At the Aronson Galleries at the New School, a wall of pickle jars taped with black-and-white cutout portraits of twenty dictators lines the windowsill. A standard 8 ½ x 11 paper sign invites visitors to Pick Your Own Dick by placing a poker chip in a jar. Chairman Mao, a world-class “dick” whose Cultural Revolution starved and murdered millions of Chinese, and Turkish President Erdogan, an elected Muslim fundamentalist morphing into a military strongman, handily won opening night.
Romancing True Power: D20, the mischievous exhibition designed by Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss of NAO and conceived by Nina Khrushcheva, associate dean and professor at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at the New School, cheekily invites public debate about the nature of and difference between types of dictatorship, taking special glee in thumbing its nose at ostentatious symbols of power. The exhibit was accompanied by a journal compiled by Khrushcheva with Yiqing Wang-Holborn and by a book of graphic novellas designed as a result of Weiss’s seminar on new ideologies at Columbia GSAPP, both profiling selected dictators and their trappings.
The Architect’s Journal reported, somewhat melodramatically, that a “row” has broken about between MVRDV and the British firm LDA over the redevelopment of the Hammer and Sickle Factory in Moscow. MVRDV’s competition winning scheme, which respected the existing historic factory buildings, has been dumped in favor of LDA’s swoopier Shanghai/Dubai/Where-am-I scheme. Hurt feelings aside, MVRDV might have dodged a dictatorial bullet. Russia isn’t exactly the most stable or desirable or reputation-burnishing place to work these days.
In recent interview with the journal Foreign Policy, Frank Gehry held forth on how architecture and democracy don’t really go together. Just too many opinions, you see. “I think the best thing is to have a benevolent dictator—who has taste!” said Gehry. “It’s really hard to get consensus, to have a tastemaker. There is no Robert Moses anymore.” Why was Gehry on FP’s radar in the first place? We’re guessing it was Hillary Clinton’s Gehry name-check in one of her outgoing speeches as Secretary of State. Riffing on how institutions of the future must be dynamic rather than static, the stateswomen stated, “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek.”