Atlantic city – Gloom.Revel.Ten

You wouldn’t know it the way its wavy shaped windows shine in the sun. Yet, this enormous structure, built on a once-residential area at a cost of billion, remains closed since September 2014. All the 6,8 million sq.ft., 1.898 hotel rooms, 14 restaurants, spa, concert venues, nightclubs, shops and 130.000 sq.ft. gambling space of it. 2,5 years of operation, then bankruptcy. Now a still, eerie emptiness. 

A lot has been said about what is, what could have been, what should be done. This city, once thriving on speculation, is now suffering from the effects of an overdose. 

A few houses left standing in the vicinity, two in the shadow of the sleeping giant. We have to move on. It may be the emptiness but this area feels unsafe.

Atlantic City
February 23rd, 2017

Atlantic city – Aboard the quiet car to the beach

On the train to Philadelphia, we had discovered the quiet car completely by accident. A great feature, one that trains in Europe would greatly benefit from. Why this has not been implemented on the other side of the Atlantic, is a mystery to me. We now ask the train attendant for the quiet car, every time we’re about to board a train.

Half an hour later and… what a difference 60 miles make!

A brilliant sunshine, a light breeze, unseasonably warm, an enormous beach, no crowds.

“Enjoy God’s gift to humanity!” an excited fellow walker exclaimed…

“Enjoy!” we echoed, smiling back… “as long as you remain under the boardwalk”, we added silently.

Atlantic City
February 23rd, 2017

Philadelphia – around 30th Street Station, waiting for the train

If time allows, a trip to Philadelphia may either be combined with a visit to the Amish Country, to the west or a walk on (better yet, under) the famous Boardwalk of the Atlantic City, to the southeast. We chose the second. Around 90′ by train, the Ocean was beckoning.

Meanwhile, Philly was showing us her cloudy face.

Philadelphia, views from the Schuylkill River Trail.
February 23rd, 2017

Two angry faces – in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Both belong to Renée, drawn by French artist Jacques Villon.

Villon, also known as Gaston Duchamp, was one of Marcel Duchamp’s siblings but, in order to distinguish himself from them, he started using the pseudonym with which he became known.

Renée was the daughter of Villon’s cousin and the subject of several works by the artist.

Doesn’t she look angry in these drawings? I wonder what – or who – could be responsible for this frown on her face.

Renée. Three Quarter View, 1911. Jacques Villon

Renée. Three Quarter View, 1911 (detail). Jacques Villon
Renée. Full Face, 1911 (detail). Jacques Villon
Renée. Full Face, 1911 (detail). Jacques Villon

Philadelphia Museum of Art
February, 22nd 2017


Philadelphia – Museum of Art

Vast in size, rich in collections with major works from European, American and Asian artists, from paintings and prints to decorative items and furniture, it will require at least three hours for a ”quick” overview – and that includes the main building only. For the museum manages several annexes such as the Rodin Museum and the Perelman Building across the street, which is why your ticket will be valid for two consecutive days – in case you have the stamina to visit them all (which we didn’t).

The images below show a very brief part of what you can expect to see in the museum; I skipped most of the paintings in favour of objects and furniture that got my attention.

The Greek Revival facade.
Diana, 1892-1893, in gilded copper sheets by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Diana is arguably the best-known work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was recognized at the turn of the century as the country’s finest sculptor. When installed in 1893 on the tower of New York’s Madison Square Garden to serve as a weather vane, Diana ruled the highest point in Manhattan. The sculpture’s gilded form caught the sun during the day and was illuminated at night by the city’s first electric floodlights. Madison Square Garden was demolished in 1925 and the Philadelphia Museum of Art adopted the sculpture in 1932. Diana has reigned as the goddess of the Museum’s Great Stair Hall ever since.
From a Tapestry showing Constantine Directing the Building of Constantinople, 1623-25. A composition designed by Peter Paul Rubens. Detail showing that some things never change.
High Chest of Drawers, 1740-50. Curly maple, red pine. Armchair, 1745-55. Walnut. All made in Philadelphia.
Butaca Chair, 1730-70. Mahogany, original leather upholstery and brass. Probably made in Mexico.
Fireplace, Doorway and Pair of Andirons, ca. 1936-37. Carved oak, stone, copper hearth, iron. Made by Wharton Esherick, American 1887-1970, in Pennsylvania.
White oak and seed beads from the Mandala Series (on the wall), 2013 and 2016. A collaboration between David Ellsworth and his wife, Wendy Ellsworth, a seed bead artist. Burned and pained ash spheres (on the floor), symbolizing form in motion, from the Solstice Series, 1990-91. David Ellsworth. All made in Pennsylvania (Quakertown).
Window. Created for Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, installed 1983. Forty porcelain tiles washed with copper salts, each handcrafted and applied to frosted glass; wood frame. Made in Philadelphia by Rudolf Staffel.
Line Ascending #5, #10, #11, from the Emergence Series 2013-15. Oak burl, black ash burl. Made by David Ellsworth in Pennsylvania (Quakertown).
Furniture, part of a lavishly ornamented suite made in Philadelphia for the house of merchant William Waln and his wife, Mary Wilcocks Waln. Imitating ancient Greek and Roman furniture, sumptuously painted, gilded and upholstered in the latest style of the time. Designed in 1808 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and made by John Aitken.
Furniture, part of a lavishly ornamented suite made in Philadelphia for the house of merchant William Waln and his wife, Mary Wilcocks Waln. Imitating ancient Greek and Roman furniture, sumptuously painted, gilded and upholstered in the latest style of the time. Designed in 1808 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and made by John Aitken.
Secretary Bookcase, 1827. Mahogany, mahogany veneer, stained burl ash, white pine cedrela, red cedar, yellow poplar, dark wood stringing, brass, gilt decoration; glass doors and pulls; brass lock. Made in Philadelphia by Anthony G. Quervelle.
The Clinic of Dr. Agnew, 1889. Oil on canvas, by Philadelphia’s very own, Thomas Eakins.
The Japanese Aesthetic was introduced to Americans following Japan’s opening to international trade in 1854. Favouring asymmetry, flat patterns and unfamiliar materials and colour harmonies, it presented a refreshing alternative to that of the West. Here, the reflection of Eakins’ Clinic of Dr. Agnew is a harmonious bridge connecting the two aesthetics.
The Concert Signer, 1890-92. Oil on canvas by Thomas Eakins. Determined to suggest the sound of her voice and the emotions it invoked, Eakins asked his friend, soprano Weda Cook, to pose for hours while repeatedly singing the same few notes from ”O Rest in the Lord” by Felix Mendelssohn. Upon the painting’s completion, Eakins had these notes carved into its fame.
The Annunciation, 1898. Oil on canvas by Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Follette, 1890. Oil on cardboard by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Oh, look!… another Fourteen-Year-Old Little Dancer, by Edgar Degas. If I don’t see one in a major museum, I will begin to worry.
When the room becomes the canvas.
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) by Marcel Duchamp. A work of art to be looked both at and through, prompts the Museum of Art Handbook – and I made sure to follow the instructions. Duchamp started working on it in 1915 and stopped in 1923 stating that it was ”definitely unfinished”. A few years later, while in transit from an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926-27, the two panels were shattered. Ten years would pass before Duchamp repaired the glass. Satisfied with the result and appearance of the eerily symmetrical cracks in the upper and lower sections, he declared the work finished!
Marcel Duchamp’s alter ego.
Homage to Juan Gris, 1953-54. A box construction by one of America’s most intriguing artists, Joseph Cornell.


I hope you enjoyed this very brief and – admittedly- subjective tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Coming up next, two angry faces.

February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – The Steps, The Men, The Tune

How many times I heard the tune, I couldn’t possibly tell – I lost count halfway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It had been in my head all along and seemingly everyone – myself included – got in synch as soon as The Steps appeared on the far end of the long stretch between Logan Square and The Oval.

Everyone, except Washington that is, seeing how he faces away, his back turned to the steps.

The rest of the world goes the Rocky wayLike this Donut Man
Or this Reenactor Or the Man himself

And, finally, The Tune:

The Rocky Steps, Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – The Skywalkers

Inside the ”Winter Garden” aka main lobby of the Comcast Center. Two show-stopping public art installations.

The Comcast Experience, a 25.4ft tall, 83.3 feet, 2,000sf high-definition LED screen with incredibly clear, almost 3-D moving images, ranging from the clock wheels pictured here, to monumental natural landscapes to Betty Boop dancing.

And the permanent installation ”Humanity in Motion” by Jonathan Borofsky – 12 realistically painted life-size figures of stainless steel, walking on horizontal poles and two figures standing at ground level. Guess which ones?

February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – another short walk

Through Thomas Paine Plaza, the city’s urban garden across from the City Hall.

Finding the Comcast Center Building, the tallest one in the city – at least until the other Comcast highrise, the one you see coming up on the left side, is complete. The Comcast Technology Center’s ambition is to become one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. Getting some New York vibes of steel and glass verticality? 

There’s something going on here but I’m not sure I want to find out exactly what! 

February 22nd, 2017