Most works of art convey a specific message from the artist. But at David Best’s new temple in Sonoma County, visitors help build the piece out of their own memories of love and loss.
What do we have, in the end, when a love has gone? When a person has left for good? All that was everything between two people—a romance, a friendship, or simply day-to-day life—disappears. Only our memories never leave. But what if we want them to?
Debra A. Klein
These are the thoughts that might flood visitors to David Best’s Temple of Remembrance in a meadow on the grounds of Paradise Ridge Winery. Like a vaguely Asian-themed birdcage, the deceptively ingenious rusted lattice memorial to love and loss is part shrine, part interactive do-it-yourself art project, as light visually as it is heavy emotionally.
It’s a place to remember the people you’re carrying in your mind or your heart. You can scrawl something on a flat pebble and bury it in a bird-bath bowl, or send a message to them on a piece of cloth set aflutter in the wine country wind. And, in doing so, you release your own feelings, too.
Jason White’s journey from L.A. art gallery to FBI custody, as told through rabid text messages and explosive emails, illustrates the downward spiral of a disturbed and desperate man.
Jason White was a convicted felon from North Dakota who managed to infiltrate the Los Angeles Art world, until he snapped. On Wednesday, FBI special agents arrested the 43-year-old for allegedly stalking, threatening and attempting to extort art world professionals in a series of schemes that stretched from California to the United Kingdom. He was expected to make his first court appearance in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon, facing federal cyberstalking charges.
White’s journey from an L.A. art gallery to FBI custody, as told through text messages and emails documented by the criminal complaint against him, illustrates the downward spiral of a disturbed and desperate man.
The criminal complaint, unsealed for the public on Wednesday, states that White began his multi-pronged harassment campaign against a former employer, colleagues, clients, artists and their children on approximately September 23, 2013. But the story really started months before that, in April 2013, when, according to the complaint, White was hired as a salesman or independent contractor by a fine art gallery in Los Angeles. The gallery’s owner who, in the complaint is referred to as R.B., but will be called “Ray” for the purpose of this story, told Elizabeth Rivas, the FBI special agent charged with investigating the claims against White, that he hired White under the impression that he was a successful and experienced salesman, with many loyal clients that he would bring with him when relocating from North Dakota to L.A. Ray says that White requested all of his paychecks be made out to the Fargo Gallery in North Dakota, which he claimed to own and run. (A Google search for ‘the Fargo Gallery North Dakota” yields no evidence that a gallery by that name exists).
Ray says that it became pretty clear not long after he started that White had neither the experience nor the connections he claimed, never selling enough work by the gallery’s main artist (we’ll call him “Fred,”) to make a commission that exceeded his base salary. White’s financial problems seemed to be taking a toll on his work, and he was constantly getting in arguments with his boss (another victim, referred to in the complaint by the initials “A.S.” Let’s call him “Alex”). On August 15, 2013, Alex says that he and White got into an argument at the office. Later that night, White emailed Ray to notify him that his relationship with Alex was making him unhappy at work and that he was going to look for a new job. He packed up all of his belongings when he went home that evening and a few days later set out on the cyber crusade that would eventually place him at the center of an FBI investigation.
Over the years, the famed photographer's work has been the subject of many shows. But a new retrospective in Paris takes a more complete look at the full range of his career.
It has been a decade since Henri Cartier-Bresson died at the age of 95. While the French icon and founding member of photography powerhouse Magnum Photos has had his share of exhibitions and shows, a new retrospective at Paris’s Centre Pompidou gives the most complete picture of the diversity of his wide-ranging career. Most importantly, it willfully dispels the “decisive moment,” a notion (that has now become a platitude) that Cartier-Bresson has been inextricably associated with throughout his career that concerns a photographer’s perceptiveness in being able to capture the perfect set of visual elements within a single frame.
Martine Franck, Paris, France, 1967 (Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson)
Whereas previous Cartier-Bresson exhibitions have tried to show the unity of the photographer’s vision, the Centre Pompidou argues that his career should be understood through the evolution and range of his work, rather than as a cohesive whole. Diverging from previous monographs, the show doesn’t feature images re-printed specifically for the exhibition. That decision would have forced photos in standardized formats to create a stylistic coherence. Instead, it uses the original prints deemed more revealing of the formal diversity of his work and the epoch in which they were produced. In a similar move, recognizably iconic images are often placed adjacent to lesser-known ones. Organized chronologically—and then thematically within those groupings—the circuit is structured around Cartier-Bresson’s early days (1926-1935), his rising political commitment (1936-1946), and the creation of Magnum and its aftermath (1947-1970s).
Derrière la gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, France, 1932 (Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson)
The two mediums are increasingly coming together, sharing stages, intertwining collections—and collaborating to find a commercial connection with their clientele.
It seems oddly serendipitous that in the same season when some of the world’s most agenda-setting fashion designers have aligned themselves more closely than ever with the world of art, London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and avant-garde showroom Dover Street Market are hooking up to celebrate their (until now) little-known shared heritage.
Beginning Monday, the retailer’s unique selection—from Céline and Chalayan to Givenchy, Alaïa, and, of course, Comme des Garçons (the Japanese design house that owns the space)—will be surrounded by an installation showing rarely seen archival material that evokes the years 1950 to 1967, when the ICA was based in that very six-story Georgian in exclusive Mayfair. What was once a hub where Pop Art and Op Art came into being is now occupied by a mecca for lovers of the most cutting-edge fashion.
The exhibition coincides not only with the publication of Institute of Contemporary Arts: 1946-1968, a new book about the venue’s years on Dover Street, but also with a period when the worlds of art and fashion are becoming more intertwined than ever.
Consider last October’s Chanel Spring/Summer show at the Grand Palais in Paris. Karl Lagerfeld transformed the venue into a glossy art gallery, filled with 75 different Chanel-themed works, including a robotic sculpture with a giant bottle of No. 5 perfume as its torso and a mounted oversize and overturned 2.55 bag, its chain falling into a pile on the floor. The collection itself was a riot of multicolored art references; there was a paint-chart print taken from a Royal Talens sample board and a bag shaped like an artists’ portfolio case.
Built by a mad king and copied by Disney, Neuschwanstein Castle held Hitler’s stash of priceless artworks—until the true-life Monuments Men liberated the stolen collection.
High in the Bavarian Alps, a white castle with soaring turrets overlays a scene of rolling green meadows and snow-capped mountains straight out of a storybook watercolor. The setting is so idyllic it served as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
But the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, nearly straddling the German-Austrian border, once played host to something more sinister than the fairytale setting it inspired. During World War II, the Nazis, aiming to amass a world-class art collection for Hitler’s dream of a “Führermuseum,” stashed thousands of paintings inside the castle. When the war ended, it also closed a 12-year period now recognized as history’s largest art heist—raking in priceless masterpieces from the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci and Vermeer—and the recovery efforts were tasked to an allied unit known as the Monuments Men.
What began as a brain trust of the art world’s finest during the war became a group of 345 men and women from 13 countries that comprised the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section unit. They spent 1945 seeking out more than 1,000 troves containing an estimated 5 million pieces of artwork and cultural items stolen from wealthy Jews, museums, universities, and religious institutions. And for six years after the surrender, a smaller group of about 60 Monuments Men continued scouring Europe as art detectives. Now, on Friday, and more than 70 years after the recovery began, a George Clooney-directed movie documenting their cultural reconnaissance opened in theaters with an all-star cast.
David Bailey is best known for his ultra glam photos of the fashionable and famous. But a new exhibit pairs these works with anonymous portraits of locals taken during his travels.
Some of his philanthropic efforts are a little more light-hearted. As part of his Democracy project, Bailey offered to photograph visitors to his studio buck-naked from 2001 to 2005—an invitation, incidentally, none ever refused. One by one, he asked his subjects to strip and stand in front of an evenly lit, white background, a mere six feet from his lens; once photographed, every image was printed on the same paper, free from edits, and identically framed. The point? To enforce democracy. Bailey banished variation other than that embodied in the sitters themselves. Six of the resulting life-size nudes hang in the Gallery, and, like the images of nameless subjects from his travels, they highlight the personalities of the sitters who arrange their bodies in certain ways. Model Bernd Kho stands legs-spread, fingers pinching nipples, clearly well within his comfort zone, a smile playing across his lips. Tattoo- and piercing-covered, “Prince Albert” is even easier to read. As Bailey said, “you could hire him for parties!” Who doesn’t love a good exhibitionist?
“Just a little bit of pixie dust”—that’s all Peter Pan needed to fly to Neverland. For Londoners lucky enough to find their way to the National Portrait Gallery, the magical substance guaranteed to provide a lift is Bailey’s Stardust, the ultra glamorous photographs by David Bailey.
On display until June 1, Bailey’s Stardust is a large-scale exhibition involving over 300 portraits, the majority of them newly printed for the occasion. A British fashion photographer who transcends the genre, 75-year-old Bailey selected the images himself, making curatorial choices that illuminate his career spanning half a century.
From the series Nagaland by David Bailey, 2012. (David Bailey)
Nathan Sawaya was a corporate lawyer. Now he blows minds on a daily basis with his massive sculptures created entirely of Lego bricks. Here’s his wild story.
It’s the most wonderful, weirdest memory. Remember when you were a kid and you’d play with Lego and, when you were done, you would have circular impressions on your thumbs from pressing the bricks into each other?
Nathan Sawaya, otherwise known as “The Brick Artist,” knows those impressions well—and not just because he has them tattooed on his wrist. “I had a tattoo exactly like that on my thumb, too, but little did I know that the thumb regenerates its skin so fast that it wiped off after a few months,” he tells me. “My tattoo artist expected it to last six months to a year, but given my profession, it was less than three months and it was gone.”
Sawaya’s profession, as it happens, is a sculptor. A Lego sculptor. A Lego sculptor whose exhibition, The Art of the Brick, is breaking attendance records around the world. (And, just in time for the release of The Lego Movie, it is about to return to Manhattan.)
