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

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art that looks like eyes
art that looks like eyes

Iwan Lukminto at the Tumurun Museum in indonesia

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What was the founding vision for Tumurun Museum?

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

LUX: How are audiences responding to its outreach programs?

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

a man and a woman standing next to each other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Hansjörg Wyss on his pioneering work in conservation

LUX: Can this benefit Indonesia’s international relations?

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

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

LUX: What do you hope your legacy will be?

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

Tumurunmuseum.org

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

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

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

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

Art fair image taken from above

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

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

Archway leading to a complex paper scultpure

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

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

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

Janelle Monet performing in a large black and white coat

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

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

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

Dwayne Wade in sunglassses making an announcment

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

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

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

Man standing with artwork

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

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

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

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

Find out more: nyccultureclub.com

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A blonde woman in a black top and blue shirt standing by a book shelf with her hand on her hip
A blonde woman in a black top and blue shirt standing by a book shelf with her hand on her hip

Alice Audouin at the Art of Change 21 office

The Paris-based polymath has spent nearly 20 years enabling an ecosystem in which art and environmental concerns meet in meaningful and magical ways. Alice Audouin tells LUX about supporting a new generation of artists who invite us to consider nature via work of intense imagination. Interview by Anne-Pierre d’Albis Ganem

LUX: How would you describe yourself?
Alice Audouin: I work in contemporary art and sustainability as a curator and consultant. I’m also chair and founder of the not-for-profit organisation, Art of Change 21, which supports emerging eco-conscious artists via exhibitions and prizes. We bring artists to each COP conference; for COP26 in Glasgow, 2021, John Gerrard created Flare, about the ocean burning.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What are you up to as a curator?
AA: In September 2022, I curated an exhibition in Brussels at the Patinoire Royale Galerie Valérie Bach, connecting art and environmental issues, and a major show of Lucy + Jorge Orta, marking their 30-year anniversary. My last show was ‘Biocenosis 21’ in Marseille. We showed 14 global artists at the world’s biggest biodiversity meeting.

An exhibition with an installation of a boat in the middle

Views of ‘Novacène’, Lille, 2022

LUX: And there is the superbly titled ‘Novacène’.
AA: Novacene is a book by the late James Lovelock, the scientist who proposed the Gaia hypothesis, which was the first time scientists had said Earth is a kind of living creature. We were inspired by his predicted utopia of the Novacene, a new era of cooperation between nature and human, aided by technology. It follows the current geological era, the Anthropocene, during which human activity has changed the climate. We have created a group exhibition that runs till 2 October at the Gare Saint Sauveur, Lille. Our 20 artists include Julian Charrière, Otobong Nkanga and Zheng Bo. ‘Novacène’ looks at ideas in technology, interspecies relationships, energy and agriculture – a kind of new world I designed with my co-creator, Jean-Max Colard.

LUX: You also contributed to Art Paris 2022.
AA: I was invited to be a guest curator on art and the environment. It was a chance to show how, for the new generation of artists, the eco crisis is not just a theme but part of their world.

LUX: Was this momentum there when you began?
AA: I started my work in 2004 at UNESCO with ‘The Artist as a Stakeholder’, so I’ve been doing this work for 18 years. When I began I had 100 artists and it was difficult to find artists who considered global or environmental issues, but now I have 2,500 artists in my database. I was in a position to witness change, which I think came to the art market maybe five years ago.

A woman and man standing in front of a piece of art on the wall

Alice Audouin with curator Alfred Pacquement at the Art Paris Art Fair, 2022

LUX: What is the artist’s role in the eco crisis?
AA: I don’t like to say artists should have a role. Their role is to be artists. But many conceptual artists, or artists who deal with their epoch, will cross environmental issues. Of these, many like to bring awareness, even solutions. Lucy + Jorge Orta purified water in Venice, pushing the idea of art with pieces that propose solutions. When they sell a drawing about the Amazon, the collector receives a certificate of a kind of moral ownership of 1sq m of forest. So they consider biodiversity as well as buying a drawing.

LUX: The artists involve people.
AA: Helping us think about our era – how we consume, our relation with time, resources, values, geopolitics – is very big now. Noémie Goudal works with paleoclimatology and proposes we reconnect our short individual time on Earth with long geological time. That’s important, because her art is also one solution to our relationship with nature.

LUX: Should artists not use plastic?
AA: We will see a revolution in materials. Tomás Saraceno, Gary Hume and our patron Olafur Eliasson are finding solutions to making – and moving – art. In-situ production is growing, too. For ‘Novacène’, two artists in Asia with complex installations gave us guidelines and we made them by distance. But I want to add caveats: if we over-reduce the means of artists’ production we will just have dead wood from a forest. If you say concrete is bad let’s drop it, you lose works. So we are in a transition period, as we look for green alternatives.

An exhibition with tree barks and a painting of a sunset on the wall

Views of ‘Novacène’, Lille, 2022

LUX: Tell us about biomimicry.
AA: It’s the idea nature provides and inspires. New art materials, such as mycelium mushrooms and algae, come from biomimicry. Chloé Jeanne, a laureate of the 2021 art prize I did with Ruinart, creates eco materials that are a kind of living creature. It involves the idea of care that, again, a collector continues. Eco design further explores how to create not only from the living but with the living. Tomás Saraceno’s Hybrid Web sculptures, for example, are co-created with spiders; Olafur Eliasson talks of interconnection. Many artists’ utopia now is not to work alone and compete, but to be together to create and cooperate.

Read more: Artist Precious Okoyomon on Nature & Creativity 

LUX: When did your interest begin?
AA: I was far from nature as a child, and I studied art history and interned at a gallery. But then I studied environmental economics, after which I was hired by a bank for a sustainability project. They talked of stakeholders, and I thought why don’t you talk of artists as such? I knew climate change was huge and I believed it would manifest in contemporary art. And it did.

Find out more: artofchange21.com

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

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Reading time: 4 min
Art works that look like plants in a gallery
a woman wearing a white shirt sitting on a brown chair

Founder of Fondation Thalie, Nathalie Guiot

The Brussels-based French founder of Fondation Thalie is from one of France’s biggest retail families. Nathalie Guiot speaks to LUX about the need for an all-round vision in facilitating arts and culture to support sustainability and biodiversity – and why you shouldn’t call her a philanthropist. Interview by Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem

LUX: What prompted you to start your foundation?
Nathalie Guiot: The aim was to support contemporary art linked to societal issues with three objectives. To give more visibility to female artists, as I don’t think they are represented enough; to promote dialogues between visual and savoir-faire craft, such as ceramics and textiles – I come from a family of entrepreneurs in retail and textiles; and to be involved in the ecological transition, to invite artists and scientists to create new narratives to call for action. It’s a multi-disciplinary foundation connected to new narratives, contemporary writing, new forms of creative writing, as well as visual arts and ecological transition, and how we can address this urgent topic.

Art works that look like plants in a gallery

Artworks by Kiki Smith at her solo show at Fondation Thalie

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Do you think of yourself as a philanthropist?
NG: I come from a family where we don’t really use that word. I don’t know why – it’s more like we are taking action, but we are not considering it as philanthropy, even if it is actually philanthropy. It’s a way of interacting with contemporary art creation now and how can we help these artists make their projects.

LUX: How can artists address the environmental issues?
NG: I think they have a vision that we don’t have. They have a vision to
project what the future will be. I think about Tomás Saraceno… it’s not only visual art, it is also in cinema, like the amazing film maker Cyril Dion. He just came out with a new movie called Animal talking about the end of biodiversity.

Nathalie Guiot speaking to a group at the Kiki Smith exhbition at Fondation Thalie

LUX: You are involved with artists and biodiversity.
NG: Right now, it’s more about conversations online, and from these conversations we will publish a book of 12. It’s about supporting people who are doing things. We are partners of the festival Action for Biodiversity in Arles at the end of August. I am also involved in the family business, which is Decathlon (the French sports retailer), as a board member of the Transition Committee. We’re working with the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, on a three-year research programme for the next generation of designers. It focuses on how to create products without destroying natural resources. Artists and designers will work with mycelium, for example. It will be inaugurated in September.

an artwork on a wall with a lamp hanging by it

Artwork by Kiki Smith

LUX: Is it a duty or a privilege for those with means to support the arts, given the pressures on public sector funding?
NG: I think it is a privilege to commission artworks, and to enable the creation of a community of patrons and collectors sharing the same passion! More than ever, we need creativity and poetry regarding our dramatic political context of the war in Ukraine. I am grateful to enable the support of artists in this context of a private foundation and to build this art collection over time.

A white building with an orange roof and blue sky

Fondation Thalie

LUX: What changes have you seen around the ecosystem of supporters of the arts/philanthropists, foundations, and museums in the past five to 10 years?
NG: They are more present and active – in particular, in Brussels. When I arrived 18 years ago, there were no galleries, artist-run spaces or contemporary centres. Nowadays, even my baker has an artist-run space!

Read more: Marina Abramović: The Artist As Survivalist

I am kidding, but Kanal Centre Pompidou (museum) has opened in an old car factory downtown, Wiels (contemporary art centre) has a cutting-edge programme of exhibitions, and numerous other galleries and private foundations are there now. Brussels is becoming the place to be!

Find out more: fondationthalie.org

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Artwork
Woman

International gallerist Pearl Lam

Art-world doyenne and owner of Pearl Lam Galleries on the foodie culture of her hometown of Hong Kong, why NFTs are hot and how there’s always more room for Asian artists on the global stage

My favourite museum in the region

There are so many incredible museums: Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, National Museum of Korea in Seoul, as well as Rockbund Art Museum, Power Station of Art and Chi K11 Art Museum in Shanghai

Where I go after a busy day at work

Back home to meditate

The last piece of art I bought

I bought two pieces, both from Mexico – one work is by Eugenia Martínez and the other is by Taka Fernández

Lam says that Hong Kong is fast becoming a global art hub

My favourite dining experience in Hong Kong

I usually have Cantonese cuisine, cooked in a private kitchen in the Wan Chai neighbourhood. It’s known for its upscale twist to Hong Kong classics. My favourite dishes are minced-fish soup and barbecued pork

What I think about NFTs

NFTs are hot! NFTs give artists and musicians the freedom to sell to end collectors or consumers directly – and it is already expanding from cryptocurrency to traditional currency investors. People in California and China seem to be particularly interested in building NFT platforms at the moment. It’s a new digital world that has pushed the art world to adapt

The artists I currently have my eye on

Woman

Annie Morris, courtesy of the artist and Tim Taylor Gallery

I love Annie Morris, Idris Khan, Philip Colbert and Gordon Cheung, who are all, coincidentally, UK-based artists. From sculptures to multimedia works and epic landscapes, their art is diverse and I love it

How the Hong Kong art scene has changed over the past 10 years

The art world was previously dominated by Europe and North America, but that has changed with the increase of international art fairs. In Hong Kong, we now have many world-class museums and galleries, which is exciting to see. Hong Kong is becoming a global art hub, especially since the opening of M+ was a success. It’s rare to have an Asian institution with sculpture, installation, photography and paintings that challenge the convention of traditional art

 

Art

‘Mr Doodle in Love’ exhibition at Shanghai K11

My most memorable experience of the city

Hong Kong is my home, so I have many memories. But one that will always stand out is opening my gallery in the historic Pedder Building, which was built in the Beaux-Arts style in 1923

What frustrates me

I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating exactly, but I think there is always more room for Hong Kong artists on the international stage. For me, personally, it’s always been very important to support local artists by showing their work to new audiences

What I miss about Hong Kong when I’m travelling

I miss my friends and my foodie companions. Food is an important part of Hong Kong culture. When a dining experience combines art, through a discussion with artists or friends, it’s even more fun

Find out more: pearllam.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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An art installation with twigs and soil in a room
A person with a dog

Precious Okoyomon and Gravity

LUX catches up with the New York-based Nigerian-American artist whose immersive installations portray the glorious chaos of nature – and its imperilment by the human race

1. You have been labelled as chef, artist, poet…

I think of myself as a poet. Everything else comes from there. Poetry is where I first found myself – in and within myself – and made something of it. Now, all the other things that I do, whether they want to or not, have to take the forms of poems. Everything is just a sort of non-stop poem at this point.

2. Where does your creative process begin?

Most things that I do start with reading. If not there, they come from just being in the world.

3. Do words ever fail you?

Everyday language fails and then we find each other sitting in the cracks of everything, trying to fall into the blur.

An art installation with twigs and soil in a room

Okoyomon’s first solo show at the Luma Westbau, Zürich, in 2019

4. Can artificial intelligence create real art?

I’m not sure what real art is. If I did, none of this would be any fun.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

5. Why does the kudzu plant appear so frequently in your work?

I love the vine. It’s been so special to have this extended collaboration with it over these past years. Some of the laws about cultivating it in the US actually made it very difficult to start working with kudzu. But now I know how to get around all of that and I feel like we have developed a real fluency with each other.

6. If you could switch off the internet forever, would you?

Definitely not. The internet is a part of me and you, and everything we touch. Please, no, never turn it off.

Art

In ‘To See the Earth before the End of the World’ (2022), Okoyomon’s sculptures are set against a field of wild kudzu

7. What is your phobia?

I’m afraid of a lot of things, but I would never tell you what. You have to be careful with fear.

8. What talent would you like to have, that you lack?

I take ballet lessons, but I’m not any good at it. I wish I could do a fouetté.

9. Of all the cities you have lived in, which do you prefer?

Well, I love Paris. I love Arles even more, but I’ve never lived there. In short moments, I get the joy of getting to rest and make work in this special city, but maybe one day…

Person making art

Okoyomon is the recipient of the 2021 CHANEL Next Prize

10. Who or what do you love right now?

Always my mother, my dog, Gravity, and [the Japanese figure skater] Yuzuru Hanyu.

11. Who or what do you hate right now?

I don’t like that question.

12. How will the Chanel Next Prize affect you?

I’m so grateful for the space it has afforded me to think without having to be afraid – and to just get to dream and play. I’m not sure how it will change the way I make things yet, but I’m so excited to get this rare chance to just explore. I really can’t imagine anything more magical.

Tree and statue

Okoyomon’s installation, ‘Every Earthly Morning the Sky’s Light touches Ur Life is Unprecedented in its Beauty’ (2021-22), at Aspen Art Museum

13. Louvre or Pompidou?

Louvre.

14. St Tropez or Hackney Wick?

Neither.

Read more: Marina Abramović: The Artist As Survivalist

15. Have you bought an NFT?

No.

16. What’s your favourite building?

The Hayden Planetarium [in New York].

Precious Okoyomon was recently awarded the Chanel Next Prize and won the 2021 Frieze Artist Award

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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artist with artwork
portrait of a man in front of artwork

Photograph by David Taggart

Jeff Koons is the world’s most expensive living artist, creating works that reflect modern life in their interplay with kitsch, materials and art history. Koons chats to Millie Walton about communication, how art brings the sublime into the everyday and pink inflatable rabbits

Jeff Koons is making me sweat. He’s ten minutes late to our Zoom meeting, and at this stage, I’m unsure whether he’s forgotten, or I’m unwittingly engaged in some kind of power play.

Something I realised in preparing for this interview is that almost everyone has something to say about either Jeff Koons as a person or his work. One of my favourite anecdotes goes something like this: “My friend went to a house party and had sex beneath a Jeff Koons, and said it was the way they’d like to die someday.” When I heard it, I thought that’s probably exactly the type of story an artist who is famed for making explicit artworks of himself and his ex-wife Ilona Staller (who was also a porn star known as La Cicciolina) and shiny balloon sculptures would love to retell to fawning art collectors at swanky gallery openings in New York. It’s hard not to make assumptions about one of the world’s most famous and controversial artists.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

red balloon dog sculpture

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Red) (1994–2000). © Jeff Koons, photo: Mike Bruce, Gate Studios, London/Courtesy the Royal Academy of Arts, London

A young, attractive woman (one of Koons’s studio assistants, perhaps) enters the screen to test the audio and camera, before he finally sits down, checks his ‘earpods’ are in place and gives me a Hollywood smile. At 66 years old, with gleaming white teeth, a full head of hair, barely any visible wrinkles and the glow of health, Koons could pass for early forties. He speaks precisely and slowly, maintaining eye contact and frequently dropping my name into the conversation, which has the destabilising effect of making everything he says seem both deeply profound and strangely orchestrated. “Millie,” he says mysteriously at one point. “What’s really interesting and beautiful about art is that what’s relevant and new is really quite ancient.”

porcelain sculpture

Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988). © Jeff Koons. Photo Tom Powel Imaging

Rising to prominence in the mid-1980s in New York, alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince and Keith Haring, Koons has long advocated the idea of ‘accessible’ art. He takes everyday objects and pop icons as his subjects, often rendering them at a huge scale to disrupt cultural hierarchies and unsettle the viewer’s sense of perception. Of the making of Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988), for example, a white and gold porcelain sculpture of the musician and his monkey, the artist says, “I was really trying to make a connection with Renaissance sculpture and to show that something we can acquire in a gift shop can have this important meaning to us in life, and as much relevance to excite and stimulate us as the Pietà.”

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on new wave collecting

Over the years, critics haven’t been so open-minded. His work has been variously labelled as “vacuous”, “crude” and “lazy”, but this has only increased his popularity. In 2019, Rabbit (1986), a metre-tall stainless-steel copy of a plastic inflatable bunny, sold for more than $91 million at Christie’s, breaking the record for a work by a living artist sold at auction set in 2018 by David Hockney’s 1972 painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), a record previously held by Koons himself. That might seem like an eye-watering price, but his work is highly technical and expensive to produce, which has, in the past, led to delays in completion and major lawsuits. In 2018, billionaire financier Steven Tananbaum sued Gagosian over the delayed delivery of three of the artist’s sculptures. Then, earlier this year, the artist shocked the art world by announcing his decision to drop both Gagosian and David Zwirner and to be represented worldwide exclusively by Pace Gallery, stating, “The most important thing to me is the production of my work and to see these artworks realised”.

silver sculpture of a rabbit

Jeff Koons, Rabbit (1986). © Jeff Koons. Photo Tom Powel Imaging

The desirability of his work comes not just from the promise of drama and luxury. There’s also an appealing sense of playfulness, nostalgia and recognition to be found in his vibrant colours and simple visual language that recalls a childlike innocence. “When we’re young, we’re more curious. We absorb tremendous amounts of information very quickly because we’re open,” he says. “Eventually, people start shutting down and making all of these judgements. I try to open myself up to everything.”

Koons is a ‘conceptual’ artist: a visionary, rather than a maker. He has multiple studios and a team of more than fifty people producing the ideas that he dreams up. It’s an approach to art-making that allows him to “have feelings and sensations, but not to be dependent on the hand”. It also allows him to pursue “Duchampian ideas” by taking a more “objective” viewpoint. Whether one can truly detach oneself from one’s own thoughts is debatable, but what’s important is the intention behind the work and, for Koons, that often comes from a personal experience or encounter with a material, colour or form. As a younger artist, for example, he recalls buying a pink inflatable rabbit and a yellow and green inflatable flower which he placed on mirrors propped up against the wall. “The colour, the reflection and this association was so intense, I had to go have a couple of beers to really come down from the excitement,” he says.

artist with artwork

Koons photographed in his Manhattan studio in 2021 with a work in progress. Photograph by David Taggart

His focus now is more on being in dialogue with the viewer than himself. “There’s joy in sharing the human potential with others, instead of just with the self,” he says. This idea of exchange is perhaps most evident in the artist’s ‘Gazing Ball’ series (2012–) in which he places a blue, mirrored, hand-blown glass gazing ball within a classical piece of art, such as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. The ball reflects the surroundings and the viewer, literally drawing them into the work of art. For Koons, the object relates to his childhood in York, Pennsylvania where he recalls seeing gazing balls in people’s gardens. “I’ve always loved the generosity of [the gazing ball], but also that it’s a lawn ornament. It’s something that can be looked at in a very profound way and at the same time it’s frivolous,” he says.

Read more: How Durjoy Rahman’s art foundation supports cultural collaboration

painting with sculpture

Gazing Ball (da Vinci Mona Lisa) (2015). © Jeff Koons. Photo Tom Powel Imaging

The same could be said for many of Koons’s sculptures, which, at the very least, teach us that outward appearances can both charm and deceive. The reason he so often works with stainless steel is that it’s both highly durable – “A kind of a proletarian material; if people wanted to melt [the works] down to make spoons, forks, pots and pans, they could,” he says – and shiny in appearance. One of the artist’s most iconic pieces, Balloon Dog, explicitly plays with these material qualities by suggesting the bulging soft surface and lightness of a balloon while harnessing the sculptural strength of the metal. “Only the surface has a visual luxury, and when I say a visual luxury, I’m speaking about the excitement of stimulation, reflection, abstraction and change,” he explains. “That’s the type of luxury that my works are interested in.”

public sculpture of a ballerina

Jeff Koons, Seated Ballerina (2017) at the Rockefeller Center, New York. © Jeff Koons. Photo Tom Powel Imaging

Has the material worth of his work changed the way he feels about his practice, and art in general? “I love art, I love the idea of how it can really better the lives of people as an educational tool. It informs us, not only of our history, but of all the human disciplines, how we can incorporate them, fit them into our lives. It’s always a dialogue about becoming,” he says. “If the market, at some point, became interested in me, I’d like to believe it was because I was able to communicate some of those ideas to people, and that they found relevance in the belief of this type of transcendence.”

Find out more: jeffkoons.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 7 min
A woman in a pink dress standing in front of golden and wooden doors
A woman in a pink dress standing in front of golden and wooden doors

Nazy Vassegh photographed in the Grand Hall at Two Temple Place. Photo by Alex Board

This May sees the second edition of Eye of the Collector kicking off the summer art season in London. Conceived as a new style of art fair, the concept sees Two Temple Place transformed into an imaginary collector’s home for a boutique style fair. Ahead of the opening, the founder, Nazy Vassegh, tells us why she created this unique fair and the key focus this focus this year

The idea for Eye of the Collector came about from a work trip I took to the opening of the 2019 Venice Biennale. As I wandered around extraordinary palazzi full of carefully curated breath-taking art from all eras, I questioned why art fairs were so formulaic – boring white tents and aisle after aisle of white box booths. My collector friends were also starting to complain to me about suffering from ‘fairtigue’. Given that I worked in what was supposed to be a creative industry, I thought it was time to take action.

A white tree with antlers coming out of the top

Image from Eye of the Collector 2021: Susie MacMurray, The Stalker 2021. Courtesy of Pangolin gallery

Returning to the UK, the search for an appropriate home for Eye of the Collector began. My husband was working in the fashion business at the time and had staged a show during London Fashion Week at Two Temple Place. When he showed me the building and I learnt more about the history of the interior it became quickly clear that this was the perfect home for what we wanted to achieve.

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Built in 1895 for William Waldorf Astor, then one of the richest men in the world, the brief to the architect had been to create ‘the finest building irrespective of cost’. The result is a riot of neo-Gothic panelling, stained glass windows and rare marble mosaic floors created by the finest craftsmen of the time. As a sign of true quality, the supporting pillars of the galleried landing were carved from solid ebony and, in the reinforced safe room, William Waldorf kept the title deeds for most of modern Manhattan.

A wooden room with art on the walls

Image from Eye Viewing Room, 2021 showing the Lower Gallery

My intention had always been to present art and design in a setting that collectors could imagine in the context of their own homes and this fitted the bill perfectly. Owned and run by the Bulldog Trust I also liked the idea that we were re-purposing a historic building and in so doing supporting a charity dedicated to good causes.

After a digital-only edition in 2020, Eye of the Collector finally launched in real life in September 2021. Given all the disruption of the previous eighteen months I really didn’t know what to expect. This was going to be the first real art event in a long time and no-one could predict how collectors and the wider art world would react, especially to something as new as Eye of the Collector.

A red couch in a grey and beige room with art on the wall

A range of art is shown at Eye of the Collector from works by emerging artists to the masterpiece classics

Art and design from modern day to antiquity was presented from thirty international galleries, curated as if in an imaginary collector’s home free of the traditional booths and putting the art centre stage to encourage new collecting pathways and creative artistic juxtapositions. Prices ranged from a few thousand pounds for an original work by an up-and-coming young artist to a few million pounds for an early masterpiece by Lucien Freud. This allowed collectors of all types and at all stages of their collecting journey to engage.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf’s Inside Guide To The Venice Biennale

Our next edition will take place from 11-14 May once again at Two Temple Place, WC2. This time around we are placing an emphasis on female artists. A wide variety of works will be offered for sale including contemporary art, some made especially for the fair, mid-century and modern design, ancient art and studio ceramics.

Find out more: eyeofthecollector.com

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Tree and house
Tree and house

Keythorpe Hall Private House and Walled Garden, Leicestershire, England

Once a Downton Abbey-style aristocratic home, Keythorpe Hall in Central England has reinvented itself as a sustainable private-hire venue for eco-conscious house parties

The experience

Keythorpe Hall sleeps up to 14 people in seven bedrooms in the main house. We took the corner suite with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the hills of Leicestershire, a couple of hours’ drive north of London. The room was like something from a Brontë novel – with blush-coloured soft furnishings, a rattan bedstead, shutters, and folding screen. In the bathroom, there was escapism of a different kind, with a freestanding shower resembling the Great Glass Elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set beside a hot pink bathtub.

Sustainable thinking provides superior comfort. Bed linen is made from 100% Oeko Tex certified cotton. Bath products, created using botanicals, are sourced from small businesses 15 minutes down the road. The house is heated using a biomass boiler which runs on local woodchip for its energy source, and so is the Japanese hot tub on the terrace, which invites a kind of eco-therapy in the great outdoors.

Bedroom

One of Keythorpe Hall’s seven guest rooms

The food & drink

Chefs Peter Johansen and Bent Varming create bespoke menus for guests based on what’s in season. Fruit and vegetables are grown in Keythorpe’s 1.8 acre walled garden, where a quality not quantity mindset means they grow for flavour rather than yield. When we took a walk around the garden with head gardener and wild food expert Claudio Bincoletto, we spotted rainbow chard, wild rocket, and daikon – all of which reappeared on our plates later that evening.

Of the seven ultra-fresh courses we sampled, our favourites were the brill with beurre blanc, rapini and golden ball turnip, and the sea bass with beetroot and toothache pepper. After mains, the Baron Bigod brie (the only traditional raw milk Brie-de-Meaux style cheese produced in the UK) and apple brioche was particularly well accompanied by a glass of Nyetimber Demi-Sec, a sparkling wine produced just a couple of counties away in Kent.

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Responsible for personalising wine pairings at Keythorpe Hall is Bert Blaize, award-winning sommelier and author of Which Wine When. While the wine cellar is available for formal tastings, we opted for something a little less vinous: a vermouth-making class with Blaize, using botanicals foraged from the grounds. (Just don’t make the same mistake as we did, and sign up for a one-on-one session at 10am on a Saturday morning.)

Dining room

Eco-conscious gastronomy at Keythorpe Hall

The design

Few can say that they have taken a shower in front of a 2.5-metre mural of a Tudor aristocrat. But then again, the owners of Keythorpe Hall aren’t ones to pay homage to its heritage through any conservative means.

Read more: How to create a truly sustainable luxury hotel

Barbara van Teeffelen and husband Giles have spent the past decade at local auctions and Christie’s sales restoring the private collection of the original owning family while beginning a contemporary art collection of their own. Walk into the reception hall and you will be greeted by two austere, seventeenth-century faces framed on opposing walls. Enter the lounge, and you’ll find contemporary works by Polish artist Marcin Dudek and Selma Parlour’s neon, geometric canvases.

Bathroom

One of Keythorpe Hall’s guest bathrooms

Beyond the property

Leicestershire is less famous than the neighbouring Cotswolds, but it is still English countryside at its best. Keythorpe Hall is close to the market towns of Uppingham and Oakham, famed for its antique shops and galleries and shopping respectively. Rutland Water, one of Europe’s biggest man-made lakes, is 10 minutes away.

Sofa

Old art meets new at Keythorpe Hall

Any areas for improvement?

Keythorpe Hall’s owners are candid about its shortcomings. The huge showerheads are not conducive to reduced water consumption. Fish cannot be sourced locally, but must instead be transported from the coast. But the place is proof that sustainability can be synonymous with superior flavours and comfort, and bravo for the effort.

The experience: 8.5/10

Responsible culture rating: 8/10

Rates from £6,000 per night for full use of the house and grounds. Packages can be tailored to include all meals, drinks and service. Book your stay: keythorpehall.co.uk

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artist in front of mural
artist in front of mural

Artist Shahrzad Ghaffari in front of her work-in-process at Leighton House. Photograph by James Houston

Leighton House, the former home and studio of British artist Frederic Leighton, was once a lively meeting place for artists and writers who would gather beneath the domed ceiling of the elaborate Arab Hall (named after the vast collection of Middle Eastern tiles adorning its walls) to converse and listen to music. Now, a major renovation, including the construction of a new wing, seeks to reestablish the house as a creative hub by inciting a dialogue between its Victorian heritage and contemporary visual culture through a programme of events, exhibitions and artist collaborations. Ahead of its reopening later this year, Millie Walton visited the museum to speak to Shahrzad Ghaffari, the first contemporary artist to be commissioned by Leighton House, and preview her work-in-progress

LUX: Much of your work is inspired by Persian poetry. How do you see the visual medium of painting interacting with poetry?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: Painting has been my passion since I was a child. Everybody always knew what to buy me: paper, crayons, paints. Then, slightly later on, I became interested in poetry and started to read a lot but the two came together when I was experimenting with trying to find my own style in painting, an honest way of expressing what’s within.

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artist at work

Ghaffari at work. Photograph by James Houston

LUX: Oneness, your mural for Leighton House, is based on a poem by Rumi. What was your process for coming up with the composition?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: I started with the poem in mind, but the shape of the composition took some time to develop through sketching. That said, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do when I walked into the space. I chose silver for the background, for example, because there’s a lot of gold in the old wing of the house and silver responds to that in a modern way. In a way, I think it also works as a kind of mirror, reflecting the heritage of the house just as the shape of the form mimics the spiral movement of staircase. The textured surface, however, makes reference to the notion of history. I built it up in layers of acrylic paint mixed with mediums, but nothing is scraped away. Each layer is applied on top of the next and has its own story. Then, the turquoise I’ve used for the abstract form is traditionally the colour of hope in Persian culture, but it also pays homage to the turquoise tiles in the Arab hall while the bits of burnt orange that you can glimpse through the background are supposed to represent the red bricks of the building’s facade.

LUX: Have you painted a mural of this scale before?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: No, I haven’t and it has been quite challenging! I originally intended to project the calligraphy onto the wall, which is what you would normally do with a mural so that you can then trace it, but I couldn’t because the space is so tight. Instead, I made a grid and did everything by hand. That said, it has been a lot of fun too, especially painting the upper part near the skylight at the top of the stairs.

wall mural

A render of Oneness by Shahrzad Ghaffari. Courtesy of Leighton House

LUX: In a more general sense, what role do you think public art can, or should play?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: As the name suggests, public art is for the public so it must be able to connect with its audience, which, in this case, are the visitors to the museum. I also think it needs to be loud enough or perhaps, unusual enough to make people pause in front of it, to pull them out of their everyday life and to convey its message in just a few seconds. In a way, public art acts like a bridge between architecture and the public because it echoes what the architecture wants to convey but often, in a more accessible way.

