Archive for the ‘Venice Biennale’ Category

Frank Gehry and "Ungapatchket"


I’ve seen a little written about

Frank Gehry’s installation at the current Venice Biennale.

But nothing about its wonderful name. He calls it Ungapatchket.

Man, I should be a millionaire by now. Everything I created as a child I was told was
Ungapatchket. Well actually, Ongepotchket.

It’s Yiddish for “messed up. Thrown together. Not carefully assembled. Or, excessively decorated.”

I know Frank Gehry, aka Ephraim Goldberg harzs Yiddish. When I interviewed him about

the open trellis he designed to go in front of his bandshell in Millennium Park in Chicago, and I asked him what Chicagoans will do when it rains, because unlike in L.A. it rains often and a lot in Chicago, Gehry told me, “They didn’t want to spend the money for a retractable cover, so, you’ll throw a schmata over it!” Yiddish for rag.

And on that same trip he told the New York Times,

Over an egg-white omelet at the Ritz cafe (whose ornate decor he dismissed as ”ongepotchket,” or excessively embellished), Mr. Gehry said he was tantalized by the chance to work in Chicago, ”the architecture city of America.”

For the record: Ongepotchket

An adjective based on a past participle, of the verb ‘onpatshken’, to sully. The stem of the verb is Slavic, and the prefix is Germanic, cognate with German an-. The differences in spelling reflect both the various ways of spelling Yiddish words with Roman letters, as well as differences in dialect — ‘un’ is southern, and ‘on’ is northern. According to the YIVO system used by scholars to write Yiddish words with Roman letters, the word is spelled ‘ongepatshket.’ but other spellings can be fine.

As a side note, the same Slavic root gives rise to another less common Yinglish word, ‘potchkey,’ meaning to fiddle around.

Maybe that’ll be the next piece by Gehry. Potchkey.

Photo: Frank Gehry Ungapatchket
2008, Photo Giorgio Zucchiatti, © Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia