A glass house is revealed through the fog


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Seeing art in real life can make a difference, says designer

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I recently heard a designer say that there is nothing sadder than a bare wall. This has perhaps never been truer than it is now, when so many of us spend so much time watching them.

Conventional ways to fill these blanks are still mostly on hold, giving online sales a boost. For the Bau-Xi gallery, this was not so much a pivot as an acceleration, explains Adam Mulder, partner of the gallery.

“Over the past year, people have become much more involved in digital. Collectors acquire by email and invisible sight. But it’s a trend that started before Covid, ”he says.

Bau-Xi has just launched a fascinating exhibition of photographs taken by Richard Barnes in 2014 of Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Johnson, who lived there from 1949 until his death in 2005, was an early proponent of modern architecture and won the first Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979. It also seems generally recognized that he introduced the international style in residential architecture.

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The design of the 1,815-square-foot house, which Barnes says “to modern architecture what the Mona Lisa is to painting,” took place between 1945 and 1948. Sitting on a promontory overlooking a pond and from the woods beyond, the foundation that oversees it says it is “best understood as a pavilion to see the surrounding landscape”.

The building and decoration have remained fairly constant over the years. Much of the furniture came from Johnson’s New York apartment, designed in 1930 by Mies van der Rohe, who himself designed the very famous glass Farnsworth House just outside Chicago.

The theme of openness is reinforced in the interior design. There are no walls, but Johnson defined the areas of the rectangular footprint as “rooms,” with a very precise arrangement of the furniture. Visit The Glass House for more information and historical background.

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The history of this house and the man who designed it are enough to make it a captivating photographic subject. But there is more. Barnes’ photographs document the on-site installation that Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya was commissioned to mark the house’s 65th anniversary.

Nakaya’s medium? Fog. Yes fog. Nakaya’s first fog sculpture was unveiled at Expo ’70 in Osaka. After that, it became a recurring element in his work. To create the “Veil” facility, fresh water was pumped at high pressure through 600 nozzles to produce a computer-controlled mist that envelops the house for approximately 15 minutes per hour.

According to Nakaya, the haze responded “constantly to its own environment, revealing and hiding the characteristics of the environment”, and caused “visible things to become invisible and invisible things – like the wind – to become visible”.

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The moments Barnes captured from this ever-changing process are fascinating and seem both full of movement and perfectly static. You can see more of his exceptionally thoughtful and exceptionally beautiful work at richardbarnes.net.

Despite the success of the online business, Mulder looks forward to the day when people start visiting the gallery again.

“I think seeing art (in real life) makes a difference,” he says. “And I think shopping galleries can be a form of cultural hub – less than a public gallery, of course, but in our way a hub.”

Until Mulder and the rest of us can once again enjoy getting together to watch art, sip drinks and chat, the Frick Museum invites us every Friday at 5 p.m. to Cocktails with a Curator », An online series in which a museum The Expert shares both a cocktail recipe and the fascinating history and insight into pieces from Frick’s magnificent collection of Old Master paintings and European sculpture / decorative art.

The sessions are available on YouTube, so you can also binge on them if you miss the Friday appointment. But please don’t make a cocktail with every episode, or those bare walls might start spinning.

Vicky Sanderson is the editor-in-chief of Around the House, www.aroundthehouse. California. Check it out on Instagram @ athwithvicky, on Twitter ATHwithVicky and on facebook.com/ATHVicky.

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