Required Reading

There's a proposal to build the world's tallest building in Basra, Iraq. The 1,152-metre-tall Bride of the Gulf would possibly be visible from Dubai. The building is designed by British-Iraqi architecture firm AMBS. (via Guardian)
There’s a proposal to build the world’s tallest building in Basra, Iraq. The 1,152-metre-tall (~3,779 ft) Bride of the Gulf would possibly be visible from Dubai. The building is designed by British-Iraqi architecture firm AMBS. (via Guardian)

This week, serious landscape painting lives on, profiling the Met’s Sheena Wagstaff, living in a Frank Lloyd Wright home, the first thing ever purchased on the internet, and more.

 Writing for The Nation, Barry Schwabsky asks if serious landscape painting is still possible:

Still, though, it’s tempting to project one’s own experiences onto Gallace’s paintings. Because they evoke the idea of landscape more than they do a specific terrain, they can seem familiar to people who have never seen the places that inspired them—mostly, I believe, in Connecticut. “People start to tell me where they grew up, about their childhood holidays—no matter where they are from, people recognize something in them,” the artist once remarked. And yet as she’s gone on, starting in the late ’90s and all the more in recent years, the paintings have little by little become more particularized, more definite about referring to specific times and places.

 Adam Shatz suggests that there is some “magical thinking” when it comes to Daesh or ISIS:

France has been using those weapons more frequently, more widely, and more aggressively in recent years. The shift towards a more interventionist posture in the Muslim world began under Sarkozy, and became even more pronounced under Hollande, who has revealed himself as an heir of Guy Mollet, the Socialist prime minister who presided over Suez and the war in Algeria. It was France that first came to the aid of Libyan rebels, after Bernard-Henri Lévy’s expedition to Benghazi. That adventure, once the US got involved, freed Libya from Gaddafi, but then left it in the hands of militias – a number of them jihadist – and arms dealers whose clients include groups like IS. France has deepened its ties to Netanyahu – Hollande has made no secret of his ‘love’ for Israel – and criminalised expressions of support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.​ Hollande’s pursuit of ‘economic diplomacy’ in the Arab world is a euphemism for an ever cosier relationship with the Saudi kingdom, whose export of Wahhabist doctrine has done much to spread jihadist ideology. The alliance is an old one. It was a team of French commandos who came to the kingdom’s defence during the 1979 siege of Mecca by a group of radical Islamists; the Saudis then beheaded 63 of the perpetrators, in public executions of a kind now practised by IS, the kingdom’s bastard children. Exploiting Saudi anger over Obama’s pursuit of a rapprochement with Tehran, France has aligned itself with the Saudis on Iran’s nuclear programme and on Syria, and is now competing with the US to become Saudi Arabia’s top supplier of advanced military technology.​

And this piece in n+1 is equally insightful:

Among the more polished examples of their intellectual rearguardism last week was a piece in the Financial Times by the paper’s foreign-affairs columnist, Philip Stephens, titled “Paris attacks must shake Europe’s complacency. The idea that the west should shoulder blame rests on a corrosive moral relativism.”

It should be said that the Financial Times, the preferred newspaper of the Anglo-American intelligentsia as well as Davos Man and his epigones, keeps a fastidious distance, editorially, from the foam-at-the-mouth bellicosity of its direct competitor, the Wall Street Journal (whose op-ed pages often seem to be elaborating on its owner’s demented tweets). Stephens may not have the intellectual authority of Serge Halimi or Ian Buruma—columnists of wide learning and curiosity who push successfully against the constraints of routine punditry. His stock-in-trade is the technocratic wisdom dispensed at think tanks, foundations, and wonkfests.

 This profile of the Metropolitan Museum’s Sheena Wagstaff in the New York Times has been raising a lot of eyebrows. One of the most troubling passages is this one that makes it seem like the dismantling of “Western-centric” versions of art have only been taking place in London. The reality is that they have been taking place in the US (and New York) for decades, at institutions as varied as the Brooklyn Museum, the Queens Museum, and the Newark Museum … but the Times doesn’t seem to have noticed anything going on outside of Manhattan:

Yet, the Met’s Modern department might turn into the Tate of Fifth Avenue, with all that that implies about the British fascination with post-colonial cultures and a desire to dismantle Western-centric versions of art history.

 After decades of weak institutional support from white-dominated US museums, African-American artists are finally seeing their work acquired by many national institutions. But why did it take so long?

