Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pensamientos Sobre Democracia


Thursday, March 19, 2009

ToD goes to Mexico City!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009



The Wolfsonian–FIU, an art and design museum located in Miami, Florida, challenged middle and high school students to visually address an essential question confronting all U.S. citizens in these times. "What are your thoughts on democracy?"

The winners of the Thoughts on Democracy Student Poster Challenge are:

Middle School Category
Troy Rivera. Cutler Ridge Middle School.
Instructor: Ricardo E. Sanchez

High School Catergory
Jewelie Ambartsuma. Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School.
Instructor: Julie Orsini Shakher.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Art Basel VIP Reception with Elliott Earls

Elliott Earls Performing at The Wolfsonian Museum.
Accompanied by Benjamin Teague.

VIP Reception:
Friday December 5th. 8 to 9PM.

Guest of the Museum:
Friday December 5th. 9 to 11PM.

Design Marathon Performance:
Saturday December 6th 5:30PM


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Francesco Vezzoli (Italian, b. 1971)
Rosalynn Carter, 2007
Inkjet print and watercolor on canvas with metallic embroidery
Courtesy Galleria Franco Noero, Torino


How are we manipulated by strategies of political communication? How do issues such as fame and the power of the media play into this dynamic, and what is the role of democracy? Inspired by the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections, artist Francesco Vezzoli (Italian, b. 1971) explores these issues and how they’re expressed through contemporary visual language in his installation Democrazy, on view at The Wolfsonian–FIU October 24-December 7, 2008 and sponsored by Gallery Ivon Lambert, Paris. The presentation at The Wolfsonian is in connection with the current exhibit, Thoughts on Democracy, part of the Celebrating America year of exhibits.

Democrazy is based on a fictional election campaign with two hypothetical candidates. A video project, the installation consists of two election ads played concurrently, featuring the theoretical candidates, who have different political visions. The candidates are played by media superstars, both poised to become the quintessential twenty-first century leader: Hollywood actress Sharon Stone and French philosopher and author Bernard-Henri Lévy.

The ads were produced in collaboration with teams of political experts, one led by Mark McKinnon, George W. Bush’s media advisor in 2004, and the other by Jim Mulhall, part of Bill Clinton’s creative team in 1996.

The ads, with their on-point, extremely precise, and seductive messages, highlight the candidates’ popularity, confidence, and their seductive capacity to use the media to bolster their images.

“Democrazy is a provocative look at the powerful roles of media, visual language, and celebrity culture, and as such is very much in keeping with the themes that The Wolfsonian’s collection addresses,” notes Cathy Leff, The Wolfsonian’s director. “What Franceso Vezzoli has done in this installation is to comment on and reflect back to us a view of our current election and the media frenzy that it’s generating. The fact that this noted artist has collaborated with former presidential advisors makes this fictional representation all the more intriguing.”

Democrazy was first presented in June 2007 during the opening of the Italian Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. It follows the artist’s earlier parody of contemporary Hollywood, Trailer for a remake of Gore Vidal’s Caligula, presented at the 51st Venice Biennale and at the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

About the Artist
Francesco Vezzoli’s work includes video installations, petit-point embroidery, and photography, mixing heterogeneous languages and genres to bring together pop icons, auteur cinema, art history, social, and personal issues. He has had solo shows in museums and institutions worldwide including Fondazione Prada, Milan; Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and Tate Modern, London. His video projects and needleworks have also been presented at several biennials including the 2006 Whitney Biennial, the 49th, 51st, and 52nd Venice Biennials, and the 26th Sao Paulo Biennial; and in group shows at venues including Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; The Studio Museum in Harlem; Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; and Migros Museum, Zurich.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Wolfsonian-FIU Presents Thoughts on Democracy: Managing Perceptions through Images and Words

Propaganda has always been with us, but the recent polarization of the electoral landscape and growing sophistication of technology and media marketing savvy, illustrate the ways politics are often swayed by manipulation, doublespeak, and falsehoods. It's time to take a close look at how propaganda distorts perceptions and how it can move a nation to positive action.

Join us for an afternoon of thought-provoking dialogue with distinguished journalists, visual and graphic artists, political thinkers, and writers as they explore the 2008 Presidential campaign just ten days before the election.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1:00-5:00 pm
The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse


(double click on the image for detailed information)


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


What are your thoughts on democracy?

The Wolfsonian–FIU, an art and design museum located in Miami, Florida, challenges middle and high school students throughout the nation to visually address an essential question confronting all U.S. citizens in these times.

