Tuesday, August 23, 2011

EVEN MORE Summer Reading...

Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years 1954-1959

by Jane King Hession and Debra Pickrel

Yet another Frank Lloyd Wright book (I've read three this summer!) but this one is a cut above. Focusing on the time when Wright had a New York apartment/studio during the construction of The Guggenheim Museum, this elegant book captures the heady spirit of the times, when New York City was the cultural capital of the world. Home to many of the most important modern artists, it was also the center for print advertising and radio and television production. Wright, who often expressed his distaste for New York architecture, loved the bustle and attention he could command there. With visits from important clients (including a private meeting with Marilyn Monroe) Wright's carefully cultivated image was a natural for the new medium of television. Just as interesting are the stories about his projects of that era which weren't successful, including a deal with Mike Todd, Pat Weaver and Buckminster Fuller to build a chain of widescreen movie theaters and also Wright's foray into home furnishings.

The Plaza Hotel becomes a central character as well, I find it amusing to imagine the fictional "Eloise" would have been one of Frank's neighbors! Wright decorated his own apartment, of course, and there are lots of pictures of it which I'd never seen before. The story of The Guggenheim's prolonged gestation is also told with a great deal of detail, including the behind the scenes involvement of "cousin" Robert Moses.

The book is handsomely designed and reflects both Wright's aesthetic and gives a vivid look at New York of the late fifties (love the fashions!) Many of these Wright books are merely rehashes of Wright's own publications but this is a true original and well worth a check out from the library or even a place of honor on your coffee table (another Wright innovation in the fifties); does anyone actually still have a coffee table with books on it? It is a great little time machine.

By Professor Batty


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