Is Electro the New Rock and Roll?
December 07, 2012

THE CHINESE ECONOMY is the new rock and roll. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe congressional re-alignment is the new rock and roll—I don’t know. I do know one thing that is not the new rock and roll, though, and that is the rock and roll being made today. Like other worthy musical forms born of past eras—jazz and salsa, for instance—rock and roll is still played widely and still worth playing; yet rock has been frozen as a form for quite some time. Its only newness is one it confers as a metaphor—a handy, all-purpose symbol for the achieving of status as a phenomenon sensationally, voguishly cool.

The Real Fate of the Stolen Monet, Picasso, and Matisse
October 24, 2012

What will happen to the seven paintings—including artworks by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Henry Matisse—that were stolen from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam last week? Some think the artworks will be sold to shady dealers. Others hypothesize the stolen paintings will be traded in the illicit drugs or arms market. Or maybe these paintings will end up with an evil collector. (That scenario probably owes its popularity to Dr.

Abstract Expressionism's Most Traditional Artist
February 03, 2012

For a moment, the crowd that was constantly amassing around the painting singled out by the organizers of the MOMA’s Willem de Kooning retrospective as the masterpiece of his early period—Excavation (1950)—had dispersed. So my husband and I positioned ourselves in front of it to take advantage of what we knew was a rare moment of unobstructed viewing.

The Abstract Imperfect
October 12, 2011

de Kooning: A Retrospective Museum of Modern Art Willem de Kooning emerges, in the panoramic retrospective now at the Museum of Modern Art, as the archetypal modern urban man. He is by turns swaggering and sensitive. He is neurotic, self-assured, vehement, mercurial. He is a seeker, a striver, a comedian, a seducer, a dreamer. This quick-change personality comes through first of all in the splendid variety of de Kooning’s brushwork, which in a single painting can range from the elegant to the offhand, from delicate traceries to slashing strokes.

Opening Pandora’s Box
March 30, 2011

I do not need to explain why I’ve been thinking about Pandora’s box. The Greek legend of a beautiful woman the gods send to earth with a box containing unimaginable evils has long been associated with the dangers of nuclear energy, an association difficult to overlook in light of the catastrophe in Japan. But what precisely did Pandora do? It was in hopes of answering this question that I took off the shelf a famous art historical study, Pandora’s Box: The Changing Aspects of a Mythical Symbol, by Dora and Erwin Panofsky.

Momentum Grows For A Shipping Tax--But Will It Work?
December 15, 2009

Here's one of the slightly-under-the-radar stories at Copenhagen: The Wall Street Journal has a piece about how any eventual climate agreement will likely include a modest tax on "bunker fuel," the low-grade oil that ships use for fuel. Much like airlines, the shipping industry was exempt from the original Kyoto Protocol, but since shipping now accounts for 3 percent to 5 percent of the world's carbon emissions, that won't last.

November 10, 2009

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West By Christopher Caldwell (Doubleday, 422 pp., $30)   As its subtitle makes clear, this is a book about immigration, Islam, and the West. But at the same time this is also a book about a particular moral culture, a set of attitudes, habits, and beliefs that has developed in Western Europe over the past sixty years. There isn’t a good shorthand way to describe this moral culture. Sometimes it is called “political correctness,” though politics as such does not define it.

Sarah Williams Goldhagen on Architecture: Extra-Large
July 31, 2006

A FRIEND RECENTLY TOLD me that his most important pedagogical tool as an architect is this maxim: the architect's primary ethical responsibility is to be the guardian of the public realm, in contrast to the myriad others who currently configure our built landscape— clients, politicians, contractors, developers, and NIMBY-driven "community action" committees.

Quiet Time
May 13, 2002

In the short story "Silver Blaze," Sherlock Holmes draws Inspector Gregory's attention to "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." "The dog did nothing in the night-time," insists the confused Inspector. "That," Holmes responds, "was the curious incident." Last month in France, a dog barked at the top of its lungs: Jean-Marie Le Pen placed second in the first round of vot- ing for the French presidency. But while Le Pen's second-place showing was a surprise, his growing popularity wasn't.