Peter Plagens

Stories by Peter Plagens

  • Graphic Content

    From their arrival after World War II to their imminent retirements, baby boomers have been the most prosperous and protected generation in history. But since coming of age in an era of turmoil and rebellion--from rock and roll to drugs to the Vietnam War--they have always had a hard time wearing their fortune without guilt. They've struggled to balance economic pride with humility, self-fulfillment with social responsibility. Perhaps nowhere is this reflected more than in their taste in graphic design, which over the decades has ranged from lyrical incoherence to antiseptic order.Today their whims are defining the art market. Boomers are now the ones old enough to have accumulated the money--yet young enough to maintain the energy--to collect modern and contemporary art. The fortuitous combination of boomer collecting power and a new desire on the part of young artists to engage a wider audience has driven the market for contemporary art to unprecedented levels. From New York's...
  • Warning: Graphic Content

    Whether illegibly psychedelic or starkly simple, boomer graphics spoke volumes
  • The Art of the Deal

    JP Munro, 30, is only six years out of art school and already he's in this year's Whitney Biennial, the art world's thrumming combination of "American Idol" and debutante ball. (The exhibition runs at New York's Whitney Museum through May 28.) That's not all the L.A. artist has going in the Big Apple. As he squeezes in a phone interview, he's finishing up a painting to be sent in a hurry to the Armory Show, a bustling contemporary-art fair opening March 10, where his L.A. dealer China Art Objects has taken a space. And last year he had a solo show at the hip Sadie Coles HQ gallery in London. For a guy who once had a day job as a research clerk and thought "I'd be working for 10 years without ever getting into an exhibition," this is the fast track indeed.Munro and the two dozen or so other younger object-makers who'll be spotlighted among the Biennial's 100-plus artists--the rest include filmmakers, and video and sound artists--are in the right place at the right time. To say that...
  • Come to Dada

    Ninety-two years ago, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the archduke who was heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and started the first world war. A couple of years later, in 1916, two Zurich poets named Hugo Ball and Richard Hulsenbeck wanted a name for the raucous, sarcastic anti-art antics they had in mind for their nightclub, the Cafe Voltaire. They wanted something short and snappy, something that would convey their utter revulsion with the bourgeois rationalism and military pigheadedness--once the major powers turned on their war machines, they couldn't turn them off--that had led to the carnage in which all Europe was steeped. Out of a French-German dictionary popped a slang term forhobbyhorse: dada. Perfect.Last week, on the heels of the vice president of the United States' shooting his hunting buddy in an opera buffa accident right out of "The Pickwick Papers," "Dada"--a somewhat prim retrospective of modern art's wackiest movement--opened at the National Gallery of Art in...
  • Modernism's Heavy Metal

    Whatever happened to modern sculpture? It started in the early 1900s with the amazing semi-abstract heads by Picasso and Brancusi. Then at midcentury came those haunting, existentially elongated human figures by Giacometti and the seductively biomorphic bronze blobs by Henry Moore. But nowadays "sculptors" do "installations" of already-made stuff dispersed in a gallery. Maybe the wickedly deflating term "plop art" put the skids under any more Calders in front of office towers. And the dreary public-art controversy over Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc" may have soured the public for good.If anything stands a chance of reigniting our taste for singular objects made solely to be beautiful in a resilient way, it could be the new exhibition "David Smith: A Centennial," at the Guggenheim Museum in New York through May 14. Smith, born in 1906 and the greatest American sculptor of the last century, was a master of muscular visual wit, as wonderful in skeletal format (he called those pieces ...
  • A Misfit--And a Master

    The great--yes, great-- American painter Andrew Wyeth just doesn't fit in. The Museum of Modern Art hangs "Christina's World"--its most popular picture--in a little hallway away from the canonical modernists. Critics lump him with kitschy illustrator Norman Rockwell, not with such realist masters as Winslow Homer. And it's true that Wyeth, 88, seems to be fighting cultural battles resolved 50 years ago. "I think that we [Americans] should believe in the art that we can do," he says on the phone from his studio on the coast of Maine. "We don't have to be overwhelmed by Europeans. Picasso, I admire. Matisse is a lot of crap."Wyeth, though, is no simple reactionary. He's a fan of both the freaky Norwegian realist Odd Nerdrum ("He's terrific--he really says something") and the abstract expressionist Franz Kline ("He did great things with black"). And his own work--the subject of a new retrospective opening Nov. 12 at the High Museum in Atlanta (facing page)--has a dark, if subtle,...
  • Coloring Outside the Lines

