Passion Points: Arts/Culture
Muriel Quancard-Johnson, the energetic founder of Opus, travels frequently for work and pleasure. Her mission: to stay up-to-date with major happenings in the world’s art capitals and discover the emerging cultural destinations of tomorrow. Here, she shares some of her best-loved culture troves.
What are some of your favorite gallery neighborhoods in the world?
Le Marais in Paris and the Bowery/Lower East Side in New York, of course, as well as Chelsea. Chinatown in Los Angeles is one-of-a-kind. In the East End of London, although galleries are extremely spread out, it can be pleasant to walk in the areas of Hoxton Square and Shoreditch. I also enjoy Mitte in Berlin, particularly the northerner, recently-developed part: Brunnenstrasse. And Limmatstrasse in Zurich presents a combination of great galleries and institutions.
What are some of your favorite lesser-known museums worldwide?
Everyone knows that architect Renzo Piano designed the Pompidou Center, in Paris, and the Menil Collection (www.menil.org) in Houston, Texas. Lesser-known are Piano’s Swiss realizations, the Fondation Beyeler (www.beyeler.com) in Basel and the Zentrum Paul Klee (www.paulkleezentrum.ch) in Bern. In Switzerland, I also like Zurich’s Museum Heidi Weber (www.centerlecorbusier.com), by Le Corbusier, which I would suggest to those who are interested in the influential architect’s work, and, the MAMCO (www.mamco.ch) in Geneva, that skillfully explores new strategies to exhibit contemporary art.
All museums designed by Swiss duo Herzog & de Meuron host distinguished programs: the Walker Art Center (www.walkerart.org) in Minneapolis, the Sammlung-Goetz collection (www.sammlung-goetz.de) in Munich and the recent Caixa Forum (www.fundacio.lacaixa.es) in Madrid. The duo is also working on an extension of the MAM, Miami for 2010.
In Germany, the Vitra Design Museum (www.design-museum.de), in Weil-am-Rhein, was mainly designed by Frank Gehry and also includes parts by architects Tadao Ando and Zaha Hadid. This museum’s design collection is outstanding. In France, I love the Musée d’Art Contemporain (7 Rue Ferrère, +33 5 56 00 81 50) in Bordeaux for its dramatic architecture and innovative program as well as the Consortium (www.leconsortium.com) in Dijon. The Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum (www.naoshima-is.co.jp), by Tadao Ando, in rural Japon operates the perfect connivance between nature, art and architecture.
What about up-and-coming art destinations?
In countries with emerging art scenes, pioneering museums are often owned or largely funded by private collectors. This is the case of the Devi Art Foundation (www.deviartfoundation.org) in Delhi India; the Ullens Center of Contemporary Art (www.ucca.org.cn) in Beijing, and the MOCA Shanghai that is supported by Samuel Kang. Places that are truly magical to me are those that bring contemporary art in remarkable historical contexts such as the Wiener Sessession in Austria, Castello di Rivoli in Italy, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville, or the Collection Lambert in Avignon.
What are some art/culture destinations you consider underrated and why?
Many cities and art scenes in an emerging phase don’t get the attentions they deserve, or if they do it is only by a handful of connoisseurs. Therefore OPUS’ goal is to organize trips to destinations that may not present the appeal of cities like New York, Paris, Venice or Beijing but are nevertheless rich in culture. Accordingly we’re planning trips to the cities of Seattle and Vancouver who not only are built in breathtaking sites but host some of the most interesting artists producing nowadays. Also in our program Portugal, some parts of Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries and some places in the Middle East.
What are some upcoming fairs/exhibits you’re looking forward to the most?
The Sharjah Biennale in the U.A.E. that always reflects on challenging matters such as the environment –for the previous edition- and our Future for this upcoming edition. This spring, they’ll explore the notions of travel, immigration, narration, fiction, escape and exile. I’m also eagerly anticipating the Venice Biennale, which is always a treat. I’m preparing an exclusive trip for a small group with Opus. In New York, I’m looking forward to Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective that will be up at MoMA from March 1 to May 11, 2009.
