Category Archives: EXHIBITIONS

Home Study: Our Favorite American Landmarked Residences and Historic House Museums, Part II

Last week, Scott BromleyJerry Caldari, and Tim Button shared their favorite American historic house museums and landmarked residences. Here are Laura Bohn, Barry Goralnick, and Bruce Bierman‘s picks.

LAURA BOHN: I fell in love with The Mount, novelist Edith Wharton’s summer residence in Lenox, Massachusetts, right at the front door. It’s simple and unassuming, as is the grotto-like entry hall, which lacks a grand staircase—an indispensable prop for most great lady hostesses of the time, who’d sweep down it in Gilded Age magnificence to greet arriving guests. Instead, visitors were taken to a side hall and led up a graceful but unpretentious staircase to the second floor—the piano nobile, as in an Italian palazzo—where Wharton would receive them in a long, light-filled gallery. But it was only when they were ushered into the adjoining drawing room with its gobsmacking views of the Mount’s fabulous gardens that the full glory of the house revealed itself.

The Mount, Lennox, MA Edith Wharton's summer home

The Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts, Edith Wharton’s summer residence, which she co-designed and built in 1902 and occupied until she moved to Europe in 1911. Photograph: Kevin Sprague

Wharton designed the 1902 house in collaboration with architect Ogden Codman, Jr., her co-author on The Decoration of Housesa pioneering 1897 book aimed at showing the taste-deficient American nouveau riche how to create classically restrained, timelessly elegant homes. (It’s still in print and could be consulted with profit by some of today’s 1 percent.) Wharton and Codman followed their own principles at the Mount, producing a house of such self-possessed distinction—grand but not grandiose—that it was landmarked in 1971.

Wharton designed most of the grounds herself: ”I am amazed by the success of my efforts,” she wrote with justifiable pride. “Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than a novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.” Looking at the beautifully maintained estate today, it’s doesn’t seem such an off-base claim.

The Mount, Lenox, MA, second floor gallery

The light-filled second floor reception gallery at the Mount. Photograph: Janet Knott

The Mount, Edith Wharton's summer house, Lenox, MA, the drawing room

The drawing room’s French doors open onto an expansive raised stone terrace overlooking the landscaped grounds, which Wharton designed expertly herself. Photograph: Kevin Sprague

Edith Wharton's boudoir at the Mount, her summer house in Lenox, MA , photograph by John Seakwood

Edith Wharton’s boudoir on the third floor. Photograph: John Seakwood

The staircase from the main terrace to the garden at the Mount, Edith Wharton's summer house in Lenox, MA, photographed by Annie Leibowitz for Vogue

In a Vogue fashion spread, model Natalia Vodianova plays Edith Wharton descending the double staircase from the main terrace to the garden. Photograph: Annie Leibowitz

BARRY GORALNICK: Fallingwater, the weekend retreat at Mill Run, Pennsylvania, that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Kaufmann family in 1937, became super-famous almost immediately. In 1938 it made the cover of Time magazine, was featured in Life, got star billing in an issue of Architectural Forum devoted entirely to Wright, and appeared in countless newspapers and periodicals worldwide. It has never since lost its position as a preeminent icon of 20th-century architecture. 

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, Kaufmann Residence, 1937

Probably the most famous 20th-century house in the world, Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1937 weekend retreat for the Kaufmann family, cantilevers out over Bear Run creek in rural Pennsylvania. 

Given to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, Fallingwater is now the only Wright house open to the public with all its original elements in place. Although its location is somewhat remote, Fallingwater is an essential destination for anyone interested in architecture. Smithsonian magazine included it in a list of “28 places to see before you die,” right up there with the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Great Wall.

The way Wright perfectly integrated his dynamic composition of concrete horizontals and stone verticals into the wild romantic landscape has to be seen to be believed. In the end, no photography, video, or description can do more than dimly evoke the extraordinary imaginative achievement the house embodies—you just have to experience it for yourself. It’s a wonder of the modern world that absolutely lives up to its billing.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, Kaufmann Residence, 1937,

To help integrate the house into the natural landscape, Wright limited its paint palette to ochre for the concrete and his signature Cherokee red for the steel elements.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, 1937, Mr. Kaufmann's terrace, as viewed from the driveway above the house.

