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The Bryant Estate’s 13-acre vineyard, overlooking Lake Hennessey

Bettina Bryant, owner of California’s iconic Bryant Estate, is a wine-world legend. She is also a philanthropist, a significant art collector and cultural polymath, and an advocate of nature and biodiversity. Darius Sanai meets Bryant over a thoughtful dinner in Mayfair, and she, in turn, presents a first-person meditation on her life and work

Encountering Bettina Bryant for the first time, in a Mayfair restaurant, I would not have imagined that she was in the wine industry. Elegant, compact of movement, considered and thoughtful, Bryant has an academic poise. She is an art historian (she studied at Columbia University), a collector and a former dancer. If anything, I would have imagined she was an academic: there is a precision to the way she gives answers, the sign of a mind that does not indulge in irrelevant debate.

Matt Morris: A Cabernet Sauvignon grape seen as a heavenly body – Bryant grapes are harvested according to the lunar cycle.

But Bryant also owns one of the world’s wine legends. Lovers of California’s renowned Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines, which are as acclaimed and sought after as the most celebrated of Bordeaux, know that her Bryant Estate is one of the region’s own “first-growths”, the equivalent of a Château Latour or Château Lafite. (Unlike France, California doesn’t have an official first-growth categorisation system, but everyone knows that Bryant would be one of them if it did.)

In that, though, there is heartbreak. It was her visionary husband Don Bryant who first established the reputation of Bryant Estate alongside the likes of Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, before succumbing to Alzheimer’s, with which he remains gravely ill.

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Bettina Bryant, the art historian, collector and former ballet dancer (she was mentored by Mikhail Baryshnikov at the American Ballet Theatre), unexpectedly took over the reins. Speaking with her, the conversation swoops between art, literature and, of course, wine. Although she is a born-and-bred American, Bryant’s parents had immigrated from Maienfeld, Switzerland – perhaps, coincidentally, the heart of that country’s fine wines.

The mineral-rich terroir

They were not in the wine industry: her father, Fridolin Sulser, was an acclaimed psychopharmacologist, an academic and scientific pioneer. You sense this in Bryant, in that precision and compactness of thought, which is common enough for scientists, but not so much for art collectors (this author does not know enough ballet dancers to comment on that side).

Since 2014, Bettina has been Proprietor and President of the winery, dedicating herself to maintaining the legacy established by her husband

Bryant has commissioned some fascinating and distinctive artists, including Ed Ruscha, to work with her winery: a particular favourite of mine is Sara Flores, a native artist from the Peruvian Amazon, whose art is at once deeply organic and somehow tightly graphic, rather like the mathematical forms of nature itself.

This commune with nature is important for Bryant. Her wines are biodynamic, and she has a scientist’s fascination for how natural cycles, and nature itself, interact with not just her vines, but with humans and our creativity. The wines themselves are creations of the utmost elegance and eloquence. Bryant Estate, the original legend, is deep, philosophical, somewhat Kantian in its uncompromising synthesis of nature.

A series of the renowned Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Bettina, a newer wine, has a lightness of being (is it autosuggestion to say it dances on the palate?), but also a persistence and gravitas. Bryant has also released a Chardonnay, a white wine of oceanic depth and character. All are made by Kathryn “KK” Carothers, her winemaker, a gentle soul with quiet wisdom and playful eyes who accompanies Bettina on many of her journeys around the world, like a family member. Enough from us.

Matt Morris. Weiferd Watts: The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard

Bryant speaks about her life and her wines in her own words. We suggest a sip or two of Bettina, the wine, from an Ed Ruscha-designed magnum, as you drink them in.

A former dancer, Bettina’s creative story is interwoven with the wines, including the Bettina wine and this Bryant Estate logo

My journey to the helm of Bryant Estate was unexpectedly swift and accompanied by heartbreak. Six years after my arrival in Napa, my husband, Don, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was unable to continue day-to-day oversight.

I am immensely grateful for the time we had to work together, for the opportunity to shadow him and ask questions. I also worked early on with oenologist Michel Rolland and helped create the Bettina wine. Establishing myself in the process sooner, the time Don and I shared at the vineyard and our travels to other wine estates was deeply informative and invaluable.

Untitled (Pei Kené 1, 2022), 2022, by Sara Flores

Don was extremely generous with me, opening iconic bottles from his cellar, dispensing advice on running the business, managing and mentoring people and, of course, always maintaining an uncompromising attitude when it comes to quality. For more than a decade, I have been putting his lessons to use as I work to evolve the winery.

Among the things I have implemented are:

Biodynamic farming: I am perhaps most excited to have transitioned the vineyard from organic to biodynamic farming. We use no pre-emergent herbicides and rely wholly on elemental forces, such as fire, to coordinate vegetative growth. We replaced plastic ties with biodegradable twine and, in following the lunar cycles, have discovered that vines pruned during the descending moon recover more successfully than on the ascending moon.

Swell (PICA PICA), Five Rings of Magpie Feathers, 2020, by Kate MccGwire

Already, improvements to vine physiology and vine stress resilience are demonstrable, particularly in recent drought years. We have never witnessed more soil vitality, and I firmly believe that this translates into more expressive and pure wine aromatics. Being in deep connection to the land and its gifts teaches us that we must be in right reciprocity in all aspects of life. For me, this holistic view encourages harmony, balance and beauty in the wines. Much of society has become too extractive. We must engage in good practices and be mindful in giving back to nature. 

Education: I had wonderful mentors in my life and encourage my team to seek out opportunities for continued learning. I created two educational support programmes to encourage employees to pursue deeper learning, both in their chosen fields and in external areas of interest.

Philanthropy: I am passionate about philanthropy and have embraced four areas of support at the winery. First, the arts, emphasising arts education, creative learning and emotional healing through art. Second, the environment, spanning clean energy, climate action, conservation and environmental justice. Third, social impact, covering access to food, safe spaces, tribal support, job training and social justice.

California Grape Skins, 2009, by Ed Ruscha

And fourth, mental health, encompassing research, advocacy and support.

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

Immersive moments: I recently engaged the French architect Severine Tatangelo of Studio PCH to collaborate with me on a Tasting Room / Dining Pavilion at the vineyard. She has designed several hospitality projects, including Nobu properties in Malibu, Los Cabos, Santorini and Warsaw.

My desire is to holistically integrate wine, nature and art. I want to honour the vineyard, the wine and the talent behind the wine, and inspire people to be present, to connect with nature, light, music, or maybe even silence. The design approach will be sympathetic to and harmonious with the contours of the existing building and landscape, so much so that it practically disappears, and will utilise materials such as stone, wood, clay and natural fibres.

Supporting small producers: The Napa of today has many other pressing factors at play, compared to when Don founded Bryant Estate in the mid 1980s. Not only has the number of wineries increased exponentially, but we are facing unprecedented environmental factors and supply pressures.

One of my biggest observations over the nearly two decades that I’ve been involved is that many of the new players sweeping in to acquire smaller family-founded wineries seem to have little respect for the essence of what made these small producers special. Post acquisition, I find many of the wines unrecognisable. This was a big impetus to create Bryant Imports, to cast light on – and hopefully protect the stories of – these special producers.

Das Angebot (The Offering), 2016, by Neo Rauch

The art of wine: My background as a dancer and art historian informed my art collecting, and I approach winemaking with a similar lens. To cite music producer Rick Rubin, author of The Creative Act: A Way of Being, “Being an artist isn’t about your specific output, it’s about yourrelationship to the world”. For me, art and wine go hand in hand. The emanative, visceral power of visual art, music and architecture is no different for me than sharing a glass of wine with someone who understands that they are experiencing something ephemeral.

During the pandemic, I invited my friend Tom Campbell, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, to join me and my winemaker in a lively Zoom discussion around art and wine. Tom and Renée Dreyfus, his Curator of Ancient Art and Interpretation, talked about objects and depictions of wine in the museum collections, and my winemaker, KK, examined the artistic process of winemaking.

In 2020, I released my first artistic wine collaboration with UK-based artist Rachel Dein. Using our vineyard cover-crop botanicals, she created a unique impression that we transferred to the interior of the wine box. Many of my collectors claim that this presentation box holds pride of place in their cellars. Art that demonstrates virtuosic ability, wrought by an artist’s own hand, has always compelled me.

I studied a lot of theory at university and, while that can be a very intoxicating and cerebral exercise, I find that I really appreciate the gesture of the human hand in a work of art. No wonder I appreciate the craft of winemaking! My husband and I collected a lot of minimalist and abstract art (Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra), and in 2015 I installed a particularly beautiful grouping in the Great Room of our St Helena home. In 2016, I acquired a wonderful Neo Rauch painting titled Das Angebot (The Offering), and I repositioned a Kelly to accommodate this work. The energy in the room instantly electrified.

The Rauch painting features a central, brightly hued female figure surrounded by male figure en grisaille. The female figure offers fire in her cupped hands, alongside a muscular hand digging its hand into the earth. With this installation, I realised an affinity for figurative work that clearly harkened from my time in dance.

I now realise that this painting was perhaps prophetic, as I lost my home in the 2020 fires that swept through the valley. Thankfully, my connection to the earth remains solid. During the Covid pandemic, I was inspired by how the environment benefitted.

Artist Rachel Dein’s impression of botanicals from the estate, which featured within a wine box

The waterways cleared, air quality improved, turtles were returning to their natural breeding patterns, and so on. I also discovered the astonishing foraged feather pieces of Kate MccGwire and commissioned a large concentric work from her.

My interest in the utilisation of natural materials in art also led me to the Peruvian painter Sara Flores, a 74-year-old Shipibo-Conibo artist, who sings to the trees before she extracts the bark to make her pigments. I find that so touching and am excited to support a documentary film on her life and work.

And Ed Ruscha [who designed the 10th-anniversary artwork for the Bettina bottle] was a dream to work with and very receptive to my ideas – a genuinely generous artist (and human being). It was a complete honour to work with him.

The vineyard is located in a moderate microclimate that fosters natural sugar development and a gradual ripening of the grapes

Tapping more deeply into my creativity and understanding the opportunity to learn and grow is one of the greatest gifts of life. One of my particular joys is supporting others on their learning and creative paths, whether encouraging my winemaker to source and craft our new Chardonnay, commissioning works by artists or evolving my new business venture supporting other small wine producers whose values resonate with my own.

On a more personal level, I am about to begin meditation and mentorship work with a Buddhist teacher. With art and wine and luxury, it is imperative that we recognise the gifts we have been given and treat them responsibly.

Art and beauty have such potential to be catalysts for positive change. I have always loved Gerhard Richter’s quote: “Art is the highest form of hope”. In these turbulent times, I feel more compelled than ever to create and deliver a wine and experience that resonates and inspires.

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LUX checks in to Borgo Santandrea, a sweet spot on the Amalfi coast which feels far from the madding tourist crowds

‘Everybody should have one talent, what’s yours?’ Or so says Dickie Greenleaf in the thriller – most recently a Netflix hit – TheTalented Mr Ripley. If it was Italy, rather than criminal Tom Ripley, responding, the answer would not be ‘forging signatures, telling lies, impersonating practically anybody’, but, perhaps, ‘Venezia, Roma, Toscana… Amalfi’. But how could one pick just one? Across its various shooting locations Ripley’s Amalfi shone out in staggering blue. I couldn’t resist.

A private beach, a pool, and ancient buildings look out onto the Amalfi Coast

A private beach, a pool, and ancient buildings look out onto the Amalfi Coast

It’s hard not to reach for clichés when, checking into the room, one is faced with a vast abstract painting of two blues – that is, sea and sky – contained like a Rothko in their window frame. The room seems to lead one towards this, across bespoke furniture and their signature tiles of blue and white.

Read More: Mandarin Oriental, Zurich, Review

Tucked away, 52 metres above sea level, one sleeps cocooned in something which is clean, refreshingly modern. And yet, at the beach bar, Marinella Beach Club, one still feels that one might just hear the fisherman, raising a glass of limoncello up with a clinking ‘salute!’ after a long day of hauling nets into its ancient building.

a table, a moon, and the sea

Alici, for fine dining at Borgo Santandrea, is a 1 Michelin star restaurant

Holding onto both old and new is the Marinella Restaurant. A Cardinale Twist to begin, for me. Its bitter freshness is what I want in the salt air, while I browse the menu. It seems wrong to bypass fish while sitting by the setting sun over the sea. Borgo Santandrea do it as they should – tender, fresh, not overdone or too spiced up; the ingredients are as fresh as they can be, so I begin with a platter of shellfish sprinkled with Amalfi lemon zest.

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Next comes a confession. I’m afraid I have a weakness for ‘Zucchini alla Scapece’. It’s that type that has its natural sweetness balanced by the acid of its vinegar marinade and freshened by mint. It brings me back to a Neapolitan chef in Tuscany, who – unable to comprehend how one of his customers didn’t like garlic – would stamp about the kitchen, thumb to fingers shaking his hand in the air, muttering histrionically, ‘è aglio, dio mio’. But fear not, here – garlic brings out the juices of a tender, grillet fillet of fish, paired with potato.

a pool, the sea, and a floor

Each room at Borgo Santandrea is styled in a different way, looking at various shades Meditteranean styles

Not that a need a ‘pick-me-up’, or ‘Tiramisu’, following this, but it did the trick. And my swim provided a salty digestivo, and, under its soporific gauze, I fell into a deep slumber, back in the bedroom of signature artisan chic, just 50 metres above the sea.

boats on the sea

Bespoke boat trips are offered for guests across the hotel

I have no doubt that The Talented Mr Ripley will be sending lots more people Amalfi’s sun-warmed way, and I’m lucky I had got there before. Lucky, too, that – contrary to ‘telling lies… impersonating practically anybody’, Borgo Santandrea provides a rare pocket of honesty along an increasingly tourist-ridden place. It seems to pare itself back to the essence of Italy’s talent – if there is just one, that is – that laidback elegance and spirit that can’t help but leak into one, and see the utter necessity of shaking one’s fist at garlic.

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Two artists who are men standing in front of a mirror with a blue background

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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.)

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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

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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

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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
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

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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

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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

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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

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a man with a pencil between his lips and a hat on his head
a man with a pencil between his lips and a hat on his head

The late Armando Testa founded Studio Armando Testa, one Italy’s largest agencies, in 1956.

Armando Testa is the greatest 20th-century design figure you’ve never heard of. Armando’s creations, straddling design and art, were groundbreaking and epoch-defining, but suffering from snobbery on the part of the high-art world towards what was and still is considered the lowlier and more commercial discipline of design. A new show at the Venice Biennale, conceived by Gemma Testa, Founder of Acacia Foundation, and curated by London’s Design Museum Director Tim Marlow, seeks to redress the balance. Here, Testa and Marlow discuss Armando’s legacy in a conversation moderated by LUX and edited by Isabella Fergusson

LUX: Gemma, why did you collaborate with Tim Marlow in curating the Armando Testa retrospective at the Venice Biennale this year?

Gemma Testa: I wanted to enable the work of Armando to become internationally known. Tim seemed an excellent choice, with his deep knowledge of both contemporary art and design.

a chair made of meat

Meat Chair, by Armando Testa, 1978.

LUX: Tim, what made you interested in the project?

Tim Marlow: This is one of the most important Italian artists in post-war and visual culture whom I didn’t know enough about, and many others like me don’t. The chance to explore and shed light on someone who beautifully straddles the worlds of graphic design and art, advertising and popular culture and supposed fine art was a wonderful opportunity.

Tyres with an elephant trunk; artworks

Advertisement for Pirelli tyres, Armando Testa, 1954

LUX: Could you tell us about Testa’s significance?

TM: Armando was utterly radical from the beginning. He trained, learned painting, visual arts, art history, graphic design and advertising. He was a pop artist before Pop Art had even been invented. He understood the distilled language of Minimalism – look at his work in the 1940s and 50s before Minimalism existed. But he also understood that visual culture was a means of communication. There is this extraordinary creative trajectory that straddles very different worlds. His favourite word is ‘synthesis’.

GT: The main difficulty for Armando, for many years, was the lack of a proper gallery to represent him. Advertising is seen simply as commerce. Galleria Continua asked me to present Armando. This is a great opportunity to let his work gain recognition – he always believed in the great connection between art and advertising. While working on campaigns, he asked me many times, “What do you think about this?” I’d answer, “What is the aim? What are you working for? Who is the client?” and he’d answer, “You have to look at the sign; you have to look at the mark, at the drawing itself.” He has always understood and believed that there is a link between these two disciplines – advertising and art.

chilli on a plinth in a gallery

Tango Caliente, by Armando Testa

LUX: What are your purposes for the Venice exhibition?

TM: It’s the need and opportunity to present Armando’s works to a new audience, art scene and culture. The natural place for Testa – as a designer and as an artist – might be the Architecture Biennale, which is porous, looking at all sorts of disciplines. But it is decisive and important that it opens during the Art Biennale. Though the art world talks of porosity, it can be very territorial, and it can be a little defensive about people who come from disciplines other than the art world itself. Armando genuinely had a symbiotic relationship between the two. Even artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto – who studied at Armando’s design school – felt the importance of Armando as an artist and, as he put it, a “genius ad man”.

pictures in a gallery

“Punt e Mes”, by Armando Testa, 1974

LUX: Gemma, how do you respond to that?

GT: Yes, some friends of mind suggested that I present Armando to the Architecture Biennale, but I felt that this could have limited his position. And there is a generation who know none of his works as an artist: this is who the exhibition is for.

TM: The great ‘Punt e Mes’ campaign is a very condensed example of why Testa is so brilliant – his sphere, half-sphere piece. It is a pun on the name ‘Punt e Mes’ [‘Point and a Half’]. It is a visual pun on a sphere and a half-sphere. He paints it. He makes a sculpture of it as well as a poster of it. He interrogates it in every way and makes it universal. An advertising campaign for Vermouth, using an Italian dialect, ought only to resonate with a specifically Italian audience, but it doesn’t. That is what we want to show.

LUX: How would Armando wish to be remembered following the Biennale? As an artist, a designer, or something else?

GT: Perhaps he would want to be remembered more as a creative, a multidisciplinary artist than an advertiser or a designer; the exhibition represents all the shades of his creative universe.

Exhibition Armando Testa is at the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna Ca’ Pesaro, Venice, 20 April-15 September 2024

capesaro.visitmuve.it

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Clouds and a big yellow landscape

Clouds and a big yellow landscape

Two cameras, one journey, two childhood friends — and eighteen days to shoot their surroundings across the American West. Maryam Eisler and Alexei Riboud had followed separate paths for 38 years. Would the two photographers’ love of the still image converge their paths? LUX finds out

After graduating from high school together in Paris, in 1985, Maryam (then Homayoun) Eisler and Alexei Riboud parted ways; Eisler to the world of business, first at L’Oréal and then at Estée Lauder in London and in New York; Riboud to the world of graphic design and photography, in Paris, New York and Johannesburg, following in the footsteps of his celebrated parents, photographer Marc Riboud and sculptor, author and poet Barbara Chase-Riboud.

Sky, a big old billboard

Lights glowing faintly, flickering occasionally on an old, lonesome sign for a motel on the border of Marfa, Texas, that is long gone; photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

Nearly four decades later, in early 2024, the art world brought them back together, for a three-week American road trip through parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, photographing space, place and people along the way in a form of visual dialogue. In, and in-between locals travelling by car, well over 2000 miles, from Houston to El Paso… Marfa, Presidio and White Sands to Santa Fe and Canyon Point… they’d hop out of the vehicle at any given moment, and say ‘See you in an hour!’, and go their respective ways, out in the wilderness, reacting to circumstances as they came across them, vowing not to give any advice to each other on what or how to shoot. Not even sharing their images until they returned home.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Laughing, the two recall the fifteen U-turns they took on one straight 22 mile road from Espagnola to Ghost Ranch, because they kept seeing elements they wanted to capture, not to mention the 24 hours they spent obsessing over a missed opportunity, a derelict 1950s motel, now far behind them.

An abstracted image of the white sands

White sands National Park, New Mexico, photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

The images that Eisler and Riboud produced provide an intriguing study of contrasting perspectives and techniques. They both certainly shared a road trip, but in artistic terms (and fortunately for the viewer of the works), they were on parallel journeys, each producing compelling results. As Carrie Scott, the art historian and curator, notes: ‘I am buoyed by the conversation here between these two artists. Maryam and Alexei are shaping our perceptions of the American West through their dual lenses, which in turns gives us a moment to reflect on our fixed perspectives.’ It’s a far cry, as Scott adds, from the ‘longstanding tradition in American photography, dating back to the 19th century, of a singular male voice and viewpoint.’

A policeman leaning into a car with a man behind, and a big sky

A friendly security guard at the Concordia cemetery  in El Paso, TX giving Eisler and Riboud directions to the tomb of John Wesley Hardin, the man who earned himself a reputation as one of the Wild West’s most pernicious gunslinging outlaws; photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

Riboud is attracted to the outskirts and grey areas, the transitional spaces and borders where he finds the elements to compose his photographs. His approach has been refined over many years of shooting in diverse locations, including Havana, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Shanghai, Chicago and of course Paris — usually with a focus on the peripheral spaces within or next to large cities.

A night sky and a train track

A railway track cutting through the town of Marfa, Texas, photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

‘I like wandering into places I have never been to, especially on the margins of well-known locations, exploring the counter-space of an established geography. My photography is about experimentation. I gather fragments from urban landscapes, in an effort to capture innate structures’, says Riboud. ‘On this trip, I was drawn to the outskirts of towns, and to the frontiers between human settlements and the unpopulated natural environments.’

A Native American dancing

A Navajo Nation dancer performing an indigenous ritual dance impersonating animal spirits, Page, Arizona; photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

‘This trip was a huge challenge for me’, says Eisler: ‘My focus has always been on the figurative and more specifically on what I like to call the ‘Sublime Feminine’ in its physicality and in its essence. I had to push myself to work in a new way, this time around, moving away from body landscape to natural landscape.’ But would she find parallels between nature and figure?

Read more: Maryam Eisler: Intimate Landscapes

‘In my work, I always talk about female ‘body architecture’ in dialogue with spatial architecture… its curvilinear slopes, its nooks and its crannies, its valleys. I have often explored this theme in big, barren, hostile nature, from Iceland to Mexico and beyond, except this time the female figure was not there to be photographed. I also surprised myself in adopting a new way to work… primarily using a wide angle lens (which I never do) in order to capture as much of the big sky and vast land as my lens could take in. I wanted to visually overdose on the nature that surrounded me!’

Buildings looking through a wall with pinkish and blue colours

In between walls of a teared down house in the border town of Presidio, Texas, photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

It’s no wonder that these two photographers operated quite differently during the road trip. They are two very different characters. Eisler’s made a quicksilver shift from business and writing to art, and has the smiling, knowing grace of a meditative guru while retaining the poise of a terrifying boss.

A man with a camera in hand taking a picture of the road ahead

Alexei Riboud, photographed by Maryam Eisler on US Highway 90 near Van Horn, Texas, 2024

Riboud, on the other hand, projects a laid-back-almost-to-horizontal suave creativity. Nonetheless, both have clearly forged a deep connection that transcends their decades apart and their contrasting artistic and technical sensibilities.

Man with black shirt sitting on a bench

Homeless young man in downtown Houston with a t-shirt depicting Martin Luther King and Malcolm X’s encounter; Houston, Texas; photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

To the extent that the origins of their photography have links, they are serendipitous, through a mutual interest in graphics. Riboud, who did graphic design for an advertising agency in South Africa in the 1990s, began to photograph on weekends, and enjoyed it enough to make it his main focus.

Sky with an old crumbling sign

Derelict remains of the former Art Deco movie theatre in Marfa, Texas; The Palace, closed since the 1970s, is now an illustrator’s studio; photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

At L’Oréal, Eisler’s involvement in the development of ad campaigns — what she calls ‘surface beauty’ — revved up her dormant love of visual story-telling. Today, one can experience both the outer and inner dimension in her exploration of the ‘Sublime Feminine’. Laughing, she recalls her father’s niggling voice in her head, asking her what she was doing with that ‘love of photography’ she had so enthusiastically written about in her college applications? But life after the (Iranian) Revolution would dictate otherwise, until years later.

A tree, and sea, and a sign, as seen through a fence

Looking through the US-Mexico border wall in El Paso near Amara House at La Hacienda, an organisation working to inspire connection beyond borders through mutual understanding and meaningful action in pursuit of narrative systems, and personal change; El Paso, Texas; photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

Both Alexei and Maryam have indelible memories from their trip. Alexei reflects back on the town of El Paso, near the US-Mexico border: ‘‘There was the feeling of being at a crossroad of narratives with stratified areas, unsettled spaces in transition.’ Maryam recalls a moment on the border of Utah and Arizona: ‘A hypnotising Native American ritual dance made me think deep about indigenous cultural history and the suffering that the native people have and continue to endure… I was completely mesmerised by the strength of the dancers storytelling through moves anchored deep in tradition.’ Riboud points to the gentrification of Marfa, Texas: ‘Beyoncé and Jay-Z just bought a house there! You get a sense that it’s rapidly changing from the isolated artistic outpost that Donald Judd built all those years ago; the city is now attracting newcomers, as real estate prices are booming!’

