For all of the handwringing about art being inaccessible, there’s no city planning theory that has gained more traction in this century than the idea of creative people driving neighborhood revitalization. Which means that the descriptively titled “Arts ReSTORE: LA” project isn’t just loftily ambitious. The month-long residency program, which began last week, might actually work at creating a less sterile West Los Angeles, not least because it is supported by the powerhouse Hammer Museum, whose three-story compound anchors one end of the street. On a stretch of Westwood Ave., better known for chain sandwich shops and fluorescent interiors, the Hammer offered a half-dozen empty storefronts to local artists and makers, with the idea that even a temporary infusion would upend the retail mood of the area. If the packed opening night was any indication, this time the theory holds. Here’s what we saw.
The question we get most often about curating and producing three years' worth of Noho Design Districts isn’t “Can you spare an invite to the VIP party” or even “How can I show my work with you?” but “How on earth do you two do it?” This year was our biggest and best event yet: We had two new hubs (the empty former print lab at 22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village hotel on Cooper Square); two new international partners (London’s Tom Dixon took over the basement of the Bleecker Street Theater while DMY Berlin hit the American circuit downstairs at 22 Bond); and exhibitions so big that one of them stretched across two different venues (The Future Perfect’s showcase busted the seams of its Great Jones flagship, continuing up the street at 2 Cooper Square).
There were thousands of exhibitions going on in Milan two weeks ago, when the annual furniture fair took over the city, stuffing its subway cars and panini shops full of hungover design tourists. But in terms of sheer number of designers represented per square foot, one emerged a clear winner: “Achille is Watching Us,” for which the young designer and journalist Matylda Krzykowski and architect Marco Gabriele Lorusso managed to corral no less than 32 marquis names — Nacho Carbonell, Peter Marigold, and Bless among them — into an empty shopfront no larger than the average New Yorker’s bedroom. That’s because the pair, after being offered the space for free by the building’s wealthy and culturally savvy owner, decided not to show any design inside it all. Instead, they asked the talents Krzykowski had befriended through her blog, Mat&Me, to each contribute one small personal belonging and tell the story behind it. “Milan is so commercial — it’s about retailing and selling,” Krzykowski explains. “You get so caught up in looking at what’s new that you get lost in it. This year we decided to turn it around, to look at the things that are really important.”
There’s no real way to put this delicately: It can be somewhat difficult getting Ross Menuez to focus. Talk to the designer of the fashion label Salvor Projects for an hour, and your conversation might touch upon everything from the migratory patterns of birds to the intricacies of intarsia; ask him about his process, and he’s apt to fret instead about what to do with the signage for his first retail shop, which opened last week on a sleepy stretch of New York’s Lower East Side. His career has been equally hopscotched: He’d built houses for the Sandinista in Nicaragua, designed under Tom Dixon at Habitat, and run a metal shop in Brooklyn before finally, a few years back, committing himself fully to the world of fashion, complete with seasonal presentations and showroom representation. But as with any talent whose creativity flows faster than the mind can apprehend, it’s the unscripted aspect of Menuez’s work that makes it so compelling — you never know quite what to expect.