Going back in time: Daniel Gould’s 3D List, Art in Amsterdam #66

...HAPPY NEW YEAR...Let us consider 2013 as a lucky number...In fact, add up all the degits and you get "six" a perfect number in mathematics. 



Stedelijk Museum Review: Mike Kelley Retrospective

Art Fair Review: Real Is Me 13

Tassen Museum Hendrikje MuseumPriscilla Snyder 

Pintohuis Bibliotheek: R.I.P.

Restaurant Review: The Midtown Grill


STEDELIJK MUSEUM: Mike Kelly Retrospective Review  

Who is Mike Kelley? 

Unless you follow the world of art closely the name will mean little to you. Perhaps, for Amsterdamers who frequent the Stedelijk Museum, there might be a flicker of recognition. Several years ago, when the museum was temporarily located at the old Central Station Post Office, he had an installation exhibition that highlighted his video work, Switching Marys(2004-2005). It is on display in this show. Another appearance was in the exhibition titled "Eye Infections" (2001) where he hung 42 wash portraits.

Flash forward and the Stedelijk announces a 200 work retrospective of his oeuvre. Gijs van Tuyl initiated its preparation in 2009. Kelley lived and worked in Los Angeles---he died in 2012---and was already recognized by Ann Goldstein, the new director. The results is a very well balanced exhibition which consists of many stylistic elements as well as techniques. You will see paintings, drawings, watercolors, objects/sculpture, video, prints, tapestries, music, photography and even samples of his writing. 

Let's start with his figurative/abstract tapestries which are actually cut-out fragments of felt and mounted on felt. And one is with color and the other black and white. It was a good introduction to his feeling for expression. He makes observations and delivers them as messages like, "Let's Talk About Disobeying," and "Pants, Shitter & Proud. P.S. Jerk-off too (and wear glasses)." On one hand, there is the celebration of life and on the other hand there was the realization that the world is nothing more than a contrast between black and white with the infinite shades of gray in between. 

I mentioned examples of his writing. You will be able to read a long essay on American Health Care Law which he wrote in 1995. It is a print and is directed at "puritan" America and its niche position in all things related to sex. There is also an article on a paparazzi that stalked Steven Spielberg and his wife from 1998. 

Goldstein said in the press release, "Mike Kelly's brilliance was rooted in his ability to dig critically into a world of cultural productions, representations and constructions in all their messy contradictions, using a combination of incisive wit, poetic insight and uncanny associative power." And sometimes he  does it with all the power of a blaring boom-blaster. 

He can be be irreverent at times. There is a series of six photos with satirical notations. One that stands out is the Lincoln Memorial (Washington D.C) with the statue of Abe Lincoln who is making a "grunt" sound and a big example of defecation is spewing from his anus. One observer, in the piece, says, "P.U. SHIT!!" 

Now for some fun! Kids will be enamored with the gallery which is filled with stuffed animals arranged in a variety of ways and compositions. One composition is 300x250 cms., and decorated with a 3D style of presentation. The title? "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid & The Wages of Sin." (1987)

Another gallery hangs b/w drawings that are both conceptual and geometric abstractions. As to styles, well, there is a little of everything. Nothing is really the same. Soon you come to the realization that his drawing technique ranges from the almost naive to simple line drawings to figurative representations that reflect the conceptualist Cy Twombly more than any other established artist, especially "Shrimp, Head, Pot." (mixed media, 1996) 

He owes much to comic strip art, but he takes it to the conceptual level. And while the results may not be funny there are thought provoking. Hey, that's what good art should be. 

I had forgot that I had something in-common with Kelly; we had both lived in Detroit and our time there overlapped for about 10 years. What brought that to my attention was a series of photographs that I immediately recognized as the glum Motor City. One depicted the J.L. Hudson department store that boasted having the largest American flag in the country. It covered about eight or nine stories of the 13 story building; and there were the factory photos; and on of his family home in the suburb of Wayne. But, also, a picture of Paris and a parade of bull fighters. 

I think the Detroit element is important to his artistic development. We both experienced automobile design at the height of its design creativity. Raymond Loewy was creating for Studebaker designs that were "jet age" inspired. Then there was the chrome phase. Packard, that once designed streamlined and clean designs, switched to gaudy chrome-heavy ones; and GM, in 1958, made their car' designs glitter like cheap costume jewelry. And let's not forget the fins. It was the best of times and the worst of times for kitsch!

He owes much to comic strip art, but takes it to the conceptual level. And while the results may not be funny there are thought provoking. Hey, that's what good art should be. And, again, the Detroit element. The comic strip was almost high art to the laborers that toiled on the assembly line. Myself, I had a paper assigned, at University, in which I was to compare a style of art to the same style in art. At the time, I didn't know the difference from impressionism and expressionism. I did the paper on the comic strip as both art and literature. Detroit offered little in the way of art. 
You will see much humor, but a lot of it is what we describe as "toilet humor;" the type which is popular with a 12 year old. 

Then there are the birdhouses. Kid you not! But the designs are both unique and unusual. There are two paintings of a full moon over a river meandering through a canyon which is almost a parody of both technique and style. It sort of laughs at the representational genre. 

In another gallery much work reflects the style and technique of Arman. Kelley has taken cheap costume jewelry and fashioned a large montage of 300x200 cms., and another that is 350x250 cms. which consist of plastic and paste jewelry, beads, toys, etc. And it is kitsch all over again.

There is a "shrine" to John-John Kennedy titled, "In memory of Camelot" and it is in three parts. 

And there is more from Detroit with 26 gelatin silver print photographs with the title, "Photo Show Portrays The Familiar." It is a nostalgic flashback to his childhood in Detroit which includes photos from Greenfield Village and the industrial Museum located there. Henry Ford built the "village" during the 30s. He bought the homes of people like Daniel Webster in which he wrote the first American dictionary. And there is the bicycle shop of Wilbur and Orville Wright, from Dayton Ohio, where they fabricated the first airplane which made its initial flight in 1903. And he includes a photo of a chair that is on display at the museum. It is the one that Abe Lincoln was sitting in the night he was shot at the Ford Theater. The blood stains are still very visible. As a teenager, I visited both the village and museum once a year; it always made an impression on me.

And then there are the truly monumental sculpture/object works. A large figurative ceramic piece standing nearly five meters high is surrounded by shards of broken pottery. It is an installation measuring nine by six meters. At opposite corners are "drawers" hanging vertically which you can pull out to expose a montage of newspaper pages. 

I was really impressed with his series of wash portraits which depict people like Marinett, Oscar Wilde, Yeats, Plato, et al. Each is beautifully rendered and each includes a quote from the person. Piet Mondrian said, "I think the Destructive Element is too much neglected in art." There are 42 examples and each one is monochromatic in colors like purple, yellow, red, et al. 

And, again, there is much humor in this exhibition. A large installation in black and red has this typographical addition: "Shall I rush your rush job before I start the rush job I was rushing when you rushed in?" In the new wing's upper gallery, there are four animated back-lit cartoon cells that "breath" and are with vibrant colors and funny sounds.

Don't miss the gallery with the video installation featuring a young woman done up in a Country & Western wardrobe who entertains you with a parody of C&W musical piece, distorted colors and whatnot's included. The entire gallery is an installation/video-performance. 

The adjacent room shows objects and sculpture works that challenge the kitschy validity of Jeff Koons work. Koons made it look pretty; and Kelley makes it look real. In fact, another analogy would be that while Warhol's work was often little more than visual cotton candy, Kelley is conceptual provocation. He is blunt and to the point!

I'll leave the final comment to the words of the director: "Nothing is sacrosanct in his work---not so-called high culture, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion or education. It brings together his interest in so-called low culture---from crafts to comic strips---with a reconsideration of identity and sexuality, he was nothing less than revelatory." 

Another reason to see the show is it will give you an opportunity, in the future, say, five or ten years from now, to tell people that you were there when the whole Mike Kelley story "began." The press release referred to his "tragic death." I asked a member of his studio how did he die? She said it was suicide. When I asked by what means, she replied that she wouldn't talk about it, "That's voyeurism." I replied that what makes his oeuvre stand-out is that it is so personal and for that reason his method of suicide probably had some relationship to his work. However, I didn't press the subject. But combine that factor and that this major retrospective exhibition will travel from here to Paris, to New York and finally to LA, and you get a feeling that he was, perhaps, making a final statement and dotting the last "i" and crossing the final "t." Hollywood can't resists such scenarios. 

Until 1st April. 


ART FAIR: Real Is Me 13  

The number "13" refers to this year and not the number of years that this fair has existed which is 10. The Real Is ME heading is a cute way of saying Realism. Actually, that's a good way to describe what you will see since this fair does question the proposition of What is Realism? in today's art world. 

Realism conjures up in the mind such pictures portraying cityscapes, landscapes, seascapes and portraits. So how does Cole Morgan (Contempo Galerie), George Decker (Galerie Bianca Landgraff), Jeff Gysen (Galerie Jos Art), or Allan Forsyth, (ARTTILED), fit into the picture? Well, they really don't but maybe they do! Huh? 

A separate and large room, which is sponsored by the Real Is Me organization, is filled with what I would describe as avant-garde realism. Most, but not all, has been inspired by the Pop School.

The galleries WALLS and Galerie Maike Hüsstege have invited several young artists to show their work under the title Urban Realism; and the result is sometimes conceptual Pop School. There is a 21 meter long (and at two right angles) wall piece which is more of an installation and tells a contemporary story. STREETOPOLY is a 4.5 meter square floor installation that is a satirical parody of Monopoly and comes with hotels and houses, train engine, ships and a caravan. Fun! 

And at Art Kitchen, Hugo Kaagman designed the jackets worn by the staff. Cool!

Perhaps the Real Is Me art fair is meant to challenge your concept of what is realism. And like life itself, which it is meant to illustrate, there are several forms and interpretations. This art fair is open to the average art lover---not to mention---traditional style  art lover and offers a wide range of concepts and styles some of which challenge reality itself. Hey, it doesn't get any better....Which means in a few words: DON'T MISS IT.

The Real Is Me has been organized for several years by Erik Hermida; and he does it well. Of course, this fact makes me wonder what happened with KunstRai this year which I described as a shabby affair. Obviously, the blame must be with the RAI and not Mr. Hermida. 

The times are the same from Thursday to Sunday: 11:00 to 19:00. The entry fee is 12 euro. It is at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, Piet Heinkade 27. 



There is a collector for everything. Many things collected are common place like stamps and coins and memorabilia. Some collections are more exotic like skulls and body parts of the famous. Then there is the middle area of things that we take for granted like lady's bags and purses...And wouldn't you know it, in a city with an unknown number of museums there is one that specializes in the latter two items.

Hendrike Ivo was an Amstelveen antique dealer. On a buying trip, she found, in a small antique shop, in the English countryside, a tortoiseshell bag inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Her research into its origins revealed that it was made in Germany around 1820. It was a spark that ignited a passion. 

In 1996, the world's first---and still the only one---Museum of Bags and Purses was opened at Ms Ivo's home in Amstelveen. The venue soon became too small for both the growing collection and the number of visitors. There was a desperate need for more a bigger building.

A benefactor---who, to this day, wishes to remain anonymous---bought the breathtaking HerenHuis at Herengracht 573, in 2006. It had be used commercially since 1906. The renovation revealed many original interior elements that had been covered up by false ceilings and walls. The museum's building is part of the visitor's appreciation with its imposing staircase and exquisite ceiling paintings from both the 17th and 18th century. 

The oldest example is of a purse is, ironically, a "gentleman's bag" from the 16th century. If you think that you have seen everything there is to see at far as bags and purse designs go...Think again! You ain't seen nothin' yet! The designers of past centuries were as inventive and as imaginative as today's designers who are also featured. 

And the personal element has not been lost. The current director, Sigrid Ivo, is the daughter of the founder and has a degree in art history. She embraces the collection and museum with the same undying passion as was her mother's. 

Like many museums these days the TASSEN MUSEUM offered various programs along with a regular schedule for special exhibitions. Some focus on the past while others zoom in on the avant garde. Last fall, I attended an artist/designer presentation by Priscilla Snyder (USofA). It was an amazing hour. 

Snyder, while still a student, began making puppets which she sold off the street in Berkley California. Her premise was simple, "Be free...do unconventional work!" Her puppets had expression, humor, character and she would embroider color nuances and her first piece was a rendering of her pregnant pussy cat. 

She progressed to bigger puppets and up to one meter long. They are elaborate in both detail and the types of materials. One, a heron, has poetry written and stitched inside of the hand pocket. 

She got a New York city agent to represent her. The day she visited the woman's office---and while  examining her work---Robbie Miller called out, "Bob! you gotta see this work." And from another room in walked Robert Redford. Word quickly spread about her extraordinary work. She was making puppets like the flying bird that required two hands to manipulate; then there was the iguana with its thousands of scales embroidered on it. An amazing piece to look at. It took two years to make and sold for $10,000, in the 80s. It has been illustrated in the New York Times, People and US.

The puppets metamorphed when someone asked "Is that a hand bag?" and she discovered that handbags sold faster. She has no staff and every work is unique. The puppets and bags take months and, some, up to six years to  make. Her prices begin at $1,800 and go well into the $100,000 and up range. 

Cats and dogs are her speciality. However, she showed a tiger's head---mother and cub, each slightly larger than a hand; $8,000 each. Then there was the lion. It is a work in progress---now into its sixth year---which she works on between commissions. It looks like the head of the Lion King. She has made 1000s of bags and puppets over the years.

