Proper Culture

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I am a twenty-something in New York on a mission: to visit every museum within city limits.

Use this as a resource for New York museums and worldwide museum news (and I'll occasionally toss in some history into the mix)!
~ Thursday, May 3 ~

Museum aims to help popular science fully evolve in the Philippines

Mind Movers

'Mind Movers' show nature in scale

By Dean Irvine | CNN | April 26, 2012

Maria Isabel Garcia doesn’t get as many angry reactions to her work as she used to. For over ten years she has been one of the Philippines only science writers in a national newspaper, and during that time received her fair share of disparaging comments from readers in the devoutly Catholic country.

Yet as the curator of The Mind Museum, the Philippines first modern, purpose-built science museum, her work now is a lot more palpable and potentially contentious than her newspaper column.

"So far I’ve had a few individuals with their own personal opinions on why we’re not showing God at the same time we’re showing the atom or beginning of the universe," she said.

"We explain that would be illogical in a science museum and they kind of concede and understand. Or at least I think they do."

After five years of planning, the 8,000 square meter purpose-built museum opened last month in an upscale, redeveloped area of Manila that would not look out of place in Singapore or San Francisco.

Divided into five interlinked galleries, from “The Atom” all the way to “The Universe” and everything in between (described by Garcia as “nature in scale”), the aim is to make science more accessible and inspiring to a new generation.

Around 60% of children in the Philippines enroll in high school, but just 1% of those in their final year receive qualifications in math and physics, according to a 2008 report from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

"It’s not secret, the Filipino public largely perceive science as very cold and should be left in labs, but science is too important to leave to scientists alone," said Garcia.

"In terms of concepts I made sure they are very fundamental. If we show nano-tech right away without telling the public that everything is made up of atoms they won’t really get it."

Garcia’s concepts were turned into 250 exhibits made by local artists in consultation with scientists. The fusion of art and science came with its own unique dynamic.

"I always told the artists making the exhibits ‘You have to be correct first before you can be beautiful.’"

One artist wanted to move Hydrogen to the other side of the Periodic Table because he thought it looked lonely, while the hominids were made through email correspondence with a paleoanthropologist in France; the world’s three recognized makers of cavemen were too expensive to bring in.

The result is a lively, interactive museum with touches of Garcia’s humor. Regularly displayed around the museum’s open-plan two-floor interior are signs reminding visitors to read the signs: “Reading is what makes humans unique. Please help us prove this every day.”

Stuffy-sounding museum guides have been rebranded as “Mind Movers” (“the coolest geeks in town,” says Garcia) whose job is to explain exhibits like the hominids and answer questions from the public.

"What surprised me was the surprise of the public that evolution makes sense," said Garcia.

"When our Mind Movers tell visitors about evolution they do understand and will say, ‘That’s it?’ It is a big challenge, but it’s not that our people are so unaccepting." 

Raising money for a shiny new science museum in a country where over 30% of the population lives below the poverty line was another challenge. With no government funding, the not-for-profit operation enlisted the support of foundations and backing from businesses to raise the 1 billion pesos ($23.5 million) for the cost of the project.

"We were so new to fund-raising and that we didn’t really realize we were asking for such huge amounts," said Manny Blas, the Mind Museum’s director.

Together Blas and Garcia make up the odd couple of popular science — “I make the money, she spends it,” quips the laconic Blas — and while Garcia has devoted her life to science, Blas is as well-versed in the gospels as he is corporate life. He holds a masters degree in theology and was the Southeast Asia president of U.S. food corporation Sara Lee for Southeast Asia until 2000.

Compared to Garcia, he takes a more charitable view of the teaching of science in the Philippines but realizes more needs to be done to inspire the next Philippine Faraday.

"(Philippine students) don’t score that well in sciences, we are one of the lowest internationally, and while we don’t think the science museum will help solve that problem we think it’s a step in the right direction.

"We do want to make an impact and show that science isn’t something that should threaten you but should excite you and hopefully inspire Filipinos to take up science, engineering, technology and be an inventor in the future."

