Jeffrey Slonim

  • Pet Piles

    WE ALL HAVE FAVORITE BUILDINGS—perhaps an unusual house passed on some regularly taken journey, or a monument that we have traveled to see, or would like to. This month we asked architects and artists to single out the structures that have smitten their specialist eyes. Some did cite monuments (both Modern classics and ancient wonders), but many told of romances with less-august, more-everyday edifices. We tallied several urban discoveries and a number of testaments to that potent repressed behind much cultivated urbanity—suburbia. Steven Izenour, of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, trumped

  • the Sundance Film Festival

    IT WAS ONLY TEN YEARS AGO that Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, an organization chartered to nurture young directors, got behind a little-known film festival sponsored by the Utah Film Commission. Rechristened Sundance, backed by Redford’s name, and blessed with an idyllic location—Park City, Utah, a mountain-ringed former mining town, PR-perfect right down to its Egyptian Revival movie house—the festival quickly became known as a showcase for adventurous independent movie-making. With the success of films like sex, lies, and videotape, River’s Edge, and Hoop Dreams (all Sundance discoveries),

  • Whitney Watch

    SPRINGTIME (EVERY OTHER YEAR) means open season for Whitney Biennial–bashing. From chief curators and chaired professors to gallery attendants and art students, the art world loves to loathe this country’s premier survey of contemporary art.

    As Klaus Kertess’ ’95 Biennial opens this month, we called on nine individuals and one collective we know have their ears to the ground and asked them which artists they felt he overlooked. Independent curator Robert Nickas generously supplied his own fully formed 40-name alternative (there was but one overlap with Kertess’ selection); the activist collective

  • What Artists Listen to.

    REMEMBER MARTIN SCORSESE’S take on the art world in New York Stories: Nick Nolte-as-macho-painter aping neo-Expressionist brushstrokes—Chuck Connelly’s canvases were used as props—to the deafening strains of “Whiter Shade of Pale” while Rosanna Arquette shrieks to be heard as the beautiful-but-neglected female-artist love interest. We often picture artists blasting a stereo while they work. Some do, of course—novelist Kathy Acker cranks tunes while she writes—but most of the artists and writers we talked with this month don’t seem to pump up the volume with abandon. Still, they are much involved

  • Artists' Collections

    WHEN ANDY WARHOL’S CELEBRATED collection of goodies (everything from Kenny Scharfs to cookie jars to a bed canopy loaded with watches) went on the block at Sotheby’s in 1989, its Citizen Kane–like breadth and eccentricity (not to mention a peak-market haul of more than $26 million) cemented his reputation as this century’s ultimate artist pack rat. While no one we interviewed this month rivaled his voraciousness (at least in sheer quantity), nearly every artist we called was eager to recount exploits at flea markets, obscure galleries, and junk shops. Their collections ranged from refined

  • the Afterlife

    HAVING DRAWN NEARLY his last breath, Pennsylvania native W. C. Fields looked the Grim Reaper in the eye and quipped the transcendent epitaph, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” On the occasion of the recent opening of the Andy Warhol Museum in the artist’s hometown, we popped the question: given the option, would Andy rather be in Pittsburgh?

    ARTHUR C. DANTO (philosopher/art critic): It was a witty thing that W. C. Fields wanted on his tombstone: Philadelphia as an alternative to death. It makes me think of the point in the Odyssey when Achilles met Odysseus in the underworld and

  • the Most Moving Pictures

    WHICH MOTION PICTURES move the art world—art house experiments? Hollywood blockbusters? ’50s weepies? We asked artists, filmmakers, an actress, and a museum director which screen gems rocked their sensibilities.

    Those quizzed reeled off their favorites. Indeed, the telephone responses were not only animated but surprisingly off-the-cuff considering I’d never met most of those interviewed before. Film serves as both intellectual and social common ground; everyone, it seems, loves to talk movies. Tastes varied, but certain favorites made repeat appearances. Andy Warhol showed up three times. Whitney

  • Canvases Fear

    WHAT IS AN ARTIST’S BIGGEST FEAR? Surely a persistent journalist telephoning to ask this question might number among them. Nevertheless, this month I gritted my teeth and accepted the daunting assignment of tabulating the art world’s terrors.

    One might expect artists to shield the inner working of their psyches as one would the cards in a poker hand, fearful that exposing the unconscious motives that motor the art might give away the store. Not so with most of the artists, writers, and musicians we contacted. On the contrary, my calls were often greeted as a welcome diversion from an even bigger

  • the Book Picture, Take Two

    WHAT DOES THE ART WORLD READ? Once again we’ve asked artists, writers, curators, critics, and a few choice wits to answer the question: What book has most influenced your work or your life?

    Contra Fran Lebowitz’s witty counsel in the last installment of this column (December 1993) and Quentin Crisp’s in this, a number of artists and art-worlders do pore over dense tomes in their spare moments. Kirk Varnedoe, chief curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, reveals not only that he reads voraciously but that peeking at artists’ bookshelves over the years has given him telling insights into both

  • the Book Picture

    A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean that artists take words lightly. What does the art world read? We phoned a number of artists, writers, filmmakers, and critics and asked: What has been the most influential book in your life?

    Getting people to answer wasn’t always easy. Some scrupulously guarded their reading habits; others talked, but warily, fearing, no doubt, embarrassments of intellectual riches (or of poverty)—the PR impact of sounding too bookish (or not bookish enough). Still others had plenty to say: a few were ready with picks that crystallized deep-seated