Philippe Vergne, the former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA), who was embroiled in controversy over the firing of the institution’s chief curator Helen Molesworth, has a new job. He has been named the director of Portugal’s prestigious Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, having been handpicked by an international panel seeking an experienced director to restore calm to the museum and gardens in the Northern city of Porto.
Vergne has been on the job market since last year when, two months after the announcement of Molesworth’s sudden termination from MOCA, the museum announced that he, too, would step down. Vergne and the museum said they had mutually agreed not to renew his contract when it ended this March.
Vergne’s appointment was a unanimous decision by the Serralves board, which was advised by a prestigious group of international museum directors, including Frances Morris, the director of Tate Modern, and Suzanne Cotter, who ran Serralves before she left for MUDAM in Luxembourg.
Penelope Curtis, the director of the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon who formerly led Tate Britain in London, tells artnet News that Vergne’s arrival will “agreeably surprise” people in Portugal. “Hopefully, the appointment of a foreigner denotes the board’s recognition that a director needs to have sufficient artistic independence,” she says.
Verge brings to the post a wealth of experience. Although his tenure at MOCA LA was overshadowed recently by his abrupt departure, he helped shore up the museum’s finances, lure artists back onto the board, and grow the museum staff to 60 full-time employees during his four years there. Before MOCA, Vergne served as the director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York and as deputy director and chief curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
His appointment at Serralves marks the French-born curator’s return to Europe after several decades. He served as the inaugural director of Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) in Marseilles before departing to the United States.
Until recently, many had expected Vergne to remain in Los Angeles, where he oversaw high-profile shows by artists including Kerry James Marshall, Mathew Barney, Hito Steyerl, Carl Andre, and R.H. Quaytman. But the public relations crisis incited by Molesworth’s departure ultimately led to a reshuffling of the museum’s leadership. Sources close to the issue have said that Vergne’s abrupt firing of his chief curator was a factor in the board’s decision not to renew his contract.
Vergne is not the only MOCA alum with a new job. As he heads back to Europe, Molesworth has also taken on a new role, which starts in April. The American curator will head to Colorado’s Anderson Ranch Arts Center for an 18-month term as its curator-in-residence. This summer, she will present the project “What Does Art Do?” with artist Simone Leigh as a part of the Ranch’s ongoing critical dialogue program.
How might architecture be used to provide a peaceful sanctuary to reflect and restore one’s energy? Or to create a place to stimulate intellectual creativity? Nebulous lofty goals, perhaps, but then again, Japan’s Shishi-Iwa House was conceived by its architect – the Pritzker Prize laureate Shigeru Ban – to be a little out of the ordinary.
Located about an hour’s train ride from Tokyo in Nagano’s mountain resort town of Karuizawa, the two-storey, ten-room boutique hotel is a calm retreat of shaded courtyards, enclosed gardens and vast rooms. Its gently undulating roof almost hidden by the surrounding forest of maples, cherry blossoms and evergreens.
Aimed at both private travellers and corporate bigwigs on an office retreat, the resort draws guests out into the public spaces, luring even the most reluctant couch potato onto sun-lit terraces and a soaring A-framed sitting room – the public spaces lined in timber by Ban and furnished with customised pieces and Alvar Aalto furniture alongside 1960s art by the likes of Masaaki Yamada and Jiro Yoshihara.
Contemplative moments are supplemented by breakfast bento boxes, barbecues of wagyu beef, Karuizawa whiskey and sake tastings in the library, forest treks towards Mount Asama, and scenic biking tours to the Sengataki falls. §
The new Lux* North Male Atoll resort hovers above the turquoise waters of the Maldives like a whitewashed mirage. In place of the traditional Maldivian thatched huts are 67 contemporary villas designed by Singapore-based Miaja Design Group as if to answer the question: ‘If James Bond escaped to a luxury retreat after his adventure, what would it look like?’
Superyachts and Riva boats influenced the villas’ billowing curves, teak decks, and the rope-adorned custom armchairs parked on the prow-shaped sky deck. Decorating the light bedroom and high-ceilinged lounge are paintings of coral, sea-grey vases and graduated blue rugs that invite the ocean in.
The underwater/overwater theme continues in the cavernous, concrete-tiled bathroom with sweeping Kohler fixtures, a mother-of-pearl salt jar, and a centrepiece bathtub that looks like a pot half thrown. Fuchsia accents – from the beads in the shell wall art to the tiling of the private infinity pool – evoke South Beach art deco.
In the north of the world’s flattest country, the resort highlights include its overwater spa with treatment tables offering a view of the iridescent marine life through a glass panel in the floor. Of the several excellent restaurants, perhaps the highlight is INTI. Serving Peruvian-Japanese fusion, expect sharp tiraditos (Peruvian sashimi), rich meats, and wine decanters the length of 007’s spear gun. §