Read more: The Best Exhibitions to see in March 

LUX: Which artists or movements have influenced your practice?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: When I was younger, I was quite heavily influenced by Impressionism. When I was studying art they would make us copy classical works and so, when I first encountered the looseness of Impressionism it felt very freeing. I think that had, and continues to have a big influence on my work. Also, the light! I always try to incorporate something that reflects light, like the silver I’ve used in Oneness. I remember first seeing Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss and feeling so drawn to it for that same reason.

LUX: What is it about paint, as a material, that appeals to you?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: I use paint for two reasons. The first is to create something very visually strong. I want to engage the viewer, to captivate them. But I also use it to reflect my emotions. I used to mainly paint with oil and I recently changed to working with acrylic for the practical reason that I live in Canada and oil takes ages to dry, but using acrylic has also changed the way I work because you have to paint very quickly.

artist portrait

Photograph by James Houston

LUX: Do you have to be in a particular state of mind to create?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: Yes. I can’t just sit and start painting. For me, [the creative process] starts with a strong feeling. It could be happiness, for example. Then, I take the brush and I start to act upon that feeling, usually very quickly. The mural is different because the composition is planned, but usually I have  three or four canvases that I’m working on simultaneously and that helps me because I might not be in the mood to work with red paint, for example.

LUX: Do you paint every day?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: Even if I’m not painting, I show up in my studio every day. Maybe, I’ll write something down instead, but I have to show up. That’s very important.

LUX: What else do you have coming up?
Shahrzad Ghaffari: I have a show of my works here at Leighton House, when then museum reopens, and I’m also looking into exploring NFTs – mainly out of curiosity. I think as an artist, you should always be open to everything, to exploring all the tools that are on offer. That’s what it’s all about it, it’s what motivates you to keep making. Where curiosity stops, the creative process ends.

To find out more about Leighton House, visit: rbkc.gov.uk/museums/

Follow Shahrzad Ghaffari on Instagram: @shahrzadghaffariart

 

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Reading time: 5 min
shiny balloon dog sculpture
shiny balloon dog sculpture
Although Jeff Koons has had a profound impact on contemporary art and remains one of the world’s most influential artists, recent data supports a strong decline in his market, reflecting the tastes of a new generation of art collections and wider cultural shifts. Sophie Neuendorf reports

“I love the gallery, the arena of representation. It’s a commercial world, and morality is based generally around economics, and that’s taking place in the art gallery,” Jeff Koons

The above quote perfectly sums up the ethos and reputation of Jeff Koons. Love him or hate him, Koons has shaped contemporary art in profound ways over the course of the past few decades. One of the reasons for this is that his work is globally recognisable and relatable – you don’t need to have studied art history to understand where he’s coming from although if you have there are deeper layers to be found. In a sense, he bridges the gap between high and low culture.

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Koons rose to fame in the 1980s, developing iconic works such as Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988), the Made in Heaven (1990–1991) series, and Puppy (1992), which has been installed in Sydney Harbour, Bilbao, the Palace of Versailles, and Paris. While he’s most closely associated with his brightly coloured, shiny, oversized sculptures of kitschy souvenirs, toys, and ornaments (see his Celebration (1994–2011) series), Koons continues to seek new and surprising outlets for his creativity. In 2017, he teamed up with the luxury brand Louis Vuitton to produce an edition of bags printed with iconic European paintings, and more recently, he teamed up with high-street brand UNIQLO to create a line T-shirts and hoodies printed with some of most famous sculptures.

art auction graph

Courtesy of artnet

In 2019, his fame seemed to reach an all time high: Rabbit sold for a record-breaking $91.1 million at Christie’s auction house, making him the most expensive living artist. However, according to the artnet Price database, that single work accounted for the lion’s share of the artist’s $100 million (approx.) auction total that year. In fact, since peaking at more than $150 million in 2014, the artist’s  overall auction volume has been slowly trending downward. In 2020, it was down to less than $3 million. While the pandemic undoubtedly played a role in the decrease of sales and things have picked up slightly since (to about $36 million to date) it’s still a far reach from earlier years. More worryingly, 48 (20%) of the 239 Koons lots offered this year at auction have failed to sell entirely.

Read our interview with Jeff Koons from the Autumn/Winter issue

Over the past few years, major cultural shifts in the art world and beyond have contributed to the rather rapid depreciation of the Koons market. First and foremost, there has been a generational shift, with a new group of young collectors becoming the driving force behind the rise of Ultra Contemporary artists and a wider change in tastes. Peers of the BLM, MeToo, and climate change era, these young collectors are looking for more depth and meaning than Koons’ shiny kitsch seems able to offer. Quite possibly, the extravagant prices and controversial subject-matter (namely Koons’ Made in Heaven series which featured explicit images of his former wife, porn star Ilona Staller) have, ultimately, overshadowed his career, but this change can also be seen as a natural evolution. In fact, the only category in art that is more or less immune to changes in taste are the ultimate “trophies” that are so exceptional and rare in quality that anyone able or prepared to spend more than $100 million on a single artwork cannot afford not to go after them, if and when such works become available. Nearly everything else is and always will be affected by the evolution of culture.

art market graph

Courtesy of artnet

Additionally, and importantly, the health crisis of the past two years has had a profound impact on not only the art market, but also on the popularity of the hyped pre-pandemic artists. Internationally recognisable artists such as Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami have also seen a depreciation in their average prices at auction, indicating a decline in their popularity. Perhaps, this is because these figures are seen to be representative of a pre-pandemic era, an era which was more superficial and frothy than today’s.

Read more: The Best Art Exhibitions to See in January

Koons currently ranks as number 57 in artnet’s list of the top 300 most popular artists, but if the market is anything to go by, he’s in danger of slipping off it altogether. “For me, at a certain point it became so much about the money that I couldn’t look at a shiny outdoor [Koons] sculpture without thinking about dollar signs,” commented American art advisor and specialist in modern and contemporary art Lisa Schiff. “When it becomes too much about the money, it’s just not interesting. I feel like where he started is somewhere very different from where he went.”

Now, Koons’ new dealers at Pace Gallery (the gallery announced exclusive representation of the artist in April after he left Gagosian and David Zwirner) are faced with the daunting task of rekindling his market. His latest works –  stainless steel replicas of porcelain figurines – are set to appear in a solo show at Pace New York in late 2023 but only time will tell if the market can be swayed once more in his favour.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice-President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com

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Reading time: 4 min
graphic painting of glasses
graphic painting of glasses

© The artist, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo Mike Bruce.

man and woman in front of artworkIn the mid 1960s, Michael Craig Martin emerged as a key figure in early British conceptual art, later becoming the teacher of many of the YBAs such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. Today, he is one of the world’s most prominent artists, known for his brightly coloured paintings and sculptures of everyday objects. Millie Walton speaks with him about colour, style and listening to his own advice

1. By focusing on everyday objects, are you searching for a kind of universality?

Everyday objects do seem to me to offer a path to understanding the universal. By making drawings of as many objects as I can, one by one, I have tried to implicitly account for everything. I have discounted all the hierarchies by which we normally categorise things: size, use, materials, social importance, aesthetic quality, monetary value, moral worth, etc. I draw everything the same way, each with equal care and attention – a democracy of images.

2. Do you recreate the objects from memory or are they drawn from life?

I never draw from memory, only from the observation of an individual object.

3. Are the objects you use as subjects artworks in themselves?

With a few exceptions, such as Duchamp’s urinal or Magritte’s pipe, the objects I draw are not artworks. My drawings of them are.

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4. You’ve said before that incorporating colour into your work was a breakthrough moment. How so?

I discovered that I could unsettle the familiarity of the drawing of an object by introducing non-naturalistic, wayward, intense colour. The drawing is logical, general, bland, familiar; the colour instinctive, specific, vivid, unexpected. This confrontation gave my work a new visual impact and emotional intensity.

5. In aiming for what you’ve termed ‘no style’, you have created a style that is now widely recognised as yours. Has this changed your attitude towards what style means?

Yes. I used to look on style as a kind of self-conscious ‘arty’ signature. Now, I see that it can be the manifestation of the essential characteristics of one’s visual language.

6. Did teaching art at Goldsmiths College affect your own practice?

Yes, because, at best, I saw my teaching as virtually an extension of my practice. One thing I discovered was to always listen to the advice I was giving my students, as it was often the advice I wished to hear myself, but couldn’t do so directly.

digital artwork

Michael Craig Martin, Oxford Street Installation. © The artist, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo Mike Bruce.

7. How do you decide what to create next?

My work is a continuum. I work on many things at the same time. One thing leads to another. Work comes from work.

8. Is it important for you to be surrounded by your own artworks?

It’s not important, but I am happy, these days, to have some works hanging in my own apartment. In general, I quickly lose interest in a work I’ve just completed because I’m working on something else. I don’t like having much finished work in the studio, but I often do. Unexpectedly coming across something you did years ago, and have forgotten, can be very rewarding.

9. Are you interested in exploring more digital tools within your practice?

I have done quite a lot of digital work over the years, the first in 2000, I think. I develop all my work on a computer and what I do is well suited to digital productions. There are things one can do digitally involving change and movement that other mediums don’t allow.

red bulb sculpture

Michael Craig Martin, Bulb (red), 2011 © The artist, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo Mike Bruce.

10. Do you create commissioned work?

I always consider commissions. Some I accept, some I don’t. It’s interesting to consider something you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

11. What led you to transform your drawings into transparent sculptures?

Two-dimensional images normally need a material ‘ground’ (paper, canvas, screen and so on) to exist at all. Making my drawings out of steel means they can be self-supporting and therefore dispense with the need for a ‘ground’, thus appearing transparent.

12. Are your works intended to provoke a particular reaction in the viewer?

I try to make work that catches the eye and the imagination of as many viewers as possible. I never seek a particular reaction, but try to provide the provocation for individual, personal speculation.

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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installation of digital artworks
installation of digital artworks

Galerie Nagel Draxler’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach

After the scaled-back events of last year, Art Basel is back and it’s bigger than ever with 250 galleries from over 36 countries. Our columnist Sophie Neundorf reports from Miami

Sophie Neuendorf

The vibe was fantastic, full of joie de vivre, as collectors descended on Miami to celebrate the comeback of the Art Basel Miami Beach. On the opening day, there were many joyful reunions between friends, collectors, and gallerists seen and heard around the booths and despite timed entry due to Covid regulations, most of the stellar works sold out instantly.

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According to collectors, advisers and dealers, sales are similarly soaring at neighbouring fairs Nada and Untitled. It’s not so much a case of if to buy, but how to get there first. Who will get take home a much coveted painting by Amoako Boafo? Or the Genesis Tramaine being sold at Almine Rech? Or the Flora Yukhnovich work at Victoria Miro? It’s quite the dilemma for galleries that want to reward loyal clients, place works with museums, and grow new audiences at the same time, all while steering clear of speculators, but c’est la vie!

beachfront gallery

Saint Laurent Rive Droite’s beachfront gallery features an exhibition of works by an exhibition of works by Japanese artist Sho Shibuya

NFTs are, unsurprisingly, taking centre stage with multiple galleries showcasing digital offerings. Galerie Nagel Draxler is devoting much of its booth to a show-stopping group installation of tokenised multimedia works led by artist and maverick collector Kenny Schachter while a few aisles over, Pace is taking a somewhat softer approach with its presentation of Block Universe (2021), a collaborative work by Drift and D.J./crypto-artist Don Diablo. This year, there’s also a booth and three-day series of live talks dedicated to Tezos, an open-source, energy-efficient blockchain network where scores of recognised media artists have tokenised their works over the years. The centrepiece of the booth is a multiscreen installation that allows visitors to add their algorithmically distorted self-portrait to works by generative artist Mario Klingemann (AKA Quasimondo), then mint the results as NFTs on the Tezos blockchain.

Read more: Pioneering Artist Michael Craig Martin on Colour & Style

Among the many impressive events taking place this weekend, my highlight is Saint Laurent Rive Droite’s ephemeral gallery in the centre of the city (until December 5, 2021). Inside the space—a pink-and-red cube set on the beach, practically glowing against the backdrop of ocean and sky—there’s an exhibition of works by Japanese artist Sho Shibuya, commissioned by Saint Laurent’s visionary Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello. Shibuya has recently gained widespread attention for his series of daily paintings, Sunrise from a Small Window, created in his Brooklyn apartment over the last 22 months. Using the front page of The New York Times as a canvas, the artist has been ritualistically painting over the front-page stories with the hues of each morning’s sunrise, covering the often down-trodden news with an ever-changing symbol of revival and hope. It’s well worth seeing.

floating artwork

Michael Kagan, APOLLO 2021 (2021). Photo courtesy of the artist and Half Gallery.

Meanwhile, one of the stranger sights in Miami this week is an Apollo space capsule floating in Biscayne Bay as if just returned home from a lunar voyage. This isn’t, however, some wormhole into the heyday of the U.S. Space program, but an art project from artist Michael Kagan and New York’s Half Gallery. It’s no coincidence that Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire art collector who promised to take a group of artists with him to the moon aboard one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets, is one of the artist’s collectors. Kagan is clearly angling for a seat.

And then, of course, there are the parties. White Cube’s bash at Soho Beach House, which featured a performance from Sister Sledge and a lot of dancing, is the most talked about so far, but with a few days to go, there’s plenty of more time for partying.

To me, it feels very nearly like the good old days, but with the added edge of NFTs and groups of eager millennial collectors (musician Joe Jonas and Bachelor contestant Kit Keenan have been spotted milling around) with a healthy appetite for emerging stars and an even larger one for big name artists and galleries.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice-President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com

 

 

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Reading time: 3 min
grand drawing room
man sniffing glass of red wine

Prince Robert de Luxembourg. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon. F. Poincet @ OccitMedia

Prince Robert de Luxembourg is taking Domaine Clarence Dillon and Château Haut-Brion, one of Bordeaux’s most prestigious wine estates, into the future by creating new winemaking facilities, a fine wine shop and a visitor centre. LUX speaks with him about mixing the worlds of art and fine wine, and growing the family business

Prince Robert de Luxembourg – just plain Robert to his friends and this interviewer – is in a hurry, although you wouldn’t know it. He is about to embark on his first family trip to the US, to visit the American side of his family, since before the pandemic. But if he’s ruffled by having to deal with the stresses of international travel currently, he isn’t showing it. “And how have things been with you?” he asks, listening thoughtfully and diverting briefly into a conversation about how curious the media world is right now.

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Robert is someone who could easily have done very little at all; after becoming involved in the family company a decade earlier, in 2002 he became Managing Director of the family’s holding of Domaine Clarence Dillon, which owns, among others, one of the world’s most celebrated wine estates, Château Haut-Brion. Haut-Brion is what is known by connoisseurs as a ‘First Growth’, standing alongside Châteaux Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour and Margaux; the China-driven rise in values of these wines in the past 20 years has meant a surge in profit margins for their owners. A case of 12 bottles of 1989 Château Haut-Brion will set you back more than £15,000 (more than US$20,000); in a restaurant, a recent vintage will usually be priced north of £1,000 per bottle.

Haut-Brion also has more heritage than pretty much any other wine: American founding father Thomas Jefferson famously took a case home to Virginia in the 1780s; and, for those who care about these things, it has a distinctive style, often richer and more earthy than its fellow first growths.

grand drawing room

The salle des vignes in the 19th-century Pavillon Catelan, at Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux, which has been converted and extended into a new visitor centre. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

Like his wine estate, Robert has strong links to the US: his mother, Joan Dillon, was a stalwart of the US political establishment, who married Prince Charles of Luxembourg, a direct descendant of King Henry IV and Louis XIV, and a member of the Bourbon family. The heritage of the estate and other holdings in Domaine Clarence Dillon comes from his mother’s line: it was his maternal great-grandfather, Clarence Dillon, a Texan financier, who purchased Haut-Brion in 1935.

There’s an element of the Texan in Robert; his warm-hearted greetings, openness to conversation, straightforwardness. His English is somewhere between the private-school British of his upbringing and the East Coast aristo of his US family.

There is another side to him that needs prising out a little: the creative. He started out as a Hollywood screenwriter, one with considerable potential it appears, as one of his screenplays piqued the interest of Stephen Spielberg and was eventually optioned by Colombia Pictures. Although we don’t talk about it much, he plainly enjoys his interactions and ideas with the media and film crews, and there is creativity in both his planning as he expands and recreates his Domaine for the next decades and in the execution of elements such as Le Clarence and Pavillon Catelan.

The former is the restaurant he opened in Paris in 2015, now with two Michelin stars under chef Christophe Pelé, which, though reflecting a decidedly modern version of French cuisine, has been created to feel like dining at a Bordeaux château. The latter is his new creation at Château Haut-Brion and its (almost equally celebrated) neighbour La Mission Haut-Brion, a lavish visitor centre with contemporary-Baroque drawing and private dining rooms. The key message: the visitor experience can now be as lavish as are the wines.

vineyards and chateau

Château Quintus in Saint-Émilion, part of Domaine Clarence Dillon. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: To what extent have you transformed Domaine Clarence Dillon? It’s a broader business now than when you took over.
Robert de Luxembourg: It was a farm when I arrived as a child. We had no offices, it was just one venerable wine estate, Haut-Brion. There was an accountant who would come maybe one or two times a week to my great-grandfather’s apartment in Paris and that was the only ‘office work’ that was undertaken. There was also a gentleman who would organise visits in Bordeaux occasionally. At that time it was a farm and today, we have become a group of companies, the mother company being Domaine Clarence Dillon. This entity oversees five subsidiaries, three vineyards and many more wines. We have grown into a substantial and expanding wine business enjoying a multitude of related activities.

Read more: David Taggart on photographing our cover star Jeff Koons

I believe considered growth is important for a family company in order to survive and flourish. In the short term, you could do very well having one extraordinary trophy, but if you want to keep the family involved and the shareholders happy over the long term, you also have to evolve and grow. That is as important as the element of pride and belonging and being part of an exciting story. The bottom line is making sure that future generations of our family remain committed and invested in the business. So, yes, growth has been a part of my strategy along with enjoying the creativity of developing new lines of business. This company spirit is important to all of our stakeholders – my colleagues, my family and ultimately our customers. Tradition and innovation are an integral part of our DNA. As an entrepreneur, and standard bearer for our family and company, I find this mix both exciting and rewarding! Every time you start something new, it offers you all kinds of other directions in which you can take the business, whether it’s a restaurant, or retail or wholesale. I am very proud to say that we have accomplished this successfully in all of the related lines of business that we have developed. Clarence Dillon and Haut-Brion were my initial inspiration. This has led us to reach a level of excellence in all of our new activities that become references of quality in their own domains in the world of fine wine.

By the way, we have just had one of the most successful en primeur campaigns of all time. Quite unexpected, given the context! This is particularly exciting for Quintus but also for Châteaux Haut-Brion and La Mission. Our campaign lasted two-and-a-half hours during which we sold all the wine that we released on the market. Life slowly seems to be coming back to normal and it is gratifying to see interest and sales returning from hotels, restaurants and the airlines industry, which had remained very quiet over the previous 18 months.

luxurious dining room

The salon gentilshommes, one of the private dining rooms at Pavillon Catelan. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: You are building a new cellar at Haut-Brion. What prompted this?
Robert de Luxembourg: All big changes at the estate, even dating back to the 17th century, have been driven by newer winemaking practices. Whether it’s the Pontac family producing new French claret or the introduction of adding sulphur and racking and even introducing estate bottling later, these winemaking developments are constantly driving innovation. When we brought in tractors in the 1950s, I think they were the first in Bordeaux and we had to house them somewhere, so we needed a building. When we brought in new vats in 1961, which were the first steel ones to be used in winemaking in Bordeaux, the buildings needed to accommodate them. And then in 1991, 1990 or even 1987, when we were rebuilding the entire chais at La Mission and designing new vats, this informed our advances during the following decades.

Over the past ten years we have been re-thinking our whole way of winemaking. This is driven by a desire to offer the finest winemaking tools in Bordeaux to our colleagues. We also aim to create carbon-neutral buildings that offer the perfect working environment for my colleagues and an exceptional visitor experience that focuses the attention squarely on the world’s most eminent historical winemaking estate, Château Haut-Brion.

None of this is particularly new. We started integrating the first solar panels back in the early 1990s at our estates, and we’ve slowly continued to build these up over the years. Now, with this new project, our intention is to complete this work at Haut-Brion by fashioning a totally carbon-neutral installation. Through our collaboration with the German-American architect Annabelle Selldorf and her team, we are developing the Château Haut-Brion installations of the future, while respecting the past and placing the focus back on this historic estate. This will be the most important undertaking at this estate for the past few centuries. We have been working on it for six years and it will take four more vintages to complete.

grand drawing room

The salle des vignes at the Pavillon Catelan. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Your winemaker and Deputy General Manager Jean-Philippe Delmas must have a big role in this?
Robert de Luxembourg: Absolutely. The technical considerations for this project were front and centre. Jean-Philippe, alongside our Technical Director, Jean-Philippe Masclef, have together been driving this key process. It is interesting to think that Mr Delmas’s family has been overseeing all of these technical revolutions at this estate across three generations, starting with his grandfather, Georges Delmas, in 1923. At the very start of this project, having identified our architect, I told them, “You have carte blanche. What tools do you need in order to make the very finest wine possible?” Then we built a whole concept around what they had come up with. That has to be the starting point because it is ultimately exceptional terroir and wine that have always driven our success. After this came safety, comfort, ESG, sustainability and the visitor experience. Covid-19 provided us with extra time for reflection.

Read more: Maryam Eisler’s Spectacular New Photography Exhibition Opens At Linley In London

It has been a wonderful experience working with Annabelle Selldorf. Her firm had no experience in the arena of wine but a deep and very varied experience in other sectors, with a particular focus on museums, galleries and art. They recently worked on the Luma Foundation in Arles in parallel with Frank Gehry. They are just completing the extension of the Frick Collection in New York and refurbishing the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and she’s done galleries for David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth over the years, and has recently received an important commission to work on the National Gallery in London. So, it was interesting for me to bring all of that expertise into a technical project to look at how these two worlds could come together.

The main challenge for me was that Haut-Brion has the most extraordinary history of any vineyard in the world. We didn’t want to create a huge architectural statement. If anything, we wanted to put the focus back on the Château and its story. So, we needed something technically perfect, as I’ve described already, but also, from an architectural standpoint, a structure that was rather discreet. That’s why we needed an architect whose design principles and statements wouldn’t overwhelm the history but respect and celebrate it, all the while introducing a very modern concept.

bottle of wine and glass

Haut-Brion 1985, a classic vintage of the château. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: What about the design of the new chai, and how will it relate to the Château?
Robert de Luxembourg: As I mentioned, it’s a modern, carbon-neutral construction using all the latest technology, whether geothermal or solar. As far as the design is concerned, it’s purposely discreet in order to focus the eye and mind on the Château, which is one of, if not the earliest château that was built solely to oversee wine production for the Pontac family whose house was not far away in Bordeaux. So the Château has sort of been obscured over the centuries as people have added on bits such as technical buildings and farm buildings. I would love to open up the Château again so that it is the first thing you see when you arrive. This is not the case today. And we’re trying to get away from having cars and tractors and stuff in the courtyards around the Château and just have serene parks and gardens outside. And that’s another concern: how do we monitor how people are going to be coming to us? Will they be coming in self-driving vehicles? Will they be coming in self-flying drones? How do we accommodate the new visitor over the next few decades? It’s not just about what’s going to happen in five years, but the next fifty.

LUX: So what will a visitor see in 2022?
Robert de Luxembourg: Well, in 2022, it’ll be a big hole, so there will be nothing. That’s why we have built our new visitor centre. And La Mission and Quintus will still be available for visits. Also, the shop, La Cave du Château Bordeaux, opened in July.

LUX: What will the private dining experience at the visitor centre be like?
Robert de Luxembourg: The idea is to recreate the atmosphere that we have in Paris [at Le Clarence Restaurant] so that people feel they are surrounded by the vineyards and they can have tailor-made tasting experiences. They can bring their friends and have access to an extraordinary range of vintages they will not have access to elsewhere. And the wine is going to be from our estate only.

parisian hotel

The façade of Hôtel Dillon, Paris. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Will there be a kind of VVIP experience that you can offer with this private dining?Robert de Luxembourg: I think anyone that comes to us should be considered a VVIP. That’s our culture here; we’ve always welcomed all visitors and everyone has been treated as a guest in our home. We’ve never, to date, sold anything. We’ve never had anyone pay for any experience: it has always been free, everyone’s always been given free wine. So, in time, that is going to have to shift, because it’s a huge amount of work to have people serve and run the visits and the rest of it. Today, we receive around 10,000 visitors a year, and pouring 20,000 glasses of La Mission and Haut-Brion for free has an impact on our stocks when we are producing very little anyway. So, I don’t think it can go on forever, but within the new buildings, we will have dedicated spaces for visitors and special dining areas. Access to certain areas, depending on what you’re interested in, will be limited, of course, because we have collections of documents in our library, our collections of cultural tools, etc. Our new facilities will be outside the new visitor experience, but for the next few years – because it’s a three-year process before we even start the other building – we will have people using this space and they’ll be able to have catered lunches or dinners.

Read more: Entrepreneur Utsava Kasera on finding his gap in the market

LUX: Is it returning to business as usual at Le Clarence, following the lockdowns?
Robert de Luxembourg: I’ve tried to bother the chef as little as possible because it’s been complex getting up and running again. So far, the feedback that I’ve received from people who are friends of mine who have gone there has been very positive. It’s getting back into training and if you’re playing at the top of the league, you need to build up slowly and so that’s what we’re doing. I anticipate that we will become a little bit more normal in our practices and open up further come September. Our private rooms have had little use – we haven’t felt comfortable doing that – but it’s all now slowly returning to normal. What’s great is that people are so excited to be there with us. People are coming and staying very late. That’s part of the advantage the way the Clarence is conceived: they come and they stay. It can be challenging for our team because we have people still finishing their lunch at 6.30pm just as we have diners arriving, so we need to accommodate that, especially when people have missed this experience so much that they don’t want to depart.

kitchen team

The team of the hotel’s restaurant Le Clarence. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Can you tell us more about the 2020 vintage and also a bit about Château Quintus?
Robert de Luxembourg: Well, 2020 has been a huge success. Obviously, over the past few years we’ve had Mother Nature on our side. One of the positive aspects of global warming – if you’re looking for them – is that we’ve been making some extraordinary wines with vintages that happen to be in line with some of the finest vintages made over the past century. When you look at vintages such as the ’45s, the ’47s, the ’59s, the ’61s, the ’82s and the ’89s, they tended to be hot, dry vintages but still with enough humidity for the wine not to be stressed. Even 2003, which was the hottest, still has lovely acidity in the reds and the whites didn’t suffer either. The weather conditions have been perfect in order to produce great vintages and obviously the techniques have also improved significantly.

With Quintus, we’ve acquired three sites with different vats, both concrete and steel, so it was also an amazing laboratory for us to work in. Ironically, there was probably more variety to work with here for our winemakers than they had at La Mission or Haut-Brion. It’s taken some time for them to fully come to terms with the terroir, which is normal, but with 2020 we’re now coming up to our tenth vintage.

We’ve grown with the property, we understand it better every year, and I think we’ve made the best wine so far in 2020 and it’s recognised by the market. It’s the first time where, you know, critics are confidently saying, “Yes, this is a truly great wine and terroir”. We have totally changed the winemaking practices here on the right bank. I have never hidden the fact that my motivation is to produce one of the top (if not the finest) right bank and Saint- Émilion wine at this estate. That is why we named the estate Quintus (as the Romans may have named their fifth child). Quintus has the same potential as our first four wines, both red and white, to be one of the very finest wines in the world. I believe that we are up to the task of making this dream a reality!

Robert de Luxembourg’s key milestones

2002: Becomes Managing Director of his family’s Domaine Clarence Dillon, owner of Château Haut-Brion
2005: Launches mid-market wine brand, Clarendelle
2008: Takes over as Chairman
2009: Completes major refurbishment at Château La Mission Haut-Brion and begins the same at Château Haut-Brion
2011: Acquires Château Quintus
2015: Opens Le Clarence restaurant and La Cave du Château wine shop in Paris
2021: Opens the Pavillon Catelan visitor centre and La Cave du Château at Haut-Brion
2025: Château Haut-Brion cellar refurbishment due to be completed

Find out more: domaineclarencedillon.com

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Reading time: 16 min
painter in the studio
painter in the studio

Georg Karl Pfahler in his studio, 1965

Our contributing editor and columnist Sophie Neuendorf caught up with renowned Mayfair gallerist Simon Lee to discuss the Asian art market, NFTs and the enduring influence of Georg Karl Pfahler

Sophie Neuendorf

Simon Lee has always been at the forefront of artistic movements and changes in taste, showing emerging and established artists that represent the zeitgeist and rapidly gain popularity. Now, he’s presenting the first ever exhibition of German hard-edge painter GK Pfahler (1946-2002) in Asia.

Pfahler’s dogged pursuit of the hard-edge style make him one of the most unique German artists of the last half century. Throughout his career, his work remained steadfastly focused on the interplay of space, shape and colour. At the same time, his paintings contain traces of pop and minimal art, unifying two of the most prevalent styles of the 1960s.

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During his lifetime, Pfahler exhibited alongside artists such as Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Kenneth Noland in shows such as “Signale” at the Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland and  went on to represent Germany alongside Gunther Uecker and Heinz Mack at the Venice Biennale in 1970. In the decades that followed, Pfahler continued to experiment with the constraints and boundaries of painting and today, his work remains more relevant and perhaps, even more cutting-edge than much of the contemporary art being shown and hyped.

Sophie Neuendorf: 2021 has been quite a tumultuous year for most galleries. How do you feel about the changes we have experienced within the art business?
Simon Lee: The pandemic has given rise to some fundamental shifts in the way art is mediated and bought. Online sales have greatly expanded the reach of the art market and we have seen a corresponding shift in taste and commercial success.

Sophie Neuendorf: Recent reports suggest that Asia is a force to be reckoned with in terms of creativity and sales, even post-pandemic. What insights can you reveal from your years of experience in Hong Kong?
Simon Lee: Asia has seen tremendous developments across many industries over recent years and I think that the overall growth in the economy, alongside technological advancements and adaptation has contributed to the flourishing creativity seen in the art world. There has been a huge increase in young collectors and the interest in art of this young and active group of people has risen exponentially as their taste becomes increasingly sophisticated and international. The pandemic inevitably provided people with more time on the internet and social media platforms to discover new artists and experience art in a different way.

graphic painting

Sophie Neuendorf: You’re opening a show of German artist Georg Karl Pfahler in Hong Kong this month. What motivated you to choose a hard-edge painter for Asian collectors?
Simon Lee: It’s very exciting to be presenting Pfahler’s work for the first time in Asia and to introduce him as part of the gallery programme with his inaugural exhibition in the Hong Kong space. The language of abstraction and colour in Pfahler’s work is of historical importance but it also feels very contemporary and is something that Asian collectors engage with well. Pfahler is a very well-known artist in Germany but hasn’t had much exposure in other parts of the world so it’s a privilege to give the opportunity for an Asian audience to discover his work.

