Double Vision

French street artist JR has twice transformed I.M. Pei’s iconic pyramid at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

In 2016 he made it disappear by overlaying one face with an image of the background facade.

And just this month (below) he applied 2,000 stickers to the surrounding pavement to create an anamorphic illusion in which the pyramid seems to rise from a crater.

The paper stickers were quickly destroyed by wandering tourists, but that was expected, he said. “The images, like life, are ephemeral. Once pasted, the art piece lives on its own. The sun dries the light glue and with every step, people tear pieces of the fragile paper. The process is all about participation of volunteers, visitors, and souvenir catchers.”

Wind Art

Anthony Howe creates wind-driven sculptures that somehow evoke both marine biology and alien machines.

“I attempt, with an economy of means, to construct objects whose visual references range from lo-tech sci-fi paraphernalia to microbiological or astronomical models,” he says. “Utilizing primarily stainless steel armatures that are driven either by hammered curvilinear shapes or flat fiberglass covered discs, I hope the pieces assume a spare, linear elegance when conditions are still, mutating to raucous animation when the wind picks up.”

More at his YouTube channel.

Spine Tinglers

In a 2009 study of responses to music, neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor and her colleagues asked participants to bring in 3 to 5 pieces of “intensely pleasurable instrumental music to which they experience chills.” Then they measured their physiological response as they listened. They found that the “chills” effect is real — when the subjects reported that their pleasure at the music was highest, so was their sympathetic nervous system activity, a measure of emotional arousal.

One byproduct of the study is a list of more than 200 chills-inducing moments in music of various genres, with precise timestamps of the crucial points:

Composer/Artist Title Chills
Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor (“The Tempest”) 5:33
Mahler Symphony No. 1 – Movement 4 5:42, 9:57, 15:15
Charles Mingus Fables of Faubus 0:20, 7:10
Stan Getz Round Midnight 1:26
Pink Floyd Shine on You Crazy Diamond 5:00
Phish You Enjoy Myself 10:50
Cannonball Adderley One for Daddy-O 0:40
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet Congan 2:09
Crowfoot Larks in May 0:10, 2:00
Howard Shore The Breaking of the Fellowship (film score) 0:10, 0:55
Dave Matthews Band #34 1:40
The Dissociatives Paris Circa 2007 Slash 08 1:30
Brad Mehldau Knives Out 4:45, 7:25
Explosions in the Sky First Breath After Coma 2:25, 3:30, 8:10

These won’t work for everyone — music tastes are notoriously idiosyncratic — but it’s interesting to see what people find moving. The full list is here (Table_S1). (Note too that the timestamps relate to a particular recording, so consider them approximate in e.g. classical music.)

(Valorie N. Salimpoor, et al., “The Rewarding Aspects of Music Listening Are Related to Degree of Emotional Arousal,” PloS One 4:10 [2009], e7487.)

Time Pyramid
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Manfred Laber’s public art piece in Wemding, Germany, doesn’t look much like a pyramid yet. That’s because a new concrete block is laid only every 10 years; the structure was begun in 1993 and will be completed in the year 3183, when the 120th block is placed at the top.

Altogether that’s 1,200 years, the town’s age when Laber conceived the project and laid its foundation.

Bricks and Mortar

Brad Spencer’s sculptures are both familiar and foreign — they’re fashioned from one of the most common building materials, but they leave viewers wondering how this was accomplished:

More at his website. (Via eMORFES.)

Trench Art

To pass the time while waiting in the trenches of the Argonne, French infantryman Hippolyte Hodeau engraved the names of his daughters in chestnut leaves.

More at Europeana.


Austrian artist Peter Kogler uses twisting lines and geometric shapes to generate dramatic illusions in ordinary spaces.

“The black-and-white grid provides a maximum contrast which has a very strong visual presence,” he says. “The structure of the image is comprehensive and completely surrounds the beholder. In a sense, you are standing in the picture, and the work can be experienced physically.”

More at his website.


Through his innovative stage machines, architect Nicola Sabbatini summoned lightning, fire, hell, storms, gods, and clouds to the sets of 17th-century Venetian operas. The effect could be spectacular — characters braved moving waves, flew through the air, and descended into the underworld.

His illusions, which came to be known as scènes à l’italienne, were best viewed from “the prince’s seat,” the center of the seventh row, where “all the objects in the scene appear better … than from any other place.” The scene above, undertaken with stage designer Giacomo Torelli, depicts Apollo’s palace as a city among the clouds in Francesco Sacrati’s La Venere Gelosa (1643).

But they didn’t always work. Where one libretto read, “Here one sees descend an enormous machine, which arrives at the level of the gloria from the level of the floor of the stage, forming a majestic stairway of clouds, by which Jove descends, accompanied by a multitude of deities and celestial goddesses,” one critic wrote, “A stairway of clouds? For shame! / pardon me, architect: / it was a ladder to climb to the roof.”

Much Ado

The title of this painting is electrifying: Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare Playing at Chess. Unfortunately, its authenticity has been subject to debate for more than a century. It came to light only in 1878, when it was purchased for $18,000 by Colonel Ezra Miller, and the authenticating documents were lost in a fire 17 years later.

Supporters claim that it was painted by Karel van Mander (1548-1606), and in the best possible case it would give us new likenesses of Jonson and Shakespeare painted by a contemporary. But a biography of van Mander, probably written by his brother, makes no mention of this painting, nor of the artist ever visiting London, and while Shakespeare here appears younger than Jonson, in fact he was eight or nine years older.

“It is understandable that there is still curiosity about Shakespeare’s life, physical features, and reputation,” wrote Roehampton Institute scholars Bryan Loughrey and Neil Taylor in 1983. “If the chess portrait were genuinely a portrait of Shakespeare and Jonson, the painting would be of unique interest. Unfortunately, most of the arguments that have been advanced in its favor are untenable.”

Real or fake, Shakespeare has the better of Jonson in this game — he can mate on the move:,_1603.gif
Image: Wikimedia Commons

(Bryan Loughrey and Neil Taylor, “Jonson and Shakespeare at Chess?” Shakespeare Quarterly 34:4 [Winter 1983], 440-448.)