Peter Brant, Jr. Talks Growing Up Surrounded by Art

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Photo via @backstagebombshell on Instagram 

Peter Brant, Jr. is not shying away from his art collector father’s affinity for art, speaking to Sotheby’s about his favorite pieces in the auction house’s Contemporary Curated sale.

Citing Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat as two of his favorite artists, Brant describes his emotional connection to their pieces – from the intricacy of Basquiat’s drawings and the Warhol’s photographs.

Brant also shares how his parents’ taste for art wasn’t necessarily family friendly.

I had an understanding that things in my house were different from things in other people’s houses. There were definitely a couple of kids who weren’t allowed to come over to my house.

While some play dates may have been cancelled, we’re sure Peter and brother Harry can look back and bask in the fact they had their very own Jeff Koons Puppy – something very few, or no other, children can say.


The Indelible Iconography of Ryan McGinness

Ryan McGinness Limited Edition Bottle Preview
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Ryan McGinness with his Limited Edition Bottle of Hennessy, Courtesy PMG


In the past few years, Western culture seems to have reverted to pre-lingual tendencies with the proliferation of pictographic communication. “Love” is download (1), “anger” is 160x160x35-pouting-face.png.pagespeed.ic.w1f9t-wRwM, “celebration” is 160x160x325-party-popper.png.pagespeed.ic.nlB_GieQDx, “pride” is 160x160x307-rainbow.png.pagespeed.ic.LZQTRvUOJh. For artist Ryan McGinness, this is nothing new.

“There’s something authoritative about signs and icons, and I wanted to subvert that,” he said, nestled in a corner at midtown steakhouse Quality Meats.

For years, McGinness has produced painting, sculpture and site-specific work frequently utilizing bold icons and bright colors, most recently his series of “black hole” paintings, which he calls a “subversive symbol of wealth and luxury”, and which grace a new limited edition bottle of Hennessy. The series of elegant black holes are juxtaposed with colorful Boschian imagery of people fucking skulls and committing autoerotic asphyxiation. But since the brand wants to communicate aspirational aspects, obviously, the bottle design is light on skull fucking. There is a twist, though: the layered, multi-colored filigrees coalescing in a black hole illuminate under a blacklight. “It made sense in the club environment,” he said.

Where is the subversion in corporate collaborations, though? “I knew everyone would be scrutinizing, ‘What’s going on?’ I knew that I wanted to communicate with aspirational qualities, but I don’t really like doing this and doing that, being disingenuous. But I was like, “Alcohol? Perfect.”



Limited Edition Bottle of Hennessy, Courtesy PMG


He’s built a bridge between himself and the brand, making sense of the collaboration in a Warholian vein, which is to be expected given the impact the Pope of Pop has had on his career. A fan since he was a child, he studied at Carnegie Mellon (Warhol’s alma mater) and interned as a curatorial assistant at the Warhol Museum. But, as he’s worked in the same tradition of Pop Art, he’s seen Warhol’s true intentions be obfuscated as we progress past his time. “A lot of the sarcasm and satire have been lost in recent years,” he lamented.

McGinness still holds out some humor and irony in his work, though. His Instagram, for example, skewers the platform; instead of behind-the-scenes photos or filtered pictures of sunsets that typically litter newsfeeds, each image he posts is a black circle with a cryptic quote or design in the center. Each dot, in actuality, is part of a halftone that makes up a black and white image of McGinness removing a white fright wig. The act is a Warholian, anti-artifice gesture, a removal of a disguise. “Warhol was all about being fake – he wore a costume. But this is genuine.”



Untitled (Black Hole, Fluorescent Yellow), 2008, acrylic on linen, 72 in. dia. (182.9 cm dia.) exhibited with adhesive fluorescent vinyl on wall under black light via


He’s also began work on a series of paintings inspired by metadata, wherein he depicts an original painting hanging on a studio wall. Similar to Thomas Struth’s photographs of paintings in museums, these meta-paintings are a new twist on authenticity and the reproduction of images.

When he needs a break from painting, he ventures across the street from his studio to Landmark Diner, one of the last remaining original diners in the city. A slice of down-to-earth Americana, it reflects the air of McGinness: not pretentious or haughty as is the typical demeanor of many artists (especially if they’re white, male and straight), friendly, warm and unobtrusively brilliant.

He chronicles his thoughts and ideas meticulously in a series of identical sketchbooks, and currently he’s up to over 200. “Ideas are stickier when you touch the piece of paper. I like making things.” It shows how personal his work really is, and what anyone would say about corporate collaborations, or how he’s not using Instagram correctly, doesn’t really matter to him in the end. He continued, looking down after taking a sip of Hennessy, “make work like nobody cares.”

The Garden of Eden Exists—And You Can Visit and Instagram It

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Artist rendering of the Tree of 40 Fruit in 10 years

Is it art? Is it not? In this day in age, anything that can propel an iPhone out of a pocket to snap a picture is considered art. Like a life-size bagel. Well, Sam Van Aken, a professor of art at Syracuse University, is creating the mother of all art installations with his Little Shop of Horrors-like project, the Tree of 40 Fruit. Part science research project, part artwork, the Tree of 40 Fruit is a single tree that can produce 40 different stone fruits—peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, apricots—any type of fruit with a pit. Garden of Eden 2.0, am I right?

So far, Van Aken has planted 16 trees in seven states across the country. He creates the trees using chip grafting, which means he cuts the buds off a fruit tree and connects them to a rootstock tree, which is a tree that is natural to an area’s climate and soil. Essentially, if two varieties grow close enough together, they can form a graft and connect. Van Aken plants the trees, which can be found at various art museums, college campuses, and private lands, with 20 of the 40 varieties. The first tree was planted in 2011 and is expected to be in full bloom in three years.

This is close to the coolest thing ever. Who needs farmers markets when you have a tree bearing 40 fruits?


WTF? Museum First Proposed to Celebrate Women Is Now Dedicated to a Serial Killer

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Photo via Wikipedia

We were going to enjoy insight into women’s history, now we’ll have to endure Jack the Ripper.

Women have a hard enough time in the arts, and in history. This kind of hoodwinking isn’t helping the situation.

This past fall, former Google diversity chief Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe won approval to convert an old Victorian-era shop (or, shoppe) into a museum that would examine East London women’s contributions to society throughout history. But this week, it’s been revealed the museum is now going to be about something a little…different. Namely, infamous London serial killer Jack the Ripper. Um. What?

“We did plan to do a museum about social history of women but as the project developed we decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper,” Palmer-Edgecumbe said in a statement to the London Evening Standard. “It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place.”

“Got into that situation”? What? Who “gets into” being murdered? Instead of celebrating the accomplishments of women, they’re glorifying their deaths at the hands of a serial killer.

This is basically a snuff film in museum form.


Get a Stoner App Cooler Than the iTunes Visualizer

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Members of the band Yacht with the Reify app. Photo courtesy of NEW INC.

Remember how in college, you’d sit around the dorm with your stoner friends, listening to iTunes playlists and watching the iTunes visualizer dance and morph into the best music video ever?! Well, now there’s an app (or two) for that, and they come from NEW INC., the New Museum’s incubator — a collaborative workspace for a selected 100 members, supporting creatives in tech, design and art by allowing them to work through new ideas and figure out how to make it all work. Out of that incubator hatched REIFY, which launched on Kickstarter this week, and STYLUS.

REIFY is an augmented reality app that uses 3D technology to make “totems” that Stylus can read and turn into music and moving visuals. Now your trip is hand-held.

Basically, REIFY calls up bands and asks them to make 3D printed totems that are visual stand ins for their songs, complete with music and visual encoding read by Stylus. Use the app, and that’s when you get the gif-y, trippy stuff. It’s a way for hear, see and hold the music.

“At REIFY we’re using technology to create new forms of meaning between sound, sight and touch. Our platform is for creating physical totems and interactive visuals that represent songs,” said Allison Wood, CEO of REIFY in a press release. “The kind of cross-sensory immersion that happens when our totems are played through our mobile app is called ‘digital synesthesia.’ It’s a new medium of creative expression for artists. It’s a deeper, connected music experience for fans.”

