Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Books | Concrete Buildings – What’s Not to Love Now?

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Pierresvives by Zaha Hadid Architects, 2002 > 12, Montpellier, France
Archives, a library and sports department offices for the Hérault region.
The inclined concrete building combined with graphic
windows combine to give an impression of rapid movement

Photo © Iwan Baan



100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings
By Philip Jodidio
Published by Taschen
Hardcover, 2 volumes in slipcase,
730 pp, full colour



Bicentennial Civic Centre by Lucio Morini + GGMPU,
2010 > 2012. Córdoba, Argentina
Ministerial offices with cutout concrete facade
Photo © Leonardo Finotti



In the minds of many, concrete is synonymous with real or fictional, dysfunctional worlds. And, no matter how good they are, novels such as J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, in which his character Robert Maitland, a wealthy architect, finds himself stranded in a section of wasteland in the middle of a relentlessly busy motorway intersection and is forced to survive in his crashed Jaguar on whatever he manages to forage, don’t do concrete’s reputation any favours. Taschen’s non-fiction two-volume boxed set, celebrating the diversity of the best buildings constructed from this versatile, man-made stone, just might.

Editor-in-chief of French art magazine Connaissance des Arts in Paris since 1980 – his numerous published books include the Taschen series on contemporary American, European and Japanese architects, as well as monographs on Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, and Richard Meier – the books’ author, Philip Jodidio’s reputation and experience lend gravitas to subject matter already weighted down by its long-established association with urban decay and the detritus of past wars and present conflicts, but paradoxically imbues concrete’s history with unexpected lightness and sensitivity, in what must be the most comprehensive study thus far on the subject.

Amongst the global selection of individual architects (except for Foster, probably excluded because concrete is of a lesser importance than glass and steel in his building palette) and architecture practices’ projects, all the aforementioned practitioners are included. Alongside other famous names, such as Luis Baragan, Marcel Breuer, David Chipperfield, Antoni Gaudi, Herzog & de Meuron, Denys Lasdun, Oscar Niemeyer and of course Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid, the publication also features many architects whose names are probably less familiar, but nonetheless worthy of inclusion.

Roberto Garza Sada Center for Arts, Architecture and Design,
Tadao Ando, 2009 > 12. New Mexico, USA
Part of the University of Monterrey, Monterrey.
The massive concrete
anchor of the building provides ample shade for pedestrians

Photo © Shigeo Ogawa



Jodido’s informative introduction reminds us that the Romans used concrete, but it comes as a surprise to learn that the ancient Egyptians invented and sometimes built with a variation of it. It’s interesting to discover that the concrete rotunda of the Pantheon was constructed without steel reinforcement – the key element that greatly strengthens the substance, allowing it to perform far better under stress, and which has been the backbone of countless concrete structures since the technique was invented by a Frenchman in the mid-1850s. By 1889, we learn that the first reinforced concrete bridge had been built in San Francisco and the construction of the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris in 1913 established concrete – up until then regarded as ‘vulgar’ in certain quarters – as a ‘quality’ building material. Used, misused and abused, it is one that is as ubiquitously employed today in the construction industry, as once were bricks, wood and stone. Jodidio’s book set is about now rather than then, and our picture selections compare three recently-completed very different ‘quality’ buildings of similar scale from around the world, built for very different uses and designed by three very different architectural practices.

Lavishly-illustrated with high-quality photographs and sometimes the building plans of monumental as well as retail and small-scale residential projects, and with mug shots of the majority of the architects, as well as a respectable amount of informative text in English, French and German, you certainly get a lot for the modest price. From a readers’ perspective, however, the very long measure used for the relatively small – 11 or 12pt – condensed, sans serif text, throughout the book, might have been easier on the eye with more leading, or split into two, or even three columns.

Taschen has been known to publish gigantic books, as well as small fat ones. These two are neither excessively large, nor, at 352 pages each, so abnormally thick as to invite comment, but not only is the 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings package designed to resemble a sturdy and uncompromising block of concrete, it is almost as heavy as one.

All images courtesy Taschen


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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All Categories | Storms, Smoke & Power Cuts

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Apologies!
Due to a combination of wild storms that blew smoke from the wood fire back down the chimney, setting off  alarms in every room, and covered everything in a fine layer of soot, and the power cut that, in amongst all of this, plunged our friends’ isolated, converted corn mill where we were staying into deep, velvety darkness, The Blog isn’t posting this week.

