Chanel Mobile Art Container by Zaha Hadid Opens in Central Park

October 20, 2008

“Mobile Art”, a slick UFO-like exhibition space designed by architect Zaha Hadid and commissioned by Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, has arrived at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield (off Fifth Avenue and 69th Street). The traveling container for about 20 Chanel-inspired projects (very kindly misbilled as contemporary art installations — don’t be fooled: it’s corporate branding) by a rotating list of international producers will be open to the public from October 20 to November 9.

The promotional-spectacle-disguised-as-art container is on a two-year worldwide tour. Launched in Hong Kong in February 2008, it traveled to Tokyo before arriving in New York. In November, it continues onto London, then Moscow, and finally Paris in 2010. (These stops probably represent the fashion house’s most lucrative markets, yes?)

Adrian Benepe, NY’s Parks & Recreation Commissioner, is ever-eager to further the corporate takeover of public space, aka public-private partnerships:

Our partnership with Chanel continues the great tradition of bringing world class cultural offerings to New York City’s parks… Zaha Hadid’s traveling pavilion will place a futuristic work of architecture and outstanding works of contemporary art in an historic setting in the heart of Central Park. The contrast will be fantastic, melding the vision of one of the world’s most important fashion houses with the beauty of one of the world’s most significant works of landscape design.

Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s Fashion President, is ever-eager to equate the company’s products with art:

Mobile Art was conceived as a project that examines the relationship between contemporary art, fashion and architecture. The project pushes the boundaries of the Chanel aesthetic by joining these mediums and creating an innovative artistic experience. As envisioned by Karl Lagerfeld, the project explores the role fashion plays in the everyday life of women through symbolic evocations of the Chanel quilted handbag.

ACK. In the midst of today’s economy, this recalls Marie-Antoinette’s response when she was told that the French had no bread to eat: “Let Them Eat Cake!”

A Dinosaur in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

July 11, 2008

Curious grand gestures in public space:

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has this huge replica of a Brachiosaurus skeleton, a plant-eating dinosaur that apparently lived 150 million years ago. I’d love to meet the airport officials who approved this. Fascinating for its extreme absurdity — and its innovative use of the atrium’s verticality.

Bloomberg, we need one of these at JFK! Okay, outside JFK would be cool too. Attracts tourists. Just like those $15 million fabricated waterfalls. Probably cheaper.

Giving It Away

April 13, 2008

Two recent articles on charitable giving in the U.S.: Saturday’s e-NYTimes published “Charities Seek Donors to Replace Wall Street”, which made me go back to a Slate article a couple months ago, “The Facebook Philanthropos”. The NYT article iterates philanthropy’s golden rule: 90% of money raised comes from 10% of (wealthiest) donors. The Slate article notes upticks in viral philanthropy or individual giving. While still accounting for only 1-5% of total contributions, viral philanthropy represents greater involvement from a wider range of individuals. Just looking at Obama’s campaign alone, we know that viral anything (at least in America) can overturn many a golden rule.

Two elephants (at least) in the room: first, the growing power of corporations and private wealth in supporting/defining what we see, hear, think, create in public space–which both articles address indirectly. And second, the shrinking role of government or public wealth (which come from taxes) in supporting/defining a (multi)cultural commons–which both articles do not address.

These are, of course, complicated and related issues. To get straight to my point, I’m generally not in favor of higher taxes. But we are swimming in dangerous waters when we as a nation are increasingly willing to put our common wealth (culture, science, education, sports, etc.) up for sale to private bidders. We are not just consumers and markets. We are citizens and constituencies. I for one do not want to look at a future sculpted by Facebook/Microsoft, Google, Sony, Visa, BMW, Boeing, Altria, Target, etc.