Final Dream Wrapped Up: Christo’s L’Arc de Triomphe

Shimmering silver and bounded by red recyclable rope, Christo’s and Jean-Claude’s last project drew throngs of visitors on opening weekend. With the Champs-Elysées closed to vehicle traffic and security guards and police carefully monitoring comings and goings, the L’Arc de Triomphe-Wrapped–unveiled officially on September 18–is the fruition of a sixty-year-old dream. A monumental dream.

Covid be damned, everyone who viewed the masterpiece was in a celebratory mood, masked and unmasked, freely mingling about under a hazy sunlit sky, enjoying the mild weather. Someone was handing out woven sample swatches of the wrapping—metallic silver on one side, bright aqua blue on the other. A few people dressed in costume. Most were content to circle the monument and snap photos with sheer delight.

Imagine the material and preparation and engineering: approximately 270,000 square feet of blue-backed silver polypropylene, nearly 10,000 feet of the same plastic red cording, and a structural support of steel slabs weighing 150 pounds so as not to harm the arch’s friezes. It was approved by the France’s Center of Monuments Nationaux and supervised by Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s nephew Vladimir Yavachev. According to Roger Cohen in his New York Times article, “Building the cages whose steel bars pass an inch or two from the outstretched hand or foot of a frieze or a funereal relief was painstaking. So was rappelling down to work under the overhangs of the cornice. In all, 1,200 people labored on the wrapping.”

The Arc stands at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, now nicknamed—on an amusingly plastic-wrapped sign—Place Christo & Jean-Claude. Seen from the twelve roads that radiate from the Place, this imposing monument is a natural tourist site with a 360-degree view of Paris atop its observation deck.

Originally commissioned in 1806 by Emperor Napoléon to glorify France’s Grande Armée’s victories of 1792, this colossal and neoclassical arch—was thirty years in the making. Napoléon did not live to see its completion. It was erected fifteen years after his death.

Since then, the Arc has been witness to history: Among many highlights, in 1885, mourners passed by to view Victor Hugo in his coffin; returning WWI French soldiers marched beneath it; Nazi soldiers stomped through it during their WWII Occupation; French and US Military paraded around it in victory, in 1944. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies beneath it, and each night the eternal flame is lit in remembrance.

This posthumously completed dream—36 years after the couple wrapped the Pont Neuf, Paris’s oldest bridge—is a fitting memorial to the life and work Christo and Jeanne-Claude. As they planned, the wrapping moves sensually in the wind and reflects light. I wonder what Napoléon would have thought of it. Like life, it’s fleeting in nature, and will be dismantled on October 3rd.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021.
On View: September 18-October 3

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design

Above image from the New York Times A rendering of the virtual reality rendition of the Maison de Verre. CreditDiller Scofidio + Renfro

Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, On view at the Jewish Museum in NYC, November 4, 2016 – March 26, 2017.

Having toured the actual Maison de Verre (Glass House) in Paris, I was curious to see how the exhibit could possibly compare to the ingenious interior design and workings of this 1932 home. But in using virtual reality and clever silhouette images, the exhibit is as innovative as the house was. Chareau combined industrial glass, wrought iron, and precious woods in highly original and daring ways and fine craftsmanship. Many actual furniture pieces and lighting are in the exhibit, but the other surprise was learning that Pierre Chareau and his wife Dollie were patrons of the arts. Several works by Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Amedeo Modigliani, Jacques Lipchitz, and Max Ernst are on view as well. Read more ›

Irving Penn Beyond Beauty

Last few days to see Irving Penn Beyond Beauty at Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, on exhibit through Sunday, March 20, in Washington, DC. This retrospective—the first in 20 years—is indeed a surprising treat beyond beauty. Known primarily for his stunning black and white photography in Vogue Magazine, Irving Penn transformed fashion photography in the mid 20th century.

A star photographer in his own right, he also created famous portraits of artistic and literary celebrities such as Salvador Dalí, Le Corbusier, Joan Miró, and André Malraux. But, in addition, he gave inventive life to rural southern scenes and ordinary objects—rubbish, cigarette butts, and a cracked egg among others—framing images in creative ways. And that is the unexpected delight in this show beyond beauty and fashion. Read more ›

Noah Purifoy Exhibit at LACMA

Jazzy and fun as well as thought provoking, Noah Purifoy’s junk assemblages at LACMA in LA give new meaning to recycled art and design.


