hotel mandarin
hotel mandarin

The Mandarin Oriental is in the beating banking heart in the old town of Zurich

Zurich has seen the transformation of one of its oldest hotels into a gem in the historic heart of the city

For those unacquainted with Switzerland’s largest city, a visit to Zurich always comes as a positive surprise. You may expect banks and pharmaceutical company HQs in a clinical row; instead you get a bijou medieval old town on the banks of a river filled with swans and storks, a dramatic lakeside waterfront with a view of the Alps, and plenty of olde-Europe atmosphere.

The spiritual centre of the town is the Paradeplatz, the point, a few hundred metres from the lake, where the chic Bahnhofstrasse luxury shopping street meets the edge of the old town, amid some serious-looking private banks housed in historic buildings and trams coming and going (cars are banned from this part of town). And now, for the first time in decades, the Paradeplatz has a hotel to match its stature as the world’s centre of discreet wealth management.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Savoy has been on the Paradeplatz for generations; it was one of Switzerland’s original luxury hotels, but until recently had slipped off the pinnacle of hotelerie and was a rather uninspiring and old-fashioned five star hostelry. Now, following a magic wand by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, it is the talk of the town.

The LUX lodgings certainly deserved to be making waves. After walking in and being recognised by the staff without saying our name (always impressive, even if pretty easy with a quick online search), we were whisked upstairs to a corner suite, beautifully and elaborately decorated, with a view over the little square and the streets around. Decor was fresh, light and airy, with thick light taupe carpets and some beautiful marquetry.

balkon

Guest can enjoy their morning coffee on their balcony overlooking the famous Paradeplatz

Read more: Visiting Ferrari Trento: The sparkling wine of Formula 1

One of the fascinating questions about the hotel was: how do you meld old Switzerland (the Savoy) with Mandarin Oriental, a luxury brand with its roots in East Asia? While there were hints and accents of contemporary Hong Kong in the design cues, this was, pleasingly, not an attempt to insert one culture inside the other.

Dinner the first night was at the Savoy Brasserie & Bar,  blending just a hint of Swiss formality (white coats for the wait staff) with an ease of spirit and sense of life. Oysters were a feature here – to go with an art deco theme – and we particularly enjoyed a main of monkfish escabeche, with bell pepper and crispy rice chips.

mandarin

Guests can have drinks and light bites in the Mandarin lounge

The culinary highlight was the next evening; Orsini is technically in the adjacent Orsini building from the 14th century,, but to reach it you stroll around the side of the building, with a historic church reminding you of where you are, and into a narrow entrance opening out into a bijou dining room. Our fellow diners included two highly wealthy finance people of international origin, quietly celebrating a deal, a couple celebrating an anniversary, and another finance person quietly making his next billion on his iPad.

The cuisine was as rarefied as the atmosphere. Artichoke with “cacio e Pepe” milk, grapefruit and Mazara red prawn tartare; potato gnocchi with grilled eel, “Giulio Ferrari” Spumante sauce (that’s a top Italian sparkling wine), fava beans and caviar; both were outstanding in their subtlety. Bravo to Mandarin Oriental for running two such brilliant but contrasting restaurants under the same roof

food

There are two superb dining options in the hotel: The casual Savoy Brasserie & Bar and the intimatefine dining restaurant Orsini

Those would have been the hotel’s public space pieces de resistance, but while LUX was staying there, the MO opened its rooftop bar. And we learned something quite spectacular about Zurich rooftops. Even if the building is not very high – the MO is just one storey higher than its neighbours – they can make for astonishing views, because as soon as you rise above the buildings around you, you are greeted not just by a view of the city’s churches and other landmarks, but the sweep of the Alps and lake on one side, and dramatic forested hills on the other. A few floors and you are in another world. So the MO is not just the most chi-chi spot in town, but one of the vibeiest also.

This is a boutique MO, not a grand one, but the company has over the years shown it can do old-world boutique (Munich) just as well as it does new and palatial (New York), the sign of a hotel brand immensely comfortable in its own skin and flexible enough not just to move with the times and spaces it operates in, but lead with them.

www.mandarinoriental.com/de/zurich/savoy/

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
palazzo
palazzo

Dating back to 1775, this building is nearby the Basilica of Santa Croce in Lecce

Authentic. immaculate, aristocratic, contemporary family-curated luxury in a Baroque palace in a city that’s a living museum? Take us to the Palazzo Bozzi Corso in Lecce, Puglia

Authenticity is becoming an ever greater part of the luxury travel experience. People want experiences when they travel, and cookie-cutter luxury simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

That’s why you get French and Italian fashion and luxury creating spectacular hotels in territories as far apart as Australia and Las Vegas. But authenticity cannot be created through replication or over the Internet; by definition it is something that comes from inside.

outside

The hotel was designed by the 18th-century architect Emanuele Manieri, this historic building attained its unique blend of traditional and contemporary features when it was developed in conjunction with the La Fiermontina Family Collection.

That, more than anything else, is what strikes you when you walk into the Palzzo Bozzi Corso. You are walking along a historic street in Lecce, in the heart of Puglia, buzzing with tourists, locals, craft shops, wine bars, local food markets.

room

Dedicated to the memory of the boxer and actor Enzo Fiermonte, La Fiermontina Palazzo Bozzi Corso offers its guests spaces with ornate furnishings and artworks

This is and was a wealthy town and the Baroque era buildings are grand and imposing. Then you walk into the Palazzo and you are whisked into the private home of a wealthy merchant of hundreds of years ago: the equivalent of walking into a Rockefeller house in a different era.

Except the Palazzo Bozzi Corso has been sylishly and impeccably updated so it feels almost like a perfectly curated exhibition, a museum of contemporary and 18th century Italian design, immaculately reimagined as an intimate luxury hotel.

Art by the likes of John Lennon (a friend of the owning family) and Fernand Leger sits among the Renaissance artefacts; no interior designer in the world could create a passion project so warm and thoughtful. This is a place to live, or at least to stay for as long as possible.

room

The building is also home to original drawings by John Lennon, donated by Yoko Ono, a friend of the owner’s mother.

There are only 10 suites here and every one is different: ours had a stone arch above the bed, church-like high ceilings, modernist furniture, a combination of ancient and contemporary art, eggshell walls, vast mirrors. Bathrooms are out of a show suite at Milan Design Week, except the work, both physically and in the destination.

Walk out of the building and you are in the living museum of Baroque that is Lecce; there is a roof terrace, and you can use the pool in the garden at the nearby sister hotel (also gorgeous), La Fiermontina. Authentic luxury doesn’t even begin to describe Palazzo Bozzi Corso.

Guests also have access to the secret garden and rooftop terrace to see the sunset

www.lafiermontinacollection.com/en/palazzo-bozzi-corso

Darius Sanai is Editor in Chief of LUX and an Editor in Chief at Condé Nast International

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
pink wall
pink wall

The artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar meditating in the Amarta space by James Turrell, during his Patina Maldives residency in January and February 2024

French-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar is renowned for his abstract works hinting at a paradise with a twist. On the eve of the artist’s residency at an eco-luxury resort in the Maldives, the Italian collector Andrea Morante, former CEO of the Pomellato jewellery brand, which was acquired by Kering in 2013, tells LUX about why Behnam-Bakhtiar’s works have stirred his collection

It all started over a dinner with LUX’s Editor-in-Chief, Darius Sanai. He was standing – very serious, with a bottle of the Tuscan wine Masseto in hand – going on about its virtues in absolute terms, as he does… my gaze drifted behind him, to a beautiful painting I hadn’t seen before.

I decided right there that I had to know the artist: it turned out to be Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar. There was an immediate connection when I first met the artist, in the south of France where he was then based. A great dialogue soon started, perhaps because of my own childhood spent in Iran, which extended to all facets of life choices, family complexities, Iranian roots and personal sufferance.

man

Andrea Morante is an art collector and the former chief executive officer of Pomellato (the fifth largest European jewellery company) which was acquired by Kering in 2013

From the very beginning, the pleasure of visiting Sassan’s atelier was shared with my partner, Caroline. It was not only limited to sharing a common attraction to Sassan’s original signature style of peinture raclée, involving scraping, relaying and spreading blends of colour, it extended to a healthy competition on who would first spot the preferred work of art to acquire. (The competition continues after six years across Sassan’s artistic evolution.)

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

One visit, I was looking at a specific artwork immediately respectfully signed the painting with the name of the yacht. The mutuality of the collector-artist – blue and white in colour. The blue reminded me of a gentle summer day, the white seemed a reminder of its dramatic change – all of a sudden the sea can turn into rough waves.

And, while looking at it, by utter coincidence, I saw through the window next to it the yacht I was very sad to have just sold. I felt that the yacht, Cyrano de Bergerac, was waving goodbye with one of her masts. Sassan understood, and immediately respectfully signed the painting with the name of the yacht. The mutuality of the collector-artist – blue and white in colour. The blue reminded me of a gentle summer day, the white seemed a reminder of its dramatic change – all of a sudden the sea can turn into rough waves.

artist

Artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar with two of his works. He is a French – Iranian artist. Born in Paris in 1984, he lived in Tehran as a teenager and young adult. Many of his works are well-known for exploring his visionary and philosophical views on life and humanity.

And, while looking at it, by utter coincidence, I saw through the window next to it the yacht I was very sad to have just sold. I felt that the yacht, Cyrano de Bergerac, was waving goodbye with one of her masts.

Sassan understood, and 18 relationship has been formative, I think, for both sides. I used to travel frequently to Brazil to collect contemporary art, like that of João Câmara. Before that I’d stuck to 18th- and 19th- century Neapolitan gouaches, from Pietro Fabris to Pierre-Jacques Volaire.

Read more: Dakis Joannou interview in Hydra

But you think less about masters when you are in Brazil – there is no nostalgia there, and no very long historical track record. Spending time with artists, I found that some were destroying themselves, unable to cope with life.

Others were more able to find the balance between preserving artistic values and embracing the world of the commercial. I hoped that a collector might help with this issue, and that, conversely, the artists might also teach me.

house

Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar, wife of the artist, crafts luxurious interior designs.

“SASSAN IS ONE OF THOSE WHO FEEL IN THEIR BLOOD THAT SOMETHING MUST BE DONE TO CHANGE. IN HIS WORK, HE SEEMS TO ASK, ‘WHAT WORLD WILL
I LEAVE MY CHILD?’”

Sassan has done just this. In his work, and in his blue and whites, one feels the tug between pain and happiness. He has taught me how pain can be transformed from negative to positive energy, and how this makes all the difference. Sassan’s art, I think, has this disposition at the moment, perhaps associated with the arrival of his first child.

painting

Energy in Nature, from the “Life Energy” series of miniature Living Paintings, 2024, by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Fatherhood seems to have translated onto his canvas. The stratified pain of darker colours have been gradually substituted by a calmer, more joyous, colour combination. Three of my favourite pieces of his work – coloured canvases uniquely characterised by the superimposition of an explosion of flowers – express this bold optimism. Its palpable effect is felt by many I know.

I recall a woman who, then pregnant, spoke about just how well in herself she felt seeing this work. He harnesses that power in art. When Pino Rabolini, the founder of Pomellato and a well-versed collector, was my mentor, I learned to work with artists who share the same principles and ethics.

painting

Mixed Energy, from the “Life Energy” series of miniature Living Paintings, 2024, by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Sassan’s attention to sustainability is an inspiration for me. There are people for whom sustainability is a marketing scheme, and those who feel in their blood that something must be done to change. Sassan is one of the latter and we share that. Indeed, in some ways his fatherhood plays into this in his recent work.

“SASSAN HAS TAUGHT ME HOW PAIN CAN BE TRANSFORMED FROM NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE ENERGY, AND HOW THIS MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE”

He seems to ask himself, “What world will I leave my child?”. Sassan’s work keeps me company wherever I am. Here, in this chalet near Gstaad, where I am writing this piece from, the art is mostly tied to the mountains and snow, but two little Sassans sit behind me, looking beautiful and feeling comfortable in the mountains.

painting

Energy in Nature, from the “Life Energy” series of miniature Living Paintings, 2024, by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

I even used to have his paintings behind me on Zoom calls at work, and they were the source of many compliments. Thinking back on that dinner, shared with Darius all those years ago, it seems funny that we drank Masseto, of all wines: the company is almost exactly the same age as Sassan, who was born in 1984.

