Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
    Letter from Chicago
by Rupert Goldsworthy
Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao (1997) on the exhibition brochure
Kenzo Tange
Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center
at the Chicago MCA
Louis Kahn
National Assembly Building
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Venturi Scott Brown and Izenour
The Strip, Las Vegas
"Tomorrow Land"
at Alan Koppel
Mercury mission space suit, at Koppel
Twenty-four hours on a train is no fun. While most of America followed the millennial travails of Puffy and Jennifer in their Manhattan jail cells, I spent a similar time traveling by rail from New York to Chicago to see art and architecture.

To tell you the truth, I took a pass on "Raphael and Titian" at the Art Institute of Chicago (to Mar. 19) in favor of the Museum of Contemporary Art's "End of the Century: 100 Years of Architecture," a massive survey show that's a must-see for any architecture freak.

Curated by former Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art head Richard Koshalek and MCA curator Elizabeth Smith, this show toured Europe, Mexico and Japan before arriving in the states. It runs at the MCA till Mar. 12, and then travels to the LA MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, where it is on view Apr. 16-Sept. 24, 2000. No plans for New York. If nothing else, find the catalogue -- it's $50, but worth it.

"End of the Century" fills the entire museum -- three floors split into no less than 21 sections, with titles like "Colonialism in the Early 20th Century" (Le Corbusier, Lutyens) and "The Politics of Monumentality" (Albert Speer and Mussolini). Other sections investigate the creation of new capitals in the 1950s and '60s (Brasilia and Le Corbusier in India) and "The Skyscraper."

The show's hard-to-resist highlights are the scale models -- suggesting the boyhood appeal of the most social art medium. Particularly notable are the models of Le Corbusier's never-realized 1930 scheme to reconfigure the entire city of Algiers and Frank Lloyd-Wright's plans in the same year for "Broadacre," the prototype suburban garden city. There are scale models of Lloyd-Wright's "Fallingwater" house (1936), his Guggenheim Museum (1942-60) and Le Corbusier's later-realized plans for Chandighar in Southern India. It's great to see the visionary influence of these two architectural giants throughout the century.

In the section entitled "The Politics of Monumentality in 1930s Architecture," a wall label notes that "During the volatile decade of the 1930s, government-sponsored architecture often made deliberate statements about the power and authority of the state." Only now, 60 years later, is Italian and German fascist architecture included in this particular dialogue. The most amazing is a 1942 Albert Speer model for a never-realized "Great Hall" to be built next to the Reichstag in Berlin, intended to hold 150,000 people. Its huge Neo-Classicist dome was copied, eerily enough and albeit in glass, by the British architect Norman Foster in 1997 for the new Reichstag.

For those of us who haven't had a chance to get to the Basque country, Richard Gehry's model for the Guggenheim Bilbao is a wonderful foretaste.

Similarly, the "Skyscraper" section has models of all those major high-rises. In the still-ongoing race for the tallest phallic symbol on the globe, Korea and Shanghai look to be upstaged by Chicago's own "7 South Dearborn," a 1,550-foot tower by Skidmore and Associates due to be completed in 2003.

"End of the Century: 100 Years of Architecture" is well worth several visits. One of the advantages of its Chicago site is the local presence of many of the buildings featured in the exhibition.

One of these is Chicago's own Hancock Tower, which houses several galleries. On its 24th floor is the Alan Koppel Gallery, which features "Tomorrow Land: The Exloration of Space and Conceptions of the Future" until Feb. 2. The show is an astonishing hodgepodge of high and low, featuring Man Ray photos of the moon alongside a collection of toy robots, a spacesuit worn by one of the original Mercury astronauts, and artworks by Vija Celmins, Alan Fuss, Andy Warhol and others. It's obviously a subject close to Koppel's heart, excellently installed and with some very affordable work (prices are in the $1,000-$30,000 range).

Two floors up from Koppel is Richard Grey Gallery, which was just closing a group show of Pop art during my visit. The next exhibition was not yet decided, according to a gallery staffer. He suggested I write instead about a Mark Rothko painting in his backroom. Who is this Rothko dude?

Back on terra firma over in West Loop, Donald Young Gallery features a show of new drawings and prints by Robert Mangold. Recently relocated from Seattle, Young has opened a beautiful industrial space that reminded me of a Chelsea gallery. The Mangold show runs until February).

Right down the street is Rhona Hoffman, who was just closing a show that featured an amazing and huge Sol LeWitt wall drawing filling her front gallery. She had filled the space with colorful Eames furniture, an interesting juxtaposition.

I guess we'll see what else they've all got cooking at the Chicago Art Fair, due to run May 11-16, 2000.

RUPERT GOLDSWORTHY is a British artist, writer and gallerist living in New York.