[Paleopsych] NYT: Philip Johnson, Elder Statesman of U.S. Architecture, Dies at 98

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Philip Johnson, Elder Statesman  of U.S. Architecture, Dies at 98
January 26, 2005

[Was Johnson put into jail during WW II for sedition? I recall hearing 
that he was. A bunch of NYT pieces are appended, even one entitled, 
"American Culture's Debt to Gay Sons of Ha'va'd." Question: are homosexual 
and bisexual graduates from Ha'va'd any more prominent in American life 
than other graduates from Ha'va'd? In which parts of American life?]

    Philip Johnson, at once the elder statesman and the enfant terrible
    of American architecture, died yesterday at the Glass House, the
    celebrated estate he built for himself in New Canaan, Conn., said
    David Whitney, his companion of 45 years. He was 98 years old.

    Often considered the dean of American architects, Mr. Johnson was
    known less for his individual buildings than for the sheer force of
    his presence on the architectural scene, which he served as a
    combination godfather, gadfly, scholar, patron, critic, curator and
    cheerleader. His 90th birthday, in July 1996, was marked by
    symposiums, lectures, an outpouring of essays in his honor and
    back-to-back dinners at two venerable New York institutions he had
    played a major role in creating: the Museum of Modern Art, whose
    department of architecture and design he joined in 1930, and the Four
    Seasons Restaurant, which he designed as part of the Seagram Building
    in 1958.

    Mr. Johnson was the first winner of the Pritzker Prize, the $100,000
    award established in 1979 by the Pritzker family of Chicago to honor
    an architect of international stature. In 1978, he won the Gold Medal
    of the American Institute of Architects, the highest award the
    American architectural profession bestows on any of its members.

    His long career was a study in contradictions. For all his honors, Mr.
    Johnson was in some ways always an outsider in his profession. His own
    architecture received mixed reviews, and frequently startled both the
    public and his fellow architects. The style of his work changed
    frequently, and he was often accused of pandering to fashion and
    designing buildings that were facile and shallow.

    Yet he created several buildings, including the Glass House, the
    sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of
    Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, that are widely
    considered among the architectural masterworks of the 20th century,
    and for his entire career he maintained an involvement with
    architectural theory and ideas as deep as that of any scholar.

    As an architect, he made his mark arguing the importance of the
    esthetic side of architecture, and claimed that he had no interest in
    buildings except as works of art. Yet he was so eager to build that he
    willingly took commissions from real-estate developers who refused to
    meet his own esthetic standards, and liked to refer to himself, with
    only partial irony, as a whore. And in the 1930's, this man who
    believed that art ranked above all else took a bizarre and, he later
    conceded, deeply mistaken detour into right-wing politics, suspending
    his career to work on behalf of Huey Long and later Father Charles
    Coughlin, and expressing more than passing admiration for Adolf

    Mr. Johnson's foray into Fascism was over by the time the United
    States entered World War II, and two decades later he sought to make
    public atonement to Jews by designing a synagogue in Port Chester,
    N.Y., for no fee. But to the end of his life the contradictions
    continued. With his dignified bearing and elegant, tailored suits, he
    looked every bit the part of a distinguished, genteel aristocrat, but
    he played the celebrity culture of the 1980's and 90's as successfully
    as a rock star. He was far and away the best-known living architect to
    the public, and his crisply outlined, round face, marked by heavy,
    round black spectacles of his own design, was a common sight on
    television programs and magazine covers.

    With the exception of his brief involvement in right-wing politics,
    all of Philip Johnson's careers - historian, museum director and
    designer - revolved around architecture. He began his professional
    life as a writer, historian and curator and did not enter architecture
    school until he was 35. Even when he became one of the nation's most
    eminent practicing architects, he continued to be a major patron of
    institutions and of younger architects, whose work he followed with
    avid interest.

    He began his career as an ardent champion of Modernism, but unlike
    many of the movement's early proselytizers, he changed with the times,
    and his own work showed a major movement away from beginnings that
    were heavily influenced by the architect Mies van der Rohe. In the
    late 1950's, just after he had collaborated with Mies on the design of
    the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, he introduced elements of
    classical architecture into his buildings, beginning a long quest to
    find ways of connecting contemporary architecture to historical form.
    It was a quest that would begin with highly abstracted versions of
    classicism in the 1960's and culminate in a much more literal use of
    the architectural forms of the past in his revivalist skyscrapers of
    the 1980's.

    That phase of Mr. Johnson's career included such well-known monuments
    as the classically detailed pink granite AT& T Building (now the Sony
    Building) on Madison Avenue, which he completed in 1983 with John
    Burgee, then his partner; the Republic Bank Tower (now NCNB Center) in
    Houston, which used elements of Flemish Renaissance architecture; the
    Transco Tower in Houston, which recapitulated the setback forms of a
    romantic 1920's tower in glass, perhaps his finest skyscraper; and the
    PPG Center in Pittsburgh, a reflective glass tower whose Gothic form
    copied the shape of the tower of the Houses of Parliament in London.

    Institutional clients also got their share of Mr. Johnson's fixation
    with historical form: he designed a Romanesque structure in brick for
    the Cleveland Play House and a classical building based on the designs
    of the French visionary architect Étienne-Louis Boullée for the
    architecture school of the University of Houston.

    In the late 1980's Mr. Johnson's restless mind, having played a major
    role in shifting American architecture toward Postmodernism, with its
    re-use of traditional elements, moved on yet again. Fascinated by the
    intense, highly abstract work of a group of younger Modernist
    architects who were to become known as the Deconstructivists, Mr.
    Johnson began to incorporate elements of their architecture into his
    own work.

    He was particularly entranced with the buildings of the Los Angeles
    architect Frank Gehry, whose complex, seemingly irrational forms would
    appear to be the antithesis of the cool, rational, ordered
    architectural world of Mr. Johnson's first mentor, Mies, and much of
    his late work reflected Mr. Gehry's influence.

    Mr. Johnson, an urbane, elegant figure, was perhaps the best-known New
    York architect since Stanford White. Born to wealth, he and Mr.
    Whitney, a curator and art dealer, lived well - for many years in a
    town house on East 52nd Street that Mr. Johnson had originally
    designed as a guest house for John D. Rockefeller 3d, then in an
    elaborately decorated apartment in Museum Tower above the Museum of
    Modern Art - and always on weekends in the famous Glass House
    compound.Mr. Johnson had lunch daily amid other prominent and powerful
    New Yorkers at a special table in the corner of the Grill Room of the
    Four Seasons restaurant. His guest was as likely to be a young
    architect in whose work he had taken an interest, and for years his
    table functioned as a kind of miniature architectural salon.

    In the evenings, he was frequently seen at exclusive social events -
    for years by himself, and in the last decade, as he felt greater ease
    in making his relationship with Mr. Whitney public, with his
    companion. He was among the few architects whose comings and goings
    were considered worthy of notice in the gossip columns.

    He had been an active art collector since the days when, as a student
    traveling in Germany, he purchased a pair of Paul Klees directly from
    the artist. Eventually he came to be a busy collector of contemporary
    art: advised by Mr. Whitney, he filled his walls with paintings by Roy
    Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns when these artists were
    just gaining public attention, and he amassed one of the most complete
    collections of paintings by Frank Stella in private hands.

    Mr. Johnson not only lived and ate in places of his own design, he
    worked in them as well. Until 1986 his office was in the Seagram
    Building, the great skyscraper he designed with Mies, who was its
    principal architect. Mr. Johnson practiced alone there for some years,
    then collaborated with Richard Foster of Greenwich, Conn., for a time,
    and in 1967 formed a partnership with John Burgee.

    It was this partnership that transformed Mr. Johnson from a
    scholar-architect designing small to medium-size institutional
    buildings for well-to-do clients to a major force in American
    commercial architecture. Mr. Burgee's arrival coincided with the
    firm's movement toward a number of major and widely acclaimed
    skyscraper projects, including the I.D.S. Center in Minneapolis and
    Pennzoil Place in Houston. Mr. Johnson's own leanings were always
    toward the esthetic issues involved in design, and in Mr. Burgee he
    found a partner who could serve not only as a colleague in design but
    also as an executive overseeing the kind of large architectural office
    required to produce major skyscrapers.

    As if to mark Mr. Burgee's role, the Johnson-Burgee firm moved in 1986
    into the elliptical skyscraper at 885 Third Avenue, between 53rd and
    54th Streets, popularly known as the Lipstick Building, which the
    partners had designed together. But the partnership was not to last
    long beyond the move: Mr. Burgee, eager to occupy center stage,
    negotiated a more limited role for Mr. Johnson, and in 1991 exercised
    the prerogative he had as chief executive of the firm and eased Mr.
    Johnson out altogether.

    It proved an unwise decision, since the firm, crippled by an
    arbitration decision unrelated to Mr. Johnson, soon went into
    bankruptcy, all but ending Mr. Burgee's career. Mr. Johnson, his ties
    with his former firm having been severed, had no liability, and he
    went on to rent a smaller space in the Lipstick Building, gleefully
    hanging out his shingle and declaring himself in business as a solo
    practitioner at the age of 86. Before long, he had several
    commissions, including a cathedral in Dallas, and his career had
    recharged itself completely.

    Philip Cortelyou Johnson was born on July 8, 1906, in Cleveland, the
    son of Homer H. Johnson, a well-to-do lawyer, and Louise Pope Johnson.
    Supported by a fortune that consisted largely of Aluminum Company of
    America stock given him by his father, Mr. Johnson went to Harvard to
    study Greek, but became excited by architecture and spent the years
    immediately after his graduation in 1927 touring Europe and looking at
    the early buildings of the developing Modern architecture movement.

    He teamed up with Henry-Russell Hitchcock, at that time the movement's
    chief academic partisan in the United States, and their travels
    together resulted in their book "The International Style," published
    in 1932 and now a classic. "We have an architecture still," is how Mr.
    Johnson and Mr. Hitchcock concluded the book, which played a major
    role in introducing Americans to the work of European modernists
    ranging from Le Corbusier to Mies to Walter Gropius, then barely known

    In 1930, before "The International Style" was published, Mr. Johnson
    joined the department of architecture at a new institution in New
    York, the Museum of Modern Art. He moved the museum quickly to the
    forefront of the architectural avant-garde, sponsoring exhibitions on
    contemporary themes and arranging for visits by Gropius, Le Corbusier
    and Mies, for whom he also negotiated his first American commission.

    Mr. Johnson left the museum in 1936 to pursue his political agenda
    full-time, dividing his time between Berlin, Louisiana and his
    family's home in Ohio. By the summer of 1940, his infatuation with
    Fascist politics had faded, although as Franz Schulze, his biographer,
    wrote in 1994, it was never clear whether he withdrew because he
    changed his mind or because he had failed to achieve political
    success. "In politics he proved to be a model of futility," Mr.
    Schulze wrote.. "He was never much of a political threat to anyone,
    still less an effective doer of either political good or political

    In 1941, at the age of 35, Mr. Johnson turned once and for all to the
    field that would occupy him for the rest of his life, and enrolled at
    the Harvard Graduate School of Design to begin the process of becoming
    an architect.

    While at Harvard, Mr. Johnson did what few students, even those of
    great means, have been able to do - he actually built the project he
    designed as a thesis. It was a house in the style of Mies, its lot
    surrounded by a wall that merges into the structure, and it still
    stands at 9 Ash Street in Cambridge, Mass.

    After wartime service in the United States Army - although the Federal
    Bureau of Investigation had investigated Mr. Johnson for his Fascist
    leanings, the Government decided he was sufficiently repentant to wear
    the uniform - he returned in 1946 to the Museum of Modern Art. At the
    same time he began slowly to build up an architectural practice of his
    own, combining it with his career as a writer and curator.

    He designed a small, boxy house, also highly influenced by Mies, for a
    client in Sagaponack, L.I., in 1946, but his first significant
    building, and still perhaps his most famous, was not for an outside
    client at all but, like the Cambridge house, for his own use: it was
    the Glass House at New Canaan, completed in 1949 with its
    counterpoint, a brick guest house.

    The serene Glass House, a 56-foot by 32-foot rectangle, is generally
    considered one of the 20th century's greatest residential structures.
    Like all of Mr. Johnson's early work, it was inspired by Mies, but its
    pure symmetry, dark colors and closeness to the earth marked it as a
    personal statement, calm and ordered rather than sleek and brittle.

    Over the years, Mr. Johnson added to the Glass House property, turning
    it into a compound that became a veritable museum of his architecture,
    with buildings representing each phase of his career. A small, elegant
    white-columned pavilion by the lake was built in 1963; an art gallery,
    an underground building set into a hill, with pictures from Mr.
    Johnson's extensive collection of contemporary art set on movable
    panels, in 1965; the sculpture gallery of 1970, a sharply defined,
    irregular white structure covered with a greenhouse-like glass roof; a
    library of stucco with a rounded tower that from a distance looks like
    a miniature castle (1980); a concrete-block tower, as much a piece of
    sculpture as a building, dedicated to his lifelong friend Lincoln
    Kirstein, the writer and New York City Ballet founder(1985); a "ghost
    house" of chain-link fence, honoring Mr. Gehry, who often used this
    material (1985), and finally, what Mr. Johnson called "the Monsta," an
    irregularly-shaped building of deep red with sharply curving walls,
    finished in 1995.

    The "Monsta" - Mr. Johnson could not quite bring himself to call one
    of his buildings a monster, but he felt its shape resembled it - is
    set at the gate of the estate and was designed to serve as a visitors
    center once the public was admitted to the property after his death.
    (Although Mr. Johnson kept an office in New York, working part time
    there until a year ago, he and Mr. Whitney have spent most of their
    time at the Glass House in recent years.) The Glass House compound is
    willed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which plans to
    operate it as a museum.

    In addition to Mr. Whitney, Mr. Johnson is survived by a sister,
    Jeannette Dempsey of Cleveland, now 102.

    After the Glass House was completed in 1949, Mr. Johnson received
    other residential commissions, including a number of houses in New
    Canaan. His first work at very large scale, however, was the Seagram
    Building, designed in association with Mies, though Mr. Johnson
    himself did the elegant Four Seasons restaurant within. The deep
    bronze Seagram, completed in 1958, is considered by many critics to be
    the finest postwar skyscraper in New York.

    By that time, however, Mr. Johnson was already becoming impatient with
    the limitations of the strict, austere Miesian design vocabulary. He
    began to explore a more decorative sort of neo-Classicism, which led
    to such designs as the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth (1961), the
    New York State Theater at Lincoln Center (1964) and the Elmer Holmes
    Bobst Library at New York University, designed in 1965 but not
    completed until 1973.

    His work in that period led the architectural historian Vincent Scully
    to refer to him as "admirably lucid, unsentimental and abstract, with
    the most ruthlessly aristocratic, highly studied taste of anyone
    practicing in America today."

