Sunday, 29 September 2013


New York City is an extraordinary place - especially when the sky is blue, & the sun shines with no humidity. But we all need somewhere to SIT. 
Museums and art galleries are the worst. Nowadays no old fashioned polished wood Victorian seats for the old or pregnant. Why not? 
But BROADWAY, now an urban idyll of greenery in the Fashion District, (between 5th and 9th Ave, and from 34 to 42nd St), has acquired 5 new benches!  on Broadway from 36th to 41st Street. Made of heather-coloured slate from Vermont by sculptor Del Geist,  ‎it's organic, natural & alive. The honed surface is smooth as silk; the edges rough cut. The geometry is in the stainless steel base. (Lyle Welding.) 
There are to be more benches within the next few months so look out for them, and sit. And hustle for more seats in art galleries too. If we all ask, they will find a way to provide them. 
Geist at the Taran Quarry in Poultney, Vermont working on the bench sculpture.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

BALTHUS & INDIANA.  Which to tell you about first??

For 2 weeks in NYC there is an important exhibition opening event every day - sometimes 2 or 3,  plus the Christies & Sotherby auctions plus performances, art book fairs, art fairs, United Nations causing traffic standstill. Where to start?! So I will entice u with 2 images, both well known but one perhaps the most iconic, famous image of the 1960s - 
                                                            Indiana's Love from 1966
"Some people like to paint trees. I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than painting trees." —Robert Indiana, 


INDIANA, born the same year as Warhol, is that most American of Pop artists. Inspired by highway signs, pinball machines, roadside neon and flashing slot machines, his big, bold. hard edged, colourful graphics are mesmerising. 
This is the largest ever show of his work. I wrote about Indiana's 2004 show, "Peace Paintings" for the Financial Times, financial times . Politics often inspire his work, in this instance the Iraq war produced a heartfelt cry WHY OH WHY in strident hues around a CND logo. The last oil there was HOWL, SHRIEK, SHOUT, SCREAM FOR PEACE. Nothing changes. He is still a master of of eye-catching mottos & slogans.

Sadly the show lacks any drawings or note books, which I am told by Simon Salama-Caro who is doing Indiana's catalogue raisonne, are beautiful. But the 100 works here - many large 8 ft paintings and lots of little known obelisk totem sculpture, fill an entire floor with vibrant 60s Pop style colour, design and stencilled lettering:  HUG EAT SIN DIE.  And of course LOVE with its slanted O, an image ubiquitous from millions of mugs, key rings, T shirts, even doormats.

Whitney Indiana installation 

Big surprise is the number of vertical wooden columns or herms and constructions of wood n' metal which start early - in 1959. Lacking cash for paint & canvas he began collecting old metal wheels and rubbish from the NY warehouses being demolish for Wall St's expansion. He said he made "The Lost into Found. Junk into Art. Neglected into Wanted. Unloved into Loved." He was soon putting short everyday words onto these via found stencils. At this time text like this was unprecedented, and says Barbara, "Audacious."
PS. For Scots - Indiana learnt to set metal printing type at Edinburgh College of Art in the 1950s. 

Director Adam Weinberg & eminent curator Barbara Haskell

                                   Simon Salama-Caro, director of the Indiana catalogue Raisonne

Back in Scotland it's  Open Doors day in Edinburgh - 127 places. Take advantage. I will report on Glasgow's events later. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

PARK AVENUE ARMORY and Lauren Flanigan

This huge one block square 1880s historic building had been grossly neglected for many years. Used for Art Fairs embellished with Picassos and 6 ft high floral arrangements it looked OK till u went to leave yr coat. In the cloakrooms the plaster peeled, leaks leaked and damp & dust covered the walls.

Named among the World's 100 Most Endangered Sites, by 2007 this central NYC edifice was being transformed via a $200m "revitalization." Already the vast 55,000 sq ft central hall has seen multimedia art events by Ann Hamilton, Boltanski & a memorable huge video environment by Ikeda, (Japanese artist not Ikea!) plus Merce Cunningham Dance, NY Philharmonic, next comes The Life & Death of Marina Abramovic,, premiered at Manchester's Festival 2011, and Kenneth Branagh's staging of Macbeth.
I wish there was more art and less performance but given the size of the space... see my big piece on the Armory in State magazine for 2011.

