The Best Reason to Bake, Not Fry: Flavor

AS A NEW college student homesick for his mother’s cooking, Fermín Nuñez stepped up to the stove. “I didn’t want to eat frozen food,” he said. He started simply, with rice, beans and tacos. After a few semesters, he dropped out and dedicated himself to cooking professionally.

Now, at Suerte in Austin, Texas, Mr. Nuñez is refining the basics he began with. In this tostada recipe, he calls for baking tortillas to a crisp and smearing them in a white-bean-and-leek purée laced with white wine. He tops that with spicy chorizo…

Not-the-Nobel Prize in Literature Is Announced

Maryse Conde was praised as a ‘grand storyteller’ in winning the New Academy Prize in Literature.
Maryse Conde was praised as a ‘grand storyteller’ in winning the New Academy Prize in Literature. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Maryse Condé, a chronicler of the colonial experience and its aftermath, won the New Academy Prize in Literature Friday.

Ms. Condé was praised as “a grand storyteller” whose “authorship belongs to world literature,” according to the New Academy. The Stockholm-based nonprofit stepped in to honor a writer this year after the Swedish Academy postponed the Nobel Prize in literature.

Ann Pålsson, a Swedish publishing veteran who headed the New Academy’s four-person jury, announced the decision in the rotunda of the Stockholm Public Library.

In an interview Friday, the 81-year-old Ms. Condé said she was delighted, proud—even astonished—to have won the award. She expressed hope that the New Academy might continue its work, particularly because the organization involved librarians in choosing nominees.

In a video played during the announcement in Stockholm, Ms. Condé said she would share the honor with the people of her native Guadeloupe. The island in the Caribbean where she was born “is known for hurricanes and earthquakes,” she said, “and now we are so happy to have been recognized for something else, for this prize, which I am very happy to receive.”

Author Neil Gaiman was on the shortlist for the New Academy Prize.
Author Neil Gaiman was on the shortlist for the New Academy Prize. Photo: Associated Press

Ms. Condé, who lives in France, said she likely will return to Guadeloupe for Christmas. She plans to attend the New Academy’s prize presentation in Stockholm on Dec. 9.

Ms. Condé identified colonialization as the theme that has run through all her fiction. Her intent, she said, was to tackle the questions “how to become oneself in spite of the myth elaborated through education and history” as well as “how do we erase the sequels of colonialism?”

On Friday, Ms. Condé’s French publisher, Éditions Lattès, said it was delighted by her achievement. “Her books are both literary classics and works of deep conviction. The destiny of her characters shines a light on the brightest and the darkest corners of human existence and the need to combat injustice in all its forms,” the publisher said.

In the mid-1980s, Ms. Condé sprang into prominence with “Segu,” a novel she describes as “an ode to the African past” that looks at a kingdom rocked by change. In the book, Ms. Condé writes: “What is a town? It isn’t a collection of mud or straw houses; markets where people sell rice, millet, gourds, fish and manufactured goods; mosques where people prostrate themselves; temples where they spill the blood of victims. It is a collection of private memories, different for every individual, so that no town is like any other or has any real identity.”

Although no longer writing because of poor health, Ms. Condé said she is collecting past articles and interviews for possible publication. Educated in France, Ms. Condé had a career as an academic alongside her literary endeavors and is a professor emerita at Columbia University, where she was a professor of French between 1995 and 2005.

Kim Thúy was also a finalist for the New Academy award.
Kim Thúy was also a finalist for the New Academy award. Photo: Jean Francois

In the spring, the Swedish Academy postponed this year’s Nobel in literature as it attempts to recover from a scandal over allegations of sexual assault. The academy said it would award two prizes next year. Dismayed by the news, Alexandra Pascalidou, a journalist in Sweden, mobilized writers, artists and other volunteers to launch the New Academy. The nonprofit asked Sweden’s librarians to nominate authors. The public then voted online, yielding a shortlist of Ms. Condé, Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami and Kim Thúy. Mr. Murakami withdrew from consideration, saying he wanted to focus on his writing. A jury of Swedish scholars and publishing veterans, led by Ms. Pålsson, chose the winner.

The Nobel in literature comes with a prize of more than $1 million. The New Academy has been supported by volunteers, sponsors and crowdfunding. As of Friday, the group’s Kickstarter page reflected $20,440 in pledges toward a goal of roughly $27,500.

The New Academy will close after awarding the prize in December. “Our plan was just to fill the gap” in 2018, when there was no Nobel in literature, Ms. Pascalidou said. However, she added, New Academy supporters are insisting “you cannot stop this, you have to go on.” The New Academy had just a few months to spread the word, fundraise and handle the nominations and the award. If the organization were to continue, Ms. Pascalidou said, she would work to make it more diverse, seeking nominations from librarians across the world and not only Sweden.

The Nobel Foundation said alternative Nobel efforts appear from time to time. “If they are serious and rewarding good work, the Nobel Foundation encourages efforts like these,” it said.

Emily Ringborg, who works in the main public library in Stockholm, participated in the New Academy’s selection. In the initial round of voting, she proposed Caribbean-born author Jamaica Kincaid as well as Nnedi Okorafor, a science-fiction and fantasy writer whose parents emigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. In the second round, Ms. Ringborg, who is 38 years old and has worked in libraries for 17 years, voted for Ms. Condé.

“I think anyone who is interested in books and cultural events knows about the New Academy’s prize,” Ms. Ringborg said.

Write to Brenda Cronin at

‘First Man’ Review: Sticking an Epic Landing

Watch a clip from the movie ‘First Man,’ starring Ryan Gosling. Photo: Universal Pictures

The radical notion behind Damien Chazelle’s remarkable “First Man” is this: Tell the story of mankind’s boldest adventure thus far, the Apollo 11 mission that reached the moon nearly a half-century ago, but tell it through a taciturn, emotionally closed-off hero, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the lunar surface. And pay close attention to this man’s state of mind and spirit, as well as to the mission’s spectacular success, so the story is equally about what it means to be flesh-and-blood human while walking on Earth.

The film, which was adapted by Josh Singer from a book by James R. Hansen, stars Ryan Gosling as Armstrong. It’s an ideal match—an intensely private actor playing a tightly focused problem-solver who is, before and after everything else, an engineer. (For Armstrong the word “neat” is extravagant praise; he uses it to describe the physics of rocketry.) Astronauts have often been laconic on screen—Keir Dullea’s Dave Bowman in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Tom Hanks’sJim Lovell in “Apollo 13”—but this portrait finds humor in Armstrong’s stripped-back syntax and anguish behind his cool façade: the inconsolable loss of a 2-year-old daughter, Karen, to complications from cancer (was he always closed off, or did Karen’s death shut him down?); his painful inability to bid his two young sons a proper, open-hearted goodbye before leaving home for the moon mission. (“Does anyone have any other questions?” he asks the kids, as if they’re attendees at a press conference.)

However inward the hero may be, the movie around him is thrillingly outward, not to mention poundingly onward and relentlessly upward. For a while it’s hard to reconcile “First Man” with the song-and-dance spirit of Mr. Chazelle’s previous film, “La La Land,” but a gifted director is a gifted director, whatever the material; the same applies to the writer, Mr. Singer, whose two previous feature scripts were for the journalism dramas “Spotlight” and “The Post.” And there’s musicality in the rhythms of the dialogue and physical action, just as there is in Justin Hurwitz’s score. (For the beginning of an enthralling, and then terrifying, deep-space sequence in which Armstrong and his co-pilot, Dave Scott, dock their Gemini 8 capsule with an Agena Target Vehicle, Mr. Hurwitz has written a little Strauss-flavored waltz to salute Stanley Kubrick’s ethereal use of “The Blue Danube” in “2001.”)

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong Photo: Universal Studios

The action begins in 1961, eight years before the flight of Apollo 11, with a stunning set piece: Armstrong, as a test pilot, struggling to control his descent from the ionosphere in a rocket-powered X-15 after bouncing, unintentionally and almost catastrophically, off the Earth’s atmosphere. There’s a concept to get your head around—not only the bounce but, as Armstrong notes, the thinness and fragility of the atmospheric layer that supports all terrestrial life.

“First Man” covers a lot of space and ground: a daunting succession of failure, catastrophe and near-catastrophe leading to the lunar landing; domestic opposition to the cost of the program; competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that turned a scientific venture with a huge political charge into a flat-out race for international prestige. The filmmakers have been criticized for failing to depict the planting of the Stars and Stripes on the lunar surface, though the flag is visible in a subsequent shot. Once you see the film, you understand that choice in the context of a saga of human endeavor that transcends national triumph. “For mankind,” Armstrong said of the giant leap; the film declines to contradict him, while leaving no doubt that it was Americans who pulled it off.

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong Photo: Universal Studios

The program’s cost wasn’t only fiscal; the price paid by the astronauts’ families is dramatized vividly. Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s wife, Janet, with lovely understatement; Janet adores her husband, but she fears for him, and despairs of ever living the normal life she signed up for when she married an ostensibly stable engineer. Olivia Hamilton is affectingly vulnerable as Pat White, the wife of astronaut Ed White, who is played by Jason Clarke. The cast includes Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton, the Mercury astronaut turned NASA manager; Shea Whigham as Gus Grissom; Lukas Haas as Mike Collins, Apollo 11’s command module pilot; and Corey Stoll as Armstrong’s moon-walking companion Buzz Aldrin, who, as depicted here, is no better at keeping his mouth shut than Armstrong is at baring his soul.

During one of several crises in the narrative, Janet, usually taciturn too, lashes out at Slayton, who insists that everything is under control: “You’re a bunch of boys making models out of balsa wood,” she says. “You don’t have anything under control!” That’s both true and untrue. “First Man” is eloquent to the point of repetitiveness about the need to fail in order to succeed, the fragility of the enterprise, the perils of space exploration. Yet there the explorers are in the end, Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon.

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong Photo: Universal Studios

“First Man,” which was photographed by Linus Sandgren, does full justice to the mission’s climax, from the unearthly power of the launch (I can’t resist saying I was there at Cape Canaveral, sitting in the grass near the lagoon when the rocket blasted off), through the precarious touchdown, to four boots on the luna firma of our planet’s pockmarked satellite. The moonscape, rendered mostly in black-and-white, though with bronze reflections on the astronauts’ visors, is as stirring a spectacle as you’re likely to see on a movie screen, and should be seen in IMAX if possible. No trees, no grass, no softness or sweetness, only two astronauts alive to the danger but improbably alive, against incalculable odds, and bound for glory on their return. Most movies aim to take us out of ourselves. This one goes to majestic extremes.

Write to Joe Morgenstern at

Banksy Buyer Plans to Keep Shredded Painting

Banksy’s shredded painting, now titled 'Love Is in the Bin' (2018)
Banksy’s shredded painting, now titled ‘Love Is in the Bin’ (2018) Photo: Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s said that the woman who won the $1.4 million Banksy painting that self-destructed after it was auctioned in London has decided to keep it.

The auction house said Thursday that Banksy’s authentication body, Pest Control, re-authenticated the 2006 graffiti-style artwork, “Girl With Balloon.” It has also been renamed “Love Is in the Bin” (2018)—an indication that the artist sees it as a new work.

The bidder who won it over the telephone last Friday remains anonymous, but Sotheby’s said she is a longtime European collector. In a statement released through the house, she said, “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”

Sotheby’s said it had nothing to do with the intervention. “Were we in on it? Absolutely not,” said Sotheby’s expert Alex Branczik, posting a shredded image of the work to his Instagram account on Thursday. “Do you really think Banksy, who spent his youth stenciling walls in Bristol and dodging the local authorities, would want to collaborate with the art establishment? Come on.”

Even so, the auction house is capitalizing on the marketing bonanza drummed up by the event: It said the new owner agreed to let it display the work in its Mayfair showroom through Sunday.

Now that work has been authenticated once more by the artist, its value should remain intact—and could likely grow following its provocative auction moment, dealers said.

Banksy keeps his identity shrouded in mystery and has gained international acclaim for politically charged street art. Several of his works have been removed from buildings and sold at auction, while his 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” was nominated for an Academy Award.

“Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork” during Sotheby’s sale, Mr. Branczik wrote. “He created one.”

Write to Kelly Crow at

5 Mood-Lifting Museums

The conveyor belt of pick-your-own macarons at the Color Factory in New York.
The conveyor belt of pick-your-own macarons at the Color Factory in New York. Photo: Heather Moore/Color Factory

INSTANT HAPPINESS EXISTS. And it’ll only set you back around $35 a go. Pools of sprinkles, confetti domes, a digital cheese cave—you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking the Museum of Ice Cream, the Museum of Pizza and other similarly frothy exhibits popping up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York were attractions aimed at children. But you’ll find plenty of grown-ups sans kids filing into these new-school museums. What’s the enticement? They’re all-immersive, begging-to-be-photographed fun houses. Most are pop-up exhibits but a few have set down roots, filling a seemingly insatiable need to feed Instagram feeds. Here, five places to chase cheer.

Color Factory, New York

After a run in San Francisco in 2017, the factory arrived in August in New York with 20,000 square feet of interactive color-themed installations. The big-ticket attraction is a dive-in pit filled with 500,000 pastel blue balls. Other top draws: the conveyor belt of pick-your-own macarons and, less delectably, a collection of fake vomit.

5 Mood-Lifting Museums
Photo: Patricia Chang
The Museum of Ice Cream, San Francisco

Born in 2016 in New York, it traveled as a pop-up exhibit through Los Angeles and Miami before finding a permanent home in San Francisco. In between scoops of frozen dessert, visitors entertain themselves by jumping in a pool of sprinkles, taking selfies with a giant gummy bear and writing ephemeral messages on a wall blanketed in letter magnets.

29Rooms, Los Angeles

Launched in 2015 for the 10th anniversary fete for Refinery 29, a digital media company, 29Rooms is now a recurring pop-up affair, with installations created by artists, corporate brands and a few well-known actors. Past exhibits have included a human snow globe and a walk-in womb meant to simulate the in-utero experience. It arrives in L.A. in December.

5 Mood-Lifting Museums
Photo: The Museum of Pizza
The Museum of Pizza, New York

Through Nov. 18, Brooklyn’s William Vale hotel pays homage to New York’s signature slice. Among the exhibits are some recognizable artworks with a twist—think Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” with added pizza box and pepperoni slice—a “cheese cave,” made of silicone, a “pizza beach,” and a space for “pizza meditation.”

5 Mood-Lifting Museums
Photo: The Broad Art Foundation. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy of David Zwirner, NY
Infinity Mirrored Room, Los Angeles

People line up around the block for a 45-second look at this wildly popular work by modern artist Yayoi Kusama, on permanent display at L.A.’s Broad Museum. The installation features LED lights reflected endlessly in a mirror-lined room. The museum just welcomed a second Kusama piece, Longing for Eternity, a hexagonal chamber of kaleidoscopic lights, with windows that invite you to stick your head inside. Take a selfie, join the thousands of other #infinitekusama fans on Instagram. You’re just a dot in a million there.

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Searching the Amalfi Coast for Long-Lost Family Ties

CLAN ABOUT TOWN The 11th-century Salerno Duomo, near a street named for the author’s family.
CLAN ABOUT TOWN The 11th-century Salerno Duomo, near a street named for the author’s family. Photo: Francesco Lastrucci for The Wall Street Journal

WHILE searching for our roots on a recent pilgrimage to southern Italy, my family and I realized we’d have to take the good with the bad and, at times, the ugly. In the town of Amalfi, somber posters hung everywhere on ancient walls depicting a diabolical-looking character in a black hood. Turns out he was a distant relative.

Sicardo, the brother of Prince Siconolfo—one of my nobler Lombard ancestors—was the real-life villain in “Amalfi 839 AD,” a musical then playing locally. The plot details a key historical moment when Sicardo conquered the great maritime city and imprisoned its citizens. A travel guide in our hotel called him “sadistic” and said he “physically and mentally weakened the subjugated populace” of Amalfi. The musical ends as the people of Amalfi win independence from the Lombards—stabbing Sicardo to death in the process.

A pretty dark legacy indeed. But as our quest unfolded and we traced ancestral clues in libraries, churches, city halls, an ancient village and the remains of a sprawling castle, we uncovered a far brighter side of our heritage. Our two-week sleuthing trip—undertaken by my wife and I and our two kids, two cousins and a spouse—was inspired by my Italian immigrant grandfather, who told us kids years ago that we had German bloodlines as descendants of the Lombards, a Germanic tribe that ruled Italy before the Normans. We started in Rome, at the Biblioteca Angelica, a library built in 1604 that’s tucked into a church courtyard near Piazza Navona. There, among the stacks of books from medieval times, we dug up a 1627 manuscript tracking the history of families from the Salerno region. My cousins translated the text. Leafing through several hundred delicate pages, careful not to tear them, we struck gold: detailed references to the rule of Siconolfo and other Lombard princes. Some pages included family trees, charts and diagrams.

An Italy You Can Relate To

On a pilgrimage to the Amalfi Coast to trace their ancestors, reporter Michael Siconolfi and his family find clues to their noble roots

View of Vietri sul Mare village and Salerno in the background as seen from the Amalfi Coast road. One of the author’s ancestors was Prince Siconolfo, the first prince of the Lombard principality of Salerno.
Francesco Lastrucci for The Wall Street Journal

We took a train south and rented a van to explore the Salerno province, which encompasses the Amalfi Coast (I was elected to drive along the terrifyingly steep cliffs), and based ourselves at Palazzo Suriano in the small town of Vietri sul Mare. From there, we cast out in different directions each day. One afternoon, we wandered through the remains of the medieval Castello di Arechi that sits atop a mountain above the city of Salerno, visible for miles. Prince Siconolfo lived there 1,200 years ago; he was the first prince of the Lombard principality of Salerno. The stone walls, archways and courtyards are still imposing. Through wall slots once used to guard against enemies, we saw goats roaming the grounds, their bells clanging. As we climbed the castle’s stairs, a hard rain pounded the property, and a mist rose around the fortress. I shuddered from the cold, or was it the ghosts?

Heading down to the center of Salerno, we noticed a street named Vicolo Siconolfo, after our ancestor, on a small city map. We searched the ancient section of the city near the Salerno Duomo, an 11th-century church, and soon discovered the “street” was a dark, narrow, 200-foot alley, lined with archways and grime. Drying clothes hung from windows, along with a faint whiff of danger.

View from Castello di Arechi, former home of Prince Siconolfo, the author’s ancestor.
View from Castello di Arechi, former home of Prince Siconolfo, the author’s ancestor. Photo: Francesco Lastrucci for The Wall Street Journal

Another day, we drove to Cava de Tirreni, where we met Loredana Caserta, a guide from the city of Salerno whom we’d hired to help in our research. In the weeks before our trip, Ms. Caserta ferreted out family documents in the region. Over cappuccino at the palatial Hotel Scapolatiello, she mapped a family tree. She noted that Prince Siconolfo built a tower in our family’s ancestral town that led to its name, Guardia Lombardi—“guard of the Lombards.”

Rain pounded the castle. I shuddered from the cold, or was it the ghosts?

We drove two hours up winding mountain roads to get there—a lush, grain-farming village northeast of the Amalfi Coast, and an area called Case Siconolfi, or Siconolfi houses. As we entered a town square, bells rung from the 14th-century church where many of our ancestors were baptized. A war monument contains rows of names of the Siconolfis killed in combat. We ventured into the Municipio, a tiny city hall. Guardia Lombardi town clerk Luigi DiSanto, who is married to a Siconolfi, pulled out registries of our ancestors’ birth records, written in flowery Italian script. Flipping through a book documenting page after page of relatives, Mr. DiSanto chuckled: “Tutti Siconolfi”—all Siconolfi.

Before our trip we had reached out to distant relatives in Guardia Lombardi and alerted them of our plans. Giuseppe Siconolfi, a third cousin, met us to drive to the nearby farming area where he grew up. In her home adjacent to the house my grandfather grew up in, Giuseppe’s mother, Giovanna, treated us to a glorious feast of prosciutto, lasagna, mozzarella and red wine—all homemade from the farm. Between bites, she expanded our family tree, drawing on a small piece of paper.

I asked Giuseppe’s dad, Angelomaria, how long our family has existed in Guardia Lombardi. Forever, he said, with a flick of his hand. For hundreds of years, Siconolfis have lived and died in homes passed from one generation to the next. We were struck by their simple, healthy lives, all tied to the earth—lives today that probably aren’t very different than those of our ancestors who lived in other centuries on the same hills and tilled the same land.

Searching the Amalfi Coast for Long-Lost Family Ties
Illustration: JASON LEE

We only learned about the musical once we arrived in Amalfi’s town center, and immediately bought tickets for a performance, staged in an ancient arsenal. Hooded and leering, Sicardo was a tyrant and a murderer. “I take what I want without anybody saying no,” he sang, for “our noble Lombard cause.” An Amalfitano woman cries that the murdered Sicardo “has stolen our memories.” Sword and knife fights erupted on the stage uncomfortably close to us.

The writer and director, Ario Avecone—an Amalfi native who also starred as the play’s hero—assured us he held no grudge against our family. He invited us to take pictures with the cast, including Antonio Speranza, who portrayed the murderous Sicardo character and goaded us to mimic his leer. He grinned as he pointed to us, saying gleefully in Italian: “Cousins!”

LA FAMIGLIA MATTERS / How to Trace Your Own Family Roots in Italy

DOCUMENTS: Collect photos, letters, birth and death certificates, and any military records, family trees or other documents from relatives.

INTERVIEWS: Speak with older family members, seeking stories about ancestors and how and when they came to America. Search passenger manifests at

ANCESTRAL TOWN: The most important initial step is finding the name of your ancestral town. In Italy, records are categorized by towns and provinces. In the past seven or eight years, many towns and provinces have digitized their records, so you can initially track more online. To help find more information about your ancestors’ region, province and town—including city halls, phone numbers and maps—check the site You can also contact parish churches in your ancestral town, seeking baptismal and other records (call or mail, though a trip may be needed). And, finally, seek out civil records at the Provincial Archive in your family’s ancestral province, or in the Office of Civil Records in the ancestral town.

ONLINE SEARCHES: Seek out Italian civil records. Sites to start with include or Antenati ( The sites offer free digitized records from Italy, though not every town is online yet. also has databases of Italian records.

BOOKS: Check out “The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Italy,” by Melanie D. Holtz, a genealogist and owner of Lo Schiavo Genealogica.

TRAVEL: Plan your trip. Reach out to relatives in Italy. Contact parishes, libraries and city halls ahead of time for appointments. In the Salerno region, we hired guide Loredana Caserta to help with the research, at

PAYOFF: “It can bring closure to families” seeking to confirm ancestral anecdotes and history after a hundred or more years in America, said Mary M. Tedesco, a professional genealogist and founder of “And you learn something about yourself along the way.”

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Why Men Fear Wearing Color. And the Secret to Pulling It Off

THIS LOOKS ridiculous on me,” thinks Brian Madigan when he attempts to wear bright colors. It’s not that he dislikes them; he envies friends who can toss on a maroon shirt or a lemon-hued polo without hesitation or self-consciousness. “I wish that I could have an eye for the types of color they’re wearing,” says Mr. Madigan, 36, a photo editor in San Jose, Calif. But he feels far more comfortable in his familiar gray T-shirts, blue jeans and tan khakis. Better safe than startling.

Many American men occupy Mr. Madigan’s chromatic comfort zone—a style point-of-view just a few shades shy of colorblind. In my conversations with guys about their color palettes, the term “conservative” came up repeatedly as they described wardrobes heavily skewed toward gray, black, tan and white. The agenda, confessed William Bodenlos, 55, a financial adviser in New York, is “just to fit in with our environment and avoid calling attention to ourselves.” He described his style as “pretty conservative” with an “enormous amount” of blue clothes. Despite the widespread fear of color among men, there are outliers: Corporate raiders readily knot up red and yellow paisley ties, and budding junior executives slip on preppy pastel socks with their loafers. On the golf course, colorful polos are de rigueur. But by and large, the male wardrobe is more monochrome than Technicolor.

Safety has its downsides, however. A closet wholly devoid of color can make you look as repressed and stern (and out-of-date) as a character in an Ingmar Bergman film. “When you wear bright colors it can make you feel lighter,” said Sander Lak, the designer behind the hue-happy New York label Sies Marjan. “Subconsciously, color does set a mood.”

GO MONOCHROME Todd Snyder & Private White V.C. Coat, $898,; Sweater, $90,; Shirt, $695,; Trousers, $280,; Shoes, $179,
GO MONOCHROME Todd Snyder & Private White V.C. Coat, $898,; Sweater, $90,; Shirt, $695,; Trousers, $280,; Shoes, $179, Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

To that end, his collections are laced with sartorial mood-enhancers like salmon-pink shirts and tomato-red sweaters. And in 2018, he’s hardly the only designer splashing about in the splashy end of the color spectrum. From Moncler’s cherry-red puffer jackets to Acne Studios’s petrol-blue corduroys to Calvin Klein’s yolk-yellow sweaters, current men’s fashion isn’t color shy.

“As the workplace gets more casual and is less corporatized, there is this embrace of individuality and that leads to an embrace of color,” said Justin Berkowitz, the men’s fashion director of Bloomingdale’s. Social media is also driving renewed interest in color, he added: Men are drawn to what “looks good in a picture. That tends to be color—it stands out a little bit more.” As a result, Mr. Berkowitz has increasingly seen guys gravitating toward pinks, burgundies and olives.

Still, men who are used to wearing only ignorable neutrals should adopt color judiciously. “I’m not going to be the person looking like Big Bird in a giant yellow shirt and mint green pants and some red sneakers. That’s just not me,” said Tyler Hockett, 30, a financial adviser in Indianapolis. Mr. Hockett’s understandable wariness underlies the cardinal rule of color: It’s all about balance.

GO AUTUMNAL Jacket, about $954,; Sweater, $70,; T-Shirt, $95,; Pants, about $169,; Sneakers, $50,; Scarf, $98,
GO AUTUMNAL Jacket, about $954,; Sweater, $70,; T-Shirt, $95,; Pants, about $169,; Sneakers, $50,; Scarf, $98, Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

“Color is something that you have to dose,” cautioned Massimo Alba, a Milanese designer who uses it with Italian panache. Both in his own wardrobe and in the looks he designs, he enjoys sprucing up a solid foundational piece like a blue blazer or a charcoal sweater with a light brownish-yellow shirt or trousers. Even a light spritz of unpredictable color can have a dramatic effect. “It’s boring if you’re just [wearing] blue,” he said. “It’s nice if you have a detail.” That detail, he added, can be as small as a red handkerchief sprouting out of your pocket.

A closet wholly devoid of color can make you look as repressed and stern as a character in an Ingmar Bergman film.

When we spoke, Mr. Alba had just returned from a trip through the American Southwest where he saw greens, golds, sky blues and other natural shades in the landscape that will make their way into his next collection. Cautious of color? Let earthy tones be your guide, in the style of subtle-color fans like Steve Carell, who mixes toasty shades of brown, or John Mayer, who’s worn forest-green trousers with a sky blue jacket. “Mr. Robot” star Rami Malek recently paired a chocolate-brown suit with a light salmon polo, marrying familiar and surprising hues in a strategy that Mr. Alba also likes, calling it a “kind of camouflage attitude.”

GO FOR A POP Blazer, $745,; Sweater, $1,725, Hermès, 800-441-4488; Mr P. Shirt, $200,; Trousers, $560, Salvatore Ferragamo, 866-337-7242; Loafers, $1,450,
GO FOR A POP Blazer, $745,; Sweater, $1,725, Hermès, 800-441-4488; Mr P. Shirt, $200,; Trousers, $560, Salvatore Ferragamo, 866-337-7242; Loafers, $1,450, Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

It’s not only the shade of a shirt that matters but also the fabric itself. “[Each] material takes color differently,” said Mr. Lak, claiming that the same shade of yellow can appear 50 different ways on 50 different fabrics. Matte cotton projects color at its purest—just think of how bright a red T-shirt can be. More-textured fabrics such as cashmere or corduroy can create a more nuanced effect. They’re less flagrant and more wearable.

Mr. Berkowitz of Bloomingdale’s particularly likes garment dyeing, a process commonly used on casual button-ups and jersey sweats, in which a finished garment, rather than the yarn, is soaked and dyed. “It de-saturates the color and makes it feel a little bit more lived-in,” he said. Washed-down hues (Mr. Berkowitz called them “dusty”) make any piece of colored clothing more approachable, be it a pair of pine-green chinos, an azure cable-knit sweater or a chippy yellow button-up. Big Bird? Not a chance.

Write to Jacob Gallagher at

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Try Princess Diana’s Preppy Statement-Pant Look

PRINCESS DIANA is burned into our collective memories as glamorous and begowned—who can forget the black, off-the-shoulder Victor Edelstein dress she wore to twirl with John Travolta at a Reagan-era state dinner? But, as a source of style inspiration for us commoners, dressed-down, off-duty Di endures far more accessibly. “Her daywear was more affordable and easily imitated,” said Isabella Coraca, assistant curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity behind the current Kensington Palace exhibit, “Diana: Her Fashion Story.”


Houston’s Menil Collection Will Open a New Drawing Institute In November

Houston’s Menil Collection Will Open a New Drawing Institute In November
Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

HOUSTON’S Menil Collection possesses a total of 17,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, objects and prints. Built on the collection amassed over several decades by the museum’s founder, oil heiress Dominique de Menil, and her husband, John de Menil, the museum’s holdings range from Mayan ceramics to medieval reliquaries to Magritte paintings. In one gallery of the main Renzo Piano–designed building stands a 9-foot-tall wooden Oceanic percussion instrument, carved over a hundred years ago. In another hangs Cy Twombly’s 33-foot-long Treatise on the Veil (Second Version), one of his largest canvases, which required 15 people to unroll and install. There’s a reason the de Menils have been called the Medicis of modern art.

DYNAMIC DUO Dominique and John de Menil in 1965 at an exhibition at Houston’s University of St. Thomas.
DYNAMIC DUO Dominique and John de Menil in 1965 at an exhibition at Houston’s University of St. Thomas. Photo: Hickey-Robertson, Courtesy of the Menil Archives, the Menil Collection, Houston

Yet, according to William Middleton, author of the recent biography Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil, when Dominique was asked which one of all these works she would save from a fire, she selected a simple Piet Mondrian illustration that the Dutch artist had scribbled on an envelope. It was, she said, a perfect example of thought and proportion, a window into the process of creating a masterful work of art.

Drawings were always an important subset of the de Menils’ collection—partly because the couple were taken with each individual work they acquired and partly because, pragmatically, drawings were more affordable than paintings and sculptures. Although the Menil has spent $8 million on drawings since 2015, the bulk of the collection came from the de Menils. That particular area of the couple’s interest is finally being honored with the 30,000-square-foot Menil Drawing Institute, the latest addition to the museum’s 30-acre campus, opening November 3. Designed by the L.A. architectural firm Johnston Marklee, the institute will be one of the only free-standing facilities in the United States devoted to drawing as a medium, with space for exhibition, conservation, study and storage.

Though there is some evidence that Dominique was considering creating a drawing institute just before she died in 1997, the building was conceived in earnest in 2009, when David Chipperfield Architects was commissioned to create a master site plan for the Menil. Several trustees—including Janie C. Lee and Louisa Stude Sarofim, who have each committed to giving the Menil 55 drawings from their private collections—championed the project. In 2012, Johnston Marklee was chosen to design the Drawing Institute, and the groundbreaking took place three years later. (Chipperfield also vied to design the building, making the selection of the lesser-known firm something of an upset win.)

LIGHT SHOW A gallery in the Menil Collection’s main building reinstalled with African sculpture.
LIGHT SHOW A gallery in the Menil Collection’s main building reinstalled with African sculpture. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

Dominique’s interest in the Mondrian sketch had to do with the role it played in creating a larger and more significant work. Yet thinking of drawing exclusively as a stepping stone is “a misconception,” says Rebecca Rabinow, the Menil’s new director, who arrived two years ago from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “For many artists, historically, drawing was an end in and of itself. To have an entire building devoted to [drawing] says something to the general public.”

To help make the case, museum principals looked to Jasper Johns, whose drawings will be the subject of the institute’s inaugural exhibition, The Condition of Being Here. The Menil has a long and deep relationship with the artist. Dominique and John de Menil collected his works, and the museum has become one of the largest holders of Johns drawings in the world. Next month the Menil will publish the six-volume catalogue raisonné of Johns’s drawings. Johns also happens to have a highly specific relationship with the medium. “In many cases, he makes drawings after the completion of a related painting,” says the show’s organizing curator, Kelly Montana. “They’re almost a form of study that comes after the work, a form of experimentation.” This approach, she says, “breaks down all of those attendant assumptions” about drawing.

“They’re incredibly beautiful works,” Montana adds. “They are luscious surfaces—the ink just pools and spills; lines bleed into each other. [They] show that drawing is joyful and pleasurable.”

SHADOW PLAY The Menil Collection’s new Menil Drawing Institute, designed by Los Angeles firm Johnston Marklee.
SHADOW PLAY The Menil Collection’s new Menil Drawing Institute, designed by Los Angeles firm Johnston Marklee. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

BOTH FRENCH by birth, Dominique and John de Menil began collecting in the 1930s, acquiring their first works when they were newlyweds and still living in Europe. Among their early commissions was a portrait of Dominique by German surrealist Max Ernst. (Today the Menil is one of the world’s most important surrealism repositories and holds more Ernst works than almost any other museum.) The couple eventually expanded their approach to include a wide selection of genres, from Paleolithic bone carvings to Byzantine artifacts to pop-art paintings. Their approach was decidedly eclectic. “There’s a huge range to the collection,” says Middleton. “Encyclopedic museums are about continents of art. The Menil is about archipelagos.”

Middleton believes that the de Menils would not have collected art so intensively if they hadn’t ended up in Houston, in the early 1940s. After fleeing the Second World War, the couple had no intention of bowing to the conventions of their new neighbors. The de Menils were outsiders but also instant oil royalty. Dominique’s father, Conrad Schlumberger , devised a way to detect oil via an electric apparatus, and by the time the de Menils arrived in Houston—where the Schlumberger Limited company had moved its headquarters from Paris in 1940—the firm reportedly electronically logged about 70 percent of the world’s wells. John, who eventually became the chair of Schlumberger Limited’s board, devised the company’s slogan: “Wherever the drill goes, Schlumberger goes.”

The “leaves” of Renzo Piano’s “light platform” are designed to modulate the influx of natural light.
The “leaves” of Renzo Piano’s “light platform” are designed to modulate the influx of natural light. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

The de Menils were determined to elevate the cultural landscape of their adopted city. They had their work cut out for them: At the time, the Houston Symphony shared performance space with the local rodeo and livestock show; one especially idiosyncratic program combined a classical concert with a wrestling match, in which a wrestler jumped onstage and conducted the orchestra. But the de Menils also embraced aspects of Texas culture, which they shared with visiting artists and luminaries. John once took René Magritte out to buy a cowboy hat; he also brought Andy Warhol shopping at a local saddlery company.

Houston’s relative lack of a sophisticated art scene—especially compared to those of New York and Paris, where the de Menils also maintained residences—lent added purpose to the couple’s artistic acquisitions. “They committed to the city; they saw it as a civil obligation,” says Middleton. At first, some of the de Menils’ friends and colleagues dismissed their efforts; one New Yorker they knew scorned Houston as a cultural desert. “It’s in the desert that miracles happen,” John elegantly retorted.

In 1948, the couple commissioned architect Philip Johnson, then just launching his career, to build them a 5,600-square-foot home in Houston’s elite River Oaks neighborhood. Finished in 1951, the stark, flat-roofed International Style house was unusual for Houston. Erected amid a sea of quaint antebellum-style houses, the home shocked many in the city. Yet the de Menils were immensely pleased with their revolutionary new residence, which, much to Johnson’s modernist chagrin, was decorated by American designer and couturier Charles James, who applied felt to its walls and brought in sensuous 19th-century furnishings. The structural elements Johnson put in place, including glass-walled atriums, a single-floor plan and the strong use of natural light, became signature features that the Menil museum buildings would incorporate in the decades to come.

Renzo Piano’s 1987 main building for the Menil.
Renzo Piano’s 1987 main building for the Menil. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

For years, the couple exhibited works from their collection at local Houston institutions, but in 1980, Dominique began interviewing architects to create a Menil museum. (John died in 1973.) At the urging of the director of Paris’s Centre Pompidou, Pontus Hulten, she reluctantly met with Italian architect Renzo Piano. Like Johnson, Piano was an emerging talent at the time of their meeting, and he had just co-designed the Centre Pompidou with Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini. Dominique disliked the Pompidou and told Piano so. She felt it was too splashy and distracted from the art inside. Piano got the job, though—his first commission in the U.S. Dominique made it clear that she would be intimately involved in the process and that her vision was exacting. As Piano later recounted to Middleton, she told the architect, over a celebratory lunch, “Welcome to hell!”

The 100,000-square-foot Menil Collection, set in a residential neighborhood a couple of miles from the de Menils’ home, officially opened on June 4, 1987. It was almost the antithesis of the Centre Pompidou: low slung, spare and understated. Piano referenced the de Menils’ Johnson-designed residence, similarly infusing the museum with natural light via a ceiling that he called a “light platform”—a series of skylights with an underlayer of “leaves” that temper the brightness. The New York Times proclaimed the building “just perfect,” and Philip Johnson professed his “natural and despicable jealousy.” It was seen as a purist, accessible celebration of art, without the commercial trappings: no bookstore, gift shop or cafe inside. (“No boutiques and no blockbusters,” Dominique had instructed.)

A courtyard at the Menil Drawing Institute.
A courtyard at the Menil Drawing Institute. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

Over the past three decades, the Menil campus has expanded to include a Piano-designed Cy Twombly gallery, the Rothko Chapel, a Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall and a Byzantine fresco chapel. There is also now a Bistro Menil and a Menil bookstore, but both are discreetly stashed away in chic bungalows behind the main building.

The Menil Drawing Institute stands at the heart of the Menil plot, and Johnston Marklee partners Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee studied the surrounding structures for guidance. “We were thinking about the Drawing Institute as being a part of that family of buildings,” says Lee. Adds Johnston: “We hoped that when [it] was done, that you wouldn’t be sure if it came before Renzo’s building or after it, that it would feel suspended in time.” Their project was akin, they say, to a conversation among the generations of architects who have worked on or will someday work on Menil projects. “It’s like a chess game,” Lee says. “Renzo made his move. We made our move. We’re curious what the next architects will do.”

He and Johnston also say that their design was informed by the nature of drawing. The ceiling of the main foyer resembles origami; the building itself has what Lee calls “domestic” proportions, to suit smaller drawn works. Made of steel, cedar and concrete, the institute shares the basic Menil elements but required many technical interventions. For example, the natural light had to be diffused to keep the drawings from fading. “The mark of the Menil is top-lit galleries,” says Johnston, who explains that such a feature could not be replicated in the Drawing Institute. The architects subdued the harshness of the Texas sun with steel canopies around the entrance; light filters in via three courtyards and strategically placed windows.

Another view of the Piano building.
Another view of the Piano building. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

Houston’s dense humidity also had to be tamed inside the building, as even a hint of dampness could pucker delicate paper. Plus, there were storms to consider. During Hurricane Harvey last year, the Menil buildings did not flood, but Rabinow and the institute architects were taking no chances. They installed a state-of-the-art anti-flooding system. The room where the drawings are stored is suspended in a sort of basin; any water that seeps in drains there. Powerful, water-activated floodgates protect the storage-space entrances. “This area does not flood,” says Rabinow.

The opening of the Drawing Institute was delayed for a year as further adjustments were made. “We could have rushed it,” Rabinow says, surveying a sun-bathed atrium courtyard, filled with young magnolia trees and white rocks. “But we’re in it for the long run, and I wanted this building to be as close to perfect as possible. I have not one regret about delaying. When I walk in here now, my heart sings.”

RABINOW HAS ALSO been overseeing a major renovation of the main Piano building, which reopened on September 22 after a seven-month closure. It all began innocuously enough, Rabinow says, when she was informed that the main building’s fire sensors needed to be replaced. “But to do that, you have to remove the art from the rooms,” Rabinow explains. “If you’re going to take the art out of the rooms, then that was an opportunity, at long last, to refinish our floors. If you’re going to refinish the floors properly, you have to take out the non-load-bearing walls. And that opened up all of these possibilities.” For the reopening exhibitions, curators chose to display over 750 works, all culled from the museum’s permanent holdings and many of which had never before been exhibited. “What began as simply a construction challenge ended up being a way of really doing a deep dive into the collection,” says Rabinow.

A courtyard at the Drawing Institute.
A courtyard at the Drawing Institute. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

Several of the newly shown works speak to the de Menils’ history of activism. If Dominique and John experienced aesthetic culture shock when they first arrived in Texas, they also found themselves face to face with the reality of living in the segregated American South. Appalled by the racism they witnessed, they became outspoken human- and civil rights advocates. The de Menils believed that their position came with responsibility. “What we do with our power—our overwhelming power—is…very important indeed,” John wrote to a friend in 1964.

Their activism took many forms: John gave financial support to African-American political candidates and to progressive school board candidates who worked toward the elimination of segregation. Beginning in 1967, he helped pay the legal fees of the TSU Five—a group of African-American students from Texas Southern University who were falsely accused of starting a riot. The de Menils helped launch the political career of the late Mickey Leland, a black activist who became a six-term congressman. (“I really loved him,” Leland once said of John. “He was a feisty guy, he didn’t give a damn for the establishment.”)

The de Menils remained unrelenting in their support of civil rights causes, and their worldview was reflected in their art collection. In 1960, they initiated a still-ongoing project titled The Image of the Black in Western Art, and about 25 percent of the ancient art in the Menil’s permanent holdings now consists of African works and works depicting black figures. As a gift to the city of Houston, the de Menils helped buy a 1967 Broken Obelisk sculpture by Barnett Newman, for installation near City Hall—with the stipulation that it be dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. When the city declined to honor the dedication, the couple bought the piece outright and installed it in the middle of the Rothko Chapel’s reflecting pool.

OPENING ANGLE Steel canopies shield the interiors of the Menil Drawing Institute from the Houston sun.
OPENING ANGLE Steel canopies shield the interiors of the Menil Drawing Institute from the Houston sun. Photo: Giulio Ghirardi for WSJ. Magazine

The de Menils also acquired important modern works by black artists, some of which are now showcased in the renovated main building. Middle Passage, a large 1970 painting by Guyana-born British artist Frank Bowling, has been given pride of place in the museum’s foyer; this is the first time the Menil has exhibited it. Two large 1971 painted canvas works by American artist Joe Overstreet—Ancestral God and Free Direction—now hang in the same gallery as Treatise on the Veil (Second Version). “Overstreet has very much been overlooked,” says Menil senior curator Michelle White. “I am intentionally putting him alongside Twombly as a way of making a statement about his importance in the history of painting.” Newly purchased works by contemporary African-American artist Leslie Hewitt, including her 2012 sculptural piece Untitled (Where Paths Meet, Turn Away, Then Align Again), also have a solo showing in one of the main building’s galleries.

The front-and-center placement of Middle Passage, says Rabinow, “makes a big statement about what the Menil is doing.” She is looking forward to using the Menil’s galleries to prompt difficult conversations. Doing so, she says, honors the museum’s roots and directives. “There are going to be spaces where we address the very complicated moments of the meeting of cultures; we have a legacy of doing that,” she says. “And that’s going back to the de Menils’ vision, and their desire for social justice.” •

Alec Baldwin Has Some Questions

The ‘30 Rock’ star is hosting ‘The Alec Baldwin Show’ on ABC.
The ‘30 Rock’ star is hosting ‘The Alec Baldwin Show’ on ABC. Photo: Vera Anderson/WireImage/Getty Images

Nora Ephron once wrote that there were times, when interviewing people, when she wanted to say: “Me! Me! Me! Enough about you. What about me?”

For Alec Baldwin, it’s more or less the inverse. In 2011, he started a podcast with WNYC, “Here’s the Thing,” so he could interview people the way he wanted to be interviewed—“where they feel comfortable and there’s no judgment,” he says.

“And eventually,” he adds, “when you don’t appear to be manipulating them and trying to take something from them, they give it to you anyway. If you don’t pressure them, they’re much more comfortable and amenable.”

Robert De Niro and Mr. Baldwin on ‘The Alec Baldwin Show.’
Robert De Niro and Mr. Baldwin on ‘The Alec Baldwin Show.’ Photo: Heidi Gutman/ABC

Now ABC is mining that format for television. On “The Alec Baldwin Show,” starting Sunday, Mr. Baldwin will be in conversation with boldface names like Robert De Niro, Kim Kardashian West, Chris Christie and the Who’s Roger Daltrey.

Rob Mills, the network’s senior vice president for alternate series, specials and late night, likens the new series to ABC hits like “Dancing With the Stars” or even the BBC’s “The Great British Bake Off”: easy-to-watch TV with a “deceptively simple premise.”

“Whether it’s things like ‘Shark Tank’ or Alec’s show or ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Bachelor,’” he says, “they’re all kind of, sort of, one-line premises that actually run deeper than what you’re seeing in the promo.”

Mr. Baldwin won an Emmy last year for his President Trump cameos on “Saturday Night Live,” and he isn’t opposed to political debate on his show. “With people that I don’t have any agreement with politically, it depends on: Can we have a good conversation?” he says.

“The Alec Baldwin Show” airs Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, on ABC.

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