    A quarter century ago, when painting was supposed to be dead again, Elizabeth Murray spotted some small canvases lying around her New York studio. "I just screwed them together in a jumbled way and started painting on them," she says. "Then a studio assistant showed me how to stabilize them with aluminum bars in the back," and a style was born. More accurately, it was a new wrinkle on the cheerfully visceral paintings with kindergarten shapes that have long made Murray a favorite among fellow artists. In the early 1980s, she went baroque, stretching canvas over jigsaw-puzzle forms made from plywood. Now, the 65-year-old painter has a stunning--not to mention overdue--retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, on view through Jan. 9.Murray's big, bright, hefty pieces are an uncanny amalgam of abstract expressionism's tragic-opera mode and the ribald comedy of pop and outsider art. Call it Clyfford Still meets the Hairy Who. Although there's usually a figurative image in Murray's work...
  • Ways Of Looking

    In our own ways, we can all relate to New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman's idea of art as "points of contact with things greater than myself." Indeed, the mild-mannered Kimmelman is nothing if not humble in the face of art. In his new book of ruminative essays, "The Accidental Masterpiece" (256 pages. Penguin Press), Kimmelman engagingly examines art matters ranging from Michael Heizer's massive 30-years-and-counting earthwork project in the Nevada desert to the late whispery-voiced TV art instructor Bob ("happy little cloud") Ross. On the other hand, Cambridge University art historian Alyce Mahon--often described in print as "feisty"--has an agenda. In "Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968" (240 pages. Thames & Hudson), she sets out to prove that surrealism didn't die with the fall of Paris in World War II. Indeed, she contends, its combination of sex and subversiveness survived to play a big part in the political upheavals of 1968 and is still alive today in...
  • WEALTH ON THE WALL

    If you count body painting and primitive jewelry on cavemen, art is probably the original luxury item. Pharaohs and popes, aristocrats and robber barons--and more recently, show folks and cyber-richies--have all collected it. These days, the best art is generally bought for impure reasons--status and investment--while the worst art, say that palette-knife painting of a gondola in Venice, gets purchased because somebody just wants to look at it every day.What high-end contemporary collectors want to look at, be admired for owning and invest in is, rather suddenly, contemporary art. Ten years ago, auction-floor applause rang out at Sotheby's or Christie's mainly for record-breaking impressionist sales. Now it's for such artists as neo-pop bad boy Jeff Koons, whose works brought in almost 15 million euro at auction last year, or China's Cai Guo-Qiang, whose big 1991 drawing "A Certain Lunar Eclipse (Project for Humankind No. 2)" went for $570,000 in May. Big color photography in small...
  • American Idol

    Second place? Oh yes, Grant Wood's 1930 oil-on-panel painting, "American Gothic," currently hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. Being runner-up is all the more impressive when you consider that the "Mona Lisa" comes from the hand of one of the greatest all-around geniuses of all time and enjoys the historical aura of having been painted half a millennium ago. "American Gothic," to the contrary, is the product of a merely good artist who confined his career to Iowa--where the picture was posed and painted, in Cedar Rapids. Wood died in 1942 at age 51 from pancreatic cancer, his career essentially limited by an early death to the 1930s.As with the "Mona Lisa" (exactly who is she, and why is she smiling--if she's smiling?), most of the fascination with "American Gothic" comes from the enigma in the sitters (or, in Wood's case, standers). Most people see the man (the model was a local dentist) and the woman, posed by Wood's sister, Nan, as a husband and wife displaying a stern...
  • BLOCKBUSTERS: FOLLOWING THE CROWDS

    Looking for something less quirky (but still serious)? Get in line for these surefire hit shows:Neo-Impressionism, From Seurat to Paul Klee, Musee d'Orsay, Paris, to July 10: If there's anything that can pack in viewers almost as well as impressionism, it's what came immediately afterward. Georges Seurat and Paul Signac took the style of tiny brushstrokes, neatened it up into a more rigorous "pointillism" and used the result to make clean, classical-seeming paintings whose direct influence lasted right up to Paul Klee.Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland, opening June 20: Speaking of Klee--which runs a distant second to looking at Klees--an entire museum devoted to his work is about to have its ribbon cut. And not just any museum, but a wonderfully rolling-roofline bit of design--by architect of the moment Renzo Piano--which holds an incredible 40 percent of the 10,000 known works by the great Swiss painter-poet-teacher.Frida Kahlo, Tate Modern, London, through Oct. 9: You own a few...
  • Summer Art Gets Serious

    Truthfully, haven't you seen enough art-joke exhibitions? You know, the kind where some young tyro tries to take aback the audience by tearing holes in the walls, pouring goo on the floor or showing slapstick videos in blacked-out galleries? Sure, such transgressive fare is often accompanied by catalogs filled with weighty theory justifying the esthetic nose-thumbing. And those shows can be a lot of fun, like goofy stalls at a flea market. But in terms of the contemplative beauty most of us seek in art, they're still just comic relief. We think it's time for a break from the comic relief. And fortunately this summer, there are plenty of opportunities for some more serious art viewing.Nothing is more serious in painting than carefully rendered landscapes, especially if they're idealized. The masters of the style were such 17th-century French artists as Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, who based themselves in Rome, the better to combine the eternal beauties of ancient civilization...
  • Team Theory

    When I was a young painter back in the mid-1960s--still in my 20s but already a college art instructor--I thought I understood most art up to and including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. In fact, abstract expressionism was mother's milk to me. Even a smartass like Andy Warhol seemed semi-intelligible, if only as comic relief from the high seriousness of the art world I was desperately trying to crack. But the sudden onslaught of minimal, conceptual and performance art--all those cold steel boxes, typewritten witticisms framed and hung on gallery walls, and naked people solemnly cavorting in decrepit lofts--shook my idea of art to the core. To regain my bearings, I hauled out my old undergraduate textbook, Helen Gardner's "Art Through the Ages," and reread the whole thing in one week-long gulp.Did it cure my confusion? No. I soon discovered that confusion is a way of life in the art world. But I did learn something: big, single-volume histories of art--especially histories of...
  • YOU'RE LOOKIN' SWELL, DALI... CONSIDERING

    In the early 1930s, the menacingly morphed "hand-painted dream photographs" Salvador Dali labored over with a three-hair brush and magnifying glass shocked the European and American public; today their equivalents are digitally ubiquitous in ads, in movies and on the Internet. Since today we all live in a surreal world, the time seems right for a Dali retrospective, and through May 15, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is giving us a great one. Simply titled "Dali," it's the first in the United States in more than 60 years and includes the largest number of his paintings--150--ever gathered in one place."The only difference between me and a madman," Dali once said, "is that I am not mad." He was born in the Spanish fishing village of Figueres, nine months after the death of his toddler brother--who had also been named Salvador. His fellow students at the Madrid art academy later described Dali as "morbidly shy." Nevertheless, he stole his beloved Gala away from her poet-husband Paul...
  • MANHATTAN PROJECT

    On the morning of Feb. 12, when New Yorkers start walking, jogging and bicycling into Central Park, they'll be greeted by a remarkable sight. Some 7, 500 bright saffron "gates"--each 16 feet high with a curtain of orange fabric hanging down to 7 feet off the ground--will festoon 23 miles of serpentine walkways. The result, hopefully, will be undulating, hyphenated rivers of color flowing through a drab winter landscape. Some spectators will remember running under Grandma's billowing clothesline.The official title of this work of art is "The Gates: Central Park, New York, 1979-2005," and the artists behind it are officially known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Christo--who, like Madonna, forgoes a last name--was born in Bulgaria nearly 70 years ago. At 22, he escaped to Paris and supported himself by painting portraits. One of his subjects was the wife of a French general who had a daughter named Jeanne-Claude. They married, and Jeanne-Claude became a collaborator and promoter as...
  • PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST

    These days so much attention is given to "emerging artists" that you'd think there was no other kind--and, at 34, Julie Mehretu (pronounced merit-two) isn't particularly precocious. But she's been in the Whitney Biennial, had a solo show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (possibly the best contemporary institution in the country) and seen one of her abstract paintings installed in the newly redone Museum of Modern Art.Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa of an Ethiopian father (now a geography professor in the United States) and a white American mother from Alabama. She was schooled in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Senegal, and now works and lives in a Harlem, N.Y., loft with her artist/partner who's about to give birth to their first child in May. She reads such heady material as the French situationist philosophers, and looks at Japanese comic books.Is all this what propels her large (up to 20 feet across), complex, swirlingly precise paintings? "Well, that's an obvious reading," Mehretu...
  • WOMAN OF MYSTERY

