Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Heart Herbert Muschamp

One might ask, "Who is Herbert Muschamp, and why should I care?" Well, he is the former architecture critic (and general commentator on various things cultural) for the New York Times, and you shouldn't care. However, he did receive a vote in the recent This Blog Is Your Blog elections. Plus Matt asserts that blogs are the perfect medium for the passionate denunciation of people and things that others would simply never think of hating. So what do I have to say about him?

I hereby passionately denounce Herbert Muschamp as a pretentious fool. He:
  • loves to drop names that only a tiny fraction of the readers will recognize.
  • loves to launch into esoteric flights of near-meaningless theoretical jargon and baseless metaphors.
  • loves to then switch into chatty, cornball, vernacular use of "low" language (he repeatedly used the phrase "bling-bling" in describing Rem Koolhaas' new Seattle Public Library).
  • loves rich people.
  • loves skyscrapers.
  • is a complete ass.
  • makes my blood boil.
And yet, somehow, I just can't quite muster the energy to really run him down. There was a time when I would have gleefully launched into a lengthy, vitriolic tirade detailing his offenses, but now that he's gone (or nearly gone - he still occasionally writes goofy articles about handbags and "girlie-man" culture) I'll be honest, I miss him. Sorry, Matt.

Herb was unique. Sure, the new architecture critics frequently annoy me. Certainly, there's still no shortage of arrogant cultural insularity in the Times' Arts section. But it's not the same. Herb could be an ass in a way that these new kids can barely conceive of. He could spout more crap from his little finger than most people can spout from their entire body (eesh! sorry about that).

So I won't tell you what to think. I will simply let Herb speak for himself. Love him. Hate him. Ignore him. The choice is yours.

The man in his own words:

On Miucca Prada:
"She has made the world safe for people with overdeveloped inner lives."

"She is an artist: she would rather hide than speak."

"No one needs Prada to gain access to the work of Louise Bourgeois or Anish Kapoor."

"Prada's cultural projects interest me chiefly because they help to clarify the personality and intentions of a fashion genius. "

"We admire her for the same reason we have always admired Italians. No one can match their talent for engineering mythologies of daily life."
On the opening of the Prada store in SoHo:
"If there was luxury in the air, it wasn't coming from the clothes, the fancy in-store technology or even the fabulous blocklong space. The luxury was making contact with people you hadn't seen together in one place since 9/11. It was the experience of being with the most solipsistic people on earth and loving them more than ever."

"Frank Lloyd Wright created luxury from empty space, Chanel from jersey sportswear, Louis Kahn from poured concrete. Prada creates it out of the desire to be rescued from the isolation that a creative life demands."
On MoMA's "Tall Buildings" exhibit:
"Disembedding without re-embedding: that's how I'd summarize the general thrust of architecture during the period covered by this show. Ulrich Beck, the German sociologist, wasn't thinking about architecture when he coined that phrase. Mr. Beck was talking about the impact of globalization on individual identity. But the impact on design has been roughly the same."

"Fecundity of form gets great play here, but that is a different matter. We've come a long way from the time when 'modern' signified identical glass boxes. Some skeptics deplore the heterogeneity of today's design as a manifestation of ego, the flaunting of signature statements by star architects. What it actually reflects is the recognition that the city is a libidinous proposition, an experiment in desire."

"Americans are easily shamed these days into renouncing habits. And we are quick to thwart the desires of those who won't go along with our disapproval. Skyscrapers need no justification. But it would be worth building higher merely to disembed ourselves from fear."
Bless his heart.

Note: And how is our tally going?

  • Herbert Muschamp - check
  • Hatred - sort of
By my lenient reckoning that brings us to 5 out of 8. Progress, my friends, progress.


  1. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Davidd, you amuse and amaze . I miss thee

  2. I feel enlightened!! I don't usually read such intellectual stuff!

  3. I feel enlightened!! I don't usually read such intellectual stuff!

  4. I feel enlightened!! I don't usually read such intellectual stuff!

  5. I feel enlightened!! I don't usually read such intellectual stuff!

  6. I feel enlightened!! I don't usually read such intellectual stuff!

  7. I feel enlightened!! I don't usually read such intellectual stuff!

  8. Anonymous10:40 PM

    Wren is really not so stupid that she writes and sends things three times but the message was that the server or something was down and the message was not being sent so she sent it again and again and now she looks really, really stupid so she is going to go in the garden and eat worms!!!

  9. what about six times?

  10. Anonymous7:45 PM

    I did not send it six times! I am sure something was wrong with the computer!!!

  11. Mom,

    How many times have I asked you not to post comments while you're drunk?

  12. That's what I'm talking about. I hadn't realized how awful he was until you put all those inanities together. Critics are a ripe, if easy, target. Peter Schlejdal (sp?) similarly bad stuff.