Wednesday, 27 November 2013


MICHIO IHARA's most famous & well seen work is in the great entrance hall of the Rockefeller Center, NY. This spacious 35ft high space has, since 1978, been enhanced by his ten elegant, huge, luminous panels of small shimmering gold & copper-plated steel fragments which cascade from ceiling to floor. Like leaves fluttering on a tree or vibrating in the breeze, each unique individual panel is up-lit by a warm glow. 
 Rockefeller Center,NY
Called the 'Vivaldi of metal', Ihara was born in Paris, educated in Japan & lives in Massachusetts. His large sculptures are sited all over the world: Tokyo, New Zealand, Australia, Boston, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, & across North America. But I got to know his work in my husband's apartment, where maquettes & models for large commissions were displayed. Now they have a home at the Mitchener Museum. I miss them! Especially I loved a beautiful piece from 1970 which hung on the wall above my computer! The giant version was for a Tokyo steel company.  
Another 1984 kinetic sculpture, (for the Tokushima Press building in Shikoku,) perched high up while a 1991 spinning cube work for Tokyo City Hall sat on our cocktail table. Variations of the City Hall model were later given as awards by the Fulbright Organization in Japan

 Tokyo City Hall. 
Now 85, Ihara was a minimalist well before minimalism. His Japanese ethic of clean, simple, delicate design coupled with a gift for collaboration with architects and engineers, has made him a star. And he's not done yet. A big retrospective this summer left several big outdoor pieces beside Concord's Art Association & his modernist work, "Wind" sits near Boston City Hall on State St. Lovely.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


Very few events begin with "Sleeping bags are welcome" but this weekend famous, award-winning, pioneer performance artist Marina Abramovic presents a 24 hour marathon reading of the fantasy tale, The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. The readers, a mix of locals, artists, fathers, kids, may thin out in the middle of the night - but it's on now .... I will let u know how things progress.  It's the first community outreach event for MAI.  
Her INSTITUTE (MAI) for the Preservation of PERFORMANCE ART is coming to Hudson, our small town 2 hrs north of NYC. She has a house in the area & 4 years ago bought a former theatre & ex tennis court/antique store & with Rem Koolhaas as architect, plans a mega conversion into an interdisciplinary performance centre dedicated to collaborations of art, music, science, technology and spirituality. 
Concentrate. Focus. Slow down your thoughts, mind, day, yr life. Today when many can't sit still - must text, phone, rush, run, drive - how will Marina's new big idea of discipline, endurance, of long duration, of 2, 6 or 24 hour events, go down?  
                            Hudson 24 hr reading marathon today gets started. 
                         9pm snow, dark, MARINA reading her share.

9.15 pm. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Memorial exhibitions commemorating the assassination of JFK 50 years ago tomorrow abound, from Tampa to Yale, with predictably several in Dallas. Most are of photographs, including one at NY's International Center of Photography. 
I was at University when I first heard the shocking news. It seemed unbelievable that this young, handsome hero could be dead. We all felt he embodied such hope and idealism. Now of course we know he was far from perfect, but in those days he was idolized. 
Today, with many thousands of onlookers cell phones to capture the event, would we be nearer an understanding of what actually happened that day?  Who and why, even where the shots came from, will never be answered now, although there are over 1000 documents relating to the killing, still kept under wraps by the US government.   
We also believed then that photography never lied. Today images can be manipulated to say pretty well anything. What a terrible, sad day. It changed our world. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

DeCORDOVA    Sculpture Park & Museum

Julian de Cordova (1851-1945) is a typical American success story. Self educated, he ended up as president of the Union Glass Company.Travel and art were his passions. In 1910 he remodeled his art-filled summer home in Lincoln, Massachusetts to resemble a (red brick) European castle, which he left to the town as a museum. 

Today, after various expansions in the 1960s & 80s plus a major $8m project in 1998, this splendid deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum encompasses 35 acres of beautiful rolling woodlands and lawns, the largest of its kind in New England. 60 sculptures dot the park and a recent  Antony Gormley bestrides the entrance. The new wing is well integrated with the old mansion. Overall the deCordova deserves to be better known. Maybe the current show, till April 2014, will help.

The 2013 DECORDOVA BIENNIAL, its 3rd, presents new work by 21 New England artists, (ie NH, VT, ME, Ct, MA & RI) but as ever with the US, they come from all over the world - including Portugal, Kuwait and London. 
Taking over almost all the building plus some outside & on the roof terrace (with a great view) the variety is astounding, from the minimal Giberson's string and shadows to Yurukoglu'd colourful plexiglass installations. Abbas's Kaaba phot-pictures of Mecca with the famous black cube enhanced with day-glo colours is an eye-catcher. Chang/Kelley's videos of a China in transition are important but need an editor. Murrow's detailed Flotilla drawings link the Mayflower (deCordova is near Boston) to the Bay of Pigs. Too much is derivative - but Andrews has a sense of wit. 

Outside Orly Genger's 1.4 million feet of painted rope in Red Yellow & Blue entwines and undulates across hillside, lawn and paths. First seen in NYC's Madison Sq Park, it accompanies more classic work on loan from George Rickey, Jon Isherwood, James Surls, Sol Lewitt, Jaume Plensa, Von Rydingsvard, (In April 2014 the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Breton, England, will open a large-scale survey of her work.
Dan Graham, Beverly Pepper & Jim Dine. A new focus on sculpture should make for interesting results. 

3 minutes away is the 1938 Gropius House, constructed as his family home by the Bauhaus founder. Not to be missed. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013


She is young, beautiful, vulnerable. Silhouetted against a plain black background, she looks you in the eye. With the exception of one large, lustrous earring, she lacks decoration, and yet you are captured, mesmerized. The image is so simple, but it has been captivating viewers for 350 years.
We do not even know her name, but such is her fame, (and long before the recent film) that Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring 1665 has been given a room all to herself at NY's Frick.  There are only 36 Vermeer pictures in the world, 3 of them belong to the Frick and 12 are in the USA. In 1880 Girl with a Pearl was bought for 1 dollar and gifted to Holland's Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, but is in NY on loan till January 19th. 
Eight of Vermeer's oils have pearls - ironically there has never ever been a pearl this size!  Exaggeration is nothing new. Frick bought his 3 Vermeers between 1901 and 1919. Mistress & Maid 1666 also has a pearl but here worn by a lady in sumptuous silks, satin and fur. Frick had to pay rather more than a dollar. 
Girl with a Pearl is 1 of 15 pix on loan from the Mauritshuis. All are from the Dutch golden age & include 4 Rembrandts, 2 Hals portraits and a sweeping landscape by Ruisdael. But you don't want to hear about these I know - just the Girl! And if she inveigles u into the Frick she has done u a favour, because the Frick, the 5th Ave mansion home of its founder, industrialist billionaire Henry Clay Frick, is one of Manhattan's jewels, awash with masterpieces by Titian, Goya, Constable, El Greco, Holbein et al. 

I wrote about Vermeer for the Ft in 2001 when 15 of this self-taught artist's spectacular oils were at the Met. "Worth crawling over hot coals to see," I wrote then. 
I also posted my blog about this show on Halloween. So with all those spirits, goblins & witches about, no surprise that the whole thing disappeared into thin air.  So here it is again, in a new version. Moral? Always have a hard copy & a back up. Or like one friend, a backup of a backup! 

To add spice the Frick also presents its first ever digital artwork, by Brits Rob & Nick Carter, currently also showing at London's Fine Art Society. A Dutch Vase with Flowers from 1618 comes alive via 24 hrs compressed into a 3 hour animated film. Roses open, a tulip droops, flies buzz, a snail crawls, night descends. The aim Rob says, "is to encourage people to look slower, harder, longer." 
In London they had Van Gogh's Sunflowers cast in bronze via 3D printing, a decomposing frog and Giorgione's Sleeping nude Venus. Amazing.

                                                     Henry Clay Frick 

Monday, 11 November 2013

BOSTON  by  Clare Henry

Given a choice of cleaning the house or cooking I prefer to garden, read or write. Best is meeting new people and seeing new art galleries or artists. We did all these on a recent visit to Boston. For u Brits here is a map.  Boston is famous for welcoming the Pilgrim Fathers and later refusing to pay tax - hence the Boston Tea Party 1773 demo - nothing is new- when they tipped the offending tea into the harbour. 

Nearby Concord - 20 miles to the west, is also famous for its literary folk - Little Women was written there in this house in 1868.
It was also the site of the start of the American war of Independence in 1775 and the ride of Paul Revere. End of lesson. Now to the art!
Boston MUSEUM of FINE ARTS is huge and since the addition of a new 4 storey high, glass wing is enormous. "Less user-friendly place now," a regular visitor told me. I agree. They desperately need better signage for their million folk who come each year.

The new wing (53 galleries for Art of the Americas from ancient & native to 21st C) is reached via a beautiful courtyard - where u can lunch if u fight the queue - before going to see the special Sargent show on till Jan 20th. I thought I knew Sargent (1856-1925) but this wonderful show of 90 pictures, mostly watercolours, is a revelation. The guy worked hard every day - loved it - and his facility is just amazing. But his gift for light, colour, movement of fabrics, flowers, is astounding. He could do anything - especially capture white on white as at the Cararra marble quarry, in a garden, under a Venice bridge. Fantastic.
Sergent - Venice Under the Rialto Bridge 
The contemporary wing contains some predictable stuff - Rachael Whiteread, Chuck Close,, Kiefer, Nevelson, Kara Walker, Tracey Emin, Sean Scully, Albers, but I loved Alex Katz's room full of 30+ 1970s portraits of NY art world friends, some now dead. Also a huge hanging by the African El Anatsui who made his name at the 2007 Venice Biennale. His huge shimmering 'cloths of gold' are made from metal bottle tops, hammered and wired together in vibrant sheets of red, blue and black pattern.

El Anatsui's cloth of gold from bottle tops. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

BANKSY again by Clare Henry

The Empire State was presenting an online LED  light show+ spooky music for Halloween and Rihanna and Damien Hirst played tattoos & Medusa snakes. (Marina Abramovic did it better 20 years ago). 
So what did Banksy do? First he turned a thrift shop landscape into a disquieting scene plus Nazi officer contemplating the view. It's titled "The Banality of the Banality of Evil." Price at auction ? ? Not so banal, I fear. $600,000 they say. Then a cheeta reclining near Yankee Stadium. My favourite is the robot for Coney Island

Best of all he wrote a very articulate Op Ed for the New York Times - which they refused to publish. Read it here or at

But now his NYC October residency - every day a trick or treat to upset the graffitti police - is ended. He's gone! Saying -
"And that's it. Thanks for your patience. It's been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye."