15 July, 2013


I have been following Jay-Z’s recent “performance piece” at Pace Gallery in conjunction with the release of his new album Magna Carta…Holy Grail. The event was a video shoot for the song “Picasso Baby” that is featured on the new album. Internationally celebrated performance artist Marina Abramović also took part in this project. Abramović’ has been described as “exploring the physical and mental limits of her being, she has withstood pain, exhaustion, and danger in the quest for emotional and spiritual transformation.” Her work is extraordinary and she truly is one of the most important and iconic performance artists living today.

Jay-Z’s lyrics are appalling and the performance itself was laughably awkward and ridiculous. I reposted an article by Bob Duggan on Big Think’s website “Did Jay-Z Just Kill Performance Art?” in which he quips that “Jay-Z’s foray into the art world reminds me of Andy Warhol’s 1985 guest appearance on The Love Boat.”  

Shortly after posting the article I received a comment from a thoughtful friend not directly affiliated with the art world:

Art and culture are inextricable, so as much as a bruise on the art as Jay-Z's behavior is from a purist perspective ... it is a real bruise that should also be honored or observed for what it is... Does that make any sense from a non-art person?

I started to write her a response on Facebook, and then realized that I needed to write more about the issue, and make it clear what specifically I am objecting to when I criticize this “performance” piece. I am and have been throughout my career deeply supportive of new forms of art, installation, and performance work. My Master’s Thesis was based on this concept. To quote myself on this topic:

When initially presented, new forms of art and installation can incite hostility and derision among art patrons, critics, and general audiences.  New paradigms are unsettling and artistic breakthroughs can threaten belief systems people hold dear to their understanding of the art world and how it functions. Some of the most distinguished and iconic artists in modern history have found notoriety and recognition through years, even decades, of slowly evolving acceptance into the cultural mainstream.

Once labeled charlatans heralding a clear decline in culture, such eminent artists as Theodore Gericault, Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Marcel Duchamp incited public fury and scathing criticism in their respective eras for the ground-breaking work they produced. By challenging the conventions of how art is supposed to look and function, artists operating outside that norm encounter a public largely unprepared and unwilling to accept their permutations.

I do not think that Jay-Z’s performance with Abramović is a mind bending artistic breakthrough and I do not believe he is the art world’s next Pablo Picasso (though he believes it to be true, see lyrics below). I am not troubled by the fact that a rapper and performance artist held court at Pace Gallery because they are both wealthy and famous and can make that happen. It’s also another example of a trend of interesting crossovers between art and pop culture (think Wei Wei and Anish Kapoor recently doing renditions of rapper Psy’s “Gangnam Style”).

After giving it more thought following the Facebook post, the real issue is Picasso Baby’s lyrics. Women and art are brutishly debased and denigrated for the sake of Jay-Z’s ego and hunger for power, wealth, and status. The following are just a few choice lines from a lengthy and painfully descriptive song.

I wanna Rothko, no, I wanna brothel
No, I want a wife that fuck me like a prostitute
In a dirty hotel with the fan on the ceiling
All for the love of drug dealing
Marble Floors, gold Ceilings
Oh, what a feeling, fuck it, I want a billion
Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up
Condos in my condos, I wanna row of
Christie's with my missy, live at the MoMA
See me throning at the Met
Vogueing on these niggas, champagne on my breath, yes
House like the Louvre or the Tate Modern
Because I be going ape at the auction
Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a trillion
Sleeping every night next to Mona Lisa
The modern day version with better features
Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner
Go ahead lean on that shit Blue, you own it
For you to see, I'm the modern day Pablo, Picasso baby

The acquisition of art has been an indicator of wealth, culture and power for centuries. That has positive and negative ramifications, but the fact that Jay-Z wants loads of famous paintings to line his walls is neither shocking nor destructive. The combination, however, of violence, misogyny, and disregard for the works themselves (encouraging his daughter to “lean on that shit because you own it” referencing a painting by Jean-Michele Basquiat) is idiotic and dishonorable.

In a New Yorker article by Emma Allen, Jay-Z’s art advisor states that “he’s thinking about his relationship to art and to how you want one thing and then you want the next thing and then it comes all the way back around; now he has a family and how he passes on the cultural baggage.” In the same article Abramović said “I love his music, because it’s social issues, it’s political, and really goes to everybody’s heart. It’s so good. It’s like a volcano.” 

With Alanna Heiss, my confusion mounts
In a bizarre twist of personal fate, I discovered that Alanna Heiss was an active participant in this project. Founder of MoMA's P.S.1 and Art on Air, Heiss is one of the three women that comprise my thesis (quoted above). I spent days interviewing her, and endlessly admire her intrepid career and fearless ways. I find myself caught in a strange conundrum. 

So Jay-Z’s lyrics are irony and satire. He is essentially the Stephen Colbert of the rap world. He is so revolutionary and paradigm shifting that I actually missed the profound and complex relationship to the art world and the strategic method by which he passes his cultural baggage to his daughter by telling her to “lean on that shit.” These lyrics go straight to everybody’s heart. No, I am still not buying it.

Bob Duggan gives Jay-Z entirely too much credit to be the herald of the death of performance art. I do, however, still agree with his underlying message that I posted this morning.  “Assuming that she’s heard the lyrics, it saddens me that Marina Abramović’s cooperated with “Picasso Baby” after all she’s done for women in art. More than anything else, it’s Jay-Z’s lyrics’ misogyny and disrespect for art itself that will kill performance art purely by association.”

29 May, 2012

29 May - Space + Grit in Montreal

Last week I attended the first C2-MTL conference in Montreal, Quebec. The conference organizers created a distinctive event to explore the relationship between commerce and creativity through non-traditional experiences including talks by leaders across the globe, special exhibitions, presentations, and collaborative events.

A temporary “Innovation Village” was constructed in a district of Montreal currently undergoing significant renovation and gentrification.  The Innovation Village consisted of a large temporary structure housing chic bars, seating areas for discussion and workshops, interactive installations, and themed lounge areas curated by local Montreal artists and designers. The temporary space opened to a central outdoor courtyard populated with food trucks, pop-up cafes, lounge tables and chairs, and ongoing art projects.
The New City Gas complex was located directly across the courtyard, a stately nineteenth century brick edifice that once provided light for the entire city of Montreal. As the conference organizers described, “C2-MTL is transforming this industrial heritage building and its surroundings into a hub of creativity. From networking plazas, brainstorming zones and collective worktables to intimate conversation rooms and exclusive content lounges, each space is designed to evoke collaboration and ignite creativity.” New Gas City was inaugurated as a new concert venue for the city of Montreal at the week’s end.
The conference featured a stunning roster of speakers for the three-day event including internationally renowned architects, filmmakers, business magnets, neuroscientists, and producers Jonah Lehrer, Arianna Huffington, Francis Ford Coppola, Rex Jung, Michael Eisner, architect Winy Maas, Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Director, Dreamworks), Patrick Pichette (CFO, Google), Daniel Lamarre (CEO, Cirque du Soliel), Robert Safian (Editor, Fast Company). Lectures ranged in subject such as  “The Eureka Moment: How do New Ideas Take Form?” to “What’s Next: How can design and architecture contribute to solve global challenges” to “The Perfect Day: What inspires and defines the perfect day?” About halfway through the second day, disparate talks on a wide array of topics began to interlace into a handful of distinctly recurring themes.
One topic that surfaced in nearly every talk is the importance of making time each day to engage in activities that upon first glance appear “unproductive.” Lecturers emphasized again and again that breaking from the intensity and concentration of the work environment can foster seemingly stray thoughts and random connections. Invariably it is during these moments new insights and breakthroughs arise. Neuroscientists Rex Jung and Jonah Lehrer each discussed that the human brain –specifically the frontal cortex – must get out of its own way to resolve strenuous intellectual challenges. The only way to find new solutions is to explore our worlds and ideas with fresh eyes.
In Lehrer’s words (quoted from his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works) “Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our minds are at ease… we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we’re trying to solve. While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights”(31). Traditional logic dictates that if we simply remain focused at our desks for a few hours longer, extend our meetings until we come to a resolution, focus more intently on the problem at hand we will muscle our way to an epiphany. Neuroscience and the experience of creative leaders across the globe strongly assert otherwise - in the words of Albert Einstein “creativity is the residue of wasted time.”
Patrick Pichette, CFO of Google, described in his talk that Google’s campus in the Silicon Valley is outfitted with long walking and biking paths, ping pong tables, laundry machines, lounges, bars, and gyms. He described their policy of Innovation Time Off, in which employees are encouraged to take 20 percent of their time to work on something that interests them personally. This policy has given rise to such innovations within Google as Gmail, Adsense, and the most energy efficient bus system in the country.
Arianna Huffington used her time on stage to introduce her new app, GPS for the Soul (soon to be downloadable from the Huffington Post site). This app utilizes music, images, quotes and a heart rate monitor to slow us down, give us iPhone Zen moments (the irony of the concept is not lost on her). Citing Roman philosopher Plotinus’ notion that “knowledge has three degrees -- opinion, science, illumination" Huffington described that the hyper-connectivity of our information society makes access to opinion and science abundantly easy to come by “but has also taken us further away from that illumination, or wisdom, or intuition, or whatever you want to call it that is so essential to living a fulfilling and meaningful life.” GPS For the Soul is a meditative tool to create space for relaxation and inspiration, a dedicated moment to unwind and daydream in an otherwise information and speed-saturated life.
Once that “aha” moment arises and the epiphany is clear, what does it then take to make the leap from idea to implementation? A second clear thread among all of the speakers in Montreal is the importance of passion and tenacity in pursuing an idea even in the darkest hours of doubt, ridicule, frustration, dead ends, and even repeated failure.  Jonah Lehrer calls it “grit.” To use the famous Thomas Edison line, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
It is the dark underbelly of the creative process and one often glazed over when stories of innovation and success are recounted. The blockbuster movie that forever changed the industry, the invention of the light bulb, an innovation in social media that forever alters the way we interact. Yet over and over each presenter at the conference discussed the critical importance of failure. It is no coincidence that among the inspiring mottos of many of the world’s most successful and creative companies including Pixar, Google, 3M, and Apple include such concepts as “Fail Faster” and “Be Wrong as Fast as we Can.”
Peter Sims of Fast Company stated in an interview that, “finding ways to fail quickly, to invest less emotion and less time in any particular idea or prototype or piece of work, is a consistent feature of the work methods of successful creators. Despite the myths, it's hard work.”  Maybe the most apt description for the delicate balance between creating the space to dream and play and having the tenacity and grit to relentlessly pursue your idea can be summarized by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world all rests on perseverance.”
Photo via Grazia Magazine
Francis Ford Coppola described his infamous years of failure, debt, and universal skepticism while filming Apocalypse Now. He faced bankruptcy, chaos, studio pressure to quit, and an actor’s heart attack on set. Apocalypse Now is considered one of the most important and innovative films in the history of film making.  In Coppola’s words, "the things you get fired for when you are young win you lifetime achievement awards later in life. Keep an eye out for anything that rubs you the wrong way and stick with it. If it seems wrong to everyone else at the time it is probably right."
Highlighting just two of the multitudes of fascinating and though provoking themes of the conference, there is no question that the C2-MTL conference was an enormously successful and inspiring event. The conference was curated and designed by an organization called SID Lee. Their mission is to help companies recognize and unleash the commercial potential of creativity and boasts an international roster of clients including Adidas, Dell, Cirque du Soleil, MGM Mirage, and Red Bull.
The atmosphere of C2-MTL was small part business conference and large part late-night dance club. Strobe and LCD lights blazed reds, blues, oranges, and pinks throughout the village. Live DJ’s and musicians started at 9:00 each morning and extremely loud techno music reverberated across the highly stylized, dark, and frequently hazy (I never saw a fog machine but they had to have been running nonstop) sitting areas, cafes, lounges, and exhibition venues. Each speaker was announced like the start of a monster truck rally, which proved as disorienting to the speakers as the audience (Arianna Huffington nearly jumped out of her skin after a serene and meditative talk when the monster truck MC wrapped up her talk with searching strobe lights and bumping bass from the live DJs onstage).
On the opening night of the conference, Montreal-based performance troupe Cirque du Soleil performed in the courtyard of the Innovation Village. An opera singer on a 30-foot rise sang before the backdrop of the New Gas City building. It was gorgeous, inspiring, and utilized the history of a 19th century Montreal edifice and the internationally acclaimed talent of a homegrown organization. The evening was a shining example that C2-MTL can inspire collaboration and ignite creativity by focusing on Montreal’s distinctive cultural legacy. I hope that next year’s conference becomes more opening night and less clubby darkness, DJ, and fog machine. As conference speaker Jonah Lehrer described, “scientists speculate that any open, sunny space can lead to increased creativity. Architecture has real cognitive consequences.”
For more information on the conference: http://c2mtl.com/

26 January, 2012

26 Jan - Phenomenal in Southern California

Last week I was in Southern California for the final week of Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and La Jolla. The three-venue exhibition was part of Pacific Standard Time (PST), the six-month visual art extravaganza that is now the largest cultural collaboration in the history of the region.
The project’s mission is to commemorate the dynamic history of art in Los Angeles from the 1940’s through the 1970s. In the words of Deborah Marrow, Director of the Getty Foundation and one of the mastermind’s behind the project, “through Pacific Standard Time, the region’s enormously creative history has been preserved and re-examined, narrative by narrative. Now, for the first time, the full story of the genesis of the Los Angeles art scene is finally available to the public at exhibitions throughout Southern California.”
I repeatedly heard that of the 185 exhibitions (and counting) in the region, Phenomenal was the one not to miss. The exhibition explored the preoccupation among a handful of Los Angeles artists the 1960’s – 70’s of light and sensory phenomena as artistic medium. These artists, sometimes described as the Light and Space movement, created paintings, installations, sculptures, and atmospheres to shift and exceed the viewer’s capacity to experience and perceive art through basic manipulations of light and space. As described by Christopher Knight for the Los Angeles Times “whether by directing the flow of natural light, embedding artificial light within objects or architecture, or by playing with light through the use of transparent, translucent or reflective materials, these artists each made the visitor’s experience of light and other sensory phenomena under specific conditions the focus of their work.”

Phenomenal featured 56 works by 13 artists: Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Ron Cooper, Mary Corse, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken, Bruce Nauman, Eric Orr, Helen Pashgian, James Turrell, De Wain Valentine and Douglas Wheeler. The impact of the exhibition outstripped all of my expectations and reinforced my conviction that art can profoundly inform and expand the way we see and process the world.
One of the most important aspects of Phenomenal is the time it requires to literally see and then experience the impact of the works in the show. Upon first blush, many of these works appear to be an empty canvas, a room with nothing inside. In Irwin’s biography Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Lawrence Wescheler describes witnessing a couple literally "not see" one of Irwin's 7-foot dot paintings hanging in a museum. Standing with the work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Weschler describes that "a couple walked into the room. The young woman, gesturing with a sweep of her arm, sighed in mock exasperation 'See, this is what I mean.' Her friend smiled knowingly... and the two moved quickly on. They had literally not seen a thing - one does not, one cannot in that amount of time. She was just sick and tired of having museum walls cluttered with empty white canvases."

Experiencing these works requires the patience of time and attention, the leap-of-faith conviction that experiencing an “empty white canvas” might actually be worthwhile. And the works do unfold. With time and patience entire rooms, materials, light, and color that were literally invisible upon first glimpse are revealed - visual assumptions are shattered. In the words of Christopher Knight for the Los Angeles Times, “the eye opens, the buzzing mind lets go. A spectator arrives at a perceptual base point. As your body begins to feel the space it occupies, the rational brain shuts off. The effect is sensuous and exciting.” Or perhaps more aptly, in Irwin’s words, "at the very best, a few people will walk in and it will change their lives.”

Dramatic though that statement may sound, Weschler describes that this level of visual engagement turns our perception inward and facilitates a heightened awareness or our own ability to perceive. "Engaging the picture, we in turn engage the wonder of our own perceptual facilities. As in so much of Irwin's later work, for a few moments, we perceive ourselves perceiving." It is within that fresh perceptual space that we are able to see nuances, ask new questions, and make room for new opportunities.
The impact of Pacific Standard Time upon Southern California has also created an opportunity for profound shifts in assumptions and perspectives. PST created a new paradigm in large-scale collaboration.  The project successfully fostered a sense of place and time through community consensus and the shared direction of powerful non-profit leaders in the region. In a time when so many non-profits dread collaboration and are loathe to share resources, Pacific Standard Time serves as a wake up call that a broader impact can result from a unified long-term community vision and a thoughtful and strategic combination of forces. Janet Lamkin, California State President of Bank of America, described the long-term impact of this project is that it “will bring together people of every neighborhood and background, and involve virtually all of this region’s arts institutions….(and) contributes to a climate where innovation flourishes, economies grow, and people, business and communities thrive.”

05 December, 2011

5 Dec - Art Basel Miami Beach

Last week was the 10th anniversary of Art Basel Miami Beach. In what amounts to a week-long art viewing, hobnobbing, party-hopping bender, the international art glitterati descend upon Miami Beach to see, be seen, schmooze, acquire, revel, gossip, and generally carouse. In addition to Art Basel Miami Beach there are 16 satellite fairs scattered throughout the city, museum exhibitions, gallery openings, private collection tours, concerts, performances, brunches, and VIP events in a timeline better suited to a month-long endeavor than a five-day art event.

Art Basel originated in Basel, Switzerland and came to Miami in 2002. Over the years, the fair has profoundly transformed the city while it is there. Hotel rooms, flights, restaurants, stores, galleries, museums are teeming, and Miami garners the focus of international publicity on a previously unprecedented scale.

The week is a testament to the unassailable and unnerving fact that money and art are inextricably bound. This week lays bare and unabashedly celebrates the fact of their interdependence.  The art world is an amalgamation of pretense and brilliance – breathtaking imagination alongside gilded Gucci-clad lemmings. Miami invites that dichotomy in its most extreme – amazing works by little known and experimental artists at the fringes of art making presented simultaneously with the insecurity, boredom, and keeping up with the Joneses that is the “dark side” of the art world.

While in Miami I received an editorial by the infamous (and notorious) art collector Charles Saatchi. No stranger to controversy and criticism, Saatchi seemed to have had a massive art epiphany. Or – more likely - his wealth paled in comparison to the “artigarchs” of Brazil, Russia, India, and China who are out buying all of the traditional “major players.” Saatchi seethed that “being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar…do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art? Or do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures…In the fervour of peacock excess, it's not even considered necessary to waste one's time looking at the works on display. At the world's mega-art blowouts, it's only the pictures that end up as wallflowers.”

Beyond the madness and excess, the vulgarity of VIP swagger and “peacock excess,” Miami has gained an increasingly prominent position as a destination for art, culture, and design. The fair and all of its adjacent events have bolstered the Miami economy in profound and quantifiable ways. The fair’s continued success has encouraged the development of formerly dilapidated neighborhoods such as the Design and the Wynwood Art District that are now comprised of major private collections, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and a major influx of galleries - 4 to 45 over the past 8 years.

Another benefit, as described by Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times is that “as Miami’s cultural profile has grown, so too has the government’s willingness to invest. Local museums, including the well-respected Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, are expanding, partly with government money. The Miami Art Museum is in the midst of constructing a new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the architects who reimagined the Tate Modern in London.”

The fact that “trendy” and “chic” is often not (ever?) a sustainable model is an issue that major players in the Miami art world must address in order to maintain Miami’s current cultural growth trajectory. Every “cool” event has its expiration date, and for Miami to bank on the past decade of cultural success it will have to make real-time infrastructural and practical investments. As Rosa de la Cruz, patron of the arts and Miami-based collector explains, “Miami universities need to create graduate programs that will act as springboards for talented young artists.” Other ideas include Miami museums building major permanent collections…Art Basel has been wonderful to Miami, but for the rest of the year we need to start building an infrastructure,” Mrs. de la Cruz said. “We have to be very conscious of that, and we have to work very hard.”

02 November, 2011

2 November - Caravaggio and Francis Bacon

I just completed Francine Prose’s lucid biography Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles. I have always been drawn to Caravaggio’s stunning paintings and the defiance and innovation with which he approached traditional religious subject matter. I was curious to know more about his work and infamously troubled life after seeing the Caravaggio / Francis Bacon exhibition at the Galeria Borghese in Rome, and this biography provided great insight into his work and life. 

Esthetically, the pairing of Francis Bacon and Caravaggio was a brilliant choice by British curator Michael Pippiat. Both Caravaggio and Bacon unflinchingly plumbed the depths of the human condition. Each in his own unique and extraordinary way painted the sordid and debased, exposed the flesh and decay of the human body. Both artists simultaneously eroticized and laid bare the vulnerability of the human condition in forms that challenged the sensibilities and conventions of the contemporaries and patrons of their respective eras.  Beyond this esthetic connection both artists’ lives were notoriously difficult, conflicted, and enormously self-destructive. Each perpetuated the myth of the tortured genius to the furthest reaches of their capacities. Bacon and Caravaggio were iconoclasts, virtuosos, addicts, and criminals – their very myths defined by the raging intensity of their personal turmoil and the extravagant beauty of their work.

Caravaggio seethed against the constraints of 17h century Italy. He embodied the sacred and profane and with each professional success his life spiraled deeper into brutal street fights, vendettas, exile, and multiple murder charges. His life, like his work, treaded a fine line between the sublime and the beautiful, the sacred and the profane. In Prose’s words “Caravaggio insisted on his freedom to defy categorization, his right to make art according to his convictions and out of whatever engaged his intellect and his soul, as well as his creative, religious, and erotic impulses.” Bacon, too, lived a contradictory and despairing existence. As described in his biography by Pippiat, Bacon was “generous but cruel, forthright yet manipulative, ebullient but in despair: He was the sum of his contradictions. This life, lived at extremes, was filled with achievement and triumph, misfortune and personal tragedy."

It is fascinating that both artists have transcended their times to remain among the most important painters in the history of art. In Prose’s words, describing Caravaggio but also apt for Bacon, “all of these centuries later, the sense of connection, of communication—of communion—that we feel with the long-dead painter seems almost vertiginously direct and profound. Having spent his brief, tragic, and turbulent life painting miracles, he managed, in the process, to create one—the miracle of art, the miracle of the way in which some paint, a few brushes, a square of canvas, together with that most essential ingredient, genius, can produce something stronger than time and age, more powerful than death.” 

12 October, 2011

12 Oct - Bono and Hiroshi Sugimoto

This weekend I attended The Chinati Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration in Marfa, Texas. It’s founder, artist Donald Judd, conceived of creating a place that would present art (originally his alongside that of Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain) in a permanent space to carefully address the context of place, architecture, and constancy. In Judd’s words, “It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be. Somewhere, just as the platinum iridium meter guarantees the tape measure, a strict measure must exist for the art of this time and place."

The Chinati Foundation opened to the public in 1986 as an independent, non-profit, publicly funded institution (supported largely by the DIA Foundation). The collection now includes 15 outdoor concrete works and 100 aluminum works by Judd, 25 sculptures by John Chamberlain, an installation by Dan Flavin occupying six former army barracks, and permanent installations by artists including Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Richard Long, and Claes Oldenburg.

In addition to the permanent collection, Chinati also presents temporary exhibitions and this weekend featured an installation by internationally celebrated photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. I have long admired and exhibited Sugimoto’s photography and was surprised to find that this show consisted of 24 glass pagodas, each six inches high, presented on Japanese wood pedestals. At the center of each pagoda, however, I discovered a thread from his earlier works - miniature unique images of his iconic seascape photographs (pictured above, left).

I met Sugimoto on the opening night and attended his lecture in downtown Marfa the next day, curious to learn more about this new body of work. The lecture addressed Sugimoto’s creative influences, exhibition history, and current and future projects. It touched upon his recent architectural work and how his ongoing fascination with Japanese antiquities brought him to this new body of sculptural pagodas and linked him back to Donald Judd who apparently had a similar affinity. The talk, however, took a wildly unexpected turn and got me thinking about the intersection of fame, celebrity, and cross-disciplinary inspiration.

About twenty minutes into the lecture, Sugimoto's slideshow of images went from his own work to his collection of Japanese antiquities to U2's "Claw," a massive four-legged supporting rig build for their most recent world tour. Um, what?

Sugimoto laughed, and said, and now we will talk about something very different. Sugimoto proceeded to launch into a story of being taken by private jet to Bono’s beautiful villa in Nice a few years ago. He had never met Bono and was not totally sure who he was, but he was enthralled with the extravagance of transport and magnificence of locale. Bono greeted Sugimoto at the villa and told him that he was a great admirer of his Seascapes. Bono then asked if Sugimoto might consider shooting a seascape from this villa for the cover of U2's next album. At this point in the talk, Sugimoto chuckles, and tells the audience that he is not a commercial photographer. Had Bono NOT asked him for the shot he may well have made a picture, but since Bono asked him to do it he had to decline. He clearly was entertained with this aspect of the story.

Bono and Sugimoto continued the conversation, and ultimately one of Sugimoto’s existing photographs, Boden Sea, was used for the No Line on the Horizon album cover and title. The photograph was also used in a repeated image that spanned the massive video screens atop "The Claw" during the world tour. Taken with his work being featured amidst the magnitude and scope of U2's fame (it turned out to be the highest-grossing and highest-attended concert tour in history), Sugimoto remains star struck. At one point during the lecture Sugimoto showed a concert clip where Bono interrupts one of his signature songs in a stadium full of screaming fans to give a shout out to "Sugimoto-san." Sugimoto beamed, momentarily speechless, basking in the memory.

This lecture was an example of artists at the pinnacle of their respective careers being awed by the achievements of peers in other fields. For the same reason that I love Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, Adam Bly’s Seed Salon series, and the Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts, it is fascinating to explore the ways that creative visionaries interact with, inspire, and admire one another’s lives and accomplishments. The examples of this interaction is endless and fascinating, the transcendence of "good work" clearly stretches far beyond its intended or understood audience into other realms of thought and interaction. In Sugimoto’s words "the works are really connected to the very deep roots of the human mind, even to the minds of musicians who have reached the pinnacle of success."

Beyond the glitz of private jets, French villas, solo exhibitions, auction records, and massive world tours, this type of intersection is a fertile place for growth and innovation and offers a singular opportunity to explore new ways to illuminate and understand our world.