Meander the Halls of Europe’s Grandest Homes in Gretchen Scherer’s Paradisiacal Paintings
In the maximalist paintings of Gretchen Scherer, you can wander the elaborate halls of the Galleria Borghese outside Rome, or step into a dressing room at Burghley House in Stamford, England—one of the grandest surviving Elizabethan “prodigy” houses—and you’ll have the place all to yourself. The Brooklyn-based artist meticulously renders historic interiors in oil and acrylic, emphasizing frescoed ceilings, baroque niches, and salon-style art collections. Focusing on real places primarily around Europe, Scherer is fascinated by the architectural details and the stories objects reveal about who lived there. “I still invent a lot, and they don’t look exactly like the places they come from. It’s more like the way you might remember a space in your mind or imagine it before you go there,” she says.
Scherer began incorporating architecture into her work around ten years ago when a friend gifted her a book about the genre’s history. She was increasingly drawn to more ornamental styles that preceded the clean lines of 20th-century modernism. “I like the references to nature and all the adornments,” she says. “Those [older] places feel so alien to the spaces we inhabit now—it’s truly like another world.” The spaces are always empty of human visitors, but their presence is felt as if they could walk back into the room at any moment.
“Every piece of artwork, furniture, or even a tiny drawing on a desk that I reference in a painting is from the collection of the place I am painting,” she says. Hanging paintings “salon” style or floor-to-ceiling was a decorating trend that can be traced to the École des Beaux-Arts Salon exhibitions in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries that packed gallery spaces with as many works as could fit. The decoration of Europe’s grand houses soon followed suit. “The salon-style artwork installations are inspired by the way we are overwhelmed with imagery today through social media, but I find it so interesting that in the past, artwork was displayed that way, so we’ve kind of gone back to viewing things that way again,” the artist says.
If you’re in London, Scherer’s solo exhibition Of a Place opens at Taymour Grahne’s Notting Hill space on February 25 and runs through April 5. Find more of her work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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After Sitting in Storage for More Than Three Decades, an Art Amusement Park Is Finally Going On Tour
In the summer of 1987, a carnival like no other popped up for thirteen weeks on a public green in Hamburg, Germany. Walking through a gate featuring an oversized painting by Sonia Delaunay, visitors entered the world of Luna Luna, an amusement park brimming with rides and kiosks designed by some of the most recognizable names in 20th century art history like David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, and Salvador Dalí, to name a few. Altogether, thirty-five artists were invited to create new works for the fairground, which was slated for a global tour, including a Ferris wheel by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a carousel by Keith Haring.
Luna Luna saw nearly a quarter of a million visitors in its first—and only—summer. A change of ownership after its initial installation trapped the project in a legal battle, and it was instead locked away in storage. It was more than three decades before it was seen again. In 2022, a team of creatives organized to buy the contents of the original presentation, restore it, and launch a multi-city tour starting in 2024. To mark this new chapter, Phaidon has also re-issued Luna Luna: The Art Amusement Park, a book first published in 1987 that includes numerous photographs and documentation along with cover drawings commissioned by the artists.
At Luna Luna, art was for all. The book’s author, Austrian artist and curator André Heller, described that the ethos behind the project was that art “should come in unconventional guises and be brought to those who might not ordinarily seek it out in more predictable settings.” The artist-designed environment was an opportunity to imagine a kind of art utopia, drawing on the nostalgic popularity of amusement parks as places of entertainment and escape for people of all ages. The Luna Luna team aims to pick up where the original edition left off, evolving and incorporating new commissions from innovative and influential artists working today.
While the components of the park are currently being restored in Los Angeles, you can grab a copy of the book on Bookshop. Find more information on Luna Luna’s website, and follow on Instagram for updates about the upcoming tour.
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Shift Happens: A Forthcoming Book Catalogs the 150-Year History of the Keyboard
What if QWERTY wasn’t the standard keyboard layout? A forthcoming book by Chicago-based designer and writer Marcin Wichary examines the now-ubiquitous format and how it came to dominate modern technology.
