Posts tagged with "Art Institute of Chicago":

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Piano Bombed

Chicago is known for the combination of its excellent architecture and tough, gritty urban life. Both aspects of the city's personality met briefly yesterday, when two graffiti crews tagged a long wall of the Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing at the Art Institute. While we would never endorse vandalism, there is no denying the visual power of the bright colors and riotous script dashed across Piano's formal surfaces. The Art Institute, however, did not ponder the artistic merit of the tags. Cleaners from Graffiti Blaster were removing this tags within minutes. The tags, momentarily at least, renewed the debate about how graffiti functions, its artistic value, and its relationship to art institutions--no small feat for a few cans on spray paint. (Tip: Gapers Block via Fat Caps and Chrome.)
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The Makers of the Design Canon

You probably would not expect to find the ubiquitous "@" symbol in the same category as the Olivetti portable typewriter, the Saarinen tulip chair, or the Pininfarina Cisitalia 202 GT car. But on Saturday at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, persuasively argued for its inclusion in MoMA’s famed design collection alongside the items described above. Within the very small world of museum architecture and design curators the AIC’s symposium, “Modern Construction: Creating Architecture and Design Collection” assembled a blue-chip group to discuss acquisition methodologies, philosophies, and approaches. In addition to Antonelli, speakers included Ingeborg de Roode, Curator of Industrial Design, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Frederic Migayrou, Deputy Director, Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre de Creation Industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou; and Mirko Zardini, Director, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. AIC’s Joseph Rosa, John H. Bryan Curatorial Chair of Architecture and Design, and Zoe Ryan, its Neville Bryan Curator of Design, completed the roster. Each offered a history and overview of his or her collection, collecting principles and acquisition strategies. Any discussion of architecture in the museum arena has to start from the central idea that a museum can’t really “collect” architecture. As Rosa explained in his introductory remarks, museum architecture departments have traditionally acquired drawings, models, photographs and fragments relating to buildings. But that’s changing. Over the course of his career, Migayrou has built two large architecture collections, practically from scratch: first for the FRAC Orleans, and later for the Pompidou, and seems to have had a swell time doing so. He breathlessly ripped through scores of images of items he had acquired at both institutions, which validated his belief in niche collecting. By originally focusing on unbuilt projects of the post WWII era, he said he was able to obtain a lot of material “that MoMA didn’t want,” including such gems as le Corbusier’s original collage limning the familiar Modulor graphic and the two most iconic illustrations from Koolhaas’ Delirious New York. Beyond acquiring items in traditional formats, curators of contemporary work are grappling with issues related to digitization. In the architecture and design areas, more so than with “fine art,” it’s probably a more significant concern, because so much of the production increasingly exists in digital format. For CCA, this has meant making much of its traditional holdings--drawings, plans, correspondence and other ephemera--available online. Zardini said it’s an important new kind of presence, a different framework for institutions, and one that brings its own set of issues: when you select which items to make digitally available, you’re editing, making a collection within your collection. Antonelli also stressed the importance of embracing new media and formats. “Digital capabilities could free curators from the constraints of physical collecting,” she predicted. But it’s not without its challenges. In one instance, she wanted to acquire an early iteration of an e-mail graphic interface, but wondered what, precisely, to acquire.  The original (probably broken-down) computer where the program was created? The actual programming code? A new machine with the old graphic interface? Video of designers revising the code for the new machine? All of the above? “Everything,” she said, “goes into the big minestrone of progress.” Unlike architecture, design collection is generally a lot more straightforward, since many design objects are small and portable, and available to purchase outside of the high end auction houses. This has helped Ryan acquire an impressive group of objects by contemporary designers, although, having just started to build AIC’s collection over the last three years,  she said, “our work has just begun.” Her comment touched on one subject area that went more or less unexplored: what it all costs. This was an odd omission in a symposium about acquiring things.  Although Migayrou revealed in his presentation that he had gotten several of his holdings “at a good price,”  it was just about the only time anybody addressed the issue of money. This attendee would have enjoyed hearing the curators talk about how private collectors are competing with museums for the best items, and how the general economic malaise has affected acquisition funding--thorny problems for everyone in the museum community.
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Brazil 2, Chicago 0

Chicago suffered another crushing defeat to the hands of Brazil: first its Olympic bid loss to Rio and now best new restaurant design to Sao Paulo. Wallpaper* announced the winners in its Design Awards 2010 competition yesterday afternoon. The Chicago restaurant, Terzo Piano, nestled on top of the new Renzo Piano's addition to the Art Institute, was nominated in the Best New Restaurant category along with contenders from Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, and Portugal. It ultimately lost to Sao Paulo’s Amazonian-inspired Kaa. Terzo Piano is situated on top of the Modern Wing, accessible via the museum or the long pedestrian bridge from Millennium Park. Wallpaper* gives design credit to Renzo Piano (architecture) and local architect Dirk Denison (interior design). The former is responsible for the beautifully framed views through the – albeit dangerous – curtain of glass looking out to Millennium Park and the latter for the sleek stark-white interior featuring chairs by George Nelson . The dangerous glass reference refers to a visit in early spring where I witnessed a guest of the restaurant walk face first into one of the glass panels separating the dining the room from the outdoor terrace.  The following day, likely at the behest of their legal department, small, tasteful, if somewhat distracting decals had been placed on the windows. Perhaps this slightly macabre anecdotal story would have given Terzo Piano an edge over Brazil with the kooky jury, which included the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, French fashion designer John Galliano, and British media executive James Murdoch.
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Konstantin Craving

Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design currently on view in The Art Institute of Chicago’s new Modern wing marks the first stateside showcase of the Munich-born, London-trained designer. Curated by Zoe Ryan, the exhibition is the fifth installment of the museum’s A+D Series that previously featured Chicago architect Douglas Garofalo and graphic design firm Graphic Thought Facility. It’s also the first show with a subtitle. Although delightfully alliterative, “Decisive Design” is a misnomer. It sets up Grcic, a craftsman who studied at the Royal College of Art and came of age under the sly wit of designers Jasper Morrison and Ettore Sottsass, as an exacting decider. Sure, the 100 plus objects in the gallery reveal that Grcic is always searching logical production methods and that he takes an honest approach to materials, but the products themselves tell stories richer than pure functionalism. Take, for example, the Wanda dish drainer from 1997, which greets visitors near the gallery entrance. Circular and double stacked, Grcic’s wire rack is functional with a Dada riff. Ryan’s walltext and accompanying images compare the work to Marcel Duchamp’s Bottle Rack from 1914, a classic readymade intended to question the nature of art and the nature of the gallery. Here, placed in a design exhibition, the references are circular: everyday product to readymade, readymade to everyday product. That this deliberate feedback loop seems closer to Grcic’s vision than any functionalist credo is seen in the overall exhibition design. Products line the perimeter of the rectangular gallery, but for the most part they don’t hang on its very white walls. Instead, the bulk of Grcic’s output—process models, chairs, wastepaper baskets, cups and saucers, sketch reproductions, light fixtures, and inspirational photographs—sit humbly in a narrow trough or lean gently against the wall. The gallery’s center is features an oval inexplicably composed of stacked tires. (The press release credits the design to Grcic’s love of Formula 1 racing.) Inside the track-like ring, visitors can test drive Grcic chairs and benches. But the walls are reserved for larger than life photographs of Grcic’s office, Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design, founded in 1991. His workspace is emptied of employees, as if everyone simultaneously left for lunch. As windows into the designer’s process these images are compelling, but enigmatic. Are they meant to celebrate the kind of creative tableaux made famous by the Eameses or bond Grcic’s quotidian mess with the viewer’s daily life? Ryan and Grcic, who designed the exhibition, leave the questions open ended, preferring, it seems, to let the accumulation of products and images speak for themselves. One oversized photograph features the jumble of Grcic’s library, shelves overstuffed with titles and hung with poster from a 2002 Ed Rucha exhibition. “The Future is Stupid,” it reads, an ironic touch from a designer on the cutting edge of fabrication technologies. In fact, the iconic Chair ONE foregrounds the image. With its crystalline shape and die-cast aluminum construction, the chair represents Grcic’s ongoing experiments with digital modeling and testing. Just a few yards away, the tuffet-like Osorom bench is on display. Like Chair ONE, the 2002 bench was developed digital techniques. Moroso called on Grcic to create a design that could be fabricated at 1:5 scale using rapid-prototyping. Taken with his model, the company decided to fabricate the piece, ultimately fabricating it out of molded fiberglass. And again, the featured product is called into conversation with the photograph behind. A white version of the filigreed bench is tilted up against an image of a woman staring out from behind a black burka. The formal match between the eye openings in her garment and the solid-void perforations of Osorom is uncanny, but as with other behind-the-scenes moments in the show, the meaning is unclear. The clarity of Grcic’s singular vision is cluttered. Is it chance juxtaposition or decisive design? Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design is on view in The Art Institute of Chicago through January 24, 2010.
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AIC Adds Architecture Curator

Another sign of the growing importance of the Art Institute of Chicago's Architecture and Design Department, the museum announced the appointment Alison Fisher as assistant curator. Fisher, who will focus on the department's historical collection, joins department chair Joe Rosa, and curator Zoe Ryan, who has been building the department's contemporary design collection. The department, which now boasts the country's largest architecture and design galleries, is working on a major exhibition on Bertrand Goldberg, among other shows. Fisher previously served as a curatorial fellow at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and she is completing a doctorate in art history at Northwestern.