A man with a camera with big sky behind

Alexei Riboud, photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

The two photographers’ contrasting visual perspectives provide fertile ground for dialogue, and – as Scott says, ‘a new, layered perspective on the complex reality of the 21st-century American West. Where Maryam’s portraits provide narrative depth – each portrait becomes a story, a window into the lives, cultures, and experiences of individuals within that vast expanse – Alexei’s focus on the landscape reflects on America’s historical relationship with western expansion.’

A woman with a camera in the canyons

Maryam Eisler, photographed by Alexei Riboud, in Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona 2024

Riboud praises Eisler’s link between the female body and the architecture of space and place, as well as her graphic eye mingled with sensuality. For Eisler, it’s Riboud’s conceptual visual rendering—‘almost like a painting’ — that stands out above all. ‘The lens Alexei uses enables him to capture space and light in a very unique manner. The end result is subtle, painterly and beautiful, with incredible hues of light pinks and accents of deep purples in some instances. I think Alexei uses light to paint.’

Pinkish trees

Along the banks of Rio Grande river near Los Alamos, New Mexico. This is the view from the House at Otomi Bridge that frequently hosted Manhattan Project scientists. A team room and restaurant at the time – once post office and train station – where Oppenheimer kept a standing reservation for whenever he wanted to dine; New Mexico; photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

Kamiar Maleki, Director of Photo London, expresses their effect on one another – their oscillations, recalling Maryam’s ‘evolution from exploring the female figure to this more recent body of work’ and its ‘profound shift towards celebrating the Sublime in a new and different way – as displayed in Mother Nature‘, as well as ‘in the vast potent (waste) lands of the American West landscape.’

Prada shop with photographer photographing

Maryam Eisler, as photographed by herself at Prada, Marfa, by Elmgreen & Dragset in Valentine, Texas, 2024

For Alexei, it’s his ‘minimalist elegance, presenting viewers with unexpected compositions that speak volumes through their simplicity.’

An old man by the window, with a picture next to him

Portrait of an outsider Texan artist, James Magee, a dear friend of the painter Annabel Livermore, whose painting he sits in front of, and who various writers have described as his alter ago, a relationship referred to by The New York Times as ‘a tough act to follow’, photographed in El Paso, Texas, by Maryam Eisler, 2024

Reflecting on the journey, Eisler says, ‘I still recall the vastness of land and the ever-changing skies and clouds. We could’ve produced an entire body of work on the clouds of New Mexico; the evolving light and its plethora of shades… It was sky theatrics every day! As we drove on Interstate highways, I could not help but feel a deep sense of inner peace.

A photographer on a landscape

Alexei Riboud in White Sands National Park, New Mexico, photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

In fact, I had a memorable moment in White Sands National Park, as the sun was setting down amidst scarlet and purple skies. I recall seeing Alexei, camera in hand, standing on the opposite hill, akin to a dot in the greater universe… And for just a second or two, which felt like eternity, I took off mentally into a parallel state of mind, engulfed by Mother Nature. It was so powerful’.

A blue billboard

Weary billboard with missing parts north of El Paso in the vast plains of Texas; photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

‘I think the camera changes what you see, particularly when it’s your first experience of a place, of a unique location’, says Riboud. ‘Something happens that you can’t control; it’s your subconscious working, through the frame of the camera, on the construction of the image.’

a landscape with a sign saying 'Keep the Lonely Places Lonely'

Roughly halfway between Van horn and Valentine on U.S 90 reside crumbling buildings seen through a chain link fence: a one time significant railway dewatering station, now turned ghost town of Lobo, Texas; photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

And when it’s not the camera, there are parallel – or, rather, oscillatory – expressions, from a writer they met along the way. Glimpse below the poem ‘Eileen’, written by poet Amanda Bloom in West Texas. Her series of linguistic short takes provide a further mode of expression, imbricating the tapestry of their journey:

a woman lying by the pool

Poet Amanda Bloom lying by the pool of the iconic ‘Hotel Paisano’ in Marfa Texas where the cast of the 1956 Hollywood movie ‘The Giant’, starring James Dean & Elizabeth Taylor, stayed during the filming of the movie; photographed by Maryam Eisler, 2024

Windmill sentinels
over the oil field.
The air is quick here.
You can’t keep your
thoughts with you.
The star dome
holds you down
while you move.

The yucca heads higher
than a street sign,
flowers brown and dry,
still hanging on, stalk bent
from day after day of the
troposphere in motion.
Learn surrender from
the yucca. It rattles
before its release.

The land is home
to ore, ice volcanos,
ocean floor turned
high desert, Eileen
the horse that did
not die on the way
to El Paso, you.

Pumpjacks pull.
Windmills spin.
The yucca shudders and
two brown blossoms
light on the wind.
Eileen stretches
her bum leg.

The journey – from photography to poetry – provides, in Carrie Scott’s words ‘a dialogue about the deep humanity embedded in the landscape’s history’. And, indeed, it is ‘a tapestry’ as well as a dialogue, as the Director of Photo London concludes – ‘of beauty, emotion, and storytelling, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound depths of the American big nature experience alongside the quiet poetry of simple existence.’

a man reaching with a sign

Here, in Riboud’s street scene in El Paso is what Eisler calls his ‘geometric approach to depicting space in its subtle linearity, very unique to his eye’; photographed by Alexei Riboud, 2024

From dialogue, to tapestry, the works will soon be woven into a book, as well as an exhibition to be launched around Photo London 2025 – and in a way, as Scott aptly notes, ‘that we haven’t seen before’.

See More:

maryameisler.com

alexeiriboud.com

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Reading time: 12 min
gallery
gallery

The current exhibition at Lucca Hue-Williams gallery “Albion Jeune” are paintings from saudi-arbian artist Alia Ahmad

Lucca Hue-Williams, London’s coolest young gallerist, reopens her Albion Jeune gallery with an exhibition by emerging Saudi artist Alia Ahmad which transposes a vibrant colour palette on her homeland’s desert landscapes

“Thought to Image” is intriguing as an ode to Saudi Arabia’s deserts and its rapidly growing metropolises. Ahmad’s work is a tribute not just to modern, rapidly developing Saudi but to an ancient land that is both rediscovered and lost in today’s rapid development.

paintings

Alia Ahmad aims to investigate the balance between natural elements, such as light and plants, by painting them even more explicitly.

It is also a sellout show for one of the world’s most exciting young gallerists, who is developing a reputation for discovering and nurturing talent from around the world. Ahmad herself, gently and wittily subversive, was at the opening herself.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

art gallery

The Albion jeune art gallery is located at 16 -17 Little Portland Street in London

Her use of colour and texture is just as fascinating, particularly where the trees (or long objects) are rooted. These maximalist shapes and colours certainly give a sense of busyness; just that of a major, populated city. However, these colours are not particularly telling of the buildings’ rather monotonous, gray and urbanised design. In using this style, Ahmad simultaneously captures the modern denseness and the cultural history of Sadu; these colours take from the embroidery from Saudi, an ancient tribal weaving craft by the Bedouin people.

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

woman and man in front of an art gallery

Lucca Hue-Williams, the owner of the Albion Jeune art gallery in London, at the exhibition opening evening

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museum with kids

MACAN, in Jakarta, is Indonesia’s global standard contemporary art museum

Fenessa Adikoesoemo and Venus Lau are at the helm of MACAN, Indonesia’s premier contemporary art institution, founded by Fenessa’s father art collector, Haryanto Adikoesoemo. They speak with LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor Samantha Welsh, about their mission to foster cultural engagement across the ten nations of Southeast Asia, to further enhance MACAN’s reputation, and to elevate the perception of Indonesian contemporary art to the rest of the world.

LUX: Fenessa, why was your father’s focus drawn to collecting contemporary art?

Fenessa Adikoesoemo: He started collecting in 1992 after he visited a collector friend’s house in Bali. He saw how art can transform a home and made it feel more alive, so he began exploring the idea of acquiring art for his own house. He started with a lot of impressionist art. Unfortunately, when the financial crisis hit in 1997, he had to sell his beloved art collection.
When he started collecting again in 2001, the prices of impressionist works had gone through the roof. That was when he was introduced to contemporary art, and he fell in love with it. He feels that contemporary art is more in touch with our current times—a reflection of the world we live in today, capturing the essence of modern issues, societal trends, and cultural shifts.
On a more personal level, art has had a profound impact on my father’s life. It has served as a source of inspiration, fostering his own creativity and providing a sense of calm amidst life’s challenges. Engaging with art has taught him to appreciate different perspectives and embrace the beauty of diversity. He strongly believes that by engaging with art in general, including contemporary art, we can better understand and navigate the complexities of our world.

LUX: How is MACAN rolling out art education to extend the country’s cultural ecosystem?

FA: When we established the museum in 2017, we knew that we wanted to share art and make it more accessible to the public. We also knew that we wanted to focus on art education, especially for the younger generation. Our programs are rolled out to leverage the transformative power of art. By engaging with art, we encourage critical thinking and reflection, nurturing a community that values creativity and embraces the richness of cultural diversity.
Museum MACAN’s art education initiatives are designed to cultivate a cultural ecosystem that encourages mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation. Through our programs, we aim to promote dialogue and introspection, creating a space where diverse perspectives are welcomed and celebrated.
With the help of technology, we have reached educators from all over the country, giving them the resources and tools to teach art to their students and ensuring our programs can be easily integrated into the national curriculum. At year end 2023, the museum team was working with 736 schools and 3,162 educators from 23 provinces across Indonesia, and our programs have been accessed by more than 272,000 children and students.

two woman

Fenessa Adikoesoemo is the chairwoman of the museum and Venus Lau is the director.

LUX: Please tell us how this integrates with the Children’s Art Space and why early years’ engagement with the arts is so important?

FA: Museum MACAN’s commitment to promoting dialogue, creativity, and diversity of thought extends to our youngest visitors through tailored programs and interactive experiences. These values are integrated into the Children’s Art Space. We create a nurturing environment where children are encouraged to express themselves freely and think creatively, interacting with art in a different way.
For example, for our upcoming exhibition, CARE by Patricia Piccinini, which will open in May, our education team has come up with ideas for the Children’s Art Space that reflect on Patricia Piccinini’s ideas about care as a natural instinct that transcends species. Incorporating role play and spatial exploration to explore different love languages and acts of kindness, the experience aims to encourage curiosity, kindness, responsibility and acceptance, with an emphasis on kinship and kindness as an important element of care that can be nurtured in every child.
Early exposure to art is essential because it lays the foundation for a lifetime appreciation of creativity and cultural understanding. Art serves as a tool for exploration and self-discovery, empowering children to develop their unique voices and accept different viewpoints and can help them cultivate essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and empathy. By engaging with diverse artistic expressions, children learn to appreciate the beauty of diversity and recognize the value of collaboration and cooperation.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

LUX: What is your wish for MACAN’s legacy for Indonesia?

FA: I hope Museum MACAN can serve as a timeless beacon of cultural enrichment and inspiration, leaving a profound and lasting impact for the next generations, inspiring them to embrace art and help build the country’s cultural vibrancy and identity for years to come. I envision a legacy where the museum becomes an integral part of Indonesian society and plays a pivotal role in shaping the country’s cultural landscape, where it serves as a hub for cultural exchange, innovation, and collaboration, contributing to the country’s artistic development and global recognition.

LUX: Venus, how does MACAN support the national cultural discourse and help to shape Indonesia’s relationship with the rest of the world?

FA: Venus Lau: Several key initiatives are at play. Museum MACAN provides public access to contemporary art, including artists never exhibited in the country. For example, we will open Care, the first major solo exhibition in Indonesia by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini this May. In addition, with a diverse range of exhibition programs by local and international artists, we are building a cultural dialogue between artists, providing perspectives for understanding contemporary art within Indonesia and positioning Indonesian artists within the global art scene.
Museum MACAN also contributes significantly to art education, the institution’s mission. Education is not a one-way track: we deliver art knowledge through the programs, and at the same time, we learn from our audience and collaborators, who share with us their precious points of view that allow us to rethink art’s role in societies outside the box of the art world.
The educational aspect is vital for nurturing talents and encouraging critical thinking. The museum also serves as a space for dialogues and discussions on contemporary art and broader cultural (and social-political) issues. We host talks, workshops, and events that unite artists, curators, scholars, and the public. These dialogues and exchanges of ideas are essential in fostering a deeper understanding of Indonesia’s cultural identity and its relationship with the global art world.

LUX: What is the vision for MACAN’s programming across exhibitions and cultural activations?

VL: We aim to showcase diverse contemporary art practices to reflect the richness of artistic expressions and cultural perspectives. This diversity (perhaps our Indonesian archipaelago of 17,000 islands may be a good metaphor) allows visitors to encounter a huge variety of artworks, from traditional to experimental, and local to global perspectives. The museum presents inclusivity and celebrates the diversity of voices within the art world by presenting such exhibitions. Additionally, cultural activations at Museum MACAN are designed to encourage dialogue and interaction, inviting visitors to engage with art in different ways or even dimensions; for example, along with our exhibition by Patricia Piccinini, we are presenting a multi-sensory project at our Children’s space (all age groups are welcome!) that adds multiple dimensions of sense to the context of the exhibition.

kid looking at art

Exhibition of Agus Suwage “The Theater of Me”

LUX: How are contemporary artists in Southeast Asia exploring issues that concern our future generations?

FL: I think I may speak from my personal experience instead of for all the artists in the region (or any region), as every artistic practice has its own individual epistemological and affective cosmos. From the dialogues I have had with the SE Asian artists, issues including Asian diaspora, archipelagic thinking, spectralities and technologies, ecologies, and non-binary thinking are terms brought up pretty often. There are also a lot of discussions on how globalisation, urbanisation, colonisation, and decolonisation reshape the ideas of modernity and traditions. There are also practices of artists in the region exploring the concepts of non-Western futurism and technology (and its mythologies), which are themes rethinking the ideas of temporality and futures.

Read more: Magnus Renfrew on Singapore’s Art SG Fair

LUX: How will MACAN continue facilitating cross-cultural dialogues through contemporary art across Asia?

VL: Through targeted exhibition and education programs that initiate multi-disciplinary diversities, we encourage collaborations and foster cultural exchange. We are constantly initiating educational programs—organising workshops, talks, and digital programs to engage with our audience, locally and internationally. Through these efforts, we aim to actively contribute to a more form of connectivity and culturally enriched contemporary art landscape across Asia.

kid making a drawing

Agus Suwage is one of Indonesia’s leading artists whose practice emerged in the lead up to the tumultuous social and political changes in Indonesia in the mid-1990s

LUX: Finally, what influence does Indonesia have at the regional level in enhancing the cultural emancipation of the Global South?

VL: Speaking from our museum’s perspective, through our initiatives at Museum MACAN, we embrace archipelagic thinking and engage with diverse interests among the new generations. The museum’s approach reflects Indonesia’s rich cultural diversity, serving as a model for celebrating traditions and fostering creative expression.
We’ve learned the importance of inclusivity and dialogue from the museum’s audience. By showcasing diverse contemporary art and facilitating cross-cultural conversations, the Museum could inspire similar regional initiatives. This approach empowers the Global South to assert its cultural narratives and perspectives on the global stage, contributing to a more equitable and enriched cultural landscape.

www.museummacan.org

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Reading time: 8 min
man and woman sitting next to each other
man and woman sitting next to each other

Magnus Renfrew has twenty years’ experience in the international art world, the last decade of which have been spent in Asia

Magnus Renfrew knows about art fairs in Asia. He co-founded Art Hong Kong (now Art Basel Hong Kong) and has launched numerous other fairs in the region. He speaks with LUX about Art SG, the fair he and his partners launched in Singapore as a hub for Southeast Asia, the Asian art market, and the future of art fairs

LUX: Do you think Singapore will become an art and/or cultural hub for Southeast Asia? Why did you choose Singapore rather than (for example) Bangkok, Jakarta, or KL?

Magnus Renfrew: Each city is unique with individual strengths and spheres of influence. Singapore is the gateway to Southeast Asia and as the de facto hub for the region, which has a population of 650 million people nearing the size of Europe, so logic dictates that it too should host an international art fair to serve a region that has some of the fastest growing economies in the world. What’s more, Southeast Asia has a diverse and exciting range of cultural ecosystems, and we want to bring together these communities alongside the international art world. Singapore has exceptional infrastructure and transport links, great hotels and restaurants, English is commonly spoken, Mandarin is commonly spoken. All these factors make it an exceptional place to host a major international art fair.

Furthermore, Singapore has a strong local art scene, with local galleries and considerable government investment in art and culture, which sees an active interest in growing the ecosystem in the city. The city’s cultural landscape is developing rapidly with world class museums such as the National Gallery of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, alongside a growing cluster of commercial galleries, and an increasingly engaged community of collectors. We saw the successful launch of our inaugural edition last year, and I am excited to see the fair continue to develop against this exciting backdrop.

The case for Singapore is continuing to build as it gains greater importance geo-economically, geo-politically and as the Asia centre of wealth management. Singapore is in the ascent in every aspect and culture will inevitably be a part of that story.

LUX: You have significant fairs in Japan and Taiwan. What is the secret of a successful art fair in East Asia?

MR: It is important to have a solid premise for the fair, to identify the natural catchment area, to focus on who the fair serves, and to build domestic and regional support from all stakeholders – the government, galleries, collectors, and institutions. There are no shortcuts and it takes time to build.

What are the differences between Art SG and Art HK at a similar stage?

MR: The overall context of the art market in Asia is of course very different and the collector base across Asia has developed out of all recognition. In a very short space of time ART SG has successfully been able to attract a geographically diverse audience from across Southeast Asia and beyond. The context for ART SG is very different. When we started ART HK there were few institutions and an art scene heavily focused on auctions – it is arguable that ART HK played a significant role in building the case for Hong Kong as a cultural hub and in encouraging collectors to understand the importance of the gallery system. Singapore’s art scene is much more established than Hong Kong was when we launched, with a vibrant gallery scene and exceptional institutions, as well as a pro-active private collectors and foundations. This was reflected in the extraordinary diversity and quality of offerings during Singapore Art Week.

ART SG has its own distinctive identity as an important meeting point for collectors and art lovers from Southeast Asia and around the world by bringing together the best of regional and international galleries and artists, alongside dynamic programming to deepen understanding of its cultural context.

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Second year of Art SG saw some galleries (Perrotin, Zwirner, Esther Schipper) not return – why? Will they be back?

MR: Galleries have a host of different reasons that play into their decision making including their own programming. Pace is going to be opening their space in Tokyo this year, so they will be participating in Tokyo Gendai for the first time. Perrotin has chosen to do Taipei Dangdai and Tokyo Gendai this year. A number of galleries who chose to sit out ART SG this year visited the Fair and expressed how impressed they were with the quality of attendance, the buzz and the energy. I would anticipate that we will be working again with those galleries in Singapore and elsewhere in the future.

Colourful art

Southeast Asia’s leading international art fair (ART SG), attracted 43’000 visitors in 2023.

LUX: How did this year’s edition do, commercially?

MR: We are delighted by the response to the second edition of ART SG. Throughout the fair’s four days, galleries reported speedy and sustained sales, with works placed in major private and institutional collections. Galleries highlighted an enthusiastic response from both established and emerging collectors from all corners of the world, with many noting that ART SG had provided a great platform for meeting new collectors.

A snapshot of reported sales include: Thaddeaus Ropac sold a work by Anselm Kiefer for EUR 1.1 million, alongside works by Lee Bul, Miquel Barceló, Jules de Balincourt, Alex Katz, Oliver Beer, Mandy El-Sayegh, and James Rosenquist; Sundaram Tagore sold a range of works by Hiroshi Senju, Jane Lee, Miya Ando, and Zheng Lu for a combined total of over USD 1 million; White Cube sold works by Tracey Emin, Jessica Rankin, and Darren Almond, among others for a combined total of GBP 1.5 million; Waddington Custot sold two sculptures by Barry Flanagan, including a work sold for USD 680,000 to a Chinese resident of Singapore, an installation featured as part of PLATFORM by Ian Davenport sold for USD 360,000 and two sculptures by Yves Dana, including a work for sold for USD 92,000 to a collector based in Singapore; Lehmann Maupin sold a number of works, including a painting by David Salle sold for USD 250,000 to a prominent family collection in Singapore, alongside multiple works by Lee Bul and Kim Yun Shin for prices within the range of USD 200,000 – 300,000 and USD 60,000 – 90,000 respectively; Johyun Gallery sold a number of works, including a painting by Park Seo-Bo for USD 250,000 and multiple works by Lee Bae for prices in the range of USD 50,000 – 180,000 each; The Back Room placed an installation by Marcos Kueh featured as part of PLATFORM to an institution in Singapore with a price range between SGD 50,000 – 100,000; First-time participant Sabrina Amrani sold three works by Carlos Aires within a price range of USD 27,000 – 60,000 to private collectors in Singapore; Asia Art Center sold a number of key works by Li Chen and three works from Ju Ming’s Tai Chi Series, all of which have been acquired by private collectors, with a total value of around USD 600,000; Waterhouse & Dodd sold four works by Duncan McCormick to private collectors in the UK, South Korea, Italy and Hong Kong for a combined total of USD 150,000; albertz benda reported a sold-out presentation of three new paintings and four mixed-media watercolours by Australian painter Del Kathryn Barton to a Chinese collector on the opening day; Carl Kostyál reported a sold-out booth of Indonesian artist Atreyu Moniaga, with works priced at USD 18,000 each; Harper’s sold a painting by Eliot Greenwald for USD 40,000 and a painting by Marcus Brutus for USD 32,000; and MAKASIINI CONTEMPORARY sold works by Nir Hod and Jacob Hashimoto for USD 68,000 and USD 40,000 to private collectors in Singapore and Belgium respectively.

Read more: Shangri-La, Singapore, Review

LUX: Some collectors said to us that official programming for significant collectors was limited compared with early years of Art HK. How would you respond to this?

MR: Within ART SG’s bespoke VIP program, collectors were able to tap into a vibrant and dynamic line up of art events, openings, and after-parties to enrich their experience of the overall fair and art week, including private collection visits in collectors’ residences, artist studio visits, gallery openings, and more. Collectors were able to RSVP to openings and curator-led tours of private collection and foundation exhibitions such as Translations: Afro-Asian Poetics by non-profit collector-led foundation The Institutum, curated by Dr Zoe Whitley, director of Chisenhale Gallery, London, Rough, presented by The Pierre Lorinet Collection, and Chronic Compulsions presented by The Private Museum, as well as tours of major museum exhibitions at the National Gallery of Singapore and Singapore Art Museum. There were after-hours events including specially curated art parties at the National Gallery Singapore, ArtScience Museum, and Soho Residency, and a young collectors’ party at a spectacular new venue with views over the Singapore skyline. Our collector programming also offered immersive art and food dining experiences created especially for ART SG, such as Indochina by Senang Supper Club which featured two Cambodian artists discussing their art and non-profit initiative in Siem Reap over a curated menu from the Indochina region; a walking tour of cultural precinct Kampong Glam led by award winning cookbook author Khir Johari and Michelin-starred chef Ivan Brehm; and a four-hands Afro-Asian dinner which reflected the narrative and curation of the Translations exhibition. In addition to the official programming by the fair, there were also a number of gallery dinners, collector-hosted evenings, and karaoke nights and many other parties to round off the week.

LUX: What will you change about the fair for 2025?

MR: We will be doubling down on VIP outreach across our core constituency of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and also Vietnam, as well as markets with a resonance with Singapore, such as Australia, New Zealand, Chia and South Asia, and expanding the programming of the fair both within on-site and for collectors throughout the city. We will be working on more collaborations with privately owned museums and foundations, as alignment with collector-led initiatives that seek to make a difference is key to ART SG’s ambition to grow the regional ecosystem.

art exhibiton

The Art SG 2023 showcased an assembly of leading galleries from the region and around the world

LUX: What is the main collector base for Art SG?

MR: There is an established base of sophisticated collectors in Southeast Asia and a younger generation of new buyers who are hungry to engage with contemporary art.

Singapore is also increasingly home to the region’s wealth base as demonstrated by the growing number of family offices opening here, as well as its emerging position as Asia’s tech capital. This together with established international businesses and entrepreneurs recognising the benefits of Singapore as the base for their pan-Asian operations, provides the context for a rapidly developing, forward thinking and affluent collector base, who are increasingly engaging with Singapore’s rich cultural landscape.

