design edit

A New Infinity Room, Architecture for Ants, I ♥ NY Knockoffs, and More Finds

Photo: Diana Budds, Alvaro Keding/© AMNH

The objects, designers, news, and events worth knowing about.

Architecture for Ants at the Natural History Museum

Photos: Alvaro Keding/© AMNH.
Photos: Alvaro Keding/© AMNH.

Inside Studio Gang’s cavelike addition to the American Museum of Natural History, there’s a smaller work of architecture that looks a little like Renzo Piano meets 2001, with its industrial steel pipes, gleaming white Corian, and backlit surfaces. It’s an airtight exhibit the size of a Mini Cooper, where you can watch half a million leafcutter ants diligently march between their colony, contained in glass orbs behind a transparent wall, to a platform about four feet away to harvest food — the round-trip journey takes about an hour to complete. It looks daunting; they trek across a skybridge, down metal poles, and across an illuminated ring called “the turntable” (on which the ants navigate metal paths that the museum can reconfigure to show how they always take the most efficient route) — all to reach plants that they will take back, piece by piece. In an institution known for so much dead stuff, the leafcutter exhibit gives visitors the thrill of seeing living creatures go about their daily routine. It may look like a miniature obstacle course, but everything was designed to make the ants’ journey easy, including using materials that their tiny legs could comfortably grip. “Some people are saying, ‘Why are we making them go so far?’” says Hazel Davies, the museum’s Director of Living exhibits. “They naturally travel a lot further in the wild. They can do it without a problem.”

A Guerilla Takeover of “Counterfeit Triangle”

Photos: Diana Budds.
Photos: Diana Budds.

“The Hell’s Angels have joined the poetry reading,” deadpanned John Yau, scanning the traffic in front of him, before taking a drag of his cigarette. On Sunday, the poet recited excerpts of his books about living in Chinatown from the wedge of concrete where Canal, Baxter, and Walker Streets meet, otherwise known as the “Counterfeit Triangle” (for its association with bootleg luxury vendors). It was hard to hear him over the revving motorcycles and Sunday gridlock, but the 100 or so people — snacking on mangoes and oranges on benches that the artist Sebastijan Jemec had made from reclaimed construction walls — seemed okay with that. The reading was actually a guerilla takeover organized by the Canal Street Research Association and the Storefront for Art and Architecture as part of their exhibition on the informal vendor economy that had dominated a Chinatown mini-mall and the “Counterfeit Triangle” where everyone was clustered. Through the event, the crowd was reclaiming a site that had been vacated by force, first by police kicking out the fruit vendors in the late 1990s over “hygiene” concerns and then by the city, which built a tourism kiosk and planted Gingko trees there, both of which made it hard for the vendors to return. As of today, the benches are still there — and the artists hope they remain indefinitely.

Milton Glaser’s Personal Collection of I ♥ NY Knockoffs

Photo: Diana Budds

On a recent visit to the Glaser archive at the School of Visual Arts with head archivist Beth Kleber, who was preparing for an upcoming exhibition of the late graphic designer’s work, I noticed a small gray box with a sticky note labeled “I ♥ NY.” Could it be filled with layouts of the 1976 logo he designed for the city? Kleber kindly indulged my curiosity and opened it for me. It turned out to be Glaser’s personal collection of I ♥ NY knockoffs, which he’d amassed over the years from all the strangers who’d mailed them to him. He’d kept the good ones: buttons printed with “I ♥ Cash Flow” and “I ♥ Men Who Don’t Ask A Lot of Questions,” an “I ♥ Acapulco” plastic shopping bag, and a “Yo ♥ La Iglesia Luterana” bumper sticker, among a few dozen other items. Even after Glaser died in 2020, people kept sending in knockoffs, but now they reach Kleber. She thinks he was amused by them. “Milton was proud of the success of the logo,” she says. “But he also was like, ‘This doesn’t belong to me anymore.’” I remembered the reaction to the We ♥ NY campaign that came out last month, and how most thought it had failed to improve on Glaser’s original. Why change a true icon? Perhaps he would’ve added that to his collection, too.

A COVID Memorial at Greenwood Cemetery

Photo: Diana Budds

The wrought-iron fences around Greenwood Cemetery’s Fifth Avenue entrance are draped with floral garlands and covered in butterfly cutouts, crayon drawings, and personal messages. “I miss dancing salsa all night long,” one message printed on a six-foot-long white ribbon reads. These artworks comprise a new COVID memorial organized by Naming the Lost, an arts group dedicated to commemorating the pandemic. It had commissioned groups like the W.O.W Project, Yaffa Cultural Arts, and La Colmena to contribute to the installation. Yesterday, Naming the Lost livestreamed a dedication ceremony which happened to coincide with Biden declaring an end of the federal COVID-19 health emergency. Although we’ve entered a phase of the pandemic where most seem to have moved on, many are still grieving. The memorial provides a public venue where they can. Through May 29.

A New Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room

Photo: Courtesy of David Zwirner, Art: Yayoi Kusama

The lines are back at David Zwirner’s 19th Street gallery for “I Spend Each Day With Flowers,” Yayoi Kusama’s new exhibition. The show, her biggest in New York to date, includes ten-foot-tall floral sculptures that look like surreal Super Mario Brothers piranha plants; an installation of her black-and-yellow spotted pumpkins that turn the squash into a billowing wall; and a compact Infinity Room done up in red, yellow, and blue circles. 94,000 people came to Kusama’s last exhibit in 2021; even more people are expected this time around. Zwirner is offering randomly selected newsletter subscribers a chance to skip the queue. Through July 21.

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Architecture for Ants, I ♥ NY Knockoffs, and More Finds