Category: Internship

Thursday Styles

Thursday morning the intern group was addressed by the Whitney’s general counsel, Nick Holmes, and the Whitney’s curator of photography, Elisabeth Sussman.  The general counsel practices what I believe is termed “fun law.”  That is, he went to law school, worked at a large corporate law firm for a few years, hated it, decided to combine his undergrad degree in art history with his law abilities and came to work at the Whitney as the manager of collections, ended up counseling the museum on contracts etc., and was therefore given the title legal counsel before being upgraded to general counsel, which is where he’s at now.  Nick presented a series of case studies regarding issues he has encountered during his time at the Whitney, from having artists waive insurance rights with work they insist be placed in unprotected areas (ie: stairwells where there are no guards and where visitors can and do damage said works) to dealing with works that damage people (believe it or not it happens, and the general counsel has to settle the claim).  The general counsel deals with work permits and sidewalk permits and anything involving zoning issues with the building and any and all contracts with loaners or artists or corporations.  He made law sound enjoyable;  he has, as he termed it, the dream job, and is clearly really enthused to be able to speak on behalf of the Whitney.

Elisabeth Sussman got her start by curating the 1993 Whitney Biennial, which is one of the more famous biennials in the museum’s history (two of her co-curators was Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Musem in Harlem, and Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum).  Sussman spoke at length about her experience as an extremely green curator working on the biennial and how that biennial really shattered a lot of conceptions and paved the way for future biennials.  Sussman worked for nearly a decade at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston before returning to the Whitney, and so told us of her time there working in a museum that had minimal budget and that was really shaping its identity.  She also talked about some of her favorite exhibitions she’d curated, including an exhibition of works by Mike Kelly and an exhibition devoted to Diane Arbus.  Sussman noted some of the issues with the photography collection at the Whitney.  The Whitney began collecting photography late, and so has many major gaps in terms of American photography.  For instance, the Whitney lacks work by Walker Evans and only has a single Ansel Adams photography.  These gaps are glaring at a museum devoted to American art.  However, major works by artists such as Evans and Diane Arbus and Adams are extremely expensive and difficult to acquire.  Therefore Sussman must focus on acquiring works by newer artists to strengthen the collection on the contemporary side of the board.

After the intern meeting I ran home for a quick lunch and then returned to the Whitney to give Cookie a tour of the museum.  I enjoy being able to show my friends around where I work and I especially enjoy introducing people to art with which they are not familiar and/or explaining art that isn’t immediately comprehensible.  Also, yay seeing Cookie again–seriously, their visit was a pleasant surprise.

I was going to trek to museums during the remainder of the afternoon but the weather was miserable and so I decided to head inside until around 6:30, when a dinner date with a friend forced me back outside into the horrible awful weather that seemed more appropriate to Seattle than to New York City.  We went to a dirt cheap and dirty deli on 2nd avenue between 7th and St. Marks called B&H Dairy–the dairy referring to the fact that it used to be a kosher dairy deli.  I think that they’ve since lost their kosher seal but whatever.  Anyhow, this is one of those little hole in the wall New York City places that hasn’t been cleaned since it opened in the 1960s.  And that’s okay, because the food is delicious and deliciously cheap.  I had a classic New York deli dish of really wonderful cheese blintzes.  The filling was perfectly sweet and the wrapping was crispy on the outside, chewy on the in, excellently cooked and extremely filling.  The blintzes also came with a plate of thickly sliced and thickly buttered challah bread.  I mean, this was a total win.

Not treyf.
Not treyf.
Definitely not treyf.
Definitely not treyf.

After dinner I walked several blocks up 2nd to the Telephone Bar and Grill for beer crawl, which I hadn’t attended since Brad’s birthday which was something like three weeks ago so I am officially lame.  This was an extremely successful beer crawl: a large turnout of diverse people, some of whom, much to Brad and company’s glee, were even female!  I had various enlightening conversations with various ex-college roommates of some of my Pine View friends.  What can I say, Pine View people tend to be friends with smart/amusing/enlightening people.  It’s a thing.

So after a few hours at beer crawl I headed home (with a stop at Red Mango along the way of course).  Yes, I am a little behind schedule, but I’ll catch up, no worries.  I’ve been here eight weeks already; that is absurd.  Where oh where did the summer go…

Studio Museum in Harlem

Today the intern group headed uptown to 125th street and the Studio Museum in Harlem.  Since I spent my last year of grad school deeply steeped in African American art via a Harlem Renaissance Seminar and TAing for African American Art History,  I was really excited to see the museum.  125th Street is the main street of Harlem; the Apollo Theater is on 125th, and it seems as though it is a location where the community congregates.  Harlem is actually fairly pretty, architecturally; lots of lovely old brownstones.  The Studio Museum is located on 125th and is a primarily contemporary institution focused on the nurturing and display of artists of African descent.  The museum also has a really famous residency program and has an annual high school program based on the photography of James Van der Zee.

