MoMA PS1 || Part I (The Building as a work of Art)

MoMA PS1, one of the oldest and largest nonprofit contemporary art institutions in the United States, was founded in 1971 by Alanna Heiss as the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., an organization devoted to organizing exhibitions in underutilized and abandoned spaces across New York City.

In 1976, Heiss opened the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in a deserted Romanesque Revival public school building, exponentially increased the organization’s exhibition and studio capacity. This building, dating from 1892, served as the first school in Long Island City until 1963, when the First Ward school it housed was closed due to low attendance and the building was turned into a warehouse.

Site-specific art includes James Turrell’s Meeting, one of his famous Skyspaces.

Staircase art by:
William Kentridge || Stair Procession
Ernesto Caivano || In the Woods

March 24th, 2018

 

San Francisco is… Coit Tower & The Views

So what if the line went round and round, forming a complete circle at the base of the tower. There was so much to see during the hour we waited to reach the lift that, for once, I didn’t feel the pain. For the entire ground floor is adorned with floor to ceiling murals painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor to the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

They depict life in California during the Depression, with emphasis on the theme of industry and commerce and distinctive touches of leftist political ideas, clearly evident; like on Bernard Zakheim’s “Library” which depicts fellow artist John Langley Howard reaching for a copy of Karl Marx’s ”Das Kapital” (spelled here ”Das Capital”).  Touches one is familiar with in Europe, but rather unusual in the States. Perhaps it is true, after all, San Francisco may well be a very European city.

The Tower & details the Murals Industries of California
Ralph Stackpole


Industries of California
Ralph Stackpole


Newsgathering
Suzanne Scheuer


Library
Bernard B. Zakheim


City Life
Victor Arnautoff


City Life
Victor Arnautoff


Scientist-Inventor
Mallette Harold Dean


City Life
Victor Arnautoff


City Life
Victor Arnautoff


Banking and Law
George Harris


California
Maxine Albro


The (360°) views

You can buy tickets on-line in advance and skip the lines. But where is the fun in that?

Coit Tower

July 5th, 2017

The East Room || The Rotunda

The Original Library

With its three-story inlaid walnut bookshelves and magnificent ceiling, the East Room was designed as a treasury for Pierpont Morgan’s remarkable collection of rare printed books. The sixteenth-century Netherlandish tapestry over the mantelpiece depicts avarice, one of the seven deadly sins, personified by the mythological King Midas. Two staircases, concealed behind bookcases, provide access to the balconies. Paintings by H. Siddons Mowbray adorn the upper reaches of the room, and the signs of the zodiac are depicted in the ceiling’s hexagonal spandrels. (Morgan was a member of an exclusive dining club that admitted only twelve members at a time—one for each sign of the zodiac—and the arrangement of the signs in his library’s ceiling may carry a hidden meaning related to key events in his personal life.) Allegorical depictions of the arts and sciences alternate with portraits of figures from Socrates to Michelangelo, identifying the library as a place for the preservation of art and ideas.

Literature, Art, and Music from the Middle Ages to the Present

On view in the East Room are examples from The Morgan Library & Museum’s extraordinary collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts, rare printed books and bindings, and handwritten manuscripts of great writers, artists, and composers from the Renaissance to the present day. While some of the items on view were purchased by Pierpont Morgan, others have been acquired in the century since his death. Selections are changed regularly, but a seminal work is always on view: one of the Morgan’s three copies of a Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455. With Gutenberg’s Bible, the painstaking process of copying books by hand gave way to an innovative new technology—movable type—that facilitated the exchange of art and ideas in all spheres of human endeavor.

Taking another look at The North Room, before leaving.  The Rotunda

In Morgan’s day, visitors to the library passed through a pair of monumental bronze doors into a rotunda replete with opulent detail: variegated marble columns, an ornately patterned floor, and fine mosaic panels that line the curved walls. The ceiling paintings, by American artist H. Siddons Mowbray (1858–1928), depict three of the major literary epochs represented in Pierpont Morgan’s collections—the ancient world, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. 

This portrait of Mrs. Morgan was on view at the Lower Level (and not in one of the rooms surrounding Mr. Morgan’s library, as I would have expected). John Singer Sargent, Florence 1856-1925 London
Portrait of Mrs. J.P. Morgan, Jr.

This spirited portrait depicts Jane Morgan (neé Jane Norton Grew, 1868-1925), the wife of Pierpont Morgan’s son, J.P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943). Although the portrait is inscribed 1906, it appears that Mrs. Morgan sat for Sargent in 1904-5, when she was still living with her husband in London. The Morgans returned to New York in 1906. The following year Sargent declined the opportunity to depict Pierpont Morgan. Shortly thereafter he relinquished his practice as the leading portrait painter of high society in order to focus on landscapes and murals.

The Morgan Library & Museum

May 7th, 2017

The incredible murals of the Boston Public Library

I had read about Sargent’s murals and, in any case, public libraries always figure high on our ”must see” lists when we visit cities with significant history and culture. Having already been acquainted with the treasures inside and out of the MFA and having marveled at the city from high above, I expected the Library would be the best way to end a day full of wonders. I expected to be amazed by a couple of murals, chandeliers, marble staircases and, of course, an inviting reading room. But nothing – nothing – could have prepared me for this:

Not just a couple of murals but three whole galleries covered in art – by three different artists.

We found the Chavannes Gallery first: The Muses of Inspiration Hail the Spirit, the Messenger of Light by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

“This cycle of allegorical murals by renowned French painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was completed in Paris and installed between 1895 and 1896. Subjects depicted include science, history, poetry and philosophy.”

Then came the Abbey Room and its murals: The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail by Edwin Austin Abbey

“Respected American illustrator Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) completed his first work in oil paint with this vibrant mural cycle, installed in the library in 1902. The murals follow the story of Sir Galahad on his quest for the Holy Grail.”

And, finally, the magnificent Sargent Gallery Murals: Triumph of Religion by John Singer Sargent

“American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) spent 29 years on this ambitious mural cycle, titled The Triumph of Religion. Painted in his studio in England and installed over four phases between 1895 and 1919, the panels interpret moments in the history of Paganism, Judaism and Christianity.”

For more information the Library and Murals, notably those by John Singer Sargent, please check The Boston Public Library website.

Visited on May 2nd, 2017 – and still in awe.

The magnificent Chrysler lobby

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How is it to work here every weekday? Can staff still pose in admiration at the elegant art deco murals, marquetry and brass details? Surely there comes a time when the excitement of the first encounter fades, wielding to a seen-it-all-before blasé spirit. When the eye looks but forgets to see. I’m glad I don’t work in the Chrysler Building. Wish I will never have enough of this magnificent lobby.

August 30th, 2016

PS: Surprisingly little information can be found on the internet about the artist of the mural that covers the entire ceiling and upper parts of some walls – quite dissapointing given that, when created in 1930, it was considered the largest in the world.

After some research, this is all I could find:

Edward Trumbull, American (1884 – 1968)

Edward Trumbull was born in Michigan and raised in Connecticut. He attended the Art Students’ League of New York and studied in London under the noted muralist, Frank Brangwyn. Trumbull’s style as a muralist was traditional, and he was best known for his ease of bright and varied colors. A long time resident of Pittsburgh, Trumbull painted panels for the Heinz Administration Building in Pittsburgh and used “The Three Rivers” that converge at the city as the theme for the ceiling of the lobby of the Chrysler Building in New York. Two of his murals, located in the South Office building of the Pennsylvania Capitol Complex, are smaller versions of the murals he painted for buildings in Pittsburgh.