Thousands of VIPs attended the preview day of ART SG’s highly anticipated second edition. Strong attendance from both local and international collectors and leading figures from institutions, museums, and foundations, hailing from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan as well as Europe and the US. Notable visitors include:

Collectors

  • Alan Lau, Hong Kong
  • Albert Lim & Linda Neo, Singapore
  • Alexander Tedja, Indonesia
  • Alina Xie, China
  • Andrew Xue, Founder of Pond Society, China & Singapore
  • Belinda Tanoto, Founder of Tanoto Art Foundation, Indonesia
  • Dato Noor Azman Mohd Nurdin, Malaysia
  • Disaphol Chansiri, Thailand
  • Ellie Lai, Taiwan
  • Eric Booth & Jean-Michel Beurdeley, MAIIAM, Thailand
  • Evan Chow, Hong Kong
  • Han Nefkens, Han Nefkens Foundation, Spain
  • Harayanto Adikoesoemo, Founder of Museum MACAN, Indonesia Iwan Kurniawan Lukminto, Founder of Tumurun Museum, Indonesia Jack Feng, China/Singapore
  • Ji Dahai, Founder of Yalv River Art Museum, China
  • Jim Amberson, Singapore
  • Justine Tek, Director and CEO, Yuz Museum, China
  • Kim & Lito Camacho, Singapore
  • Kit Bencharongkul, MOCA Bangkok, Thailand
  • Kulapat Yantrasast, USA
  • Leo Shih, Taiwan
  • Li Fan, Founder of Whale Art Museum, China & Singapore
  • Mike & Lou Samson, Philippines/Singapore
  • Nathan Gunawan, Indonesia/Singapore
  • Nishita Shah, Thailand
  • Patrick Sun, Founder of Sunpride Foundation, Hong Kong
  • Pierre Lorinet, Singapore
  • Pontiac Land Group, Singapore
  • Rath Osathanugroh, Thailand
  • Rudy Tseng, Taiwan
  • Rvisra Chirathivat, Thailand
  • Simon Cheong, Singapore
  • Shunji Oketa, Founder of Oketa Collection, Japan
  • Thomas Shao, Founder of the MetaMedia Group and the Shao Foundation, China TY Jiang, Les Yeux Art Foundation, USA
  • Wu Meng, M Art Foundation, China
  • Xiaoyang Peng, Founder of DRC No.12 space & The Bunker, China
  • Yang Bin, China

Institutions

  • Aaron Cezar, Founding Director, Delfina Foundation, UK
  • Aaron Seeto, Director, Museum MACAN, Indonesia
  • Derek Sulger, Co-Chairperson, UCCA, China
  • Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore and Director of Singapore Art Museum, Singapore
  • Jessica S Hong, Senior Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, Toledo Museum, USA Judith Greer, Director of International Programmes for Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE
  • Lee Dong Kook, Director, GyeonGi Cultural Foundation and Gyeonggi Province Museum, Korea
  • Mami Kataoka, Director, Mori Art Museum, Japan
  • Pi Li, Head of Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong
  • Sook-Kyung Lee, Director, The Whitworth, Manchester & 14th Gwangju Biennale Stefano Rabolli Pansera, Director, Bangkok Kunsthalle, Thailand
  • Virginia Moon, Associate Curator, Korean Art, LACMA, USA
  • Xie Siwei, Museum Director, Yuz Museum, China
  • Xue Tan, Senior Curator, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong
  • Zoe Whitley, Director, Chisenhale London, UK

LUX: Will art fairs remain strong commercially in the coming decades?

MR: Art fairs always have and will continue to play a crucial role in the art market.

The recent edition of ART SG saw 45,303 visitors across four show days, hailing from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan as well as Europe and the US – in increase from the 43,000 visitors who attended the inaugural edition. The strong international attendance from leading private collectors, as well as directors, curators, and patrons from international museums and institutions at ART SG is a testament to the importance and appeal of the fair as the region’s leading fair.

people talking to each other

Meaningful dialogues and insightful conversations were held alongside the Fair at ART SG 2023

LUX: Will Art SG help awareness of SE Asian Art grow on the global scene, or is that not the point?

MR: Definitely. As Southeast Asia’s leading art fair, ART SG invites the world’s leading collectors and art leaders to experience Singapore and all that the region has to offer, but also encourage a new generation of emerging collectors to be inspired by the rich diversity of art the region.

ART SG 2024 saw a strong line-up of Southeast Asian galleries making a dynamic debut at the fair, as well as some of the most significant galleries from across the region, featuring both established and emerging Southeast Asian artists. Some of the highlights include FOST Gallery (Singapore) which presented a a significant showcase reflecting recent contemporary art practice in Singapore and Southeast Asia, including Donna Ong, Eng Tow, Ian Woo, Wyn- Lyn Tan, as well as Elaine Roberto-Navas and Luis Antonio Santos; Gajah Gallery (Singapore, Jakarta, Yogyakarta) which showed renowned artists from the region including Suzann Victor, Yunizar and Uji “Hahan” Handoko Eko Saputro; and BANGKOK CITYCITY (Bangkok), whose first-time participation featured a new installation by Tanatchai Bandasak, large-scale paintings by street artist Alex Face inspired by significant political movements in Thailand, and works by renowned Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai featuring his classic motifs of denim, fire and mythical imagery, among others.

artsg.com

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Reading time: 12 min
art that looks like eyes
art that looks like eyes

Iwan Lukminto at the Tumurun Museum in indonesia

Iwan Kurniawan Lukminto is VP of Sri-Tex, one of Indonesia’s original and fastest-growing textile manufacturers, which supplies product to garment factories across the world, manufactures uniforms for 33 nations’ armed forces, workwear for global corporates, and merchandise for a significant number of global fashion multiples. Lukminto speaks with LUX Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh, about art philanthropy and national identity in a post-colonial world.

 

LUX: You are a much-awarded textile entrepreneur, what do good governance and philanthropy share in common?

Iwan Kurniawan Lukminto: Well, the basics of any good organization, whether it is focused on society where philanthropy is key or on corporate shareholders where good governance is required, both need to promote accountability, transparency, and adhere to ethical conduct. Both aim to have positive impacts. At the end of the day, the basics are the same; the difference lies in the contexts and settings where they are focused.

LUX: What is it about art philanthropy that appealed, as opposed to other ways of giving back to communities?

IKL: Art has always been my passion. In art philanthropy, we focus on the arts, starting with Indonesia’s art scene, which I feel is still lacking support from both the government and the private sector, despite its good potential and quality. Indonesia, with its unique historical background and multicultural diversity, has much to offer, yet it remains under the radar of the international art scene. Thus, I aim to preserve and promote it, hence the birth of the Tumurun Museum.

Art philanthropy interests me particularly because it is enriched with human experience. It tells stories about the past, the present, and the vision of the future in creative, thought-provoking ways. In art, we catalyze the essence of knowledge, looking beyond science, mathematics, politics, etc., and translating it in the most aesthetic way. For example, consider how Alicia Kwade talks about mass and physics by placing a globe on a plastic chair.

In short, art intrigues and excites me, making me see outside and beyond the box. Thus, I want more people to have the same experiences.

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What was the founding vision for Tumurun Museum?

IKL: Tumurun aspires to be a flag bearer for Modern and Contemporary Indonesian art while remaining inclusive and receptive to global artists who dialogue, engage, and enrich its core collection.

LUX: How are audiences responding to its outreach programs?

IKL: The city of Solo is one of the art centers in Indonesia, focusing on performance art, while Yogjakarta city (around 100km away) is another art center in Central Java. The absence of an art museum in the region enhances our visibility and perception among our audience.

a man and a woman standing next to each other

Iwan Lukminto founded the Tumurun Museum, Surakarta, in 2018 to house the extensive collection of modern and contemporary art amassed by the Lukminto family.

LUX: What was the art landscape when the so-called East Indies was a colony of the Dutch?

IKL: There are broadly two categories of audiences: the art community and those outside of the community. For those from the community, it is again subdivided into a few groupings: for those who are from the home community, such efforts are very much appreciated as curated narrations are not common in the scene, and any such effort would spark conversations for new findings and alternative perspectives, which is always positive. For those from the outside, outreach programs allow them a chance to come close to art that is not part of their daily life. Their appreciation might not be within the art historical context, but the joy and, more importantly, the curiosity of looking at something new, something beautiful, or even something strange are real.

LUX: How are artists developing new narratives from exotic ‘Utopia’?

IKL: During the 18th to 19th century, these Western artists were amazed by Indonesia’s tropical land and began recording all they saw and experienced with drawings and paintings. Then, Indonesian artists were directly taught by Western artists on how to draw and paint, strictly following the rules of Dutch School teaching with Romanticism style of portraiture or landscapes. This teaching persisted for generations until the 1930s, when the revolutionary era emerged, and artists began to oppose this approach to art-making.

Indonesia is not solely about beautiful landscapes and pretty people; we also face social issues such as poverty, discrimination, and genocide. Therefore, this group of artists shifted to freeform expression and discovered the true “Indonesian” identity in their paintings.

LUX: Is this shaping a new identity for the nation?

IKL: Indonesian modernist artists began to embrace nationalist “characters and elements” in their works, which was a direct critique of the colonial painters who, according to the modernists, were not depicting the real Indonesia. I don’t believe any art movement alone can shape a new identity for a nation. However, art always reflects the spirit of the time. After the WWII, with pro-independence movements rising all over Southeast Asia, the art of that era also reflected a desire for independence, respect for indigenous cultures and art, and the aspiration to be authentic Indonesians. This sentiment is not only evident in visual art but also in literature, music, films, and other forms of expression.

Read more: Hansjörg Wyss on his pioneering work in conservation

LUX: Can this benefit Indonesia’s international relations?

IKL: Yes. For centuries, art has been a tool for international relationships. Art speaks a language so gentle that many willingly listen, yet so powerful that it can incite nations to rebel. Regarding Indonesian art, it initially served as a promotional tool where the Dutch showcased the beautiful landscapes and cultures of Western Indonesia.

If this is referring to Tumurun, then I believe that as a private museum whose core collection aims to showcase a narrative of modern and contemporary Indonesian art within a local/Asian context and aspires to expand the dialogue to a global context, it would always be useful for the purpose of education, dialogue, and exchange. This contributes to a greater understanding and appreciation, which are the foundations of all foreign relations, between countries and, more importantly, between cultures.

LUX: What do you hope your legacy will be?

IKL: Tumurun originates from the Javanese phrase ‘turun temurun,’ which literally translates as “passing on from generation to generation,” standing at the heart of the founding principle of the museum. Committed to education, Tumurun collects, preserves, and interprets modern and contemporary art, and explores ideas across cultures and regions through curatorial and outreach initiatives. We hope that by standing proudly with our vision and mission, the collection could inspire more generations to come.

Tumurunmuseum.org

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Reading time: 5 min
Man and woman standing next to each other

Chong Huai Seng is one of Singapore’s most respected collectors. He and his daughter Ning Chong, a first mover in art investment advisory, speak with LUX Leaders and Philanthropists Editor Samantha Welsh about the future of art as an investment of passion

When international banker Chong Huai Seng started buying art in the 1980s, he could not have imagined growing a collection that would catalyse a forum for South East Asia’s prominent collectors, artists and experts; nor that in co-founding a gallery The Culture Story with his daughter, Ning Chong, she herself would see a gap for a specialist art investment advisory and would go on to found the Family Office for Art (FOfA). Father and daughter share their approach and insights into dealing with passion assets such as art

When did your collecting journey start?

Mr Huai Seng Chong: My collecting journey started in the mid 80’s when I was a stock broker and I used to travel to London frequently for business trips. I loved traipsing around Mayfair, dipping in and out of galleries. I started buying British sculpture and Russian paintings, very unusual because most people start buying art from their own country. I was merely responding to what I like, my daughter likes to call it “retail therapy” at a time before the internet, and all you had, was to trust your instinct and sensibilities.

Nina Chong: About seven years ago, I introduced some governance to my father’s art collection, cataloguing and art collection management and to assess the strengths of the collection and where we should focus our future acquisitions. With that, we are able to identify themes within the collection, and Dad always enjoys selecting and curating the pieces which we put up in our private gallery The Culture Story. Personally I started my own collection a mere two – three years ago. I realised I had a point of view, which was different from my father’s and there were certain artists and themes which resonated more strongly with me, as a new mother, as an entrepreneur.

Man and woman standing next to each other

Mr Huai Seng Chong and his daughter Ms Ning Chong are two of Singapore’s most respected collectors.

How did you decide a career as an art professional was for you?

CHS: Art collecting started as a hobby for me, almost forty years ago! I never thought this is something I would continue to do, and now this hobby has turned into a business venture between me and my daughter. This is something we did not plan to do, but I’m happy that we are on this adventure together.

NC: When I was young, I was surrounded by works of art and as a family we used to follow my Dad to visit galleries on the weekend. It was only after graduation, when I didn’t want to pursue banking or finance that my father nudged me to consider the art world. I did my own research, including a few internships in London before I decided that I would commit and pursue a career in the arts. It took me a long time to get to where I am, looking back it has been very rewarding to work in different areas such as art fairs, auction house, galleries to government policy work, it has given me a very comprehensive overview of the art ecosystem.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

What was the vision behind The Culture Story?

CHS: We started The Culture Story in June 2017 as a private gallery, like Gertrude Stein salon’s setting in her Paris apartment in the 1920s where artists, poets, writers, thinkers would get together and make merry. For us, we wanted to create a cosy environment where we can share works from our family collection, and encourage other collectors to collaborate with us. By organising exhibitions and hosting talks with artists, collectors and art world professionals, The Culture Story aims to promote greater understanding and discourse around art and foster connoisseurship.

How has the mission and collection evolved?

CHS: We are still very much following the mission we set out for The Culture Story at the beginning. The Singapore art scene has matured significantly and we are at a stage where other art collectors are open to collaborate with us. They are happy to share work(s) from their private collection, especially when they encounter feedback from members of the public, students or other art collectors and professionals.

Images hanging inside an art gallery

“Collecting Bodies: a short story about art and nudity in Asia” with works on loan from 10 art collectors

NC: We try to focus on a few themes amongst our family collection. Recently, we have loaned some of our works to museums for various exhibitions. One in particular is an early Kim Lim sculpture which is currently on view at the Hepworth Wakefield Museum in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Later this year, the entire exhibition will travel to the National Gallery Singapore for her long-await retrospective exhibition.

We also loaned paintings by Futura and Timothy Curtis to Art Science Museum in Singapore for an exhibition called Sneakertopia, which celebrated everything related to the rise of street culture and pop art, and the phenomena of sneaker culture.

Man standing next to a sculpture

Kim Lim at Hepworth: the first major museum exhibition of Lim’s work since 1999, offering unparalleled insight into the artist’s life and work.

Artsworks shown in a room

Futura and Timothy Curtis at the Art Science Museum

Where has your acquisition strategy been particularly effective in nurturing innovative artists?

CHS: I like to support Singapore’s young and emerging artists. There is one artist in particular Hilmi Johandi whom I spotted almost fifteen years ago at the Affordable Art Fair in Singapore in 2011, today he is represented by OTA Fine Art, one of Japan’s leading contemporary art galleries who also represents Yayoi Kusama. I commissioned Hilmi to create a family portrait for us. Since then I support his practice by buying a work from every new series.

Colourful art painting

Hilmi Johandi works primarily with painting and explores interventions with new media that are associated within the domain of framing, fragmentation and compression

What is it about the Asian art market and intergenerational wealth transfer that created demand for the Family Office for Art (FOFA)?

NC: The South East Asian art market is still a young one, over the two decades we have seen significant progress with the emergence of galleries, art fairs, biennales, dealers and private museums etc.

Two years ago, I identified a gap in the industry, and I felt there were many things I could offer and help other collectors, the same way I used my skills and experience to maintain my father’s art collection. Most wealthy families have their financial assets and businesses handled by their private banker or family office, more often than not, the soft assets such as art and collectibles are overlooked or neglected. However these “passion assets” are very much part of the principle’s estate and his/her legacy. I’ve been studying this space for some time and I’ve learnt that with a proper system in place, it is a significant step towards protecting and enhancing the art collection’s commercial and cultural value.

At FOFA, we understand that dealing with passion assets such as art can be emotional and sentimental, and more often than not, it would require some degree of family involvement. These types of discussions and conversations are not unfamiliar to us and may take a long time to materialise, so our approach is to take a long term view and invest in these relationships.

Read more: Yulia Iosilzon’s groundbreaking new show in London

Based in Singapore, we are well-positioned to meet and serve Asian collectors in the region. Over the next decade and even in present times, it has been said that there will be unprecedented levels of wealth transfer in Asia. Given our first mover advantage and as we continue to grow and widen our international network, FOFA is ready to help families look after and manage their passions or alternative assets such as fine art and collectibles.

 

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Reading time: 6 min
Woman sitting on the ground in front of colourful painting

Woman sitting on the ground in front of colourful painting

London-based Israeli artist Yulia Iosilzon creates a thespian world, somewhere between fairy tale and natural landscape across ceramics and painting. Her signature snails trail around the frames of vibrant, allegorical paintings of calligraphic movement. LUX explores her new solo show at Berntson Bhattarcharjee in London.

Two colourful paintings on a wall with a big snail in the middle.

Several layers of symbolism offer snails as an important motif for the artist from motherhood to tranquillity to restlessness

Snails perch on canvas corners, across five-tiered cakes, some small, some larger. One – nearly human size – sits elegantly in the middle of the gallery floor. Others melt into the paintings themselves, in communion with circus-like figures, swirling around one another in rich colours. These stand at the intersection of her work – between reality and fantasy, between almost unnerving, uncanny and playful.

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Little snails climbing on the side of a colourful painting.

Applying paint onto sheer silk, the artist’s technique recalls Helen Frankenthaler’s style from the 1950s and 60s

Born in Moscow, and with frequent relocations, Yulia connects to the snail’s pursuit of comfort and security, in slow calm and restlessness, in spiralling refuge. And to see the gallery adorned with both thespian silk of bright pink and these snails of earthy colours across the gallery gives an intense feeling of familiar-unfamiliarity that good art does. So, too, does the paintings’ figures of meek, innocent faces – and the combination of their sharp triangular figures with the calligraphic swirls.

Yulia quite literally creates a theatrical stage within this exhibition. It’s a scene resembling the interior of a snail’s shell – like something of a film set, cocooned in the Berntson Bhattarcharjee’s basement (a gallery which transforms itself quite remarkably for each exhibition).

Woman that is painting, holding colourful painting up

Yulia Iosilzon cites children’s illustration and theatre as sources of inspiration

Snails were already seen a lot in images of Matisse, Dali and Dutch Renaissance painters. During this historical period, snails symbolised the Virgin Birth, and embodied notions of resurrection, purity and mortality.

Read more: Interview with British-Iranian Artist Kour Pour

Modus Operandi at the Berntson Bhattarcharjee Gallery, Mayfair, London, will run until 11 May 2024.

See More: bbgallery.art

 

 

 

 

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Alan Lau and Durjoy Rahman. Photomontage by Isabel Phillips

Alan Lau is Vice Chairman of M+ Museum, the era-defining new institution in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon district. Here he speaks with philanthropist and collector Durjoy Rahman about why private individuals need to support artists and art activations, and how Asia is moving to control its own narratives in the cultural world. Moderated by LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh

LUX: Why is private philanthropy and engagement important in bringing art to a broader audience in general and particularly in Asia?

Alan Lau: Private philanthropy and patronage are critical because governments rarely cover arts funding entirely. The percentage contribution from UK public sources is higher than in the US but patrons are needed not just for the money they bring in but for their networks, resources and connections that enable museums to develop.

One particularly interesting phenomenon is China where there are over a thousand private museums established by collectors. Many are located in Beijing, Shanghai and the largest cities, but a lot of them are set-up in corporate headquarters or the collector’s hometown, bringing art to a community that may not have had access to art before.

ALAN LAU AND HIS FRIEND IN SUITS ON BLACK AND WHITE BACKGROUND

Alan Lau within the exhibition, ‘Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now’

Durjoy Rahman: Conventionally art philanthropy was the preserve of a small proportion of society. Patronage was offered by this tiny minority for centuries until now, in the 21st century. This is a new era for patronage. For our foundation, patronage involves strategic social investment into creativity and innovation for the wider public benefit. It takes account of our collective history, original cultures, and future directions and fosters the development of a more equitable, sustainable society.

two boys standing next to each other holding bows and arrows

‘Archers’ (2021), by Matthew Krishanu, from the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation Collection

I am a business owner but I still felt that the economic landscape of GDP and foreign investment are not the only way to measure the development of a society. Art and culture help define who we are and where we came from, give rein to our imagination and support social justice.

LUX: Why is that particularly important in Asia?

AL: The benefit of not having a long history of arts philanthropy is that people experiment with different models. When wealth creation happens in this part of the world, it comes with the tradition of giving back and that is where the phenomenon of museums founded locally back in the hometown came from. The idea has propagated only over the past decade really.

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LUX: How has patronage and philanthropic support for institutions changed? And how should it change?

AL: It has always been the private patrons who have funded programs and supported curatorial roles, put their names on buildings and so on. There has been innovation in the institutional space about 20 years ago, starting from TATE Modern setting-up International patron groups in North America, Asia, MENA and growing to over ten committees. The Guggenheim and Pompidou have something similar. These patron groups bring people from different regions to support programming, curatorial research and exhibitions. So these are not municipal museums but institutions that serve a global audience and have a global perspective. The global patrons help attract resources into specific acquisitions and research. This is relatively new for museums. With corporate sponsorship too there is a lot of change.

DR: With patronage, we need also to open a conversation about overcoming cultural barriers. South Asia has a long history of art and culture but also long history of being colonised. So our arts and cultural heritage have not been projected properly. When global art movements started, the major arts and cultural institutions were set up in Europe. This meant that our legacy was not represented or discussed. The arts’ press, academics, art writers, also all were European, so there was no discussion or projection of our art heritage. We were left behind.

So with art philanthropy, what has changed over the past decade, has been led by major biennial art fairs and significant curatorial institutions, particularly in China, in Hong Kong like M+, India, Dubai and Saudi Arabia where I was recently in AlUla and Riyadh. We are all reassessing our lost identity, which was always there but not at the forefront simply because we did not own our story or have the press and art critics onside. You can have magnificent works but it is not enough if no one shares it with the wider audience.

A ship

‘Fishermen at rest’ (2012), by Rafiqun Nabi, from the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation Collection

LUX: How does Asia overcome cultural barriers to art in terms of its creation and appreciation, as it’s still not considered a ‘real job’ in many quarters?

AL: There is a deep history of art in Asia but it is interesting you ask why art is not considered a real job here. Once you say ‘job’ that says there is a market and assumes a market for local art. That is a very interesting topic for Asian artists right now and comes down to cultural confidence. We see that in Korea where Koreans collectors like to buy Korean art. Hong Kong collectors have begun to collect Hong Kong artists in the last couple of years, and the Japanese are famous for not collecting Japanese art. The Chinese collected a lot of Chinese art around the Olympics and now they’re back to collecting western art.

It really comes down to cultural confidence, to what they think is good, so it is very easy to gravitate toward the Anglo-Saxon and Western art world. It’s difficult, but it’s the gold standard for whatever is best at the time, from Picasso or most recently to George Condo or Jeff Koons. Locals need to learn to develop that cultural confidence to buy local and to support local art for culture to flourish.

Colourful figures standing around a table

From the M+ exhibition, ‘Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now’

DR: When we talk about art markets, I agree with what you say, Alan. In South Korea, the Koreans are buying the Korean artists who are represented by the western galleries. So the locals are going to the western galleries originally from US and Europe, who are exhibiting at fairs in Korea, effectively buying their local artists via those western intermediaries.

In Bangladesh, as an example, we are a population of 180 million. If the 1% or .5% started buying art, there would be no supply in the market! So why is .5% of an entire nation not interested in buying art? It is because creative people, not only the artists but curators, gallerists, collectors are not creating the momentum to promote investment in art. And there is a problem with status and perception. In Bangladesh there is an appetite and a market for luxury brands but not for art. The wider audience does not aspire to buy local art.

In the western world, particularly where I have seen in France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Canada where I lived for a long time, creatives are supported with subsidised housing or studio space so they can afford to produce art. That just doesn’t exist in a country in like Bangladesh. Artists graduate from an important school but change their profession for a better life.

I was preparing a lecture for my HK session for Sotheby’s Institute and commented that In Bangladesh we buy a lot of western art. Why are we buying so much western art and supporting western artists? Forget about aspiration, many of those artists are time-tested investments and our local artists are not. George Condo or Ai Wei Wei will be keeping value for decades. I want to and do support local artists but it’s a bigger picture.

LUX: How does Asia become a leader in art rather than participating in the so-called western gaze?

AL: No one will tell your story, you have to tell it yourself! While I love the Met or Tate or Guggenheim’s China show or Korea show, that is a fantastic spotlight but it is you who understands your story. One of the inaugurating shows of M+ was with Kusama and I think it was us telling that story from here in Asia that gave it a very different texture.

THE OUTSIDE OF A MUSEUM WITH A MODERN LOOK AND A GREYSIH SKY

M+ Museum, is Hong Kong’s cultural hub for twentieth and twenty-first century art encompassing visual art, design and architecture, and moving image

M+ was set up to do just that, to be a Museum for Asia. One of the most touching things for me, two years after our opening when we welcomed the first group of visitors, was the overwhelming comment I heard from people saying is ‘Thank you! This is my Museum!’. These are not people from Hong Kong but from South Korea, Japan, Singapore and they see themselves in our collection. This is an Asian museum giving a voice and creating narratives and telling stories from an Asian point of view. We need more institutions to do that. You need to tell your own story.