Tags: Mind Museum Phillipines science technology math Southeast Asia museums universe atom physics nature hydrogen Periodic Table of Elements hominids evolution
~ Saturday, April 28 ~

Smithsonian museum explores the art of gaming

“My first exposure to video games was back in the 1970s with Pong, the original Pong,” said Melissinos, who is 42.

Pong was essentially a screen version of table tennis, with a dot bouncing back and forth off sliding bars controlled by players. Everything about the game was basic, but it was one of the first video games kids played at home.

“It was amazing and exciting, and we didn’t really know what it all meant,” he said.

What it meant for Melissinos was a fascination that he turned into a career as chief gaming officer for technology company Sun Microsystems.

His love of and work with video games have led him to put together an exhibit about them at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“The Art of Video Games” takes visitors through the 40 years of video games. It includes interviews with early game creators and a funny video showing people’s expressions while playing video games. It showcases 80 games from a variety of platforms, including Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation, and explains what was new or unusual about the games when they first appeared. And it offers visitors a chance to play five games, from a 1981 version of Pac-Man to 2009’s Flower, with screens projected onto gallery walls. Visitors may have to wait their turn, but that gives them a chance to cheer on other gamers.

Visitors also might pause to consider a question that has gotten the exhibition a lot of attention. Are video games art?

For Melissinos, there’s no question. “Video games are literally the collision of technology and art,” he said.

Kids visiting the museum recently may not have thought of video games as art before seeing the exhibition, but they were open to the idea.

“It’s a different genre of art,” said Gabriel Quinn, 11. “It’s interactive.”

Gabriel, who lives in Cooper City, Florida, was visiting the museum during spring break. He had just put down the controls to Flower, in which the player becomes the wind and glides over fields and hills that burst with color as petals are collected. He said that game and his favorites at home — the action-adventure Call of Duty and Super Mario Bros. — can all be considered art.

Regan Monigan, 10, of Dayton, Ohio, said the visual and creative elements made games fun. “I like the ones where you get the exciting plot twist . . . and where you can see things from different perspectives,” she said.

Regan’s cousin Sean Healy, 9, of Potomac said he liked the realistic artwork of today’s games but was interested in trying the exhibition’s older games, such as Pac-Man.

“Even if some video games are old, they can be fun,” Sean said.

Melissinos said his own kids discovered the same thing after seeing the exhibition.

“They came back and said, ‘I want to play these older games you haven’t shown us,’ ” he said.

Melissinos hopes kids and parents will use the games at the museum as a way to connect with one another.

“People remember why the games were so important in their lives. They rediscover. Now they understand why [the games] are important to their kids.”

Tags: Smithsonian American Art Museum Smithsonian American Art Museum Art of Video Games video games art technology museums Sun Microsystems Pong Pac-Man washington dc Call of Duty Super Mario Bros
~ Friday, April 27 ~
Space shuttle passes the American Museum of Natural History! This photo was taken by my friend and fellow intern Jamanda!

Space shuttle passes the American Museum of Natural History! This photo was taken by my friend and fellow intern Jamanda!

Tags: amnh space shuttle nasa nyc museums manhattan plane
2 notes
~ Thursday, April 26 ~

China’s Terracotta Warriors Take New York City


Terra Cotta Soldier

NEW YORK | April 16, 2012 | PRNewswire

Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China's First Emperor, a new immersive exhibition of one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in modern time, is set to make its Northeast U.S. debut in New York City at Discovery Times Square (226 West 44th Street) on April 27.  The exhibition will feature artifacts dating back to 221 BCE, including the world premiere of a set of gates from an ancient Han burial chamber, the U.S. debut of more than 20 artifacts, and an up-close look at 10 of the authentic, life-sized clay soldiers and their armor.

Standing more than six feet tall and weighing 600 pounds each, the terracotta soldiers were created more than 2,000 years ago with unprecedented craftsmanship to protect China's First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, in his afterlife. After founding the first united China, Qin Shihuangdi was responsible for building and unifying various sections of the Great Wall of China and a massive national road system that has continued to evolve over centuries.

Tickets will be available to the general public starting at midnight on Saturday, April 21. American Express® Cardmembers can purchase advance tickets now through April 20 at, by phone (866-987-9692) or by visiting the box office within the venue.  Use any American Express Card to purchase tickets to Terracotta Warriors and receive one complimentary audio tour. 