HEALTH’s totem for their new single “Dark Enough” 

David Hockney: The Reinventors’ Reinventor

David Hockney
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Photography by M. Sharkey

Old ideas are easy to fall back on. New ideas require vision — and courage. At 77, David Hockney remains one of the most innovative artists alive, not only for his central place in the pop art movement of the 1960s, but also for his constant delight in pushing boundaries. This is an artist who exhibited an early collection in London in 1961 under the title “Fuck,” drawing on sexual graffiti in public toilets — six years before homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain. More than 50 years later, Hockney was able to draw over 650,000 people to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where his exhibition, “A Bigger Picture,” reflected his ongoing enthusiasm for new forms and technologies.

Critics have sometimes dismissed Hockney’s endless reinvention as a lack of discipline and seriousness, not that the artist would care what they have to say. These days, he prefers to follow the conversation on Twitter. “It isn’t just about a little comment of 140 characters, it’s much more than that because it’s notice- boards,” he told The Guardian a few years ago. “People post something, it takes you to another person, it moves along.” In other words: Who needs old media when you have new?

Lured by watching Laurel and Hardy movies as a child, Hockney left damp Yorkshire, England, for sunny California in 1964, eventually settling there in 1978. His work, from his hedonistic early paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools to his large-scale photoworks, amounts to a lifelong inquiry into perception and reality that never wavers. “I’m interested in all kinds of pictures, however they are made, with cameras, with paint brushes, with computers, with anything,” he told The New York Times in 2001. And so it remains. Since 2009 his favored medium has been an iOS app, Brushes, which he uses to create paintings on iPhones and iPads, a development that would be easy to dismiss as a novelty with a less ambitious artist.

These days, Hockney spends more time in Yorkshire, where he has reconnected with the landscape of his youth, but for a long time his spiritual home — the place that spoke to him — was Los Angeles. “I lived in L.A. so long I’ll always be an English Angeleno,” he said in an interview in 2012. “But to me now the big cities are less interesting and sophisticated than they were. To get something fresh, you have to go back to nature.”

Downtown LA, We’ve Got a Message for You

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Two things have exploded in the creative vortex over the last couple of years: Downtown Los Angeles and digital art. A class of innovators — from real estate developers to hospitality impresarios to artists of many mediums — have made DTLA the frontier of cool, and they’re getting their message out far and wide. This summer, Ace Hotel DTLA, the cool kid’s modern-day salon, is giving local and international artists a platform for expression through its collaboration with the digital content sharing platform WeTransfer. Starting this month and lasting through February 2016, the Ace is handing the reins of their billboard each month to an artist to showcase their work and broadcast their vision for LA to literal passersby.

The collab, aptly named Dear DTLA, is starting local with LA-based Brian Roettinger, an artist and graphic designer responsible for the art direction of music’s biggest acts (he’s the guy behind Florence and the Machine’s and Mark Ronson’s latest album art). His message to DTLA? “Never odd or even.” Short and sweet, definitely less than 140 characters, but we needed a little clarification, so we asked Roettinger to explain. His poetic response, below:


A Palindrome Tome

Never Odd or Even
But residing in between
No man’s land or
Or merely limbo in another name

Nothing is “for sale,” I thought.
How fitting: WeTransfer
Along with Ace Hotel
Helped create this billboard spectacle

An artist’s rotation—sending volleys
Through lines—or interwebs
While this typographic feast
Nests along Broadway and 9th

This intersection represents
DTLA, as the acronym goes
A change in scenery
Something Cosmic or Chaotic grows

Who’s to tell?
Three blocks from
40s LA Noir-ish Skid Row
A hipster’s quagmire/paradise?

Laced with ecstasy
A message written in
Quivering fantastical type
A Farewell to Arms of a New Order

Favoring, instead, this notion
that we’re all in a movie
Caught (feverishly) between feuding
Liberty’s of libertines and real life

However tactical
One asks patiently:
What does that mean?
Or, does it mean anything?


If you can’t view the billboard for yourself in DTLA, and even if you can, you can download the artist’s work digitally through WeTransfer. And check out BlackBook’s new curated city guides to Downtown LA for where to eat, drink, and hang right now.