Posts Tagged ‘Exhibition’

Exhibition | Saul ‘The New Yorker’ Steinberg

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Chest of Drawers Cityscape, 1950
Gelatin silver print


Saul Steinberg
100th Anniversary Exhibition
Pace + Pace / MacGill Gallery
New York City | USA
Until 18th October 2014


What is a cartoonist? What is an illustrator? Where does one draw the line between illustration and fine art? What happens when you mix illustration with photography; is the end product an illustration or a still life photograph? If you draw something on a 3D object and photograph it; is the result an illustration, or a photograph? And, what if the person who did the drawing, wasn’t the photographer? Whose work is the final image? Does any of these questions matter? Certainly not to Saul Steinberg whose unique creations, equally at home on the pages of magazines and on gallery walls, can’t be confined to a single category or movement, nor did he allow his palette to be bound by any restrictions. His art, if that is how we choose to refer to it, informed by cubism, surrealism, dadaism and pop – indeed he fraternised with many key figures across all areas of the arts, including Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, Vladimir Nabakov, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul-Satre, to name but a few – is both catholic and democratic, his influences from high art as well as from low, his subject areas from Wall Street to the gutter.


Girl in Tub, 1949
Gelatin silver print


I first came across Steinberg’s View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1976, reproduced as a poster, hung on the kitchen wall of some illustrator friends, at the Royal College of Art halls of residence in London, in 1977. They’d just returned from New York – which I was yet to visit – bringing the poster back as a souvenir. Having up to that point only ever seen the city in photographs or films, its colossal architecture dominating everything else, leaving me daunted at the thought of ever going there, I was struck by the simplistic, friendly Steinberg depiction of New York as a place in which the people at street level just carried on as they might in any European city – going to work, shopping, wandering around the broad pavements of Manhattan, oblivious to events elsewhere in their country, and beyond. And later, when I’d seen a few Woody Allen films, it occurred to me that here were some life-size characters, who might have been the miniature people that populated Steinberg’s illustration.

Even so, I didn’t consciously go looking for Steinberg’s work – as I had done for that of Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast, the Push Pin Studios design and illustration heroes of my early college years. And when I started working for a living, I knew that behind the cover of the The New Yorker – which a few of my journalist colleagues at The Sunday Times Magazine studiously read, toting the latest issue around the office as symbols of their literary status and aspirations – there were great swathes of words, which to me, as a ‘visual journalist’, held little appeal. So, although I was certainly aware of his fame and that he was held in high regard, I never knew, until now, that over six decades, Steinberg’s work featured on the cover of The New Yorker no less than 90 times and appeared 1,200 times on its inside pages, before he ended his collaboration with the magazine in 1987 (recommenced, 1993), or that his View of the World from 9th Avenue is regarded by connoisseurs as one of his most notable creations for the magazine – ripped off, adapted, its text changed to suit many major cities across the country, his lawyers were constantly in pursuit of the perpetrators.

Up until I first visited New York in 1997, some nineteen years after seeing the poster, despite what had become my almost daily contact with photographers and sometimes with illustrators based there and elsewhere in the United States, the city remained for me remote, beyond my horizon. And a few more years would pass before I stumbled across a fascinating little book called Saul Steinberg Masquerade (Viking Press, 2000, a reprint, or perhaps re-design of the original Steinberg: The Mask, 1966). It contained The Mask series, an inspired collaboration by Steinberg and the photographer, Inge Morath, between 1959 and 1963, in which Steinberg’s friends posed anonymously in group and individual photographs, having donned paper bags drawn with plain or fantastic faces. Morath had become fascinated by Steinberg and his ‘Steinbergian universe’, whilst living in Vienna in the 1940s, long before she came into contact with him; it wasn’t until she joined Magnum and moved to Paris, where she met Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had taken a portrait of Steinberg, that she even knew what he looked like. Cartier-Bresson described him as ‘un homme délicieux, d’une si grande intelligence’. Irving Penn, too, would create a studio portrait of Steinberg wearing one of his nose masks, in 1966 – during his long career, he sat for many famous photographers, including Arnold Newman and Lee Miller.


Untitled, c 1950
Gelatin silver print


Saul Steinberg (1914 > 1999) was a Jewish Romania-born American. He studied philosophy and literature at the University of Bucharest, and trained as a draughtsman during the 1930s, in Milan. Fleeing Italy’s new anti-semitic laws, in 1941, he arrived in the United States the following year, and had his first one-man show there a year later. He married the only prominent abstract expressionist artist, Hedda Sterne, in 1951, but left her and took up with a German photography and design student in 1960. His work has been the subject of dozens of exhibitions around the globe and produced numerous publications. Saul Steinberg 100th Anniversary Exhibition at Pace + Pace / MacGill Gallery includes work from five decades of Steinberg’s career, exploring the man who himself explored the world and adapted his medium to suit whatever he found in it. Saul Steinberg: A Biography by Deirdre Blair was published by Nan A Talese / Doubleday in 2012. The Musees Strasbourg website has a useful and succinct Steinberg biography in list form.

The Saul Steinberg Foundation is a nonprofit organisation established as a result of the artist’s will. His collection of his own works was divided between the Foundation and Yale University, which also received Steinberg’s archives. The Foundation holds the copyrights to Steinberg’s artworks and writings.

While Steinberg remains for many ‘The man who did that poster’, The New York Times called him ‘a veritable Leonardo of graphic drollery,’ in 2006. On the Magnum Photos site, in the credit for an Inge Morath portrait of him, shot as part of the Mask series, it might have amused him to see himself still quaintly referred to as a ‘draughtsman’, which is perhaps as good a description as any.

All images by Saul Steinberg, © The Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA. Courtesy Pace and Pace / MacGill Gallery, New York, USA


Tell us what you think.
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


Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Show & Auction | Lucio Fontana, The Last Futurist

Friday, November 18th, 2011


Modern & Contemporary Art and Identita’ Italiana

Sotheby’s Milan, Exhibition until 22nd November, 2011
Auction 22nd & 23rd November, 2011

‘And what is there to see in an old picture except the laborious contortions of an artist throwing himself against the barriers that thwart his desire to express his dream completely?’ – Extract from The Futurist Manifesto, first published in France’s Le Figaro in 1909.

Much as the Italian Futurists, whom he would have been aware of in this youth, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) was perhaps seen as getting rather carried away by his own enthusiasm when in the 1950s he declared: ‘I make holes; infinity passes through them; light passes through them, there is no need to paint.’

This is the man who slashed his own canvases and slit open his sculptures. I’d like to use the occasion of this Sotheby’s auction in Milan, in which six of his works go under the hammer, alongside paintings and sculpture from many of Italy’s most revered 20th century artists, among them: Giacomo Balla, Arturo Martini,Giorgio de Chirico, Massimo Campigli, Mario Sironi, Alberto Savinio, Renato Birolli, Luigi Ontani, Gastone Novelli and Domenico Gnoli, to extrapolate a theory I have developed concerning Lucio Fontana.

Fontana, was born in Argentina of Italian immigrant parents, his father being a sculptor. He was in Italy studying engineering when WWI broke out and fought in it. Afterwards he studied sculpture in Milan but soon returned to Argentina before settling once more in Italy. Despite having, with some Italian artist friends, gone to Paris – like de Chirico had, more than a decade before – to join one of the many factions of modern artists there – the Abstraction-Création group – contradictorily, his first one-man abstract art show having happened the year before, Fontana’s sensitive, equine, figurative bronze Bozzetto per i ‘Cavalli che seguono la Vittoria’, 1936, (above middle, and included in the sale) dates from this period. It’s interesting to note, though, that these horses are moving, not static, and the younger one is a little ahead of its parent. 1939 finds Fontana back in Argentina where he founds a private academy and with some of his students writes the Manifesto Blanco, demanding the synthesis of artistic genres and the renunciation of traditional art materials. It recognised that: ’We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist.’ In their place, his idea was to merge technology and art to create something entirely new and more suited to the time. Back in Milan in 1947 he wrote another manifesto: Primo Manifesto dello Spezialismo, demanding a new form of space-oriented art. At the time his concept would have seemed improbable and grandiose: to synthesize space, sound, colour, movement and time into a new kind of art.

In 1949, his fiftieth year, Fontana punched holes through painted canvases and created his first spatial environment: an experiment with shapeless objects painted in fluorescent colours illuminated by ultra-violet light to be viewed in a darkened room. Seemingly manifesto-mad, in the 1950s he wrote another three of them and continued to conduct further experiments, slashing and perforating his paintings and sculptures, and even including neon lights, memorably at the 1966 Venice Biennale where he installed an ultra-violet light-room and a violet neon-room. His uncompromising Concetto spaziale, Attesa,1964 (above top, and in the sale), is perhaps the most bald and direct of his attempts to shock the viewer into the realisation that he is not looking at a flat plane. In slashing the canvas he attempts to bring the background – the wall behind – into the painting, giving it another dimension, making the painting into an object or sculpture. Earlier in the century, the Cubists had of course already experimented with this idea but Fontana wanted to push it further. Around about this time, many of his pieces were named Concetto Spaziele, the pierced sculptural form (above bottom, and in the sale) is one of them; here his object is to blur the difference between a solid, rounded, bean-shaped object and a hollow one, thus allowing the inside as well as the outside surface to have a presence.

Looking beyond the limits of the picture, exploring space and science fiction to connect the new art to the dramatic technological and social changes taking place in the middle of the 20th Century, Fontana’s outlook was enormously influential. Ahead of his time, with so many vague and unformed but interesting ideas, it is fair to say that his spatial concept foreshadowed installation and environmental art and his promotion of gesture as art prompted performance as art. A long list of artists emerging in the 1960s and later all owe him a great debt, among them: Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer, James Turrell, Laurie Anderson, Bill Viola, Christo, Fiona BannerMartin Creed

We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicoloured, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd. Extract from The Futurist Manifesto, 1909.

Lucio Fontana may well have been the last Futurist.

Works from top
Concetto spaziale, Attesa, 1964
Bozzetto per i ‘Cavalli che seguono la Vittoria’, 1936
Concetto Spaziale, Undated


Please leave a comment
Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Auction | The Art of the Artless

Friday, June 17th, 2011


Sotheby\’s video

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Sotheby’s, London. Exhibition opens today. Sale 22nd June 2011

One gets, I suppose, so used from watching seasoned TV presenters on arts shows like The Culture Show, with the confiding, sometimes almost whisperingly confidential Andrew Graham Dixon and The South Bank Show’s urbane and smirkingly jovial Melvyn Bragg, to being invited in by come hither looks, knowing surreptitious winks or an exuberant gesturing of hands into the worlds of art and artists that we have come to expect a certain showmanship from those who deliver it into our homes.

I said in an earlier post how pleased I am to be on the emailing list of Sotheby’s; how wonderful it is that any member of the public is free to wander into their London galleries and see rare items of painting and sculpture that go on show for a very brief few days in the run up to an auction. Sotheby’s emailed updates often come with a Watch Video button that links to almost unbelievably static and dry, short films. The format is virtually always the same; one single or a series of Sotheby’s specialists talk for a very short time about the highlights of the forthcoming sale, waving their hands around a bit, otherwise expressing little emotion other than, maybe, mild embarrassment. They might just as well be presenting the weather. The latest update is a taster for their forthcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, the exhibition for which starts today. I find it oddly disconcerting that such experts appear to be so inhibited and uncomfortable standing in front of a succession of artworks spouting their stuff into a video camera with, apparently, little direction other than not to look directly into the lens – at least the weathermen look you in the eye. You get the impression that no-one else is in the room: that the camera operator, bored out of his mind, has perhaps wandered off somewhere and only pops back in afterwards to zoom in on details – later to be cut into the films –  of the works, in this case, a beautiful and emotive, finely-crafted, group sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, a passionately painted, double portrait by Pablo Picasso or a rare and exquisite townscape from Egon Schiele.

Sotheby’s website is well-designed – they know what they are about – so perhaps there’s some well thought through psychology at work here that goes over my head. Used car salesmanship techniques or barrow-boy yelling would undoubtedly frighten off reclusive art collecting billionaires, after all, the auction house wants itself taken seriously but surely, in return for parting with their millions, even billionaires deserve a little free, good quality entertainment.

Will you attend this Sotheby’s sale?
Any embarrassing public speaking moments you’d like to tell me about?

Please leave a comment

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Swiss goes pop in Düsseldorf

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011


Zeitgeist & Glamour: The decades of the jet set

February 5th – May 15th, 2011, NRW Forum Düsseldorf, Germany

Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Harry Benson, Guy Bourdin, Raymond Depardon, Terence Donovan, Elliott Erwitt, Ron Galella, Dennis Hopper, William Klein, Robert Mapplethorpe, Billy Name, Terry O’Neill, Bob Richardson, Jeanloup Sieff, Francesco Scavullo, David Bailey, Lord Snowdon, Bert Stern (Bert Stern’s Twiggy, VOGUE, 1967. © Bert Stern. See above)… just some of of the photographers, whose work is represented in this exhibition, many of whom were or became, alongside the glamorous subjects they followed from the Côte d’Azur, St. Moritz, Paris, London, Rome, and New York– among them, Brigitte Bardot, Jackie Kennedy, Maria Callas, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Mick Jagger, Karl Lagerfeld – jet-setters themselves.

On show are 400 photographs, never exhibited before in public, from the Swiss collector Nicola Erni that collectively capture the unique zeitgeist of the 2oth century’s Swinging 60s and early 70s – Warhol’s Factory, Studio 54, Swinging London, Blow up, Pop Art, sex, drugs and rock‘n’roll – as seen through the lens of famous portrait and fashion photographers. Individually, each of these was creating new styles of photography, developing new techniques and forms of presentation that shaped the visual culture of the era. The paparazzi (See picture above – which may well have been the product of a prior arrangement between and in the interests of both subject and photographer(s) – by Giacomo Alexis: Un gelato in faccia di Rino Barillari da Sonia Romanoff in Via Veneto, Roma, 1970. © Giacomo Alexis) are represented, too; a new breed of photographer, who took pictures of famous personalities in their private lives and sold them to whichever newspaper and magazine bid the highest.

Were you around in the 60s & 70s? What do/did you think about all this stuff?
Please leave a comment

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin