When American Craft Museum curator David McFadden was casting around for a way to do justice to an exhibition of pieces by Sèvres, the national porcelain company of France, he thought of his old friend, architect Peter Marino. The two men met in the 1980′s, when Mr. McFadden was a curator at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Mr. Marino was a rising architect whose detailed neo-classical interiors became standards for Bonfire of the Vanities -style titans such as Ronald Perelman. In the 1990′s, he has designed the interiors of Barneys’ Madison Avenue and Los Angeles stores and a number of fashion boutiques. Mr. McFadden decided to try to induce Mr. Marino to design the exhibit on a pro bono basis since he had never done that kind of work before.
“I said, ‘Peter, I would love to have you do it. I know that we cannot afford you,’” Mr. McFadden told The Observer . “A week later, he called back and said, ‘I would love to do the show.’ I said, ‘Even without your fee?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’”
On Jan. 14, Art and Industry: Contemporary Porcelain From Sèvres opened at the West 53rd Street museum, and it has exceeded all expectations. Mr. Marino has created five elaborate period rooms in which to display more than 150 examples of porcelain artwork from the Sèvres factory in France, by 40 international artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Roberto Matta and Jim Dine. The style ranges from Louis XV to Art Deco. Over the sofa in the Art Deco room, he has hung a portrait of Julian Schnabel’s ex-wife, Jacqueline, in the artist’s signature broken-plate style.
“I got the idea for the Schnabel when I toured the Sèvres factory and saw where they destroy all of the imperfect pieces at the end of every month,” Mr. Marino told The Observer . “They had piles of broken plates, and I thought, I should tell Julian about this,” Mr. Marino said. “Then I thought, I’ll put a broken-plate Schnabel in the show, just for fun.” Mr. Marino also put a white Louise Nevelson sculpture in the exhibition. He said that this was to make a point about a pair of vases by Ettore Sottsass that take a similar approach to design. “We put them right next to each other so people would be sure to get it,” he explained.
Mr. Marino has put down some additional designs for the museum in an international competition for architect of the master plan for the museum, The Observer has learned. The winner will be announced later this year, the museum said. Sources close to the museum have said that Mr. Marino is one of the front-runners.
Dust-Up in Chelsea
On Jan. 16, Michael Timpson made his New York debut at the Stefan Stux Gallery, 529 West 20th Street. What he does could be loosely referred to as performance art. Like most performance artists, though, Mr. Timpson is repelled by that label. “I have always called myself a sculptor,” Mr. Timpson, 47, told The Observer .
For I Can’t See Nuttin’ but Dust , his current piece, Mr. Timpson, a native of Athy, Ireland, who studied sculpture at the Massachussets Institute of Technology, has partitioned off a small room in the gallery and hung between 250 and 300 heads of cabbage from the ceiling. He has also hung four Jackson USA brand wheelbarrows and a Robin Hood bicycle. Then he placed hundreds of dishes on the floor.
During the performances, which last about 15 minutes, Mr. Timpson, dressed in a suit and with a blindfold on, rides the bicycle. Four nude models-two men and two women-sit in the wheelbarrows watching television. Viewers enter the room through a small doorway and then are expected to walk around its circumference on the plates while observing the models and Mr. Timpson. The sound of feet on the plates is so intense that Bill Maynes, who has an eponymous gallery on the floor below, called to complain.
“Is it performance art?” Mr. Maynes asked rhetorically when contacted by The Observer . “I heard that it was aversion art or something like that. It was certainly an aversion down here.
“You know that scene from The Birds where they are in the living room and all the birds are attacking the house? It was just like that, only worse, because there were no birds. It was horrible.”
To soften the noise, Mr. Timpson has agreed to put down rubber mats on the floor for the performances, which will continue on Saturdays through Feb. 13.
Why the wheelbarrows? “I think they have always been beautiful. Especially those Jackson wheelbarrows. My old man was a foundry man, so I grew up in that environment where physically working was important. Wheelbarrow is a reference for me.”
Why the nudes? “There is something about the frailty of a human being in a metal object. It is also vulnerability, particularly with all the noise going on and the jagged plates.”
What was the reason for the blindfold? “I thought I really don’t want to be looking at these people coming in, and I thought I will just blindfold myself.”
Ordering Up a MoMA Exhibition
On Jan. 13, William Eggleston flew from Memphis to New York for the opening of his photography exhibition at Cheim & Read on West 23rd Street. Mr. Eggleston had found some old negatives from his classic period in the late 1960′s and just printed up a new show, Cadillac: Color Photographs From 1966 to 1971 .
After the show’s opening, over dinner at the El Quijote restaurant in the Hotel Chelsea, Mr. Eggleston, sporting a two-day-old beard, was seated next to Peter Galassi, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. How did that happen? Well, Mr. Eggleston has the distinction of being the first photographer to show color photography at MoMA, in a 1976 exhibition that was both shocking and revolutionary. He has been waiting for more than 20 years for MoMA to repeat their act.
“I want an enormous exhibition in your museum,” Mr. Eggleston told Mr. Galassi, using his mellifluous Southern accent to good effect.
“Time is nature’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen at once,” Mr. Galassi retorted. “But you keep coming up with new photographs like the ones in this show, and I will come down to Memphis and look at what you have. Imagine stashing away negatives like that and not printing them for more than 20 years. What else have you in the drawers down there, Bill?