    "All that a nervous sensibility, lively intelligence and a stored mind
    can do, he does,"Mr. Scully said.

    Mr. Johnson's active art collecting brought him a nearly continuous
    stream of commissions to design museums, and his ties to the Museum of
    Modern Art brought him the request to design the museum's 1951 and
    1964 expansions beyond its original 1939 building, including the
    sculpture garden. He also designed the original Asia House gallery on
    East 64th Street, now the Russell Sage Foundation, as well as museums
    in Utica, N.Y., Fort Worth, Lincoln, Neb., and Corpus Christi, Tex.

    Despite his record as a museum designer and his long association with
    the Modern, the museum's board, of which Mr. Johnson was a member,
    decided in 1978 to hire a different architect to design its new West
    Wing. The job went to Cesar Pelli, and Mr. Johnson was deeply hurt.

    For some time, relations cooled between him and the museum he had
    supported nearly since its founding, but eventually they resumed, and
    Mr. Johnson and Mr. Whitney moved into the apartment tower above the
    museum designed by Mr. Pelli. In 1984, as a tribute to Mr. Johnson as
    its founding curator, the museum's department of architecture and
    design named its exhibition space the Philip Johnson Gallery. And the
    museum marked Mr. Johnson's 90th birthday with a pair of exhibitions:
    one of notable works of art that the architect had donated to the
    museum, and another of works given by architects in Mr. Johnson's

    The beginnings of Mr. Johnson's late career as a major commercial
    architect were not in New York, however, but in Minneapolis, through
    an immense project in 1972 for Investors Diversified Services, a
    financial conglomerate that has since become part of American Express.
    A square-block complex containing a 51-story glass tower roughly
    shaped like an octagon, a hotel and a retail wing placed around a
    central glass-covered court, the design blended Mr. Johnson's interest
    in angular forms with a sensitive urbanism. It quickly became a focal
    point for downtown Minneapolis, and was the first of a generation of
    what might be called social skyscrapers, towers that did not merely
    house office workers but contained a myriad of public spaces as well.

    Among the many observers who were impressed by the I.D.S. tower was
    Gerald D. Hines of Houston, a real estate developer who had begun his
    career as a builder of warehouses but by the early 1970's had sought
    to make a new mark as the developer of much larger buildings by
    prominent architects. Mr. Hines hired Mr. Johnson and Mr. Burgee to
    design Pennzoil Place, a twin-towered complex of glass in downtown
    Houston that was completed in 1973. One of the most widely known
    skyscrapers in the country, Pennzoil Place consists of two trapezoidal
    towers placed so as to leave two triangular areas open on the site.
    These areas were covered with steel and glass trusses to create
    greenhouse-like lobbies; as a further formal gesture, each tower was
    given a slanted roof for the top seven floors.

    Pennzoil Place would prove widely influential, but five years later
    Mr. Johnson and Mr. Burgee moved away from it with the design for one
    of the most startling skyscrapers of the last generation, the AT& T
    (now Sony) headquarters in New York, the so-called "Chippendale
    skyscraper" of granite with a split pediment resembling an antique

    During the 1980's Mr. Johnson and Mr. Burgee also designed major
    skyscrapers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas,
    most of which, following the lead of the AT& . Building, were lavishly
    finished in granite and marble and imitated some aspect of the
    architecture of the past.

    Mr. Johnson also designed the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove,
    Calif., and the Museum of Television and Radio on West 52d Street in
    New York, and with Mr. Burgee produced plans through the 1980's for
    office towers for Times Square. Widely criticized, they have yet to be
    built. On his own, since the dissolution of his partnership with Mr.
    Burgee, he produced several projects for Donald J. Trump, including
    the glass tower at 1 Central Park West and projects for the Riverside
    South residential development; plans for a cathedral for a gay
    congregation in Dallas; and an office building for Berlin.

    Although he gave up formal scholarship when he became an architect,
    Mr. Johnson continued to write and lecture frequently. He constant
    theme, unchanged through all his stylistic variations, was his belief
    in the need to view architecture as an art - something that separated
    him, in fact, from the socially minded early Modernists whose cause he
    once championed so ardently.

    In a famous lecture in 1954 at Harvard titled "The Seven Crutches of
    Modern Architecture," he said, "Merely that a building works is not
    sufficient." Later, in an oft-quoted remark, he said, "I would rather
    sleep in Chartres Cathedral with the nearest toilet two blocks away
    than in a Harvard house with back-to-back bathrooms."

    Years later, Mr. Johnson told an audience, "We still have a monumental
    architecture. To me, the drive for monumentality is as inbred as the
    desire for food and sex, regardless of how we denigrate it."

    But he ended by arguing: "Monuments differ in different periods. Each
    age has its own.

    "Maybe, just maybe, we shall at last come to care for the most
    important, most challenging, surely the most satisfying of all
    architectural creations: building cities for people to live in."


An Appreciation | Philip Johnson: A Tastemaker Propelled by Curiosity


    At the height of his power, Philip Johnson's tentacles seemed to
    reach into every corner of his profession. As the founding director of
    the Museum of Modern Art's department of architecture and design, he
    almost single-handedly introduced American audiences to European
    Modernist buildings; he was a tireless promoter of emerging
    architectural talents, from Mies van der Rohe to Frank Gehry. And
    although he often played down his creative talent, he produced a
    number of 20th-century landmarks in his long, eclectic career, among
    them the 1949 Glass House, rightly considered a masterpiece of
    American design.

    Yet his greatest talent of all may have been his unquenchable
    curiosity, which prevented him, and by extension, his audience, from
    becoming mired in any specific architectural style or movement.

    In architectural terms, Mr. Johnson's output was uneven. His most
    memorable works are almost without exception his most intimately
    scaled, and they evoke a remarkable range of references that with
    hindsight, imbues them with unexpected subtlety. The Glass House in
    New Canaan, Conn., for example, was famously inspired by Mies's
    earlier design for the Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., but its sleek
    Modernist appearance and slender brick base also suggested a
    traditional home with its skin stripped off.

    That catholic sensibility was also evident in his 1950 design for
    Dominique and John de Menil's residence in Houston, whose blank brick
    facade masked a more transparent interior that opened onto flowing
    gardens, echoing, in its small way, the Janus-like vision of
    precedents like the 17th-century French estate Vaux le Vicomte.

    But what most separates his work from more austere influences like
    Mies is its thinly veiled hedonism. The beauty of the Glass House, for
    example, arises from the quality of the glass, which is less about
    transparency than about the creation of a subtle interplay of visual
    images, from reflections of the surrounding trees to the movement of
    bodies inside. Similarly, the polished interiors he designed for the
    Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan, with beaded steel curtains that
    conjure up a woman's slip, make it one of the sexiest rooms in the
    city 45 years after its completion.

    That bias toward aesthetics over social issues had been clear since
    his 1932 "International Style" show at the Modern, which he organized
    at the age of 26 with Henry-Russell Hitchcock. The show, which
    celebrated the work of such pillars of early Modernism as Mies, Le
    Corbusier and J. J. P. Oud, electrified an audience that was
    unfamiliar with Modernist achievements in Europe. But its relentless
    focus on form tended to overlook the deeper social goals that inspired
    such architecture. While Mr. Johnson may have made such work palatable
    to the American cultural elite, he also emptied it of some of its

    Nonetheless, that narrow devotion to aesthetics may also have been
    what allowed Mr. Johnson, in his later career, to slip so easily from
    one architectural style to the next. When the glow of late Modernism
    began to fade sometime in the early 1970's, Mr. Johnson was one of the
    first to abandon that vision in favor of postmodernism, a movement
    that he helped spawn and that eventually landed him on the cover of
    Time, clutching a model of his AT&T tower with its granite Chippendale

    A decade later, Johnson was exploring the more fragmented forms of
    architects like Frank Gehry, which led to a short-lived collaboration
    on an unbuilt guest house for the insurance magnate Peter B. Lewis.
    His forays into so-called deconstructivism yielded the canted walls
    and curved shapes of a visitors center at his estate in New Canaan.