“There was a joke for a long time that if you went into a museum, you’d think America had only two black artists — Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden — and even then, you wouldn’t see very much,” said Lowery Stokes Sims, the first African-American curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and later the president of the Studio Museum in Harlem. “I think there is a sea change finally happening. It’s not happening everywhere, and there’s still a long way to go, but there’s momentum.”

The reasons go beyond the ebbing of overt racism. The shift is part of a broader revolution underway in museums and academia to move the canon past a narrow, Eurocentric, predominantly male version of Modernism, bringing in work from around the world and more work by women. But the change is also a result of sustained efforts over decades by black curators, artist-activists, colleges and collectors, who saw periods during the 1970s and the 1990s when heightened awareness of art by African-Americans failed to gain widespread traction.

 What it’s like to live in a Frank Lloyd Wright home:

Q: You’ve mentioned not every home is a museum. What’s your relationship with fans of Frank Lloyd Wright who may knock on your door and ask to see your home?”

A: “I’ve met an awful lot of people that way. Somebody showed up from Taiwan a few days ago in my front yard. If somebody is willing to go out of their way to see my house, I’m willing to show it to them. I don’t really find it an annoyance, people are usually very respectful. Sometimes I’ll get a letter, sometimes they’ll show up when I’m cutting the yard. I’m happy to show them around.”

Q: Why is there any enduring interest in Frank Lloyd Wright? Why is he such a phenomena?

A: “I wonder if it was because he was the first American architect in an era of modern media He was on newsreels, radio, television; he really built up a brand. Legends have been built up around him, and many things aren’t true. But you don’t hear much about Edward Durell Stone, and he was also on the cover of Time magazine. But you keep hearing about Frank Lloyd Wright.”

 What was the first thing ever bought or sold on the internet? Depending on how you define “the internet” and “ecommerce,” the first thing ever bought is either a Sting CD, pizza, weed, or groceries:

 The New York Times does the research and proves that the biggest threat is not from Syrian refugees:

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 I love Roxane Gay’s writing, and this honest piece of writing about getting ready in the morning really resonated:

I am fat. The technical term is morbidly obese. I am 6 foot 3 inches tall, and wide. I take up space in nearly every way. I stand out when my nature is to very much want to disappear.

When I wear my typical uniform, it feels like safety, like I can hide in plain sight. I become less of a target. I am taking up space, but I am doing so in an unassuming manner so that I am less of a problem. This is what I tell myself.

But, I love fashion. I love the idea of wearing color, blouses with interesting cuts and silhouettes, something low-cut that shows off my décolletage. I have any number of fine dress slacks, and I enjoy staring at them in my closet, so sleek and professional, so unlike me. I dream of wearing a long skirt or a maxi dress with bold, bright stripes. My breath catches at the mere thought of wearing something sleeveless, baring my brown arms. Fierce vanity smolders in the cave of my chest. I want to look good. I want to feel good. I want to be beautiful in this body I am in.

 Two-wheeled “hoverboards” are this year’s hot holiday gift, but do you know where and how they are made?

It is understood that hoverboards come from China in the same way it is understood that Spam comes from pigs: vaguely and glibly. Among those who made them popular — me and you and Skrillex and that guy your dad saw at Starbucks last month — the prevailing notion seems to be that they all roll off the same assembly line somewhere in the developing world. But the truth is that China’s hoverboard industry is already breathtakingly large and absolutely flooded. And it was built essentially from scratch, as so many Chinese novelty industries are. While the Western internet was still quibbling about what to call the damn things, a massive industrial organism was shuddering into place halfway across the world; today, Fang Zuoyi estimated that there are at least 1,000 factories in the Shenzhen area making hoverboards. If he’s right, that’s more than two new factories a day since the release of the Chic Smart, thought to be the first mass-market hoverboard.

 Karen Attiah considers the new activist energy on US college campuses, looking to sweep away the heroes of white supremacy:

In the past several weeks, the campuses of the University of Missouri, Amherst College, Yale University and Ithaca College are just a few of the institutions that have been rocked by protests and sit-ins agitating for racial justice. Princeton University is the latest battle theater in this fight. Black students at Princeton staged a walkout demanding that the Ivy league university acknowledge the racist legacy of President Woodrow Wilson, for whom a residential college and the School of Public and International Affairsis named, and to remove his name from campus. In their petition, the students have also demanded courses about marginalized groups and cultural competency training for staff and faculty.

 Google has a wonderful little Easter Egg for Star Wars fans. If you go to Google.com and search “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away,” the results will appear in a very Star Wars–like opening style (complete with audio):


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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