Articles by: Bryan Solomon

  • Life & People

    Italians are Lovers for Food, Fighters of Waste

    Movie Star Robert De Niro and world-renowned Italian Chef Massimo Bottura are joining forces to fight against food waste in the United States. 
    Bottura, whose three-Michelin-star Northern Italian restaurant Osteria Francescana was recently recognized as the best restaurant in the world by the British magazine Restaurant at their annual event in New York City’s Cipriani’s Ball Room, announced Tuesday that he is planning a new refectory in the Bronx that is set to be completed in 2017.

    De Niro traveled to Modena, Italy, last week and met with Bottura to discuss the plans to bring the refectory to New York City.

    De Niro, who grew up in Manhattan and spent his free time on the streets of Little Italy, has immersed himself in the New York City culinary scene, owning three restaurants in the city: Tribeca Grill, Nobu, and Locanda Verde.

    Bottura launched his Ambrosiano Refectory project at the Milan Expo World Fair in 2015. The refectory collected leftover foods from various restaurants and street stands and transformed them into meals that were served at the Catholic charity Caritas’s soup kitchen.

    Sixty of the best chefs in the world worked to transform fifteen tons of leftover food into meals at the fair. The idea of reusing food waste is quickly spreading across the globe. At this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, leftover foods from the Olympic Village will be reused to feed residents of Brazil’s largest favela, Rocinha. Forty-five chefs and more volunteers from around the world will participate in the project and will provide cooking and nutrition classes in the favela.

    Bottura has also launched a cultural foundation, Food for Soul, which raises global awareness for the fight against hunger and food waste. Pope Francis has given his endorsement to the foundation.

    Bottura’s culinary career began in 1986 when he decided to put his law studies on hold after he learned that a roadside trattoria on the outskirts of Modena was for sale. He quickly bought and renovated the building and opened Trattoria del Campazzo a week later. Bottura then apprenticed himself to Chef Georges Coigny, from whom he learned a combination of regional Italian and classical French cooking.

    Almost a decade later Bottura opened Osteria Francescana in the medieval city center of Modena. His idea for the restaurant was to juxtapose culinary tradition and innovation with contemporary art and design. Although operating with a deep understating of culinary tradition, Bottura continued to push culinary boundaries after he spent a summer at El Bulli with Ferran Adrià.

    Bottura has confessed that fifteen years ago he nearly gave up his restaurant, only to be persuaded to continue by his wife, Lara. He was further convinced to continue when a Michelin inspector, stranded by a road accident, came to his restaurant by chance. The restaurant was recognized and soon awarded its first Michelin star, and the couple never looked back.

    The italian Chef is extremely active outside the restaurant. In addition to creating refectroies and running Food for Soul, he is on the board of directors of the Basque Culinary Centre and has written four books, Aceto Balsamico (2005), Parmigiano Reggiano (2006), PRO, Attraverso tradizione e innovazione (2006) and Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef (2014).

    He also served as Ambassador for Food in the Year of Italian Culture in the United States in 2013 and opened his first restaurant outside of Italy in 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey, called Ristorante Italia di Massimo Bottura. At the awards show Monday night, Bottura urged his culinary peers to join him in Rio de Janeiro during this summer’s Olympics as he opens his soup kitchen in the city’s favelas.

  • Art & Culture

    Villa Giulia Returns to Its Former Glory

    The marvelous 16th-century Villa Giulia has been restored by a group of secret benefactors from Japan. In 2014, after having attended a special concert and made a visit to Villa Giulia the Japanese entrepreneurs they offered to fund the restoration.

    The benefactors gave about 25,000 euros for the restoration of the “small miracle” that was ordered to be built by Pope Julius III that now houses the Museo Nazionale Etrusco. Kavalik Consortium began working on the project in September of 2015 and has now finished bringing the magical destination back to its former beauty. The mysterious group of funders denied to even be thanked at the official inauguration.

    Some of the most important artists of the time participated in the construction and design of Villa Giulia, which began in 1550 and was completed in 1555. Villa Giulia has attracted some of Italy’s most famous individuals, including Giorgio Vasari, Michelangelo, and other intellectuals of the period.

    Recent visitors have been struck by the newly restored nymphaeum, the heart of the famous gardens that has a fountain designed and sculpted by Vazari and Bartolomeo Ammannati, caryatids holding up the Travertine marble balcony, and a mosaic dedicated to Triton.

    Antonio Giglio, a restorer who worked alongside Alessandro Ferradini and Kristian Schneider, said, “The most difficult battle was against the vegetation. On one hand, we had to eliminate the algae with powerful biocides so that they would not grow back, while on the other hand, we wanted to save the plants in the niches.”

    The nymphaeum had turned grey and become covered in moss and mold and also had structural problems, especially with the beautiful mosaic. This masterpiece from the Roman era that may have been part of a larger floor of a thermal building, had begun to lose its millennia-old black-and-white tiles due to the deterioration of structural support.

    "We had been used to seeing the nymphaeum entirely of one color, since the floor had become black," said Alfonsina Russo, superintendent for archaeology, architecture and, landscape of the metropolitan area of Rome, Viterbo, and southern Etruria. "But one elderly employee spoke about it having had colors and some of the ancient drawings created doubts.”

    After several deep cleanings, a wide range of colors emerged from the whiteness of the eight caryatids in the mosaic. The caryatids, Giglio noted, “Are not all the same.  We had seen them as very serious, but the four in the second row are clearly laughing."

    While art historians may know the true reason, Giglio believes that "they symbolize the dualism between tragedy and comedy in classical art.” Giglio’s hypothesis is fitting because the nymphaeum was originally created as a “theater of water” for actors and musicians. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Italy Pulls Off the Stunner

    Italy came into Paris for their knockout game against Spain on Monday with hopes to erase the dreadful memories of 2012 when Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in one of the most ruthless Euro Cup finals in recent memory.  With a combination of determination, perfectly executed game plan, and a deteriorating Spanish side, Italy pulled off the upset that shocked all of Europe.

    While Spain is no longer the team that strike instant fear and hold expectations of a certain and
    decisive loss against any opponent as they did four years ago, they are still a formidable team that was heavily favored against the starless Italian squad. 

    But Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and the rest of that star-studded team was out-played by the up and coming Italians.

    Italy - fresh off of their first loss of the tournament where they rested eight of their starters because they were already guaranteed a spot in the knock-out stage after their victories against Belgium and Sweden - looked younger, fresher, more energetic, and executed their game exactly how they wanted to.  The rest against Ireland clearly paid off and was evident against Spain. 

    Italy’s performance against powerhouse Spain was one reminiscent of the early 2000’s, with their attack creating meaningful pressure on Spain’s backline and Italy’s defense playing like an impenetrable wall.  

    Giorgio Chiellini put Italy on the scoreboard first after poking home a rebound after an excellent save by Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea on Eder’s free-kick.  Italy continued to play a great game after scoring their first goal, with heir backline once again proving to be one of the best in all of Europe. This shutout is Gianluigi Buffon’s and Italy’s defense’s third in four games played. 

    In the final minute of stoppage time, Italy scored they dagger to send themselves to the next round and send Spain home early once again. Matteo Darmian streaked down the right side, sent a cross into the box that was deflected, and Pelle timed his run perfectly and ended up slamming the ball past De Gea and a Spanish backside that was short of numbers after they pushed for an unsuccessful equalizer. 

    Italy will face Germany in the next round on Saturday, July 2.  Their next game should prove to be much more difficult, as Germany is regarded as the best team in the world right now and Italy will be missing two important pieces.  Thiago Motta received another booking against Spain, making him ineligible for the game against Germany, and Daniel De Rossi has been ruled out due to a serious right thigh injury.

  • Events: Reports

    The Special Love Between Movies and Food

    Dreams do come true!  Galleria Ca’ Do’Oro will be hosting “Movie’n’Food – Taste of Cinema” on June 25th. This special event blends cinema and food, giving guests an unmatched experience of the eye and mouth.

    Celebrating the best of Italian food the day before the Fancy Food Show of New York City, Movie’n’Food – Taste of Cinema takes guests on a journey through cinema, taste, and gastronomy, curated by Dress in Dreams of Elizabetta Cantone and Frencesca Silvestri.

    The night will present the most beautiful and significant images of films where food is the protagonist.  Eight-minute video clips from cult films Ratatouille, The President’s Chef, Madame Mallory and the smell of curry, Eat Pray Love, Pretty Woman, The Gold of Naples, Lady and the Tramp, The Leopard and Big Night will be shown. 

    Guests will also experience the amazing cooking of Chef Peter Parisi, the self-described “peasant chef” who grew up around famous chefs Alan Ducasse and Gualtiero Marchesi.  The internationally known chef is known for never wasting; using everything in the kitchen, including stems, skins, and even leaves. 

    In addition to describing some of his most famous recipes, Parisi will prepare dishes dedicated to films and international stars.  He will prepare chocolate gnocchetti, drawing from the film Chocolat; coffee and ricotta pasta, a nod to Marcello Mastroianni; risotto with black truffles, inspired by The President’s Chef; Neapolitan pizelle for Sophia Loren; and much more for the event.

    The event will also welcome an expert in Italian culinary culture and tradition, a specialist of New York City restaurants, and Ms. Francine Segan, a judge from the Fancy Food Show.  Many esteemed guests will be at the event, including Tony May, founder of the famous San Domenico of Manhattan, cinema and food journalists, and buyers from the Fancy Food Show. 

    On top of all this, a number of Italy’s best food and beverage companies will be at the event. Venchi, the famous Italian chocolate maker of Piedmont, will present guests with mini-books on the history of chocolate.  Forever Cheese, who has joined Movie’n’Food at their Washington D.C. event, will present an array of cheeses from every region of Italy.  Urbani Tartufi, the world leader for its high quality production, will elevate the event with “his majesty the truffle.”

    Kimbo coffee, the main sponsor of the event, will tell their Italian story of their growth from the traditional Neapolitan “cuccuma” to the new ecofriendly, organic blend coffee pods that can be found in most coffee machines.  Ferrarelle, the Italian water that is exported around the world, will serve Ferrarelle-Mojito cocktails and limited edition platinum bottles bearing the logo of the event. Società Agricola CIU’ CIU’ of Offida, will also supply exquisite white and red wines.

    Gragnano DOC pasta, bearing the name Di Martino, created the “Il Primo Manhattan” competition, a challenge that had 200 Italian chefs in New York City contending for the title of best in New York City.  The final will be held on June 24th at Ribalta, the popular Italian restaurant owned by Neapolitan entrepreneur Rosario Procino and Chef Pasquale Cozzolino.  The winner will be announced at Movie’n’Food.

    Movie’n’Food –Taste of Cinema  has traveled around North America, touring in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Toronto, and now New York City.  The next stop on the continental tour will be Miami in October.

  • Facts & Stories

    Italia Prepares for the Republic of Ireland

    With their immediate future in the Round of 16 insured, Italy is set to play their final match of group E tomorrow against Northern Ireland in Lille.  While Italy already has their spot reserved in the next round, they still have a lot to gain and lose in this next match.

    Italy’s roster does not possess the same star power as past Italian squads, but they do have depth, making this game a key opportunity to rest some of the team’s more important and older players.  Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, and Daniele De Rossi are expected to be given a day off, with the younger Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi expected to play instead.

    Although several key players are expected to rest, Italy head coach Antonio Conte will retain the 3-5-2 that has brought Italy success so far.  Manchester United full-back Matteo Darmian is expected to return to the starting lineup after being replaced by Alessandro Florenzi for the Sweden match.  Juventus striker Simone Zaza is also set to take Graziano Pelle’s spot in the frontline. 

    Resting stars is always risky.  Giving Italy’s top stars time off will give Martin O’Neill’s side a chance to create a famous upset.  If they can recreate the first half they played against Sweden they may be able to steal a victory.  Ireland is still not at full strength, however, with Stoke forward Jonathan Walters still ailing from an Achilles injury.  While still aggravating him, Walters will not start but should still see time on the pitch.

    If Ireland is expecting to play a relaxed Italian team, then they should be in for a surprise.   Marco Parolo said that Conte, "has been hammering the Ireland match into us since the day after we beat Sweden."

    Here are the expected starting lineups:

    Italy starting lineup: Sirigu, Barzagli, Ogbonna, Darmian, Motta, Bernadeschi, Sturaro, Insigne, Florenzi, El Shaarawy, Zaza

    Ireland starting lineup: Randolph, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark, Brady, McCarthy, Whelan, Hendrick, Hoolahan, Walters, Lon

    Source: Benge, James. "Italy vs Ireland Preview: Prediction, Team News, Live and Betting Odds." Evening Standard. N.p., 21 June 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.

  • Facts & Stories

    Italia Moves On

    Italy has qualified for the knockout stage of the Euro Cup with their 1-0 victory against Sweden. Late in the match, Eder put Italy in front with a powerful strike as he created space amongst Sweden’s tough backline.

    After an impressive victory against Belgium earlier this week, Italy looked much weaker and played with less direction than hoped.  

    They played with less discipline today, unable to replicate the passing and movement that they played so well with against Belgium.  While they continued their dismal play in the second half, they were able to produce more promising counter attacks than in the first 45 minutes, showing that they recognized the need to step up.

     Italy head coach Antonio Conte’s main strategy was to limit Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s production, which Italy’s impressive defensive trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini succeeded in doing.  Aiming to be the first man to score in four different European Championships, the former Serie A superstar failed to convert on his few opportunities, the best of which came from a header on the left side of the goal that he failed to direct.

    Sweden continued their European Championship with another disappointing performance, with poor setups for their attack and failure to convert by their star. While they dominated possession for most of the game, Sweden appeared too cautious to really threaten Italy, failing to register a shot on target for the second time this tournament. Despite the lackluster play, Sweden’s defense proved to be prepared for Italy’s attack and seemingly unbreakable until the late minutes of the game.

    Now that Italy has booked their ticket to the second round, they will prepare for their match on Wednesday at 9 p.m. against Republic of Ireland and wait for the results of the Belgium and Republic of Ireland’s match this Saturday.

    Republic of Ireland are expected to be more of a challenge than Sweden, who only rely on Ibrahimovic to generate any chance at scoring. With a guaranteed spot in the round of 16, Italy should play with a little less stress knowing their immediate future is taken care of.  If Ireland fails to beat Belgium Saturday, Italy will automatically win the group.

  • Facts & Stories

    Italy Starts Euro 2016 with a Bang

    The Azzurri start off the 2016 Euro Cup with a tremendous 2-0 win against star-studded Belgium. Written off by Italian media as one of the worst teams in Italian history, the aging roster showed that they can still play with Europe’s best. Emanuele Giaccherini first got Italy on the scoreboard scoring after 32 minutes of action.  After receiving a perfect pass from Leonardo Bonucci with one foot, Giaccherini slipped it past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with the other foot.

    Italy almost scored again four minutes later after Graziano Pelle edged an open header just wide of the net.  Italy entered halftime with a small one goal lead and resumed their great play during the second half.  

    Despite a few close calls, Belgium began the second half with strong attacks and what should have been an equalizing goal from Romelu Lukaku, Italy’s composure, strong defensive play, and balanced counterattacks finally broke down Belgium as Pelle scored off of an assist from Candreva during stoppage time.   

    “We did really well to prepare this game so well and prove all the critics wrong, because the critics were all against us," said Italy coach Antonio Conte.  "But this is the beauty of football. You get the chance to prove people wrong, if you have the determination and will to work like we have."

    Defenders Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, and Giorgio Chiellini proved to be forces on the back line for the Italian squad.  Their experience and skill allowed them to fight off Belgium’s dangerous second half attacks and keep Belgium from getting on the scoreboard.  With Monday’s game, the trio now have a total of 200 appearances for Italy.

    "Our defense was fantastic and I think we have the best defense at the Euros," Emanuele Giaccherini said. "We all had to help each other and to try, when we had the ball, to hurt them."

    Conte used Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva as wing backs, pushing them so far forward and wide that they spent most of the game level with strikers Eder and Pelle. Their pressure kept Belgium’s full-backs back and spread out.  Conte said earlier this week that he wanted his wide players to be “spitting blood” after an hour on the pitch, and with the way Darmian and Candreva worked out there they may have lived up to Conte’s request.

    With the injuries to Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio and the absences of stars like Marco Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo, and Riccardo Montolivo, Italy was left with little start power on their roster.  But with a well-balanced team effort and the superb play of Leonardo Bonucci, Italy was able to assert their dominance against a team full of star power.

    It is important to note that Italy, a weakened team due to a few notable injuries, beat another heavily weakened team.  Belgium is without four defenders, Nicolas Lombaerts, Bjorn Engels, Dedryc Boyata, and most importantly, Vincent Kompany.  Although Belgium is full of great players at the midfield and attack, their defense is considerably weaker without these four men.

    Italy’s next game is against Sweden on Friday, June 17 in Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN).  Sweden is expected to finish at the bottom of Group E, but a team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic should never be taken lightly.  Sweden has won only one game in their last six matches, making Italy the heavy favorite in Friday’s matchup. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Osteria Francescana, Owned by Massimo Bottura, Named World’s Best Restaurant

    Chef Massimo Bottura’s Northern Italian Osteria Francescana was awarded the title of the world’s best restaurant at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards on Monday night.  Under the gilded domed ceiling of the Cipriani Ballroom in New York City’s Wall Street, Bottura said, “In the end… It’s all about hard work.”

    Bottura’s award makes Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Modena, the
    first Italian restaurant to be ranked number-one on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants rankings.  Bottura moved up from his number-two spot last year, taking the top spot from the Roca brothers – Joan, Josep, and Jordi – of El Cellar de Can Roca in Spain.  When asked how it felt to be the first Italian restaurant to be number-one, Bottura responded, "In Italy we have three things that are untouchable – football, the Pope, and food. It’s something so important."

    Osteria Francescana reinvents foods that are influenced by the flavors of Bottura’s childhood and classical culinary, as well as by music, art, film, and literature.  Bottura’s dishes give seasonal Italian ingredients a modern twist, with each plate telling a story.

     One of Osteria Francescana’s most famous plates is the Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, a composition of Parmesan sauce, mousse, foam, crisp, and air aged between 18 and 50 months and served at varying temperatures.

    At the press conference after the awards, Bottura confessed that fifteen years ago he nearly gave up his restaurant, only to be persuaded to continue by his wife, Lara.

    He was further convinced to continue when a Michelin inspector, stranded by a road accident, came to his restaurant by chance.  

    The restaurant was recognized and soon awarded its first Michelin star, and the couple never looked back.

    Bottura’s culinary career began in 1986 when he decided to put his law studies on hold after he learned that a roadside trattoria on the outskirts of Modena was for sale.  He quickly bought and renovated the building and opened Trattoria del Campazzo a week later.  Bottura then apprenticed himself to Chef Georges Coigny, where he learned a combination of regional Italian cooking and classical French training.

    Almost a decade later Bottura opened Osteria Francescana in the medieval city center of Modena.  His idea for the restaurant was to juxtapose culinary tradition and innovation with contemporary art and design.  Although operating with a deep understating of culinary tradition, Bottura continued to push culinary boundaries after he spent a summer at El Bulli with Ferran Adrià.

    Shortly after Osteria Francescana was awarded its third Michelin star in 2012, Bottura temporarily closed the popular restaurant to refurbish and update the restaurant with contemporary art and avant garde cuisine.

    Bottura is active outside his now number-one restaurant.  He is on the board of directors of the Basque Culinary Centre and has written four books, Aceto Balsamico (2005), Parmigiano Reggiano (2006), PRO. Attraverso tradizione e innovazione (2006) and Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef (2014).  He also served as Ambassador for Food in the Year of Italian Culture in the United States in 2013 and opened his first restaurant outside of Italy in 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey, called Ristorante Italia di Massimo Bottura.  At the award show Monday night, Bottura urged his culinary peers to join him in Rio de Janeiro during this summer’s Olympics as he opens a soup kitchen in the city’s favelas.

    The influence of the list has become internationally recognized as the awards are considered by some as the Oscars of the restaurant world.  While most people may not eat at one of the top 50 restaurants (especially because some waiting lists can include more than 1000 people), if you eat out you will have eaten food that is influenced by these top chefs.

    The awards are great for business, as the awards annually create mass demand for reservations for restaurants named to the list.  The impact extends outside of financials, as immediately after the list is published chefs from around the world apply to work at these top institutions.   

    The awards began in 2002 and is organized by Restaurant, a British magazine.  What started as casual office brainstorming in the London offices has grown into a worldwide vote.  Divided into 27 regions, nearly 1,000 votes are casted by international chefs, restaurateurs, gourmands, and restaurant critics each year.

    Bottura explained that, "There is a community that has been created around 50 Best... We are not in competition with each other."This year’s awards were the first to be held outside of London, as Charles Reed, group managing director of William Reed Business Media, owner of the brand, explained that the list is global, not London-centric and they have to show that by hosting the awards around the world.  The list clearly reflects how it has become a global list, as the top 50 included 23 different countries from six continents.

  • Art & Culture

    Christo’s Back With the Unimaginable

    The now completed large-scale artwork connects Italy’s Lake Iseo with a 4.5-kilometer floating pier made out of shimmering yellow-orange fabric.  Christo’s installation covers the entire dock system and allows visitors to walk across the “floating piers” from Sulzano to Monte Isola, as well as to the island of San Paolo. Walking on the “floating piers” will allow visitors to feel the movement of the waves beneath them and visitors are urged to do so barefoot.

    Access to the installation is free and open 24 hours a day, weather permitting.  The “floating

    piers” will be covered with 70,000 meters of yellow-orange fabric and supported by a modular system of floating pontoons formed by 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes.
    Christo’s artwork will have a significant economic impact on the area, with projections that the installation will bring in 49 million euros in revenue, which is about three million euros a day.  Hotel reservations are already up by 80% and about 250,000 tourists are expected.
    Christo, 80, is known for his colossal and engaging artworks that were collaborations with his late wife and partner Jeanne-Claude.  Their most recent artwork came to New York City’s Central Park, called “The Gates,” which was a project that was fully realized over the course of 30 years and was finally finished in 2005.  The project cost $21 million and required the help of 750 employees to install more than 7,500 gates of saffron-colored fabric. Unfortunately, “The Gates” was the last project Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked on together before Jeanne-Claude’s death in 2009 from complications of a brain aneurysm at the age of 74.
    Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s special relationship is something out of a movie.  Both were born on June 13, 1935.  They met when Christo was commissioned by Jeanne-Claude’s mother, Précilda de Guillebon, wife of famous French General Jacques de Guillebon, to paint a portrait.  While engaged to Philippe Planchon, Jeanne-Claude became pregnant by Christo.

     Immediately after her honeymoon, Jeanne-Claude left Planchon for Christo.  Jeanne-Claude’s parents were extremely displeased with the relationship especially because Christo was considered a refugee in France after fleeing his native Bulgaria for Western Europe.

    The couple’s art career began shortly after Jeanne-Claude left her husband.  Jeanne-Claude became an artist out of her love for Christo, saying that if he’d been a dentist, she’d become a dentist too.  The couple first earned notoriety in Paris in 1962 when they completed their first large-scale project, “Rideau de Fer” (Iron Curtain).  As a statement against the Berlin Wall and without consent of authorities, the couple blocked off Rue Visconti with oil barrels.
    Although their first major project sent a political message, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have since denied that their other artworks have any deeper meanings other than its aesthetic impact.  They have said the purpose of their art is to create art for joy and beauty and to create different ways of seeing familiar landscapes.
    The couple have created other enormous and enchanting artworks around the world, including wrapping the coast of Australia’s Little Bay in 95,600 square meters of fabric and surrounding eleven islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with over 600 square meters of pink floating fabric.  Christo and Jeanne-Claude flew in different planes to their work sites because if one plane crashed, the other could continue their work.
    All of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works are temporary, as Christo’s newest piece will only last for a little more than two weeks.  In response to his critics about the temporary nature of his artworks, Christo explained, “I am an artist, and I have to have courage ... Do you know that I don't have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they're finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character.  I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.” Although one half of the famous duo is gone, Christo’s newest project shows that their combined creative spirit survives.

  • Events: Reports

    Odd and Bizarre, Vito Acconci’s Impactful Retrospective

    The eccentric and pervasive artist, Vito Acconci, returns with Vito Acconci: Where We Are Now (Who Are We Anyway?), 1976, his first retrospective in the United States in more than thirty years.  Part of the institution’s 40th anniversary celebration, MoMA PS1 presents an array of Acconci’s early works to show the energy of the decade that preceded the museum’s founding in 1976. 

    Located in Long Island City, Queens, MoMA PS1 is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit
    contemporary art institutions in the country.  The institution designates its resources to displaying “the most experimental art in the world”, which Vito Acconci’s newest exhibition definitely qualifies as.  

    On view from June 19-August 30, the solo exhibition guides us through his early days as a poet through his peak in the art world, and down the radical turn he took in the 70’s when he abandoned the art gallery world and decided to test his talents in becoming an unconventional architect and designer.  The exhibition shows his radical and provocative explorations of the human condition, sexuality, voyeurism, identity, and physicality through his early artistic years before the opening of MoMA PS1.  

    The exhibition draws on documentary materials, photographs, film, and video footage of the artist’s journey, including Following Piece (1969), in which he followed passers-by until they entered private areas, and from Openings (1970), where a camera focuses on Acconci’s stomach as he removes all of his body hair until he is completely hairless.  The exhibition ends in Acconci’s usually outlandish way, with a plank that extends out an open window becoming a diving board suspended over the traffic below.

    The Bronx native, whose studio is based in Brooklyn, is a highly respected and accomplished artist.  He has done retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and been awarded four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.  He has also been awarded fellowships from the American Academy in Rome and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.  Acconci also won two New York City Art Commission Awards for Excellence in Design and was appointed to the National Academy in 2013.  

    Acconci’s famously bizarre art career began after enrolling in the University of Iowa’s MFA writing program during the 60’s, where he began writing poetry and editing the publication 0-9.  After graduating, he returned to New York City and found inspiration in the Lower East Side, the East Village and SoHo, using the city as another source for making literature.

    Fascination for the physical space grew out his literature and poetry, pushing him to expand his artistic repertoire to performance art.  The peak of his creations came in the short eight-year period of 1968-1976, where his performances, photographs, and videos made him the pervasive and influential force he is today.  

    The 76-year-old born to an Italian-Catholic working class family found his voice during a period when artists began finding ways around the making and selling of art.  His generation turned to their ideas, actions, and bodies as the source of their art, creating art at such a high rate that during 1969 there were performances almost every day.  But these performances were often conducted on the streets or for audiences so small that they seem to have never happened.  

    Acconci’s performance pieces that followed the heyday of 1969 contained different components of existential agitation, bodily harm, exhibitionism, and gender and sexual exploration.  His early work showed and was influenced by subversive social commentary, with his performances and videos showing confrontation and Situationsim.  His artistic elements were often shared with other artists of the time, usually female, but still patently unique.  

    The best example of his performance work could be Trademarks (1970), where Acconci sat naked on a floor and bit himself wherever he could reach, then applied printer’s ink onto the bite marks and stamped them on paper and other surfaces.

    But then Acconci made a surprising decision to abandon his performance art, photographs, and videos and turned to architecture and design.  While serving as a visiting artist at Middlebury College in 1983, Acconci created Way Station I (Study Chamber), which was his first permanent installation.  The creation sparked extreme controversy on the college’s campus, and was set on fire and destroyed in 1985.  Despite the controversy and destruction, the sculpture became a transitional point in Acconci’s career from performance artist to architectural designer. In a series of interviews conducted as his current show was being planned, Mr. Acconci confessed his consistent unease in the art and poetry worlds, where he said he felt like an outsider and felt a constant energy to create within a genre that still hasn’t been invented.

    His designs aim to explore the blend of the private and public spaces.  Acconci has created revolutionizing designs for a wide array of places, including airports, parks, art and architecture museums, private companies, and even a man-made island.

    After the Bronx Museum commissioned an architectural environment from Acconci in 2009, Holly Block, executive director of the museum, said, “A lot of people don’t understand Vito’s turn to architecture, but I think he wanted to be more ambitious and make pieces that lived in the world — and in people’s lives — in a different way than artworks usually do, and it was a risky and courageous thing to do.”

    As Acconci toils in his Brooklyn studio, he continues to inspire New York’s newest generations of artists at Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute.  Acconci continues to be a powerful force in the modern art world, as Klaus Biesenbach, the director of PS1 and the organizer of the show, explained that, “He’s one of the most influential artists of his time because of the way he connects the private with the public sphere, the body with the street, the media space with the personal space. He’s challenging our limits about what we want to be private and what we want to be public, and those questions have only become more important.”

    The show is being designed by Acconci Studios, the firm that Mr. Acconci runs along with his wife, Maria.  Biesenbach said he believed the show would present complicated connections between Acconci’s early work and the work of Acconci Studios, which he calls the “two Vitos.”

    There was an apparent fear by Mrs. Acconci and the museum that the show was not going to happen.  Acconci often experiences bursts of spontaneity, which his wife explained that, “You have to think about him deciding ‘Maybe I should go to China tomorrow.’”  But this project seemed to be different for Acconci, who has historically hated art galleries and museums.  “They always seemed artificially separated from real life,” Acconci confessed.  “But you have to be seen, and I guess I’ve never cared enough about that. Maybe I should have.”