The massive vertical core of the house, around which the horizontal concrete elements are arranged, is made of native Pottsville sandstone, quarried on site and stacked like layers of sedimentary rock.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, Kaufmann Residence, 1937, interior

The seating in the living area, upholstered in Jack Lenor Larsen fabrics, is among the 169 pieces of preserved custom furniture Wright designed for the house—a trove far bigger than that at any other of his residences.

BRUCE BIERMAN: Ever since it opened in 2001, the exquisite Neue Galerie New York has been my favorite house museum. Devoted to early 20th-century German and Austrian art and design, it’s located at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street in the former William Starr Miller mansion, a superb six-story Louis XIII-style townhouse completed in 1914 by Beaux-Arts architects Carrère & Hastings. In 1994 it was purchased by art dealer and exhibition organizer Serge Sabarsky (1912–1996) and his friend cosmetics billionaire Ronald S. Lauder—both connoisseurs of German and Austrian Expressionism—who commissioned Seldorf Architects to renovate the building and convert it into a museum.

Neue Galerie New York, 1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street

The Neue Galerie New York, a museum devoted to early 20th-century German and Austrian art and design, is located at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street in the former William Starr Miller mansion, completed in 1914 by Carrère & Hastings. 

The Neue Galerie is particularly successful for the way in which it juxtaposes paintings and decorative arts to immerse viewers and transport them back in time. The second floor houses fine and decorative Viennese art, including paintings by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele and objects by the artisans of the Wiener Werkstätte. The third floor exhibits various German works from the same era, including Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and the Bauhaus.

The museum also regularly mounts acclaimed exhibitions—such as the current “Vasily Kandinsky: From Blaue Reiter to the Bahaus, 1910–1925—chamber music concerts, film screenings, and even cabaret evenings. Plus there’s the terrific Café Sabarsky, with its reproductions of Josef Hoffmann sconces, Adolf Loos bentwood chairs, Otto Wagner fabrics,not to mention its excellent Viennese specialties like sausages, goulash, strudels, and chocolate tortes. 

Neue Galerie New York, entry and main staircase

The entry and main staircase at the Neue Gallerie New York, whose interiors were renovated and converted by Selldorf Architects.

Neue Galerie New York, a gallery on the second floor

A trio of paintings by Gustav Klimt dominates a second floor gallery where they were installed as part of the 2011 Neue Galerie exhibition “Vienna 1900: Style and Identity.” 

Josef Hoffmann's 1913 dining room for Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, at the Neue Galerie. Photo- John Gilliland:Courtesy of Neue Galerie

A dining room designed by Josef Hoffmann for Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, as installed in the 2006 Neue Galerie exhibition “Josef Hoffmann: Interiors, 1902-1913.” Photograph: John Gilliland.


Light Show: James Turrell at the Guggenheim Museum

Glenn Gissler and Barry Goralnick were at the opening of what is undoubtably the New York City art event of the summer: the exhibition of five room-size installations by James Turrell at the Guggenheim Museum. Though the show mostly features Turrell’s early works, the piece getting most attention is Aten Reign, a new installation Turrell developed specifically for the famous rotunda in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum. Here’s what Barry and Glenn thought.

James Turrell, Aten Regan, 2013, GuggenheimJames Turrell, Aten Reign (2013), Guggenheim Museum

James Turrell, Aten Reign, 2013, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 21–September 25, 2013. Photographs by David Heald

Barry Goralnick: The two most important tools we have in architecture are space and light. Turrell’s reimagining of the Guggenheim is inspired in its manipulation of both. In the rotunda, he has inserted a structure wrapped in seamless fabric–it has been described as telescoping cake pans–that subsumes the space in a delightful way. Frank Lloyd Wright created a willful structure; Turrell, taking his cues from the architect, has taken it to a new place. You can’t help wondering where you are vis-a-vis the Wright building. The color palette and the natural light from the oculus are constantly altering, and as you move through the space the shapes continue to change. I was fascinated by Turrell’s use of structure and the most cutting-edge light technologies–it’s a great melding of art, design, and engineering. The effect is mesmerizing; it can only be described as a spiritual experience. It made me feel good for the rest of the day.