Since its accidental discovery in 1974, the Terracotta Army continues its legacy as one of the most sought after collections of artifacts from ancient China. The exhibition created and produced by Discovery Times Square in partnership with China Institute will provide a unique way of understanding China's history.

"Since its founding in 1926, China Institute has advanced a deeper understanding of China through exhibitions and programs in education, culture and art. We are very pleased to partner in this groundbreaking exhibition, bringing the Terracotta Warriors and the history they represent to New York,” said Sara Judge McCalpin, President of China Institute. 

James Sanna, CEO of Discovery Times Square, added: “It’s a great honor to have the opportunity to work with these legendary artifacts and craft a one-of-a-kind experience immersing visitors into a time that was so influential in shaping China's history. We are proud to partner with New York's China Institute, the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, and the Shaanxi Provincial Museum Association to present these artifacts here in the heart of Times Square.”

The exhibit contains three chronological exhibition stages. Upon entry, visitors will first learn the history of the Qin Dynasty and the First Emperor’s rise to power, followed by the significance of the Terracotta Warriors, and the peaceful life of the ensuing Han Dynasty, which established essential Chinese traditions still reflected in Chinese society today. 

In addition to the Terracotta Warriors and burial chamber gates, more than 200 additional artifacts and treasures will be displayed, including a bronze ritual vessel “He” (water or wine container), a “Lai” Ding (cooking utensil), and gold pendants and ornaments.

Discovery Times Square is open seven days a week. Tickets are available for $19.50 (child 4-12), $25.00 (adult) and $22.50(senior = 65). Special savings for groups of 10 or more are available with advanced reservation.  Once open, the last tickets are sold 60 minutes prior to closing. For individual tickets and venue hours, visit, call 866.9.TSXNYC (866-987-9692) or visit the Discovery Times Square box office. Follow Discovery Times Square on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information.


Discovery Times Square (DTS) is New York City's first large-scale exhibition center presenting visitors with limited-run, educational and immersive exhibit experiences while exploring the world's defining cultures, art, history and events. More than a museum, DTS has featured a renowned line-up of exhibitions including Titanic: The Artifact ExhibitionLeonardo Da Vinci's WorkshopKing Tut, Pompeii The Exhibit, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, and most recently Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition. DTS is located at 226 West 44th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenues).


China Institute advances a deeper understanding of China through programs in education, culture, business and art in the belief that cross-cultural understanding strengthens our global community. Founded in 1926 by a group of American and Chinese educators, China Institute in America is the oldest bicultural non-profit organization in the U.S. to focus exclusively on China. The organization promotes the appreciation of Chinese heritage and provides the historical context for understanding contemporary China. Programs, activities, courses and seminars are offered on the visual and performing arts, culture, history, music, philosophy, language and literature for the general public, children, and teachers, as well as for business. China Institute Gallery, established in 1966, is distinct among the museums of New York City. It was the first in the United States to showcase Chinese art exclusively on a regular basis. Today, China Institute Gallery is New York's only non-commercial exhibition space solely dedicated to Chinese art and is known for its innovative thematic and scholarly exhibitions, publications and related art education programs.


Tags: terra cotta soldier terra cotta warrior china discovery times square Discovery museums New York City NYC China Institute Times Square Titanic King Tut Pompeii Harry Potter Dead Sea
~ Wednesday, April 18 ~

Louvre, Nintendo join forces

Paris museum offers new electronic guides that offer touch-screen options and visual features

By Jamey Keaten | Associated Press | Sunday, April 15, 2012

The new audio guide for the Louvre museum is available in seven languages and comes with a headset. It costs $6.50 on top of the museum's standard admission. (Associated Press)

The new audio guide for the Louvre museum is available in seven languages and comes with a headset. It costs $6.50 on top of the museum’s standard admission. (Associated Press)

PARIS — The Louvre Museum is used to dealing with antiquities: Nearly all of its thousands of works of art date to 1848 or earlier. Now, it wants to create a relic of its own - the old museum audio guide.

