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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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Reading time: 4 min
two men black and white standing next to each other

Alain Servais is an investment banker and collector of art-as-ideas, whose family collection is showcased in The Loft, a repurposed factory in central Brussels. In a conversation moderated by LUX’s Leaders & Philanthropists editor, Samantha Welsh, Servais speaks with South Asian philanthropist and collector, Durjoy Rahman, about supporting artists who give minorities a voice and make people think.

two men black and white standing next to each other

Alain Servais (left) and Durjoy Rahman (right). Photo montage by Isabel Phillips

LUX: How has business shaped your your passion for art?

DURJOY RAHMAN: I started my career at a very young age when I started my business in textiles and garments production. It was when I started exporting that I found that I experienced a negative perception about Bangladesh. I had to engage in a kind of cultural diplomacy when I went to business meetings! I would talk positively about the good things happening in Bangladesh, sharing what was interesting for buyers in course of business development.

ALAIN SERVAIS: For me it was about filling a gap rather than part of my business plan. Investment banking is about trying to understand human nature, anticipating what will happen, asking questions, maybe about the effects of a societal drift to the far right, or changing attitudes to minorities, the potential disruption from new tech and social media, and so on. So understanding herd instinct is very important. In its way it’s pretty sterile as it is all about money. You are missing the voices of so many different people. That is what is interesting in Art.

LUX: How did you become interested in art?

AS: I have no collector-parents, no experience of studying or making art at all, I fell into art by accident. It’s about the convergence of those interesting parts of human nature, professional and private, a kind of curiousness. And that came from working in investment banking, because you are so used to absorbing a massive amount of data and opinion to make decisions.

DR: It was an accident for me too. I was visiting New York and I first saw the silk screens of Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergmann (which in fact I eventually collected). I decided to license and reprint the graphics on a European fashion brand T-shirt, by Replay I remember. It was this fashion x art collaboration which catalysed my art journey.

LUX: So discovery is a big part of your vision?

DR: Yes, I was frequently away on business in Europe and North America, and I would visit the many galleries and museums as I was passing through, always noticing the contrast with South Asia, where we had few institutions despite our long cultural heritage and traditional practices. So that’s why I decided that one day I would do something about it by creating a platform of my own.

AS: I love traveling, discovering other cultures, getting close to parts of the world that people have prejudice and ignorance about.  I had the chance to go to Bangladesh and discovered a totally different, very rich culture. The way I process the experience is through bringing back works of art.

LUX: Should collectors open the door to alternative realities?

AS: We should stop making out that collectors are Superman/woman! We are just human beings finding outlets in art, revealing society’s many problems in the process.  This is about my own interest in contemporary culture.  I have a real problem with nostalgia and the selfishness of it all.

sculptures free standing in studio

Artworks in a 2019-2020 exhibition at The Loft, the 900 square meter space which has housed the Servais family collection since 2010.

LUX: Is this why you collect ‘emerging’ artists?

AS: Emerging artists for me are the artists who are not selling-out to that nostalgic drive. It’s about the art created today that is worth preserving. Every major museum on the planet is based on the private collections of a few crazy collectors who plugged into whatever was going on in society at that time and collected artists who were expressing that in a particularly advanced way. For instance, forty years ago, Sophie Calle the French installation artist was already anticipating social media and reality shows – people want to watch people. So it’s about collecting and preserving artists’ works really early on, when Society does not yet understand their message.

DR: I agree, I really dislike the term ‘emerging artist’! These are claims not accurate predictions of who will be a great artist. In the art world, there is a structure, a platform, discipline, practice, so we can to an extent deduce who may emerge to be a strong or great artist. As to how successful they will be, that is far harder to judge. If you look at Bangladesh, Bangladesh is only 52 years old, so most artists here have actually been ‘emerging’ since 1971 ie post-Independence. DBF supports artists from this period and empowers them to create innovative bodies of work, influenced by social change. It’s about their context, their transmission of their knowledge and their influences.

sofas in room with art on walls

Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation Creative Studio in Dhaka features works from around the Global South including, ‘Orator’ By William Kentridge (right) and ‘Rise of a Nation’ By Raghu Rai (left)

AS: Yes, yesterday I bought an innovative work from an artist from Bali. She had been totally underestimated to the extent she had never, in fact, even been called an ‘emerging artist’. She had, though, created new narratives through traditional Balinese painting and coloration, all pretty outrageous and about sexual liberation, lots of crazy images of penises, vaginas and everything. A good artist is someone that sends a message to the world, and a good collector is the one that understands this message before the masses. They are two sides of the same coin.

LUX: How is art messaging the voices of minority artists?

DR: We should first define what ‘minority’ means. After all, it means different things to different people. Sometimes, I feel like a minority when I enter the room at an event in the global North! It can be discomforting but I get over it with introductions and conversations.

AS: Yes, Durjoy, you’re right, you are a minority when traveling, and I am even an minority in Belgium – because when people visit The Loft they don’t get the art at all and probably think my kids should be taken into care! We are both minorities because we are both free-thinking individuals and non-conformists.

free standing art

The Great Revel of Hairy Harry Who Who: Orgy in the cellar, 2015, by Athena Papadopoulos, in Dérapages & Post-bruises Imaginaries, the 2018-2019 exhibition at The Loft in Brussels.

DR: With the minority artists in Bangladesh, it’s not just about their religion or social status but can be about differences in cultural practice. For example, the remote Hill Tracts indigenous communities in Bangladesh are considered to be minorities, so when we talk about the cultural heritage of Bangladesh, DBF showcases their arts and crafts to the global North. By shining a light on their art we are bringing them into the discourse and including them in society. With our Future of Hope program during Covid, we included these indigenous artists from the Hill Tracts and two have become very prominent right now. Similarly, we took our project for Kochi Biennale from the remote northern region of Bangladesh. This was a very significant artwork created by ethnic communities who would never have been exhibited on the world stage.

sculpture of women dancing

Installation view of Bhumi, with support from The Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India.

AS: I learn a lot from the artists from the global South. Recently, I bought a work by a photographer from Bangladesh. It is an image around infrastructure, bridges, highways and I wanted it not just because I loved the aesthetic but because the message around it was deliberately unfinished. After I’d bought the work, not before, I made sure I sat next to the photographer at the festival dinner and was grateful for the experience of talking with him, on equal terms. It is a two-way business.

LUX: What is the responsibility of the audience toward the artist?

DR: Artists practice as they wish. It’s how the audience accepts their work that is the question. As a collector and as a founder of a foundation, we open up the opportunity for a deeper engagement from the audience with the artist’s social concerns. These activations are beyond direct action and inventions, creating a positive ripple effect. You have to ask yourself, ‘Am I here to change the world or to support a range of alternatives?’ We enable artists to create bodies of work that widen their potential for recognition on the world stage by bringing awareness of their voice and their cause.

portraits of women

Parables of the Womb by Dilara Begum Jolly at DBF Creative Studio.

AS: As far as the responsibility of the artist is concerned, I don’t like the quasi-deification of the artist. There are so many bad artists around! It is not enough to call yourself an artist to be an artist. I was with a collector in Istanbul last week and he told me he had reserved an exhibition space for a solo exhibition by an emerging artist, emphasising it had to be an artist with no gallery representation. It was to be for six weeks. He actually refused the the first offer, saying “I want to see if artists will fight for it!” For him, the fighting was an important element as so many artists were not thinking about what they are doing and why they were doing it.

LUX: Where do you think your art philanthropy will be, ten years’ from now?

DR: With DBF, we want to be an influential and vital activist who has used the power of art and culture to good effect, to make positive, impactful change in terms of social justice. I agree with Alain, we must question everything and that curiosity must inform our vision for the next decade.

a loft with art in it

Servais hosts exhibitions from his collection of international contemporary artists at The Loft, where he also hosts artists’ residencies.

AS: Because governments are funding the arts the arts less and less, I spend more and more time documenting the works I’m acquiring! I’m doing this to record for posterity the complexity of the artist’s thinking. I hope institutions give more power to curators to offer opportunities to interesting artists so we have the vital two-way discussions. I think we are going to go through extremely difficult times and I would not like to be this young generation. We need people like Durjoy, we need these discourses, we must give people a voice, and we must make people think!

 

Find out more: durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

Servais Family Collection on Instagram: @collectionservais

 

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Reading time: 9 min

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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Reading time: 1 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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Reading time: 3 min
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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Reading time: 3 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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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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Reading time: 5 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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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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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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Reading time: 3 min
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 woman wearing a black top standing next to a white and black wall
children in yellow tops playing with a big silver ball

ArtOutreach public sculpture tour for students

Mae Anderson, serves as the chairman of Art Outreach, a non-profit organisation committed to promoting art appreciation and nurturing the connections within Singapore’s art community. Mae’s contributions extend to her role as the Head of Philanthropy Services Asia at BNP Paribas Wealth Management, where she collaborates with clients to bring their philanthropic visions to life

LUX: How has your personal philanthropy informed your corporate role?
Mae Anderson: My experiences in the philanthropic sector have reinforced for me the importance of aligning business values with social responsibility. This is essential to benefit the communities we serve and to enhance the reputation and sustainable values of the organisation. Corporate philanthropy is not just a matter of financial contributions; it is about creating meaningful, sustainable change by strategically leveraging resources and expertise. I prioritise building strong relationships with nonprofits, community leaders, and clients who share our commitment to making a positive difference. This collaborative approach has proven instrumental in developing effective philanthropic strategies that maximise our impact.

A woman wearing a black top standing next to a white and black wall

Mae Anderson, , posed against a mural by Singaporean artist, Chris Chai

LUX: Why was Art Outreach founded and what were the early successes?
MA: Art Outreach was founded to introduce art appreciation into Singapore’s education system, particularly in elementary schools where the focus was primarily on art making, and where there was a lack of emphasis on art appreciation, compounded by a shortage of trained art teachers and limited exposure to the humanities. 20 years on, there have been significant changes in the education landscape In the early stages, our volunteers were trained to deliver free art lessons to local classrooms and played a crucial role in enriching students’ visual literacy and cultural awareness. These early efforts successfully addressed the need for art appreciation, fostering a greater understanding of cultural diversity and societal dynamics among young learners, addressing a crucial need in the education system while adapting to the changing educational landscape.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What is behind the wave of interest in cultural philanthropy in Singapore and the South Asia region?
MA: There are several interconnected factors. First, there is the desire to preserve and celebrate cultural heritage. In an increasingly globalised world, people recognise the importance of safeguarding and promoting their unique traditions, arts, and history, fostering a deeper connection to one’s roots and a sense of cultural pride. The region’s economic growth has played a pivotal role.

A man holding a film camera standing around people

Level Up by curator, John Tung, one of a series of professional development workshops run by Art Outreach. In this workshop, participants learned the finer points of art installation

The rise of the middle class with disposable income opens doors, and as people become more financially secure, they seek meaningful ways to give back to their communities and support cultural initiatives that resonate with their values and aspirations, further fuelling the interest in cultural philanthropy. Governments in the region have introduced policies and incentives to drive private investment into cultural projects and institutions. Further, cultural attractions draw tourists , enhancing exchequers and soft power, Finally, the emergence of the mega-wealthy 1%, catalyses support for cultural initiatives and leads collaborations.

blue flower lights hanging in the dark

Benedict Yu, from 生 Rebirth as part of 醉生夢死 erosion, his solo exhibition at Art Outreach in August 2021

LUX: How has Art Outreach evolved an ecosystem for all stakeholders?
MA: As explained, we began by seeding art education within local elementary schools set about creating an art landscape. We extended our reach to communities through public programmes, discussions, and tours. This made contemporary art more accessible and relatable to local audiences. We support emerging artists through initiatives like the IMPART Art Prize to offer holistic support and foster the development of artists championing Singaporean art.

Two women standing by a wooden table with objects in glass frames on the table

Artist, Berny Tan (left), and curator, Kirti Upadhyaya, against Berny’s artworks from Along The Lines Of – her solo exhibition at Art Outreach in August 2023

From 2024, our Art Outreach Summit will offer artists mentorship, networking opportunities, and a platform to showcase their work, as well as practical programmes such as installation and lighting. More strategically, we enter into public and private partnerships around events and activations. So we serve the range of stakeholders.

children in green and white uniform sitting on the floor with their hands in the air

ArtOutreach primary school classroom programme

LUX: What is the role for private collectors of contemporary art in Singapore?
MA: Private collectors are custodians of cultural heritage, preserving and showcasing contemporary artworks that provide insights into the evolution of artistic expression and cultural trends. Through their acquisitions, they are patrons of emerging talents and established names, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression, opening their homes or private exhibition spaces to the public, elevating the profile of Singaporean art on the global stage and fostering educational and cultural exchange. Finally, the donation of artworks or funds to cultural institutions and nonprofit organisations, has a lasting impact on the sustainability of the arts ecosystem.

people standing by an escalator on a mezzanin

ArtOutreach Art In Transit Tour, Promenade Station. This is a walking tour of the artworks installed in Singapore subway stations

LUX: How should art philanthropists plan so they give effectively?
MA: Effective art philanthropy begins with a clear mission and values aligned with the art landscape and national priorities. Philanthropists should thoroughly research organisations, projects, or artists that match the mission, and then identify gaps and areas where their contributions can make a difference. Establishing clear, measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) can guide their philanthropic efforts and evaluate impact. Philanthropists can diversify their giving portfolio and consider strategic partnerships with like-minded organisations to amplify their impact and bring diverse perspectives.

Children wearing costumes

Art Outreach children’s art workshop

They should assume longterm commitment to foster lasting change and address evolving needs within the arts community. It is critical to implement systems for measuring impact, remain adaptable, and be responsive to changing circumstances or emerging needs in the arts landscape.

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

Actively engaging with artists, cultural institutions, and the broader arts community allows philanthropists to stay connected, and they must adhere to ethical principles, be transparent, and respect artists’ rights. You should consider legacy and tax planning and remember that public engagement can inspire others to support the arts.

A woman playing with string on a tapestry hung on a wall

Textile Artist,Tiffany Loy, against her artworks from Lines In Space, her solo exhibition at Art Outreach in January 2023

LUX: How can connectivity and data help in scaling the impact regionally?
MA: Data analysis empowers philanthropists to understand specific regional needs and priorities, to identify areas where their contributions can maximise impacts, and to connect with local organisations and initiatives. By collecting and analysing data in real-time, they decide where best to allocate resources. By collaborating, donors leverage their resources more efficiently, engage directly with regional communities, scale effectively, advocate, share experience, measure impact, and together drive long term change.

LUX: What is your personal advice to a client embarking on their philanthropy journey?
MA: Trust in your passion and purpose. Philanthropy is about making a positive impact on the causes that matter most to you. Sustainable change takes time so persevere. Finally, stay humble and open to learning and let that inspire your growth as a philanthropist.

Find out more: artoutreachsingapore.org

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A girl with dark hair wearing a black dress and black boots sitting on a chair with a green painting behind her
A girl with dark hair wearing a black dress and black boots sitting on a chair with a green painting behind her

Millie Jason Foster, co-founder of Gillian Jason Gallery

Whilst art has often been perceived as a feminine subject, particularly in schools, men are disproportionately more successful than women in the arts. Here, Candice Tucker speaks with  Millie Jason Foster, who along with her mother Elli, founded Gillian Jason Gallery to promote female-identifying artists from across the generations

LUX: What is the role of education in encouraging female artists?
Millie Jason Foster: I think that like most careers, but also like most people who are interested in exploration, education is really important. I think that when it comes to education in the arts, it’s an essential space to experiment and to learn. We have artists that we represent who have been painting for a long time and then have decided to go back and do a Masters and it’s that space of exploration on a residency or doing a Masters that their practice really takes off. They’re not just working in a vacuum in their own studio; they begin to be able to have a dialogue with other artists and see the world in a different way.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Despite the fact art is pushed as a feminine subject in schools and most art students are female, the majority of longstanding successful artists are men. Why do you think this is?
MJ: It’s like that across a lot of industries. My background is in finance and investment banking, and you can see the same there. A lot of people at the younger or junior entry levels of the finance industry are women, and then as you get higher and higher up the ranks, there are fewer of us, and it’s really the same in the art world. 65 per cent of women take up art school positions, but in the marketplace, it’s 65 percent of male representation and I’m hoping that that will change over time, but that’s why the gallery exists and what our mission stands for.

I also think that there’s a history of art being a very male-dominated industry, and I think that takes time to change. Even looking at the Royal Academy, they didn’t let women in in the same capacity as men for a very long time, and that is a long-standing British institution for the art world. Only having men means that all those ripple effects go down the line even to today. Only today we had the first all-female retrospective with Marina Abramović. So, the tides are changing, but I think it takes a lot of time to alter such a dense patriarchal system.

Green and pink paintings on white walls with white seats in the room on the wooden flloor

Gillian Jason Gallery was founded in 1982 by Gillian Jason and later relaunched by her daughter and granddaughter Elli and Millie Jason Foster

LUX: Do you think the Gillian Jason Gallery, which operates from a feminist perspective, provokes a different kind of collecting?
MJ: I hope that we do but not necessarily a feminist stance on collecting. I think that we showcase the best of art by women, no matter what the theme or the concept of the artist might be. So, although it might be feminist art to do with female issues, it also might be to do with sustainability, other cultural issues, race or gender or anything at all. What we’re really looking for is something that is visually resonant, but also intellectually important and that needs to have some weight to it. What we’re looking at is trying to define the best of art by women in the marketplace. We want to present the best quality art, but also with a sustainable look at careers because we’re looking at creating career longevity for every artist that we work with. We hope that collectors will come back to us time and time again to support those artists.

LUX: How do you bring in issues around sustainability into the gallery?
MJ: That comes in lots of different ways. In our office on, an operational level, which aren’t always that interesting but really are important for us, we have put all our catalogues online and created QR codes, in order to save paper and reduce waste and plastic. In terms of sustainability in our approach, we work with a lot of female artists who tackle ingenious and intellectual themes. For example, we worked with an artist called Julia Bennett at the beginning of this year. She focuses on solely making canvases out of mycelium. She’s looking at how art can be created and then returned to the ground when we’re done with it.

LUX: You have set up a network for young collectors called New Vanguard Collectors. What are the biggest challenges for young collectors?
MJ: I think there are two challenges for young collectors. One is access, and two is understanding. I’ll start with understanding actually, because with understanding, it’s about trying to gauge what you want to buy and why. My background is in a corporate job and I found that I have a lot of corporate friends who are now earning a lot more money but they don’t know where they want to spend it or how. They’re coming to me and asking, “Where do I start?” It’s the same with anyone who doesn’t work in finance, where do I start? What do I invest in? What do I look at? And if you flip it on its head from that perspective, I think it can be really daunting.

A mother wearing a trench coat hugging her daughter who is wearing a black short sleeve dress

Directors of Gillian Jason Gallery, Elli Jason Foster (left) and Millie and Jason Foster (right)

The point of New Vanguard is to help collectors explore the art world more, because collecting can be an investment but also a hobby. I think combining the two today is important for young collectors because we don’t have that much spare cash for anything so if you’re going to invest in something, you have to love it. You have to understand that you want to support the artist and what you’re paying towards it, but you also want to know that in five years time the work is at least going to be what you paid for it, if not more. I think that recognising the need to change collections over time is important, the same way we change our wardrobes, or we develop who we are in a five-year period. I think there has to be a nod to investment and sustainability that way.

Secondly then, access. New collectors don’t get a look in at art fairs or with other large galleries because they haven’t got a roster of other amazing art works that a gallery will say, “Yes, I’ll give you a piece that you love.” So, access is a really big sticking point and with New Vanguard I want to make sure that I help collectors acquire the art that they want to collect, whether it’s with my gallery or another one, because I can assist with access in the art world.

LUX: Gillian Jason Gallery has been around since the 1980s. How has the focus on female artists changed since then?
MJ: My grandmother started the gallery in the 1980s, and her background was a ballet dancer, and my grandfather was an actor, so they came from very theatrical backgrounds. When she stopped dancing, she decided to open a gallery on the ground floor of her townhouse in Camden. At the time, Gillian really became a frontrunner in modern British art, and was a very formidable dealer in that sector, but all along her career championing modern British art, there was always a focus on women. For example, she would always focus on the wife of the famous artist, who was also an artist in her own right. She would do a duo show between David Bomberg and his wife Lillian Holt, and she helped Lillian Holt have one of her pieces acquired by the Tate. Gillian always had this legacy of really focusing on art by women. So, when it came to taking over the gallery a few years ago, in 2019, we decided to take her legacy and found a gallery that solely represents art by women. We were the first to do it.

abstract colourful art works on a white walls

Works by Berenice Sydney, exhibited at Gillian Jason Gallery

LUX: Have you noticed a drastic change in the representation of female artists since you started?
MJ: No, and it’s been nearly half a decade. I have noticed that more people are waving the flag of supporting art by women, but not necessarily putting their money where their mouth is. At art fairs a third of representation is women and I don’t even want to talk about the prices because it doesn’t even match any of the men. Even at auction, in the top ten, I think there’s two female artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Jenny Saville, and they don’t make the top five. Those kind of shifts still haven’t moved, and there are extraordinary female artists that just aren’t hitting any of the pricing that male artists are, and I think it’s going to be a long struggle to try and change that outlook.

Read more: Francis Sultana: The life of a leader in design

LUX: What’s the benefit of being a purely female or all female identifying gallery?
MJ: I love having an identifiable mission, and it really helps focus on the best of art by women. It shows collectors that we’re looking for the best of art by women, and it shows artists that we’re looking for the best of art by women. Having that strong network is really important to us, because it means that we’ve founded a community where everyone talks to each other about how they can best support one another. There’s no competition. It’s all about collaboration. We get calls from collectors sometimes saying, “I found this new, incredible female artist, I think you should work with her.” And the same with our artists. We put them all in touch to try and understand best practices. I think that community and safe space is really important, and there have always been safe spaces for art by women and I think that GJG allows that to continue.

LUX: Do you think there will be a point where it won’t be necessary for Gillian Jason Gallery to exist and do you hope that this will be the case?
MJ: I hope that there will be a time where it’s not necessary for Gillian Jason Gallery to only support art by women, and that time will exist when there is a minimum of 50/50 in the art market in terms of representation and pricing for women and men, but I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime.

Find out more: gillianjason.com

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Reading time: 9 min
Two women standing on either side of frames hung on the walls of a gallery
Two women standing on either side of frames hung on the walls of a gallery

Founders of Shrine Empire Shefali Somani (left) and Anahita Taneja (right)

Anahita Taneja & Shefali Somani founded Shrine Empire in 2008 with a mission to support South Asian artists. Here the gallerists speak to Samantha Welsh about the development of India’s art scene and the importance of collaboration to build up South Asia’s art community

LUX: How did you start to work together?
Anahita Taneja & Shefali Somani: Back in 2006 we met over a sale of an artwork and found common links in Kolkata, India. That was when we first decided to collaborate and work together on a group exhibition in 2007. It led us to work further together as two separate entities, the Shrine Gallery and Empire Art, in exhibitions in Singapore and then the first edition of India Art Fair. Over a period of time, we realised that we had a similar vision and believed in practices of similar artists in South Asia, so we joined hands and started Shrine Empire in 2008.

A room with art and a red light a man sitting on a bench watching a video from a projector

Yoshinori Niwa, Our Human Spirit Under Capitalism, Prameya Art Foundation, curated by Anushka Rajendran

LUX: What was ground-breaking about what Prameya Art Foundation (PRAF) offered?
AT & SS: In India we’ve only had a handful of art foundations who have consistently done good work. Due to the dearth of funding and patronage, many private entities have had to take not-for-profit initiatives under their belt and promote the growth of the art community in India. We realised the need for an institution which would help to build the art ecosystem, would provide opportunities for artists, writers and curators, and create international partnerships to help build a network to benefit the community here. It was the need of the hour.

A white room with simple art works on the walls

Neerja Kothari, Keeping Score, Shrine Empire

What made Prameya Art Foundation stand out from the rest was that we supported initiatives that never really had any funding or support in India. For example, PRAF Publish which is our artist book grant, Art Scribes Award, our residency and exhibition grant for curators, PRAF Participatory which leads international artists workshops and exhibitions, Pair Award offering grants to mid-career artists, and our imminent launch of India’s first major video production grant.

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With PRAF Participatory (one of our initial programs) we have invited artists like Sue Williamson (South Africa), Paul Wong (Canada), Bracha I. Ettinger (France), and Yoshinori Niwa (Japan) all of whom have visited India as part of this programme, and have collaborated with invited artists and creative practitioners from this country to create artworks.

A room with art and a red light a man sitting on a bench watching a video from a projector

Rehabilitating our human spirit under capitalism by Yoshinori Niwa, curated by Anushka Rajendran

LUX: Which art weeks and fairs are particularly impactful for South Asian artists?
AT & SS: For South Asian artists, India Art Fair, Art Basel Hongkong and Art Dubai are some fairs which bring focus to artists from the region. Kochi Muziris Biennale, Colomboscope, Kathmandu Triennale and Dhaka Art Summit in fact have a larger and more significant importance, as they hold well curated conversations around artists from South Asia where curators, writers and collections get to view more of their work and bring focus and attention towards their practice.

LUX: What conversations will you be mediating through your partnership with Hello India Art Awards?
AT & SS: The collaboration of Shrine Empire with Hello India Art Awards promotes recognition for artists, curators, writers and other contributors in this field, offering them encouragement and recognition in the industry. The Award also gives a small grant to the winners and recognises certain categories such as best writer, best performance artist, best public-led initiative amongst others which otherwise do not get their due importance or support. We hope to build further patronage through initiatives like these.

A woman wearing an orange dress standing next to a woman in a grey and white outfit standing between two paintings on walls

Shrine Empire was founded in 2008 by Shefali Somani (left) and Anahita Taneja (right)

LUX: Where do you see future opportunities for engagement?
AT & SS: We hope to open up the world to India with further international collaborations and opportunities for our community here. We see a scope of growth through dialogue and engagement with other communities beyond the arts creating exposure and conversation around it. In developing our dialogue and keeping South Asia as our focus, we hope to build initiatives which help, support and create future opportunities.

LUX: What was the vision for Shrine Empire?
AT & SS: Shrine Empire was envisioned as a space to show contemporary art practices from South Asia that were relevant to context of the times and region that they belonged to. We have worked to fulfil this vision for the past fifteen years.

Wooden benches with cushions on them in a room with blue walls and small pictures on the walls

Forestial Flock Curated by Adwait Singh, Shrine Empire

LUX: How was the contemporary art market in India at that time?
AT & SS: When we started Shrine Empire, the market in India for contemporary art was nascent, and a market for experimental practices was nonexistent. Over the years due to many factors, India now has a strong growing market for contemporary art. We see a growth in the number of young collectors every year and not only from our major cities but in the past couple of years from smaller towns as well.

LUX: Is your role curatorial in terms of facilitating discourse?
AT & SS: Our role is not curatorial but we jointly decide on the discourse that we would like to facilitate through the gallery and foundation with curators we work with.

tops made of metal on a rack

Tayeba Begum Lipi, Vanity Fair, Shrine Empire

LUX: How do you offer platforms for cross-cultural participation?
AT & SS: We offer cross-cultural participation through PRAF. Many of our programmes have international partners and we select artists, writers and curators who then spend time in international residencies such as La Napoule Foundation in South of France and Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. For the first time, we will be inviting an international artist for a residency in India through Villa Swagatam, an initiative led by French Institute in India. We have recently collaborated with Han Nefkens Foundation for a major video grant for South Asian artists, which will give them an opportunity to show their work in five major institutions around the world.

LUX: What socio-political themes particularly resonate with artists you champion?
AT & SS: Our artists are working with the socio-political issues that are prevalent in the South Asian context. Mining and industrialisation in tribal areas leading to loss of indigenous ways, issues of migration both within the region and to countries outside South Asia, the politics of caste and gender, these are just some of the themes that resonate strongly with our artists.

A white room with art on the wall

Sue Williamson, Other Voices, Other Cities, Prameya Art Foundation, curated by Anushka Rajendran

LUX: What you foresee for the South Asia art scene over the next decade?
AT & SS: We see a positive shift of interest from international collectors towards South Asian artists. There is already significant attention on this region by important institutions and museums who are exhibiting and showing their works. International curators are showing a marked interest in the dialogue around practices from this region.

Read more: Patrick Sun on LGBTQ artists in Asia

There will be a significant growth in collections building on artists from South Asia and many more artists will be shown at international Biennale’s and Triennale’s. A subsequent result of these factors will lead to a rise in the market of these artists going forward.

Find out more: shrineempiregallery.com

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Reading time: 6 min
A man in a suit with a red waistcoat standing in a room with art
A man in a suit with a red waistcoat standing in a room with art

Durjoy Rahman, founder of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

A philanthropic foundation from Bangladesh is creating powerful ties between art and culture in East and West, with a nexus in Italy. Greg Thomas reports on the remarkable dialogues and cross-fertilisation across the Global South and North being catalysed by the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

“We have craft traditions in Bengal that are thousands of years old,” Durjoy Rahman tells me from his home in Dhaka, the capital of his native Bangladesh, which is part of the wider Bengal region. A vibrant abstract painting hangs on the wall behind him, and coloured beads adorn his wrist. Since launching the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) in 2018, the art collector and philanthropist has made it his mission to promote the creative culture of his home country and the wider South Asian region, including Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka; and to create links between the Global South and North.

Over the past five years, DBF, which grew out of Durjoy’s collecting, has supported countless creatives through residencies, exhibitions and exchange programmes. It has linked up artists, art writers and craftspeople in South Asia and Europe, but also reaching across South America, Africa and elsewhere.

A group of people standing for a photo outside a building

Members of the Venice Bangladeshi community, from the local Bangla language school, at an open studio visit, Majhi International Art Residency, Venice, 2019

A particular concern has always been to establish ties with Italy. Or rather, as Durjoy puts it, “not Italy, but Venice. When we were making plans to build bridges between East and West, and to think about how creative people from South Asia could gain greater visibility, we felt that Venice was a perfect place to focus our efforts. Because of the Venice Biennale, it’s a gathering point for global art populations.”

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The foundation’s latest project, the DBF-KMB Award, was launched in Venice in 2022 in collaboration with London’s Hayward Gallery. Every two years until 2028, curators from the Hayward, with representatives from the DBF and the Kochi Biennale Foundation, will select one outstanding South Asian artist exhibiting at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kerala, to show their work at the prestigious London gallery’s  HENI Project Space.

A group of people standing by some pillars holding a flag

Members of the Venice Bangladeshi community, from the local Bangla language school, at an open studio visit, Majhi International Art Residency, Venice, 2019

The recipient of this year’s inaugural award was announced in Venice (of course) in July – creating the third side of an international triangle between South Asia, London and Venice. Amol K Patil is an artist who works with a variety of media including installations, drawings, sculptures and moving images. He was chosen for the award on the basis of his work at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an installation entitled The Politics of Skin and Movement; his work at the Hayward this autumn is a development of this theme. Durjoy says he admires Patil’s work for “seeking to bridge the gap between East and West, fostering an atmosphere of openness and embracing diversity.” Amol K Patil is also being supported by the DBF for his fellowship at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam for a year from September 2023.

To complement the artist award and exhibition, in alternate years, an instalment of the Durjoy Bangladesh Lecture Series, co-curated by the Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation and programmed by Hayward Director Ralph Rugoff, will be held at the Hayward Gallery, introducing key themes and figures from South Asian art.

A white gallery with paintings on the walls and a sculpture in the centre of the room

Arlecchino, Arlecchino and Mating Tigers, 2021, by Shezad Dawood, and Man in Shower, Porter Series, 2006, by William Kentridge, at the DBF Creative Studio, Dhaka

Durjoy often talks about his foundation’s work in terms of building bridges within and between countries. Indeed, references to water and crossings punctuate his discussion of DBF’s mission. Of equal and related significance are the affinities Durjoy sees between Bangladesh, with its maritime infrastructure and shipbuilding traditions, and the host city of the world’s most celebrated Biennale.

After all, Venice has an equally strong history of nautical trade and technology. And the businessman points out that it also has a “very large Bangladeshi community, because of the big dockyard industry. There are a lot of migrant professionals there: engineers, draughtsmen.” It is notable that, perhaps unlike some philanthropists in privileged positions in parts of the Global South, Durjoy considers all of his compatriots as equally important citizens.

Man in a black t shirt and blue jeans standing with arms crossed by a white wall

Amol K Patil, recipient of the inaugural Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation – Kochi-Muziris Biennale Award, 2023

In 2019, Durjoy launched DBF’s first major initiative, the Majhi International Art Residency Programme, hosted at Combo, a former convent in Cannaregio, Venice. This saw Venetian and Bangladeshi artists come together over two weeks to create collaborative artworks, present and perform. “The word Majhi means ‘ferryman’,” says Durjoy. “In Venice they have gondolas on their canals and in Bangladesh we have many boats on our waterways, too, so it makes sense. ‘Majhi’ also means ‘leader of the house’ or ‘leader of a group of people’, and I’d like the scheme to show a possible future direction for artistic endeavours in Europe.”

Majhi 2019 was also about nurturing local Venetian talent. Participant Andrea Morucchio is a Venetian artist whose practice raises awareness of the impact of mass tourism in Venice. His Covid 19-era project, Venezia Anno Zero, documented the serenity of La Serenissima during lockdown. “And we didn’t work in isolation from the Venetian Bangladeshi community, either,” Durjoy continues. “There’s a school that teaches Bengali to the Bangladeshi children in Venice, and the children came to see a performance by an artist from Bangladesh.”

Black and white photo of a group of soldiers with helmets wearing sweater vests

Sheikh Abu Naser, freedom fighter and younger brother of “Bangabandhu” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on the battlefield, 1971, by Raghu Rai, DBF Collection

Subsequent Majhi projects have also strengthened DBF’s connections with other European countries and institutions. DBF has a strong presence in Berlin, which made it possible to host the second Majhi Art Residency in Berlin in 2020 during Art Berlin, immediately before Berlin went into lockdown. In fact, DBF’s first collaboration, in 2018, was with German museum the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, to which Durjoy donated a major installation by Mithu Sen, the first work by a female Indian artist collected by a major German institution. The third Majhi residency was held in 2021 in Eindhoven, another city where the foundation has a strong presence.

A further recent major achievement of the foundation was the creation of the DBF Creative Studio. This former storage unit of Durjoy’s was converted into a gallery and space for limited gatherings during lockdown, as a way of exhibiting the wonders of the DBF collection in a safe setting.

White gallery with black and white photos of people's distressed faces on the walls

Photographs from the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, from the book Rise of a Nation, by Raghu Rai, images from the DBF Collection, shown at the DBF Creative Studio

Through it all, connections to Venice have remained central. In October 2019, following the first Majhi residency, artists involved in the scheme came to Dhaka to take part in the city’s first Italian Contemporary Art Days, supported by the Italian Embassy in Bangladesh and other partners. This was part of the wider programme for the 15th Italian Contemporary Art Day and “a prime example of how a cultural bridge can cross borders,” Durjoy notes. Meanwhile, in Dhaka, the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation works closely with the Italian Embassy in other areas – notably staging a vintage car and motorbike event to celebrate 50 years of friendship between the two countries last year.

Read more: Art Dubai opens in support of South Asian artists

What is the wider context for DBF’s work? The idea of “writing back to the centre” is a common trope in postcolonial literature and theory. “Writing back” identifies a paradigm wherein liberated nations turn the tables on the cultures of their former colonisers through the critical optic of art and writing.

Colourful cube sculpture and wall art

Black Square Breaking into Primary Colours, 2016, by Rasheed Araeen, DBF Collection

A similar idea underpins Durjoy’s thinking on DBF’s work, which is not just about building bridges but also about subverting what he calls “the Western gaze” on South Asian culture. “It’s not about blaming anyone,” he clarifies. “It’s just that when publications about South Asian art appear, the scholars have all been groomed within the Western education system, so you get a European or American perspective.” Within news culture, meanwhile, the Western gaze has been predisposed to find images of disaster and deprivation, particularly since the 1970s, when independence from Pakistan in 1971 was followed by a period of famine and hardship for much of Bangladesh’s population.

Five men stand by a sign celebrating friendship between Italy and Bangladesh

Enrico Nunziata, Durjoy Rahman, Atiqul Islam, Shahriar Alam and Anjan Chowdhury, at the opening of the DBF/Italian Embassy vintage car and motorbike event, Dhaka, 2022

Durjoy doesn’t seek to counter negative tropes within uncritically positive ones. In fact, he is keen to talk about how the British Raj and latterly the government of Pakistan – which took control of what is now Bangladesh, first as East Bengal and later as East Pakistan, after the 1947 partition of India – both subjugated national creative cultures. “It’s not only colonialism but achieving independence late, in 1971, that has hindered the cultural development of Bangladesh,” he reflects. “And the loss of connection with our cultural heritage was due to these same factors. During colonial times, craft and creative endeavours were purposely obstructed so that craftsmen could get on with work more useful to the colonial government. Then, after the 1947 partition, still other aspects of our cultural heritage started fading away, including our own language, Bengali. There was a revolution in 1952 to protect the language.”

Strange cat like coloured sculptures presented on a wooden bridge in a gallery

History/Cartography/Territorialism, 2023, by Dhali Al Mamoon, participant in the Majhi International Art Residency in Venice, shown at the DBF Creative Studio

Happily, many of these traditions have been reborn in recent decades, with Bangladesh’s millennia-old textile industry an area of growth, notably through renewed production of jamdani, a fine handspun muslin cloth that has become an emblem of national cultural pride.

Nonetheless, as Durjoy points out, DBF’s programme for his country’s ongoing cultural rejuvenation remains timely and relevant in a global arts scene seeking to heal rifts caused by imperialism. As Durjoy puts it, in a phrase that is reminiscent of that ferryman again, the foundation is “on time”. All aboard for the ride, from Dhaka to Venice, London and elsewhere.

Read more: durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

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Reading time: 8 min
A colourful painting with large grey and gold ovals hanging from the air
A woman wearing a green top standing next to a pan in a white polo shirt leaning on a gold chair with art behind them on the wall

Aliya and Farouk Khan

Over the last 25 years Aliya and Farouk Khan have been carefully curating a collection of art works by prominent first generation Malaysian contemporary artists. Known as The AFK Collection, this is one of the most comprehensive collections of seminal artworks by a wide variety of critically relevant artists and a resource centre for information and documentation, creating awareness and knowledge on the canon and timeline of Malaysia’s dynamic contemporary art movement.Here, Samantha Welsh speaks to Aliya and Farouk about the Malaysian contemporary art scene and how its gained the institutional recognition it deserves

LUX: Relocating to Kuala Lumpur in the 1990s, what was so compelling about the art scene?
Aliya and Farouk Khan: When we moved to Kuala Lumpur in the 1990’s and began visiting gallery shows, art competitions, art museums and socialising within the art scene we discovered new forms of art that moved beyond the Modernist paintings we had been exposed to up until then. We discovered art that moved beyond the traditional modes of two-dimensional painting and sculpture into new modes of making, for example mixed media and installation. Discovering these radical new art forms was compelling, particularly as this new contemporary art scene visually and intellectually described our new adopted home of Malaysia that we had chosen to live in.

LUX: How are state institutions and private patronage partnering to build national collections?
AFK: In Malaysia there are not any partnerships between state institutions and private patronage to build national collections. Instead, the contemporary movement is strongly led by private collections. This is as state institutions are still very much contained within the modernist mode. This is characteristic within the Malaysian art industry where private collectors have always led the way and created the momentum for the development of the contemporary art ecology.

LUX: Why was the contemporary art movement in Malaysia slow to emerge?
AFK: The Malaysian contemporary art movement was not slow to emerge, but it was slow in gaining institutional recognition. Malaysian contemporary artists were well ahead of the pack, vigorously engaging in the contemporary movement. Curatorial teams within state institutions saw the contemporary movement and its use of various genres as a move away from figurative art and explained it as a move towards Islamisation in Malaysian art. This does not stand up to scrutiny because upon review you find there was no development of calligraphy art (which is a main genre within Islamic art movements) and instead a strong movement into conceptual art and mixed media. At the same time, the figure was consistently represented across all the diverse genres and modes of art making.

A completely new contemporary art movement was emerging in the post-colonial landscape of Malaysia, as artists sought to describe the changes happening around them, and unfortunately the curators of the time were not able to comprehend and articulate this artistic and intellectual shift. This has left the institutions behind.

a picture of people lying down togther

Ahmad Fuad Osman, Fatamorgana 3 The Spotlight Obsession, 2006

LUX: How was the social and economic environment at that time when you started collecting versus now?
AFK: We began collecting in an era of great dynamism. Coming from Singapore it was evident to us that what had happened to Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s was now happening to Malaysia in the 1990s. Tremendous changes were afoot.

Malaysia was undergoing rapid changes, socially and economically. The country was fast moving from a rural, agrarian focused nation to an urbanised country with strong industrial, banking, service, and tourism sectors – due mainly to government policies and an independent thinking society that blossomed in the post-colonial era. The evidence of progressive development was all around us- from the building of the iconic KLCC Twin Towers (amongst the tallest buildings in the world) to the development of major highways linking the entire country from North to South. A strong demographic shift was underway, as we saw the urbanisation of the rural Malays who moved from villages into city centres.

All these changes were encapsulated in the art movement. This was the dawning of contemporary Malaysia and contemporary art within Malaysia.

Currently the country is in a far more developed state than it was in the 1990’s. The economic success is real. The GDP of individual households is much higher. Institutions and corporations are stronger across the board. All of this has led to a far greater interest within the arts which is far more affordable for people today than it was 30 years ago. People have more disposable income and are able to engage in leisure activities and critical thinking is very relevant in daily life. We notice increasingly that art has become a way of life for the middle class. Corporates and institutions are waking up to the very real need for state and national collections as a result.

LUX: Is the discipline of collecting an art or a science?
AFK: Collecting art is a science. It follows a methodology. One must first understand the formal aspects of art creation. Then one has to understand the history and narrative of both the individual artist and broader art movement. These are important academics that one needs to develop: knowledge of history and narrative and formal aspects of art. Then the methodology of collection building comes in.

Following this sequence is far different from the general statement often heard that ‘I buy what I like’. Forming a collection goes well beyond simple acquisition. So, when people say art is subjective, we in fact differ: art is extremely objective. The value and importance of an artwork inherently exists within the way it was made and its value in the art canon. Understand which are the key works for an artist, a canon, and a thesis, then systematically collect those works to build a strong art collection.

grey and white bits glued onto a canvas

Suhaimi Fadzir, Life, July 24, 1939

LUX: How do you mentor and show artists in the specialist subsectors?
AFK: One of the most effective ways is through our method of collecting and documenting. Within our collection we talk about the subsectors (which we take to mean art genres) and through our collecting we collect the dominant artists within these sectors. This achieves two things: firstly as a guide for collecting. That we are obliged to determine the subsectors. Hence it is important to collect across all the diverse genres that represent our art movement. Secondly it emphasises to us the importance of the first-generation artists who helped develop the movement along these sectors. In fact, we have found this to be the most important tool within the formation of our collection.

Essentially, we broke down what the individual genres were, who was important within these genres and what were the seminal artworks within that. This became a foundation for the collection and why we were able to identify and acquire those seminal artworks that are the scaffolding of the Malaysian contemporary art canon.

LUX: Generally, who has the upper hand, artist or collector?
AFK: Recognition is key to the relevance and strength of either the artist or collector. The artist in their earlier phase without recognition doesn’t hold much power. As they develop and become popular, they begin to hold a lot of power. Similarly, the reputation of a museum or a private collection determines their strength. In this day and age there are private collectors who wield more power than museums and institutions. The stronger the collector patronises, supports, publishes, collects the greater the power they wield. It is not that one is stronger than the other but that at different times they all wield different powers.

A colourful painting with large grey and gold ovals hanging from the air

Zulkifli Yusoff, Hujan Lembing Di Pasir Salak

LUX: How can you codify a canon of work?
AFK: Codifying a canon of work requires diligence and a critical mind. We engaged in a great deal of research and academic input via dialogue with curators and artists well entrenched in the art scene known for progressive thought. Dialogues such as these have proved invaluable in the codification for the contemporary movement.

Subsequently we digitised the collection, making it available via our website. This has allowed our codification of the canon and knowledge inherent in our work easily accessible to broader audiences whether they are here in Malaysia or around the world. Bearing in mind very little information on Malaysian art history was available on the international front, the provision of this window of knowledge for audiences previously unfamiliar felt important.

a Chinese style colourful painting of a woman sleeping in a white dress with people around her

Eng Hwee Chu, Lost in Mind

LUX: Who have emerged as foremost among ‘first generation’ contemporary Malaysian artists?
AFK: Zulkifli Yusoff is extremely important amongst the first generation of contemporary Malaysian artists, for his role in the development of conceptual and installation art. He was also the first Malaysian artist to be invited to exhibit twice at the Venice Biennale. The AFK Collection were delighted to loan his seminal installation ‘Kebun Pak Awang’, which is highly characteristic of his research based process and strong artistic skill, to Venice Biennale in 2019.

Fauzan Omar is another key first generation artist, whose importance lies in both his work as an artist and arts educator. Fauzan’s most important contribution was to create a challenge against the perceived sanctity of a canvas’ surface via destructive methods such as ripping and tearing, before engaging in reconstructive methods to build up highly textural mixed media works that changed the way in which art was produced locally. It was an extremely radical practice that has had a lasting impact.

Ahmad Shukri was one of Fauzan’s closest students who has gone on to become possibly Malaysia’s leading mixed media artist.

Ahmad Fuad Osman has emerged as the top multi-disciplinary Malaysian contemporary artist. An extremely conceptual artist, he has mastered diverse genres of art making- from painting to sculpture, video, print and installation- that allow him to consistently produce really exciting and impactful visual art.

Hamir Soib pioneered the trend for monolithic paintings in Malaysia. His paintings easily reach 16 or 20 feet and are filled with complex imagery that speak to the socio-political realities of contemporary Malaysia with a great deal of critical insight and wit. Along with oil and acrylic, Hamir uses bitumen as a paint source, having mastered the ability to use this notoriously difficult substance with the ease of watercolour allows him to create extremely atmospheric gothic images.

A painting of a man in a white outfit and next to it a man in darkness wearing black

Shooshie Sulaiman, Encik Duit Orang

Shooshie Sulaiman, who is currently represented by Tomio Koyama Gallery, always impresses for her conceptually driven installations, performances, and paintings. Pre-production processes are vital for Shooshie, and she engages in them with great poetry. Shooshie has the distinction of being the first Malaysian artist invited to exhibit at Documenta. Along with her artistic practice she has been a successful curator and gallerist.

Jalaini Abu Hassan, who was educated at Slade School of Fine Art, London and Pratt Institute,New York, perfectly encapsulates the demographic shift for rural Malays to urbanised environments that he lived through. His works are expressive and use a range of media, and most excitingly feature classic Malay iconography in super contemporary compositions. A consistent signature across all of Jai’s works are the Malay poems and idioms written in his distinctive hand. Jai has also engaged as an educator for several years, cementing his influence amongst the younger generations of Malaysian artists.

Eng Hwee Chu is a leading Surrealist painter in Malaysia. In the early 1990’s she produced a series titled ‘Black Moon’ that set the standard for Malaysian Surreal and Magical Realism, winning her several awards, and leading to international showings. Her strong figurative skill is apparent through her delight in painting crowds of people, finely finished, as demonstrated in ‘Lost in Mind’.

scarf in gold and black wrapped up in a ball

Hamir Soib, Ahad

Suhaimi Fadzir pioneered a completely new style of assemblage he titles ‘archipainting’. Suhaimi used his training as an architect to fix objects found in the world around him- from a dismantled bicycle to corrugated tin roofs to car bumpers- onto canvases in a style that merged installation, sculpture, and mixed media. It is an extremely radical and innovative practice that visually describes the growth of contemporary Malaysia very well.

LUX: What is your vision going forward?
AFK: Assembling The AFK Collection was not easy. It required a great deal of time, financing and constant discussions with curators and artists. At the same time, it is a body of work that we deeply love and are very proud of. We recognise the effort that went into putting this collection together and we hope that it will continue to be a major resource in creating greater awareness for and education on Malaysian contemporary art. We envision a society that is more knowledgeable on the wonderful Malaysian contemporary art history and artists and a society able to engage in conversation on art as easily as any other topic.

Find out more: afkcollection.com

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Reading time: 10 min
colourful lines in pink and blue
A man sitting on a couch with a mirror and large windows next to him

Sundaram Tagore. Photo by Paul Terrie. Photo courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

Art and culture is part of gallerist Sundaram Tagore’s DNA, coming from one of India’s leading creative families. Here, Tagore speaks to LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropist Editor, Samantha Welsh, about the importance of showcasing underrepresented artists and ensuring creatives are not pigeonholed

LUX: How did your upbringing nurture a fascination for cross-cultural exchange?
Sundaram Tagore: I grew up in a house of art and culture. My father, Suho Tagore, was a painter, poet and writer. He was one of India’s early modernists. He was raised in a family of artists and creative people, including Rabrindranath Tagore, the first non-Westerner to win the Nobel prize for literature. When I was a child, my father was publishing an art magazine, building a museum and organizing exhibitions. We had a constant flow of creative people from all over the world staying in our Calcutta home—artists, writers, and filmmakers. Calcutta, at that time, was a glamorous cosmopolitan city and India’s intellectual capital.

But it goes beyond that. My family has been involved with the idea of cross-cultural exchange going back generations. In the early twentieth century, they built a globally focused university, now known as Visva-Bharati University, outside of Calcutta. They were so committed to the idea, they invested everything—the entire Tagore family fortune, including our ancestral home—to build it.

The school was known for its intensive arts program and an emphasis on returning to nature, with classes often held outside under the trees. By the early 1920’s, there were students coming from every corner of the globe to attend, including notable scholars and artists, including the renowned British painter William Rothenstein. Mahatma Gandhi and disciples were based there for a time.

In 1922, the very first Bauhaus international exhibition, which comprised more than 250 works of European avant-garde art, was brought to Calcutta by my family. The exhibition featured works by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Lionel Ettinger presented alongside work by modern Indian artists.

shades of green paint on a canvas

Susan Weil, Landscape, Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

LUX: Where did you start to seed these East-West dialogues?
ST: Again, it goes back to my family, who, over generations, created real cultural dialog. My father, who had studied in England in the 1930s, came back to India and formed one of the first arts collectives in India called the Calcutta Group­—inspired by the Bloomsbury Group. So, those ideas have always been with me, it’s part of my mental DNA. Rabrindranath Tagore advocated for universalism throughout his life. This was the family ethos.

LUX: A former director of Pace Gallery, NY, how did that experience challenge your perception and change your direction?
ST: I saw a very professional world at Pace. It was a highly aestheticized environment with rigorous programming and curatorial values. Those were the things that I carried with me when I opened my own gallery—paying sharp attention to the details.

LUX: What was your thinking behind launching the flagship gallery?
ST: I came into the gallery world from an academic background. I imagined that I might be a museum curator. I was doing dissertation research at Oxford University on Indian Modernism, again, returning to issues of East-West dialogue and intercultural discourse. It was a topic close to my heart, this question of what modernism means to a deep-rooted traditional culture, such as India’s. To be modern, one has to reject tradition, that is the basis of Modernism. And for many tradition-bound cultures, like India or Indonesia, if you give up those traditions, how do you exist? It’s like choosing to be an orphan.

As a student of Indian Modernism, I soon discovered there were few museums that could accommodate me because in those days, there weren’t many positions in my field of expertise. And so, I began working as an advisor for various museums and institutions. Eventually, I decided to create my own gallery, which opened in 2000 in SoHo, New York.

colourful lines in pink and blue

Hiroshi Senju, Waterfall on Colors, 2022. Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

The kind of gallery I wanted to visit didn’t exist. At that time, most galleries in New York had a strong Euro-Western focus, representing predominantly men. There were a few galleries representing Indian artists, Russian artists or Chinese artists, but there were no galleries focussing on the global community. I was drawn to artists who synthesized ideas from disparate cultures, drawing from diverse formal traditions and philosophies.

It became my mission to show that some of the best and most meaningful art was being created by artists deeply engaged in cross-cultural explorations. So I assembled a global roster of artists, including Hiroshi Senju, Sohan Qadri, Karen Knorr, Zheng Lu, Susan Weil, Ricardo Mazal and Golnaz Fathi, who crossed cultural and national boundaries. I showed this work alongside important work by overlooked women artists from the New York School, who I always thought deserved more attention and representation. We will be showing an exhibition by Susan Weil (b. 1930, New York), a groundbreaking American artist from the New York School and the first woman I signed to the gallery in 2000 at Cromwell Place in London this October.

This global and inclusive outlook naturally lead to opening international locations, including Beverly Hills, California, in 2007; Hong Kong in 2008; and Singapore in 2012. And just this year, we opened a permanent space in the London arts hub, Cromwell Place.

LUX: What kinds of impact can artists make when you introduce them into cultures where art is under-represented?
ST: Art is always present, everywhere. However, society may not be in a position to appreciate it because of economic or socio-political issues. But people always create. It’s a basic human drive.

Artists challenge us to think differently or see things in new ways. When you bring new or underrepresented artists into a space, they revitalise it, at least creatively.

A room with a couch, table and chairs

Sundaram Tagore’s Apartment with interior styling by Philippa Brathwaite. Photo by Paul Terrie. Photo courtesy Sundaram Tagore Gallery

LUX: How would you say this has changed the art scene over the last couple of decades?
ST: By looking at a work of art, appreciating it ,and having a discourse about it, we expand our minds and take those conversations into our everyday lives.

In the past few decades, the art world has expanded in a very significant way. Interest has expanded beyond the United States and Europe in ways we couldn’t have imagined twenty years ago. There are biennales in some of the remotest corners of the world shining a light on artists who have been underrepresented in the art world. Curators and some galleries are now paying attention to artists they wouldn’t have a decade ago. Some of this has been prompted by politics, and now, increasingly, by economics.

Technology has also expanded the commercial art world. We all have more access to information. This is positive.

LUX: Is there a tendency to typecast artists by region, gender, cause, medium, at the risk of restricting their freedom to explore new avenues, genres to reach their fullest potential?
ST: There is a tendency to typecast artists by identity. Religion, gender, ethnicity are easy categories. In the last few years, there’s been a rush to redress past wrongs in the art world when it comes to race and gender in particular. Museums and galleries don’t always get it right, but they’re trying to represent and champion a broader range of artists and are now expected to do better.

One thing I never worry about is artists being restricted in their freedoms or creativity. Artists are by nature rebellious, contrarian, ground-breakers and rule-breakers. Galleries, museums and collectors may be hung up on typecasting, but not artists.

squares with drawn body parts in black

Susan Weil, Untitled, 2022. Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

LUX: You are known to immerse yourself in your work, engaging fully with geographies and people. How does that approach align with your beliefs?
ST: Because I travel so much and I’ve lived in a dozen different cities across the globe, geographies dissolve and country, culture and ethnicity are almost irrelevant terms to me. I don’t judge people on their nationality, religion or any other identifier. If I connect with a person, I can be at ease in any space in the world.

LUX: Where would you say art conversations are making a significant impact on society?
ST: Many art-related conversations right now are about marginalization and identity. I think that will go on until we address these issues with broader representation. That’s the nature of art, isn’t it? To push the conversation into the foreground.

Increasingly we see how the role of activism in art can have the real-world impact, especially relating to issues of social justice and environmentalism. For example, we represent the world-renowned Brazilian photographer and activist Sebastião Salgado, who has told the stories of millions of dispossessed people around the world. To that end, he and his wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado, have a nonprofit, Instituto Terra, which has been devoted to reforestation and environmental education since the 1990s. Their recent collaboration with Sotheby’s—the largest curated solo exhibition of photography in the auction house’s history—raised more than a million dollars for their foundation.

The Salgados have replanted 2.7 million trees in a region previously covered by the Atlantic forest. It was an infertile and burned land where erosion showed the red veins of the earth; the trees, the smell of the sweet flowers, the song of the birds had disappeared. Their efforts, fueled by sale of Salgado’s work, show the power of art and artists to make a difference.

LUX: How will you continue to challenge and change perceptions?
ST: I’m not interested in controversies, trends or provocation. We have enough of that in other arenas today. I want to use art as a vehicle to bring people together.

Find out more: www.sundaramtagore.com

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Reading time: 8 min
A girl looking at a painting frightened clutching a notepad
portraits of people

Dilara Begum Jolly, Parables of the Womb. Image courtesy of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Barrister A B M Hamidul Mishbah, who specialises in Intellectual Property (Copyright & Visual Art) and Technology Law writes about three historic derivative artworks from the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation’s extensive collection, and provides insight into the complex issues of copyright and ownership in the art world

“I walk, I look, I see, I stop, I photograph” said Leon Levinstein. Every element of an artistic or creative work, be it a photograph or a painting, weaves a tapestry of ingenuity. The pursuit of collecting such artistic or creative works is a testament to the realities we encounter in our lives.

“Parables of the Womb”, acquired and preserved by the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), is a series of portraits of Birangonas (War Heroes) of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. The masterpieces were created by Dilara Begum Jolly, acclaimed artist, painter, and sculptor in Bangladesh. Jolly  rejuvenated original photographs to commemorate the plight experienced by women during the troubled times of the Liberation War.

The artworks consist of reprinted photographs of the Birangonas (War Heroes), adorned with needlework, achieving the status of ‘derivative work.’ Derivative work is a form of creative expression spawned from pre-existing original work that contains substantial transformation in line with the creator’s vision. As a result, it receives the protection of copyright law and allows the creator to control her integrity and commercial interests.

A profile of a woman in lots of different colours

Andy Warhol, Ingrid Bergman, Edition 10/30. Image courtesy of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Andy Warhol, perceived as one of the pioneers of Pop Art, created the artwork “LIZ” in 1963. The “LIZ” series comprises several paintings devised from Elizabeth Taylor‘s publicity photograph for her film ‘Butterfield 8.’ Andy Warhol used a method of silkscreen printing, and the series showcases Warhol’s signature style of vibrant and bold colours blended with contrasting hues to highlight the artist’s fondness for fame, iconic personalities, and celebrity culture.  The series remains a significant part of Warhol’s enduring legacy, speaking to the relationship between art, commerce, and mass media, inspiring the artists and audiences of this age. One of the artworks in the series of derivative works, is another jewel of the DBF’s collection.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Atul Dodiya, one of the most coveted contemporary artists in the Indian subcontinent, rose to prominence in the late ’90s for a series of artworks he created on Mahatma Gandhi. One of the artworks from that series depicts Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose engrossed in a deep conversation, created using a public domain photograph dating back to 1938. The original photograph was captured during a session of the Indian National Congress in Haripura, marking the first resolution after regaining India from the British Raj.

The artistic rendition created by Dodiya is a sepia-washed watercolour painting, immortalising the historic moment that paved the way for India’s liberation and commemorates the significant roles played by the two iconic leaders. The DBF steadfastly preserves this piece.

A girl looking at a painting frightened clutching a notepad

Atul Dodiya, Noakhali, November 1946. Image courtesy of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Original photographs enjoy copyright protection under copyright law. Copyright protection for photographs begins the moment the image is created, i.e., fixed onto the film negative through the camera’s shutter click. The person who captures the photograph is considered the ‘author’ and becomes the first owner of the photograph’s copyright, enjoying exclusive rights, including the right to reproduce (copy, print, download, etc.), the right to communicate to the public, create derivative works, and the right to prevent unauthorised use by third parties.

This means the original photographs, whether portraits of the Birangonas, Taylor’s publicity photograph from the film ‘Butterfield 8,’ or stock images from the 1938 session of the Indian National Congress in Haripura, were standalone works created by independent photographers. These photographers are presumed to be the authors and owners of the copyright in those photographs unless there is covenant to the contrary; the portraits are unequivocally not orphan works.

Maurizio Cattelan
has said: “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.” This philosophy that resonates with Rabindranath Tagore‘s school of thought on ‘moner mukti’ (indulgence of the mind). This is the juncture where the law intersects with creativity and innovation.

Three artworks of tools in the sky

Shilpa Gupta, Unnoticed, 2017. Image courtesy of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Creating derivative works from original photographs is permissible if endorsed by, and without prejudicing the interests of, the original author. Some jurisdictions are accommodating to derivative works created for certain purposes under the principles of ‘fair use,’ without the original author’s permission, taking into account the underlying purpose, nature, extent, and potential impact of the derivative work.

Read more: Syed Muhammad Zakir’s imagined city of Baghreb

By and large, artistic works create bridges that connect our past, present, and future, reminding us of the timeless beauty and relevance of human creativity. Artistic works such as “Parables of the Womb”, the “LIZ” series, and Dodiya’s paintings have the innate ability to evoke emotions, resonate the connection between art and human experience, and ignite the passion for collecting and celebrating art.

Two women, one holding a child in a dark room wearing large green glasses

Firoz Mahmud, part of a photograph series, ‘Soaked Dream’. Image courtesy of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

The interplay between copyright protection for photographs, derivative works, and digital artistic assets has become remarkably intense in the age of NFTs, which consistently push the boundaries. NFTs have revolutionised the concept of ownership and the domain of collecting and preserving art. Owning an NFT and owning a copyright are not the same. Copyright law does not confer any rights to the NFT owner, but the NFT owner may use ownership to exert substantial control over an NFT. This control is not automatic; two separate rights come into play here—the right to own a single copy of the artistic work, and the right to make copies and generate derivative works from the original work. NFT technology enables broader access to innovative creations. Collectors of artistic works can now play a transformative role and foster a dynamic ecosystem that blends artistry and commerce in ways never seen before, while the tokenisation of artworks into NFTs opens new streams for generating revenue.

Nonetheless,  collectors remain custodians of history. It’s not the financial gain but the narratives woven by the creators that motivate most collectors. They dedicate themselves to safeguarding artworks as a testament to the evolving journey of humanity. Each piece of artistic work encapsulates a moment frozen in time. With every piece of work, artists breathe life into their visions, and collectors, in turn, take on the responsibility to ensure that these visions endure for generations.

A family with children wearing large green glasses in a dark room

Firoz Mahmud’s photograph series, ‘Soaked Dream’, is a project about performative refugee, displaced and migrant families, being progressed between 2015-2021. Image courtesy of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

The acquisition and conservation of artistic creations like “Parables of the Womb”, the “LIZ” series, or Dodiya’s watercolour paintings by a collector passes down our narratives to the generations to come.

This article was published in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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Reading time: 6 min
Alessia Caruso Fendi in Rome
Alessia Caruso Fendi in Rome

Alessia Caruso Fendi

The doyenne of the Rome fashion family Alessia Fendi speaks to LUX about Cleopatra, Mick Jagger, her insider tips, and her latest venture in the city

Why Rome is the eternal city

It is in an eternal renaissance, always evolving. Rome has everything visitors could want, from beauty and romance to food, history and culture.

Who I’d take on a tour

Cleopatra and Mickey Mouse. The Queen of Egypt was the lover of two of Rome’s most powerful men, and when she first came here in 46 BC there was the largest procession the city had seen. I’d take her through the winding streets of bohemian Trastavere, full of people, restaurants and bars, and home of the Horti di Cesare. I’d show Mickey Mouse how a Disney character would fit perfectly into the frenzy of the city. I’m sure he would speed on a scooter to reach Minnie!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

My favourite place here

Rhinoceros Roma is a place like no other in the city. It was founded by my mother, Alda Fendi, in 2018. The gallery shows works by artists from Michelangelo to Picasso, and there are 25 luxurious apartments for guests. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and has a vibe where new meets old, luxury meets state-of-the-art tech. It’s a special haven near many of the city’s most beloved historic sites.

Rhinoceros Rome gallery

Rhinoceros apud Saepta by Raffaele Curi in the Rhinoceros Roma gallery

My ideal dinner guests

I’d host Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, and Mick Jagger for dinner at Rhinoceros Roma’s new rooftop restaurant, Entr’acte. It combines breathtaking views over Rome’s red rooftops with delicious cuisine.

My favourite Roman dish

Coratella is a typical dish that dates back to ancient times. It is a combination of lamb offal, artichokes, white wine, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt and black pepper.

The Entr’acte terrace in Rome at dusk

The Entr’acte terrace at dusk

Michaelangelo or Leonardo?

I’d have to say Michelangelo. He is one of the city’s most prominent artists and there are many examples of his genius here, from the Sistine Chapel and the Pietà in St Peter’s, to the Piazza del Campidoglio.

If you have one afternoon in Rome…

Go to the Baths of Caracalla – you will be amazed by the Roman architecture. Then dash to the Colosseum, Circus Maximus and relax at the Palatine Hill. Rome is very romantic The perfect place to propose is Giardino degli Aranci. The park has wonderful views across the city. Then celebrate with a meal at Entr’acte.

Old meets new in a sitting area in a Rhinoceros Roma apartment

My dream collaboration

I wish I’d worked with Issey Miyake to glorify his mix of craft, materials and technology through colours and geometries. I’d love to show his collections at Rhinoceros Roma. Italian artists I am looking at now I admire Pietro Ruffo, for his intricate pieces into which he incorporates ethical issues, with symbols such as dragonflies. I love Alessandro Piangiamore, whose beautiful works imprint flowers and leaves on concrete slabs. Alberto Di Fabio’s huge representations of the cosmos and the natural world are awe-inspiring.

Read more: Fausto Puglisi Interview: Refashioning Roberto Cavalli

One place I’d love to visit

Porquerolles, an island in the Parc National de Port-Cros in the Mediterranean. It’s been on my list for ages for its beauty and serenity. Coming from Rome, I am always on the lookout for quiet places to recharge in.

Find out more: rhinocerusroma.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 3 min

Wendy Schmidt and the R/V Falkor (too)

Philanthropist and investor Wendy Schmidt founded the Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 with her husband, Eric, former CEO of Google. Here, Wendy tells Trudy Ross about their new research vessel, R/V Falkor (too) and the importance of expanding scientific knowledge of the oceans’ unplumbed depths

LUX: Can you share the inspiration behind founding the Schmidt Ocean Institute and your vision for advancing oceanographic research and exploration?
Wendy Schmidt: My husband, Eric, and I began Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 after I learned to sail and to scuba dive and he went out and found an existing hull in a retired German fisheries vessel. Combining Eric’s interest in advancing engineering and technology and my growing passion for Ocean science and communications, we repurposed the old steel hull into the construction of a state-of-the-art oceanographic research vessel, launching R/V Falkor in 2012.

We had two ideas: first, as philanthropists, to provide ship time, which is in short supply, for marine researchers at no cost. Second, in exchange, we ask scientists and researchers to make their collected data publicly available for the broader research community as soon as possible, so we might collectively accelerate the pace of oceanographic research at a critical time in the life of the Ocean and our planet.

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LUX: The Institute has recently launched a new research vessel, Falkor (too) to embark on research expeditions and expand the capacity for ocean research. What is special about the ship and how has it been specifically tailored to advance marine science?
WS: Like our first research vessel, R/V Falkor (too) is built on a repurposed hull. The original ship was a service vessel built in 2011 to travel back and forth from Ocean platforms, including wind turbines. It came with an excellent seakeeping ability, which is a wonderful feature when you have robots diving beneath the ship.

We were able to successfully convert the ship for marine research at a shipyard in Vigo, Spain, during a remarkable 18-month period in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic, during which we faced workers absent due to illness, local work strikes, broken supply chains that delayed needed materials and technical parts.

Nevertheless, R/V Falkor (too) sailed from Vigo in March, 2023, on her first shakedown cruise across the Atlantic Ocean to Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. Falkor (too) is 50 percent larger than Falkor. Its technology expands the capability of Falkor with space for more scientists, offering eight laboratories, two moonpools in the centre of the vessel, a 150-foot-tall crane that can rearrange 20 shipping-size containers to create custom labs on a 10,000-square-foot deck. Modular space on the ship is designed to accommodate concurrent science projects as well as artists, who come along on most expeditions, to translate discoveries and scientific processes into art.

Wendy Schmidt inside the Falkor (too) control room

LUX: Can you speak more about the inaugural expedition of Falkor (too) in the Mid Atlantic Ridge and your findings there?
WS: A multidisciplinary team from 11 scientific institutions joined Falkor (too) for a 40-day inaugural expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Scientists were searching for new hydrothermal vent fields–and found three of them–the first discovery of active hydrothermal vents on this section of the ridge since 1980. The vents occur when magma from the Earth’s core comes into contact with sea water, creating a chemical reaction that can look spectacular. “Black smokers” are what they look like, and they can spew upwards hundreds of feet. Vent fields were measured at up to 350 degrees Celsius.

These systems are important to locate and to understand because they are rich with minerals–sulfide deposits–that are one of the targets of deep sea mining. Scientists working aboard Falkor (too) discovered the new hydrothermal sites supported active ecosystems, teeming with rich varieties of marine life. Now that the expedition is concluded, scientists will study the samples they have of rocks, hydrothermal fluids, microbes and animals found on these vents.

LUX: Which were the most significant scientific discoveries or breakthroughs made aboard the The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s previous vessel, R/V Falkor?
WS: During the decade the ship was in service, scientists working aboard discovered more than 50 new marine species and underwater formations and mapped more than half a million miles of the sea floor in high resolution.

Notable discoveries include the world’s longest known sea creature, a 150-foot-long siphonophore, and a coral reef standing taller than New York’s Empire State Building alongside The Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Our underwater cameras also caught rare footage of the ram’s horn squid, the glass octopus, and a 1 cm pygmy seahorse.

Rare sighting of a glass octopus, a nearly transparent species whose only visible features are its optic nerve, eyeballs and digestive tract, as seen from the R/V Falkor

LUX: How important is the role of new technology as a facet of ocean research?
WS: New technology is essential for advancing our understanding of the ocean. Imagine exploration in Space that didn’t take advantage of ever newer systems to enhance the missions we are able to accomplish. We know so little about the ocean and most of it is still unexplored.

Schmidt Ocean supports the development and use of transformative technologies that can scale our efforts at a time when government funding for early research and development in applied sciences won’t make it happen. We support new technologies for data collection and analysis, and others, like autonomous robotics, augmented and virtual reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence that have the promise to rapidly advance our understanding of ocean systems everywhere we go. Our Executive Director, Jyotika Virmani, chairs the UN Ocean Decade Technology Group.

LUX: You have said before that: “We can’t take care of something that we don’t understand”. Can you speak on existing accessibility barriers relating to the world of ocean research?
WS: The ocean has mostly been inaccessible to most humans throughout our history. It’s dark, cold, the pressures will crush you. We can’t breathe in the ocean without special equipment. Sea water is corrosive, and the ocean is filled with creatures that can sting you, bite you–even completely consume you. How do we reconcile that reality with the other side of the truth: the ocean is the source of all life, provides half the oxygen we breathe, controls the temperate climate that allowed civilization to advance in the places humans settled over the past 20,000 years? All that, and we have barely scratched the surface of other ocean benefits for humanity–the products it produces to enhance our well being,  supplying us with protein, and even curing disease. And yet, through my entire lifetime, the ocean has been under attack—from chemical runoff and pollution, discarded fishing gear, overfishing practices, ocean noise from the 55,000 container ships that cross our seas every day, and the constant pumping of excess C02 into our atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The people we want to engage in our outreach probably don’t live anywhere near the Ocean. They may see it from aeroplanes or ferry boats, and think it doesn’t matter to them. I didn’t know it mattered to me until I started to really look at it. Now I can’t stop looking.

Newly Discovered Hydrothermal Vent Field on Puy des Folles Seamount in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

LUX: In addition to oceanography, your philanthropic endeavours also cover other areas, from AI to renewable energy. Can you tell us how you go about identifying areas to focus your support across a diverse range of fields?
WS: We are living in a revolutionary time in human history, and, unlike people alive during earlier times of revolution, we actually know it. We experience it every day and for many people, the world has become a confusing place that changes too quickly for us to understand.

We have a corresponding opportunity in such a world to use the emerging tools of technology to rethink the human relationship to the finite resources of the Earth: our soils, atmosphere, fresh water and energy sources, and, of course, the largest living space on the planet, where 50-80 percent of all life resides–the ocean. Our planetary systems are deeply interconnected —in ways we are only beginning to understand because our technologies allow us, for the first time, to observe and to measure what was either hard to encounter or simply invisible to us.

With today’s growing suite of technologies that help us to see, analyse, understand and encounter what is here, and to incorporate Indigenous wisdom that supported human life on Earth for millennia, we have the chance to pursue human activity as a part of the living systems of the world. We work to help build a world with energy and food systems that are regenerative by design, accessible for everyone, and that respect human rights and dignity, even as we bring AI and machine learning into our work in ways that can amplify human potential everywhere.

An aerial image of R/V Falkor (too)

LUX: In your view, how crucial is the role of philanthropy in furthering the cause of ocean conservation and wider issues of sustainability?
WS: Philanthropy holds a unique position when it comes to problem solving. Think of philanthropic funding as a kind of philanthropic capital invested in activities of transformation. I think of our funding as energy, or velocity, brought to the work. Our risk profile for return on investment is far higher than what could be borne by industry or governments. We are patient and recognize the transformation of existing systems is a marathon, not a sprint. But over a decade, over two, you can see the shift happening in the way people think about what is possible.

Our work through Schmidt Marine Technology Partners for example, has been groundbreaking in getting useful technology that might otherwise remain a pet project into development and into the hands of marine researchers and ultimately into a global market that includes governments, research institutions, coastal and fisheries planners and managers, and many others.

Reseach Vessel Falkor photographed off the NW coast of the United states. Photo by Shelton Du Preez/SOI.

LUX: What are your future aspirations for the Schmidt Ocean Institute and its impact on advancing scientific knowledge, ocean exploration, and conservation efforts?
WS: My husband, Eric, and I look at Schmidt Ocean Institute as one of our legacy institutions–one that will live well beyond our own lifetimes. Its mission is so extensive and so critical to future life on Earth, and we know we are only at the beginning of the journey that brings humanity back to the ocean as its stewards and guardians.

I’ve been saying how little we know about the Ocean. Let me give you a few examples. There are up to 10 million marine species, bacteria and viruses in the ocean, but only 10 percent of them have been classified. That’s like saying, we don’t really know what life on Earth looks like. What we see on land is only a small part of it.

Read more: Jackie Savitz on why governments much protect the oceans

Only about 25 percent of the estimated 140 million square miles of the ocean floor has been mapped in high resolution so far. We know more about the back side of the moon than we do about our own planetary surface. Most people would be surprised to learn about underwater rivers, mountain ranges, kelp forests or how one researcher described her submarine journey into the darkness of the deep, saying everything was lighting up around her: “It’s the 4th of July down here.”

In the past, explorers had ships from which to encounter the ocean and mechanical instruments with which to sample and measure its activity. We have rovers and deep sea robots that never tire, high resolution cameras, high performance computers and AI that can see things invisible to the human eye, and make sense of information that we can’t without impossibly long periods of analysis.

If we can’t learn the Ocean with all these tools, it would be a failure of humanity to understand what our life on Earth really is, and would likely spell our doom, because with “life as usual,” we are destroying our life support system. We have a responsibility to use this extraordinary opportunity to explore the frontiers of our planet in a way that is ethical and inclusive, that will serve all peoples of the world and preserve the integrity of the living systems that support us all.

All images courtesy of the Schmidt Ocean Institute

Find out more: schmidtocean.org

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Reading time: 10 min
A man in a suit looking at an artwork on the wall
A man in a suit looking at an artwork on the wall

Patrick Sun at the exhibition “Myth Makers – Spectrosynthesis III”, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Hong Kong

One of Asia’s bravest, most significant and most understated art philanthropists, Patrick Sun speaks to LUX about the challenges LGBTQ artists face in Asia, and who he is collecting

Patrick Sun has a light touch. When we bump into him at an art event in Singapore, he chats joshingly with some of the other collectors and exchanges thoughts on which parties to attend, or avoid. But his mission is anything but light.

A Hong Kong native, educated in Canada, Sun made his fortune in property development in his home territory, all the while turning his attention to philanthropy with a purpose. His Sunpride Foundation supports LGBTQ artists and art in a region where they have traditionally been sidelined or suppressed.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Sunpride has supported and co-hosted a series of shows entitled “Spectrosynthesis”, which started as the first LGBTQ themed exhibition staged in an art museum in Asia. Sun collects art from Asian artists with an aim to support LGBTQ creators. Beneath the light touch is a serious purpose, and an awareness of the suffering many LGBTQ artists face, particularly in more conservative Asian cultures.

A painting of two men with a white flower on one's face and a pink flower on the other's

Hollyhock and Pure Daisies, 2020, by Yue Minjun

Sun chatted with us after our meeting in Singapore. He has raised a great deal of awareness in a short space of time, but there is a long way to go in a continent where homosexuality is illegal in several countries, and has a cultural stigma in others.

LUX: What recent acquisitions are you most excited by, and why?
Patrick Sun: I can think of two that are each significant in their own way. First, Yue Minjun’s Hollyhock and Pure Daisies: a portrait of gay icon Leslie Cheung and his partner, which features two flowers that are not supposed to bloom in the same season, representing the love between a couple who are not “meant” to be together. Second is Visitors by Bhupen Khakhar. We have always wanted to collect Bhupen Khakhar‘s paintings, but since his retrospective at Tate Modern in 2016, good works are rare to come by and prices have skyrocketed, often reaching several times the high estimate at auctions.

A woman wearing a gold dress and crown standing with two other people

Artist Ming Wong, Patrick Sun and artist Korakrit Arunanondchai at the “Spectrosynthesis II” opening party, Bangkok, 2019

When we saw Visitors, a beautiful painting that was to be auctioned in London, we asked for a private viewing and got to meet a Sotheby’s expert, Ishrat, who is passionate about Khakhar’s work. The painting shows the artist lying on his deathbed, revisited by spirits of past friends and lovers. Ishrat shared how Bhupen didn’t paint any explicit scenes concerning his sexuality until his mother passed away. She got emotional as she related the story and it also brought tears to my eyes, because it dawned on me that the year my mother died was the year I started Sunpride. Ishrat and I cried on each other’s shoulders and did the utmost to help us procure the work, concluding the purchase just hours before it was supposed to go under the hammer.

A painting people in a box

Visitors, 1998, by Bhupen Khakhar

LUX: Do you only collect works by LGBTQ artists?
PS: As illustrated by the Yue Minjun work, the answer is no. We also collect works by straight artists that explore a queer theme. It is important to have such representation, so that nobody needs to be labelled or “outed” through their participation in our collection or exhibitions.

A man in a pink jumper sitting down speaking to someone wearing a blue jumper and grey gilet

Patrick Sun with collector Rudy Tseng

LUX: Is real progress being made on LGBTQ affairs in Asia?
PS: Progress often comes in ebbs and flows. On the whole, I see more progress than regress towards the queer community. Take Hong Kong as an example: on issues such as spousal visas, taxation and housing benefits, there has been some advancement in the right direction. Just in February 2023, transgender people scored a victory in gender status on identification documents. I remain optimistic things will change for the better.

a person walking in an art gallery

Installation at “Spectrosynthesis II”, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre 7/F, BACC, 2019

LUX: Do artists of all types have more freedom and creativity than a few years back?
PS: I am not in a position to answer for all artists, but for queer artists in Hong Kong I believe the answer is affirmative. In recent years, we have had more LGBTQ themed exhibitions, both in public and private spaces. We have also seen more presentation of such works in art fairs and galleries.

Two people speaking to each other by a wall with a picture of a beach and paintings on top of it

Sun with artist Yuki Kihara at Kihara’s installation, Paradise Camp, New Zealand Pavillion, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022

LUX: What are the most exciting places in Asia for art?
PS: I think Hong Kong and Tokyo are two very exciting cities to focus on. Art Basel returned to Hong Kong in full force in March 2023, and the excitement was palpable and invigorating. I also have very good feelings about Tokyo when it comes to queer art: the sentiments are ripening for a more diverse and inclusive society, and a new art fair will take place in July 2023.

colourful embroidery and bowls laid on the floor

Installation view featuring Conundrum Ka Sorga (To Heaven), 2019, by Anne Samat, at “Myth Makers – Spectrosynthesis III”, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, 2022

LUX: Singapore is getting a creative glow, but will it catch up with Hong Kong for art?
PS: I have never felt there is a need to pitch one city against the other. If there is competition I believe it would be a healthy one. The market in Asia is certainly big enough to accommodate two or more art hubs.

A man in a blue jacket speaking to a man in a brown jacket

Patrick Sun with collector Disaphol Chansiri

LUX: Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future of creativity in Asia?
PS: I am by nature an optimist, and I believe that a positive attitude helps attract the right energy, especially creative energy.

LUX: What are the most interesting advances in digital art?
PS: Interactive installations and generative creations are two developments I find most interesting. Both use technology to reach beyond capabilities of the human mind.

A man wearing a red and white turban in a dessert

Patrick Sun

LUX: Will AI kill art?
PS: I see AI as a way for humans to explore new horizons and perspectives. It is a collaboration between human and machines rather than a rivalry. I believe AI can enhance our artistic culture and diversity instead of diminishing it.

LUX: How have events in the past couple of years affected your mission?
PS: Our mission remains unchanged since the foundation’s establishment in 2014, but Covid has inevitably affected some plans. Our most recent exhibition, “Myth makers – Spectrosynthesis III”, at Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, was meant to be held concurrently with Gay Games in Hong Kong, originally planned for 2022. We were aiming for synergy between arts and sports to enhance acceptance for the LGBTQ community.

blue screens with people in a black room

Passion, 2017, by Jun-Jieh Wang, at “Spectrosynthesis”, MOCA Taipei, 2017

Gay Games postponed its event due to the pandemic, but we decided to stay put. With Covid-related curbs, it was also difficult for our curatorial team to reach out to overseas artists to commission works and to get them to fly here for installations.

Read more: Art Dubai opens in support of South Asian artists

However, staging the exhibition in Hong Kong, where our curators and myself are based, helped to minimise the impact of this issue. There was actually a sliver lining, because we benefitted in having a broader local representation; more than one-third of the artworks presented in “Myth Makers” were created by artists based in Hong Kong.

Find out more: sunpride.hk

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 6 min
people sitting by a boat
people sitting by a boat

Fisherman at rest, 2012, Rafiqun Nabi

Bangladeshi artist Rafiqun Nabi’s diverse artworks provide a thought-provoking glimpse into social issues and the lives of the working classes in Bangladesh. Here, LUX explores his background and works

Bangladeshi artist Rafiqun Nabi is known for his diverse range of works, from cartoons, paintings, prints, woodcuts, and engravings. Renowned for his ability to blend creativity with social commentary, Nabi’s art sheds light on real issues and the lives of the working classes in Bangladesh.

Born in 1943 in Chapai Nawabganj, Bangladesh, Nabi’s passion for art developed during his school days in Old Dhaka when he began to explore his talent for drawing. Under the guidance of Bengali and Bangladeshi artists, Zainul Abedin and Quamrul Hassan, Nabi’s love for his craft continued to grow and led him to pursue printmaking.

people sitting by a boat

Fisherman at rest, 2012, Rafiqun Nabi

Nabi’s famous cartoon character, Tokai, holds a special place in the hearts of many in Bangladesh and beyond. Tokai, a street urchin with a potbelly and a shaved head, embodies the struggles of poverty and destitution in Bangladesh. Despite his hardships, Tokai exudes cheerful wit, serving as a satirical reflection of the nation’s socio-economic conditions. His character became an emblematic figure for the underprivileged in the country, resonating with people from all walks of life.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Nabi’s versatility as an artist is evident in his varied works. He departs from the cartoon style in his painting “Fishermen at Rest” (2012), which portrays hunched figures, entangled in one another as they sleep, play cards, and blow on flutes. The proximity of the fishermen contrasts with the spaciousness of the pier and the distant sea, representing the camaraderie and shared suffering within the fraught fishing industry of Bangladesh. Nabi’s ability to capture the soul of individuals amidst difficult circumstances infuses his art with life and vibrancy, and can also be seen in other works such as “After the Catch” and “Recreation”.

A painting of blue men wearing red outfits

Fisherman, 2016, Rafiqun Nabi

In his painting “Boddho Bhumi” or “Killing Field” (2004), Nabi explores the theme of the liberation of Bangladesh. The piece offers a different perspective, utilising abstraction to evoke the emotions surrounding this significant historical event. In other paintings, such as “Rooster” (2008) he meditates on beauty and nature, focusing on animals which he depicts with a dreamlike quality.

Read more: Rasheed Araeen: The Engineer Behind The Artist

At the core of Rafiqun Nabi’s artistry lies imagination and empathy. His contributions to the art world have been recognised with numerous awards, including the Promoters Prize at Inter Graphic-80 in Berlin (1980), the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Award (1989), and the Ekushey Padak (1993).

Find out more: dbfcollection.com/rafiqun-nabi

This article was published in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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Reading time: 2 min
two men standing next to a woman wearing a red dress
two men standing next to a woman wearing a red dress

Left to right: Philanthropist Durjoy Rahman with collector Maria Sukkar and LUX Editor in Chief, Darius Sanai

In the fourth of our series of online dialogues, Maria Sukkar, one of the most significant collectors in the UK and Co-Chair of the Tate Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee, speaks with philanthropist Durjoy Rahman, moderated by LUX Editor in Chief Darius Sanai. Their wide-ranging conversation covers the need to support artists from your place of origin, the western eye, and the emergence of new art powerhouses, among much else

LUX: Durjoy, you are from Bangladesh and Maria, you are from the Lebanon. Is it important to you to collect art and to support artists from your home countries?

Durjoy Rahman: I’m based in Bangladesh, but with collecting I extend to a broader South Asian perspective. We were an undivided subcontinent before partition in 1947, and to understand the development of art in the region, we must understand that context. My collections also include the diaspora of South Asian artists in Europe and the Americas, and artists from other regions whose practice have relevance to South Asian practices. Bangladesh has a long history of art but, because of colonialism – Bangladesh did not become independent till 1971 – much of our culture was lost. I recommend that collectors from this region start their art and philanthropic activities here, to restore lost heritage and give future generations evidence of our identities and history.

A painting of lots of people huddled together

Festival by Shahabuddin Ahmed a Bangladeshi painter whose works are part of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation’s Collection

Maria Sukkar: I agree. I also think you gravitate towards artwork from your region because it tells your story, and it helps define who you are. I started collecting on a small scale with my husband when we were married 25 years ago, but when we moved to London it snowballed, and we collected art from everywhere. Maybe my relationship with Middle Eastern art intensified because it reminded me of things I love about my roots. I believe collecting art from the region one comes from adds a beautiful layer to your life.

LUX: Is there a dialogue between South Asia and the Middle East in terms of art?

DR: I believe so. The Sharjah Art Foundation in the UAE did a Pop Art exhibition last year, “Pop South Asia”, and the curator included work from my collection because it represents the development of Bangladesh art specifically, but also relates to the South Asian stream, going beyond to MENA and on to the European school. We collaborated with Art Dubai this year, and one of the curatorial topics was food politics and identity. We featured the South Asian famines of 1944-45, and how the colonial powers orchestrated them.

MS: From my experience in the Gulf, Dubai, UAE and now in Saudi Arabia visiting the Islamic Arts Biennale, there has been a huge effort to showcase different talents and disciplines, and there are fewer and fewer taboos. What you see is impressive and sometimes daring. They are mixing media and there is a lot of photography and textiles, and very impressive installations.

A black and white photograph of a woman in a shirt and black skirt next to lots of small photographs on a gallery wall

Maria Sukkar’s ISelf Collection displayed at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, showed many works from Akram Zaatari’s The End of Love series

LUX: What’s the best way for influential collectors, like yourselves, to support artists today?

MS: First, collecting an artist’s work opens doors for others to see them, and displaying works at your home with work by artists from other regions means people see the works in a different light. Secondly, if you can bring an artist to an overseas residency, they can do research, meet new people, visit new institutions and museums and return home feeling culturally enriched, ready to explore other avenues and create great work. Thirdly, you can sponsor shows abroad, both financially and by organising events around them. A fourth idea is to host events for visiting artists. When I know a Lebanese artist is coming to town, I open my home. Finally, if an artist is representing your country at a biennale, support them. It’s a great way to show your country exists. Putting a pavilion together costs a lot of money, so supporting the artist elevates them and makes some noise, enabling people to learn about your country and your artists.

DR: I would just add to support emerging curators as well as artists. And one important addition to the art ecosystem would be to support publications, so curators are aware of developments and practices of artists in the region. Publications will remain as archival facts, which are very much missing in South Asia – and much needed.

gold pillar with faces on it

An Eye for an Eye, 2008 by Ayman Baalbaki, ISelf Collection

LUX: Is the art world still judged via the lens of the Western eye, or are artists being validated via another lens that doesn’t require Western perspectives?

DR: I call it the ‘Western gaze’. The Western art ecosystem has developed very structurally, it is very professional in exhibiting and documenting what it has, and Western art education is very forward-thinking. So, the West has had the liberty to look at the South Asian ecosystem however it wanted to, and it has been West looking at East. But this has been changing in the past decade with so many developments in these regions – the Biennales, Desert X, museums and major art fairs. These activities are important catalysts to changing the Western gaze and shifting things so that the East also looks at the West. The West is also sometimes dependent on what is happening in the Eastern art market.

MS: In recent years, with the mushrooming of art fairs and the changing communication between countries and organisations, the Western gaze has subsided. If you walk, for example, through the Tate display rooms, you see the artwork is grouped thematically, not chronologically or by country, so you see artists from different countries side by side. So, I personally do not see that sort of Western look at Eastern art.

A painting of the bank of a man hunched over wearing red trousers and a white top

Untitled, 1994 by Hassan Jouni, ISelf Collection

LUX: Is there a barrier to people becoming artists in MENA and South Asian countries? Is there a taboo, that you need to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer?

DR: When you become a professional, you know you have a career path that will give you a living. Being an artist is tough, a lottery. Even in Europe, an art career was traditionally supported by the wealthy, such as the Medicis, because they knew artists needed support. So an art career was challenging a thousand years ago and it is challenging now. Maybe it’s more challenging, because today you have a lot of eyes looking at you from different perspectives – a contemporary perspective, a social perspective, an activist’s perspective. I think it is more of a difficult life than a taboo or social restriction.

MS: Being Lebanese, I think people of my generation would have found it difficult to choose a career in art. You had to pick a profession that would put food on the table. And I agree, Durjoy, sometimes it’s a lottery, sometimes you cannot find your niche. There’s a lot of competition and you can spend your life not making it. But I feel there are more opportunities for our children to be successful artists today. The question is, do we let our children follow their passion, or do we still dictate what they should do?

A painting of a blurred figure

Gandhi-IV by Shahabuddin Ahmed. Part of the Durjoy Bangladesh Collection

LUX: Many women drive the art world in the West, but the societies we are discussing are often patriarchal. Has that been detrimental to artistic development?

MS: I think patriarchal societies have left so many interesting women artists in the dark for such a long time. But hasn’t this been the case at the West as well? Look at amazing women like Louise Bourgeois, who had retrospectives in their late years. I noticed the power of women in Saudi, where they are incredible – a force – and one has no idea until one visits. If you look at the directors of many major UK institutions now – Tate, Whitechapel, Nottingham Contemporary – they’re women. Then there is the book by Katy Hessel, The Story of Art Without Men. So the tide is turning, but it will take time because change takes time.

DR: The South Asian art ecosystem is very much influenced by female curators, gallerists and collectors. If you name the top curators from South Asia, more than 60 per cent are female. There is a South Asia male dominance but, in terms of creative matters, if you have talent, if you have the energy, nobody can stop you. And I think women are ahead in our part of the region in art-related philanthropy.

A painting of a tree

Cedar, 2009 by Nabil Nahas, ISelf Collection

LUX: In the 1990s, there was much less global awareness about these regions artistically, and that has changed beyond recognition. What will these regions will be like in the next 30 years?

DR: Today, you could say the European art hubs are Paris and London; in America, New York and LA. In the future, I don’t think there will be major hubs, because so many things will happen across the globe. We will be more diverse, and there will be developments in technology and in the transmission of information. So, I think there will be a global platform in 30 years, not a specific centre like the Gulf, or South Asia or Europe. You will be a player in a global arena without regional or continental divides.

MS: I think what’s helping this is the curiosity the West has towards the East. Don’t forget these countries were very private for many reasons. Art from Asia and the Middle East was not always something you would see on museum walls in the West, but this exchange and curiosity is allowing people to visit, to come back with things, to unify countries. I think we’re on the way.

Find out more:

durjoybangladesh.org

www.tate.org.uk/acquisitions

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Reading time: 8 min
A woman with her arms folded wearing a white and blue dress
A woman with her arms folded wearing a white and blue dress

Sana Rezwan at Barwara Kothi, Jaipur

Sana Rezwan is a thoroughly modern entrepreneur and philanthropist, living and working in London, then New York, before recently moving back to her native India. Now she is upping the ante with ambitious plans to raise the profile of South Asian art around the world. Reaching for the sky is in her blood, she explains to LUX

LUX: Is there a new awareness of South Asian art?
Sana Rezwan: Yes, it is an exciting time. There have been many calls for the art world to be more inclusive in recent years, and there is now an openness to new voices. This wasn’t the case a few years ago. Museums and collectors are finally open to ideas from South Asian artists.

LUX: What is your focus as a collector?
SR: One focus is on South Asian female artists who have been overlooked by the market, or written off by institutions and galleries. Having spent the past year in India, I have met so many female artists whose work I feel needs global recognition. There is a chance now to open the barriers to let such artists come to light.

LUX: Which artists are interesting you today?
SR: I am passionate about the late Zarina. She used printmaking mediums, such as silkscreen and woodblock, and made print series around concepts such as displacement. I love Bharti Kher’s use of found objects to convey her position as an artist between milieus. I admire Rana Begum for her use of repetitive geometric patterns, inspired by minimalism and her memories of daily recitals of the Qur’an.

A group of people standing in a gold room

A private-collection visit for The Cultivist with Krishna Choudhary of Royal Gems and Arts, Jaipur

LUX: Can South Asia be seen as one region?
SR: We use the term broadly to designate a category, but there is a multiplicity of cultures, religions and traditions within South Asian art, which makes the art you encounter so exciting.

LUX: Why did you move back to India?
SR: I believe India is where I can best engage with and promote the work of South Asian artists to the world. In 2022, I set up Public Arts Trust of India (PATI) to commission art in global collaboration with galleries, institutions and museums, to be shown in public spaces in India.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What role can philanthropy play?
SR: It can offer ways to extend the reach of the arts. Through philanthropy, we intend to build discourse around urban spaces and heritage structures as sites for engagement through art to inspire reflection and a sense of community. This extends to sustaining cultural conversations globally through supporting residencies, commissions and trans-disciplinary practices.

paintbrushes, paint and art on a table

Artist Tanya Goel’s New Delhi studio

LUX: Is interest from global collectors rising?
SR: Yes, in India we are seeing a great number of international collectors visiting India each year, and the intent of my project is to keep them coming. We will also host encounters in London, Paris and New York to promote cultural exchange and generate awareness. Through my agency The Art Lab, I put together a programme for 14 members of global arts club The Cultivist for a trip to Jaipur and Delhi. We looked at craft, jewellery, design, we went to art fairs and made visits to studios and private collectors. It was very successful. About 75 per cent of collectors bought and started collecting through the trip. It inspired them to explore art from the region.

LUX: What are the challenges for philanthropists in India?
SR: One is to bridge a gap that is not currently served by the government in supporting art. They also have the challenge of building platforms to ngage the public in art, and of finding solutions for generating income for arts organisations to create meaningful jobs in the art world.

LUX: What have you learnt as a collector?
SR: I finally found my calling by moving back to India. My experiences in London and New York have made me well positioned to work as an ambassador for the Indian scene. My goal is to create appreciation for art, support for the local art market and invest in art education.

A woman wearing a pair of black trousers and a purple top

Yulia Dultsina at the residence of Akanksha and Tarang Arora of Amrapali, Jaipur

LUX: Which two living artists would you invite to dinner, and which two of the past?
SR: Shilpa Gupta and Ishita Chakraborty – to learn about their research and practice. From the past, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, whose work is spiritual and profound, and Zarina.

LUX: Your advice to unknown female artists?
SR: Keep creating. Plans are under way to generate platforms for your work to be seen and appreciated by the global art community.

Read more: Sam Dalrymple and Durjoy Rahman On Cultural Reconnections Post-Partition

LUX: Will South Asian cultures come to see being an artist as a respectable way of life?
SR: For centuries, South Asia has had a history of nurturing creative talent, craftsmanship and artistic sensibility. It is now our responsibility to show today’s artists’ work to the world and have them be considered seriously.

Find out more:
publicartstrustofindia.org
theartlab.studio

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 4 min

Part of a VR series that Beeple released for free public use. Courtesy of W1 Curates

Mike Winklemann, AKA Beeple, shot to fame after his digital artwork EVERYDAY: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS became the first ever purely non-fungible-token (NFT) to be sold at Christie’s, and was auctioned off for just shy of 70 million dollars in cryptocurrency. Darius Sanai spoke to the artist at his solo show at W1 Curates in Oxford Street, London

LUX: There is a lot of societal commentary in your digital artwork. Do you set out to do that, or is it something that develops?
Mike Winkelmann (Beeple): I guess I set out to do it. Im trying to predict things that are going to be issues in the future, or trends that I see developing now. This piece is talking about Natanz. Basically, the US didn’t confirm this, but it was speculated that they blew up the Iranian nuclear reactor. This is talking about how, in the future, I think there’s going to be  more warfare like that where they get into a computer system and f*ck some sh*t up.

If this is the first instance of a computer programme being used to physically blow things up, I don’t think it will be the last. I think it will happen more and more. It’s terrorists getting into a computer system to blow up an electrical plant. I think more things like that will happen.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Can you tell me about your ‘Everydays’ piece?
B: These are ‘Everydays’ in motion, where I made a picture each day and then occasionally I’d think it might be interesting if I animated it. I would take maybe 3 or 4 days and animate a little 15-second scene of that picture. This was a picture of when Trump locked himself in the White House. This was when Elon [Musk] had his baby, and named it X Æ A-12.

Some of them are not specifically about something. That one was during coronavirus when people started talking about killer hornets. This is just some weird Michael Jackson meme. And so on.

LUX: When you started back in the 2000s did you consider yourself a graphic designer, an artist, a filmmaker, or something else?
B: I considered what I was making to be art, just regular art, no different from anybody else. I was just using a different medium. But I considered myself a designer, because the way I made money was through solving visual problems for people. People were asking for concert visuals for Lady Gaga, or concert visuals for the Superbowl. So I’d take the brief of XYZ and say “okay, I’ll do that.”

LUX: So, it’s a practical application?
B: I know the tools; I can build you whatever you want. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I did it for money and that was it, while I put most of my real energy into work where I could do whatever I wanted.

The more of this work that I put out there for free, the better I got, until clients like Louis Vuitton were contacting me. It was really like I was a designer by day and also carving away a large amount of time to do my own work, that I wasn’t trying to sell, there was no concept of people collecting it. Art is just something you make and put online and people experience it and that’s it, and it was quite a shift when people began to start collecting it. That was just not a part of the way I thought about art.

Panel talk with Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), Nick Knight from Showstudio and Mark Dale from W1Curates. Courtesy of W1 Curates

LUX: What enabled these to become collector pieces?
B: The NFTs. The NFT thing, which took a lot of people coming up to me and saying, I think you should check this out. At first, I wasn’t sure, I thought it was just weird crypto sh*t, not my thing. Then finally it clicked and I thought, wait a second, this could be the same as moments in the past where people have refused to believe something was art. Photography, that’s not art, it’s just people taking photos. Graffiti, that’s not art, it’s vandalism, how could it be art? Then everyone says “oh wait! I guess it’s art.”

I think that’s what is about to happen with digital art. At the moment it’s this thing that everybody knows and everybody sees all the time and is actually completely ubiquitous in the visual language of our society. It’s websites, it’s voices, it’s TV, it’s video games, everything you see is visual. Art has touched it, but it’s not capital A art, because until recently, there wasn’t a meaningful way to collect it. You could print it out, you could give somebody a thumb drive, but that didn’t really resonate with people until the NFT thing. The ability to prove ownership resonated with people.

LUX: Is there a tension between the traditional capital A art world and the world of digital art?
B: 100%, yes. I think people in the digital world think that because we had the sale at Christie, we’re part of the art world now. In reality, there’s a lot of people still calling bullsh*t on us; we’ve got a long way to go to convince everybody that we’re the real deal.

It’s come a long way in 2 years, I will say that, much faster than I thought. A couple of years ago I would have believed it would have taken us 10 years to get to where we are now. It’s a matter of waiting for it to click for people that the stuff they take for granted, because it’s so ubiquitous, is actually made by people. It’s not that different from painting a picture.  You’re sitting down, you’re producing a picture, it’s got a message, it’s got an aesthetic, it’s the exact same thing.

LUX: Yet many people resist calling it art. Why do you think this is?
B: I think it is just very new, it came out of nowhere. I was as dumbfounded as anyone by these developments. But I think when people have an experience that connects with them emotionally, like any other type of medium, any other type of art, then it will click with them. But they see the headlines and they see “monkey JPG selling for crazy amount” which makes it easier to call bullsh*t on the whole thing. There’s a lot of distinction between the different things people are doing in the NFT space, with some people looking towards a more baseball-type, collectible thing rather than the art side of things. Then there are people who are trying to make serious work that, in my opinion, is no different from any other artist working in any other medium.

Beeple’s Everydays, the First 5000 Days. Courtesy of W1 Curates.

LUX: Is there not a lot of bullsh*t in the traditional art world as well.
B: Yes, but everybody’s used to that bullsh*t. Also, there are so many people who think NFTs look like crap. Most traditional art looks like crap, you just can’t see it as easily. You can go online and instantly see hundreds of NFTs, but you can’t immediately see hundreds of pieces of traditional art – if you did, you would see a lot of crap I’d promise you that. Or you would see a lot of stuff which looks fine but isn’t new in any way. It’s just the same regurgitated ideas that are 100 years old. It looks more like what you would expect art to look like, but it’s not good. I could make some abstract art that anybody would agree is art,  but it doesn’t matter, that’s not good. I think I’m trying to make things for 100 years from now. I think a lot of traditional art is trying to make something that looks like art right now, and half the time it looks like it would have been made 100 years ago.

LUX: Do you think in 100 years people will look at this, you and others, and think this is an inflection point where it changed, just like things changed with Duchamp?
B: We will see. I don’t know, but I think this is definitely a different moment. I think it will be seen as an inflection point because you’re going to see a massive shift as digital tools and digital distribution become more a part of art, because those advance rapidly, they will continue to advance rapidly with technology. I don’t know a lot about painting but I’m not sure how much it has changed in the last 100 years through technology.

LUX: Does this fit better in the Metaverse?
B: What do you mean by the metaverse? I don’t even know what that means, it’s just a marketing term.

LUX: The space where you can go buy a computer rendition of a Dior gown and put it on an avatar and pay for it. I mean, that’s just the beginning right?
B: Except none of those worlds exist. How much time do you spend in the metaverse?

LUX: Not me, but other people do.
B: No they don’t. If you look at these platforms, nobody is spending any time in them, because they’re not engaging enough. It’s like VR. How much time do you spend in VR? Zero.

I’ve gone all over the world many times and heard people talking about the metaverse, but then they don’t spend any time there themselves. It’s like VR. Fun for 2 seconds and then you’ve done it and you move on.

I don’t think it will always be like that, but I think the first thing we will all consider the metaverse is AR glasses. That is what I think we will consider the first true metaverse is, when all of us are wearing glasses and we can all see a layer of things that are the same, when we can all see a digital sculpture right here, and we can walk around it and we all can point to it, and you see what I’m seeing. Everybody being jacked into VR in a tube of goo, that’s a waste.

Courtesy of W1 Curates

LUX: A traditional collector would buy a painting and put it on their wall. How is this art best displayed?
B: Almost all of the pieces that I have now come with some sort of physical element. Some of them are titanium back-screens, and others are like paintings or giant prints, or these human size boxes. A lot of the pieces have physical components like that because to me it’s important to have a physical way to experience the work. To me, it makes it much more visceral and much more impactful.

LUX: Are attitudes towards digital art changing?
B: Yes, things are changing a lot. We just had Deji Art Museum in China buy a piece, there are pieces at MoMa right now, you’re seeing a bunch of museums invest. I think when people see work that can withstand criticism and has some actual depth to it, then they’ll change their mind.

But it is taking time. I think people who are truly thoughtful and are approaching it with an open mind, with the attitude that they don’t know everything about art and this could be something new that they want to be a part of, those people are coming around very quickly. But that’s not everybody. People have to change their mind of what this is, and that doesn’t often happen quickly.

LUX: And you mentioned street art and graffiti before. Is there a parallel with what happened there 30 years ago where that wasn’t considered art?
B: 100%, I think it’s the exact same thing. I look at this work as the street art of the internet, because you can post anything you want there’s this free for all thing. All street art is trying to get people’s attention, the street part of it is “permissionless” art where they were going out and thinking, I’m not going to get anybody’s permission to do this, I’m just going to do it. That’s how I’ve always operated. I don’t need anybody’s permission to show this, I made it, I put it on the internet, that’s it.

That’s very different from the traditional art world where you make a piece of art, then you’ve got to wait for a gallery or a museum and somebody’s got to look at it and say yes, I will show that. Nobody has to say yes on the internet.

More from Beeple’s VR Series. Courtesy of W1 Curates.

LUX: How did you engage with art when you were a kid?
B: I went to school for computer science. As a kid, I didn’t do a massive amount of art on the side. I was always doing a lot of stuff on computers. At first I wanted to make video games, but then I got to college and I saw some people who wanted to make video games, and I realised I didn’t want it that badly. I was spending all of my time making weird little abstract clips that had no inherent purpose; they were just little tiny artistic expressions.

I was spending my time making short films too, and so to begin there was no sense of wanting to get people to collect my work or making a living off of it. I actually really liked the fact that I didn’t make a living off of it because it meant I could say whatever I wanted. I never cared about commercial art, I just wanted to make people happy. So I had a good separation there, I could say whatever I wanted without thinking about whether this is something someone’s going to hang on their wall. Because a lot of it is not something you want to hang on your wall, to be quite honest.

LUX: The world is getting weirder and worse. Does that help your work?
B: I don’t think it’s getting worse, but I think it will get weirder. That’s also why I make this sh*t weird; because people think that could never happen. But Donald Trump was just your f*cking president! A man-child with no experience who is paying off porn stars. 20 years ago you wouldn’t have said that could happen.

Read more: Visual art and music meet in Shezad Dawood’s latest exhibition

I look at what happened with me and this crazy $70 million sale. That was honestly a weird bi-product of the conversation about art and digital art, and then crypto with nothing to do with art coming into it. As technologies combine like that, in ways we didn<‘t expect, weird things happen. It’s similar to Trump being elected and the role social media played there. Social media comes and everyone thinks it’s great and Mark Zuckerburg is a f*cking hero, liberating all these people. Then time goes on and you think, wait a second, we didn’t see this coming.

That will probably keep happening. There’s gonna be things we didn’t see coming and it can have massively profound effects. The world is so connected now and so digital already; these things can happen so fast. Suddenly millions of people get behind an idea or a movement. I mean, look at the NFTs. Again, we went from zero to being this billion-dollar industry in months. I think weird things are going to happen more and more.

Courtesy of W1 Curates

LUX: Would you like to be recognised by collections who don’t recognise digital art? Is that important to you or do you not care?
B: Yes, I would like to change their mind. I’ve been trying to help educate people in the traditional art world because I think there’s a lot of people in the crypto world who don’t actually care about art. Their allegiance is to crypto, my allegiance is to art.

I just learned about crypto 2 years ago, and I learned about NFTs literally months before that sale. The traditional art world also has a lot of people who, in my opinion, are not in it for the right reasons, they’re just in it for money. But there’s a lot more people who are truly passionate about this, who truly want to see art evolve and are interested in the continuation of art history and contextualising this moment within it.

I’ve been trying to play in both worlds to some extent. There’s a lot more that can be done in terms of NFTs and art being more dynamic. There’s a lot more to come.

Find out more: www.beeple-crap.com

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Yayoi Kusama Statue at the Veuve Clicquot Exhibition. Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

Maison Veuve Clicquot has brought its travelling exhibition to London this May. Trudy Ross stepped out to Piccadilly Circus to interview CEO Jean-Marc Gallot amidst sunflowers, paintings, sculptures, and that iconic gleaming yellow 

LUX: Queen Victoria was the first British royal to order a direct shipment of Veuve Clicquot in the 19th century. Now in 2023, with a new monarch having just been crowned, the brand still has this presence in the heart of London. Can you speak to the brand’s long history with the Royal Family?

Jean-Marc Gallot: It is a very, very, long history. I think the first shipment for the royal family was in 1868. In one of the exhibition rooms upstairs we have a menu made especially for Queen Victoria’s son, Edward the 7th Prince of Wales. He gave us the Royal Warrant in 1905, so, I would say, we have a very strong link and history with the UK.

The Maison was created in 1722, so we celebrated 250 years last year. The first shipment to the UK was in 1773, 250 years ago. So there is a long, long story between Veuve Clicquot and the UK. Out of the nine female artists we have here, two are British. We have Cece Philips and Rosie McGuinness, who have created their own portraits and interpretations of Madame Clicquot.

LUX: Throughout these 250 years, what do you think has changed about the brand and what has remained the same?

JMG: What remains today and will continue to remain, is the fact that we have an incredibly inspiring woman at the centre of our history. Madame Clicquot at her time was so courageous, determined, and audacious. She was a widow at 27 years old but her spirit, her audacity, and also this idea of being solaire, being radiant, is what remains in everything we do. It is a state of mind. Everyone from myself, the CEO, to my team, to everyone you will see here today from Maison Veuve Clicquot, works with this state of mind. I think it’s super important to have this spirit of being solaire, audacious and always surprising people. That is not going to change.

Display of Veuve Clicquot’s iconic designs through the years. Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

What has changed? I would say that when you are so linked with the contemporary and the people around you, you also have to be very curious and try to evolve. So an example is right here: you have the very first ice jacket made by Veuve Clicquot. This first one was made 20 years ago out of diving costumes, but the ones we make now are made by the Saint Martins School of Business of 100% recycled plastic and this mono-material approach uses on average 30% less material than regular production. You can look at things we made 20 years ago and think, yes, this is nice, but we must continue to innovate, to respond to the times and move forward. Every single box that we make now in Veuve Clicquot is made out of 50% recycled paper and 50% hemp (not the hemp that people smoke!).

What we want to show here is that we have some duties to the world we live in. Not everyone is aware of the need for these things, so as a major brand we can help to act as an exemplar. This is what I am hoping to build with my team.

LUX: Your champagnes are offered at a range of price points. How do you balance keeping its luxurious and exclusive reputation whilst also ensuring it is accessible to a wider audience?

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

JMG: I have been working for 34 years in the luxury world. I worked at companies like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Fendi, wonderful luxury names, and I know that luxury, for some people, means something that is not easy to get or seems unapproachable.

I don’t agree with that viewpoint at all. We have a collection of products, starting with the iconic yellow label, Brut, which is the most famous bottle of Veuve Clicquot, then you go to La Grande Dame which is at a much higher price point. Both of them however, embody the spirit of Clicquot, so it’s not a matter of price, it’s a matter of how desirable your brand is and how much you have built around the brand.

Take an exhibition like this, running for 3 weeks in the heart of central London. Some people in this area are on their way to very nice upmarket restaurants, and some are on their way to Tesco. Both will pass the exhibition, they will see these artists and learn about Madam Clicquot’s story, and then they will understand the dream, the spirit and the history of Veuve Clicquot.

Outside the Veuve Clicquot exhibition in Picadilly Square. Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

LUX: Can you tell us about the importance of art and the art world to Veuve Clicquot?

JMG: Actually, we are not really in the art world; I would say that we are in the design world. Design is not art, it is the way of making a beautiful object which is also functional, or building something beautiful around an object. When you sell bottles of champagne you have to build something really extraordinary. We love the beauty of objects and we believe that in champagne, since you have something precious inside the bottle, you have to make the outside of the bottle exciting as well. So we constantly are looking for the next idea, and there is no set recipe. It has to be a surprise, because more than anything else, we love the element of surprise.

LUX: Beyond this all female exhibition, Veuve Clicquot has many initiatives supporting gender equality, including supporting women entrepreneurs through your Bold Woman Award. Can you tell us more about this aspect of the brand?

JMG: This is the spirit of Veuve Clicquot. Fifty-one years ago one of my predecessors thought, what can we do for the 200 year anniversary of Maison Clicquot? They had an incredible inspiration and vision and said, why don’t we celebrate the spirit of woman entrepreneurs, why don’t we shine light on some inspiring women?

What we found out through running the Bold Woman Award was that for women there are many social barriers standing in the way of them running their own company or being independent. Veuve Clicquot is trying to fight against this because we believe there should be as many women entrepreneurs as men entrepreneurs.

The statistic is the following: 92% of women entrepreneurs believe and admit that they would love to have a role model, and only 15% of them can name one off the top of their head. We want to change this and help to inspire women. The first very inspiring woman entrepreneur was Madame Clicquot, and for the last 220 or 230 years, there have been many more women entrepreneurs that we want to shine a light on. It’s about sharing, inspiring and making the world more balanced between men and women.

Cece Phillips, Window Clicquot, 2022.Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

LUX: What is Madame Clicquot’s story and why is it so important to the brand?

JMG: You are in 1805 in France, in a very traditional, even noble family. You have faced a lot of challenges because twenty years ago was the French Revolution. You have a very nice husband who you love and a very severe and traditional father in law. Then you become a window overnight. Imagine: you basically don’t exist anymore. What are your options?

You could find another  husband, but instead you say “no, I’m going to take over the company. I’m going to run the company.” Everyone tells you not to, starting with your father-in-law. He says you are not capable of it, you cannot do it, you will not succeed at it. So, you are stuck.

If I had to describe Madame Clicquot, I would say she was  incredibly courageous, incredibly audacious and took huge risks. She teaches us that if you want to do something, just go for it. Never surrender.

LUX: The artworks that are on show here are reimagined portraits of Madame Clicquot. Can you tell me a little bit more about which ones are your favourite, and which one you think speaks to the values of Veuve Clicquot?

JMG: I have to say that I have a love for the Cece Phillips portrait in particular. You have the whole story there. You have a young woman sitting at her table, you see the vineyards through the window, you see that she is studying, very focussed but also very determined. She was writing a lot at the time, writing ideas, writing about the company. She was not travelling, but she was sending letters to all the customers around the world. This and the light, the vibrant, sunny appearance of it all, this is Clicquot.

I have to say, the portrait we have of Clicquot was taken when she was 84 years old and she looks a little bit severe! With all do respect to 80-year-old women, this was maybe not Madame Clicquot at her strongest period of life. Cece Phillips gets it all in one painting, you have the whole story in one, so it’s better than words.

Ines Longevial, Ghost Guest, 2022. Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

LUX: Beyond the artworks, what else interests you about the exhibition?

JMG: The statue of Yayoi Kusama is pretty impressive, but my favourite piece today here in London, which is not really in touch with the exhibition itself; it is the Sunny Side Cafe. I love it because this is actually when Clicquot meets British tradition and British culture.

LUX: The exhibition has been in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and now London. Where is next?

JMG: We started in Tokyo in June last year, and then we did three weeks in Los Angeles, and now it’s three weeks in London. Next year, we might go somewhere else, perhaps a continent we have not been to yet, perhaps South Africa.

LUX: What was the decision-making process behind choosing these three cities?

JMG: These are the three most important market places for Veuve Clicquot. I loved the idea of being in Tokyo because Japanese people are so refined. Then we went to the US and we didn’t want to go to New York because we thought we were going to be lost, and we love the vibes of LA so we went there. When we went to Europe we didn’t look for France – can you imagine me, a French guy, saying that! – but we decided to take it to London.

Yayoi Kusama, Twist with Madam Clicquot! Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

LUX: Would you take it to France and if not why?

JMG: No, for a few reasons, actually. First we love to speak about our brand outside of our own country, and second because the UK is very important to us, and also because there are some legal constraints in France which wouldn’t allow us to make such an impression in an exhibition like we have here.

LUX: You have a lot of tradition and history behind you. In today’s market, with the younger generation coming up, what do you think are the key changes and the key ways that you’re going to have to adapt as a brand to appeal to these younger consumers?

JMG: We are a luxury maison, and I’m a strong believer that luxury is about what you offer rather than just marketing fast-moving consumer goods. We talked about how to surprise people, how to make people dream and feel that they are getting something that they are really inspired by. My point is that if we keep on being ourselves, being super creative and bringing excitement, I think that we can offer things that people will discover and appreciate, even if they are not tailored to their tastes.

Read more: Visual art and music meet in Shezad Dawood’s latest exhibition

If we start to do it the other way round and try to anticipate what it is that people expect, what they want or think they need, we lose our spirit and our soul. Of course, we need to listen to the younger generation, look at what they do, and how they behave to a certain extent. However, I don’t want to be obsessed with creating something that people will expect.

Find out more: solaireculture.veuveclicquot.com

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Reading time: 10 min
Two long tables in a room with a green light up sign for Richard Mille at the end of the room
Two long tables in a room with a green light up sign for Richard Mille at the end of the room

Dinner at the ceremony for the Richard Mille Art Prize, against the spectacular backdrop of
Louvre Abu Dhabi

One of the art world’s most prestigious awards, the Richard Mille Art Prize in partnership with Louvre Abu Dhabi, was this year awarded to a female artist in the Gulf. Darius Sanai visited Louvre Abu Dhabi for the big event

Under a starlit sky by the edge of the Gulf, two celebrated dancers are performing classical ballet to Beethoven‘s Moonlight Sonata. Two long tables of guests-art collectors, government officials, artists and watch collectors- look on, mesmerised.

The performance is choreographed and led by Benjamin Millepied, the renowned director, dancer, and choreographer (including of the film, Black Swan), and husband of film star Natalie Portman. His accompanying danseuse is Caroline Osmont, of the Paris Opera Ballet. The dance is short, but beautiful. When I ask Millepied afterwards how it is to create and then perform a routine to the Moonlight, which was not written to be danced to, he simply smiles, and says, “I liked it!”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Memorable as it was, the dance at the gala outdoor dinner was just a warm-up for the main act: the announcement of the winner of one of the most significant art prize in the world-and quite possibly the most financially rewarding: the Richard Mille, art prize in partnership with Louvre Abu Dhabi. Worth $60,000 to the winning artist, the Prize, awarded by the uber-luxury, high-tech watch brand, also sees it ten shortlisted regional candidates display that works at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the local iteration of the fabled, Paris museum, whose collection sweeps from ancient Persia to Cy Twombly.

A white building by the sea

Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel

Louvre Abu Dhabi is the cornerstone of an impressive, new cultural district in the Emirate, which will soon house further significant museums, including a Guggenheim, and which is already home to the astonishing Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex, comprising a mosque, cathedral and synagogue (plus an education centre), devoted to the three major Abrahamic faiths and nurturing mutual understanding.

Earlier that day, we’d had a private tour of the new Louvre (which was closed to the public, as it is every Monday). The “Art Here, 2022” exhibition, housing, the shortlisted works, had pride of place in the museums Forum. The theme in this, the Prize’s second year, was “Icon. Iconic.“, a suitably art-world-gnomic concept allowing artists to exercise their full creative imaginations. Eight of the ten artists on the shortlist were female, and encouraging affirmation for women in these times.

A white room with light coming through a window

Between Desert Seas, 2021, by Ayman Zedani

The first work is so complex it required several minutes to negotiate and understand. Ayman Zedani’s Between Desert Seas approaches you visually as white salt on an internal roof; and then aurally, as a soundtrack that you quickly realise, is about the plight of the Arabian Sea humpback whale. Listening for a couple of minutes, between whalesong, you learn that these non-migratory whales are a unique species, derived from a pod that became separated from the rest of whalekind around 70,000 years ago. They have developed the own song and culture – and they are under existential threat. Global warming has acidified and poison to the sea, and the removal of water for desalination has made it more toxic.

coloured sheets on a table

Wall House, 2022, by Vikram Divecha

Wall House, by Vikram Divecha, is a proposal by the artist to remove and retain the walls of hundreds of houses in the region that are slated for demolition, and preserve them to show a portrait of our times has created by the houses’ inhabitants. The idea is illustrated by a 1:100-scale maquette, showing what is a large scale installation of this project could look like.

There was Sidelines, a work by Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan, celebrating the intricate heritage of weaving in Saudi history, lost when oil money started flowing in the 20th century.

A brown and cream tent

Sidelines, 2016, by Manal AlDowayan

Afra Al Dhaheri, an artist from Abu Dhabi, showed Weighing The Line, a striking workers, consisting of hanging ropes, pulled down by ropes on the ground-symbolising, in the artists’ words, social conditioning and constructs.

I was particularly struck by Xylophone, a work on pyro-engraved scrap wood by Elizabeth Dorazio, a Brazilian artist, now resident in Dubai. The artist said she wanted to make a statement that wood is a “vestige of excess extractavism”- and the work is quite beautiful and engaging.

UAE-born artist and academic Shaukha Al Mazrou created A Still Life of an Ever-Changing Crop Field, in glazing ceramic, inspired by crop circles, and “natures place in the world, invaded by human imprint”, one of the several environmentally inspired, works and beautiful as an installation.

A large wooden and tin pole

Camouflage: The Fourth Pillar, 2022, by Zeinab Alhashemi

Perhaps the most visually arresting work, Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life (after Zeid), is by Abu Dhabi-based artist, Simrin Mehra-Agarwal. It is a complex work that appears on first sight to be a tapestry. It is, in fact, made of graphite, charcoal, ink, primer, plaster, gypsum powder, stucco, acrylic, gesso, glue, sand, fibreglass, vellum, Mylar and paper on wooden panels. The artist says it “questions nature and its various states of bloom and decay within the context of the histories of war or neglect, as well as the contemporary issue of climate change”. Powerful, complex, at first sight, it looked like a maelstrom of clouds viewed from a satellite.

A woman in a floral dress standing between two men

Peter Harrison, CEO of Richard Mille EMEA,
and Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre
Abu Dhabi, present the 2022 Richard Mille Art Prize in partnership with Louvre Abu Dhabi to Rand Abdul Jabbar

Zeinab Alhashemi, an artist, based in Dubai, submitted the fourth pillar, from her camouflage series that featured at the celebrated DesertX AlUla. The pillar mimics the pillars at the gallery and, made of camel hides over metal rods, tones with the surrounding desert.

Standing by the ruins, the work of mosaic clay tiles by Dana Awartani, an artist based in Jeddah with Saudi and Palestinian roots, was visually striking on the lower floor. Awartani says she deliberately did not use the straw traditionally utilise in the region is tiles, thus allowing them to crack naturally overtime.

an artwork on the floor

Installation view of Standing By the Ruins, 2022, by Dana Awartani

Next to this work was a long plinth on which was displayed 100 of exquisite, intricate little glazed stoneware figures. In a panoply of colours and sizes, earthly wonders, celestial beings, featured, plays, on jugs, cups, human, and natural figures, that related directly as a modern take on Mesopotamian stoneware, including some in the new recollection. The artist, Iraqi-born Rand Abdul Jabbar, is based in Abu Dhabi.

people sitting having dinner in a room lit up with orange and yellow lights

Dinner in stunning surroundings

One of the most valuable art prizes in the world (if not the most back valuable); eight out of ten artist, shortlisted female; powerful themes of environmental loss; significant pedigree from all the artists and support and an exhibition at a Louvre. Why isn’t the Richard Mille Prize even better known, I pondered, while on my way to the prize giving event that evening?

A man and woman dancing on a stage

The ceremony, Benjamin Millepied and Caroline Osmont perform a
ballet choreographed by Millepied to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

Perhaps because the Middle East and Gulf region is relatively new to the contemporary art scene (they’re not the ancient art scene, in which it predates the West by millennia); or perhaps, because the Western eye does not yet quite respect this part of the East and its culture as it should. In any case, credit to the powerful French brand, the Louvre and iconic Swiss brand Richard Mille for making it happen.

The evening after the dance and a performance by Dutch singer, Davina Michelle, the winner was announced: Rand Abdul Jabbar is Earthly Wonders, Celestial Beings. The artist was presented with the award and generous check.

ceramic coloured art pieces on a white table

Earthly Wonders, Celestial Beings, 2019-ongoing, by Rand Abdul Jabbar

“Rand Abdul Jabbar delivered outstanding works at push the boundaries of contemporary creativity,” said Peter Harrison, CEO of Richard Mille EMEA. “This is a celebration of our tenure partnership with Louvre, Abu Dhabi, and 10 incredible artist from the region, whose work was inspired by their cultural roots.”

Read more: Deutsche Bank: The Art Collection You Didn’t Know About

The originality, power and scope of a generation of artist, based in the Gulf that had been made clear. This is a region that is artistically, on fire.

Find out more: richardmille.com/louvre-abu-dhabi

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 7 min
a sofa in a lobby with colourful works of art on the walls behind it
a sofa in a lobby with colourful works of art on the walls behind it

The Four Seasons, 2021, by Idris Khan, in the lobby of the Deutsche Bank Center, New York

With Preview Day of Frieze New York underway, Will Fenstermaker discovers a stunning and carefully curated selection of artworks, in a spectacular skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, courtesy of Deutsche Bank

On a warm Manhattan afternoon, the sun is shining in a way that it only shines in cities and canyons. For a moment, light reaches the lobby of the Deutsche Bank Center, two 55-storey skyscrapers occupying the entire west side of Columbus Circle in New York City. Inside, four coloured paintings seemed to come alive. They comprise a work called The Four Seasons by the London-based artist Idris Khan.

A landscaped terrace at the Deutsche Bank Center

A landscaped terrace at the Deutsche Bank Center

Unbeknown to many, the Deutsche Bank Center is home to one of the world’s most substantial collections of contemporary photographs and works on paper. Deutsche Bank began collecting art in the late 1970s with a small idea, one that would prove radical in the context of corporate collections: works on paper could be made viewable to all, not siloed away in storage or senior executives’ offices. In 1978, the bank arranged its first display in its New York offices, and in 1986 it opened its new global headquarters in Frankfurt’s Twin Towers with each of the buildings’ 60 floors dedicated to a single artist.

Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century by Andy Warhol

Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century by Andy Warhol at the Deutsche Bank Centre in New York

At the time, the collection consisted mostly of work made by German artists (Deutsche Bank owns a particularly significant watercolour from Sigmar Polke’s early Capitalist Realism period, for example, and a vibrant pencil drawing made by AR Penck while the artist was living in the German Democratic Republic). Today, Deutsche Bank’s collection consists of tens of thousands of works of art, representing cultures from around the world, and displayed across 900 offices. “Portrait of a Collection”, in Deutsche Bank’s Columbus Circle building, charts the evolution and expansion of the New York collection. “Diversity is a truly important topic at Deutsche Bank,” says Britta Färber, Global Head of Art. Färber says works in the collection by Abstract Expressionist artists Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell are “as groundbreaking as those of their male counterparts.” They underscore the impact of women artists on the movement.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

While Deutsche Bank has no special remit to collect work by women artists, its attention to them over the decades is impressive. Wangechi Mutu, the subject of a recent retrospective at the New Museum and a 2019 façade commission at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, earned early support as a Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year in 2010. Alongside the major works by female Abstract Expressionists, the bank’s US collection contains major works by influential photographers such as Candida Höfer and Carrie Mae Weems, and contemporary artists such as Amy Sillman and Betty Woodman. In fact, Färber says that 80 per cent of recent acquisitions are works by women artists.

Fei Lai Feng by Thomas Struth

Works by Imi Knoebel (left) and Fei Lai Feng by Thomas Struth (right) in the collection at the Deutsche Bank Center, New York

For the prestigious Deutsche Bank Artists of the Year programme, a team of external art experts, including renowned curators Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann and Victoria Noorthoorn, propose key artists to a senior committee within the bank. It leads to an appreciation for art and community that is threaded throughout the organisation. More recent acquisitions include a triptych by John Akomfrah, a British artist of Ghanian descent and the son of anticolonial activists, and a group of works by Paris-based Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga, whose work explores the impact of colonialism on Canada’s First Nations. Both artists will represent their home countries at the 2024 Venice Biennale.

Four Panels from Untitled 1972, by Jasper Johns at the Deutsche Bank Centre in New York

Four Panels from Untitled 1972, by Jasper Johns at the Deutsche Bank Centre in New York

“It is an honour to have work in a collection as expertly curated, well regarded and diligently cared for as the Deutsche Bank collection,” says artist Erin O’Keefe. In 2022, the bank commissioned O’Keefe as its Lounge Artist at Frieze New York – a fair it has supported international presence is a real benefit,” O’Keefe continues. “It allows the work to be introduced to audiences beyond the regional art worlds.” In New York, works by Kandis Williams, Haegue Yang, Moshekwa Langa, Jose Dávila and ruby onyinyechi amanze provide a refreshingly global outlook on contemporary artistic production. “Because I developed a personal relationship with many of Deutsche Bank’s representatives, it didn’t feel like I was joining a significant corporate collection,” says amanze, who is happy to see her work contextualised in the company of such significant works on paper.

Works including ruby onyinyechi amanze’s Without a care in the galaxy, we danced on galaxies (or red sand with that different kind of sky) with ghosts of your fatherland keeping watch (left)

Works including ruby onyinyechi amanze’s Without a care in the galaxy, we danced on galaxies (or red sand with that different kind of sky) with ghosts of your fatherland keeping watch (left)

An immense composite photograph of the Shilin Night Market in Taiwan by photographer Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao belongs to a series “exploring the complex cultural conditions of countries that are heavily influenced by modern colonisation and the ongoing impact of globalised immigrant labour,” says the artist. Some might find it surprising that work so critical of capital is in the collection of a global corporation, but Deutsche Bank believes that its collection strengthens the firm’s commitment to funding positive impact.

The Oratory Command: X Carmichael King Hampton by Kandis Williams (left) and Untitled 2015 by Kay Hassan (right)

The Oratory Command: X Carmichael King Hampton by Kandis Williams (left) and Untitled 2015 by Kay Hassan (right) at the Deutsche Bank Centre, New York

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf’s Guide to Starting an Art Collection

Back downstairs, art including The Four Seasons is an expression of Deutsche Bank’s broader ambition to support sustainable initiatives. “The art in the lobby ties the since it was founded in London 20 years ago, including through its annual Los Angeles Film Award and Emerging Curators Fellowship. “The fact that the collection has an Deutsche Bank Center to the original design approach for our space,” says James Dyson, Director of Global Real Estate for the Americas.

Faces of Infinity (Unfinished) by Charles Avery

Faces of Infinity (Unfinished) by Charles Avery in the collection at the Deutsche Bank Centre, New York

When Deutsche Bank began planning the project, it hired Gensler to design the workspace. In June 2022, the project achieved LEED Gold certification, marking a significant advancement in Deutsche Bank’s goal of reaching net zero by 2050.

Jewel Glow – Trustworthy #248 by Haegue Yang in the collection at the Deutsche Bank Center, New York

Jewel Glow – Trustworthy #248 by Haegue Yang in the collection at the Deutsche Bank Center, New York

Deutsche Bank’s space consumes half the energy of its previous headquarters and 100% of its CO2 emissions are compensated via renewable sources. That sits well alongside the energy of its art.

Find out more: art.db.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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people standing together in different coloured outfits gathering for a photo with a pink champagne case
people standing together in different coloured outfits gathering for a photo with a pink champagne case

Left to right: Darius Sanai, Audrey bazin, Maria Sukkar, Frédéric Rouzaud, Rita Kamale, Nadja Swarovski and Brandei Estes

A crowd of the leading movers and shakers from the worlds of art and sustainability gathered at the Nobu Hotel in Portman Square to celebrate the Louis Roederer Photography Prize 2023, created by our sister company Quartet Consulting. High-profile guests included Guy Weston, Ina Sarikhani, Brandei Estes, Jessica Hodges, Maria Sukkar and Nadja Swarovski, among many others

A woman wearing a blue blazer and white t shirt holding a glass of champagne

Carrie Scott

A man wearing a hat with a beard on a screen next to a pink case of champagne

M’hammed Kilito giving his video message to the audience having won the award

A woman wearing a red top standing next to a woman wearing a black top

Left to right: Maria Sukkar and Ina Sarikhani

The Prize, now in its second instalment, was established by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai and Louis Roederer CEO Frédéric Rouzaud under Quartet Consulting, to recognise outstanding contemporary photographers with a focus on sustainability and environmental issues.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Thirteen art world luminaries from across the globe were each asked to nominate three photographers to submit their works. An esteemed panel of judges including Maria Sukkar, Maryam Eisler, Brandei Estes, Alan Lo, Audrey Bazin, Nadja Swarovski, Sophie Neuendorf, Azu Nwagbogu and the Chair, Darius Sanai, then selected six entrants to make up the shortlist, which was then narrowed down to three finalists.

Three men wearing suits and the man in the middle holding a pink case of champagne

Left to right: Darius Sanai, runner up, Yasuhiro Ogawa and Frédéric Rouzaud

Three women standing together with two on either side holding champagne glasses

Left to right: Brandei Estes, Nadja Swarovski and Carrie Scott

three women standing with a man for a photograph

Left to right: Ilaria Ferragamo, Maria Sukkar, Franck Namy and Véronique Namy

This year’s finalists were the exceptional Hengki Koentjoro, M’Hammed Kilito and Yasuhiro Ogawa, each with a unique take on the awe-inspiring landscapes and tender humanity surrounding the issue of sustainability. They all received a magnum of Cristal, made by Louis Roederer from 100% biodynamically farmed grapes, and their work will be displayed at the White Box, Nobu Hotel Portman Square, London, from 11th May until 1st June.

M’Hammed Kilito was announced as the winner by Frédéric Rouzaud in the Nobu Bar to an excited throng of guests for his series ‘Before It’s Gone’, a meditation on the issue of oases degradation currently taking place in Kilito’s home country, Morocco.

an art gallery with photographs on the wall

The works of the finalists on display at the White Box Gallery at the Nobu Hotel London, Portman Square

champagne bottles in an art gallery

The Prize is run by the Fondation Louis Roederer to raise awareness around sustainability issues through photography

Upon receiving the award, Kilito commented: “I would like to say how absolutely honoured to receive the Louis Roederer Prize for Sustainability. I am so honoured to receive the Prize because I believe it is a very important one, highlighting the work of visual storytellers, and the issues of climate change and sustainability which are very close to my heart.”

 

Read more: Rock legend Graham Nash on collecting photography

Two men standing next to women wearing pink and red

Left to right: Durjoy Rahman, Darius Sanai, Audrey Bazin and Maria Sukkar

A woman wearing a red coat holding a glass of champagne standing next to two men in shirts and blazers

Left to right: Nadja Swarovski, Frédéric Rouzaud, Darius Sanai

A bald man wearing a scarf standing next to a women with her hair in a bun wearing a purple floral top

Left to right: Michel Ghatan and Helen Ho

The exhibition of the works of  M’hammed Kilito, Hengki Koentjoro and Yasuhiro Ogawa are on display at the Nobu Hotel London Portman Square until 1st June

 
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a woman smiling wearing a multicoloured dress with yellow sleeves
squares with photos of palm trees in them

Estenopeica Digital I by Javier Hinojosa, 2022

Fariba Farshad is co-founder of Photo London which since its inception eight years ago has become one of the most respected photography fairs in the world. This year’s edition is the strongest yet with 125 exhibitors from 56 countries worldwide and a sponsorship portfolio that includes the Royal Bank of Canada as Principal Partners and Belmond as Presenting Partners.  Here, Farshad speaks to LUX about the future of the fair and her latest curation project, Fotografìa Maroma- an exhibition commissioned to  capture the environmental beauty of the Riviera Maya in Mexico where Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, will reopen later this year
a woman smiling wearing a multicoloured dress with yellow sleeves

Fariba Farshad © Laura Pannack

LUX: How did the Fotografía Maroma project come about?
Fariba Farshad: I was asked to curate a show featuring a group of important Mexican artists. I was delighted to be asked, but at the same time a little challenged  by the idea. I understand and love Mexican photography. It has a rich photographic tradition and is an increasingly important   market for contemporary photography with a lot of good artists who are represented internationally by important galleries – but for me to visit and work with a culture that I don’t come from myself was a big undertaking. So it  was great to be able to collaborate with Patricia Conde who has one of the most known photography galleries in Mexico.

Between us we selected four artists: two very established artists, one who had been working in very different industries including advertising and one young emerging photographer. We asked them to travel to Maroma, to Riviera Maya, and develop their own artistic responses to the wild beauty of the pristine Mayan environment. As for the images, the brief was completely open. Moreover, they were only given two weeks to work in the area and to work with the natural surroundings. It was not necessarily the best time of year – not exactly ‘beach weather’, which was interesting because most of the time the weather there is fantastic! Of course, it was a professional assignment, not a holiday. They were supported by a fixer and the hotel, and they were free to work wherever and however their inspiration took them.

A black and white tornado

Horizonte I by Margot Kalach, 2022

LUX: What do you find particularly interesting about the Rivera Maya?
FF: What is particularly interesting is that the four artists found themselves in a wild and unusual working environment. Not at all in their comfort zone. Patricia Lagarde, for example, is very much an established artis whose practice is studio based. Asking her to work in a different, even awkward state was a very interesting challenge for us and for her. All of them were the same in a way, like Patricia, they were mostly studio-based. Javier Hinojosa, is a highly regarded artist whose studio- made portraits in black and white justly famous, He was sent to work in the wilderness and we were fascinated to see what he came back with. The same was true of Ilan Rabchinskey who says of his minimalist studio practice ‘My aspiration is to achieve simplicity’ For him working with nature meant ‘managing uncontrollable factors’. The result was a series of, creating 3D objects allowing the beautiful natural light of the place to create a play of shadows and then photographing the results. The final member of the group was a talented emerging artist Margot Kalach, who was interested in working with light to create digital artworks.

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The other interesting aspect was the time frame. It was the first time that I have worked with artists and commissioned new work with such an intense deadline. I actually think the reason it worked so well was because they didn’t have too much time to edit the result, and therefore it was very continuous and very creative. I am really delighted by the result.

The moon on a sheet hung up on the beach

Trapping the Moon by Patricia Lagarde, 2022

LUX: What did the artists create?
FF: Patricia ended up capturing the moon by spreading a piece of white cloth and taking the photo of that reflection, and then hanging it in the wind before photographing it again. It was a performance installation piece in photography; fantastic and totally different to anything she’s done before.

Javier took these amazing photographs of the waves in one series and plants in another He then deconstructed the images and reassembled them into grids of eight pieces and in doing so created a completely new image. I found his process fascinating. He used his iPhone on the water, creating a pinhole with his phone, and used all sorts of experimental ways of dealing with technology, different cameras as well as the phone to create new images. He had not worked this way before this commission.

coloured sheets on a beach

Drift and Direction from A Vessel for the Sun by Ilán Rabchinskey, 2022

Ilán took 3D objects from his studio to the beach and positioned them, waiting for one set of shadows to be created by the wind, the water, and the beach, letting nature take over the process of painting with light.

I was really excited to see what Margot, would come up with using digital technology. In fact, she chose to create a pinhole camera using a paintbox. She basically turned her bathroom into a darkroom, and the result was absolutely amazing: the sort of large print that uses the depths and the dreamy capture of the water. She totally went for very early technology rather than pursuing her in-studio high-tech approach. It was fascinating and she absolutely loved it. I think it is going to have a very long lasting effect on her work.

Fotografia Maroma, the show they made together, opened at Art Basel Miami Beach in the design district in December, then went to Mexico during Zona Macao, and is now coming to Photo London.

lots of stones and pebbles

A Particle, A Wave from A Vessel for the Sun by Ilán Rabchinskey, 2022

LUX: This year’s Photo London has seen a significant evolution and in fact a couple of significant new partners and sponsors. Could talk us through that?
FF: Photo London 2023 is our 8th edition. It has grown stronger with each passing year. Even when the pandemic hit in 2020 when we were two months out from the Fair, we took the opportunity to develop our Academy programme of talks and launch a successful online magazine (now in its 100th edition) and ran a fantastic and very successful online Fair in September 2020. Our partnership with Nikon was sealed during the pandemic and we took that to be an important endorsement of the strength of Photo London.

This year we have three new partners: Hahnemuhle came on board earlier in the year and with them we launched a new Photo London Hahnemuhle student award; we just released the shortlist for this. We are also continuing our Emerging Photographer of the Year Award with Nikon. Belmond have come on board as Presenting Partner having successfully partnered with us on Fotografía Maroma. And finally the most recent addition to our partnership portfolio is the Royal Bank of Canada, who recently became our Principal Partners. They are planning a great series of activations this year. They have a strong tradition of collecting and supporting emerging artists so in many ways are the perfect partners for Photo London. We are really looking forward to working with them and developing this relationship. These are very significant changes for Photo London. This fantastic group of sponsors shows how Photo London has really established itself as a key cultural event both in London and internationally.

A black and white beach

Horizonte II by Margot Kalach, 2022

LUX: Between 2015 and now, pandemic notwithstanding, have you seen a noticeable shift in consciousness among photography collectors?
FF: Certainly, during the pandemic some galleries did good business. Photography collectors are always very cautious, taking their time, doing the research, looking around, and so the online presence of galleries sort of suited them. They were actually very active.

Read more: Sam Dalrymple and Durjoy Rahman On Cultural Reconnections Post-Partition

I think we see very much a shift towards contemporary, younger collectors, in London especially, and that is exactly what we have been working on for the last eight years. We wanted to look to the future and create a platform for future photography, because photography is based on a continual process of experimentation and reinvention fuelled by fast-moving technology. It’s a relatively young medium, changing rapidly, and is finding its way through all sorts of directions. Our vision has always been to create a platform for younger galleries, younger artists, and, alongside that, educate and develop a pool of younger collectors.

Two men and a woman all wearing dark suits standing side by side

Photo London founders Fariba Farshad (left), Michael Benson (right) with new director Kamiar Maleki

But overall, the art world changed so much after the pandemic, and many galleries found it more difficult to sustain themselves. Some moved to smaller places, some worked online. Everything in our world is generally shifting and still hasn’t quite returned pre-pandemic levels, though this year’s Fair shows that we are almost there. As a business, as a Fair, you absolutely need to be conscious of all these changes and create space for the opportunities they bring.

Photo London, Somerset House, London, 11th-14th May 2023

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Two men and two women standing around an award
Two men and two women standing around an award

Left to right: Kamruzzaman Shadin, Salma Moushum, Sangeeta Jindal and Durjoy Rahman

The Asia Society India Centre hosted their first in-person event since COVID-19 for the The 2023 Asia Arts Game Changer Awards in which the winner of the Asia Arts Future Award 2023 was announced.The event was attended by a diverse group of collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, business leaders, and global institutional heads

This year’s winner of the Asia Arts Future Award 2023 is the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts.The Foundation was founded in 2001 by Kamruzzaman Shadhin and co-run by Salma Jamal Moushum in the village of Balia in Thakurgaon, Bangladesh. The organisation aims to develop artworks and projects that respond to local history, culture, and the environment. This is done through various social practices and community-focused activities.

An artwork of sculptures of people holding hands in a circle

Bhumi Project at Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022/23. Image courtesy of DBF/GB

This award category has been supported the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) since 2020 for. Since 2019 Gidree Bawlee has been working with DBF on various projects. Kamruzzaman Shadhin was even a participant in the organisation’s first Majhi Art Residency Project in 2019 in Venice, Italy.

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In 2020, DBF collaborated with Gidree Bawlee Art Foundation, to create the “Bhumi” project which supported traditional crafts and workers in the Thakurgaon District during the pandemic. Subsequently, the works are currently on display at the Fifth Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Fort Kochi, India until April 2023.

three women and a man all wearing dresses and tunics standing side by side

Left to right: Salma Moushum, Varunika Saraf, Nilima Sheikh and Kamruzzaman Shadin

DBF also funded another exhibition with Gidree Bawlee Director, Kamruzzaman Shadhin, titled “The Elephant in the Room”.

Read more: Rana Begum and Durjoy Rahman on South Asian art’s global ascendancy

The exhibition was was hosted at the US Embassy and the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka in 2020 /21 and was later exhibited in D3 space during Art Dubai 2021.

Find out more:

www.gidreebawlee.org

durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

 

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Two men in suits sitting under an umbrella
For the winter 2023 issue of LUX, rising star photographer Angie Kremer captured the stars of an emerging Parisian creative scene. Her evocative images and her interviews with these individuals explore their relationship with the city and its evolving cultural ambit

Tom-David Bastok & Dylan Lessel
Co-founders, Perrotin Second Marché, which offers collectors a bespoke alternative to auction houses

LUX: How has the creative scene in Paris changed recently?
The art scene in Paris is becoming more dynamic than ever. Some say that the city is regaining its essential place after New York, following Brexit in the UK and the coronavirus pandemic. Paris has always played a key role in art – especially during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was the absolute artistic epicentre of the world. Therefore, what the city has lately been experiencing feels more like a logical return to its roots, rather than an unexpected change. Paris has been providing fertile ground for artists and international galleries that have just opened their doors – such as David Zwirner, Skarstedt, Mariane Ibrahim and White Cube.

Anthony Authié
Founder, Zyva Studio, a trans-design architecture studio

LUX: What do you find most exciting about what you do?
The thing I like the most about my job is the fact that you can practise it in different ways. Architecture is plural. You can talk about it, write about it, draw it, virtualise it. I’d really like to write an architectural novel, to be able to do 3D, create NFTs, launch a furniture line. I feel that I can constantly reinvent myself.

A man with his tattooed hand on his face

LUX: Is Paris better than London?
For someone like me, who loves clichés above all else, Paris is the city of love, while London is the city of punk. While the idea of being able to design rock ’n’ roll architecture appeals to me, I will always choose the love and romance of Paris. So, yes, Paris forever.

LUX: Is Paris still a difficult place for non-Parisians?
I think this is a fantasy. I often have the impression that the provinces tend to have a harder time accepting Parisians than the other way around. Paris can seem harsh, but I think it’s really more about openness than rejection. Let’s just say that you can’t be too sensitive to live and work in Paris.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Sidonie Gaychet
Director, 110 Honoré, a new Parisian cultural venue on rue Saint-Honoré

LUX: What will Paris+ par Art Basel bring to Paris?
Since 1974 Paris has hosted the unmissable event of the autumn season – the FIAC. Last year was a little different, since the slot at the Grand Palais Éphémère was been allocated to Paris+ par Art Basel. On the bright side, it attracted the highest crop of art institutions, collectors, artists and critics.

A woman with a black bob

LUX: Is Paris better than London?
The London art scene is very different from the French one. London has always been the wild child. Paris takes a little more time to open up. But when it does… A concept such as the one that we’re launching with 110 Honoré has already been somewhat tested in London or Berlin. However, we will bring a very Parisian twist to it.

Brice & Regis Abby
Paris-based twins, known as Doppelganger Paris, who are visual artists and DJ/ sound designers

LUX: What are your biggest challenges?
Before the pandemic we had two separate activities – music and the visual arts. We are working now to create a bridge between our iconographic references and our new musical and cinematographic projects. They deal with our childhood and a period of tension in Ivory Coast. Inclusivity and difference need to be heard and seen.

A man and woman wearing sunglasses

LUX: How has the Paris creative scene changed?
The pandemic changed the creative scene globally, and Paris has been touched by the same phenomenon. Many artists are part of that scene, but don’t live in Paris any more; they moved to the countryside. But the renewal is definitely there, with new galleries and creative agencies. It was a challenging time, because the culture was non-essential.

Sophia Elizabeth
Co-founder, Spaghetti Archives, which presents a monthly selection of archival fashion pieces around a given theme
Olivier Leone
Co-founder, Nodaleto, a made-in-Italy luxury shoe label

LUX: Is Paris better than London?
SE: They are two different cities, but I love London and the freedom people have in their style. They don’t judge and don’t care about judgment. I love the way the city always evolves. But to be honest, I am a true Parisian.

OL: My fellow London friends won’t like it, but at the moment Paris is the best city for creatives. We are all gathered here, and the mentality is evolving. This city never ceases to amaze me.

A man and woman standing up wearing black

LUX: Is Paris still a difficult place for non-Parisians?

OL: Less and less, mostly because many foreigners came to live here and they are making the city evolve. But it’s true that it’s not a city where you can make friends easily. I was born and raised here, but always grew up with an open mind. So many Parisians, though, are snobs for no reason. It’s part of our charm, but it can be difficult.

Charlotte Ketabi-Lebard
Founder, Ketabi Projects, a contemporary art and design gallery

LUX: Is Paris better than London?
Well, you are asking a Parisian! How could I say no? Paris is the city of my heart and I don’t think I could live anywhere else. When I lived in London I would come back to Paris three to four days a week. I have never worked in London, but I know it’s been very complicated for some galleries since Brexit.

A woman with her hands over her chest

LUX: How has the creative scene changed recently in Paris?
More galleries are opening that show young artists from the French scene who have decided to remain in Paris – a few years ago a lot of artists fled to the US or Belgium. And many residency programmes, such as les Grandes-Serres de Pantin or Poush Manifesto, have been developing in Paris and its outskirts.

Anna Gardère & Raphaëlle Bellanger
Co-curators and art directors, KIDZ Paris, a book showcasing the creativity of today’s youth

LUX: How has the creative scene in Paris changed?
We love to see initiatives promoting crossover between the art world and other universes. We were talking with Joy Yamusangie, an amazing British painter, who told us how they loved working with Gucci, who gave them carte blanche on a wall in Shoreditch. We love to see artists and their visions in dialogue with scientists, too, like the one at CERN, which has opened its door to a residence of artists.

two girls back to back with one resting her chin on her fist

LUX: Is Paris still a difficult place for non-Parisians?
Paris still has its own code, but social media has definitely disturbed Parisian snobbery. Influencers have forced the whole creative industry to reconsider its criteria. Nowadays you can break into this world with a simple social-media account, because you’re supported by a community that believes in you and that is ensuring a high rate of engagement. It’s much more egalitarian – even democratic in a certain way, but also much more competitive.

Roxane Roche & Capucine Duguy-Noblinski
Co-founders, Invida Communication, a PR and digital agency

LUX: How has the Paris creative scene changed?
What has changed is the emergence of new brands with real storytelling, and a very thoughtful brand image based on editorial content. There’s a vintage rebound, too, from the 1960s and 1970s, with the relighting of brands like Courrèges and Carel. But, above all, brands are turning towards an ecological and eco-responsible approach.

Two girls in black jackets and jeans standing back to back

LUX: Is Paris still a difficult place for non-Parisians?
Paris can be difficult for a non-Parisian. People often keep to themselves and don’t easily open their doors. It’s sometimes quite confusing, but no one is ever really alone in Paris.

Ferdinand Gros
Founder, superzoom, a contemporary art gallery that offers a platform for emerging artists

LUX: How has the creative scene in Paris changed?
There are a growing number of younger galleries, and older ones that are refreshing their programmes. The emerging art scene is at its strongest ever. Additionally, there are great new artist residency programmes in Paris that work like incubators and host hundreds of studios, like Poush Manifesto. We are also seeing the established blue-chip galleries giving opportunities to younger artists.

A man wearing a white shirt with pockets on his chest

LUX: Is Paris better than London?
Not quite yet. London has managed to stay very fresh and is always ahead of Paris, in terms of art trends. London collectors are bold and forward-looking. The Parisian scene is getting there, especially in this time of creative momentum. The recent private institutions contribute a lot to this. Perhaps it will surpass London in those areas, but I don’t believe it has happened yet.

Read more: Adrian Cheng Celebrates 200 Years of Couture

Annabelle Cohen-Boulakia
Founder, Millenn’Art, a club concept that connects young artists and collectors to the art market

LUX: Is Paris better than London?
Paris is the historic city of the art world, but above all the city of my heart and the one in which I founded my project. Admittedly, it is not London, with Anglo-Saxon magic and a cosmopolitan dynamic.

A girl wearing a headscarf

LUX: What will Paris+ par Art Basel bring to Paris?
Paris+ par Art Basel, which belongs to an international group, opens up the art market beyond the Parisian sphere. I think it is a fair that leaves more room for artistic experiment and so has less conventional and, perhaps, more original content than FIAC.

About the photographer

Angie Kremer experiments with unconventional techniques in her ‘Elements Portraits’ series. “I explore the relationship between the controllable and uncontrollable, and nature’s four elements. It comes from a feeling that we have forgotten how to connect with the wildness of nature and its unpredictability.” Prints are dipped in the canals of Venice, creating a mysterious layering effect and adding tension to the portraits on these pages.

LUX: Why is Paris an inspiring city for your career ?
Paris is a truly unique place and I am fascinated with how each person living here and working in the creative field takes from its energy and uses it in their own way. Everybody in the industry has their own take on things, so they are definitely part of what makes the city so inspiring to me.

LUX: What do you have in common with all the people you photographed in the feature ?
The art industry is broad and encompasses so many different professions that there is always something inspiring about each actor of this world. Whether they specialize in design, art, fashion, music or work in Public Relations, everyone contributes to the ever-evolving culture of the city, which is something that we all have in common.

LUX: Can you tell us more about your photographic technique ?
My technique is rooted in the need to always experiment and find new ways of approaching photography. It is an ongoing process of discovery of my medium and how I can play with each stage of the creative process. For this series, I got to use a layering technique mixing chemical reactions, paper, pigments and water. So, the moving, lifelike feel of the photographs comes from me dipping the prints into the Venetian Canals and incorporating the elements of nature into the series along with a factor of unpredictability.

LUX: What are your future plans ?
I will keep meeting new inspiring people from different spheres in the industry and exchange ideas with them and have encounters that will translate into exciting future collaborations and projects. I also aim to keep working on the technique shown in this series, and I want to broaden it and turn it into something organic, that has a life of its own. I think that combining the physicality of this technique with the possibilities of the digital could make for an exciting creative venture, so I am eager to explore that.

Find out more:

angiekremerphotography.com

artbasel.com/parisplus

These interviews were conducted in June 2022
This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX
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You can find his works on the back of mass-market cereal packets, in leading museums and on sneakers. Some change hands for millions, and others are made in their millions. More than any other living artist, Brian Donnelly, known as KAWS, carries the Andy Warhol mantle of blending high and low art. Darius Sanai meets him in his New York studio

For someone who became a global celebrity out of a kind of exhibitionism, Brian Donnelly seems very discreet when I first come across him. We have arranged to meet in his Brooklyn studio when I am in the city for Frieze New York. I escape the Large Hadron Collider atmosphere of meetings, walk along the green escape of the High Line, New York’s elevated urban park, and catch an L Train Subway from the Meatpacking District, under the East River to Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

The neighbourhood is bristling with young men in moustaches and shorts, and women in black skinny jeans and camel suede boots. Past a matcha bar, a Pho cafe and a vegan ice-cream joint, I work my way onto a boulevard and a few turns later find myself at a big door leading into a warehouse, unmarked except for a buzzer carrying the door number. The door opens and I walk into a studio space that has Long Island light pouring in through a skylight. Huge canvasses line either side. I have arrived just a few seconds ahead of our appointed time, and a few seconds later a door in the wall opens and Brian Donnelly, or KAWS, says a quiet “Hi” and asks if I would like to follow him upstairs. He is wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, in contrast to my white shirt and white linen trousers. His sneakers are white, his cap black, glasses black- framed. He is polite and welcoming, very correct, quite reserved. He becomes animated when speaking about the art on his walls (mostly by 20th-century artists), but isn’t one for small talk.

A large sculpture of a standing elephant in an entrance

SHARE, 2021, by KAWS, Rockefeller Center, New York

If that is a bit of a surprise, it is because there can be few things more “out there” than making your name as an artist by redecorating, without permission, walls and other public spaces as a spray-painting street artist, as Donnelly did in the 1990s. That’s where his tag, KAWS, came from. A skateboarding guy from Jersey City, New Jersey, he went to art school in New York and found that his distinctive characters and slightly bleak, subversive style quickly gained a following.

Today, Donnelly’s trademark figures, sculptures and paintings, with Xs for eyes, pervade all areas of public consciousness. Donnelly quickly started collaborating with brands: he has worked with Dior, Supreme, A Bathing Ape, Nike and dozens more, He is also consciously democratic about his collaborations: in 2021 he created cereal boxes for Reese’s Puffs, one of the best-selling cereals in the US. In 2019, his work, THE KAWS ALBUM, commissioned and sold by Japanese polymath NIGO, sold at auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for US$14.8m.

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Speaking with him for few hours, Donnelly came across as calm, thoughtful, private – even reticent, but with a geek passion for the artists and artistic styles he loves. It would take many more meetings to unfurl someone like him, and I never resolved one riddle to my satisfaction. KAWS is an artist, but he is also, like Andy Warhol, to whom he has been compared, something else. It is just hard to say exactly what.

A large pink fluffy toy elephant with big white eyes sitting on a window sill

KAWS at his studio

LUX: Your works are now in art institutions around the world. How does that feel?
KAWS: Of course it’s an honour to have work shown, whether it’s in an institution or public art. The reason I make work is communication, to create a dialogue with the audience, and to know that works are on display in different places and contexts is amazing for me.

LUX: When you visit the works, do you observe the audience and their reaction?
KAWS: I don’t often get to visit, but when I see that someone’s interacting with the work it’s a treat. I try to make work that is engaging, and when people stop to have a moment with it I feel like my goal is accomplished.

LUX: When you are creating a work, do you have a reaction in mind?
KAWS: Not at all. For me, I just use the work as a way to get my insights or points of view or feelings in that moment out into the world. I get into different bodies of work in different ways.

A sculpture of a pink standing elephant in a black suit with models walking around it

KAWS for Dior Homme SS19, 2018, Paris

LUX: When you started, consciously or not, you created work anyone can see. Now you also make works you can sell for private collections. Does it matter who sees the work?
KAWS: I don’t make work according to who I think might see it. If there’s a sculpture in a public setting, it will of course be different than a small canvas I paint. I want to make something that will engage a wider audience, so I’m conscious of creating things that are very inviting.

LUX: When you were a kid growing up in New Jersey, how did you start doing art?
KAWS: I think it’s always been a crutch for me. It was really since I was a child that I leaned into art, not just for communicating, but for having relations within school. I wasn’t really strong academically, I don’t think, and I saw art as a place I just went to. I loved that you could do it in a solitary kind of way, and bring it out into the world when you wanted. It just seems something like that could go on forever, until the end.

LUX: The art you created, even from an early age, was not traditional – it was your own original thing. Was that a conscious decision?
KAWS: When I was younger, I didn’t know a single person who was an artist for a living. It just seemed like something I did – similar to whatever sport might occupy a young person’s time. Obviously, I put a lot more energy into art-making than other things. I never imagined it could be something that you could make a living from. I didn’t have any examples of that as a child. So I thought it was something I would always be doing but I would have to find other ways to subsidise it.

painting underneath a window with the light shining through

KAWS artworks at the light-filled studio

LUX: You’re at the confluence of art and luxury, streetwear brands and many other things. If someone came from Mars and asked what you do, would you just say you’re an artist?
KAWS: I would just say I’m an artist. I think that’s the simplest term. I think that communicates what I do. As far as working in different mediums, or different fields, I’ve always been open to exploring any of my interests. If I’m interested in streetwear or fashion or shoes, I dive in. There are so many interesting people doing interesting things, it would be a shame to limit myself from any opportunities to learn.

LUX: You must have noticed that the art world is a bit snobbish about artists working with brands: “It’s not real art, you’re selling out…”
KAWS: Definitely. Especially in the 90s. At first when I was younger, I thought, “Oh man, this is something I have to think about.” I soon learnt that the only thing I need to do is exactly what I want to do and let the chips fall where they may. When I opened my OriginalFake store in Japan in 2006, I said, “I really don’t care if I don’t show in galleries. This is something I want to do and if that’s a conflict so be it.”

LUX: People have written that there’s a parallel with Andy Warhol, with a mix of ‘high art’ and commercial art, reflected in your works.
KAWS: Honestly, the more you learn about artists and history, the more you realise there are so many artists who delved into commercial opportunities and things that stimulated them creatively – Andy Warhol being a very large part of that. But you know there’s a lot more, it wasn’t just Warhol and Haring… Everyone kind of has their moments, whether they’re widely acknowledged or not.

A colourful painting of a blue hand on a pink wall

artwork and neatly arranged materials at the KAWS studio

LUX: Do you think that with a new wave of millennial art collectors, people are more accepting that you can do brand collaborations as well as sell artworks through galleries?
KAWS: I think it’s become a lot more natural. Kids who grew up in my generation and younger, this is a language they’re familiar with. This was a big part of why I loved Japan so early on; it felt like there was a focus on making good stuff no matter the “category” it fell under, and that was the only real structure to it – if you’re going to do it, do it well. A sort of openness between design, art, furniture and fashion. I think the generation coming up now have grown up on this and many don’t give it a second thought. The world has become a smaller place, because of social media and the internet and whatnot. From your house, you can definitely have a view of what’s going on globally and I think that a lot of the barriers that were existing in the 90s have been broken through. Things shift, so it could turn back in the other direction, but I can’t imagine that.

LUX: It sounds like you wouldn’t be too bothered, if things shifted, as long as you were doing what you were doing?
KAWS: My goal as an artist is to bring the things in my mind to fruition. If I can find ways of doing that, then I feel like it’s successful.

LUX: Were collaborations and creations in design and fashion something that you started doing back when you were very young?
KAWS: I grew up skating and really loving that graphic culture: skateboards, T-shirts and stickers and everything that comes with it. When I’m making work, I always think about what reached me when I was young. What got me on this path? What did I enjoy? I try to make work that is true to that feeling and can reach people in those ways. It’s this sort of casual channel that introduced me to art and got me interested in the first place.

A sculpture of a bubble elephant

COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH), 2010, by KAWS;

LUX: There’s such an array of mediums that you work in. How do you know what you want to use, whether VR, a sculpture, work on paper? How do you make up your mind?
KAWS: I’m not methodical in any way. It just depends on what my interests are at the moment,
and what opportunities I see available for the medium I’m working in. So I might get heavily into VR, and then turn back to painting and drawing. If sculpture is on my mind, I may put that mask on and get into that work. A lot of the stuff I do happens organically, especially with collaborative work or working with musicians.

LUX: You’ve talked about what your work communicates to people. But you haven’t told me about what you would like to communicate.
KAWS: I don’t tell people what they need to see when they’re looking at the work. I think that would be impossible. They all approach it through their own lens, and have their own experience to add. I make work for myself, and the way it’s interpreted by someone else is out of my grasp.

