Daily digest: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin closes for a cleaning, a Putin statue lands in Central Park, and more

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Daily digest: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin closes for a cleaning, a Putin statue lands in Central Park, and more

Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015, southeast view (Courtesy Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin)

Happy Wednesday! As we battle another week of heat here are a few stories curated by AN’s editors to keep you cool and in-the-know, including a sculpture of Vladimir Putin turning heads at a Central Park playground, another proposal for Memphis’s Mud Island River Park, and a moldy dilemma prompting the closure of Ellsworth Kelly’s church-like installation Austin. Here’s what you need to know today:

Ellsworth Kelly’s colorful Austin closes for restoration work

Since 2015, American artist Ellsworth Kelly’s dazzling limestone and stained glass monument, Austin, has graced the visits of Blanton Art Museum–goers. The nearly 3,000-square-foot building, with vaulted ceilings and multi-colored light filtering through its colorful stained glass is a sanctuary for contemplation.

Nothing, however, kills the mood more than streaks of mold across the building’s limestone facade. The installation is shutting its wood doors for a temporary closure, starting, tentatively, September 7 through November 1. During the closure architectural conservators will clean the building. The Blanton Art Museum, located at the University of Texas at Austin, already has a plan on how to tackle the mold and prevent the pesky fungus from growing in the future: a water-resistant coating. Mold is a common occurrence on limestone buildings, a result of rainwater and moisture collection.

“Visible mold in the form of black streaks has developed on the limestone exterior of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin. This is a common occurrence on limestone buildings on the UT campus (the limestone on Austin came from a quarry in Alicante, Spain),” the Blanton Museum of Art explained on its website. “Working with an architectural conservator, the Blanton has tested materials that will safely remove the biological growth. Once the substance is removed and the stone is dry, a water-resistant coating will be applied to the exterior stone.”

Natasha Sandmeier is named the new executive director of the A+D Museum

Los Angeles’ A+D Museum has a new executive director: Natasha Sandmeier, founder of L.A.-based practices Office UR and adjunct professor at UCLA Architecture & Urban Design (AUD).

According to a statement by A+D President Roger Fricke, Sandmeier’s leadership marks the building of a new chapter for the museum’s programming and community building. “Natasha is already working closely with Managing Director Camille Elston and the Board of Directors in our search for a new home and the realization of next year’s schedule of exhibitions, panels, and special events,” he said.

In addition to being a practicing architect and a prolific author and editor, Sandmeier also brings an extensive curatorial background in international exhibition, design projects, and installation to her new job.

“It’s exciting to join the A+D Museum and to lead an institution that is a beacon of architecture and design. I am honored to work with our community of established voices, emerging designers, and creatives to strengthen the A+D as a dynamic and inclusive institution serving all of Los Angeles,” Sandmeier said.

Blood red sculpture of Putin touches down at a Central Park playground

As the Russo-Ukraine war trudges into its fifth month with fresh horrors emerging from eastern Ukraine on a daily basis, French artist James Colomina has responded to the conflict by erecting a bright red statue of Vladimir Putin riding a toy-sized tank in a children’s playground in Central Park.

Since it was installed last week social media has been abuzz sharing images of children pointing water guns at the Russian leader, throwing sand atop his head, and climbing onto to the mini tank. The artist has previously installed identical statues in Barcelona and in Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg.


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A post shared by James Colomina (@jamescolomina)

It begs viewers to ask whether the work is a poignant political commentary, an artistic statement, a petty shot taken at the Russian president, or an inappropriate eyesore on a children’s playground? It may be best to hear directly from the Colomina himself.

“This sculpture aims at denouncing the absurdity of war and at highlighting children’s courage when faced with violent, catastrophic situations triggered by others. #stopthewar #streeart.” the artist wrote on his Instagram.

A former dentist office along Route 66 in Illinois will become a tourist center

An unassuming ivory-colored brick building along West Street, aka Route 66, in Edwardsville, Illinois once housed a dentist’s office. But the site will leave behind its dental drills for drills of another variety with the city council voting this week to convert the building into a Route 66 tourist and interpretation center.

The property went up for bidding in late July and the Edwardsville City Council turned out to be the only taker. Soon after, the city voted 6-1 to approve the project. The one dissenting member believes there are better suited destinations along the historic stretch of highway, which spans from Chicago to Santa Monica.

The renovation work will be undertaken by local firm Henderson Associates Architects. Renovations include replacing the existing windows of the house with new, more energy-efficient upgrades; reinstalling the garage doors, and upgrading the existing electric, heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting systems.

Design work is already underway and the visitor center is set to be completed by the end of May, 2023, well before the Route 66 centennial which take place in 2026.

H/t to The Telegraph

Memphis City Council praises plans to bring a zipline to Mud Island

Since opening in the summer of 1982, Memphis’s Mud Island River Park has had a muddy life, struggling to attract visitors and contain flooding. Over the years a number of architects, including Studio Gang and archimania have developed proposals for the struggling park located on a peninsula located in the Mississippi River. Years and several failed proposals later, the site is one step closer to getting a $10 million dollar adventure park–sponsored makeover. 

Yesterday, the Memphis City Council saw plans from The Forge Memphis, which has proposed to build new attractions along the riverfront site including climbing circuit, aerial ropes course, and a quarter-mile zip line spanning from the island to the Memphis shoreline across Wolf River Harbor. The proposal was a hit with several council members; Councilwoman Patrice Robinson saying that it was one of the best she had seen for Mud Island. 

The proposal entails a 30-year lease, which will have to go through the Memphis River Parks Partnership and the mayor’s office before receiving final approval.

H/t to Commercial Appeal