LUX: What is it about being from Hong Kong and Dhaka that has contributed to your identity and vision for collecting?

AL: My collection is about stories that I feel privileged to talk about. The collecting vision is a reflection of who I am, which is someone born in Hong Kong, living in the city when it was a British colony, witnessing HK’s transition back to China, living through big changes, seeing the economic rise of China and the issues that come with all of that, living through all the tech development, broadband, now video, now AI. I have a strong link with artists from HK and the region and a strong relationship with technology with the context of my day job.

A BLUE PICTURE ON A WALL WITH SOME BOOKS IN FRONT

From Alan Lau’s expansive collection

DR: Dhaka is important in South Asia but for me Hong Kong is the centre of gravity in the so-called Far East because it is a connector to APAC and South Asia. Hong Kong and Bangladesh already had a connection historically and we represent a new “silk route”. We need to create Asian art power by amplifying the patronage of institutions like M+.

LUX: In what ways can innovative artists capture the essence of our time and realities?

AL: Artists are story-tellers, here to tell stories of our time. The best art is time-stamped but timeless. For example, at M+ right now, the most recent M+Sigg collection show is a controversial work by Chinese duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. It is set in an old people’s home, created nearly 20 years ago, taking the faces of the world political leaders at that time, and fast-forwarding them to when they are 80 years’ old sitting in automated wheelchairs that go round the hall so you see all these old people roaming around. Twenty years’ on how funny it is our world is still run by grey old men!

DR: That is true and sometimes when we talk about innovation, that does not mean it has to be technological innovation. At the end of the day you are talking about art. We are really talking about mental science and inventive hands that influence because it is about newness and original ideas. Art can’t be boring, or monotonous because we are not forced to look at art. Art has to inspire us and innovation is part of that inspiration process.

A lung of fruit

Organic To Organ – V (2022), by Shimul Saha, from the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation Collection. Crochet weaving, cotton yarn and cotton

LUX: How has your interest in innovation catalysed your collecting journey, Alan?

AL: I am fascinated by artists who are very resourceful storytellers. They always find find the latest technology or way of production to present their ideas in new ways that offer fresh perspectives. This creates all kinds of interesting dynamics in our human relationship with technology. We have futuristic, experimental tech, with artists like Cao Fei from China showing humans’ chaotic relationship with technology, Camille Henrot on the abuse of social networks, dystopic work from Jon Rafman, and then of course Beeple and other digital artists. We have a much more tense relationship with technology and that’s reflected in the artistic output and practices.

LUX: What are you looking forward to at the Venice Biennale?

AL: I’m definitely looking forward to what Hong Kong will present. Trevor Yeung is someone we know very well because we worked with him at ParaSite and we have really seen him grow. Another one that’s going to be in the main Pavilion is Isaac Chong Wai, originally from Hong Kong but representing the diaspora, based in Berlin, with a lot to say on global topics.

DR: There will be some artists from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan there and I will be looking out for their practices, how they respond to the concept that the curator has identified like displacement, the diaspora, identity and cultural history. I like go to a national Pavilion to see how that country is portraying their art and culture, rather than look for the presentation of a particular artist.

Read More:

mplus.org

durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

 

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Under the artistic direction of Natasha Ginwala, the recent Colomboscope showed how the Sri Lankan art festival has swiftly become a must-visit not just for aficionados of South Asian art, but for collectors globally seeking to channel exciting new art world perspectives from a region whose global significance is rising.

woman sitting on window ledge

Natasha Ginwala, artistic director. Photo by Victoria Tomaschko

Across venues throughout Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, curators Hit Man Gurung, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, and Sarker Protick choreographed events and showcased the work of 40 eminent artists from Sri Lanka and the Global South, all themed around ‘Way of the Forest’.

Artwork of an eye with leaves

Zihan Karim, EYE (।), 2015, Video projection on installation. Photo by Fiona Cheng

Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), as one of the festival’s lead patrons and cultural partners, supported four artists from Bangladesh to participate: Soma Surovi Jannat; Md Rakibul Anwar; Zihan Karim; Jayatu Chakma. There was a strong theme of sustainability and regeneration in their works.

woman with trees in background

Soma Surovi Jannat, artist.

Man posing with painting in background

Rakibul Anwar, artist.

black and white picutre of man head down

Zihan Karim, artist.

man standing next to painting

Jayatu Chakma, artist.

‘Urbanisation is accelerating deforestation, which removes the potential for forests to absorb carbon and put a brake on global warming. This creates political, economic and societal crises for people and harms our planet,’ says DBF’s founder, Durjoy Rahman.

poster of event with text on it

The Way of the Forest Poster

It was an intriguing way to see how art is leading the challenge against post-colonial legacies and bearing witness to the effects of climate change.

 

See more: https://www.colomboscope.lk/

 

Online Editor: Isabel Phillips

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Male with arms crossed standing next to art
Male with arms crossed standing next to art

Petr Pudil, collector and founder of Kunsthalle Praha

A decade ago, an entrepreneur bought a decommissioned power station located in a prime position opposite Prague Castle. Investing some $40M together with his Family Foundation he regenerated this brownfield site and in 2015 relaunched it as the landmark Kunsthalle Praha, Prague’s first non-profit private institution. Samantha Welsh speaks with Petr Pudil about his passion for collecting, why he is dedicated to supporting contemporary Czech artists, and his vision for connecting the local art scene with international art movements.

big building with orange roof in sunshine

Former electrical substation, art institution Kunsthalle Praha

LUX: What is your background as an entrepreneur?

Petr Pudil: I am co-founder of BPD partners, leading family office in Prague. The BPD partners group actively seeks out companies with promising scientific and technological backgrounds. The priority is projects that bring new challenges regarding healthy economic growth and are in line with internationally recognised standards of social responsibility and sustainability.

Interior of building, empty space, white walls wood floors

The former power station redeveloped as Kunsthalle Praha

A stable part of the portfolio consists of long-term investments in biotechnology and chemistry, including investments in basic research, renewable resources, and the construction of environmentally friendly office complexes and residential properties.

 

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LUX:  When did you become involved with art philanthropy?

PP: My wife, Pavlina, and I started collecting art almost twenty years ago. We have never seen it as a financial investment, but rather as a tool to understand the connections of the world and life through the lens of artists, which is an alternative and enriching perspective for me as a businessman.

man and woman standing next to each other in a living space

Pavlina and Petr Pudil, collectors and cultural philanthropists

By purchasing contemporary art, we also wanted to support living artists. The idea to build a new Kunsthalle in Prague came about approximately 9 years ago.

LUX: How does Czech fit, historically, within the Central Europe art canon?

PP: The Czech lands and later Czechoslovakia have been in cultural contact with many European centres in the past centuries, naturally with Vienna within the monarchy, with Munich, and later in the 20th century, with Paris. As Václav Havel said, Prague has been a cultural crossroad of Europe for a thousand years. Our country is a natural part of the cultural and historical development of Central Europe.

LUX: What was your founding idea for the Kunsthalle Praha?

PP: We founded Kunsthalle Praha as a non-profit and non-governmental institution whose mission is to bring art to the lives of as many people as possible, with a focus on the younger generation. The second part of our mission is to connect the local scene with the international art environment.

LUX: What collaborations and sectors have you enjoyed shining a light on during these two years?

PP: I will highlight two moments. Since opening, our building has seen over 210,000 visitors, with the majority being younger than 35, which is a great result. And then, the introductory exhibition “Kinetismus,” which was created through a curatorial collaboration with Peter Weibel and ZKM Karlsruhe.

Art light installation in gallery

Inaugural exhibition November 2022, Kinetismus, photo by Vojtêch Veškrna, Kunsthalle Praha

It was an highly innovative exhibition that involved demanding research and, at the same time, became very popular with the local audience.

LUX: Vaclav Havel, Nobel Prize satirist and first democratically-elected president of post-soviet Czech and Slovakia, is a symbol for many of the trust vested by the people in literature to say the unsayable.  Was the samizdat movement art activism or covert propaganda?

PP: Currently, there is an exhibition at Kunsthalle Praha titled “Read” by Elmgreen & Dragset, where part of the exposition is about Czech samizdat literature.

Man walking between bookshelves

Installation ‘Point of View’ 2024 at exhibition ‘READ’ by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragnet

Samizdat was neither activism nor covert propaganda. It was driven by the simple desire of people for information and literature that was denied to them. Naturally, such “forbidden fruit” had a much wider audience than the dissident Charter 77 led by informal leader Václav Havel.

LUX: How has Kunsthalle Praha been received by your peers in the contemporary art ecosystem?            

PP: Kunsthalle Praha is bringing another platform for the presentation of contemporary and modern art to Prague, as well as a space for trans-generational dialogue between different communities. Our goal is to collaborate with other institutions, which we have been successful in achieving so far. We perceive the cultural institution ecosystem as a collaborative, rather than competitive, environment.

LUX: You are an innovator and serial entrepreneur, where else is your focus?

PP: Surely, it is a sport. I try to engage in some physical activity every day, and running, in particular, is an addiction and a way of mental regeneration for me.

LUX: How do you see your foundation evolving as a platform for sustainability in art?

PP: We have sought to apply sustainability principles already during the renovation of the building. It is not a new construction but the revitalisation of a contaminated brownfield in the historical center of Prague. We are preparing an ESG report and striving to exceed our regional peers in all aspects of ESG metrics

Read more: Lazard’s Jennifer Anderson on the Evolution of ESG Investing

LUX: What one tip would you share with a young collector wanting to make a difference?

PP: It is not easy at all to find distinctiveness, it is actually a very ambitious goal. If you want to build a unique, distinctive collection, I would focus on new, digital media. Everyone knows that the digitisation of society must be reflected in art, but we still don’t know how art will respond to this phenomenon, and we certainly don’t know yet how to collect such art.

 

Online Editor: Isabel Phillips

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green vineyard with tree and building and sun

Picasso, Miro, Dali, Richter, Braque: supreme Bordeaux Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has had them all, and many more, create its wine label over the decades. Candice Tucker speaks to Julien de Beaumarchais, from the owning family of the esteemed first growth, about the latest label artist, Chiharu Shiota, whose work adorns the excellent 2021 vintage

LUX: How has your relationship with art changed through the process of commissioning these label artworks?

Julien de Beaumarchais: Before the passing of my mother, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, in 2014, I spent more than 15 years working in the market for Old Master paintings and drawings, the creators of which had been dead for a very long time. So it was a radical change for me when, after 2014, I became responsible for the artists who would illustrate the label for our next vintage. I found myself in contact with famous people with strong personalities who were very much alive, accompanying them throughout their creative adventure for Mouton. From Miquel Barceló to Shiharu Chiota, it has been quite a voyage of discovery into all the diversity and complexity of the leading names of contemporary art.

wine barrels with lights and under the tunnels

Château Mouton Rothschild Winery. Photo by Alain Benoit

LUX: Can you illuminate the relationship of the family with this particular artist Chiharu Shiota? How do you choose your artists?

JB: The choice of the artist is a family affair, made in consultation with the other two owners of Château Mouton Rothschild, my sister Camille Sereys de Rothschild and my brother Philippe Sereys de Rothschild. The artists are chosen first and foremost because we like their work and that they are world renowned. My mother, the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild (1933- 2014) used to give the following answer to this question, which still holds true today: “I have no particular method or five-year plan: my choice is based on my enthusiasm for an artist’s work. I always establish a personal relationship with them, which often turns into friendship, because I deeply love the art of the painter I ask, and for me each work is an expression of the artist’s love for Mouton and its magic.”

A long time ago my mother told me she had been fascinated by one of Chiharu Shiota’s works, shown alongside those of other young artists, at the Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris. For her, on that day, Chiharu Shiota really stood out, and the future has proved her right. The artist’s fame has grown with the passing years, as has the number of exhibitions of her works around the world, and I in turn have been fascinated by her striking, captivating installations. Chance played an important part too: in 2019, on the occasion of a visit to Château Mouton Rothschild, the director of the Mori Art Center in Tokyo offered me a copy of the magnificent catalogue of the great Chiharu Shiota retrospective at the Mori. Leafing through it, I said to myself “One day I will ask Chiharu Shiota to create an artwork for Mouton”.

 

Read more: Prince Robert de Luxembourg on Art & Fine Wine

 

LUX: Which artists do you wish you had secured in the past, who are now either unavailable or dead?

JB: That’s a very hard question to answer: there are so many wonderful artists we would have liked to work with, but there is only one a year. Those missing from the list who died before we were able to ask them include Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, Vieira da Silva and, more recently, Sam Szafran in 2019… But the most important thing is to focus on the artists to come.

 

LUX: How do you feel the context of the artwork by Chiharu Shiota is influenced by the wine and the vineyard?

JB: When I discovered Chiharu Shiota’s artwork for Château Mouton Rothschild, I was fascinated by her vision, so close to the world of wine, especially in the relationship between humankind and nature. Indeed, the human figure is a fragile silhouette facing nature, gorgeous and generous but seemingly dominant, in the same way that the vinegrower is exposed to the unpredictable power of the vine. Yet the four threads that link them, symbolising the four seasons, show that the grower is also capable of channelling it and guiding it towards the ideal of a great wine. I really love this bright red colour, one of her trademarks, so reminiscent of a fabulous cluster of grapes or of new wine running out of the vats…

Plus, Chiharu Shiota said of his visit to Château Mouton Rothschild: “When I visited Château Mouton Rothschild, I was very inspired by their relationship with nature. They depend on the weather and do not interfere with mother nature. They accept the conditions in which the grapes grow. I think Mouton is holding on to the balance of human and nature.”

a label for wine with an artist image on it

Château Mouton Rothschild 2021 Vintage label by Chiharu Shiota

LUX: Can you further speak to the wider context of art in untraditional spaces, which these commissions exemplify?

JB: It is true that nowadays artistic creation is to be found on a wide variety of media, and sometimes in highly unexpected places. But art on wine labels is not exactly untraditional, at least not for us, and we seem to have set an example for others. However, Mouton occupies a unique position for two reasons: it was the first château to feature labels illustrated with an original artwork (Jean Carlu in 1924), and after that to have asked the greatest names in contemporary art to create an artwork for the label.

 

LUX: Do you think people buy the wines because of the labels?

JB: Yes and no. Château Mouton Rothschild’s success is due above all to the quality of the wine. But art lovers or admirers of a particular artist who has created an artwork for a label may acquire a certain bottle for that reason, or else a wine collector may want to buy a specific vintage to complete their collection of Mouton Rothschild with illustrated labels.

 

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LUX: Would you be able to share about the vineyard’s involvement in the artists process and their work for this commission?

JB: It is very important for us that the artist should come and spend some time at Château Mouton Rothschild, to get a feel for the place, a better understanding of our history, our terroir and the way we make our wine. The visit is often a source of inspiration.

Artists are not given any particular instructions when they create a label for Château Mouton Rothschild: they have entire creative freedom. That being said, many artists have chosen to base their illustration, each in their own way, on subjects related to Mouton, such as the ram and the vine.

There is a long and impressive line of artists who have contributed to these labels, with public access to the original works.

vineyard in yellow light and sky

Château Mouton Rothschild estate. Photo by Alain Benoit

LUX: Can you tell us more about how you may hope to amplify this exhibition?

JB: The exhibition amplifies itself, since a new work is added to the collection each year! But more than amplify, what I would like most is to diversify, in terms of both creative techniques and the geographical origin of our future artists.

Find out more:mouton-rothschild

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A blue and red zig zag on white shoes

Fashion designer Manolo Blahnik is something of a legend within the shoe industry. His career truly kicked off in 1969 after meeting US Vogue Editor in Chief, Diana Vreeland; after that, he devoted himself to designing shoes, opening the first Manolo Blahnik store in Chelsea, London, the next year. He speaks to Trudy Ross about his design philosophy, dressing for yourself and looking to the future

LUX: You’ve said before that shoes are in your DNA. Can you share the story of how you first decided to spend your career designing them?
Manolo Blahnik: It was all thanks to Mrs Vreeland. When I met her I was in a state of catatonic nerves; I grew up with Mrs Vreeland, with Harper’s Bazaar. I had presented some sketches to her of set and theatrical designs and she told me to design shoes. She said “Young man, stick to the extremities and make shoes!”. She gave me the advice I so needed to hear and paved the path for me to follow.

I took a hands-on approach and learned from the best shoemakers in Italian factories. To this day, working in the factories is still my favourite part of the job.White and red leather shoe point with blue and red dots

LUX: Tell us about how you opened your first store in the 1970s.
MB: The 1970s was such a fun time in London. It’s funny, the ’70s are absolutely much clearer than the ’80s. We opened the store on Old Church Street in London and that was the very beginning. I didn’t have anything to put in the shop! A friend of mine called Peter Young found the place. He said, ‘There is a wonderful place, far away from everything with no other shops on the street except a pastry shop.”

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I loved it and I took it, not thinking about how I didn’t have any people, customers, nothing. I used to live in Notting Hill and cross the park on a bike. I would come to the shop every day. We used to open at 10 o’ clock. I ate some cookies at the pastry shop and then we would call Italy and get the shoes done.Two colourful heels displayed against a 1960's style sign

LUX: What is your favourite part of the design process?
MB: Without a doubt, working with the artisans in the factories. I have been working with the same artisans for over 35 years. Craftmanship is in their blood, passed down over generations. The team there know exactly what I am thinking and strive to bring all my creations to life, even the most intricate and embellished designs, always pushing boundaries to ensure the complete perfection and the attention to detail required in each of my collections.

Developing seasonal styles with the artisans and spending time in the factory is truly my favourite part of the job. It always has been and always will be.

LUX: Can shoes be a work of art? Can they be more than a work of art?
MB: Shoes can be inspired by art. I am always inspired by art. Francisco Goya did the best shoes in his paintings! I think I would collect all his art if I could. It has hugely inspired me throughout many of my collections and I can’t count how many hours I have spent staring at his works in the Prado museum.

I want my shoes to embody personal style and creativity, pieces of art for your feet.Leg in suede black boot against a background of white and red stripes and lights

LUX: How can one stay ahead of the fashion curve?
MB: By not following trends. Staying true to who you are and dressing the way you want is, in my opinion, true style. It is a physical attitude that cannot be bought.

I’ve never been one to follow trends. If I see too much of something, I change it. What’s the point of people wearing the same dresses and the same shoes? Everybody ends up looking like clones and I hate that. Individuality is what makes us all unique. I like independence and I love eccentricity. If you like something, buy it. Find your style and stick to it.

LUX: Style or comfort?
MB: I believe you can have both. I spend a lot of time with the artisans testing the comfort of our shoes. Elegance and comfort go hand in hand, you must be comfortable to appear elegant, one cannot exist without the other. There is nothing charming about a woman who cannot walk in her shoes.Red white and black kitten heel on a light up sign

LUX: Women’s or men’s fashion?
MB: Both! What’s wonderful is that people are starting to dress up again. In London, men and women alike are now dressed up and going to Savile Row to have suits made.

So long as we are human, we will want to be decorated—for ourselves; not for other people so much. When I wake up in the morning I say, “I’m going to wear happy colours today,” and that is for myself!

LUX: What does it take to create a truly iconic brand identity?
MB: Be true to who you are and believe in what you do! I think the most important thing is the product. That should always remain at the centre.

But for me, it’s not about being a big brand or ‘iconic’! I just want to be healthy and keep doing things. I don’t want anything else. I have everything I want, and I have wonderful memories.

LUX: In the age of e-commerce and social media, how has the digital landscape affected the Manolo Blahnik brand?
MB: You must move with the times or else you will get left behind. Our e-commerce website and social media are a crucial part of the business. When we started to work on The Craft Room, I wanted it to be online so that anyone, anywhere in the world can access this virtual world. It’s exciting! It’s wonderful to be able to connect with the world in this way.

LUX: What does sustainability mean to you?
MB: We don’t use the term ‘sustainability’ because I feel that sustainability is misunderstood. It’s binary: you either are or you are not. We use the term ‘responsibility’ because it is a journey.

My personal philosophy, which was passed down to me from my parents, is that you buy the best quality you can afford and look after it. Mend garments and shoes, have things altered as necessary and upcycled when the time comes. I detest waste and think that overconsumption is unnecessary and lazy.

LUX: In 3 words, how would you describe the world of Manolo Blahnik?
MB: Timeless, colourful and elegant!

Read more: Blazé Milano’s Corrada Rodriguez d’Acrci on creating iconic style 

LUX: Where do you predict your brand will be in ten years’ time?
MB: I am so lucky to have my niece, Kristina, as CEO. She has been working on building foundations to protect the brand. We are a family business with a family mindset and it is wonderful we are able to keep it this way. I hope that people continue to enjoy our shoes. We aim to create beautiful handmade pieces that last and make people smile.

Find out more: www.manoloblahnik.com

All images are from the Winter ’23 Collection

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Reading time: 6 min
A man and woman standing next to each other in black and white

A man and woman standing next to each other in black and white

Princess Alia Al-Senussi is a key figure in the development of cultural relationships between the West and the Global South, and in the growth of the art scene in Saudi Arabia. In a conversation moderated by LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh, Alia Al-Senussi speaks with South Asian philanthropist and collector Durjoy Rahman about significant art world debates and developments at the nexus of the developed and developing worlds

LUX: Durjoy, is the relationship between art in the Global South and the rest of the world changing?

Durjoy Rahman: I have been collecting for the over 25 years, and I have always been passionate about creativity, both personally and professionally. Living in Dhaka, I have realised there is a lot of untapped creativity that can probably be moulded and presented to a wider audience, to increase visibility, benefitting Bangladesh, South Asia and, in a bigger picture, the Global South.

These days there is a very fashionable phrase: “Your West is my East”. What one person calls “West” is actually somebody else’s “East”. It depends on the position you are coming from. I have asked many scholars, and no one has been able to give me a clear definition of what the “Global South” is. I think the geopolitical or geographical definition has different meanings and narratives and I expect plenty of discourse and redefinition during the next decade.

LUX: Alia, what has your global vision of the art world been informed by?

Alia Al-Senussi: I came to the art world from a very established position, in the heart of London, so my view has been shaped by the Western perspective, an institutional perspective, a gallery art world ecosystem perspective.

I was very lucky to enter the art world at a time when these perspectives were changing. Tate Modern had just opened and revolutionised the way that we put art in context. There is no longer the “South Asian gallery”, the “Middle Eastern gallery” or the “Asian gallery”.

 A woman wearing a black dress and orange head scarf standing next to a large rock in a desert

Alia Al-Senussi in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. She is a Senior Advisor, Arts, and Culture, to the Ministry of Culture in Riyadh

It was about showing art in conversation with itself, through the eyes of a subject, subject matter, or a generational perspective, rather than a geographical one. And, ever since, as much as I’m in the art world, my perspective on the art world is not as an art historian. It is very much about somebody looking at art, strategy and cultural strategy through the perspective of cultural diplomacy, soft power and how culture interacts with the art world ecosystem, but also very much with identities, governments and politics.

LUX: Alia, how have you noticed the art world changing in the Middle East?

AAS: My work in the Middle East started in 2007, when Art Dubai started. In the last five years, we’ve seen a rapid evolution in the Middle East, positive developments in Saudi Arabia, and Dubai becoming, in many ways, a platform for art from the Global South.

LUX: What do you think is the role of philanthropy in art. Does it engage, facilitate and shape discourse?

DR: This is what DBF is all about. From day one our approach has been very discursive, and we try to position our strategies in a very discursive manner.

For example, we work with photographers like Sunil Gupta, whose retrospective involved queer art. On the other side of the coin, we work with Wadham College of Oxford University, restoring the Holy Qurans, which we announced during the month of Ramadan.

My philosophy towards philanthropic activities and my involvement in the foundation is to challenge negative perceptions. It’s not only about Bangladesh, but the whole perception of South Asia, that I am trying to change through the activities that DBF undertakes. This is why we don’t only focus our activities in Southeast Asia but globally, be it in Europe or America.

A man wearing a white shirt and black vest standing next to a green sofa and a large yellow painting behind him

Durjoy Rahman is a philanthropist and collector based in Dhaka, Bangladesh

LUX: Alia, could you share with us your belief about the role of art and philanthropy?

AAS: I think it is at the very heart of changing perception. I have a deep belief in – as Durjoy said – the power of culture to change people’s minds and perceptions. And I’m not just talking about the West, I mean: it’s even neighbour to neighbour.

For example, we’ve seen black art in the United States transform people’s perceptions of BLM and people’s perceptions of segregationist history. You walk around the Tate galleries, and you see two paintings facing each other in the room about conflict and war. One is about the pogroms in Eastern Europe, and one is about the massacres at Sabra and Shatila [of Palestinian refugees by Christian militias during the Lebanese Civil War in 1982]. These speak to exactly the same universal horrors that many people experience but are from two very different conflicts and parts of the world.