The Last Supper(1988) above

Purifoy (1917-2004), an African-American artist born in Alabama, is best known for his outdoor sculptural installations in Joshua Tree, California, using found objects such as bicycles, beer barrels, and bowling balls among other throwaways. His fabulous, fantastical junkyard is in the Mohave Desert, but you can see some of his re-purposed creations from there as well as smaller pieces in LA at LACMA now until January 3, 2016.

Taking a page from Marcel Duchamp, Purifoy’s Dada influenced assemblages convey an urban sensibility and social perspective. His 66 Signs of Neon was an idea born from the Watts race riots of 1965 using burnt debris from the streets. His Strange Fruit references Billy Holliday’s song about lynching and social injustice. Perhaps in light of the recent racial conflicts with the police, these constructions have even more resonance today. But simply making art seems to have been as important as being a social activist. Like the jazz he embraced, his works flow with humor and commentary with abstract elements that form a whole, as evidenced in Rags and Old Iron I (After Nina Simone).

When his creations are meant to convey a social message, there’s movement and thought behind each work. From a distance Purifoy’s sense of color and design is exquisite; then upon close inspection there’s humor in his creative use of found objects. To see the clever make up of each assemblage is to appreciate old junk anew—as part of the human experience.


#art #Visit LA #Found objects

Walking in the Rain in LA and Other Exhibits at LACMA

Walking in the Rain in LA and other exhibits at LACMA

Sold out for several weeks forward, the Rain Room—an art/technology installation at LACMA—is the hottest
ticket in LA. I scored two tickets for a timed entry Monday afternoon last
minute by using a special museum card I have. The card also gave me a discount
so I paid only $15 per ticket. Normal
entry is the astronomical price of $25/head. Visitors, this is a rip-off.

Never mind the irony of using 528 gallons of water
(recycled, of course) during the California draught, the exhibit is meant to
have you contemplate the affect of technology on mankind. One might ask, “Is it

The idea is to walk through a downpour
that stops as you take baby steps—VERY slowly as the guards constantly remind
you—through the Rain Room. Eh voila, mirabile-dictu, the rain stops pouring
directly on you though it continues to rain all around you. Anyone who has ever
walked with an umbrella has pretty much experienced the same thing. The Rain
Room Sensors actually detect your presence and stop the rain.

Warning: The sensors detect light-colored
clothes better than dark. Warning #2: Occasionally, the technology
fails–surprise!–i.e., the rain pours down on you,  doesn’t stop, and has to be reset. This
happened to us and we waited about 15 minutes for the reset so we could walk
five minutes through the Rain Room. Sorry to bum out anyone who thought it
ingenious or disappoint anyone planning to go.

My take: Save your money and time and
go to the exhibit at LACMA called Noah
Purifoy Junk Dada
. This one is excellent and fun.  There’s also an extensive Frank Gehry exhibit
with his workroom models for major projects around the world. More on both of
these another day

#visit LA #art

China Through the Looking Glass Online

China Through the Looking Glass may have just closed at the Met in NYC, but you can
still view it online:

Like Alice on her wondrous journey, the Met once again leads us to new places in its inventive and imaginative multimedia extravaganza. Clearly, the exhibit designers had fun with this one from the mood lighting to the clever headgear especially those fashioned of Chinese porcelain shards. The exhibit juxtaposes dresses from designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Jean Paul Gaultier, Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, and Alexander McQueen among many with Chinese artistry in porcelain, fabric, painting, costume, and other imagery including film to highlight their inspired creations through the centuries.

The exhibit featured haute couture alongside ready-to-wear, both elegantly flowing folding numbers to the avant-garde. If you missed the opportunity to fall for this enchanting pageant, tumble through the web pages and don’t miss the pièce de résistance from the exhibit finale: Chinese designer Guo Pei’s Buddhist-inspired lotus flower gown (above and Gallery 208 online).

My favorites: the Blue and white porcelain gallery (blue backlit Gallery 213), and the Ming Furniture (red backlit Gallery 218). Check out the headdresses and other gallery highlights:





Prescient Paul Durand-Ruel: Impressive Parisian Art Dealer

Cue the light, the color, the flowing brush strokes. Images and painters immediately surface: Monet’s light rippling on the Seine, Renoir’s rosy-cheeked femmes in bonnets and flouncy dresses, Cassatt’s dreamy pastels of mothers and children, Degas’s feather-weight dancers.

Today, Impressionism is certainly one of the most identifiable art movements, and generally most beloved. But back in the 1870s? Scorn at the audacity of the artists who dared to exhibit such levity, such surface work. Blockbuster shows notwithstanding, Impressionist painters are so well known and popular now, it’s difficult to comprehend just how distasteful this brush-stoked break with tradition was during the latter part of the 19th century. An early critic, who saw nothing more than slap-dash dribbles of paint on canvas, coined the movement accidentally, dismissing their paintings as nothing more than “impressions.”

It took the vision and courage of art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel to encourage the artists and educate the public. Opening June 24, at the Philadelphia Art Museum, the exhibit, “Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting,” is organized as though through Durand-Ruel’s eye chronologically as he collected, covering the period of 1865 through 1905.

In the early 1870s, when most of the public derided these New Painters, Durant-Ruel was the visionary who invested in them, almost to financial ruin. But invest he did, buying in multiples artwork from the likes of then relatively unknown painters: Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, and others.

With a passion for both the artists and their adventurous new way of seeing the world outside, he was their tireless champion, organizing gallery shows, helping them financially, building their reputations. Having inherited responsibility for running the family’s art, framing, and art supply gallery, he began in earnest to buy and sell artwork from Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, and Jean-Francois Millet in 1865.

When Durant-Ruel fled Paris for London during the Franco-Prussian War, in 1870, he met and nurtured Monet and Pissaro, then opened a London gallery. Back in Paris, in 1872, within days of meeting Manet—a known but struggling artist because of his scandalous showing of brazen nudes at one of the Paris Salons—Durant-Ruel acquired 26 paintings from Manet.

Gambling on his instinctive
impressions, Durant-Ruel eventually amassed about 12,000 Impressionist paintings with Renoir and Monet the leaders of the pack acquiring 1500 and 1000, respectively, and hundreds more by Pissaro (800), and Cassatt, Sisley, and Degas (tied at 400 each). He gave some of the artists, such as Monet, solo exhibits—an innovative concept and an unprecedented risk at a time when group shows were de rigueur.

To emulate how Durant-Ruel might have hung a solo show, Gallery 5 displays only a series of Monet’s poplar trees painted as mediation on the different effects that seasons, the time of day, and the weather had on the same subject.

The curators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized the exhibit in collaboration with the National Gallery in London and the Reunion des musées nationaux/Grand Palais in conjunction with the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Historically appropriate, Philadelphia is the only U.S. venue—Cassatt introduced him to many of his best client in Philadelphia.

Rooms are thoughtfully arranged from the moment you walk through the narrow entrance hall with enlarged photo reproductions of the streets where Durant-Ruel had galleries in Paris and New York to the exhibit exit with images of how the art looked in his own home, which, after he retired, he turned into gallery space and invited the public—another bold move at the time.

I saw this same exhibit in Paris a few months ago, but the impressive space and layout of the exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are more suitable to lingering. I tend to linger with Manet and his haunting “Moonlight at the Port of Boulogne,” 1868.


The show as its title reveals is less about the specific study of Impressionism than it is about its “discovery.” And in a way about Durant-Ruel’s art marketing genius.


Philadelphia Museum of Art

General Hours:
Tuesday through Sunday: 10AM-5 PM
Wednesday and Friday: 10 AM-8:45 PM

“Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting”
Special events are organized around the exhibit, such as a Garden Soiree and a Parisian Cabaret. And, of course, the museum store is filled with catalogs, repros, adaptations, and related goodies.

For more information on specific exhibit hours and events: