When an artist begins,
they try to bury him with neglect.
When he gains a small foothold,
they try to bury him with criticism.
When he becomes more established,
they try to bury him with covetous disdain.
When he becomes exceptionally successful,
they try to bury him with dismissals as irrelevant.
And finally, all else failing
they try to bury him with honors!
This is how James Wines of SITE, quoting Jean Cocteau, accepted his 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at their National Design Awards. Wines joined a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ group that includes Richard Saul Wurman, Bill Moggridge, Paolo Solari, the Vignelli’s, Dan Kiley, and Frank Gehry.
Last night’s awards program was a special one as the Museum—led by its new director, Caroline Baumann, and an indefatigable team—worked throughout the government shutdown of the least two weeks to put on a spatular gala that gave awards to designers that included Janette Sadik-Khan, Michael Sorkin, Studio Gang Architects, Paula Scher, Aidlin Darling Design, and Margie Ruddick.
These figures each asked a special commentator to introduce them. Theaster Gates presented Jeanne Gang from Chicago and Michael Kimmelman said that Michael Sorkin was the first person he spoke to when he decided to be the New York Times architecture critic. Sorkin accepted his award for “Design Mind” with a powerful tribute—as only he can—to his late friends and intellectual mentors, Lebbeus Woods and Marshall Berman.
Al Gore presented the TED Talks with an award and finally it was left to Tom Wolfe to introduce James Wines, who he said had created the “first really new architecture after modernism” in his famous Best Stores which “added nothing to the architecture” only re-arranged what was already” as in his Best ‘Notch’ project in suburban Sacramento, California. Wolfe claimed that Wines wanted to replace “plop art” like formal plaza sculptures by Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi with a new form that put the art onto the architecture.
Its about time that Sorkin, who is our greatest living architecture critic to not have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, and Wines, who is not a registered architect, to be given an award as a great architect.