In the meantime, you might like to take a look at our reminder of the diverse range of international visual arts and events-related subjects we posted in 2014.

Best wishes for 2015



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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All Categories | Omnipresence 2014 / 2015

Friday, December 26th, 2014

2014 proved to be an exciting year at The Blog.

We published posts relating to exhibitions as diverse as Egon Schiele; The Radical Nude at London’s Courtauld Gallery, and Robert Heinecken: Object Matter at MoMA in New York, to another about VKhUTEMAS – often called the Russian Bauhaus – at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau museum. We admired rare and exotic posters in The Art of Travel, exhibited at Cannes during the annual film festival and auctioned afterwards by Christie’s.

We showed a selection of compelling images from Roxanne Lowit Photographs Yves Saint Laurent, a glitzy new book – with an introduction by no less a figure than Pierre Bergé – and wrote about Vitra’s more modest new publication Everything is Connected, which relies totally on visual language rather than written text to relate the company’s labyrinthine story.

We loved Korean artist Lee Bul’s captivating installations at the UK’s Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and the Museum für Gestaltung’s 100 Years of Swiss Design exhibition – as well as the accompanying Lars Müller book – showing selections from the Museum’s consolidated collections, now housed at the Schaudepot in Zürich’s burgeoning New Toni development.

We covered the Saul Steinberg 100th Anniversary Exhibition at Pace MacGill in New York, and we assembled our own photographic tribute to The Years of ‘La Dolce Vita’, from the paparazzi images on show at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, in London.

We published extracts from Christie’s International Head of 20th Century Decorative Art & Design Philippe Garner’s scintillating interview with Zeev Aram, on the subject of Japanese furniture designer Shiro Kuramata. And we salivated over Serge Mouille’s 1950s sculptural lighting included in Phillips Design sale in New York.

We hope the journey so far has been as interesting for you as it has for us.

As the globe – at least in communication terms – continues to shrink, the cultural landscape forever widens and diversifies. What was formerly remote has often become more easily accessible. In response, 2015 will see The Blog extending its reach and venturing into geographical and subject areas we may have so far ignored, exploring and gaining entry for our followers to a broader range of thought-provoking, disparate and topical events in the omnipresent visual arts and associated artistic disciplines.



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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All Categories | The Blog Will Return Next Week

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Untitled #1, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #2, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #3, Norfolk, UK

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier




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All Categories | The Blog Team is on Holiday

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Kielder Water from below the Kielder Observatory, Northumberland, UK

Kielder Observatory, by Charles Barclay Architects, completed 2008

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Sweet Life / Cheap Shots

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Marcello Mastroianni,
on the set of La Dolce Vita

c 1960



The Years of La Dolce Vita
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
London | UK
Until 29th June 2014




Richard Burton
and Liz Taylor
kissing in Ischia
June 1962

Brigitte Bardot
in Spoleto
June 1961

Raquel Welch
and Marcello Mastroianni
at Cinecittà on
the set of the movie
Shoot Loud, Louder,
I do not understand …
1966

Carlo Ponti,
Sophia Loren and
Vittorio De Sica
Rome, 1961



To put it plainly, in comparison to Hollywood, studio costs at Rome’s Cinecittà were cheap. Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were made there at a fraction of the budget required to produce such epics in the US. And when big stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Charlton Heston went there to work, their friends would tag along to play.

The day’s filming over, the action shifted to the streets. The presence of Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Alain Delon, and any number of cinema’s pantheon of stars who happened to be in town, in the restaurants and shopping on the exclusive Via Veneto transformed the street into an open-air film set.

If the 1950s and 60s were a golden age for Italian cinema, when home-grown directors Federico Fellini, Michaelangelo Antonioni, and Pier Paolo Pasolini came to the fore, making some of their most famous and successful movies, the era represented an absolute gold mine for photographers.

It was here that the term paparazzo – taken from the name of a photojournalist character in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) – was coined. It appears that Fellini’s screenwriter borrowed it from Italian poet Margherita Guidacci’s Sulla riva dello Jonio (1957), who in turn had used it in her translation of English author George Gissing’s travel book By the Ionian Sea (1901), in which a restaurant owner is called Coriolano Paparazzo. By the late 1960s, transformed into a noun – usually in the Italian plural form – paparazzi had entered the English language. Used to deride intrusive photographers, it can also sometimes be unfairly employed as a cheap shot at their camera-wielding, alleged persecutors by those who feel intruded upon.