Challenge guidelines:

  • Two entries accepted per school (You decide how to democratically select them.)
  • Accompanied by completed entry form (No entries accepted without one.)
  • Artwork must be two-dimensional and a maximum of 8.5 x11 inches
  • Submit entry in one of the following formats:
    • Email digital scan of original artwork (must be 300 DPI, high resolution PDF or Microsoft Word format) to
    • Print and mail entries to Thoughts on Democracy Student Poster Challengec/o The Wolfsonian Ed Dept., 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • All entries must be received by November 17, 2008
  • Prizes will be awarded and top entries posted online
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __



To participate in the poster challenge, please enclose this form with up to two entries:

City: _____________ State:_______

Teacher’s Name: _________________________________

Email: __________________________________________ Phone:__________________

#1 Student’s Name: ____________________ ____________
Grade: ____

#2 Student’s Name: ____________________ ____________
Grade: ____


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thoughts on Democracy Arrives at Miami International Airport

Add some art and gather your thoughts on democracy during your next vacation! Posters from the exhibition Thoughts on Democracy are now on display at Miami International Airport, on the second level at the Concourse D Federal Inspection Services area past the security checkpoint. The exhibit is a component of the broader mia Galleries Exhibition Program, and will be open for the next six months to ticketed passengers or by special request.

Read the full press release...


(Miami-Dade County, Florida) – The Division of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs at Miami International Airport announces Thoughts on Democracy, an innovative initiative on display at the airport for the next six months that brings together 60 renowned contemporary artists and designers to present original works inspired by Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” posters. Thoughts on Democracy is part of Celebrating America, a series of four exhibitions at The Wolfsonian-Florida International University through 2009 that examine and celebrate the social, political and personal American experience from the 1930s to the present.

“We invited artists and designers to participate in a ‘graphic remix’ that would reinterpret Rockwell’s posters in today’s visual language,” said Wolfsonian art director Tim Hossler, who conceived the project and is co-curating the show with Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Design Department at the School of Visual Arts. “We are thrilled with the response and are eager to see how the participants’ exploration of democracy stimulates public conversation on the subject.”

Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” paintings were first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 and were later issued by the government as posters for a U.S. war bond drive. The paintings illustrated the ideals expressed in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s impassioned “Four Freedoms” speech to Congress in 1941, in which he envisioned a “world founded upon four essential human freedoms” - Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.

“We are always looking for new, provocative ways to foster dialogue around our collection in relation to contemporary issues, particularly when we are able to involve contemporary artists and graphic designers,” said The Wolfsonian’s director, Cathy Leff. “Thoughts on Democracy will be a fascinating and timely reflection of how Roosevelt’s universal ideals, articulated in 1941, are interpreted and expressed in 2008.” She explained that The Wolfsonian’s impetus for the project was a recent gift of the “Four Freedoms” posters to the museum by Leonard A. Lauder.

All artists and designers included in the exhibition have generously donated their time and creativity. Thoughts on Democracy is supported by a generous grant from the Funding Arts Network (FAN), in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Thoughts on Democracy is on display on the second level at the Concourse D Federal Inspection Services area past the security checkpoint and is open to ticketed passengers or by special request. The exhibition is a component of the broader mia Galleries Exhibition Program, created for the purpose of humanizing the airport environment with cultural and educational experiences. Images of the exhibition are available upon request.

For more information, contact the Miami-Dade Aviation Department’s Division of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs at 305-876-0749 or the Office of Communications at 305-876-7017.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dynamo Museum Spotlight: kate spade buttons

Wear Thoughts on Democracy on your sleeve...or backpack...or baseball hat...or any where you can pin a button!

Selecting from their Thoughts on Democracy poster, the kate spade, new york team has created a collection of fun, quirky, and patriotic buttons. Choose one or many of the buttons (which come in a variety of sizes, colors, and statements) to project your own individual thoughts on democracy.

The kate spade, new york buttons are available for $1.50 each at The Wolfsonian's Dynamo Shop and Cafe. The Dynamo Shop and Café is located at 1001 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL. If you have any questions or would like to purchase something from the shop, contact the museum shop manager at or 305.535.2680.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Dynamo Museum Shop Spotlight: Iron Fists by Steven Heller

Iron Fists, the new book by Thoughts on Democracy co-curator Steve Heller, was just published yesterday, but has already received attention for its bold comparison the political propaganda of some of the world's "worst" dictators - Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, and Mao Tse-Tung - and modern corporate branding. Although focused on much darker subject matter, Iron Fists relates to the Thoughts on Democracy project in its examination of how art and design has the power to impact politics.

Iron Fists is available for purchase at The Wolfsonian's Dynamo Shop and Cafe. The Dynamo Shop and Café is located at 1001 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL. If you have any questions or would like to purchase something from the shop, contact the museum shop manager at or 305.535.2680.

To read Christopher Benfey's review of Iron Fists, visit, or keep reading...

Iron Fists: The insidious side of brand loyalty

by Christopher Benfey

Iron Fists
Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State By Steven Heller Illustrated. 223 pages. Phaidon Press.

How did a practice as vile as branding become so valued, indeed, the very mark of value? Officials in the past have branded slaves and criminals - remember Milady's fleur-de-lis in "The Three Musketeers"? Samuel Maverick didn't brand his cattle, but dictionaries are vague about whether he was the first maverick or his cows were.

Today, cities and colleges have joined toothpastes and soft drinks in the battle for "brand loyalty." Steven Heller's "Iron Fists" makes a sophisticated and visually arresting comparison between modern corporate-branding strategies - slogans, mascots, jingles and the rest - and those adopted by "four of the most destructive 20th-century totalitarian regimes": Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and Mao's China. As he pursues his four "case studies," Heller, by means of unsettling images and shrewd analysis, amply restores the vileness to branding.

"Iron Fists" has the dimensions and dazzling illustrations of a coffee-table book, but its subject will fit uneasily among Monet's waterlilies or Fabergé's eggs. Heller, who was a senior art director at The New York Times for many years and now writes the Visuals column for the Book Review, brings a graphic designer's perspective to these disturbing proceedings. He is aware that comparing supposedly "benign" corporate brands with government-disseminated propaganda may seem a stretch: "A popular brand of frozen food or laundry detergent is not forced down the consumer's throat with an iron fist." Still, as he notes, "the design and marketing methods used to inculcate doctrine and guarantee consumption are fundamentally similar." His aim is not to diminish the insidiousness of the regimes under scrutiny, but rather to reveal why they were so effective.

Three of Heller's dictators considered themselves artists and eagerly participated in marketing their brands. Mao fancied himself a poet and master calligrapher; Mussolini wrote a pulp novel and portrayed himself as a hypermasculine sex symbol. Hitler was an aspiring architect and avid watercolorist before adopting what Heller calls his "sociopolitical art project." The Führer sought to control all aspects of the Nazi brand, from the swastika "logo" to his own image, with mustache but without glasses. Heller argues that Mao with his "Mona Lisa smile" and Lenin with his proletarian cap functioned in much the same way as "trade characters" like Joe Camel or the Geico gecko, putting "a friendly face on an otherwise inanimate (or sometimes inhumane) product." Like modern corporate competitors, these leaders borrowed freely from one another, with Hitler taking the straight-armed Roman salute from Mussolini and Mao adopting Socialist Realism from the Soviets.

Some of the most interesting pages in "Iron Fists" explore the ambiguous place of avant-garde art in rigidly designed societies. Mussolini and Lenin were more accommodating of Modernist impulses than Hitler, who declared war on "degenerate art" while making an exception for the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl's "paradigms of heroic branding." The temporary "fusion" of Fascism and the technology-embracing art movement known as Futurism led to some terrific pro-Mussolini visual design before Il Duce settled for neo-Classical "Roman" kitsch instead.

The early years of the Soviet Union provide some of the best examples of art flourishing amid utopian hopes for a new society - in Rodchenko's posters (including his famous promo for "Books" in 1924), El Lissitzky's remarkable children's books and Eisenstein's films. All four regimes ended up suppressing individual creativity as a threat to the total control they sought. When the regimes fell in turn, their brands were retired.

The swastika, an ancient symbol whose meaning, Heller says, "was forever changed when the Nazis co-opted it," is now banned in Germany except for "artistic, scientific, research or educational purposes." Mussolini's body, so central to his national image, was hung from an Esso gas station, an inadvertent premonition, perhaps, that oil companies would henceforth rule the world.

For the most part, Heller's prose is as clear and uncluttered as the graphic design he admires. He takes no ideological position and does not distinguish between repressive regimes of the right (sometimes called "authoritarian") or the left. Nor does he advance any overarching theory about the destiny of art in totalitarian regimes, though he leaves no doubt about the grim fate of ordinary citizens. Given his dark subject, he can be forgiven for abusing adjectives like "infamous," "horrific," "diabolical" and "heinous," though such words lose some of their power with the third or fourth repetition. They also obscure the continuity between branding campaigns of the past and our own battles over flag pins and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Heller makes no claims to a comprehensive survey, but one wonders why Imperial Japan, at least as "infamous" as Fascist Italy and with an interesting record of artists roped into the cause, was spared. One might also cavil about the material's organization, which places the Nazis first, according them a third of the book, even though Lenin's revolution and Mussolini's Fascism predate Hitler's rise.

Still, as Heller makes clear, the Nazis were the supreme masters of branding, both at the figurative level, in the vicious propaganda campaign he calls the "branding demonization" of the German Jews, and in a literal sense, as the Nazis "resorted to the most degrading branding technique imaginable." My German grandparents, with a big "J" stamped across their ex it passports, were among the lucky ones. Those less fortunate, as Primo Levi wrote of the inmates of Auschwitz, were branded with an indelible tattoo: "This is the mark with which slaves are branded and cattle sent to the slaughter, and that is what you have become. You no longer have a name; this is your new name."