Thursday, December 3, 2009
Philadelphia - Day 5
- Quote of the day
- Home tour
- Business tour
- Esherick tour
- Bibou BYOB
Edward Hopper: If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.
The bus is late, turns out that our driver for the day has called in sick and a substitute driver has to be found. The new driver is new and has not been outside Philadelphia. After several missed turns and a few up and backs, we reach our first stop.
We start the day with a tour of a home of collectors that have a broad collection of modern art (Richter, Lichtenstein, Warhol, de Kooning, Johns lithos), ceramic, (Voulkos, Kaneko, Woodman), photography (Sherman, Kerstens – we saw his work in Leipzig), Serra steel sculptures, plus much more, all of high quality and well displayed. Our hostess is very gracious, tells some interesting stories about the work, and relays one (of several) fascinating stories: they had a de Kooning that had become too valuable to keep, even with insurance. So they sold it in 2006 (near the top of the market) and started a foundation with the proceeds.
On to our second stop, but first we take a scenic ride through Valley Forge. Given that it is very grey and lightly raining, the only thing missing is a lot of snow on the ground and a bunch of guys dressed up as rag-tag revolutionaries. We are again lost, and this time John’s I-phone GPS cannot save us because the address of our next stop often produces mixed directions (and objects in your side view mirror may be closer than you expect).
When we arrive, a buffet lunch is laid out, I decide to go veggie and stick with salad, roasted potatoes and asparagus. We are about to see one of the more unusual collections, that of Al West, founder of SEI, a company providing services to banks. Al has assembled 3000 items, most of them recent (last 15 years) acquisitions have been under $5,000 for most part, of which a number are on display around the company. The curator, Lee, is terrific and gives us a great tour. And, the work areas are all open, everywhere. And, all the furniture is on casters (shades of the loft!). And, the employees get to decide which works are displayed in their areas, and if a percentage don’t like the work it is sent to the Hot Hall where comments are posted via a terminal, some of which are printed out and displayed. Works can then be adopted by other units, based on another vote.
We see: giant shoes made of licorice, early Roxy Paine wall assemblages (his work is on top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY now), 10 foot sharks made of used tires, long murals painted on sheetrock, a giant 20 foot tall folding chair that actually works (ie folds up), and a hallway with 10 pictures of people posing for a contest to decide which was prettiest (the winner is the one with the most symmetrical face) juxtaposed on the opposite wall with Jill Greenberg monkey poses (showing “emotion”).
Two of Jill’s large photos are in the Hot Hall: two year olds that have been plied with lollypops that are then taken away by the mothers. Typical comments: I see crying children at home, it is cruel to make me look at them at work all day long. Another Hot Hall entry: a series of 6 cartoon like paintings that show a dog being thrown in a large trash bin and then a child is “missing” in the last panel except for a pair of shoes and the trash bin.
- Most of these are from our visit to SEI. My favorite piece is the one that looks like a head from Angkor Wat cut into 4 pieces. It's made out of left over phone books. A stunner (would look great in the loft!).
- The picture of the work space makes it seems like the floor is a lot more cluttered than it looks in person, the workers are actually given quite a bit of (personal) space.
- Also note the Jill Greenburg photo of the crying child, that's from the Hot Hall collection
- Last picture is of a few of the buildings from Wharton Esherick's property.
Lee gives us directions to our next stop, the home and studio of Wharton Esherick, a well-known wood maker from the first half of the 20th century. On the way, the bus passes below an underpass and loses the back pop-up air cover (amid much scraping). We are now air conditioned in a totally unexpected fashion, and fortunately it is not raining (it actually feels more like it will snow than rain). Something tells us that Lee didn’t realize what kind of conveyance we were in!
We visit the house and studio of Wharton Esherick, an innovative wood worker in the 1900s. What’s clear is the guy lived in small spaces that could be converted to other uses rather quickly. Lots of engineering in the house that reminds one of the ingenuity of boat builders.
Back to the city, the driver makes it with no missed turns or accidents. We head out for our “night off” to a place called Bibou BYOB. It’s a small place, maybe seats 35 at most, and traditional French menu. I have escargot in a dark rich (garlic, of course) sauce, served in a ceramic dish in the circle of a snail shell, followed by veal loin and veal sweetbreads, all delicious. Donna has green salad and scallops, also very good. John has saumon (smoked salmon) followed by fish, and Evans has salad and hanger steak, which I graciously help her out by finishing (excellent). Dessert of crème brulee (disappeared in under 45 seconds) and a small dense chocolate cake in crème anglais that we savor. Each couple brought a bottle from home. No corkage! Total comes to $190 with a generous tip. Quite a find, it was a tip from the NYT a few months back.