The eighty photographs on view in The Years of La Dolce Vita exhibition at the Estorick Collection capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’), vividly evoking an era of extraordinary glamour, creativity and decadence enjoyed by Italian film stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s. Juxtaposing real-life images taken by Marcello Geppetti – among those on whom the paparazzo role in the film was based – whose work has drawn comparisons with that of Cartier-Bresson and Weegee – with behind-the-scenes shots on the film set by its cameraman, Arturo Zavattini, the curators challenge visitors to consider their response to the media’s obsession with celebrity, the invasive nature of the images, and the guilty pleasure we take in looking at them.

All photographs Marcello Gepetti(1933-1998),
except top, Arturo Zavattini (1930 >).
All photographs MGMC & Solares Fondazione delle Arti,
except top,
Solares Fondazione delle Arti



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Books | Je t’aime ma famille

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Jane & Serge. A Family Album
Andrew Birkin and Alison Castle
Published by Taschen
176 pp, Hardcover book set with poster,
stickers, and various other items

His and British actress Jane Birkin’s passionate love affair had already been over for a decade, when French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg died 20 years ago. If not for the notoriety of their timeless and seemingly explicit recording of his song, Je t’aime… moi non plus, which reached number one in the UK charts in 1969 – as I write it has had 6,721,880 plays on You-tube – the couple might well have faded into relative obscurity, at least here.

Married in the mid-60s to the respected English film music composer John Barry, gamine Birkin had a bit-part role in Blow-up (1966), but the majority of her moderately successful acting and recording career has been spent in France. In 1984, after meeting her on a plane, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas, created the supple leather Birkin bag, in her honour, which quickly became an iconic, international fashion accessory. In 2002, Birkin picked up an OBE. She still acts and is involved in humanitarian projects with Amnesty International.

His diverse output ranging across genres from jazz, chanson, pop and yé-yé, to reggae, funk, rock, electronic and disco, Gainsbourg, is still regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music, but he was also a poet, composer, artist, actor and director.

Written as an imaginary dialogue between two lovers during a sexual encounter, Je t’aime’s lyrics are neither vulgar nor obscene, but the breathlessness of the couple and their barely suppressed moans, remain sensationally suggestive. Sung in French – inscrutable to the majority of British people in 1969 (and perhaps still to most in 2013) – it was even more tantalising. The Pope declared the record obscene, while the media speculated it contained a live recording of sex, to which Gainsbourg told Birkin, ‘Thank goodness it wasn’t, otherwise I hope it would have been an LP.’

From the earliest days of their romance until their split in 1980, Jane’s brother Andrew Birkin was a frequent presence in the couple’s life. A keen photographer, he snapped thousands of candid family photos throughout those years. After early work as a runner and later location scout with Stanley Kubrick, by 1967 Andrew Birkin was first assistant director to The Beatles on Magical Mystery Tour. The following year, Jane’s marriage would break up and she met Gainsbourg, whom she introduced to her brother. Andrew claims to have recognised their love at first sight. He went on to become both a writer and film director, winning the Royal Television Society’s award for The Lost Boys (1978), and in 1980 a BAFTA. In 1993, he received a Silver Bear for best director at the Berlin Film Festival for The Cement Garden in which his niece, Jane and Serge’s daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg – now an internationally successful actress, singer and songwriter – played a supporting role. Birkin’s pictures, few of which have ever been published, are a rare glimpse of Jane, Serge and Charlotte’s sometimes humdrum and ordinary, always intimate, family life.

Designed by M/M Paris, Taschen’s Jane & Serge. A Family Album, isn’t only a book, but, with it’s poster (shown top, in two halves), sticker sheet, contact sheet booklet, colour prints, and embroidered patch, all contained in a clear plastic cover, it’s a collection of mementoes with undisputed provenance, however, it remains to be seen whether the British will understand the French concept.

All photographs © Andrew Birkin


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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All Categories | The Blog is on Holiday

Friday, September 6th, 2013

This Way, 2012, Pedro Silmon

Our Mapplethorpe Curated by Huppert blog post was published early this week

Watch out for our next post on, or around, September 27th

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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Architecture + Design | Eileen Gray: One-off

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Eileen Gray
Centre Pompidou
Paris, France
20th February – 20th May, 2013

Gliding up the escalator at London’s National Portrait Gallery, one looks down on the Digital Space on the mezzanine level, where friendly, comfortable, and exceedingly stylish Bibendum chairs mingle effortlessly, despite their bulk, with the glowing computer screens. Anyone can sit down on one but at a retail price of £2,215/€2,563/$3,380, few could afford to buy one. Aptly named after the Michelin tyre company’s symbol, Eileen Gray’s Bibendum chair was designed principally, as a one-off. The same can be said of her furniture for E1027, the modernist holiday home she built with her lover, Jean Badovici, at Roquebrune Cap Martin in the south of France between 1926 and 1929. Had it not been for English furniture manufacturer, Zeev Aram, who was responsible for reviving her reputation during the 1970s, when she was almost entirely forgotten, Gray’s other classic designs for furniture, rugs and lighting may never have gone into mass-production. E1027, too, which fell into a decrepit state, may also easily have slipped into oblivion.

‘Eileen Gray ranks among the architects and designers who have left a significant mark on the 20th centuty,’ asserts the press release for the eponymously titled, long-overdue, eponymously titled retrospective that opened this week at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. But, although it reflects many of the trends, debates and dilemmas of the early 20th century, her legacy of buildings and furniture is small in comparison to that of her contemporaries, such as Le Corbusier. Indeed, some even lay the blame for this at Le Corbusier’s door. Director Mary McGuckian’s The Price of Desire, in which Winona Ryder take the lead role as Eileen Gray is scheduled to begin shooting this summer at E1027, where painstaking renovations are almost complete. The story is based around the controversial belief that Le Corbusier, (played by Vincent Perez) effectively effaced Gray’s contribution to modern architecture. Badovici had kept E1027 after his and Gray’s split in 1932 and to Gray’s astonishmernt and anger, invited Le Corbusier, by then a regular visitor, to decorate its walls with murals in his characteristic, crude, Picasso-esque style – which he customarily executed while nude. While others have interpreted this as an act of envy and covetousness, Gray called it vandalism. It could also be true that she considered the subject matter as critical of her bisexual lifestyle. Apparently, in 1949, Le Corbusier went on to published photographs of the the murals without accrediting the house – vaguely described as being ‘at Cap Martin’ – to Gray, and not himself, thus providing the tenuous crux of the forthcoming film’s plot. It ignores that fact that, shortly after it’s completion and after spending a few days there, Le Corbusier sent Gray a postcard extolling its ‘rare spirit… so dignified, so charming and full of wit,’ and that in 1936 he invited her to show within his Pavilion des Temps Nouveaux at the Paris Exposition Internationale, where she presented her plans for a holiday centre, after which she appears to have gone into effective retirement.

Gray, born into an arty, Irish, aristocratic family had studied fine art at at the Slade in London. Bored, in 1902, she moved to turn-of-the-century Paris, plunging headlong into the hedonistic lifestyle and sexually-ambiguous milieu. Her apartment, at 21 Rue Bonaparte, was to remain her principal home until her death in 1976. On an extended visit to London, to be with her ill mother, she learned the art of lacquering. perfecting the skill on her return to Paris, where she started to produce high quality lacquered furniture with a craftsman-like finish in the style later to be called Art deco. As her confidence grew, she began to design whole commissioned rooms down to the smallest detail, listing Elsa Schiaparelli among her clients. However, on her return to Paris from England after World War I, during which she had spent time working as a nurse and discovered a social conscience, Gray became dissatisfied with the the type of work she was producing. At this point she met fell in love with Jean Badovici, a Romanian émigré, studying architecture in Paris and involved in the production of several avant-garde magazines. Coming into contact with the highly influential Dutch De Stijl group, whose projects included the design of social housing, she decided to become an architect. Badovici, aware of her wealth, suggested that he should write a brief for a house that she might build for him. She leapt at the idea, and immediately began searching for a suitable site in the south, where they might escape prying eyes. Badovici would provide the necessary technical support, which she, having had no formal training as an architect, lacked.

The Roquebrune Cap Martin villa site, an idyllic setting on the edge of a rocky outcrop, a few miles east of Monaco, may have come as a recommendation via Le Corbusier’s wife, Yvonne, who was Monégasque, so he might already have been familiar with the location, where he was to spend every August for the next 18 years, building his famous and idiosyncratic cabanon close by, as well as a small group of modular holiday homes, the Unités de Camping. Eventually, in 1965, he died there while swimming in the bay below. The powerful Paris-based Fondation Le Corbusier won the argument over whether his murals would be painted over – they will be remain and are being restored.

Despite her claimed social conscience, Gray only ever got around to building her compact but luxury villa E1027, and another larger one for herself, Tempe a Pailla (1934), overlooking Menton. Le Corbusier had been commissioned to build his first recognisably modernist house, The Amédée Ozenfant House and Studio, in Paris, in 1922. His Villa le Lac (1923), at Coreaux, Switzerland, destined to be the home his parents, has a free, adaptable floor plan, sliding, room-length windows looking out over the lake (although not floor-to-ceiling height), a flat roof that could be used as a sitting-out area and a garden terrace – all strikingly similar to E1027. Just before work on E1027 was started, Le Corbusier’s adjoining luxury Villas Jeanneret and La Roche, in Paris, (now housing the Foundation Le Corbusier Museum) were completed, in 1925. He designed many other luxury houses in the late 1920s and early 1930s, notably Villa Savoye (1931). His first apartment block was completed in 1926. In 1929, he built the Cité de Refuge, for the Armée du Salut (The Salvation Army), in Paris. His output continued and was stupendous. Many years later, Le Corbusier’s landmark social housing project the Unité d’Habitation (Housing Unit), in Marseille, France, was completed in 1952.

Gray’s Art deco pieces are remarkable and have a sensitivity and human quality which was totally new to furniture design that she somehow clung on to and carried through to the modernist items she designed for E1027 and Tempe a Pailla. Her E1027 table and Bibendum armchair were inspired by the recent tubular steel experiments of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus (who had been inspired, himself, by Mart Stam – a prominent socialist), while the Transat chair pays tribute to Gerrit Rietveld but avoids his uninviting rigidity of form.

Original Eileen Gray furniture does not come cheap. In a Christie’s auction in 2009, an art deco Snake armchair from Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s collection fetched £18,930/€21,905,000/$28,238,000. Along with the villa, Badovici had retained the furniture. After his death in 1956, both were apparently well looked after by a the next owner, a Madame Schelbert. Fortunately, when Dr Kägi, who bought the property in 1982 (he was later murdered there by his gardener in 1996) decided to sell off the furniture for €390,000 the Centre Pompidou exercised its right of pre-emption on the sale and bought the most important items, which are on display in the current exhibition. The chairs and other items of furniture at the restored villa are being donated by Zeev Aram. Visitors are unlikely to be allowed to sit on them.

Photographs from top
Panelled screen by Eileen Gray, 1919-1922
Black lacquered wood
Special collection, courtesy Galerie Vallois, Paris
© Photo Vallois-Paris-Arnaud Carpentier

Portrait of Eileen Gray, Paris, 1926, Berenice Abbot
©Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

View of the salon at villa E 1027, built by Eileen Gray
and Jean Badovici between 1926 and 1929
Centre Pompidou, Bibliothèque Kandinsky
Estate of Eileen Gray
Photo Alan Irvine

Bibendum armchair by Eileen Gray, circa 1930
Chrome, leather
Private Collection, Mme Tachard
©Photo Christian Baraja, Studio SLB

View of the southern façade of Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici’s
villa E1027, from the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Centre Pompidou, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Paris
Estate of Eileen Gray/Guy Carrard

View from the lake of Villa le Lac, built by Le Corbusier in
1923 at Corseaux, Switzerland


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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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All Categories | Past Forward

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Christian Marclay – The Clock
MoMA
New York City, USA
Until 21st January, 2013

David Bowie Is
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, UK
23rd March – 28th July, 2013

As we look forward to the David Bowie Is retrospective at London’s V&A in 2013, Christian Marclay’s film, The Clock, ticks away the remainder of 2012 at MoMA in New York, where it opened last week.

Completed in 2010 – already three years old – a monumental icon of contemporary art, The Clock, for which Marclay won a Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, is cleverly constructed from 24 hours-worth of clips from the past 100 years of cinema, almost all including a clock or a watch. Perhaps the film and the Bowie show can be taken as signs of the times. Certainly, referencing and re-assessing the past was a theme during 2012 and indications are that the trend is set to continue.

If we pause to consider, true innovation is a pretty rare thing and, while there’s no current lack of it, the flow remains uneven by nature. In comparison, art and design history – recent and ancient – is vast and has left an enormous, carefully refined legacy, much of it eminently worthy of our attention, reconsideration and reinterpretation, some of it recyclable.

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum reopens its doors in April 2013 following an ambitious 10-year renovation programme. Already launched, the very forward-thinking Rijks Studio initiative, makes a digital collection of 125,000 items from the museum’s historical collection accessible to all for free. Members of the public are invited to create their own works of art by downloading high-resolution images and using them in a creative fashion, copyright free.

Editor of the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Justine Picardie is the author of several acclaimed books including Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (HarperCollins, 2010). Talking about her first proper issue (January, 2013), she explains her preoccupations with Chanel, Vreeland, Dior, et al, as an exploration of how understanding the past is a way to move forwards. And it’s important to get it right. Opinions differed on the October launch of Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent – the label’s original inspirational concepts still present, but updated and made inimitably Slimane’s own, were seen by some as underwhelming.

The (London) Royal Academy’s Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 ran over into January, 2012. Reviewing it, The Guardian reminded us that the Russian avant garde which emerged out of the futurist cafés and cabarets of the mid-1910s was probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the past century. Sergei Tchoban (with partner Sergei Kuznetsov) of SPEECH Techoban/Kuznetsov, designed the astonishingly futuristic and much-praised Russian Pavilion that caused such a stir at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale in August. The entirely QR-coded environment – an homage, conscious or otherwise, to the square: architectural cornerstone of a few thousand years standing, but currently out of favour in a world of curvilinear structures – addressed the country’s future while referencing early 20th century influences. Italian Futurism, 1909-44, will run at The Guggenheim in New York from in 2014. When it appeared, in 1909, the original Futurist Manifesto, that had inspired the Russians, called for the demolition of museums and libraries; Foster + Partners recently mooted $300 million renovation of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, intended to begin with the eviction of 1.2 million books, provoked more adverse reaction than it bargained for. Similarly, London’s uncompromising tall and dynamic Shard, inaugurated in July, caused an immediate sensation, but earned a chilly reception from some quarters for its apparent lack of sensitivity towards the existing cityscape.

Steeped in ancient tradition, the Olympic Games has brought the modern world some its most daring, groundbreaking and well-considered architecture, product design and graphics. The London 2012 Games – modest in terms of scale by comparison to recent predecessors – didn’t fail to deliver more of the same. Among other items, the event’s Olympic torch designed by Barber Osgerby, was buried in a time capsule as part of the ground breaking ceremony for the new Design Museum that will be installed in the former 1962-built Commonwealth Institute, after its rigorous but nevertheless sympathetic redevelopment by John Pawson. Elsewhere, Herzog & de Meuron, architects of the Beijing 2008 Olympics‘ astonishing ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, and designers of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 (with Ai Weiwei), recently completed the Parrish Art Museum at Southampton on Long Island. ‘Our design for the Parrish is a reinterpretation… of the traditional house form,’  said Jacques Herzog, ‘…something very specific, precise and also fresh.’

This month at Christie’s in New York a lacquered and painted wooden screen made by Eileen Gray in the 1920s, sold for over $1.8 million. Paris, where Gray spent most of her life, hosts a retrospective of her unique work at the Pompidou Centre, starting in February. American photographer, Man Ray, also spent the greater part of his life in Paris. Man Ray’s Portraits is at London’s National Portrait Gallery in February, while Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light will run from March to August at MoMA. It takes Inspired curating with a new and interesting perspective, combined with creative presentation to make exhibitions and events based solely on archival content current and vital.

Frieze Masters was launched in October by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, co-founders of Frieze. The new fair, coinciding with, and within walking distance of Frieze London, in Regent’s Park, was based on the idea of applying a contemporary approach to selling pre-21st-century art, from ancient to modern. The inaugural six-day event, in which 90 galleries from 18 countries took part, was attended by around 28,000 international visitors and was a massive hit. Sales were brisk; one of the most significant reports was of widespread contemporary collectors’ interest in historical work and vice versa. Not surprisingly, Frieze Masters will happen again in 2013 and is set to become a regular fixture.

The apposite title of the V&A’s forthcoming show, David Bowie Is, recognises that the David Bowie phenomenon, so influential over the past 40 yearts, is important historically but also as a source of inspiration for today’s and tomorrow’s innovative thinking. Set in motion, sequences from it cast out on to the internet, it’s unlikely that The Clock will ever stop.

Images from top
Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997,
Frank W Ockenfels 3

Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with
David Bowie
© Frank W Ockenfels 3, 1997

Video still from The Clock, 2010, Christian Marclay
Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours
©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

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