Knox Martin’s protest art: what remains of his “Venus” mural (with his recently added signature)
Last month, CultureGrrl. This week, the New Yorker!
The Knox Notch (scroll down) hit the Big Time in the magazine’s Nov. 23 issue (which landed in my snail-mailbox yesterday), with its appearance in a full-page photo of Jean Nouvel‘s in-construction 100 Eleventh Avenue.
You can see the photo in the online version of Paul Goldberger‘s Jean Nouvel and the Art of the Façade, but Knox’s incongruous, irascible gesture is more prominent and subversive in the larger print version. (The above photo is mine.) What I particularly love about the magazine photo: “KNOX” flanks the left side of Nouvel’s “vision machine” (which all but obliterates Martin’s vision) while flanking its right side, at about the same height, is another vertical vision—the hazy but unmistakable form of the Empire State Building.
Although the otherwise puzzling visual detail of the colorful mural fragment calls for some explanation, Goldberger ignores it, focusing on the brilliance of the architect and his still incomplete apartment tower:
If you are tired of the way every modern building feels flatter and thinner than the one before it, well, so is Jean Nouvel…
…except, of course, when it comes to erecting an extremely thin, exceedingly tall tower on the postage-stamp site adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art—a project that Goldberger looks upon with favor.
He reserves his last two paragraphs for an attack on New York’s City Planning Commission for lopping off 200 feet from the planned MoMA Monster, which he says will “eviscerate” Nouvel’s design. I agree with him that this is a “bad compromise.” It’s a Judgement-of-Solomon edict that satisfies no one. In my view (and that of the project’s opponents), any building erected on this postage-stamp site needs to be shorter…MUCH shorter.
A profile of the CPC’s chair, Amanda Burden, published last month in Crain’s, makes it appear that the commission’s action may have been as much a matter of pique as policy.
Theresa Agovino reports:
Ms. Burden counters that Mr. Nouvel didn’t present a finished
design, even after having years to complete it, which she calls
disrespectful. She brandishes a rendering of the tower with an
unfinished top—a simple, open triangle enclosing a box that will house
the building’s operating mechanisms.
“They wanted special permission for this?” she asks contemptuously.
I’m not sure how Goldberger knows that the new, shorter design will be “a lot less graceful” than the original glass tower. As far as I know, Nouvel’s revisions are still in progress. But maybe the eminent architecture critic has access to more drawing-board information that I do. He doesn’t explicitly state whether he’s actually seen the new design.
What I do know is that it’s not just a matter of lopping off the top, as Paul seems to suggest. It can still meet the sky gracefully; it will merely have to accomplish this at the 1,050-foot height of the Chrysler Building instead of at the 1,250-foot height of the iconic skyscraper flanking Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue in the New Yorker photograph.