In an interview about his newest film, Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen declared, “I wanted to show the city emotionally, the way I felt about it. It didn’t matter to me how real it was. I wanted it to be Paris through my eyes.” Inspired by the king of fantasy destination films (Vicky Christina Barcelona anyone?), we’ve created a highly subjective list — not of art that is necessarily directly representative of a specific city, nor art that is necessarily created in that city (though there are a few of each on our list), but of art that feels like our favorite cities to us, that calls up the same responses and urges, the same colors and sense memories. Please feel free to chime in with your own choices, feelings and ruminations in the comments!
Gustave Courbet: Courbet’s famous self-portrait reminds us of lazy days gazing into the depths of the Trevi Fountain, and the cracked, old-world decadence of the city. And also of the sleepy, sexy looks Italian men give to women when their cheeks are pinched pink from a bit of cabernet.
Martynka Wawrzyniak: This strange, uncomfortable and yet alluring video reminds us of some of the darker corners of Paris – the experimental, absinthe-fueled days of the revolution. It also makes us think about how in Paris, we want to eat everything we see. Literally everything.
Marilyn Minter: Half shiny and dreamlike, half dirty and deranged, Minter’s compositions are a dead ringer for Miami’s bubblegum pop days and sleazy, sweaty nights. You can find us in the club. If there are bubbles there, all the better.
Alexander Calder: Attractive, organized and colorful, Calder’s bright mobiles mirror the elegant, frankly livable city of San Francisco. There’s just something about those fine lines and bursts of color that make us think of controlled brilliance, of easy days reading Franzen in your lawn chair.
Robert Mapplethorpe: This may be a painfully obvious choice, but Mapplethorpe’s photographs, many of them taken in his adopted hometown, sing Brooklyn to us. His prints range from gleeful to sadistic to solemn, but somehow they all seem to capture what it is to be young and an artist in our fair city.
Georgia O’Keeffe: Again, O’Keeffe had a personal connection with Santa Fe. However, that doesn’t make her work any less poignantly representative, especially in this iconic image of death juxtaposed with life above those red Southwestern hills. This is what the desert feels like.
Donald Judd: Something about Judd’s spare composition and ordered view laid out in the sun reminds us of the un-corny side of Austin and its environs, bringing out the understated, wide expanses and simplistic beauty.
Agnes Martin: Just like Zurich, Martin’s work seems simple and serene on the surface, but in reality is a buzzing hive of activity, creativity and genius.
Shepard Fairey: With all those colleges, Boston may be the perfect city in which to practice any trick over and over again.
Pablo Picasso: Just like New York, Picasso is vulgar and forever cutting-edge, complicated and brilliant. And also just like New York, even when you think you’ve seen enough Picasso to make your eyes bleed, whenever you come back after being away for a while, you’ll always find some new color, shape or corner to blow your mind all over again.