Pebble Beach

September 30, 2008

“Pebble Beach”  (2008), acrylics on canvas, 20″ x 16″

Click on the image for a better view.

The Russians Keep Buying

September 30, 2008

The Russian oligarchs are becoming the Roman nobility of our generation. They just can’t seem to stop buying stuff — and always the most expensive.  We’ve seen them gobble up art (and skew the markets) and Mediterranean houses (and skew the markets).   They are the primary buyers of mega-yachts, no doubt skewing those markets upwards also.

Well, it seems they are doing the same thing at home.  A seven-storey townhouse condo near the Kremlin in Moscow has been purchased for $99 million, or 2.5 billion rubles.

Property agency Agent 002 said last Friday an unnamed buyer had splashed out on the seven-storey 1,300 square meter apartment near the Kursk railway station. “For Moscow, it’s an absolute record,” said Agent 002’s spokesman Ruslan Barabash. Barabash declined to identify the purchaser, but said he was an “active businessman” aged around 40 and not one of Russia’s most well-known tycoons.

“It’s a completely beautiful home. The design is in the ‘high-tech’ style,” said Barabash. The townhouse apartment, close to the Kremlin in the center of a sprawling city of 12 million people, has its own swimming pool, a children’s floor and a winter garden on the roof …

Real estate analysts believe the current record could soon be broken, with demand strong at the top of the market. “I think this is price of 2.5 billion roubles is not the limit for Moscow and in the near future there may be even more expensive sales,” said property analyst Tatiana Makeeva.

Crazy times all over!

This Sporting Life #3

September 29, 2008

The Fall basho passed quietly.  After the marijuana scandals of the summer, and the lifetime suspension of three Russian rikishi, I think everyone connected to sumo breathed a sigh of relief as the tournament itself went off wellYokozuna Hakuho has settled in as the reigning champion, easily winning his 8th Emperor’s Cup with a 14-1 record.  Our man Ama, smallest rikishi at the highest level, was second at 13-2, winning the Outstanding Performance Award and adding to his claim for promotion to ozeki.

The great champion Asashoryu seems to be winding down his career.  He lost 4 of his first 7 fights and retired from the tournament with “injuries”, the second time in a row he has pulled that stunt.  There will be pressure on him for sure to either pull up his socks or to retire.  Asashoryu has 22 Emperor’s Cups and was hoping in a few years to have taken the record from Taiho’s 32 wins.  However, Hakuho, Ama and a few up-and-comers will probably put paid to that idea.  Of course, if he comes back for a win in November, then all bets are off.

Hooray, the European football season is back!  It is a treat to watch good football each and every Saturday morning.  I am especially pleased that Chelsea are already top of the English Premier Division, a position I hope they hold until the end.

Also starting is the North American ice hockey season.  We are still in exhibition play for another couple of weeks, but the Canucks have begun what was supposed to be a “transitional” season for the team with a surprising 4-0 record.   Vigneault has been putting out some fascinating line combinations with our young prospects and a few of the talent acquired over the summer.   Today is the big pre-season cut day; a dozen or more players have to be cut from the roster.  It will be very interesting to see what the coach does with fewer options.

And finally, there is cycling.  Alberto Contador joined the list of only four other cyclists who have won all three Grand Tours: the Tour de France in 2007, the Giro d’Italia this May, and the Vuelta a Espagna this month.  It has been hard to follow the post Tour season.  My heavy load at work and no TV coverage has made it very difficult.  I love to watch cycling, and following it on text just doesn’t cut it.  Hopefully the 2009 season will be better covered by OLN and others.

Happy Birthday Gemma!

September 28, 2008

Today is our granddaughter Gemma’s sixteenth birthday.  She has grown up to be the most beautiful young woman and we love her dearly.

She is already a great cake maker and decorator, and we hope she’ll appreciate this design for her big day.

Have a great day, Gems!

I Love Burgers

September 27, 2008

It’s true. I know they’re bad for you, with no redeeming features, but I just love them. Burgers are one of North America’s gifts to the world, along with jazz and playing golf for money. Here on the Drive, Fet’s makes the best burgers in the city; and every once in a while I just gotta have one. And I do.

In the Weekly Standard this week, is a review by Victorino Matus of Josh Ozersky’s Hamburger: A History“.  The history of the burger, something I have read a great deal about, is the history of American merchandising and the development of consumer capitalism.  It happens concurrently with  the development of other forms of retail merchandising such as supermarkets and malls.  It is all about brands and systems and algorithms that can calculate customer satisfaction-per-dollar-spent.

As the “History” reminds us, there were fast-food systems before Roy Kroc.  There was Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram and the “White Castle System”, as well as Bob Wian’s Big Boy system in California.   But Roy Kroc was special, even though, by the time he met the McDonalds brothers they had:

already successfully converted their drive-in that once served barbecue and employed carhops into, according to Ozersky, “a profit machine that you would turn on in the morning and turn off at night,” thanks to the McDonalds’ Speedee Service System. The menu was shortened and the food preparation resembled an assembly line (involving six-foot griddles, precision condiment pumps, and a heat bar to keep the sandwiches warm). In addition, the owners’ target customers were no longer teenagers but the family–particularly busy postwar mothers. By 1961, annual sales totaled $61 million; today, that number soars to $29 billion.

This would be a fascinating book to take with me next time I simply can’t resist one of Eric’s special Fet’s Burgers.

R.I.P. To A Genuinely Good Guy

September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

A New View Of Paris

September 26, 2008

Quoting directly from BD The Architect’s website:

This 180m-high Herzog & de Meuron-designed pyramid tower is a proposal for the first skyscraper in Paris for 30 years.

The 50-storey building will be situated in the south-west of the city at the Porte de Versailles.

It has been nicknamed the ‘Delanoë tower’ after the city’s socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who won the fight to bring high-rises back to Paris after convincing the city council in July to make exceptions to the 30-year-old ban.

The ban prohibits buildings of above 37m-high and was inspired by the 210 Tour Montparnasse.

I have a soft spot for spectacle.  But I don’t know about this.  Not everything has to be prime time.  There are good reasons to break through barriers with more mundane (though no less superbly engineered) designs, designs that deliver a purpose, designs that improve without causing so much fuss.  Maybe that’s what’s needed first to get Paris comfortable with the high life again.

Slasher Update!

September 26, 2008

The yellow Concetto Spaziale, Attese that was up for sale in Paris this week was “bought in”.  That means it didn’t make the minimum price they were looking for. I think you can guess my opinion.

Arts and Design

September 26, 2008

The New York Times Online has a review of the opening exhibition at the NY Museum of Arts and Design.  The review is decidedly mixed:

The shows resemble an art seminar-cum-food-fight — an amazing cacophony that is by turns dismaying, enervating, infuriating and invigorating.

But, in the end, is recommended.  And I would certainly take a turn through if it were to come to Vancouver.

There are two parts to the show:  The first is called “Second Lives:  Remixing The Ordinary” which uses the post-modernist cliche to take lots of small parts and make a larger whole.  It is a cliche these days, but that doesn’t mean the work is bad or ordinary.  I rather like this version of an old classic called “Sound Wave” for example:

The second part of the show seeks to introduce some elements of the new permanent collection and some promised donations.  The reviewer notes that:

I’m against museum deaccessioning, but around a third of the promised gifts on view should be tactfully declined.

What Price Genuine?

September 21, 2008

The day after Damien Hirst’s garage sale, art dealer Richard Feigen wrote an interesting piece about the dearth of connoisseurship and the rise of the factory.  He begins with an acknowledgment that the definition of art was revolutionized by Marcel Duchamp when,

he decreed that the term included found objects, that art need involve only the artist’s choice, not his hand—that the idea is the art. Now that can be true if the idea is profound enough, or the object beautiful enough … Once we accept that the artist’s hand is no longer necessary, only his idea, it’s a short leap to market the concept that beauty is not only no longer essential, it can even be turned into a dirty, “elitist” word.

This in turn has led gto the death of connoisseurship:

Connoisseurship is the identification of the artist by his handwriting. But if his hand isn’t there, the handwriting isn’t, and connoisseurship becomes a dead old discipline. Who needs connoisseurs? Why train them? Why not train museum director-administrators-fundraisers-construction supervisors?