    Mr. Johnson's fickleness often led to accusations that he was more an
    arbiter of architectural tastes than a creative groundbreaker. And in
    truth, few of his buildings from the 1970's and 80's could be
    considered distinguished. Most - banal corporate towers done on the
    cheap - seemed a winking testament to his famous quip that all
    architects are whores.

    Yet there were exceptions. The angular glass surfaces of his 1976
    Pennzoil Place, for example, frame a thin sliver of sky that gives a
    palpable tension to what are otherwise a pair of conventional
    corporate towers. His Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.,
    completed in 1980, is a mesmerizing composition of faceted glass

    And in many ways, Mr. Johnson's restlessness may have been his
    greatest asset: not so much as an architect as in his effect on the
    culture of architecture. During his long reign, no one was a more
    eloquent advocate for architecture, and few were more open to new
    ideas. Nor has any American architect been more indefatigable in
    promoting new talents, many benefiting from his patronage.

    Mr. Johnson accomplished much of this through his position at the
    Modern, where he continued to curate shows until he was into his 80's.
    The 1988 show on deconstructivism, which he organized with Mark
    Wigley, may not have had the impact of his earlier successes, but it
    underlined Mr. Johnson's zest for exploring contemporary architectural
    ideas at an age when most would be content to play the role of
    dignified figurehead.

    His connection to the Modern was only the most visible aspect of his
    stature as architectural tastemaker, a position enhanced by his
    aristocratic charm and social connections. It was Mr. Johnson, for
    instance, who famously introduced Mies to the Seagram heiress Phyllis
    Lambert in the early 1950's; soon afterward she commissioned Mies and
    Mr. Johnson to design the landmark Seagram Building. Later, he was an
    ardent supporter of emerging talents then like Peter Eisenman and Mr.
    Gehry. His dinners at the Century club, meanwhile, were coveted as a
    means of entree into the tight-knit world of New York high culture,
    the kind of circles that guaranteed large-scale, high-profile

    Conversely, the architects he ignored sometimes felt as though the
    power he wielded could be devastating. But Mr. Johnson felt free to
    follow talent and ideas wherever they led him. That blazing openness
    to the new - that ease in gliding from style to style, from one milieu
    to another - seems virtually impossible to replace.
New Life and New Mission for a 1964 World's Fair Relic
July 17, 2004


    Philip Johnson's steel and concrete fantasia in Flushing
    Meadows-Corona Park, designed as the New York State Pavilion for the
    1964-65 World's Fair, has been crumbling for decades. Now it is
    finally getting some attention.

    Adrian Benepe, New York City's parks commissioner, said his department
    had begun soliciting ideas from groups interested in renovating the
    pavilion. If there are enough expressions of interest, he said, the
    department will issue a formal request for proposals.

    At the same time, the Queens Theater in the Park which produces
    performances geared to the borough's immigrant communities is planning
    to build an 8,000-square-foot addition to its space, a small section
    of the pavilion that was called the Theaterama during the World's
    Fair. That section has been maintained while the rest of the pavilion,
    including the huge "Tent of Tomorrow" and cluster of round observation
    towers, continues to fall apart.

    The addition will consist of a 75-seat cabaret and a new entry hall
    with an inverted-dome ceiling, a shape that one of its architects,
    Sara Caples of Caples Jefferson, said would recall the "va-voom
    architecture" of Johnson's pavilion. The city has allocated $5.2
    million for the addition and hopes to break ground this fall, the
    cultural affairs commissioner, Kate D. Levin, said. The opening is
    planned for late next year.

    When completed, Ms. Caples said, the new entry hall will join the
    original Theaterama, the observation towers, and the tent to be "a
    fourth geometric figure in this wonderful composition of Philip

    But the shiny new addition will also call attention to the blighted
    condition of the tent, which appears to be on the verge of collapse.
    Sixteen 100-foot-high concrete towers once supported a multicolored
    canopy above a football field-size map of New York State. The canopy
    is gone, and the map is now a forest of weeds that have cracked the
    state's 62 counties.

    As recently as 2001, the city's parks commissioner at the time, Henry
    J. Stern, said he thought the tent structure was useless and should be
    torn down.

    But Mr. Benepe said the pavilion as a whole was worth preserving
    because it is a remnant of the fair and was designed by "an important

    Mr. Johnson, who turned 98 last week, was not available for comment
    and has not seen the plans for the theater addition, said his design
    partner, Alan Ritchie. But Mr. Johnson once said that he cringed every
    time he passed the crumbling pavilion on the way to the airport.

    One group, Mr. Benepe said, has proposed creating a New York City
    sports hall of fame at the pavilion. Another, which includes the
    Manhattan architect Frankie Campione, has proposed turning it into an
    aerospace museum. Mr. Campione said he was concerned that the theater
    addition would detract from Mr. Johnson's composition. Worse, he said,
    construction could damage the existing building, which, because it was
    not intended to be permanent, was constructed on wooden pilings.

    But Ms. Caples said that her team, which includes Lee/Timchula
    Architects of Manhattan and the structural engineer Stanley Goldstein,
    was aware of the wooden pilings and had performed what she called
    "obsessive" engineering studies to make sure the pavilion did not
    topple as a result of the construction.

    The proposed theater addition is only one of several significant
    building projects in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. A radical
    alteration to the Queens Museum, by the Los Angeles architect Eric
    Owen Moss, is in the planning stages. And a 55,000-square-foot
    addition to the Hall of Science, by Polshek Partnership Architects of
    Manhattan, is nearing completion.

    Ms. Caples said she believed that she and her partner, Everardo
    Jefferson, were respecting the Johnson building by adding to it.
    "Repurposing cultural buildings and bringing them into our time," she
    said, "is a stronger way of keeping these beloved institutions part of
    the life of the city than letting them fall into disuse."
Minimalist Oases in a Bustling Manhattan
April 23, 2004


    TAKING a Minimalist art tour in a maximalist city like New York is
    not easy.

    In many ways, it's the polar opposite of going to Marfa, the tiny West
    Texas town where the artist Donald Judd bought a defunct Army base in
    the late 1970's and created a sprawling mecca of Minimalism. Getting
    to Marfa is difficult, but once you're there, everything else is
    simple. Little comes between you and the art, except the light and the
    view of uninterrupted high desert through the windows, which was
    Judd's almost monastic intention. It's like going to a museum on the

    New York City is, of course, a much more populous planet.

    And its citizens have not always been so friendly toward Minimalism,
    which still poses difficult questions about the purpose and
    definitions of art. Remember that in 1989, Richard Serra's rusty steel
    "Tilted Arc" was hauled away from the plaza in front of the Jacob K.
    Javits Federal Building in Lower Manhattan, after years of complaints
    from the building's workers.

    So when a group of curators and artists at the Guggenheim Museum
    recently proposed a tour in which they would present the city through
    the eyes of Minimalism and demonstrate how much the movement's
    precepts have already shaped the everyday fabric of New York I signed
    on as a curious art tourist with a notebook.