The museum currently has an exhibit of work by the British-Jamaican artist Hurvin Anderson, which provides a formal analysis of the medium of painting while also covering the Jamaican community in London.  The work deals heavily with issues of visual memory as well.

The permanent collection is represented in several areas.  A collection called “Small Things” is a really wonderful display of objects from the collection that are smaller in size.  This exhibit has some real gems, such as a wonderful collages by Wangechi Mutu, a works by Eldzier Cortor and Romare Bearden, and a hilarious smashed piggy bank installation by David Hammons.  A nearby exhibition focuses on works which historically fall into the “craft” category, including works made in a primitive style and works that focus on actual crafts such as knitting and woodworking.  A downstairs permanent collection display called Black and Blue draws from works that are primarily black or blue.  This formal study of course takes on a metaphorical meaning in the context of the Studio Museum–black is obvious, blue is for the blues, etc.

The Studio Museum got its name because it was envisioned as a place for new black artists to work (studio) and grow.  This program matured into the artist-in-residency program.  Each year three artists are chosen and given space to work, a living stipend, and a show at the end of their tenure.  Well known artists have emerged from this program, such as David Hammons and Wangechi Mutu.  This year’s artists are Adam Pendleton, Dawit L. Petros, and Khalif Kelly.  Pendleton is an untrained artist from Virginia who works a lot with language and mirrors and plays upon our conceptions of how language is used in art.  Petros works a lot with color and ideas of reducing life into color, which results in a series of minimalist style works.  Kelly was by far my favorite artist: his works are giant beautiful colorful fauvist canvases painted in a pixellated, early-video game style that tell the story of two characters on a life-changing journey.  I really loved these works; they are whimsical and really steeped in art historical knowledge and an awareness of modern day graphics and imagery.  I’ve remarked lately how impressed and pleased I am by developments made in “high” media–painting and sculpture–as opposed to new media such as video and sound.  Kelly once again proves that some of the most exciting art produced today is being made in the most traditional of forms.

The high school program is also a yearly program where local high school students are taught about the work of James Van Der Zee, a photographer who lived in and photographed Harlem for sixty years.  He was also a prominent photographer of subjects during the Harlem Renaissance.  The high school students are then given a camera and taught photography, and their projects are exhibited at the end of their year-long program.  I was actually really impressed by some of the work displayed by these students: they captured their subjects really sensitively and even broached some historically difficult topics, such as issues of beauty and hair in black culture and issues of the queer black community.

We were given a tour of the museum by the assistant curator.  Evidently Thelma Golden, the museum’s director and a celebrity in the contemporary art world, usually gives the tour but she was off doing fund-raising stuff.  Uber-sad, it would have been incredible to meet her.  Regardless we had a great question and answer session at the end of the tour with the assistant curator and the head of the PR department.  The discussion was extremely interesting and covered everything from the museum’s decision to focus on the entire diaspora as opposed to only African American artists to the museum’s attempt to maintain neutrality despite its being a museum for the display of work pertaining to the African diasporic experience.  Two-thumbs up for the Studio Museum, especially their artist-in-residence program.

After our tour Theresa and I headed on a journey to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to see Aaron Douglas’ Aspects of Negro Life series.  The work consists of four murals that were commissioned for the then-Harlem Branch of the New York Public Library (now Schomburg Center) and now they hang out in the Schomburg Center’s reading room.  These are works I have seen a lot over the past year, so I really wanted to see them in person.  I have to admit, actually seeing the work made me fearful for their well-being.  The paint seems to be fading in many of the canvases, and some of the areas are even a little splotchy.  i’m glad I finally saw the works in person but I hope that they are being well-preserved.  Fingers crossed.

After stopping by a shaved ice carts to get a mango snow cone (these little carts are all over the city, I figured I’d give one a try), I headed home to eat my leftover pizza from last night (still delicious) and to read my book/relax in preparation for meeting some old family friends at Nobu 57.  That was a fabulous meal, but you’ll have to wait for the next post for pictures and description!