Fully funded a few hours after launching on Kickstarter, Shift Happens documents 150 years of keyboard history from early analog typewriters to the pixelated versions on our phones. The 1,200-page book is split into two volumes that encompass a broad array of innovations and feuds from “the Shift Wars of the 1880s (and) Nobel-prize winner Arthur Schawlow using a laser to build the best typo eraser (to) August Dvorak—and many others—trying to dethrone QWERTY (and) Margaret Longley and Lenore Fenton perfecting touch typing.”
Seven years in the making, the book features 1,300 photos of devices and typists at work, some of which document collections and archives that have never been seen before. Wichary emphasizes the cultural implications of the commonplace objects, saying he focused on the people behind the technology. “I wanted a book that told all the personal stories about keyboards tied in with a historical, social, and political context,” he shares.
To grab a copy of Shift Happens, head to Kickstarter, and follow Wichary on Mastodon for updates on the project.
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Art History Illustration Science
Explore Hundreds of Exquisite Botanical Collages Created by an 18th-Century Septuagenarian Artist
At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms.
Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.
The British Museum houses most of Delany’s collages, which you can explore in an interactive archive that has information about the plants, artworks, and the option to zoom in on images of the pieces. You also might enjoy The Paper Garden, a book that delves into the artist’s work and what it means to foster a creative practice.
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A Documentary Chronicles the Work of Adolfo Kaminsky, Who Saved Thousands of Lives Forging Documents in the Nazi Resistance
When Nazi troops invaded France in 1940, the teenage Adolfo Kaminsky became an essential figure of the resistance. His first jobs at a dairy testing lactic acid with blue ink and scrubbing stains at a dry cleaner taught him key skills for altering identification cards, passports, birth certificates, and other papers the Nazis used to arrest Jewish people. He forged countless documents aiding those facing persecution during his lifetime and is thought to have helped save about 10,000 people in World War II alone.
Kaminsky died this week at 97, and a short documentary chronicles his life and critical work. “The Forger” shows him at home in Paris, where he reveals boxes of stamps and documents he created during the war. Black silhouettes by Manual Cinema—read our conversation with the Chicago-based collective for more on the process behind its puppetry—help to share his story, depicting his confrontation with Nazi officers and the time he was tasked with producing 900 birth and baptismal certificates and ration cards in just three days to save 300 Jewish children. “In one hour, I made 30 documents,” he says in the film. “If I slept for one hour, 30 people would die.”
The New York Times released “The Forger” in 2016, and it remains a profound and astounding look at the power of one courageous person. Watch the full documentary above or on YouTube.
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The National Library of France Reopens with Renovations That Add 21st Century Details to the Beaux-Arts Gem
After more than a decade of renovations by architect Bruno Gaudin, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France reopened last fall with more light and space to view both the massive collections and the original Beaux-Arts features of the space.
Spread across two sites, the Richelieu and François-Mitterrand, the now-updated repository at Richelieu dates back to the 18th century. French architect Henri Labrouste originally designed the main reading room, known as the Salle Ovale, which is largely preserved with a vaulted glass ceiling spanning 60 feet, mosaics cloaking the ceilings, and hundreds of thousands of volumes lining the perimeter and interior shelves. The regal space is now open to the public for the first time.
For the renovation, Gaudin added a large, steel and aluminum staircase that spirals toward the upper floors, which house a museum and the nearly 150-foot-long Mazarin Gallery with its Baroque frescoed ceiling. A glass walkway with an angular, sloping roof connects the east and west sides of the library, and the architect added a new entrance for greater accessibility.
Alongside books, the library also stores a vast array of historical documents and artworks totaling 22 million objects. Inside its halls, you’ll find the second-largest collection of Greek vases in the world, original prints from Rembrandt and Picasso, an engraving by Matisse, a Gutenberg Bible, and Charlemagne’s ivory chess set, to name a few.
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Editor's Picks: History
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