Yesomi Umolu Heads to the Serpentine, and Other News

Our daily look at the world through the lens of design.

Yesomi Umolu at the Chicago Cultural Center. Photography by Lyndon French

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Yesomi Umolu joins Serpentine Galleries as director of curatorial affairs and public practice.

Yesomi Umolu has been appointed the director of curatorial affairs and public practice for London’s Serpentine Galleries. In the new position, which the institution created to meet Arts Council England’s diversity targets, Umolu will spearhead the development of editorial and educational content for exhibitions, events and other curatorial initiatives. The native Londoner, who most recently curated the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, is expected to start in January. “Yesomi’s appointment reinforces a structural trajectory for the organization that fuses curatorial affairs and public practice,” CEO Bettina Korek and artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist said in a joint statement. “We’re excited to work with her to innovate around centering audience experience and community engagement in all that we do.” Adds Umolu: “I’m eager to partner with the Serpentine’s team, its audiences, and artists to envision new forms of creativity and community building that can shepherd us through the profound changes facing our city and the world at large.”

After building Manhattan’s real estate empire for 50 years, Sheldon H. Solow dies at 92. 

The Manhattan real estate developer Sheldon H. Solow built a legacy of commercial and residential real estate from the bottom up for five decades straight. When he died on Tuesday, at age 92, he left behind his most ambitious project yet: an unfinished line of towers down the East River from the United Nations. Born in Brooklyn, in 1928, Solow left New York University in 1949 to pursue real estate ventures with his father, Isaac, a former bricklayer. With a panache for litigation and unbridled confidence, Solow built a multitude of rental towers, including his namesake Solow Building, a 50-story office tower that has become one of the city’s most well-known. He also established the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation, which offers funding to educational and creative institutions and houses pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly from his robust art collection.

Banana Republic is embroiled in a legal battle over the use of a fancy ampersand.

The global apparel brand Banana Republic is in hot water after using a fancy ampersand in a global campaign. According to the graphic designer Moshik Nadav, who owns an eponymous design business and the Paris Pro font family, the Gap-owned retailer has been using his typographic property without permission. A legal claim says that Banana Republic failed to seek permission to use the ligature before they began using it “in extensive digital marketing and on worldwide social media platforms.” And because of the scale of the misuse—Banana Republic has 176,000 followers on Twitter and 1.5 million on Instagram—Nadav is seeking $75,000 worth of damages. “No other font or typeface includes the same artistic ligatures and logograms set forth in the Paris Pro FS and Paris Pro Typeface,” reads Nadav’s legal claim. “Nadav spent countless hours creating and perfecting these artistic ligatures and logograms.” The case has yet to reach a conclusion, but we won’t hesitate to admit the two ampersands look awfully similar. 

Forever Marilyn by Seward Johnson

In Palm Springs, a giant Marilyn Monroe sculpture with upskirt views sparks heated debate.

Finally, we can all see up Marilyn Monroe’s skirt. And to say that upsets Louis Grachos, the Palms Springs Art Museum’s executive director and CEO, is an understatement. The 26-foot-tall sculpture recreates an iconic scene where Marilyn Monroe’s skirt almost blows above her head as she steps across a blustery subway grate from the 1955 Billy Wilder comedy The Seven Year Itch. After the town approved the cheeky monument, called Forever Marilyn, Grachos voiced his concerns to city council members last week. “We serve over 100,000 school-age children that come to our museum every single year. What message does that send to our young people, our visitors, and community to present a statue that objectifies women, is sexually charged and disrespectful?”

The sculpture, created by Seward Johnson, returns for a second stint after displaying at an intersection two blocks from the museum between 2012 and 2014. Even though the actress has become an icon to Palm Springs, the statue garnered a barrage of complaints. Its new location concerns Steven H. Maloney, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, who views the artwork as bawdy and risqué. “Displaying the statue in front or near the museum implies institutional approval and an unhealthy encouragement of risqué behavior of women,” says Maloney. “It also fundamentally misconstrues the role of cultural institutions, which is to facilitate a diverse public’s engagement with a rich array of culture and art.”

Garrett Bradley’s America, which explores racism in black and white, screens at the MoMA.

The artist and filmmaker Garrett Bradley, best known for addressing themes such as race, class, and social justice in her works, will present the video installation America (2019) at New York’s Museum of Modern Art starting this month. The film addresses pivotal moments in Black history through 12 black-and-white vignettes, interspersing footage from the unreleased Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1914)—the earliest known film with an all-Black cast. Though the 60-minute silent film was unreleased, it depicts Black actors in joyful scenes and intimate moments, marking a departure from how white directors portrayed Black people in the Golden Age of U.S. cinema. America also references Birth of a Nation (1915), “one of the most virulently racist films that’s often regarded as a primary origin point in cinema,” says the co-curator Legacy Russell, who also serves as an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Earlier this year, Bradley became the first Black woman to receive a directing award from the Sundance Film Festival for her documentary Time (2020), which deals with incarceration and the systemic separation of Black families in the U.S. 

Angels Representing Seven Churches (20th century) by Tiffany Studios

Today’s attractive distractions:

Planetary defenses missed an asteroid flying dangerously close to Earth.

A rediscovered set of Tiffany stained glass windows sells for $705,000.

Should $590 scratch-and-sniff t-shirts be a thing in 2020? Lanvin thinks so.

These self-described “potheads” are devoted to ceramics, not cannabis.

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