I visited Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument as a skeptic. The artwork, dedicated to the 20th-century Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci and located in the Forest Houses project in the South Bronx, sounded awfully theoretical—art meant to be experienced on paper, like something dreamt up by students of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. The New Yorker in me wondered if the politics of Mr. Hirschhorn’s placement of high art in the South Bronx weren’t condescending to our city, as if we New Yorkers lacked locally grown heroes and needed a Swiss artist to import an obscure Italian revolutionary for our collective edification.
“What can I say about this here?” DJ Baby Dee, a tall man in a long white T-shirt and jeans, asked the crowd that had gathered atop Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument in the South Bronx yesterday. He looked around at the sprawling structure, which was built in a courtyard of the Forest Houses housing projects by 15 residents in about a month and a half, using classic Hirschhorn materials: plywood, blue tarps, lots and lots of tape. “This is a beautiful thing,” he said. “The museum, the arts for the children, the library, the Internet room, the radio station.”
“Not to be critical of others, but a focus on art and a way to display art are hard things to find in the world,” Roger Duffy said during a recent tour of the Dia Foundation’s three buildings on West 22nd Street. “When I meet many artists, I ask them what their favorite museums are, and there aren’t many. There’s a lot of investment going on, but not much else.”
When he was 11, Roger Duffy had his first encounter with art. It was 1966 and he was thumbing through one of those big Time-Life picture books about America at his home in Oakmont, a town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh famous for its golf course of the same name. He came across a picture of a drawing by Diego Rivera hanging in the guest room at Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s wooded retreat 60 miles away. Mr. Duffy asked his father what it was, and Duffy père responded laconically, “It’s art.”
Even today, as one of the most canny combiners of art and architecture, Mr. Duffy, in his reserved way, said he saw no great significance in this awakening. He had come to realize the power of a piece of art, as well as that of its surroundings, even though he did not know it at the time. “I thought of art as magic, and I still do,” he said. “But the two of them together, in that moment, I never really thought of that, now that you mention it. I was just focused on the picture in the picture.”
It would take a few decades for his appreciation of art to develop, and years more for him to incorporate it into his work as a partner at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, but his focus never really wavered. “He may not have known it, but I think this sensitive genius was always there inside him, just waiting to come out,” said Robert Whitman, the renowned multimedia artist and friend and collaborator of Mr. Duffy.
The New York Earth Room, the long-running installation in a SoHo loft by artist Walter De Maria cared for by the Dia Art Foundation, will be closing for its annual summer break on June 10—that’s tomorrow.
After years of speculations about its plans to establish a new museum space in Chelsea, the Dia Art Foundation revealed some of what it has in the works to Carol Vogel at The New York Times.
Superficially, Lawrence Weiner would appear to have little in common with Peter Brant. The former is a onetime dockworker turned conceptual artist with long white beard, bald pate and stooped posture, rarely to be seen without scuffed red leather jacket and hand-rolled cigarette; the latter, a dashing newsprint mogul who lives in a Greenwich, Conn., manse with his supermodel wife and is given to tailored suits and polo teams. And yet, it turns out they both give pretty good speeches.
MONDAY, MARCH 26
Artist Talk: “Kara Walker on Andy Warhol,” at Dia Art Foundation
As part of its “Artists on Artists” series, the Dia Art Foundation invites Kara Walker to speak on the subject of Andy Warhol. Ms. Walker is known for her frank and often disturbing silhouettes that explore power dynamics along lines of race, gender and sexuality. Ms. Walker’s major survey exhibition, “Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,” which Dia director Philippe Vergne helped curate, premiered at the the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in February 2007, after which it was presented at the Whitney and many museums worldwide. —Rozalia Jovanovic
Dia Art Foundation, 535 West 22nd Street, 5th floor, New York, 6:30 p.m., $6
The Dia Art Foundation will join forces with two Salt Lake City organizations, the Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI) and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), to help preserve Robert Smithson’s iconic work, Spiral Jetty.