The Shed Arts Center Just Received a $75 Million Donation From Michael Bloomberg

A photo of former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomber.

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.
Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock

The Shed is still an Erector-Set-like structure of bare girders and safety netting, but next year it will be a new arts center and a lynch pin for Hudson Yards as a new cultural region of New York City. It will feature a movable shell on rails, nesting over a fixed core of the building. It will be able to alter sizes and shapes for different kinds of events. Finished, it will have a 1,200 seat amphitheater, a 500-seat black-box theater, and two open space galleries to house 25,000 square feet of art installations.

“The building is almost like a tool kit for artists of all kinds—whether it’s Kanye West or Björk or Kenneth Branagh, Steve McQueen, Matthew Barney or FKA twigs,” said Alex Poots, the Shed’s artistic director and CEO. It is scheduled to be completed in spring 2019.

Quite recently, that project has received a new inflow of cash. Michael Bloomberg, multi-channel billionaire and former mayor of New York City, has contributed $75 million to the project. With his donation, over $420 million out of the project’s $500 million capital campaign has been raised. That money is supposed to cover construction and start-up costs, such as the staff the project has been accumulating since 2014.

This isn’t the first time Bloomberg’s hand has doled out donations to the project. While he was mayor, his administration made a $75 million grant to the Shed, the largest grant New York City issued that year. That garnered a lot of criticism at the time, as the project had yet to break ground or exist on anything but paper.

It’s largely Bloomberg’s support that has continued to push the Shed’s progress forward. Compare its progress to the postponement of a planned new wing at the Met, a much-delayed renovation of the New York Philharmonic’s David Geffen Hall, or the foundering performing arts center being finished at Ground Zero. It’s clear where Bloomberg has pinned his hopes for his legacy, and he has the clout to see it through.

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Coming to Manhattan: An Art Exhibit By Dogs, For Dogs

A cute, white dog covered in paint.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The internet, it seems, is made of pets doing silly things, and people doing silly things for their pets. Dogs painting is a neat trick that we all love to see, or making art in other ways. But if a dog can be an artist, can they appreciate art? Should we try to allow them to, whether we know they can or not?

Jessica Dawson, an art critic formerly of the Washington Post, is organizing the world’s first art exhibit specifically for our canine friends, to happen this summer along Brookfield Place I Manhattan. The exhibit, curated by Dawson, Mica Scalin, and Arts Brookfield, will be titled dOGUMENTA.

While Dawson knows many will find the idea entirely frivolous, it doesn’t bother her. It’s meant to be humorous and somewhat satirical. But it’s also meant to be sentimental, a show of solidarity with man’s best friend.

Dawson attributes the idea to having been inspired heavily by her own dog, Rocky, a little yorkie-Maltese mix she found in a shelter. She claims that he got very excited at the idea of including the street-front galleries of Chelsea on their regular walks. In February, at a lecture she gave in Brooklyn titled “Five Things My Dog Taught Me About Art,” she pitched the idea to a pack of artists and curators.

The premise that she pitched, which would become dOGUMENTA, was this: If canines can teach us so much about human creativity, what if they had a show of their own? How would artists respond to this massive new audience?

dOGUMENTA, which will begin in August 2017, will take place at prime dog-walking hours (8am-8pm, with a gap from 1-4 when the pavement is too hot for bare paws) with the installations all being at doggie-eye-level. It will include ten works by New York artists.

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‘Human Structures’ by Jonathan Borofsky is on Display at Plaza33

A picture of a huge sculpture of a man with a hammer in his hand. The artwork is called "Hammering Man" by Jonathan Borofsky.

A photo of Jonathan Borofsky’s “Hammering Man” sculpture.
Photo courtesy of Kai C. Schwarzer at Flickr Creative Commons.

Plaza33, the broad triangle outside Penn Station, has hosted a parade of large installations by notable artists. Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein are notable recents. Now, yet another big, bold, simple sculpture has risen on the low plinth at the center of the pedestrian-only space. “Human Structures,” by Jonathan Borofsky, is childlike in its simple shapes and blocky colors.