James Turrell, Afrum I (White), 1967, Projected light, dimensions variable

James Turrell, Afrum I (White), 1967, Projected light, dimensions variable

Glenn Gissler: The exhibition includes four older Turrell installations, including the gorgeous Afrum I (White), from 1967, which appears to be a glowing cube floating in the corner of the room. In the adjacent antechamber is a breathtaking selection of etchings from the related series First Light (1989–90), which explore how the aquatint technique can invoke qualities of radiance.

James Turrell, First Light, Series C, Carn, Acros, Ondoe, Phantom

James Turrell, First Light, Series C (Carn, Acros, Ondoe, and Phantom), 1989-90

GG: James Turrell’s is a very important artist but given the emphasis in his works on experience, they are hard to own except as memory. I think that the First Light prints are extremely successful in depicting the simple and sublime magic of Turrell’s installations and would love to  be  reminded of this every day. The complete edition of 20 etchings is available at the Peter Blum Gallery. I am always looking for art for myself, the RISD Museum, and clients. I would love to live with one or two  of these  prints and, at some point, give them to the museum, and would love to place some of them with clients.

James Turrell, Skyspace,  Live Oak Friends Meeting, Houston

James Turrell, Skyspace, 2001, Live Oak Friends Meeting House, Houston 

GG: I am looking forward to getting the Turrell exhibition catalogue due out late July to learn what true scholars make of the work and the man. One of the things that I am particularly interested in is his Quaker upbringing. During his talk at the press opening, Turrell shared a story from his childhood: As he and his grandmother were entering a Quaker meeting house, she said to him, “Go inside and greet the light.” He has certainly done that, including creating Skyspace, a 12-foot-square window in the ceiling of the Live Oak Friends Meeting House in Houston, and designing a similar installation for the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House in Philadelphia, which opens this summer. I find it inspiring how Turrell creates sublime experiences with so little, a subtlety and quietude that I can only aspire to bring to my own work.


By Way of the Bronx: Laura Bohn Visits the Venice Biennale

The view from the Arsenale, one of the main venues for the Venice Biennale 2013

The view from the Arsenale, one of the venues of the Venice Biennale 2013.

Last March I attended the Bronx Museum of the Arts Spring Gala and Auction where I bought a special trip to Venice during the Art Biennale. It turned out to be one of the best charitable investments I ever made. Thanks to its charismatic director Holly Block, the small Bronx Museum was made the commissioning institution for the United States Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, for which they proposed presenting the work of installation artist Sarah Sze. So, with Holly Block as our wonderful guide, we got to see the amazing installation Sarah Sze made for the pavilion, plus a lot of other extraordinary art (including a fabulous exhibition of the personal collection of the late Spanish painter Antoni Tàpies, curated by Axel Veervordt, at the Museo Fortuny, which I’ll blog about separately), a couple of private palaces, and various other memorable sites. Here are some snapshots of things that caught my eye and my imagination at the Biennale.

Triple Point by Sarah Sze in the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Part of Sarah Sze’s installation, Triple Point, in the courtyard of the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013.

Triple Point–Sarah Sze’s wacky installation assembled from aluminum rods and ladders, caution tape and water bottles, sand bags, espresso cups, branches, and faux rocks–started in the courtyard of the 1930s Palladian-style pavilion.

Sarah Sze, Triple Point, Venice Biennale, 2013
Triple Point (Planetarium), one of the rooms in the pavilion.

Each room in the pavilion features a different installation assembled from objects the artist found during the three-month construction process. The four makeshift structures evoke a planetarium, an observatory, a laboratory, and a pendulum–devices of measurement or locators of the body in space.

Lara Almarcegui, Spanish Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2013

Lara Almarcegui’s installation in the Spanish Pavilion. 

Lara Almarcegui’s installation in the Spanish Pavilion occupied its entire interior: towering mountains of various construction materials–cement rubble, roofing tiles, and bricks smashed to gravel. In side rooms, there were smaller mounds of sawdust, glass, and a blend of iron slag and ashes. Overwhelming!

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