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September 2016

Hotels Try to Gain Cred with Street Art

As reported by the New York Times, hotels are not inviting working street artists to create in their hotels and interact with the guests. Is this good for street art? You decide --


Businesses typically try to keep graffiti off their walls, and remove it when it does sneak on. Not the Quin Hotel, in Midtown Manhattan. It commissions graffiti.

Chaz Barrisson, half of the street art duo London Police, recently painted two of his signature grinning characters on the wall by the service doors of the hotel. It was part of the hotel’s artist-in-residence program, which included a gallery show of the London Police’s graphic, black-and-white work, done on canvas and paper.

As hotels work harder to distinguish themselves in the age of Airbnb, many have focused on using local art to give their décor a one-of-a-kind look. But with artist-in-residence programs, some hotels in the United States and abroad are going further, aiming to make the art experience even more immersive for guests.

“The hotel wants to look good,” Mr. Barrisson said at the start of his weeklong residency in mid-August. So they bring in “happening” art, he said. “And for me, it doesn’t hurt, does it?”

Other hotels with artist-in-residence programs include Quirk Hotel, in Richmond, Va., which recently brought in Carli Holcomb, a sculptor who often works in metal.

One of the longest-running residencies has been the illustrator David Downton at Claridge’s in London, where he has been on site since 2011, rendering images of some of the hotel’s glamorous guests, including Diane von Furstenberg, Sarah Jessica Parker and Dita Von Teese.

Chaz Barrisson makes finishing touches on an art piece outside the Quin Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Under the programs, artists are often paid to stay and work at the hotels, letting guests interact with them and gain insights into their creations that go far beyond what a visit to museum or gallery can impart.

“It’s a very different approach than what I’ve seen previously in the art hotel genre,” said the Quin’s art curator, DK Johnston, who previously produced cultural events for the Clift Hotel in San Francisco and the W South Beach in Miami Beach.

Mr. Johnston has been welcoming artists to live and work at the hotel in conjunction with a gallery show of their work since the hotel opened on W. 57th Street in 2013. The program has included mostly street artists who, in addition to creating works to hang in the lobby, have drawn and painted on hotel doors, stairwells and other areas.

Convincing the management of the Quin that a program such as this would fit in at the hotel was “a difficult discussion,” Mr. Johnston said. “We’re in a fancy place. We’re in the wrong neighborhood for this kind of art.” He said he warned the management that “not every artist is going to be corporate-friendly, is going to present themselves in the most consistent manner, is going to be predictable.’’ “That’s part of the frisson of art,’’ Mr. Johnston said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

The hotel decided it was worth the risk, despite the occasional incident — including when Blek le Rat, a French stencil graffiti specialist who was in residence in 2014, was nearly arrested after police spotted him stenciling on a hotel door.

Some of the London Police’s work on display at the Quin Hotel. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Although the results of the programs are hard to quantify, Mr. Johnston says he considers the Quin’s a success. Guests have begun to plan trips around artists’ residencies, he said. And while sales are not the primary focus, the art is selling.

Works from the London Police on sale at the Quin ranged from $800 to $7,500. Although the Quin does not take a cut of the sales, many hotels with artist-in-residence programs do.

The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, which has a large Victorian art collection, started its artist-in-residence effort in 2009 ‘‘to create new pieces, interact with guests and help enrich the local art scene,” Joseph Khairallah, chief operating officer of Marcus Hotels and Resorts, owners of the Pfister, said in an email. The current artist-in-residence is an abstract painter, Pamela M. Anderson.

Marcus Hotels has expanded the program to two of its other locations, the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City and the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Neb. The local artists do not live in the hotels but spend about 30 hours a week working in studios near the lobbies.

At the Vendue in Charleston, S.C., the current artist is Fred Jamar, a Belgian painter whose recent work has focused on colorful scenes of the harbor city. Most of the time he works in a studio on the ground floor that guests are encouraged to visit. On Thursday evenings, he paints during dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the Drawing Room.

“Travelers today seek culturally immersive experiences,” Emily Rigsby, the director of art at the Vendue, said in an email. “Interacting with artists, stepping into to the artist’s studio and being present as art is made creates unique experiences for guests.’’

Residencies are not limited to visual artists. At the Hotel El Ganzo in San José del Cabo, Mexico, the artist-in-residence program has included visual artists and musicians who record in the hotel’s 1,700-square-foot studio and perform for guests on the hotel’s roof.

