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Archives: November 2009

Rebranded AOL Will Offer Something for Everyone, Period.

aol_rebrand.jpgAfter a rocky nine-year marriage, AOL and Time Warner are ready to go their separate ways. The divorce is final on December 9, when AOL will return to the single life with a fresh look from branding firm Wolff Olins. The new identity dispenses with the blue AOL triangle (too square), swaps out the uppercase “OL” for lowercase letters, and adds a period. It all feels a bit Apple-icious. At the heart of the new identity are hundreds of colorful images (here a goldfish and an abstract painting, there a hip-hop dance trio and a cheeky cardboard camera) that serve as backgrounds for the white Aol., which Top Chef fans should be careful not to confuse with a certain garlic and olive oil emulsion—that’s aioli. Stuart Elliott of The New York Times breaks down the new identity:

[AOL Chairman and CEO Tim] Armstrong said he liked to describe the period as “the AOL dot” because “the dot is the pivot point for what comes after AOL,” whether it is e-mail, Web sites, or coming offerings that will “surprise people.”

The constantly changing images behind the logo are also intended to elicit surprise, said [Sam Wilson, managing director at the Wolff Olins New York office] and Jordan Crane, creative director at Wolff Olins New York. “It’s a mix of do-it-yourself and high production values, crazy stuff and elegant stuff,” Mr. Crane said, “simple and engaging and bizarre—all the things the Internet is.”

Read on for a mesmerizing video of the new identity in motion.

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Lawsuits Could Potentially Kill Atlantic Yards Development


Here we were, after all the hubbub about kicking Frank Gehry off the Atlantic Yards project and Ellerbe Beckett stepping in, that everything was finished and going to move forward on the New Jersey Nets’ new arena from here on out. But apparently there’s still one big hurdle to jump. Bloomberg‘s James Russell reports that the developer, Forest City Ratner, is facing two lawsuits which it must win before construction can begin. One is from a Brooklyn-based activist group (who we discussed here when Gehry was still involved) who are trying to stop the project from moving forward and the other demands to know how the company has updated their environmental planning since they’ve made numerous changes to the original building plans. Should either one not go the developer’s way, there’s a healthy chance that none of it will happen at all (something Russel seems like he wouldn’t mind too terribly — we know his fellow critic over at the Times wouldn’t be left unhappy either). Here’s a bit:

If the judge in either case rules for the plaintiff, the resultant delay would make it almost impossible for Ratner to obtain financing through tax-exempt bonds that must be issued before the end of the year. An adverse ruling in either case also would give Barclays Plc the right to withdraw from a deal in which it would provide $400 million for naming rights on the arena.

Design Museum Holon Set to Open Early Next Year

It might not be directly affiliated, but with a name so general, there’s sure to be no hard feelings. The Design Museum Holon in Israel has announced that they will finally be opening the doors of their magnificent new building, designed by friend of the Design Museum in the UK, Ron Arad, at the end of January. The museum will seek to bring attention to both Israeli and international design, the first major effort in the country to build a very large central hub to celebrate design. We’ll be excited to see what they wind up exhibiting, but in the interim, we’re just excited to see the building finished, as it’s a real beaut. Lots of images and videos of both renderings and construction available over at the Israeli Design Center and here’s a short overview of Arad’s planning for the structure:

Kim Cattrall Disrobes to Save Titian’s ‘Diana and Actaeon’


You know when stars align and coincidences seem to happen more frequently? Well so it has been for us this week. Just yesterday we caught the first half hour of the wonderful film Big Trouble in Little China, which we’d somehow forgotten co-starred Kim Cattrall. This, on top of remembering that she was also in Mannequin made this writer tell his wife “I forgot that I’m okay with Kim Cattrall” (to which there was little response). And now here we are today, learning by way of Art Info, that we continue to remain okay with her. The news is that she has decided to try and help the British National Gallery save a classic painting, Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, from being sold to a private owner and moved from Edinburgh’s National Gallery where it is now. How will she go about raising awarness/money for the effort? By recreating the painting in the buff. And it isn’t the first time she’s stripped down for the piece, either. She did it last year too. So even if she did decide to skip appearing in Mannequin 2: On the Move, we are officially Kim Cattrall supporters, given her pretty remarkable dedication to the arts.

