Hot Spots of the 50s and 60s

The Kunsthaus in Zürich mounted a big and quite good show: Hot Spots. Rio de Janeiro / Milano – Torino / Los Angeles 1956 – 1969. They had lots of good things in the American section; I liked the Ruscha picture (one of the giant gas stations) and the art books best in the Los Angeles section. I want a copy of Every Building on Sunset Strip, if anyone’s starting his Christmas shopping. It’s a linear piece – a long fold out with an absence running down the center to represent the street, houses and businesses flopped out on either side. You can see a version here – click and scroll (it’s an interesting article). I myself am reminded much less of “art” than a piece of real cartography I blogged about some time ago, a fold out map of the Hudson River for mid-19th C steamer passagers to Albany from New York City. The engraver set views of both banks of the Hudson on either side of the long page – the east side pointing down, the west side pointing up (if that makes sense). I can’t find an image of it, but I saw it mounted on a long wall at the Museum of the New-York Historical Society.
The museum also had a brilliant touch-screen version of three other artist books from Ruscha – flippable! On the other hand, Sam Francis should sue over the hanging of his painting.
The objects I liked best over all were some great hanging sculptures by a Brazilian artist, Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980). Of course there were no photographs allowed and of course I can’t find any on the web – they were angular objects – some X-shaped, some, some simpler, with thickness produced in interesting ways by layering wood and pulling apart the layers. They don’t photograph well, but you can see some here. You really have to be able to move around them to see what’s going on. This photo of one at the Tate gives an idea of what he’s up to, but it’s not monochrome (or as close to monochrome) as the ones in Zürich. I liked them a lot – and I don’t like minimalist things much.
The Italian section was long on Arte Povera, which I never like much. There were a lot of Lucio Fontana cut canvases – enough of them that the schtick of “cutting through the picture plane to see what’s beyond” got really old. On the other hand, there was a spatial installation created originally for Documenta 4 in 1968 – it was a white maze of walls with a cut canvas at its heart. That worked as more than just an idea. I also liked seeing something I’d read about, some Giovanni Colombo kinetic pieces playing with the idea of gridding in paintings and sculpture – the grids literally shifted (they were made of elastic bands or metal rods and moved). That was fun, but pretty gimmicky.
All in all a show worth seeing.



Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

We made a quick trip to Zürich over the weekend – click to see more pictures, including me at the Gates of Hell. No, I’m not depressed – quite cheerful, actually!

I realized that most of what I know about Switzerland I’d gathered from Heidi and Robert Ludlum novels. I saw no cows or goats. I saw lots of banks – including some of the ones so subtle they had no name on the door. The Bar au Lac really is close enough to the water for Jason Bourne’s activities, though somehow I’d understood it as being down the side of the lake a little further.

The physical setting of Zürich reminds me a lot of Geneva, New York – especially the way the city wraps along a lake. Except for the luxury hotels and banks, that is. No falling watchmakers, either!

Signs of the Times – Swiss Watchmakers go bankrupt

One of Switzerland’s most expensive brands says “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” If buyers don’t heed that advice and send their watches to the shop, water-resistant seals may wear out, while straps can face permanent damage from luxury lifestyle hazards such as perfume or sea water.
Patek recommends servicing its watches every three to five years, and says that maintaining a self-winding timepiece can cost 800 francs. That means the bill over 40 years could add as much as 7,000 euros to the original cost of a 20,000-euro watch.

I like that listing of luxury lifestyle hazards to a leather strap. The losses the companies take on doing the repairs have sent one company into bankruptcy – and the outlook as reported in this Bloomberg article is grim:

Some 127 million Swiss watches will be due for maintenance as a five-year export boom that tapped newly rich status-seekers from China to Wall Street ends. The costs may both surprise owners and burden producers, including market leaders Swatch Group AG and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, as they try to please customers in a recession. Expenses from filling repair orders helped push Montres Villemont SA into bankruptcy this year.
“When someone buys a Mercedes, the client accepts that within two years it’ll need servicing,” Baume & Mercier Chief Executive Officer Michel Nieto said in an interview, declining to specify figures on repair expenses. “When it comes to watches, people don’t understand this.”

I’m headed to Zurich today for a field trip – I’ll let you know if the streets are littered with the bodies of watch company executives!