There is something about Dorothy and Herbert Vogel that gets to the heart of what collecting art should be and truly is at its most honestly pursued incarnation. But this something is such a stark contrast to what we see in the art market daily that you can’t help but be caught off guard and struck so strongly by it – that it brings you to gasps in looking over their near four decades of collecting. This is the point in the post when we flag that there is an emohobbyist post ahead, if you haven’t caught it already. But never more warranted.
The Vogels collected each in their own right up to their meeting in 1963, but only around that period did they begin in earnest to collect art. Herbie had just purchased a Picasso lithograph prior to meeting Dorothy, which they followed up with a Picasso vase during their engagement and off they went. Throughout their working lives, Dorothy worked as a reference library in the New York Public Library system and Herbie at the Postal Office. Herbie took a graveyard shift so that he could take art history and painting classes at the Institute of Fine Arts during the day. They lived on Dorothy’s salary and devoted Herbie’s entirely to collecting art. They live in a rent controlled apartment throughout, saving enough room for a bed, a small kitchen table and chairs, devoting the rest of the apartment to storing their collection.
What is extraordinary for collectors goes truly beyond even that. They forged relationships, strong indelible friendships, with artists that endured throughout their lives. They devoted their lives to these friendships, to becoming engrossed and truly understanding the movements of art that were burgeoning around them. Herbie had a Saturday afternoon phone date with Sol LeWitt until the artist’s death as he had with several close artist friends. Christo and Jean-Claude credited Herbie and Dorothy with the ability to catch them up on six months of the New York art scene over one dinner, devoting as they did all of their spare moments of the day to thinking about art.
And think about art they did. They got at the core essential sense of art, that some likely never do. But without breaking it down to something esoteric – instead talking about their engagement and their quest to understand it in common sense terms. And yet they collected some of the least tangible, the most inaccessible art that has been produced in the modern period. Minimalism, conceptualism, post-conceptualism – and abstract expressionism, when it wasn’t so widely accepted by the art market.
Over time the Vogels came to be recognized for what they had amassed – a collection that has become one of the most truly spectacular collections in history. They have collected several artists’ work in depth as has not been done elsewhere – such artists as Richard Tuttle and others look to the Vogels’ collection for their own retrospective sense of their oeuvre.
As they started to engender more interest in their collection, Herbie and Dorothy remained committed to donating it to a public institution where people could see it for free since they amassed it while earning salaries working for public agencies. Herbie’s vote for the ultimate recipient, the National Gallery, also happened to be because that was where he took Dorothy for their first date – and her first lesson in art history. They ultimately donated the collection to the National Gallery – in what took a series of five transport trucks to deliver the works from their tiny apartment. To this day they make twice yearly pilgrimages to the Gallery to see their collection in what Herbie describes as trips to go see the kids who’ve gone away to college. The Gallery didn’t have the space to house the entire collection, which led to the beginning of the 50 Works for 50 States project. Together with the Gallery, the Vogels selected 50 works to go to a museum within each of the 50 states. The Blanton in Austin was privileged enough to receive the 50 on behalf of the people of Texas, which were shown in The Collecting Impulse: Fifty Works from Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, which closed last month.
And such a truly beautiful gift it is. The Blanton had previously received a Tuttle as a gift, with these further works by giving such a breadth to his collected work. The entire 2500 works can be seen together on Vogel5050.com, along with additional details about the Vogels. Without a doubt, the clearest glimpse into their lives is through the 2008 documentary by Megumi Sazaki, giving a glimpse into this lifelong pursuit by such a pair to surround themselves, to get at art and let it get into them.
The duo who have pushed the envelope and succeeded in developing Frieze into the successful art fair that it is today, taking over London each October, have expanded across the ocean with Frieze New York, which launches today. Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, with artist, Tom Gidley, founded Frieze magazine in 1991 and launched Frieze Art Fair in London in 2003.
Having just missed Frieze last fall in London, and now missing the launch of Frieze New York, we are understandably green but coping through the help of great art fair online material these days that allow you to live vicariously. For now. Frieze New York is taking place on Randall’s Island with 180 of the leading contemporary galleries worldwide as exhibitors, an impressive Sculpture Park curated by Tom Eccles and Frieze Projects, which launches annual artists’ commissions for the fair.
