Herbert Muschamp

  • Lewis Mumford

    I USED TO THINK OF MYSELF as the love child of Lewis Mumford and Diana Vreeland. Meaning, architecture critics need a moralistic streak (Mumford’s was a mile wide), but we should also know how to wrap and tie it into a fetching bow from time to time. If the ethical dimension of architecture is giving you a headache, Why Don’t You . . . wear a headache band?

    Everyone of my generation grew up with their heads glued to two previous paperback collections of Mumford’s New Yorker Skyline columns from the ’40s and ’50s, The Highway and the City and From the Ground Up. This new volume of New Yorker

  • Chick Austin

    EUGENE R. GADDIS’S FULL-DRESS BIOGRAPHY of Arthur Everett “Chick” Austin, Magician of the Modern, is subtitled “the transformation of the arts in America.” But the subtitle tells only half the story. The book also recounts the transformation of a European art movement. Austin, the legendary director of Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum from 1927 to 1944, was one of the most active supporters of Surrealism in the United States. With his patronage, the Surrealist movement was conscripted to serve American needs and sensibilities. This is what makes Austin’s life compelling to contemporary readers. A

  • Herbert Muschamp

    NINE OUT OF TEN ARCHITECTURE JOURNALISTS WANT to write about Winka Dubbeldam the moment they hear of her. Admittedly, most are just after an excuse to write her name down for the pure euphonic pleasure. Winka, Winka, Winka Dubbeldam. Sweet and Hot.

    You can find both sweet and hot in the work, as well as the person, of this young architect; in fact you can find almost anything—save stupidity. Architecturally, the sweetness comes of Dubbeldam’s receptivity to light, weather, views—not to mention environmental tangibles like zoning restrictions. The heat is in the seductive forms she

  • The best books of 2000

    Linda Nochlin

    Molly Nesbit’s Their Common Sense (Black Dog Press) isn’t exactly an art book—it’s not exactly a book even, in the usual sense. But in the unusual sense, Nesbit’s tome is a marvelous document, swinging briskly between the teaching of mechanical drawing in French schools and the arcanery of Duchamp & Co. It begins in very big print with Antonin Proust’s proposal that all French schoolchildren learn to draw and ends with a memorable still from Pabst’s Joyless Streets. In between? Children’s drawings (not the cute, creative ones, but disciplined, drafting lesson productions), some

  • BEST OF THE ’90s: BOOKS

    Homi K. Bhabha: The times are out of joint, perhaps never more so than when we are seduced by that decade-end desire to say, One last time, what was the great work of the ’90s? The ’90s began in the late late ’80s with the big bang of The Satanic Verses, and the decade dribbles on with small arms sniping around an elephant-dung madonna. In between times, we realize how powerful is the appeal to religious orthodoxy; how insecure our sense of the secular; how fragile any idea of global cultural understanding; how the politics of art rarely lies in the artifice itself, but all around it, in the

  • “The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000”

    Tocqueville was right. He thought that the inherent conflict between liberty and equality was the one big story the US had to tell, and “The American Century,” the two-part survey show on view this year at the Whitney Museum of American Art, inevitably retold that tale, playing a lively set of variations on Tocqueville’s theme. Twentieth-century art emerged as a field in which the dueling ambitions of personal liberty and social parity produced a potent creative ferment, and the fruits of artistic freedom in America are made manifest in the hundreds of paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, films,

  • HERBERT MUSCHAMP ON GORDON MATTA-CLARK

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    NO ONE WENT TO FOOD FOR THE FOOD. One evening the menu might consist of hard-boiled eggs stuffed with live shrimp. Another night it might be necklaces of boiled meat bones. The cuisine, in other words, was often conceptual. But the sense of community was Four Star.

    It was a Romulus and Remus thing, the city as substitute mother for orphans who would create a new city of their own. The founders and patrons of Food—the restaurant at Prince and Wooster opened in September 1971 by Gordon Matta-Clark, Tina Girouard, Suzanne Harris, and Rachel Lew—were orphans of America and its

  • Gordon Matta-Clark

    NO ONE WENT TO FOOD FOR THE FOOD. One evening the menu might consist of hard-boiled eggs stuffed with live shrimp. Another night it might be necklaces of boiled meat bones. The cuisine, in other words, was often conceptual. But the sense of community was Four Star.

    It was a Romulus and Remus thing, the city as substitute mother for orphans who would create a new city of their own. The founders and patrons of Food—the restaurant at Prince and Wooster opened in September 1971 by Gordon Matta-Clark, Tina Girouard, Suzanne Harris, and Rachel Lew—were orphans of America and its paranoid political

  • KNOWING LOOKS: CINDY SHERMAN’S SIXTY-NINE '70s

    In December 1995, New York’s Museum of Modern Art acquired the only complete set of Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills.” Realized between 1977 and 1980, this generation-defining series will go before the public this June in a special exhibition on view through September 2. As the sixty-nine photographs take their place on the museum’s walls, Herbert Muschamp looks again at these icons and their era. The series is reproduced here in its entirety.

    IF TROY DONAHUE CAN BE a movie star, then I can be a movie star.

    In the ’70s, I had a hairdresser named “Atom!” who used to go see A Chorus Line about

  • Herbert Muschamp

    HALL POWERFUL

    Why must it take the commission of a major new concert hall to inspire our architects to articulate the links between sound, space, time, and social occasion? Never mind: it’s rare enough to find even a concert hall where those connections are memorably expressed. So I give thanks for the new chamber-music hall Christian de Portzamparc has designed for the CITÉ DE LA MUSIQUE in Paris.

    The hall is wrapped within a spiraling lobby, a disorienting shape to move through: it puts you in mind of music’s capacity for temporal displacement. The hall itself is shaped like an ellipse.

  • CRITICAL REFLECTIONS

    WRITING AN INTRODUCTION to an essay by an architecture critic who has written, to this point, rather kindly of my work, and who at some point will inevitably have a reason to do otherwise, presents a rather precarious position.

    The world we live in is a place where a lot of buildings are made, but very few eke out the merits to be called “architecture.” When they do, it is the job of the architecture critic to tell people, from some intelligent vantage or viewpoint, what they are looking at. The critic presents a context for the work, and a passion for both its successes and its failures, and

  • Paper Architecture

    LAST SUMMER I BINGED on popular books about the ’80s: Sidney Blumenthal’s Our Long National Daydream, Robert Reich’s The Resurgent Liberal, Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Worst Years of Our Lives, Connie Bruck’s The Predators’ Ball, Kevin Phillip’s The Politics of Rich and Poor, etc. Much of this material first appeared in magazines as the decade unfolded; now gathered between hard covers, it’s an occasion for retrospection on the Decade of Greed. Yet it may be too soon for postmortems. Mike Milken is behind bars, but junk bonds are still legal. Our “victory” in the cold war has breathed new life into

  • Paris and the Middle

    Let’s rethink this word Other. Must we always use it to press gilt buttons? I’d rather trade it for guilt buttons, like the ones on those nifty new parkas from Chanel. These days my Other is Paris. I’m not really going there for the food, the fashion, the sentimental beauty of a walk along the Seine. I’m confronting my fear of the Other, a fear I’m determined to conquer, no matter what the obstacles—the sauces I must wade through, the wines that may give me headaches, the injuries to the spinal column from the head-swiveling beauty of buildings, scarves, scent on the air. This isn’t tourism;

  • California Architecture

    I finally got to swim in one of those pools where you dive down through an underwater opening, swim along a passage, and surface in a totally different space. I’d been dreaming of that kind of pool since I was a child, and it turned out to be just as fantastic as I always knew it would be.

    Architectural dreams come true in L.A. Moments after my swim, I went walking with Richard Meier along the ridge of the mountaintop site of the museum and study center he is designing for the Getty Trust. The Getty was the dream commission of the 1980s—the apex of a fabulous decade of museum architecture—and

  • Property

    THIS IS IT! Here it is! At long last! Such neat words, piled up in tight little bundles of three, like the steps of a marble plinth ascending to a Doric temple, the tiers of a wedding cake mounting to a plastic bride and groom, the levels of a carpeted display drum at the auto show, slowly revolving beneath pink spotlights. Beat the drums! Blow the horns!

    Surely much of the emotion aroused in the West by changes in the political structure of Eastern Europe is due to the thrill of having a really good excuse to roll out those verbal platforms after so many years of neglect. Even if the thrill is

  • Architecture

    BY CHANCE, Susan Buck-Morss’ book, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, an interpretive reconstruction of Walter Benjamin’s unfinished Passagen-Werk (Arcades project), arrived amidst all the news about the breaching of the Berlin Wall. For a moment, it felt like an energy transfer was taking place between two 20th-century monuments: the demolition of the touchstone of cold warriors, the rebuilding of a monument for left-wing academics, assembled by Buck-Morss from the rubble of Benjamin’s notes for his unfinished opus. But didn’t the smashing of the wall (not to

  • Architecture

    “THE ARCHANGEL LOVED HEIGHTS.” And I love the high I get from the book that opens with those words: Henry Adams’ Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. Adams is writing about the statue of Saint Michael atop the pinnacle of a 12th-century French abbey; he does not fear the pathetic fallacy. He wants to bring the archangel down to earth without discrediting the idea of heights. Saint Michael, he tells us, hasn’t attained this eminence on account of God, or religion, or even architecture. He’s up there on account of a craving for high places—a taste we may share when we find ourselves transported higher

  • SPACE AROUND WARHOL

    ANDY WARHOL’S SENSE of space was a missing element at MoMA’s recent Warhol retrospective. Anyone who has seen photographs of installations in which Warhol had a hand, or who has read the chapter called “Atmosphere” in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, knows how sensitive he was to the nuances of physical context. I want to add to those words and pictures some recollections of how he and his work occupied space in that moment when both were launched from the space of art into the more diffuse realm of celebrity.

    I stepped into Warhol space through two shows that were part of that launching process:

  • ANTONIO!

    “BY NOW, IN THE 1980S, we are all disenchanted enough to know that no work of art, however much it may fortify the spirit or nourish the eye and mind, has the slightest power to save a life.” So wrote Robert Rosenblum, in an essay already much criticized (by Douglas Crimp and others), in the catalogue for the 1987 Art against AIDS project. I can’t say that the fashion illustrations of Antonio Lopez, who died of AIDS shortly before the catalogue appeared, ever saved a life or even prolonged his own. What I can say, and want to with some feeling, is that Antonio’s art knew nothing of the kind of

  • Architecture

    LAST YEAR’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, it’s generally agreed, reached a new low in matters of substance. Still, there was food for thought in the way the affairs of state revolved around the L word. Two figures competed for our attention on the national stage—one who had made up his mind long ago that liberalism is a Bad Thing (even if in the past it had produced one or two Good Things, like labor laws and public education); and one who wouldn’t admit to being liberal until he couldn’t do so without raising the question of why the admission was such a problem.

    A few days after the election, John