Young Russian Pianist Dazzles with New York Philharmonic

A low image of hands playing a piano.

Image: Shutterstock

Twenty-four-year-old Daniil Trifonov has been generating buzz since 2011, when he took first prize in the Arthur Rubenstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv at age 20. Four years later, he joins the New York Philharmonic in presenting a series of Rachmaninoff pieces as part of the Philharmonic’s Rachmaninoff festival.

Thanks to the support of trustees like Chris Flowers (J.C. Flowers & Co.) and Oscar Straus Schafer (Rivulet Capital, LLC), the New York Philharmonic is putting on a three week Rachmaninoff festival featuring Trifonov, who is making quite the splash in the classical music scene. A month after winning first prize in the Rubenstein competition, Trifonov won the gold medal in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. From there on out, it’s been a series of wildly popular performances and big-name mentors for the Russian pianist described by the New York Times as having “scintillating technique and a virtuosic flair.”

And it’s not only audiences and critics who are coming under Trifonov’s spell: Martha Argerich, arguably one of the world’s greatest pianists, wrote that “what [Trifonov] does with his hands is technically incredible….It’s also his touch—he has tenderness and also the demonic element.”

Daniil Trifonov was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on March 5, 1991. His parents, both professional musicians, supported his forays into classical music from a very early age—he started playing the piano at age 5, composing and performing as well. He first performed with an orchestra at age 8. He recalls losing one of his baby teeth during the concert.

It’s no surprise, then, that by age 17, Trifonov was earning fifth place in Moscow’s International Scriabin Competition, the first in a run of extremely successful competition performances.

In February 2013, Trifonov signed with Deutsche Grammophon and recorded live at Carnegie Hall: Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, Scriabin’s Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp Minor Op. 19, and Chopin’s 24 Preludes Op. 28, among others.

Since then, he has traveled the world, performing at Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Tokyo’s Opera City, and many more. In addition, he continues to study with Sergei Babayan and take composition lessons at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

After his performances with the New York Philharmonic, Trifonov will go on to perform Tchaikovsky in Carnegie Hall in October with the Mariinski Orchestra and conductor Valery Gergiev. He also remains a sensation on YouTube.

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This Artist is No Haas-Been!

An artist swirls paint colors on a painting palette.

Image: Shutterstock

Manhattan has always been synonymous with adornment. Dior and Tiffany have their basecamps in that illustrious neighborhood, and there are few places the eye can rest without seeing some manner of decoration or adornment. No exception are the walls of the place, many still featuring the careful detailing of the late 19th century.

In 1974, artist Richard Haas, charmed by exactly that detailing, took over the five-story high, 75-feet wide canvas of an uncharacteristically blank brick wall to continue the cast-iron facade of the front of the building, at 112 Prince Street. It’s an elegant mural, six false stories of painted columns windows, some open, some dark and some lit, and one occupied by a painted cat, done in the trompe l’oeil (literally: fool the eye) style. Art critics of the time credit it with relaunching the use of trompe l’oeil in contemporary muralism, soon to be imitated around the world.

It was his first outdoor public work, and Haas, now 79 years old and still painting, fears he will outlive it.

The New York Times calls the current state of the mural ‘demolition by neglect.’ Only the fourth false floor of windows is still free of graffiti, and weathering will erase those in a few more years.

The owners of 112 Prince Street are in favor of repairing the work, but estimates for the repair are around the area of $200,000. While fund-raising efforts are underway, it’s a long shot.

The Haas mural is not currently protected as a designated landmark, though much of the neighborhood is. It has already been restored once, in the mid-1980s.

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Parking Meters Become Art

A red parking meter says "expired."

Image: Shutterstock

In 2011, New York City began uprooting its traditional parking meters, having decommissioned the lot of them in the years before. They were replaced by the single-stand parking station, where you buy a ticket to put in your car showing that you’ve paid. They pulled up hundreds from curbsides, but removal efforts stalled, and by 2013, thousands were still left in place. Some gutted by city workers, others vandalized, more left to simply weather, they were an icon of urban life.

In 2013, Queens-dwelling artist Conrad Stojak turned a few dozen of the relics into tiny art galleries and gardens. He put tiny sculpted landmarks into the domed tops, made them into scenes with toy figures and glue. In those that had been broken open by vandals, he planted flowers.

