Tuesday in the Park with Zaha

The other day, the School of Visual Arts Designer as Author students visited the Zaha Hadid-designed Chanel Mobile Art display in Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield. It was a gorgeous fall morning, leaves falling from trees painted with oranges, reds, siennas, and fading greens. The 7,500 square foot orb is filled with installations inspired by the quilted Chanel bag (bottom) and perfume pervades the air. A personal tour is narrated by the deep yet dulcet tones of Jeanne Moreau “discussing everything from sex and love to the secrets at the bottom of a woman’s handbag,” writes The New York Times. However, with everyone listening to their own prompts (i.e. “now walk with me to the stairs, and turn left”) on individualized MP3 devices, visitors became willing zombies, walking slowly, mindlessly to Moreau’s resolute commands.
    Some of the artworks were clever (a series of cardboard boxes, below, with witty videos projected from above showing naked people frolicking and assaulting one another with Chanel bags) and some were more tritely surreal. There was also a hint of the 1964 New York World’s Fair to be found in the space-age orb that seemed to be plunked down from the heavens in the anomalous surround.
    The students left with mixed feelings. The morning was blissful and beautiful enough, but this monument to high-end commercialism (guarded by Chanel-clad docents) at such a critical period of economic distress seemed a tad out of touch with reality. But maybe that’s the point.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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