Franz Xaver Messerschmidt at the Neue Galerie

There’s a wonderful show at the Neue Galerie, on view until January 10th: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt 1736 – 1783: From Neoclassicism to Expressionism. Messerschmidt was a sculptor working in Vienna where early in his career he produced well-wrought portrait busts of empresses and scholars and other worthies. Something took an odd turn for the artist – he perhaps became mentally ill – and by the 1770s he had left Vienna and begun sculpting what would come to be known as his “Character Heads.”

A strangely affecting and at times disturbing group, the Character Heads depict the artist and other sitters making the kinds of crazy faces usually only seen on clowns or comics or hyperactive children. (Apparently, to produce the faces, Messerschmidt would violently pinch himself in the leg or abdomen.) Despite the grotesque or melancholy aspects of many of the sculptures, they are beautifully made and lifelike, rendered in a lead-tin alloy, a few in alabaster. After his death the Character Heads were given silly and misleading names (such as “The Yawner” and “Childish Weeping”) and exhibited as novelties before being championed by art critics. A fairly beguiling character, little seems to be agreed-upon about Messerschmidt, his mental state, and the impetus behind this work; there’s a fascinating section about him in Margot & Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn, a book that examines the relationship between creativity and madness, which is where I first heard of the artist. This show marks the first time Messerschmidt’s work has been exhibited in the US – so see it before they pack it off to the Louvre.

"The Yawner," compliments of the Neue Galerie.

Also currently on view at the Neue Galerie is a show of Wiener Werkstätte postcards, each a lovely little multicolored jewel, celebrating fashion, holidays, architecture and the like – and of course the museum’s wonderful permanent collection, which has among its many treasures the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I of Gustav Klimt, which caused a stir when it was purchased in 2006. The building itself, designed in 1914 by NYPL architects Carrère & Hastings and once the home of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III, is worth a visit in its own right.

Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, compliments of Wikipedia.

The Neue Galerie has extended Friday night hours with free admission the first Friday of every month, as well as two cafés – Café Sabarsky and Café Fledermaus – which, I’m told, serve some terrific palatschinken.

Tony Schirripa Passes the AIA NY Gavel

Tony rouses the crowd at his inauguration last year. Photo by Sam Lahoz.

At the Center for Architecture on December 7th, Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, passed the gavel to Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, the new President of the AIA NY Chapter. During Tony’s tenure, he took as his theme “Architect as Leader,” which explored the positive impact that architects can have not only on their projects and firms, but also on the larger community. Tony’s speech on Tuesday evening touched on the many high points of his tenure as president, including the Architects’ Fast-Track Leadership professional development series launched in September of 2010, events and exhibitions put on by the chapter (such as Innovate: Integrate, on view until January 15th, 2011), and new technology initiatives implemented. He finished by thanking the AIA NY Board, staff, and volunteers for their many contributions. To read Tony’s speech in full, go to eOCULUS. We congratulate him on a successful year!

Happy Holidays

Photograph by Grey Crawford.

Congratulations once again to the Mancini•Duffy Retail Group, whose design for Bloomingdale's Santa Monica has placed in RDI's International Store Design Competition. The level of award will be announced at a reception in Manhattan on January 10th. Best wishes go out to the team behind the Santa Monica Place design, which included Senior Associate Edward Calabrese, Creative Director; Senior Associate Lisa Contreras, Resource Director; Senior Associate Marian Crawford, IIDA, FRDI, Project Director; Stan Kao, Senior Designer; Courtney Kemper, Project Designer; George Winsper, Job Captain, 1st Floor; and Alex Mai, Job Captain, 2nd Floor. Go here for more about the store.