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Peter Beard's Natural Wonders

Banksy is in New York! Follow his residency on The Daily Beast's interactive timeline and Livefyre Media Wall of the artist’s daily works.

Oligarch Shopping Spree

Watching Le Corbusier Become Fabergé

An installation view of Amie Siegel's HD video called "Provenance"

(Courtesy Amie Siegel and Simon Preston, New York)

The Daily Pic: Amie Siegel's new video shows us how utopian treasures become fancy goods.

A moment from Amie Siegel’s brilliant new video called "Provenance", up for another few days only at Simon Preston Gallery in New York. Siegel traces the fate of the furniture designed in the early 1950s by Le Corbusier, with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, for his government complex in Chandigarh, then the new capital of the Indian state of Punjab.

Siegel begins at the story’s end, as it were, by showing us restored tables and chairs in the homes of Western millionaires – in a London townhouse, a New York apartment and, on the high seas, in a yacht  that comes complete with elevator and electric doors. Then Siegel shows us similar pieces set in the fancy shops and auction houses where the super-rich, or their decorators, sourced their finds. (We watch as one Chandigarh table gets hammered down for almost $100,000.) We next see the furnishings in wholesalers’ warehouses and restorers’ workshops, then in containers on ships heading to Europe from India – shades of Allan Sekula’s great “Fish Story” – and finally we see them where they started life in Chandigarh itself. At home, they mostly sit neglected in odd office corners or stacked pell-mell and rotting in storage; only a few still get some respect in more ceremonial spaces. 

Siegel lets us watch the process whereby objects conceived in a brief moment of utopian hope, for use by a government of and for the Punjabi people, get turned into deluxe goods for an international oligarchy.

Funny thing is, as design the furniture itself is not all that great; it can’t compete with Le Corbusier’s chrome pieces from the 1920s. In fact, some of its pieces have a stuffy, club-chair quality that rather suits the “exclusive” designer decors where it is now ending up. The only reason a Chandigarh piece counts as a treasure is because it has ties to a famous man and has a certifiable source in a celebrated project of his – a project that happens to have a spirit completely opposed to the ethos of the one-percenters who have looted its treasures. (No one spending a fortune on a Chandigarh piece can be blind to the fact that such a treasure ought to return to its home in India – even if Indian bureaucrats once sold it as junk and are only now waking up to its virtues.)

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If These Walls Could Talk

Portraiture

A Real Beard on Provisional Flesh

A male portrait by Hugo van der Goes

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929)

The Daily Pic: In around 1475, Hugo van der Goes paints what he can count on as truth.

This portrait was painted by Hugo van der Goes (pronounced “Hose”, more or less) in about 1475 and is now in the rehung Old Masters galleries at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I’m fascinated by the contrast between the lack of spatial naturalism in such Flemish pictures (there’s something a bit off in the rendering of this sitter’s head) and their extraordinary surface illusionism (his sandpaper beard and liquid eyes could not be more convincing). It’s as though the artists are unwilling to commit to the ontological solidity of things in the sublunary world, but are happy to capture their superficial appearances.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

While parts of the country are accelerating in terms of gay rights, the South has moved a bit slower. One photographer headed south to document that change.

Silence.

That’s the best word to describe the current attitudes toward homosexuality in the American South, according to photographer Christian Hendricks.

“The explicit notions of … homophobia are mostly gone,” he says—but in their place, an unspoken discomfort reigns.  So what better way to capture that silence than a photograph? 

Hendricks, a 24-year-old documentary photographer and filmmaker from Cincinnati, Ohio, took a seven-week journey through the South beginning in August to document queer culture in small towns and major cities, including Corinth, MS, and Atlanta, GA.  The project, titled “South of the Ohio” and funded by Kickstarter, is already starting to generate buzz through the Internet.

Real Men Wear Plaid

Burberry, Worldwide Rite of Passage

"Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzantsi, Khungsile Mdolo after their initiation ceremony, Mthatha, South Africa" (2008), by Pieter Hugo

(© Pieter Hugo; courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York)

The Daily Pic: In South Africa, Pieter Hugo shoots five boys in their new adult garb.

"Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzantsi, Khungsile Mdolo after their initiation ceremony, Mthatha, South Africa," is a photo taken in 2008 by South African photographer Pieter Hugo and now in his powerful solo show at Yossi Milo gallery in New York. I'm told that these young men are supposed to wear their Burberry-ish plaid for a full year after circumcision ushers them into  adulthood. Funny, but I've known wealthy young people in America who seem to follow the same rule, minus the cutting. If it were a matter of choosing, I might pick the knife over the plaid.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

The Master

An Ode To Alaïa

A new exhibition at the Palais Galliera in Paris pays homage to the legendary designer Azzedine Alaïa. Sarah Moroz reports.

The Palais Galliera, Paris’s most famous fashion museum, has reopened its doors after four years of closure for renovations. And, this week, it’s back on the cultural scene with bang with a tribute exhibit to legendary designer Azzedine Alaïa. Or, as Olivier Saillard, the curator of the exhibit and the director of Palais Galliera calls him: Monsieur Alaïa.

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There’s certainly good reason that Alaïa is spoken of so reverentially: the couturier is a kind of style sensei, a horse-whisperer of the female form. His made-to-measure garments were inspired by and brought to life on the haunches of the most legendary, glamorous figures: Louise de Vilmorin, Arletty, Greta Garbo in the1960s and 70s, and a slew of marquee supermodels such as Stephanie Seymour and Veronica Webb.

Basically, to employ the bons mots of Cher Horowitz: he’s like, a totally important designer.

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Woman as Fancy Slit?

"Spatial Concept – Portrait of Iris Clert," by Lucio Fontana

(Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, Courtesy Dominique Levy, New York)

The Daily Pic: In 1961, Lucio Fontana portrayed his female dealer as a cut – hold the "n".

This is “Spatial Concept: Portrait of Iris Clert”, painted by Lucio Fontana in 1961 and now on loan from a private collection to the exhibition called “Audible Presence”, which inaugurates the new Dominique Levy gallery uptown in New York. The piece has been billed as Fontana’s tribute to his famous dealer, but – how to put this delicately – there’s something a bit … special … about portraying a woman as a bejewelled slit. It also gives a new twist to how we read the “abstract” knife-slits in Fontana’s other “Spatial Concepts”.

I think Fontana’s work runs the same danger as the work of many other official geniuses (especially in Europe, and especially when it has a posh market): The work gets deprived of its faults, and thus of its energy. Fontana, as Levy’s show proves, could veer from brilliant composition to tacky decoration, and sometimes into bad taste. Good for him.   (Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, Courtesy Dominique Levy, New York.)

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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Balthus Invented the Internet

Body Building

The Terminatrix

Two images from "Time Lapse (Front)" (2011) by Heather Cassils.

(Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York)

The Daily Pic: Artist Heather Cassils moved toward an uber-male ideal, gaining 23 pounds in 23 weeks.

These are two of the 100 photos that make up the latest iteration of “Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture”, a work from Heather Cassils’s  solo show at Ronald Feldman gallery in New York. It is, of course, a kind of remake of the documentation from Eleanor Antin’s 1972 piece called “Carving: A Traditional Sculpture”, a 45-day diet that let Antin carve herself into a feminine form that came closer to our culture’s longstanding (and confining) ideal.  In Cassils’s riff, the artist became a bodybuilder, gaining 23 pounds in 23 weeks to achieve a more powerful, masculine idea of perfection. “Opposing the notion that in order to be officially transgendered one has to have surgery or take hormones, Cassils performs Trans not as a crossing from one sex to another, but rather as a continual process,” reads the show’s press release. In other words, we are all trans, one way or another, as we try to build our picture of which gender we belong to.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

Architecture

A Pain In the Apse

A Pain In the Apse Eloy Alonso/Reuters

Santiago Calatrava’s genius comes with a big price tag and bigger problems.

The architect behind some of the world’s most beautiful structures turns out to be a royal pain. Santiago Calatrava is known for his spectacularly radical architecture. But according to The New York Times, he’s also known for going spectacularly over budget, forgetting necessary elements in his designs, and leaving behind a slew of problems after completing construction. It seems like almost every past client has been left dissatisfied or embroiled in legal battles with the Spaniard. Calatrava has reportedly left Valencia, Spain, almost 700 million euros in debt for a complex that was budgeted at 300 million euros. Lucky for New York, this guy is also behind the new Lower Manhattan PATH train construction—the one that is six years behind schedule and will cost twice the original budget of $2 million. Sure, it will be beautiful, but will he be worth it?

Read it at The New York Times

The Original NSFW

Exhibitionists Through the Ages

A new exhibition in Paris explores the role of the male nude in art over several hundred years—from Jacques-Louis David to Robert Mapplethorpe. Sarah Moroz reports.

“Why had there never been an exhibition dedicated to the male nude until the Nackte Manner at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last year?” speculates the opening panel for a new exhibition, Masculin/Masculin—a sweeping history of male nudity in art—which opens at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris this week. 

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Courtesy of Musée d'Orsay

Why indeed. Female nudity is so omnipresent in art—and seemingly in every other media context—that, as a society, we’re inured to a woman showing off her body in its entirety. But the male nude, by contrast, has a tendency to go raunchy fast. (An art historian friend was quick to rechristen this exhibit Dicks, Dicks, Dicks.) The Musée d’Orsay seemed to sense this, and thus was swift to state, as a counteroffensive, that: “We must distinguish above all between nudity and the nude: a body simply without clothes, that causes embarrassment with its lack of modesty, is different from the radiant vision of a body restructured and idealized by the artist.”

With this directive in mind, the Masculin/Masculin exhibit showcases more than two centuries’ worth of depictions of male nudes, subcontracting the topic into different thematic strata related to religion, mythology, athleticism, homosexuality, and shifting notions of manliness. Without adhering too strictly to chronology, it includes artists as diverse as Jacques-Louis David, Gustave Moreau, David Hockney, Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Ron Mueck.

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Kate Moss Hits the Block

Fashion Forward

If Pregnancy Were the New Black

"Exposed: An Armory of Physical Longings #2" (2011), by April Dauscha

(Courtesy April Dauscha)

The Daily Pic: April Dauscha imagines bustles worn in front.

A simple but effective piece by an artist named April Dauscha, from the group show called “”Underneath It All: Desire, Power, Memory & Lingerie”, at the ISE Cultural Foundation on Broadway in New York. Dauscha has imagined a fashion “enhancement” that recognizes and celebrates pregnancy, even in the unpregnant, the way earlier support structures  – the side-hoops of Marie-Antoninette; the Victorian bustle – had advertised women as sexual goods.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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