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Category: travel

Birth of the White Cube

white cube

“To every time its Art. To Art its Freedom.” These are the words that adorn the Secession Building in Vienna Austria. Built in 1898 by Architect Joseph Olbrich, this gallery was to become one of the very first ‘White Cubes’. What we now see as commonplace was a radical idea at the time. Strip the room bare of all other distractions and let the Art take center stage. The building was to act as the main exhibition space for the newly formed Secessionist group led by Gustav Klimt. The Secessionists were rejecting the art establishment of the time and wanted to forge new paths that bridged many of the different arts together to create an artistic synergy. Influenced by the Jungendstil and Art Nouveau movements along with Japanese art that was proliferating Europe at the end of the 19th century, the Secession movement wanted to combine fine and decorative arts and work with architects and practitioners of other disciplines.

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A perfect example of this was in 1902 the Secessionists held an exhibition to celebrate the life and work of Beethoven. The show was centered around a sculpture of the composer by Max Klinger and was to act as a unification of the Arts showcasing sculpture, painting, architecture and music. The exhibition was to be ‘a total piece of Art’ or also known as Gesamtkunstwerk. 

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The totality of it’s intention is no longer intact but the highlight of the exhibition: Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze remains. Moved from it’s original place to the basement it’s a miracle it’s still around. The painting was originally meant to be temporary, only supposedly lasting as long as the original exhibition, along with the building being stripped bare during WWII make it’s presence so special.

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I got to tic another box off my art to-do list this summer. It was my second time in Vienna and it was just as wonderful as I remembered. The Belvedere Museum may have the Kiss (another must see) but The Secession Building and its splendid basement also deserves your attention and affection.

Public Art

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Rome    Fountain of the Four Rivers     Bernini

When it comes to public art you would be hard pressed to beat Bernini’s masterpiece The Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona…….well maybe the Trevi Fountain in the same city. Public art or art in public spaces is freed from the confines of the gallery and adorns our cities like jewels in a crown or at the very least gigantic garden gnomes decorating our  financial and cultural institutions. As I am in the middle of planning our next escape I was going through some old photos and came up with a theme. Here are a few examples taken from some our travels over the years.

 

Bilbao

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Bilbao    Spider     Louise Bourgeois

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Bilbao   Puppy   Jeff Koons

 

 

Washington DC

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Washington  Typewriter Eraser Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

 

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Washington   Brushstroke  Roy Lichtenstein

If you ever find yourself in Washington and are looking for a place to eat, I highly recommend the food-court at the National Museum of the American Indian (unfortunate name but really good food).

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Washington    Monumental Head Giacometti     Balzac Rodin

 

 

Chicago

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Chicago    Flamingo    Calder

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Chicago    Untitled     Picasso

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Chicago  Four Seasons  Chagall

Between the architecture and all the public art in Chicago you don’t even have to step foot inside an art gallery to see some of the biggest names in Art History. I would say, right up there with Bernini’s fountain would have to be Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate referred to as ‘the Bean’ by locals. I’ve never seen an artwork have such universal appeal. Both young and old are drawn to it. The minute you see it you automatically start walking towards it. It is like a magnet.

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Chicago    Cloudgate   Anish Kapoor

 

Cleveland

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Cleveland    The Thinker     Rodin

Not all public art has it easy. Cleveland’s Thinker had a bomb placed under it. Read more here Slashed, Smashed and Blowed up: Blowed up Real Good. There’s tons more I didn’t include, but I recommend the next time you’re out and about take a look around you might be surprised what you encounter.

 

 

World In My Eyes: New York

empire state reflection

brooklyn bridge reflection

grand central reflection

Dine reflection

mondrian reflection

Guggenheim reflection

Museum reflection

washington square park reflection

Ugolino reflection

Harvesters reflection

Central Park reflection

koons reflection

statue relection

picasso reflection

Vermeer reflection

Love reflection

ps1 reflectionI love New York. It is world class in every way, from art galleries to theater to food to comedy to amazing public spaces to fashion to history to ….. New York’s got it all. This was our third time there, but we could go another dozen times and still feel like we haven’t scratched the surface. They say you’re just visiting a place until you’ve been there a minimum of 2 years and even then the locals will look at you out of the corner of their eye. So if you’re not a local; that definitely makes you a tourist. In the grand scheme of things, tourists may definitely get bad raps, but at some point or another, we should all get to wear that badge. So when you do, wear it well and if you don’t know – ask.

If you like waiting in lines, than New York is the place for you. The lines can be very long, but usually the thing at the end of them is amazing. We definitely stood in our fair share this time around, with these 3 being the highlights: tickets for The Daily Show with Jon StewartSt. Vincent live in Prospect Park and last but not least the incredible John Lithgow as King Lear in Shakespeare in the ParkAll three were free, hence the crazy lines. We were fortunate to be surrounded by extremely friendly people sharing our fate. Good conversation makes the wait time fly by and the locals we met gave us countless great recommendations. So if you know you’re going to be there for a while, I say get to know your neighbours.

Speaking of recommendations, here’s a few food ones: the potato knish at Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery on Houston is tasty, filling, cheap and brilliant. New York is world renown for its pizza, but which one is best? I wouldn’t even try to attempt to answer this riddle, but I can definitely say Juliana’s in Brooklyn has got to be in the running. Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth; the banana pudding at the Magnolia Bakery will blow your mind.

Asides from Lear we saw some great shows. Joe Machi at Caroline’s killed despite losing his voice. If you like live comedy then The Comedy Cellar is a must. When we there, Aziz Ansari dropped in unannounced and did close to an hour of new material. Book of Mormon is hilarious and well worth the ticket. The free ghost tour of Greenwich Village is great if you want to see where Mark Twain supposedly haunts or where Sid Vicious left this mortal coil.

Lastly, New York has got some of the most iconic works of art on the planet housed in some of the greatest galleries in the world. For us, this is the main reason we come to New York. If you only have a few days in the city; the Met is mind-boggling or MOMA (spoil of riches) are the two I would recommend. If you have more time; other galleries you should definitely get to are the Cloisters (the Unicorn Tapestries are a must see), Brooklyn Museum (Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party is just crazy), The New Museum, The Folk Art Museum (Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal is there) and MOMA PS1 are all brilliant. Of the 36 paintings Vermeer executed in his lifetime; 8 are on view in NYC between the Met and the Frick alone. This was the first time we made it to the Frick and it did not disappoint. (If you go on Sundays between 11-1, it is pay what you want.) Another great thing to do is walk along the High Line and visit some of the galleries in Chelsea. We also saw the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney (review coming soon).

Oh New York New York we’ll be back.

 

Related post: World in my Eyes: Chicago

 

 

Flamingo: Alexander Calder

Flamingo Alexander Calder 1974

Flamingo Alexander Calder 1974

World in my Eyes: Chicago

The last time I was in Chicago they were cleaning Sunday Afternoon on The Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat. It was the only time in The Art Institute of Chicago’s history (after acquiring the work) that it was not on display. Needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed. I knew I had to come back and see it with my own eyes. I believe you need to be in the presence of an artwork to truly appreciate it. In the age of the reproduction, there is nothing like the real thing and I must say Georges did not disappoint and neither did the rest of Chicago.

The home of the skyscraper is truly a feast for the eyes. It’s public art is second to none in North America, with works by Calder, Miro, Dubuffet, and Picasso among others. One of the greatest pieces of public art to ever been created in my opinion would be Anish Kapoor‘s Cloud Gate.  It appeals to everyone. Children and adults are drawn to it. It reflects its environment while completely asserting its individuality within the environment. The viewer sees themselves in the experience of interacting with art when they stand near it. The residents of Chicago have given it the affectionate nick-name ‘The Bean’ that talks to its pleasing shape. It is the perfect ambassador for public art.

Public art can easily be dwarfed by its surroundings, but Chicago gets it right every time. The buildings in Chicago are pieces of art on to themselves. A wonderful example of this is Jeanne Gang’s Aqua completed in 2010. The closer you get to it the more interesting it becomes. Everywhere you look in Chicago reveals another building marvel. Just outside of the center of town Frank Lloyd Wright made his home in Oak park where he changed his neighborhood and then the history of architecture with his ‘Prairie’ style. The walking tour is a great way to spend the afternoon.

* The idea for the ‘reflection photos’ came about by accident. A few years back while visiting the Eiffel Tower, my wife snapped a picture of me with the glasses on and we discovered that you could see the tower. We try to snap a couple of shots everywhere we go and hopefully it will turn into a fun series over the years. I totally encourage others to get in on the idea. All you need is a pair of mirrored shades, a camera and a little sense of adventure. People tend to stare at you funny when you’re wearing shades in a gallery. Document your travels and world as reflected by your eyes. Please keep me posted, I would love to see the results.

To Rome with Love

Ahh Roma.

Woody Allen has  spent  the past few years exploring the great cities of Europe: London, Barcelona, Paris  and now Rome. Each film functions as a visual love letter to the city it takes place in. It is intriguing to see these cultural centres reflected through Woody’s eyes.

Of all the cities in Europe, Rome would have to be my favourite. So much so, it is where I got married. Actually the wife and I eloped there. We flew to Italy, rented an apartment in the maze-like streets of Trastevere and got hitched. It was amazing, our wedding photos were in front of the Trevi Fountain and the Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Novona . The day after our wedding, we were in the Sistine Chapel craning our necks towards the ceiling. Rome is simply magnificent; the history, the art and the food are all unbelievable. Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression that you can go straight from the airport to the chapel. The place that gave us indoor plumbing is also the home of bureaucratic red tape. If this kind of wedding adventure appeals to you, then a few months of getting the right paperwork in order is required. All in all I highly recommend the experience.

To Rome with Love is comprised of four separate stories that all take place in the sun bleached streets of the eternal city. The stories involve themes of fame, love and infidelity, a lot of infidelity.  The impressive cast  includes Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg and Roberto Benigni. The film also sees Woody Allen’s return to acting. Nobody plays Woody Allen like Woody Allen and it is his story I ultimately liked the best.

Woody had a surprise hit on his hands last year with Midnight in Paris. People who expect the same magic again may be a little disappointed.  Midnight in Paris utilizes it’s surroundings more effectively than To Rome with Love. Paris ultimately becomes an integral character in its own film, where Rome doesn’t make the leap beyond being just background, but oh what a background.

To Rome with Love isn’t Allen’s greatest achievement but there are definitively some laughs to be wrung from a man who once brought a moose to a costume party. (click the link you won’t be sorry)

3.5/5