The Most Perfectly Lonely Art Installation

Pedestrians walk over a grate in Times Square.

Image: Pedestrians walk through Times Square | Art Nerd New York

There’s an art installation in Times Square that’s meant to be found by accident. It has no labels anywhere, no explanation, it is merely an experience meant to be stumbled across in the middle of one of the most sensory-heavy, chaotic intersections in America.

It’s nicknamed “the hum” and it’s installed under a metal vent grate in the pedestrian island on Broadway, between 45th and 46th streets. It’s been there since 1977, out of commission for most of the 90s and restored in 2002. Created by Max Neuhaus, it’s the only survivor of his various sound pieces from the 1970s.

It was Neuhaus’s idea that the work never be labelled. He wanted visitors to find it themselves, to imagine that they’re the only ones to ever have found it.

The noise draws you in once you are on the traffic island. It’s a combination of low, droning tones, calming and loud enough to be heard over the hubbub of the place at any time of day. And it is a permanent installation, maintained by the city since Neuhaus’s death in 2009. For most of 2015, it was inaccessible as Department of Transportation construction surrounded the island, but it was never turned off, and as of the beginning of May, access has been restored. Once more, visitors to New York can have their moment of revelation in one of the most unique art installations in the city.

Posted in art, NYC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Stone for Donald

A lone tombstone in a foggy graveyard.

Image: Shutterstock

On Easter, March 27 2016, there was very briefly an unusual art installation in Central Park, New York. It was a small marble gravestone, with a birth date but no date of death. The epitaph read “Make American Hate Again.” And the name? Donald Trump.

The installation was a short one for obvious reasons – in only hours, the police had dug up the headstone and confiscated it. There was a brief media buzz about the issue, and but no one knew who the artist was, and so it mostly blew over.

The authorities, however, weren’t so quick to drop the matter. On Monday, May 9, two police officers and a Secret Service agent appeared at the door of artist Brian Andrew Whiteley, of Brooklyn.

Whiteley, who was questioned but not arrested (“super-intimidating,” he called the process), has used Trump as his soapbox before, performing as the businessman in a February routine alongside another artist dressed as Sarah Palin. He wants the presidential candidate to know about his works, to receive their message.

“I thought the only thing that could affect someone who builds buildings and talks real loud and is the bully on the playground is to remind him of his own mortality,” he said. The gravestone was not a threat, of course, only a memento mori with an intended audience of one.

Is it art? That depends on your definition of art. But it’s certainly an object made to deliver a meaning.

Mr. Whiteley, with the help of a civil rights lawyer, is trying to get his gravestone back from the police, and hopes to exhibit it again, this time either in Washington D.C. or in his usual gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The memorial company who made it for him has declined to make another.

Posted in art, Brooklyn, NYC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Election Season? Buy Some Art!

A woman sells photographs in a gallery.

Image: Shutterstock

Now is the time of times to buy art, alleges the New York Post. Over the past decade, art prices have fallen specifically in election years since 1998, meaning that those dreadful political seasons are the best time to get you a new painting. Art prices have fallen during the past three election years, while prices have risen in non-election years.

Experts believe that election periods generate apprehension about rising tax rates and declining economic conditions, so art buyers are a bit more conservative in their purchases. These carefully indexed numbers focus on the art market between April 1 to the end of the year, when campaign season really gets going. The most extreme case of falling art prices happened in 2008, after President Obama’s first election, when art prices fell by 21 percent in 9 months.

In 2000, after George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore, art prices dropped 3.3 percent. In 2012, when Obama won his second term, prices dipped 3.3 percent.

This year’s election—to use the word loosely—is shaping up to be very similar, especially in light of a falling global economy and hedge funds that aren’t doing so hot.

“The election this year has been like none other,” acknowledges Nick Korniloff, founder of Art Miami, Art New York, and Art Southampton. “Just holding the line in this environment should be considered a positive.” As evidence of this year’s trend, a Sotheby’s auction won only $144.5 million in sales of modern and Impressionist art. They had anticipated a minimum presale target of $164.8 million.

It isn’t just art markets that fall during election years, either—it’s most markets. So far this year, the S&P 500 is down 5.1 percent. CNBC believes consumers uncomfortable with changing markets and an uncertain future for the country. “People don’t like the upheaval and uncertainty of an open-ended race,” said Jeff Hirsch, editor of The Stock Trader’s Almanac. Hirsch also believes that markets fall more in a president’s second term because those presidents are less predictable.

“I expect the [anxiety in the markets] will continue through the first three quarters of this year and finally subside in the fourth,” Korniloff said. “People will have adjusted to whoever is elected president by then.”

Posted in art, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Month2Month: Art and the Class Struggle

People stand in a room, talking.

Image: William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton work on their Month2Month project | Month2Month

A new art project from William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton takes on gentrification and the class struggle in New York City. Eight participants, selected by lottery, will get to spend four nights in “affordable” or “luxury” housing in the city. Affordable homes are located in the East Village and Bushwick neighborhoods, and the luxury homes are in Gramercy, Chelsea, lower Manhattan and the Upper West Side.

The project investigates housing inequality in the city and the gentrification that is taking over it with some highly restrictive housing policies. Organized by More Art, a non-profit educational group with a focus on social justice, has produced the project. This is not the first team project for Powhida and Dalton: in 2008, the pair created a set of “condolence cards” for the art world that considered how the changing market, deeply affected by economic crises, shaped the lives of artists, dealers, and the art community at large.

Of their work, the team said, “We find that many discussions on gentrification involve the role of the artist, described in colonial terms as a ‘pioneer’ of some ‘undiscovered’ neighborhood, [which] elides the fact that there are already residents living in these communities who are consequently displaced.”