It feels only right, then, that I have a room dedicated solely to Sassan’s works at my place in Tuscany. Those wonderful colours talk to and blend in with one another, treading – with all his grace and elegance – Sassan’s tightrope walk of optimism from pain.

painting

Soleil Couchant, from the “Life Energy” series of miniature Living Paintings, 2024, by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar has recently completed a residency at the Patina Maldives, Fari Islands, and will be unveiling ‘Life Energy’, a new body of 20cm x 20cm miniature Living Paintings, created using sustainably sourced and natural materials during his time in the Fari Art Atelier. The series will be showcased at private gatherings in Doha and London, culminating at an exhibition and art sale at Patina Maldives in July. Sales proceeds will be donated to funding local marine conservation.

sassanbehnambakhtiar.com

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
mountains
mountains

The hotel is located at the highest point in the village of Surlej, just 5 kilometres from St. Moritz. As a result, the hotel offers ski-in ski-out to the slopes

With a spectacular view of the Engadine Valley, and located right by one of the region’s best ski and hiking mountains, Nira Alpina is a hip hotel to inspire the soul – and palate

The Nira Alpina is not actually in St Moritz, and is all the better for it. It’s in a location that is far more dramatically connected with the landscapes of the Engadine valley, ten minutes’ drive away, in the village of Surlej.
The village is by a deep blue lake of the same name, and the hotel itself is connected to the lift station for Corvatsch, the area’s most challenging mountain. You avoid St Moritz town centre, which is not as pretty as it should be, while enjoying easy access to everything.
table

Nira Alpina offers views of untouched natural scenery and is suitable for both summer and winter adventures

We arrived there one sunny summer evening and immediately were whisked to the rooftop bar, at sunset. Sunsets at sea get a lot of love, but this mountain sunset was quite astonishing in a completely different way. The Nira Alpina is high on the valley’s eastern edge, just below the forest that coats the slope as it rises up towards the peaks.
As the sun lowered over the opposite side of the valley we had an astonishing array of colour, from rose snow on the peaks, to green-blues of the valley air, thick with forest resins but devoid of the sunshine that still lit the rocks above. The valley below became green black while the sky above the peaks was a still a brilliant late afternoon blue.
spa

The spa of the hotel offers a relaxation room with coloured mood lighting, a steam room, a sauna, a vast whirlpool, and five large treatment rooms

After a couple of Aperols it was an easy slide along the same long, light and airy floor, past the bar, to the restaurant, similarly filled with light and view. Here at Shanti, the cuisine is brilliantly and refreshingly global, from the Shanti salad, Swiss with a Southeast Asian touch, through tuna sashimi and an excellently presented hummus platter, to a very Swiss carrot and ginger soup, a very Thai (and absolutely vivid) Tom Yam Gang, various absolutely delicious varieties of dim sum, and mains varying from a schnitzel Cordon Bleu to miso cod with glass noodles and a dramatic Thai red curry.
As the Nira Alpina is a place you will likely stay several days in, the excellent execution of the different dishes meant you could eat a different cuisine every night without going out – and you wouldn’t wish to go out as the view is utterly memorable.
,mountains
Our room had doors opening directly out onto the hotel’s lawn, with a vast view in either direction down the Engadine valley. Walk onto the lawn, turn left, and you quickly reach the path that leads up through the forest on the Corvatsch mountain; from our door we could have walked up to the pass at the Fuorcola Surlej hut, high above the treelined, down the glacial Roseg valley on the other side, and then climb up the glaciers to ascend the snow-encrusted 4000 metre giant Piz Bernina, in crampons, without passing another building.
Feeling rather less adventurous, we instead walked down to Lake Silvaplana, the centre of watersports in the area, for a kitesurfing lesson, and around the lake and through the forests.
Then it was back to our room, sitting outside on the grass, and watching another memorable sunset as the mountain moon and stars (you’re that bit closer to them at an altitude of 1800 metres) came out of the aquamarine sky; before another beautiful dinner.
mountains

In the summer the hotel offers multiple outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and watersports.

Nira Alpina also has its own patisserie, where we spent the mornings choosing from a variety of buns and pastries, and a yoga class in a suite with a vast mountain view.
The Zen of the yoga class was appropriate: this is a luxury Alpine hotel that feels like a forest retreat on an island, for the sense of sheer balance and calm it creates. We visited in summer; in winter, with its connection to the Corvatsch lift station, the Nira is apparently quite a party spot in the early evening, but the views, cuisine, and uplifting nature of the place would not change. And for summer and winter sports, the connection up the mountain could not be more convenient.
chalet

During the winter guests have a wide selection of winter activities, including ice skating, winter hiking, sledding, bobsledding, horse riding, hang gliding, sky diving and Nordic walking.

Share:
Reading time: 4 min

LUX’s latest collaboration with Bicester Village celebrates the talent within the new generation of artists. Across the art world, experts have nominated emerging artists of outstanding talent. But judges have narrowed these down to the 6 most pre-eminent, for a showcase at Oxfordshire’s Bicester Village. See below for the results. For enquiries about artworks or artists, please contact [email protected]

NEXT GEN MASTERS: Bicester Village x LUX Emerging Artists

LUX and Bicester Village have collaborated on a new initiative to support UK-based emerging artists. A long-time supporter of the arts, Bicester Village is keen both to represent established creatives and nurture emerging artists.

This June, the Next Gen Masters showcases works by some of the next generation’s leading talent.

Our esteemed list of nominators have chosen emerging artists of outstanding talent. After a painstaking process of examination by our judges, all established leaders in the art world, the four UK-based artists of pre-eminence will be showcased for customers to view at The Apartment in Bicester Village over a period of three weeks, between Friday 21st June and Friday 12th July. 

 

 

 SHOWCASED ARTWORKS

Banana Republic, James Capper

You Might Not Remember But It Was Like Every Sunday Afternoon, Oluwasemilore Delano

Don’t You Want To Live Before you Die? III, Vanessa Endeley

Untitled, Wesley George

Noble One, Dolapo, Paul Majek

Society, Xu Yang

 

ARTISTS’ STATEMENTS

FRITH ANGELL

This painting was made of a friend of mine in his room. He has just returned from work, his boots are on the floor, and he is reading a history of Switzerland. Perhaps he has forgotten his cup of tea on the table beside him as he reads. I wanted to convey a sense of the space of the room, its atmosphere, textures and colours and in particular the weighty, human presence of my friend as he relaxes after a long day. It is significant that this painting was made from direct observation, as what excites me about painting and drawing is watching the surprising-ness of individual moments in life as they pass, seemingly insignificant ones which are, when one deeply looks, imbued with deep feeling and excitement in every flicker of light and movement.

JAMIE BRAGG

After the sudden death of my grandmother, witnessing the poignant act of my grandfather making his bed with just one pillow, moved me to create a series of “Bedsheet Elegies.” While the act of painting served as a form of grieving for me, the work itself aims to evoke a simultaneous absence and presence of bodies, and how presence is often most keenly felt in absence.

JAMES CAPPER

Banana Republic forms part of a series by the artist titled: The Rotary Paintings. These, form a significant body of work which James Capper has been developing since working in isolation in his studio during the first national lockdown. Engaging with the artist’s experiments in mark-making and hydraulic sculpture, the Rotary Paintings are created using the Hydra Painter – a hydraulic painting machine. The first iteration of Hydra Painter, built in 2015, is a basic machine consisting of a small square table with a hole in the middle to allow the spindle of a hydraulic motor through it, attached to which is a beam with paint rollers affixed to it. Despite initial successful tests, Hydra Painter was packed away and sat in storage until Capper rediscovered the machine in March 2020, when the idea to make the Rotary Paintings was born from the repetitiveness of daily routine and the blurring of indefinite days under lockdown.

CAROLINE COOLIDGE

Recently, I have found myself manipulating the silkscreen. I am interested in the blur between this serigraphic process, image production, and painting. In the creation of this work, I utilised unstretched screen printing mesh, which acted as a mediator and a sieve by which I painted with and against. The screen becomes my subject as I break down the screen printing process and reconsider how images are built and mass-produced. Traditionally this printmaking technique is intended to generate images on a mass scale. I work with the screen in such a way that the images cannot become multiple, but have the potential to hold and alter a memory of the previous image as the work shifts from print to painting. Through dismantling the productive print, I take a countering stance, question mechanisation, and investigate how mass production and technology (both analogue and digital) have come to shape how space is understood and how the human is implicated within this. I utilise and play with flattening, but when approached on a more intimate level, this takes on a resonance of depth within the aftermath of collapse. By being visually subdued and non- didactic, my work allows for meditation around memory shifting within screen-generated space. In the process, the silkscreen becomes a metaphor for the computer and phone screens that dominate contemporary life and constantly create new realities, shaping memories, and redefining truth.

OLUWASEMILORE DELANO

How do care, comfort, regularity, vulnerability manifest physically? How do they compose a space? How does body language change and settle into a regular rhythm that we get used to? I find a lot of inspiration from these familiar questions; although they are common in their daily experiences, they feel highly fundamental — the behind- the-scenes of everything else that happens. The time when you remain unguarded – free, I find these moments that happen in familiar places where the body settles into positions of subconscious activity, rare. In this rarity, the body reveals a love that is not romantic but far more about feeling complete within oneself.

“You might not remember but it was like every Sunday afternoon” began during the END SARS protests in Lagos, 2020 – where every Nigerian likely felt pride in each other, but shame and fear of our own government. The phrase “sòrò sókè!” meaning Speak up, kept a nation going. Although a trust is now gone, it has been replaced by a certainty that we will always fight for our home. The painting is a place where good feeling awaits, contemplating safety, security. However, accepting that there is a tension in awaiting. The figures inhabit two different modes of existence, my mother, on the edge of the canvas is in a dreamless sleep, she has seen generations of Nigerian government promise and pass by. My brother on higher steps is locked in a gaze of aspiration. Between them are markers of lost time, misunderstood stories, worn surfaces and a staircase leading upwards.

Time should feel unending, as if there is always more to be felt, for the painting to be unbound so that it can be experienced over and over again in new ways.

VANESSA ENDELEY

I work my way backwards, starting from visualising the artwork during my hypnagogia episodes to putting the necessary pieces together to create the final piece. My entry into the creative world was via photography, so I am always looking to tell my stories starting with photographic images. Each painting starts off with a photographed subject and then goes through different stages of including both digital and traditional paintings on a canvas, to arrive at a mixed media artwork.

WESLEY GEORGE

This painting depicts a young man wearing a vibrant mustard sweater and a pair of tan slacks, tucked delicately into his waist tie are a bunch of long stemmed purple flowers, some of which partially cover his face. The man is seated with a stoic expression and relaxed demeanour, coupled with his hands being gently crossed, this entire piece explores the depths of black masculinity, especially, regarding the younger generation. George illustrates this with a traditionally ‘feminine’ colour story consisting of magenta hues and body language as the main communicators. The direct juxtaposition between the lively hot pink background and the almost subdued expression of the man are one of the many contrasts within the painting. This falls in line with the rest of George’s portfolio, further dismantling the monolithic portrayal of the black population in the media.

PAUL MAJEK

This painting is called ‘Noble One, Dolapo’ it is a portrait of my sister, made in honour of her, to create a spiritual dialogue about the family archive, the work is usually situated in an altar-like space.

VITTORIO DA MOSTO

This is a piece from the series “Metal on Water”. It is created through photography of water reflections and then processed through silkscreen printing to create an original piece. The work intends to break down materials like metals through their reflection in water giving them unusual properties and giving us the opportunity to reconsider matter through visual art.

LYDIA SMITH

Smith created this work during her Art residency in Italy. Studying the Tuscan landscape, she began to draw the formations of the fields. Connected to the earth’s energy, She then played a game within the edges of the 2D drawing and found abstraction rules. She took this 2D Image and, using her mind, rotated, inflated, and inverted it into a 3D form.

She suspended her initial visualization in the air, imagining the negative space the missing fields would leave behind. In her digital mind, she envisioned a void, a hole, where the viewer could peer into the polygon structure of a hollow world, a testament to the data this ancient landscape held beneath its surface.

CHENGWEI XIA

When I was a child, I often found a mushroom that looked a bit like bamboo fungus in the bamboo forest in my hometown. It usually appeared in the morning when there was a bright starry sky the night before. The local name for this mushroom is “Xingxuan’er shit”, which means star shit. There is such a corresponding relationship between the small mushrooms and the vast starry sky in the hearts of local people, as if the stars are not so far away. In this drawing, the stars are like seeds in the sky, growing out from the darkness. I made this drawing with inks and pigments I made from plants: hibiscus flowers and onion skins, and I also used walnut ink. Plants hold a special significance in my work, serving as a bridge between past and present, self and ancestry. Foraging, growing, or salvaging from food waste, each botanical element carries with it a lineage of cultivation and connection, linking me to my farming roots and the generations who tended the earth before me.

XU YANG

Society (2024) shows a Pekingese dog perched on an 18th century French style blue velvet cushion with Qing dynasty style fabric draped in the background.

The lapdog, also known as Pekinese, is a short-legged breed with long hair and a snub nose, originally bred in China to only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. It was a precious bread in China during the Qing dynasty sharing the same social position as its owner, and as such, servants would have to bow to the dogs each time they saw one wondering about as they were allowed to. A British soldier, who came across a lone pekingese during the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Beijing by the Anglo- French force successfully brought the dog back to England. It was the first of the breed to survive the voyage. The Pekingese was then presented Queen Victoria. After this more dogs appeared in Europe and were owned by aristocracy and politicians and exchanged as political gifts.

Society explores class and objectification through an animal. In creating this work I was thinking about how humans alter traditional portrait painting techniques as an expression of

the historical events that are still influencing our society today .

 

JUDGES

Nadya Abela

Clayton and Parker Calvert

Janine Catalano

Claudia Cheng

Marie-Laure de Clermont Tonnerre

Maryam Eisler

Loïc le Gaillard

ANgeliki Kim Perfetti

Amaarah Rahman

Kamila Serkebaeva

Eliza Smith

Maria Sukkar

 

 

 

 

NOMINATORS

Mashie Agnew

Violet Guinness

Martha Hathwaya

Lucca Hue-Williams

Esmay Luck-Hille

Jean-David Malat

Gina Quan

Fraser Scarfe

Cleo Scott

Ola Shobowale

 

Share:
Reading time: 14 min
F1

The sparkling wine of Ferrari Trento is being splashed around by the winners at the F1 podium

Formula 1 celebrates with sparkling wine from Italian winemaker Ferrari Trento – They have been the official partner of the competition since 2021. Fabienne Amez-Droz visits the alpine city of Trento, tastes their different wines and experiences the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix first hand.

Ferrari Trento is the “Official toast of Formula One,” celebrated globally by drivers spraying each other with sparkling wine at the end of the races. The Ferrari Trento vineyards are located in Trento, nearby the dolomites mountains in Italy, and the company is, as many would suspect, unrelated to the Ferrari racing team. Actually the Ferrari Trento family company came first – their business dates back to the early automobile era, predating Enzo Ferrari’s first race car. But the brand’s name recognition has been clearly beneficial.

villa

The family-owned Villa Margon in Trento, situated above the vineyards, is a Renaissance-era estate with 16th-century frescoes.

Founded in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari, the business was sold to Bruno Lunelli, a local wine shop owner, in 1952. Since then, the brand seeks to communicate “The italian art of living” with its costumers worldwide.

Today it is managed by the third generation of the Lunelli family with Matteo Lunelli as CEO and President of the family business. Ferrari Trento’s other executive family member is its vice-president, Camilla Lunelli, niece of Bruno. A story that does the rounds in northern Italy is that Bruno was friends with Enzo Ferrari, and Enzo once expressed interest in investing in his namesake wine company, although the Lunelli family declined, as they wanted to keep it as a family business.

The family has an estate, called Villa Margon, located above the vineyards, where you can walk around the ancient building, gardens and learn about the family’s history. The Villa is covered in-and outside with frescoes dating back to the 16th-century. A little drive further down from the estate, you can find their big, modern winery, where they produces all of their so-called Trentodoc‘s, available in six different lines – each of which expresses its own distinctive characteristics.

Trento DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata), commonly known as Trentodoc, is an appellation for white and rosé sparkling wine made in Trento in Italy. They produce the sparkling wines with a traditional method, just like Champagne. In this method, the second fermentation occurs in the bottle, creating the bubbles. Along with Franciacorta, it is a region of Italy widely considered to make world-class sparkling wines, leagues above cheap Prosecco.

After visiting the large Ferrari Trento winery in the valley, Camilla Lunelli invited me to the Michelin-starred Restaurant Locanda Margon  and explained all of the different sparkling wines, which they offer and how to pair them with a gourmet meal.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The modern Ferrari Trento winery in the valley can store 20 million bottles, with over six million sold last year.

Read more: 6 Questions: Matteo Lunelli, CEO & President of Ferrari Trento

For this year’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, I was hosted by the Lunelli- Ferrari Trento- family. This particular racing track is one of the most well-known racing venues in the history of the Italian Grand Prix’s and 2024 marks the 30 years anniversary since the deadly accident of Brazilian F1-driver Ayrton Senna (1960-1994).

For the Imola Race, the brand designed a special Ferrari Trento bottle in honour of Senna which has been signed by the winning drivers: Max Verstappen, Charles LeClerc and Lando Norris, and it will be up for auction for the Senna Foundation in Brazil.

The Ferrari Trento Team took me around the Paddock and gave me an intimate tour of the Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber– garage to show what it would be like, to be down there during a race. You could see the Netflix “Drive to survive” camera team taking shots for the show. An experience worth celebrating!

champagne

The bottle of Ferrari Trento designed in honour of Ayrton Senna for the Imola Grand Prix 2024

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
art gallery
art gallery

Mucciaccia Gallery is delighted to present the exhibition Tête-à-tête in its gallery in Rome, curated by Catherine Loewe

Tête-à-Tête is an exhibition that explores the private and creative lives of contemporary artist couples.  Here LUX speaks to curator Catherine Loewe about the inspiration behind the show and the fascinating connections between the work of these modern-day duos.

The exhibition Tête-à-tête sizzles through the summer months in the heart of Rome at Mucciaccia Gallery, providing a rare glimpse into the world of creative couples where love, life and art collide. The show features eight acclaimed international contemporary couples whose multi-disciplinary work is placed in dialogue with each other.

The title from the French expression “head to head’ refers to the conversations and dynamic interplay that has such a significant impact on their practices, whether working individually or in collaboration.  In an ever-evolving cultural landscape, this exhibition examines how artists navigate the complexities of relationships while pushing the boundaries of artistic expression in the 21st century.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

LUX:  Where did the inspiration for the show come from?

Catherine Loewe: I’ve always been fascinated by the passionate stories of artist couples who played a key role in the development of avant-garde art.  These revolutionary couples reflected the shifting structure of both art and society, like Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, Josef and Anni Albers, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, who rode the wave of radical thinking in the wake of Cubism, Bauhaus and Surrealism.

There was a fantastic exhibition at the Barbican that covered this topic and I wanted to bring the narrative up to date with contemporary artists.   I was also inspired by Vasari’s incredible work the Lives of the Artists which so memorably set forth the connections between artists lives and their works, in many ways providing a template for art historical documentation right up to the present day.

art gallery

The exhibition brings together eight internationally acclaimed contemporary artist couples, featuring multi- disciplinary work, including photography, textiles, sculpture, painting and digital art.

LUX:  How did you select the artist couples?

CL: I was looking to include artists working across variety of disciplines from painting, sculpture, textiles and photography to convey an overview of artistic practices today.  I was greatly supported by Maryam Eisler, whose incredible photographic portraits feature as part of the show and the accompanying catalogue.

Thanks to Maryam we included pioneering artists who have witnessed seismic social, political and cultural changes like Emilia and Ilya Kabakov, the hugely influential conceptual artists whose story began in Soviet era Russia. Also, Iranian couple Shirin Neshat and Shoja Anzari, whose powerful and poetic film and photographic work centres around issues of exile, oppression and resilience.

These artists couples have truly created a lasting legacy for future generations.  British artist Rob and Nick Carter have worked in collaboration for over 25 years, pioneering cutting-edge digital techniques and more recently exploring notions of authorship through the use of robots.

The paintings in the show based on Venus, Botticelli’s rendition reprised by Andy Warhol were executed by a six-axis robot called Heidi, switching brushes and colours using hundreds of thousands of lines of bespoke software code – something I think would have amazed both Botticelli and Warhol.

art pieces

As the title which refers to the French expression “head to head’ suggests, the exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the dynamics behind artist relationships, revealed through intimate conversations with them.

Read more: Dakis Joannou interview in Hydra

LUX:  Were there other artists you would have liked to include?

CL: It is a big theme and there are many artists we could have shown like Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta, Elmgreen and Dragset, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein, Rashid Johnson and Sheri Hovsepian to name but a few – perhaps for an enlarged version of the show.

LUX:  Had all the artists shown together before?

CL: Charlotte and Philip Colbert had never shown together, although both fascinatingly share a subversive and surreal outlook, curiously mirroring each other with their chosen symbols, in Charlotte’s case the all-seeing eye, uterus, and breast and Philip’s the lobster, cactus and shark.

These motifs are seamlessly fused in their house which is a work of art in itself filled to the rafters with their art and designs – my favourite being a bathtub called Mother’s Milk made up of over a hundred silicone breasts.

LUX:  How has being together influenced the work of the artists?

CL: Creatively, these partnerships clearly act as a catalyst for artistic growth and exploration, the constant exchange of ideas is something one cannot achieve alone.  Whilst some couples maintain separate practices and others collaborate, the way they bounce ideas of each other creates this dynamic flow which translated into their work often produces major breakthroughs.

Of course, there are also rivalries, and I love the stormy life of Italian painters Pizzi Cannella and Rosella Fumasoni who so evocatively sums it up saying, “Talent always needs company. The beauty of having an artist close to you is the mindless mutual trust in the invisible.”

art pieces

With works displayed in dialogue with each other, the exhibition explores how the creative interplay between these couples has impacted their practices

LUX: How did you tackle the issues of gender inequality?

CL: For centuries the prevailing concept of the male genius meant that women’s careers were eclipsed by their ‘famous’ partners, whilst they were locked in the roles of mistress, muse or mother.  Such was the case with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner or the often toxic relationship between Pablo Picasso and Francoise Gilot – both women are only now receiving long overdue recognition.

Today these issues are certainly being vigorously addressed but still not fully resolved, for instance Sue Arrowsmith struggled to gain exposure in contrast to the meteoric career of Ian Davenport, who was one of the YBA’s in Damien Hirst’s circle.

What did however become apparent whilst doing this show is the huge amount of love, support and resilience these couples have in the face of many challenges both creative and personal.

The interviews reveal how much of a juggling act being an artist couple can be, particularly with the demands of a hectic international exhibition schedule and a young family – more like the collision of love, art and life!

art pieces

The exhibition in Rom opens its doors from the 10th May until the 2nd August 2024

LUX: What did you most enjoy about this show?

CL: It is beautiful to see the synergies between the works of these artists – like the striking geometric sculptures of Conrad Shawcross juxtaposed with the tactile, abstract hand stitched pieces by Carolina Mazzolari – a visual yin and yang both in their respective ways profoundly philosophical.

art gallery visitors

The guest enjoyed the Tête-à-tête exhibition at the Mucciaccia Gallery

Or the singing colours of Annie Morris stacked spheres in conversation with the hovering hues of Idris Khan which are so full of emotional and spiritual yearning, charting their experiences of love, loss, and catharsis.  Sue Arrowsmith and Ian Davenport have created paintings especially for the show that explore the interplay of colour, form and space take inspiration from the work of Fra Angelico fusing Sue’s use of shimmering gold leaf and Ian’s interest in the palette of Old Masters.

I also really enjoyed spending time with the artists in their homes and studios, doing photo-shoots and interviews, which I tried to keep quite light-hearted, but which turned out to be surprisingly revealing.

Tête-à-tête runs until 2 August 2024, at the Mucciaccia Gallery, Rome

mucciaccia.com

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
a man sitting on a silk rug
a man sitting on a silk rug

NIGO will be leading the creative vision for Penfolds in a multi-year artistic collaboration

Fashion and wine meet with the collaboration of Japanese fashion designer NIGO and the iconic Penfolds wine brand

One of the world’s most iconic wines just got a little more special. For years, collectors have lusted after Penfolds Grange, Australia’s most celebrated wine and quite possibly the most revered luxury brand to come out of the country. The phenomenon of Grange, as it is known to connoisseurs the world over, from Shanghai to San Francisco, is largely due to its sheer quality – many consider it the world’s best wine made from Shiraz (otherwise known as Syrah) grapes, but also due to its originality.

a bottle and a bandana

This collaboration sees the influence of NIGO’s company, Human Made, which was founded in Tokyo and draws upon
graphic design, subculture and streetwear

Unlike every other iconic world wine, whether from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa or elsewhere, Grange is not made from a single vineyard, or even from the same designated vineyards in a small, geographically distinct area, every year. Rather, it is made from grapes from Penfolds own vineyards and grower partners’ vineyards across Australia, selected by the Penfolds winemaking team for their Grange-like character. It is an icon that is also an iconoclast.

Read more: Inside Penfolds, the global luxury wine brand

a man with lots of wine barrels

NIGO, visiting Penfolds’ Magill Barrel Room, ahead of his collaboration, ‘Grange by NIGO’

So, how suitable that Penfolds Grange has partnered with the wildly original – some might say iconoclastic – Japanese designer and cultural hero NIGO, who is also Artistic Director of the Kenzo fashion brand and founder of Human Made. Appointed as the wine brand’s first ever Creative Partner in 2023, NIGO is working on a series of collaborations with the brand, none more exciting and iconoclastic than the recently released Grange by NIGO, which has seen NIGO design a limited edition gift box for the 2019 vintage. With each gift box individually numbered and including a bandana and bottle neck tag also designed by NIGO in his signature style, it’s a bold step for a fine wine brand, as Penfolds Chief Marketing Officer, Kristy Keyte, explains:

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“This is a different direction for us, and the first time we have changed the distinctive gift box of our flagship Grange. Collaborating with NIGO has been inspired by Penfolds history of pushing boundaries in winemaking, and now we expand this to exploration of new creative ideas. As a collector, NIGO understands the reputation of Grange and its legacy. He was able to create a limited-edition approach that is both playful and fresh while remaining respectful to the history of the wine. We have never done this before, and the result is brave and refreshing.”

a guy sitting looking at a bottle of wine

‘Penfolds has always been one of my favourites’, says avid wine collector, NIGO

NIGO, a fine wine collector himself, commented : “I have been a collector of Grange for many years, but it wasn’t until I visit Penfolds Magill Estate that I truly understood the craftmanship and history behind the historic wine. It was an honour to be the first person to collaborate on a design for Grange, especially as the brand celebrates its 180th anniversary.”

a man holding a bottle of wine

According to Drinks International’s 2024 list of The World’s Most Admired Wine Brands, Penfolds is one of the top three wine brands globally

There are only 1500 standard-sized 750ml bottles and 150 magnums available globally and they are selling fast in this, Penfolds 180th anniversary year, following their initial release in Australia and Asia recently, and they are likely to become highly collectible. We suggest buying as many as you can: its a wine whose box (and nifty bandana) is as striking and delicious as the liquid inside.

Penfolds Grange by NIGO is available globally. Future projects between Penfolds and NIGO will be announced later this year, 2024.

penfolds.com

 

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
02-New-LUX-Cover-SS-24 (1)
02-New-LUX-Cover-SS-24 (1)

George Condo shot this selfie and painted this logo and these coverlines for our cover. We see it as an ‘anti-cover’ – a reaction to the slick imagery created by magazines and now universally imitated by social media

George Condo has been redefining art for more than four decades. As he unveils a body of work titled “The Mad and the Lonely”, the artist speaks with Maryam Eisler about the human condition and society’s outcasts. Condo created this issue’s cover and logo for LUX, and showcases these paintings for the first time below

Maryam Eisler: Charles Bukowski once said, “Only the crazy and the lonely can afford to be themselves”. Would you agree?
George Condo: I would agree with Bukowski. However, I would say the mad and the lonely are perhaps more victims of their own internal circumstances, as opposed to having the choice to make that distinction.

back of a man painting in his studio, with an image of various faces

George Condo at work in his studio

ME: Would you consider madness and loneliness as necessary precursors to the act of creation?
GC: I don’t think so. I imagine the mad and the lonely as a state of mind that comes over the artist in moments of joy and happiness as well. Suddenly, without warning, the subconscious kicks in and drives him, or at least myself, into dark corners within me to bring out reflections, or rather observations of those disparate souls in life who have no choice but to be outcast or peripheral to the everyday working-class person, and are unable to function within the constraints of such boundaries. At which point, they become either homeless or simply rejected from society.

a man who is an artist looking directly at the viewer, drawn with pencil

George Condo, Illustration by Jonathan Newhouse

ME: Henry Miller once said, “The artist is always alone”. Are you mad and lonely? If so, is it by choice or by necessity?
GC: I am not mad and lonely. However, the portraits I paint are depictions of those who are. I like to take selfies, like the one on the LUX cover, because they make me laugh. Miller’s books always make me laugh as well. They are practically selfies in and of themselves.

Artwork created for LUX, 2024, by George Condo

ME: Have we become sad, lonely and angry as a society? Have we forgotten empathy? How would you propose saving us?
GC: I cannot save the world from its own extinction. We are the new dinosaurs living through the ice age, the cyber age, the world of disinformation and scam; a world at war within itself, like fires that keep popping up in various cultures – cultures that have been driven to believe in war against each other, a rather brutal form of extinction.

 

a painting of someone between a person and an animal

‘Acceptance’, 1989, by George Condo

 

ME: Sciences help us understand the natural world; social sciences help us measure human behaviour. Is culture alone capable of understanding the individual’s emotions?
GC: The emotional aspects of a child are the purest. Once the child becomes hardwired into various systems of belief, whether by political pressures or religious pressures passed to them by their elders, is when the trouble begins. The actual science of medicine and the science of research are subject to government regulations that perhaps aid the big pharmaceutical companies to continue to produce drugs. Many of the drugs they have produced previously have led to the need of the new drugs. For all we know, there has been a cure for dementia or cancer that has been held back from us for years. For all we know, it’s like trying to get to the truth about aliens. I don’t have an answer to that. I find that art is the truth; it is the only manmade representation of what one truly has to say and can believe in.

ME: How would you qualify the individual’s experience when they are confronted with a great artwork?
GC: I think the first feeling is one of great joy in seeing the remarkable impact of either colour or form or the way things are depicted and the spirit of an artist’s true beliefs.

 

A face coming out of a purple and blue background

‘Appearance’, 2023, by George Condo

 

ME: It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said that we consume culture to enlarge our hearts and minds. Would you agree that the very best of the arts induce humility and empathy?
GC: I would say Emerson was able to express some of the most beautiful essays ever written and I agree with everything he has said. His quotes from Aristotle are particularly amusing.

ME: Do you agree that art has the power to render sorrow into beauty, loneliness into a shared experience and despair into hope?
GC: I do agree with that. I believe it’s possible in art to turn that which is negative into positive, and that some of the most beautiful art is of the melancholic. One might find in the music of John Dowland in the early 17th century such beautiful and melancholic songwriting and ensemble music, such as ‘Lachrimae’, or ‘Seaven Teares’ as well as ‘A Pilgrimes Solace’, that it becomes transformative. This mood pervades throughout the arts, in painting as well, from this period. One might think of Caravaggio’s ‘Death of the Virgin’, which is currently at the Louvre.

 

a red nun, in a painting

‘The Red Nun’, 2017, by George Condo

 

ME: Dakis Joannou said, “If it doesn’t have psyche, it cannot be art”. How would you describe the psyche when it comes to your own art production?
GC: The psyche is an Ancient Greek expression and it still stands true. If the art does not have a mind of its own, irrespective of the viewers, it’s no good.

ME: Are you excited by your upcoming collaboration with Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art on the island of Hydra?
GC: I’m very excited, I’ve known Dakis for quite some time now. He is a very wise man with an extremely acute sense of aesthetics and imagination – even to have realised the Slaughterhouse as a place to show art tells you just how brilliant he is.

 

a blue face with brownish red wide eyes, pointy eyebrows and a long nose

‘Dark Facing Light’, 2023, by George Condo

 

ME: Does Hydra itself play a big part in this excitement? If so, why?
GC: Yes. This is a mythical island and it has all the elements of the ancient and modern times combined within one place.

ME: What are you hoping to achieve with this initiative?
GC: My hope is to somehow combine minimalism and figuration in one exhibition and to have a kind of dialectic experience take place: the cold and the warm coming together and liberating the constraints of both forms of art from being anything less than human.

a sculpture of a head

‘The Renegade’, 2009, by George Condo

ME: Would you say that this is a big departure stylistically and thematically from what you have produced in the past?
GC: This will be the first time I have worked in such a way as to focus the attention on the outcasts of society and glorify or rather dignify them in the context of a high-art experience.

ME: Where have you found your main sources of inspiration? Have these sources shifted in recent years or for the work you are about to present in Hydra?
GC: My art is always in flux with my imagination. I don’t necessarily draw or paint in a representational manner; it’s more an internal dialogue in my mind that is thrust onto the surface of a canvas to express my inner thoughts and feelings.

Caravaggio painting with red and heads and someone dying

‘The Death of the Virgin’, 1606, by Caravaggio (Fine Art/Alamy Stock Photo)

ME: What are you fascinated by these days? What do you abhor?
GC: Well, I am always fascinated by food, I must admit. I love to cook and try out new recipes or recreate things I’ve eaten that I really love. I even had such a great Greek lamb sandwich in Athens that I recreated the food-truck experience for Dakis here in New York and he loved it! I abhor war and suffering. I wish the wars would all end.

ME: What are your plans after Hydra?
GC: I will just come back home. My daughter is expecting a baby girl and I’m hoping to spend time babysitting!

George Condo’s exhibition “The Mad and The Lonely” is at the Deste Foundation Project Space Slaughterhouse, Hydra, Greece, 18 June-31 October 2024;

deste.gr

george-condo.com

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
Dakis Joannou with Live Painting of Dakis and Lietta, 2018, by George Condo.
Dakis Joannouwith Live Painting of Dakis and Lietta, 2018, by George Condo.

Dakis Joannou with Live Painting of Dakis and Lietta, 2018, by George Condo.

He was Jeff Koons’ best man, is a regular dinner companion of Maurizio Cattelan
and Urs Fischer, and has invited George Condo to create a show for his non-profit Deste Foundation on a Greek island this summer. Darius Sanai meets Dakis Joannou, the art world’s most consummate host and one of its most imaginative and significant collectors, and finds that what drives him is friendship and curiosity

Anyone floating in more rarefied circles at Art Basel, the world’s preeminent art fair, in Switzerland this June won’t help but hear “See you at Hydra!” being tossed around with parting air kisses as collectors depart. In this case, the reference to the Greek island is not to a private yacht or party, but the most desirable and intriguingly democratic art event of the year.

The brainchild of the Greek-Cypriot tycoon, collector, and artists’ friend Dakis Joannou, “Hydra” refers to a series of initiatives both on the Greek mainland and the small island near Athens, centred on the spaces of Joannou’s non-profit Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art (the name Deste comes from the Greek word for “look”).

Joannouwith Maurizio Cattelan<br />

Dakis Joannou with his dear friend, italian artist Maurizio Cattelan

The building on Hydra is a converted slaughterhouse, which each year features one of the world’s most interesting art shows and related events in the Hydra Slaughterhouse Project. This year’s superstar is George Condo, whose show is entitled “The Mad and the Lonely”.

He follows on the heels of Jeff Koons two years ago, who also designed the exterior of Joannou’s yacht. The uniqueness of Hydra is generated by Joannou himself.

No usual collector, he is, famously, close friends with the artists whose work he procures, spending long evenings with the likes of Koons, Condo, Urs Fischer and Maurizio Cattelan
, talking about life, the universe and everything.

“We meet, we drink, we go for dinner, we talk – maybe it’s about gossip or about art,” says Joannou. “I love how artists think, the original thoughts they have and the angles they take about things. It’s very different to say the way a banker thinks.

I enjoy being with artists a lot.” While there are private dinners, the shows are open to the public and, as it’s a small place, artists and art-world illuminati bump around with tourists who come along to see the art. Anyone can experience 90 per cent of the buzz at Hydra just by buying a ferry ticket. Is Joannou driven by a higher philanthropic calling?

Joannou and Jeff Koons,with Koons’ Gazing Ball Tripod, 2020-2022

Joannou and American artist,Jeff Koons, with Koons’ Gazing Ball Tripod, 2020-2022

“No, not at all. I don’t put any responsibility on myself about what I’m doing,” he says. “I just do what I feel like doing and it’s up to the public to respond. I’m not doing it for this sake or that sake, I’m just doing what I feel I should do.”

Is it important for Joannou that visitors understand the underlying impetus behind the shows, his raisons d’être? “It’s up to them, I don’t mind,” he says. “I’m just putting out there what I think and feel, but people can take it as they like.”

But he must take some pleasure out of GREEK GIFTS He was Jeff Koons’ best man, is a regular dinner companion of Maurizio Cattelan
and Urs Fischer, and has invited George Condo to create a show for his non-profit Deste Foundation on a Greek island this summer.

Darius Sanai meets Dakis Joannou, the art world’s most consummate host and one of its most imaginative and significant collectors, and finds that what drives him is friendship and curiosity 18 creating something out of nothing, so to speak? “I am very pleased to see a positive response,”
he says.

Joannou with artist Jeff Koons and artist Urs Fischer

Joannou with artist Jeff Koons and artist Urs Fischer

“I cannot deny that. I mean, we started on Hydra in 2009 with about 150 people on a long dinner table. And now there are up to 4,000 people who come, so I am very proud of getting a big crowd there.” Joannou says that he gives complete carte blanche to his artists.

When I ask him about Condo’s theme of “The Mad and the Lonely”, he replies, “You’ll have to ask George about that.” Like many highly driven people, Joannou has a hyper-creative mind of his own, and he knows enough to respect his fellow creatives.

See you on Hydra.

You can read Maryam Eisler’s interview with George Condo here.

Condo’s “The Mad and the Lonely” exhibition is at the Deste Foundation Project Space Slaughterhouse, Hydra, Greece, 18 June – 31 October 2024; deste.gr

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
identical men in blue suits in a row with their arm our to shake a hand
A man sitting cross legged with a skull in his lap wearing a suit

Maurizio Cattelan
self-portrait created by the artist and Pierpaolo Ferrari for LUX

Maurizio Cattelan
, Italy’s most celebrated living artist, tells Darius Sanai about surrealism, failing at school, and why art can never be a commentary on society. Pencil Portrait by Jonathan Newhouse. Photographic portraits of Maurizio Catellan created for LUX by the artist

Italy’s greatest living artist – and one of Europe’s most celebrated artists of this century – is also something of a philosopher, if you read some of his sharp-tongued musings over the years; or, indeed, if you look at his art. Among Maurizio Cattelan
’s most celebrated creations are a solid-gold toilet and a very famous banana taped to a wall in an art fair (which was subsequently eaten by an art student).

Some of his work echoes Voltaire, with its artful, humorous but piercing satirisation of elements of our times – until you examine more closely and wonder what, exactly, is the target of his satire. His biannual magazine, Toiletpaper, which features beautiful, disturbing, engrossing images created with his collaborator, the photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari, could be seen as surreal, satirical or something else entirely.

Speaking with Cattelan is how I imagine it would be like to be toyed with by a mischievous octopus. You think you have an idea of an answer, and then another leg curls round your head from behind and tweaks your ear. The son of a truck driver and a cleaner, with no formal training in art, Cattelan did not shine at school: a million parents around the world would have been forgiven for assuming this son of Padua, northern Italy, was destined not to do anything with his life.

A drawing of a man

Illustration of Maurizio Cattelan
by Jonathan Newhouse, 2023

And yet his blue-collar parents produced one of the most sophisticated, thoughtful and intelligent artists I have met; and also one of the hardest to pigeonhole. He is not, by his own admission, a painter. Is he a sculptor? An installation artist? A surrealist? What kind of art is a banana taped to the wall, or any of the works he has created on these pages (and on our cover) for LUX? Is he really what his art suggests he is, a mix of Marcel Duchamp, Monty Python and Andy Warhol?

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

After some brain-scrambling and highly entertaining and engaging exchanges, I think I have the answer. But why don’t you read our interview below and come to your own conclusions. Like mine, they will probably be wrong, for Cattelan is a playful yet deadly serious chimera who, as his elementary-school teachers probably said, can never quite be pinned down.

Darius Sanai: Your parents were not in the art world. That must have made it difficult for you to enter the art scene. Did you meet any resistance?
Maurizio Cattelan
:
Resistance is not the right word to describe it. The difference between people lies only in their having greater or lesser access to economic possibilities and knowledge, and in being successful in accessing these two elements when the starting conditions do not allow it. All the choices that I have made are aimed at seeking that access. I am a devotee of free will much more than of destiny: in this sense, the Catholic religion has had no influence on me, while the Lutheran heresy is much more in my comfort zone. I am convinced that destiny is nothing but the sum of our choices. Regarding what my parents would have thought of me being an artist, I was lucky enough not to discover it.

DS: What did you want to do when you were at school?
MC: My childhood was not an easy one, but it was not special at all – I share this burden with many people before and after me, who suffered from the same condition. The first memory I have from school was a suspension in first grade. It was an agitated, very proletarian class. I don’t remember why but the teacher wrote in the notebook that I shouldn’t show up the next day. My parents were meant to sign the note from the teacher, but I spent a whole day imitating my parents’ signatures so as not to face their judgment and punishment. They never found out. Also, the report card never arrived at my parents’, because I kept forging their signatures.

A man's head looking worried surrounded by his head in green and yellow around him

Maurizio Cattelan
self-portrait created by the artist and Pierpaolo Ferrari for LUX

DS: You had no formal art training. Does this mean that a great artist needs no training?
MC: Not at all, but it was true for me–art training would have made me give up. The most distressing gift I ever received was a painter’s kit: it had everything I needed to paint, and I had no idea how to use it. It was a year at home that reminded me how inadequate I was as a painter, or at working with my hands in general. It was really frustrating: they were tools that I wanted to try but at the same time I knew I wasn’t able to master them.

DS: You are a satirist, a disruptor. Why?
MC: Please, you tell me, because I feel like the most boring person I know!

DS: Is your art a commentary on society?
MC: Not at all. I’ve always believed that if something can be reduced to one clear concept, it is as sure as hell artistically dead. Art has no direct and unique intent, otherwise it is a problem that has already been resolved, and there’s nothing interesting in this. So, you’ll never hear me affirming a show has one single objective – otherwise, it would be simple advertising. Art is good for you as long as you make whatever you want out of it.

DS: Is one of your aims to create discomfort in those viewing your art? If so, why?
MC: I promise you I have no such nasty aim. I do what I do to deal with my problems, if they create discomfort it is not something planned deliberately. I simply can’t help it.

identical men in blue suits in a row with their arm our to shake a hand

Maurizio Cattelan
self-portrait created by the artist and Pierpaolo Ferrari for LUX

DS: Who are your forebears? Duchamp? Picasso?
MC: The maximum I can say is that I sometimes dream about finding a bear in my closet. I’m not sure if it is its dimensions or its teeth, but it is quite scary. Imagine if I also had fore-bears!

DS: What effect would you like your art to have on the world?
MC: I would not ask this question in these terms: a flower blooms because its time came, not because there is a reason or effect it can forsee. Similarly, it happens with art, design and all forms of innovation: they happen when the time tis right, it is as simple as this.

DS: Does it trouble you that only the wealthy can buy art that is considered “great” now? What is the relationship between art and its price?
MC: Artworks, art institutions and the art market are linked together, as they form an indissoluble chain that allows the machine to work. Experience teaches us that light cannot exist without darkness and that an ecosystem cannot be balanced if a prey doesn’t have its predator: this is also the case in the art world.

DS: Does it not trouble you that many great works, including yours, are locked in private collections? What can be done to change this (except a revolution)?
MC: It would trouble me if the collectors has no interest in showing them, but since it is in their own interest to show them around as it would increase their value, I don’t see a big issue there. Wise collectors assemble collections that are not purely speculative, and they can be the best companion for an artist. They can help a lot in developing and giving birth to what you have in mind: the fact that you can dream about something because a collector is supporting you opens an entire world of possibilities.

A banana taped to the wall

Comedian, 2019, by Maurizio Cattelan

DS: Is revolution a good idea?
MC: It is always a good idea when it’s performed, and not spoken.

DS: Can you describe how you create a work, from inspiration to completion?
MC: My favourite part is the ideation, then I prefer to let others take care of the practicalities, as realisation is a sea I can’t navigate. My contribution is the initial one: the conception of a work is the most interesting part for me, everything is new and exciting. The more you get into the practical phase, the more impatient I become to start with another one: I don’t like the things I already know.

DS: You have said all decoration is disturbing; and yet you have Toiletpaper Home, a homewares line. Should home decoration be disturbing also?
MC: Did I say so? Maybe I was referring to my place; that is totally empty. But I love to think that Toiletpaper images could be applied to home decoration – it has always been a project that knows no limit.

DS: Are you a surrealist? A sensationalist? Absurdist? Or any other kind of “ist”?
MC: I am a 1-ist of contradiction.

A man hanging from a green bathroom

You, 2021, by Maurizio Cattelan
at Massimo de Carlo, Milan, 2022

DS: Is there a morality, a commentary on the human condition or society in your works?
MC: I believe I already answered this, but just to be clear: art should not have a straightforward , unique clear message, otherwise it is advertising.

DS: You have said that if you have been able to amke good art, it’s because of your flaws. What are those?
MC: Le me answer as if I was in a job interview: I’m a perfectionist.

DS: What are your best works of art?
MC: Only time will tell.

DS: Should the banana have been eaten?
MC: Only if next time the peel and tape are also eaten.

The Guggenheim building with items hanging from the ceiling to the floor

Installation view of ALL, 2011, by Maurizio Cattelan
, at Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2011

DS: What role do you think shock value plays in contemporary art?
MC: I wish for every artist’s work to be incendiary, and to never satisfy expectations. In the latter case, it is a style exercise and a waste of time, both for the artist and for the audience.

DS: Your recent collaboration with Gucci explores appropriation and originality. How important is it to be original in the art world today?
MC: Culture has been rewritten many times from many different points of view. If we look at history, copying has been the method of disseminating knowledge as much as in the contemporary world: scribes copied books to ensure future generations had the same knowledge and to preserve their culture over the centuries. A few years earlier, the Romans copied Greek sculptures, as today we copy the great classics and see them in souvenir shops. Copying is a concept as old as humanity, because it is the presupposition of knowledge tout court.

Read more: An Interview with William Kentridge

DS: What about Longchamp, what are you doing there?
MC: It’s a collaboration, a capsule that witnesses the marriage between Longchamp and Toiletpaper. I am looking forward to discovering what the result will be.

DS: Are you a Voltaire of the art world?
MC: You tell me, as I’m not sure of who I am in general, never mind in the art world!

three men standing together

Darius Sanai with Maurizio Cattelan
and Pierpaolo Ferrari

DS: Which artists, living or dead, do you admire most?
MC: All those who did what they did under a sense of urgency.

DS: What or who is overrated in the art world?
MC: All those who did what they did NOT under a sense of urgency.

DS: Will you create digital art?
MC: I’d rather not, I’m far too old for that.

The Longchamp x Toiletpaper Le Pliage collection is at Longchamp stores and lonchamp.com. A limited-edition issue of Toiletpaper features the collaboration.

toiletpapermagazine.org

Photographer: Pierpaolo Ferrari
Art Director: Antonio Colomboni
Set Designer: Michela Natella
Set Builder: Lorenzo Dispensa
Hair and Makeup: Lorenzo Zavatta
Stylist: Elisa Zaccanti

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

Share:
Reading time: 10 min
Gabriel Scott Design
Scott

Portrait of Scott Richler, founder and creative director of Gabriel Scott

The furniture and lighting studio Gabriel Scott was founded in Montreal, by Scott Richler. It was established in an effort to blend his jewellery design experience developed over many years to designing lighting and furniture. He speaks to LUX about the process behind it and how he focusses on craftmanship and exquisite materials

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from your furniture and lighting?  Which brands, or elements of brands, inspired you when you began your design line?

Scott Richtler: Mostly the language of our Gabriel Scott pieces is based on some prior experience in my life.  Mostly from the time I spent in jewellery design and fashion with a separate brand called Jennifer Scott between 2000 and 2005. I created statement jewellery from semi-precious stone.

This led to a career in design, mostly in women’s accessories like handbags seen in Bergdorf’s and Neiman Marcus. Working in high end fashion design meant I developed a high range of design skills learning from the best artisans in Italy.

Before this though I had an architecture background, so I have macro scale and smaller scale design experience; I like the immediacy of this, I speak many different design languages.  I’m into details and you can see the story of my background come through into our lighting fixtures.

Gabriel Scott Design

The Welles Glass Chandelier, curated in essence of timeless jewellery

Q: In the 18th century, furniture was elevated from functional pieces to works of art, acting as a status symbol in the Victorian home. What would you say is furniture’s symbolic purpose today?

SR: The function of an architect is to look at a space and interact with it. Furniture and lighting are all objects you interact with in one way or another. Everything in your life surrounding you has a form of dialogue around it.

Furniture can be seen as sculpture or more precisely functional sculpture. It’s also about how the user of that space interacts with the environment. Decorative lighting can be viewed as a pretentious status symbol and pretentious pursuit.

Decorative lighting is functional but not totally necessary in a home. Decorative lighting is a focal talking point, creating interest and texture in a home, it is an elevated art form in this sense.

interior

Greg Natale’s East Brisbane house in Australia: This riverfront residence combines interior architecture with the layering of sumptuous finishes to create a “modern palazzo” that celebrates its owners’ deep connection to Italy.

Q: The lighting industry now faces issues with regard to electricity usage and sustainability. How do you combat or navigate these issues, and how do they challenge your principle that designs should be ‘Timeless’?

SR: Gabriel Scott designs use low LED’s and these drop very little electricity, you could keep them on forever and they’re very environmentally friendly. I’ve always approached design through timelessness because it should be like this.

Gabriel Scott furnishings and lighting are classic with longevity just like Chanel. You can wear a Chanel piece from 60-years ago and it’s still as contemporary in present day today. I’m in the camp sitting with vintage Porsche’s being more sustainable than Tesla’s.

The amount of investment required to build a Tesla that will be used for no-more than 10-years is less sustainable than driving a Porsche that’s been on the planet for 50 years. Investing in a Gabriel Scott light is much the same, it’s an investment which will stand the test of time and last.

Q: How else does Gabriel Scott engage with sustainability?

SR: Like a fine designer quality brand, Gabriel Scott’s pieces are investments, well made, amazing materials with longevity.  The materials come from the earth, they’re minerals and glass is recyclable. We use materials that are long-lasting, if you invest in our furnishings they will last forever and you can move with them from home to home.

I do feel strongly that the word sustainability needs to be used carefully by companies. There are so many brands out there greenwashing their companies in a way that is detrimental to the wider sustainability agenda.

Q: Is it important for contemporary art to be functional as well as aesthetic?

SR: It’s not important for any art to be functional.  The dialogue of art is to not be functional whatsoever. As a matter of fact, if it’s not functional, sometimes it creates more questions in the user, which therefore creates a dialogue that may be intentional or not.

The Welles Long Chandelier 17, Smoked Purple and Gray Glass. The Welles collection was coined by notable architect and designer, called David Rockwell.

Q: Would you say furniture and lighting are of increasing importance in the art world now?

SR: Lighting and art in juxtaposition are increasingly important and the majority if not all high-end clients have both in their homes.  We’re recognizing this and from May our London showroom will be welcoming in the Virginia Damsta gallery.

We’re creating a art and lighting gallery with an inaugural exhibition, titled “The New Artists: When Machines Dream” departing from the conventional white cube concept, we’re going to be presenting a synthesis, a symbiosis of art and design. This fusion illuminate’s artwork and creates a harmonious interplay between art and design.

Q: What key changes have you noticed in lighting/furniture design since you founded Gabriel Scott in 2012?

SR: I’ve seen a shift culturally, pre-2012 most high-quality furniture and lighting was manufactured mostly Italian.  Italy is known for being refined and creating the best.  But most of its industrialized and this was the key to the Italian success, being able to industrialize production of beautiful lamps and furniture.

For the last 10-years, there’s been a pivot towards a more artisanal approach. A much more hands-on, handmade approach to furniture and lighting which is more appreciated. The shift has been from the benchmark of quality Italian pieces which have been industrialised. Not the benchmark is more artisan like a carpenter trained in skills from hundreds of years ago which is just exquisite so there has been an elevation.

Q: Do you feel like people are getting more adventurous with their lighting?

SR: Yes I 100% agree with this, but if you look back into time you’ll find plenty of people who were adventurous with design. For example, if you look into interior designer’s in North Carolina, it would not have been surprising to find a sculptural element to a wall sconce in a Gio Ponti house like 50-60 years ago.

You would find sculptural lighting, it just was something that was very European it never really traded into the sort of mass market.  The general public are more conscious about lighting due to big interiors companies being more adventurous with media campaigns.  Decorative lighting has kind of become the norm – with more people on board!

The Myriad Chandelier, 12 Long. The chandelier projects a warm light through its double-blown glass and is hand-made to order.

Q: With your background in architecture and fashion, you interpret decorative lighting as larger scale jewellery. How else has your experience in the fields impacted your perspective on interior design?

SR: I’ve taken inspiration from many great interior designers such as Joseph Dirand. My perspective on interior design is that you can easily interpret a space through the objects that populate that space. My perspective is being an interior designer doesn’t necessarily have to be a maximalist pursuit.

You don’t have to put a great deal into a space to make it special. You can put in an amazing table, piece of art and light fixture – the look can be pretty minimalist. But there’s something unique and special about it is because of the objects in space.

Q: Are there any elements of different brands that have inspired your line?

SR: I love to look at jewelry lines like Pomellato, Cartier and De Beers for inspiration for our lighting. A discontinued Cartier ring inspired the Harlow light.  The ring was like a series of balls that are cold and explode.

In terms of furnishing’s I find Gio Ponti inspirational. Buckminster Fuller is an incredible inspirational architect. I’m enthused by Olafur Eliasson the artist. So its varied, it doesn’t come from furniture traditions. It’s just like images that are blended.

www.gabriel-scott.com

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
bodrum
bodrum

The MedBodrum festivities took place at the Maçakızı Hotel and Villa Maçakızı in Bodrum

Experiences are the future of luxury. Darius Sanai visits MedBodrum, a visionary new type of festival, combining fabulous cuisine, vibey music, art and culture, in one of the hottest Mediterranean destinations

An assemblage of famed and Michelin-starred chefs cooking in the open air by the Mediterreanean; a mellowness of Bossa Nova from Bebel Gilberto, singing just with an acoustic guitarist as an accompanist, just centimetres from the water’s edge;

guests moving seamlessly from Chandon wine to Caipirinhas; a semi-outdoor display of art dotted around two properties, a boat ride from each other, featuring works by Marina Abramovic, Antony Gormley and LUX’s own chief contributing editor, the collector and artist Maryam Eisler, among others.

food

The festival features top international cuisine

Welcome to MedBodrum, a new type of festival, whose inaugural edition took place last week over four days in the spring sunshine and moonlight in a bay surrounded by deep forest just outside the chi-chi Turkish Riviera resort of Bodrum.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

chef

Carlo Bernardini’s recipes are inspired by his late grandmother’s cooking

The aural and sensory entertainment, in what promises to be an annual festival, was stunning. The music came from Skip Marley on the first night through Mestiza and to Gilberto as the grand finale.

There were different presentations of cuisine – from formal dinners to the memorable beachside BBQ cookout – from chefs including Aret Sahakyan, Carlo Bernardini, Alejandro Serrano and Deepanker Khosla.

food

Michelin-starred cuisine for all palates

Never have art collectors been quite so spoiled for choice for sampling everything from exquisite langoustines to a dairy-free vat of pasta with fresh tomato, in a Med-side luxury location – except possibly in their own homes.

And that’s what made MedBodrum special: given the organic villa-style architecture and intimacy of Macakizi, a resort that is a go-to stop off from many superyacht summers, it felt like a big house party, your house party, but organised by someone else who knows all the right chefs and musicians and artists.

Festival guests enjoyed DJs and a variety of top international acts

(Fru Tholstrup and Jane Cowan‘s curation of artworks was seen both at Macakizi, the eco-hotel at the heart of the festival, and the Villa Macakizi private palace a boat ride across the bay.)

But the most compelling memory is that of a wholly new concept created by Sahir Erozan, Macakizi’s owner and the creative mind behind this celebration.

Erozan is a restaurateur and hotelier, and he is wrapping together three areas – gastronomy, art and music, with a good dash of fine wine thrown in – in a way that nobody else does.

medbodrum

Sahir Erozan, the owner of the Maçakızı Hotel in Bodrum, with friends art the MedBodrum evening events

ski marley

Skip Marley, grandson of Bob Marley and Rita Marley, performing at the event in Bodrum.

Luxury consumers love eating well, collect art, and enjoy bringing performers in for private concerts. And yet these activities are too often separated: there is no art at the Miami Food & Wine, no music at the Venice Biennale, and anybody who has been to an Art Basel or Frieze knows the issue with the cuisine and hospitality (there is none).

Erozan is bringing them together all under the banner of the Mediterranean.

Read more: Leading MACAN, Indonesia’s first contemporary art museum

It’s a new kind of luxury experience, one that can travel. Everyone knows that experiences are the new obsession for luxury consumers. There remain challenges: how to integrate the art (and what kind of art?); who to invite and who not to invite – the hotel remained open to regular paying guests; which brands to involve, or not; how to create a “tribe” like the most successful clubs, from Studio 54 in 1980 to Soho House in 1999 and Oswalds in 2024.

art

Artworks by Matous Hasa. Art is one of the pillars of the festival, along with cuisine, music and sustainability

And there is a sustainability element which was a little uncertain: we would say be bold and have conversations with regenerative ocean innovators in the mornings and afternoons, before the music and cuisine (and caipirinhas) really kick in.

For MedBodrum felt like a visiting a club (LUX is too young to have been to Studio 54 but we understand it was an invigorating experience), albeit a virtual one.

People were in their own tribe, curated, like all the best clubs, by one all-seeing owner, in the shape of the permanently cigarred Sahir.

darius sanai

Medbodrum guests on the beachside deck at the Macakizi

With the tones of Bebel Gilberto purring “happy birthday to me” still in our ears (she performed on her birthday, and Erozan presented her with a gift, a cake and some Dom Perignon at the end of her set) we look forward to seeing how MedBodrum develops onwards and upwards for a new and even more international generation.

www.medbodrum.com

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
boathouse
boathouse

LongHouse Reserve in Long Island photographed by Philippe Cheng

Maryam Eisler is set to revisit the effects of Covid – for good and for bad – through an exhibition at LongHouse Reserve in Long Island, presenting conversations with 164 artists from across the globe into a physical book, ‘Confined Artists: Free Spirits – portraits and interviews from Lockdown’ so as to crystalise a significant period in our common history and humanity.

How easy it is to forget. Four years on from the pandemic, we talk about it only occasionally. Yet it is vital to remember what Covid did to us. Artists, the very pulse of our respective societies, recorded it.

That’s why I put together my conversations with 164 artists from across the globe into a physical book, to crystalise a significant period in our common history and humanity.

During the pandemic, we spoke of rediscovering the importance of connectivity, humanity, compassion and empathy.

Four years on, we live in an ever madder and more dehumanised world filled with hatred. It’s as if the lessons learned then are no longer significant today.

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

I was delighted to be invited by LongHouse Reserve in Long Island to present an institutional show this summer. I hope the book and exhibition will help recover our memories when it comes to those difficult times, and our shared humanity.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, once again.

Read more: The future of philanthropy, with UBS

facetime

Sheree Hovsepian portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

facetime

Eric Fischl portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

“As a sanctuary and place of respite during the pandemic, and founded
as a place for artist conversations, LongHouse welcomes Maryam Eisler and looks forward to reprising her myriad of conversations from the lockdown”

Carrie Barratt, Director, LongHouse Reserve

‘This summer project will bring together the beauty, synergy, and passion of Maryam and LongHouse. Maryam is an extraordinarily insightful artist, friend, humanitarian, and writer who possesses the insight to sensitively document this challenging period.’

Pamela Willoughby, independent curator

Joel Mesler portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

“Since the day I first walked into a museum and later entered an artist’s studio, and even later as I occupy an artist’s studio today, I have come to believe that the documentation of the time and space of the artist’s journey is almost as important as the artworks that get made and presented as artworks”

Joel Mesler, artist

woman

Shirin Neshat portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

“Maryam Eisler is one of my most favourite people in the art world, a visionary woman who has defied all descriptions as a devoted artist, patron, editor and publisher. Her online conversations in lockdown felt comforting, and were a reminder of artists’ need for a community, especially in a time of crisis”

Shirin Neshat, artist

facetime

Mickalene Thomas portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

A series of talks are organised in August 2025 at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton , Long Island, with some of the artists featured in Maryam Eisler’s book, to include Shirin Neshat , Mickalene Thomas, Sheree Hovsepian, Joel Mesler and Eric Fischl. For full details please visit: longhouse.org/products/2024-maryam-eisler-placeholder

 

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
kid

Philanthropic pioneers across education, conservation, health and culture , on key issues in the rapidly changing world of philanthropy. In association with UBS Optimus Foundation

woman

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is the founder and President of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. After graduating in Economy and Business at Turin university, she approached the world of contemporary art as a collector, in the early 1990s.

The cultural educationist

Who: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

What: Founder and president, Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation

Where: Italy Achievements: Creating one of Italy’s leading contemporary art foundations and cultural education programmes together with the Italian Ministry of Culture; creating a new environmental and cultural centre from the island of San Giacomo, Venice.

LUX: How does educational philanthropy work effectively?

PSRR: In the educational workshops of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation – the non-profit contemporary art centre I have led since 1995 – children are involved in activities designed to develop creativity, collaboration and mutual trust.

The challenge is precisely to imagine and then structure, within a contemporary-art museum, a dynamic learning and growth experience for a small group. I think it is very important to think of the museum as an educational agency, capable of promoting an education based on respect, coexistence, plurality. Philanthropy comes later and accordingly.

art

Works from “Visual Persuasion”, an exhibition by Pauline Olowska at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin, 2023-24

art

Works from “Visual Persuasion”, an exhibition by Pauline Olowska at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin, 2023-24

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

A father and daughter looking at the camera

Self-portrait of Nachson Mimran and his daughter in Gstaad, Switzerland; October 2022; photographed by Nachson Mimran

The philanthropist entrepreneur

Who: Nachson Mimran

What: co-founder, to.org

Where: Switzerland Achievements: Developing a game-changing organisation combining philanthropy, investment, startup accelerator and socialenterprise multiplier.

LUX: Are the lines between philanthropy and profit-with-purpose getting blurred?

NM: Operationally, these lines cannot be “blurred” but business can support philanthropy. Our investment arm, TO Ventures, invests in teams that are building high-growth, high-impact, early-stage technology businesses across sectors to solve critical challenges for society and the environment. Returns from the TO Ventures programme finance the TO Foundation.

Additionally, in 2022, my brother Arieh co-founded with our nephew Joshua Phitoussi a dedicated decarbonisation fund, TO VC, spun out of the TO Ventures programme. Wasoko – a TO Ventures portfolio company – is Africa’s leading e-commerce B2B platform.

Working with major suppliers like P&G and Unilever, Wasoko accesses lower prices for mom-and-pop retailers across the continent, who can order fast-moving consumer goods on demand, allowing end customers to access goods more consistently and at more affordable prices. The company also recently announced that it is in merger talks with MaxAB, another TO Ventures portfolio company

man

In 2019, Olivier Wenden was appointed by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Vice-President and CEO of the Foundation. Prior to this, he served as the Foundation’s Executive Director and Secretary General from 2014.

The national foundation director

Who: Olivier Wenden

What: CEO and Vice Chair, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation

Where: Monaco Achievements: Launching an ocean fund; running an annual ocean-week initiative bringing together investors, NGOs, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and institutions; creating a new Ocean Innovators platform.

LUX: How do you measure the impacts of your projects and initiatives?

OW: We ask each project we fund to complete final reports highlighting the results achieved in relation to the initial objectives. The indicators depend on the nature of the project itself and may, for example, indicate the surface area of a protected zone at sea or on land that the project contributed to extend, or the number of people in a community helped by a solution deployed.

Each year, we use this and other data to draw up an impact report, which we give to our benefactors so we can be transparent about the financial grants committed and the results achieved. Finally, we carry out audits on projects in the field to ensure that everything is aligned with our values and according to the established agreement.

woman

Jessica Posner Odede is the CEO of Girl Effect, an international non-profit that builds media girls want, trust and need — from chatbots to chat shows and TV dramas to tech. Girl Effect’s content helps girls make choices and changes in their lives.

The female enabler

Who: Jessica Posner Odede

What: CEO, Girl Effect

Where: Kenya Achievements: running an international foundation bringing lasting education, enabling tools and enlightenment on fundamental health and education questions to girls in developing countries.

LUX: How do you leverage technology to achieve change?

JPO: Working online and offline, we move cautiously. We built a generative AI chatbot in a week to speak to girls about health and related questions for which they did not otherwise have access to answers; it spoke the way the kids speak, but it also “hallucinated”.

It made up information, whole sets of things that were just not true. So until we can launch a generated AI chatbot that doesn’t have the risk of promoting misinformation, we are using a much more manual chatbot.

Nonetheless, this project is a powerful example of how AI actually enables millions of girls across the world to access new opportunities and new services, and to enable themselves at massive scale, which we could have never done before.

kids

A captured moment with Girl Effect, which supports girls in developing countries at every stage and pressure point in their life journeys

Read more: Hansjörg Wyss on his pioneering work in conservation

ben

Ben Goldsmith is a British financier, philanthropist and environmentalist who has been at the forefront of campaigns for more rewilding in Britain and Europe. He founded and chairs the Conservation Collective, a network of locally-focused environmental foundations.

The conservationist

Who: Ben Goldsmith

What: Founder and chair, Conservation Collective

Where: UK Achievements: bringing together 20 individual conservation and environmental initiatives around the world under a single umbrella that provides expertise, leverage and effective tools.

LUX: Why does the environment matter?

BG: Environmental degradation is in a spiral with human suffering.

It’s always the poorest who suffer the hardest and the most when it comes to environmental pollution. The most obvious pathway to lifting people out of degradation is restoration.

More fish in the sea means fewer hungry people, healthier soil means more resilient food supply. Climate change is about a surfeit of carbon in the atmosphere; more nature means more carbon drawn out of the atmosphere.

julie packard

Julie Packard is executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which she helped found in the late 1970s. She is an international leader in the field of ocean conservation, and a leading voice for science-based policy reform in support of a healthy ocean.

The ocean conservationist

Who: Julie Packard

What: Vice Chair, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Where: US Achievements: Establishing and directing the gold standard for sustainable seafood; transforming the small fisheries industry in parts of Southeast Asia; funding education and research into ocean conservation in the US; founding the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

LUX: What have you learned through your educational programmes?

JP: When we opened the Aquarium 40 years ago, I thought the hardest part would be keeping the animals and exhibits healthy.

It turns out that our biggest challenge is on the dry side of the exhibits – how to engage people and get them to care on a personal level.

Our research has shown that it starts by drawing people into the awe, wonder and joy found in the ocean realm, then engaging them in learning more, casting a positive, hopeful vision of the future, giving people a way to help turn that vision into reality.

That’s true whether we’re talking to Aquarium guests about using less unnecessary plastic, or working with business partners to show the benefit to their bottom line of embracing sustainable seafood purchasing practices.

jellyfish

A mauve comb jelly, aka mauve stinger, seen at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Into the Deep” exhibition

guy

Tom Hall is the Global Head of Social Impact & Philanthropy at UBS

“We have to be smart about how we allocate both philanthropic and investment capital, and we have to work in partnership with all of civil society”

Maya Ziswiler is Chair of the UBS Optimus Foundation

“How can you take advantage of your passion with rational thinking to ensure you’re actually having an impact, and working with others to maximise that?”

In association with UBS

ubs.com

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
woman
woman

Aubain – dancer, yogi, community leader and refugee – takes a break in Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda, April 2018; photographed by Nachson Mimran

As the number of high net worth individuals increases, the philanthropic sector funded by their wealth has expanded. But is philanthropy genuinely effective and useful? In this feature, LUX speaks to some of the leading players to establish how the future of the sector is – and should be – shaping up, and discovers the pitfalls to avoid

In 2018, Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University in the US, shook the world of philanthropy with his book, Just Giving. In it, he claimed that the world of philanthropy was failing democracy, particularly in the US.

Many philanthropists “were not giving away enough”, their foundations were opaque and they were not having the desired positive outcomes. Reich’s book stirred timely and impassioned debate in a global philanthropy sector that has grown in the past decades to be worth more than an estimated £182 billion (US$228 billion) by 2023, according to The National Philanthropic Trust.

But while some of his theses continue to have merit – in particular, questions about motivations for some philanthropic endeavour – it is also clear that much philanthropy has been evolving rapidly, becoming more efficient and focused on delivering transparent solutions to major issues that cannot or will not be solved either by purely public or purely private capital.

kis

Olena (26) with her children, Artem (8), Sofia (3), Oleksi (7) and Zlata (18months), who were taken away from Olena and put in an institution in Ukraine when Olena couldn’t afford to look after them. Social workers from Hope and Homes for CHildren (which is funded by charitable trusts and foundations including UBS Optimus Foundation) supported Olena to improve her financial situation and helped her get her children back home again

A fundamental starting point is to focus on achieving systemic rather than symptomatic change, says Tom Hall, UBS Global Head of Social Impact & Philanthropy. To do that most effectively, philanthropic and investment capital need to work together to create leverage around areas of fundamental global importance, such as climate, education and health.

“We have to be smart about how we allocate both philanthropic and investment capital, and we have to work in partnership with all of civil society to build the kind of economy that’s required to have sustainable pathways for people to prosper and for us to protect our planet,” he says.

These aims are encapsulated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, while some may take issue with the United Nations and the concept of SDGs in general, there is little room for doubt that addressing the focal points highlighted by these 17 goals is fundamental to global health and wealth in the future. At the heart of it all is sustainability, which means ensuring a healthy planet and an equitable future for all people on it.

Footballer Patrice Evra, seen through Extreme E tyre, Neom, Saudi Arabia, March 2023; photographed by Nachson Mimran

Every endeavour must be approached through this lens, including philanthropy. In addressing this point, philanthropy has to become bolder: this means doing the research, taking risks, measuring results and leveraging both its capital and its connections with private and public capital.

And, as we will see, it is starting to do so. Keys to this approach are blended finance and social-impact enterprises, which can both leverage and catalyse philanthropic capital in ways that traditional grant-making cannot.

For example, UBS Optimus Foundation and Bridges Outcomes Partnerships, a specialist non-profit, has developed the SDG Outcomes initiative. This works with governments, corporates and other outcomes funders to design, support and deliver SDG-aligned projects in low- and middle-income countries, particularly across Africa and Asia.

It uses an innovative blended-finance structure that sees UBS Optimus, funded by donations from over 30 UBS clients, providing 20 per cent first-loss capital to unlock further impact-driven capital. Any philanthropic funding returns are recycled into future projects.

SDG-linked themes are resoundingly supported by many of the new generations of philanthropists, such as Nachson Mimran, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and creative based in Switzerland. “I felt a shift in the conversations I was having with friends around dinner tables in about 2016.

People started asking questions about sustainability, climate change, poverty and global migration in the context of corporate social responsibility,” he says. “This happened to be around the time the UN launched its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

A year earlier, my brother Arieh and I had already launched to.org – a platform operating in venture capital, philanthropy and the creative space, focused on accelerating solutions to Earth’s most pressing challenges – and we were excited that collective attention was turning in a similar direction.

“I believe,” he continues, “that Millennials and Gen Z are having these conversations and beginning to think about integrating philanthropy into business much earlier in life than previous generations.

My personal belief is that the most successful businesses of the future will be those that choose to respond directly to several – and not just one – of the 17 SDGs.”

Different perspective, similar approach: James Chen is Chair of the Hong Kong-based Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, and espouses a risk-taking approach for philanthropic capital, which can then leverage the reach of international organisations.

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

kids

Rohyinga children, Kutupalong refugee settlement, Bangladesh, December 2017; photographed by Nachson Mimran

“Philanthropy has a storied history of success, and private donors have played a critical part in funding important social advances, both big and small,” says Chen. “But some of today’s global challenges need a different approach, one that requires time, expertise and investing in risk-taking entrepreneurial ideas.

It is an approach that I and others call ‘moonshot philanthropy’. Drawing on President John F Kennedy’s ambition to put a man on the moon, it is about more than just donating money; it’s about making a philanthropic investment in an ambitious venture that has the potential to catalyse system change.”

Noting that 2.2 billion people around the world are affected by poor vision, which adversely affects their education, health, work opportunities and gender equality, as well as productivity, Chen launched his Clearly campaign in 2016, backed by his family’s philanthropic capital, because, he says, philanthropic capital can afford to take a risk to lose capital where organisations like the World Bank and USAID can not, due to their strict accountability rules.

As well as funding technology and campaigns in developing countries, which have led to millions having consistent access to eyeglasses from childhood, Chen was a key mover behind the United Nations resolution, passed in 2021 and adopted by all 193 member countries, to ensure affordable eyecare for all by 2030.

Professional leadership and creating connections between the philanthropic sector and the private and public sectors is critical, according to Maya Ziswiler, CEO of UBS Optimus Foundation. “More and more philanthropists are telling us that having a passion for doing good is not enough and that they want to see measurable outcomes based on their action,” she says. “How can you take advantage of your passion with rational thinking to ensure you’re actually having an impact, and working with others to maximise that impact?

The problem isn’t that there is a lack of money out there; it’s making sure that the money becomes accessible and that the capital is pooled to scale impact. “When we become involved in a programme,” she continues, “we always think, what are the routes to sustainability and scale?

There are two ways you can make sure a programme is sustainable and will continue after philanthropists decide to exit, and that is either that a government takes it over, or businesses take it over. Philanthropists need to make sure that they have the right understanding of how those systems work and then build those relationships.” UBS’s Hall agrees that the leveraging of relationships between the sectors, and in the way philanthropy works, is essential, if the funding gap for Sustainable Development Goals, currently in the trillions, is to be closed. Even with the dramatic growth in philanthropic capital, private giving alone will not be able to do it.

kid

Girl collaborating with to.org, creative activists in a street-art, project, Libreville, Gabon, November 2018; photographed by Nachson Mimran

There are few more seasoned hands in the worlds of philanthropy and proven and effective sustainability than Julie Packard. The multiaccolade ocean conservationist is Vice Chair of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and co-founder and Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Her programmes, such as Seafood Watch and the Southeast Asia Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative have been globally recognised game-changers for sustainability – across general education, consumption and the realignment of production to sustainable practices.

“Having served on the Packard Foundation board for 50 years now, I’ve seen a lot of change in philanthropy,” she says. “One is the natural trend to move from working on local-scale issues to global approaches, which focus on getting at the root causes of the problems we all aim to help solve. “Over time,” she adds, “our experience at the Packard Foundation has made it clear that we must be more equitable and inclusive in our relationships with the partners in whom we invest.

In the past, foundations – including ours – had a set of priorities, and we set out to find organisations whose own work matched those priorities. We’re working hard to get away from this top-down approach. Philanthropies are also, as we are doing, directing more funding to people and communities who have been historically excluded, so that they have seats at the table to design and implement solutions.

The philanthropic community has a lot to learn to shift our historical ways of working, so that all voices can be heard and we can best contribute to lasting positive change for all.

corals

Basket stars, seen at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Into the Deep” exhibition. Oceans produce the majority of the oxygen on the planet and life underwater is a massive carbon sink. Healthy oceans are essential for healthy and sustainable life on Earth

”Bringing private, public and philanthropic capital to work together through blended finance, social entrepreneurship and shared expertise, around conservation and sustainability, is a focus of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

It organises numerous forums around the blue economy and finance; hosts the annual Monaco Ocean Week conference, which brings together investors, entrepreneurs, NGOs, the public sector and philanthropic capital; and launched the €100 million ReOcean Fund in 2023 to accelerate, build and mobilise capital around the ocean economy. “The challenge of progressing planetary health is only possible through collective effort,” says Olivier Wenden, CEO and Vice Chair of the Foundation’s board of directors.

“This is why the Foundation’s action is based on a holistic and collaborative approach of global environmental issues. We aim to unite scientists, political leaders, economic players and representatives of civil society to maximise our positive impact.” Wenden cites its Ocean Innovators Platform, launched two years ago, as “a good example of how collaboration can accelerate positive change.

Putting together innovators with philanthropists and investors in the same room is a very powerful way to scale-up solutions.” Leveraging is also about human capital and expertise done effectively and entrepreneurially.

man

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, Diébédo Francis Kéré, poses in front of The Throne, a portable toilet 3D printed using plastic medical waste, Switzerland, August 2021; photographed by Nachson Mimran

Read more: Alan Lau and Durjoy Rahman on the importance of art philanthropy

Ben Goldsmith, a British investor, conservationist and philanthropist, launched the Conservation Collective in 2020 from an existing conservation initiative. A hub and accelerator for conservation and sustainability action, it now encapsulates 20 independent philanthropic organisations around the world.

“Just as with venture capital, I have always thought that if every project is working, you’re probably not taking enough risk,” says Goldsmith. “All the challenges are the same as a startup; there are tremendous parallels between them. £1 of overhead at the umbrella charity creates around £12 for the underlying foundation. We’re not far away from having given away around £15 million and we’re also launching new foundations in Bermuda and Mauritius.

If you can create these local foundations, they become hubs of activity.” Agreeing with UBS’s Hall, Goldsmith says addressing root causes is fundamental. “There’s a tendency in environmental philanthropy to ‘provide service’. We don’t want to just fix things, we want to be funding groups who are striving to change the system.”

In terms of systemic change, Hall also speaks about the importance of addressing issues at their root, and overcoming built-in societal prejudices that can, for example, cause a black woman looking for startup capital for a social enterprise in Africa to be confronted with ruinous APR rates on a business loan. Mimran’s to.org funds significant social-impact investors in developing countries in Africa, with local expertise and global networks providing leverage and amplification that grant-making alone could never have provided.

Jessica Posner Odede knows all about creating lasting societal change in Africa. She is CEO of Girl Effect, a major international non-profit that works primarily in Africa and South Asia. Girl Effect uses media and technology to provide girls with tools that can change their lives, in terms of information, empowerment and education, in societies where women – half of the population – are deprived of opportunity, rights and the chance to play productive roles. Entrepreneurial thinking is essential for foundations, according to Odede.

“Look at consumer businesses,” she says. “You see millions of dollars and also time and energy spent on thinking about consumer journeys, marketing – how does somebody know their product or service? You would never launch a commercial venture without thinking through those user journeys, to see how to reach your customer. In philanthropy, there has been an assumption that people need certain things and will just use them.

trees

From the “Twilight’s Path” series by Jasper Goodall, whose images were shortlisted for the Photography Prize for Sustainability, created by UX in 2022. Investment in stewardship of land-based ecosystems contributes to biodiversity, which underpins sustainability

This has been a huge misconception and has resulted in a lot of ineffectiveness in terms of services utilised.” Odede says that in the African and South Asian countries that Girl Effect operates in, they ensure they know their end user. “We work very closely with health ministries, girls, parents and local health systems; we establish how you build diverse stakeholder collaboration in a way that is led by people designing the solutions who have also experienced the problems.”

So, was Stanford’s Rob Reich correct, back in 2018, to highlight how philanthropy was being challenged? He was, in some respects. But we can see how visionaries and effective players, old and new, are changing the game dramatically for the better.

As UBS’s Ziswiler says, “More and more we are seeing that billionaires see it as their responsibility to resolve global issues, and about 90 per cent of them are very serious about their philanthropy. But they are also realising that philanthropy alone can’t help us bridge the funding gap.

We have realised that philanthropy can be much more catalytic, it can take more risk, it can be more flexible.“The added benefit,” she says, “is that potentially money could be used more than once in a structure like that, because the potential for me to get my money back means I can redeploy it.

Not only is there more impact because more money is coming in and is being leveraged more effectively, there is also more impact because the money I was going to deploy once, I can now deploy again and again.” There are still caveats, though.

For example, there are no industry standard metrics to demonstrate effective and long-lasting causal change, which means measuring return on philanthropic investment utilises metrics and analyses that are often imperfect – even with the best intentions.

“The example of what good quality looks like here is in the health sector, where you need a clinical trial to bring your product and service to the market,’ says UBS’s Hall. “We don’t have that mandated in almost any other field.

It remains a challenge.” Like all of human endeavour, then, the world of philanthropy is flawed – but it is also irreplaceable and, through its recent evolutions, it is making an increasingly positive impact on the world by joining forces with other human creations. Humanity’s philanthropic journey will be long and potentially endless, but there is every reason, and an increasing amount of tools, to embark on it with the highest of rational expectations.

ubs.com

Share:
Reading time: 14 min
kids
neera nundy

Neera Nundy is Co-Founder of Dasra India

Dasra, or ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit, was co-founded in 1999 by Neera Nundy and her husband Deval Sanghavi as a venture philanthropy fund in India to invest in early stage non-profit organisations working in SDG areas of gender equality, urban resilience and sanitation. In twenty-five years, Dasra has unlocked over $350 million US for 1500+ non-profits and impacted over 180 million people through its trusted ecosystem, one recent start-up GivingPi being India’s first Family Philanthropy Network.

LUX: You are a recipient of multiple awards from inter alia the Canadian Governor General, Forbes India, Forbes Philanthropy, Vogue India, and you partner with Harvard, Stanford, USAID. How did you embark on this journey as a change-maker?

NEERA NUNDY: In hindsight, while it feels like there was a clear strategy in fact the pathway was more zigzag than linear! Twenty-five years’ ago, when we started, I was very young, an analyst at Morgan Stanley who had just graduated in statistics, followed by business school at Harvard then UBS.

With all this access to privilege, not of wealth but I mean privilege of education and exposure to diverse experiences, I was always asking myself if there was something I could do that would make a difference in the world? Whilst I was born and raised in Canada but I felt a deep connection to India. My mother had founded a school for tribal children in India, I went back myself when I was ten to boarding school, so I had a sense of identity and belonging and I wanted to make a difference there.

kids in school

Visit to partner Satya Special School in Muntrampattu, Puducherry advocating for the inclusion of children with special needs in education, employment, and society.

LUX: How did your background in finance influence your approach to unlocking capital for good?

NN: I really started out on this road with my husband. We met at Morgan Stanley as analysts in1999. If you think about financial services, there are so many different kinds of ways to move capital around and, to move philanthropic capital, you also need intermediaries. We are one of India’s few infrastructural bridge builders, helping organizations on the ground working with the most vulnerable, working with communities and growing their impact. We did not have funding at the start, so the real skill we had was helping organisations institutionalise. So from a management side, what the private sector takes for granted, we asked how could we enable organizations to strengthen themselves institutionally so that their impact could grow? Very quickly we realised that all of that costs money and you need flexible money so we decided to use some of our capabilities to raise money from families and corporates. At that time in India the CSR mandate had also emerged so our role evolved to connect philanthropy to organizations doing great work on the ground.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

LUX: How did Dasra evolve from a social impact bridge-builder to a leading non-profit collaborator impacting over 180 million lives?

NN: Over the first decade, it was honestly all about survival. We were a very small team trying to raise money and make ends meet. We started Giving Circles so that there would be some funding. We had families pool money and support non-profit organisations who are the pioneers now in their field like Educate Girls SNEHA, The Audacious Project, Magic Bus, ARMMAN and we had a good feeling that we had in some way contributed to this success. The next decade became about staying relevant, accelerating our impact rather than just raising money. So over the last 25 years, although we have influenced around $350 million USD and motivated our teams, we have always focused on impact. That is why we moved our work from 1-2-1 relationships to more platform-building, growing networks, holding ourselves more accountable on outcomes. That’s really when we launched our first alliance, Girl Alliance, a collaborative fund for adolescent girls, focusing on girls from 10 to 19 years old. Only fifteen years ago, you would meet someone in CSR asking if they wanted to fund adolescent girls and the men around the table would not get why this was important as for them it was over as the girls would soon be married. So it was for us to create a market. Some of what we have done in 25 years is to create markets for different issues, bringing them together, evolving platforms for a real array of organizations trying to support the unlocking of philanthropy but also supporting organizations on the ground. It may feel that Dasra does a bunch of different things but it is because the sector needs it.

kids

Industree partners’ project, GreenKraft, Tamil Nadu, a virtually 100% women’s collective engaged in creating and selling handicrafts made from recycled banana bark.

LUX: Who is the audience, the target group?

NN: I’ve really tried to emphasize the part of our vision where a billion thrive with dignity and equity, that at the core of all we do must be in service of the most vulnerable, supporting them and investing in creating thriving communities. To do that you need to bring together and invest in NGO leaders, invest into funding and philanthropy and build that trust between the three of us.

So are we in service of the funder or in service of the NGO leader? Neither but we need both of them to be part of being in service of the community. To do that, we make the issues more visible, help them engage, show them the impacts on the ground. Ultimately though you need funding! So you are still in the most immediate sense catering to the needs of different funders and the needs of NGO leaders and bridging them.

In terms of hierarchy, though, I would say first, the community, then the NGOs, and then the funders. We are in a privileged position that we can take a stand with funders and say there is a right and wrong and we can support you in doing a better job by working with you.

LUX: You also work with leaders from the smaller NGOs and minorities, engaging with communities and collaborating bottom-up: how did that come about?

NN: That’s also been a journey for us over the last 25 years. When we started we were much more proximate when we had Giving Circles and were working with NGO leaders. These were all very small organizations then. Educate Girls was only in 50 schools and when we started working with them they became or established and now they are in thousands of villages and impacting around two million girls.

About 10 years ago we started working with various established organizations and the ecosystem grew because everyone was funding the same organizations and spotlighting them. Then we shifted on the back of Covid, with all those challenges within communities experiencing the pandemic, the way proximate leaders risked their lives to support communities and to support India, we felt strongly there was now a new role for us. We decided to go back to the grassroots, to some of the more proximate organizations and to continue to support the next generation of organisations and that is the $50 million USD Rebuild India Fund.

kids

SEEDS partners training local communities in construction principles and practice to build robust safe homes, schools and infrastructure.

LUX: What do they want, the leaders of the next generation of organisations?

NN: They want to make what was invisible more visible, be engaged and be part of the nation building. India is only going to flourish if we move this group. We are a sort of nexus between what next gen and what they want to contribute to, showing them the effectiveness of listening to communities and working bottom-up to make change.

LUX: How important is an intersectional approach in bringing about successful outcomes?

NN: Around 15 years’ ago when we moved toward a platform-building model, we started our work around adolescent girls and there was real awakening in India with a new focus on outcomes. A girl needs an education, health, and employment and although funding is sectoral that does not mean you deliver ultimately for this girls’ empowerment via these separate lenses.

You need extensive health interventions to make other outcomes sustainable. Our ‘10 to 19’ anchored outcomes for a collaborative fund, so an education funder can come in, a health funder can come in because the kinds of outcomes we had were keeping girls past grade 10, delaying marriage, delaying first pregnancy, increasing their independence and employability. So multiple funders can come in because you are delivering on the outcomes.

We are supporting a particular State, or a number of different organizations and the measurement is providing a view on and links to these outcomes. So there is a role for us as an intermediary, or backbone collaborator, or systems orchestrator that can be enabling, to show where funding might take a certain shape for good, show the need in the community for these girls, and bridge the parties. That has been a lot of what we’ve been working towards and to make change you need that intersectionality.

LUX: Is that intersectional approach also appropriate with climate change and the disproportionate adverse impacts on women and children in the Global South?

NN: Climate is a tough one to get our country to engage with, especially if you move down this path to energy transition. We do not want to compromise economic growth. If you want to buy a washing-machine there are emancipatory benefits for a woman in saving her time from washing clothes. There is a role you need to play to shape the intersectionality. So climate and gender, climate and health, climate and livelihood, being able to link the impact of climate on these sectors. What we call intersectionality will actually unlock greater interest and potential for both funders and organizations to engage.

Read more: Hansjörg Wyss on his pioneering work in conservation

LUX: Is intersectionality offering new opportunities that change the model of family-giving in India?

NN: It has been evolving and I think it’s a newer category at least in India, where promoter-led giving ie business leaders are also family-owned businesses. Corporate giving is aligned with family-giving and this synergy is still evolving. Family philanthropy has deep history in India. Wealthy families have been part of our Independence movement, the cornerstone of our religious structures and organisations, and they have invested back into their communities through education, institutions, and hospitals.

Families, especially those with a family office structure, give to communities based on their personal values and their corporate governance. Rather than advising them to be more strategic, we recommend they continue to with their philanthropy, which some may say is traditional, but also explore with them what has been happening in their chosen field of philanthropy, so can they engage in these intersections for the most vulnerable? Again we are spotlighting needs. We now have 300 families in this Giving Pi giving network, 80 of them Indian families.

LUX: Who are the emerging philanthropy leaders among India’s next gen?

NN: Women really understand the intersectionalities and it is really exciting to see around 70-80% of the family offices are women-led. While they may not have created the wealth, they represent their families and are the decision-makers for where their families will direct and engage their philanthropy. That dynamic is shaping and forming a whole new way of giving. To be honest it is more collaborative.

There is a real appetite to want to build the community. These women want to engage with gender-focused philanthropy, with climate as an emerging issue, arts and cultural philanthropy which has always been there and is growing further, and with mental health. So these are the four themes we are seeing emerge in this community that is giving now around 200 million USD each year to India for India.

kids

Vanavil (Rainbow) Trust, Tamil Nadu: Revathi Radhakrishnan, managing trustee, in conversation with mothers from Boom Boom Mattikarar and Narikuravar nomadic tribes, about their children’s education.

LUX: How important is trust to collaborative philanthropy?

NN: Trust has always been a cornerstone for anything we do, whether in business or philanthropy, in philanthropy even more so because you may be quite removed from the lived experience of what’s happening in these communities, or not know what it takes to make this kind of change.

You have to be patient, it takes longer to measure impact, and costs a lot. So there is a lot of complexity. Ultimately, delivering on the impact really rests on our trusting that we are all aligned with the intent of where we’re all trying to get to, the change we want to see, and it is dynamic so it needs flexibility.

All players have to come in with those values and sometimes that is missing in the hustle and the urgency. So coming to the table with that trust and willingness to be flexible on all sides is important.

LUX: Finally, what is the relationship between trust and finance?

NN: Trust and finance are closely linked to the extent that you can structure finance in a way that enables trust. So trust means you do not have expectations of each other or of the work, yet you can structure the finance and the philanthropy with that flexibility. It is not about just giving money.

Trust-based philanthropy has taken on this kind of mania that you can write a cheque without understanding where it was spent but you have to ask how it made the difference. Trust is about clear communications, expectations, measurement and requires financial structures like blended finance, alternative business models and transparency about the areas which need subsidisation.

www.dasra.org

Share:
Reading time: 11 min