Read more: Shiny Surfaces, Lawsuits & Pink Inflatable Rabbits – In Conversation with Jeff Koons

Sophie Neuendorf: Pfahler was, and continues to be, an inspiration for many artists as a pioneering hard-edge painter. When was the first time you experienced one of his works and how does it feel to represent the estate?
Simon Lee: Pfahler’s work has had a lingering presence in my career dating back to the 80s and 90s, when I spent a lot of time in Germany and first discovered his work. Over the years I saw his works pass through auction houses and when the opportunity came along to view his work again, I found them very compelling and relative to the gallery programme. It’s a pleasure to be working with the estate and I’ve been particularly impressed with how organised they are. There are fascinating archival materials and historical documents, which we are excited to share with a wider audience across our platforms and publications.

Sophie Neuendorf: Are you planning a London show of Pfahler as well?
Simon Lee: Yes, we look forward to presenting a more comprehensive survey show next Spring in the London space.

Sophie Neuendorf: If you could juxtapose Pfahler with any two other artists who would you choose?
Simon Lee: Looking at our programme, I would say Angela Bulloch and Sarah Crowner. Pfahler, Bulloch, and Crowner’s practices all present similar investigations into colour, shape and space. There are spatial and architectural elements in all their works. Crowner embraces the idea of painting as object and her works embody the experience of architecture and space both within themselves and their display, especially her tile works that echo Pfahler’s experiments with environments and art, and which embrace the spectator. Bulloch’s work also engages with architecture, colour, and mathematics, her stylised geometry recourse some aspects of Pfahler’s hard-edge sensibility.

blue abstract painting

Sophie Neuendorf: Richter, Uecker, Mack, Pfahler… Germany is known for producing a plethora of important and popular artists. How do you feel the German market will develop over the near future?
Simon Lee: The German market is constantly evolving. It’s a large nation with many talented artists and many young artists that are gaining a lot of attention. There’s a great tradition of German modern and contemporary art which has transcended national boundaries so I’m sure the market will reflect this. The art market has become truly global, reinforced by digital communication but there are certainly many talented German artists playing a role at the forefront of this market.

Read more: Maryam Eisler’s Spectacular New Photography Exhibition Opens At Linley In London

Sophie Neuendorf: NFTs are all the rage right now. Will you enter the market?
Simon Lee: We’re certainly exploring the opportunities that exist in this sector and market. There seems to be a growing recognition of the fact that NFTs will be a feature of an emerging mainstream market.

Sophie Neuendorf: How do you choose the artists you represent? Is it a gut feeling or more analytical?
Simon Lee: It’s neither one nor the other but a combination of many factors that play a role in selecting our artists. Certain people carry more weight than others with their recommendations but, it’s most important to consider the overall gallery programme and the connection to our other artists. I look at both our established artists and emerging artists to see how their practices and works link together. It’s interesting to me to observe this in artists that are at different points of their career.

Sophie Neuendorf: If you could have dinner with any 3 artists, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Simon Lee: I’ve dined with many great living artists and sadly some dead ones as well, but of those who I’ve never met and are no longer with us, I would say Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Titian as I love Italian food. Other scenarios would have to include Rothko, de Kooning, and Pollock or Cézanne, Monet, and Kandinsky.

“Georg Karl Pfahler” runs until 8 January 2022 at Simon Lee Hong Kong.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com

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Reading time: 6 min
artist portrait

artist in her studio

In our ongoing online series, renowned art consultant Maria-Theresia Mathisen profiles rising contemporary artists to watch in 2021. Here, she speaks to British artist Antonia Showering about her inspirations, technique and the London art scene

As is so often the case these days, I first discovered Antonia Showering’s work on Instagram. It was serendipitous to meet her in person not long after, at a lunch at Timothy Taylor gallery. We sat right across from each other and found out that we happen to be neighbours in North London.

Antonia’s paintings are contemporary yet classical – Les Nabis, a group of young French painters working in the late 19th century who played a key role in transitioning from Impressionism to Symbolism and later, to Abstraction, are one of her key sources of inspiration.

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To me, Antonia’s work feels symbolist in the way she expresses emotion rather than representing specific events. At the same time, her paintings tend to be based on lived experiences and real encounters while her abstract use of colour is sometimes reminiscent of Etel Adnan.

Ahead of a solo exhibition with Timothy Taylor gallery next year, I visited her East London studio (which is, coincidentally, opposite Sofia Mitsola’s studio whom I interviewed earlier this year) to view her latest works and discuss her process.

LUX: To me, your work feels like it’s embedded in classical painting as your subjects are quite traditional: landscapes, people and sometimes, dogs. What period of art history is most inspiring to you?
Antonia Showering: From a young age I have repeatedly painted significant figures inhabiting personal landscapes, but I can see what you mean about there being a classical element to the chosen imagery in my work, especially with the recurring motif of water and people bathing although this is perhaps more closely linked to how I feel adults behave when they are in water: they bob and splash around in a playful, clumsy, almost childlike way. It feels as if lakes, ponds and rivers are spaces where we are allowed to become infants again, even if just for a moment. Les Nabis are a group from the late 1800s who depict people bathing beautifully. I really enjoy the way these artists handled colour and how the human figure was simplified.

abstract painting

Antonia Showering, We Stray, 2020. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)

LUX: Who are your favourite artists?
Antonia Showering: There are so many! Piero della Francesca for his depiction of the face; Edward Munch for his timeless, transcending handling of emotion; Leonor Fini for her exploration of fantasy; Andrew Wyeth for his narratives; and Alice Neel for how she captured relationships between sitters as well as more contemporary painters like Hurvin Anderson, Tracey Emin, Tim Stoner, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Celia Paul and Chantal Joffe.

Read more: In conversation with the world’s most expensive living artist Jeff Koons

LUX: Let’s talk about your own cultural heritage. What’s your background?
Antonia Showering: The majority of my childhood was spent in Somerset where my father’s family are from, while my mother’s parents lived in London – they played a huge role in my discovery of art. My Swiss grandmother was a history of art teacher for many years and she married my grandfather, who’s Chinese, in the 1960s. He was an architect and a phenomenal draughtsman who taught me how to draw. I have many memories visiting them as a child – their house was very minimal with no clutter and definitely no toys, so I would occupy myself by drawing families, cutting them out and playing with them. I really enjoyed creating these new worlds where the possibilities within them were endless.

artist studio

Antonia’s studio in East London

LUX: What do you want to express through your work?
Antonia Showering: I want my paintings to capture the mood of transitory moments where trauma, worries and hopeful possibilities can coexist in one moment or image. I see the canvas as a physical space where feelings of belonging or displacement, love or loneliness, intergenerational memory, superstitions and regrets can be turned into something visual and shared with the viewer. Giving exact details of who the characters in my paintings are and what the objects included mean is something I try to avoid because it prevents ambiguity and often the meaning of the painting can shift and adopt new connotations over time. I also find other people’s interpretations of my work interesting and important. It reminds me of when several people recall an event and how much they all differ from one another; this slippage of memory is fascinating and a big part of my work.

figurative painting

Antonia Showering, Je t’aime, 2018

LUX: Who are the people in your paintings?
Antonia Showering: They are almost always people I know. Sometimes I only learn who the characters in my paintings are months after making the work. However, as mentioned in my previous answer, I think it is important for me to not to be too direct in saying “This is a painting of my younger brother holding his daughter” because it closes off the image to the viewer. A parent holding a child is a universal motif and one at some point in our lives we may have observed and taken away something from a comparable moment. Although my works are dealing with significant personal recollections, fears or imaginings once the painting begins to develop it becomes its own entity and holds a new meaning for both me and the person viewing the work.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on New Wave Collecting

LUX: Can you tell me a bit about your painting process?
Antonia Showering: My paintings go through quite a few different stages. After I stretch the canvas, I lay it flat on the floor and add a layer of distemper (sizer with white pigment). This is poured, dripped and applied very automatically and once this dries I used these initial marks to direct me to the first of many compositions. The paintings often begin as abstract images where I am solely focusing on colour relationships and marks. It isn’t until later that I focus on the figures that populate these spaces and their own relationships. I want to try to build atmospheres within the landscapes or domestic settings.

artist studio

LUX: How do you decide when a painting is finished?
Antonia Showering: I wish I was someone who confidently daubs their final mark and stands back and says, “Yes, that’s finished” but in reality, I am a lot more hesitant. As the painting draws to an end, I have noticed the speed at which marks are added dramatically slows down. I know a painting is finished because the feeling I wanted to make visual is there in front of me, but I will still spend hours debating whether a thin, barely noticeable mark needs to stay or go. I think this is because a part of me enjoyed the journey and challenges of making the work so much that when I finally arrive at the finishing point there is a small feeling of attachment as well as relief.

LUX: Do you listen to music or podcasts while you paint?
Antonia Showering: I almost always listen to music – I find podcasts a little distracting. A song I have been binging on recently is called ‘Dance With Me’ by Deux.

abstract art

Antonia Showering, Be You, 2019. Photo © Choi and Lager

LUX: Who is your London peer group? You mentioned to me before that you have critiquing sessions?
Antonia Showering: I studied art in London for seven years and over that time, I have built lots of special friendships with other artists and people in the art world. Before the pandemic a few of us had a crit group where we would visit each other’s studios and talk about new work. The group included Sofia Mitsola, Emma Fineman, Patrick Jones, Alvin Ong and Kostas Sklaventis. It is important to have a space to discuss our practices in that way because it can be very isolating spending all day and night in the studio!

I have also been in a couple of shows put on by Max Prus with Jack Killick and Hannah Bays. There are a lot of exciting people making work in London right now and I’m glad to be a part of it. Katy Hessel has become a close friend of mine and she organised a residency in Italy at Palazzo Monti in 2018 with Flora Yukhnovich and Kate Dunn whose paintings I admire. I also love the work of Diane Chappalley, Ben Jamie, Laurence Owen and too many others to mention.

Find out more: antoniashowering.co.uk

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installation of paintings
art exhibition

Works by Pia Krajewski in the group exhibition ‘Lost and Found in Paradis’, Paris, 2019

The pandemic has changed the art market forever. A new model of purchasing and enjoying art is amazing, and a new generation of collectors with different passions is coming to the fore, as our contributing editor and columnist Sophie Neuendorf outlines

Sophie Neuendorf

2021 is proving a year of profound shifts within the art market. Covid-19 restrictions and socio-political changes have empowered some markets, such as in Germany, and caused the decline of others, such as in the UK (see bar chart below). The most notable, even sustainable, of several changes are a shift to online transactions, a rise in new collectors and markets, and the rapid development of alternative art-related assets. Looking back, it took a pandemic to propel the art world forward 10 years within 12 months.

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With the steady roll-out of vaccines and a slow return to ‘normal life’, many industry insiders and commentators are debating whether or not the art industry will return to its pre-pandemic existence, especially with regard to its former habit of jetting around the globe to see the latest fairs and exhibitions. But is that what collectors still want, and does it reflect the zeitgeist? The answer is yes and no, with recent developments pointing towards a hybrid model of transacting online and enjoying in person.

graph showing fine art sales

Recent data suggests that more and more collectors are confidently and regularly transacting online, with the 2021 Art Basel/UBS art market report showing that in 2020, 90 per cent of high-net-worth collectors visited the online viewing rooms of galleries and art fairs rather than their physical spaces in spite of the fact that in the same period 66 per cent of the same group expressed a preference for viewing art at a physical exhibition. For context, online-only fine art sales at the three big auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips – in 2020 jumped from approximately US$100 million to just over US$1 billion, according to artnet data.

Read more: Helga Piaget on educating the next generation

It is predicted by the research and consulting firm Cerulli that over the next 25 years more than US$68 trillion will be transferred primarily by baby boomers to their generation X heirs and to charity, with potentially a large part going to fine art and collectibles. These are the most important groups of collectors to watch. It’s also these generations who will sell part of their inherited collections and re-invest.

According to artnet data, the categories currently most favoured are modern and contemporary art, closely followed by post-war and ultra-contemporary art. Where the collectors of the baby boomer generation were knowledge- and expertise-driven and interested in the art-historical context of an artist, the new generation is often interested instead in the context of an artwork in terms of current events (such as climate change, Black Lives Matter or #MeToo), as well as what motivates and moves the artist in question. It is unsurprising, therefore, to see the rise of ultra-contemporary art, specifically the work of African American artists and female artists (see table below). This is supported by data supplied by artnet’s partnership with Artfacts, in which the combined data points (exhibitions, art fairs, auction data, among many others) help determine the popularity of emerging artists. For example, artnet/Artfacts data suggests that work by artists such as Woody de Othello, Mario Klingemann and Anne Samat will become more desirable and valuable over the near future.

table showing most searched artists

A new generation of patrons, such as Eugenio and Olga de Rebaudengo, are driven by their desire to support emerging artists and help them reach their full potential and recognition. Their visionary hybrid model of online exhibitions and offline pop-up shows, developed in 2013, was ahead of their time and are now, post-pandemic, growing in popularity. “We are very lucky, because, for us, collecting and supporting artists and creating projects with them is a central part of our everyday life. We focus in particular on artists of our generation and try to get involved with them before they become mainstream names,” Olga explained, adding that, “When we believe in an artist and their vision, we love to collect them in depth and often we become good friends in the process.” Artists whose work the de Rebaudengos are collecting include Michael Armitage, Pia Krajewski, David Czupryn, Avery Singer, Sanya Kantarovsky and Josh Kline.

Read more: Milk Honey Bees Founder Ebinehita Iyere on youth work & creativity

The rise of new, young collectors goes hand in hand with the development of art-related alternative assets. Over the past few months, there has been a steady development in the tokenisation of works of fine art. This means that you can now purchase a share of an artwork and trade it, in the same way you would purchase a share on the stock market. Being much easier and faster to sell than an actual artwork, tokens are an attractive entry point into the art market and appeal to potential new buyers who are unfamiliar with it. Such buyers may find the prospect of investing into a blue-chip work daunting and find tokens as a way to slowly ease themselves into the pool of collectors. Keep an eye out for firms such as Sygnum and Ikon Exchange, who have recently launched their first tokenised works of fine art.

couple standing next to artwork

Olga and Eugenio de Rebaudengo with Antigone (2018) by Michael Armitage. Courtesy ARTUNER

Tokenisation of an artwork is not to be confused with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are growing in popularity among collectors worldwide. NFTs are unique digital assets, such as an artwork, stored on a blockchain which in turn is a system secure from cyberattack by virtue of its non-centralised presence online. According to NonFungible.com’s data, NFT sales peaked on 3 May 2021, when $102 million of NFTs changed hands in a single day with the seven-day period surrounding the peak bringing $170 million in transactions. If the numbers for the crypto-art category appear startlingly low, that’s because NonFungible.com only tracks on-chain transactions. Some of the biggest sales of crypto art – such as the Beeple digital collage that sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million of Etherium, Sotheby’s sale of Pak for $17 million, and so on – generally happen off-chain, meaning they are not recorded on the public blockchain. (This has, in turn, led some in the digital art community to question whether these are ‘real’ NFTs.)

The pandemic has ushered in an era of positive change as the art world finally embraces digitalisation. The new generation of collectors is a driving force, especially in terms of emerging artists and innovations. This increased liquidity will surely carry the upwards trajectory well into 2022 and beyond.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice-President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Man standing in front of painting

Durjoy Rahman with Kiefer’s Cell (Diptych) (1999) by Atul Dodiya. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Bangladeshi entrepreneur and art collector Durjoy Rahman is on a mission to make the world a better place through artistic dialogue and cultural collaborations between artists from the Global North and South. Rebecca Anne Proctor reports

It was mid March 2021 and the world was slowing waking up from a long sleep after the global lockdowns and travel restrictions that had been enforced to curb the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Dubai, the megalopolis Gulf city, was already open and it was kicking off with Art Dubai, one of the first in-person art fairs the art world experienced in the past year. As big art-world personalities flocked to the United Arab Emirates, so too did a rising star from Dhaka, Bangladesh – Durjoy Rahman. The art collector and textile and garment entrepreneur used the occasion of Art Dubai to present one of his latest art initiatives that uses contemporary art to champion social issues. The Dubai Design District featured a large-scale installation of elephants by Bangladeshi artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin and Rohingya craftspeople from the Kutupalong refugee camp. Titled Elephant in the Room, it made its international debut in Dubai. The work, unmissable by those visiting the futuristic Dubai Design District, originated in the desire to forge a dialogue about human and environmental displacement. The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state thought to number around one million people who remain unrecognised as citizens or as one of the country’s 135 recognised ethnic groups by the country’s ruling party. By exhibiting a work with the involvement of Rohingya people, Durjoy hoped to draw attention to their cause.

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From the Indian subcontinent, the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), founded in 2018 in Berlin and Dhaka, is one of a handful of collector-led foundations in South Asia working to support creatives, the majority of which have been set up during the past decade. There’s the Bengal Foundation, founded in 1986 and based in Dhaka, which acts as a non-profit and charitable organisation; the Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group conglomerate; the HerStory Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports gender equality through storytelling, illustration, design, and dialogue; and the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF), a private arts trust based in Dhaka, founded in 2011 by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani. In neighbouring India, several collector-led foundations have sought individually and collectively to foster India’s rich art scene. These include the Gujral Foundation, founded by Mohit and Feroze Gujral; Kiran Nadar Museum, founded by collector Kiran Nadar; and the Devi Art Foundation, founded in 2008 by Anupam Poddar and his mother, Lekha Poddar. In Pakistan, the Lahore Biennale Foundation and the Como Museum of Art, the country’s first private museum of contemporary art that opened in 2019, are notable.

elephant sculptures

Elephant in the Room (2018) by Kamruzzaman Shadin and Rohingya craftspeople from the Kutupalong refugee camp, installed at the Dubai Design District in 2021. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Despite the region’s fast-growing economies, major gaps between rich and poor still exist, as does a lack of infrastructure and funding for arts and culture. Art foundations such as the DBF have been pivotal in supporting artistic research and practice. What defines these foundations, which are critical to the expansion of modern and contemporary South Asian discourse, is their ability to take risks and to experiment. For a world increasingly defined by borders, this approach is crucial and one that Durjoy has not taken lightly over the past several years. Cultural awareness and collaboration has been key to his vision for the DBF’s mission.

His support for the exhibition ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan’, which opened at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge in 2019, is a case in point. Through sculpture, painting, performance, film and photography, the exhibition told the stories of migration and resettlement in South Asia and internationally, engaging with the painful memories of displacement and the challenging notion of ‘home’ following the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

hanging textile artwork

Gbor Tsui (2019) by Serge Attukwei Clottey. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Passionate and energetic, Durjoy never stops, not even during a global pandemic. In a year when many art collectors, galleries and institutions had to do business at a slower pace, Durjoy was busier than ever in Dhaka. The textile entrepreneur, who runs the Bangladeshi garment and textile-sourcing business Winners Creations Ltd, was actively staging new exhibitions, online and live, to support his foundation. Its mission is to promote art from South Asia and beyond, part of the so-called Global South, to forge a critical dialogue within an international context.

Cultural exchange, particularly between artist and arts practitioners from South Asia and beyond, is paramount to the DBF’s vision. Its recent projects, such as ‘No Place Like Home’, a Rohingya art exhibit consisting of Shadhin’s Elephant in the Room and pieces created by Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, aim to raise awareness of the plight of displaced communities, is just one of many that Durjoy and his foundation have initiated over the past three years.

Read more: In the Studio with Idris Khan

“Art creation can keep the conversation going on important issues,” said Durjoy from his office in Dhaka. “The Rohingya crisis is an example. When it first took place, the news was everywhere. Now, three years on and it doesn’t make the headlines. Through exhibition art made by Rohingya we can keep the conversation alive and hopefully it will result in some change.”

Durjoy, who since 1997 has been collecting art with a strong focus on supporting artists from Bangladesh and South Asia, has long believed that artists from the sub-continent haven’t been given the recognition they deserve on the global stage. The first work he bought was by Bangladesh Modernist Rafiqun Nabi, a famous cartoonist and visual artist known for his creation of the character Tokai, a street urchin. “He produced this character to show the everyday struggle in Bangladeshi society,” explains Durjoy. “He used Tokai to express his visions about what was happening around him. I have been a big fan of his ever since I was young.”

sculptures on a table

art collection

Works in Durjoy Rahman’s collection include Le Baron Fou (2009) and La Baleine (2014) by Novera Ahmed (top), (below, on the wall) Gasp (2013) by Charles Pachter and (sewing machine) 100 Years Old (2018) by Tayeba Begum Lipi. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy now has more than 70 works by Nabi in his collection of 1,000 or more works of South Asian and international art by the likes of David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Bangladeshi modernists such as Safiuddin Ahmed, as well as South Asian antiques including Ghandharan art and works from the Pala Dynasty dating from the 9th to 11th centuries in Bengal. His collection exemplifies his worldly interests, his love of art and other cultures, and his desire to bring artists from around the world together in unison and creative dialogue. Since his first purchase of Nabi’s work, he has sought to support and collect works by emerging and established Bangladeshi artists in particular, which has become the prime objective of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

Over the years, Durjoy noticed a shift in attention from the global art community towards what was taking place in South Asia. “The heightened curiosity towards the East and what is taking place has influenced many artists from the sub-continent to produce works that are more socially charged, that illuminate post-colonial thought and impressions and the continual struggle with notions of identity and statehood,” Durjoy explains. In 2018 he finally took the plunge and established his own foundation with the mission to further the visibility of artists from the Global South – those, as he says, who are often disadvantaged, who don’t come from areas with much art education or infrastructure. Durjoy staged projects, art residencies and exhibitions that support his cause and, importantly, foster creative and cultural dialogue between the artists of South Asia and other areas in the Global South with those elsewhere in the world.

Read more: Helga Piaget on educating the next generation

“I sensed that there needed to be a platform that could represent artists from South Asia as I felt they had not yet been recognised internationally in the way that they should have been,” he says. He admits that at first it was challenging, given his hybrid role of collector and director of a foundation. “It might have looked in the beginning like I was trying to promote the artists in my collection, but then I realised that I could work with artists who were not already in my collection and whose practice and work I appreciated. I truly believe we need to play a more important role in shaping the art system originating from the sub-continent and making a bridge between South Asia and Europe.”

Durjoy first set up a base for the foundation in Berlin in 2018. He was advised on the decision by well-known art advisor Marta Gnyp, known for her work with contemporary African artists. “I admire Durjoy’s curiosity, open-mindedness and his ability to learn extremely fast,” said Gnyp. “This, in combination with the ambitious, focused and very well structured programme of his Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, makes him one of the forces that will shape the future of the South Asian art world.” Later that year Durjoy set up the office in Dhaka where he now has a team of 10 people working for the foundation. He launched his initiative with the unveiling of his donation of Indian artist Mithu Sen’s powerful and nostalgic installation MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2011–18) to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany as part of their permanent collection. “This was how we made the announcement of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, by having Sen’s installation mark one of the first times that a work by a South Asian artist who happens to be female is in the permanent collection of a European institution,” he adds.

installation artwork

MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2011-18) by Mithu Sen. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

This gift to the Kunstmuseum followed a serendipitous meeting between Durjoy and Dr Holger Broeker, head of the collection and senior curator there. Earlier that year, the museum had staged ‘Facing India’, a show marking the first museum exhibition in Germany to present works by women artists from India. The works included in the exhibition, by Vibha Galhotra, Bharti Kher, Prajakta Potnis, Reena Saini Kallat, Mithu Sen and Tejal Shah, questioned the idea of borders of all kinds, whether political, territorial, ecological, religious, social, personal or gender-based. Broeker and Durjoy met by chance one evening in Berlin at GNYP Gallery. “When I asked him about the focus of his collection,” remembers Broeker, “he told me about his project to promote art from the Bangladeshi region and India in Europe and America, and that he himself had already exhibited Western art in Bangladesh in return. He wanted to intensify this idea of cultural exchange within the framework of foundation. An extraordinarily intensive and fruitful communication developed between us and Durjoy donated Sen’s magnificent work to us for our collection.”

Sen’s powerful installation forms the beginning of the Kunstmuseum’s Indian art collection, which now includes works by Tejal Shah, Gauri Gill and Prajakta Potnis. Uta Ruhkamp, the museum’s curator, said, “Mithu Sen finds an international but unconventional visual language that reaches beyond markers like nationality, religion, wealth, skin colour, caste, family, education and language that people use to distinguish themselves from others in both ways, whether feeling superior or inferior. Sen’s installation contains a personal collection of objects and artworks from all over the world. She curated it her way, creating ‘joint’ artworks by combining objects, narrating stories, and suggesting a colourful world free of hierarchies. No label, no categories. It is a global statement, the vision of a world that does not yet exist.”

man speaking into microphone

Artist Serge Attukwei Clottey with his work Gbor Tsui during the exhibition ‘Stormy Weather’ at Arnhem Museum. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy, an entrepreneur, lets nothing get in the way of his goals. The number of projects, exhibitions and residencies his foundation has staged in just over three years is startling and impressive. One is example is DBF’s support of Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey in the production of a large artwork featured in the 2019 exhibition ‘Stormy Weather’ at the Arnhem Museum in the Netherlands on the theme of climate change and social justice. After the show, Clottey’s work entered the museum’s collection.

Testament to Durjoy’s desire to support artists in need are two initiatives he launched during the pandemic. One is called Bhumi, which was a collaboration with the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts aiming to help rural communities that make crafts, art and land art. The other programme is Future of Hope, for which Durjoy asked nine artists to create work in response to present global challenges. The works were displayed at the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation last October 2020. “The crux of Durjoy’s mission is to raise awareness of the Global South and supporting and promoting emerging and established artists from that region, but to do so in dialogue with artists from other places around the world,” said Iftikhar Dadi, artist and a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University in New York. “I love his energy, dynamism and openness.”

light artwork

Shapla from the series ‘Efflorescence’ (2013-19) by Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

One example of Durjoy’s mission to raise awareness of such artists is the 10-year Majhi International Art Residency Program. ‘Majhi’ in Bengali means boatman or the leader or guide. He is the one, explains Durjoy, who steers people on the boat on a certain course. “My vision is to take artists from South Asia and the Global South to Europe every year to work with artists there so that they can exchange thoughts and ideas.” The first edition of the Majhi International Art Residency took place in Venice in 2019 and the 11 artists selected included Dilara Begum Jolly, Dhali Al-Mamoon, Rajaul Islam (Lovelu), Noor Ahmed Gelal, Uttam Kumar Karmaker, Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Umut Yasat, Chiara Tubia, Cosima Montavoci, Andrea Morucchio and David Dalla Venezia. They are from different regions of the world: six were born in Bangladesh, one is of mixed Turkish and German heritage, and four are Venetians. During their stay, the artists were invited to reflect upon the question: “Does life in these uncertain times of crisis and turmoil make art more interesting?” The question was a response to the title of Ralph Rugoff ’s 58th Venice Biennale that year, ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’. The first residency resulted in a dialogue of works that achieved exactly the aims of the foundation, with the artists choosing the title of the final exhibition.

The residency continued in Dhaka as part of the annual 15th Contemporary Art Day organised by the Association of the Italian Museums of Contemporary Art and supported by DBF. ‘The Scent of Time’ exhibition was hosted at Edge, The Foundation and featured work by the residency’s artists.

artist drawing in front of canvas

artist at work

The Mahji International Art Residency in Venice, 2019, with artists David Dalla Venezia (top) and Umut Yasat. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy recently acquired a second work by Morucchio for his collection, a digital print on aluminium titled Merlyn. Durjoy says he was attracted to the artist’s work that drew attention to the dangerous effects of mass tourism in Venice, the subject of Morucchio’s project ‘Venezia Anno Zero’ documenting the serenity of the city during lockdown.

“Majhi, the boatman, travels from one destination to another – just like the artist going to the residency, he does not stop in one fixed place,” explains Durjoy. While 2020 posed numerous challenges, Durjoy made sure the Majhi residency continued. “When 2020 closed the world, we didn’t stop,” he says. “Because we already have a strong presence in Berlin, we decided to stage to residency there as part of Berlin Art Week.” The residencies, like Durjoy’s multifaceted vision, always involve numerous factors. For the Berlin exhibition, he invited a food and music collective to enliven the venue.

Read more: Gaggenau’s Jörg Neuner on embodying the traditional avant-garde

The foundation is now gearing up for its next location, Eindhoven in the Netherlands in October 2021. The theme is ‘Land, Water and Borders’. While Durjoy admits it is a challenging topic, it is ultimately one that reflects the present post-colonial struggles the world continues to experience. He says that, like the residency in Berlin, they will incorporate sound and acoustics into the residency that will take place during the Dutch Design Week. “It’s important that we make everything current,” he adds.

Durjoy’s cross-cultural efforts to elevate artists from South Asia are also apparent in his foundation’s recent partnership with the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, where international artists join a residency programme with an emphasis on experiment and critical engagement. “The objective of this partnership is to promote the exchange between artists from South Asia and the international artists’ network of the Rijksakademie and the strengthening of the position and visibility of artist from South Asia,” explains Susan Gloudemans, the Rijksakademie’s director of strategy and development. The first Fellowship is for Rajyashri Goody from India, who started her residency in September 2021. Rajyashri has been selected from 1,600 artists from 115 countries for one of the 23 residency positions available. The Fellowship covers the living expenses of the artist and is a direct way of contributing to the professional development and breakthrough of a promising artist. “The importance of DBF’s support of the Fellowship programme goes beyond the individual artist,” Gloudemans adds. “We know from experience that this line of support will increase the participation of other artists from the region in the Rijksakademie programme and that the local art scene in Bangladesh and South Asia will be able to benefit from the exchanges and collaborations that result from it.”

group of people standing underneath arch

Durjoy Rahman with the artists and curators from the residency’s 2019 edition. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy’s passion and endless enthusiasm for his foundation’s mission is contagious. A silent artistic revolution seems to be taking place in Dhaka and Berlin, one that is urging artists and arts practitioners to become more open-minded in their approach and vision through artistic and creative dialogue. These are results, as Durjoy knows, that can only come about when people from various cultures and nations are brought together to speak, work and learn from each other. In March 2021, the DBF hosted ‘From Here to Eternity’, a one-day online symposium looking at topics such as gender, sexuality and race in relation to art and photography; the transnational consciousness in cities of the UK, North America and India; and artistic responses to social and political change. Along these same themes was DBF’s support for renowned Indian photographer Sunil Gupta’s show ‘From Here to Eternity: Sunil Gupta. A Retrospective’ at The Photographer’s Gallery (TPG) in London in 2020–21. “Given the scarcity of cultural organisations promoting the work of visual artists from the Global South, the Durjoy Foundation is filling an important vacuum within cultural relations,” says Francesca Pinto, the director of business development at TPG.

The North-South divide is a present reality reflecting centuries of colonialism, tensions and political feuds. If trauma is inter-generational, then to heal the resulting pain means looking at its origins, and Durjoy’s work through DBF attempts to make past wounds less painful through an understanding and recognition of the other through art. It starts, as he is demonstrating so passionately, by raising awareness about challenging socio-political and economic subjects. As he puts it: “When the headlines no longer carry these stories, then art can continue the narrative.”

black and white street photographs

portrait of man by fence

Images from Sunil Gupta’s series ‘Christopher Street’ (1976) from Durjoy Rahman’s collection. Images courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery. Copyright Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACs 2021. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

How to define the Global South?

There is still much discussion over how to define the ‘the Global South’, a term coined in the late 1960s but being increasingly used today. The concept of the Global North and Global South (or North-South divide) describes a grouping of countries according to socio-economic and political characteristics. The Global South usually denotes lower-income countries, once referred to as Third World countries, while the Global North is often equated with developed or First World countries. However, this distinction can be misleading. Nations in the Gulf of Arabia, for example, are in the Global South but can be characterised as Global North countries. “During the Cold War we had the Third World model, which referred to the first world, second world and third world,” explains Ifkhtiar Dadi, a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University. “Since the 1990s, the Global South has emerged as a working definition to look at the realities of these regions over the past 30 years since the end of the Cold War. I feel it is the most neutral and effective term today but the critique against it is that it evacuates the politics of an unequal world.”

As borders continue to be disputed despite an increasingly globalised world, the ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ continue to be questioned. Dr Devika Singh, a curator of International Art at Tate Modern who specialises in art from South Asia, illuminates the paradigm in the book Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, published to accompany the exhibition of the same name at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, UK. “The notion of homeland belongs to the realm of the imagination and to seemingly distant, yet constantly revisited, pasts,” she writes.

“It also belongs to our present times of suffering and anxiety often spawned by national borders. The imposition and safeguarding of borders disrupt not only the long histories of human movements and exchanges, but also shared pasts, languages, and cultures. Displacement, whether forced exile or voluntary expatriation, and the notions of home and nation, therefore, appear intrinsically connected.”

Find out more: durjoybangladesh.org

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 18 min
hotel bar
hotel bar

Over a century after Vincent van Gogh moved to the Provençal city of Arles with the intention of setting up an artists’ commune, Maja Hoffmann, Swiss art collector and founder of the city’s contemporary art centre LUMA, is reviving his dream with l’Arlatan, a hotel and artist residence occupying a 15th-century palace. Filled with more than a million handmade, glazed ceramic tiles in vivid shades of yellow, tangerine, lavender and blue, the historic building has been transformed by Cuban-born American artist Jorge Pardo into an inhabitable piece of art. LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler photographs its kaleidoscopic surfaces

curved stone staircase
swimming pool
lounge area of hotel
swimming pool
vase of flowers
ceramic tiles in bathroom
colourful hotel restaurant
colourful glass bottles
hotel bedroom
light fixtures hanging in stairway
hotel room with tiled floor
courtyard restaurant

Book your stay: arlatan.com

 

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Reading time: 3 min
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Didier Guillon with his son Maxence who will take over leadership of Fondation Valmont in 2022

artnet’s Vice President Sophie Neuendorf speaks with the founder of the Valmont group and one of the most important philanthropists and collectors in the art world: Didier Guillon

Over the years, French-Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Didier Guillon has built a cosmetics imperium, arts foundation, and expansive collection. The Valmont group has become a great family success story thanks to not only his creative genius and passion for art, but also in large part to his wife Sophie who’s able to anticipate women’s desires and needs by combining luxurious ingredients and advanced technologies in Valmont’s high-end range of cosmetics.

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Ahead of a major new thematic exhibition opening at Palazzo Bonvicini – a historic palace which is also home to Fondation Valmont in Venice – which will bring together artists Isao, Stephanie Blake and Silvano Rubino with the art students of Publicolor (a New York-based non-profit organisation that helps marginalised youth reintegrate into society through the use of art as an expressive therapy), Guillon discusses family business, his philanthropic projects and the value of generosity.

Sophie Neuendorf: What’s it like working alongside your wife?
Didier Guillon: It’s a truly inspiring peer-to-peer relationship. There’s no domination of one to the other. Sometimes, we have differences of opinion, but that usually leads to an even better solution. She’s a new Helena Rubinstein! Although I’m more involved in the collection and Fondation, she’s always interested in my passions and projects.

I’m also excited to reveal that we will open a Maison Valmont in Madrid very soon, which combines both my passion for fine art and her work ethic. We’ll have a retail space as well as a secret space for our VIP clients where we will exhibit fine art. It’s like showing a new world to our clients, which is very important for us.

art installation inside historic building

Sophie Neuendorf: Are your children keen to follow your footsteps in terms of collecting and philanthropy?
Didier Guillon: I’m certain that they will. They understand the value of generosity and of philanthropy as I’ve instilled it in them for many years.

Read more: Umberta Beretta on fund-raising for the arts

Sophie Neuendorf: There are many family businesses within the art world, where savoir-faire is passed from one generation to the next. Are you working closely with your children to ensure the transfer of the foundation into the future?
Didier Guillon: We’re really at the beginning of the process. My son will lead Fondation Valmont starting in 2022. He will be primarily responsible for discovering emerging artists for an exhibition we’re launching in Venice for the 2024 Biennale. The theme will be the concept of travel. For my son, it’s a true immersion into the art world.

In terms of the business, it will take much longer to decide if and when my children will join the Valmont Group. Perhaps, they would like to have some other experiences first, which to be honest, I believe is in their best interest. However, we all have to protect the concept of heritage, in terms of art but also of family businesses and values. It’s very important to transmit one’s values to the next generation. For me, that means being known for one’s generosity in all its different facets! Not for being rich, for example. I would be horrified to appear on any “rich lists”!

views to the sea from a villa

Villa Valentina on the Greek island of Hydra, where Fondation Valmont hosts artist residencies

Sophie Neuendorf: How do you choose the artists you work with?
Didier Guillon: The absolute objective is to have a deep connection with the artists. For example, I offer our artists the opportunity to travel to Hydra for a four-day workshop and artist residency. It’s a feeling of generosity in terms of spirit and knowledge. It’s important to me that our artists know and embrace the fact that charity is a big part of our ethos and will be part of any exhibition.

I work closely with my son in the decision making process. Neither of us wants to buy work for speculative purposes. We buy for passion and to support the artists. That’s also why we created the “DM” art fund: to raise money to support young artists, which is especially important now, in the wake of the pandemic.

Sophie Neuendorf: What would you like your legacy to be?
Didier Guillon: The notion of generosity in thought and deed. It’s very important to me and it’s what I would like to transmit to the next generation.

Read more: Gaggenau’s Jörg Neuner on embodying the traditional avant-garde

Sophie Neuendorf: If you could have dinner with any three artists, living or dead, who would you choose?
Didier Guillon: Francis Bacon because he was the first artist I saw with my father at a big solo show in Paris. Sol LeWitt because he’s the opposite. Cecily Brown because she has a funny eroticism in her paintings. For me, the way she paints is absolutely fantastic. She’s the new Gerhard Richter.

Sophie Neuendorf: You recently opened a beautiful space in Venice. Why Venice?
Didier Guillon: Venice is an international destination where the art takes possession of the city. Also, it’s a sustainable city because you don’t have cars, which is the same as Hydra, for example, where there are only donkeys. The city also represents the fragility of humanity, seeing as its constructed on poles.

We opened the space few years ago as a place to invite some of our many valued clients and friends. We truly enjoy showing them the beauty – known and secret – of Venice, as well as introducing them to our fragrances. I really want to welcome our guests into the Valmont world.

doorway into a palace

The grand interiors of Palazzo Bonvicini in Venice

Sophie Neuendorf: What is luxury for you?
Didier Guillon: Luxury, for me, is having the time and money to dedicate, imagine, and create things for those that are disadvantaged. I want to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. Charity should be a global endeavour. We all have to do our part.

Sophie Neuendorf: The pandemic has been tough for the art world. How did you experience it?
Didier Guillon: We were very fortunate to be together as a family during those few months of lockdown. For me, it was occasion to develop my own artistic creations, all of which were sold to support our art fund.

Sophie Neuendorf: Do you think ESG is important for the art world? What, if anything, are you doing in those terms?
Didier Guillon: Living and creating sustainably is very important. We only use glass for our products, for example. To be honest, it’s a very big challenge to combat climate change. We feel it’s very important to do our part for the environment, but we work more closely in helping disadvantaged children because children are our future.

Find out more: lamaisonvalmont.com

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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art gallery behind gas station
art gallery behind gas station

von Bartha’s flagship gallery behind a gas station in Basel. Photo by Ben Koechlin.

portrait of man in white shirt

Stefan von Bartha. Photo by Simon Schwyzer

Swiss gallery von Bartha recently announced the opening of a new space in Copenhagen, becoming the first international gallery to lay down roots in the city. Here, LUX speaks to Stefan von Bartha, the gallery’s director, about von Bartha’s future, the impacts of the pandemic and the return of Art Basel

1. The Copenhagen gallery will be von Bartha’s first location outside of Switzerland. Why now?

One of the more positive aspects of the pandemic was the fact that we had the time to really think about and discuss the future of the gallery in depth. It became very clear that our physical gallery space was the core part of our operation that we can always rely on. During that time, when travelling and art fairs were not an option, it was the only place where we were able to show art and meet with our collectors.

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While we hope that we never find ourselves in this situation again, we have been fortunate in that we have been able to build a closer and more personal connection with our collectors which is very valuable. Copenhagen has always been one of my favourite cities and we are excited to be the first international gallery to open a space there. Being able to open and connect with new audiences and collectors is very much in line with the future direction of the gallery.

2.  Do you think things are shifting in terms of the city’s presence in the global art world?

A city like Copenhagen fits the profile of von Bartha with our primary space being in Basel and from my perspective, I think the more typical ‘gallery centric’ cities are facing more and more issues. I do believe that Copenhagen’s art scene will see a lot of growth over the next few years.

3. Why do you think there has been a recent increase in galleries opening spaces in unusual settings? Your Copenhagen gallery, for example, will be located in a former lighthouse.

I think there is a sense of fatigue with the more ‘typical’ gallery spaces. When we opened our new headquarters in Basel behind the gas station, everyone loved the concept, and we received a lot of positive feedback. So, a lighthouse makes total sense for us!

sculptural artwork

Record, 1994 by Barry Flanagan will on be display at von Bartha’s booth at Art Basel. Courtesy von Bartha and the artist. Photo by Andreas Zimmermann

4. Aside from digital exhibitions, how else did the restrictions of the pandemic alter the gallery’s structures?

I think the biggest change has been increased personal contact our collectors. Everyone had access to time, which is rare these days! We were able to speak with our artists and collectors at length and without the sense of being rushed.

Read more: Culture & Cuisine at La Fiermontina, Puglia, Italy

5. Are there any artists or art world developments that are particularly exciting you at the moment?

Opening a new gallery space in Copenhagen is exciting enough for me!

6. What can we expect from von Bartha’s presentation at this year’s edition of Art Basel?

In general, I think we can expect one of the strongest and most exciting Art Basel fairs ever. All galleries will bring their best works as it is the first major fair to take place in two years. von Bartha will present a really exciting mix of leading contemporary artists in the gallery’s programme including Marina Adams, Imi Knoebel, Superflex, and Claudia Wieser alongside a selection of work by artists including Barry Flanagan, Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, encouraging a thought-provoking discourse between contemporary and historical. The presentation will be complemented by a strong programme across the city including our collaboration on the opening of Imi Bar, a new permanent bar at the Volkshaus Basel Hotel, featuring artwork by German artist Imi Knoebel and at our flagship Basel space, we will be showing two exhibitions by Chilean-Swiss artist Francisco Sierra and Swiss artist Beat Zoderer (on view until 23 October 2021).

Find out more: vonbartha.com

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Auctioneer Oliver Barker directing Sotheby’s global e-auctions. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Following the announcement of Sotheby’s Cologne office, artnet’s Vice President and LUX columnist Sophie Neuendorf discusses shifting collecting habits and the potential for Germany to become a key player in the art world

The recent news that Sotheby’s is opening an office in Cologne, Germany has made waves internationally but also ruffled a few feathers within the German market. However, given the ramifications of Brexit, which is making import and export transactions much more cumbersome, it’s hardly a surprising decision. Christie’s has been steadily strengthening its presence Paris over the last few years and Amsterdam is much smaller in terms of buyer opportunities so the EU’s largest country in terms of size and economic strength seems the logical choice for Sotheby’s.

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According to the auction house, “German collectors remain essential to Sotheby’s business, featuring in the list of top ten countries most actively buying and selling in Sotheby’s sales for the past three years.” In this light, it’s hard to imagine that the aim of the opening is centred solely around the potential of new collectors, but what is of interest is the abundance of private collections in Germany, which provide ample opportunities for acquiring unique and unseen masterpieces.

Germany is renowned for its impressive history of supporting the arts, from fine arts to music or literature. Many of the most important art collections worldwide are located in Germany, and quite a few of these marvellous collections will be handed down to the next generation before too long.

pop art exhibition

Neuendorf Gallery pop art exhibition 1964 in Hamburg, Germany.

“The German art market is outstanding in Europe with its strong collectors on the one hand and its internationally sought-after artists on the other,” comments Alice von Seldeneck of Germany’s prestigious Lempertz auction house. “After Brexit and the uncertainties and costs associated with it, it was a logical conclusion to establish another foothold on the continent. We had expected this to happen much sooner.”

Read more: The art of cross-collecting by Philip Hewat-Jaboor

According to artnet data, German collectors have historically favoured Impressionist and Modern art, closely followed by Post War and Old Masters paintings. Now, these same categories are tied to tedious export rules and regulations, newly introduced by Germany’s culture minister (ostensibly to protect Germany’s cultural heritage), which are suppressing international trade. The fourth most popular collecting category is Contemporary Art, which is much easier to buy and sell internationally. With the rise of the new millennial generation of collectors, perhaps the German market is primed for a shift in wealth and collecting habits?

graph showing art sales

Infographic courtesy of artnet

Germany ranks 4th in terms of sales in western countries after the United States, the United Kingdom, and France (source: art net). “In 2020, 40% of German bidders were new to the company, while the number of German buyers in online sales tripled, ” revealed a spokesperson from Sotheby’s. With many of Europe’s hottest emerging artists flocking to Berlin, it’s only a matter of time until the country becomes a hot spot in terms of Contemporary and Ultra Contemporary art.

“Berlin is an ideal combination of a strong primary and secondary market with different generations of collectors,” says von Seldeneck. “The strong consignments from abroad show us how highly regarded the German art market is internationally.”

graph showing highest paid artists

Infographic courtesy of artnet

The city is a place of inspiration for many creatives from around the world as reflected by the plethora of blue chip galleries that have recently opened in the German capital. Four of the world’s top earning artists – Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, and Frank Auerbach – are also Germany-based. But will this rise in popularity be reflected in actual sales and growth of the market?

Read more: The gastronomic delights of Suvretta House, Switzerland

According to Berlin-based gallerist and former BVDG (German Association of Galleries) board member Klaus Gerrit Friese, the entry of Sotheby’s into the German market is a testament to the country’s strength and potential for growth. “I’m very positive about the future of the German art market. The new generation of gallerists have developed radically new ideas about viewing and selling art, which goes hand in hand with the rise of millennial collectors. So, the real potential lies in the Contemporary and Ultra Contemporary market, where I have observed a lot of upward movement in Germany over the past few years,” he says.

While Germany seems primed to become one of the world’s most important countries in terms of both creativity and sales, it remains to be seen whether the coming generational change and shift in collecting preferences will propel the country into the upper echelons of the market.

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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exhibition installation
exhibition installation

Robilant + Voena at Masterpiece London 2019, photography Ben Fisher, Courtesy Masterpiece London

In his final column for LUX, art collector, advisor and chairman of Masterpiece London Philip Hewat-Jaboor shares advice on collecting art, and pairing contemporary and antique objects

My belief is that we all have the urge to be surrounded by beautiful objects, and this has only been intensified by our time spent in lockdown. When we are living with things we love, we have a sense of place and stability that enhances our lives and brings so much pleasure and enjoyment.

I was introduced to the wonderful world of collecting, and specifically cross-collecting, by my grandfather who carefully mixed Chinese ceramics with British sporting pictures and English furniture in his home. These three specialist collections came together to form balanced and unified interiors that have continued to inspire me.

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Collecting and displaying historic artworks and objects alongside contemporary pieces is a trend that can be traced back to ancient Roman times. This is evident, for example, in the great collections put together by the Medici family, which can still be seen in the interiors of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence and the acquisitions by King George IV in the early 19th century also epitomise the richness to be found from cross-collecting (part of his extraordinary collection is currently on display at the Brighton Pavilion, re-installed in the original sumptuous interiors). This is also the way I like to collect personally, with carefully curated combinations, enriching the whole.

man surrounded by art

Philip Hewat-Jaboor at home in Jersey, 2019, photo Danny Evans, Courtesy Philip Hewat-Jaboor

 

How do you start collecting?

The art world can sometimes appear baffling and opaque, but don’t let this put you off. Visit museums, art galleries, auction houses and art fairs. The most important thing is to look, and continue to look. Discover what excites you and why. Is it the history of the piece? Are you drawn to a particular material, to  contemporary pieces or to more traditional fields?

Put aside the current fashion of separating contemporary art from the traditional – this is a modern distinction, which I personally believe limits our imagination. That said, the contemporary art world provides the opportunity to engage with the artist or designer, and to understand and learn from them first hand.

Build a relationship with a trusted dealer or advisor. They are knowledgeable and passionate, eager to share and there is no better way of learning. Read as much as you can, and most importantly buy with your heart.

What makes a good work of art?

Why is one work more desirable than another? I ask myself about the overall integrity of design (if a three dimensional work), the quality of the material and how well it is used, and the craftsmanship. To me a measure of great design is demonstrated be being able to scale an object up or down in size without loss of its integrity. The condition of a piece plays an important role, and it’s important to look for original surfaces on furniture and sculpture, concealed damage to ceramics, and ensure that works are not over cleaned. Look for signs of conservation rather than restoration. However, less than perfect condition should not be a deterrent if the work is particularly rare or unusual. Provenance (who owned the work previously) is vital both from the point of view of reinforcing authenticity but it can also tell a story and add to the piece’s desirability. In my opinion, a great work of art is both beautiful and intellectually rewarding.

Read more: Why the Swiss village of Andermatt is designed for living

lamp and objects on a table

Oscar Graf at Masterpiece London 2019, photography Ben Fisher, Courtesy Masterpiece London

How much is it worth?

It can sometimes appear difficult to establish value. There are numerous ways to search for comparable pieces online, however, this does not give you a complete picture; every work is different (they are not like shares), you cannot judge condition nor the circumstances of a previous sale, which can give rise to both inflated and low prices. One of the positive outcomes in the growth of online selling platforms is an increased transparency about prices.

Do your homework, but ultimately, it comes back to trust and buying from reputable sources. Many of the works I treasure the most are those which were a financial stretch to acquire, but I have found myself repaid a thousandfold in pleasure.

How do you display artwork in your home?

Thoughtful display plays a crucial role is showing works to their best advantage and creating a dialogue between them. As a favourite of mine, the early 19th century cross-collector William Beckford said, “Everything depends on the way objects are placed, and where. Horrors in one place discount beauties in another.”

I have been taking advantage of my time at home this year to really look closely at objects in my collection. I also regularly move works around. For example, I placed a contemporary alabaster bowl by Stephen Cox next to a recently acquired Egyptian unguent vessel that was made some two and half thousand years earlier, but the pieces are identical in material and the pairing has given rise to a wonderful conversation between two diverse works. Beautiful objects resonate with other works of beauty. Too many people are afraid of scale; works that you might feel to be too large often hold a room. There is no need to be timid. Decoration should be conceived to enhance how we sees works of art and not be a diversion.

Buy what you love and look for beauty, take good advice, do your own research and don’t worry too much about the cost which is soon forgotten!

Philip Hewat-Jaboor is Masterpiece London’s Chairman of the Fair. Read his previous column here

Masterpiece Online, sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, is taking place from 24-27 June 2021. For more information visit: masterpiecefair.com

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immersive art installation
immersive art installation

Installation by teamLab, Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – Transcending Boundaries, A Whole Year per Hour (2017). Courtesy of Superblue

Blue-blooded art dealer Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst has always been known for her creativity.
She has now teamed up with Pace Gallery CEO Marc Glimcher to create an innovative, social media-friendly art experience that she plans to roll out around the world. Millie Walton discovers more
portrait of a woman in a dress

Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst

British aristocrat and art dealer to the private jet set Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst has had numerous highs in a career which has encompassed creating sculpture parks at her family’s castle and driving the London operations of Pace, the global super-gallery.

But, she says, in the last couple of years, something began to bother her and Marc Glimcher, the CEO of Pace and her longtime business partner. They had long been known for curating and organising exhibitions with a focus on public art and experiential installations. But, she says, “[while] these artists were doing really amazing things, there was no way to financially compensate them unless a museum bought the work”. And so she and Glimcher began to develop the business model for Superblue, a new private art exhibition concept based on ticketed revenue that supports both the company and the artists by paying them a cut of sales.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

It is a suitably cutting-edge concept for Dent-Brocklehurst, who is known for her own creative ideas. On her father’s side, the Superblue co-founder hails from a blue-blooded English family who still own their ancestral home, Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds, which was home to one of the wives of Henry VIII. Her American mother is the daughter of a Kentucky doctor. Over the years, Dent-Brocklehurst, who is married to celebrated sculptor Richard Hudson (they live in a converted industrial unit in London that also serves as an exhibition space and studio) has developed a reputation for bringing forward-thinking art concepts from around the world to the London scene.

interactive floral installation

Proliferating Immense Life – A Whole Year per Year (2020) by teamLab. Courtesy of Superblue

The Superblue project kicks off in Miami this spring. Its purpose-built ‘experiential art centre’ provides a blank canvas for both the creation and experience of art. “Typically art that goes into a museum is either donated or purchased by wealthy patrons, so there is a sort of gate-keeper to the kind of art that gets exhibited, but what we’re doing is inviting the public to be the selector of the art. If they like it, it exists; if they don’t, it doesn’t,” says Dent-Brocklehurst. Is she worried about the uncertainty of the present moment? “It was already a very Covid-friendly concept. It’s a huge space and there’s a limit to the amount of people who can be there at any one time to prevent the overcrowding of the experiences.”

Superblue’s focus on experiential artworks, which use vibrant colours, light-filled rooms, reflective surfaces and elements of augmented or virtual reality, inevitably resonates with a fast-paced, image-focused culture. Its inaugural Miami exhibition ‘Every Wall is a Door’, for example, features work by pioneering light and space artist James Turrell, Japanese collective teamLab, and celebrated stage designer and artist Es Devlin. The concept also seems designed to maximise social media impact. Does that cheapen the experience of the art? “I’m sure people will Instagram the artworks as they are very visually exciting,” says Dent-Brocklehurst, “but I think what we’re trying to achieve with this group of works is something which is much deeper and more fundamental.”

portrait of an artist

Es Devlin. Photograph by Jasper Clarke

This is perhaps most evident in Es Devlin’s installation Forest of Us which leads visitors on a journey through the human respiratory process, emphasising our reliance on trees for breathable air and the issues of climate change resulting from deforestation. The piece begins with a film on a perforated screen surface which allows viewers to pass through into a mirrored maze incorporating different performance elements along the way.

Read more: Umberta Beretta on fund-raising for the arts

A tree planting project is also being developed to support reforestation in the Amazon. “Landscape painting has always helped us tune our eyes into nature by framing it, telling us where to look. These works behave in a similar way. They focus our attention on particular phenomena, guiding us to perceive these phenomena where we find them at work in the world,” says Devlin.

It’s not just Devlin, however, whose practice engages with wider social issues. According to Dent-Brocklehurst, it is something that connects many experiential artists. “They have a very embracing kind of attitude towards their audience and the way that people can engage and interact with their work,” she says. “There’s a sense that they can lead a change through the experience of the work.”

metallic and mirrored installation

Forest of Us (2021) by Es Devlin. Courtesy of Superblue

Superblue isn’t quite the first of its kind – teamLab already runs its own immersive enterprise, teamLab Borderless, located on Tokyo’s waterfront, which drew 2.3 million people in its first year of opening. But what’s unique is the exhibiting of multiple large scale installations simultaneously. Added to that, the artists are more or less given freedom to make what they want. “Our concept was not to curate [Every Wall is a Door] but to give a spectrum of the most important and relevant moments of experiential art,” explains Dent-Brocklehurst.

However, the hope is that the exhibitions will draw new audiences who encounter the art through curiosity. “I think we long to be surrounded,” says Devlin. “We are so used to the act of translating 2D into 3D, to conjuring worlds from a phone-sized rectangle, we forget that it’s a continual act of imaginative labour. It’s a relief to be physically surrounded in three dimensions.”

While Superblue’s next destinations are yet to be revealed, their plan is to expand across the US and internationally, building a network of venues across which the artworks can travel. “It’s about the art coming to the people rather than the other way around,” says Dent-Brocklehurst.

Found out more: superblue.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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landscape painting

Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico with one of her landscape paintings

As a new solo show of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work opens in Madrid, artnet’s Vice President and LUX columnist Sophie Neuendorf reflects on how the American painter’s visionary work and mainstream success paved the way for many of today’s women artists

Sophie Neuendorf

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe burst onto the New York gallery scene in 1917 at the age of twenty. At the time, the American art world was under the influence of French Cubism, but O’Keeffe’s abstract charcoal drawings presented a version of modernism that was so radically individual, she quickly became a favourite among collectors – a nearly unthinkable achievement for a young women from the midwest.

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The artist began making her famous large-scale flower paintings in the 1920s. A new show at Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid includes O’Keeffe’s spectacular Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932), which sold for over $44 million at auction in 2014, more than tripling the previous auction record for a female artist. Since then, the market for her work has been steadily growing, with her top 10 most expensive works finding buyers over the past 10 years (source: artnet price database).

flower painting

Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932)

A recurring subject for O’Keeffe, the flower was a tool through which she could explore varying languages of abstraction and representation, responding to nature as opposed to her inner self. Inside Red Canna (1919), for example, is considered her earliest depiction of a magnified flower in oil. Sensual, sexual, powerful and delicate, the painting beckoned Freudian interpretations throughout her life and to the present day. However, her famous flowers are just one part of her vast canon of work, and in fact, O’Keeffe spent much of her life bristling at the Freudian reading of her delicate folds of flora.

Read more: Artists in residence at Castel Caramel in the south of France

She grew up on the Wisconsin prairie and was forever after enchanted by wide open spaces with limitless horizons. Later, she found a similar sense of ease in the Badlands of New Mexico, where she lived after her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, passed away. Astonishingly, she didn’t make her first trip to Europe until 1953, when she was 66 years old, but her work was widely shown in major museums across the US. In 1940 she was given a retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1946, she became the first female artist to be afforded a retrospective at MoMA. In 1970, her work was celebrated in another retrospective, this time at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which travelled to the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Art.

tropical garden coutryard

O’Keeffe’s home in New Mexico

Then, as now, women artists face far greater challenges than their male counterparts. To put it into perspective, German artist Gerhard Richter is the highest grossing living male artist, with a total sales value of $2,488,640,798. In contrast, the highest grossing living female artist, Japan’s Yayoi Kusama, has a total sales value of $709,679,123 (source: artnet price database). Kusama is closely followed by visionary artists such as Cindy Sherman, Bridget Riley, Marlene Dumas, and Julie Mehretu. However, artnet’s recent data shows that women artists have been outperforming the S&P 500, indicating strong demand and growth.

graph showing top selling artists

Infographic courtesy of artnet

A strong woman and a visionary painter, O’Keeffe remains an inspiration for many female artists around the globe. She was a feminist who largely contributed not only to the rise of modernism, but also helped to solidify the place of female artists within the historical art canon.

“Georgia O’Keeffe” runs until at 8 August 2021 at Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. For more information, visit: museothyssen.org/en/exhibitions/georgia-okeeffe

 

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photoshoot

grand castle hall

Maria-Theresia Mathisen, Jill Mulleady and Cornelia Mensdorff-Pouilly (clockwise from top left) in the grand hall

Each summer at her family’s fairy-tale castle above the Côte d’Azur, curator Maria-Theresia Mathisen hosts young artists’ residencies. Local celebrity Simon de Pury travelled up to photograph ‘MT’ and her latest charge, Jill Mulleady. MT gives us a tour

Castel Caramel is our private residence-turned-cultural platform in the south of France. My mother Cornelia Mensdorff-Pouilly used to be the manager of the late Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs and they bought the house in 1988 for his countryside atelier. It was secluded but near enough to buzzing Monte-Carlo where he had his residence and a smaller atelier by the port.

I was only five years old back then and grew up in what was not only an artist’s studio but also a meeting place for many other artists and collectors. I loved witnessing the creation of art and the exchange of minds, so when Fuchs passed away in 2015, I decided to continue this tradition.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

After renovation and expansion, we formally established the Castel Caramel Artist Residency in 2018. Canadian painter Chloe Wise was the first official artist-in-residence and while there she invited her muses and collaborators to visit, making for a colourful and inspiring atmosphere. The house had fully come back to its creative life.

Since then, artists Korakrit Arunanondchai, Ben Wolf Noam and Jill Mulleady have been in residence. Others came to visit, including Martha Kirszenbaum, Jon Rafman, Precious Okoyomon, Bonaventure (Soraya Lutangu) and Alex Gvojic.

It is important for us to give back to, involve and connect with the arts community on the Côte d’Azur. Therefore, during each residency, we host artist and curator talks and screenings as well as intimate dinners. We welcome both local and international collectors, curators and all other art aficionados.

The 2021 Castel Caramel artists in residence are Gerard & Kelly and Sedrick Chisom. For more information visit: castelcaramel.org

artist with their painting

Jill Mulleady and her painting Gardens of the Blind

“This painting was dubbed, jokingly, ‘the Masterpiece’ by the artist and her gallerist. Seen in person, this impressive work really is a masterpiece. The mysterious figure in the midst of an apocalyptic landscape reappears in another painting Mulleady made at Castel Caramel. In this second work, the figure has aged. Jill often plays with shifting temporalities and connecting stories in her work.”

villa in the mountains

Castel Caramel, 2020

“The grand hall (see top image) is the main space of Castel Caramel. Sometimes it is in complete chaos, at others it becomes very elegant as it turns from artist’s studio into a ballroom. With 7m-high ceilings and a 140sqm space – built in the 1950s, it used to be a restaurant – there are barely any limits as to how big an artwork can be produced here. It was also the main reason why Ernst Fuchs bought the house. He was able to work here on a monumental scale, with light through the many windows all around and large doors onto the terrace. It is the perfect studio space!”

photoshoot

Maria-Theresia Mathisen, Jill Mulleady and Simon de Pury (from left) on the terrace

“Simon had driven all the way from the Swiss Alps by himself in order to meet us for the shoot in the afternoon. I always admire how much energy he has! Although it was almost 6pm, it was still very hot. The bronze sculpture of a guardian angel is by Ernst Fuchs.”

little girl in a hallway

Maria-Theresia Mathisen at Castel Caramel in 1988

“This is me with my Barbie dolls in the grand hall surrounded by paintings by Ernst Fuchs soon after he and my mother had bought Castel Caramel in the late 1980s.”

women by a swimming pool

Jill Mulleady, her daughter Olympia and Maria-Theresia Mathisen (from left) by the pool

“Our artists-in-residence usually invite collaborators or muses to visit them during their residency at Castel Caramel. Jill brought along her daughter, which was a first. The little girl ended up doing some painting as well.”

dinner party

Patrons’ dinner for Jill Mulleady

“Towards the end of each residency, we host artist/curator talks and dinners in honour of our artists. This was the second dinner we held for Jill Mulleady last year, which followed a conversation between the artist and curator Martha Kirszenbaum. To be on the safe side, we made sure to keep enough space between guests and we also had two extra tables set up on the terrace for those more concerned about Covid-19.”

art installation

Installation by Korakrit Arunanondchai

“It was a wonderful coincidence that our Thai artist resident Korakrit Arunanondchai developed his exhibition for the Vienna Secession at Castel Caramel, which used to be the atelier of a Viennese artist. Ernst, my mother and I are all from Vienna.”

artist painting

Ernst Fuchs at work

“Fuchs chose to buy Castel Caramel mainly for its ceiling height and good lighting conditions. He was able to work on his monumental paintings, some as high as five metres. He always worked on several paintings at the same time, with some taking many years to be finished.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue, on sale now.

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Reading time: 6 min
collage artwork
collage artwork

Nina Mae Fowler, Love VI. Copyright the artist, courtesy of COB Gallery

The Stand is a new digital art platform that raises money for charitable causes through curated online auctions, featuring works by early to mid career artists. Here, LUX speaks to the company director Beth Greenacre about the aims of the initiative, millennial collectors and addressing the art world’s gender imbalance

1. How did the concept for The Stand come about?

The Stand was the brainchild of Robin Woodhead, former Chairman of Sotheby’s International. When the pandemic hit, and live fundraising events were cancelled many charities started turning to artists to donate work. The strain this puts on artists, who are effectively donating work for free, can be difficult at the best of times and especially so during the last twelve months. It was clear to us that artists also needed support and so The Stand was born, a sustainable social impact model which puts the artist at the centre, whilst enabling them to donate a proportion of the sale price of their work to causes they feel passionate about.

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2. Why do you think collectors are becoming more comfortable with buying art online?

I have long been a believer in the potential of the internet to bring art to wide audiences. In 2000, David Bowie and I launched the Bowie Art website to support emerging artists and provide a platform to connect them with new audiences. People said we were mad and that no-one would look at art online; we had over a million hits most weeks and people still talk about it today as a place where they discovered now well-known artists. Much has changed since then; more and more of us research artists online and connect with them and the galleries we love. For collectors and the art market, the online space has opened accessibility and participation. Add to this the fact that millennials are the biggest spenders in the art market and most comfortable buying online and the digital imperative grows stronger.

abstract painting

Anna Liber Lewis, Bocat, 2015, Oil on canvas. This work is part of the ‘desire series’. Copyright and courtesy of the artist.

3. How did you select the artists to include in the The Female Gaze auction and are there any works that you’re particularly excited about?

I am excited about all the artists that I have selected for our first auction. There are many things that unite them, not just that they are non-binary or female identifying but that they all explore the female form through their practice, a subject that has historically been colonised by men. As someone who has navigated the art world as a woman, they really resonate with me.

Read more: The rise of millennial art collectors

Female artists still sell less than men and are not as well represented at auction. It was important to me to launch The Stand with an auction that raises awareness of issues in the art world. Each of these artists deserve our attention, and let’s not forget, the investment potential of all marginalised artists is incredible.

4. Why did you make the decision to focus on early to mid-career artists?

There has been a growing divide in the top and low ends of the market for years. It is harder for early to mid-career artists and their galleries to be seen and so it’s important that we give these artists visibility. I have long wanted to see a more holistic art market and in supporting and celebrating artists in their early to mid-careers and connecting them directly with collectors I believe that we will strengthen their market position and the market as a whole. For our collectors there is also great growth potential in terms of value.

portrait painting

Gill Button, Eve, 2020, Oil on linen. Copyright and courtesy of the artist

5. What are your predictions for the art world post pandemic?

I believe that our priorities and values will shift dramatically. I think Covid-19 has brought environmental and social issues to the fore with unexpected urgency. I believe that the commitment towards social impact investing that we saw before Covid will continue to grow. In the art world, I hope artists, collectors and galleries will want to do more and bring about change. I am proud of the The Stand as a sustainable social impact model which celebrates the artist.

6. Now that galleries and museums are opening, what are you most looking forward to seeing?

I am seeing Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Zanele Muholi, both at Tate, this week and I cannot wait. Lynette was one of the first artists that appeared on Bowie Art. I am also looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues in the art world now we can do so with more ease.

The Stand’s inaugural auction “The Female Gaze” is now open for registration and bidding. Find out more: thestand.art

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Reading time: 4 min
vibrant painting of flowers
artist at work in the studio

Orlanda Broom in her studio in Hampshire

British artist Orlanda Broom paints lush, saturated landscapes that celebrate the beauty and wilderness of nature. Candice Tucker visited the artist at Grove Square Galleries, where her work is currently on display, to discuss her painting processes, artistic influences and visions of a rewilded planet

1. How do you typically begin a new body of work?

I tend to work on a few paintings at one time so a body of work tends to naturally come about. I start by putting a lot of paint down on the canvas, and its quite an organic process in that I don’t know what the painting is going to look like at the end. I tend to go with what’s happening on the canvas and then work back from that. The composition will suggest itself once I’ve got quite a few layers of paints down; I will find parts of it that seem to suggest a tree or light or a mountain range, so it’s quite abstract to a point and then I try to organise it.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What draws you to paint with such a vibrant colour palette?

I have always loved colour, and my paintings have always been led almost entirely by colour. In this recent body of work, I think I’ve really ranked up the colour because of the situation that we are in. Everything has felt quite heavy and I think I needed to inject a bit of positivity. It gave me a lot of pleasure to work with fluorescent paints and also, it’s a challenge working with those much brighter colours because it can be more difficult to make things work.

vibrant painting of flowers

Pink Seekers, 2021, Orlanda Broom

3. Can you tell us a bit about your current exhibition and your portrayal of nature?

The exhibition title is Rewild. I’ve always painted landscapes that aren’t particularly fixed in a point of time and there aren’t any human elements – no structures, no animals – so the question has always been posed: when is this? With these new works, I am answering that question which is: this is the future and this is what I see potentially happening in terms of climate change. It is probably a vision of far, far into the future when wilderness has come back.

Read more: Philip Hewat-Jaboor on how to discover art through materials

4. What role do you think art can play in wider conversations around the environment?

I think it’s up to all of us; it’s something that we all have to address in the way we are moving about the planet and what we’re doing. I don’t think art has to consider these issues, but in a more general sense, we need to change what we’re doing and perhaps, the pandemic has helped. If there is a positive take out of this situation, it’s that things have had to stop and maybe we are realising that we can do things differently. Art fairs, for example, can be online and although it’s not the same, it has shown people that you don’t need to fly to New York when you have a meeting because you can do it on Zoom. That sort of thing will hopefully continue.

exhibition installation

Installation view of Orlanda Broom: Rewild at Grove Square Galleries. Photograph by Paul Aitchison

5. How has the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns affected your creativity?

I don’t live in London anymore, I moved out to Hampshire a few years ago, so for me, personally, it had very little impact because I carried on working in my isolated studio. It almost felt like luxury. I always work hard, but it felt like a privilege to have the time to work.

6. Are there any artists, living or dead, who have particularly influenced your work?

That’s an easy and impossible question to answer because there are so many. The beauty of Instagram, for example, is that you can find amazing artists that you wouldn’t know. There are just so many people out there. In terms of artists that I have loved and that have stayed with me from art college years, there are colourists like Gillian Ayres, Albert Irvin and David Hockney. I also love surrealism, artists such as Leonora Carrington. There are so many…

“Orlanda Broom: Rewild” runs until 11 June 2021 at Grove Square Galleries. For more information, visit: grovesquaregalleries.com

 

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Reading time: 3 min
collage artwork
portrait of artist in her studio

Iranian artist Arghavan Khosravi

In our ongoing online series, renowned art consultant Maria-Theresia Mathisen profiles rising contemporary artists to watch in 2021. Here, she speaks to New York-based Iranian artist Arghavan Khosravi about the power of visual metaphors, juxtaposing imagery and how her work reflects on her experiences of growing up in Iran

Maria-Theresia Mathisen

Arghavan Khosravi’s work is not only visually compelling but also loaded with socio-political commentary. I discovered her work in late 2019, a few months before the pandemic, on Instagram and was immediately taken by it. Bright colours and smooth skin are juxtaposed with uncanny elements such as ankle bonds, bombs, fragments of sculptures, shattered structures, ropes and keys. There are recurring symbols for censorship, such as locks, masks and bonds, reflecting the artist’s experience of growing up in Iran.

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Over time, I noticed that her compositions are becoming increasingly complex, and her paintings more and more sculptural. Arghavan is very ambitious and curious, constantly developing her practice, as if she is trying to solve a problem, or perhaps find a solution to some of Iran’s, or even the world’s problems.

To me, Arghavan’s work feels extremely important right now as it tackles human rights issues with a particular focus on the oppression of women in autocratic systems.

mixed media painting

Arghavan Khosravi, The Key, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery

LUX: You are born and raised in Iran. When did you move to the US and why?
Arghavan Khosravi: I was born in Iran and spent almost my whole life there. In 2015, I came to the US to go to graduate school.

LUX: Was it a culture shock?
Arghavan Khosravi: To be honest, I didn’t face that much of a culture shock. I think nowadays, with globalisation and the internet, people from all over the world that are coming from similar cultural classes and generations have lifestyles that are not hugely different. The only thing that I can think of, which still wasn’t a culture shock, but a huge difference (and relief) was that in the US I could wear whatever I want in public; there was no more compulsory hijab (which is an unjust law for women in Iran).

mixed media artwork

Arghavan Khosravi, Connection, 2020. Courtesy Carl Kostyál Gallery

LUX: You have four degrees, two from Iran and two from the US. Why did you choose to do both undergrad and graduate degrees again in the US?
Arghavan Khosravi: I actually have three degrees. I got my BFA in Graphic Design and MFA in Illustration both in Tehran. After being a graphic designer for almost 10 years I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a painter and moved to the US, but since I didn’t have much professional or academic experience in that field, I decided to apply for a one-year non-degree post-bacc program in studio arts at Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts). Over the course of that one year, I could make a body of work which enabled me to apply to a few graduate programs. Eventually, I ended up in Rhode Island School of Design’s graduate painting program.

three-dimensional painting

Arghavan Khosravi, On Being a Woman, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery

LUX: Your earlier work from 2016 is heavily influenced by Iranian miniatures, but your style seems to have evolved a great deal in the past few years. What were the museums you visited the most upon coming to the US and which of them provided new sources of inspiration?
Arghavan Khosravi: Persian miniature paintings have always been one of the main sources of inspiration for me. Every time I look at them, I get inspired by one aspect of these works, whether it’s their mesmerising colour palette; their compositions; the way figures are depicted (there’s not much facial expression and the expressive qualities are heavily dependent on their poses and body language); or the way architectural spaces are depicted so that there’s no perspective and no vanishing point, which has a flattening effect. When I place figures that are rendered realistically into that unreal space, the juxtaposition gives a sense of distortion and displacement which can be read metaphorically too. The more I focused on this aspect of the paintings, the more I got involved with building shaped panels (instead of the regular rectangle) to emphasise these architectural elements of the space. This helped the paintings to increasingly exist as a 3D object rather than a 2D surface, which opened a whole new door for me and led me to experiment with different ways to explore three dimensionality in the paintings.

Unfortunately, over the past year I haven’t been able to visit museums due to the pandemic, but when I look back at the few years before that, a few museum exhibitions stand out. One of them was a retrospective of Jim Shaw’s works at the New Museum in New York in 2015 and another exhibition of his works a few months later at MASS MoCA in Massachusetts which truly fascinated me. The way he’s always exploring new different ideas and his never-ending creativity was very inspiring for me. The other inspiring museum exhibition that I can think of was David Hockney’s at the Met in 2017. One of the most inspiring aspects of his works for me was colour.

three dimensional artwork

Arghavan Khosravi, Isn’t it time to celebrate your freedom?, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery

LUX: Your work fluctuates between pop, symbolism and surrealism. Which genre, if any, do you feel most comfortable being associated with?
Arghavan Khosravi: I can mostly relate my work to the surrealist movement and I think symbolism is one of the tools in surrealistic storytelling. In my paintings, I like to depict moments that might be impossible to happen in real life. I also use an indirect and subtle approach to convey what I have in mind. This approach slows the audience’s reading of each painting and hopefully, leaves a more effective and longer lasting impression on them.

Read more: Philip Hewat-Jaboor on discovering art through materials

LUX: Can you tell us about some of the recurring objects in your work such as strings, disembodied limbs and floating heads. What do they represent for you?
Arghavan Khosravi: In general, I am interested in depicting scenes and situations that at the first glance, might seem peaceful, normal and comfortable, but the more you look at what’s going on, you find moments where something dark and slightly violent is occurring. The body fragments, for example, give a feeling that the characters in the painting are lacking control not only over the situation, but also their own body. You can look at it as a metaphor for the suppression which happens under autocratic systems.

Another metaphor I use for suppression is the red string. I am thinking about all the “red lines” that are drawn which mustn’t be overpassed. These lines can be drawn systematically by an authoritarian regime or can be drawn by tradition in more patriarchal societies, which mostly, target women. I am mostly interested in using visual metaphors that don’t look too violent at first, but present an underlying sense of suffocation or disturbance.

Arghavan Khosravi, Black Rain, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery

LUX: You seem to like adding sculptural and three-dimensional elements to your paintings, and often use a shaped canvas. Do you start a painting knowing that you will use a shaped canvas or do you sometimes change the shape after starting a painting?
Arghavan Khosravi: The sculptural elements started when I decided to experiment with shape panels, which I talked about earlier, I stretch canvas over the shaped wood panels, so it’s almost impossible to change its shape after I start a painting. Therefore, I pre-plan most of the painting before building the shaped panel, and I have a clear idea what imagery is going to be painted within that shape.

LUX: Another formalist aspect of your work is the ‘trompe l’oeil’ technique, which sometimes makes it difficult to delineate what’s painted and what’s not.
Arghavan Khosravi: I am interested in the idea of juxtaposing a two dimensional painted surface which mimics three-dimensionality with actual three dimensional elements in the paintings. I like how it can invite the viewer to explore more time with the piece in order to figure out which part is which. I am also interested in the notion of duality and having contrasting visual elements. This contrast can be in materialistic aspects of the paintings (like the contrast between a 2D surface and a constructed 3D element) or it can be more about the subject matter. For example, the juxtaposition of imagery appropriated from an Eastern context beside Western, or the contrast can be historic versus contemporary and so forth.

mixed media painting

Arghavan Khosravi, Entrapment, 2021. Courtesy Carl Kostyál Gallery

LUX: In one of your works the red string is physically wrapped around a canvas so that you can see dents at the edges. How did you do it?
Arghavan Khosravi: To achieve that effect, before stretching the canvas over the wood panel, I carved the sides of the wood panel in a way which makes the hard surface of the panel look like a soft smooth material that’s being compressed when a rope is tightly wrapped around it. This approach again aligns with the notion of duality and contrast that I talked about in the previous question. This time it’s the contrast is between a soft and a hard material.

Read more: Uplifting new paintings by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

LUX: Another Iranian artist that works a lot with trompe l’oeil is Mehdi Ghadyanloo. Do you know his work?
Arghavan Khosravi: Yes, I am very much familiar with his work and really like it. I first encountered his work when he used to make large murals all over Tehran where I grew up and was living before immigrating to the US. It was so fascinating to see his creative ways to give the illusion of depth and space in his murals so that the 2D painted surface of the wall seemed like the continuation of the actual buildings and space surrounding it. Before him (with a few exceptions), most of the murals were at the service of the state propaganda or had ideological purposes.

painting of a mystical woman

Arghavan Khosravi, The Balance, 2019. Courtesy the artist.

LUX: Who are your favourite Iranian artists that deserve more attention in the West?
Arghavan Khosravi: One Iranian artist that comes to mind is Bahman Mohasses. I also really like Nazgol Ansarinia’s work.

LUX: Born soon after the Islamic Revolution, you witnessed Iran’s transformation from a Western-friendly monarchy into a suppressive theocratic republic. How did you experience this growing up and what did your parents teach you?
Arghavan Khosravi: I was born and grew up in a non religious family, so there was a more secular/liberal way of thinking and living, but when I stepped out of that ‘private space’ into the ‘public space’ I could see that everything was very different. So, like so many other Iranians, I was taught by my parents how to navigate this dual life from an early age. For example ,there were certain things we did at home that mustn’t be mentioned at school, or we did things at school that I personally didn’t really believe in like saying prayers with other students which was compulsory in my middle school. Or we had to pretend to abide by some rules in public, which we don’t really believe in, such as the compulsory hijab. I think the notion of duality that I’m exploring in my paintings is a result of reflecting on those life experiences and memories from Iran.

textured painting

Arghavan Khosravi, Fragility of Peace, 2019. Courtesy the artist

LUX: In your 2017 Muslim Ban series you use pages of your Iranian passport as a canvas and there’s also your Self-Censorship series. Can you tell us more about those works?
Arghavan Khosravi: In early 2017, only a week after I came back from a short trip to Iran during the school’s winter break, an executive order was signed which prevented citizens of six muslim-majority countries from entering the US. It meant that if I had returned to the US a week later, I could have got stuck in Iran and wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree. Also, it meant that I wasn’t able to exit the US for an unknown period of time. My first reaction to the news was anger and a feeling of being treated with disrespect. I thought of using this anger as fuel in my studio, but the blank canvas didn’t feel right. So I had this idea of painting on pages of my expired passport and weaving my narrative into the visual structure that was already there.

When you grow up under the suppression of an autocratic system which limits freedom of speech, you start to develop self-censorship as a defence mechanism, and sometimes you’re not even aware of it. Therefore, you start to suppress your own freedom of expression to avoid getting in trouble. In the Self-Censorship series I was interested in exploring these themes using a symbolic language. It is worth mentioning that symbolism itself can be one of the tools to circumvent censorship because when you use symbols and metaphors to convey certain thoughts you can always say that this particular thought is the viewer’s interpretation of your work and not necessarily your own idea. But of course when I use symbolism now, where I have freedom of expression, I have different reasons for this choice.

collage painting

Arghavan Khosravi, Hafez (The Muslim Ban Series), 2017. Courtesy the artist

LUX: Your paintings are so intricate they seem very laborious to produce. How long does it take you, on average, to finish a painting and do you work on multiple paintings at the same time?
Arghavan Khosravi: Depending on the size, it takes me about 2 to 5 weeks to finish each piece. Usually, the paintings with 3D elements and multi-panels take longer because there is more than one surface to paint on. I rarely work on several paintings at the same time because if I leave a painting unfinished and move to a new one, I get very excited about the new piece and won’t feel like going back to the older piece. I have works lying in my studio from two years ago that are still left unfinished.

3d painting

Arghavan Khosravi, Four Elements, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery

LUX: Finally, tell us about your current show In Between Places at Rachel Uffner Gallery in NYC. How do you think your practice has evolved or changed since your last show in NYC at Lyles & King in 2019?
Arghavan Khosravi: This latest body of work was made in isolation during the past year of quarantine. The works build upon my previous explorations of techniques taken from historical painting genres, such as the use of stacked perspective in Persian miniature paintings, while also incorporating new sculptural and three-dimensional elements that further emphasise qualities of illusion and artifice. The paintings are rendered on surfaces that have been layered to create visual depth, which somehow evoke the structure of a theatrical set and the corresponding implication of a not-quite-real world built on false appearances.

“Arghavan Khosravi: In Between Places” runs until 5 June 2021 at Rachel Uffner, New York. For more information: racheluffnergallery.com

Arghavan Khosravi’s solo exhibition at Carl Kostyal, London opens in June. For more information, visit: kostyal.com/exhibitions

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Reading time: 13 min
lake in Switzerland
business man

Philanthropist and businessman Etienne d’Arenberg

Etienne d’Arenberg hails from one of Europe’s oldest families and is treasurer of the Arenberg Foundation, whose mission is the promotion of the understanding of European history and culture. He is a partner of family-owned Swiss private bank Mirabaud. He is also President of the Menuhin Competition Trust, and Trustee of several Swiss and UK charities. He speaks to LUX about European values, and the evolving perspectives and expectations of the next generation

LUX: Has the nature of philanthropy changed in the last two decades?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Both from my private banking experience at Mirabaud as well as from various circle of donors I belong to, I feel that there is a clear evolution in philanthropic practices. Firstly, there is an increasing involvement in philanthropic areas outside the traditional non-profit sector with growing interest from both governments and companies to partner with individual donors on specific issues. Secondly, and this is probably the consequence of the first point, there is an increasing focus on systemic change and transformative grant-making approaches that achieve greater leverage. Lastly, and this can become challenging for smaller institutions, there is a growing expectation for impact measurement and focus on KPIs.

Another trend that I see emerging in large donors’ circles – often business-owning families – is the need to align business and family platforms. The time where your company was polluting the rivers while at the same time your family foundation was giving to the WWF is over. There is a search for coherence between the different activities with a growing alignment between the business, the investment vehicle(s) and the philanthropic foundation. Interestingly, private banks in Geneva such as Mirabaud have been at the forefront of this trend with their founding families being very active in local communities, while at the same time promoting a company’s approach to addressing the most pressing social and environmental issues.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Tell us more about your last point – are people being judged by different criteria?
Etienne d’Arenberg: We are faced with issues of huge magnitude, both on the societal and environmental front and this is especially true in times of COVID-19. If you combine this with growing access to information, I do feel that there is a real demand from the public for more sustainable business practices and generally speaking pressure for accountability. I see this pressure mounting, especially from a new generation of customers and employees.

If you run a company that is active in socially or environmentally damaging activities, the issue is that you will not be able to shift your business focus overnight. Our role as investors – and this is what we do at Mirabaud – is to accept companies that may not yet be there, but which are able to demonstrate a forward-looking vision including a clear strategy to transition to clean, circular and inclusive business models. For a family-owned or family-controlled company such as Mirabaud, this is also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with purpose and long-holding family values.

lake in Switzerland

The Arenberg Foundation organises concerts in the remote village of Lauenen, in central Switzerland.

LUX: Is inclusion and bringing people together an important element of philanthropy?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Inclusion is about embracing people irrespective of their difference, whether that’s race, ethnicity gender, sexual orientation or identification, religion or economic circumstances, and providing them with equal opportunities. This is where philanthropy plays an important role as inclusion often starts with access to education, healthcare or basic needs.

But inclusion is also about getting rid of bias, the “us versus them” old way thinking, and embracing the fact that our difference is something positive: this goes far beyond the tropic of philanthropy. I come from quite a traditional background, but I am proud to say that I do not feel threatened by a society that changes. Quite to the contrary and under the impulsion of my daughters, we have been revisiting family values and behaviours, making sure not to pigeon-hole people and being particularly mindful not to impose suffering by raw reflexes of exclusion.

Mirabaud has also committed itself to diversity and inclusion, making sure, for example, that we create an optimal workplace for women. The fact that we were one of the first Geneva private bank to welcome a female managing partner helped us to develop a solid framework for gender equality practices. This has nothing to do with tokenism as it is based on the strong conviction that a forward-looking institution needs different perspectives and experiences.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on building a more sustainable art world

LUX: With the demands that are ever growing on the state sector, does the private sector need to step in more to support the cultural and charitable activities that were previously more supported by the state?
Etienne d’Arenberg: I don’t want to be a judge of the private sector being ‘not enough’, because whatever comes is already something and some individual donors are immensely generous. As I was mentioning before, there is an increasing need for approaches that achieve greater leverage and I believe that public-private partnership will play a greater role in addressing the need for systemic change.

The private sector can also act as a catalyst for change, raising awareness on specific issue and campaigning direct governmental support. I have been following the work of a UK charity which focuses on children food poverty: this is a very good example of an initially privately funded charity, who is actively campaigning for legislative change and working in close collaboration with government on food delivery. I am sure that we will see more on this in the future.

sailing event

The Bol d’Or Mirabaud regatta on Lake Geneva

LUX: Does the next generation of wealth owners have different priorities for philanthropy?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Traditionally, family businesses or wealth owners have been quite active in their communities, and Mirabaud is no exception, both at the bank and at the partners’ level. Ask many Geneva-based NGOs, charities, cultural or sport institutions and they will tell you about its commitment.

I feel that the type of issues Generation Z cares about are a little bit different and I see this with my daughters. Their preoccupations are centred around inclusion, mental health, environment and racial equity. They will tell you bluntly that they are not prepared to work for a company that does not match their ethics or values, even if that means foregoing a number of lucrative jobs. To my view, this is quite representative of a generation that is much open to a new set of issues.

What is also changing is the active role they are ready to take. I think that the generation of philanthropists who will just sign a check is slowly over, and we will see a new generation of individuals who will want to take a much active role, starting earlier in life as volunteers, advocates or activists, and using a wider range of engagement tools.

As I said, Mirabaud has demonstrated a 200-year-old interest in the communities in which it operates and I sense that as a bank we are particularly interested in understanding this new generation, not only because they are our future clients and employees, but also because they are shaping the future we will be operating in, as a company.

Read more: Lamberto Frescobaldi on 1000 years of tradition and wine

LUX: Do Mirabaud’s philanthropic contributions focus on culture and the arts?
Etienne d’Arenberg: First and foremost, concerning contemporary art, in recent years we’ve been sponsors of FIAC in Paris among various other renowned institutions. We’ve also sponsored the Zurich Art weekend, which is, in a way, the pre-Art Basel event, in a more intimate setting. Even if we are an institution that celebrated its 200th birthday in 2019 (so we are 202 years old now) our motto is always “to be prepared for now”. As in, immediately at your service, to sponsor and to be interested in today’s world and that’s why we are interested in contemporary art. We know the value of looking into the past, and taking lessons into the future.

The second thing to remember is that culture is not something which always pertains to art. If you look at the enthusiasm of the public, art is not always the biggest thing, sports, for example, are part of the culture of a nation. We are sponsors of the largest inland regatta competition in the world, the Bol d’Or Mirabaud on Lake Geneva, and it’s a fascinating competition, because the lake has very particular wind conditions that are ever-changing, it is not a one-sided Caribbean type wind that comes constantly from one side and doesn’t change that often. Here again our motto “prepared for now” completely makes sense.

LUX: The concept of Europe is an important one for your family foundation. Why?
Etienne d’Arenberg: When we think about Europe, our family thinks of the continent which includes Switzerland and the United Kingdom, not only the European Union. The concept of Europe is indeed very important for our family, as it includes a set of value that are dear to our heart: human dignity, rule of law, equality and democracy to name a few. This sounds wonderful and noble, but the truth is that it is quite vague in practice.

What we have been trying to do with our family foundation is to revisit these values in the light of today’s challenges and explore new ways to shape our common future.

I am personally convinced that Europe has a key role to play in shaping the post-COVID recovery, and building a new social contract based on these long-lasting European values and at a very modest level, we are trying to be part of this conversation.

Etienne d’Arenberg is limited partner of family-owned Swiss private bank Mirabaud and is Head Wealth Management United Kingdom.

Find out more: arenbergfoundation.eu, mirabaud.com

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Reading time: 8 min
abstract painting of flowers
abstract painting of flowers

A bold new series of paintings by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar are inspired by the artist’s childhood memories of fields of flowers in the mountains of north Tehran. To Behnam-Bakhtiar, these flowers are symbols of energy and the human soul, expressed through layers of paint, urgent marks and vibrant colour. Here, we show a selections of paintings from the series alongside quotes from the artist about his practice and processes

floral abstract painting

Flowers of the Soul I by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

flower painting

Flowers of the Soul II by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

“When I create a new work, I seem to be plugged in into another world: a space that is constantly at work and full of wonder. It feels like a dream. I find myself able to feel things which I can’t feel normally – warm lights and energy flowing within and all around me, so tangible they can almost be touched. “

detail of abstract painting

Detail of Flowers of the Soul I by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

“In my practice, what is important is the identity of the work present, the creation shifting mindsets and that connection it brings forth between people and the truth about our identity. “

“I paint what we cannot see with our physical eyes but seem to feel somehow, a realm that exists all around and within us, the space between our consciousness and subconsciousness.”

painting detail

Detail of Flowers of the Soul II by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

“There is this repetition when creating a work, which is important to me. It is like a dance between my mind, hands and the surface I am working on…I tend to dislike my work very often, the ones that I accept are the canvases that survive the process, the rest are destroyed outside of the atelier.”

flowers painting

Pivoines de l’Âme by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

flowers painting

Pivoines de l’Âme II by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

All imagery courtesy of the artist. For more information, visit: sassanbehnambakhtiar.com

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artwork in a lobby
artwork in a lobby

A colourful neon installation by Jason Rhoades in the home of German art dealer David Zwirner

Art collector and author Tiqui Atencio is the founder and chair of the Tate Latin America Acquisition Committee and a trustee of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation amongst numerous other philanthropic arts and culture organisations. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, she discusses her latest book, the importance of collecting art and her efforts to promote Latin American artists

Tiqui Atencio

LUX: How did you come up with your idea for your book For Art’s Sake?
Tiqui Atencio: The idea for my second book, For Art’s Sake was born whilst I was writing my first book, Could Have, Would Have, Should Have. For me, it was a natural progression. After visiting the homes of the collectors that I interviewed, I decided I wanted to write a book with photos about art dealers. I wanted to see how they lived in their homes with the artists they represent and collect. I wanted it to reflect their passions, motivations, pursuits, adventures, and personal choices.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: ‘Heroic commitment’ or ‘crazy silliness’ – how is collecting art different from buying art?
Tiqui Atencio: Buying art can be different from collecting if the intention of the person buying the work is different from buying to form a collection, or increase one. Motivations and objectives are very varied. Some are committed collectors that go the extra mile to get what they want, others are not as passionate or dedicated. I would never describe it as silliness or craziness; it’s more like a steadfast passion.

art book cover

The cover of For Art’s Sake by Tiqui Atencio, published by Rizzoli New York

LUX: How do you gain the trust to access these private homes with the team?
Tiqui Atencio: Most of the dealers I approached and interviewed were either trusted friends or people I had met through the art world at different occasions over the years, sometimes having bought from them myself.

Read more: Lamberto Frescobaldi on 1000 years of tradition and wine

LUX: From your interviews, what essential principles guide an architect or designer in showcasing a collection?
Tiqui Atencio: I believe that a good designer or architect will take into consideration the taste of their client in art, their collecting patterns, and preferences in lifestyle and choices in home living.

