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Artist Grayson Perry has a long-held dream to build a “Taj Mahal” in Essex, England. A place people could even rent out. And it’s happening … (via Guardian)

This week, sex in museums, too many Picassos, Grayson Perry’s Taj Mahal, inmates designing prisons, Kim Kardashian selfie analysis, and more.

 A really amazing collection of art by queer and female artists has been donated to the Seattle Art Museum:

Offenbacher is a mid-level Seattle artist. He’s a painter but also an organizer of artists, and the publisher of a smart, influential zine called La Norda Specialo. His paintings are not included in any Seattle museum collections, but he has been recognized for them. In 2013, he won the Neddy at Cornish in painting, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 award. An unrestricted award means you can do whatever you want with the money—buy a convertible, blow it on the best beach vacation ever.

But Offenbacher and Jennifer Nemhauser, his partner of 25 years, decided to take the money coming into their household and send it right back out. They bought art by female and queer artists who live locally and they donated it to SAM for the permanent collection.

In case you wonder why this is significant:

But upon request, SAM was able to tally how many works by male and female artists the museum has acquired in the last two years for its modern and contemporary collections, which cover the 20th and 21st centuries.

In that span, SAM acquired 221 works total: 35 by women and 186 by men.

 What kind of prison would an inmate design?

As consensus builds that traditional criminal justice models are failing to prevent recidivism, VanBuren and fellow instructor Barb Toews, an academic, have joined a small chorus of designers, researchers and even judges and wardens calling for new spaces to match the tenets of restorative justice.

“Architects are sort of the psychiatrists of the system,” said Linda Bernauer, chair of the American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Justice. “We have to listen to everyone, and victims and perpetrators don’t generally have much of a voice…. The intent is to talk about how therapeutic spaces can provide better outcomes and have architects be the leaders as opposed to just being hired to do what we’re told.”

 Christine Tohme of Ashkal Alwan in Beirut writes about constantly the shifting map for art institutions in that city:

In a sense, Beirut is not a part of Lebanon, the way that New York in a sense is not part of the United States. But obviously the volatility of the region is present here, too. And in fact Beirut has always been a magnet space where people come to experiment, precisely because it’s a very open, volatile structure. That’s what makes the city very fragile but also very seductive. It’s not rigid. It’s constantly questioning itself and redefining itself. What is Beirut?

… For me, it’s very important to realize that institutions live and die, like everything else. No institution is invincible or irreplaceable. They may work well for ten, fifteen, twenty years, but at some point the assignment they have set for themselves no longer holds. I think perhaps it’s better to move on once that occurs, because the risk is that the organization will just start running on autopilot, creating all of these conventional apparatuses—memberships, endowments, co-ops, and so on—simply to adhere to a generic notion of what an institution should be, and losing its sense of urgency, its reason for being. Instead of being run by people with intense personal investments and visions, it might be run like an impersonal machine, where decisions are made in a safe, clinical way.

 The New York Times did an impressive investigation into the city’s nail salons and found that the manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited, and endure ethnic bias and other abuse:

Tucked in her pocket was $100 in carefully folded bills for another expense: the fee the salon owner charges each new employee for her job. The deal was the same as it is for beginning manicurists in almost any salon in the New York area. She would work for no wages, subsisting on meager tips, until her boss decided she was skillful enough to merit a wage.

It would take nearly three months before her boss paid her. Thirty dollars a day.

… Lawsuits filed in New York courts allege a long list of abuses: the salon in East Northport, N.Y., where workers said they were paid just $1.50 an hour during a 66-hour workweek; the Harlem salon that manicurists said charged them for drinking the water, yet on slow days paid them nothing at all; the minichain of Long Island salons whose workers said they were not only underpaid but also kicked as they sat on pedicure stools, and verbally abused.

Another impressive part of the article is that it available in four languages (Korean, Chinese, Spanish) so that the workers themselves can read it.

 New York Magazine‘s Vulture blog is collecting stories of sex in museums, including:

I fingered my girlfriend in the garden at Dia: Beacon. It was August, and she was wearing this tiny skirt — we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I don’t think I remember a single piece of art from that trip upstate.

 Are there too many Picassos entering the art market? Christian Camerota, writing for Harvard Business School, says:

“One of the things people try to do in the art market is never to flood it at the same time with a single artist’s work,” said Mukti Khaire, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “If I own a notable Picasso work, I can be reasonably sure it won’t lose value. But if I am the owner of a lesser-known Picasso, I might be worried in this case.”

And this graphic is helpful:

 The history of velcro (podcast), which is — believe it or not — a combination of the words velvet and crochet:

 Fusion has analyzed one year of Kim Kardashian selfies and discovered:

  • only 14% of her photos are selfies, she’s smiling in 10% of them, doing duck face in 11% of them, and has her tongue out in 4% of the images
  • 7% of her selfies are taken in bed, 6% in a bathroom, 12% outdoors, 2% in a helicopter
  • she is 7 times more life to take a selfie as a brunette than as a blonde
  • she posts the most selfies on Thursday and the least on Saturday
  • she took selfies with 59 people last year (most with Kanye West, 12)
  • 1% of her selfies portrayed her with a koala

 Benjamin Hart, writing at The Awl, has a brilliant take on leaving New York and technology. It begins:

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when New York and also technology started to feel like such a chore. Maybe it was when I urinated in a slim-fit adult diaper while waiting in line for the iPhone 4 for ninety-three hours and pronounced the experience “worth it,” or when I found myself testing out tweets on my wife during foreplay, or when a rat scurried across my face and into my mouth while I was checking Facebook and waiting for a C train that never arrived …

 Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel” fantasy/nightmare may become a reality:

“If completed, [The Library of Babel] would contain every possible combination of 1,312,000 characters, including lower case letters, space, comma, and period,” Basile explains on the site. “Thus, it would contain every book that ever has been written, and every book that ever could be— including every play, every song, every scientific paper, every legal decision, every constitution, every piece of scripture, and so on. At present it contains 1,024,640 volumes.”

 Every question in every Q&A session ever (LOL), including:

  • “I’m deeply unpleasant, and have run out of friends and family members who are willing to put up with my opinions.”
  • “I used to like your work, but I don’t now. Have you considered doing the things I like again?”
  • “Hi, I have a personal anecdote that I believe completely disproves the central thesis of your research?”

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.