Sotheby’s

Today the intern group took a field trip to Sotheby’s main location on York and 72nd.  We were there to learn about the auction system from Sotheby’s head auctioneer, Hugh Hildesley.  Hildesley has been at Sotheby’s since the 1960s, and is a dapper older British man who basically fulfills every stereotype in your mind but in the best way possible.

Hildesley explained the auction process to us, from how to participate in an auction to issues of commissions etc., and then conducted a mock auction (or Mocktion) as I call it.  We were all given paddles and budgets (I had a pithy budget of $130,o00) and then we had to battle it out over eight lots of Americana from the 1800s.  On the last lot Hildesley claimed to have “lost his voice” and asked for a volunteer auctioneer.

Who do you think volunteered?

I figure, I can talk fast, I’ll be fine.  No.  Running an auction is hard.  I climb up in the little fancy podium where Hildesley was standing and get clipped with a microphone (I stood where many expensive art has been sold, that must count for something!) and I got to hold the pen and the gabble.  I called the lot, a lovely chest with inlaid wood from Massachusetts…and then the bidding started and I lost all sense of intelligence and logic.  I miscounted the bids, I got confused with all the flying paddles, the phone bidders to my sides were distracting me.  Somehow I skipped a bunch of numbers and got to $100,000 dollars without realizing is and it was just DREADFUL.  I think I called the item at $240,000?  Anyhow, I was an utter failure as an auctioneer but whatever, at least now I know that running auctions is not my calling.  Also, every now and then I like to shake myself up to ensure the longevity of my chutzpah.  I think it is up and running.

Moral of the story:  running an auction is really hard, and I have supreme respect for people who choose this profession, as it is not for the faint of heart.

Milk Bar and Magic

Work again today!  Though they switched it up by adding more group intern seminar at the beginning.  We were addressed by David Kiehl, curator of prints (extremely charming, rambling, off-kilter man who had a story for every work he showed us and is clearly enthusiastic about the changing concept of “the print” and alterations in printmaking) and a representative from Marketing.  Marketing was sort of all over the place, but the end result is that Marketing helps bring people into the museum and the museum is a business and a brand the end.  Although that brand does need to possess integrity and truth to the museum.  So Marketing walks the line between soulless and soulful.  But who doesn’t nowadays.

Post work I headed down toward Union Square.  Ashley and I had tickets to see a 10:20 screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince aka HP6, and I decided that I owed Momofuku Milk Bar another visit.  Some of you may recall I stopped by earlier this summer to try their softserve.  This time around I wanted to try some of the savory dishes and some cakes/pies/cookies etc.

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In terms of savory food I really wanted to try the Volcano, which sounds amazing: dough stuffed with cheese and potato gratin and bacon and baked.  How can this fail?  Well it did, because there were no Volcanoes today.  Sad.  So I decided to try the dish that helped make David Chang famous: his steamed pork buns.

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Said buns involve buttery slices of pork belly with cucumber and some sort of sweet, hoisin-ish sauce placed on a soft bun.  You eat it like a sandwich.  I have nothing to compare it too–I don’t eat a ton of pork, and really only ate this because I was told that I need to try it at least once in my life, also, again, it is more or less the dish that made David Chang–but I must say it was incredibly tasty and filling.  The pork was extremely tender, like barbecue but more subtle, and I really liked the sauce.  Could have used more actually.  I still dream of the volcano, but the pork bun sufficed, and I checked a major NYC food experience off of my life list–seriously, people are obsessed with this dish.

I decided I really needed Ashley’s assistance to conquer the desserts.  Also, I wasn’t hungry for sweets just yet.  I headed back to Union Square to await Ashley’s arrival and as soon as said arrival occurred promptly dragged her back to Milk Bar.  It is very close to Union Square, on 13th street at 2nd avenue.

We split several desserts: a slice of crack pie, a slice of Arnold Palmer cake, and a compost cookie.  None of the current softserve flavors appealed to us, though we did both try the rosemary flavor just for kicks.  Yes, it is good.  Yes, it tastes just like rosemary.  I really cannot explain it any other way.  The softserve is creamy and both salty and sweet, the flavors sort of mixing and oscillating as you consider them.  Christina Tosi somehow managed to distill the essence of rosemary into its purist, most delicious form.  That said, I couldn’t imagine eating a full helping of said rosemary.  A taste was just enough.

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The Arnold Palmer cake was probably my favorite of the desserts we tried: really subtle, oddly light, and you could eat each layer alone and they were fabulous but together they were uber-fabulous.  The construction is a layer of tea cake, a layer of lemon mascarpone, a layer of iced tea jelly, and a layer of some kind of tea crunch.  Basically it was yummy: fruity but subtle, the mascarpone creamy and wonderful, the crunch and dryness of the cake providing a lovely contrast.

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The crack pie is like a pecan pie without the pecans.  It is all butter, cream, sugar, and fat, no subtly, no layers, just pure sugar.  Immediate satiation of craving after two bites; if you consume anymore than that you will go into a sugar coma.

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The compost cookie is so-called because it is made of many things: cookie dough and chocolate chips, of course, but also potato chips and pretzels and butterscotch chips and a bit of many other things.  The cookie basically tastes like a chocolate chip cookie with a bit more salt and texture.  Therefore it tastes good.  Also, it was the best cookie consistency: crisp around the edges but gooey and soft and melty in the middle.  Tons of sugar in this too.

Moral of the story: Christina Tosi loves sugar and big impact, hates subtly.  Ashley and I (thankfully) did not finish any of these desserts.  We shared them with the people standing next to us at the bar (no seats in the Milk Bar, just large communal stand-up tables) and then packed up the remainders to take with us to the movie.  We had plenty of time to kill after our sugar overdose, so we decided to be old school Pine View and hang out at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square.  Because that is what Pine View kids do.  Hang out at Barnes and Noble.

We arrived at the movie theater at 9:30 for our 10:20 film and this was fortunate because there was already a sizable line seated in front of the auditorium.  Evidently in New York they don’t care if you bring outside food into films.  People were eating salads and tacos and items clearly purchased from the nearby Whole Foods or local street vendors.  Ashley and I had purchased a pretzel to accompany our leftover cake, pie, and cookie, and we nibbled these while Ashley told me amazing wonderful stories of her experiences at Star Trek conventions, such as the time Brent Spiner hit on her(!!!!).  Ashley and I, we be kindred spirits.  I adore this girl.

On a side note, the trailer for the creepy-looking animated movie 9 showed before Harry Potter, and Ashley and I remarked on the stupidity of releasing two movies with the same title (9 and Nine) in the same year.  We then realized that we are the only people on the planet who fall into the target audiences of both films.  We win, supremely.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was a middling Harry Potter film in my opinion.  Movies three and five are my favorites, but this film was definitely better than the first two.  I try to separate film and book but that is extremely difficult.  I actually found myself lamenting the removal of most of the major action sequences, which is amusing because I am not someone who complains about a lack of action sequences in film.  Alan Rickman is a treasure and I really love how he’s developed Snape.  Helena Bonham-Carter subsists on a diet of scenary, clearly.  I also appreciated their giving Tom Fenton more of a meaty, conflicted role–I think he’s a talented young actor, and he makes Draco believable.  I loved the swooping aerial shots and the sequence in Voldemort’s cave.

Also, this was the funniest of the six films, despite the underlying darkness and incredibly depressing ending.  Hormones and teenage awkwardness also equal funny, and it provided a fine contrast to the seriousness that is about to envelop Harry’s life.  The last two films will provide minimal opportunity for humor, so I suppose the filmmakers should allow the audience to get their kicks while they can.

That was Friday.  Tomorrow I am visiting P.S. 1 and the Brooklyn Museum.  Multi-borrough museum adventure!  For now, in honor of Harry’s owl Hedwig, I leave you with some owl grafitti I saw near the Milk Bar.

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A noneventful day.

Seriously.  I guess that’s what happens when you “live” somewhere as opposed to “visit” somewhere.  Some days you don’t do anything interesting.

Well.  The interns did receive a tour of the Claes Oldenburg show from Carter Foster, the curator of drawings.  Everyone at the Whitney who has spoken to us has been really encouraging and receptive to questions, and Foster was no different.  He talked about the exhibit and the process of mounting said exhibit, of course, but also spoke openly about his curatorial philosophies, how he came into this profession and drawings inparticular, his thoughts on how one learns to become a curator etc.  We also spent a long time around the Ice Bag.  I found a video of one of the other Ice Bags on youtube–not the same one, the Ice Bag at the Whitney is larger, but it demonstrates the same idea.

Other than that, work was work.  After work I went straight to the gym, then grabbed a salad for dinner, then went to Barnes and Noble to grab the next book in the nerdy fantasy series I am reading, then Pinkberry (ohmyGod so many stroller moms, the Upper East Side location is hard to deal with sometimes), then home.  Currently i am watching Batman Returns on tv.  I know, fascinating, right?

Hopefully this weekend will provide more entertaining!