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Jun. 19 2009 — 7:27 pm | 32 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Farewell True/Slant!

Dear True/Slanters:

I’ve been offline for a few weeks, but there’s a good reason: I’ve taken a full-time job at Politico.com as editor of the Life section. As a result, this will be my last post to the “Matters of Taste” blog.

It has been a real pleasure to be a part of True/Slant, and I look forward to watching the evolution of this excellent new media concept.

Keep up the good taste!


May. 22 2009 — 10:36 pm | 14 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Art at the White House: Obama gives Impressionism a surprise nod

Jasper Johns 1954-55 pre-Pop Art

Image via Wikipedia

So the Obamas are changing up the art in the White House. And what do their choices say about them?

The Wall Street Journal’s well-reported story points out that they made some early picks— Jasper Johns (several pieces from his numerals series), a Diebenkorn, and an Edward Ruscha — from the National Gallery.

All those are solid modern artists, but the Journal also led the story with the point that identity would be informing their choices: “The Obamas are sending ripples through the art world as they put the call out to museums, galleries and private collectors that they’d like to borrow modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists for the White House. ”

So in addition to abstract art, they want to emphasize the artist — not just what’s on the canvas. But the real surprise came in the description of some works the Obamas have borrowed from the Hirshhorn: “Last week the Obamas decided to borrow “Nice,” a 1954 abstract by Russian-born painter Nicolas de Staël containing red, black and moss-green rectangles; a couple of boxy paintings from German-born Josef Albers’s famed “Homage to the Square” series in shades of gold, red and lavender; and “Dancer Putting on Stocking” and “The Bow,” two table-top bronzes by Edgar Degas.”

Degas? Really? So traditional, so French, so dorm-room poster.

Look, if someone opened up a museum to me and offered a Degas, I wouldn’t think twice. And I would walk over hot coals to have a Degas bronze in my house for a minute. But with the geometry of Albers and the brash color of Diebenkorn and de Staël, the choice of such a familiar Impressionist seems out of step.

But not entirely. Their choice of Degas balances their contemporary leanings with a nod to the representational. Their tastes are weighted toward the new, but accented with the past. No matter what’s selling for top dollar at auction or who is the artist of the day, they’re willing to admit: a beautiful picture will always be a beautiful picture.

May. 19 2009 — 4:32 pm | 1 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Senate Chops Up Credit Cards

Well, sort of. Though the overall effort is anti-capitalism, here’s a silver lining:

Industry representatives have argued that any legislation would result in more lost revenue and force them to raise interest rates and withhold credit.

The changes would force them to withhold credit? Isn’t that a good thing? Currently, if some has too high of a balance, they are extended more credit. Which is exactly the problem! And maybe if they raise the interest rates, consumers will see that they are losing this battle and pay off the cards. Seems like a win-win to me.

via Senate Passes Bill Curtailing Credit Card Industry – washingtonpost.com.

May. 18 2009 — 10:36 am | 17 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Glamour at Cannes: Bardot, Picasso & More

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16:  Actress Diane Kruger...

ZZZZZ Actress Diane Kruger attends a photocall at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2007.Image by Getty Images via Daylife


London’s Telegraph has a must-see slideshow of black-and-white photos from the early decades of the Cannes Film Festival. We’re talking shots of Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Picasso, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood, Lennon, Hitchcock, Arnold (1977, posing with showgirls).

Though the shots are often staged, the celebs seem to be more natural and personable than today’s stars. It’s not because contemporary headliners have less personality — or the stars of yore were more magical. It’s largely because of changes in photography and the nature of fame. Today celebs are either shot on the red carpet as robot-goddesses (Immortal Beauty!) or sneaking off to the grocery store (They’re Just Like Us!). 

But these vintage Cannes shots reflect something about the person in the photo. There’s no red carpet cattle call — and even if there were red carpets, you couldn’t tell because the shots are not in color! Even so, the glamor quotient is sky high and in many cases, the photographers tried to get something individual from the star. One can imagine that after a while, it made more sense to do a group effort: photographers stand here, celebs pose here. What are you wearing? Who braided your eyelashes? Thank you. Good night.

One glamorous, natural photo says so much more than those generic red carpet shots. And it can communicate infinitely more than a red carpet interview in which the every word has been chosen from the Approved Hollywood Vocabulary List: “actually,” “amazing,” “experience,” “blessed.”

Also, be sure to check out the one color photo in this bunch. It’s of three random people drinking rosé in bathing suits. Surely, a good time was had by all.

May. 11 2009 — 12:45 pm | 1 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Hermès Keeps Demand High

In an earlier post titled “My Money’s on Hermès”, which I posted during Paris Fashion Week, I bet on this:

Today, the strategy is helping Hermès prove resilient as the luxury-goods industry navigates its worst downturn in years. The company Thursday said sales rose 3.2% to €428.4 million in the first quarter, driven by sales of its handbags, wallets and other small leather goods.

via Hermès Seduces the Elite by Selling Luxury Slowly – WSJ.com.

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    About Me

    After graduating from Kenyon College, I headed to D.C. and have been in journalism ever since. I've enjoyed a broad scope: politics, fashion, society, arts, food, travel. My most recent employment was as cultural editor of the New York Sun. Since the paper folded last fall, I've been looking at American culture from a different angle. With so many news sources, so many voices, and all of it streaming by so fast, we tend to breeze past matters of taste. This blog attempts to pause — and lay praise or blame at the feet of those who deserve it. Who are today's tastemakers? I'm also looking for ideas that address wealth, luxury, and class — which are changing by the second.

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    Contributor Since: January 2009
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