The famed Paris museum, whose origins date to the 18th century, is pressing on toward modernity and going visual with new electronic guides in a deal with Japan’s Nintendo. The guide provides 3DS game consoles that offer touch-screen, visual-and-audio guidance for visitors who crowd the museum’s labyrinthine halls by the millions each year.

Billed as an unprecedented innovation at a museum, the game consoles launched this week offer 700 recordings on famed works like the “Venus de Milo,” “Winged Victory of Samothrace” and the “Mona Lisa” - only a tiny sliver of the 35,000-odd works displayed in the museum.

The electronic guides, both navigational and informative, offer virtual glimpses of the artistic touches that are tough for the naked eye to see, like tiny details on towering tableaux on the museum’s wood-paneled walls. They’ll use much of the same information in the Louvre’s now-shelved audio guides.

Pairing France’s highest-of-high-brow museums with a Japanese technology company behind games like Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers and Zelda might not seem like a natural fit. And some may view the electronic guide as a shop window for Nintendo. But Louvre officials say the museum must change with the times, and try to access as wide a public as possible.

Over the years, the Louvre has drawn controversy with some of its innovations, including the glass-pyramid entrance by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei or its sharing parts of its massive collection with wealthy countries like the United Arab Emirates - which is to open a Louvre affiliate in 2015.

Above all, the console is meant to reach out to the Louvre’s customer base: the museum welcomed 8.9 million visitors last year - more than half of them under age 30, and about two-thirds foreign.

The guides, for now available in seven languages, cost $6.50 on top of the museum’s $13 standard admission price. And coming soon: French sign language.

Press a button, and the viewer virtually floats over, say, statues by Michelangelo, or zooms up close on the tiny cracks in the face of the Mona Lisa - all but impossible to see from behind a crowded rope line.

The console comes in handy peering high up at Veronese’s 645-square-foot painting “The Wedding at Cana,” across from the Mona Lisa. Details of the giant tableau easily seen on screen can be checked against the real thing.

The biggest benefit may be helping art lovers get around: Visitors see their location, which blinks inside a diagram of exhibit rooms on one of the console’s two screens. A menu allows for a specific search for one of 50 of the museum’s most popular works and can plot a path to get there. Another feature is a “masterpieces” walk.

Because of the Louvre’s thick walls, and because some of its exhibit spaces are underground, 3G mobile phone networks don’t reach everywhere inside. The positioning system relies on beacons posted around the museum.

Nintendo’s director-general for France, Stephan Bole, insisted the console isn’t aimed as a substitute for a live, in-person visit: Virtual isn’t the same thing as seeing the works themselves.

“The 3DS is to assist a visit that remains live - you have to see the paintings to appreciate them,” he said by phone. “We want to complement the real live visit.”

Many visitors were spotted wandering around with the new 3DS guides Thursday afternoon. But some, asked about how they liked them, complained of a steep learning curve.

“The classic, usual audio guide works better. I would have to search for the information that’s on this, instead of just pressing the number” next to a work of art, said Naoyuki Tomizawa, a 41-year-old IT manager from Tokyo.

Then a Louvre staffer showed how the console can do that, too.

“Oh, I didn’t notice that,” the visitor replied. “I haven’t played around with it enough. The navigation part’s good, when you get lost and don’t know where you are.”

Meera Bickley, a 45-year-old yoga teacher from Byron Bay, Australia, said she arrived too late in the day - shortly before closing - and could have used more time to figure out the console.

“Once I figured out how to use it, it was definitely helpful. The imagery was great, the maps … but actually finding my way in and being able to use it, was quite complex,” she said. “I was born in the wrong decade!”

Indeed, her 14-year-old daughter, Matilda Dods, said it was easy.

“I figured it out immediately. It gives you instructions on the screen. It says: Press ‘A’ to get this and press ‘B’ to get this - it’s easy to figure out,” said Matilda. “Mom is challenged.”

Tags: Louvre Nintendo Museums Technology Audio guide Paris France
~ Tuesday, April 17 ~

A Vast Museum That You Can Carry

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Enticements from the new Met guide: “Hypocrite and Slanderer,” above; “Kneeling Bull Holding a Spouted Vessel,” right; and “Aquamanile Depicting Aristotle and Phyllis.”

Not all books have outlived their usefulness, but some have. The strictly informational kind, for example: does anyone buy dictionaries and encyclopedias in hard-copy form anymore? There was a run on the Encylopaedia Britannica after plans to cease printing paper editions were announced last month, but surely that had more to do with nostalgia than research needs.

You may think that guidebooks put out by museums to highlight their most prized possessions should be on the endangered list too. Or maybe not. Consider a new one for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Equipped with a soft but durable cover and about the dimensions of a middleweight novel, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide” (distributed by Yale University Press, $24.95) displays in 449 pages images and brief descriptions of 600 of the Met’s nearly two million works.

The first new edition in almost 30 years, it has a more appealing design than the old one, whose narrow dimensions and almost marginless pages jam-packed with reproductions and text gave it the feel of a mail-order catalog.

How useful the new guide will be when anything you want to know about the Met and its holdings can be quickly accessed on the museum’s world-class Web site is an interesting question. People who have never been to the Met stand to profit most. It is a bewildering place, and unless you are going to see a specific exhibition, it is easy to feel lost at sea there. A conscientious user of the guide could conceivably get a pretty good overview of the whole place in a few days and not have to worry about missing anything major.

Rembrandt, Vermeer, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” Monet, van Gogh — all the Western world’s favorites are represented. It is also a good tool for navigating the perhaps less-familiar waters of the ancient arts of Egypt, Greece, Rome and Asia, and the more recent but more foreign-seeming productions of Africa, South America and Oceania. Musical instruments, arms and armor, photography, drawings and prints, costumes and modern and contemporary art: every department is represented. Teachers of any grade level could use the guide as an introduction to art of the whole world from the last 6,000 years.

On the other hand, people who have been to the museum more times than they can remember and have explored all its nooks and crannies might suppose they won’t need it. But they may well enjoy noting what the Met’s departmental curators think should be carried out first in case of fire and arguing about the selections: Why this and not that?

A point of contention could be the image on the front cover, a profile portrait of a beautiful black man in a salmon-hued satin tunic and a complicated, colorful turban with multitudes of little dangling tassels, painted by the French academician Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1868-9. It is called “Bashi-Bazouk,” a Turkish name for certain mercenary soldiers of the time. It is a curious choice for the cover, an Orientalist fantasy by an artist who never got much respect from modern scholars. (Gérôme, as it happens, is absent from the previous guide.)

The semiotic implications are rich: Is this what art is for the West: Exotic, erotic, lawless? Other? A respite from America’s Puritanical heritage? On the cover the painting is cropped so you cannot see that this sexy warrior has the barrel of a musket over one shoulder and pistols cradled in one arm. (Yikes! call Homeland Security.) What, I wonder, were the editors thinking?

I assumed at first that I would have little use for the guide. Perusing its pages, however, I found lots of things I wanted to see in the flesh, either again or for the first time. I am sure that I have seen Andrea Mantegna’s “Adoration of the Shepherds,” but now I want to go back for another look at this compact, intensely detailed painting dating from shortly after 1450. Nicolas Poussin’s weird “Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun,” in which a giant with a little man standing on his shoulders strides through an Arcadian landscape, is another I plan to check out.

Other items on my list: “Kneeling Bull Holding a Spouted Vessel,” a 6‹-inch-tall silver sculpture of an anthropomorphic animal made in what is now southwestern Iran around 3100-2900 B.C; from the Lehman Collection, a 14th-century aquamanile — a vessel for ritual hand washing — in the comical form of Aristotle on hands and knees being ridden by his seducer Phyllis; and, in European sculpture, Franz Xavier Messerschmidt’s“Hypocrite and Slanderer” from 1770-83, a tin-alloy portrait head of a man consumed by unpleasant thoughts.

But then I wonder: Will the objects I want to find be on view? One that caught my eye, “Statuette of the God Amun,” a solid-gold Egyptian figure that is not quite seven inches tall but weighs two pounds, is not currently on display, according to the museum’s Web site. For those that are, where are they? The guide has no map. This is understandable: Objects rotate in and out of storage or travel to other museums’ exhibitions; installations, floor plans and architecture are likely to change too.