“Parking is a negative experience in New York City — this re-imagines them into something better,” Stojak told The New York Post at the time.

All we have now of those original parking meter transformations are photos – the city destroyed or removed all of them as efforts to de-meter-ize the sidewalks continued. But Stojak is on the art-path again. This time, he’s purchased a bouquet of meters from the city and is installing them in his studio space in 4 World Trade Center (which he got by donating a parking meter sculpture of the WTC to the property).

His new sculptures are growing ever more detailed. Some are solar powered, lighting his artwork like tiny living cities. Others are wifi-enabled, allowing anyone with a smartphone to bring the artwork to life.

He doesn’t want this project to stay in a studio, though. Parking meters belong on the sidewalk, and they belong everywhere. His goal is to make this project of tiny ship-in-a-bottle-style art one of the largest urban public artworks of all time, by replanting the transformed meters as thoroughly through-out the city as possible.

So far, Stojak has raised a little more than $2000 of the $25,000 he thinks he’ll need. His fundraising campaign at RocketHub runs through November 18.

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A drawing of left/right brain attributes.

Image: Shutterstock

Science-influenced art, or SciArt, is not a new genre. Artists have always watched science for new inspiration, and found beauty in the raw data. There are people out there wearing tattoos of the first-ever photograph of DNA’s helical structure, and architecture themed around the shape of the vibrations of a church bell. Science is beautiful, and that is the message of “Compendium,” a collaborative show of 13 artists at the Islip Art Museum.

That inspiration by science is the only theme linking the work of all thirteen – their mediums vary from pen-and-paper to 3D printing, and their subjects from candy-like pills to the true shape of wind.

Julia Buntaine’s vivid, abstract-seeming art is an exploration of data from the field of neuroscience, based on human experiments from the 1960s by Russian psychologist Alfred L. Yarbus, mapping eye movements.

Brandon Belangee’s art is science: specimens of fish, frogs, and birds chemically altered to transparency and photographed against a backdrop that could be sea, stars, or neither.

Beverly Fishman’s subject is pharmaceuticals, or specifically, the ways in which they’re marketed. Her paintings and sculptures show pills and tablets in lurid candy colors, as seductive as the way they’re advertised.

Michelle Frick, Laura Splan, and Elaine Whittaker, independently, each addressed the science of illness and contagion via augmented hospital and lab supplies, digital prints, and 3D-printed objects stained with blood. While each approached that topic in their own way, the three together make a sort of narrative, from infection to treatment to the lasting trauma of illness.

On a scale both like and unlike the rest, Gianluca Bianchino’s installation piece “Space Junk #2,” uses found objects, lights, and peepholes to draw the viewer into considering the cosmos as a whole.

Mark Nystrom, whose skittery pencil sketches of wind are created with the aid of wind monitors, a microcomputer and software designed by Nystrom, says that harnessing what might be incomprehensible to most is the central tenet of “Compendium” and SciArt in general.

“If you start reading journals,” Nystrom said, meaning academic science publications, “they’re not going to make sense. But the artist’s ability to use this complex information, this dense stuff, and make something with it — that resonates.”

“Compendium” will remain at the Islip Art Museum through December 27, 2015. Admission is $15, $25 for special seating.

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The Work of Rebekah Lazaridis

A black-and-white image of a cloudy Manhattan.

Image: Manhattan | Flickr Creative Commons

Theatrical superstitions are a great topic to dig around in. They’re colorful and many, and they’ve been seeping out into the public sphere from backstage since long before Shakespeare’s day. It’s been a favorite topic of researchers and artists alike for centuries.

Rebekah Lazaridis’s solo show, “Broken Legs: An Art Exhibit on Theater Superstition,” is the latest vivid addition to that body of study. The first New York show for the painter from St. Petersburg, Florida, “Broken Legs” was put together specifically for the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, a theater and art gallery in lower Manhattan. They contacted Lazaridis after seeing her book cover art for Velva Heraty’s The Dream Belongs to the Dreamer, but the art she made for “Broken Legs” is all unique to that show, inspired by the combined venue-types of the gallery.

