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The Tile Guys

NYC's Hidden Subway Masterpiece

A Guastavino vaults in the now-abandoned City Hall subway station in New York

(Photo by Michael Freeman)

The Daily Pic: In 1904 in Manhattan, the great Guastavino Co. gave palatial roofing to a subway station that's now derelict.

Deep under New York City Hall sits this gorgeous abandoned subway station, with vaulting by the great Guastavino firm that ruled the most ambitious American ceilings of the early 20th century.  The firm is the subject of a lovely little show at the National Building Museum in Washington.  Rafael, the patriarch, got his start in Spain then moved to the U.S. in 1881, bringing along a way of using  specially made tiles to roof vast expanses with a thin skin of ceramic. Both the engineering and the tiling were done pretty much on the fly, by rule-of-thumb, but it seems that not one vault by the firm has ever had a loadbearing problem. When today’s masons built a 1/2 scale reproduction of a Guastavino vault for the D.C. show, they had to support it with wood framing as they went – as the Guastavinos never did. A sad factoid from the show: Not all that long ago, contemporary engineers at the Metropolitan Museum couldn’t figure out how to judge the statics of an old Guastavino vault there; baffled by their predecessors’ craft (and maybe shamed by it, too), they simply ripped the roofing out.

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Family Photos

Dads Will Be Dads

“My Father Reading the Newspaper” (1989) by Larry Sultan.

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stewart S. MacDermott Fund, 1991; ©Larry Sultan)

The Daily Pic: In 1989, Larry Sultan caught his father being a 1950s dad.

“My Father Reading the Newspaper” was taken by Larry Sultan in 1989, and is now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in the smart collection show called “Everyday Epiphanies”. Seeing the photo in the flesh, especially, the glowing newspaper gives a lovely sense that Sultan’s photographic paper is itself translucent and letting light through, almost as though his image were mounted in a light box – as though it were representing translucency by being translucent (and then you realize that it isn’t). There’s also something poignant in how the reflection of Sultan Sr.  in the window at rear shows him just as remote and invisible as he is in our child’s-eye view from the front, where he seems to be all newspaper, all  the time.

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Pop Art Duo

Lady Gaga's ‘ARTPOP’ Comes to Life

At a Brooklyn artRave, Lady Gaga unveiled new works by Jeff Koons, including a 3-D version of the cover art for her new album.

It’s a match made in pop culture heaven. Pop artist, Jeff Koons, and the Queen of Pop, Lady Gaga, are on a collaboration spree. Their artistic sparks ignited most recently for Lady Gaga’s artRave party at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 11, where she unveiled an installment of works created by Koons. These sculptures are in his typical style—figures molded out of colorful stainless steel with striking luminosity. The centerpiece of the work is a 3-D version of the cover Koons created for Lady Gaga’s newest album, ARTPOP, which depicts the superstar cast in white plaster giving birth to one of Koon’s shiny, blue Gazing Balls. The two have also recently collaborated to create a special logo to adorn USA Today’s Life section.  

Lady Gaga ARTPOP

Evan Agostini/Invision, via AP


2-for-1 Warhols!

Warhol is taking downtown New York. A new exhibit at POP International Galleries has the largest current display of Warhol’s art…and offers collectors a second piece for only a penny.

Liz Taylor, Judy Garland, Jane Fonda, and Muhammad Ali are just a few of the legendary portraits by American Pop artist, Andy Warhol, that have taken up residency in downtown New York.  These icons, along with other Warhol works, are all on display, up for grabs, and giving one hell of a history lesson.


Andy Warhol

The POP International Galleries, New York, and Revolver Gallery, Los Angeles, have arranged the largest current display of Warhol works in the United States and, quite possibly, the world.

Andy Warhol: Icons and Symbols “encapsulates Warhol’s career from the beginning to the end,” Jeff Jaffe, the gallery’s founder, told The Daily Beast.  They have Warhol’s soup cans from the early 1960s, flowers from the 1970s, and pieces from the “Myths” and “Ad” series from the 1980s.

Armory Show

Painting, Red in Tooth and Claw

Robert W. Chanler, "Leopard and Deer", 1912.

(Rokeby Collection)

The Daily Pic: In 1913, New Yorker Robert Winthrop Chandler was a successful radical, until he got swamped by Matisse and Duchamp.

