Monday 30 June 2014

Current state

I'm keenly watching the soon-to-open The MAD Biennial at New York's Museum of Arts and Design, previewed here by the NYT.

Friday 27 June 2014

High rotate

I have taken a #fridayoff and this new Grimes track is my song for the day

Thursday 26 June 2014

There are more museums in the U.S. than there are Starbucks and McDonalds – combined

Christopher Ingram of the Washington Post breaks down the American Institute of Museum and Library Services' latest tally of active museums in the U.S. - ~35,000, nearly 50% of which as historical societies / local heritage / historic houses & sites. Art museums account for 4.5% of the count, and when you break the figures down to a per capita view, some strange pictures arise ...

See Hyperallergic for more commentary

Monday 16 June 2014

I'm still laughing

At this Onion article - Shitty Museum Doesn't Even Have a Mona Lisa. Kudos to the MFA Boston for handling it well

In more serious reading: Suse Cairns asks 'Do museum professionals need theory?'. As the comments tease out: yes, they do. Plus hands-on experience. Plus local knowledge.

Friday 13 June 2014

High rotate

Sometimes it's just fine to go with the mainstream

Wednesday 11 June 2014


A friend of mine refers to me, somewhat disparagingly, as a paper-sniffer, because I haven't switched from print to e-books. This is actually less because I'm fetishistic about the nature of print publications than because e-readers still feel to me like 'work' reading - it's because of the one-page-at-a-time layout, which reminds me irresistibly of photocopies for tutorials, reports for reviewing, or documents for proofreading. Two pages facing each other are leisure reading: one page squarely in front of me maybe be informative, important, interesting, but it is still something that has got to be gotten through, not something to enjoy.

You can't escape the discussion of the ongoing allure of the printed book if you hang about on the web or with publishing types though. If you're interested in perfume as well, this is doubled. I even own L'Artisan's Dzing!, meant to evoke circus tents and excitement. Luca Turin and Tanya Sanchez spot it admirably though: vanilla cardboard

Olivia Giacobetti is here at her imaginative, humorous best, and Dzing! is a masterpiece. Dzing! smells of paper, and you can spend a good while trying to figure out whether it is packing cardboard, kraft wrapping paper, envelopes while you lick the glue, old books, or something else. I have no idea whether this was the objective, but I have few clues as to why it happened. Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good-quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us. 

And if you want to grok that book-to-scent magic even more scientifically, you can check out this guide to contributing compounds to 'old book smell'.

Monday 9 June 2014

Recommended reading

A lengthy, detailed, passionate and understanding piece about the challenges of maintaining the Smithsonian's collections.

Friday 6 June 2014

High rotate

New just in time for Friday morning, 'Little Mouth' by Los Campesinos!

And from this week's typing playlist, two bits of Jon Hopkins

Monday 2 June 2014

Round the web

Some things I read over the weekend:

The gift shop at the 9/11 memorial museum has taken a lot of flack, especially over a USA-shaped cheese platter with three hearts marking where planes went down on September 11. Fast Company looks at this and gift stores in other museums that mark traumatic moments in history.

More Intelligent Life recruits four companies to re-imagine indie bookshops. The results are pretty bland - except the last, which goes 50 years into the future to imagine robot-assisted hand-bound self-publishing and rockstar-author presentations.

Laura Miller on Donna Tartt. I really like Laura Miller.

An insight into how the budget goes for a $4.3M production at New York's Metropolitan Opera.

The economics of book festivals - maybe it's only the ticket-buyers who win.

Frankly icky Instagram encounters with Kara Walker's massive sugar sculpture A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby: it's not what we're taking photos of, it's how we're taking them.

A new British survey says "more than 70% of contemporary visual artists who took part in publicly funded exhibitions in the last three years received no fee."