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The BMW Guggenheim Lab on Houston St. and 2nd Avenue
The BMW Guggenheim Lab on Houston St. and 2nd Avenue


Aug. 3, 2011

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The popup BMW Guggenheim Lab opening today on Houston and 2nd Avenue in the East Village is a departure from the Guggenheim Museum’s usually glamorous global expansion efforts. Instead of a starchitect-fronted building in an upscale cultural district, this traveling think tank and community center is essentially a tent, proudly slumming it on a vacant 25-foot lot wedged between two tenement buildings.

“This is no Central Park, let’s be honest,” said New York Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe during a press briefing. “It’s a 75-year-old lot built in the teeth of the Great Depression as part of the WPA.” Even Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong admitted that “it’s not the site I originally preferred.”

But the downmarket location is part of the point, according to Guggenheim curators David van der Leer and Maria Nicanor. They wanted the structure built in a bustling community, where people actually live, work and are likely to participate in the free film screenings, lectures and workshops, running from Aug. 3-Oct. 16, 2011. The lab then moves to an industrial complex in Berlin, followed by Mumbai.

Far from a high-concept Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry design, Japanese architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow created the 2,000-square-foot structure out of lightweight carbon fiber. “We wanted a non-iconic building and we pretty much got it,” said van der Leer.

The idea is that the space merges with its environment: “It is not a UFO that gets picked up from a city and then put down again,” said Harald Krüger of BMW, the project’s sponsor, in an apparent slight against Zaha Hadid’s spaceship-style Chanel “art pod” that landed in Central Park in 2008.

The lab is part of a six-year, nine-city tour with its first two-year “cycle” focusing on the theme “confronting comfort” (visitors should be prepared to have their own comfort confronted -- there’s no air conditioning, just six fans). Open Wednesdays to Sundays, programming highlights include a session on recording and remixing city sounds with DJ Die Young; a screening of Last Address, a documentary on New York artists who died of AIDS, such as Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and Felix Gonzalez-Torres; a discussion on urban comfort and infrastructure, including unseen elements like sewer systems and internet search engines; and a life-sized role-playing board game called Urbanology.

If that’s not reason enough to stop by, Bushwick institution Roberta’s is serving up its signature seasonal fare at an adjoining popup café.

Where the art collectors gather, so do the art fairs -- and when it comes to Aspen, Colo., the surprise is that there’s only one. ArtAspen, Aug. 6-8, 2011, draws about 30 U.S. dealers to the Aspen Art Palace. A sampling: Ace, Caldwell Snyder, Charlie James, Gerald Peters, Honor Fraser, Jenkins Johnson, Lesley Heller, Mike Weiss, Nancy Hoffman, Riva Yares, Sundaram Tagore and William Shearburn. The preview on Aug. 6 benefits the Aspen Art Museum (which is having its own blow-out benefit this week). The fair, now in its second year, is a project of Rick Friedman’s Hamptons Expo Group, which also operates fairs in San Francisco, Bridgehampton and Houston. General admission is $15.

Ah, summer. Socrates Sculpture Park on the East River in Long Island City launches “Float: Field of Dreams” on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011, continuing on the subsequent Sunday afternoons (plus Saturday, Aug. 13) through the month. Billed as “a biennial series of ephemeral works that challenge the conventions of performance and site-specific practice,” the show is curated by Cleopatra’s, the Greenpoint curatorial collective.

On tap next Sunday at 1 pm is a Zine Brunch -- a kind of art-zine swap meet -- followed by a 2 pm performance by Baker Overstreet (as “June,” accompanied by a “junkyard band”) and a 3 pm show having something to do with Joan of Arc by Geo Wyeth with Jules Gimbrone, and closed by a 5 pm performance by J. Patrick Walsh III involving a steamroller and an aluminum cast of his high-school backpack.

The Aug. 14-15 weekend is devoted to Chris Verene and his Self-Esteem Salon. The next Sunday of the month features a picnic with Paper Monument, a performance by the dance-centered art group MGM Grand, a song and dance performance by Rachel Mason with the Socrates sculptures by John Ahearn, and an event called Sunset by Stephen Lichty.

On Aug. 28 the performers are Erica Magrey, Georgia Sagri and Martin Soto Climent. Admission is free.

Two years ago, art promoters Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida mounted a long-overdue survey of paintings, both old and new, by Richard Hambleton at a pop-up space on the far West Side. Now, the indomitable duo is at it again, this time in cooperation with Phillips de Pury and Company, which is re-presenting the 50 paintings -- which have been traveling on a global tour including Milan, Cannes, Moscow and London -- in a three-day-long show at its West 15th Street space.

“Richard Hambleton: A Retrospective,” Sept. 10-13, 2011, with a preview on Sept. 9, 2011, includes examples from Hambleton’s notorious “Shadowman” series as well as cowboys and new paintings from the last several years, is done in collaboration with Giorgio Armani, then as now, and is accompanied by a new catalogue with an essay by Christian Viveros-Faune.

Manic artist Stephen Keene -- the guy who made 10,000 paintings during a show in 2000 -- is at it again this summer at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. During Aug. 7-13, 2011, Keene is doing a week-long live painting performance making pictures “at a heart-racing rate” to raise funds for SMMoA programming -- and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the museum. Keene will paint a new theme each day, famous paintings and pop icons to animals and outer space. Prices start at $10.

''It's art, it's cheap, and it changes your life," said Keene, who is expanding his repertoire to painted modular furniture. The seatables are also purchasable, and soon to populate a new outdoor space at the museum called SMMoAsis. Meanwhile, this weekend, the museum shop is having its special “Dog Days of Summer” sale, Aug. 5-7, 2011. 

Christie’s New York Latin American art specialist Margarita Aguilar has been named as the new director of El Museo del Barrio, where she worked as curator from 1998 to 2006. Aguilar succeeds Julian Zugazagoitia, who was made director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City in early 2010. Georgina M. Nichols, El Museo’s CFO, had been serving as interim director.

Though El Museo was founded as a museum for the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood of East Harlem, both Aguilar and Zugazagoitia are Cuban-born.

While curator at El Museo, Aguilar organized “Points of View: Photography from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection” in 2005 and “Between The Lines: Text as Image. An Homage to Lorenzo Homar and the Reverend Pedro Pietri” in 2006.

At El Museo, she has her work cut out for her. Though the museum completed a renovation of its relatively humble facility (on the ground floor of a converted school building) some 18 months ago, more recently it has laid off four of its 51 employees in an effort to cut $1.1 million in expenses.

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