Everyone cites February, 1913 as the watershed moment in American art, when the Armory Show in New York brought over the first big dose of European modernism. This screen, by New York blueblood Robert Winthrop Chanler, had pride of place in the opening gallery of that show, and is now in the exhibition that celebrates its centennial at the New York Historical Society. Back in 1913, Chanler's utterly wacky screens were some  of the most popular objects on view – a public success where Duchamp and the Fauves had to be satisfied with scandale. And those screens seem to argue that the months and years just before that February were the more interesting ones, when Americans knew they needed some kind of fresh and vigorous art, but had no idea yet what it ought to look like. Chanler made a grab at a solution, but it couldn't compete with its rivals from France. As the NYHS exhibition makes clear, that wasn't at all obvious at the time – and maybe ought not to seem so to us.

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80’s Reunion

Area Art: Bright Lights, Big Club

Four years was all it took for the nightclub Area to leave its mark on New York. A new exhibit at The Hole celebrates its antics on the 30th anniversary.

If there ever was a nightclub that captured the zeitgeist of ‘80s New York, Area was it. Eric Goode, who founded the raucous downtown hot spot in 1983—along with three guys from California, paid a mere $3,000 a month for the 20,000-square-foot space that attracted an eclectic mix of artists, A-listers, celebrities, scenesters, and more, ranging from Malcolm McLaren to Grace Jones, and John F. Kennedy Jr. to Andy Warhol. Those lucky enough to get past the velvet rope were in for a wild time. Every six weeks, the storied nightclub would be completely transformed into an entirely new universe with themes like Natural History, Fellini, and Gardens that involved naked performers, lively antics, and elaborate works of art. Unfortunately, Area faded as fast as it ascended, shutting down just four years after it opened because it couldn’t make enough profit to stay in business.


Dianne Brill with two friends at the 'Area' nightclub, Hudson Street, New York City, circa 1984. (Rose Hartman/Getty)

“It wasn’t about the money,” said Goode, who is now the hotelier and restaurateur responsible for New York’s Bowery Hotel and The Maritime Hotel. “The culture of New York was different. It was lawless, you could drink at 18, you could smoke. We could do pretty much anything we wanted with reckless abandon.”

“He made a lot of fun,” added art dealer Tony Shafrazi. “I had a lot of fun.”


The War Between Rocks and Trees

"Triple", by Giuseppe Penone, is a tree made of bronze.

(Courtesy Madison Square Park Conservancy; photo by James Ewing)

The Daily Pic: Giuseppe Penone's bronze trees take their licks.

One of three peculiar trees made entirely of bronze by Giuseppe Penone, now installed in Madison Square Park in New York care of Mad. Sq. Art.  In the late 1960s, Penone  made excellent work that distorted live trees, but I quite like this latest simulacrum. It's not trompe-l'oeil for its own sake, but in order to make an imaginary, and otherwise impossible, intervention into nature. Hard to see how you'd get a volcano to spit boulders just where you needed them to fall...

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From a musical performance that gossips about Beyoncé to opera singers on bicycles, the team behind PERFORMA picks the nine must-see shows during the festival’s fifth installment.

PERFORMA—the nearly month-long biennial celebrating the multi-faceted realm of performance art—is back for its fifth installment. Featuring over 100 events in more than 40 venues, PERFORMA celebrates a wide-range of artistic disciplines through audience participation. This year, the exhibitions are driven by Surrealism, integrating the art movement's historical legacy into various forms of music, dance, and design.

In no particular order, the team behind PERFORMA offer their suggestions of the nine best performances to see this month.

(PERFORMA 13 runs through November 24.)


courtesy the artist

Pushed to the Limits

Lick and Click

Emma Roberts

Emma Roberts

Tyler Shields has a long history of shooting stars in controversial poses—Mischa Barton licking raw meat, Lindsay Lohan with a gun in her mouth. A new book showcases his greatest hits.

"Tyler Shields saved my life. Right after he almost killed me,” writes actress Emma Roberts in the opening of Shields’s new book, The Dirty Side of Glamour (Available November 12, It Books). She then proceeds to describe her experience of being pushed off of a bridge—all for a photo.

Shields has built his career around capturing almost death-defying scenarios, such as his Suspense series, which included Roberts flying through the air and falling from bridges, and Glee star Heather Morris sporting a severly black eye. Not to mention his infamous photo of the annihilation of a $100,000 Birkin bag.

Somehow, Shields has a way of getting his celebrity friends to do just about anything—even things no one believed he would be able to. According to the artist, that was a lot of people’s mindset during the beginning stages of his career. “I started it probably five or six years ago,” Shields told The Daily Beast. “I had all of these crazy ideas and people were just like, ‘That will never happen. You’re never going to be able to get celebrities to do this, to get out of their comfort zone.’”

He began by contacting friends—among them actors Ashley Greene, Shiloh Fernandez, Juno Temple, and Kelen Lutz—who, at the time, were all just beginning their careers. Everyone jumped on board. They all wanted to do something unforgettable—even if that meant momentarily fearing for their lives.