LUX: Is there something therapeutic about making your work?
KAWS: Yes, making work is completely therapeutic to me. It’s sort of the way I navigate life. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t making work.

A man sitting on a stool next to his paints and a colourful wall

the artist, art and materials at the studio;

LUX: What would you say to a young person who wants to become an artist but doesn’t know how?
KAWS: I don’t think any artist knows how to become an artist when they’re younger. It’s just something you’re driven toward or not. If you’re going to be an artist, I don’t think it’s a choice; you realise it’s what you have to do.

LUX: Has anything changed?
KAWS: It’s a long path in being an artist and the interesting part is how you form this body of work over a long period of time. How do you change as a person, how do you bring that work into play with your new thoughts? I don’t grow tired of it. I’m taking a visual language and moulding it over time. I think this little process is great.

LUX: Is it very different working with a Nike than with a Dior?
KAWS: No, it’s just different people, it’s just case by case. It really depends on the project and the people. Similarly, larger companies can be just as easy if not easier than a little boutique collaboration. Dior was really simple because I was working with Kim Jones, and he and I are pretty friendly. It was fun. It was just us asking how we can do this and we did it all under an intense timeline.

Read more: A tasting of Bond, California’s new luxury wine

LUX: Is there anyone still looking down at an artist who does cereal boxes as well as high art?
KAWS: Of course, I’m sure there are probably tons of people who look down on it. The world is full of opinions and you really can’t worry about it or you’ll just sit on your hands and make nothing. If you were to weigh in the opinions of every stranger, what would you get done? The cereal project was a blast. I want to do more of that. I love knowing that you can walk into a convenience store, on the corner of your block, which you’ve walked into every day of your life, and suddenly, my work’s in there and you can buy it for a few dollars. That’s priceless to me. I understand, a lot of people get to see stuff online, but most people never get to a gallery or museum, and the thought of them owning it is beyond them. Doing projects like that puts you in contact with people in a very candid way. When I’m working on something like that, I’m thinking it’s no different to a print edition, or anything else.

A sculpture of a bubble elephant holding a baby elephant

KAWS (HOLIDAY), 2022, by KAWS, China

LUX: You said last year that NFTs were not for you right now. What’s your view of NFTs now?
KAWS: They weren’t for me at the time. I haven’t made any. I find it fascinating – it’s great to see so many people so excited about making work, but I think a lot of the interest is commercial interest, and that’s kind of a buzzkill. With the recent decline in the crypto and NFT markets, I think it’s actually going to get more exciting; people who are doing it are going to do it because they feel the need to make it, not because they’re interested in financial gain. It’s been a rough few months for that world, but I think the good stuff will start to come.

LUX: Is it important to you that big collectors are treasuring your works and they are exchanging hands for big prices at auctions?
KAWS: The price of something is not going to change the work. Once the artwork goes into the world, it’s going to take on different lives and you can’t control that. I don’t know, I don’t spend too much time thinking about it or worrying about it. In my mind, when a work is finished, that is the moment of success for me.

LUX: Should we call you an artist? Or, with everything you have done with brands, are you something else?
KAWS: I would just keep it as artist.

Find out more: kawsone.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 14 min
three men standing together, two in navy blazers and a smaller man in the middle wearing a multicoloured scarf and grey t-shirt

Durjoy Rahman with Bose Krishnamachari, president of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, and Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, at the launch for the DBF-KMB Award and Lecture Series, Venice, April 2022, photographed by Clelia Cadamuro

With the opening of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale on Monday 12th December, LUX speaks to the founders of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation/Kochi-Muziris Biennale Award, which has been created in collaboration with the Hayward Gallery, London.

The inaugural recipient of the multi-year award will be chosen shortly after the opening of the fifth Kochi-Muziris Biennale, held in Kochi, Kerala, India, in December 2022. Aligning with Rahman’s ethos, the award will be bestowed based on merit to an emerging South Asian artist participating in the Biennale.

framed items on coloured canvases hung up on a wall

Spring Song, 2016 ongoing, by Munem Wasif

“Recipients will have their first UK solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space in the Southbank Centre. Such an honour will no doubt transform the trajectory of their careers,” says a clearly pleased Rahman. “Seeing a South Asian artist, irrespective of their religion or country of origin, occupy such a prestigious space in London – the former centre of colonial Britain – is a powerful example of decolonisation, progress and tolerance.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Speaking exclusively to LUX, Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff adds his own thoughts on the initiative: “With the DBF-KMB Award, Durjoy Rahman will be expanding the impact and legacy of South Asian art by funding exhibitions of South Asian artists at London’s Hayward Gallery, introducing UK and European audiences to important new artistic voices from the region.” He adds, “By fostering cultural exchange and community-engagement programmes, the DBF plays a vital role in creating new connections and conversations between South Asian artists and the rest of the world.”

a brick wall

The Wall, 1967, by Murtaja Baseer

Fittingly, Rugoff will also be co-curating another impressive facet of the collaboration, The Durjoy Bangladesh Lecture Series, alongside the Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation team. Slated for 2024, 2026 and 2028, the programme promises to feature an impressive line-up of distinguished curators and artists from the Global South.

Read more: Durjoy Rahman: Making Space For Art Of The Global South

Staying true to his mission, Rahman notes that the public series will “further build the Hayward Gallery’s critical and research-driven engagement with the South Asian arts landscape.”

Untitled, 1975, by Shahabuddin Ahmed

Remembering partition is never a simple exercise. But doing so through the lens of Durjoy Rahman, via his artistic philosophy, philanthropic mission and art collection, offers a unique understanding of the subcontinent and applicable methods of decolonisation. “Rather than alienate one group or another, art should bridge our collective understanding,” says Rahman, as our time together comes to an end. “This is the moment to remember that lesson.”

Find out more: durjoybangladesh.org

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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red lights installation in the dessert

Light Horizon by artist Sabine Marcelis in Wadi Namar, part of the Noor Riyadh Festival 2022

Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, has not been a city you would associate with art. Yet it has just staged the one of the most spectacular outdoor art shows the world has ever seen. LUX travelled there and was impressed with the breadth and depth of art and local participation

It is a warm autumn evening on the outskirts of a vast city in the middle of a desert. Darkness has fallen, and on the walls of a courtyard, thousands of illuminated Arabic letters are rising and falling, projections streaming up and down and disappearing temporarily into space before reappearing. Families and other visitors, drifting in and out of the courtyard, are enraptured.

A couple of minutes’ walk away, another larger than life light artwork is playing out. This is on the back wall of another building, viewable from a specially made area at the back of its garden, a story of a dream, animated in bold colours and dramatic scenes in a massive projection four stories high. We won’t give away the plot of ‘Fantastic Dreams’ by Morgane Phillippe, playing on a loop in this dramatic setting, but it’s pretty striking.

A couple of minutes walk away, in a piazza, is another artwork, this one seemingly of swathes of red tentacles beneath a huge crimson light, weaving in and out of the exoskeleton of a building. Small children zoom around below it on their scooters, delighting in dodging the crowds clustered below chatting to the artist, Grimanesa Amorós.

yellow glowing giant crystals outside

Carving the Future by Saudi artist Obaid Al Sufi. The festival showcases local and international artists with dramatic, complex and beautiful installations

This is just a taster, a fraction of the art on show, in what is without doubt the most spectacular outdoor art exhibition at the moment in any city of the world. It sounds like it could be Venice during the (now finished) Biennale, but the scale of the public art here is much bigger, and it is not confined mainly inside buildings and pavilions as it is in Venice.

This is in fact the second edition of Noor Riyadh, a festival of art and light created by the authorities in the Saudi capital to turn the rapidly-developing city into a global art destination and a town where artists can be seen to be thriving.

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For those of us from outside the country who had a view of Saudi Arabia as a place where culture was not encouraged, Noor Riyadh was quite a surprise – doubtless also for many of those in the country itself, as change is coming fast. Noor Riyadh would not have even been conceivable just three years ago, someone closely associated with the festival told me. It is part of a broader plan by the country’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to catapult the country from being a kind of wealthy recluse of the Middle East, as it has been to date, to a cultural and artistic force.

The involvement and support of local artists is fundamental, another source told me. Although they did not say it directly, I suspected they were thinking of contrasting themselves with neighbours like Qatar and Abu Dhabi, which have, in the last few years, gone from zero to hero in terms of the global art scene, with Qatar acquiring one of the biggest collections of modern and contemporary western art in the world, and Abu Dhabi opening a Louvre and a Guggenheim as if they were architect-designed fast food franchises: but neither of them having much concern about their own culture or artists, perhaps because of their diminutive size. (Qatar does have a stunning Museum of Islamic Art, but the works are from all over the Arab and Byzantine lands, as well as Iran).

A screen underneath a bridge

De Anima, 2022 by Sarah Brahim. This was the second edition of the festival of light and art based in the Saudi capital

In Riyadh, by contrast, it is all about blending top local artists – and encouraging many more – with expertly curated artworks from the rest of the world, and, importantly, not shutting them away in a private collection but having them on display for all members of the public to see, with no charge, at several locations in this vast city.

One of the co-curators of Noor Riyadh is Hervé Mikaeloff, an internationally renowned art figure who works closely with Bernard Arnault of LVMH, and brands like Dior. I had last chatted with Hervé when he gave me a private tour of the Miss Dior art exhibition he curated at the Grand Palais in Paris. Here he is now, having helped bring in some of the dazzling international art names, at dinner with a crowd of fellow curators, museum directors and collectors at Il Baretto in the King Abdullah Financial District.

Hervé told me, over a glass of mineral water (alcohol is still banned in Saudi Arabia): “We wanted to bring international artists for people to see what they couldn’t see elsewhere. , to show them quality artworks from international players. There are plenty of local artists also. Through the artwork we presented. ,we wanted to bring new art but also an international sensibility to show what is happening around the world. That is why the [2022 festival theme] is called We Dream of New Horizons. I think we succeeded, the public is there, Noor Riyadh is not only for VIPs, it is very popular and I really liked that.”

There was a palpable character of Noor Riyadh being a Saudi initiative, something created by locals, for locals, with the help of very well selected international experts, which Hervé backed up. “Riyadh is not like Dubai where there are people from everywhere around the world. There is local culture and history and I find that very interesting.”

A pink and blue cartoon sculpture figure lit up in the dark

Cupid’s Koi Garden by Eness, in Salam Park. Installations from local and international artists were showcased over a wide geographical area

Riyadh is a huge city, much bigger than I expected it to be in terms of surface area. With the exception of new developments like the rather striking King Abdullah Financial District, where some of the most spectacular installations were placed, much of the city is quite austere: think suburban Orange County with fewer swimming pools. But changes are, without a doubt, happening here. In expensive shopping malls, cafes and fast food restaurants alike, I saw local women sitting without head coverings – since 2019, it has no longer been compulsory for women to cover their hair and wear and abaya in Saudi Arabia, although the majority of women still do. Even the latest advertising billboards for swanky property developments are cleverly photographed so it can’t quite be told whether the woman in the aspirational young couple looking up at the apartment development is wearing a headscarf or not. Judged by Western standards (and whether Western standards are correct for the world is a whole other debate; I’m not always so sure), there is a long way to go in terms of equality, but nobody can deny things are moving in the right direction, quite fast.

And there can be little doubt about the aspiration for quality in the art. Although this was just a second edition of the festival, The Royal Commission for Riyadh City, ultimately in charge of the art program as a whole, sought and received good advice and went for the best. At dinner one night I found myself quite at random sitting next to Alicja Kwade, one of the most prominent and respected artists in Europe, represented by the highly respected König Gallery in Berlin. The others at the table included a well known gallerist and museum director from Europe. I went to view Alicja’s complex, architectural work, Morgana, the next day.

Palm trees in front of a red circle surrounded by scaffolding

Earth by Spy at King Fahad National Library. The festival exhibits over 120 installations across 40 locations around Riyadh

Meanwhile Charles Sandison, the artist who created my personal favourite work there, The Garden of Light, the rising and falling projection of Arabic letters in the nighttime courtyard, told LUX:

‘With my artwork I wanted to create a technological complex visually dramatic architectural intervention – but also provide an intimate environment where the viewer could find their own place to be. The context of the festival opened up new possibilities and cultural dialogues for my work which I hope will continue’.

Arabic writing all over ancient walls

The Garden Of Light by Charles Sandison. The festival is co-curated by Hervé Mikaeloff, Dorothy Di Stefano and Jumana Ghouth

The group visiting the opening of the show comprised a significant slice of great and the good of the art world, so much so that if you had funnelled them onto an island in the first week of the Venice Biennale as the guestlist for Francois Pinault’s celebrated party, the French luxury tycoon would not have been disappointed at all.

Another international artistic name, Neville Wakefield, curated the “From Spark to Spirit” exhibition at Noor Riyadh, and told us: “As explored in ‘From Spark to Spirit’, it is evident that light in this world can be seen as an integral means of communication. We are now connected to each other by screens – by the light of information. We communicate with one another through the direct manipulation of light to form words and images that together map a collective consciousness, bringing us together in an era of rapid technological and cultural transformation.”

light up installation in the dark

I See You Brightest in the Dark, 2022 by Muhannad Shono. The range of light art on show includes immersive site-specific installations, public artworks, sculptures, art trails and virtual reality

The festival was put together in several distinct areas of town, and casual visitors from overseas (I didn’t spot any this time, but they will doubtless come in years to come as the event gains credibility and respect in the art world) need careful instruction on where to go and how to get there.

The soul of the festival is perhaps the multistorey light installation by local artist Muhannad Shono, who told us: “The work is an attempt to weave back into tangibility the intangible. The four rooms are a journey through loss, memory and acceptance. The installation exists at the thin line that separates the perceptible and the invisible, the here and those we can no longer hold close.”

Read more: Never-Before Seen Andy Warhol Photographs at the Beverly Hills Hotel

In contrast to the works in the JAX area, in converted warehouses on the edge of the city, was the spellbinding spectacle installed in the swanky new King Abdullah Financial District, a kind of Wall Street without the beer, recently built, architecturally striking and with aspirations to be the leading financial centre in the Middle East. Here, you can’t miss the light poem installed in giant letters: “On a Never Ending Horizon A Future Nostalgia to keep the Present Alive”.

The artist, Joël Andrianomearisoa, was there (many artists were there with their works, which was both surprising and inspirational), and told us it was: “A light poem for Riyadh. Some words suspended on the horizon of our emotions to tell the story of the present, to create the desire of the past and to affirm the vision of the future. On a never ending horizon a future nostalgia to keep the present alive.”

lit up sentence on a glass window

Artwork by Joël Andrianomearisoa. A core element of Noor Riyadh is its comprehensive public program of over 500 events such as tours, talks, workshops, family activities and music

And the works mentioned at the top of this article were in another area completely, the diplomatic quarter, on yet another side of town. There were more works in the desert. These distances are not small: depending on where you hail from, think Venice Beach to Hollywood Hills to downtown LA, or Chelsea to Hackney to Lewisham, or Prenzlauer Berg to Grunewald and back, to begin to get an idea.

This makes the whole thing even more remarkable in a way. Many ambitious festivals would have set themselves in a single location. To show over 120 artworks from 40 countries in 5 districts across the city is not just ambitious but visionary. And if it was part of the vision that middle class families should bring their children to be scooting around the artworks, or laughing as they ran through a light tunnel installation, then bravo.

A green purple and yellow sculpture lit up in the dark

Rawdah, 2022 by Abdullah Alothman. The festival exhibits more than 120 installations by over 100 artists

Informal public participation and enthusiasm not just for the works, but for the context and joy that artists can bring, is fundamental to creating a momentum around art from the ground up: the Pompidou Centre demonstrated this in the 1980s by turning the Beaubourg area of Paris inside out, and TATE Modern continued spreading the fun in London in the 2000s. Fun is not, I suspect, a word that appears alongside Riyadh in many Google searches to date, but Noor Riyadh used the playfulness of these striking public installations to appeal to the local population and win hearts, first and foremost. For the international visitor, it was the quality and sheet quantity of works that spoke for themselves.

Noor Riyadh was the single best art spectacle in the world at the time of viewing this year. That’s quite an achievement, and if in future years more local artists join in with enthusiasm, and more art world influencers and collectors are visiting, Riyadh may just turn into a prime destination on the global cultural map – and most importantly, a centre of artistic creativity in its own right.

Noor Riyadh is available to visit until Saturday 4th February 2023

Find out more: riyadhart.sa/noor-riyadh

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A man wearing a black suit and pink shirt sitting on a chair in front of green portraits hing up on a wall

During the pandemic, the conventional public and private art spaces closed their doors as it was clear art was not a necessity at this time. Durjoy Rahman realised this but thought there must be a way for creativity and discussion to still occur during this difficult period and so the DBF Creative Studio was born in collaboration with Porcelanosa Studio Bangladesh

A sculpture of a lion walking in a wooden room
buddhist statues underneath a chandellier
A brown sculpture on a wooden plinth

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

DBF Creative Studio, located in the heart of Dhaka City, invites creative thinkers to showcase their work for others to enjoy and appreciate. This alternative space allows people to engage, converse and experience art and creativity on a limited scale whilst maintaining safety parameters.

Nupami Grupo, founded in 2013 in Spain, originated with the goal of brining high-quality products from Spain to different South Asian markets. Nupami, as a Porcelanosa Associate, very quickly became a leader in the high-end building materials sector. Nupami’s collaboration some of the industry’s most prestigious architects and developers has provided a platform for new materials to be discovered and used as well as refresh the market with new trends in the architectural and design field.

wood crafted sculptures and furniture in a room
green portraits on a wall
portraits in a room hung on a wall

CEO of Nupami Bangladesh Ltd, Porcelanosa Associate of Bangladesh, Aritz Izura commented “The planning and design of this 1,450 square foot gallery included the reuse of materials from old cultural heritage sites, resulting in a beautiful interplay of the old and the new. So, when we were tasked with choosing the material for the gallery display wall, we gave it careful consideration and research.

Art and the contexts in which it was displayed changed dramatically with the rise of modernism. The use of neutral colors was thought to be an effective way of creating a “pure” space; a void-like atmosphere in which art could be experienced without being distracted by extraneous distractions. For private galleries, the practical solution was to select a color and material that would complement the majority of the works on display.

We felt that XLight, a timeless large-format porcelain tile featured on these walls with artworks by such great artists, would provide the ideal setting and enhance the aesthetics of the space. Marble has long been used in both art and architecture as a design element. Thanks to technological advances, the beauty of marble has been captured by Porcelanosa’s exclusive range of products. Concrete Grey, the XLight used in this project, serves as a subtle canvas on which artists can tell their stories for many years to come.”

This article was published in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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Reading time: 5 min
A man and woman sitting on chairs having a discussion
A man and woman sitting on chairs having a discussion

Liza Essers and Durjoy Rahman in discussion at Goodman Gallery, Mayfair, London

In the first of our series of online dialogues, Liza Essers of Goodman Gallery and South South speaks with philanthropist Durjoy Rahman about the western eye on art, and the future of culture in the Global South. With an introduction and moderation by Darius Sanai and created in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

History is always written by the winners. Whether or not that is true, there is more than an element of truth as far as art history is concerned. The West, home of most of the world’s wealth for most of the past millennium, is where the biggest auction houses, collectors, galleries, institutions, and market-makers are based. When the average LUX reader thinks of art history, they are more likely to think of Michelangelo or Monet than Khmer sculptors or 12th century Chinese visual artist Zhang Zeduan.

The art fair is now a global phenomenon, and Art Basel and Frieze, the two biggest players, have editions in Hong Kong and Seoul, as well as London, Paris, Basel, New York, Miami and Los Angeles (note the weighting there between East and West). But they are American and Swiss-owned organisations driven by legitimacy from heavy-hitter galleries in New York and London. When Abu Dhabi wanted to gain instant credibility in the art world, it opened a Louvre (with a Guggenheim coming soon).

Yet art did not start in the West, and is unlikely to end in the West. One of the most significant organisations seeking to loosen the western grip, and accompanying neo-Orientalist viewpoint, in the art world, is South-South. Co-founded by the esteemed Johannesburg-based gallerist Liza Essers, owner of Goodman Gallery, who represents William Kentridge, among many others, it bills itself a resource for artists, galleries, curators and collectors across the global south.

A woman wearing black sitting on a silver chair and a sculpture of a person with a green head and colourful body next to her

Liza Essers. Photographed by Anthea Pokroy. Courtesy Goodman Gallery

For the first in our series of online dialogues, we brought Liza together with a growing force in the rebalancing of east-west art relations, Durjoy Rahman. Founder of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, Durjoy is a multifaceted collector and philanthropist supporting artists and institutions across South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The foundation supports a residency at Amsterdam’s Rijksakademie, is launching a new partnership with India’s Kochi Biennial and London’s Hayward Gallery, and supports the esteemed Sharjah Art Foundation, among many other initiatives.

The dialogue between two intriguing leaders in art in the Global South was moderated by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai, himself from Iran, in Essers’ Goodman Gallery in Mayfair, London.

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LUX: Liza, you set up South South as an organisation which does not just promote dialogue and art action, but additionally serves as a way to provide artists and galleries with a new way of interacting and selling work.

Liza Essers: Absolutely, it goes back much further than I think most people realise. South South started in 2010 after visiting Brazil and being completely inspired by walking through the streets of Sao Paulo and thinking about Johannesburg. These two places I felt had shared histories and realities of their current situation. South South then started as a curatorial initiative that I began with Goodman Gallery. There were two strong curatorial initiatives; South South and another project called In Context, that was looking at the dynamics and tensions of the place. I was really interested at the time in the term the ‘Global South’ which was very much established by Lula da Silva, as an economic term around foreign policy. I suppose my background in economics got me thinking about seeing these real distinctions within the Western art market and The Global South, in a context of underlying political and economic realities. Over the last 12 years, there have been big multi-place projects with galleries around The Global South.

A blue red and white scarf hanging on a washing line

Samson Kambalu, Beni Flag- Sovereign States (this is not what I meant when I said bang bang), 2019

LUX: Durjoy, do you see any parallels between the work of your foundation which is focussed around supporting south Asian art, artists and organisations, and the work of South South?

Durjoy Rahman: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) was founded in 2018 and our mission was to support artistic, socially-activated practices. Not only do we promote South Asian artists, but also all across The Global South. There are many similarities between artists living in Asia, Africa and even South America with a lot of their work being interwoven as they live in similar social positions and environments. We also work with artists from Africa whose practices are aligned with social contexts that exist in South Asian countries like Bangladesh. For example, we hosted an artist from Ghana whose work we collected back in 2017 and his practices are very similar to those that we see in Dhaka. When I found his work and I realised the similar socio-economic environment, we started working with him and donated his work to a museum in the Netherlands for his first show in 2018, which is now in their permanent collection.

LUX: As part of the driving force behind the gathering momentum and support for artists from The Global South, is there a need for more organisations like yours?

LE: I feel that there is a need of course, but more importantly, we need collaboration. Instead of everyone trying to individually reinvent the wheel, the whole art world needs to shift together. Collaboration is so much more powerful if people work together to achieve better things for the arts.

DR: I agree, but I also believe that we need to make these artists more visible in their role throughout European history. A lot of South Asian or African artists came to Europe in the 50s and had shows alongside Picasso or Miro, there was a real cultural exchange. Unfortunately, due to the economic situation right after the end of colonial history, in Asia we became less visible and prominent. There is an urgency to work together to establish the position of the global south so that we are equally important in the development of modern art.

LE: Absolutely.