Issues Over Uncredited Appropriation Raised Over Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck Music Video


We don’t get to talk about something we love often enough: music videos. But today’s the day. Last week, you may have caught the release of a video for a collaboration between musicians Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck, directed by one of our favorites, Keith Schofield (here’s his much better director’s cut). We enjoyed the heck out of it, not having any clue what any of it was about and enjoying it all the more because of we didn’t get it. As we regularly do, we checked in over at Antville, the popular music video forum, to read any comments about it. Turns out there were dozens upon dozens. And the issue wasn’t over whether or not the video was any good, or talking about how something was shot, but instead over intellectual property. Turns out the video does make sense if you’re familiar with particularly odd photos that have made their way around the internet. From a man in a SpongeBob costume running from the police to a skateboard resting each of its wheels on hamburgers, each are minor internet memes and were recreated by Schofield for the video. The latter example became one of the main focal points of the Antville discussion, given that the original source material came from photographer/artist William Hundley who posted to Flickr “Someone is using my ideas…look familiar?” And it wasn’t just that one image of Hundley’s that were recreated without permission — other copies of different pieces of his work appear throughout. As follows, one can guess that possibly a large number of the shots used in the video were recreating without searching for the original creators. Schofield recently told Boards that the concept came from his holding on to random images he’d stumbled across on sites like FFFFfound:

“I basically have this huge folder of all these found photos and when I get a song in, I’ll play the track and I’ll look through these pictures and see if any thing sticks,” he says. “I’ll be reading something randomly and see a funny picture and throw it in the folder. The whole thing with found photos is that they’re funny because there’s no context to them. You look at a funny picture and go, ‘what’s the scene about?’ And you draw your own conclusions.”

The discussion on Antville goes into a million different directions, arguing that Schofield is a thief, that he shouldn’t be blamed because he thought they were completely random images, or that Hundley should just be happy for the uncredited exposure, and lots in between. In the end, we have to say that, like with what’s recently gone on with with Shepard Fairey, no matter how much you enjoy a work of appropriation, there’s still a lot of discomfort in there when one artist is so directly “borrowing” from another.

In the Trenches with the Sartorialist and More News You Can Use

Frank Stella, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, 2006

  • Sartorialist Scott Schuman loves a good trench coat. Burberry took note and commissioned the blogging lensman to photograph trench wearers worldwide as the inaugural contributor to its “Art of the Trench” project, created as “a living document of the trench coat and the people who wear it.” Head to Burberry’s newly launched site to filter images of trench wearers by gender, trench colour, styling (belted or unbelted), and weather.
  • While we patiently await the major Frank Stella retrospective slated for 2013, we’ll content ourselves with frequent visits to the Atrium Shops and Cafes. The Manhattan retail complex formerly known as the Citigroup Center has just installed a giant painting by Stella (pictured above) that flattens his recent Everlasting Gobstopper-evoking megasculptures into two dimensions. Originally commissioned as a theater curtain for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, the 2006 work is 38 feet high by 65 feet wide and is now wrapped around the atrium’s super-column.
  • Fresh off their briskly selling and sweetly smelling collaboration with candlemaker Diptyque, Paris-based art/design duo Florence Deygas and Olivier Kuntzel were tapped by Ogilvy & Mather UK to direct a commercial for American Express. It’s entitled “Impossible.” Watch it here.
  • Tell your friends and set the TIVO! Objectified, Gary Hustwit‘s industrial design documentary, makes its U.S. television debut tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24) on PBS’s Independent Lens. It’s a shortened version—53 minutes versus the original 75—but that’s just 22 more reasons to buy it on DVD. Check your local listings for show times in your city.
  • In its tireless work to match employers with media professionals, the Mediabistro mothership has launched Freelance Connect. Learn more here.
  • Goodbye to Tom Sachs’s Hello Kitty and Friends

    (Photos: UnBeige)

    It was back in the summer of 2008 that we told you about Tom Sachs‘s delightful—if deliberately rough-hewn—sculptures of Hello Kitty and friends that until this morning had upped the whimsy factor at Gordon Bunshaft-designed Lever House in Manhattan. Created in 2007 and 2008, the works are made of bronze but painted white to highlight their humble origins: as toys scaled up using foam core, glue guns, and elbow grease—as opposed to 3-D prototyping and chromium steel.

    “I try to show flaws because flaws are human,” Sachs has said. “It is sculpture, because it’s talked about, sold, and shown as such. But to me it’s really bricolage, which is the French term for do-it-yourself repair. Bricolage comes from a culture that repairs rather than replaces—American culture just replaces.” Alas, the time has come for Lever House to replace Hello Kitty. This morning, while strolling up Park Avenue, we happened upon the deinstallation of the monumental bronzes, as a team of workers forklifted Hello Kitty, My Melody, Miffy, and company onto flatbed trucks, bound perhaps for other glass-walled International Style office buildings in need of cheering up.


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    Prince Charles’ Ally Leon Krier Continues His Anti-Modern Tour


    Ah ha! We were right! Just a couple of weeks back, we were talking about Prince Charles‘ right hand man, the architect and fellow modernism hater, Leon Krier, and how we thought maybe his speaking engagement in San Diego might be “the first step toward getting Prince Charles’ over in the US to start messing with our architecture.” At the time, we jokingly assumed that was just our paranoid xenophobia talking, but now we’ve been vindicated. Krier has popped up again in California, moving up the coast to Pasadena, where he gave a talk and then invited people to walk around that city’s city center while he picked apart what was so wrong about it. On his talk, as relayed by reporter Larry Wilson, Krier said this:

    “Most avant-garde architects not only live in traditional buildings themselves — they go on vacation in traditional buildings, they send their children to school in traditional buildings. It’s good enough for them, but not for the masses.”

    Let’s get things straight. We agree with lots of things Krier says, particularly when it comes to city planning and building efforts, and we generally like the guy, even if he openly despises things that we like. But a statement like this is just absurd. Unlike he and Prince Charles, we’d wager that none of these “avant-garde architects” deal in such absolutes. It does not make someone a hypocrite to live or work in a building that isn’t exactly the same as the kind they’re design. If anything, it’s whatever the opposite of hypocrisy is (honesty?) — it’s an acknowledgment that architecture of all ages can be appreciated. To follow Krier’s logic: if you’re a rock musician, enjoying classical makes you the definition of a hypocrite.

    Modern architects don’t want to tear everything down so they don’t have to engage with anything other than “avant-garde architecture.” They want cities and towns to be the living, breathing things they are, not the staid, lifeless, uniform dullness he and Charles would like them to be. Sure there are some bad apples in every city, but they’re as likely to come from 1885 as they are from 2005. And isn’t that what makes a city great?

    Working for HGTV Lands Designer in Hot Water for Insurance Fraud


    We don’t get to point to any of those “can you believe how stupid this law breaker was?!” stories very often because, well, this design field of ours is relatively sane. The worst that usually happens is the occasional copyright infringement case or someone taking advantage with spec work. But finally we’ve got our chance. The LA Weekly reports that designer Ronald Hunt had filed for disability several years ago, claiming he’d been injured on a job and could no longer work. Over those years, he’d racked up thousands upon thousands of dollars, which would have been all well and good and probably would have continued had he not been lured into television by HGTV. Hunt wound up appearing on a program on the home improvement network, hard at work without any sort of debilitating disability in sight. An employee at his insurance company saw the program, turned Hunt in, and now he’s just been sentenced to pay back more than he made and serve time on probation. Lesson learned: if you’re doing something wrong, don’t do it on HGTV. It’s a more popular network than you’d think.

    Oscar Niemeyer Back to Work Following Surgeries


    Back in early October, we were getting a little worried about Oscar Niemeyer, the world’s oldest starchitect (I.M. Pei ranks second), who at 101 had undergone two major surgeries, one planned, one not. But like we said back then, “if there’s one thing we can say about Niemeyer, he’s a fighter.” And how right we were. A Brazilian newspaper is reporting that his recovery has gone well and, surprise surprise, he’s back to work:

    The daily newspaper O Globo reports that Niemeyer is working on a collection of buildings in the city of Niteroi, outside of Rio de Janeiro.

    Here’s to fifty more years of productivity, Mr. Niemeyer.