    The ramps at the Guggenheim are now completely filled, or sometimes
    purposely not filled, with Minimalist art, as part of "Singular Forms
    (Sometimes Repeated): Art From 1951 to the Present." The pieces,
    selected mostly from the museum's permanent collection, highlight the
    work of artists like Judd, Mr. Serra, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre,
    Ellsworth Kelly, Bruce Nauman and younger artists who have absorbed
    and transformed Minimalist and post-Minimalist ideas, like Rachel
    Whiteread and Liam Gillick.

    The tour started at the museum early one morning, with the show's two
    curators, Nancy Spector and Lisa Dennison, leading the way, along with
    Ms. Spector's husband, the architect Michael Gabellini, who designed
    the exhibition's installation, and Mr. Gillick, a young British artist
    whose work often investigates the relationship between architecture
    and art.

    The basic idea was to use the museum as a kind of lodestone and then
    over the rest of the day to search the city for traces, echoes and
    mutations of what we had seen there. Looking at people who are looking
    at Minimalist art is always fun, of course, and as visitors began to
    fill the Guggenheim's curving ramps you could almost see many of them
    becoming self-conscious as they stared at stark works like Robert
    Rauschenberg's 1951 "White Painting," an all-white canvas that relies
    on the shadows of the viewer for part of its effect.

    For some people staring at the painting, the induced
    self-consciousness an important element of much Minimalism seemed to
    be insulting or disorienting, and they laughed or shook their heads.
    ("It's a good thing we have some Impressionism on the second floor,"
    joked Anthony Calnek, a spokesman for the museum.) But as our tour
    group left the cloister of the museum and plunged into the chaos of
    the city, the idea of self-consciousness became an important one to
    follow. New York, with its avalanches of billboards and advertisements
    and lavish store windows, often seems like a giant distraction
    machine. Every piece of the landscape seems designed to make you think
    about something or someplace else besides what you are looking at the
    tropical island where you need to relax, the pretzel you need to eat,
    the shoes you need to buy, the swimsuit on the model, the model

    Minimalist artists like Flavin and Judd (who hated the term
    Minimalism) wanted to create art that did not make you think about
    other things, like the subject of a painting or a sculpture, but about
    the artwork itself, and the space around it, and about your looking at

    "It's become our form of modern classicism," Ms. Spector said. And in
    a city as exhausting as New York, which is always trying to pull you
    out of yourself, experiencing this sounded to me like an almost
    religious experience, an aesthetic oasis.

    Arriving at this state of Minimalist Zen, however, would require a lot
    of driving. So we all piled into a van in front of the museum. It felt
    a little like the scene in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters," in
    which Sam Waterston, playing an architect, gives Dianne Wiest and
    Carrie Fisher a car tour of his favorite Manhattan buildings. Except
    in this case, there were seven of us, along with Ms. Spector's and Mr.
    Gabellini's 3-month-old daughter, Chiara, in her own state of Zen, and
    the driver, who never quite understood the point of our tour, but
    didn't care as long as he could hear our directions.

    A Recurring Theme

    The grid is a recurring visual theme in Minimalism, and no sooner had
    we left the museum than we were imprisoned in one, somewhere on Park
    Avenue, gridlocked. (Mr. Gillick, with a lot of time to look out the
    van's window, remarked that the city's smoking ban had been good for
    architecture appreciation. "Look at all those people standing outside,
    staring at buildings," he said.)

    Finally, we reached our first stop, or stops: the Seagram Building at
    53rd Street and Park, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip
    Johnson in 1958, and Lever House, just up the avenue between 53rd and
    54th Streets, designed by Gordon Bunshaft at Skidmore, Owings &
    Merrill in 1952. Both buildings predate the Minimalist art movement as
    such, but they were revolutionary precursors of Minimalism's
    intentions and practices reducing, stripping off the unnecessary,
    revealing the structural bones.

    Mies wrote that for most buildings, "when the outer walls are put in
    place, the structural system, which is the basis of all artistic
    design, is hidden by a chaos of meaningless and trivial forms."

    His bronze-and-glass Seagram building now a city landmark, along with
    Lever House is certainly devoid of trivia. Even the lines of the
    ceiling panels that you can glimpse through the glass are in lock step
    with the building's unbroken exterior lines. It is a place where "the
    structure, really, is the expression of the building," Mr. Gabellini
    said, adding, "With Mies you knew the kind of suit he was wearing, and
    it was always a very formal one."

    In a city of jumbled and often jammed-together architectural styles,
    the two buildings still have an almost puritanical effect today. Mr.
    Gabellini, who designed the Guggenheim's show by rethinking the
    museum's lighting and many of the surfaces inside, noted how the
    Seagram Building stands back from the avenue on its roomy plaza,
    making you aware of the space it occupies in a way the other buildings
    around it don't. And while other tall buildings push up like
    stalagmites, essentially extensions of Manhattan's bedrock, Lever
    House instead seems to float on its horizontal slab, breaking the
    city's vertical monotony.

    The next stop was also architectural, but of a different sort. It was
    the Jil Sander store on 57th Street near Fifth Avenue, designed by Mr.
    Gabellini, who explained how much he had been influenced by Minimalist
    artists, especially those who deal with light, like Doug Wheeler,
    whose work at the Guggenheim is a large, serene room in which a
    blue-white light emanates from the corners of one wall.

    The same effect could be seen in the spare Jil Sander clothing store,
    where light emerges from unseen places near the corners of one wall.
    The strong influence of Judd could also be seen. Isolated metal
    shelves jutting from the walls were reminiscent of the rows or stacks
    of wall boxes that Judd made, often from brass or aluminum. In fact, a
    metal display case in the store looked much like the aluminum Judd
    boxes on display in Marfa. Except that the box in the store displayed
    atop it a very pricey Jil Sander blue purse, reminding you that these
    days, Minimalism is the language lots of New York boutiques speak to
    say "expensive."

    The stop at the store was quick because Ms. Dennison had warned us
    upon entering, "There is a very real danger that I will start to shop,
    so we'd better be brief."

    Next it was across town to a much bigger and more crowded nexus of
    architecture and commerce the new Time Warner Center at Columbus
    Circle to see the artist James Carpenter's towering cable-net glass
    wall, the largest such glass wall in the world. It takes the
    reductionist mantra even further: crystal-clear glass interrupted only
    by the requisite number of stainless-steel cables needed to keep it
    together. It is a window that is barely there, as much for looking
    into the building as for looking out, reminding me of Gerhard
    Richter's plain glass window panes, which we had just seen in the
    Guggenheim show, and especially of a 1972 work by Lawrence Weiner that
    uses no materials at all, unless you count ink. It's simply words on a
    wall saying, "To See and Be Seen."

    The last stop before lunch finally took us off the commerce trail and
    closer to art for art's sake again. We drove to Trisha Brown's new
    dance studio complex on West 55th Street, where she moved in 2001.
    While the 16,000-square-foot studio itself stripped-down loftlike
    space, painted white, with movable walls and basic lighting is minimal
    enough, the point was to talk with Ms. Brown, who in her early years,
    especially, was very influenced by Minimalist artists and, in turn,
    influenced them. The stop was particularly appropriate in such a tour
    of the city because Ms. Brown's earliest work rejected conventional
    stages altogether and often put dancers atop roofs in SoHo or in a
    harness, scaling the walls of a Lower Manhattan warehouse.

    She has collaborated frequently with Mr. Rauschenberg and also with
    Judd, whom she recalled once sitting in a chair and watching her
    dancers as a pained expression spread across his face. "He said,
    `Trisha, they keep moving,' " she said. "He didn't know how to deal
    with that."

    Echoing a theme that the tour had emphasized over and over, Ms. Brown
    said she was extremely happy with the new dance space on a street
    filled with trucks and warehouses between 11th and 12th Avenues
    because it reduced distractions.

    "I've made very good work here in part because I think it just is what
    it is, a very clean, basic empty space," she said, adding later that
    there was "nothing here to gobble up your eye." (She said that she was
    also glad that it was in a former garage because, as a girl, she had
    attended her first dance classes in a garage in Aberdeen, Wash. "It's
    sort of like parentheses on my life," she said.)

    By this point, art had made us so hungry that we almost abandoned
    Minimalism and veered off to a Greek diner on 10th Avenue. But we
    remained disciplined, stayed the course and ended up on a slow slog
    down to TriBeCa and 66, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's pared-down palace
    of Shanghai food, which was designed by the architect Richard Meier as
    a kind of "2001: A Space Odyssey" version of China.

    After so many hours of looking at the city through Minimalist goggles,
    I was beginning to see it everywhere. It was easy in the restaurant,
    of course, which one amateur food critic described on the Web as "a
    Zen dim sum commune," but on the ride down, I had also been noticing
    many things differently. A pipe leaning against a building reminded me
    of Mr. Serra's "Close Pin Prop" at the museum, which is essentially a
    sculpture made with a leaning pipe. The huge metal plates that cover
    construction holes in the street were reminiscent of Mr. Andre's
    famous hot-rolled steel plates, arranged on the floor of the museum.
    And later, when we dropped by the sleek Apple Store in SoHo, an iPod
    display in the window with three colored light columns looked just
    like a Flavin fluorescent work.

    Mr. Gillick, who described himself as distrustful of categories in the
    art world, says he also has Minimalist moments in many places in the
    city you might not expect. Like Penn Station. Or around the United
    Nations, where he has an apartment. He also says that he finds the
    empty space where Mr. Serra's sculpture once sat in front of the
    Javits Federal Building to be powerful in its own right because of the
    ghostly memory of the sculpture.

    In the Guggenheim show, Mr. Gillick chose to hang "Trajectory
    Platform," one of his own works, which resembles a dropped ceiling
    panel with stripes of red in it, in an anonymous corner, near a door
    to a staff room. "I wanted a place that I thought of as semi-ambiguous
    architecture," he said, "a place that kind of plays with your

    A Judd Building

    The last major stop on our tour was that kind of place, too, but only
    because of its interaction with a city that never stays still. It was
    a building on Spring Street in SoHo that Judd, who died in 1994, owned
    and used as a home and studio.

    Surrounded now by expensive perfume shops and shoe stores, and almost
    abandoned by other galleries, it can take a viewer by surprise.
    Through smudged windows, you can see an open first floor, with some of
    Flavin's fluorescent tubes glowing against the wall, Judd's boxes
    nearby and a plain roll-top desk and chair near the back of the room.
    Someone who didn't know the building's history might mistake it for a
    bankrupt store that hadn't yet moved out all of the lights and display

    But inside it is a kind of monastery of Judd's ideas and the tenets of
    Minimalism, and undoubtedly a great way to end the tour, solemnly,
    almost silently, finally shutting the city out again.

    This cast-iron building, a former garment factory, has five large
    floors, almost all left completely open, displaying works by Claes
    Oldenburg, Frank Stella, John Chamberlain and Duchamp. On the second
    floor is a spare living and dining area. The third floor was Judd's
    studio, with a drafting table that still has a fold-out ruler, metal
    triangles and pieces of drawing paper atop it.

    The fourth floor was intended as a formal dining room, but in theory
    only. In practice, almost no one ate there, said Peter Ballantine, a
    longtime Judd collaborator who conducts appointment-only tours of the
    building. Instead, it allowed Judd to make dining-room things like
    tables and a cabinet for storing dishes. The fifth floor is a bedroom,
    with a mattress barely raised from the floor on a wooden platform, and
    very Quaker-like cubicle rooms designed for Judd's son and daughter.

    The most telling floor, however, is the first, which was Judd's studio
    before he had to abandon it, convert it to a gallery and flee
    upstairs. Why did he have to retreat?

    Mr. Ballantine said that too many people started knocking on the
    windows to say hello to Judd, and that he couldn't stand it anymore
    too many distractions in a city that has always been too full of them.

    Mr. Ballantine shrugged. "He became too famous, and SoHo became SoHo,"
    he said. "What could he do?"

Residential Real Estate: Cold Call Leads to Philip Johnson Project on East 
November 21, 2003



    It is safe to assume that few designs for luxury high rises start
    with a cold call, but that is how Roy Stillman and Martin Levine,
    developers of a new 32-story condominium at East 90th Street and Third
    Avenue, first reached Philip Johnson and his partner, Alan Ritchie.

    Shortly after Mr. Stillman and Mr. Levine acquired the
    8,017-square-foot site, at 181 East 90th Street and occupying half a
    block on Third Avenue, they decided to call the 97-year-old Mr.
    Johnson, dialing information to get his phone number.

    "It took us two calls, but we got through to him and heard an old,
    frail voice on the phone," Mr. Stillman recalled. " `Mr. Johnson,' we
    asked, `is that you?' " Indeed it was.

    Persuading the architects to undertake the project was not even a
    tough sell. "I had never met them," Mr. Ritchie said, "but their
    enthusiasm and concern for architecture rather than just being
    developers whetted our appetite. Hearing architecture discussed early
    on in a project that is not a museum or church, I said to Mr. Johnson
    that we should get to know them."

    Although Mr. Johnson is increasingly fragile, Mr. Ritchie said, "he
    was involved in the early stages and continued to be informed about
    what was going on."

    The architects were not starting from scratch. The site had been
    assembled, and since it was to be developed within zoning regulations
    for the area, the project needed no special approvals. The air rights
    that would allow the developers to transfer unused height
    authorizations from other buildings had been bought from their owners.

    The shape of the building, called the Metropolitan, had been worked
    out by the firm of Schuman Lichtenstein Claman Efron Architects, which
    designed the apartment interiors. "When they came to us, they already
    had the zoning and massing of the building approved, but we created
    the facade and changed some shapes," Mr. Ritchie said. "We also had
    control of the interior public spaces, lobby, corridors and

    Among the building's more distinctive characteristics is the way it
    cantilevers 21 feet over one adjoining building on East 90th Street
    and 15 feet over another that extends along Third Avenue to 91st
    Street. Because zoning restrictions require a setback at 60 to 80 feet
    high and that half the structure be below 150 feet high, "we decided
    to build fat instead of tall," Mr. Stillman said.

    Fat and curvy, in fact. In addition to the cantilevers, which hover
    over but do not touch the neighboring structures, the building has
    seven semicircular bays where glass-enclosed living rooms are set.

    But the interiors came first, Mr. Levine said. "We always knew that
    this was a family neighborhood, and we needed family-size apartments,"
    he said.

    Mr. Claman, whose firm was the architect of record, said, "We
    determined that these apartments would be like prewar units, with
    large foyers and rooms larger than what can be found in the rental
    market. The two-bedrooms here are in excess of 1,250 square feet,
    compared to new rental buildings we are doing that are approximately
    950 square feet. So they are about 30 percent bigger."

    One-bedroom apartments of 1,255 square feet are $750,000 to $925,000.
    Two-bedroom units of 1,423 to 2,077 square feet are $1.1 million to
    $1.950 million; three-bedrooms, at 1,948 to 2,319 square feet, are
    $1.930 million to $3.7 million; and four-bedrooms, all of them 2,234
    square feet, are $2.295 million to $2.475 million. There are also
    three terraced penthouses, which are $4.7 million and $7.5 million,

    The $120 million project is the first collaboration between Mr.
    Stillman and Mr. Levine.

    In addition to the de rigueur touches for condos commanding these
    kinds of prices, like marble bathrooms and sophisticated
    telecommunications systems, the building has some unusual touches.
    Kitchen cabinets are by the craftsman Wendell Castle.

    The master bath is a tub within a tub that permits the water to
    overflow, pass through a filter and recirculate. "And look at this,"
    Mr. Stillman said proudly, slamming his shoe into a glass cabinet. It
    made not the slightest crack.

American Culture's Debt to Gay Sons of Harvard
May 29, 2003


    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. George Santayana, F. O. Matthiessen, Lincoln
    Kirstein, Leonard Bernstein, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Philip
    Johnson: all of them Harvard men professors and students and all of
    them gay or bisexual. But is that news?

    "The fact that, individually, they were gay is not news," said
    Douglass Shand-Tucci, the author of "The Crimson Letter: Harvard,
    Homosexuality and the Shaping of American Culture," recently published
    by St. Martin's Press. "But the Harvard gay experience is more
    important in the shaping of American culture, because, in so many
    ways, Harvard is more important."

    Harvard being Harvard, one could make a list of prominent people with
    ties to the university in almost any category alumni from Cincinnati,
    say, or Jews, or blacks. Still, Mr. Shand-Tucci says there is an
    important untold story about the singular environment Harvard provided
    for gays and how it shaped their later contributions to American

    Harvard, of course, has viciously discriminated against gays in the
    past. Last year a writer for The Harvard Crimson discovered records
    from 1920 of a secret university court that had persecuted
    homosexuals, apparently driving two to suicide. But Mr. Shand-Tucci
    argues that despite harassment, Harvard's atmosphere was also
    creatively and intellectually fertile for gays.

    The biggest factor in the evolution of Harvard's gay culture, Mr.
    Shand-Tucci said, was the university's proximity to Boston, which was
    the nation's intellectual capital at least until the turn of the 20th
    century. Gay Harvard men had access to the city's rich cultural and
    intellectual life. New Haven, he said, was a provincial town, Yale's
    presence notwithstanding; Princeton was deliberately built away from
    big-city temptation. But Boston also had a liberal tradition and
    thriving Bohemian culture, "a synonym for gayness," Mr. Shand-Tucci
    said, with many bars and venues where gay men met.

    Another aspect of Harvard that nourished gay culture, Mr. Shand-Tucci
    said, was the Socratic tutorial, which can lead, as it did at Oxford
    and Cambridge, to intense teacher-student relationships.

    Mr. Shand-Tucci, Harvard '72, was interviewed amid the paneled walls,
    oil paintings and tasseled curtains of the Harvard Faculty Club. With
    his tweedy dress he could be a professor. But he has a mischievous
    air. "There are two Douglasses," he said. "One respectable. One not."
    He admits to being "50-something," and says he suffers from
    "unrequited love" for another man.

    He speaks in the drawl of a Boston Brahmin, which he almost is. He was
    raised in "genteel poverty," he said. His father, John, was
    Italian-American, Harvard '32, a prominent anesthesiologist. His
    mother, Geraldine, a social worker, was Scotch and German. They
    divorced when Mr. Shand-Tucci was 10, and the family's mansion was
    divided into a rooming house. Today, the relics of his patrimony
    portraits, faded rugs, old furniture are crammed into his studio

    He came to his history of gay Harvard by way of his 1998 book "The Art
    of Scandal: The Life and Times of Isabella Stewart Gardner," about the
    19th-century art collector. "She and Santayana were the presiding
    geniuses of gay Harvard," he said. He is also author of "Boston
    Bohemia, 1881-1900," a biography of the architect Ralph Adams Cram,
    and of the official Harvard Campus Guide.

    In "The Crimson Letter" Mr. Shand-Tucci builds on the work of other
    scholars to describe how gay Harvard men were exposed to a world of
    learning and artistic achievement. Gay faculty members mentored gay
    students, gays formed friendships, collaborated and became patrons of
    the arts.

    Among prominent Harvard gay men whose stories Mr. Shand-Tucci recounts
    is Professor F. O. Matthiessen, who virtually created the field of
    American literature with his book "American Renaissance: Art and
    Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman." Mr. Shand-Tucci cites
    "Gaiety Transfigured: Gay Self-Representation in American Literature"
    by the scholar David Bergman to argue that "American Renaissance" was
    a direct result of Matthiessen's 20-year love affair with the painter
    Russell Cheney. Cheney encouraged Matthiessen's interest in Whitman.
    That book, Mr. Shand-Tucci said, was the ultimate expression of
    Matthiessen's love for Cheney and a secret celebration of the gay
    artist. Matthiessen committed suicide in 1950 after Cheney's death.

    Citing O'Hara's biographer Brad Gooch, Mr. Shand-Tucci writes that the
    intense friendship between O'Hara and his fellow undergraduate Mr.
    Ashbery contributed to the development of postmodernism. Mr.
    Shand-Tucci describes the two wiling away hours in the 1950's,
    discussing high and low culture, everything from Schoenberg to

    Leonard Bernstein "was introduced at Harvard to the glories of Western
    classical music," Mr. Shand-Tucci said. "He had an affair with the
    conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, who was visiting Boston." Mr.
    Shand-Tucci said that a tutor took Bernstein to a concert in New York
    where he met Aaron Copland, who was not a Harvard student but "with
    whom he had an affair, and who stayed with him in his dorm."

    "His experience at Harvard solidified him as a gay man," Mr.
    Shand-Tucci said, though Bernstein later married and had children.

    Another bisexual Harvard man, Lincoln Kirstein, went on to be
    co-founder with Balanchine of the New York City ballet. He was also
    co-founder with Varian Fry at Harvard of the magazine Hound & Horn.
    The art historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock published an article in the
    magazine on the decline of architecture. Another gay Harvard man, the
    future architect Philip Johnson, read the article, became Hitchcock's
    friend, and together they developed what became known as the
    International Style.

    Kirstein later repudiated Boston and Harvard. Nonetheless, he wrote
    that his "identification with a society of living and thinking New
    England dynastic actors gave a security and assurance prompting
    freedom of action."

    Mr. Shand-Tucci points out that three gay or bisexual former Harvard
    graduate students changed the course of gay history. Alfred Kinsey,
    who is said to have been bisexual, by asserting in the Kinsey Report
    that 10 percent of men had homosexual experiences, made it difficult
    to consider homosexuality a crime anymore, Mr. Shand-Tucci said.
    Franklin Kameny helped lobby the American Psychiatric Association to
    remove homosexuality from the list of psychiatric illnesses. And the
    historian John Boswell made it more difficult to consider
    homosexuality a sin, Mr. Shand-Tucci said, by depicting the church's
    sanctioning of gay relationships in his book "Same-Sex Unions in
    Premodern Europe."

    Some may disagree with Mr. Shand-Tucci's broad definition of
    homosexuality, which includes those who have sex with both men and
    women, and "the ideal of the platonic, that homosexuality is the
    highest and purest kind of love, more so than opposite-sex love." And
    some of Mr. Shand-Tucci's assertions may raise hackles. The historian
    Martin Duberman, who has written of his experiences as a Harvard
    graduate student, is writing a biography of Kirstein. He has not read
    Mr. Shand-Tucci's book, but he said: "I was certainly not nurtured at
    Harvard. Instead, I was hounded and belittled." As for Boston's gay
    culture, he said, "In the mid-1950's there were only two gay bars in
    Boston." He added, "In Cambridge there wasn't anything."

    Mr. Shand-Tucci said: "There are not more gays at Harvard than
    anyplace else. But when you put together that such an enormous number
    of gay men who influenced the arts and culture came out of Harvard, it
    is a significant phenomena."

Fort Worth Updates Its Museums
May 11, 2003


    FORT WORTH is unusual among small American cities for its high
    incidence of seriously ambitious art museums. There are three to be
    exact - a lot for a town of 535,000 people. For more than 30 years
    they have shared a swath of meticulously maintained greensward along
    Camp Bowie Boulevard, not far from the Will Rogers Memorial Center
    near the center of town.

    One has tended to outshine the others: the Kimbell Art Museum, blessed
    with an acclaimed building designed by Louis Kahn, opened in 1972 with
    a small, choice collection of ancient and Asian art and European
    painting. In the Kimbell's shadow are the Fort Worth Modern Art
    Museum, the state's first art museum (founded in 1892 and committed to
    living artists almost since then), and the Amon Carter Museum, founded
    in 1961 to house a collection of Western art, including a cache of
    works by Frederick Remington. Both institutions have been perennially
    hamstrung by cramped buildings that no amount of fiddling or expanding
    seemed to improve.

    Now the balance has shifted. In October 2001, the Amon Carter, having
    torn down two awkward additions and called back the original
    architect, Philip Johnson, unveiled a handsome new wing that triples
    its gallery space while dovetailing nicely with the original building.
    And in December of 2002, the Fort Worth Modern pulled up stakes
    altogether for a striking new building, designed by the Japanese
    architect Tadao Ando, that is right next to the Kimbell.

    To see the results, I went to Fort Worth with my husband in early
    April for a weekend. What we found was, as they say, a whole new

    There are not many places where you can contemplate new museum
    architecture without getting depressed, view extraordinary groupings
    of European and American paintings and have an epiphany in feminist
    history all in the same day, while stumbling across a calf-cutting
    contest and never once have to resort to vehicular transportation. All
    these high points were within comfortable walking distance of one

    First we paid our respects to the Kimbell, which I had not visited for
    more than 20 years. In the downstairs entrance hall we found a
    stunning array of European paintings: Caravaggio, de la Tour, Picasso,
    Goya, Velázquez, Bellini - a nice welcome but, well, a little
    premature. Upstairs we discovered why. While the building is as great
    as ever, the airy central gallery once used for the display of art has
    been given over to a large gift shop that, to add insult to injury,
    sells toys and frivolous accessories for the home along with art books
    and postcards. One group of galleries was closed for the installation
    of a traveling exhibition of Egyptian art (opening today); another
    held a traveling show of so-so quality: "Modigliani and the Artists of
    Montparnasse" (through May 25). I suggest visiting Fort Worth when the
    Kimbell is devoting more of its luminous gallery space to its own
    superb collection.

    Nearby, the new Modern impressively synthesizes late-20th-century
    austerity with the more intimate scale and textures of Japanese and
    Bauhaus architecture. This imposing two-story Minimalist structure in
    glass, steel and architectural concrete quintuples the museum's
    gallery space and includes its first cafe (highly recommended for
    lunch). Curling around a two-acre reflecting pool, Mr. Ando's design
    exploits the fact that in a place as historically parched as Texas,
    few things are as riveting as quantities of water, elegantly
    presented. When the water's surface is nearly level with the floor -
    as it is in the museum's enormous foyer, the cafe and the wonderful
    glass-walled corridors that wrap around the exteriors of the
    ground-floor galleries - the experience is sublime. A sprawling,
    garrulous Philip Guston retrospective (through June 8) filled the
    upstairs galleries at the time of our visit, but it is great to see
    the collection begin to strut its stuff on the ground floor.

    Despite the thrills of the Ando building, the biggest surprise of the
    trip came at the Amon Carter. The compact two-story Johnson addition
    is admirably understated, lined with exquisitely fossil-pocked Texas
    limestone. Like Mr. Ando, Mr. Johnson seems to have taken a page from
    Kahn's use of unadorned surfaces as well as his exploitation of the
    clear Texas light. The museum's popular Western art, mostly by
    Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, still occupies pride of
    place in the old building (which now resembles a spacious and
    sprightly porch) and fills a long new gallery leading to a skylighted
    dome. The real treat is upstairs: the museum's 19th- and
    early-20th-century American paintings ensconced in skylighted
    galleries. There are exemplary canvases by Thomas Cole, Frederic
    Church, Martin Johnson Heade, Thomas Eakins, John Frederick Peto and
    John Mix Stanley, as well as works by American modernists like Georgia
    O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove and Stuart Davis (six astutely selected Davis
    works form a veritable survey). There were also impressive displays
    from the museum's large photography collection and a lively exhibition
    of watercolors by Winslow Homer, which he made during fishing trips
    into the wilderness.

    Pleasant nonart adventures lurk nearby. The newest is the National
    Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, which opened last June in a small Art
    Deco-style building on the other side of Lancaster Avenue, a short
    walk from the Kimbell. The incongruous Beaux-Arts interior is overdone
    and occasionally tacky - as in the lenticular images of Western
    heroines, including Georgia O'Keeffe, that line the balcony. But the
    exhibits are both illuminating and uplifting (take your daughter).
    Packed with artifacts and punctuated with kiosks showing film clips
    (Dale Evans's saddle, the sequined costumes of the eminent Western
    designer Nudie and a white leather trick saddle passed down from
    mother to daughter), it vividly traces the daring and the achievements
    of professional cowgirls, the first American women to live off their
    earnings as athletes. On our way to the museum we ventured into the
    Coliseum at the Art Deco Will Rogers Memorial Center and were smitten
    by the sight of highly trained horses shadowing the movements of young
    steers with amazing quickness, skill and, it seemed, no apparent
    direction from their riders. (We learned that it was a calf-cutting
    contest; that, yes, the riders don't do a whole lot and that there is
    something horse- or cattle-related at the arena nearly every week.) On
    our way back we came upon a sizable flea market in the center's Hall
    of Cattle and found a painting that fitted both our budget
    requirements (under $10) and our weekend luggage.

    For accommodations, we lucked into the Ashton, a new 39-room boutique
    hotel that occupies a refurbished 1916 Italianate Arts and Crafts
    building, of brick with wrought-iron balconies - on Main Street, a
    five-minute drive from the museum cluster. Well run and extremely
    comfortable, the hotel is part of a downtown revitalization that has
    brought back to serviceable life many of the turn-of-the-20th-century
    and Art Deco buildings that managed to survive the city's various
    postwar building booms.

    And Fort Worth seems to excel at casual, inexpensive dining. Joe T.
    Garcia's offers unpretentious but outstanding Mexican food (there is
    no menu). If you're willing to wait in line on busy nights, you can
    dine beneath the stars in the large, lush garden. At Angelo's, a
    legendary barbecue place that is beyond authentic, spurs are normal
    and stuffed trophies of several species, including moose and buffalo,
    stare down as you tuck into what may be the world's best ribs. If the
    experience doesn't bring out the inner vegetarian in you, you probably
    don't have one.

    In other words, a weekend of looking at art and architecture of Fort
    Worth can be punctuated with equally vivid encounters with the
    plainer, indigenous pleasures of Texas life.

    ROBERTA SMITH is an art critic for The Times.

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