The network of 236 sandstone caves extend over an area of two to three kilometres in the vast, sparsely-populated autonomous Xinjiang region of China, along the ancient Silk Road

Urgent conservation work is needed to save a series of caves in northwest China containing ancient murals by Buddhist monks, which are threatened with destruction from the forces of nature.

The network of 236 sandstone caves extend over an area of two to three kilometres in the vast, sparsely-populated autonomous Xinjiang region of China, along the ancient Silk Road. The caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks and used as temples between the third and the eighth centuries, and are lined with murals providing a rich picture of early Buddhist culture.

The caves, known locally as Kezer, are prone to deterioration, particularly from moisture, because of their geological composition, which includes many soluble salts. Although the region is very dry, any rainwater could have “distastrous consequences”, according to Giorgio Bonsanti, an expert in wall painting preservation. He told our sister paper, Il Giornale dell’Arte, “the signs of progressive decay, which in the long term would turn everything to sand, are dramatically evident.”


Hannah McGivern
The Art Newspaper

The design for the proposed Maya Museum in Guatemala (via Harry Gugger Studio website)

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos,” Maya human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú said in a 1992 interview shortly before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. If she was speaking today, Menchú might have included “museum” among the list of things that Guatemala’s indigenous are not, after news of a proposed Maya museum in Guatemala City was announced last month.

Dezeen magazine reported on the plans to build Central America’s largest museum of Maya artifacts, Museo Maya de América (Maya Museum of America), in the Guatemalan capital. This comes less than two years after Mexico opened two new Maya museums, one in the resort town of Cancun, the other in touristy Merida. The $60 million construction of the new Guatemalan museum will begin in 2015 and will be completed through a public-private partnership, with the building scheduled to open in 2017.


Laura C. Mallonee

Design Museum reveals Designs of the Year shortlist
Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku is among the Designs of the Year nominations. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Folding helmets, smoke alarms that send you text messages and a pyramid-shaped school that floats on a lagoon in Nigeria are among the innovative solutions that make up the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year shortlist, announced on Monday.

From architecture and fashion to transport and digital design, the 76 nominations include the usual global stars – Zaha Hadid and John Pawson, David Chipperfield and Miuccia Prada – alongside smaller startups and student initiatives. Together, they provide a barometer of emerging trends and common themes, from the ubiquity of the smartphone to the growing number of independent designers and inventors turning to crowd-funding to see their ideas realised.


Oliver Wainwright
The Guardian

Frank Herfort, “Grand Park, Moscow” (2006 / 2009) (all images courtesy the artist and Kerber)

If you think Soviet architecture was strange — with its retrofuture angles and monolithic forms — you should see what came after the USSR’s collapse. German photographer Frank Herfort has spent years traveling all over Russia and the former Soviet territories, from metropolises to remote rural zones, to capture the bizarre architecture of the post-Soviet era.

Herfort’s photographs have now been published in Imperial Pomp: Post Soviet Highrise (2013, Kerber), and all the structures together look more like a speculative vision of a surreal future than reality. From 2009 to 2013 he journeyed to 20 cities to find the most ostentatious and bombastic of the odd mix of architectural forms that peaked in the 1990s and are just now receding. There are remnants of the Stalinist style with its stern classicism meeting Western modernism, and it all seems to be stretching for a more vibrant, and perhaps impossible, future. Time has collided in their designs.


Allison Meier


Visitors to New York on the occasion of the Super Bowl — and those New Yorkers who would rather not spend the afternoon and evening glued to a TV set — can supplement their visit to the Big Apple with a lesson in urbanism from Frank Lloyd Wright, whose ideas about cities, skyscrapers, and the countryside inspired MoMA’s new architecture exhibition, Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal.

Organized to celebrate the recent joint acquisition of Wright’s archive by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, the show features models and drawings of various Wright skyscraper projects. Most impressive, however, is a 1934-35 scale model of Broadacre City, the community design proposal that occupied the architect from 1932 until his 1959 death. Wright hated compact cities like New York, and he wanted to build an alternate form of dispersed settlement that was neither urban nor suburban (though some scholars and architects think that Broadacre City, if built, would have resembled the suburbs). Wright envisioned an America where each family would live on one acre of land, with nearby small-scale manufacturing, community centers, and parklands — he wanted cities, not just their residential components, but also their services, transportation, and infrastructure to expand horizontally, not vertically. Broadacre City was never built, but Wright’s model still stands in opposition to the city it now calls home. Density vs. Dispersal is on view through June 1, but a comprehensive Wright retrospective dealing with the contents of his archive is in the works at MoMA for 2017.

Anna Kats
Blouin Art Info

Chapel of contention … Vandalism at Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp has ignited a row over its management. Photograph: SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP

Erupting like a strange fungal outcrop from the top of a hill in eastern France, Le Corbusier’s chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp has been a place of pilgrimage for devout architects and Catholics alike for 60 years, largely considered the finest work of the 20th-century’s most influential architect. Last week, one of its windows was smashed by unknown vandals, who broke in and threw the (almost empty) concrete collection box outside. The action caused international outcry about the protection of historic monuments – for this was not any old window, but the only pane bearing the mark of Corb himself, a small blue square showing the howling man in the moon.

“They broke into a thousand pieces the only glazing signed by Le Corbusier,” said Benoît Cornu, deputy mayor of Ronchamp. “He painted all the other glazing but on this clear panel, where he drew the moon, he had written his signature.”

Set deep into the battered rubble walls of the chapel, which extend up to 3m thick, the stained glass windows twinkle like tiny jewels beneath the heavy hull of the concrete roof. The multicoloured panels, which feature a range of the architect’s wild, primitive scrawlings, are set at the end of broad tapering apertures that puncture the south wall in a random scatter, like the windows of an advent calendar. But to one nun’s shock last Friday, there was no moon to be seen – only a jagged hole and a pile of glass shards.


Oliver Wainwright
The Guardian

Murals from 1933 and 1934 by the Italian Futurist Benedetta at home in a conference room in a post office in Palermo, Sicily. AGR/Riccardi/Paoloni

As a capstone to its coming show “Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe,” the Guggenheim Museum has managed a rare coup: securing the first loan of five major Futurist murals from the central post office in Palermo, Sicily, where they have hung since being commissioned for the space in the 1930s.

These rarely seen murals, which have adorned a conference room for decades, are both figurative and abstract, cast in shades of blue, with fluid and straight lines that play with perspective. They were painted in 1933 and 1934 by an artist, Benedetta Cappa, who went by only her first name. She was married to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the poet who founded the Futurist movement in 1909 with a manifesto that rejected the past and called for an aggressive push toward the future.


Rachel Donadio
New York Times

A rendering shows a proposed new entrance to the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden along 54th Street. (Museum of Modern Art)

Last week the Museum of Modern Art confirmed plans — as it expands to the west along 53rd Street in Manhattan — to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, a much-praised 13-year old building by New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

MoMA and its director, Glenn D. Lowry, have since been roundly criticized in the press. So has the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which both helped MoMA evaluate the fate of the Folk Art building and is designing the expansion.

On Wednesday afternoon I spoke by phone with Elizabeth Diller, one of the firm’s founders. We discussed the almost uniformly negative reaction to the announcement as well as the details of DS+R’s proposal for MoMA, which is still in an early design phase.


LA Times
Christopher Hawthorne

(Photo: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)

Unfinished paintings are enticing cracks in the facade of art history, lures along the path to a deeper understanding of artistic processes and impulses. For all the paintings that artists complete, countless others are left incomplete for any number of reasons — poverty or war, a change of plan or vision, the illness or death of the artist. While many of these works have been destroyed, and others forgotten, some are now recognized as significant works of art, accorded a special place in history and in an artist’s body of work, in part because they can bring us closer to understanding the mysterious process of painting, and, indeed, to painting’s future. After all, nothing inspires a young artist like a close look at how an earlier one worked.


Roberta Smith
New York Times

Katya Tepper, a painter and performance artist, is moving to Chicago when her Brooklyn lease expires in March.
Photo: Buck Ennis

Artists have long struggled in New York, moving into rough areas, gentrifying them and then getting forced out. But as the city has gotten increasingly expensive, there are few such neighborhoods left to move to, forcing a growing number of artists to abandon the city. Many had hoped the recession would bring down rents, making it easier for them to stay. Instead, rents have barely dropped, and the part-time jobs they depend on for survival have become harder to find. Without a strong arts community, New York risks losing its standing as a creative center, which could have a negative impact on numerous industries that depend on talented employees.


Miriam Kreinin Souccar


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