If you had your pick to own any work of art, which one would it be and why?
Maybe a date painting by On Kawara that basically shows a date painted on a canvas because it represents the quintessential artistic gesture, sign and image.
Opus focuses a lot on drawing lines between art, design, architecture and social setting…where in the world are these synergies especially exciting?
In Western societies, particularly in cities, we’ve been alienated from the natural environment. Modern architecture, design and social issues mingle. Art reflects on the whole scheme. In Western Europeans countries, in Japan and in the U.S., this alchemy has been operating for a long time and in other places such as the Middle East, China and certain countries of South America the modernization process has been more recent and sudden, therefore we find in those places an astonishing collusion between contemporary art, design and architecture.
What are some of your favorite cultural venues/activities that are not museum or gallery (dance, theater, music)?
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (www.bam.org) in New York. La Cité de la Musique (www.cite-musique.fr) and Le Théâtre de la Ville (www.theatredelaville-paris.com) in Paris. The Barbican Center (www.barbican.org.uk) and Sadler’s Wells (www.sadlerswells.com) in London. The Hebbel Theater (www.hebbel-am-ufer.de) in Berlin. La Casa da Musica (www.casadamusica.com) in Porto.
How would you say has travel shaped your professional and personal life?
Traveling has been crucial to my learning’s and my personal life. It is on a trip through America that I fell in love with New York, where I later moved and decided to settle. It is while traveling that I became aware of the wide diversity of the contemporary art production, which resulted in my current profession. But above all, being confronted to other cultures helps me to keep an open mind.
What trip made the biggest impression when you first began traveling?
Egypt, when I was a teenager and began to look at art, later Morocco and Andalusia where I learnt about the luminous civilization that brought together science, philosophy, art and architecture in the middle age.
You’re a French-born New Yorker…what are some of your favorite restaurants in NYC and Paris?
My husband’s kitchen! And also, in Paris, the Jules Verne on the Eiffel Tower is spectacular. When I’m in the Marais, I go to a small restaurant that I rarely recommend, because it’s kind of a secret place. It’s called Le Hangar (12 Impasse Berthaud, 33-1-42-74-55-44), near the Pompidou. My other favorites are Parisian brasseries. By chance, each art neighborhood as its own, like the Brasserie Lipp (151 Boulevard St.-Germain, 33-1-45-48-53-91) in Saint-Germain, Bofinger (5-7 Rue de la Bastille, 33-1-42-72-87-82, fax: 33-1-42-72-97-68) at Place de la Bastille.
There is also a notable brasserie in New York, in the landmark Seagram Building. Named the Brasserie (100 E 53rd St., 212-751-4840), this restaurant was remodeled by Diller + Scofidio in the mid-nineties. Like a Parisian brasserie, it has an energetic vibe that I recommend for a lively lunch with clients or friends. Across the street, I always check what new art installations are exhibited in the Atrium of the Lever House (390 Park Ave., 212-888-2700) owned by New York collector and real estate mogul, Abby Rosen. In Tribeca, I like French restaurant Bouley (120 W Broadway, 212-964-2525). In the Bowery, I either go to Freemans (191 Chrystie St., 212-420-0012) or to Café Havana (17 Prince St., 212-625-2002) for a bite between exhibitions. After gallery openings in the West Village, I enjoy Wallsee (344 West 11th St., 212-352-2300) owned by Austrian Chef and artists’ friend, Kurt Gutenbrunner. In Chelsea, a classic is La Luncheonette (130 Tenth Ave., 212-675-0342) that is owned by French Chef Jean-François Fraysse. I used to throw dinner parties for artists there when I was running a gallery in the neighborhood. More recently open, Cookshop (156 10th Ave., 212-924-4440) offers great food. My late night favorite spots are Blue Ribbon (97 Sullivan St., 212-274-0404) on Sullivan Street in Soho, and Employees Only (510 Hudson St., 212-242-3021) on Hudson Street in the West Village.
Where are you dying to go next?
Beside art destination trips, Alaska or the Amazon.
Read our destination guides to New York
Read our destination guide to Paris
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