More than fifty feet high and made out of geometric cut-out human figures, like stacked paper dolls, it is a statement.

“It’s about humanity connecting together to build our world,” said Borofsky in an interview with Untapped Cities.

He also says that the sculpture is meant to be passed through, made to be viewed from outside and inside. Standing beneath the figures, they take on a little of the sense of a cathedral, all vertical lines open to above. People standing inside of it become a part of the work in a way, echoing the much larger shapes, participating in the whole.

The “Human Structures” in Plaza33 is not a unique piece. Borofsky tends to work in repeating concepts, allowing them to evolve over time. Other “Human Structure” pyramids have been installed in Vancouver B.C., Germany, China, and San Francisco, and he’s sculpted and painted to the same theme in smaller works in Korea, Washington D.C., and Chicago. Perhaps in the artist’s mind, they are all linked, a global structure inspiring cooperation.

Other sculptures by Borofsky include his “Hammering Man,” which is in four different countries, and “Walking to the Sky,” which is in six different cities. He is always finessing and spreading his artistic vision, giving far-flung communities something to share. It’s very fitting with the slogan of Plaza33: “We used to walk with our heads down, but now we have a chance to look up.”

Up, and out, at a wider world.

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Frieze New York 2017 Is This Weekend

A photo of people browsing the 2015 Frieze Art Fair.

A photo taken from the Frieze Art Fair in 2015.
Photo credit: lev radin / Shutterstock

Frieze New York, an annual event since 2014, is a fair of international and contemporary art that takes place each spring on Randall’s Island in Manhattan. More than two hundred galleries fill space in the 256-acre island park in the Harlem River, along with scattered exhibits and performances elsewhere in the city.

One of the central features in Frieze New York is its Frame section, which is a space reserved for shows of new artists hosted by new galleries, a sort of debut stage. Artists are suggested and nudged onto this stage by two luminaries of international art: Jacob Proctor of the University of Chicago and Fabian Schöneich of the Portikus Contemporary Art Center in Frankfurt, Germany. Both curators, the two men make suggestions which are usually listened to by the fair organizers.

A few of this year’s Frame featured subjects:

Hudinilson Urbano Jr.
This late South American artist’s medium of choice is an unusual one: the photocopier. Copying found objects and his own body, Urbano’s work from before his 2013 death was an exploration of sex, gender, and identity.

Jan Vorisek
From Zurich, Vorisek uses found objects, mostly technological detritus, to build animated sculptures that includes elements of performance art, mostly through recorded voice.

Daiga Grantina
This Latvian artist’s large-scale installations have rarely come to America before. Massive and organ-like, using unexpected materials, her sculptures are exciting to see from every angle.

Susan Cianciolo
From right here in New York City, Cianciolo’s artworks span a variety of media, from watercolor tapestries to garment sketches and illustrated recipes. She is, by education, a fashion designer and has a concurrent exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Greenwich.

Milano Chow
Chow, a young artist from Los Angeles, is an illustrator in pencil, and her work will perhaps be an island of tranquil simplicity in the multimedia storm that is Frieze New York.

Frieze New York takes place each year on the first full weekend in May on Randall’s Island. This year, that is May 5-7.

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Irving Penn Exhibit Coming to the Met

An Irving Penn photography exhibit.

Pictures of cigarette butts taken by world-renowned photographer Irving Penn.
Photo credit: ludovic at Flickr Creative Commons.

Irving Penn’s bold, deliberate photos helped define the look of Vogue Magazine and, it could be said, of fashion photography itself.

“Insufferably elegant” is how it was described by Roberta Smith in the New York Times. He photographed everything, from still lives of fruit and broken bread to aggressively intimate portraits. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be celebrating all of his work in their new exhibition, “Irving Penn: Centennial,” in honor of his 100th birthday (Penn died in 2009).

His working career spanned nearly 70 years and produced thousands of published photographs in magazines around the world. This exhibition features a gift of 190 vintage prints from the Penn Foundation, as well as many pieces of work done for Vogue.