This week a 15 million dollar gift has restored one of the famous American Aesthetic style period rooms, which will be used for recitals, and maybe art installations. (The Tiffany room is already done.)  For Europeans it's not much to shout about but in the US it's architecturally important. With its 19th century proportions, the room has great acoustics - proved on Thursday by the wonderful award winning Lauren Flanigan who sang newly discovered Kurt Weill songs. She has performed with the Met Opera, La Scala & Glyndebourne etc etc & can do jazz, opera and anything u care to name.  I don't even like opera - but she was entrancing.

The room looked OK too! Architects are Herzog & de Meuron. herzog de meuron nyc They hope the main space will become  the NY equivalent of Tate's Turbine Hall. 

My bad pix of Lauren and her pianist Ricky Gordon - but better than nothing.

Friday, 20 September 2013


New York. New York. We never tire of it. Crowded, noisy, dirty, too hot, too humid, too cold, yet always invigorating, always glamourous. This week has been all blue sky and gorgeous: what's called "severe clear"... Perfect for T J Wilcox who spent many cloudy, rainy, misty days trying to film a new fashioned 360 degree video panorama of New York City from the top of his building at the corner of Union Square. "We filmed many times without success. Half way thro' it would rain."

Ten projectors with special lenses now compresses a 24 hour day/night into 30 minutes. It's enthralling. The huge 7ft high x35ft across circular screen hangs in space. U can duck under and into it. The light changes, tower block shadows fall across smaller buildings, at dusk windows twinkle on the Empire State, the new Freedom Tower replacing the World Trade Centre, and the wedge shape City Corps building, (we got married in St Peter's church underneath it - only in NY can they sell the air rights to a church!) It's mesmerising.

Every so often the skyline is punctuated by short 3 min stories which relates to NY - 1930s archival black & white film shot from the air; Gloria Vanderbilt; an account of 9/11 seen from the roof; Warhol's launch of a giant silver phallic ballon just as the Pope passed by his Factory!

Curated by Brit,  Chrissie Iles, it's a great immersive installation - one people will love.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

MAGRITTE at MoMA, New York

                                          Le Faux Miroir; The False Mirror 1929

Magritte's mysterious, unsettling signature Surrealist images are very well known today: ordinary objects - curtains, bowler hats, clouds, mirrors, nudes, that infamous pipe - painted in deadpan style. But do we understand them any better than when they appeared almost 100 years ago?

Magritte would hope not! What does it mean? "It doesn't mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable,"he said. But he also wanted to make "everyday objects shriek out loud."

This major show of 80 works focuses on a mere 12 years, 1926-38, when he worked flat out in his hometown, Brussels and Paris, the centre of Surrealism, creating his most radical work. It was all produced in a modest working class house with no studio. Despite help from his wife's father, the couple lived on the bread line. So in 1930 Magritte returned to commercial art work, until 1937 when an eccentric British patron commissioned paintings, including one here. This portrait shows a man looking at himself in a mirror, but instead of his face we see, again, the back of his head.

Loans come from Japan, Edinburgh, Paris, Berlin, the Tate, Jasper Johns, plus Chicago and Houston where the show goes next year.

      Le Viol, The Rape 1934 

More later.

Monday, 16 September 2013



                                          1200 year old Feathers from Peru.

Today NEW YORK's Metropolitan Museum of Art, from top to bottom; ground to roof.

                                         Imram Qureshi's painted floor on the roof of the Met.

How wonderful to live 7 minutes from the Met. Their new slogan is One Met. Many Worlds.
All exemplified by 3 new shows opening today: Masterpieces from Tibet and Nepal; Medieval Treasures from Hildesheim, Germany, and Feathers from Ancient Peru! Let me tell you it's a long 4 block walk from Peru to Nepal. I had almost forgotten how huge the Met is - and how breathtaking. And how busy!

The Peruvian feathered hangings date from c 750 AD yet its by far the most modern exhibit. Think Sean Scully. Here 12 rectangular panels - divided exactly into quarters of blue and yellow made out of thousands of Macaw bird feathers - make an impressive 88 ft long wall installation of bold minimal art. The hangings, related to a shrine or ceremony, were found in 1943 rolled up in large ceramic jars, themselves richly decorated. Back then feathers were, I'm told, luxury objects and the birds were carried over the Andes! Dead or alive? We'll never know. The Wari people did not write.
Max Ernst owned one of the panels. That says it all.

