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Posted on June 29, 2015

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and CultureDavid Adjaye is known for his innovative architectural designs. He integrates a wide array of influences into his own kind of modernism in projects as diverse as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—perhaps his most ambitious project to date—expected to be opened next year in Washington, D.C. So it may seem strange that a man celebrated for his buildings would also be curating an exhibition about fabric.

Adjaye is overseeing the newest installment of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s “Selects” series, which spotlights the little-known West African textiles in the museum’s permanent collection. The show spotlights 14 colorful cloths, caps and wraps from communities throughout Africa. It also offers the celebrated architect a chance to explore the surprising connections between textile making and building design.

“What’s interesting to me is this idea of fabric and weaving as a kind of abstraction of making places that people come together in,” he says.

Read the full story at Smithsonian Magazine.

Posted on June 15, 2015

A new group show at Florence’s Gucci Museum showcases the many meanings of a familiar object: the flower. “The Language of Flowers,” which runs through September 20, brings together works of four artists—photographers Irving Penn and Valérie Belin, sculptor Latifa Echakhch, and painter Marlene Dumas. Each work explores the floral motif in a distinct way, infused with each artist’s particular sensibility.

“We may think it’s the most anodyne or saccharine subject, but flowers can do great things,” says Matt Witkovsky, chair of the department of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, which houses Irving Penn’s personal archive of photographs, contact sheets, and negatives. He says Penn’s poppy photos of the late 1960s, featured in the Gucci Museum’s show, give visitors “a reminder of our own mortality. The flowers are seductive, gorgeous in their colors, but they are melancholic,” as Penn photographed them on white background just as the petals began to wilt and fade.

Sharing the mournful theme is Dumas’ painting Einder. It depicts a colorful bouquet set on a dark blue background—the coffin of the South African artist’s mother, who passed away shortly before Dumas created the painting.

By contrast, Belin’s photographs, which inlay the image of an elegant woman into a bouquet of flowers, use flora to create what she calls a “dialog” with the subjects’ wavy hair, makeup, and beaded necklaces.

“For me, flowers are like an ideal baroque pattern,” says Belin. Unlike Penn’s focus on the detail of individual blossoms, the French photographer says she selected flowers with a simple outline to create a sort of wallpaper or “decorative vegetal framework,” as Belin puts it.

Read more at Rhapsody.

Posted on June 05, 2015

1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta World's Rarest StampTo see in person the 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta—better known as “the rarest stamp in the world”—is a bit like looking at a red-wine stain or a receipt that’s been through the wash a few times.

The octagonal scrap of magenta paper, bearing a postmark and illustration of a three-masted ship, or barque, isn’t much to look at. But as the only known stamp of its kind, with a strange and peculiar origin story replete with colorful characters and record-breaking sales at auction, well, let us say that there is much more to this unspectacular stamp than meets the eye. Beginning today, the exhibit of the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. explores what the museum's chief curator of philately Daniel Piazza calles its "long, most interesting, circuitous history."

That history began in 1855, when just 5,000 of an expected 50,000 stamps arrived from Great Britain to its colony of British Guiana on the northern coast of South America. Shorted by 90 percent, the local postmaster found himself in a tough spot. If the colony's letters and newspapers were to be delivered, he was going to need some way to show the transaction of postage paid. So he decided to issue a provisional stamp to keep the mail moving until more postage could arrive from overseas. The only place that could create something with enough official cache to do the job in 1850s British Guiana was the local newspaper, the Royal Gazette.

Read the full story at Smithsonian Magazine.

Posted on May 31, 2015

Blue IguanaIt’s finally nice enough to swim at New York beaches — but it’s never a bad time to head to the Caribbean.

Grand Cayman, a four-hour flight from JFK, offers great food, unusual wildlife, and of course, gorgeous shorelines.

Much of the action on Grand Cayman — the largest of the three Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory — happens on Seven Mile Beach. The scenic stretch is full of hotels, resorts, and restaurants serving local and memorable fare.

One of the standout dining options is Agua, a seafood-focused restaurant with a Peruvian twist. The menu includes a few outstanding dishes like the couscous crusted mahi-mahi and lobster and shiitake mushroom ravioli. But a meal here should definitely include a sampling from Agua’s impressive ceviche menu — ranging from “Cayman style” (orange juice, lime, and Scotch bonnet sauce) to “Thai” (with red curry and coconut milk).

Another must-visit eatery is Ragazzi. One doesn’t usually think of pizza when it comes to Caribbean cuisine, but the spot, a local favorite, is singlehandedly helping loosen the definition. Its long list of pies ranges from traditional margherita to more eccentric choices like the frutti di mare (with lobster, shrimp, and scallops). But all are made from Ragazzi’s fresh dough in its wood-burning stove. On the rare chilly night on Grand Cayman, this is an ideal stop.

Read the rest at the New York Daily News.

Posted on May 19, 2015

Ann Dunwoody Higher StandardI had the really cool opportunity to speak with General Ann Dunwoody, the first female four-star general in the U.S. She is publishing a book of leadership strategies later this year, so we discussed her book and where it fits in the growing segment of female-centric business tomes:

What prompted you to write this book?

When the four-star promotion announcement was made, friends, family, and colleagues were after me nonstop that I simply had to tell my story. That said, I knew I didn’t want to write a bio or memoir per se, and since my story was really more about leadership than about gender, that is what I decided to write about. I know there are literally thousands of books on leadership, so I spent a lot of time thinking about how to set this leadership book apart from others.

How did you approach writing A Higher Standard to try to strike a chord with the widest possible audience?

I never once thought this book would be just for military people, or just for women, but would, or at least should, be applicable to everyone who believes in good leadership. I also was blessed to have a very experienced and diverse group of editors. Many had no military background, and they helped me translate my military jargon into everyday-people terms.

As the first female four-star general, what sorts of messages did you hope to convey to other ambitious women readers?

I wanted other women to know you don’t have to be Superwoman to be successful. I didn’t just skip along the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz and find myself at the end of the rainbow as a four-star general. There were bumps in the road, there were obstacles in the road—but there were also people along the road who were willing to help.

The reading public seems eager for stories of women who have broken through the glass ceiling. Why do you think these stories are attracting such a strong audience now?

Young people coming along today have a tough road with struggling economies, stagnant advancement opportunities, and overall lower base salaries. Being able to read and relate to stories about others who make it, or open new doors, provides hope. I’m hopeful that others can learn from my experiences, and from others who are willing to share.

Posted on May 18, 2015

Sheryl Sandberg Lean InTwo years ago, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg told women that in order to succeed in the workplace, they need to Lean In (Knopf, 2013). Her message resonated with readers—hardcover sales per Nielsen BookScan have topped 800K units—and with publishers. New and forthcoming titles encourage women not only to lean in, but also to stand out, grow their value, and take other catchphrase-ready actions.

“[Sandberg] sparked a national discussion with Lean In by encouraging women to pursue their ambitions,” says Dan Ambrosio, a senior editor at Da Capo. “And if you go by recent business bestseller lists, there is clearly a growing and wide-ranging interest in books that speak to female leaders.” In May, Da Capo will publish A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General, by Gen. Ann Dunwoody. The book offers business insight in addition to tales of military leadership, a fact brought home by the foreword, written by Sandberg. (For more on this title, see our Q&A with Dunwoody.)

Shawn Donley, new-book purchasing supervisor for Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., confirms that women are finding advice they can apply to workplace issues from a diverse group of sources. “It seems to be an offshoot of what we’re seeing in other genres: lots of titles with really strong feminist voices,” he says, pointing to 2014 books such as Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial) and Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me (Haymarket), which may not speak specifically on business topics, but address issues of confidence and self-perception.

In the wake of Lean In, Donley’s store has also seen healthy sales for several female-oriented business books that pubbed in 2014, including Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code (HarperBusiness), Tara Mohr’s Playing Big(Gotham), Arianna Huffington’s Thrive (Harmony), and Sophia Amoruso’s #Girlboss (Penguin/Portfolio).

Amoruso, founder of the online fashion retailer Nasty Gal, offers three main pieces of advice in her book: “Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let the Man get to you.” Readers have responded to her tough talk, with print sales topping 107K units per BookScan.

Read the full story at Publishers Weekly.

Posted on May 04, 2015

Renzo Piano Whitney MuseumMay 1 saw the opening of the new Whitney Museum of American Art. The Upper East Side mainstay has moved to New York City’s Meatpacking District, rising nine asymmetrical stories overlooking the Hudson River. This is exciting news for art fans, as it significantly expands the area for the institution’s modern and contemporary art. Its 18,000-square-foot, top-floor space for special exhibitions is now the largest column-free gallery in New York City.

But as appealing as the new arts offerings inside the downtown Whitney may be the structure itself. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, this is only the latest in his long line of striking museums, from the exoskeletoned Pompidou Centre in Paris to the grand Harvard Art Museum. Piano’s decades of museum design have made him arguably the leading expert in the world on creating art that houses art—though he hesitates to put his work in the same category as the works it contains.

“It’s not a piece of art as much as a shelter for art, in the service of art,” Piano says. While they must be aesthetically pleasing, museums’ greater purpose is to engender “a sense of belonging, participation, discovery.”

To that end, Piano has designed the Whitney’s ground floor, a few steps from the busy southern entrance of High Line park, as a vast public space. The spectacular cantilevered entrance invites passersby into an outdoor plaza, restaurant, and 6,000-square-foot lobby gallery—free to all.

Read the full story at Rhapsody.

Posted on April 06, 2015

This is Happening: Through the Lens of InstagramAs Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” campaign is promoting smartphone images at billboard size, social media photography is blowing up as a subject for publishers. Work popularized on Instagram shares shelf space with images found in museums, and more and more titles aim to help photographers of all experience levels get the most from their devices.

Social media might seem to be an odd source of inspiration for a serious art book, but one of the more prominent titles in the fall catalogue from AmMo, which publishes the work of revered photographers like Howard Bingham and Edward Weston, is The Instagram Book, Vol. 2 (Oct.), a collection of photos taken by amateurs as well as pros. It’s the follow-up to 2014’s The Instagram Book: Inside the Online Photography Revolution.

“We wanted people who had unique things to say about photography and why they were doing it,” says Steve Crist, publisher of AmMo. (Crist is also the co-editor, with Megan Shoemaker, of The Instagram Book.) “The cover image [of the first volume] is from a physician in Singapore—he’s a doctor working in an emergency room and doesn’t consider himself a professional photographer, but he made a compelling image that captured the spirit of what we wanted.”

Read more at Publishers Weekly.

Posted on April 01, 2015

Robert Durst All Good ThingsRobert Durst was a fan of director Andrew Jarecki’s 2010 telling of his life and alleged crimes, All Good Things — and not just because Ryan Gosling played the suspected serial murderer. As The Jinx made clear, the even-handed telling of the tale based on verified facts and Jarecki’s research drew Durst to the director in the first place, and was a major reason he agreed to be interviewed by Jarecki after years of avoiding the press. But The Jinx wasn’t the only Jarecki project for which he offered his assistance. During the same period, Durst actually joined the director for a viewing of All Good Things, recording commentary for the film’s DVD, released in March 2011. The two banter back and forth as they watch the slightly fictionalized depiction of Durst’s stormy relationship with his wife Kathie (played by Kirsten Dunst), her disappearance, and the murders of his friends Susan Berman and Morris Black.

Though listening to the commentary doesn’t capture Durst’s oil-pool eyes and full-body blinks that made him such a creepy presence in The Jinx, his audio is still plenty spooky. Probably the weirdest thing about the commentary is how much Durst endorses Jarecki’s portrayal of him — whether yanking his wife from a party by the hair or dismembering his buddy — and how little emotion he displays as he agrees that, “This is more or less accurate.” Though the conversation tends to go quiet when an actual murder is committed onscreen, there is one moment where Durst loudly protests: when the film implies he killed the family dog.

There’s no “killed them all, of course” line, but the DVD commentary offers some odd insight into Durst’s view of himself and his actions, and in light of his admission in The Jinx’s finale, takes on a new level of menace. Here are a few of the creepiest exchanges, and a couple darkly funny ones.

Read more at Vulture.

Posted on March 27, 2015

Mike Tinney FIXDr. Keith Kantor, CEO of nutrition consultancy Service Foods, had an enviable problem: his workers were too healthy. The 100-or-so employees of the Norcross, GA-based company were a wellness-minded bunch to begin with, and the programs Kantor put in place -- "lunch and learn" sessions about eating healthy and Biggest Loser-style contests -- pulled in as much as 70 percent of the staff. Most employers would consider this a success, and Kantor figured he had hit the ceiling of wellness engagement among his workforce.

Then the zombies arrived.

Mike Tinney, CEO of Fitness Interactive eXperience (FIX), a gaming and fitness company, approached Kantor about beta testing a new program developed by his company. It took a typical pedometer challenge, gave it a team-based, social media-oriented twist, and added in a pack of hungry zombies to gamify the whole thing, letting it unfold in "chapters" that made participants more likely to check back in -- and exercise more.

The program, called "A Step Ahead: Zombies," lasted five weeks, allowing workers to sync into the game using the wearable fitness device of their choice -- Fitbit, Garmin Vivofit, or a number of others. It seemed like a fun idea, so Kantor gave it a shot, expecting the usual 70-percent-or-so level of participation. But for the first time, he saw interest jump even higher.

"It increased engagement by 25 percent," says Kantor. "I thought I was doing pretty well, getting 70-odd percent engagement, but it turns out even more people are interested in running away from a zombie than listening to a dietician explain the dangers of celiac disease."

Read the rest at Incentive.

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