Your Kid Could Not Do This

I confess to more than a little snobbery when I was in art school. I wasn't a snob about status or money, because those things seemed far too pedestrian to me. I was a snob about work. I was immensely impressed by craft and labor. This is not to say that I didn't appreciate conceptualism, because I absolutely did. I just expected to see it -- to have some tangible proof of the time and suffering inherent in the birth of an idea.

I was a naive idiot, and is there anything worse than a stupid snob?

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I scoffed at Cy Twombly's work (all those dots and scribbles -- I could make that in my sleep!). But if I am honest with myself, I didn't like his work because I didn't understand it. I couldn't discern any method to his art or craft whatsoever.

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It's been eight years since I finished school, and the art world was different back then. Art was about something -- your gender, your home, your race, your pet chickens. What didn't really matter, but there damn well better be a metaphorical SOMETHING in there somewhere.

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And so, as a young photographer I was quite sure Twombly's work was outdated, superficial, and self absorbed.

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After all, photography in the late twentieth century threatened old school gestural painters like Twombly much in the same way photography threatened painting back in the early nineteenth century, leading Paul Delaroche to utter most famously, "Painting is dead."

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And after all, Cy Twombly lived in relative obscurity for decades -- a recluse doing his own thing off the coast of Italy. An irrelevant person of little interest. At least that's what I thought.

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So it's really rather funny that Twombly is undeniably popular now; it's funny that it has become such a fad to scribble all over a canvas and call it Art with a capital A.

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But the difference between Twombly and all the trendsters, the thing that I did not understand about his work when I was in school, the thing that perhaps most people were too jaded and eager to dismiss about him when he first started painting amidst all the splashy ab ex guys and minimalists years and years ago, is intent. Or INTENT, rather. Yes, with capital letters. Purpose is the key.

And to make that appear effortless is the mark of a virtuoso.

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If you doubt that, read his own words regarding his work: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.”

Spoken like a man well versed in the wisdom of the classics. I hope it's not too late for me to learn to follow suit.

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Rest in peace Cy Twombly.

[NY Times Arts Beat, Photos of Cy Twombly's studio by Francois Halard]

I Just Got the Best Present Ever

Yes -- the best present ever, because when I opened the link Raina sent me I almost stroked out from the insanity of it all. I love art, I love houses, and when the two get together and do the horizontal mambo, they make beautiful, very expensive babies. Just how expensive?  Well, if you sold every organ in your body on the black market, you still couldn't afford any of the art in this house (plus you'd be dead).

I mean, you know you're rich when Warhol's rorschach paintings don't even rate a mention in the listed "pieces of note." And that's just the office.

Or maybe the author simply tired of referencing Warhol 8,567 times, since the home of fabulously wealthy psychiatrist Samantha Boardman and her real estate mogul husband Aby Rosen has more Warhol pieces in it than a museum.

Apparently they are also nonplussed by the proximity of so much fragile cash to two tiny toddlers. According to Boardman, “We have taught the kids how to live with [art]  and how to learn from it, but we have also taught them how to respect it.” That's code for: the nannies steer them around it. Because even the best kid will wait until you turn your back and then drive their Big Wheels into a temptingly towering stack of cardboard boxes... by Andy Warhol.

Still, you have to give the Boardman-Rosens respect for using their superrich powers for good and not evil. They probably could have single handedly bailed out Goldman Sachs, but instead they bought art. Really good art. Francis Bacon is perhaps my favorite painter in the whole universe, and that Damien Hirst sculpture ain't shabby, either. But that's not to say that I would have made exactly the same curatorial choices if I were obscenely wealthy.

William de Kooning + Richard Prince = Yes. The table is gorgeous, too, but that terrarium-as-art thingie confuses me.

Cy Twombly = hell to the yes, but Jeff Koons will never be my favorite artist. I know it's conceptual and all, but it still looks like they decided to hang the kids' pool toy next to one of the greatest painters of all time. The rug, however, gets my seal of approval (as if they need it).

Taxidermy may be out, but Maurizio Cattelan is the original gangsta. Props.

Check out the rest of the Vogue sildeshow, where you will learn that the kids are adorable but perhaps a wee bit spoiled (not judging -- I'd happily move into their life), the library is a hot mess (judging), and outdoor space is at a premium in NYC even for the uber wealthy.

Thanks again to Raina at If the Lampshade Fits for the tip!

Books I Want: Visite Privee by Francois Halard

Francois Halard is perhaps the interiors photographer of which I am most jealous. He's the guy who takes the pictures that make me go, damn! I wish I had made that. It's not just that he's a gifted seer of light (the most important aspect of any good photograph), but that he also has taste and style. He takes interesting projects in interesting places, and renders them with a unique painterly touch. I can almost always spot his work without knowing beforehand who took the picture. Check out my favorite home from his new book, Visite Privee:

Carlo Mollino was a mid century architect, a photographer, a novelist, a furniture designer, and apparently a decorator. He worked on his home in Turin over the course of eight years, but he never even lived there.

Filled with antiques, an avant garde collection of photography (featuring works by Man Ray, among others), and decorated with a contemporary spin on classic design, it could easily pass for the current work of a very eclectic and talented designer.

Hello Stejnar chandelier, Japanese lanterns, and Saarinen dining set -- plus there is a giant clam on the wall. What's not to love?

And is the leopard wallcovering not insane (in a good way)? Other details include:

A peeping butterfly in a portal between rooms.

Wallpaper reminiscent of offerings by Zuber et Cie.

A Mollino designed chair set atop Italian ceramic tiles.

I want this book. Chock full of amazing homes occupied by extraordinary people -- Cy Twombly, Julian Schnabel, and Robert Rauschenberg, just to name a few -- it has a respect for the handmade that I find very refreshing.

Let me get arty on you for just a second (sorry in advance): famed philosopher Walter Benjamin pointed out that photography's most important quality was its mechanized reproducibility, its sameness, its democracy, but Halard appears to employ antique photographic processes to create images as intimate and one of a kind as Twombly's paintings.

Of course the only way to access the images is through the internet or the book, which takes us back to the whole reproduction issue, but that's besides the point. Mostly.

Forget the lecture and buy the book. It's pretty.