Category Archives: Art

Frozen music, unheard too

Dwell magazine has posted a story I wrote about a new house in Seoul, designed by the magnificent architect Steven Holl, who was recently chosen to reconfigure parts of the Kennedy Center campus. Holl was looking through a book called Notations, a compendium of contemporary music edited by the composer John Cage. Struck by the unique graphic design of Istvan Anhalt’s 1967 Symphony of Modules, Holl used Anhalt’s score as inspiration for the new Daeyang House and Gallery. Anhalt’s score, one of those everything-and-kitchen-sink beasts that composers loved to write in the 1960s, has never been performed. But the composer’s widow was pleased to see her husband’s work memorialized in Holl’s design, and sent the architect a note saying so. In my article I look at the unique design, its inspiration, and the complicated question of how, or if, music and architecture are related.


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April 13, 2013 · 8:12 am

Liking the Bubble

An article by Kriston Capps in the City Paper sets up the next few months as critical for the fate of the Bloomberg Bubble, the proposed temporary inflatable event space for the Hirshhorn. I like the bubble, and explain why on the Post Style  Blog.

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Museums

Color, Race and Renaissance

The new Walters Art Museum show, Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe, is worth a trip to Baltimore. It isn’t a huge exhibition, and much of what is on display offers more intellectual interest than pure aesthetic delight. But the history is fascinating, the detective work engaging, and you get the sense that there’s a more-than-ample kernel here for a major show sometime in the future. I recommend it in today’s Washington Post.

Image Courtesy the Walters Art Museum, Annibale Carracci, attrib., ca. 1580s, oil on canvas, 60 x 39 x 2 cm (fragment of a larger painting), Tomasso Brothers, Leeds, England

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Filed under Art, Culture, Exhibitions, Museums

More on the Corcoran

I used a column in Sunday’s paper to examine how the Corcoran’s curatorial history, its identity as an institution, and an all-too-frequent failure to capitalize on success has led it to its current financial woes. But there’s nothing there that can’t be fixed by passionate, enlightened, dedicated leadership. The Mapplethorpe controversy of 1989 played a role:

When case studies are written about how to blow up a nonprofit institution, the Mapplethorpe controversy is key among them, a classic map that prefigured controversies such as the implosion earlier this year at the breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure (which suddenly appeared political after trying to deny funding to Planned Parenthood), the 2010 censorship of an exhibition of gay and lesbian portraiture at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and the current power struggle at the University of Virginia. In all four cases, institutional leadership seemed unaware of the basic human capital invested in the organization, unaware that the people who keep the institution alive view it in essentially familial terms, not bureaucratic or organizational ones.

But the current leadership’s willingness to throw the entire museum into limbo while they pursue the horrible idea of selling the building could well be the death knell for the institution:

Yet at a critical moment, when the Corcoran desperately needs people to rally behind it, the board of directors has indicated that it is seriously considering a move that would further alienate supporters of the museum. Board Chairman Harry Hopper, in an interview with Washington Post reporters, said he and the board “weren’t out pounding the pavement on behalf of the institution” until they have “a plan that makes sense.”

Not “pounding the pavement on behalf of the institution” at the moment? I was gobsmacked by that when I first heard our reporters recount their interview with Hopper.

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The Barnes Foundation

This story got lost in the Sunday mix (even I had a hard time finding it and I know how to search). But I reviewed the new building and installation of the Barnes Foundation collection in today’s Sunday Post. I think the new facility is beautifully done, even with the pall of controversy that hangs over the entire project. Here.

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Culture, Exhibitions, Museums, Uncategorized

Doug Aitken at the Hirshhorn

Photo by Brian Doyle, courtesy the Hirshhorn Museum

I wrote last night’s Doug Aitken review on genuine deadline, the manic, hour-to-file craziness that used to be a regular part of my life when I reviewed classical music. Over-night reviews are great for capturing the buzz of a live event, but I don’t think any reviewer enjoys them. Every logistical detail (will it start on time? can I find a cab? will my internet be on the blink?) becomes a potential nightmare, and you find yourself cursing slow moving crowds, narrow escalators and long stoplights. The deeper problem, however, is you have so little time to think you often feel rushed in your judgment. The problem is particularly acute if you feel ambivalent. If the piece I wrote last night reads as if I want to keep my options open, it’s because I do. I look forward to sitting on the grass some warm evening, with nothing else to do but watch and listen, and take in Aitken’s video in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Culture, Museums, urban design

More from the weekend

I took a brief vacation earlier this month, a chance to drive from L.A. to Las Vegas, visiting my alma mater on the way. In Las Vegas, I spent an afternoon at the new Mob Museum. It’s better than I expected. But why are Americans so interested in museums devoted to violence, aggression and death? In this weekend’s tranche of stories I wrote about the museum, and a very good exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, devoted to art by French women painters from 1750 t0 1850.

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Filed under Art, Culture, Exhibitions, Museums