“White artists moving into neighborhoods can be seen as the enemy by existing communities who all know the formulaic nature of what happens next—the bodega gets a makeover into a 24-hour deli with kale chips and craft beer, generic condos start appearing and rents rise quickly,” they added.

New York City does have a difficult relationship with gentrification. “Making over” parts of the city has been especially unkind to black and underprivileged communities. Bill Thompson, New York’s former Comptroller, lamented the changes happening to Harlem: “If you look at people being pushed out, if you look at people who are the backbone of the neighborhood, people who have been there for decades and kept Harlem strong while others weren’t here, then the answer is no,” he said, addressing whether Harlem was better off with gentrification.

Art, as an expression of people and change, is inextricably linked with gentrification. Through their project, Powhida and Dalton tackle some of the toughest questions facing those topics.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hunt Slonem’s Unique Spaces

Hunt Slonem stands in his colorful new studio, a parrot on his shoulder.

Image: Hunt Slonem in his new studio | New York Post

Hunt Slonem lives the kind of life you’d expect of an eccentric hermit in a Victorian novel – extravagant collections, more houses than he can keep track of, parrots perching in chandeliers and plants decorating grandiose, colorful spaces, and the kind of furnishings where every piece is storied. And he’ll tell you all of them. This couch came from a palace in India. That throne (yes, a throne) came from a Prince concert set (may he rest in peace).

Slonem, who has been called “Brooklyn’s wildest artist,” is a middle-aged world traveler. From his youth as the oldest son of a navy man, he’s traveled his whole life and never put down roots until he came to New York in the 1970s. He struck gold in the art world with his Saints paintings, a series of vivid, feverish portraits that evoke both drugged hallucinations and religious visions. Forty years later, his paintings sell for a quarter of a million each, and he paints incessantly. Everything from a wall full of simple, almost childish rabbits to murals eighty feet long.

He knew from childhood that he would be a painter all his life, but still he considers his greatest works to be his collections. The Brooklyn loft he uses as a studio today is 30,000 square feet, a massive museum dedicated to a single personality. He estimates it took movers 450 trips to move his belongings from his former studio, a 50,000 square foot penthouse in Hell’s Kitchen.

And yet there’s nothing hoarder-like about his spaces. Walking into the Brooklyn lair, as he calls his new place, one is met with light, space, and glowing colors. Twenty red antique fezes are piled like cupcakes on a 16th century inlaid table.  Photos of Slonem and his boyfriend from visits around the world fill corners. Fully five dozen parrots provide the soundtrack, living in a small forest of potted citrus trees and orchids. Slonem defines the studio as a conservatory, and it is in the classical sense – an airy, warm place, intended to be beautiful.

Posted in art, NYC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ricardo Mulero: Architect Turned Painter

A wall bears the title of the exhibit with a small oil painting of a pair of hands.

Image: The title opening for the spring exhibit in Soho | Ricardo Mulero

Ricardo Mulero could be called an expert at putting emotions onto the world stage. A decade ago, he was one of the lead designers of the exhibitions in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. He and his team created the cavernous, almost mythic spaces that honored both the lives lost and the monumental grief of the city that had lost them.

Now, the NYC-based, Puerto Rican-born architect-turned-artist is turning all of that skill inwards. The recent death of his mother is the driving emotion behind his new exhibit in Soho. Her death turned him to painting, his hobby from his youth.

“I feel a very private and personal part of me will be on display,” said Mulero of his upcoming solo exhibit. It will feature 29 oil paintings.

Mulero’s oils are a melancholy lot, featuring semi-abstract figures expressed in unsettling colors and poses, usually alone. He uses the space of his canvas as if it were confinement. His favorite, “Man-In-The-Box,” is of a sketchy, indistinct figure folded tightly into the shape of the frame.

“Some will say it’s creepy, and others will comment on how peaceful he seems or how beautiful it is,” he says of viewers’ reactions to that painting.

Most of the figures of his paintings are male. Mulero, who is gay, grew up through the AIDS crisis. He paints male bodies as being vulnerable, as well as strong and self-contained. His semi-abstract style speaks worlds of emotion out of each figure.

Posted in art, NYC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

David Hammons’ (Possibly Unwilling) Retrospective

An art installation by David Hammons.

Image: An art installation at the David Hammons retrospective | Mnuchin Gallery

In 1986, when David Hammons was already a name in the New York art scene, he told an interviewer, “I can’t stand art, actually. I’ve never, ever liked art.” He’s never explained what he meant by that, but for someone who doesn’t like art, he sure produces it. And in quantity.

Visiting the exhibition “David Hammons: Five Decades” in the Mnuchin Gallery in Manhattan is a real experience. 34 objets d’art, pulled from across Hammons’ fifty-year (and counting) career, show the sheer breadth of his eccentric creativity, and the tight focus of his politics.

Bottlecap sculptures in sub-Saharan patterns, the silent commentary of a torn-up green hoodie on a white wall, a crystal chandelier made out of a basketball hoop, a riotous bushlike eruption made of black human hair and sand – these are just a few of the selections made by the Mnuchin Gallery. After the selections were made, Hammons himself interfered, pulling some pieces, inserting others, adding a soundtrack to the show. He made a point of including art that had previously shown in the same gallery, like a collection of paint-slashed expensive fur coats and a massive canvas with the kind of bland abstract art one sees in the lobbies of Fortune 500s, covered by a painted industrial tarp in vivid orange.

It’s these last two, particularly, that just might hold the key to his quote from 30 years ago – perhaps what David Hammons, a man who clearly cannot stop creating art, can’t stand about art is the trends in it. What is expensive, what represents privilege, what sells, and especially, what is excluded.

Posted in art, Manhattan, NYC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment