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Archives: March 2010

Quote of Note | Swoon


“For me it’s a Punch and Judy image. If the world came to total nuclear annihilation, somehow the skeletons are vicious enough to pick themselves up and resume this ridiculous military-esque garb and keep on fighting.”

-Street artist Swoon on James Ensor‘s 1891 painting “Two Skeletons Fighting Over a Dead Man” (above) in the April issue of ARTnews

Alice Rawsthorne Checks Back In with London’s 2012 Logo


Has it really been three years already since the world exploded into a furious rage over the release of Wolff Olins‘ logo for the 2012 London Olympics? Seems like it was only yesterday, doesn’t it? Now that there’s been some time between then and today, and that’s the sort of distance that tends to heal all wounds, the beloved Alice Rawsthorne decided this week to check back in with the 2012 logo, to see if it had aged into a kind of familiar acceptance. Unfortunately, she finds that not much has changed, that she and others like her, are still repelled by it. Although they’ve made some steps here and there, “evolving the design” as was explained when thousands of design writers called for the heads of Wolff Ollins’ employees, Rawsthorne still doesn’t feel any warmth toward the branding:

…I wish I could say that the London 2012 logo has grown on me, as the organizers predicted, but it hasn’t. Everyone else I’ve asked feels the same — designers and “civilians” alike. Far from being “ahead of its time,” it looks increasingly like the graphic equivalent of what we Brits scathingly call “dad dancing,” namely a middle-aged man who tries so hard to be cool on the dance floor that he fails.

Adrian Smith Already Trying to Outdo His Burj Khalifa with a New World’s Tallest Building?


To stay on this Pritzker theme for a second longer, although Adrian Smith was our first pick to win this year’s prize, only to have it snapped up by our longshot selection, SANAA, Smith still wound up making some big news. The architect was the original designer of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, but his involvement was a bit shadowed (so much so that he began to complain publicly about it) given that he was working for Skidmore, Owings & Merill when he created it. But now Smith might have his revenge while also one-upping himself, as it’s been rumored/announced that Smith’s firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture has been chosen to design the next world’s tallest building, a kilometer-high skyscraper in Jeddah, a city in Saudi Arabia. The news was leaked to the Middle Eastern news site, MEED, and then picked up by Blair Kamin of the Tribune who puts the building in context and lends some additional details. Here’s a bit:

The planned Saudi tower would rise to a height of at least 3,281 feet and would house a mix of uses, previously identified as a hotel, offices and high-end residences. MEED’s report said the Saudi investment firm, Kingdom Holding Co., had asked contractors to submit revised prices for the tower now that the company has selected an architect.

Jean Nouvel Lands This Year’s Serpentine Pavilion


In former Pritzker winners news, this writer was just headed out to New Orleans and didn’t get the chance to post that starchitect Jean Nouvel has landed the commission to build this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Hyde Park. It’s the 10th anniversary of the building of the temporary structure, thus far always by the most high-profile of architects (SANAA created last year’s). True to form, given the completely open brief for the Serepentine, Nouvel’s plans for the building look like he just wanted to get experimental and try some things out (we particularly like the solid, bright red color he’s chosen for it). Also per usual, the selection of a starchitect has led to an outpouring of criticism about said starchitect, detailed in full in this Guardian editorial. Personally speaking, it’s one of our favorite Pavilion designs of recent years. Things seemed to get a little too weird around 2006 with Rem Koolhaas‘ bubble, through Zaha Hadid‘s second pavilion, and stayed that way through Frank Gehry‘s earthquake Acropolis. Nice to see something interesting-but-accessible again. Here’s a brief description of Nouvel’s:

The building consists of bold geometric forms, large retractable awnings and a freestanding wall that climbs 12m above the lawn, sloping at a gravity defying angle. It experiments with the idea of play in its incorporation of the French tradition of outdoor table-tennis. Striking glass, polycarbonate and fabric structures create a versatile system of interior and exterior spaces. The flexible auditoria will accommodate the Serpentine Gallery Park Nights and Marathon and the changing summer weather.

SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa Win Pritzker Prize

SANAA.jpgParty at the New Museum! True to our prediction of last week, SANAA partners Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa have been chosen as the 2010 winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, bestowed annually upon a living architect (and sometimes two of them). The jury praised them for “architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but overly or overtly clever” and highlighted their work in the United States—the glass pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art and the New Museum in New York City—as well as the Ogasawara Museum in Nagano, Japan and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan. Sejima and Nishizawa will receive their bronze medallions and $100,000 in small, unmarked bills on May 17 at a ceremony on New York’s Ellis Island.

In announcing the jury’s choice yesterday, Hyatt Foundation chairman Thomas Pritzker appeased fans of ESPN-style statistics. “This marks the third time in the history of the prize that two architects have been named in the same year,” said Pritzker, referring to the two-for-one wins of Oscar Niemeyer and Gordon Bunshaft in 1988 and Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in 2001. “Japanese architects have been chosen three times in the thirty-year history of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.” Sejima and Nishizawa join past winners Kenzo Tange (1987), Fumihiko Maki (1993), and Tadao Ando (1995).

In Brief: From T to W, the Art of Art Forgery


  • Sorry U and V, T: The New York Times Style Magazine editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi is skipping right to W. He’ll succeed Patrick McCarthy as editor-of-chief of the Conde Nast-owned style glossy on April 12. Fashion fans are speculating that Tonchi will steer the monthly away from its high fashion focus and overhaul the top of the masthead, but he promises a smooth transition. “Nothing is going to be traumatic,” Tonchi told WWD earlier this week. “I don’t think there is any rush to make a revolution. It’s an evolution, it’s not a revolution.”
  • Want to replicate a masterpiece but afraid of ending up with a “theme-parkey copy”? Put down the paintbrush and pick up a high-resolution 3D scanner. It’s what the pros at Madrid-based Factum Arte use to get the Caravaggio light just right. The Wall Street Journal‘s Nicole Martinelli explains how the company’s high-tech replicas are causing viewers around the world to do “an emotional double-take.”
  • Think Adobe’s full of hot air? Well, you’re half right. The company has just installed 20 wind turbines at its San Jose, California campus. It’s the first renewable energy installation for Adobe, whose laudable track record in green building includes the first LEED-EB Platinum-certified commercial office building. The 30-foot-tall turbines are installed on a patio/rooftop garden between Adobe’s three office towers, creating a wind tunnel effect courtesy of the Pacific Ocean.

    Read more

  • Patti Smith Is Pratt’s Commencement Speaker

    Patti-S.jpg‘Tis the season for institutions of higher education to announce their commencement speakers, and Pratt Institute rarely disappoints. The art and design school has signed up musician and poet Patti Smith, whose Just Kids we’ve already read thrice, to speak at its 121st commencement, during which approximately 2,000 graduates will receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She will also perform at the ceremony, scheduled for May 17 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. In addition to Smith, Pratt will award honorary degrees to architect Daniel Libeskind, Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry, former New York City Landmarks Commissioner Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, novelist Jonathan Lethem, and director Steven Soderbergh.

    Can Shepard Fairey Put Up a Mural on Your NYC Building?

    miami mural.jpg

    Before Jeffrey Deitch officially takes over as director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in June, his New York gallery Deitch Projects will go out with a bang—and by bang, we mean visual crack created by Shepard Fairey. On May 1, the gallery will debut its final project, “May Day,” an exhibition of new work by Fairey. Expect vaguely subversive portraits of revolutionary types such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and “images supporting free speech and bemoaning the U.S. two-party political system, pushing for renewable energy, and critiquing corporate propaganda.” But what would a Fairey show be without a gritty outdoor component? That’s where you come in! Fairey is searching for mural-worthy sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Are you interested in having a genuine Shepard Fairey/OBEY mural wheatpasted onto your home or place of business next month? What if we told you that the wheatpaste tasted like Nutella and freedom? Yeah, we thought so. Submit the particulars (including a photo of the site, approximate dimensions, and name of the building owner) to, with the subject line: NYC MURAL.

    More Polaroid-Branded Products in the Works

    old school.jpgToday the Impossible Project began selling new instant film for traditional Polaroid cameras. However, the reborn brand is focusing on all things digital. Who knew nostalgia was so effective for selling novel consumer electronics? In recent months, the Polaroid logo has been slapped on everything from digital camcorders to LCD televisions, and there’s more where that came from. PLR IP Holdings, which owns the Polaroid brand, has just signed a fresh licensing agreement with Starlight, a consumer electronics manufacturer. The five-year deal calls for Starlight to develop oodles of Polaroid-branded gadgets, including DVD and Blu-ray players, portable DVD players, e-book readers, iPod docking stations, and home theater systems. The products are expected to contribute an estimated $500 million in sales by 2016. Meanwhile, we’re crossing our fingers for an Edwin Land cameo in Polaroid pitchwoman-cum-”creative director” Lady Gaga‘s next video.

    Previously on UnBeige:

  • Rebooted Polaroid Names Lady Gaga as Creative Director
  • Make it Like a Polaroid Picture
  • Polaroid Sold, ‘Full-Scale Global Licensing and Distribution Strategy’ Begins
  • At the Louvre, Cy Twombly Dances on the Ceiling

    CY-louvre.bmpOh what a feeling, indeed. Cy Twombly has brought his transcendent abstraction and riffs on antiquity to the Louvre, where he is among a select trio of contemporary artists invited to create a permanent work for the museum (the first artists to do so since Georges Braque in the 1950s). Anselm Kiefer kicked off the initiative in 2007 with his multimedia installation in a history-soaked Napoleonic stairwell, and earlier this year, the museum unveiled François Morellet‘s reimagined Lefuel Staircase. Twombly was assigned the ceiling—specifically, the vast white expanse above the Salle des Bronzes.

    The artist traded his signature scribbles and gravity-powered drips for bubblicious orbs floating in a sea of blue. Created in a nearby warehouse and affixed to the ceiling in pieces, the 4,300-square-foot work is punctuated by white rectangles inscribed with the names of leading Greek sculptors: here a Praxiteles, there a Lysippus (the one pictured is the comparatively conventional Myron). According to Louvre curator Marie-Laure Bernadac, Twombly set out “to create a work perfectly in harmony with the architecture and purpose of the space,” a huge rectangular gallery that houses the museum’s Classical bronzes. “Thus the round shapes can be interpreted as shields, planets, or coins, while the blue background evokes either the sky or the sea.” The work also makes us terribly curious as to Twombly’s choice of screensaver.