Unfortunately, the pieces we saw at her talk where not featured in the display upstairs in the gallery. Shipping insurance was the problem. The ones that she personally showed us she had carried, with her, from New York. Her work will be on exhibition until 10th March 2013. Check out her website for more samples of her work.  www.priscillasnyder.com 

N.B. you can become of "friend" of the museum and receive invitations to their openings and lectures. See http://www.tassenmuseum.nl  


The Pintohuis closed its doors on the 15th of November. It was a literary cultural oasis for the Newmarkt area that includes the Red Light District. The decision was made to close it long before the austerity measures became a factor. Several thousands of names were collected in the form of a petition when its demise was first proposed a few years ago; but the OBA director, Hans van Velzen, turned a deaf ear to the public. The new main library, on the Oosterskade, has become a liability to the city. It is poorly managed---try finding a magazine or a book---with employees complaining and several hundred boxes of books piled in its storage area because there isn't enough stack space. Go figure!

The Pintohuis served its community well. The Queen Bee, the major-domo and benevolent dictator, Liesbeth Pijper, was an old school librarian. She could have been the inspiration for Marian-the-librarian celebrated in the musical, The Music Man.

She organized lectures, book presentations, art and photographic exhibitions, musical recitals; there was even an "artistic performance" performed, over a week's time, a year or so ago. She would get you the book you wanted; answer any question that came to your mind; and did it all with a very sincere smile. 3D was a regular and visited the library each of the four days a week it was open to read the International Herald Tribune. The few times it wasn't there, for whatever reason, and a couple of times when I asked Mvr Pijper where it was, she would look and not finding it take three euro from the cash register go across the street to the bookstore/magazine kiosk and buy a copy. You can't get better service than that at the Amstel Hotel. 

If she was nice to adults she was even more kindly generous towards the children and young adults. Always available; showing them something new and interesting. The children's reading room was a delight. On one wall was a 100x100 cms., photograph of a kitten; her kitten who would go on to live to be 12. On the wall opposite was a photograph of the room's ruling "king" who was known as Morris Minor. Morris was---and is--a Jack Russell Terrier who visited, with his mistress, several times a week. The photo shows him wearing a crown and sitting in an overstuffed easy chair. In fact, the very one that I favored. He did have good taste, for a dog. In fact, I left the reading room, at the front, a year or so ago, when I discovered the two easy chairs and that the room was pleasantly warm on the coldest of winter's days. Stuffed animals decorated the top of the book stacks; and one artist, who worked with material and did her own stuffed animals, was most generous and allowed many piece to go on display, in the room, after she had had an exhibition in the small gallery upstairs. 
On those rare warm and sunny days, that have been known to happen, in the Netherlands, you would find me sitting in the patio and reading the Herald Tribune. It didn't get any better! 

Tourist often wandered in to the building; I assume it was listed in various tourist' guide books. Of course, that was because it is a monumental building, constructed in 1602, by a Portuguese Jew, who came to Amsterdam to escape the Inquisition. The building was renovated, in 1975, and in two rooms there are ceiling paintings. One is originally from the 17th century and the other, a rather satirical take-off on the classical style, was done at the time of the renovation.

But all may not be lost. Mvr Pijper hinted that talks where under way to find another cultural function for the city owned building. Here's hoping...In the meantime, thanks for the memories.

MIDTOWN GRILL @ Marriott Hotel, Stadhouderskade 12 

Ah, for the perfect steak!  

I have lived in a city that had great steak houses: Chicago. 

Chicago became the "hog capital of the world" shortly after the American Civil War in 1865. Now at peace, America began to build railroads across the vast western part of the country. Chicago was the hub. The railroad lines ran to the north, west, southwest and south. All were connected to the direct lines to the east coast of the states. The cattle producing states from the Dakotas south to Texas shipped their product to the stock yards in Chi-Town; and from there the meat was distributed to the east.  

Early on, American cattle barons began to breed life stock that was exceptional in quality. Even, today, there are four grades of quality that applies to beef: Prime, choice, good and commercial. The latter is what McDonald's and other fast food chains use for their hamburger. The former, Prime, is the top quality. Many people, seeing a prime steak raw, might complain that it's "too fat!" Indeed! It is. But, it is the fat that has the flavor and the meat itself the texture. You sizzle a steak to seal in the flavor of the melting fat which fuses into the beef. 

It has only been in the last ten or so years that high quality beef has been available in Amsterdam. Now, there are importers for American Aged Prime, Scotland's Black Angus and the Japanese Kobe beef which is produced by feeding a single cow with beer and good grain in a caged environment so they don't develop any muscle. Oh, yeah, the farmer also messages the cow daily as they fatten it. 

