David Hockney Is Back in LA…

… and he’s working.

In a recent Harper’s Bazaar news piece he discusses his upcoming exhibition, titled “The Arrival of Spring”, set to open in New York’s Pace Galley on September 5, consisting of works created on the iPad.

Yes, iPad.

The author of the article, William Boyd, writes that the show consists of a series of iPad prints, “some very large, of his favourite spots around Bridlington and, more significantly, a collection of charcoal drawings, showing the eponymous arrival of spring in the wood, lanes, and byways of East Yorkshire.”

Hockney is a self-professed technophile: “I do think the iPad is a new art form. Much better than a lithograph.” He goes on to express his thoughts about the absence of drawing classes in art schools: “It’s criminal. Drawing teaches people to look.”

I’m not sure how I feel about the iPad as a visual medium. Is it ok for an established artist like Hockney to exhibit such works, but not the other way round? Similarly, if photographer Annie Lebovitz exhibited a series of Instagram photos in a gallery, would that be ok?

And, is it true that art schools teach drawing any more? Thoughts?

From the September issue of US Harper's Bazaar

From the September issue of US Harper’s Bazaar


The Guggenheim Museum, in ‘All’ its glory

It’s hard to stand out in New York And if you do, you’ll usually have something exceptional to show for it. Such is the case with the city’s architecture; such is the case with its art.

The Guggenheim Museum has been around for over half a century. A celebrated institution, the building is an artwork unto itself, subjected to a fair amount of controversy. Some say that Frank Lloyd Wright ‘designed his building as an asymmetric nose-thumbing at the rigid order of New York’s streets and architecture’[1]; others believe that he was an architect ahead of his time.

“Mr. Wright’s greatest building, New York’s greatest building.” said Architect Philip Johnson, “one of the greatest rooms of the 20th century.”[2]

The glorious Guggenheim

A contested expansion in 1992 (a rectangular annex was added to the museum’s backdrop) provoked further outrage and debate. Woody Allen likened its new look to a “giant lavatory basin”.[3] And, while the museum sits directly across from Central Park’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Ms. Onassis agreed with Allen.

I have always loved The Guggenheim Museum. Located on the Upper East Side’s Fifth Avenue, to me it is emblematic of New York’s landscape; an architectural feat that I am in awe of. Whether admiring it from the outside or within, it’s a fascinating structure that stands the test of time and continues to inspire. Furthermore, museum’s renowned permanent collection always measures up to its temporary exhibits.

Panoramic View

If you haven’t ever seen or visited The Guggenheim, picture a cylindrically shaped building that looks like a spring or a perfectly curled orange peel, but white. The art gallery circumnavigates the building’s walled interior and is viewed along a walkway that spirals its way to the top. (If you’ve seen the movie, The International, featuring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, you may remember a lengthy action scene that took place in [a replica of] the museum’s interior).

The walkway’s balconies look into the building’s (usually) vacant centre, crowned by a domed skylight. There are four levels of galleries that exhibit Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and contemporary art works.

There is an old saying about the Guggenheim; you come to see Kandinsky or Picasso, but you stay to see Frank Lloyd Wright.”[4]

Interior: balconies

Sky-lit balconies

Recently, I visited The Guggenheim to see the popular — read: equally lauded and criticized — exhibit, Maurizio Cattelan: All. Said to be the final show of the artist-going-into-retirement, his retrospective hangs like a bejeweled chandelier of giant proportions in the heart of the museum’s rotunda, illuminated by the skylight immediately above.

Unfamiliar with Maurizio Cattelan’s works, I was intrigued to view the exhibition.

“Hailed simultaneously as a provocateur, prankster, and tragic poet of our times, Maurizio Cattelan (b.1960, Padua, Italy) has created some of the most unforgettable images in recent contemporary art.”[5]

Maurizio Cattelan: All

Known for his rebellious nature, Cattelan chose The Guggenheim to display his final artwork/installation. He’s not a stranger to controversy either:

“Unable to generate any ideas for his first solo exhibit, Cattelan instead placed a sign on the locked door of the gallery that read: Torno Subito or ”Be Back Soon”.” (This plastic sign was branded an artwork in 1989.);

“Having caved under the pressure of the Venice Biennale, and consequently with no work to show, he leased his allotted space to an agency who put a billboard in its place.” (Branded an artwork too, he titled it: Working is a Bad Job (1993).)

Perfume advertisement placed in the Venice Biennale space, 1993

Cattelan has also been known to spread rumours about his artwork for self-promotion, and has been caught for creative theft.

“His source materials range widely, from popular culture, history, and organized religion to a meditation on the self that is at once humorous and profound… While bold and irreverent, the work is also deadly serious in its scathing critique of authority and the abuse of power.”[6]

Looking up on it All

All shows the majority of Cattelan’s works (with a couple of exceptions as owners refused to pass them over) strung with ropes from a steel support structure. The exhibit feels morbid; one of its stronger underlying themes is death. Perhaps the installation symbolizes a ‘mass execution’[7] of sorts.

Highly strung

Dismal undertones

Cattelan’s body of work extends over a 21-year career; his style is satirical, political, and humorous. One of his earlier and more famous works includes La Nona Ora, a sculpture of Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite. Translated to “The Ninth Hour” (1999), the work implies the hour when Christ died on the Cross[8]. In 2000, this piece was shown in the Warsaw Zachęta National Gallery and “resulted in a public furor (that) ended in the resignation of Anda Rottenberg, the museum’s director, who refused to remove the work even after protests by members of parliament from a Catholic nationalist party, two of whom … attempted to succor the pope by picking him up from the ground.”[9].

A more recent work, titled ‘L.O.V.E.,’ an acronym in Italian for love, hate, vendetta, eternity, was erected near Milan’s stock market this year (2011). Referred to as ‘the finger’, the 36-foot white sculpture of a hand, with middle finger giving the birdie, was in response to the financial crisis of 2008. Read more here: WSJ.com.

Both these works hang in the installation as smaller interpretations of the originals. “I prefer to be attacked to being ignored.” Maurizio Cattelan

Cattelan’s installation deviates from the norm. That is, usually the museum’s perimeter showcases artworks, but for now, it stands empty. It is stark in its whiteness, and looks futuristic. The focus is on the museum’s centre.

Empty gallery niches

Erecting the installation at the core of the rotunda may have been Cattelan’s way of paying homage to the artists who petitioned against the building decades ago: in 1956, a group of artists, including Willem de Koonig, submitted a complaint to The Guggenheim’s trustees about the museum’s less-than-ideal gallery space. They complained that the walls were too concave for hanging art; the floor, uneven; the ceilings, too low.

That said, by focusing on The Guggenheim’s centre, museum-goers can admire Cattelan’s installation from a distance instead of lining up to see art that could’ve been crammed into the gallery’s niches.

Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and curator of Maurizio Cattelan: All, explains the museum’s standpoint:

“Cattelan’s career resists summation by any traditional exhibition format. Many of his early, action-based meditations are impossible to reconstruct, and his singular, iconic objects function best in isolation. (The exhibition) is thus a full-scale admission of the inadvisability of viewing his work within the context of a conventional chronological retrospective. The artist has resisted that model, creating instead a site specific installation that cunningly celebrates its rebelliousness. “

The view from above

The exhibition is alluring, yet quizzical and erratic in its presentation – there’s disorder, lack of context, and disarray. You question the point of the works, directly after they were created… and now. Is this installation really Cattelan’s final artwork? Is it in part a subtle social experiment, where museum goers are now on the outside, looking in, as if life is observing death?

“Perversely encapsulating Cattelan’s career to date in an overly literal, three dimensional catalogue raisonné, the installation lampoons the idea of comprehensiveness.” Nancy Spector

Social experiment? Life looking at death?