Creating Art After War

Art isn’t only a form of therapy for veterans; some just want to express themselves. Expanding opportunities for veterans in creative fields would benefit them and the art world.

There are many stigmas associated with veterans returning from combat. We are all presumed to suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress, and many believe we simply don’t have the capacity to properly assimilate back into society. This assumption can be especially difficult for those of us who enlisted in the military to be part of something larger than ourselves—and who consider art-making and creative expression a continuation of, rather than a release from, service.

Because most people see the military and the arts as two very different worlds, they assume I am pursuing the arts because it serves as a kind of therapy, preparing me for reintegration or allowing me to express years of traumatic experiences. While those realities surely exist for many veterans, that very assumption creates a bias that is incredibly difficult to overcome. The truth is that many military service members are creative individuals who continue to innovate, serve in their communities and use the arts to communicate a unique veteran perspective.

In 2009, I returned to the arts after eight years in the military, during which I was deployed four times for Operation Enduring Freedom in Southeast Asia. Although I had been out of the arts scene for nearly a decade, I was by no means new to it. I had been a musician and performer all of my life. I was excited to reconnect with my love of the arts, but I was especially struck by meeting so many other veterans who had similar stories of putting their love of the arts on hold to serve. So I approached the programming director of a small community arts organization in Baltimore and shared my idea for a showcase in which veterans from different disciplines would present their creative skills. I will never forget the director’s response: “I don’t know—veterans tend to be long-winded.”

I believed the programming director in Baltimore sincerely wanted to highlight veteran experiences for her community, but I knew it would be an uphill battle to do so on my community’s terms. We were being boxed in, once again. I realized then the next battle I was meant to fight: bridging the gap for veterans between a life in the military and a career in the arts.

Furry Friends

Murakami’s Monster Mash


Jason Schmidt for Harper’s BAZAAR

The Superflat artist's fantastical creatures pose alongside model Angela Lindvall for Harper's Bazaar's December/January issue.

For its latest issue, Harper’s Bazaar teamed up with Superflat artist Takashi Murakami. Murakami’s fantastical monsters—from his film Jellyfish Eyes—modeled alongside model Angela Lindvall for a shoot in Los Angeles. The group—which featured "8 Eyes," who resembles a defalted inner-tube, a Strawberry Shortcake-style "Kurage-Bo," and a Where-The-Wild-Things-Are-Meets-Furby "Luxor"—ordered In-and-Out burgers, sampled snow cones, and relaxed poolside at The Standard. All in a day’s work for Murakami, who makes a cameo appearance at the fast-food hot spot (he ordered the cheeseburger and fries, his favorite).

Murakami has already reached cult status in his native Japan with his anime, manga, and childhood imagination-inspired portfolio of paintings, cartoons, and sculptures. In 2002, Marc Jacobs commissioned Murakami to design a line of handbags for Louis Vuitton, and in 2007, he created the cover art for Kanye West’s Graduation album.


Jason Schmidt for Harper’s BAZAAR

In April, Murakami released his film Jellyfish Eyes, inspired by “a manga called GeGeGe no Kitaro” from the 1960s. Based on a Japanese folklore about a spirit-monster who lived in a graveyard, the manga, said Murakami, “accidentally formed the basis for the rest of [his] life.” Out of all the characters Murakami has created, he refers to Oval, a dejected outcast summoned to earth by scientists against his will, as his favorite because “basically he is my self-portrait.”


News of the Weird

Rene Magritte's "Man with a Newspaper", from 1928

(Tate collection, London © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002)

The Daily Pic: At MoMA, René Magritte captures the feel of photos, but not their look..

This is René Magritte's strange (of course) "Man with a Newspaper", painted in 1928 and now on loan from Tate to the retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. What struck me most about the show is how brilliantly bad Magritte was as a painter. In reproduction, it can sometimes look like he's channeling the techniques of the Old Masters – almost always a problematic, pandering move. In fact, though, Magritte is channeling the techniques of a mediocre hobbyist or sign painter, and translating them into fine art. In this image, the multiplication of almost identical views evokes photography, even as the ham-fisted manner fights against that reading. In photography, we assume that each image freezes a moment in time: That the static is always also a blink and a glimpse, meant to capture, say, a room with and then without its occupant. But what does it mean for a painting to adopt the same pose, when there's clearly no frozen blink involved? 

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Billion-Dollar Stash

The Nazis’ Art Hoarder

The dealer who sold off modern art that Adolf Hitler considered garbage saved masterpieces from destruction – and for himself. His billion-dollar stash has now been uncovered.