    His bio reads like a rock star's. A precocious talent, he never married because, he said, it would have hurt his career. But he moved his girlfriend in with him while he worked his last gig--then died at the age of 37 from a fever brought on, some said, by carnal excess. The great painter Raphael (1483-1520) was one of the big three of Italy's high Renaissance, along with Leonardo da Vinci (whose work he admired and studied closely) and Michelangelo (with whom he carried on a vigorous, if all too brief, competition to be the Vatican's favorite artist). He didn't seem, however, to have a superstar's attitude. The pope was his patron, and acquaintances described him as "sensible," "well mannered," "genial" and "sweet." On his deathbed, he bequeathed his mistress enough money to live "honorably" for the rest of her life. And he painted her portrait--one of the great paintings of all time, right up there with the "Mona Lisa"--as a final, loving tribute.At least that's how the legend...
  • DECKING THE WALLS

    The museum of modern art was always cramped. From the day it moved into its modernist building in midtown Manhattan in 1939, and later, after Philip Johnson and then Cesar Pelli designed additions, it never had enough room to show even the highlights of its collection--the greatest assemblage, by far, of modern painting and sculpture in the world. But starting this week--thanks largely to trustees who ponied up half a billion dollars--the museum may at last be able to breathe. Star architect Yoshio Taniguchi has given MoMA an ultramodernist "rebuilding" that kicks up the gallery space to a capacious 125,000 square feet (from 85,000). Even the new ticket price is supersized: $20 a head (with discounts for students and seniors). You'll be paying to get this question answered: how do MoMA's treasures look in their serenely handsome new home?The atrium--a soaring, light-flooded white space you encounter a few steps up from the lobby--embodies both the virtues and the drawbacks of MoMA...
  • CHAIRMAN MAU

    Bruce Mau is a quietly charismatic man of 45 who dresses in pajama-esque black, looks like a slightly svelter Orson Welles and talks as rapidly as a high-end computer salesman. Mau--yes, pronounced "Mao"--doesn't seem like a revolutionary. But he is: a design revolutionary who wants to obliterate our most cherished ideas about design itself--starting with the notion that what things look like is really important. His latest project, called (in Mauist fashion) "Massive Change," is a huge, stupefyingly eclectic multimedia exhibition on "the future of global design," consisting entirely of other people's work. Its slogan: "What will we do now that we can do anything?" (It's at the Vancouver Art Gallery in British Columbia through Jan. 3.) We're not talking cell phones you can shave with or solar-powered massage slippers, but visionary stuff like "nanotech military suits that heal wounds," aerogel (the lightest solid material yet made) and a replacement human nose growing in a beaker....
  • ART TOOLS OF DEMOCRACY

    Looking for some hard-to-find political fun? Here's the assignment given to some of New York's best architects and designers: take an infamous 2000 Florida voting booth and make it into a three-dimensional editorial cartoon. "The Voting Booth Project"(47 wickedly modified tools of democracy) is up at the Parsons School of Design through Nov. 15. Among the best are James Polshek's satirical slot machine and Robert A.M. Stern's booth festooned with rearview mirrors. David Byrne's and Danielle Spencer's two photographs of precinct workers sitting beside a giant booth too tall to reach and a tiny one too small to use is so smart, it's almost poignant. Our personal faves include Alexander Isley's "Palm Beach Playhouse" Bush-vs.-Gore Punch 'n' Judy show and the design firm R/GA's nasty little booth where the voter deposits the punched card into an attached shredder. A bit left-leaning, maybe. But after all, who could be funny waxing Republican?
  • GEORGIA ON OUR MINDS

    For most Americans with an interest in art, the monumentalized flowers and delicately breathtaking landscapes of Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) are modernist enough to be exciting and traditional enough to be credible. Her persona is equally compelling: the fiercely independent, no-man-needed woman in a long black dress, walking the canyons of New Mexico in search of the perfect bleached skull to paint. A few curmudgeons consider her work "The Bridges of Madison County" on canvas: high-toned at first glance, sentimental at bottom. But from the beginning, O'Keeffe was determined to find a style that was honest, pure and personal, and never to compromise it.Her early success was startling. By 1927 she was supporting herself entirely by painting; in the 1930s her pictures commanded the price equivalent of five automobiles. And she's still a star. "A Sense of Place," the current exhibit at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., shows a selection of her landscapes, along with 20...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: BOOKS

    The Coma by Alex GarlandThe story is simple, readable, desolate: Carl, an office worker taking the last train home, gets severely beaten by thugs. So his coma begins, on page seven. He spends the rest of the novel trying to break free from unconsciousness. The more Carl's mind struggles to return to life, the more it tricks him. He dreams he is awake when he is not. He searches his memories for a trigger--a childhood home or a lover--to help him snap out of it but finds only amnesia. "You wake, you die," says our comatose narrator. Garland, author of "The Beach" and the screenplay "28 Days Later," serves up his most accomplished work to date, a poetic riff on the vagaries of memory, trauma and dreams.The Dog Fighter by Marc BojanowskiWe know many telling details about the narrator in this darkly comic debut novel set in 1940s Mexico: he doesn't like to talk, his mother died when he was 14, he once hung a puppy from a tree and his grandfather prophesied that he would one day fight...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: BOOKS

    Skinny Dip by Carl HiaasenHiaasen's love-hate relationship with Florida (loves the place, hates what developers have done to it) has produced some of the best and certainly the funniest fiction ever written about the Sunshine State. And in Chaz Perrone, "Skinny Dip's" protagonist, Hiaasen has fashioned one of the great jerks of American literature. Chaz not only tries to kill his wife, Joey, he does it on an anniversary cruise, all because he thinks she's discovered that he's been falsifying water-quality standards in the Everglades. Unbeknownst to Chaz, Joey survives, thereby kick-starting the plot, which is an intricate, hilarious proof that hell hath no fury like a woman thrown off a cruise ship.Public Enemies by Bryan BurroughsAt the beginning of the Great Depression, much of the United States was still the Wild West: dirt roads, cracker-box banks and "murderous hillbillies" in search of cash--but now with faster cars and bigger guns than the cops had. Enter a fastidious control...
  • STANDING IN THE LINE OF FIRE

    "Ten big ones," Janet Evanovich's 10th and latest Stephanie Plum thriller, finds the Jersey-girl bounty hunter pursued by a hired killer. As usual, Stephanie relies on help from her semi-reformed hooker sidekick, Lula; her handsome cop boyfriend Joe Morelli, and the disturbingly seductive fellow bounty hunter "Ranger." And as usual, Plum must also contend with a wacky grandmother and a jeans-stretching appetite for doughnuts and Cheez Doodles.PETER PLAGENS: What impresses me most about you is what a good craftsman and people-pleaser you are. This novel is part whodunit and part action-adventure, with lots of absurdist, Elmore Leonard-type touches.JANET EVANOVICH: When I decided to leave romance novels, I wanted big success, not little success. I thought, "Give the audience something nobody else is giving it." So I took everything about romance novels that I did well--positive characters, sexual tension, humor--and squashed them into a mystery format. Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky...
  • THE BODY ELECTRIC

    Perfect living bodies will be in Athens this summer, working up a competitive sweat. But perfect marble, bronze and painted bodies can be found all over that other glorious classical city, Rome--not to mention much of the rest of Europe. Indeed, many of this summer's premier art offerings glorify the human image. NEWSWEEK takes you on a whirlwind tour:Begin with "Guercino: Poetry and Feeling in 17th Century Painting" (through June 30), a startling show of paintings from a versatile old master (madonnas, mythology, martyrs) who could portray the subtleties of human flesh with the best of them. And it's in one of those ad hoc venues that are de rigueur in Rome--in this case, a large gallery deep inside the sooty bustle of the main train station, called Ala Mazzoniana della Stazione Termini.If Guercino is too soft on the contours of the figure for your taste, a little jewel of a show (through June 29) called "Roman Panel Painting From Giotto to Cavallini" at the Capitoline Museum could...
  • ART'S 'STAR SEARCH'

    "I'm so nervous, I gave myself a rash," says Cory Arcangel, 26. Arcangel is a video and performance artist; in a week he's got to do the performance part of his gig in the Whitney Museum's just-opened Biennial exhibit of contemporary art. Meanwhile, he's also fretting as a technician tweaks the background blue in his video-projection piece, "Super Mario Clouds v2k3," a riff on the old videogame. With electronic art you never know when the machinery might conk out.But the real reason young artists like Arcangel are getting butterflies is that the Whitney Biennial, which runs through May 30, is their biggest stage yet: the buzz-heavy Manhattan museum's biannual survey of the alleged best of the latest stuff. There are 100-plus artists in the 2004 Biennial, almost half of them 35 or younger, all of them aware that gallery owners and collectors are on the prowl. For some artists, the Whitney pixie dust has worked. Painter Annette Lawrence, class of '97, who teaches at North Texas State,...
  • SHOW ME THE MONET

    The Elvises aren't really Elvis, and the Venetian is an impersonator. That's the whole point of Las Vegas: flashy faux surroundings for the rattle of roulette wheels and the snap of blackjack cards. Museum exhibitions of fine art, though, stand or fall on their genuineness. So what's the deal when a museum-type show with the red-velvet title "Claude Monet: Masterworks From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" turns up Jan. 30 (through Sept. 13) at the Bellagio Gallery on the Strip? Oh, the 21 Monets--spanning four decades of his painting, from a portrait of his wife and daughter to one of the late water-lily pictures--are genuine, all right. It's the deal behind the show that's pure Vegas.Back in 1998 gambling mogul and art collector Steve Wynn opened the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in his new casino of the same name. He stocked it with Renoirs, Matisses and Picassos largely from his private holdings (with the works technically for sale, for tax reasons) and charged $12 admission. An...
  • Brilliance Or Bust

    After stops in London and Chicago, the much-buzzed-about survey of John Currin's oil paintings is up at New York's Whitney Museum through Feb. 22. Currin's work ranges from ridiculously busty babes, to vain professors and gals of a certain age, to complex family scenes. In some quarters of the art world, the 41-year-old artist is regarded as a needed dose of painterly craftsmanship. In others, he's considered a sexist throwback. (The Village Voice urged a boycott of his first gallery show in 1992.) Currin is also articulate, witty and well versed in art history, and he can certainly hold his own with an art critic who prefers the 1930s realism of Reginald Marsh.PETER PLAGENS: I've got some positive things to say, and some negative ones.JOHN CURRIN: I usually tend to agree with the negative things--except when they're silly.You've gotten a kind of rep for being arrogant and saying you're the best.It's more provocative to say you're not the best because then you prompt the question of...
  • The Return Of The Natural

    It's pretty hard to decide which is more inspiring: the long-awaited Lee Bontecou retrospective exhibition at the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (though Jan. 11), or the movie-quality story of the 72-year-old artist herself. In the early 1960s, the blond, pixieish sculptor was a star, showing at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, where her stablemates included Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. Bontecou's reviews and "buzz" were every bit as good as theirs. A critic in the New York Post said that "her sculptures have the quality of having been born rather than made." Even the cranky and dogmatic minimalist artist Don Judd, writing in Arts magazine in 1965, had to admit Bontecou was "one of the best artists working anywhere."But something strange happened on the way to the pantheon. In 1967, Bontecou was led off to rural western Pennsylvania by the temptations--or, depending on which gossip you listen to, the demands--of life with artist...
  • Cityscapes: A Walking Tour

    Golden GatewayMost people fly in, but we recommend you set foot here at the Ferry Building at the bottom of Market Street. After a $100 million renovation, it's now a spacious, bustling artisanal California food-and-craft market. The building's 600-foot-long nave has been completely restored (with mosaic floors, terra-cotta arches and clerestory windows), as has the 245-foot clock tower.It took $1 billion and 200 architects to create the soaring, cantilevered, aluminum-and-clouded-glass International Terminal at San Francisco's airport. Enough fine art has been installed to make SFO the American Association of Museums' first fully accredited airport.Of course, you can't leave a city this beautiful without having a drink. We recommend the historic Clift Hotel and its Redwood Room, redesigned by--who else?--Philippe Starck. For the truly adventurous, there's Beau Timken's True Sake in fashionable Hayes Valley. No bamboo or rice paper, just sake. A couple of glasses and you'll leave...