In white paint and black ink on black velvet curtains and discarded theater flats, Lazaridis explored well-known superstitions like the taboo against saying “Macbeth” or whistling in a theater, saying “break a leg” instead of “good luck.” as well as more obscure ones, like always leaving a light on somewhere on an empty stage to let ghosts perform their own plays to an empty house (or an “empty” house) rather than sabotage a live performance.

Painting on a variety of canvases is one of Lazaridis’s hallmarks: with her sister and under the business name Eugenia Woods, she sells hand-painted bags and purses, and one of her previous collects of work consists almost entirely of paintings done inside reclaimed wooden drawers.

Lazaridis flew to New York City for her debut at the Sheen Center on October 23, and while she’s already at home in Tampa again, her show will run there through November 30th. She hopes it will find a new home after it closes there, as she’s been “unable” to stop adding pieces to the “Broken Legs” collection.

“Other paintings keep presenting themselves to me, and I want to create them,” she says.

The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture is at 18 Bleeker St., New York, NY. Rebekah Lazaridis’ work can also be found at and

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Claude Monet Might Be Haunting the Cleveland Art Museum

A white cartoon of a little ghost over a blue background.

Image: Shutterstock

It sounds wacky, but some people are convinced. On the last day of installing an art exhibit called Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, people in the Cleveland Museum of Art reported seeing a man walking around the space who looked uncannily like Monet himself, and even got a photograph of the man.

The photo shows a person with a long white beard and a hat similar to the kind Monet was known to wear, standing just a floor above a large picture of—well, himself. “This snapshot taken by a staff member is not retouched or Photoshopped. And we have heard from others that they’ve seen the man, but there hasn’t been a confirmation in his identification!” says Kelley Notaro, the museum’s communications associate.

“This is the first exhibition leading into our centennial year so we are excited to start it off with something as cool as capturing a photo of this Monet look-a-like standing directly above an actual photo of the artist himself,” she added.

The museum has experienced other exciting events of this nature in the past. Allegedly the ghosts of William Matthewson Milliken, the museum’s former director, was seen around the museum; Milliken died in 1978. And the figure depicted the Jacques Andre Joseph painting Portrait of Jean-Gabriel du Theil at the Signing of the Treaty of Vienna has also been spotted.

Other eerie events include many reports of flashlights going dark as watchmen entered the museum, which would turn on again once the watchmen went on their way. Workers’ hardhat lights would go out, too.

It’s kind of Monet to check up on his own museum exhibit, especially so close to Halloween. Perhaps he is just basking in the endurance of his works, or perhaps there is just a mildly-confused and bearded art-viewer wandering the streets of Cleveland, embroiled in a significant identity crisis.

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The Brooklyn Bridge at dusk.

Image: The Brooklyn Bridge | Flickr Creative Commons

Red paintball spatters and white slashes of paint deface a Brooklyn mural, violent across the twenty-seven foot tall grayscale face of a woman. Her hair covered in a dark scarf, mouth erased as part of the original design, she still stares out at the viewer.

The mural was painted as part of an international protest campaign in support of Atena Farghadani, an illustrator who was sentenced to twelve years in prison this summer for a single political cartoon. The cartoon depicted several Iranian politicians as animals. The charges were for “insulting members of parliament” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”

While the mural was painted in a country where freedom of expression is protected and with the full permission of the building owner, it’s obvious that members of that community too believe in censoring art. Several times, this mural has been defaced by members of the neighborhood.

Several of the owner’s neighbors have told her they want it removed. Uninterested in learning the true story behind the mural, they prefer to focus on the fact that the subject is Iranian. “After 9/11, people don’t want to see that,” said one man, hiding behind anonymity.

The campaign’s organizer had hoped to extend their contract with Ms. Goodman, the property owner, after it expired this October, but now both Ms. Goodman and the artist, Faith47 out of South Africa, would prefer to have it painted over.

“If an Islamic person who lives in the neighborhood walks past that wall and sees the image splattered by a red paint gun, essentially it’s a message of war, death, intolerance,” she wrote. “I hate for my work to have any part in that.”

While her reasons are sound, the disappearance of that mural will be one more aggression of censorship directed at a woman who has already lost years of her life to that same issue.

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