Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Paris in 48

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

View from taxi

In the two free days between Documenta 13, Manifesta 9, and Art 43 Basel, I found myself in Paris, for the first time since I lived briefly in student housing in the Cité International Universitaire in the first months of 2000. Back then, I had one of those brilliant art gallery internships: when there was nothing to do in the office, I was told to go see the museums and galleries of Paris and report back on what was going on. Here I was—12 years later—retracing my steps. First stop: Centre Pompidou to see how they hang the collection; what vitrines, pedestals, and plinths they build; and if the library was still as magnificent as I remember it. Second stop: The Palais de Tokyo for the Paris Triennial, Intense Proximité. The exhibition design was a bit chaotic as the museum is amidst a renovation, but its open plan appealed to me and the chain-link fencing for walls wasn’t half bad, if a bit like being jailed in an art prison.  Third stop: Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris to see a group show of young artists from Mexico called Resisting the Present. A lot of new-to-me work and a worthwhile bookend to my recent trip to Mexico City. Fourth stop: The galleries of the Marais for shows with Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Taryn Simon, and Carsten Höller, among others. Fifth and final stop: A taxi, gazing up through the sun roof, not sure when I’ll be back.

The Bayernhof or Little Bavaria, Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Have 3 free hours and $10 to burn in Pittsburgh on a Saturday? You could easily put down 6.67 drafts of cheap beer and while away the hours in a dark smoky dive bar. But here, I give you a far superior alternative, one that is possibly just as cave-like and trippy: the Bayernhof Museum. Perched on a hill overlooking the Allegheny River sits a beautifully elaborate and, at times, awkward mansion built to house one of the largest privately owned collections of antique mechanical musical instruments. Outside the main entrance, an ominous sign greets visitors: if you arrive early, kindly wait in your car until the tour begins. On the dot, the door creaks open and you think you’ve entered the Neuschwanstein Castle—if the Bavarian kingdom abutted the era of 1980s home entertainment technology. Each room of the Bayernhof houses a different enchanting machine for listening: nickelodeon player pianos, nickel-operated Wurlitzer organs, harps and banjos, phonographs, an enormous pipe organ orchestra made for silent films, even a dainty singing bird cage. The tour, led by the museum’s curator, takes a circuitous path from room to room of German kitsch, beer steins, and Hummel figurines, past the 18 stocked bars of the house, a shower with over 10 shower heads, an observatory, down a small hidden staircase into a subterranean lair through a cool, dark wine grotto that leads to a large pool room littered with colorful, rustic wallpaper murals and faux flower arrangements. There is even a purple felt billiards table along the way, but alas, I’ve already said too much. Advanced reservations recommended, no nickels required. In one final word: magical.

Shanghai Museum

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

I’m just back from my month-long trip, which brought me from twelve days in China to Zagreb, Berlin, Kassel, Paris, Genk (Belgium), and Basel. Pittsburgh feels perfect right now—I’m happy to be home. Before I leave again for the 20th anniversary celebrations and conference at CCS Bard, I wanted to get at least one post up. Here are a few highlights from my visit to the Shanghai Museum. They have a beautiful collection, with especially incredible displays of seals, traditional costume of China’s ethnic minorities, and jade. After so many days of contemporary art, it was deeply refreshing to spend a few hours in these dark, cool galleries, with expertly crafted, soulful objects.

Anahuacalli

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Like a Mayan pyramid, the Anahuacalli Museum rises from a dense, old neighborhood in the southern environs of Mexico City, a good 1.5-hour taxi ride from your next destination (unless it’s Frida Kahlo’s house and collection a short distance away). Anahuacalli houses Diego Rivera’s collection of pre-Hispanic art and artifacts in glorious display cases spread across mostly small dark rooms made of volcanic stone with mosaicked stone ceilings (and some floors) that weave together symbols of the Teotihuacan culture with the occasional hammer and sickle. Rivera with his friend, the architect and muralist, Juan O’Gorman conceived of the design, although Rivera didn’t live to see its completion. This spring, Kurimanzutto gallery hosted an exhibition of British artist Sarah Lucas’s bodily assemblages made of mostly nylon pantyhose and cotton stuffing contorted and placed on pedestals of stacked adobe bricks, all sourced in Mexico. It’s hard to imagine anything looking bad in Anahuacalli—the name means “House of Energy,” and the feeling of walking through its many halls as you ascend its four floors is one of effervescence met with an air of solemnity.

 

ART HK

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

I arrived in Hong Kong after a 24-hour trip from Miami (Miami to LA, LA to Hong Kong). I checked into my hotel around 10:00 PM, and finally made it out to find a late dinner around 11:00. I slept well…until I was awoken (on the 19th floor of my hotel) by celebrating Chelsea football (soccer) fans in the streets at 6:30 in the morning. Congrats, Chelsea, on the Champions League win…and for waking me up. This felt like a uniquely Hong Kong post-imperialist situation. At 11:00 AM I made my way to Art HK. A few British dealers were bleary-eyed in sunglasses, slouching in their booths. I had a crazy day of running around trying to see this enormous fair in six hours. At 2:40 I did a talk with writer HG Masters at the Art Asia Pacific booth. I was followed by artist (and Pittsburgh resident) Bill Kofmehl. Out of 35 talks, over four days, there were 6 people from the US. Two out out of six were from Pittsburgh…not bad! I got to see and talk with many galleries new to me over the course of the day.