Before World War II’s start, Hitler was driven to create his dream museum containing all his favorite Aryan-approved art. Noah Charney on how the Monuments Men had to unravel the thousands of objects plundered by the Fuhrer’s minions—and what they learned from Napoleon.
When Monuments Men Robert Posey and Lincoln Kirstein walked into the white-washed cottage in the German forest that housed Hermann Bunjes, the Harvard-educated one-time SS officer and art advisor to Herman Goring, they learned of an elaborate plan involving the wholesale looting of Europe’s art treasures. Bunjes, hiding in fear of reprisals against SS officers by angry German citizens, told these fellow art historians about the ERR—the Nazi art theft unit—and about Hitler’s plan to create a city-wide museum in his boyhood town of Linz, Austria: a “super museum” that would contain every important artwork in the world, including a wing of “degenerate art,” a sort of chamber of horrors to demonstrate from what monstrosities the Nazis had saved the world. It was news to Posey and Kirstein, who had to restrain their shock. The Monuments Men had heard rumors of art theft and looting throughout the war, but had no idea of the scale (some estimate that around 5 million cultural objects were looted, lost, or mishandled during the war), the advanced level of organization (scores of Nazi officers and hundreds of soldiers were assigned exclusively to the confiscation, transport, and maintenance of looted art and archival material), and the ultimate destination of the choicest pieces—the Führermuseum. It was years into the war, when this encounter took place, and only then did the Monuments Men finally realized what they were up against. Bunjes further detailed a number of hiding places for looted art, including the famous salt mine at Altaussee, in the Austrian Alps, which contained some twelve-thousand stolen artworks, the mother-load destined for the Linz museum. Posey and Kirstein were on the hunt for The Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, the most influential painting ever made and the most-frequently stolen, but could hardly believe what they were hearing. Yes, The Ghent Altarpiece was the number one target that Hitler wanted as the centerpiece for his museum, both because of its beauty, fame, and importance but also because it had been forcibly repatriated to Belgium from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, and seizing it back would right this perceived wrong against the German people. But here was the chance to save not just this painting, but tens of thousands of artworks.
The race was on.
Hitler’s plan for his museum been on his mind for more than a decade, at least since 1934—for Hitler had long stewed upon the idea of capturing The Ghent Altarpiece for Germany, and had even dispatched a Nazi art detective (and Hitler lookalike), Heinrich Köhn, to find the Righteous Judges panel, one of the twelve that comprises The Ghent Altarpiece, which was stolen from St. Bavo Cathedral in Ghent in 1934, and has never been recovered. Köhn was sent to Ghent to find it before the Nazis stole the rest of the altarpiece. The only reason why they would bother hunting for the one missing panel is if they intended to capture the rest of it as soon as the opportunity arose.
Since the jazz era, Americans have deemed the hippest among us as “cool.” A new exhibit looks back at the stars who have shaped and embodied the concept that is our ultimate tribute.
Parisians have chic, Italians have la dolce vita, Brits have Evelyn Waugh—and Americans will always have cool.
Defining “cool” is a bit like that famous Potter Stewart quote about hardcore pornography—“I know it when I see it.” Who you think is cool, and what you think makes them so, is incredibly personal and subjective.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Willoughby Â© Bob Willoughby
An artist creates art to plug a hole in the universe. A model railroad builder is more practical. But can there be art without intention?
Rod Stewart—yes, that Rod Stewart—is a model train fanatic. This, I admit, took me by surprise, although to deep-dyed Stewart fans and model railroad enthusiasts it’s apparently old news. He has, after all, been at it quite seriously for a couple of decades and a model train fan since childhood. The third floor of his Los Angeles home contains a model railroad layout that measures 23 X 124 feet, and he estimates that he has at least another three years before it’s complete.
I would have known nothing about this had someone not sent me the February issue of Model Railroader magazine with a feature about Stewart’s passion. I laughed when saw the story. And then I began reading about the depth and breadth of his zeal (he has two assistants, he rents an extra hotel room on the road when he’s performing for designing, building, and painting the structures that populate his layout). Then I studied the photographs in the magazine closer—and the more I looked, the more impressed I became. The attention to detail, coupled with carpentry skills and a painter’s eye (he’s colorblind and someone has to check his reds and greens, but still), strongly suggest that here is an artist—a nutty artist, maybe, but an artist.
This begs the question: what is an artist? The answer grows harder to formulate by the day. Someone who makes something out of nothing? Someone who clarifies the world in ways no one had thought of before? Yes and yes, surely, but we know there’s more to it than that. Art, more and more, is a know-it-when-you-see-it commodity.
Are all model train enthusiasts artists? No, but some of them certainly are. You have only to Google model train layouts to behold a wealth of creation. Cities, towns, landscapes—some of them are small, some enormous, some exact replicas of some place and time, and others purely the imaginative creations of their makers. Part of our fascination with this activity has to do with nostalgia, but part also has to do with that far more obscure fascination with making things small, with creating a ship in a bottle, or a small town the size of a suitcase. The people who make these things, the best of them, are curators of the past and creators of totems that resonate in our minds in strange ways. Whenever I stare at a particularly complex train layout, my first thought is always how little the model trains have to do with it. They’re almost an afterthought.
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