The guide must leave out time-dependent specifics if it is not going to be updated every year or so. In a way that is the beauty of it: Uncluttered by excess information, it delivers its essence with streamlined efficiency.

There will be other ways to find what you need to know. Imagine a downloadable and updatable guide for handheld devices, with maps locating every object. GPS functions could lead viewers exactly where they want to go. Every object would be linked to the museum’s database, where much more information is available than can be found on wall labels.

Inevitably the museum will have such a guide and lend or rent such devices to visitors who don’t already have them, and the galleries will be filled with people staring intently at their little screens and intermittently glancing up at the art. But then the question of access rears its ugly head. Not everyone has a hand-held, app-loaded device. Meanwhile the Met’s guide will be as useful as its users care to make it.

(Source: The New York Times)

Tags: Museum of Modern Art MoMA Met Metropolitan Museum of Art Rembrandt Vermeer Monet van Gogh Art Art History museums guide books
1 note
~ Monday, April 16 ~

All-to-his-own museum for America’s greatest unknown painter, Clyfford Still

(David Brown / THE WASHINGTON POST ) - Paintings that artist Clyfford Still made in the decade before his death in 1980, at The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado on February 22, 2012. Still generally had brighter colors than his earlier work, such as these, and were often done on raw canvas.

By Published: April 6

DENVER — Clyfford Still may not have wanted money and fame but he certainly wanted control and respect. Thirty-one years after his death, he got both.

In November, the Clyfford Still Museum, a stylish concrete box next to the Denver Art Museum, opened its doors. The event ended three decades of wandering by Still’s outsize ghost and the trove of art it dragged, looking for a home. The $25 million, privately funded museum also commences an experiment whose outcome won’t be known for a long time.

Will a one-person museum devoted to an abstract painter hardly anyone knows become a cultural destination or an expensive white elephant? Will the artist’s hoarding instinct make it impossible for scholars to ever fully evaluate his importance? Will an institution shackled with restrictions find a way to evolve when everyone associated with its creation is dead?

More than a dozen cities — Baltimore first and most persistently — thought about becoming the place where those questions might be answered. In the end, they all said no or were spurned.

A pioneer of abstract expressionism, Still died in Maryland in 1980, leaving a will that offered most of his life’s work to a city that would build a museum to show it exclusively. The museum bearing his name has about 825 works on canvas and 1,575 works on paper.

Still’s most recognizable works are jagged areas of magenta, black, brown and yellow (but sometimes orange, blue, lavender and lime) on fields of black or white paint, or on raw canvas. They are neither action paintings nor color-field paintings but something in between — and radically different, too.

The collection is priceless in both a metaphorical and actual sense. In November, four Still paintings sold for a total of $114 million (one for $61.6 million). However, the artist stipulated that nothing in the museum collection could ever be sold. It’s many-billion-dollar value is of practical interest only to insurance companies.

“It’s the King Tut of our time. Nothing else comes close to it,” said Dean Sobel, the museum’s 51-year-old director, who was hired in 2005 to help bring the institution into existence.

While not questioning Still’s importance, others wonder about the wisdom of a museum that can show only one artist’s work forever.

“With all respect to Denver and everyone else who considered it, this was not handing you a gift in any sense,” Brenda Richardson said of the bequest. She was deputy director of the Baltimore Museum of Art and curator of modern painting when Baltimore sought the collection soon after Still’s death.

“It has art-historical significance, without any doubt,” she added. “But as a public museum, it’s fraught with challenge.”

At his death, Still had been in exile from the art world for 20 years.

He moved to a farm outside Westminster, in Carroll County northwest of Baltimore, in 1960 in an act that was equal parts rejection of New York and search for affordable seclusion. His closest friends from the heyday of abstract expressionism — Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman — were dead or estranged. He had contempt for the power that gallery owners, dealers and critics had over artists and their work.

For two decades more, he painted in a barn that could accommodate his giant canvases, selling only enough to support himself and his second wife, Patricia. (He and his first wife, Lillian, with whom he had two daughters, divorced in 1954. She died in 1977.) Most of his viewable work was in a few museums that agreed to show his paintings in groups. Hundreds of works on paper — many made when it was too cold to work in the barn — were unknown.

Still and his wife stayed to themselves. He made art; she helped make that happen, which included recording his thoughts each evening in a dictated diary. They occasionally went to Baltimore to see a baseball game at Memorial Stadium. A catcher in high school, Still laid out a diamond behind his barn for local children and sometimes joined them in games of catch.

“It was the hardness and disappointment of the New York art scene that made him more isolated. He wasn’t as needy, on a social level, for people who it turned out he didn’t respect,” said Sandra Still Campbell, 69, the artist’s younger daughter, who lives in Arizona.

When Maryland had a streak of barn burnings in the 1960s, the couple moved to a brick Victorian house in New Windsor but kept the farm. Two rooms were filled with hundreds of paintings, up to a dozen rolled together over sections of drainpipe and then stacked. Open flames weren’t permitted. Patricia didn’t even use the oven; she cooked on a hot plate and electric frying pan. It was a live-in fireproof vault.

Over three sojourns in Maryland and on many weekend visits, Campbell took pictures of her father’s work. Her photographs of the paintings — which she labeled PH followed by a number — have become the offical titles of the otherwise untitled canvases. Many have never been seen by anyone other than her, her father and her stepmother.

The paintings started arriving in Denver in October. Slowly, they are being unrolled, conserved and stretched. “They smell of oil and turpentine. There are little bits of straw and dirt from the barn on some of them. There’s an aura of exhumation,” Sobel said. The exact number isn’t known; Sobel said he wouldn’t be surprised if the final count is 10 or 15 more than the estimate of 825.

It will be Christmas morning at the Clyfford Still Museum for a long time.

(partial article from the Washington Post)

Tags: Baltimore Clyfford Still Clyfford Still Museum Colorado Denver Denver Art Museum abstract expressionism museums Baltimore Museum of Art
~ Sunday, April 15 ~

Crave visits the Cray-1, a true museum piece

The megaflop-busting Cray-1 made computing history back in 1976. Crave’s Nerdy New Mexico arrives in the atomic city of Los Alamos to meet up with with this supercomputing classic.

CNET | Amanda Kooser | April 10, 2012 11:46 AM PDT

Cray-1 supercomputer

This Cray-1 is now part of a supercomputing exhibit in Los Alamos.

(Credit: Amanda Kooser/CNET)

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Many great masterpieces reside in museums. There’s the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre. “Nighthawks at the Diner” graces the wall at the Art Institute of Chicago. And the Cray-1 sits at the Bradbury Science Museum here in Los Alamos.

The first Cray-1 was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976 at a cost of $8.8 million. It set a new world record speed of 160 million floating-point operations per second and boasted 8MB of main memory. According to the museum, it was the first computer to break the megaflop barrier.

MANIAC data register unit

MANIAC data register unit from 1952. Vacuum tubes! (Click to enlarge.)

(Credit: Amanda Kooser/CNET)

By today’s hardware standards, the Cray-1 is a great lumbering beast. The dramatic lighting shining on it at the Bradbury exhibit shows off its curves and hulking size. But by 1976 standards, it was a svelte creation whose circular shape kept the complex wiring compact.

To understand how revolutionary the Cray-1 was, we can look back to 1952. The Bradbury Museum’s supercomputing exhibit includes a chunk of the MANIAC 1, the lab’s first electronic, digital, programmable computer.

MANIAC 1 used 2,400 vacuum tubes and took up as much space as a small elephant. Fast-forward to 1976, and you can see why the Cray-1 was looked upon as a small, powerful computing flower.To understand how revolutionary the Cray-1 was, we can look back to 1952. The Bradbury Museum’s supercomputing exhibit includes a chunk of the MANIAC 1, the lab’s first electronic, digital, programmable computer.

Laying modern eyes on the Cray-1, I notice the thick bundles of wires inside, like electronic spaghetti. Benches radiating from the bottom hide the power supplies and look terribly inviting after a long day of tromping around Los Alamos. Dare I say, the Cray-1 is a retro beauty, with all its chunkiness and 1970s-style gratings.

Let’s give a cheer to the supercomputers that preceded our little desktops and smartphones of today. Our current computers may not be as visually impressive as the Cray-1, but at least we don’t have to save up $8.8 million to break the megaflop barrier.