… The artist can simply hatch an idea. Then comes the collaboration of an army of profiteers in “collectors’” clothes; of hungry auctioneers; of empire-building dealers; of trendy museum curators; a press bedazzled by mega-millions flooding in from every corner of the globe—art then has truly been transformed into an “asset class”

The end result is that

any image can be “copyrighted” if an artist gets there with it first. From Roy Lichtenstein’s Ben-day dots and Andy Warhol’s silkscreens, it’s a short leap to Jeff Koons’ or Damien Hirst’s or Takashi Murakami’s factories turning the stuff out.  Shock value is enough for a copyright, whether it’s a putrefying shark or a platinum, diamond-studded neo-Augsburg memento mori or a three-dimensional cartoon or a huge, shiny toy dog.

And how, he asks, can we now tell the artist’s true handwriting?  How will be establish “fake” from “real” art?  He concludes that,

with “art” proliferating and the stakes so high, there may … be big rewards in store for the litigators.


September 21, 2008

“Fireworks” (2008), Powerpoint to TIFF print, 36″ x 18″. Click on the image for a better view of the piece.

Solar-Powered Bikes

September 20, 2008

Now this looks like a great idea.

A combined solar-electric and pedal-powered bicycle with zero emissions.  I could go for something like this.  With a range of about 50Km per charge, it would be perfect for commuting across town.

Slashes Mark The Spot

September 20, 2008

I have written before about Lucio Fontana.  In July, we reported that the gray version of Concetto Spaziale, Attese sold for $1,006,000. Now, the yellow version is the prime lot in an auction at Christie’s Paris.

The pre-sale estimate is $1,178,000 to $1,700,000.  Never ceases to amaze me!

Closing In

September 20, 2008

“Closing In” (2008), acrylics on canvas, 20″ x 16″

Retail Art

September 19, 2008

Next Wednesday, at Sotheby’s New York, there is a sale of “American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture“.   275 lots of very worthy material.  But in contrast to the recent Contemporary Art sales, this is art at the retail level.  For example:

… “Building” by Adolf Konrad, beautifully and creatively designed, has a pre-sales estimate of only $5-7,000.

An interesting collection, but not much that I am mad about.

Burn After Reading

September 19, 2008

Burn after reading is what you ought to do for every critic’s column that has damned the new Coen Brothers’ masterpiece with faint praise.

This is sublime movie-making at every level — writing, directing, casting, shooting — providing multiple treats for eye and brain.   “Burn AfterReading” has all the delight, wit and insight of early Woody Allen combined with the mature mid-career brilliance of Joel and Ethan Coen’s filmmaking.   In no other medium could so many plot lines be hung together so brilliantly in such a short span of time.

Bravo to the superb cast; and perhaps most of all to Brad Pitt who allowed himself to play a dorky character with such pizazz and joy.

It is amazing what a deep seated desire for plastic surgery can do!

Thought For The Day

September 18, 2008

Don’t draw another’s bow, don’t ride another’s horse, don’t mind another’s business

— Ta-Hui

Truly Creative

September 16, 2008

This is one of the most creative videos I have ever seen.  Painting with water.


The Body Language of Recycling

September 16, 2008

The house across the lane from us is being demolished.  It may well come down tomorrow as they have an expensive piece of heavy machinery sitting in the yard.   Yesterday, a crew came and pulled out the fixtures and fitting, appliances and the like.  Today, workers laboured to strip the interior, and pull the front from the house.  This evening came the “salvagers”.

An ineffective temporary fence has been thrown across the back yard, but it doesn’t stop anyone.  One of the neighbourhood’s local binners came by and confidently went through the junk in the yard, finding a bonus of a dozen bottles.  He was clearly pleased.

Later, a couple of women came by.  In the end, they carted off about a dozen or more slats from the old wooden fence, but they searched around for a long time.   They also briefly went into the open back door of the house and their body language was illustrative.   You may notice that when anyone is entering a place where they shouldn’t be, they tend to try to act overly casual.  A common thing is to see both hands behind the back, and the head thrust high.  And sure enough, both women put their hands behind their backs and extended their necks as they entered the door.  Classic stuff.

And as for salvaging, I found a perfectly good heavy ax in the lane this evening.

If I Could Afford …

September 16, 2008

a $30,000 razor, I could probably afford a guy coming in every morning just to shave me with it.  It is a beautiful thing …

… and it does come in an exquisite lacquered gift box of Tanzanian anigré wood.  But is it really worth 172 of the most expensive hamburgers in the world, 15 Jimmy Choo handbags, or even 3,400 cans of cheeseburger?  I guess it would last longer than any of those.