LUX: Among the homes you have visited, do you have any personal favourites?
Tiqui Atencio: Every home and collection had a certain angle of attraction, and I can’t say I had a favourite one, but being originally Latin American I could have moved in Luisa Strina’s home in São Paulo with only a toothbrush.

artwork hanging in living room

Lucian Freud’s Annie, a painting of the artist’s eldest daughter from 1962, hangs above a sofa upholstered in William Morris “Acanthus” print in Iwan and Manuela Wirth’s home in the Scottish Highlands

LUX: How do you think your own approach to collecting has changed over the years?
Tiqui Atencio: At the beginning, when I was very young, I was buying what I liked without too much information. With time and experience, I buy with more caution and research, but still following my heart and instincts.

LUX: For Art’s Sake integrates with your other roles within art philanthropy, what are you most proud to have achieved with its publication?
Tiqui Atencio: I am very proud to inform the readers of my books about the sense of sharing, giving and philanthropic commitment to the art world that most collectors, through their collecting practices have given to humanity. Their sense of responsibility, their generosity and their role in promoting art and culture.

Read more: How women artists are reshaping art history

LUX: What inspired you to become Chair of the Tate Latin American Acquisition?
Tiqui Atencio: I was part of an effort to increase the holdings of Latin American Art for the Tate. The intention was to promote the art and artists from the region of the world where I was born. So, I came up with the idea of forming a committee who would be willing to support this initiative, and that is how the Latin American Committee for Tate came to life.

contemporary art hanging

Platypus, 2009 by Amy Sillman in the home of British art dealer and collector Ivor Braka

LUX: Have you found that the pandemic has affected art buyers’ attitudes?
Tiqui Atencio: Yes, personally I am buying less. I am longing to go back to the fairs and auctions of the past to see and feel the emotions and excitement of falling for a work of art. I have bought online, but not often and I can’t say it’s the same experience.

LUX: Do you think the pandemic has affected fine artists’ creativity?
Tiqui Atencio: I believe the pandemic has affected us all in some way – positively and/or negatively. With time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of this challenging moment. I am a positive thinker and I do believe we will come out better than we think – same with artists!

LUX: What is your favourite period of art?
Tiqui Atencio: I confess it’s mid-century Latin American Art, but my taste is very eclectic and varied and in my collection, there are many periods and styles.

Find out more: tiquiatencio.com

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textured figurative artwork
artist portait

Portrait of Maxwell Alexandre 2020. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

In our ongoing online series, renowned art consultant Maria-Theresia Pongracz profiles rising contemporary artists to watch in 2021. Here, she speaks to 30-year-old Brazilian artist Maxwell Alexandre about the difficulties of preparing a show during lockdown, his devotion to the Church of the Kingdom of Art and the precariousness of his paintings

Maria-Theresia Pongracz

Discovering new artistic talent is often also discovering different parts of the world, different cultures and different human experiences. One of my highlights last autumn, and one of the few shows I was able to see during the short period when galleries and museums were open in between lockdowns, was the Brazilian Maxwell Alexandre’s UK debut at David Zwirner. Having seen some images online before, I was very excited about the show and delighted to discover that the work was even more powerful in person.

Hailing from Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, located in Rio de Janeiro’s southern zone, Alexandre’s work is a reflection on growing up with organised crime and state violence, as well as the evangelical church acting as a sort of saviour from such. The title of the show Pardo é Papel, which takes its name from the Portuguese word pardo (meaning brown), refers to Brazil’s class system and the upheld belief that an individual’s skin colour determines their value – the less black or the whiter a person looks, the better. The exhibition’s subtitle Close a Door to Open a Window is a reference to lockdown and isolation during the pandemic.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Your exhibition Pardo é Papel: Close a Door to Open a Window at David Zwirner London (2 December 2020 – 30 January 2021) was planned during a period of lockdown. How was this experience for you, and how long did it take you to conceive and create the show?
Maxwell Alexandre: In 2020, I had two big solo shows to be held at two highly prestigious institutions: David Zwirner Gallery in London, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Things happened very quickly for me once I became a part of the art circuit, so I have been working hard and largely without interruption since 2017 to meet demands from institutions. I had just come back from an artist-in-residence stint in Marrakesh for a group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Morocco, but as soon as I arrived back in Brazil, the pandemic broke out and all plans were suspended.

The year was promising, the proposals were very good, and I was ready to leverage the reverberations my work had caused and push my art to a higher level, but I have to admit that the pandemic also brought me relief because it allowed me to pursue a direction of my work without a deadline. It had been a while since I had entered my studio without a plan. That’s when I decided to take up oil painting on canvas. I had wanted for some time to work in that direction, and this moment of social isolation was the perfect scenario for that. With my entire team working remotely because of the lockdown, I was left alone to do all the steps of the work; everything from cutting the canvas, attaching it to the wall, preparing the paint, cleaning the brushes… I felt that I was back at the first moments of my career and was able to remember how much I loved this solitary way of working.

detail of a large scale artwork

exhibition installation of large scale mixed-media works

If you could die and come back to life, up for air from the swimming pool, 2020 (installation image and above, detail). Maxwell Alexandre. © Maxwell Alexandre. Photo by Jack Hems. Courtesy the artist, A Gentil Carioca, and David Zwirner

Then David Zwirner gallery started making contact with me again, and wanted to continue with the plan of the exhibition in London. But while things were getting better in Europe, in Brazil we were entering into a worse phase, and I could not commit to delivering such an important exhibition in just three months without my team and without a large space to work in. This was a delivery that could not be achieved with a slow approach, I would need to throw myself totally into it. But I admit the greatest resistance I had to accepting the invitation was that I would have to stop making oil paintings, and by that time, I felt I was too much involved in the works to begin another exhibition project. I continued to consider all of this, and eventually, found a good justification to commit to the show at David Zwirner. Namely, the main principle of the church of which I am a follower – the Church of the Kingdom of Art – which is that when you set a date to hold the worship service and deliver the works, then you do not pay any heed to adverse conditions. It is a dogma: if the date is set, it cannot be postponed, one must do it and deliver it. And I, as a follower of that church, could not escape from this. If anyone were to break the commitment, it would have to be the gallery.

large format artwork

Pisando no céu, 2020, Maxwell Alexandre. © Maxwell Alexandre. Photo by Gabi Carerra. Courtesy the artist, A Gentil Carioca, and David Zwirner

The other thing I kept in mind was something I was told by my teacher Eduardo Berliner about making a great effort to obtain nothing as a result. This idea is very powerful to me. Opening an exhibition with the strong possibility that no-one would see it, fitted with that way of thinking and motivated me to move forwards. I got together with two of my assistants and brought them to live with me on my street. We started working hard in order to finish everything on time.

This moment that we are experiencing is unique, and I could simply not waste it. When would I ever have another chance to open an exhibition during a pandemic?

Read more: How women artists are reshaping art history

LUX: How and when did you become interested in art and what was the first medium you explored?
Maxwell Alexandre: I was raised in an evangelical home and my mother always said that God had given me the gift of drawing. In my childhood, my drawing was already more developed than that of my peers. I think that my interest in art was beginning then, but my first contact with contemporary art took place when I was 22, during my second year of college, in a class of visual arts taught by Eduardo Berliner.

LUX: In the exhibition walk through you mentioned that painting is considered elitist in the Brazilian favelas. From what I gather, you mastered going down the path of a fine artist and showing at a blue chip gallery like David Zwirner whilst still keeping your street cred. Would you consider involving yourself in arts education, teaching or mentoring underprivileged kids in the future?
Maxwell Alexandre: I think that, yes, I have a pastoral calling, because my work attracts followers, but I am not the sort of pastor who takes care of sheep. My calling is that of a messenger; one who brings specific, sporadic messages and good news whether it’s through words, photography, video, music, painting, or by example.

painted portrait with gold background

Installation view of Pardo é Papel: Close a Door to Open a Window at David Zwirner. Photo by Jack Hems. Courtesy the artist, A Gentil Carioca, and David Zwirner

LUX: You pay homage to Kerry James Marshall as a kind of icon in a gold portrait. KJM is probably the most important black painter living today and someone who has inspired a whole generation of young artists. How important is he to you?
Maxwell Alexandre: Kerry James is the man. I think about how far it is for someone to paint a black character not through observation, but through imagination. That man was already leaping over that abyss back in the 1990s. Of course, there were other masters before him, and KJM himself has mentioned that he was inspired by Charles White, but I think the visibility of, and possibility to bring the black man as a central theme of narratives picked up momentum and significant relevance with Kerry.

LUX: Most of your paintings are densely populated, except for one striking work, a diptych entitled Dois quadros SAMO na parede with painted golden baroque frames but nothing inside. Basquiat often used the tag ‘SAMO’ in his graffitis. Why this reference?
Maxwell Alexandre: The piece Two SAMO paintings on the wall is a translation of a verse from the track Preto e prata by Baco Exu do Blues. The verse plays with a conjugation of the Portuguese verb ‘ser’ (to be), and Basquiat’s signature SAMO, an abbreviation of ‘Same Old Shit’. The diptych is part of Novo Poder, a sub-series of Pardo é Papel, which deals specifically with the physical presence of black people in art spaces, such as museums and galleries, contemplating and relating to contemporary art and more specifically, painting. The work emphasises the idea of acquisition, which is why there are no figures depicted in it.

gold diptych artwork

Dois quadros SAMO na parede, 2020, Maxwell Alexandre. © Maxwell Alexandre. Photo by Gabi Carerra. Courtesy the artist, A Gentil Carioca, and David Zwirner

LUX: Your Evangelical Christian upbringing is also apparent in some of your paintings. How important are Christian values to you?
Maxwell Alexandre: I know that religious fundamentalism is shit and that’s why there is a very pejorative image about people of faith. One of the definitions of faith is to believe without seeing, without evidence and this seems like foolishness to many people in the art world, who for the most part have an academic education, which values reason, science and evidence. But what is artistic practice if not an enchantment? Artistic practice is prophetic and without faith, there are no prophecies. So I am astonished about how an academic atheist manages to disdain religious faith and yet enshrine artists like gods, or to shed tears in front of a painting. Art is a religion, and as stated by Brazilian rapper Filipe Ret, one needs faith even to believe in reason.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

Evangelical religion saved my life. I did not go into crime, alcohol or drugs because my mother taught me for a long time that those things were part of the crooked path of sin and divine abomination. I no longer hold onto that sort of belief, but when I believed it as a child, I did not fall into those things.

exhibition installation

Installation view of Pardo é Papel: Close a Door to Open a Window at David Zwirner. Photo by Jack Hems. Courtesy the artist, A Gentil Carioca, and David Zwirner

LUX: Your paintings are all very large. Why do you choose to work in this format? And would you ever consider making smaller formats to make your work more accessible to a wider range of collectors?
Maxwell Alexandre: To answer this question, allow me to make a brief mapping of the art circuit and its agents. We have the artist, who is at the cutting edge of the research, experimenting, with his sleeves rolled up, making the art object. The critic, who develops the silo of knowledge around the work, is an agent of legitimation, perhaps one of the most important ones. The curator, who selects what is going to be shown and how it will be shown, is the bridge between the studio and the public, often based on a specific thinking. The gallerist, who is the display window, is the commercial connection between the object. The art patron is the person who directly applies financial resources to the artist’s research and the institutions, and the collector acquires the work, and takes on the responsibility of preserving it. What all of these agents should have in common, beyond their personal interests, is the fostering of the development of the artistic field. Ultimately, each one is part of something that has a social function for the collective.

If the artist proposes something that is not commercial, and the gallerist does not welcome and support it as they are thinking only about sales rather than fostering the field, then this agent does not understand his or her role. If the art patron provides support by financing an artist’s research, but wants an artwork in return, that art patron does not understand his or her role. If a curator only organises exhibitions for the beautiful photo at the vernissage with a roster of important faces, that curator does not know his or her role. If the collector is buying works only as an investment, or because of the hype of the artist in question, that collector does not understand his or her role.

When I began to develop the Pardo é Papel series, the decisions I made were not arbitrary. Assuming a monumental format for the paintings was a way I found to intensify the dialogue between the amount of paper used and the number of black bodies in contemporary positions of power. I wanted density and contrast between the black body and the brown craft paper; I wanted people to feel the presence of the paper. The way in which the artworks are installed helps in this sense. I wanted the adhesive tape and the torn parts to be visible; the fragility of the artworks was important for the work’s poetics. I understood that I was not only dealing with dimensional questions of painting itself, but also talking about air, space and sound. The decision not to present the works in a frame or any rigid kind of structure was made to emphasise the precariousness of the materials that go into the work’s construction. All these characteristics are important for the semantics of Pardo é Papel.

collage artwork

Close a door to open a window, 2020, Maxwell Alexandre. © Maxwell Alexandre. Photo by Gabi Carerra. Courtesy the artist, A Gentil Carioca, and David Zwirner

All of this potential, however, would be lost if I had listened to a series of agents there at the outset, when I showed the first large panel, which gave rise to various questionings skewed toward a market logic. I heard things like: ‘don’t do that because it is a big problem to conserve these paintings’ or ‘it will be very difficult to sell, work with smaller formats and we will be able to sell everything.’ Even a large museum institution asked me to paint five canvases so that they could acquire them instead of the large paintings on paper. Their concerns about the work’s conservation and vulnerability was a great hindrance.

I did not follow this advice because I had not constructed the large paintings of Pardo é Papel to be something commercial or durable. My commitment was to the research. I knew the potential the work had, and I chose it as a flag to stake into the ground of the institutions; to open a path, without any concern about sales.

The only progressive advice I received during this period was from Paulo Herkenhoff, perhaps the greatest living critic in Brazil, who upon seeing the works said that I would be able to choose my path because of the power and coherency of my research. He also gave me an example of what he called the ‘greatest squander at MoMA’ which is when museum declined to acquire the work Monogram by Robert Rauschenberg because conservators said it would not last. Today, that work is one of the most emblematic in the artist’s production. And this is what I would like to talk about: people want a souvenir, they do not want art. The collector should be educated in this sense. The acquisition of an art object is not only the expansion of his or her asset portfolio, but involves the responsibility to shelter that which has now become an asset of humankind. My large pieces of brown craft paper will get ripped and they will deteriorate in time, and this responsibility lies not only with the artist, but of all the agents concerned with the fostering of the field and artistic development. Hopefully, the museologists and conservators will accept the challenge of preserving these works and gallerists will support less-formatted works, and collectors will start dealing with the need to collect things that are not permanent. There is nothing more contemporary than this.

LUX: Talking of institutions, your next big show is at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Are you excited and can you reveal anything about what you are planning?
Maxwell Alexandre: The Palais de Tokyo is allotting me the largest exhibition space I have ever had. I am going to present Novo Poder, a sub-series of Pardo é Papel, which as I mentioned was created to talk about the physical presence of the black community in museums, foundations and galleries. We are already working hard on it!

Follow Maxwell Alexandre on Instagram: @maxwell_alexandre
Follow Maria-Theresia Pongracz on Instagram: @mt_mathisen

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Reading time: 14 min
performance art
performance art

Chin Cheng-Te, Lee Chia-Hung, Lin Chuan-Kai, and Chen Yi-Chun, still image from Making Friends/ Fire, 2020, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Videographer: Lee Chia-Hung.

Independent curator Eva Lin worked alongside French philosopher Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard to select contemporary artists and designers interrogating climate issues for the 12th edition of the Taipei biennial. Here, she speaks to Tara Sallaba about experiencing artworks in a digital format and how art can help to raise awareness

portrait of a woman in glasses

Eva Lin. Image by Etang Chen

1. The biennial has transformed the Taipei Fine Arts Museum into “planetarium”, representing different interpretations of the world. Which one most closely aligns with your views and why?

What I want to answer intuitively is the Planet Terrestrial*, but it should be the sum of all planets including the unveiled one. It’s like you plant a tree in your garden and underneath, the tree’s roots are intertwined with other species and cannot be separated anymore. Each mountain is not independent, but a symbiosis interactive with soil, species, bacteria, humidity, sunlight, wind. Geopolitical methods are no longer the answer to climate emergency. All problems nowadays are closely related to ecology, and each of us is no longer an outsider.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. How do you think art can most effectively participate in wider discussions around climate change?

We, as art workers, have to be modest about this issue. Art is certainly not the solution; it’s not created for problem solving. However, art can certainly serve as an alarm to wake up audiences and draw attention to social issues which cannot be solved due to the scientific uncertainty.

industrial boat on a green lake

Liu Chuang, still image from Lithium Lake and the Lonely Island of Polyphony, 2020, 3 channels video, colour, sound, 35mins 55 secs. Courtesy of the artist and Antenna Space

3. Are there any artists who are particularly inspiring you at the moment?

From the biennial, Chang Yu-Tang and for work about the Anthropocene, Forensic Architecture.

Read more: How women artists are reshaping art history

4. How do you think experiencing art through online formats affects our relationship with the pieces?

It’s somehow similar to observing the reflection of the moon on the ocean. You feel really close to the moon as you could actually catch the moon from the water, though you can’t feel the texture and temperature of the moon. We can easily access and experience art through online formats, though we certainly lose something and may not be able to encounter the soul of the piece.

man in jungle with bee hive

Pierre Huyghe, Exomind (Deep Water), 2017, concrete cast with wax hive, bee colony, figure: 72×60×79 cm, beehive dimensions vary. Courtesy of the artist, Winsing Arts Foundation and Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Photographer: Rex Chu

5. Do you think the art industry is doing enough to be sustainable?

There is still a long way to go. It’s really a lifetime task as the world is changing every day.

6. Once international borders open, which galleries/museums will you be visiting first?

Haus der Kulturen der Welt [HKW] in Berlin.

The Taipei Biennial runs until 12 March 2021 at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. For more information, visit: taipeibiennial.org/2020

*According to the biennial’s press release: ‘Planet Terrestrial restlessly looks for ways to achieve prosperity while staying within the limits of planetary boundaries.’

 

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Reading time: 2 min
painting of a woman in green
painting of a woman in green

Tamara de Łempicka, Young Lady with Gloves (1930)

As part on an ongoing monthly column for LUX, artnet’s Vice President Sophie Neuendorf outlines a brief history of women artists, and discusses their recent rise to prominence

Sophie Neuendorf

We define ourselves, as nations and individuals, mainly through our respective cultures. Since the stone age, art has been a signpost for humanity, and a reflection of history and the zeitgeist. Over the past few years, we’ve often been amazed by the discoveries made by archaeologists and what these tell us about generations past and how humanity has evolved since.

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Artists were first commissioned to illustrate the word of God for those unable to read and since then, art has evolved to not only depict religious or mythological scenes, but also the joys and perils of everyday life. Especially in Italy, France, and Spain, prominent political, royal, and influential families commissioned artists to portray their lives for posterity.

However, the artists receiving public recognition for their contribution to the documentation of culture, have until, very recently, only been male. But how can an accurate portrayal of humanity take place when women (who make up half of the world’s population) are marginalised or ignored?

women artists

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait

Paying a historical debt, the contribution of women to the canon has only been recognised in recent years. The first documented female artists emerged during the Renaissance, during a time when it was either considered not ‘seemly’ and completely forbidden for women to be artists, and several obstacles stood in their way. First and foremost, their training would include the dissection of cadavers and the study of the nude male form, while the system of apprenticeship meant that aspiring artists would have to live with an older artist for several years. This made it nearly impossible for Renaissance women to follow this path, seeing as other “expected duties” took precedent. Florentine artist Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1653) was one of the few artists able to practice her passion. Trained by her father, she was the first female artist to be admitted to the prestigious Florence Academy of Fine Arts.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

Several years later in France, Neoclassical painter Adelaïde Labille-Guiard (1749 – 1803) became one of the first women artists to be admitted to the distinguished Académie Royale, where she exhibited her works. Soon after, she was appointed Peintre des Mesdames: painter to the King’s aunts. Astonishingly, several male painters were so threatened by Adelaïde, that they spread rumours alleging sexual misconduct in order to discredit her. But she persevered, and became a mentor many other female artists.

One of her contemporaries was the completely self-taught artist Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Active during some of the most turbulent times in European history, she was admitted into the French Academy as one of only four female members, thanks to the intervention of Marie Antoinette. Forced to flee Paris during the Revolution, Vigée Le Brun traveled throughout Europe, impressively obtaining commissions in Florence, Naples, Vienna, Saint Petersburg, and Berlin before returning to France after the conflict settled.

abstract painting

Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1979)

Only a few years later but on a different continent, American artist Mary Cassatt was born in Philadelphia. Headstrong and independent, she trained as an artist and fled to Europe in order to study Old Master paintings in Spain and France. After befriending Edgar Degas, Cassatt was invited into the Impressionist circle, and by the turn of the century, her reputation was thriving in France. In 1904, she was named a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. Soon, American artists in Paris sought her blessing and advice, while wealthy Americans sought her discerning eye and connections.

Courtesy of artnet

In the same century, Polish-Russian aristocratic artist Tamara de Lempicka took the French art scene by storm. Forced to flee St Petersburg and the Russian Revolution in 1917, de Lempicka headed for Paris, where she studied painting in the ateliers of Maurice Denis and André Lhote, and quickly found success. By the early 1920s her works were appearing in major Paris exhibitions, such as the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries. Nicknamed “the baroness with the paintbrush,” she is renowned for her art deco style which oozed cool chic and elegant sensuality.

Not long after, but on the other side of the world, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama began painting at an early age. Without any formal training, she emigrated to New York to pursue her passion. Now famed for her psychedelic paintings and sculptures, Kusama remains one of the top 10 highest grossing women artists in the world.

artist in the studio

Yayoi Kusama in the studio

That brings us to 2021, the era of ‘me too,’ and a question arises: has the work of women artists been reduced to gender politics and to the circumstances of its production rather than being judged for its quality?

Read more: A prima ballerina dances in the London lockdown moonlight

Even though women artists are finally being recognised and forming a formidable part of the canon, it will take another few years for them to feel completely secure and appreciated in the art world. Ground-breaking artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, or Cindy Sherman have liberated themselves from identity politics and are held in esteem by the quality of their oeuvre.

However, regardless of the obvious quality of their work, there is one glaring aspect which hasn’t yet translated: when looking at the monetary value of female artists in comparison to male artists, female artists are still incredibly undervalued. In 2020 alone, the top 10 highest grossing female artists achieved $322,780,748 in comparison to their male counterparts, who achieved $1,590,134,429 (source: artnet Price Database).

graph tracing gender imbalance in art world

Infographic courtesy of artnet

While we can’t undo the past, we can work towards building a richer and more equal picture of art history, ensuring that future generations see us through all facets of humanity. How else, if not through the arts, are we supposed to learn from the past and create a brighter future for humanity?

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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Reading time: 5 min
interior space
interior space by Culture A

Culture A’s hospitality projects include London’s new wellness hotel Inhabit, which will open this summer. Image courtesy of Inhabit Hotels

Anne T. Rogers is the founder of Amsterdam-based art consultancy  Culture A, which curates collections and experiences for a range of clients from hotels to luxury retail and residential. Here, she speaks to Candice Tucker about visual storytelling, AI-generated art and how to curate a collection at home

monochrome portrait

Anne T. Rogers

1. What inspired you to create Culture A?

I’m a trained art historian and experience strategist. After years of working in curating, interior design, and retail design, I saw the opportunity to position art as an experience as well as an investment. I started Culture A to curate and produce art as something that transforms a public space. Art is an important design differentiator, particularly for clients such as hotel owners, property developers, and retail brands. We find the best art suitable for investment, visual storytelling, or pure aesthetics.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. Why do you think there’s been such a dramatic rise in experience culture?

It’s an interesting time where we’re focusing on the benefits of community, but not at the risk of the individual. Self-love, self-care, wellness: these are all hot topics right now. I think the rise of experience culture is tied to this. Generally speaking, we like to be a part of something that feels bigger than ourselves, but also have the space to find our own interpretation and act upon that feeling. Experience culture is about encouraging engagement and acting on it. For me, art is visual storytelling, and visual storytelling is a key component to experience design. Looking at art encourages discussion, individual interpretation, and personal connection. How many other consumer goods spark such freedom of expression?

abstract artwork

An artwork by Amsterdam-based artist Camille Rousseau for Inhabit London. Image courtesy of Culture A

3. Where does your curation process begin for a hospitality project?

I adopt the mindset of a guest, dig into the brand story, and ask: how can the art experience enhance the customer journey? For hospitality projects, I approach curating through the lens of experience design versus museum design. It allows me to consider diverse audiences and how to best integrate art into the context of a brand. For example, when curating the art collection for Inhabit, a new London hotel focused on wellness, I really wanted to illuminate the brand’s vision for health and wellbeing. To start, we did a deep dive into research around wellness, urban oasis, colour psychology, and nature in London. We then developed curatorial themes in relation to Inhabit’s ethos and sourced our pieces accordingly.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

4. Could you share any tips on how to curate and frame art in your home?

Build a collection slowly and one that reflects your tastes and interests. Frame it professionally to avoid damage and maintain the investment. Don’t ignore key vantage points in your home. Where does the eye instinctively go when you scan the space? Hang art in those areas and study how each work relates to the other in the context of the space. This could be done thematically, by scale, by colour, or a mix of all three.

artist scarf

An art scarf designed by designer Lisa King. Image courtesy of Culture A

5. What artistic and design trends do you foresee emerging this year?

A growing demand for slow and considered art and design. People will ask themselves, “What do I really need and what do I really enjoy?” It’s a time to re-configure and refresh the spaces already lived in. As for design presentations and sourcing, virtual viewing rooms are certainly on the rise. I recently completed a project that was largely approved because of how successful the artwork looked in our virtual reality demo. Right now, we’re also experimenting a lot with AI-generated art driven by a brand’s heritage and image archive.

6. Which contemporary artists are you currently keeping your eye on?

Landon Metz, Matt Gagnon, Sarah Crowner, Kapwani Kiwanga, Martine Gutierrez, Miya Ando, Loie Hollowell, Douglas Mandry, Tyler Mitchell, Nicolas Party, Anne Hardy, Hugo McCloud, Emily Kiacz, and Wyatt Khan. Also, anyone working with AI technology to generate art and design.

Find out more: culture-a.com

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Reading time: 3 min

Alia Al-Senussi is an academic and global arts patron. Photograph by Anton Corbijn

Alia Al-Senussi grew up between Egypt, South Dakota, and Minnesota, and is now based in London where she works as a cultural strategist with a special focus on young patronage and culture within the Middle East. She is the Art Basel Representative for the UK and MENA, a senior advisor to the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia and a guest lecturer at institutions such as Brown University and Sotheby’s Institute. Here, Al-Senussi discusses her philanthropic efforts, work in Saudi Arabia and belief in art as a catalyst for social change

LUX: What forms the basis of your passion for art and culture? When did this interest begin?
Alia Al-Senussi: I am passionate about contemporary art and supporting living artists. I focus mostly on Middle Eastern art and artists as this is close to my heart and my heritage. I very much hope I see the day when more artists of Middle Eastern origin are integrated in to the wider art world, and society looks past myopic views of political systems and embraces people, and the change they are trying to bring.

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The first time I really understood what contemporary meant in the context of art was visiting Tate Modern in January 2004, and experiencing the life-changing work by Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project. It felt like an overwhelming moment: to gaze into this vast space and to see people treating a museum like a social space rather than a temple to worship art. In this way, art could change the way we see and the way we act—I became a believer.

Art provides an alternative discourse by which we can solve problems, promote heritage and instil a sense of national pride. My hope has been that by educating artists and patrons we can then educate the wider population on the benefits that art can bring to their everyday lives, not only beautifying the communities where we live, but also promoting more creative ways to solve problems, bridge differences and build community sentiment and strength.

H.R.H Alia, 2016, Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy the artist

LUX: What is it about certain contemporary artists such as Manal Al Dowayan that so inspire you to champion them?
Alia Al-Senussi: In Saudi artists and patrons I see this deep commitment to art as a cornerstone of an evolving society. I am proud to be a part of this fascinating art world, and to help introduce more and more of my friends to Saudi culture, and to artists like Manal AlDowayan, Dana Awartani and Maha Malluh. These pioneers, of all ages, have been the voice of their society, as well as patriot activists. They are change-makers as well as cheerleaders, leading us all in to a brave new world.

Phil Tinari, a dear friend, and brilliant cultural leader, visited Saudi Arabia at my invitation in September 2019, and immediately understood what was unfolding. He has since agreed to work with me and our team at the Ministry of Culture, as the curator for the inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale. Collaborating with Phil has been a sustaining (and guiding) light in this year of uncertainty amidst Covid-19. Phil sent me this message the night he arrived to Riyadh, illustrating just how quickly he grasped the changes afoot – it is a quote from Václav Havel’s 1994 speech The Need for Transcendence in the Post-Modern World:

“Today, this state of mind or of the human world is called postmodernism. For me, a symbol of that state is a Bedouin mounted on a camel and clad in traditional robes under which he is wearing jeans, with a transistor radio in his hands and an ad for Coca-Cola on the camel’s back. I am not ridiculing this, nor am I shedding an intellectual tear over the commercial expansion of the West that destroys alien cultures. I see it rather as a typical expression of this multicultural era, a signal that an amalgamation of cultures is taking place. I see it as proof that something is happening, something is being born, that we are in a phase when one age is succeeding another, when everything is possible. Yes, everything is possible, because our civilisation does not have its own unified style, its own spirit, it’s own aesthetic.”

Al-Senussi with friends at Roden Crater. Photo courtesy Alia Al-Senussi.

LUX: The world is watching the next generation of Saudis and there is an optimistic outlook for women’s voices to be heard – how have you found your passion for politics, power and patronage is received among educated women of influence in Saudi?
Alia Al-Senussi: My work in Saudi Arabia has been multifaceted, as I have been part of the moment when this cultural community came together and continued to evolve. I was lucky to have been introduced to Saudi through family, and then friends, and to have been there at the first moments of a cultural reawakening almost two decades ago, helping to make connections amongst members of the community within and outside of the Kingdom. Women were then, and still are, at the forefront of culture and are change-makers at every level.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges on how to thrive in uncertainty

The idea that culture can change a community was instilled in me throughout my life, but never more so than through my work with Art Basel. I have been able to translate this to so many parts of my personal and professional lives. My colleagues at Art Basel and in Saudi embrace the belief that culture has power; that it is at the nexus of change and positive evolution.

LUX: You are renowned not only for your intellect, but also for your drive. How much of your time does chairing or founding patron groups take up?
Alia Al-Senussi: I actually think I fried brain cells rather than grew them getting my PhD! It certainly was an intellectual exercise, and one that made me realise how important it is to continuously exercise one’s mind, as well as emotions. My mother instilled in me a sense of honesty, integrity and work ethic. She taught me that one must not rest on history or title, but one’s own value and contributions to society. My maternal grandfather often discussed the value of “being a productive member of society.” I have taken these values to heart and strive to make a contribution, big or small, in any way I can through the work I do.

Most of my personal and professional time is taken up with activities in art and culture. I am fortunate that many of my friends are also intimately involved in the art world so I can share these fantastic and special experiences with them. It makes it a lot easier to keep busy with work when you do it with people you love and admire!

Al-Senussi at Mada’in Salih, an archaeological site located in the area of AlUla within Al Madinah Region in the Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy Alia Al-Senussi.