Art Newspaper estimates that art worth a total of $2 billion has been brought to the city for Frieze New York, falling quickly on the heels of the sale of Munch’s The Scream on Wednesday night at Sotheby’s NYC, creating an auction record at $119 million. Signs that the art world is the canary in the gold mine, as this market appears to be rebounding to pre-recession highs? Perhaps. But what it does do is push the increasingly loud debate of investment vs. obsession to the fore, which often distinguishes the rise of art investment as distinct from the acquisitions by art lovers. As Barbara Kruger’s 2012 work, Too Big To Fail, queried the financial system’s stability, so too can the same question be poised at the secondary art market for art masters. Across the Frieze exhibitor list, it is by far the secondary market pieces that will be making up the biggest portion in terms of dollar figures of works brought to New York this weekend. In this, Frieze will take its place amongst the list of international art fairs where the same level of deals take place in what may be one of the only truly burgeoning markets at the moment.
Feeding one of our favourite trends in the art world, Frieze has a virtual component, of course: Frieze Virtual New York 2012, where you can search by terms such as the artist’s age, price, etc. amongst 1560 artworks represented by galleries at the fair. http://virtual.friezenewyork.com/
One of the best, but sometimes overlooked, aspects to any art fair: the lectures. On this, it doesn’t look like Frieze NY will miss the mark. Of course, no art fair lecture series would be complete these days without a nod to the man, Gerhard Richter, having just had his retrospective at the Tate Modern. Sunday afternoon’s talk, On Land Occupation, should be a relevant discussion about art and practice moving beyond the walls of institutions with artists and writers looking at land occupation and different ways to reimagine borders. It will be interesting to see what reviews follow Friday’s Expanding Museums discussion about the contemporary art museum’s role in the way that we experience our cities and cultures which is to be held by a panel of directors and a chairman of only the biggest stalwarts in the NYC scene. Being francophiles though and avid readers of Andre Malraux’s work, we are green with envy to be missing Georges Didi-Huberman’s discussion of Malraux’s Le Musee Imaginaire.
And for the celebrity car crash that no one seems to be able to turn their eyes away from already? Courtney Love’s first ever art show entitled And She’s Not Even Pretty by Frieze exhibitor, Fred Torres Collaborations. While her watercolours and works on paper are said to be surprisingly good and even giving Frieze darling, Karen Kilimnik, a run for her money, is it necessary for her to clutch a photocopied Art and Culture by her great-uncle, Clement Greenberg as her invitation into this world, as she apparently did at Wednesday’s opening. We are not entirely sure what the granddaddy of modern and contemporary art criticism would have thought of her work and, perhaps her most notorious work, her life – but we’ll see what the critics continue to say at least of Love and the fair.
MF Warner and Tony Durke, two great, emerging artists working here in Vancouver, have come together to have a joint, short run show at the Beaumont Studios from April 26th to April 29th. They will be hosting an opening night party on Thursday the 26th from 7pm – 12am at Beaumont Studios, 316 West 5th Avenue, that we are definitely not going to miss!
MF Warner – or Mitchell, as his mother may call him – is a photographer, filmmaker and craft beer maker who has been developing his work with stills for some time now. Taking inspiration from the quotidian around urban and roadscapes, he transfers these into still, contemplative glimpses of sights we may often overlook. Increasingly focusing on large size reproductions mounted using alternative methods, Mitchell is pushing how these images are experienced by his public and exploring how he himself can push this visual language. We are thrilled to be able to make it out for what will be Mitchell’s first exhibition of his work, having seen a stunning development of the visual texture to his work to date.
Tony Durke works with an entirely different medium, creating his pieces from recycled wood, which is often scavenged from tabletops, plywood, discarded set walls, raw lumber and milled wood. Tony carves out and sands the wood, applying oil paint or stain to create stunning pieces that are abstracted landscapes. Tying his work always back to the environment from which it came, each piece is unique while following a set of personal guidelines and artistic protocol. Speaking of his work, Tony has said that he finds that “texture gives life to form. When form is simplified, it allows us to use our imagination to fill in the biology and architecture. It may be emotional or physical. Real or imagined.”
Tony has studied visual arts, film and music, and has been developing this contemporary take on woodcuts for some time. He has had a few shows to date and his work is currently hanging at the Warren Knapp Gallery in Seattle.
Both lads hail from small towns in B.C., which although we may be biased toward this sort of pedigree, undoubtedly must give them both a comfortability in working in the silences around us in rural or urban landscapes alike in order to offer us up these vivid glimpses of life. This will be a great opportunity to see their works shown together and to see how they will likely play off each other, similarly giving a striking, textured look at their versions of landscapes which we all too often run past.
This week’s featured book in The Travel List series is Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Adichie was hailed as one of the voices of young literary Africa after putting out this stunning first novel, which was only fitting for a girl who grew up in Chinua Achebe’s former house in Nigeria. This, in many ways, is a usual coming of age story of a young girl in all of her shy awkwardness. But, which happens to be set with a backdrop of political turmoil and oppression in Nigeria, which Adichie created in drawing from two different moments in recent Nigerian history, during the ’80s and ’90s. Adichie’s characters are each so well forged in your mind, with the personal struggle of the young teenager with her dominating father playing out against the tension of this political background.
Regardless of where you’re heading, whether it’s Africa, the nearest beach or your bathtub, this book is touching and insightful, and won’t easily leave you.
Travelling tends to stir reflection, with this past weekend away being no different than other trips. One of the things stirring some contemplation these days has been looking to the past year and the giants in the art world that we have lost. Rarely does it seem that we lose a number of artists in the same year who have each singularly played a key role in 20th century art, defining the art of several generations as they led long careers each into their 80s.
Working alongside some of the titans of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art in NYC, Twombly nonetheless developed his practice in a decidedly non-conformist way. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman mythology throughout his career, Twombly often worked these themes out in large scale series of pieces, tying the series together with iconography and metaphor. Twombly used a metaphoric vocabulary of signs and marks in his works, which often blurred the line between painting and drawing, an approach that became the calling card for his long, prolific career. His works are evocative, large scale and visible, while coded and hazy.
In 1995 the Cy Twombly Gallery was opened at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. The gallery, designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano based on an initial sketch by Twombly himself, houses a permanent retrospective of his work. In 2010, Twombly was the third artist to ever have been invited to install a permanent work at the Louvre: a painted ceiling for the Salle des Bronzes.
Perhaps fitting for the grandson of the most notorious psychoanalyst, Lucian Freud redefined portraiture for the art world, creating stark and revealing portraits. Often awkward and introspective, his frank and confrontational portraits of friends, colleagues and models used traditional portraiture techniques in an increasingly abstract world, while upending tradition with his approach to his subjects. A key influence was Francis Bacon, a fellow artist at the Venice Biennale in 1954, whose brushwork led Freud to shift away from his thinly painted portraits of the 40s and into the heavier brushwork that he’s become known for. The transition of his portraits particularly around this time is fascinating, with the brushwork adding to the increasingly introspective nature of the portraits. In recent years, his portrait subjects expanded from his closer circle to include the Queen and a nude Kate Moss.
Born in Germany, Freud moved to London during the interwar period where he lived into his 80s, having become one of the most pre-eminent British painters of his time. Famously living as hard as he practiced his art, Freud had 13 children with several women and loved gambling for many years until, according to him, he no longer had everything to lose.
Helen burst onto the postwar NYC scene with her work Mountains and Sea in 1952 at the age of 23. Returning to NYC from a vacation in Nova Scotia, she was compelled to work with her memories of this trip, nailing a 7 x 10 foot canvas to the floor and gently pouring pigment onto unprimed canvas so that it stained the canvas. For the scale that she was working in and the approach to manipulating paint, it was clear that she owed a debt to Jackson Pollock, but she was pushing her method of working with the paint pigment and its intersection with the canvas in such a different direction that she couldn’t help but catch attention from an early start. Her work became acknowledged as Colour Field painting, or Post-Painterly Abstraction, as Clement Greenberg coined it, grouping together the work of artists working to chart a different path in abstraction from the Abstract Expressionism practiced by Pollock and others – Mark Rothko, Clifford Still, Robert Motherwell and others.
Despite the early recognition and support of her work by Greenberg and her fellow artists, like Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, she only saw a wider recognition with a wider show at the Jewish Museum in 1960 and a major retrospective at the Whitney in 1969. Beyond her paintings, she became known for the lithographs, etchings and screen prints, with her often large scale wood prints being the most impressive. One of the most awe-inspiring works that we saw last year during some art touring of Europe was Blue III, a massive wood print triptych at the Centre Pompidou. She was hugely prolific, working steadily since the heady 50s of NYC and until her death in December at the age of 83.
This week’s featured book in The Travel List series is Patti Smith’s – Just Kids.
Smith chronicles her artistic diaspora from the Midwest to NYC in the late ’60s to seek out her self-definition as an artist, where she almost immediately has a chance meeting with Robert Mapplethorpe. The two go on to have an intense relationship, with a bond that endures until his death, while each forges their respective identities as artists, finding their respective practices that launches the two of them into the avant-garde of music and photography. For a close, exquisite and raw glimpse into NYC during the late ’60s and into the ’70s, this book takes you there. The details Smith gives of their time living in the eponymous Chelsea Hotel make it almost tangible and give life again to several characters now long gone who spent time there – Janis, Jimi and others.
Considering the contributions that Smith and Mapplethorpe have each made, and in her case, continue to make, in the worlds of art and music, to have such an intimate view into where this started for the two of them and how it came to be took my breath away. It felt like walking alongside two friends as they found themselves as artists, each working so desperately to find the medium that allowed them out of themselves – and almost not finding that medium altogether. Smith’s candid account of how they came to be where they are truly gives you some insight into the near misses of many artists and musicians that we have come to know today – if all it took was someone putting a Polaroid in Mapplethorpe’s hands.
This book rendered me speechless at times – and almost as fast, ensured that I could not talk about anything else for at least a month, buying copies for friends to pass along. The accolades that she received for Just Kids - the National Book Award amongst countless other nods and great reviews – could not surprise anyone given the poignancy of this book and its amazing prose. There are lines within it that just stun, leading you to read them over and truly understand that you are reading the prose of a poet – and poets, like Rainer Maria Rilke and others have proven to make excellent novelists and prose writers time and time again. Given the door that Patti Smith opens onto her relationship with Robert, if you can read this on a plane or a beach without some tears, it will be far more than just surprising.
This will definitely be coming with me to NYC in May for the inaugural Frieze NY…an appropriate re-read given the context. I may just have to make a few Patti-inspired pilgrimages to Coney Island and the Chelsea…
Since it’s the time of year that people are generally grabbing a plane to find some real estate on a beach somewhere, a reading list seems like a good place to start before packing. It’s the least that we could do – to help marry up your wandering mind with what it will truly need while you’re laying on a beach or a boat somewhere. The key is to find the right one – that either piques your interest based on where you’re going or just grabs you on the right level, just where you need to be to get the most out of your trip.
Thanks to Tablet for shooting out its list, “Book It: Winter Reads”, of what to read where. Any list that includes Alain de Botton deserves instant credibility and caught my attention right away. The trip envy that that list engendered in me fueled this list. So, over the course of the next several weeks, this list will grow to include books that have been with me on great trips, many of which I would take again for a re-read without hesitation. Enjoy and hope that at least one of these gets you where you need to be on your vacation.
Keith Richards – Life
Because this book is a trip in itself. Need I say more?
Having not been able to put this down myself on my last vacation, I can’t begin this list without it. I was reticent about reading it given Keith’s notorious slagging of Mick in it – with Marianne Faithfull coming to his defence – but then, wouldn’t we all have a little to say about our brothers after a five decades of hard living while running a business together?
Keith takes you from the South in the ’60s back to growing up in postwar Britain and then right along for the ride chronicling how the Stones got to where they are today – and through all the dirt along the way. For the Stones lover, he’s got you. For the guitarist, there’s so much material there. For the music historian, a glimpse at 20th c. blues and rock & roll doesn’t get much better than this. For the pure celebrity of it, well, Perez Hilton has nothing on Keith with the walk-ons of so many interesting characters over the years that he sets out for you. His perspective of these years and how it all fit together for him was what struck me the most about the book – and has stayed with me since returning home and pouring through some of their older albums.
While last weekend was certainly one during which Laurenthehobbyist needed to be here in Austin, being the architect amongst the hobbyist family, you couldn’t miss the opportunity to see what people have done with amazing design-build projects around the gorgeous hills surrounding this lovely city. And so I set off, to take in as much of the Modern Home Tour Austin as I could…Without promising that my eyes picked up on all of the cantilevered details of the projects that I saw over the Modern Home Tour, the overall aesthetics of working with this paysage and the light that we experience daily in Austin definitely come through – not to mention the sheer pleasure of learning what people select for their art collections and getting a glimpse of they choose to live amongst these works.
The Modern Home Tour Austin is a remarkable feat when you think of the leap of faith that people take in opening up their doors simply for the sake of giving us a glimpse of what they have worked so hard to put together – but, which is, nonetheless, their home. Being someone who loves to host people yet, who is not incongruously someone who is nonetheless relatively private, and in particular, one who holds close her “preciouses” – those paintings, sculpture and books that have been painstakingly hoarded from around the world – I know this to be true: it would take a truly charming team to convince me to open my doors. Which is what I am sure the MHT ATX team must have in spades because these homes are truly stunning and something their owners must relish. To truly appreciate them, I didn’t do the whole list – but rather chose to do a few homes to do well and really get to know them.
First home up: 701 West Elizabeth
This house was such an interesting example of a way to build out privacy and light in a relatively close-knit neighbourhood. It also proved how it was possible to design a beautiful place to showcase art without much square footage – but by doing it right, with the right wallspace and light exposure, and of course proper lines from the critical points in the house.
Next up: 1119 Redbud Trail
What couldn’t you do with this house? Jay Hargrave designed and built this house from its initial bones of 900 sq feet and an existing pool. Built into the hills west of central Austin, this house is truly breathtaking. One of those structures where, even aside from its gorgeous location and Austin’s own spectacular lighting at the right times, the possibilities are endless…
As an example, what couldn’t you do from an office like this…? Exactly.
The infinity pool (shown in the first picture above) has been built in to really take the centre stage of the property on first glance – but on closer inspection, each room has been built and designed to truly speak for itself. The bones of the original 900 sq ft house still form a key part of the heart of the house – but it’s been built out to allow the couple who live here to really expand their lives within it.
Last home of the day: 4502 Balcones Drive
The front living room / library that you see jutting out from the photo below was a truly stunning room, situated to look out over the beautifully oaked, hilly countryside in front, while also providing the perfect canvas for a stunning metal bookshelf and some striking art set against well designed furniture pieces.
The architect of the Balcones Drive house, Elizabeth Alford, deserves all of the respect that she has received for this house. Her Balcones house was featured on the 2011 AIA Austin Homes Tour and featured in Tribeza Magazine in October. Elizabeth is a principal in Pollen Architecture & Design with her husband, Michael Young, and partner, Dason Whitsett. Their 12th Street Studios’ project received the AIA Austin Honor Award in 2009, and the UT Austin 2007 Student Architecture Award. The project was published in Architectural Record Magazine in July 2007 and Detail Magazine in 2010.
This house was stunning, with such a beautiful integration of all of the elements around it. A large portion of the one side of the house was built out to use the outdoor space – the outdoor fireplace and yard – with the glass windows structured to slide back to enjoy the fresh air and open up the living space. One of the things that you can love most about a climate like this is precisely that: being able to enjoy your house with a full fresh flow of air in February while looking out onto your garden. Complimented only perhaps by the smell of the bbq in the early evening.
This video has been floating around for a while and we’ve seen it numerous times. It never ceases to make this hobbyist smile. We always picture an intern architect slaving away for hours on this video and yet dream of making one ourselves. Special thanks to Swiss designers Herzog and de Meuron and their team for designing 56 Leonard Street and giving us this week’s ‘video fun’. This playful 56-storey tower in New York sits on the corner of Leonard Street and Church Street in Tribeca. A fantastically well integrated sculpture by Anish Kapoor sit at the corner of the building at street level.
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