The Monteverdi Hotel and Villas, in Castiglioncello del Trinoro, in the Tuscany region of Italy, takes an even more eclectic approach, with an artists and scholars in residence program. Coming residencies include a jazz vocalist, an opera singer and choreographer, a set and costume designer and a neurologist, who will give lectures. “We’re in a place, Tuscany, that gave birth to the Renaissance,’’ said Michael L. Cioffi, who owns the hotel and created the program. “So you have this incredible flourishing of art and humanity and science and music all in this little area of the world.”

Need A Studio Workspace? Try Con Artist Collective in Lower Manhattan

Con Artist Collective is a communal artist workspace located in downtown Manhattan.It seems very affordable -

The Con Artist Collective opened in 2010, and membership to the collective is only $5 a month. Create your account anytime at conartistcollective.com All members of the collective can add access to the shared artist workspace at 119 Ludlow st. at anytime.

Access to our creative coworking space includes:
photo studio + lighting
drop sink with power washer
wood shop
power tools
computers (incl. CC,iD,Premier etc)
4 color silk screen press
screen exposure unit
free wifi (T3 Line)
multiple work tables/private nooks
lockable personal storage units
artwork storage
exhibition space
mobile meeting/private booth
community supplies
plus our biggest asset- 245+ artist network
regular gallery shows
regular members only events

LIMITED ACCESS PLANS: (no contracts, no commitments)
$14 an hour, $39 a day, $99 a week.

$129 1 day a week, $179 daily 11am to 6pm, $229 unlimited access 24/7/365.

So many different ways to get involved! Schedule a Tour Or come to a gallery night, every Wednesday 8pm to 11pm

Check out their video to see if it is a place where you get creative.


Velveteria in Los Angeles

VelvetAs early as the 13th century, Marco Polo reported seeing painted velvet portraits of Hindu deities in India, with religious images continuing to appear on velvet canvases throughout the Middle Ages. Transcending time and modernity throughout 14th-century Kashmir, 16th-century China, and 19th-century England, black velvet paintings finally attained full-on cult status in the 20th century. By that point, Jesus appeared just as frequently as matadors, unicorns, hula girls, and, of course, that other King — Elvis.

Enter: Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin, founders and curators of the Velveteria. An oddball museum if there ever was one, the Velveteria keeps the black velvet craze of the mid-1970s alive and well with plenty of retro kitsch—but also a surprising number of new commissions and modern takes on this practice. As lifelong enthusiasts, the pair has amassed a collection surpassing 3,000 of these paintings.

In 2005, the museum's first iteration opened its doors in Portland, Oregon where it enjoyed years of endearing weirdness before closing up shop and relocating southward to warmer and sunnier climes. The present collection can now be found in the heart of Los Angeles' Chinatown, where more than 400 of the finest specimens from the couple's treasure trove are on display, six days each week. Though each visit feels a bit like a trip down a rabbit hole in its own right, the most otherworldly element of all is the museum's black-light room, where the ghoulish and trippy velvet paintings really seem to come to life.

Read more at Atlas Obscura.

5Pointz Owner Reneges on Promise to Use Union Labor, Sparking Protest

As if whitewashing the graffiti mecca 5Pointz was not bad enough, if appropriating the name 5Pointz for his new glass box condos to be built on the grave of 5Pointz was also not enough, now developer Wolkoff  has reneged on using union labor to build his folly.

As reported in Hyperallergic:

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Long Island City yesterday to protest the almost complete absence of unionized workers at the 5Pointz redevelopment site — despite a promise by the project’s developer that he would only employ union workers for the job.

Union members from across New York City gathered to hear a speech by Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who along with the City Council, approved the construction of two residential towers on the site of the former 5Pointz warehouse.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) addresses the crowd

Construction is currently underway on the former site of the 5Pointz warehouse, the internationally celebrated “graffiti mecca.” The graffiti-clad structure, which was situated directly opposite MoMA PS1, was a huge draw for tourists and New Yorkers alike. Wolkoff controversially whitewashed the building overnight in November 2013, destroying hundreds of artworks by both local and international artists. The developer’s actions were widely interpreted as a means to prevent residents from landmarking the building. “I made it easier for everyone,” Wolkoff later told the LIC Post. “People get emotional. It’s my piece of property and I can do what I want with it.”