Next 50 medieval ecclesiastical treasures: gem and pearl encrusted crosses, silver cruxifixes, metalwork, carving, and copper and opulent gold statues from Lower Saxony where Bishop Bernward was a busy patron. The Golden Madonna has lost her head but is still amazing. And I was glad to see one special Reliquary for St Oswald, King of Northumbria, was probably English.

With all this 10th & 11th century European creativity, how to follow that?

Well, try 13 ancient Himalayan iconic paintings just acquired from a pioneering couple who started collecting in 1964. Buddhas, goddesses, Indian saints in vibrant colours hang along with a rare fierce  copper mask which has a hole in his mouth for beer drinking during the festival processions!

Last The Roof Garden.
Each year the Met commissions a project for its Roof Garden, usually sculpture. For this year, (May to October,) young Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi painted the floor with blood red foliage and ornamental flowers influenced by Islamic art combined with abstraction. Normally a miniature painter, his recent site-specific works in Sydney, Berlin, Istanbul have been political and on an architectural scale.  Here his splatters and stains among the flowers reference the recent Boston bombings, made more poignant by their faded aspect from a summer of feet and baking sun.

close up of roof painting. 
TOMORROW MAGRITTE at MoMA  All you have to do is read. I am the one with sore feet!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

NEW YORK is revving up for the Fall/Autumn season!

NEW YORK is revving up for the Fall/Autumn season! Lots of wonderful shows - Magritte, Chagall, Vermeer, George Rickey, (who grew up in Scotland) Robert Indiana, Matisse, Robert Ryman and more.
But there are only a few days left to see the Guggenheim's James Turrell. Ends Sept 25th. He has turned the already breathtaking centre spiral rotunda into a play of computerised light and colour as pink turns to pale mauve becomes intense blue, blood red, gradations of green and then, slowly slowly, dissolves into grey and misty white before beginning the sequence all over again. Purists will like the grey. I rather enjoyed the stronger shades.

Of course there's a problem or two. The young lie flat on the floor and gaze upwards. The old kink their arthritic necks and fight for space on the sloping loungers arrayed around the ellipse. After a while I decided I'd seen enough, my neck hurt, and I moved on to other small, more simple installations from the 1960s and 70s. The main installation cost millions. Theatre designers used to playing with lightbulbs scrims are no doubt envious!     guggenheim
Aten Reign, the centerpiece of James Turrell’s first exhibition in a New York museum since 1980, recasts the Guggenheim rotunda as an enormous volume filled with shifting artificial & natural light.
Now that the horrid humid heat - 90+ sauna-like weather has gone, I am enjoying NYC's blue blue sky.
But in Scotland u all have a chance for a wonderful week-long Glasgow Open Doors Days. Don't miss it! It's wonderful.

Monday, 9 September 2013

GPS 40th B-day

Tomorrow we leave Scotland for New York City. Some adjustment! Edinburgh provided several highlights for its Festival: Ken Currie's superb new oils at the SNPG; Victoria Crow's lovely tapestry at the Dovecot woven from 40 shades of natural undyed wool; Blackadder at the Scottish Gallery; Witches etc at GMA; The Open Eye, interesting as usual- and Ana Maria Pacheco's serious and moving etchings and installation at the Edinburgh Chaplaincy in George Square. This in itself is a great place to visit for its new, elegant chapel in what is really the back garden. (Designed by architect Stuart Allan of Summerhall, deserves praise and a piece to itself: Chinese painting exh; Lawrence Weiner; Michael Nyman film installation; Fiona Banner; Demarco Archive; & more.

 In Glasgow Glasgow Print Studio celebrated its 40th b-day with a 40/40 show attended by crowds, In fact GPS started in 1972. I was there along with Beth Fisher, Jacki Parry, John Taylor, Jimmy Cosgrove and Eli Lamb. Lamb's marriage of rose and thistle is memorable, also Adrian Wisniewski's colourful print, and Bruce Mclean's characteristic drips.

See below the 3 great participants - Ken Duffy who began Edinburgh Printmakers 46 or was it 47 years ago; Phillip Reeves who kept us sane in the early 1970s; and John Mackechnie, shorter hair, but still keeping GPS on the road!

                                                  GPS party.