Cray-1 circuit board

A close-up look at a Cray-1 circuit board.

(Credit: Amanda Kooser/CNET)
Tags: Cray-1 ancient computer ancient times museums supercomputer
~ Saturday, April 14 ~

Google’s Art Project adds major world museums

Art aficionados still must travel to Paris to get an up-close look at the “Mona Lisa” - the Louvre has so far declined to take part in Google’s Art Project.

SF Gate | Gwen Ackerman, Marie Mawad | Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Google Inc. has expanded its virtual tours to more than 150 of the world’s major museums, featuring high-resolution close-ups of masterworks by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Botticelli - but not the “Mona Lisa.”

The latest additions that went online this month include the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. But the Louvre in Paris, home of the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, hasn’t taken part in the website, called Art Project.

Internet browsers can tour galleries from 40 countries - including the de Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - as they would neighborhoods on Google Street View. Google is seeking more partners in the United States, Europe and emerging markets. It says the service won’t generate revenue, including through advertising, though it gave no figures.

"Everyone asks me if we have Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ " said Amit Sood, who heads the project. "We’re talking to people from the Louvre. Maybe they’ll be part of the next phase," he said of the world’s most visited museum.

The Louvre press office declined to comment.

The Israel Museum already had the Dead Sea Scrolls online; they were viewed by 1 million visitors from more than 200 countries in about three days. The next step in collaboration was “almost a marriage of the moment,” said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum.

Among the museum’s items now online is the interior of an 18th century Italian Vittoria Veneto synagogue and some of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.

"Google is committed to bringing art and culture online and making them universally accessible," said Yossi Matias, managing director of Google’s R&D center in Israel.

The site started in February 2011 with works from the Tate Britain, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and 15 others from nine countries. More than 40 of the museums have now allowed Google to digitalize one artwork at a resolution of 7 billion pixels, or 1,000 times the average digital camera.

Google has sent robot-like devices equipped with cameras to roll around museums from Sao Paulo to Istanbul over the past year, snapping pictures of as many as 30,000 works.

"Out of pure coincidence we’ve reunited the three versions of Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Bedroom’ in one place," said Sood, who came up with the idea for Art Project 2 1/2 years ago and heads a team of seven people in London, including former employees of the Met and the Tate.

By striking deals only with the museums, and not with artists, their heirs nor foundations, Google avoids having to deal with copyright issues, Sood said. The company has included image security technology in the database to protect the photos.

The 7-gigapixel images reveal curious details. In Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Harvesters” (1565), from the Met, for example, tiny background figures can be seen throwing sticks at a tied-up goose in a game called squail.

— View Google’s Art Project at

Tags: Google Art Project San Francisco Gate Museums Mona Lisa
~ Friday, April 13 ~

Titanic museum opens in Southampton

The liner Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City in 1912.

The Titanic leaving Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York. Five days into her journey, the ship struck an iceberg and sank. Picture: Supplied.

Herald Sun | | April 11, 2012 | 12:36pm

A MUSEUM dedicated to the Titanic has opened at Southampton in England, where the ship sailed from 100 years ago.

The SeaCity Museum at Southampton, around 120km south-west of London, tells the story of crew from the area who were on the Titanic and the impact the tragedy had on families in the city.

The museum is divided into three main exhibitions - how the disaster affected the city, the lives and times of people and the city and the legend of the Titanic.

Highlights include a 1:25 scale, interactive model of the Titanic and the Royal Naval Reserve sword which belonged to Captain Smith, who perished with the Titanic.

There is also a pocket watch which belonged to Steward Sidney Sedunary, which stopped at 10 minutes to 2, about an hour before the Titanic sank.

A few days later, the watch and other of Sidney’s possessions were recovered from his body by the crew of the ship Mackay Bennett before Sidney was buried at sea.

The artefacts were sourced from the city’s maritime, archives, archaeology and local collections.

The special Titanic the Legend exhibition runs until August, 2013.

Local Titanic historians, writers, academics and scientists explore how and why the legend endures through literature, films and merchandise and myths, conspiracies and controversies.

It also looks at the ship’s design, safety and technological research and the wreck site.


Tags: Titanic Southampton museums SeaCity Museum England