LUX: What exactly is your role as Chair of the Tate Young Patrons, and how do you ensure you get optimum results?
Alia Al-Senussi: I served as Chair of the Tate Young Patrons for 5 years, and now sit on the Director- and Board- appointed Tate Modern Advisory Council as well as being a founding member of the Art Now Supporters Circle (Tate Britain). The Tate holds a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first institutions I got involved with in London, through the Young Patrons. Then the Middle East and North African Acquisitions Committee was launching and I was one of the first people on board. One thing led to another and I was asked to be a Young Patrons Ambassador, and also to represent the Young Patrons on the advisory board of the Tate. I feel like the Tate is family and also that I have a responsibility to help it evolve and grow, not just in London, but in the Middle East also, and in terms of its role in society, particularly at this fractious time.

LUX: Can you tell us a little about your work with Delfina Foundation?
Alia Al-Senussi: ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ – that is my motto, and one that I see embodied in the work of Aaron Cezar in his role as Director of Delfina Foundation. Aaron, and the foundation, are unlike any other. Delfina is a home, not just at its physical space in London, but also throughout the world whenever you come across residents (artists, curators and collectors). Delfina Foundation is a safe haven, and Aaron is the ultimate angel, providing solace and shepherding our entire community to embrace new concepts while breaking down the intellectual barriers that keep us apart.

Read more: Juanita Ingram on empowering women in the workplace

LUX: What are your proudest achievements?
Alia Al-Senussi: I discovered my passion for art and the art world by chance. Upon graduating with my MsC from LSE, some friends recommended that I meet Michael Hue-Williams to work on a project he had created in Siwa, Egypt, with the world-renowned artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.

I had never worked in the arts, but as I had an interest for non-governmental organisations working in the Middle East, I thought this would be an interesting first job for me. Also, the fact that Siwa bordered Libya was particularly poignant.

In the end, it was fate and I fell in love with art, the art world and everything about it. I saw it as being a perfect way for me to balance my interest in political science, international relations and the history of the Middle East with a “softer” way of approaching the difficult issues facing the region.

My entire life is shaped by this first art world experience, and by the belief that an international cosmopolitan world is a better one. Every time I make an introduction, conceive a project or bring people somewhere new, I feel a deep sense of pride – the world shrinks that tiny bit more and we learn more about our neighbours and about humanity.

LUX: How will COVID-19 affect what do you do?
Alia Al-Senussi: I hope, and fervently believe, that people will realise the importance of culture in this new and renewed world. Of course things are moving online in the short term, and I believe that this means we can share our shows and messages with a wider audience and hopefully make them want to come see things in real life. Art Basel provided me, and so many, with an online community, but this was not a substitute for the thrill of interacting with people, swapping stories, having fun and experiences in Hong Kong, Miami and Basel.

Al-Senussi at The Lightning Field.

LUX: We know you have been passionately engaged with the US election process and we would love you to share with us a few ways you think the result will benefit the work of your partners over the next four years.
Alia Al-Senussi: I have decided to embrace beauty. I also have committed myself to art and artists that reflect my values, and who work to effect positive change in their worlds, and in mine.

A large part of my Libyan identity was actually shaped by my mother, an American of Scandinavian-German origin who grew up in Worthington, Minnesota. My mother studied International History for her Bachelor’s degree in Minnesota. She fell in love with Middle Eastern culture so upon graduating decided to pursue a Master’s at the American University of Cairo. It was in Cairo that she met my father.

My American identity is inextricably linked to my Libyan heritage, to my belief in an international cosmopolitan world, and to the life I have built for myself in London, the Middle East and Asia. Everything I held dear was shattered in 2016, by others’ small-minded desire to isolate ourselves from the “other” in the US and the UK. I couldn’t imagine that was the world I was living in. How could my community reject the essence of me in such a way? My friends bundled me up, helped me to heal and gave me my marching orders (literally!). Going to the Women’s March in Washington was a therapeutic moment, and now four years later I see the change again, and I am hopeful we can rebuild and evolve by making a world that is more equitable and by embracing the ideals that I hold dear.

LUX: Any other advice for our readers who might be considering going into art philanthropy?
Alia Al-Senussi: Artists, collectors and institutions are becoming more aware, and truly taking ownership of their ability to be change-makers. I applaud institutions like the Tate that are working to accurately reflect our world in their galleries—a global cosmopolitan world.

Fill yourself with passion, surround yourself with people you admire and embrace the idea of what is right, rejecting what is wrong. As mentioned before, a rising tide lifts all boats, so make sure your community rises with you.

Follow Ali Al-Senussi on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alia-al-senussi

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Reading time: 11 min
artist portrait

Antony Micallef in his London home turned studio. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

British artist Antony Micallef’s practice blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture. His textural artworks are the result of a unique method that combines oil paint and beeswax to create striking, three-dimensional forms. Before the national lockdown, LUX contributing editor Maryam Eisler visited and photographed the artist in his London studio

Maryam Eisler: What made you decide to turn your home into a studio?
Antony Micallef: I have always loved this flat, and I think you really have to love the place where you work. I feel it has a lot of warmth and personality. I was very lucky to eventually buy a new flat on the same road, and the original intention was to use that as a studio, but after some time, I realised that the light in the new space wasn’t as good as my old flat. Getting paint on the walls for the first time was a bit like wearing your best clothes and jumping in a puddle of mud so I had to get rid of that preciousness! It is quite an intimate private space, and that’s the beauty of it. I don’t have many visitors here.

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Maryam Eisler: As a newcomer to your studio, I sense a great deal of physicality in both the act of painting but also in its end delivery – your works glide between painting and sculpture. They’re ‘weighty’ and solemn. And around the studio, there are lots of palette knives, and mountains of stacked paint.
Antony Micallef: I am really glad you sense that. I am really interested in looking at the physicality of my paintings and in the objects they turn into. I’ve often found myself looking at the works of Tony Cragg and John Chamberlain, but also at rock formations while trekking, and early Alexander McQueen. I didn’t know how to fuse all these ideas together so I came up with a new method. I now mix beeswax and oil paint, which allows me to take the paint beyond its normal function. I use heavy palettes, loaded brushes, and loaded paint. It’s a forceful way of painting.

artist studio

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Can you explain more about how you’ve developed and altered the capabilities and texture of paint?
Antony Micallef: I have changed oil paint to a physical texture, which is like dried oil strips and I manufacture the strips in my flat. If it were solid paint, it would fall off the canvas and so I’ve developed a honeycomb structure that I combine oil with beeswax. It’s a kind of laced oil, which I paint onto. It has spaces in between the strips; it’s solid because I have taken the oil out of it completely. It’s a slow process. I call them carcasses. You stick them down with more paint and then you build your figure, using them as a base.

Read more: The serene beauty of little-known Alpine resort Drei Zinnen

They’re kind of hybrids to me. You’re right in saying they lie somewhere between sculpture and paint. They become objects in their own right. Here, I am constructing this sort of Frankenstein figure from scratch! You see, every artist has an ego, and I just wanted to say that, ‘I’d done this. I came up with this process. My process is unique to me!’ It is such an interesting territory to own and I guess sharing this with the wider audience makes me feel good; it’s great for my mental health.

Constructing Auras No. 1, 2020, Antony Micallef, oil and beeswax on linen

Maryam Eisler: I assume there’s a great deal of recycling going on in your work with unused strips for example.
Antony Micallef: Yes, you’ve touched on something important. All these bits you see here and there, I have cut them off the studio walls and off paintings. It’s all recycled paint. The studio in a sense then becomes part of the process, the walls, the floor… It is a bit like ‘harvesting’. That is why I am really precious with some of my pieces. I could never get these pieces again because the material comes off my studio walls. I have literally carved them off the wall over years. And that, to me, is a really important part of my practice.

cigarette box paintings by Antony Micallef

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Have things changed much for you since lockdown?
Antony Micallef: I generally don’t see a lot of people, and I’ve seen even fewer this last year. Sometimes, it feels like you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a very small boat, but I have to say that having a visitor in your studio really helps. As an artist, you choose to be on your own, but when it’s inflicted onto you, it becomes something else.

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Can you tell me more about the body of work which you’ve been developing over a period of four years, and your recent show in Hong Kong?
Antony Micallef: Constructing Auras was my tenth solo show. As you’re nearing the time when the work is about to be picked up, everything starts bubbling inside your head. You’ve lived with these creations for so long and they are about to flee the nest, but it gets to a point where art needs to live on its own in the outside world.

Constructing Auras No. 5, Antony Micallef

Maryam Eisler: How did studying under the renowned landscape artist John Virtue influence your practice?
Antony Micallef: I was taught by John at Plymouth University. I was really lucky to encounter him. He completely changed the way I thought about painting at the time. He taught me discipline. He also taught me how to look at life, figures, how to use a palette, all the mechanics. He was quite brutal with his teaching, which I loved. There was no faffing around. It was so nice to be taught by someone whose enthusiasm energises you.

Read more: Maria-Theresia Pongracz profiles 2021’s artist to watch Sofia Mitsola

I think the best art – that moves you and everyone else around you – is when you can feel that the creator has taken a risk. When you’ve pushed it to the limits of what it is capable of. I remember someone asking John: ‘How do you know when it’s finished?’ To which he replied, ‘Well, the train slows down. Imagine a train going as fast as it can, and when you get into the 90% level that is when the magic starts to happen. You then have to apply the breaks and it’s got to stop right before it hits that wall! If you can get it to 98%, that’s when and where it really happens.’ I always say it’s like throwing a jigsaw piece into the air. When it lands and it all fits together, it feels amazing!

Constructing Auras No. 8, 2017, Antony Micallef, oil and beeswax with raw pigment 

Maryam Eisler: Do you ever bin your work?
Antony Micallef: Everybody bins their work, but you wouldn’t get those few you are really happy with if you didn’t!

Maryam Eisler: I can see the influence of the School of London painters in your work. Is that a conscious reference?
Antony Micallef: I never had the intention to paint like them, but I admire them, of course. When cooking, you have to have your own mixing bowl. You slowly find your own way of preparing a dish. The same holds true in painting.

The V&A had an amazing exhibition called Fashioned from Nature a few years ago. And that was pivotal for this body of work. Sometimes you walk into a show and something clicks.

View Antony Micallef’s portfolio: antonymicallef.com; @antonymicallef

 

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Reading time: 6 min
apple artwork

Artist Clara Hastrup in her studio at the Royal Academy of Arts in London

Danish artist Clara Hastrup graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in 2020, and is one of the selected artists in this year’s New Contemporaries exhibition. Here, she speaks to Millie Walton about experimenting in the studio, the symbolism of blue and finding beauty in everyday objects 

1. Where does your creative process typically begin?

I have to look backwards to see how things begin. I have a lot of things lying around in the studio that I find and buy –  everyday objects -, and I like to continually experiment with these objects and make small models. Through this chaos, ideas come about. I also read and research things I am interested in, and play is an important part of my practice. I play around with functions of the objects, and see how they can lead from one thing to another. I usually have multiple things going on at the same time, and I try and connect these ideas.

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2. What draws you to the objects that you collect or buy?

I look at colours and visual qualities. For example, with Lapdog Tabernum, I found the colour of Doritos interesting, and the fact that you can transform them into a material similar to sand that has a lot of new associations and meanings. At other times, I’m drawn to a pattern of some sort. So much design and thought that has gone into these low value, everyday objects, and I try to look for the beauty even if it seems like it has little meaning or value. It’s a combination of allowing intuition and logic to come together. Everything, to me, is a potential material.

installation artwork

Here and above: Lapdog Tabernam, 2019, Clara Hastrup, installation view at URBANEK Gallery, South Dulwich, London

3. The colour blue seems to recur in your work quite frequently. Does it have particular significance for you?

I have always been very drawn to blue. It is a colour that represents a lot of emotions. It kept popping up for me particularly in relation to the Lapdog Tabernum installation, and I allowed it to tie the materials together. It’s a very vibrant colour, but a sad colour as well, and I like that contrast with the humorous gestures. At the same time, it’s a colour which is often used as a backdrop as it is associated with the sky and ocean.

Read more: Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem on championing artists

4. How did your Instant Sculpture series come about?

It started because I had these travel magazines which I took from my bedroom and brought into the studio. I started cutting them out and making these small gestures, but I didn’t know what to do with them as they only existed in the moment. I wasn’t sure if they were sculptures or images, but then I started photographing them, and repeating the process. Sometimes, these kinds of experiments don’t lead to anything, but perhaps they will become bigger sculptures. That’s often what happens with my work, I start by doing a lot of small things and occasionally, it makes sense to transform its meaning which excites me.

apple sculpture

A work from Hastrup’s ongoing Instant Sculpture series

5. Where do you go for inspiration?

Museums like the Tate or galleries in Mayfair, but inspiration, for me, could come from anywhere – botanical gardens, nightclubs, music, reading.

6. What do you have planned for 2021?

I am part of the New Contemporaries exhibition which opens on 13 January at South London Gallery. Also my degree show, which was postponed from last year, is taking place in June this summer.

View Clara Hastrup’s portfolio of work: clarahastrup.com
For more information on URBANEK Gallery, visit: urbanekgallery.co.uk

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Reading time: 3 min
luxurious interiors

An artwork by Minjung Kim installed over the fireplace in the residential side entrance lounge of the Waldorf Astoria

LUX Contributing Editor Simon de Pury is also an auctioneer, art dealer, curator, photographer and DJ. He was most recently commissioned to curate a collection of art for the newly restored Waldorf Astoria in New York, which will open to residents in 2022. Here, he discusses the project’s concept and challenges, and his favourite places to see art

Simon de Pury

1. Where does your curatorial process generally begin?

Once the topic of an exhibition is defined you go about making in your head your dream selection. The minute this is done you answer as many practical questions as possible in order to produce a cost estimate and a timeline. The rest is all implementation.

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2. Can you tell us more about your concept for the Waldorf Astoria?

The concept for the Waldorf Astoria was dictated by its own history, and by the design that Jean-Louis Deniot had conceived for it. It was the owner’s wish to work entirely with original works done specifically with the space in mind.

blue abstract art

An artwork by Philippe Decrauzat from the Waldorf Astoria collection.

3. How do you see the artworks interacting with the building’s architecture and history?

The proof will be in the pudding. Both the owners and the designer wanted artworks that would blend seamlessly into the Art Deco architecture of the building and the interior design that had been devised for it. They gave a clear preference for subdued colours and abstract works.

abstract art

An artwork by Benjamin Ple from the Waldorf Astoria collection.

4. What’s the most challenging aspect of this particular project?

There is an abundance of rising artists in the world, so narrowing our focus to a select few was certainly a challenge, and a luxury.

Read more: Richard Mille’s collaboration with Benjamin Millepied & Thomas Roussel

5. If you had to choose one piece from the collection, what would it be and why?

I have a particular fondness for the work of Minjung Kim. Her technique is uniquely refined and her work combines her Asian cultural heritage sensibility with a feminine sensibility. I like every work she has done for the Waldorf Astoria and would be hard-pressed to pick one.

grey mountains

Mountain by Minjung Kim from the Waldorf Astoria collection

6. Where’s your favourite place in the world to see art?

Basically wherever I happen to be. I love seeing art being lived with in private homes. My favourite museum is the Neue Galerie in New York. The quality of the art is breathtaking and the scale is intimate enough to make you feel as if you are in a private home.

Find out more about Simon de Pury’s work and the restoration of Waldorf Astoria: waldorftowers.nyc

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Reading time: 2 min
virtual reality
multimedia artwork

Nets 5 – Pumbley Cove (2019), Shezad Dawood, acrylic and wool on linen, 80 x 100 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Timothy Taylor, London.

British artist Shezad Dawood’s interdisciplinary practice explores themes around climate change, migration, the history of aesthetics and the nature of storytelling. Here, Nick Hackworth speaks to the artist about his new virtual reality environment, collaborating with scientists, and the social impact of art

LUX: Let’s start with your latest VR work, The Terrarium, the trailer of which is shown below. Can you tell us about the work? What would we see in the ‘real’ VR work?
Shezad Dawood: The Terrarium imagines what the Earth might look like in 300 years: with a drastically reduced land mass, and an even greater majority of the Earth underwater. You, the viewer, are one of a number of marine-human hybrid species.

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I worked with evolutionary geneticists and marine biologists to map out the species that might inhabit the Baltic sea at that point (bear in mind that the Baltic Sea is projected to extend into the English coast by then with Sweden and Denmark underwater). So the work is really about taking the audience into this possible future world, and giving them a great 3D experience of it.

virtual reality art

A still from The Terrarium, 2020, virtual reality environment, duration variable. Courtesy of UBIK Productions.

In a reference to contemporary overfishing, you get caught by space pirates who transport you off-world where two possible fates await you, and you can activate either, based on your own choices.

The trailer hints at these narrative possibilities and gives you a glimmer of the expansive universe we’ve created in the full VR experience, where you can experience everything from close encounters with genetically-altered species to outer-space banquets!

View the trailer for ‘The Terrarium’ by Shezad Dawood:

LUX: What excites you about VR as a medium and what’s your ‘fantasy’ VR work?
Shezad Dawood: With VR you can do things that you simply can’t do in other media. I’ve always wanted to lead people into parallel universes, and make [those universes] as real and immersive as possible. Simply put, it offers a whole new way of telling stories, with the viewer at the centre, and a totally different level of agency.

From the point of view of a maker, it allows you a level of detail and spatial possibility that I’ve always strived for in my films. VR gives you the ability to go back in and add sound in the corner of a room, and then create an interactive moment at a high point of tension – the complex narrative possibilities are endless! And the ability to play with gravity, with reality itself is fascinating.

Read more: Arts patron Katrina Aleksa Ryemill on empowering women in the arts

My dream VR artwork is to really take the whole concept of an immersive experience further, and have a ‘real-world’ installation that is like a dreamscape, that prepares you like an antechamber to the VR itself, but one that is operatic in scale. And, of course, a VR experience that incorporates world-building and characters with a whole new level of detail, intensity and interaction. The holy grail of everyone working in VR right now is to pull off a truly meaningful way to have multiple players collaborate and work together in a VR experience.

woman holding bucket

Leviathan Cycle, Episode 6: Ding Ling & Senait (2020) HD video, 18’46”. Courtesy of the artist and UBIK Productions.

LUX: A lot of your recent work is informed by serious concerns about the damage that we humans are inflicting on marine ecologies across the planet. Can you tell us why this means so much to you? And what can art ‘do’ to make difference to these overwhelming problems?
Shezad Dawood: One of the biggest environmental car crashes we’re blindly walking towards is the destruction of marine ecosystems. Perhaps because a large percentage of these interconnected systems remain largely unseen by human eyes, we forget that roughly 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and that the oceans hold about 96.5% of the Earth’s water. Never mind more critical intersections, such as the function of coral reefs as a semi-permeable membrane against tidal events and shoreline erosion.

men on the edge of a rocky cliff

Towards The Possible Film (2014) HD and Super 16mm transferred to HD, 20 mins
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Delfina Foundation.

It is these delicate checks and balances that are both naturally occurring, and that can be aided by considered human research and interaction, that have really motivated me to keep researching in this space. And yes, art can totally play a role, in helping tell stories and give audiences an insight into some of these otherwise invisible narratives. I think the potential for research and collaboration between the arts and sciences is just in its infancy, and there is a way to think about creating new ways of telling that empower and inspire audiences without being patronising.

Read more: How luxury knitwear brand Aessai is supporting South American craftsmanship

I set up my own non-profit project Leviathan in 2017 to further develop a relationship with ideas of oceans and ecology. We stage public events at each physical exhibition venue the project is presented at, bringing scientists to arts audiences and vice versa. There’s a growing repertoire of accessible short texts and video lectures that are available for free streaming and download, that present cutting-edge research in digestible form. It’s been really exciting to have someone who attended a physical event in Seoul then follow up via a virtual talk that took place in Munich!

painted map

Nets 2 – Etheridge’s Point Trail (2019), Shezad Dawood, oil acrylic and wool on linen, 100 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Timothy Taylor, London.

LUX: Can you tell us about the paintings on show in your current, online exhibition, Nets at Timothy Taylor Gallery? And how about how your residency on Fogo Island informed the works?
Shezad Dawood: The Nets works at Timothy Taylor are about boundaries and thresholds — between land and sea, sea and sky, and also between figuration and abstraction. I see the works as invitations to viewers to pause, stop and understand the spiritual epiphany of being and how pattern imposes itself on the world and on us… a complex and complete ecology if you will.

The works were made during an incredible residency on Fogo Island, which is a beautiful rugged island off the coast of Newfoundland, deeply connected to the fortunes of the cod trade. Its home to the famous Fogo Island Inn an amazing, sustainable and community-run luxury hotel on the shore of the Atlantic. Through the residency I was privileged to meet and work with a number of skilled and generous craftspeople on the island including Lillian Dwyer, Sheila Payne and Margaret Freake who brought their local techniques of rug hooking, flocking and crochet to bear on these works. Both conceptually and materially the Nets works embody the spirit and unique geography of the island.

‘Nets’ by Shezad Dawood runs until 12 December 2020 in Timothy Taylor Gallery’s online viewing room: timothytaylor.com/viewing-rooms/shezad-dawood-nets

Nick Hackworth is a writer and curator of Modern Forms, an art collection and curatorial platform founded by Hussam Otaibi, Managing Partner at Floreat Group

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Reading time: 6 min
portrait artwork

Jimi Hendrix, London, 1967, Gered Mankowitz

With many national lockdowns reinstated across the globe, the majority of this year’s festive shopping is  taking place online. Launching her new monthly column for LUX, artnet’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Sophie Neuendorf discusses the benefits of buying and gifting art remotely

Sophie Neuendorf

Nothing is more enduring or powerful than a work of art. Throughout history, it has been artists who have documented the zeitgeist, from religious convictions to frivolous fêtes or times of social unrest and upheaval. It is also always artists who push boundaries and promote an atmosphere of tolerance and peace.

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Especially now, at a time when we’re all forced to be secluded and are closing our houses and boarders, art has the power to open up a cross-cultural exchange and bring hope and light into our homes and our hearts. What’s more, art has the potential to provoke important discussions around current issues such as religion, gender, race, and politics. With the recent presidential election, and the ongoing Black Lives Matter, and Me Too movements, these topics will remain very current leading into this year’s holiday season.

For many of us, the holiday season is one of the most wonderful times of the year. 2020, however, is confronting us with unprecedented new challenges, and also an element of sadness and caution. Many of us will not be able to visit our grandparents; some of us won’t be able to travel home for the holidays; and a few of us will have suffered the loss of a family member or friend this year.

abstract art

Untitled, 1964, Sam Francis

So, the question is: how do we celebrate the holidays pandemic style? By surprising our loved ones with witty, thoughtful gifts to make them happy for months, and years to come! Thanks to online technology it has never been easier to buy and ship directly, allowing us to get into the spirit of giving without the anxiety of social distancing.

Read more: Three major art patrons and a fine art photographer are transforming London’s shopfronts into a pop-up gallery

Whilst sites such as net-a-porter.com and matchesfashion.com provide excellent browsing material, why not try something new this year and invest in an artwork? Buying art online isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Although the art market has been slowly moving online over the past few years, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this transition. Now, with the help of cutting-edge technologies such as AR or VR, you’re able to visualise an artwork within a room and to scale, to ensure that the piece you love is perfect for your home. You can also chat with a specialist throughout the research and bidding process.

artwork of forest

Study for Canadian Forest, Robert Longo

At artnet, for example, we offer a range of ongoing auctions which you can browse and bid at leisure from the comfort and safety of your home. From David Hockney to Richard Prince and KAWS, from Modern & Contemporary fine art to photography or abstraction, you’ll be spoilt for choice. It takes two minutes to register and then, you’re ready to go. Once you place a winning bid, your funds will be safely held by artnet in escrow until you or your loved ones receive the artwork in a perfect condition. And yes, there’s a returns policy. Now go ahead and treat yourself or someone else!

Sophie’s 5 top tips for buying art online:

1. Learn how to recognise quality and prioritise it over everything.
It’s much better to own one great artwork than five mediocre works. The beauty of bidding online is that it removes the time pressure of a live auction room. Take your time to browse, choose, and place your bid on that one piece you love.

2. Be patient and wait until a work of high quality within your budget comes up for sale. Then be prepared to act decisively and quickly. Don’t get discouraged if you miss out or end up being outbid; the next opportunity is always around the corner.

3. Study prices and the market extensively so you can spot good deals when they come up. At artnet, we have the art market’s most extensive and trusted price database, which is an excellent research tool. If you don’t have time, get advice from one of our specialists who are very happy to help, or work with a reputable advisor.

4. Take transaction costs into account prior to bidding. Buyer’s premium, shipping, insurance, taxes and duties can add significant costs to your acquisition. We can calculate all that for you at artnet.

5. Enjoy yourself. Art collecting is excellent fun!

Browse artnet’s current auctions via artnet.com/auctions

 

 

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Reading time: 4 min
woman with red hair
woman with red hair

Yayoi Kusama portrait with La Grande Dame x Yayoi Kusama Limited Edition © Yayoi Kusama

Contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s artistic impressions of Veuve Clicquot’s new vintage La Grande Dame 2012 pay tribute to the lasting influence and creativity of Madame Clicquot

After her husband’s death in 1805, Madame Clicquot took the reins of the eponymous champagne house. In era when women were excluded from the business world, this was an achievement in its own right, but she was also extremely good at her job, earning her the nickname ‘La Grande Dame of Champagne’. Two centuries later, Veuve Clicquot is paying tribute to her legacy through their latest vintage and a stunning artistic collaboration with Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama.

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Renowned for her flamboyant, quirky aesthetic, Kusama’s designs for the bottle and box incorporate flowers and her signature polka dot pattern in yellow, referencing the champagne’s bubbles, and expressing a sense of joy and energy.

floral sculpture

My Heart That Blooms in The Darkness of The Night, special object designed by artist Yayoi Kusama for Veuve Cliquot

polka dot interiors

Yayoi Kusama at Selfridges’ Corner Shop

She has also created an exuberant floral sculpture, in continuation of her Flowers That Bloom at Midnight series, that wraps around the champagne’s bottle. Available in only 100 numbered pieces (12 are available for sale in the UK), the sculpture is cast in fibreglass reinforced plastic and painted by hand in vibrant hues.

The La Grande Dame x Yayoi Kusama designs will be on display within the Selfridges Corner Shop in early Spring 2021. The limited edition is available to purchase online via: selfridges.com For enquiries regarding the special object visit: veuveclicquot.com

 

 

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Reading time: 1 min
collage artwork
collage art

The Power Of Black And White, Dennis Osakue, Acrylic & Collage on Canvas, 150cm x 150cm, 2020

Signature African Art, one of Nigeria’s leading contemporary art galleries, opened its first European location in Mayfair, London in March this year and is now hosting a group exhibition entitled Say My Name in collaboration with award-winning writer and film director Ava DuVernay. Ahead of the show’s public opening tomorrow, we speak to the gallery’s director and curator Khalil Akar about the Black Lives Matter movement and power of visual art 

man in suit

Khalil Akar, Photo © Zaki Charles

1. What influenced the gallery’s decision to expand internationally, and why London in particular?

We have been supporting the work of African artists for the past 30 years, since opening the gallery in Lagos. We have been waiting for the right opportunity and the right time to open a space outside of the continent. Over the past few years, African art has become increasingly popular and having assessed the global art market, we felt this was the best time to open in London. We chose London as it is one of the art hubs of the world. We wanted to give our artists a platform to showcase their talent to the European market and we felt the UK was the best place in which to do so.

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2. How have global attitudes towards African art changed in recent years?

The global art market has finally started to recognise the contemporary talent that exists within the continent, outside of traditional art forms. We have seen increased sales of African art at auction houses, and fairs like 1-54 Contemporary African Art have helped to encourage a greater interest in art from Africa. The next step for the market would be to have a larger presence of African galleries in household fairs such as Art Basel.

collage of faces

George Floyd, Oluwole Omofemi, Acrylic on Canvas, 50cm x 50cm each, 2020

3. The timing of the gallery opening was rather unfortunate, how has the pandemic impacted business?

We opened a solo show by Nigerian artist Oluwole Omofemi just before lockdown, which was very popular by collectors and sold out. We have worked hard to adapt to the current circumstances and challenges, increasing our digital networking and outreach to collectors and providing virtual tours of our exhibitions to our audiences. The additional digital approach has allowed us to reach more collectors and increase sales.

contemporary art gallery

Installation view of Say My Name, presented by Ava DuVernay at Signature African Art, London, Photo © Mora Ltd

4. What was your curation process for the upcoming group show Say My Name and how did the collaboration with Ava DuVernay come about?

The curatorial process was rooted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The vision was to shine a light on things that need to change in society including how Black people are perceived and treated in the global community. Ava and I discussed this theme at length for Say My Name, which also aligned with the topics raised in her 13th documentary for Netflix. The collaboration also focused on raising awareness of police brutality following Ava’s announcement of her LEAP (Law Enforcement Accountability Project) initiative, which aims to hold police in the US accountable through artistic storytelling. We’re planning to donate 40% of proceeds from the sales of both the London and LA shows to the fund. In terms of the artists selected, we have worked with them in the past and knew that they would feel strongly about paying tribute to these figures and histories in the UK and US. We wanted to connect the continent with the deep experiences of the diaspora.

Read more: Sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld on the power of public art

contemporary portrait

Breonna Taylor, Moufouli Bello, Acrylic on Canvas, 150cm x 120cm, 2020

collage artwork

Boshielo, Giggs Kgole, Anaglyph, Oil, Acrylic fabric & mixed media on Canvas, 230cm x 150cm, 2020

5. Many of the works celebrate key figures and moments in Black history, is it important that viewers recognise and understand these specific references?

It is hugely important that everyone knows the correct history and understands the references in the show. We hope that visitors to Say My Name will learn more about Black history in the US and UK and leave the gallery with food for thought on what part they can play in improving the current world system.

mixed media artwork

In Remembrance of Bruce’s Beach, Dandelion Eghosa, photography, analogue collage and embellishments with acrylic paints on canvas, 190 x 127cm, 2020

6. In a more general sense, how do you see visual art participating in wider contemporary discourse?

Visual art plays a key role in wider contemporary discourse and has the power to influence the status quo. As Say My Name opens in London, Americans continue to protest on the streets every day since the murder of George Floyd in May. On the continent, young Nigerians are now protesting and advocating for the #EndSARS movement. As an art gallery, we feel it is our responsibility to use our voice to continue and support these conversations to help the creation of a better world.

‘Say My Name’ runs until 28 November 2020 at Signature Art London, and will open in in Los Angeles in February 2021. For more information visit: signatureafricanart.com

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Reading time: 4 min
public sculptures
public sculptures

Installation view of Looking Up, Helaine Blumenfeld’s exhibition at Canary Wharf 2020. Photo © Sean Pollock

Helaine Blumenfeld OBE is best known for her large-scale public sculptures whose undulating, ethereal forms evoke a sense of fragility and movement, transforming the environments into which they are placed. In the light of a major exhibition of her works at Canary Wharf, Digital & Art Editor Millie Walton speaks to the artist about working intuitively, the importance of touch and how public art brings people together

LUX: What’s your creative process like? Do you follow a routine, or need a particular atmosphere to create?
Helaine Blumenfeld: I think I have quite an unusual creative process which has changed in a few ways over the years, but essentially, it has always been a process of trying to coordinate what I am feeling and thinking with what I am doing with my hands. That has taken a very long time. Now, when I go into the studio, I am able to disconnect from everything that is going on around me. Francis Bacon used to say that to release that [creative] energy he would either need to be drugged or drunk or both, to allow him to enter into a kind of trance state. I can go into that state, happily, without drugs. For me, it is a state of being. I go into the studio, close the door, and I am there.

