Jeanne-Claude and Christo give the Duncan Phillips lecture at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (The Phillips Collection/Lloyd Wolf)
In April 1994, married artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude fielded a question during an art-college lecture that forever altered their artistic practice. According to Wolfgang Volz, the couple's friend and photographer, a man in the audience inquired after "the young poet Cyril, Christo's son." Jeanne-Claude, Cyril's mother, wasn't mentioned. A discussion the artists, born Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon and Christo Javacheff, had been having for some time about fully attributing their collaborative works to the both of them, and what that might mean economically and aesthetically, was foregrounded by an innocuous question about the couple's most intimate collaboration.
A visitor looks at a work from Sherman's series "Masks." The exhibition was shown in Bregenz, Austria in 2006, and the retrospective featured more than 250 works by the artist. (AP Photo/Regina Kuehne)
In 1993, Paul Hasegawa-Overacker, an aspiring artist and avid surfer, launched a New York cable-access program on the Manhattan art world. Called Gallery Beat and described by its creator as "hopelessly and endlessly public access," the show follows Hasegawa-Overacker as he visits galleries, gets tossed out of museums, and interviews bewildered artists. Often joined by cohorts Walter Robinson (former editor for Art in America, now the editor for Artnet's Web magazine), Cathy Lebowitz (an editor for Art in America), and Spencer Tunick (a photographer), Hasegawa-Overacker ultimately created 160 half-hour episodes.
The Child Development Center at the University of Calgary is LEED certified and certifiably hideous. (Flickr/ Rexp2)
The Olympic Village in Vancouver will be a marvel of the 21st century once it is complete. Currently under construction for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the 1.4-million-square-foot, 16-building Village will be outfitted with passive solar panels and green roofs and heated by a recycling apparatus that captures the heat emitted by sewage and redirects it back to the residences. Every building in the complex is designed to outlast its temporary use, and every building is made with its long-term carbon footprint in mind. For its efforts to leave no good turn unrecycled, the Olympic Village is hauling home enough Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold and platinum medals to make an Olympic contender green with envy.
In search of something beyond the New York art scene, Robert Smithson landed at Utah's Great Salt Lake, where he created Spiral Jetty amid abandoned oil derelicts. Now his deliberately noncommercial work is at risk of disruption by the return of oil drilling.
In 1970, artist Robert Smithson rejected the gleaming white gallery spaces and "canonical" minimalism of the New York art scene in search of an entirely different setting for his sculpture. After several exploratory trips, he selected a spot more than 2,000 miles from the Big Apple: Utah's Great Salt Lake. Rozel Point, on the northeast end of the lake's Gunnison Bay, would become the home of his most important piece of sculpture: Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide, 6,650-ton coil of black basalt rock and mounded earth extending counterclockwise into the pinkish water of the lake. The site was remote but not virgin territory. Oil seeped from the ground, and scattered around the lake were the derelict instruments from prior efforts to extract that oil.
It's said that when Norman Rockwell painted Richard Nixon's presidential portrait in 1968, he found Nixon's appearance so shifty, he decided that no portrayal of the president could do his cagey mug justice. In the end, Rockwell painted a generous portrait, figuring that it's better to be mistaken and flattering than just plain wrong.
The benefit of the doubt worked for Nixon -- he hadn't yet served his second presidential term, so ambiguity was perhaps appropriate. If a leader's record proves poor, however, there are ways for an artist to convey his disapproval of his subject. But rarely will an artist take a portrait as an opportunity to show someone literally getting screwed.