I am not surprised that the exhibit has generated mixed reviews. You want to understand this giant body of work, but you can’t help wonder whether the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

Cattelan: a self-depiction

I came away from The Guggenheim with an appreciation of Cattelan’s perspective and was inspired to learn more about his individual works. Perhaps this was largely because the gallery was utilized in a new way. It was a stroke of genius to use the core of the rotunda to feature All; a new perspective allowed me to see with new eyes. Something has to be said for that.

Inspired at the Guggenheim: silhouetted self-portrait

Overlooking Central Park

The Guggenheim provides further details on the exhibition here:

Maurizio Cattelan: All.

To learn more about Cattelan’s individual works, The New Yorker’s, Peter Schjeldahl talks through them in an audio slide show tour:

Slide Show

5 Pointz – Graffiti Art Gallery in Long Island City, Queens, NY

Because I have posted on street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a fellow blogger, Victor Ho, drew my attention to a graffiti project in Long Island City (LIC), Queens called 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc. From Williamsburg, it’s a quick drive over the Pulaski Bridge to LIC.

in some ways, LIC is similar to Williamsburg. Both neighbourhoods are both undergoing gentrification, enjoy view of Manhattan and the East River, are easily accessible by subway or ferry, and are situated close to major bridges — the Queensboro Bridge connects LIC to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. the area has attracted a young professional crowd though the  feeling of community doesn’t permeate as much as it does in Williamsburg.

Queensboro Bridge linking LIC to Manhattan

Dubbed ‘5Pointz’, this empty, 20,000-square-foot, five-story factory building is covered from top to bottom in graffiti. The name, 5Pointz, represents the five boroughs of New York, although the building is showcase global graffiti works by artists from Australia, Spain, Canada, Brazil, and France as well. Located under the rambling elevated 7-subway line, this one block long industrial complex continues until the Davis Street’s dead end. Today, the enclave was far from dead, which was filled with film crew, photographers, iphone-toting fans and trucks.

7 Subway Line

5Pointz Building…

5Pointz Building… continues along Davis Street

5Pointz Building… full frontal

Art continues down the complex on Davis Street

Unfortunately, 5 Pointz faces an undetermined fate. The graffiti art curator, Jonathan Cohen, plans to convert the building into a “graffiti museum”, as well as “a school for aspiring aerosol artists, complete with a formalized curriculum that imparts lessons in teamwork, art history, and entrepreneurship in addition to technique”, yet there are rumours that the building will be knocked down to make room for condos. The building’s owner, John Wolcoff, has expressed interest in building two 30-story high rises to cash in on renters escaping expensive Manhattan, and has promised a rear wall accessible to graffiti artists in lieu of what may be torn down. Hardly compensation.

An homage to Dali

Marie Flageul, an event planner who is part of the 5Pointz team, recently stated on NYTimes.com, “What the landlord doesn’t understand is that 5Pointz is a brand and an icon, and if he knocks it down it will be missed. 5Pointz is the United Nations of graffiti.”

Ironically, LIC is located directly opposite the United Nations building in Manhattan.

View of the United Nations (left), as seen from LIC’s Water’s Edge dock

If you’re a graffiti artist and are interested in staking a piece of real estate within this “graffiti Mecca”, perhaps the only legal place left to tag in New York, you’ll need to obtain permission from 5Pointz. According to the website:

The most coveted locations are given to accomplished graffiti artists who create high-quality, conceptual work that displays great artistic detail, while the less visible areas are preserved for new and aspiring aerosol artists.

The better the mural, the longer it stays up. Pieces and productions are typically left on display for anywhere from one day to two years, depending on the quality and effort of the work, as well as the pedestrian traffic level of its wall placement. Long-lasting, prominently displayed productions require a rough draft and demonstrate creative vision, a high-level of craft, and originality.

Frogs (mural located opposite 5Pointz building on David Street)

To sign the petition, click here: SHOW UR LOVE TO 5POINTZ

Condos along LIC’s waterfront

Please share your comments below. I’ll be tweeting this page regularly to relevant parties and discussion groups. This will be a way to support 5Pointz in their efforts to save their space.


5Pointz – Close Up

Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Outdoor Art Gallery

On any casual stroll around Williamsburg, I always notice pops of street art. And by art, I mean posters, stencil drawings, stickers, logos, and murals as opposed to erratic graffiti that may be perceived as vandalism. Whether it is around a street corner; on a wall of scaffolding that may have presented itself as a blank canvas to an aspiring artist trying to make a political statement; or, right at your feet, on the sidewalk – there’s always a new find that demands a second look.

Williamsburg — today’s “it” destination — has experienced exponential growth since the 1990s, when artists revived the ailing neighborhood. The area is still home to studios and galleries, and street artists.

That said, I am in awe of Williamsburg’s street art. See Williamsburg’s Street Art.

Here are some recent finds. Enjoy.

This message is painted on a set of unhinged doors, leaning against scaffolding

Today’s new find: a sidewalk stencil

Matryoshka dolls

The garage of a martial arts studio

Martial Arts Studio: Coming Soon

Bird, unexpected


Art on a Mattress

Spraypainted colour

Not a bus stop…

A current favourite

Tiki Stencil

A Perfect Day at Getty Villa, Malibu

It has been over a year since Ali and I relocated from California to New York . Some of our fondest West Coast memories include visits to Getty Villa.

Getty Villa’s Gardens, Malibu, California

Based in Malibu, the Villa, set within beautifully tended Roman-inspired gardens, houses Getty’s antiquities collection. Despite being located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, the museum feels a world away from the bustle of Los Angeles. So peaceful and pleasant, the Villa’s grounds marry the best of both worlds: a coastal location with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, set high in the mountains. While enjoying a glass of red with a cheese board between exhibits, you will forget you’re in Los Angeles.

Getty Villa’s Gardens, Malibu, California

John Paul Getty was the only child of oil tycoon, George F. Getty. An avid art collector, J. Paul Getty owned a sizeable collection and decided to open his first museum to the public. In 1954, the museum was established in his Ranch House, but as Getty’s collection of paintings, antiquities, and decorative arts increased, so did talks of expansion. Getty decided to build a major art museum on his Ranch property, and plans for Getty Villa were drawn up.

The Villa pays homage to Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum which, located on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius, had enjoyed unobstructed views of the sea before being swallowed by a volcanic eruption. Because many of Papiri’s remains have not been excavated, the Villa’s architectural and landscaping features were modeled on homes in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.

* Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by Vesuvius’ volcanic eruption in AD 79. Today, the town is located in Ercolano (modern Italian name) in the Italian region of Campania.

Water feature at Getty Villa

After Getty’s death in 1976 — the Villa opened in 1974 — the Getty Trust expanded the art collection, which required a new museum complex to be built over a much larger area. Land was purchased in the Santa Monica Mountains, and Getty Center, established in 1997, now serves as the main museum.

At Getty Center, you’ll see photograph, painting, sculpture, drawing, and illustrative manuscript exhibitions (getty.edu).

At Getty Villa, expect an Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities collection, and excellent public programs — tours, performances, and films.

The Getty Villa’s dramatic Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, a classical outdoor theater based on ancient prototypes. See: http://www.getty.edu/museum/programs/performances/outdoor_theater.html

J. Paul Getty left his art collection as a gift to Los Angeles. Both The Getty Villa and The Getty Center are free to public, but an advance-purchase entry-timed ticket to the Villa is required. See http://www.getty.edu/visit/ Currently, The Getty Villa is running an exhibit called, Modern Antiquity: Picasso, de Chirico, Léger, and Picabia in the Presence of the Antique. It’s end on 16 January,2012, but I have it on my wish list should we visit California in time. Viewing the exhibits, strolling the gardens, and having a bite to eat — this combination makes for a perfect day.

Marbury Hall Zeus – Unknown, Roman, Italy, A.D. 1 – 100, Marble, 81 1/2 in. 73.AA.32