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I don’t really look at the work whilst I am making. I take clay and I just keep adding to it or taking away. I have no plan of what I am going to do; I have no drawings. I just communicate with it, and that is how I have worked almost from the very beginning.

I had been working on a doctorate of philosophy, and I could never find the exact words I wanted, but when I made the very first piece in clay, I just thought: ‘This is just incredible! Did I really just do this?’ It was a talent that I had never understood I had, and yet it was so clear. Every piece I made in those early days was a wonder to me and then, we moved back to England from Paris and during the move, some of the pieces got broken. I thought I’ll never be able to do anything like that again.

Now, I do not have that feeling; I see it more as a process. There is a communication between what I am in terms of experience, and the work, and if one piece is interrupted or breaks or collapses, the next piece will follow it.

woman with sculpture

Helaine Blumenfeld with one of her sculptures. Photo © Sean Pollock

LUX: You mentioned that you were studying philosophy – when did you start making art?
Helaine Blumenfeld: I always had these amazing dreams that I could never seem to translate. The only way that I knew was words, and yet, to have an incredible dream and then to use words is so bizarre because it is a completely different language. For a while, philosophy seemed like the right method for my expression, but I was never satisfied. When I discovered sculpture and began to understand what very simple forms could communicate, I decided I wanted to be a sculptor.

I think that being an artist is not just about having something to communicate, but also finding the right way to communicate it, and if you don’t, you can be frustrated. Discovering sculpture opened up the whole world to me.

small abstract sculpture

Helaine Blumenfeld, Exodus V, 2019, Photo © Henryk Hetflaisz

LUX: Was lockdown a creative time for you?
Helaine Blumenfeld: Well my main studio is in Italy, so I have not been able to go back at all. In fact, because I had this very big show [Looking Up] in Canary Wharf, I was meant to go back before we had finished the installation to bring back two pieces that I had not quite finished, but my husband said not to go. It was lucky that he did because otherwise I would have spent the whole lockdown without my family.

In the end, we managed to get the entire show of 40 pieces up at Canary Wharf just two days before lockdown. The opening, which didn’t happen, was intended to be the day of lockdown. When I went back to Cambridge, I was suddenly aware of the virus and what it was doing, which I hadn’t been, and the first two weeks were very anxious. I thought I would have contracted it because I had been working with so many people, including one of my assistants from Italy who had come over, and whose wife had the virus. But after that period, and I think a few artists will tell you the same, it was one of the happiest periods in my whole life. No pressures from the outside world, no commitments, no engagements, no travelling back and forth to Italy, which I normally would do for two weeks here and two weeks there. I was with my husband all the time which I hadn’t been since the beginning of our marriage. And I had clay; I had all the clay I needed. I was working, and I have done more work in the period of lockdown than I have in the last three years I think. So, yes it has been immensely creative.

Read more: Confined Artists Free Spirits – artists photographed in lockdown by Maryam Eisler

LUX: Do you ever start a sculpture and decide to abandon it if it’s not working?
Helaine Blumenfeld: There are different ways of working. Someone like [Constantin] Brâncuși, who I admire enormously as an artist, was held back by his own sense of perfection. Each piece had to reach what he wanted, and it never did, so he would have to abandon and try again. He was tied to certain ideas, whereas I believe that each piece is as good as it can be. I work through the idea rather than trying to get it right in that particular piece. As I said, I never have a clear idea of where I am going or a vision that I need to achieve; the vision comes in the piece.

large scale public sculpture

Helaine Blumenfeld, Taking Risks, 2018, Photo © Henryk Hetflaisz

LUX: That sounds very liberating.
Helaine Blumenfeld: In sculpture, the gesture can be completely yours. When I am working, I don’t look at what I’m doing I feel it intuitively as it happens. Very often when I am in Italy, I finish something in clay and I cover it and wrap it with wet cloth, and then when I go back, I have no idea what I am going to find. I have never seen it objectively or critically, I have just seen it intuitively. When I do unwrap it, then sometimes I will say  ‘Oh, that doesn’t work’, and I won’t go on with it. At that moment, I am really seeing with a critical eye. It’s like seeing your lover in another way from the corner of your eye or a different angle which allows you to seem them objectively for a moment. When I come back to the work, I am able to see it objectively, and at that moment, I know intellectually whether or not it is working.

It is a bit of a different process if I want to do a large piece, however, because when I am working, I have no armature or inner support system. If I had that I would know exactly what I was going to do because the inner structure would dictate what I was going to make. Without that structure, the sculpture is initially incredibly fragile and if it is going to last, I need to have it cast in plaster quickly. Then, when I know the forms, I don’t feel the same resistance to having an armature. At that point, I have an assistant who will mechanically enlarge the piece for me with a proper armature and leave it in a rough state for me to take over. It does happen when I think a piece is very good, but when the scale changes, it doesn’t work. I think that is a mistake that certain sculptors make, thinking that everything can be large when some pieces work better on a small, intimate scale.

small marble sculpture

Helaine Blumenfeld, Exodus IV, 2019, Photo © Henryk Hetflaisz

LUX: What role do you think public sculpture can play in urban environments such as Canary Wharf?
Helaine Blumenfeld: I think that sculpture, in general, in a public place, creates a private space for people to enjoy. In a way, it creates a space that people can claim ownership of. My idea is to somehow mediate between the personality and the mechanism of a landscape and to create something that is personal and that people can relate to. For example, my first public commission was in centre of a walkway, and I went around and had a look at how people used space. There was a gigantic sculpture there that people would walk around to avoid. Somehow the massiveness of it mirrored and competed with the architecture in a way. So, I decided to do a sculpture in five pieces, that people could walk in between and interact with that would be on a human scale, and it was such a success.

sculpture

Helaine Blumenfeld, Fortuna, 2016, Photo © Sean Pollock

public art

My piece Fortuna, which was put up in 2016, was originally meant to go to the new area of Wood Wharf. When it was finished, it was temporarily put into an area in Jubilee Park, and in a very short space of time, that area in the park was overwhelmed with people coming to interact with the sculpture. When word got around that it was going to be moved, people were horrified. That particular area was meant for changing exhibitions, but the piece remains there and people still go to see it.

Read more: American artist Rashid Johnson on searching for autonomy

Also, in that same area, there is a sculpture called Ascent. After lockdown when you could have groups of six, I went back to see the piece and they had made circles on the ground around it so people could sit in those circles and know that they were social distancing. On that lawn there were six different circles of people sitting. They obviously knew each other and they were celebrating something. I had gone there because wanted to photograph the piece. When I arrived, a man looked at us and said ‘Oh, I see that you want to photograph Ascent‘ which was amazing, that he even knew the name. He said ‘Let me show you the best view!’ He took me round to the side and in fact, it was my favourite view. My friend told him that I was the artist and he knew my name too. He announced to the group of people in their circles: ‘This is the artist’. Every person in that area stood up and clapped. It was like it had been an opening. He told me that he came to the sculpture every day and that it was his point of light in the darkness, it gave him some hope that things could be better. It was an amazing experience for me.

bronze public sculpture

Helaine Blumenfeld, Flight, 2019, Photo © Sean Pollock

LUX: Speaking of intimacy, you’ve said before that you like people to touch your sculptures. Why is that important for you?
Helaine Blumenfeld: Oh, I think it is vital for people to touch the work. I think we do not touch enough in our society. So much of our feeling and experience comes from touch. As babies, our world  is all about touch, but we are are losing that. Very early on I had a show with people from LightHouse for the Blind, and all they could do was touch. You would be astounded at what people could feel from touching a sculpture, another level of understanding, from just their hands.

You can see that people are entering into the sculptures where the bases have worn away. I often ask the children who are sitting inside, ‘What are you feeling?’ And they say something like, ‘I am in a secret forest and I am protected from all the things around me.’  It is lovely to see how a sculpture encourages imagination.

Often at public exhibitions, whether it is in a cathedral or in Canary Wharf, I see people discussing with each other, and they don’t know each other. ‘What do you see in it? What are you looking at?’ Not only does art introduce a huge audience to beauty, it is also allows people relate to something outside of themselves, it introduces them to another realm. I think that is an incredible way that art brings people together.

LUX: One final question: what’s inspiring or interesting you at the moment?
Helaine Blumenfeld:  It is hard for me to use the word inspiration; I feel incredibly moved. When an artist dreams a dream that is so deep within his own being, it is not just his dream, it is not just his pain, it is universal. That is what I hoped I was doing before, it was coming from within, but much of what I am doing now is coming from without. I am thinking about how people are trying to connect at this time, to reach out and see the perspective of other people. There is a much greater effort because we are all in this together. It has broken down that sense of isolation which I felt was leading to the precipice. So instead of expressing something deeply personal, I am trying to feel something that effects everyone. I think that is where the new work is going.

‘Looking Up’ by Helaine Blumenfeld runs at One Canada Square until 6 November 2020 and throughout Canary Wharf until 31 May 2020.

For more information visit: helaineblumenfeld.com

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Reading time: 11 min
two champagne bottles
two bottles

Ruinart recently launched its ‘second skin’ case, a stylish and more sustainable alternative to the traditional champagne gift box, as pictured above with the Brut Rosé NV and Blanc de Blanc .

Sometimes it’s the supplementary parts of art fairs that we miss the most. For yesterday’s virtual preview of Frieze art fair, we recreated the most excellent private Ruinart champagne event, which usually takes place this week, with a little tasting of their range at home

What will you miss most about the seminal Frieze London Art Fair moving this year from tents in Regent’s Park to an online-only existence, prompted by the pandemic?

Perhaps it will be the frisson of excitement of bumping in to collectors, curators and dealers from around the world expressing their way between the different booths at the pre-preview. Or maybe it will be the talks; or the onsite cafés, where can find yourself standing next to a museum director from LA and a young billionaire from Shanghai while sipping a cup of coffee and finding there is nowhere to sit and catch up on emails. Or, if you are fortunate, the buzz of the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management lounges, where collectors and private bank clients gather to sip on endless champagne and nibble perfect canapés.

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Then there is the physical art, of course. The two fairs, Frieze London and Frieze Masters, at opposite ends of the park, which at best offer an unparalleled art museum experience – a walk around Frieze Masters in particular affords a view of some of the most significant artworks in the world, perhaps on display for the last time in decades or centuries.

artist sketch

A print from David Shrigley x Ruinart’s ‘Unconventional Bubbles’ Series that was scheduled to feature in The Ruinart Art bar at Frieze 2020

We are missing all of that, but on a more social note, we also missed the brilliant annual Ruinart event in their VIP zone. This low-key gathering always brings together a selection of art collectors, artists, champagne connoisseurs and selected media, and feels very old school and decadent in offering an unlimited flow of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs in the late afternoon of the preview day.

Read more: British artist Marc Quinn on history in the making

For anyone who is a connoisseur of both art and champagne, it is also unique, as the champagne on offer at art events around the world is usually only marginally better than at fashion events, which is to say standard issue and not very interesting at all. The Blanc de Blancs is in a different league.

There was no Ruinart event this year, so LUX decided to create our own, by tasting a range of the Maison’s champagnes, with a couple of our favourite people, while clicking through some excellent artworks on a laptop. Needs must.

Our tasting notes are as follows:

champagne bottle

Ruinart Brut NV

Ruinart Brut Non Vintage
In years past, this was a slight and rather forgettable champagne. But, unlike the stick thin Frieze Art Fair VIP guests, it has gained a little weight in all the right places, without requiring any liposuction. Lean but muscular, it is eminently drinkable, and disappears quickly – like a Frieze VIP in search of a Julian Schnabel on the morning of preview day. Maybe not the most memorable companion but easy-going and easy to introduce to anybody.

Ruinart Brut Rosé
A little bit more spicy and fruity, as befits it medium pink palate. Good company, effortlessly enjoyable and also noticeable, not anodyne; and we never felt we had too much of it. Not flirty like some rosés, and not ponderous and serious like others. Just right, like a good art advisor.

green champagne bottle

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2007

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
There is, in our view, no better daytime art fair companion than this. Rounded, well formed, well educated, with years of expertise behind it like stumbling on a fabulous sixties pop artist at an unexpected booth. Aesthetically pleasing and rich, like many preview day guests. Buy, buy!

Dom Ruinart Vintage 2007
In a different league altogether. Like walking into a VIP lounge at frieze masters and chatting to Gerhard Richter (note, this has never happened). Delicate, aesthetic yet serious and multilayered, a companion you could be with it all night and not feel weighed down, and you would seek its company again and again. Like a Richter, there is always something else to notice about it.

Dom Ruinart Rosé Vintage 2007
Have you ever bumped in to has Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Olafur Eliasson having a banter at the bar at the Christie’s Vanity Fair Frieze party at midnight? Nor have we, but we reckon this is what it would be like. Engaging, by turns delightful and intellectual, and with deal depth and rigour underneath the fun facade. An ideal guest to the perfect dinner party. Or art fair.

Darius Sanai

Find out more: ruinart.com

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Reading time: 4 min
vintage ferrari
vintage ferrari car

This 1995 Ferrari F512M Coupé will be on sale at the Bonhams auction in Zoute, Belgium on October 11

Modern classic cars, desirable machines from the 1980s onwards, are hotter than ever, with demand not damped by the pandemic or constraints against driving. So for that reason, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai says he is reluctantly putting his beloved Ferrari F512M, one of the craziest Ferraris of them all, up at auction with Bonhams

The economic ramifications of the coronavirus across the upper echelons of the collecting market have been unpredictable. Walking home from an emptying office at the start of the lockdown in London in March, I bumped into a gallerist friend, who was in the process of locking up the doors of his famous gallery in Mayfair for a potentially indefinite period. What did he think would happen in the art market, I asked him (this was a time when I naïvely believed that people would knew the answers to questions like this). “Carnage!” he said.

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Last week I was having a drink with another friend, one of the most significant collectors of contemporary art in Britain, and a good client of the same gallerist. My friend was bemoaning the state of his investments – not his stock market investments, which were doing very well, but the companies and people he has invested in directly. The companies are in the hospitality and retail sector, and having to let good people whom he knew and liked go was was eating him up, giving him sleepless nights, he looked drawn, despite his fitness regime and wealth. And how was the art market, I ventured, expecting more sharp intakes of breath, and of single malt. “Brilliant! I’m selling, and the prices are amazing!”

sportscar

2014 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse sold for $1,750,000 at the Quail Motor Car Auction in August.

My friend’s observation was evidently a reflection of the specialised part of the top end of the market in which he is selling – abstract expressionism. The art world itself has been hit severely by lockdown. According to one survey, by UBS and Art Basel, art gallery sales fell by 36% in the first half of the year – although falling sales do not equate to falling prices for the most desirable works.

Another part of the collectibles market that could logically have been expected to collapse during the last ten months, but which has not, is that of classic cars. The sector has even more going against it than the art world at the moment. Announcements by governments that the sale of new fossil fuel cars will be banned during ever shorter time spans; ever stricter restrictions on driving in cities; coronavirus-induced road changes in favour of cycles and pedestrians.

vintage green sports car

1956 Lister-Maserati 2.0-Litre Sports-Racing Two-Seater sold by Bonhams for £575,000.

And unlike collectors of Rothkos, the classic car market is not restricted to ultra high net worth individuals who have seen the size of their wealth increase during coronavirus due to a boom in the stock market. Classic cars encompass everything from £5000 MGs to £50m Ferrari GTOs. And the different segments of this market, while separate, are not hermetically sealed. If the price of a Ferrari Daytona drops, then a Ferrari 355, at a tenth of the price, also tends to drop. Yet, despite everything, the classic car market has been doing well across some of its tiers.

Read more: British artist Marc Quinn on history in the making

“Despite the challenging circumstance, the collectors’ car market has fared better than other sectors,” says James Knight, Executive Director at auction house Bonhams. “Although some sellers were initially concerned that the timing was right for selling a valuable collectors’ motor car, our (online live auction) system has been successful. We have sold cars and have sold them well – many at pre-COVID level prices. This success has given others confidence and we’re seeing healthy volumes come to market and being sold for market-correct prices.”

Knight says the market has been doing particularly well in the “hot” area of modern classics, cars desired by the latest generation of collector. “We are seeing a trend towards more modern classics and supercars becoming ever more popular. The demographic of buyers is changing – younger buyers are entering the classic market and they are looking at the ‘poster’ cars of the 1980s, 90s and even of this century.”

Vintage red sports car

The Ferrari F512M had the final development of Ferrari’s famous “Flat V12” engine.

So, with this in mind, I have entrusted my beloved “modern classic” Ferrari F512M for sale at Bonhams auction in the swanky silver seaside resort of Zoute in Belgium on October 11.

After I bought it, in 2015, and drove it across southern England for the first time, I saw it as the last car in my small collection that I would sell. The F512M has all the elements of a true collectable. It is rare: only 500 were made, in 1994 and 1995. It looks striking, with the celebrated cats claw scratches down the sides, and a wide, flat rear straight out of an arcade game. It is the ultimate iteration, and technical pinnacle, of a famous model: the Testarossa, which was launched in a nightclub in Paris in 1984.

Read more: Four leading designers on the future of design

The Testarossa (Redhead) gained fame in Miami Vice, and was improved into the 512TR in 1991. Three years later, this evolved into my car, the F512M (“M” standing for “Modified” in Ferrari-speak). As well as a modernised front and rear (which does divide opinion – some found the original rear treatment more classic), it was the pinnacle of development of Ferrari engine and suspension of its time. The engine’s internal parts were made lighter by the use of rare metals, the suspension was modified for even racier handling, and the car in general was given the performance needed to be at the top of the Ferrari tree in the mid 1990s. The F512M was the fastest road car in the world, until the appearance of the special edition Ferrari F50, costing a multiple of the price, in 1996.

It is a quite astonishing thing to drive. The F512M has no power steering, And while it is a lighter car than its replacement, the 550 Maranello, it does as a consequence need quite an effort to haul it around corners in town. The flipside is there is nothing interfering with the communication of the road surface to your fingers, when you get out on to faster roads and the steering becomes both manageable and responsive. Power-assisted steering systems, and particularly the latest electronic power assisted systems, cannot compete in terms of pure road feel. And the F512M’s manual gearbox (newer Ferraris have the easier-but-less-exciting paddleshift) is such a thing that a senior Ferrari executive drove my F512M and tweeted about it in delight.

red sports car

Ferrari steering wheel

Bonhams director James Knight says this particular example has the “holy trinity” of superb condition, perfect provenance and low mileage.

The subsequent 550, and later V12 Ferraris, were tuned more towards comfort and cruising, attracting a broader selection of buyers than the hardcore purchasers of a F512M. And the focussed and rare nature of the 512 is reflected in its price: good examples retail for two to three times the price of its more modern, comfortable 550 Maranello successor. Indeed, the F512M is the the last of a monstrous line that began with the 365 Berlinetta boxer in 1973, a family of Ferraris with a 12 cylinder engine placed not under the bonnet, but right behind the driver and passenger’s head. The sound, from centimetres away from your ears, when accelerating at full spate, is quite frightening – as if you are inside the jaws of a ravenous Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There is something else quite special about the F512M. Every Ferrari made afterwards was equipped with safety devices like stability and traction control, which meant that if you were about to lose control of the car by accelerating too fast around a corner, the car would notice, and stop you from doing so, electronically.

vintage ferrari

The F512M being sold by our Editor-in-Chief was previously owned by one of Spain’s most prominent collectors, who kept it alongside the rest of his Ferrari collection in a heated underground garage. When we bought it, we put it though Ferrari’s official 101 point Approved car check, which it passed with flying colours

Not only does the F512M not have any kind of safety control “nanny”: it is also the most powerful-ever general production Ferrari with a V12 engine placed behind the driver. On the one hand, this means for thrilling handling: turn the feelsome steering wheel, and there is no engine weight over the front wheels to create inertia by creating momentum through its mass and resist the turn. It just turns.

The corollary of this is that when the back of the car also turns, a nanosecond later, the mass of the engine turns with it, and if you get your cornering wrong, will wish to continue turning, American-cop-car-in-street-chase-style, until you go round in a circle. Keeping this under control at high speed would be both a challenge and a delight – although to be fair, the advanced suspension and huge rear tyres mean breaking traction only really happens when you want it to. I’ve never done it.

Read more: How Chelsea Barracks is celebrating contemporary British craft

So why am I selling it? Firstly, I simply do not have the opportunity to take it out onto the road where it can be driven properly. This is a car that needs to be driven from London to Tuscany at high speed. I barely have time on a weekend to get from London to Oxford.

Also, in the little leisure driving time I have, I have become an increasing cultural fascist about convertibles. I believe cars with open tops are right, and everything else is wrong. Or something like that.

Vintage sports car

1959 Porsche 718 RSK Spyder, sold for $2,232,500 at Bonhams Quail Motorcar Auction in August.

Sadly, they did not make an open top version of the F512M. So, I want to sell it and put the money towards an open-topped V12 Ferrari. You will find full details of my magnificent F512M, which I purchased from one of the most prominent collectors in Spain, here.

As Knight himself says about this car: “The Testarossa is one of the modern Ferrari icons and the F512M was the final and the rarest version with just 501 examples produced. This is a very special motor car as it represents the ‘holy trinity’. It is offered in superb condition, having been exceptionally well-cared for; it has covered fewer than 20,000 kms and has the all-important provenance, which includes full Ferrari service history.”

If you’re the lucky buyer, please promise me a ride. I will miss her. And meanwhile, long may the market for collectibles thrive – after all, driving a two-seater Ferrari, you and your passenger are in glorious self-isolation as you hurtle towards your destination, enjoying every second.

For more information visit: bonhams.com

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protest painting
artist studio

Marc Quinn in his studio with his work Viral Painting. A Man Tapes Himself to the Colorado Soldiers Monument, Artnet (2020)

From his sculpture for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth to his recent guerrilla monument to replace the toppled bronze of a slave trader in Bristol, British artist Marc Quinn has shown a commitment to giving form to political urgency. Maryam Eisler talks to him about his time during lockdown, his engagement with history in the making, and his renewed excitement at creating art

Maryam Eisler: Marc, tell me about your lockdown experience.
Marc Quinn: It’s totally abstract and totally real at the same time. This moment is one of the most real things we’ve lived through. There are people dying. People’s businesses are closing. Horrific things are happening. And then when you go onto the street, until very recently, there’s no-one around. It’s not like a normal war or natural disaster, where there is visible chaos. This experience is quite abstract. In the end, apart from the people who are near me, the only way I know about what is going on in the world is via my phone and the internet.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This time has also been about a completely new way of thinking. We have been forced to learn how to navigate the difference between our virtual selves and our real selves.

In terms of making work, it’s been great. It’s me, alone in the studio making things. It’s like going back to square one again and rediscovering my roots. It’s about making art in a way that I used to do 25 years ago. And I really enjoy it.

It’s a great time for transformation. People are actually engaging with the world. There has been a whole resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement after the horrific death of George Floyd. That is amazing, and hopefully something lasting will come from it this time around. We’ve had moments of focus on these types of issues before but never to this extent. I think it’s a time when societal tectonic plates are shifting. Our old life is also shifting.

Collage artwork

Viral Painting. If You Are Neutral in Situations of Injustice You Have Chosen the Side of the Oppressor, Marc Quinn, 2020. Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio

Maryam Eisler: Tell me about your series History Painting and how it has led to the new series Viral Paintings. How are they made?
Marc Quinn: History Painting is a series of paintings that I have been quietly working on for about ten years. The history of art tells you about how art was classified in the 18th and the 19th centuries, with the lowest genres being portraiture or still-life and the highest being history painting. Works in that genre were commissioned by the state or by the aristocracy. When I saw images taken during riots, such as in London following the death of Mark Duggan in 2011, I thought to myself that this is actually quite interesting because the genre is being flipped on its head. History is now being made from the bottom up, coming from the people instead of the other way around. I thought I could take this idea behind the history painting genre and make new history paintings that are about the day, the moment.

sculpture of a head

Hassan Akkad (2020) from the series 100 Heads. Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio

sculpture of a pregnant woman

Alison Lapper Pregnant (2005). Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio. Photograph by Todd-White Art Photography

For the first in the series, I found an incredible press photo of a masked man on the streets of Hackney, which was the most iconic one. I contacted the photographer. I bought the rights to make a painting from it. And then I spent three months making a painting of it. At the end, I took all the paint that was left on the palettes and chucked it on top. It’s called History Painting (London, 8 August 2011) ROYBWN. I had this sense that the paint was disrupting it, in a way. But it was also sort of freezing it. And it was also about looking at matter. You can view it as a sculpture; when you squeeze a tube of paint, you always feel that it has so much potential. It’s about that beautiful moment before you actually crystallise it into something that may or may not be good. The paint that’s thrown on top is paint which exists as potential, as matter, as energy, as the unconscious. In a way, this process creates a screen. That screen is between the image’s dematerialised world of the image and the material world, where the paint exists straight from the tube. That was quite unconscious for me, I think. It also felt like it was about change, about movement, about how things are reconvening.

protest painting

History Painting Ieshia Evans Protesting the Death of Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, 9 July 2016) GPBW (2017). Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio

I made those types of paintings for about ten years, including a few about the Black Lives Matter movement. One painting focused on the photograph of Ieshia Evans protesting the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, an important, big picture. The large paintings would take six months to paint, so I couldn’t make that many and I had to really focus.

Read more: Gaggenau is bringing global attention to regional artisans

When the events of 2020 started unfolding, starting with Covid-19, I felt like history was in fast forward at high speed. I don’t have time to spend six months painting each picture. I have to make these in the moment. So, I had to let go of all that craft, but also of my idea of what a painting should be. I have a big printer that takes canvas, so I just thought I’d take a screenshot from my phone of events in the news as they take place, I’ll print them up and paint on top of them. This is how the Viral Paintings were born.

collage painting

Viral Painting. Baby Erin Bates (Painted 15 April 2020), Marc Quinn, 2020. Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio

Maryam Eisler: So, you had to revisit your own practice from a whole new perspective?
Marc Quinn: Yes. It just felt so good because I went with the situation, and it took me somewhere completely new, which was really exciting.

Maryam Eisler: It’s an exciting time to be making work.
Marc Quinn: Absolutely. I always want to be excited by the work, otherwise I’d just stop. Great work has historically been produced during moments of crisis, I think. Times like these make you focus quickly on what’s important in life. And what, on the other hand, is a load of bullshit. It gets rid of a lot of fluff and noise. You also realise that your relationships with other people are important. How everyone gets along in the world and how people are treated are important. Love is important. It makes it pretty simple. Times like these bring us back to what being human is all about, and it’s an exciting time to make art because of this potential for change that seems to be all around us.

Maryam Eisler: Colonial history means that events in the US relate directly to what’s going on in the UK and in Europe.
Marc Quinn: It’s all connected – enslavement is a part of colonial history. The roots of our systematically racist present stems directly from that, a colonial history that we’re all involved in. Britain, Europe and the USA were all involved.

collage artwork

Viral Painting. Dazed 100, Dazed, Marc Quinn, 2020. Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio

covid painting

Viral Painting. Bafta-Winning Film-Maker Becomes Hospital Cleaner, The Guardian (Painted 10 April 2020), Marc Quinn, 2020. Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio

Maryam Eisler: Tell me about the increasing importance of public art at this particular time.
Marc Quinn: It’s quite interesting to see how public art, which normally no one looks at, has suddenly taken on this urgency and this real symbolic value within society, in a way that it has never had in the past. I think that’s really interesting and it started in Bristol when they tore down the statue of Edward Colston. It’s incredible to experience the power of art in catalysing change, even if it’s iconoclasm.

Read more: Looking back on 125 years of Swarovski and into a new era

Maryam Eisler: Yes, you made a replacement sculpture. Tell me why you did that.
Marc Quinn: Jen Reid [one of the protesters] created the sculpture when she stood on the plinth and put her arm in the air. That incarnation of the artwork lasted just three minutes. When I saw the picture of her on Instagram, I immediately got in touch and asked if she’d like to collaborate and crystallise her original action for a bit longer. We then created the resin piece and put it on the plinth to activate the space. It was always conceived to be a temporary installation, to create debate about the idea of representation in the public realm and to continue the momentum of the BLM movement. We both felt it did exactly that. Its 24 hours on the plinth was enough to have the impact.

public art statue

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, Marc Quinn, 2020. Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio.

Maryam Eisler: Do you think art has been too politicised?
Marc Quinn: Most art is purely decorative and that’s not the kind of art I want to make. Art should be political. I make art about the world. I want to reflect and affect the time that we live in and the issues that are most pressing today through art.

Maryam Eisler: What effect is social media having on the art world?
Marc Quinn: Social media and the sharing of online images is great for the art world. It’s a way of making art more accessible and visible to new audiences who may not always go to a traditional gallery or museum. Instagram in particular is a brilliant platform for following emerging and established artists. Of course, as with most public forums, there can be a downside and there can be negativity.

bronze statue

Zombie Boy (Rick) (2011). Courtesy and copyright Marc Quinn studio.

Maryam Eisler: How do you see the art world changing?
Marc Quinn: I think that there will be, and should be, a greater emergence of black artists, curators, writers, architects, and so on. Can you believe that only one per cent of practicing architects today are black? Another interesting angle is that black people and white people are coming together to talk about issues that involve us all. If you don’t do anything about it, you’re complicit in it happening. So, you’ve got to act and speak up. There is no choice. It resonated with me when [US journalist and teacher] Jelani Cobb said, “I’ve probably gotten this question 50 times from white students who ask me if it’s okay for them to write stories about people of colour and racism. And I was like, you absolutely have to write these stories.”

As a privileged successful white artist, I have access to an audience. If I don’t use that influence to talk about what matters, then what’s the point of it all? That’s what I love about the Viral Paintings – they’re tracking what I’m engaging in, now, every day.

Maryam Eisler: How do you think art history will change now, after these events?
Marc Quinn: What’s exciting is that we don’t know what the future holds, but it’s largely in our hands to open a new future and to consolidate some of the gains that have happened during this period and not just go back to the old ‘normal’.

Maryam Eisler: What about the future of museums and art galleries post-lockdown?
Marc Quinn: I think that will be really interesting to observe. No one’s really talked about it, but all the museum schedules have been completely thrown off. Most museums’ programmes work on a two- to five-year lead time, so, they can never really react to the moment. Perhaps this is a time for museums to rethink their planning and do exciting new shows that offer immediate reactions to what is happening around us. It’s an opportunity for these institutions to take an active role in the dialogue. Better representation of black curators and people in art institutions means the work of black artists can be properly contextualised and celebrated. I hope for a more inclusive art world that mirrors the diversity of the world today and celebrates artistic talent from all backgrounds and perspectives.

Find out more: marcquinn.com

This article features in the Autumn 2020 Issue, hitting newsstands in October.

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Reading time: 11 min