Swimming with Libeskind

Westside, Libeskind's shopping mall outside of Berne, SwitzerlandFor enthusiasts of the Jewish Museum, excursions to other Libeskind buildings are imperative. Many are thematically related to the JMB, such as the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabrück or the Jewish Museum in San Francisco. But equally worthwhile are the buildings designed for entirely other purposes, such as Westside, a suburban shopping mall completed in 2008 over a highway outside of Berne, Switzerland.

Westside's inscriptionThe mall – despite, well, being a mall – shares many features with the Jewish Museum, which was Libeskind’s first building project. The well-trained, or perhaps overly-trained, eye may involuntarily pick up on architectural testimonies to German-Jewish history.  continue reading

Riddled with References

R.B. Kitaj's painting The Autumn of Central Paris (After Walter Benjamin)

R.B. Kitaj, The Autumn of Central Paris (After Walter Benjamin), 1972–1973 © R.B. Kitaj Estate

Kitaj’s canvasses are riddled with references to artists and scholars, from Erasmus to Herman Melville, from Fra Angelico to Rosa Luxemburg. From a formal perspective, Kitaj’s obsessive use of citations reflects on the visual impact of images and names, signs and references. Conceptually, citations can involve finding artistic forefathers, and building an intellectual community. This is what I find particularly moving about Kitaj’s work: the artist peoples his paintings, like dream worlds, with “adopted ancestors,” who interact with one-another.  continue reading

Doing Something Wrong

In a video interview, architect MJ Long, like Kitaj an American in London, remembers remodelling Kitaj’s house in Chelsea, and posing for his pictures:

“I found sitting for [Kitaj] actually much more disconcerting than being his architect. You just feel as though you’ve done something wrong, somehow, especially if it isn’t going well, which he makes very clear. […] Before and after it was delightful, because he would always want to sit and talk, but while he was actually working I found it quite intimidating.”

For more on R.B. Kitaj, see: www.jmberlin.de/kitaj/en