The Nazis had a deadly aesthetic. In the 1930s, long before they turned to the wholesale extermination of people they deemed sub-human, they burned books and paintings they considered “degenerate” in their rage to “purify” their culture as well as their race.

Stolen Art

1,500 priceless artworks, including from top left, Otto Dix, Franz Marc and Marc Chagall were found at this apartment building in Munich, Germany on November 4, 2013. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty)

But the Nazis’ savagery had a cynically mercenary side as well. They would sell what Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering called “garbage” seized from Jews and stripped from the walls of museums -- paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Kandinsky and others -- to raise millions of dollars in hard currency for their favored projects.

One of the Reich’s four specially appointed art dealers, employed by the Nazi Commission for the Exploitation of Degenerate Art, was the late Hildebrand Gurlitt. This former museum director, who’d been fired by the Nazis in 1930 for exhibiting modern masterpieces -- and because his grandmother was Jewish -- was rehired later in the decade for his expertise. And by the end of the war he had managed to hoard at least 1,400 hugely valuable works for himself.


Can A Fake Be As Good As Real?

Portrait of a man with a beard, in the style of Rembrandt.

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889)

The Daily Pic, Met Monday Edition: A forger's Rembrandt may carry us back to the master's own day.

This is that rare thing – a Pic I haven’t seen in the flesh, because I couldn’t, because this “Rembrandt” has been declared an 18th-century British fake and therefore consigned to the vaults of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which has owned and even loved it it since long before it was doubted. (Click on my image to see the piece in great detail.) In yesterday’s New York Times, I argued for the value of forgery, for reasons such as that a picture like this, which gave pleasure and insight as a Rembrandt until something like 1940, ought to still give the same kind of joy and knowledge – maybe even knowledge of Rembrandt’s art. (If it succeeded in fooling and pleasing people, it was because it had enough genuinely Rembrandtian features to work as a Rembrandt.) 

But today I want to voice a caveat. Works of art aren’t only about providing sensations and pleasures and insights to us, now, in the 21st century. They also function as historical documents, pointing back to past moments. As such, we want and need them to have an accurate connection to the past they represent, regardless of what they may do for modern art lovers. Thus, despite my doubts about connoisseurship, it could be that authentication and correct attribution are useful insofar as they create a kind of visual “chain of evidence” that certifies the link between a current object and the moment of its birth.

Then again … as I said, for a forgery to deceive at all, it has to preserve a great many features of a genuine object. So, in evidentiary terms, it may be best to think of a fake as being quite like a later, slightly corrupted edition of an ancient text whose earliest manuscripts no longer exist (which is the case with the vast majority of very old writings)  or even as a blurred photocopy of a lost document. If someone launched a new kind of fake-bomb that destroyed every original Rembrandt, the surviving forgeries would still give us a strong link to the art he made, and to the moment of its making. Maybe we need to stop thinking, as the market does, of works as either by a given artist or not. We may want to think in terms of a complex Venn diagram which maps a series of works as being more or less closely linked to a given moment of important art making – a diagram that would register Rembrandtism, rather than Rembrandt himself. And could it even be that a work by a follower, or even by a much later forger, gets closer to the core of the concept than a lame piece by the master himself?

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Will Cotton’s Candy World

Artist Will Cotton opens a new show of prints in New York featuring Elle Fanning as a candy princess. He talks about diving into the world of high fashion and his new macaroon flavor.

Will Cotton is a master of fantasy. He deals in worlds we only dream of—or at least faintly remember from a childhood game of Candy Land.

Will Cotton's Candy World at Pace Prints (Photos)

Will Cotton's Candy World at Pace Prints (Photos) (© Will Cotton. Photo courtesy Pace Prints.)

His paintings are literally other-worldly: giant expanses of Cotton Candy clouds emanating seductive nudes, treacle gingerbread houses dripping with sweets; striking, almost-Renaissance portraits of individuals topped with candy headpieces. In 2011, Cotton painted Katy Perry on a candy cloud—a piece that later became the singer’s album cover—and also designed the sets of her famous Candy Land-inspired “California Gurls” music video.

Now, he releases another body of work: a set of striking prints at PACE Prints in New York, many of which are the product of a commission from New York magazine earlier this year. The subject is the dough-eyed actress Elle Fanning dressed in current fashions, all rendered with a highly imaginative (and subversive) Cotton twist. There’s Elle piping frosting onto a Dolce & Gabbana cage dress, an elaborate headpiece constructed out of cupcake foils, and a Dior dress wrapped in a giant candy wrapper.