LUX: What responsibility or soft power do you feel you have?

AAS: I feel a deep sense of personal and professional responsibility. In any projects that I get involved in or commit to, I pay a lot of attention to professionalism. I teach a lot and one of the questions I often get asked is, “How do I get involved in the art world? How do I start my career?” I say, “Get involved, show up.”

I think the idea of showing up is really important. Someone invites you to something, go. Someone expects you to be at something, be there. Someone expects you to respond to your emails, respond; and I think that idea of showing up really illustrates a commitment to people.

LUX: What is soft power for you, Durjoy? How can you and/or art bridge discourse?

DR: Everybody wants to understand art. Even Picasso said, “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird?”

An artwork from the Bhumi project, supported by the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation that was shown at the Kochi Biennale in India in 2022/23

When I invite people to an art show and they say that “Well, we don’t understand art.” I say, “There is nothing to understand. Just be there. Just try to comprehend that it is something interesting.” An example of how it’s not about soft power, but engagement, is what DBF did during the pandemic. All the major art institutions in South Asia closed for either health or commercial reasons. DBF decided to get involved with a community from north Bangladesh, which had hardly been hit by COVID-19. The project was called Bhumi and involved a minority group in the area who were craftspeople working in textiles. The project involved 260 people from 60 families, and it supported their daily livelihood. The project didn’t end with the pandemic, it was actually taken to last year’s Kochi Biennale to exhibit the works of the craftsmen and shows what is possible during difficult times.

This is an example of how art, philanthropy and art activism can show how culture can play an important role in times of crisis.

AAS: Just like Durjoy said, you see these very different and very nimble organisations involving themselves with communities and making a difference. The Islamic Biennale did exactly that. It was really revolutionary in the context of art in Saudi Arabia. The Islamic Arts Biennale was at the Hajj terminal in Jeddah, and offered locals to come to a place that they’d never entered because the Hajj terminal inherently is a place for Non-Saudis to come into Jeddah to then go on Hajj.

The locals could see this exceptional building, feel the power of Islam, but also of spirituality and of a community coming together. For people who were not Muslim, or had no connection to the Hajj, they saw objects and works of art in a contemporary and historical environment.

jewelled colourful prayer mats hanging on a wall

The Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah, 2023

Certain organisations have the power to be really nimble. They can profess their politics and support artists for art and culture. I think Delfina Foundation, for example, has been very clear about their support for artists from across a plethora of humanity and does it in a sophisticated, nuanced, and empathetic manner.

LUX: Where are you seeing Next Gen concerns amplified through art?

AAS: I think you see the next generation wanting to amplify diverse voices. There is this desire that art is geographically, ethnically, and sexually diverse so people can express the totality of who they are. There is a sense of activism to it, but there’s also a sense of declaration. I don’t always read into these institutional shows or works of art as activism. Sometimes an artist just wants to say, “This is who I am, and this is the art I make.” Artists are going to make art based on their life experiences.

LUX: Durjoy, where do you think the line is between declaration and activism?

DR: I think the majority of people want to see the origin of the artist, their background and their surroundings, reflected in the work they are producing. If I show a Bangladeshi artist and his or her work looks too different or has no context, sometimes curators even question it and say it doesn’t show their struggle or their originality. I’m not an art scholar or academic: I look at art based on whether I like it. But I think it’s important for an artist or a creative practitioner to show the origin, the struggle, and the history.

I think that we want to encourage artists going forwards to show their origin and their perception. An artist should be free to express their opinion, whether they are from Iraq, Lebanon or Africa. If they are willing to they should go ahead. DBF and I always try to work with artists who have enormous creative boundaries that they want to exhibit in front of their audience.

A man and woman sitting by a table with a laptop speaking into microphones

Al-Senussi in conversation with installation and media artist Chris Cheung during Art Basel in Hong Kong

LUX: To what extent do Next Gens feel obligated to witness and pivot or create change?

AAS: What I see more in my lecturing and my academic experiences, is that the next gen is very much about wanting to change the world and wanting to illustrate that. Through their careers and artwork, they want to be a part of the change in some way. It’s a little disheartening because there is this negative feeling about the future of the world, but at the same time there is a feeling that maybe we, collectively, can change the world.

You also see artists that are just reflecting on their own childhoods, like Farah Al Qasimi. She talks about her family home and the changes shifting in the UAE. It’s an activism, but then it’s also a reflection on the changing world.

LUX: Can art collaboration bring about changes of perception?

DR: Definitely. Art has a vital influence on culture towards current situations. I think art has a very influential way to foster international connections and collaborations and can question issues that are happening.

Read more: Maria Sukkar and Durjoy Rahman on supporting artists from your hometown

When I was in Paris at Asia Now art fair, I was talking to an artist from Israel and an artist from Jordan. When these two artists sat together, they realised where the problem lies. I didn’t see a division in their opinion, and I think this is an example of art bridging divides. Art can be used as a very strong tool to solve many of our problems including sustainability and global climate change.

AAS: I think art, at this time, is one of the only tools that we can look to, to unite us or to heal us. Unfortunately, it can also be used and utilised in other ways, but I have faith and hope that we will see a change.

Find out more:

durjoybangladesh.org

aliaalsenussi.com

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Reading time: 10 min
coloured polaroids with pictures of artworks stacked in lines
coloured polaroids with pictures of artworks stacked in lines

Polaroids of artworks at home by Hafsa Alkhudairi

Contemporary art lead for AlUla, Hafsa Alkhudairi, delves into the lives of the pieces in her family’s collections. Writing from the artworks’ perspectives,  she gives a voice to the paintings and sculptures in her family home

“When the world is an ugly and cruel place, remember there are spaces of beauty, and I wanted that beauty to live in my house.” Reem Abbas and I (her daughter) were sitting in our family’s living room when she uttered those words. We chose all the artworks in the space, the two women who are currently still residing in the home. However, Iraqi pioneer artists are the majority of the Abbas-Alkhudairi collection, chosen by Abbas and showcasing her attachment to her heritage and history. “I have lived longer in Saudi than I have lived in Iraq. I feel Saudi, but I am always missing a part of me that I left behind in Iraq.”

I grew up with stories of Baghdad, surrounded by artworks that would tell me about their version of Iraq. I would see how my mother’s stories wove themselves into little histories encapsulated in the artworks she chose to acquire and display in our home and specifically our living room. She brought the piece of herself that she left behind back with her in fragments and memories only she can describe. Their existence in Saudi also recontextualised them and told a new story shared by the generations that have passed through the house and interacted directly or indirectly with the art.

This piece isn’t about me or my mother; it is about the artworks we live with and what they want to say about themselves.

Saadi Al-kaabi, 1997
Acquired by Reem Abbas after Saadi Alkaabi’s exhibition in 1998

I am a number of abstract figures shadowing each other like ghosts of past beings, humans, affected by life’s harsh experiences. My colours are bleak browns and clear whites. I am a moment of sadness and immortalisation of grief. Saadi Al-kaabi produced me as a reaction to the Desert Storm and the darkness of war that tore families and people apart. The hardship of war on humanity is within my nature.

Yet, I am living in a space of beauty and family. I have seen the children turn into adults and have their own children. I exist in a space of family, and I am adorned with images of the family experiencing their lives beyond the horrors of my existence.

I am in awe of who I am; the Gulf War shaped me with bitterness, pain, anger, and grief. When I was first created, I felt no need to pander to more positive emotions. And why should I? I am a product of horrors that have unfolded and evolved into a persona that is unforgiving.

A drawing of bodies in beige and white

Untitled (1997), Saadi Alkaabi. Photographs by Mahmoud Essam, Courtesy of Reem Abbas

I should be arrogantly demanding they remove their photos from me and respect my history and my story, but I feel myself soften towards them, towards their existence. I want to see their happiness and to see them grow and unfold as each year passes. I have seen secrets and moments of celebrations and spent countless hours staring at the family as they stared at the television in front of them.

I also love the curious glances I get, the awe I produce in people, and especially the reflective looks I exchange with those who know me or my creator. The people who live in this house don’t always realise I exist, or they spend hours in my company reflecting on my story.

Maybe I should have been in a museum but I am so grateful to have existed in this space of intimacy and love that gives me the opportunity to separate myself from my own harrowing pain and complicated story. I have become forgiving and loving. A shape that looks over and protects those who pass in front of me and live with them. My figures are no longer ghosts of the past but guardians of the future.

Earthly Wonders Celestial Beings 961, 2019 & 902, 2021
Rand Abdul Jabbar
Acquired through Hafsa Alkhudairi directly from the artist in 2023.

Two pieces of glazed stoneware resting on a table is how people would describe us. Some people are unsure what we are meant to be, but they see the value in our existence and the beauty in our formation. The history we recreate is a moment of reflection, loss, and hope. We rebuild lost stories and recreate them through the inherited knowledge seeping into our very being.

A white petal with a bronze stick in the middle of it

Earthly Wonders Celestial Beings (EWCB) 961 (2019), Rand Abduljabbar. Photographs by Ismail Noor. Courtesy of the artist

Moving into the space we now exist in was a return: a way to connect with the stories that created us. The experience or feeling that produced us reverberated in the walls, hands, and artworks with which we share the space. It is an ongoing conversation between us and the artworks around us. Our fellow art that have migrated to this place and have become our closest companions and confidants. Or we hope that they will… We are young compared to some of the work here. We are learning who we are and where we belong. We are learning how to be within our own ceramics.

Yet, here, we are connected to our ancestral past and connected to the people who live here. They look at us as if they are trying to decipher what we represent and think deeply about our existence in their spheres. We remind them of a form of their home lost in Iraq and not as easily accessible other than through memories or books. So, they are producing stories about us that blend into their story of existence. We are now part of the fabric of their reality. We constantly wonder what they think: are we usable objects or recognise us as art? This also brings up the question of how we want to be interacted with: do we want them to touch us and use us or just look at us?

a red and green stones

EWCB 902 (2021) Rand Abduljabbar. Photographs by Ismail Noor. Courtesy of the artist

We are new in this space, so we feel young and naive with so much growth to achieve and exact in this space. We will grow into the environment with the people who exist here. We will grow into the atmosphere with the artworks that surround us. Soon, we’ll break barriers and become more relaxed around each other and those around us. Soon, we’ll start teasing each other and enjoying our existence without pretences or intimidation.

Suad AlAttar, 1978
Gifted to Reem Abbas by her mother, Asmaa Algailani, who acquired it directly from the artist, Year Unknown.

I moved around between multiple homes in Baghdad, Iraq and then to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I feel my story and meaning have changed with every exchange of places. I am the manifestation of memory. I am a reminder for the woman, the matriarch, who sat with me most, of her life in Baghdad and the stories we have witnessed or experienced together. Yet, I am no longer the artwork that existed in that city, I am now recontextualised, placed into a position of nostalgia instead of reality.

In front of me is Saadi Alkaabi, and we look like we are a pair, but we truly aren’t. But we keep having conversations because we see the chaos and childhoods around us differently. I am older, so instead of just feeling softness towards the family. I feel like I am part of their family: I have seen all the children grow from babies to strong adults with their own babies. I remember them running around screaming and laughing and now I see the next generation doing the same. They pass by me whenever they want, pretending to be in a jungle instead of a living room.

A drawing a tree with a dark hole in the trunk

Untitled (1978), Suad AlAttar, photographs by Mahmoud Essam. Courtesy of Reem Abbas

However, my relationship with them isn’t as strong as it is with the matriarch. We look at each other and understand. She sees in me the fogginess of the mind and I see in her the struggle to be at peace. We are both survivors. We have fought hard to be where we are, but that doesn’t mean we don’t understand the nuances of our existence. We may not have had to struggle continuously like some of our peers who stayed behind in Baghdad but there is a pain in the diaspora and there is peace. Peace isn’t just the lack of war but it is a state of mind once acceptance fully sets in. We have accepted our new circumstances.

I represent a mind produced through leaves and tree trunks, complicated and nuanced but simple in existence. I am a reminder of a land and a time that will never be. Stories told in love and pain. I am humble enough to realise I am only part of the story, and it will continue past me into the next generation. Yet I am immortalised in my frame, holding vigil, protecting the memories I hold and will hold as the women of this family continuously confide in me. We had to leave Baghdad but Baghdad never left us. Yet we live and continue to thrive despite the hardship of leaving behind our histories.

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Reading time: 8 min
A man wearing a green, yellow and purple colourful top putting on red sunglasses
A man wearing a green, yellow and purple colourful top putting on red sunglasses

Edoardo Monti

In the seventh part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Edoardo Monti, who at 26 established an artist residency at his family’s 13th-century Brescia palazzo. Since 2017, it has already hosted more than 200 artists from 50 countries

LUX: Palazzo Monti is very significant architecturally. Does it influence your artists?
Edoardo Monti: The palazzo has a powerful effect. It is calming, it has stunning light and there is lots of space, so you can focus on your art in private during the day, but there is always someone in the communal spaces to chat with. The city, too, leaves an imprint. Bergamo and Brescia are Italian Capital of Culture 2023, and there are many cultural activities and museums that help with research and production. Lastly, there are the artists: they create a beautiful bond that carries on after they leave Italy.

A table and chairs in a room with art leaning on the walls

Pescatarians in the Hands of an Angry God, 2017, by Chloe Wise; Edo a Tavola, 2019, by Maria Fragola, and Late Breakfast, 2019, by Kyle Vu-Dunn, at Palazzo Monti

LUX: How do you choose the artists?
EM: We receive more than 700 monthly requests. We don’t care whether artists studied or are self taught, where they live or their age. We just look for art we have never seen before.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What is your favourite Palazzo artwork?
EM: I can’t get enough of Interior III by Christina Kimeze. It shows the artist and my dog, Beatrice.

A painting of a green monster on top of a wooden table

View of Nobody Like You/ Nobody’s Going to F*ck Me Like Me, 2019, by Sophie Spedding at Palazzo Monti

LUX: You worked for 10 years at Stella McCartney. Why did you change direction?
EM: I left Italy at 18, so it felt natural to move back when I was 26 and live as an adult in the country I love. Then there was the palazzo, where I had never lived, but which I thought had so much potential, and wanted to help express. Lastly, I had started collecting art at 14 – mainly figurative art, which is still a main focus – and I wanted to dedicate myself to my passion, working with artists from around the world.

LUX: What were the challenges?
EM: I missed NYC for a while, but Italy is pretty awesome, too. The challenge was to become known in the art world, which we did through social media and our alumni, as each becomes an ambassador back in their own city.

A white marble staircase in a hallway with painted walls and large wooden doors

A view of the Palazzo Monti with hints of its art residencies

LUX: Do you choose the artists to fit together?
EM: We don’t strategise. We host three artists at a time, and have been lucky to have groups that bonded. We have a large communal kitchen and dining area, where we often enjoy dinners together. We can’t guarantee positive experiences, nor wish to impose a social life. We respect that some artists come to enjoy living in a centuries-old palazzo and to work in our large studios.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Arturo Galansino

LUX: What are your aspirations now for Palazzo Monti?
EM: We want to work more with curators so our artists have even more support. We are also opening our exhibition spaces to other projects, as we become more of a cultural centre with a residency, exhibitions and a private museum.

Find out more: palazzomonti.org

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 3 min
A building exterior with a picture on it showing the inside of the building in grey as if the wall has been bashed through
A building exterior with a picture on it showing the inside of the building in grey as if the wall has been bashed through

La Ferita (The Wound), 2021, by JR at Palazzo Strozzi

In the sixth part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Arturo Galansino, director of the public-private Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, which opened an art space in Florence in 2006, and maintains a bold programme of exhibitions from Old Masters to contemporary art, creating a dynamic dialogue

LUX: Did you ever think you would make such an impact in Florence?
Arturo Galansino: It is beyond our expectations. I have been here for eight years and Palazzo Strozzi is the most successful exhibition space in Italy with the shift in 2016 to introduce contemporary art, bring important artists to create work here and create a public to see it. We are happy to have helped change the identity of this city, which is no longer a city of the past, but a protagonist of the present.

Two men standing in front of a painting of the Mona Lisa in blue

Arturo Galansino with artist Yan Pei-Ming

LUX: Would Florence locals Michelangelo and Leonardo approve of Koons and Abramović?
AG: I hope they would be happy to see Florence generating a contemporary art discussion from their legacy. And I believe Bernini would love what Jeff Koons is doing.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: How was it working with Jeff Koons?
AG: He comes to all the exhibitions, especially the Old Masters – we spent a lot of time at our Donatello, which was the exhibition of 2022 worldwide. Jeff loves so much what he sees, he wants to understand how it works. He told me he’s using a new idea inspired by how Donatello used bronze so economically – leaving the hidden parts without bronze. These discoveries are so exciting for artists who work with matter, and for me it was an unbelievable experience.

A room with wooden floors and benches and a metal snake hanging on the wall

The Snake Bag, 2008, by
Ai Weiwei at “Ai Weiwei Libero” at Palazzo Strozzi, 2017

LUX: Are you bringing a new crowd to Florence?
AG: In Florence, we have mass tourism. Tourists race to the Uffizi and maybe the Accademia, visit Botticelli and David and don’t even sleep here. We have fewer visitors than the Uffizi, but they come for longer and often return. They explore Florence – a special perfume shop, a little church they don’t know. So we create a tourism that doesn’t occupy only two spots. It also helps to make a more sustainable economy.

A man wearing a suit and blue tie standing in front of a bust of a horse

Arturo Galansino

LUX: Can you speak about “Let’s Get Digital!”.
AG: We saw the digital phenomenon in 2020, and wanted to be the first institution to make a significant show with it. We had such a success. Every day we had thousands of people mesmerised by images from the six most successful digital artists of this moment. And we could explain this new art, too.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Beatrice Trussardi

When we opened, in 2022, there was the collapse of cryptocurrency, which was so associated with NFTs, so it was a critical moment and were part of it.

A red painting of a man boxing

Bruce Lee, 2007, by Yan Pei-Ming, from “Painting Histories” at Palazzo Strozzi, 2023

LUX: Finally, do Italians still think this is a country of history, not contemporary art?
AG: Artistic history is part of our identity and I am very proud of it. What we should do is try to reinterpret its value towards new directions. We have to conserve, but also be progressive and open. I think if we find a balance, Italy could be the country of the future, because we have everything the world is looking for.

Find out more: palazzostrozzi.org

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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A blonde woman wearing a white shirt and white trousers standing next to a table with a blue vase and a red ornament
A blonde woman wearing a white shirt and white trousers standing next to a table with a blue vase and a red ornament

Beatrice Trussardi, President of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and founder of the Fondazione Beatrice Trussardi

In the fifth part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Beatrice Trussardi who as President of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and more recently founder of the Fondazione Beatrice Trussardi, produces public encounters with art in unexpected places

LUX: Was art always a passion?
Beatrice Trussardi: My family had creative friends such as artists and directors, so I grew up in that environment. But it was when I went to New York for university, then worked in the Met, the Guggenheim and MoMA, that I found my path. I went back to Milan to the fashion business, and started my new mission at the family foundation in 1999.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: After New York, did Italy seem a little stuck in the past to you?
BT: In Italy we have so much artistic heritage, but there were only a few contemporary foundations in Milan: my family’s, Prada’s, a few others. After returning from New York, I wanted to bring contemporary art to the public. In 2003, Massimiliano Gioni and I had the idea of making the foundation nomadic, to connect historical buildings and open spaces with contemporary art, bringing art to Milan and making it available to everybody. We took that idea international with my own foundation in 2021.

A theatre with a projection of a face of a boy on the stage curtain

Ludwig, 2018, by Diego Marcon, from “Dramoletti” at Teatro Gerolamo, a puppet theatre in Milan, 2023

LUX: And you wanted to support artists as well as the public?
BT: We always say we make the hidden dreams of artists possible by producing and exhibiting site-specific art projects and exploring powerful subjects, such as migration and human rights. We have worked with many artists including Jeremy Deller, Ibrahim Mahama and Paola Pivi.

Two cars crashed into a mosaic ground with people standing around it

From “Short Cut”, by Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Ottagono at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, 2003

LUX: And it becomes ephemeral?
BT: That is what interests us. We don’t collect the pieces, the artists are free to take them anywhere, to lend the pieces or to sell them. Everything stays in the memory.

A woman wearing a red outfit standing next to an artwork of a woman

Beatrice Trussardi with work by Dorothy Iannone, Suck My Breasts, I Am Your Beautiful Mother, 1970/71

LUX: Does this make a unique experience?
BT: From the first exhibition 20 years ago, we wanted people to say, “What is that?” about the art and the location, because when we choose a location, it’s been abandoned or used for other purposes, so when someone finds an artwork there it is unexpected. It promotes discussion, an educational aspect that is part of our mission.

A man working on a grand piano in an old fashioned room

Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano, No 1, 2008, by Jennifer Allora from “Fault Lines” by Allora & Calzadilla at the Palazzo Cusani, Milan, 2013

LUX: What are your favourite moments?
BT: It is always exciting because it is agile and about catching a particular historical moment. Every time it is different, special, extraordinary.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati

Between lockdowns in 2020, we did a very interesting project, The Sky in a Room, with Ragnar Kjartansson in the Chiesa Lazzaretto, a 16th-century church in Milan, which was built without walls to allow the sick to attend during the plague. The church is in the middle of a field, and only 15 people could be inside at a time, to watch and listen. That was an historical moment, and very, very touching.

Find out more: acaciaweb.it

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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Large spherical sculpture of the earth at an art fair
Large spherical sculpture of the earth at an art fair

Seung-taek Lee’s “Earth Play” was first conceived in 1989, but has become all the more relevant today. Photo by Parker Calvert

Artists and brothers Clayton and Parker Calvert are the founders of NYC culture club in New York. Here, they give us an exclusive glimpse into one of the most prestigious art fairs in the world, describing some stand out pieces – and some unforgettable afterparties…

The weather was chillier than normal for South Beach on Wednesday on the opening day of the 21st edition of Art Basel Miami Beach. The mayor of Miami welcomed guests to a pre-fair breakfast in the Collectors Lounge, setting the tone for the day ahead. Guests and attendees sipped coffee and Ruinart champagne as they browsed the New York Academy of Art booth, sponsored by Chubb.

Art fair image taken from above

A bird’s-eye view of the fair. Photo by Parker Calvert

The energy in the air was palpable as collectors and aficionados eagerly waited the moment when they could rush in for a first view of the fair. The doors opened at 11 and visitors flooded in to survey the scene and find out what was available. Many galleries had pre-sold quite a bit, but there was still plenty of top tier art for purchase as the fair commenced, suggesting a somewhat cooled-off art market.

Archway leading to a complex paper scultpure

Jospin is Ruinart’s Carte Blanche artist for 2023. In this piece, she offers her vision of the terroir of Maison Ruinart, creating a landcape resembling Montagne de Reims. Photo by Parker Calvert

One notable piece was Seung-taek Lee‘s “Earth Play,” presented by Gallery Hyunda in the Meridians section, stood out as a powerful metaphor. Originally conceived as a call to action on environmental issues, the giant balloon adorned with satellite imagery of the Earth now rested partially deflated, a relic from its global travels in the 1990s.

Among the standout booth presentations were Michael Werner‘s brilliantly curated program, Acquavella‘s high-quality historic presentation, Roberts Projects with their consistently innovative approach, and Pace‘s showcase of blue-chip pieces highlighting the greatness of various artists. The Convention Center buzzed with activity as celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Venus Williams, Shakira, Cindy Crawford, Joe Montana, and JR mingled with guests amid the art.

Janelle Monet performing in a large black and white coat

Janelle Monet performing at the Tropicale and the Miami Beach EDITION. Photo by Clayton Calvert

The perfect end to a long day at the fair was the toast Ruinart hosted with Eva Jospin to celebrate the finale of their year long collaboration. Eva is an alchemist, turning cardboard into extraordinary masterpieces while also referencing classical architecture and nature.

I think it is safe to say Eva is an alchemist, turning cardboard into extraordinary masterpieces while also referencing classical architecture and nature. Mickalene Thomas always throws some of the most memorable parties at the fair. This year she partnered with Janelle Monae for a poolside concert that was not to be missed. Janelle electrified the crowd with a high energy performance complete with her signature vocals and inimitable dance moves before she finally jumped in the pool after the last song of her set. She graciously got back on stage, soaking wet, to belt out a couple more notes and thank everyone for being there.

Dwayne Wade in sunglassses making an announcment

Dwyane Wade at the Soho Beach House. Photo by Parker Calvert

Soho House always packs a punch during the art filled week and this year they partnered with Porsche on an opening day beach tent event with Juvenile as the headliner. Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade introduced the artist before a high-energy performance that spanned 16 songs, blending new and old material.

Other Art week standouts included Design Miami, always an extraordinary presentation of cutting edge and historic design. Friedman Benda‘s exceptional booth featured a rare wood-carved two-seat bench by Wendell Castle and a curvilinear bench made of red travertine by Najla El Zein. New Art Dealers Alliance continued its tradition of being a fair for discoveries, with Storage Gallery presenting Michiko Itatani’s captivating solo exhibition.

Man standing with artwork

Storage Gallery creator Onyedika Chuke at NADA Miami 2023. Photo by Parker Calvert

Tariku Shiferaw‘s piece at Galerie Lelong stood out, resembling a night sky or twilight landscape with its subtle hues and intricate detailing. Perrier Jouet’s collaboration with Fernando Laposse took center stage at both Design Miami and Soho House, paying homage to flora and fauna, emphasizing the delicate beauty and fragility of the natural world. Laposse’s presentation at Soho House drew a captivated audience eager to delve deeper into the series.

It is safe to say that the art world is alive and well in Miami.

Parker and Clayton Calvert conceived The NYC Culture Club is a project offering opportunities for curators and artists to have exhibitions free of charge.

Find out more: nyccultureclub.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Woman with white hair and glasses crossing her arms and smiling

Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati in the Sala Ontani. Photo by Giovanni de Sandre via Fondazione Luigi Rovati

LUX speaks to Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati At the Fondazione Luigi Rovati in Milan, where she is putting experimental dialogues between ancient and contemporary art, and artistic and scientific enquiry at the heart of an original project

LUX: You trained in medicine and science and worked in pharmaceuticals. Does that give you a different way of perceiving art?
Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati: Culture and art are unpredictable, and so are research and scientific discovery – both form the basis of Humanism. Openness and curiosity have always marked my experiences and my scientific training leads me to experiment with new artistic languages. The idea of connecting art and science led to establishing the Fondazione Luigi Rovati.

Purple room filled with art

Old meets new in the fondazione’s Sala Ontani

LUX: Have you always been fascinated by Etruscan art and craft?
GFR: I became interested in contemporary art in the 1990s in New York, while my husband Lucio is passionate about classical art, in particular Etruscan. Through our passions, we realised that there is an extraordinary dialogue between the ancient and contemporary. The project we share is focused on this.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Are there links between modern and contemporary art and ancient art?
GFR: Certainly, yes, there is a link between them. The aim of the fondazione is to represent and explain these links, but it is also the opposite: reading archaeology in the contemporary world opens it up to new visions.

Grand hall with white walls

The hall of the palazzo housing the fondazione

LUX: Your foundation combines a top-floor Michelin-starred restaurant, ground-floor bistro and garden, viewing rooms and a contemporary architectural creation underground. Why is that?
GFR: Establishing the fondazione was a constantly evolving process. “Wonder” is the word most used by our visitors, the same word used to define the great Renaissance artworks. Visiting a museum means experiencing moments of pleasure and wellbeing in the very beauty of the museum. First, the immersion in the art, but also being in the garden, shop, bistro or restaurant.

Dark room with artwork

“Living in an Etruscan City” on the hypogeum floor

LUX: Do ordinary people have little chance to view great art, now so much of it is owned by private collectors?
GFR: Yes, there are many collectors don’t show their works, but many others open private museums. In our case, the fondazione acquired Italian art collections from abroad and from private Italian collections specifically to display them in our museum. Our vision is to implement a project of inclusion and social utility.

Stone stature in the middle of the room

An installation view in the Sala Paolini

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

LUX: What are your ambitions for the fondazione?
GFR: To become a global point of reference and to export our model worldwide, discovering or rediscovering artists and languages, and developing relationships with private and public institutions in Italy.

Find out more: fondazioneluigirovati.org

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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Man in a mask standing next to frames of a crushed car
Pink and purple book on a colourful table

The hardback copy of ‘Confined Artists – Free Spririts: Portraints and Interviews from Lockdown 2020’. Photo by Maryam Eisler

During the lockdown of 2020, Maryam Eisler brought together 164 of the world’s most influential artists, interviewing and photographing them over video calls to create a unique series of portraits and accompanying insights. As we anticipate the physical launch of Confined Artists – Free Spirits: Portraits & Interviews from Lockdown 2020, Trudy Ross speaks to Maryam about looking back on her unique creative journey from a post-pandemic perspective

It was April 2020, and Maryam Eisler was feeling restless. With her usual schedule of travelling round the world, exploring and creating curtailed, she sat at home pondering a life without movement. Thus, in a rare circumstance of  stasis, a one-of-a-kind project was born.

The result? 164 conversations, 164 unique portraits, and their assemblage as a wider piece of art. An exploration into the minds and hearts of artists across the globe during one of the most significant historical events in many of our lifetimes. As she says herself, it is: “a collective stamp of a moment in time. It is a memory, a capsule of a moment in history.” She managed to capture an important frame in the history of the modern art world.

Man in a mask standing next to frames of a crushed car

Ron Arad seeing his work Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me? for the first time at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2020. Photo by Ron Arad and Associates Limited

The project’s first form was a digital exhibition on the LUX website shortly after its completion, which garnered so much traction that it actually crashed the LUX website when it went live. Now there is a new launch happening this week, a physical one, for a hardback book entitled: Confined Artists – Free Spirits: Portraits and Interviews from Lockdown 2020. Shaped like a tall rectangle to imitate a smartphone, each slick copy brings Maryam’s virtual interviews and Facetime-facilitated photography beyond the screen and into the physical world.

Over three years later, with the pandemic behind us – indeed, almost forgotten about by many in society – I spoke to Maryam about her time spent on this original project and the inspiration behind it.

“Artists are always very symbolic of their time,” she says. “Their ways of thinking and philosophies are often very much a reflection of the historical time that they live in, and this manifests in their artworks. I was intrigued to see how that particular community was dealing with the COVID issue from a psychological perspective, an emotional perspective, and also from a logistical perspective of production.”

Artist Ron Arad, one of the interviewees, spoke to LUX about the practicalities of production these strange times; “I did a lot during lockdown, including buying cars online, an old red Mercedes, and then flattening it online by giving instructions over Zoom to a team in Holland. I saw that piece for the first time on the walls of the Royal Academy […] It is very strange to know a piece intimately and work on it intensely, but to have never touched it.”

Originally, Maryam set her sights on thirty artists in total, but after receiving a resounding yes from everyone she reached out to – very rare in the world of overstretched artists in demand – she decided to keep going. And going. And going.

Screenshot of a woman in multiple mirrors

Es Devlin. Photo by Maryam Eisler

It became a routine for her, she tells me: “I had my desk set up in the kitchen, I had my roster, my Rolodex, and I would spend one day interviewing and one day organising.” Each conversation enriched her mind and gave her new perspectives on unprecedented times.

Beyond this, it was a creative exercise; she had a creative vision for each portrait, and aimed to allow each artist’s personality and areas of focus to shine through. When I ask her about some of her favourites, she says: “Off the cuff, I can remember Es Devlin; she put herself in front of a refractory mirror so you could see her face several times, which is very in line with her aesthetic and ethos. Charlotte Colbert uses eyes a lot on her work – indeed, eyes were a symbol that recurred throughout the project – so she had this massive eye that she put in front of another, so she had this distorted hawking out eye, an inanimate object, versus her regular blue eyes. With Edmund de Waal I remember clearly saying hold the camera a little bit more that way just a little bit more, so I could see the geometric designs and patterns in the studio ceiling. We had of course a lot of artists in front of their works which was one more straightforward but still telling approach. Melanie Dunea is one of my favourite portraits; she is holding a magnifying glass in front of one eye so, again, she has one eye protruding.”

Edmund de Waal by Maryam Eisler

“When you go through it you can see some artists’ attitudes in their portraits reflected in their words. Some are incredibly peaceful, and you can see the sense of serenity and peace in their face. In others you can see fear, and potentially anger. There was a real degree of playfulness from others. Philip Colbert, with his lobster alter ego and his mask, for instance.”

The project not only allowed interested readers to gain insight into the lives of artists in extraordinary times – it also touched the artists themselves profoundly. Shirin Neshat comments that: “Maryam came knocking at artists’ doors with lightness, sense of humour and ease when everyone felt utterly isolated and lost. Her zoom’s conversations felt comforting and a reminder of artists’ need for a community especially in times of crisis.”

Shirin Neshat by Maryam Eisler

Further still, the project touches on the fraught political landscape of the moment. Maryam highlighted the importance of chronology when putting the book together: “ as you read through, there is not only an art-historical progression, there is a political progression. Towards the end of the project in June is when the Black Lives Matter movement was beginning. The last profile of the book is about breathing – not in connection with the virus, but in connection with George Floyd.”

Mickalene Thomas takes the final, impactful slot in this book of over 150 famous artists, speaking to Maryam on 30th June, 2020. She calls upon the world to “say her damn name”, cementing in print the names of tens of black women who lost their lives at the hands of police enforcement – just a fraction of the total black lives lost this way.

Thomas’ words leave an imprint in the mind of the reader, and the project itself leaves an imprint on the timeline of the modern art world.

Find out more: www.maryameisler.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Collage of black and white digital artworks

A collage of works from Ash Thorp’s ‘Nascent’ series (2022)

California-based Ash Thorp is a digital artist who creates complex, conceptual artworks. LUX met him recently at a solo show of his works on the giant screens of the W1 Curates space in Soho, London, during the Frieze Art Fair, an exhibition supported by uber-creative super luxury watch brand Richard Mille. We caught up with him in his studio in San Diego, southern California, to speak about past projects, future plans, and the tide of digital art.

LUX: You first started with traditional art and then transferred into digital art. Does digital art creates more of a dialogue between the art and viewer than traditional art?
Ash Thorp: All forms of art serve diverse purposes and employ their own unique mechanisms to engage viewers. For me, the key distinction with the dialogue digital art creates is its symbiotic relationship with the advancement of humanity. Technology plays a pivotal role in shaping our world in this current era and digital art is intricately linked to it. It mirrors the current state of our society and reflects our ongoing transformation as a species. This connection introduces multifaceted levels of engagement, contributing utility and value, not just to the artist but also to the audience.

LUX: You have mentioned a 80/20 rule in our discussions about your art.  Can you elaborate this?
AT: I strive to supply 80% of the context and intention of the artwork, and then invite you, the viewer, to extrapolate and complete the remaining 20% based on your own narration. The hope of this artistic intention is to prompt you to apply your own personal values, make predictions, form estimations, and view the piece through your unique lens. My role is merely to provide an initial platform upon which you can create further dialogue. I believe that art is most potent when it transforms into a conversation between the creator’s intent and the viewer’s interpretation by provoking questions, stimulating thoughts, and evoking emotions.

I welcome and value this engagement with my work, urging viewers to explore further and contemplate the underlying themes and ideas that elicit their thoughts and feelings.

An array of brightly coloured pills

The Happiness Pills from Thorp’s ‘Nascent’ Series’

LUX: Is training in traditional art fundamental to the practice of digital art?
AT: I believe in order to develop a profound understanding of any chosen pursuit, it is important to understand its origin and then dedicate yourself to its further exploration. This journey of self-discovery involves understanding one’s place in the artistic landscape, appreciating the work of those who came before, and gaining insights into how they expressed themselves. My early exposure to the traditional fundamentals of art during my formative years provided invaluable insights into the development of my current artistic practice. Absorbing as much knowledge as possible from all pathways will help cultivate a diverse and enriched mind, thereby benefitting both the individual and the broader world.

LUX: AI is, of course, the buzz topic of the current moment. How do you think it will shape our view of digital art?
AT: The ever-present allure of being introduced to anything new and technologically significant is a phenomenon that can be very captivating; in the realm of art currently, this is the integration of AI. While AI can provide an alluring spectrum of possibilities, allowing it to assume a dominant role in the creative process doesn’t evoke the same intrinsic value for me. I believe the essence of artistry is found in the triumphs and pitfalls, of creating it, and being able to experience the pure joy and raw emotions resulting from personal exploration and discovery.

Two images on panels one dark and one light

Balaclava by Ash Thorp from the ‘Nascent’ series

LUX: Do you feel that the AI-employed art is still yours?
AT: The ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI, particularly in generating content, hinge on the specifics of the training model and the group of data utilized. Before AI, plagiarism was more easily tracked back to a distinct source and straightforwardly deemed a transgression in any form of communication. Now we seem to be entering a new era without transparency and a range of polarizing answers to this question. The implications of this ongoing debate will profoundly change the art industry and the world. Ultimately, our actions should not deprive oneself or others of an authentic mind and voice.

LUX: In terms of collecting and selling, how will new concepts such as crypto art, blockchain and NFTs change finances in the art world?
AT: The value of art has always been subjective, based on its own unique currency determined by those who acknowledge and collect it, but not always made public. Blockchain and NFT technology facilitate an evolution of this valuation process by transparently enhancing the public tracking of changes in ownership and value. Works of the past involve an extensive review process to determine proprietorship and authenticity which can now be more easily verified with technology.

LUX: You recently featured at Frieze London collaborating with W1 Curates, Seth Troxler and Richard Mille. How did you find the collaboration and do you enjoy digital art’s interdisciplinary possibilities?
AT: Showcasing an art exhibition during Frieze London was a monumental and wonderful experience. I greatly enjoyed working with everyone at W1 Curates and being introduced to Seth Troxler and the team at Richard Mille. Bridging the relationship across multiple industries through art created such a profound moment which everyone celebrated and commemorated together. This blending of media should hopefully inspire others to continue to follow suit with future collaborations and more venues, as it truly creates a surreal magical experience.

LUX: You have a particular interest in cars. What inspires you about them?
AT: My fascination with cars is a childhood passion that has endured time. The love of cars encapsulates so many aspects I cherish in life: the intricate design, precise engineering, scientific underpinnings, technological marvels, and the connection between humans and machines. I don’t merely see cars as vehicles of transportation. I enjoy the mental retreat to a space of childlike innocence, and perceive the deep-rooted romance within them.

Two art pictures side by side, the first of the back of white heads and the second of a robot like sculpture

Following by Ash Thorp from the ‘Nascent’ series

LUX: How has your digital art changed over time?

AT: Previously my work was primarily recognized on feature films like the Batman, but now I’m also able to showcase the more personal evolution of my digital art with blockchain technology. I’ve found the opportunity to delve deeply into a personal journey of my thoughts and curiosities. It’s a transformative journey that has significantly shaped both my perspective and my artistic endeavors, granting me the sovereignty to explore.

LUX: What are your upcoming projects and where do you see your art heading?
AT: I’m currently engaged in several exciting projects that cannot be disclosed just yet until their public release. As for the direction of my art, my overarching objective is to continue self-discovery, to understand further why I create this work, and to recurrently explore the fundamental answers to life.

We’re talking over Zoom and email. Though technology facilitates our distanced conversation – San Diego to London – in my opinion, it is less personal than an in person meeting. Are there areas of digital art which, relying on technology rather than the body or physical tools, make the relationship to the artist less personal? If so, does it matter?
Art curation is necessary and often overlooked in the digital space, primarily due to the convenience of technology.  Traditional works often demand a dedicated physical visit to a specific gallery or institution, which assists a narrative that it must be of higher value and experience. The challenge for digital art lies in finding opportunities for it be equitably appreciated and valued, for it to be seen to enhance our lives as much as any other form of art.

Find out more: www.altcinc.com

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Reading time: 6 min
A galley with black walls and red paintings
A galley with black walls and red paintings

Works by Thawan Duchanee at The Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok

Boonchai Bencharongkul founded The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Bangkok in 2012 to create a space to appreciate the works of talented Thai artists. Here, Boonchai Bencharongkul and his co-owner son, Kit Kanachai Bencharongkul, speak to Samantha Welsh about the Thai artists inspiring them and the growth of the collection

LUX: You are renowned for your drive to succeed in everything you do. Where does this come from?
Boonchai Bencharongkul: When my father passed away, he left me with a significant responsibility – to take care of everything that he held dear and worked so hard for. He was a perfectionist and a self-made man, which made following in his footsteps quite a challenge. Fortunately, being a business student and part-time art student allowed me to blend these two worlds together. Art has given me the ability to think freely and imagine beyond the constraints of economics and commerce. I have been doing my best to excel in everything I do, pushing my limits as much as possible.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

I remember someone once telling me, “If you want to go to the moon, just try to go as far as you can. Even reaching halfway is an accomplishment.” It’s fascinating to see that humanity is now building a space station halfway to the moon, proving that progress can be made even when we strive for ambitious goals. When I was young, I had a strong desire to pursue a career as an artist. I believe I had the potential to become a successful artist. However, I had to make a decision that aligned with my father’s wishes and also helped me manage the debt for our family business at that time. In retrospect, I think everything worked out for the best. While I may not have followed my artistic passion, I was able to make responsible choices that benefited me in the long run.

A man standing by a painting in a blue suit with his arms folded

Boonchai Bencharongkul

LUX: What characteristics do entrepreneurs and philanthropists share?
BB: An entrepreneur is someone who creates businesses or corporations and brings their visions to life. Similarly, a philanthropist must also possess a vision to see what they can do to make a positive impact. Both roles require individuals to have a clear understanding of their strengths and abilities. Additionally, they must possess the skill to effectively manage budgets. It is crucial to avoid situations where a social fund or foundation runs out of budget halfway through a project. For instance, in my own experience with my foundation “Ruk ban kerd,” where I provided scholarships for thousands of students from grade 7 to university graduation, I had to carefully calculate how much money I could allocate and for how many years I could sustain the scholarship program. This allowed me to ensure the longevity and effectiveness of the program.

Kit Kanachai Bencharongkul: I believe that both entrepreneurs and philanthropists excel in the realm of business. It is likely that they share common traits such as being innovative, creative, and skilled in making strategic decisions.

A man wearing black with his arms folded standing in front of a red, black, green and yellow asian painting

Kit Kanachai Bencharongkul

LUX: What was your vision for founding MOCA?
BB: First of all I must admit, it’s not only my vision but Thawan Duchanee’s vision. Thawan is one of the greatest figures in Thai modern art. And he made me a bargain: he didn’t give me a timeline but he said that if I were to make a place where Thai artists can place their works permanently on display, in return I would not have to chase after his paintings anymore. I would be the first to see and choose his paintings – on the condition that I go to all artists’ show openings with him. He also told me in Thai the saying “be those raindrops on the cracking hard soil”, to give life back to the country with these amazing artworks. Our establishment was most likely one of the first private art museums in Thailand of this magnitude. As a result, collectors and individuals who are interested in creating their own private museums can consider us as a prototype or model to guide them in their endeavours. The more museums and art spaces we have, the better it is for the country.

LUX: Is there method in the madness of collecting?
BB: With my art collection I initially focused on acquiring works that align with my own artistic style, specifically surrealism. Additionally, I developed a strong appreciation for Thai art, which was not extensively taught in the US. Beyond these preferences, I followed my passion when selecting artworks. I believe I have a good understanding of art, so I rely on my instinct when deciding which pieces to acquire, whether they are abstract, surreal, or Thai art. I also take into consideration what the general public might find enjoyable.

A white room with white lit up art on the walls

Ramayana masks and Asian masks from the Museum’s permanent collection

LUX: Why are dreams and mythology so central to the Thai psyche?
BB: During the past century, Thailand underwent significant development but also witnessed huge disparities in wealth and social class. In rural areas, it was common for individuals to face extreme poverty to the extent they had no money to feed themselves. In desperate situations, some had to resort to selling their families or animals for much-needed funds. Although it may sound primitive, this unfortunate reality existed. As a result, the dreams, soap operas and the tales they enjoyed became a means of escape, portraying unrealistic scenarios such as a poor village girl meeting a prince from the city. These stories served as a source of hope and comfort in Thai culture, reminding individuals that even in the most challenging and hopeless situations, it is important to maintain a positive outlook and a smile.

LUX: Which artists have inspired your curation journey?
BB: Two artists I particularly admire are Thawan Duchanee and Modigliani. Thawan Duchanee’s work captivates me, and Modigliani’s portrait paintings, with their elongated necks, have a unique and striking appeal. Salvador Dalí is another artist I admire. There are numerous painters who inspire me, and sometimes it only takes one or two of their paintings to make a profound impact. When it comes to collecting, I don’t limit myself to a specific style. Instead, I collect what I personally enjoy and what I believe others will appreciate as well. I strive to gather pieces that have the power to make people pause and truly appreciate their beauty.

KB: Having spent over a decade as a fashion photographer, and having a background in architecture, I draw constant inspiration from the world of photography and three-dimensional spatial artworks. The works of photographers like Tim Walker, Guy Bourdin, Gregory Crewdson, Erwin Olaf and Steven Klein have greatly influenced my creative journey. Furthermore, artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Xu Zhen, James Turrell and Anish Kapoor captivate me with their boundless creativity and innovative approaches. Meanwhile, I also hold a deep appreciation for painters like Rothko and David Hockney, just to name a few

A blue room with paintings on the walls and benches in the middle of the room

The MOCA Bangkok’s ‘Bloom Room’

LUX: As an early collector of multi-sensorial, immersive art, why was this so compelling for you?
BB: These artists have a unique ability to convey the true meaning and expression behind their work. When you experience these works, you can truly feel, see, and be a part of the emotions and messages they are trying to convey. Their art has a powerful way of connecting with viewers on a deep and personal level.

LUX: How is MOCA continuing to grow the collection?
BB: I am currently immersing myself in the rich heritage of South East Asian art, delving into the roots of this captivating artistic tradition. My latest endeavour involves curating an exhibition that explores the earliest moments of Asian civilization, spanning back an impressive 2300 years. Through meticulous research and analysis, I am unearthing fascinating insights from a time when historical records and archaeological evidence were scarce. By studying trade patterns between South East Asia, China, and India, I have discovered intriguing connections, such as the inclusion of a lantern from Rome in the collection of our country, dating back 1500 years. This exhibition aims to shed light on the cultural exchanges and influences that shaped the artistic landscape of ancient South East Asia. Therefore I’m commissioning more works under this theme and topic of this unknown history.

A museum with red walls and black and yellow paintings

More works by Thawan Duchanee at MOCA Bangkok

KB: When it comes to expanding the collection, my personal taste and how well a piece fits within the existing collection are the primary factors I consider. However, my father’s collection is already quite extensive, so my focus is less on acquiring new pieces and more on hosting temporary exhibitions. Currently we curate a new show almost every month, offering a diverse range of art forms, from paintings, to photography, to digital and the performing arts. These exhibitions cater to a variety of audiences, attracting individuals who may not typically visit or be familiar with our museum. It’s truly enjoyable to bring together different crowds and introduce them to the world of art! Additionally, I have plans to collaborate with more international artists for future exhibitions, thereby further enhancing our museum’s offerings.

Read more: Aliya and Farouk Khan on the Malaysian contemporary art scene

LUX: What advice did you offer your son when you handed him the reins of the family business?
BB: My son is thriving, and I take pleasure in imparting daily guidance to him, knowing that one day he will have full control. I aspire to live until the age of 90, relishing the opportunity to continue to collaborate with my son and work together. The museum holds a special place in my heart as I find great delight in being there and contemplating our next steps. Often, I encounter individuals whose elderly parents express feelings of depression and boredom. In response, I inform them that if their parents are over 60, they can visit the museum free of charge. It is my hope that we can contribute to brightening people’s days through the enchantment of art. My sole advice to my son is to continue creating joy for others, as it is our devoted mission to serve the public in this manner.

white building with light coming through

The Atrium Space at the MOCA Bangkok

KB: Although my dad hasn’t completely handed all control of the museum to me (and I don’t think he ever will, as he takes great pride in it!) I am here to assist him in reaching a younger audience and to adapt to the ever-changing world of art. He has been supportive and open to my ideas and contributions to the curations and events we put on. While he hasn’t given me specific advice, he always encourages me to have fun and enjoy what I do. However, this can be challenging, as there is a stark difference between loving and appreciating art and managing the financial responsibilities of running a museum. It can be quite stressful at times but I make an effort to find enjoyment in my work because of my deep love for art.

Find out more: mocabangkok.com

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Reading time: 9 min
thread hanging on a wall coming of a textile
thread hanging on a wall coming of a textile

Works by Aiko Tezuka on display at Asia Now Paris in the Majhi International Art Residency booth

The Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) continues its mission to bridge the art communities from the East and the West through the Majhi International Art Residency, this year taking place in Paris

The Majhi International Art Residency was started by DBF in 2019, with its first edition in Venice. Since then, the residency has taken place every year in different locations in Europe including Berlin, Eindhoven, Amsterdam at the renowned Rijksakademie, and now Paris.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This year’s two-week residency programme saw three artists from Asia and the Asian diaspora creating new works for an exhibition curated by Ricko Leung. Ricko Leung was born and raised in Hong Kong but has lived in Paris since 2014. Her art and curation focus on topics including, fear and control, cultural identity, and post-colonialism, as well as eco-feminism.

4 women standing together outside a building in Paris

The artists and curator involved at the residency, left to right: Aiko Tezuka, Ricko Leung, Raisa Kabir and Rajyashri Goody

The theme of this exhibition was textile and indigo, in particular, around the history and meaning of indigo, being a material very closely tied to the colonial history of Bengal. Indigo is a material also used very frequently in the textile industry, which coincided with the focus of the venue partner, Asia Now Paris. The artists selected for the residency were Raisa Kabir, Aiko Tezuka and Rajyashri Goody.

Raisa Kabir is an artist, textiles researcher and weaver based in London. Kabir’s creations cover the interwoven cultural politics of cloth, archives of the body and colonial geographies, by using woven text and textiles, sound, video and performance.

A room with a red tapestry hanging on the all and pictures hanging on strings beside

Works on display at Asia Now by Rajyashri Goody (right) and Raisa Kabir (left)

Kabir’s (un)weaving performances use queer entanglement to comment on structures of trans-national power, global production, and the relationships between craft and industrial labour. Her work speaks to cultural anxieties surrounding nationhood, textile identities and the cultivation of borders.

Aiko Tezuka was born in Tokyo but has lived in Berlin since 2011. Using different readymade fabrics Aiko produces unique works in which she unravels materials to create new structural forms using her own techniques.

A woven tapestry in pink, blue, yellow and green of a bird flying

Details of an artwork by Aiko Tezuka

Rajyashri Goody is from Pune, India and currently works between India and the Netherlands. She was also a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam from 2021-2023. Goody’s practice has been heavily influenced by both her academic background and her Ambedkarite Dalit roots.

Read more: Mera Rubell on catalysing cultural change

She focuses on messaging around how basic needs of everyday life, including food, nature, language and literacy are actively used as tools to enforce caste rules for generations. She shows this messaging through various mediums incorporating text, voice, paper, pulp, ceramics, photography, printmaking, video and installation into her works.

A poem next to a paper coloured in blue

Indigo not only has strong ties with the colonial history of Bengal, but its pigment is extremely prominent in textiles, which was a point of focus at Asia Now

‘Majhi’ can be translated into English as a ‘leader’ of a house or group of people. In some ways, the Majhi International Art Residency programme acts as a leader by bridging divides, connecting individuals and creating a vibrant channel for the exchange of ideas and experiences.

Find out more: majhi.org

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A painting of a woman reclining on a sofa, with lots of scribbles
A man and woman wearing black standing in front of a colourful painting

Mera and Don Rubell in front of When You See Me Again It Won’t Be Me (from the “Broadwaybrätsch/ Corporate Abstraction” series), 2010, by Kerstin Brätsch

Mera Rubell and her husband Don were the driving force behind the revitalisation of the Miami art scene. Now the collectors aim to do the same for an underserved area of Washington DC, opening a new museum in the US capital. Mera Rubell speaks to Candice Tucker about catalysing cultural change

LUX: Can art promote cultural change?
Mera Rubell: I think art is at the heart of all communication. Art can bring us together emotionally, which is what we’re possibly lacking in this digital age. We’re probably in greater need of emotional contact with each other than ever. Art has the capacity, through the way in which artists communicate, to bring us together, physically. You’re standing in front of a painting and it is there. It is not flashing, it is not about noise, it is about deep reflection into yourself and into the meaning of the work.

A man and woman with black afros about to kiss

A Natural Explosion! Afro Sheen® Blowout Creme Relaxer (from the “Unbranded” series B), 1973/2007, by Hank Willis Thomas

LUX: What most encouraged you and your husband to become involved in the art world?
MR: First, my husband and I have been married for nearly 60 years. There was no mission, art just became part of our life. My husband was a medical student and I was a teacher. We lived in Chelsea, New York, and artists were painting in empty storefronts and living illegally behind their artworks. We fell into that community. We were earning $100 a week and began to support the artists with a payment plan to buy their artworks. We wouldn’t have called ourselves collectors; we thought ourselves, in a very small way, patrons. So we engaged with artists, spent time in their studios and saw how invested they were. It became an obsession. We felt lucky to have found this amazing way to live our lives.

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LUX: Why did you choose Washington DC to set up your second museum?
MR: We loved the museums in DC and had bought a run-down 1960s hotel there. It was in a depressed neighbourhood that had been cut off from the rest of the city by a highway, but we fell in love with this building by, as it turned out, Morris Lapidus. Across the street was an abandoned school that had served African American children. It had been shut down years earlier and artists had moved in. We bought the school. When we got involved with the community, we found the school meant a lot to them as it represented a point of their history that was not torn down – Marvin Gaye was an alumnus. When they learnt we had a museum in Miami they encouraged us to do a neighbourhood museum in the school. We said, “Some of the greatest museums are in Washington, who are we to do this?” They said, “Those are national museums. We want to honour the legacy of this building.” It took 16 years to renovate it. Now we have a programme where any alumnus can return, pick a room with their favourite art in it and tell their stories.

Colourful rainbow artworks in a gallery with light coming through the windows reflected on the ground

Installation view of work by Vaughn Spann at the inaugural group exhibition “What’s Going On”, 2022, Rubell Museum DC

LUX: Do you work differently in each city?
MR: We’re not simply going to take work from Miami to DC. We’re going to find ways to connect with Washington’s history and connect art being made right now to the historical richness of its museums. We were surprised by the welcome all these museums gave us. They appreciate us bringing young kids to DC.

LUX: What factors make an art destination?
MR: Last week in DC, we had a call from the President of Ghana’s office saying they would like to visit. That’s Washington, you never know who will call. Politicians who normally don’t have time to engage with art are starting to. Let’s hope they find more time. You have an educated global crowd and every non-profit there – all people who affect the world. So you hope a contemporary museum with the voices of creative people has an impact. I trust it will. Miami is different. We have tourists from all over the world. It is an exploding metropolis that became a cultural destination. That is the miracle of Miami – and it happened with art. We’re proud to have participated. In DC, we are plugging a museum into an historic building that means a lot to the community. They have seen the demolition of so much of their history and are proud to keep whatever they can of their legacy. We are now part of that.

A tryptic African style painting of figures

L’Incroyable Traversée d’Abdoulaye Le Grand, Troisième de la Lignée, 2022, by Alexandre Diop

LUX: Is it the artist, collectors or people in the community that shape an art community?
MR: All of the above. Hillary Clinton said it: it takes a village. It starts with having talent and giving it freedom and support. You have a lot of young people committed to that and to providing a living for artists. We talk about artists, but there are also writers, curators and teachers. You also need commitments across international borders to support artists. Even art fairs – don’t underestimate their power – and auction houses, they are all part of the mix.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf’s predicted art trends for 2024

LUX: If there was one thing you could change about the art world, what would it be?
MR: I wish there were more affordable spaces for artists to work and live. The abandoned neighbourhoods were perfect places for artists to reinvent. Now populations are growing and it is hard to find neighbourhoods no one has discovered. That was what artists did. Those neighbourhoods have now been demolished or are occupied by people who are desperate, as seen with all this terrible homelessness.

A painting of a woman reclining on a sofa, with lots of scribbles

Honi soit qui mal y pense, 2022, by Alexandre Diop

LUX: What new artists interest you today?
MR: So many! Our artist in residence last year was Alexandre Diop and, oh, what a talent. We pick one artist a year to live and work with us and it is amazing what they do. Alexandre is French – born in Paris to a Senegalese father and a French mother. He’s a dancer, a poet, a musician, and the work he makes is out of control.

Find out more: rubellmuseum.org

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

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colourful orange, pink and green feathers
A woman's reflection by a feather sculptureKate MccGwire is a British artist whose childhood on the Norfolk Broads inspired her to create art around landscapes and wildlife. Often collaborating with fashion brands, MccGwire recently produced a limited edition scarf line with Co-Lab369. Here, Candice Tucker speaks with the artist about linking her nature focused art with the fashion world

LUX: How did you initially get involved with Co-Lab369 and what do you admire about them as a brand?
Kate MccGwire: I met Michelle Lindup, the cofounder of Co-Lab369, about 10-15 years ago in Paris. She was a collector and she bought some of my work at an exhibition. We have stayed in touch and every time I go to Paris, we have lunch together and this discussion about scarves happened during one of those lunches, and it evolved over a period of time.

A brown and dark purple feather print scarf

LUX: You’ve worked on many collaborative projects, from ESKMO, to Iris van Herpen to Helmut Lang. What do you enjoy about collaborative work, and how have you found your latest collaboration with Co-Lab369?
KM: It’s really interesting. It’s a very fine balance, trying to get that ethos straight and we’ve managed to do that. We have worked together for a quite a long time now putting it all together. It’s been a labour of love because Michelle has a really strong background in printed textiles and doing all the sampling, so that was her area of expertise, and my work translates really well into cloth and fabric. The quality of the silk is such a high standard that the lustra of the feathers really come out so it has been really exciting to see it come to life.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

I did a project with Ann Demeulemeester, and my work was on their catwalk show in Paris in 2015 and one of my proudest moments was to see all of these garments which I had worked on, walking down the catwalk in the Palais de Tokyo; it was just such a pinch yourself moment.

Two grey sculptures hung on a wall

LUX: Do you ever find it challenging making sure your vision aligns with the fashion house?
KM: It is always a discussion. There are things I am not prepared to do, I don’t want to change the colours of the feathers, for example. They are all the original colours of the feathers that I work with, and nothing is dyed. I wouldn’t die any feather on my work as I wouldn’t want the colours not to be original to the bird which I think is important.

Black and grey feather print scarf

LUX: You work in many mediums – from sculpture to film to drawing. How have you found incorporating fashion into your work?
KM: I love fashion. I am not a fashionista at all, but I really admire it. The thing I don’t like about fashion is it’s so seasonal. I like to buy something that lasts and is an iconic piece, like the dress I’m wearing now, an Issey Miyake dress. I know that it will be good for years, and I think that about the scarf. It’s not a seasonal thing, it’s not the seasons colour, it’s nature’s colour, it’s not going to go out of fashion, it is a limited edition beautiful aesthetic piece that will last for years.

A large feather print rug under a coffee table in a drawing room

There are a very small numbers of scarves. For some of them there are only 50 and for others, 200. It’s early days and at the moment, it’s a very small unique range. Someone who wants to buy one from me has already said “I want to frame it”. My work is very labour intensive and therefore quite expensive so it’s a way for people who love my work, to having something, enjoy the work, but not having to spend so much.

colourful orange, pink and green feathers

LUX: How do you feel about people wearing your art, and would you say that performance, or wearable, art is of particular importance now?
KM: I’m rather subversive in the fact that I love the idea of people wearing something they regard as ‘rats with wings’, pigeons, around their neck. It tickles my humour that that is a possibility, that you can transform someone’s opinion of something being disgusting to something beautiful.

white and grey flower petals zoomed in

LUX: The feather is something that features beautifully across your works. Why the feather?
KM: The feather is iconic. If you have a white feather, it is a symbol of defeat. Kids will pick up a feather and they will be Hiawatha, it’s a transformative object and they provide warmth and flight, and it also has a method of attraction and that all ties in with what we do to adorn ourselves, in fashion. The feathers do that to the bird; they attract a mate with their various colours.

A feather print scarf hung up around trees in a forest

LUX: In what ways does your art draw inspiration from, and connect, your current life and your childhood in Norfolk?
KM: My family had a boat, not a very smart boat, but every weekend we would go away on this boat and we would travel at reed height across very quiet waterways and I would be the one spotting the Bittern and the Marsh Harrier, like a tiny little vole or an otter if we were lucky and kingfishers if we were very lucky. Now, I live on the Thames, at Weybridge, and I see a kingfisher every single day and I feel like I could never leave that house because that’s such a special thing.

A brown, blue and amber feather print scarf

LUX: How do you incorporate sustainability into your work?
KM: My work is made with sustainable materials, they last a long time, although they are very delicate, provided they are looked after very well. We try and use recycled packaging; we are very conscious of that. We don’t use bubble wrap. We try and wrap as carefully as we can but it’s very difficult because the moment a piece leaves the studio it’s very difficult to insist things are done in the way you would do them in your studio, but we try.

A woman holding a black and grey feather print scarf around her back

LUX: Do you think contemporary art holds a political or fundamental duty to contribute to sustainable changes?
KM: I think so. Going to art shows and seeing them put down a carpet on a Monday and take it up on Sunday and put it in a bin is terrible. If they organised themselves properly they could find a homeless charity and they could use the carpet for 20-15 homes, but they don’t do that; they put it in the bin. Everyone has a duty. Art is a glamourous world, so some people aren’t interested in it.

Read more: Millie Jason Foster on supporting female artists

LUX: What next? Will you return to sculpture or continue in wearable mediums?
KM: Of course, this is very much a tiny fraction of my practice. I have an exhibition opening at the end of this month with Iris van Herpen and she has selected my work to go along with her grand retrospective. I also have work going to Miami at the Untitled Art Fair, with a two-person booth there with Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, I have loads of commissions and working very hard.

Find out more: katemccgwire.com

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Reading time: 6 min
A painting of two blue people with gold around them and flowers
A painting of two blue people with gold around them and flowers

Stacey Gillian Abe, Whispers Of Sorghum, 2023

The renowned British curator behind the hit art show ‘In the Black Fantastic’, Ekow Eshun, speaks to Candice Tucker about his curatorial process and his most recent exhibition showing at Claridge’s ArtSpace, London, titled Like Paradise

LUX: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Like Paradise?
Ekow Eshun: Really the inspiration for the show lies in the work of a number of the artists that are in the show. I was interested in the way an artist like Frank Bowling, who is a great senior figure in the art world, historically, has looked at landscape, and looked at that from a few different perspectives. Frank Bowling used to have a studio beside the River Thames, and was very inspired by the Thames to make works that are lyrical and abstract; that don’t look like water but feel like water.

I started to think about his work, some of the work of other artists, and I began thinking about how different artists, of colour, artists from the African Diaspora, artists of South Asian background, and how a number of them are working and thinking about the visual poetry and possibility of landscape, and how they’re using that as a way to think aloud and create different narratives about the position of people of colour in British society.

LUX: Historically people of colour have been excluded from narratives about the countryside. How does this pervade into perceptions of race in current day politics?
EE: I would say those histories remain part of our present day. Britain’s a fascinating place. It’s very invested and we’re very invested as a country in ideas of landscape and nature and ideas that the countryside is where the real Britain lies and so on. So, the question comes then, when, if you’ve been historically excluded from that, where do you stand in the present day? I would say, to some extent, you stand as a stranger.

Sometimes even walking through the countryside can feel alienating to some extent. I think, with this show, I found some real inspiration in the way that artists are working with those themes, but then creating work that is thoughtful, and also inspiring, and reflective, and expansive.

A painting of a person on their knees between two people around pink flowers

Shannon Bono, Surrendering to his will, 2023

I was really excited by how many different artists are reclaiming the countryside. Maybe even on behalf of all of us and as a consequence writing a different story about not just the relationship of people of colour to landscape, but also how we, as a country, as a nation, might understand and think about and explore our world.

LUX: Black and South Asian artists come together in the exhibition. In your view, what value comes from putting different cultures in dialogue with each other in this way?
EE: We live in a multicultural society. I think more voices, not less voices, seems to be a good thing. But also when you do that, you come out with different perspectives. So, Osman Yousefzada, who’s in the show, is an artist of South Asian background. We see his work, it’s a big textile piece, but it’s drawing on myth. It’s drawing on belief systems. It’s drawing on his roots and identity in South Asia.

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I guess one of the things that excites me is that you can think about or look at the work of almost any artist, and they might be from India or Pakistan, South Asia, African origin or Caribbean origin, and they’ll potentially be reaching into their personal histories, or they’ll be reaching out geographically to their familial connections. Consequently, you don’t know, really, what will come out of that.

The exciting thing for me, in terms of putting together a show, is that you invite different perspectives. It’s not just the fact of having artists of African diaspora origin and South Asian artists in the same space. The point is to have the conversation about different perspectives and points of view and the possibilities that might arise out of all of that. So, it’s the conversation between those artworks. It’s a conversation between cultures. It’s an intertwining of perspectives and identities and histories.

an abstract red and green painting

Sam Ross, Earth – interior – descend, 2023

LUX: Tell us about your curatorial process. How do you choose which artists to feature, and which works will complement each other best?
EE: I always look at the work of artists that I’m inspired by, that I admire, and I always have a running list in my head of artists that I would like to approach, artists that I would like to work with. So, doing a show is a good opportunity to reach out to some of those artists. But you’re also trying to put together a kind of mosaic. If I have one or two abstract artists, trying to measure those up, possibly with some figuration. Maybe I have some photography; it’s about trying to balance the whole thing.

Part of the skill of it, I like to think, or the challenge, let’s say, of putting on the show is, can you create an exhibition that works on different registers or tones at the same time? Thematically, can you find a connection across the artworks? But also, aesthetically, can you find ways that works speak to each other, perhaps in terms of their form, i.e. abstraction or vibration, but also, sometimes, just even the different colours that come to the surface when you start to gather the works together. The truth is, partly I’m working through guesswork, partly I’m working through these artists who are engaged in a similar set of exploration, so what happens when you put them together?

LUX: Are there any particular works that you think particularly complement each other?
EE: There’s more than a few of them! We have the work by Frank Bowling. It’s a large abstract work in pinks and blues and yellows and greens. Across, opposite from the space, there’s an abstract work by Samuel Ross, who’s known as a designer as much as he is a visual artist. It’s an abstract work in denser shades of reds and browns. It’s a heavier painting in some ways, but both of these are works that, again, are exploring the physicality or the possibility of landscape and light and Earth almost kind of in itself.

But then we can look over across the room. There are two paintings by an artist called Kimathi Donkor, which show black people in landscape, apparently enjoying themselves out in the sunshine. You see some of the same colours that are in Frank Bowling’s work echoed in those paintings and you start to see how from one work to another, the colour and tone start to replay itself. So, one work can mirror another in terms of its form, in terms of abstraction or in terms of its colour scheme. You hope overall there are enough threads and continuities that can take you through the space. A lot of that stuff, you don’t spell out, you just possibly see. I guess the satisfaction is if you know it’s there and it’s waiting to be discovered.

A green and pink abstract painting

Frank Bowling, As Above So Below, 2020

LUX: Your recent exhibition In the Black Fantastic at the Hayward Gallery explored Afrofuturism, which is often associated with science, technology and urban areas. How has focusing on rural settings in this exhibition been different, and do you see the different areas interact?
EE: In a way, one of them I think leads into the other, in that one of the things I was trying to do in In the Black Fantastic was get away from notions of Afrofuturism that are just related to technology and so on. I was interested in water. I was interested in the visual poetry that comes from artists considering feeling like they are in a strange place, reckoning on the strangeness of the everyday.

In fact, I would say that In the Black Fantastic looks at speculation and myth, and so it’s actually really grounded in trying to think about how the ordinary in the everyday can actually itself be a site of strangeness and possibility. In a way, this show does something similar in that we take what’s perhaps is a more commonplace commodity, which is just the natural world, but actually we look at it with the capacity for wonder, the capacity for gazing into possibility that artists bring.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

The great thing about putting an exhibition to work with artists is that they have an absolute capacity to render the everyday in astonishing tonalities. There’s a painting downstairs by Hurvin Anderson which shows a woman on a beach but it’s dazzling, perplexing, charismatic, and compelling. It doesn’t take for granted the ordinary and in that respect, I think I’d suggest there’s a linkage from one show to the other show.

LUX: What needs to change in terms of representation in the art world?
EE: I tend not to think too much, “oh, this should change” or “this needs to change.” I tend to think, “well, okay, what can I do in my own way?” In that way, I try to put together shows that reflect aspects of the world as I see it and perhaps, I think, as some of those artists see it. I’d like to think that the result of that is a show that has beauty and possibility at its core. I think maybe the role of a curator can be to open up the space.

Like Paradise is available to view at Claridge’s ArtSpace, London

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Reading time: 8 min
A woman wearing a balck top and large diamond necklace standing net to a wall with frames and black boxes in the frames
A woman wearing a balck top and large diamond necklace standing net to a wall with frames and black boxes in the frames

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

In the first part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo who founded her fondazione in Turin in 1995. Today, the extraordinary initiatives of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo include transforming an abandoned Venetian island into a beacon for art and ecology

LUX: What was the first artwork you bought?
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo: Anish Kapoor’s Blood Stone. It was on a trip to London in 1992 that changed my life.

LUX: What drives you to support art education?
PSRR: When we started in the 1990s, contemporary art received little attention in Italy. Education defines the fondazione’s identity and builds awareness of contemporary art in Italy. We offer a rich programme for schools, families and vulnerable people, and we train teachers. Our Young Curators Residency Programme sees three international graduate curators curate a joint exhibition from the work of artists they meet in Italy during a three-month stay. This develops curatorship and places Italian art in a global context. Campo is a similar course we have for Italian graduates.

books in glass boxes in a library

A view of the Lucas Arruda exhibition at the Ateneo de Madrid

LUX: What are ArtColLab and Verso?
PSRR: ArtColLab is our non-profit project to produce collaborations between artists and designers in order to help widen engagement in art – for example, Nicholas Kirkwood and Paul Kneale created beautiful limited edition shoes. Verso focuses on empowering people aged 15 to 29 in democratic processes. It is an experimental, poetic pedagogical model of exhibitions, workshops and more, on themes of citizenship, inclusion and the collective construction of possible futures.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Tell us about your philanthropy in Spain.
PSRR: I love Spain and we established the Fundación Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Madrid in 2017. Madrid is a global capital and a bridge to Latin America. The fundación is now nomadic. We presented Lucas Arruda at the Ateneo in Madrid in 2023 and we’ve also brought the Young Curators Residency Programme to Spain.

A red ball of paint on a white wall with red paint dripping

1000 Pieces, 1983, by Anish Kapoor

LUX: Who are the artists exciting you today?
PSRR: Globally, they include the painters Michael Armitage and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and the work of Josh Kline, Marguerite Humeau, and Klára Hosnedlová. In Italy, works by Giulia Cenci, Giulia Andreani, Guglielmo Castelli and Ludovica Carbotta have joined the collection.

installations in a gallery including one with a bright green light

Installation view of Rough Rides, Police States, Broken Windows, 2015, by Josh Kline; Vandal Lust, 2011, and Slavs and Tatars, Mystical Protest, 2011, both by Andra Ursuţa, at the fondazione’s recent show, “Backwards Ahead”

LUX: What is the San Giacomo recovery project?
PSRR: This island, a military site abandoned for more than 60 years, will become an outpost of dreams, a place to produce and show art, and host research and discourse on contemporary culture.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Umberta Beretta

With its delicate lagoon ecosystem, we will implement principles of sustainability and energy transition there. The fondazione will enable San Giacomo to become a meeting place for artists, environmentalists and the public.

An island with a house on it in the middle of the sea

The isola San Giacomo, which has been a pilgrim refuge, a place of quarantine and a military site, is being transformed by the fondazione in the name of art

LUX: What will be your legacy?
PSRR: I hope I am giving back to the community what I have been fortunate to learn during 30 years in contemporary art. Time passes and I think of my two sons, who are also passionate about art, so I am building something that will take on new shapes with future generations.

 fsrr.org

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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A woman wearing a black and yellow dress standing between two old men
A woman wearing a white blazer with her arms folded

Italian art collector and philanthropist Umberta Beretta

Italy’s contemporary art scene is blooming. After decades of being perceived as a museum of the past, the home of the Renaissance is experiencing another rebirth under a new generation of philanthropists, curators and collectors. Guest editor Umberta Gnutti Beretta introduces and curates some of the key figures on the new Italian scene for LUX’s Italy Art Focus series

Art philanthropy has been a part of Italian culture since before the time of the Medici. It is a tradition that is not incentivised by tax breaks, as it is in countries including the US, but it is very prominent all the same. It is for this reason that we see the significant and powerful exercises of Italian philanthropy that we are showcasing in LUX.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Italian philanthropy happens among all generations including the young. We can see this in the case of Edoardo Monti, who was 26 and living in New York when, in 2017, he decided to move back to Italy, to a family palazzo in Brescia, to start the Palazzo Monti residency.

A woman in a white jacket standing next to a man in a suit

Umberta Beretta with Edoardo Monti at Spazio Almag

We are also seeing the increasing role of women. There is Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, who supports contemporary artists and whose team curates art for everyone to enjoy. There is Gemma De Angelis Testa, who created ACACIA, an association of friends of Italian art, and who has donated 105 works to Ca’ Pesaro Gallery in Venice from her private collection. Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati opened the Fondazione Luigi Rovati, named after her late father-in-law, recently adding an art museum showing Etruscan and contemporary art. Beatrice Trussardi runs the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi as a nomadic project that creates exhibitions in often forgotten spaces and places. L’Espresso magazine did a story on all of us: the mecenate, female patrons of the new Italian art revolution.

Two women standing together, one waving her hand

Umberta Beretta with artist Jenny Holzer

Despite its rich art history, Italy is not a leader in the contemporary art world in terms of money – most auction activity is in London, New York, Paris or Asia. But in terms of seeing art, everyone wants to come to Venice or Milan or Florence. The quality here is very high. We have artists such as Maurizio Cattelan
, who stands out in the contemporary art scene, and Lucio Fontana in modern art history, but there is so much more. Paola Pivi and Marinella Senatore are very interesting, and there are rising stars like video artist Diego Marcon, transspecies performance artist Agnes Questionmark and industrial artist Arcangelo Sassolino.

Two men and a woman standing on a gold staircase

Umberta Beretta with Arcangelo Sassolino and Paolo Repetto

In addition to hosting foundations, Italian cities have become places for contemporary artists from around the world to live and work. Danish artist Leonardo Anker Vandal is in Brescia; Ignasi Monreal from Barcelona and
Thelonious Stokes from Chicago live and work in Florence; and Ukrainian artist Daria Dmytrenko is in Venice. As well as being the location of the Palazzo Monti residency, Brescia is the Italian Capital of Culture this year. And Florence has the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, where Arturo Galansino has created a world-class art museum. So artists can come to Italy and take a look at what surrounds them, old and new, and be inspired. It’s different, in my view, from going to a loft space in New York and taking a look around that.

A woman wearing a black and yellow dress standing between two old men

Umberta Beretta with artist duo Gilbert and George

Our very strong commercial galleries include Massimo de Carlo, and kaufmann repetto by Francesca Kaufmann and Chiara Repetto, both in Milan. In my Brescia hometown, Massimo Minini opened Galleria Massimo Minini in 1973.

Read more: An Interview with Maurizio Cattelan

He is a great gallerist and has a long history of friendship with amazing artists, including artists of the Arte Povera of the 1960s. The art scene in Italy is very old, but it is also very new. It’s an exciting time both in Italian art and Italian art philanthropy.

Umberta Gnutti Beretta is a philanthropist who supports work in fields of medicine, women and children’s rights and the arts. Among many roles, she is on the governing council of the Fondazione Brescia Musei and is President of the Restoration Club of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli.

umbertagnuttiberetta.com

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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A black and white picture of a house and a woman lying on a balcony
A black and white picture of a house and a woman lying on a balcony

The architectural intricacies of the Parnham House estate, with an almost hidden Stephanie Bolam. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Human, natural and built landscapes, ancient and modern, come together in an ethereal photography series by Maryam Eisler in dialogue with poet thomas Paul

When LUX Chief Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler has an idea, beautiful and strange things happen, often in unison. Such was the case at Parnham House, a country estate in Dorset, southwest England, one chilly day this year, when Eisler descended on the ornamental grounds with her co-conspirator, author and producer Cavan Mahony, model Stephanie Bolam and poet thomas Paul.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Eisler has made her name as a photographic artist through her developing takes on the “Sublime Feminine”, the female form seen through the female camera gaze. Bolam offered a new interpretation: she is covered in body art (or, as she calls it, “body armour”), from head to toe, and has never allowed herself to be photographed naked before.

As she says, “I am a walking piece of art. I had to learn to become more powerful and resilient to handle people’s reactions. I chose the responsibility to do this.”

A woman covered in tattoos leaning on a bath with a mirror behind her

Stephanie Bolam, complemented by a Parnham House interior. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

While Eisler and co-creative Mahony created the shots, Paul composed verse. “There were a lot of challenges,” says Eisler, “but Stephanie was a great trooper and faced these head on. The most challenging, of course, was me asking her to take a deep dive into the murky cold waters of the pond at Parnham, which is green and slimy, and not exactly the most welcoming environment. But she did it and the result, in my view, is one of the most beautiful images of the day: painterly, ethereal, Ophelia-like.”

Read more: Artist Ricky Burrows: From the streets to the studio

The creatives played with the forms of space and place and drew focus to the detailed architecture of the Elizabethan house, its grounds and its storied history. “Everything at Parnham House is very intricate and ornate, and that has a dialogue with the patterns on Stephanie’s body,” says Eisler. “This worked so well because Stephanie is someone extremely contemporary, on the now, with the art she is adorned with, and here she is in dialogue with an evocative place of the past – one of the most beautiful houses of the West Country, in fact.”

Or, as the first lines from thomas Paul’s poem, composed on the spot, run:
“Elegance in form, beauties face
To overwhelm, blinding fears and scorn
In images of dreams, in fairytales
I hear your screams, your conversations within”

The exhibition “Ignis Avis Lineae”, by Maryam Eisler and thomas Paul, launched in October 2023 at Cricket Court in Somerset, home of fashion designer Alice Temperley. See maryameisler.com for details

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

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A woman sitting on a char with a another woman resting on the armrest.
A woman sitting on a char with a another woman resting on the armrest.

Aurelie Cauchy and Leslie Ramos, founders of The Twentieth © Juan Cuartas Rueda

Leslie Ramos and Aurelie Cauchy are co-founders of The Twentieth, a pioneering art advisory that focuses on supporting the arts and culture. Following the launch of Ramos’ book, Philanthropy in the Arts: A Game of Give and Take, Samantha Welsh speaks to the founders of The Twentieth about the new generation of philanthropists emerging from around the world, with different motivations and priorities and what the future holds for arts philanthropy given the rapidly changing landscape

LUX: What compelled you to layer arts philanthropy onto traditional arts advisory?
Leslie Ramos: The simple answer is that we spotted a gap in the market. We saw more and more aspiring collectors coming to the art world eager to support the ecosystem they admired, but they would find that although there were many people helping them buy and sell, there was almost nobody actively encouraging them to give back and helping them to do it.

Aurelie Cauchy: Moreover, we also feel that the art world in general is becoming increasingly dominated by the art market, focusing very strongly on sales, sales, and more sales. We wanted to build something that tried to push back against that a bit and in a small way remind people that a good collector is someone who also cares about the art world ecosystem.

LUX: Does arts philanthropy today bear any resemblance to its origins?
LR: The basic system of the most privileged in society actively supporting something they care about hasn’t changed much. What does change all the time are the underlying dynamics, like people’s motivations. We are seeing a real shift today in the role status has in philanthropy, with younger philanthropists being much less keen to have their names carved above doorways, for example.

AC: The pandemic has also reinforced the desire to help locally, with a focus on causes such as health and poverty, at a moment when social justice became more prominent than ever. Without taking anything away from other extremely pressing causes, one of the missions that we feel we have is to show philanthropists how supporting the arts can be an effective way of addressing these other societal causes and something that should sit as part of their wider philanthropic portfolio.

people sitting around a coffee table hosting a panel discussion

The European Fine Art Foundation panel discussion on next gen collecting and philanthropy at the Art Business Conference in 2023 © David Owens

LUX: Why is arts-funding important amidst crises in education and healthcare provision?
AC: It is true that causes like poverty, health, and children will always, and perhaps should always, be more important causes for philanthropy than the arts, but that doesn’t mean the arts should be ignored. For one, art has incredible power within societies. As Leslie wrote in her book, ‘The power of art shows us that humans can dream and think about the world not only as it is, but as it could be’, and in this regard the arts are particularly powerful in conveying important messages about the world and society.

LR: One example that I think is quite potent and that I tell our clients, is to look at what the philanthropist Jeff Skoll has done with his film production company Participant Media. Almost every film in the past 20 years, that has spurred real conversation about important issues facing society, has been funded by Skoll. The collector and philanthropist Sarah Arison also described this very well when I interviewed her for my book. She said that, for her, we must change the way we think of the arts, not as siloed disciplines but collaborative and interconnected, and this is crucial to bringing awareness to all sorts of issues.

In the end, it is critical for people to really care about what they support. This is why the experiential and social part of the art world is actually quite valuable – the events, galas, previews, and perks offered to supporters are not only quite fun, but they help people learn and be more comfortable.

It is also why we guide (or drag!) our clients to artists’ studios, museums, and non-profits of all sizes to really understand what their money can do and reassure them that it will be well spent.

A gold tent outside

Jesus Rafael Soto, Penetrable, 1992. © Archives Fondation Maeght

LUX: You also advise museums and non-profits, artists, and some brands as well?
LR: Yes, we do a lot of work with museums and non-profits, advising them on all sorts of things, but mostly around improving their financial resilience or helping them execute their vision. Aurelie has been doing a lot of work with the Centre Pompidou, expanding its international circle of donors, especially throughout the US, to support the enrichment of its collections. At the same time, I have been working closely with the Fondation Maeght in the South of France, helping them build their first patrons’ scheme with supporters from across the world, and advising them on their capital campaign for a new extension due in 2024.

AC: Our work with artists and brands is not so dissimilar to what we do with collectors. Often successful artists get to a point when they want to give back and we help them build their philanthropic initiatives, like foundations and artist residencies. Likewise, many brands, particularly luxury brands, are looking for genuine engagement with the arts, whether it’s through strategic collaborations or philanthropic initiatives that resonate with their ethos and serve their client-centric strategy, corporate social responsibility, and branding.

LUX: How do you work with individual clients in terms of evaluating their intentions and guiding them?
AC: It varies slightly from client to client. One thing is enthusiasts taking their first steps in the art world, perhaps starting a collection, or beginning to get involved with institutions in a meaningful way. Theirs is more a process of discovery initially, seeing what resonates. Whereas long-term supporters who want to take their philanthropy to the next level and perhaps build their own foundation, for them it’s more about refining and executing their vision.

The common thread is that we view our role as a catalyst, helping our clients become respected forces in the arts and culture world. This means being independent, unbiased, and transparent, which is why, for example, we do not charge commissions on transactions like a lot of advisors do. We would rather that our clients can trust us and be sure our advice is completely independent than constantly feeling pressured to spend.

The other side of the coin is that we only work with clients who are, or want to be, philanthropic. We are very clear with that and we are different from most arts advisors in that regard.

A woman with borwn hair holding a pink boo by a table stacked with pink books.

Leslie Ramos at the launch of ‘Philanthropy in the Arts, A Game of Give and Take’, published by Lund Humphries in collaboration with Sotheby’s Institute of Art

LUX: Are there barriers and what is the approach to impact measurement?
LR: While measuring impact to some extent is valuable, it is much more so to identify non-profits who know what they are doing and whose mission aligns with the giver and then trust them to do what they do best. I think the best arts philanthropists instinctively understand the positive effect the arts can have. So many studies have shown the proven positive effects on mental health as well as the positive economic impact on communities.

LUX: How are newer players influencing codes and interactions?
AC: It’s difficult to summarise because there are new people coming to the arts from all over the place. Of course, a lot of the attention recently has been on the tech money, but although it might be a stereotype to say that tech millionaires have no interest in arts and culture, it does seem, for now, to be the case. There are exceptions of course, like Sean Parker’s Parker Foundation or Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg’s Shah Garg Foundation. Both are important collectors and philanthropists from that world doing truly wonderful work.

One of the most interesting areas of the world that we are keeping our eyes on is South-East Asia and the new generation of collectors in places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Indonesia especially is an incredibly charitable society with a high value placed on the arts. India has also recently seen the rise of its UHNW population, with first generation wealth and inter-generational givers alike showing great interest in strengthening the philanthropic culture and infrastructure.

LUX: Where is private philanthropy leading national conversations through art discourse?
LR: Private support can often act faster than governments and be more curious and less risk averse. This means that in countries where there is yet to be a state-backed cultural support system, philanthropists are often key to giving artists and non-profits the resources they need. After all, artists can be found everywhere, and thank goodness for that!

A lit up house in the evening with a pool and trees around it

Eacheve, the independent non-profit organisation dedicated to creating new opportunities for Ecuadorian artists © Intemperie Studio

Take, for example, the work being done by the Ecuadorian arts foundation EACHEVE. For a few years now, the founder, Eliana Hidalgo, has been determined to give Ecuadorian artists global exposure and opportunities, supporting residencies, exhibitions, publications and soon a permanent exhibition space in Guayaquil. EACHEVE even published the first ever compendium of contemporary Ecuadorian artists, a book that has become a global reference and the first of its kind. This kind of work is where philanthropy can take a lead, and when done well, it can also be ‘contagious’, encouraging others to get behind a great cause and ultimately influence state decisions.

LUX: How can the State incentivise and direct giving?
LR: State support is critical in providing a supportive environment for philanthropy, and this doesn’t just mean providing tax incentives or funding matching programmes. Although they do work, it’s more about providing a framework and actively incentivising more philanthropists more holistically within your country.

Singapore is a great example of this. They have extended their (massive) 250% tax deductions for donations to 2026 to foster a culture of philanthropy, but it is combined with their SG Arts Plan (2023-2027), developed by the National Arts Council, which is designed to invigorate the art world more generally.

This is something I am hoping future UK governments will start improving because recently encouraging philanthropy in the UK has been neglected, in my opinion. In part, this is because it is viewed as a rather unfavourable thing to support politically. Having launched a successful £80m scheme to encourage more philanthropy in 2010, since then the current UK government has done very little. As things stand, the wealthiest in UK society only give a miserly 1% of their income to charity every year.

A building with a tube slide across it

Centre Pompidou

LUX: Is there a downside to state intervention?
LR: Without wanting to get too caught up in a rather complex topic, there are obviously issues with censorship and oppression of artists and creatives in many parts of the world. Equally, there are many examples of populist governments taking control of museums and cultural organisations by putting their cronies in charge.

But I still believe that perhaps the most damaging thing a state can do is be ambivalent. This was often the case in Italy in the past, where especially state museums were resting on their laurels and simply stagnant. In 2014, the newspapers in Italy gleefully reported that the restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York made more money in a year than all of Italy’s museums combined. But since then, new government initiatives, the growth in corporate sponsorship from big Italian companies, particularly the luxury sector, and a general sense of key people wanting to put in more effort, means things are slowly going in the right direction.

LUX: How optimistic are you that arts philanthropy can catalyse a better world?
AC: Arts philanthropy is vital to fill the gaps, supporting artists, art education, and art institutions that struggle to secure adequate funding from just government and commercial sources.

Take arts institutions, from leading museums to small non-profits, who are the many beating hearts of the art world, it is important to allow them to continue their invaluable work and survive. The former Met CEO Dan Weiss wrote a wonderful book on the subject, saying that “museums have played a vital role in our culture, drawing on Enlightenment ideals in shaping ideas, advancing learning, fostering community, and providing spaces of beauty and permanence”.

A woman wearing an orange and pink top speaking to a man sitting on a couch

Aaron Cezar, founding director of the Delfina Foundation in conversation with Leslie Ramos

Arts philanthropy is there for these institutions to ensure they can navigate a challenging landscape with financial resilience and be sustainable, relevant, and impactful in the long run, and in the end, it helps create a more vibrant and diverse society where everyone, regardless of background or financial means, can have access to art and culture.

LR: At the same time, I would like to finish on a sentiment that was shared by Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation, in a recent interview. Walker, a great advocate for philanthropy, had come across something Martin Luther King Jr. had written, where King had pointed out that although commendable, philanthropists should recognise the economic injustice that makes philanthropy necessary. “King was saying that, yes, the work of philanthropy must be about charity and about generosity”, Walker said. “But it should also be about justice and dignity … It requires of the philanthropist an interrogation of our own complicity in the very problems we are seeking to solve.”

Find out more: thetwentieth.com

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A colourful painting of a woman walking into a house
A blonde woman wearing a white shirt sitting in front of a blue orange and red block colour painting

Sophie Neuendorf, Vice President of Artnet and Senior Contributing Editor at LUX

Sophie Neuendorf, Vice President of Artnet and LUX Senior Contributing Editor, turns her insider’s eye to emerging trends to bring us her art-world predictions for 2024

1. Online fine art sales will take up more market share
According to financial services company UBS, online fine-art sales made up 16 per cent of the $68 billion global fine-art market in 2022, up from six per cent in 2019. With the rise of a new tech-savvy generation and the desire for digital solutions and experiences, I predict online sales will continue to rise.

2. All eyes will be on Christie’s and Sotheby’s
It’s no secret that the art market has been volatile recently. Sotheby’s failed to consign several hot single-owner sales and Christie’s had the Fineberg sale disaster. But with a summer Sotheby’s sale that included a rare Klimt portrait with an estimate
of $80 million and Christie’s total sales outperforming Sotheby’s for the first half of 2023, the fightback is on. Will Christie’s finally emerge as the art-world auction powerhouse? The stage is set for 2024.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

3. There will be a consolidation of the market
A plethora of art-related companies have surfaced over the past few years. The question is, with online experiences and transactions increasing, which companies will take the lead in this hot segment? I predict that only a few companies will survive and take the lead in the market, especially because of socioeconomic pressures, and this will become apparent during 2024.

4. Art and fashion collaborations will expand
I recently spoke to a friend who works in one of the major haute fashion houses about the rapidly increasing collaborations in art and fashion. These are fruitful creative marriages with benefits on both sides. While the fashion industry gains depth and seriousness, fine art can gain new potential collectors. There have been controversies, such as the concerns over Louis Vuitton’s 2023 collaboration with Yayoi Kusama. At Saint Laurent, however, Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello is doing a remarkable job in supporting established and emerging artists, just like Yves Saint Laurent himself. There’s an exhibition space at the Rive Droite site and global pop-up shows including Sho Shibuya at Art Basel Miami Beach.

A colourful painting of a woman walking into a house

Christmas in California, 2022, by Guimi You. The Korean artist is a LUX favourite. Image chosen by our editorial team, not an endorsement by the writer

5. Museums will deaccession more works
The Whitney Museum of American Art recently deaccessioned seven works, including four by Edward Hopper, with proceeds from the sales said to be going to support new acquisitions. Hopper is indisputably one of America’s greatest artists and it strikes me that the action caused panic in the market – works by Hopper were predicted to take a tumble in value. This is the unfortunate side-effect of deaccessioning artworks. However, I personally feel that an artwork is far better served on an art lover’s wall than in a museum vault.

6. ESG will have a greater foothold in the market
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a framework that is rapidly gaining in importance. It is not only an indicator of the sustainable health of an economy or company, it is also driving decision-making among the new generation of collectors. Where the baby-boomer generation was interested in how an artist draws from art history, the new generation of collectors is more concerned with asking about what drives the artist. What are they trying to communicate with their work? Does it represent the zeitgeist and discuss contemporary themes, such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter or the war in Ukraine? In trying to captivate the new generation, galleries will have to engage with ESG reporting and initiatives.

Read more: Artist Ricky Burrows: From the streets to the studio

7. Expenditure in fine art as an asset will increase
I always advise to buy for passion, but with an investment view. According to cultural economist Claire McAndrew, investments in fine art are especially lucrative during inflationary and recessionary periods. I have noticed significantly increased movement over the past few months, especially on the private sales side of the market. From an eye-opening Lichtenstein to a rare Caravaggio, never have I been offered so many works for private sale and acquisition. With the impending transfer of wealth from the baby boomer to the millennial generation, I predict there will be many a marvellous work to hit the auction block in 2024 and, indeed, over the next few years.

Find out more: artnet.com

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

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A man with paint on his jeans lying on a purple couch
A man with paint on his jeans lying on a purple couch

Ricky Burrows in a moment of pause © Maryam Eisler

Ricky Burrows, the Brooklyn-based artist originally discovered by Rashid Johnson, speaks to LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler about how he made it from the streets to the studio, now opening a solo show at Harper’s, New York.

Maryam Eisler: How did Mr Ricky Burrows end up in this impressive building, the Brooklyn Army Terminal?

Ricky Burrows: Well, my parents are originally from Brooklyn and I was born here. I moved to Connecticut and I came back to Brooklyn after I got out of detention; I was separated from my Mom because she was on drugs. I started painting seriously in 2014, and I met one of the building owners, Mr Gunn; he came to an open studio. He liked my work and told me he had a studio for me, and that I could paint there and that I wouldn’t have to pay rent. When he said ‘no rent’, I said ‘send me the location’. To this day I don’t pay rent. From the start, he absolutely believed in me. He’s one of my earliest first supporters, for sure.

red and white blocks on the ground by a bridge and industrial building

Scenes from the Brooklyn Army Terminal © Maryam Eisler

ME: Talk to me about this incredible building, and your studio space.

RB: This place (the Brooklyn Army Terminal) keeps me sharp. Everybody’s working here 24/7, and I’m a sponge. As soon as you walk into the parking lot, there are a thousand trucks going past you. As soon as you get into the elevators, five or six people from all different walks of life doing different things are saying hello to you, high fiving you … You’ve got the FBI and the FIT here, movie directors, students, sanitation, dialysis…It’s like a small city… a city within a city, and no one ever sleeps.

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ME: When did you start painting?

RB: Around maybe the age of sixteen.

ME: Was it something you had to do? Something you could not escape from … or, was it an actual escape from reality – your reality?

RB: I would say both. My inspiration came from my neighbourhood and the street. So, painting was actually weird. But I couldn’t help myself. I had to do it. I was drawn to it. I wanted to paint, but I was also influenced by my friends who had nothing to do. So, it was a bit of both. It was like ‘let me avoid it as much as I can, but let me also stick to it as closely as I possibly can …’ if that makes sense?

A man sitting on the floor surrounded by artworks

Burrows sitting on the floor with his works © Maryam Eisler

ME: Yes, it does. You mentioned drugs at some point in your life – which you’re clearly over now. What was the reason? Was pain at the source or was it just what street kids d0?

RB: For me, it was about not wanting to think about the stuff I was dealing with in my life or stuff I was going home to later at night. So the more loaded I was, the better it was for me … it helped me deal with whatever was coming my way when going ‘home’.

A man standing next to a yellow painting

‘Goldfish don’t bounce’ referring to Jimi Hendrix’s song © Maryam Eisler

ME: Which leads me to Jimi Hendrix. Talk to me about ‘When Goldfish don’t bounce’.

RB: Well fish don’t bounce. And, I’m the goldfish.

Paintings of colourful distorted faces

Early career works by Ricky Burrows © Maryam Eisler

ME: You are. But you bounce. You bounced out of the bowl, it appears.

RB: Yes, I did. But I didn’t manage to go too far. That’s the scary part about it. Along my art career, I’m always that close to crashing out. I really don’t know how to talk to people outside of myself. So I’m only just learning how to be more social and to trust the public, because I’ve dealt with a lot of sh*t. It’s been hard. And I’ve only just started to see the light at 30.

Yellow Zebra crossing on a chair

The exterior of the Brooklyn Army Terminal © Maryam Eisler

ME: You win the biggest battle when you start believing in yourself. Are you there?

RB: THAT is the biggest battle right now. The fight with myself, you know. But I would say that maybe I’m doing a good job because it got me this far.

A man wearing a white t shirt and black and green cap

Looking out the studio window © Maryam Eisler

ME: Well, if you’re having a show at Harper’s, in Chelsea, New York in November, I would say you’re definitely over the 50% mark, wouldn’t you agree? More win than lose?

RB: Yes, but what am I supposed to do at night? When there is no art to make or no Harper’s shows? No girls to see? That’s the kind of stuff I try to escape. Because I don’t like being alone.

plastic dolls and books on a desk

Inspirational objects around the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: Comfort in and with yourself. You need to find that peace, wouldn’t you agree?

RB: I’m trying to. But it’s taking me a long time to get there.

A room with art and paint all of over the floor and chair

In an around the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: Patience is a virtue! I wanted to talk to you about street. You mention your street life and your street friends; I also see a lot of street style and influence in and around your studio – Supreme, Palace, AWAKE, Nike collaborations with Virgil … powerful brands where art, lifestyle, design and commerce have come together successfully. Are you personally interested in engaging in these types of commercial collaborations down the line?

RB: Yes definitely, yes. That is definitely of interest. As far as I’m concerned, I try to make as much art as possible so that my mind isn’t just limited to creating paintings, you know? I like to extend myself beyond the canvas.

blue and white Nike Air Jordans

Where art meets street, Nike collaboration with ‘Off White’ by Virgil Abloh, part of Ricky’s own personal collection © Maryam Eisler

ME: So it’s not just the esoteric and conceptual side of art which interests you? You actually see the application of the concept to a more utilitarian and more commercial environment ?

RB: Very utilitarian, 100 percent yes.

ME: Is your idea to take your art out to the crowds (with an S) as opposed to just ‘A’ crowd ? Do you want your art to be democratic and for the people, mixing highbrow and lowbrow?

RB: I want my art to be highbrow, but I also want it to be accessible to those on the street, where I came from and to people who are not even of the ‘art world’. Because a lot of people that I have met or who have helped me, couldn’t even tell you who Francis Bacon was to save their lives, you know! I really appreciate them just wanting to be here with me, for me, or just calling me to send me money for no reason other than just believing in me … ‘I know you need some paint, so go buy some paint. I know you need canvas? Here you go, go buy it ‘.

"RB" painted in black on a white canvas

Ricky Burrows’ ‘signature’ © Maryam Eisler

ME: So, all that I see in your studio has just been given to you?

RB: Yes, all of it. So, I feel like I owe the public more than I owe the art world.

A man sitting on a drawing wearing red shoes, yellow socks, a green cap and white t-shirt with jeans

Ricky Burrows sitting on his work in the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: Some of the greatest artists in America, the likes of Warhol and Basquiat, mixed high brow and low brow. Are you just continuing in that same direction?

RB: I would say that I’m actually really (even more) from the streets, you know… If I lose the studio today, I’m going straight back to the street…I ain’t going to nobody, calling no aunty that can come pick me up in her fancy car. No, no, no, no, no. So lowbrow, lowbrow, lowbrow, lowbrow…

ME: You’