Penn bought his first camera, a state-of-the-art Rolleiflex, in 1938 while working as an artist for various magazines. Five years later, he was hired by Alexander Liberman to design covers for Vogue, which is when he first began to use his own photographs.

In the next decade, he became a name. Models and celebrities fought to be photographed by him. Penn had an incredible eye for finding the secrets in a subject, then framing them to hint just tantalizingly at those secrets.

That quality is perhaps best featured in one of the highlights of this exhibition; a cluster of portraits of Peruvians in traditional dress that Penn shot in 1948, in Cuzco. Posing and lit in contrasts, each of those models shows a huge depth of dignity and personality that draws the eye.

Another piece to pay particular attention to is the set of four toned prints titled “Girl Drinking (Mary Jane Russell), New York,” made from altered negatives. They’re simple and beautiful, and exactly what they say.

“Irving Penn: Centennial” opened on April 24th and will run through July 30, 2017 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Prominent Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Has a New Art Project Coming to NY

A photo of famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Photo credit: J Morc / Shutterstock

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” is an idiom that only takes a little bit of thought to understand. The idea is that knowing where to draw a boundary makes it easy to keep relationships friendly. It is also the title of Ai Weiwei’s large-scale public art project, coming to New York City this autumn.

The Chinese artist intends to build more than 100 fences and fence-like installations scattered all over the city. There will be ten major installations and many smaller works. The fences will be in varied, architectural shapes, with many kinds of doors to allow visitors to interact with them.

“This is the most ambitious that we’ve undertaken since I’ve been here,” said Nicholas Baume in an interview with the New York Times. Baume is the director of the Public Art Fund, which is backing the exhibition as part of their year-long 40th anniversary celebration.

Mr. Ai has said that this work, while superficially appearing to be a blatant statement for reinforcing borders in today’s political environment, is in fact the opposite. In recalling the many countries who have recently closed their borders, it asks viewers to be mindful of whose purpose walls serve. He calls it a reaction to “a retreat from the essential attitude of openness” in America today. The Robert Frost poem from which he borrowed the installation’s title is, after all, a story of neighbors who are friends, who are freely welcome to cross the “good fences.”

Mr. Ai’s other recent artwork supports this interpretation. He is a political creator, with exhibitions like “Laundromat,” made of the abandoned items of a refugee camp, and “Hansel and Gretel,” also in New York City, which critiques the encroaching of surveillance culture and the sacrifices of privacy.

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” will open in multiple boroughs on October 12th. An end date has not yet been announced.

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Effects of the Travel Ban Are Still Felt in the Art World

A map of the United States with barbed wire all around it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The New York art scene has made it a point in recent times to showcase the ways in which the Middle East and the Muslim world have contributed to the global cultural wealth. With the Museum of Modern Art replacing their permanent galleries with art from countries affected by Mr. Trump’s travel ban, like Jordan and Iran, it’s clear that the city’s curators want their opinions to be known.

Even with the travel ban being blocked as unconstitutional several times over by court orders now, its ugly ripples continue to spread. One such ripple is seen in the Aipad Photography Show, which opened Thursday, March 30th and runs through Sunday, April 2nd. One empty booth, near the entrance, will bear only a single piece of white paper.

“Due to the recent travel ban and the uncertainty of international travel from countries identified in the ban, Ag Galerie, Tehran, is unable to participate in the Photography Show this year.”

Ag Galerie is Iranian-owned and represents over a dozen photographers from that country. Collectively, they would have been the first presence from Iran in Aipad, which lauds itself as “the longest-running and foremost exhibition dedicated to the photographic medium.” More than 115 galleries from five continents will be there. But not Ag Galerie.

The owners of the gallery felt that the risk to themselves and their collection is too high to brave U.S. customs and immigration.

Aipad’s president, Catherine Edelman, is more than willing to leave the booth empty to make its quiet statement.

“It’s a quiet way of acknowledging what’s going on,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s important for the art world to acknowledge the immigration ban and the effect it’s having on the arts.”

That white note, however, does not make half the statement that Ag Galerie’s collection could have done, particularly the works of photographer Bahman Jalili, who documented the Iran-Iraq war in crisp, unforgiving black-and-white.

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