The warehouse was demolished a year later to make way for two residential towers, both of which will be over 40 stories tall. The City Council granted Wolkoff a variance to exceed the local zoning limit following a pledge by his company (G&M Realty) to hire union workers and to increase the project’s number of affordable units from 75 to 210. Once built, the two towers will comprise a total of 1,000 apartments.

In a letter allegedly sent to Van Bramer on October 1, 2013 (part of which can be read on a Facebook page dedicated to protesting the project) Wolkoff pledged to employ union workers:

… based on your guidance, we are pleased to announce that it is our intention to engage contractors which employ individuals represented by labor unions that are affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York for construction in their respective craft jurisdictions at the project, as well as members of the 32BJ operating the building. Construction of the project will create 800 good paying construction jobs. Once completed, approximately 200 full time jobs will be created on site.

A “Scabby the Rat” inflatable erected the morning of the protest

“He signed this letter so not only does his word mean nothing, his signature means nothing,” Gary LaBarbera, the President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, told the crowd. “This man was in my office, shook my hand and said I give you my word this will be a union contract. Where are you now, Jerry?”

Last month, the Times Ledger reported that Wolkoff had reneged on his promise to hire “100 percent union labor,” Wolkoff telling the paper that of the site’s construction crew, “some are union and some are not.” Michael Donnelly, a member of the New York City District Council of Carpenters, told the Times Ledger that the only union workers involved in the project are those delivering cement to the site. In a speech following Van Bramer’s, Donnelly called upon the City Council to rescind the variance granted to the 5Pointz redevelopment project, whilst also calling attention to a recent accident involving a cement pump on the site. An image of the incident was displayed on a banner behind the protest’s speakers. Many union members were keen to stress what they perceived as unsafe conditions on the site. “No one was injured luckily, but they’re rolling the dice on safety,” James Makin told Hyperallergic.

Rubén Colón, also a representative of the Council of Carpenters, took to the podium to directly address the construction site’s non-union Latino workers, calling on them to meet with demonstrators. “This is no longer a union vs non-union issue. It’s become a life or death issue,” Colón told Hyperallergic after the protest. “15 construction workers from non-union construction sites were killed [in NYC] last year, as opposed to two on union sites. Most of them were Latinos. A life is a life, but as a Latino, I take personal issue with that. These workers have families. Not all of them are illegal as most people think. Most, if not all of them, have family here in New York City — who I assume are voters. Local politicians need to be conscious of the fact that what happens to these workers may at some point in time come back and bite them where they don’t want to be bit.”

Protestors and press gathering shortly before the day’s speeches

Van Bramer, whose speech leaned heavily on his family’s union participation, did not address what specific action, if any, would be made by the City Council. “I want to say to the press corp — we were lied to. We were lied to every single step of the way. This man can not be allowed to get away with doing this because it is dangerous, it is wrong, and he is profiting off the backs of New Yorkers. That is something we will not ever allow him to do again. We will be back here as often as we need to be.” Instead, the calls for specific action largely came from other speakers and protestors. Former residents of 5Pointz, including its curator Jonathan Cohen (aka ‘Meres One‘), and community organizer Marie Flagul, were also present. The group brandished a large banner emblazoned with their self-styled 5Pointz logo and the words “Artists Support Unions.”

Malta Has it Right on Street Art. Travel There Recommended

Malta street artI am planning to travel to Malta. This is a country that has the exact right policy on street art and graffiti - they not only allow it, the encourage it.

According to the New York Times --

Most cities around the world denounce, or grudgingly tolerate, painting on public property. But on the Mediterranean island of Malta, the process is encouraged. In the shade of a pedestrian bridge, where old men and women sit on the concrete benches, staring out to sea, a wall has been splashed with color and the spray-painted words “NO WAR.” The phrase is part of a mural of a crying child carrying a teddy bear that’s been shot in the head.

This wall, like many on the island, was earmarked by the local council for street art.

Malta is so fond of what other cities would call graffiti, a government agency, Arts Council Malta, teaches street art in schools and even in some retirement homes. James Grimaud, the artist who painted the antiwar mural, teaches students to sketch, make stencils and use spray paint.

Sandra Borg, of the arts council, said the street art projects “engage with numerous communities and contribute directly to urban regeneration.”

The island’s streets had traditionally been dotted with works of devotional art, depicting figures like the Virgin Mary, and Mr. Grimaud said “there isn’t a history of vandalism on the island.”

That might be part of why the modern murals, which are more likely to focus on political corruption or the commercialization of the island, are still treated with a kind of secular reverence.