The MIDTOWN GRILL features Aged Prime American Beef. And There is no doubt as to its quality. However, there are "secrets" as to how to cook a great piece of beef. The quintessential American steak is the "One-inch thick T-Bone Steak." This review originally was meant to praise the quality of the beef and slap the wrist of the chefs because of the thickness of the steaks served. There was one exception, on view, when I ate there last October. It was a very thick Porterhouse Steak. In preparing this review, I stopped, with a tape measure, to determine just how thick it was. I arrived at a very slow time and had the opportunity to talk with the maitre'd. 

The mammoth piece of meat is eight cms., thick. It can serve three to four people; I was told that since opening they have had one customer who polished off one all by himself. What an achievement in gourmand indulgence. If that's too much for you, try the T-Bone which is 800 grams and four centimeters thick. I then looked at a new display case that had been put into place at the entrance. It had several examples of sirloins (New York-Strip, 29 euro), rib-eyes, rib on the bone and whole loins. When I had eaten there, I had selected the rib steak on the bone (39.50 euro) because it weighed in at 500 grams where as the sirloin was only 250 grams. I assumed that the rib steak would be thicker; as it developed, it wasn't, just bigger and with bone. In the display case, now, both the sirloin and rib-eye were adequately thick pieces of meat; and my mouth actually began to water. I was also told you can order any thickness you want; you just pay a little extra for each added centimeter. I was not informed of this when I first visited. The maitre'd also told me that his goal is to have the best steak on offer in Amsterdam. 

But, I digress...back to the meal...I had ordered the rib steak on the bone and I had a choice of sauces @1.50. I selected the Bearnaise, but more for the french fries than the steak. I let steak speak for itself. The fries were an extra 2.50. Other side dishes offered, for the same price, include buttery mash, roast potatoes, buttered beans and creamed spinach. I took the latter and was pleased that the cream had not overwhelmed the spinach. The french fries, well, they were limp and a disappointment. 

Here is a rundown on what was on the beef menu at the time of my tasting:

Fillet Mignon, 225 grams @ 34.50 euro.
T-Bone Steak, 800 grams @ 67 euro (they suggest you share it).
Porterhouse, 1,600 grams @ 134 euro (enough for three to four people). It is their speciality. 

The steaks are from Creekstone Farms, Prime U.S.D.A Graded corn fed Black Angus beef. 

They also offer a rack of lamb @ 27.00 euro; Iberico Pork rack @ 23.50 euro; 12 hours braised short ribs @ 21.50 euro; roasted baby chicken @ 21.50; fresh daily sea food with a day price. 

From the bar, they offer a variety of eight Scotch whiskeys from 6.50-9.25 euro; four American Bourbons + Jack Daniels sour mash. There are eleven white wines from 25.90 to 78.90 euro; 13 reds from 29.90 to 78.90 euro; three dessert wines and five Champagnes 75-225 euro. 

The dessert menu is very tempting. I had the New York Cheesecake and was pleased. A good selection of starters, soups and salads are all available. 

The room's ambiance is functional, but not exceptional. The service was excellent, though, admittedly, it was a slow Wednesday night. The help was friendly. I will return...I am curious if the chef will achieve his goal.


...And more on food:

Check out this article from the www.nytimes.com (14th Jan. 2013: Dining), "Putting Spice Into Dutch Cooking," by David Segal. He says, "The Netherlands has never been known as a culinary destination. Actually, that's an understatement...And nowhere is this puzzle more obvious than in Amsterdam, a city of beguiling streetscapes, gorgeous canals and really lousy restaurants." He goes on to quote a German who does a blog called: Dutchgrub. The writer, moved to Amsterdam in 1999 from France. "Amsterdam was a food wasteland at the time...And I talked to people and they said 'Oh, it's really improved.' I'm thinking, "My God, how bad could it have been?'" Well, very bad!

I came to Amsterdam in 1972. I worked for a company and had an expense account. I looked for the best restaurants to take visiting clients. At that time, there were but four worth visiting: Dikker and Thijs, Excelsior, Quatra d'Eendt and De Groene Lanteerne (Dutch cuisine). 

Things didn't begin to improve after 1980 and ever so slowly new places came into being like Beddingtons. I look at the present situation and think, "Hey, it's getting hard to choose a restaurant there are so many." 

Segal pointed to these Amsterdam eateries: Mariau, modern French; Blauw aan de Wal, Asian/Mediterranean fusion; Wilde Zwijnen, Dutch; and Gertine. He reports that De Kas, Frankendael Park has gone down hill since the initial bally-hoo.