Last day in San Francisco: ART

Saturday, September 17, was my last day in San Francisco, and the only one I had with some spare time.

After breakfast, I went to but some gifts from Japan Town and then headed to Union Square, for the Korean Day (Chuseok) culture festival.

Then I went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to check out Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Europa. As I feared, after the failure of Sony Outsider, Tom Sachs’ obsession with demonstrating his hand-made “bricolage style” continues. Further more, it feels like yet another bourgeois manboy “fun” exhibition. It is as if the art world is taking a more and more polarized position as if an artist and her work can only fit one of these buckets: escapist detachment from the hardships of everyday life, snobbish detachment from popular accessibility, or rejection of any institution or establishment.

My suspicion that Space Program: Europa was all about the first option was enhanced by the fact that I did not see any African-American person there, although I was there for quite a while. So I decided to test my thesis.

I wanted to go to the Museum of the African Diaspora, but someone told me it was closed today for a private event (later I found out it closed early, but I could have gotten in), so I went to the nearby San Francisco Museum of Modern Art instead.

The lack of diversity was beyond appalling. It was mesmerizing. In the SF MoMA store everyone was white, many blonde, tall, with perfect teeth… are you kidding me? After reading everywhere about it, and visiting so many tech companies, I knew this city has a diversity and divide problem, but this was ridiculous.

I walked into the museum, and the lack of diversity remained apparent, although diminished by the presence of a healthy number of tourists. Very sad, but it was time to focus my attention on the art.

What a collection! Of course, I enjoyed the usual suspects (Rothko, Calder, Judd, Warhol, Serra, Picasso, Mondrian, Kelly, Martin, Twombly, Sherman, Murata, Duchamp, etc) but I also got to experience some works from Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter that were not their best known (most certainly I did not know about those pieces), which gave me a completely new appreciation for them, and reminded me that you can’t judge an artist by one piece, just like you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I also enjoyed very much the exhibition “Typeface to Interface”, which had it been exhibited in NY it would have been packed with hipsters, but here it was full of techies (interface designers perhaps?). Special mention: the mesmerizing Sagmeister & Walsh video “Now is better”:

So with one delightful overdose of art, I headed to the airport to fly back to London.

A walk through Oxford

On Saturday I went with my sister and brother-in-law on a day trip to my alma mater.

Although graduation ceremonies and hoards of tourists made it hard to move around and access temporarily closed buildings, it was a sunny day, and we enjoyed the walk, including a tour of Somerville and Magdalen Colleges, the Ashmolean Museum, a rehearsal for a concert at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and the Bodleian Weston Library, where we saw the “Treasures: 24 pairs” exhibition and had a nice lunch.

Japan Society and Forbidden Planet London

On Thursday , on my way from an event to a meeting, I made two stops. The first one in Forbidden Planet.

Forbidden Planet is a comic store that I enjoyed tremendously while living in New York. While not exactly Tokyo’s Mandarake, Forbidden Planet had enough variety to make it interesting. What I did not know is that they had such a large store in London! It is a fun place full of comic (and non-comic) books, manga, merchandise, figures, posters…

The second stop was at my “oasis” Japan Society, where I go to get delicious Japanese groceries (fresh organic tofu, excellent seafood, mochi, dorayaki, ramen, udon, seaweed, poki, sushi, calpis, etc) and freshly prepared takoyaki and buns.

Interviewed by Meural

Last week I was interviewed (as art curator) by the Meural team.

Each installment of their Deep Cuts series features a writer, artist, or curator discussing an underrated artist, artwork, movement, or museum.

In Episode 7: “Seriously playful” we discussed the work of one of my favorite artists: Claudio Zirotti.

Check it out!

“ADLS50″ by Claudio Zirotti
“ADLS50″ by Claudio Zirotti

Creating the non-comissioned art piece “Diangle” for the Tate Modern Gallery

Jorge working

Thursday June 23 I was given the opportunity to create a non-comissioned art piece at the Tate Gallery new extension Switch House.

Within Meschac Gaba (1961, Benin) “Architecture Room” installation part of the “Museum of Contemporary African Art” exhibit, the artist invitation was to build my own imaginary museum… and what better place to do that than in the recently inaugurated Switch House extension of the Tate Gallery by Herzog & de Meuron?

The piece (titled “Diangle”) plays with angles. After all, given a limited set of geometric rigid interlocking woodblock figures, the most obvious and balanced way to continue the playfulness that the installation requires is to examine the angles. Unexpected, closed, and aggressive, while at the same time inviting, and dynamic.

Those angles are not only constructive in the architectural sense. They also represent a cultural and even psychological “construct”: the “unorthodox” approach to a pre-conceived set of requirements that is so often present in my works.

It is the essence of rebellion. In Lego-like blocks.

Visiting the new Tate Modern Switch House

Switch House

Thursday June 23 I went with my parents and son to visit the new Switch House extension of the Tate Modern Gallery, by Herzog & de Meuron.

While narrowly avoiding the fire alarm evacuation that happened a couple of hours before we got there, what we could not avoid was the crowds. In any case, it is always a pleasure to see an expansion to an already amazing gallery.

Invited with my son to Intel Buzz videogame developer workshop

Today I was invited, along with my son, who at 14 has been a videogame developer for years, to attend the Intel Buzz videogame developer workshop. It was not only a lot of fun, but WONDERFUL to attend with him!

Although a small event, it ended up being extremely interesting, with an area to try indie games and new technologies, and a long list of talks and panels, including one-on-ones.

Almost all of the indie games showcased were really good. My favourite was Elise: Unpainted Memories:

The speakers were amazing, like:

  • Ed Fries, Co-founder of the Xbox Project and Microsoft Game Studios
  • Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
  • Oscar Clark, Evangelist for Everyplay & UnityAds, Unity Technologies
  • Penka Kouneva, Game Composer (Prince of Persia, Transformers), leader in Game Audio
    Will Eastcott, CEO and co-founder of PlayCanvas

The talks and technology were really interesting, and the games and technology we tried (like the Rovr) were super cool. But the two main conclusions are: VR is all the rage, and it’s going to be everywhere soon (coming to Chrome for Android in October!), and there were a lot of women attending (which is great, and hopefully a sign that gender equality is finally arriving to the tech industry).

Stockholm day 1

After the wonderful cruise, we disembarked in Stockholm and took a taxi to our hotel: the Nobis . It is a cool design hotel, with a particular claim to history: in their building is where the Stockholm Syndrome effect first happened. It is located in a square where they are installing heated floors!

After storing our luggage in the hotel (too early to checking-in), we went off to explore the city.

We walked past the morning-yogis at Kungsträd-gården, Jakobs Kyrka and the Opera House, crossed the Norrbro bridge (checking out the Parliament House from the other side of the bridge) and entered Gamlastan next to the Royal Palace. We walked the old narrow cobblestone streets passing the Saint George statue, the Nobel Museum, and countless monuments, cafes and stores.

After the nice walk, we went back to the hotel to check-in and take a quick break. Then we left again, passing the National Theater, on our way to Moderna Museet where we had a blast with some very well curated exhibitions featuring Kakeis, Selander, Cherri, Kusama, Klee, Judd, Martin, Andre, Tuttle, Flavin, Nauman, Shapiro, Stella, Wilke… and a high-quality collection of contemporary art, including pieces by Calder, Picasso, Matisse, Tanning, Warhol, Duchamp, Rauschenberg, Oppenheim, Dali… the bookstore was also quite good.

After the museum, we headed to City Konditoriet, an adorable cafe housed in the third floor of a very ugly building. Unfortunately, they stopped serving food an hour before their closing time, so we decided to leave and look for a place to have early dinner. We ended up in an amazing (Michelin guide recommended, and featured in the “Where Chefs Eat” book) restaurant: Rolfs Kök. A great choice! We had a wonderful dinner seating at the bar, watching the chefs work their magic.
After dinner, we took advantage of the late closing ours of the Photography Museum, open until 1am, so we walked all the way past Gamlastan well into Södermalm. The long trek was well worth the effort, and we enjoyed several amazing shows, especially Nick Brandt’s ‘Inherit The Dust‘. We also visited the lively lounge and restaurant upstairs before we headed back to our hotel, totally exhausted but happy.

Baltic Cruise Day 7

Friday, May 20, we arrived in Helsinki quite early and docked by Kauppatori (Market Square) where they sell a ton of berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc), which we have been eating a ton during the cruise.

So, after breakfast we disembarked, and walked the Senate Square, got a map in the City Hall, where we also took the opportunity to check our email thanks to the free wifi, and went on, passing by the Helsinki Cathedral, the Palace of the Council of the State, the main building of the University of Helsinki, and the National Library.

Through the commercial avenue Aleksanterinkatu we reached the Finnish National Theater, the Ateneum Art Museum, and the Central Railway Station. The Station is an impressive building outside, but not that exciting inside.

Next to it, and past the main Post Office, is the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, where we spent a while before continuing on to the Green District passing by the Helsinki Music Center, the Parliament Building, and the National Museum.

Walking up Karamzininranta, we strolled around the Töölönlahti lake, before coming back towards the station via Alvar Aallon katu.

Since we still had a little time, we decided to visit the Design District, walking down Erottajank all the way to the Eira Hospital before turning back towards the ship via the Tähtitornin park.

Once back on the ship we were invited to any treatment in the spa. We had fun doing the Kneipp Walk (cold and hot water at ankle height), followed by a couple’s massage that lasted over an hour. After the massage, I went into the sauna: almost 100ºC (200ºF) at 10% humidity for 15 minutes! The funny thing is that I did not break a sweat until minute 12.

Since the ship was departing Helsinki, we had a late lunch on the deck by the pool and then went back to our suite to rest.