disappear and having to lay off staffers. And another side of all of this mess mentioned in the story is how, as the business dries up, the bidding on any contract that’s held up for takers is massive, with every shop in town now trying to grab whatever they can, making the competition much more intense. So it’s hard times, if you hadn’t already picked up on that to begin with, and while part of us think that latter problem, the too many fish in the sea and not enough worms to go around, might actually be a good thing, as it will force firms to give everything they have to a project, our cynical side pipes up and reminds us that hard times also tend to result in overly careful clients — so we’re not going to hold our breaths here.

Build-a-Bear Workshop Offers DIY Turkeys

buildapilgrim turkey.jpgWe’ve long assumed that most customers of Build-a-Bear Workshop stop in to build, well, bears, but we just learned that the make-your-own stuffed animal shop also offer buildable bunnies, monkeys, and even a suspiciously chipper groundhog. Now the DIY ursine retailer is offering you the opportunity to make your own plush turkey. The 15-inch version pictured at right is kitted out with a four-piece pilgrim costume and black rubber boots. But why stop there? For a few dollars more, you can add a gobble sound or a slightly creepy simulated heartbeat. Or go crazy and add a festive “I Love You” sash, aviator shades, or the ability to play “Jingle Bell Rock” at the touch of a button. If your turkey is a fan of Karim Rashid, you can’t go wrong with this hot pink inflatable bed (a steal at $8), a stylish replacement for the turkey coop included with each bird. Build-a-Bear reminds you that as a “Beary Limited edition Collectifriend,” the turkeys aren’t long for their stores, so hurry in or be stuck with leftovers.

55DSL Challenges You to Remix Its Logo

55DSL logo.jpgAlthough it has a certain whiff of bantam hockey, this is in fact the logo of 55DSL, the cheeky streetwear brand that was spun off from Diesel in 1994 with the motto “live at least 55 seconds per day.” We’re still trying to figure out what that means, but we wanted to pass on news that 55DSL has teamed up with Cut&Paste on a logo remix challenge. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: redesign the company’s “iconic angel/shield emblem” into a logo that “reflects 55DSL’s culture and spirit, its origins, and its future.”

You’ve got until next Friday, December 5, to get in the running for the grand prize: €1,055 (approximately $1,400 at current exchange rates) and your (re)design featured in 55DSL’s spring/summer 2010 collection. If you’ll be too busy with pumpkin pie and/or Design Miami to get your creative juices flowing before then, just go and vote on the oodles of submitted designs to help select the winner of the people’s choice award.

To give you an edge in the contest, we asked Cut&Paste executive director John Fiorelli if he had any advice for would-be remixers. “Think openly and creatively,” he advises. “What does the 55DSL brand mean to you? And shake what your mama gave you—by that, we mean your creativity and broad sense of interpretation.” So, when in doubt, look inward. Adds Fiorelli, “’55′ wants to know what you think and what matters to you.”

Inspired by Marx Brothers Film, Daniel Libeskind Designs Malls for Living

daniel libeskind.jpgOh, Daniel Libeskind, just when we think we’re done with you and your distinctive spectacles, you go and pull us back in with your multidisciplinary approach, subtle historical references, and impressive accordion skills. Today’s swoonworthy Libeskind revelation? That his newly opened $400 million Swiss mall, the Westside Shopping and Leisure Center in Bern (check out the photos and renderings), was inspired by—wait for it—the 1941 Marx Brothers‘ film The Big Store. “They actually move into a store, like a Macy’s, after the store closes,” said Libeskind, summarizing the movie plot for a story in yesterday’s WWD. “They start using the beds, the kitchen. I thought this is the right idea. That people should live there. It shouldn’t be just an abstract experience. People should own it—emotionally, intellectually. They should feel this is their home.”

bern.jpgWhile American malls install a Cinnabon concession and call it a day, Libeskind’s homey touches to the 1.5 million-square-foot Westside retail project include a layered wood exterior slashed to let light stream through, a sprawling spa/ water park, and varied storefronts that he compares to “vitrines at a grand museum.” Despite its size, Libeskind wanted to make the space both organic and intimate. “I didn’t want to make grand gestures that are sort of useless,” he told WWD. The result “forms a unified experience, a harmony. It echoes the arcades of Bern. It echoes the medieval architecture, in 21st-century techniques.”

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In Brief: Canned Good Design; On-Time Art

canned good sundae.jpg⇒ They don’t call them canned goods for nothing. Through December 8, you can stop by the World Financial Center in New York City to view the results of the 16th annual design/build competition known as Canstruction, in which teams representing 40 of New York’s top architectural and engineering firms compete to create giant structures made entirely from canned goods (the giant sundae at right, for example). Co-presented by the Society for Design Administration and the American Institute of Architects, the exhibit will ultimately be dismantled and all of the canned food will be donated to City Harvest for distribution to emergency feeding programs. There’s no charge to get in, but you’re encouraged to bring some canned goods to help the cause. (Finally, our hoarding of Del Monte wax beans pays off.)

⇒ Depending on your time management skills, you can go right from admiring that adorable non-perishable Humpty Dumpty to T-Minus, an annual screening of media art that focuses on the manipulation of time. Organized by Chris Jordan, this year’s festival takes place tonight at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn and promises a gathering of “exceptional realizations that explore the union of digital media and time.” The exploration begins at 7 p.m., but we have a feeling that everyone will be late.

Heritage Farmstead Museum Theft Proves Massive Fraud Not Just a Woe for Big Institutions

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Apparently it isn’t just big deal museum directors like Lawrence Small or W. Richard West Jr. who skim a little off the top of the coffers for their own personal benefit. It can happen to both the big and small. Such was the case in this interesting story from the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano, Texas, where director Ted Peters wound up swiping more than $150,000 from the museum’s funds. But he won’t be going to jail or having to pay back any of it, as he committed the perfect crime by dying a year before the investigation began to figure out where all that money was disappearing to. Now that the police have released a report on finding that it was Peters who was responsible, they can also question why the museum didn’t vet their top brass very well, considering that he was still in the middle of a ten year probation sentence for bilking a life insurance company when he was hired. Sure, it’s no “they bought solid gold shower curtains” story, like with the cheats above who pulled some fast ones at the Smithsonian, but it’s still an interesting tale of museumery run afoul.

Dubai’s Building Boom Draws to a Close

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It is said that all good things must come to an end, but we figure that “good” can also be replaced with “tacky,” “strange,” or “just plain bad” and still remain applicable. So it is in Dubai where it appears that the end of the absurd building boom there has begun to come to an end (or at least slow to a pace more suitable to common sense). Following a recent plunge in Dubai’s economic markets, layoffs have swept through the many development firms and projects have been placed on immediate hold. So it looks like we won’t get to look forward to many more iPod towers or dynamic buildings by highly suspect doctors anymore. Here’s a bit:

Engineering consultancy Ramboll Whitbybird has also frozen recruitment and admits it may ‘consolidate’ staff in Dubai next year.

Director Peyman Mohajer said: ‘It’s possible that in 2009 expansion will be curtailed and we’ll have to think about consolidation and making sure we have the right people in the right places.

‘The bigger semi-government developers are suffering on a large scale,’ added Mohajer. ‘We’ve had a few projects stopped, but it’s something we can manage, because we were under-resourced. It’s given us breathing space.’

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