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.

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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

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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:

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“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

 

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Reading time: 3 min
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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

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Reading time: 7 min