Photos: Francisco Collazo
[Please do not use these photos without permission. To purchase rights, contact Francisco Collazo: fracollaz[at]gmail[dot]com
** Yesterday, flag burners and people protesting their actions confronted each other at Ft. Greene Park in Brooklyn. You can read more about the confrontation in this article at DNAInfo.com. The photos below were taken by Francisco Collazo and are used with his permission.
The mystery buyer arrived at the auction of 582 lots approximately five minutes before Peter Costanzo, Vice President of Doyle New York Auctioneers and Appraisers and the auctioneer for the first half of Wednesday’s sale, opened bids for Lot #231, “an important unpublished archive of approximately twenty-five autograph letters to José Bartolí, with photographs and various enclosures.” Seven minutes later, and just two minutes into bidding on Lot #231, the woman wielding paddle #283 was declared the winning bidder, with the coveted collection of letters going for $110,000, $10,000 below what the auction house estimated as the high bid range for the lot.
As is the custom at U.S. auctions, the bidder was not identified by name, though Doyle indicated to at least one outlet that the winning bidder, an Asian woman who made her bid from the floor, was a New York City-based artist and art collector. Bidding started at 12:55 PM, nearly three hours after the highly anticipated auction opened. Just over a dozen people were in attendance, with the winning bidder the only member of those assembled who entered a competitive sum. She responded immediately when bidding opened at $60,000 and offered counter bids as other offers came in by phone and Internet.
Costanzo, who indicated during previews of the letters that “everyone” in the art world knew about the auction, declined to reveal which museums and cultural institutions might be bidding for the lot of letters, which Kahlo wrote to her lover, José Bartolí, in the 1940s. In addition to the letters, the lot contained drawings made by Kahlo and photos of her, including some by renowned photographer Nickolas Muray, who had had his own affair with Kahlo. Costanzo said that museums might find it hard to vie for the collection, as the objects wouldn’t fit neatly amidst artworks, and institutions like Mexico City’s Casa Azul, the house where Kahlo was born, where she lived with muralist Diego Rivera, and which is now a museum, might find it difficult to raise the kind of money required to purchase such a valuable collection. Costanzo’s observation seemed to play out in the gallery on Wednesday, as the volley of offers and counter-offers was somewhat lethargic. After offering her final bid of $110,000, Costanzo held off on confirming her as the new owner of the letters until several phone and online bidders were asked directly if they wanted to up the ante.
They did not. After Costanzo issued a final warning and the bid was sealed, the winner was whisked away by Doyle staff, who added a $27,000 buyer premium to the bid, bringing the total to $137,000.
Let’s just cut right to the chase: I don’t adore the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, which seems like an absolutely terrible and unkind thing to say since the museum has been closed for three years, undergoing a meticulous $91 million once-over.
As I walked away from Tuesday morning’s media preview of the museum, which will reopen to the public this Friday, December 12, I searched for the right word to describe why such an ambitious project left me feeling so dissatisfied. The word is: incohesive. Among the 726 objects on display, there are some compelling ones, including Abraham Lincoln’s funeral pall and pocket watch, a pair of Toscanini’s pants, and–coming up to the present century–Damian Ortega’s most impressive installation of tools, “Controller of the Universe.” There’s also the Hansen Writing Ball and a Comstock Knitter, both of which are glorious representations of 19th-century industrial design.
But for every “Ooh” “Aah,” “Weren’t those the glory days of design?” object, there’s one that feels a little out of place, either “Too soon, too soon” (ie: the iPhone and MacBook Air) or boring because of its predictability and ubiquity in other museums (I’m looking at you, Zig-Zag and Vermelha chairs). Mostly, though, the collection as it is presented feels incredibly disjointed, the attempt to be representative yet selective not even cohering well within discrete exhibits, and far less across and among them.
That’s not to say I’m unswayed by the Cooper Hewitt’s new charms, however. I’m impressed by the effort and (most of) the execution of the museum’s new hands-on interactive elements, as well as the places in the museum where exhibits try to explain how design is relevant to daily life. The Cooper Hewitt has always excelled in this regard; its 2007 exhibit, “Design for the Other 90%,” was exceptional. When Cooper Hewitt’s good, it’s good. But that’s precisely what makes the “Meh” parts so disappointing.
Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
** Last week, Francisco and I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Arts and Design, where the exhibit “New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft, and Art in Latin America” had just opened.
Like the Guggenheim, the physical lay-out of MAD doesn’t always work; we’ve seen really excellent exhibits there and some that really suffered from poor use of space. Fortunately, “New Territories” avoids those problems, mainly because the work is so strong and varied that the visitor’s interest is held and there’s a thrill in going from one floor to the next (the exhibit is spread out over three floors) to see what else you’ll find.
There are some heavy hitter artists/designers in the show, including Vik Muniz and Pedro Reyes, as well as those who will likely be new to most viewers. Our visit was far too cursory, so we’ll be back for a more leisurely experience before the show closes on April 6, 2015.
Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
** Sometimes, Mariel thinks Francisco and I have the coolest jobs in the world.
Like when we’re invited to tour chocolate factories and eat lots of chocolate.
Yesterday, we headed down to Sunset Park to visit Li-Lac’s new chocolate factory and, of course, sample the wares.
Li-Lac’s an interesting hold-out in a world of artisanal bean-to-bar chocolatiers, among them other Brooklyn-based chocolate producers, Mast Brothers, Raaka, Tumbador, and Cacao Prieto, to name just a few. Li-Lac, which was founded in New York in 1923, prides itself on being “stubbornly old-fashioned” (in fact, that’s its tagline). While those other chocolatiers are dabbling in novel flavor combinations (I happen to love Raaka’s bourbon cask aged and vanilla rooibos raw chocolate bars), wrapping their bars up in fancy packaging that sometimes costs as much as the chocolate itself, and promoting the backstory of their beans and who produced them, Li-Lac is doing just fine with its handmade bestsellers. During a tour of the factory, we were told that customers won’t let Li-Lac “get all fancy.” “They like the flavors they tasted 20 years ago and they don’t want us to change them,” said Anthony Cirone, president and co-owner of Li-Lac. Nostalgia trumps innovation and it seems to be a business model that’s working just fine for them.
Our visit to Li-Lac was for a media preview, but the grand opening to the public will take place on Saturday, November 22, from 11am-5pm. There will be free chocolate, of course. Visitors will be able to see the production line, where chocolates are “enrobed” and finished off with a hand-drawn “signature.” And if they don’t get enough sweet treats during the visit, they can purchase some more in the on-site store.