Alan Lau and Durjoy Rahman. Photomontage by Isabel Phillips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

two boys standing next to each other holding bows and arrows

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

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

LUX: Why is that particularly important in Asia?

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

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

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

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

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

A ship

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

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

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

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

Colourful figures standing around a table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A BLUE PICTURE ON A WALL WITH SOME BOOKS IN FRONT

From Alan Lau’s expansive collection

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

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

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

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

A lung of fruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More:

mplus.org

durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

 

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Reading time: 11 min
Male with arms crossed standing next to art
Male with arms crossed standing next to art

Petr Pudil, collector and founder of Kunsthalle Praha

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

big building with orange roof in sunshine

Former electrical substation, art institution Kunsthalle Praha

LUX: What is your background as an entrepreneur?

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

Interior of building, empty space, white walls wood floors

The former power station redeveloped as Kunsthalle Praha

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

 

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LUX:  When did you become involved with art philanthropy?

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

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

Pavlina and Petr Pudil, collectors and cultural philanthropists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art light installation in gallery

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

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

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

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

Man walking between bookshelves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Online Editor: Isabel Phillips

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Reading time: 4 min
coloured polaroids with pictures of artworks stacked in lines
coloured polaroids with pictures of artworks stacked in lines

Polaroids of artworks at home by Hafsa Alkhudairi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A drawing of bodies in beige and white

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a red and green stones

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

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

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

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

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

A drawing a tree with a dark hole in the trunk

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

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

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

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

Edoardo Monti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Arturo Galansino

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

Find out more: palazzomonti.org

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

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Reading time: 3 min
A painting of a woman reclining on a sofa, with lots of scribbles
A man and woman wearing black standing in front of a colourful painting

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

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

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

A man and woman with black afros about to kiss

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

A tryptic African style painting of figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: rubellmuseum.org

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

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Reading time: 5 min
A woman sitting on a char with a another woman resting on the armrest.
A woman sitting on a char with a another woman resting on the armrest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

people sitting around a coffee table hosting a panel discussion

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

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

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

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

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

A gold tent outside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A building with a tube slide across it

Centre Pompidou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: thetwentieth.com

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Reading time: 11 min
A man in a suit with a red waistcoat standing in a room with art
A man in a suit with a red waistcoat standing in a room with art

Durjoy Rahman, founder of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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

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

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

A group of people standing for a photo outside a building

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

A group of people standing by some pillars holding a flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colourful cube sculpture and wall art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

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Reading time: 8 min
Birdseye view on blue ocean beside green land with a cyclist riding through the greenery
Birdseye view on blue ocean beside green land with a cyclist riding through the greenery

Butterfield & Robinson’s Dalmation Coast Active trip in Croatia

Mike Scarola is the CEO of Butterfield & Robinson, a luxury travel company with the goal of making a positive impact. He speaks to LUX about connecting with local communities and travelling on two wheels instead of four

LUX: What was the inspiration behind your Slow Find initiative?
Mike Scarola: The Slow Fund is driven by our passion for sustainability, focusing on education, culture, conservation, and preservation. We needed a formal vehicle to give back, which is essentially the genesis of the Slow Fund. Sustainable travel has been in our DNA since the beginning, just by the nature of what we do.

Seeing the world or seeing a region on bikes or on foot, we believe is a better, more sustainable way to travel. Currently we support nine initiatives globally, which range from conserving species and iconic landscapes across Africa, to supporting gender equality in the safari industry, to our art residency in France. The ideas behind the initiatives we choose to support typically come from our guides or our planners, because they know the region and its needs the best. We always aim to support sustainability efforts or cultural initiatives in the regions where we take travellers, and often try to bring our travellers into some of those initiatives while they’re on trip. This allows them to give back to the communities they visit and understand the essence of Slow Travel.

Two chefs cooking pizzas in brightly lit restaurant

Pizza making lessons from a local chef in Italy on the Amalfi Coast Walking tour

LUX: When you first brought in this idea of sustainable travel and travelling on bicycle rather than taking cars, was there a high client demand for it, or was it something that you had to intensively market?
MS: The long story is that our founder, George Butterfield, is an unbelievable trailblazer. He had a huge passion for travel and bringing people to new experiences. He was always trying new trips,  and in the early 70s he decided to try biking and as a part of a travel experience. But first time round, it just didn’t catch on.

Then he had someone in his office who, in the early 80s, started to make a case that we should try this again. He thought that people that are looking for luxury will also want to bike through Europe. George was actually pretty hesitant at the time, but they tried it and it absolutely took off in the early 80s.

LUX: How do you go about tracking your carbon footprint and why do you think it’s important that companies, especially travel companies, need to be doing this?
MS: We’re in our second year of very detailed tracking of our carbon footprint, and the reason we do this is because we want create a positive impact in the world. There’s a real crisis and we’re part of it, but we’re now trying to be part of the solution. The first step that we thought was important was to try to measure our impact. It’s tough, but once you measure that, you can communicate the biggest impacts of what your company has day-to-day on the environment, and then you can start to take solid steps to reduce it. We’ve always thought about the environment and taken steps to improve our trips and reduce our carbon footprint, but this formalisation allows us to track it on an annual basis.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What’s the philosophy behind your travel experiences?
MS: We think there is a large number of travellers who want to be active when they go on vacation, and who will get a better experience seeing a region on two wheels than they will on four. There’s so many regions now that are wonderful to hike through, to bike through, to canoe through, that also have luxury accommodations, which is often really important for us. We always try to bring our travellers to luxury accommodations, to high end food.

Man standing next to his bike by a sunny slanted road

Mike Scarola on the Tuscany Wine Country Biking tour in Italy

LUX: You do a lot of community-based work trying to enhance their lives whilst travellers come and visit. How do you ensure a community focused approach while also balancing client demand?
MS: What we find is that travellers are looking for very authentic experiences. They’re not only looking to stay in the nicest hotel and eat the best meals. They’re looking to feel like they’ve come away with a connection and a deeper understanding of the region, which lines up really well with what we try to do. We try to source from locally-owned businesses and local people to help deliver experiences on the trip. So whether it’s a specialised tour, or  stopping in the middle of your cycle for lunch in a restaurant owner’s backyard, where they’re going to teach you how to make pasta, these are the types of authentic experiences that our travellers are looking for. We work really hard on a day-to-day basis to try to find them and it’s only possible because of the network we have built up . We have about 125 guides that are located around the world, who know their regions intimately and are often the source of new experiences with locals.

LUX: Can you tell us more about your art residency initiative in France?
MS: Certainly. This a partnership with a former guide, who has an art residency program in France. They came to us to say that they often identify fantastic artists who are very much in need of financial aid, who could use our help. That’s all we really needed to know. A passion of ours is being about to support our guides, and to support art and culture. We’ve sponsored a number of artists. The latest one is a Belarussian artist, who had to leave their home country because of what’s happening over in Ukraine. This was a phenomenal artist who really didn’t have anything, and was going to have to give up their passion and give up their talent in order just to survive. So we helped to support.

LUX: What sets Butterfield and Robinson apart from other travel companies in the industry?
MS: The heart and soul of this business are our guides and our experienced designers. I would argue at the end of the day that we have the best guides and the best experienced designers on the planet.

Read more: Travelling Botswana on Eco-Safari, Review

Guides showing a map of Tuscany to people on a cycling tour

Mike Scarola guiding on the Tuscany Wine Country Biking tour in Italy

We always have a get together, a guide kick off at the beginning of the European season in April, and a guide gathering at the end of the European season. They are the most creative, well-travelled individuals who speak multiple languages with stories from the whole year on how they took travellers to amazing spots. We ask our travellers at the end of the trip to rate us on a whole bunch of different metrics, and the guide score is always the highest and most consistent, because they’re so knowledgeable about the region.

LUX: How do you aspire to continue redefining luxury travel in the years to come?
MS: The biggest thing for me is listening to our travellers. Our travellers have been the best source of direction over the last 57 years, and I think they’re going to continue to be. I think the demand for authentic experiences will continue to grow. The other thing is that travellers are looking to have a bit of an impact on their trips as well. I can see us doing it a lot more where they’re not just visiting and learning, but they’re participating, potentially in a project that they do on a trip that you know makes them feel a little more connected, a little more empathy for the region and the culture.

Find out more: www.butterfield.com

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colourful lines in pink and blue
A man sitting on a couch with a mirror and large windows next to him

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

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

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

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

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

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

shades of green paint on a canvas

Susan Weil, Landscape, Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

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

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

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

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

colourful lines in pink and blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

A room with a couch, table and chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

squares with drawn body parts in black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: www.sundaramtagore.com

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Cindy Chao at the new Cindy Chao The Art Jewel Gallery. Courtesy of Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

Cindy Chao is known for fusing art and jewellery to create unique collectibles. Here she speaks to LUX about the importance of her heritage, emotions and craftsmanship

LUX: How has your upbringing shaped your career?
Cindy Chao: Creating art jewels, for me, is a continuation of my family heritage. My grandfather was an architect who always took me to the construction sites of his architectural projects. I was trained from a young age to see the world in a structural and spatial way. My father was a sculptor. He taught me to take into account each angle, form and expression of what I observe, and to transform observations into well-rounded creations.

Both my grandfather and father moulded who I am today. Having the mind of an architect helps me to visualise my compositions three-dimensionally, and with the hands of a sculptor, I am able to pour life and emotion into my wax sculptures.

LUX:  How do you bring the two disciplines of jewellery and art together?
CC: My vision is to bring art and jewellery together by redefining how jewellery pieces are created and perceived. If a great piece of art must transcend culture, language and geographical boundaries in order to be widely understood and appreciated, the same should be true for jewellery. Thus, I hold the belief that every piece of fine jewellery should be a miniature artwork in a wearable form.

My jewellery creations are an extension and an expression of my emotions and soul. They carry the thoughts and the mood I experience when I obtain inspiration during the creation process. By combining my creativity with high-quality craftsmanship, I aim to imbue my art jewellery pieces with collectible value.

Cindy Chao The Art Jewel Gallery Gravity-free Showcase.

LUX: Can you share some insights into the process of creating your pieces and the techniques and materials you prefer to work with?
CC: I always view the world from a three-dimensional perspective, so my creations are very architectural, sculptural and organic, and can be appreciated from every angle.

I start every creation with wax sculpting, which is where I sculpt a wax block into a 1-to-1 ratio sculpture of the jewellery piece in my mind. The process is an ancient technique, once widespread in Europe in the 18th-19th centuries. This enables my work to be three-dimensional throughout the project.

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I am particularly fond of crafting my works in titanium. Being one of the lightest types of metal, titanium can effectively reduce the weight of the entire piece; however, its toughness and extremely high melting point also make the forging and setting extremely difficult, and any mistake would cause the whole crafting process to start over again. Using the toughest metal to form the softest curvature has always been an ultimate goal of mine.

Recently, I’ve been working on using unconventional materials in my jewellery pieces. For example, ox horn, maple wood, and golden ebony are applied and combined with titanium, 18K gold, silver, and various precious stones. These organic materials lack malleability and require careful evaluation, selection, and calculation of the joining positions and angles between the metals and unconventional materials.

Sapphire Floral Brooch from the White Label Collection

LUX: Which of your pieces are you most proud of?
CC: I believe that a good work is one that, when you look back, leaves you with no regrets, and with no room to think, If I had another six months, I could have done better.

I believe my latest 2022 Black Label Masterpiece Spring Cardamom Brooch is one of those “no regrets” works.

I created a pair of Spring Cardamom Brooches, inspired by freshly sprouted Cardamom pods, to express the vitality and hope of a new Spring. The brooches feature two oval-shaped cabochon Colombian emeralds of nearly 81 carats each. Next to the emeralds are two glistening hollow diamond spheres that are composed of several fancy rose-cut diamonds. The juxtaposition of a large emerald and the hollow diamond ball is my exploration of the coexistence of the abstract and real.

The brooches were also my attempt to accentuate sculptural aspects with colour science. I truly wanted to create a sense of dimensionality through the undulations, color arranging, gem setting and light. They were set with 28 shades of green gemstones, complemented by yellow and brown diamonds.

2022 Black Label Masterpiece X and XI, Spring Cardamom Brooches

LUX: Can you tell us about your annual butterfly masterpieces and what inspired you to start creating these every year?
CC: My first annual butterfly was completed in 2008, the fourth year after I founded the brand and at a time when I was still establishing myself as a jeweller. It was very challenging for me at the beginning, as an artist and as a brand, and I did not know how long I could persevere. I embarked on this butterfly creation with a feeling that it might be the last piece of work in my life. Even if my creative period ended that way, I wanted it to be special.

The short yet splendid life of a butterfly deeply inspires me. It reminds me that even though human life is brief and fragile, we should constantly undergo metamorphosis, surpassing our limits, and ultimately live a brilliant and meaningful life.

It took me a whole year to create my first butterfly, the Ruby Butterfly Brooch, and I poured all my efforts into it. From the front, you may only notice the pair of rubies on the butterfly, but when turning it over, you discover that the entire butterfly is fully set in a three-dimensional manner from the side to the back. The “side-flying” butterfly with its wings folded together and not yet fully spread, as if it had just emerged from the cocoon and was about to take off, symbolises my state of mind at the time.

From then on, I decided to use the “Annual Butterfly” as a symbol of transformation for both an artist and a brand.

Sweet Violet Earrings from the White Label Collection

LUX: On the note of butterflies and metamorphosis, can you speak about your evolution as a jewellery designer?
CC: My growth as an artist is closely related to confidence, which is crucial for creating good works, but it requires time to accumulate through experience. My increased confidence is reflected in two aspects: first, simplified lines and “subtraction” in my work. Because I have mastered the techniques, I don’t need as many lines to present a piece anymore. Second, there is a breakthrough in colour. Comparing the first “Ruby Butterfly Brooch” with the latest “Aurora Butterfly Brooch,” one will notice that I have become bolder in my use of colour. Just like a painter, the colour tension in early works and later works is certainly different.

The Aurora Butterfly

LUX: In what ways is Asian culture particularly important to you, and how is this reflected in your work?
CC: Influenced by my grandfather and father, I received an education in aesthetics from an early age. My creations are imbued with a traditional Chinese style of “impressionism”, using depictions of nature to express emotions. In my works, I want to showcase a harmonious blend of structural forms and artistic conception, brimming with a poetic and emotive essence.

LUX: You have achieved many accolades in your career, from your pieces being selected for Christie’s auctions to being featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the V&A. What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
CC: I am grateful for the acknowledgement from esteemed international institutions such as museums, art fairs, and auction houses over the past few years. These commendations have not only been instrumental in building up a firm foundation for my brand, but also instilled within me a profound sense of confidence.

Read more: Veuve Clicquot CEO Jean-Marc Gallot on the spirit of the iconic brand

In November 2021, I received the “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” distinction from the French Ministry of Culture. This is definitely a highlight of my artistic career. France – being one of the birthplaces of jewellery art with its extensive history and cultural heritage – has consistently equipped me with abundant inspiration and nurtured my creative endeavours. I feel deeply honoured to be recognised for my vision and contribution in bridging eastern and western cultures through art, and I am aware of the great responsibility that lies ahead.

Sapphire Dragonfly Brooch from the White Label Collection

LUX: What would you say is the overall message you are conveying through your work?
CC: Our lives are finite, whereas genuine art possesses the ability to withstand the trial of time, transcend time, and be passed on from generation to generation.

LUX: You have broken boundaries as a Taiwanese woman in a male-dominated, Western-centric industry. Are you hopeful for the future of other Asian women in the jewellery, art and luxury markets and how do you hope to see your legacy continue?
CC: I am optimistic about the future of Asian female artists as they are gaining global recognition for their immense talent. The opportunities for women in Asia are vast and promising.

My team and I have created our own unique path on this journey, and we aim to continue the growth in the following decades to come, and to become a truly global brand that embraces its Asian heritage. In order to preserve this craft within the wider jewellery industry, I feel it is important to teach and inspire young talent to embrace this age-old knowledge and savoir-faire of jewellery-making.

The making of the Spring Cardamom Brooches

LUX: What would you say differentiates a jewellery piece which is a collectible from one which isn’t?”
CC: The value of a collectible jewellery artwork includes two aspects: rare gemstones and artistic value.

Firstly, top-grade rare gemstones are the primary element that gives jewellery pieces their collectible value. As a new investment vehicle, the market trend for rare gemstones has garnered increasing attention in recent years.

Artistic value is also one of the elements that contribute to the collectability of jewellery pieces. Collectible art jewellery possesses aesthetic, intellectual, and philosophical value beyond ordinary commodities. Artists dedicate themselves wholeheartedly, infusing their emotions into their creations, allowing their pieces to convey the artist’s unique creative stories and inner world.

All images courtesy of Cindy Chao The Art Jewel

Find out more: www.cindychao.com

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Reading time: 9 min

CEO Guido Terreni. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

LUX speaks to Guido Terreni, CEO of Swiss Watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier about the definition of luxury and the key values which distinguish the classic brand

LUX: What drew you to the world of horology and made you pursue a career in this industry?
Guido Terreni: My girlfriend was living in Switzerland. I decided to join her, and later she became my wife. At that time, I didn’t imagine that I was also getting married to watchmaking.

LUX: What are the core values of the Parmigiani Fleurier brand, and do you believe these have changed over time?
GT: Parmigiani Fleurier is founded on 2 very important values that are embodied in its founder, Michel Parmigiani, who is a living legend of restoration.

The first is a deep cultural knowledge of watchmaking history, and with it, its different crafts across all eras and all components. The second is discretion, because when you are a restorer, even with the highest of skills like Michel, your ego has to disappear. This is because your work is about giving a second life to the work of another creator.

These values are eternal, and our responsibility is to keep them at the heart of our Maison for the pleasure of our clients.

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LUX: In the two years since you were appointed CEO, sales at Parmigiani Fleurier have seen dramatic improvement. What is your business strategy and why has it been so successful?
GT: Indeed, we are experiencing a fantastic momentum that originated from the unveiling of the Tonda PF Collection at the end of 2021. The centre of the strategy is designing a pure and contemporary collection that respects the brand’s values of high horological content and understatement, to please the refined and non-ostentatious watch purists of tomorrow. Everything else, meaning distribution and communication, must be consistent with this desire, where quality over quantity is always respected.

Parmigiani Fleurier’s founder Michel Parmigiani in the restoration workshop. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

LUX: Your recently released Calendar Watches Trilogy reflects a number of different civilizations and cultures. Can you tell us about the importance of global or cultural approaches to watchmaking?
GT: Global and cultural approaches are part of the same game. The brand is always consistent when it expresses its creativity, whether to the world, or to a specific audience. Authenticity, deepness of the idea and excellence in the execution must always be there. When you address a different culture, what is deeper than interpreting a different way of mastering time?

It is not a commercial exercise. It is a cultural one, that starts from respect, understanding others and putting the Swiss watchmaking culture at the service of another one, while keeping the Parmigiani touch in doing so.

LUX: How can watches tell the stories of people?
GT: A timepiece is probably the most intimate object we accompany ourselves with. Apart from collectors that evidently have a watch for every occasion and every mood, the majority of watch lovers wear their watches for quite a long and continuous time. It is the only object you don’t think about when you choose your outfit in the morning. It is therefore always right for the owner, because it reflects his or her personality. That’s why you can tell a lot of things from how a watch is worn.

The Parmigiani Fleurier Manufacture. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

LUX: How do you balance honouring the history of traditional watchmaking techniques while also looking to the future and continuing to innovate?
GT: Personally, I value tradition as our roots. They forge your thinking and your craft, but if tradition becomes an obsession, it becomes a cage, a rail from which there is no escape or evolution.

Luxury, to me, is about evolving excellence. Innovation might not be technological, as the quartz watches, or more recently, the smartwatches have demonstrated in failing to supersede the traditional mechanical technology. You can innovate while respecting tradition. You can refuse to accept that everything has already been invented in watchmaking. That, to me, is interesting and creative and pushes our quest to be world premium. Luckily, there is no recipe to express an innovative luxury experience, it’s a question of sensitivity and balance.

LUX: What sets Parmigiani apart from other renowned watch brands, and how do you maintain a competitive edge?
GT: We create discrete high horology, where superior crafts and refinement must respect the non-ostentatious values of our clientele and our Maison. We maintain our competitive edge by aspiring to present innovations that are interesting, and that can become lifelong companions, like the Xiali Calendar, or reinterpreting important functions like the GMT with our GMT Rattrapante, or exploring new functions with the Minute Rattrapante.

LUX: What role does the restoration of watches and other artifacts play in shaping the brand’s philosophy?
GT: To quote Michel: “Restoration is our source of knowledge.” It is important not for the sake of replicating the past, but to acquire and keep alive that sensitivity to the mechanical art that moves us.

The Parmigiani Fleurier Maison. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

LUX: What are the key challenges facing the luxury watch industry at the moment and how should these be addressed?
GT: The luxury watch industry has become a very big market. The bigger it gets, the more mainstream it becomes. The risk for the industry is to lose contact with the true luxury experience, which has little to do with the size of the budgets at your disposal, but a lot to do with the ideas you have in mind.

Read more: Bovet’s Pascal Raffy on horological artistry and engineering

LUX: Looking to the future, what can we expect from Parmigiani Fleurier as it continues to evolve as a brand?
GT: The Tonda PF has just been born. We have to work with discipline and make the collection become iconic.

We will continue to be true to our values and we will continue to be creative, innovative and assure a supreme execution, while aiming to always being interesting.

Find out more: www.parmigiani.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Two long tables in a room with a green light up sign for Richard Mille at the end of the room
Two long tables in a room with a green light up sign for Richard Mille at the end of the room

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

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

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

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

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

A white building by the sea

Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel

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

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

A white room with light coming through a window

Between Desert Seas, 2021, by Ayman Zedani

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

coloured sheets on a table

Wall House, 2022, by Vikram Divecha

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

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

A brown and cream tent

Sidelines, 2016, by Manal AlDowayan

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

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

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

A large wooden and tin pole

Camouflage: The Fourth Pillar, 2022, by Zeinab Alhashemi

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

A woman in a floral dress standing between two men

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

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

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

an artwork on the floor

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

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

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

Dinner in stunning surroundings

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

A man and woman dancing on a stage

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

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

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

ceramic coloured art pieces on a white table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reading time: 7 min
two men standing together wearing black
two men standing together wearing black

The conversation between Durjoy Rahman and Sam Dalrymple took place over Zoom. We have used artistic licence to create the photo montage above

In the third of our series of online dialogues, Sam Dalrymple, Activist and Co-Founder of Project Dastaan, speaks with philanthropist Durjoy Rahman about cultural reconnections post-partition, the importance of multi-cultural artists across borders, and the rapid shift in popularity away from the West and towards the East. With an introduction and moderation by Darius Sanai and created in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.
Raghu Rai is a Magnum Photographer who chronicled the Independence war of Bangladesh in 1971 when the territory that was East Pakistan gained independence from what is now Pakistan. The Indian army ultimately came to the aid of Bangladesh after an enormous refugee crisis ensued. We present a selection of his works within this article

LUX: Sam, could you tell us firstly what sparked your interest in Partition and inspired you to create the ground-breaking ‘Project Dastaan’?

Sam Dalrymple: Project Dastaan began when my friends Sparsh, Ameenah and Saadia were at University chatting about the fact that everyone’s grandparents had migrated from somewhere in the Sub-Continent, and how bizarre it was that in the UK you could have the easiest conversations about this.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

When you are in India, it is difficult to chat to a Pakistani, when you’re in Pakistan it’s difficult to chat to a Bangladeshi as these walls have been built up in the Sub-Continent, so that it is actually in the former colonial power where it is easiest to talk.

There were conversations about how Sparsh’s grandfather had migrated from near Islamabad, in Pakistan, and here was Saadia who was from near there and could easily go and take pictures of his old house or temple which had been impossible for Sparsh’s family for 75 years. They had no pictures of it, no idea where they were from. The ease from a London standpoint to re-connect triggered the whole thing.

A man standing next to a monkey which is sitting on a wall in the street

Ayodhya, india 1993

The partition that is the cause of this fragmentation in India was, simply put, the largest forced migration in human history. In the course of a year what had been British India, was divided into two territories, which is now three – India and Pakistan, which later became Pakistan and Bangladesh. This was 75 years ago and for most of that time, most of the migrated people have never been able to see their homes again.

So it began as an attempt to use virtual reality to re-connect Partition survivors across borders, so if you came from Lahore and had migrated to Delhi, we would go out and find your old Mosque, your old school, your old house and, if we can, find any friends who you knew before 1947.

Crowds of people walking in a town

Chawri Bazar, old Delhi, India, 1972

We additionally wanted to translate some of these stories that we were hearing, into animations with a cross-border, collaborative studio in Bangalore and Lahore, which was in itself an attempt at cross-border with team members scattered from Bengal to Punjab. Then, we finally made a film called ‘Child of Empire’, which just premiered at Sundance. It is a VR mini-movie, a 15-minute animated journey through the Partition based on Sparsh’s grandfather’s story and another man who did the opposite journey. It is about these two men 75 years later chatting to one another and the therapeutic discussion of their two journeys which mirror each other in so many ways but, obviously, have been polarised so much over time.

LUX: In the context of Partition, what does Partition and its consequences mean to you Durjoy?

Durjoy Rahman: I come from a generation where it was my parents who had seen the displacement, twice. They were born during this time and have seen the consequences and the aftermath of partitions first hand. I grew up hearing everything that happened in 1947, the riots and so on. So between me and my parents we have seen the largest displacement in the history of these civilisations that happened in this region. These experiences have influenced me to do activities surrounding Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation heavily.

Mother Teresa putting her hands to her mouth in prayer

Mother Teresa at her refuge of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, during prayer, India, 1979

LUX: Do people have a strong sense of national identity currently? Would you say that this is down to cultural or religious differences?

SD: It is many differences and culture definitely plays into it. I think the memories of both ’47 and ’71 play into how people remember their pasts, but it is also a generational factor. The national identities are harder for the younger generation who never knew the other side of the border, whereas for a lot of people who migrated at the time nationalism was firing up these independence movements.

Art definitely plays into how we create a nation, with national anthems and the flag which of course crystalise these ideas of nationhood. What we’re seeing now is the crystallising of losing the generation who knew undivided India as undivided.

Some children sitting amongst ruins in a city

Imambara, Lucknow, India, 1990

DR: Nationality has always been an important element in the subcontinent. We always talk about India and Pakistan, but I would also include Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan in this context. Everyone holds their own nationalistic value to identify themselves and where they are from. But culture and religion, these two determined factors were also a factor when the British divided the subcontinent with the Muslims in Pakistan and left India where it was. A lot of people said ‘well, religiously you are all the same’ but religion is not the only deciding factor. We were culturally different so that was also important.

We are Bengali as Sam just said – we were never Pakistani, maybe we were all Muslims, but we were culturally different. So culture is a very important factor in defining borders and nationality. How you possess your cultural identity, this is what I believe defines you, and no matter how younger generations perceive themselves as a global citizen with a global identity, the identity borders will remain in our lifetime.

A woman sitting on a floor in a striped tent

Indira Gandhi at a Congress session, Delhi 1967

LUX: Sam, Project Dastaan is ultimately a unifying project taking people virtually across borders. How has it been received among the people you deal with?

SD: It has touched people because it was something they thought was impossible, to see their old homes. The key thing has been not trying to look at the big and complex questions of Partition – We’re trying to show conflict through the eyes of an 8-year-old child. The generation that is still alive were mostly 12 or younger 75 years ago. We’re trying to show it through the eyes of the generation who’s still around. One of the things they would want to see is their old playground, their old houses, and the things that everyone can relate to. I think addressing the conflict and the great divide through these memories and nostalgia can be very healing.

A man with his head leaning outside the window of a train

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (the Toy train), India, 1995

LUX: Durjoy, you wish to promote the art of people who may not have had a voice, without borders. How does that relate to the very definite borders in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India?

DR: Since DBF was established in 2018, our projects have been based on the concept of art without borders. We never considered ourselves a foundation that had originated from Bangladesh. We started working with creative personalities regardless of whether they were visual artists, musicians, literature backgrounds, performance artists and we did not consider which region they are from. We have always identified if their practice relates to the mandates that we are trying to highlight; displacement, disadvantage, ethnicity, some kind of challenge which probably obstructs their creative development. So, art without borders was our primary goal.

A woman pushing a heavy cart on a road

Woman pushing cart Delhi 1979

LUX: Sam, with Project Dastaan, what will make you feel like you have achieved your aim, what will you be doing in 5 years, 10 years?

SD: Who knows, is the answer! The big thing we’ve been working on is this particular year as it’s the 75th anniversary, and I think the aim has always been to raise awareness about what happened – the aim has always been to try and get people to record these stories, because they are disappearing rapidly. The foundation of our project has been oral history, and the contemporaneous generation is rapidly disappearing. I think we also have a particular aim within Britain, to get Britain aware of its role in the events.

LUX: Regarding artists and the film-making that you employ, was that something that you had conceived from the start that is not just a means of storytelling, but something that you want to focus on and encourage?

SD: With Project Dastaan, the aim has always been cross-border collaboration. For our animation teams, one of our animators had a family who fought in 71, another family was part of the trading diaspora across the Bay of Bengal. I think one of the interesting things is, and I’m not sure how deliberate it was, but the types of animators and the team we built around ourselves, seems to have brought in people whose stories kind of corroborate the stories we are telling.

People working in a field holding baskets on their heads

Hand building highway – Hydrabad, India, 2004

LUX: Durjoy, with regard to the next generation that you’re supporting in terms of art and culture, do you feel that there’s a role for creative practitioners to break down these borders?

DR: I would say that I am not only very hopeful, but I am very optimistic. In this post-covid scenario, in this globalised atmosphere, I personally believe that we were in the right moment where we could take the entire South Asian art movement to the next level. Now the West has started looking at the East. Of course, our foundation and activities focus on promoting artists from South Asia, but we have seen a massive global increase in interest for South Asian artists. I also believe that these artists will take great advantage from the rising virtual scene within the context of the more active online and digital art scene within the past two years.

SD: I think what you said then is exactly right. One of the most interesting pieces that I’ve read recently was by Fatima Bhutto in her book ‘New Kings of the World’, which talks about the shift in the past 20 years. The biggest film industry is Bollywood, the biggest TV industry is Turkey now and the biggest music industry is now South Korea K-Pop. I think there is a lot of hope and a lot of growth in the artistic sphere here. I don’t think that will necessarily mean the borders themselves disappear; I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think there’s going to be more collaboration, more interesting art pieces and more embracing of technology for it.

People moving in a station and a man reading a newspaper in the middle

Local commuters at Church Gate railway station. Mumbai, 1995

DR: Would you ever choose another region as your beaming point, other than India?

SD: I think the idea of virtual reconnections is something that you can use in an array of different countries, but we are so focused on areas affected by the Partition as that is where the personal connections of the team lie and a very specific area of interest where we can enact real memory connecting change. What’s unusual is that these countries are so close in so many ways, it’s just that trauma etc has left them severed from one another It’s a bizarre, specific situation that neither of them have ability for tourist visas, there’s no tourist visas for India and Pakistan, you can’t just visit, you have to have a reason and government approval.

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

LUX: Possibly controversial, but I would love to hear from you both, what do you consider needs to happen for conceptions to really change around the Partition and affect the vast majority of the population?

DR: We have to perform what we believe and have to do what is good for the community, what is good for the region, despite what the supremacy wants to establish.

SD: I don’t think there is a simple solution, but I think that creating conversations and conflict resolution is always a noble aim. I think conflict resolution and actually talking about it is where to start, without bias and actually listening.

All images © Raghu Rai

Find out more: 

durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

projectdastaan.org

 

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Reading time: 10 min
A man wearing a grey and black jeans and shirt standing in front of a painting
A man wearing a grey and black jeans and shirt standing in front of a painting

Eric Fischl and his painting Sign of the Times. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Internationally acclaimed American painter, Eric Fischl is not only creating some of the most iconic and of-the-moment works of art, but he is also developing and nurturing a cultural community in Sag Harbor. Here, Fischl speaks to LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, about the importance of community and its effect on his own oeuvre

Maryam Eisler: The support that you have given your immediate cultural community (Sag Harbor) is notable. How and why did you and April (Gornik) decide to take such active roles in the town’s cultural initiatives? Was it a Covid decision or did the idea burgeon before?
Eric Fischl: It started prior to Covid. My wife April and I were working with a group of people to buy the cinema back in 2014. We went through some very difficult negotiations, and then there was a fire that destroyed the cinema, which made it even more urgent to buy the building because it had lost its landmark status. We had to raise 8 million dollars. The big money, believe it or not, came from successful visual artists, musicians, filmmakers … signalling to me that this was a place where the artists had a say: “We want to have an impact in determining the quality of life and culture in this town.” Then The Church (visual arts centre) became available, and so we purchased that as well. Again, it was about trying to develop a centre of creativity for the community.

ME: Are you now able to see, feel and measure the impact of these initiatives on your immediate community?
EF: Yes. At The Church, we’ve been very conscientious of doing exhibitions which have both an international representation but a very local one too. We’ve certainly found that the local artists are not only grateful to be included in the larger conversation, but they are also stepping up their game to prove it. As far as the town is concerned, attendance at The Church is increasing, and people feel comfortable being there. In the summer, we have a kids camp, and the energy fits the profile of what a community centre should be all about. We’re very excited about that. We’re also in the process of fighting (and probably losing) a battle with big money developers who want to take over and determine the next life of Sag Harbor, without actually having any feel for the place.

paintings in a warehouse

Threading The Needle exhibition at The Church. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: What are your thoughts regarding the artists’ relationship with this town?
EF: This is the first time where I thought there’s a real chance where the artists can actually gentrify their own place; there’s a shared feeling that ‘this is the kind of life and the kind of community we want to be a part of and want to nourish’. Developers use artists to attract investors, prices are pushed out of range, and the artists have to then move out. In this case, my hope is, at the very least, to establish artist residency programs that retain artistic presence, whilst enabling creatives to take part of the town’s everyday life, bringing in fresh blood, energy and ideas.

ME: In your own practice, you seem to dig deep into the American psyche, sometimes with an added layer of nostalgia, but I now sense an additional connection with the current political climate.
EF: Well it’s funny because on the one hand, the paintings have become very narrow in their focus, and local. Right now, various scenes are derived from this Halloween parade that takes place here called the ‘Ragamuffin Parade’ which I’ve photographed for many years. I’ve put together these weird scenes of costumed people, and in some, you feel the advent of Covid; some protagonists are in costume, some in medical masks, ironically. One scene looks like they’re coming back from war, on crutches and canes, or they’re just tired or something…

a painting of children in pirate costumes with crutches walking on a road

The Parade Returns, 2022 by Eric Fischl

ME: You have said in the past that the point of painting is to try and find the hidden truth so are you trying to do exactly that, at this difficult moment in time and history?
EF: These difficulties have just been compounding, and for us, here in America, the madness of the Trump administration and the way that it divided the country into such irresolvable anger, is something that hasn’t left the scene, even since he was voted out of office – so, we Americans are dealing with a constant pressure.

ME: Is there a permanent sense of malaise?
EF: Yes. How do you and can you get back from where we are now? To which you add a pandemic, further isolating and terrifying us all. That fear and isolation combined with the political anger has just presented an extremely tough time for us all.

A white church

The Church, Sag Harbor. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: How do you reconcile your mission regarding your community work with your own art practice?
EF: I have to say that in our vision of implementing The Church, I didn’t quite realise how much positivity and hope people attach to the notion of community, its nurturing side, its playful side, its creative side. I’m personally not entirely capable of doing that within my own work; my work deals with more existential conditions, of missed connections and unsatisfied desires.

paintings hung up on a wall

Studio wall. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: And you’re still working through this? It seems to be a continuous process.
EF: Yes. I don’t know whether the goal in life is to work through it so that you are freed from it, or whether you just go deeper and deeper into it, because there’s a profound truth to the nature of life that lies within the process. How do you come to terms with it? I think I should write a piece for our local newspaper. At first, I was thinking about art as an expression of love, a desire to connect, a willingness to explore areas of our being that we don’t necessarily get to openly share… to try and work through stuff that way. That in itself is an act of love. Then you have a belief in your community, a belief in your society, a belief in being human. But it’s a complicated thing, because some people can actually handle a direct exchange of love. I can’t. I think most artists can’t. We have to triangulate.

splattered multi-coloured paint on a canvas

The studio floor. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: You’ve often said that you speak to a painting and that it speaks back to you. Do you paint with an end game in mind or is it an ever- evolving dialogue, until you know it’s ready for the world?
EF: You keep talking to the painting till it begins to talk back to you, and if it doesn’t talk back to you, then you haven’t found the point of the painting, and so you should just destroy it. But when it does talk back, you have to start listening to it, and it then tells you how to finish it.

A painting of a girl in a pink dress and a dog upright in a studio

Painting in front is titled Old Dog, behind is Ragamuffin Parade, both by Eric Fischl. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: Talk to me about the old dog and the girl in this painting.
EF: Well, I was riding my bicycle and I saw this old dog in the water. It seemed happy. I was transfixed by it. The painting is about a moment between the old dog and a young girl. You can’t quite tell what her age is as you see her from behind, dressed in a sort of fancy-ish outfit, not exactly a summertime thing, a just-got-out-for-a-walk kind of thing. They’re just talking to each other, and the space has become dynamic between them, so maybe on some simple level, the painting is about age and youth, who knows…

ME: I love the idea that photography plays a role in your painting, a starting point at least. I also find your embrace of technology in general fascinating when it comes to your art practice. Can you tell me more about that?
EF: Yes well, I certainly don’t consider myself a photographer. It’s just a tool. The reason photography works for me is because everything is in motion, everybody is slightly turning, slightly blinking, slightly opening their mouths, slightly shifting a shoulder… whatever it is, a photograph lives life instantaneously. And if you’re creating narratives, you need animation, a moment where something is begging to happen, and photography allows you to capture exactly that. It’s become a huge tool that I’m dependent on.

paintbrushes with blue paint on them

It’s a blue which is typical of his work. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

As for technology, it’s not that I go out and embrace technology; it sort of shows up and then there’s curiosity about it, and if I manage to connect it to my body of work in some way, I do. It took a while to get the feel of the hard surface of the iPad and drawing on it, but there came a point where it became a fun sketch tool. The same goes with the VR paintings I make with Tilt Brush. There’s this strangeness that is both curious and entertaining with this new technology that forces me to figure out a new language of painting “effects” that is not too dissimilar to my other work – just a little more exaggerated and strange.

A man looking at his pain tubes leaning over a table

Deep in thought…Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: I’m interested in space and place. Do you have a sense of dialogue with or responsibility towards the artistic legacy of this area? Do you feel that you are continuing a practice that is indigenous to this particular geography?
EF: Yes, I grew up on Long Island so there’s a familiarity. I’m definitely out here to experience the art, not to play around or eat ice cream! It turns out that there is quite a history of American art which is connected directly to this landscape- the abstract expressionists for example. A lot of it is directly connected to the quality of light, unique to this place. It has to do with the flatness and thinness of the land and having bodies of water on all sides, creating this kind of refraction, a full-spectrum light, different from most other places. But I don’t paint from life, so other than enjoying the light and being wowed by it, that is not why I’m here. That would be the safe answer. Let’s not forget that we are also only two hours away from the city. This is also where the money is, where our friends are … these would be the more honest reasons to cite for why I and most other artists are out here.

green grass in a field with trees

Sculptures greeting you as you approach Eric Fischl’s house/studio. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: A much lesser poetic explanation than I would have hoped for, perhaps!
EF: Exactly. Everyone wants it to be because of some kind of inspiring thing, but you know, this is also the first time I’ve referenced this particular location in my work. In the past, I was painting as if I lived elsewhere. A lot of people in fact thought that I lived in California.

ME: As you approach your property, the first thing you see, is this sculptural grouping of human figures amidst the tall grass, as if spying on you, magical and awe – inspiring.
EF: Well, thank you for feeling that way. I make sculptures from time to time; they’re not a particular focus of mine. I enjoy doing them when I need a break from painting or other things. The reason I connect to the sculptural form is because it comes from a different part of my body and brain, and that’s of interest to me. There are memories and knowledge that your hands have stored that you cannot access from your eyes. It’s the touch itself that triggers feelings; memory that creates experience.

An orange statue below a set of stairs

Entrance of the studio with Eric Fischl’s sculpture. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: So, is your own hand at play when it comes to sculptures, in the same way as it is with your paintings? It seems that your own physicality has presence in all your art forms- a rare practice these days.
EF: Yes. When I start any new work, I don’t know what I’m looking for so how can I possibly get other people to do it for me? There is also a great amount of pleasure and satisfaction in the act of making art, even when it is frustrating. The difference between painting and sculpture for me is that you mainly commit to whatever you’re sculpting way sooner in the process than you do with painting, because with sculpture you know that you’re making an armature, and so it gets hard to take that down or move it around. With a painting, on the other hand, you can paint over it, paint it out, or start all over again; so, you can spend more time in the discovery phase.

a man in a blue shirt sitting in front of a painting of a girl in a pink dress looking at a dog

Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

The other aspect of my practice has been about trying to reassert the body back into painting and sculpture. If you take Rodin for example, he was someone that absolutely believed in the ability of the body to express itself, no matter how painful or how dramatic or how erotic and lustful an experience, and that this body was able to express all these feelings and states of mind. That began to go away with modernism. The next sculptor of great impact was Giacometti. His position was different from Rodin’s. With him, the body was no longer able to express itself, but be expressed upon. For him, the body was more or less frozen with the anxiety that is eating away at it. So, we went from being able to express pain, joy, eroticism and anxiety to not being able to express anything at all, rather opting to internalise it all whilst allowing it to destroy us.

A painting studio with paints and canvases

Studio interior. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

And then the body disappears for a while and when it reappears, it comes back as reproduction, body casting, silk screens, one step removed from the animation of the actual body itself. It becomes something that takes on a literal quality because when you’re casting somebody, you’re dealing with the specificity and limitations of individuals; height, weight and shape. The imaginative and distorting part of emotional expression disappears. Artists today prefer the representation of our bodies to be dolls and mannequins – both surrogate forms. As for me, I’m trying to find ways of keeping the physicality of the body in the forefront of our experience of our lives. In doing so, it becomes about truth, about who we are. We’re all in this container, trying to figure out the interface between our interior world and the exterior world, through this thing called skin.

As an artist, I strive to get comfortable with my need to answer these existential questions with my inability to resolve them. I see my role as an artist to witness and to record, creatively and imaginatively, the experience of life’s journey.

Eric Fischl’s exhibition ‘Towards the End of an Astonishing Beauty: An Elegy to Sag Harbor, and Thus America’ opens at Skarstedt, New York, on September 14 2022

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Reading time: 13 min
A chef in an apron standing by a wall with geranium hanging by him
A chef in an apron standing by a wall with geranium hanging by him

Geranium Head Chef, Co-owner, Rasmus Kofoed. Photo Credit Claes Bech-Poulsen

Rasmus Kofoed, star chef of three Michelin-starred Geranium in Copenhagen, is influencing an entire generation of young chefs to feel confident in offering haute cuisine based on strictly vegetarian principles. During the pandemic, he temporarily opened Angelika, a restaurant within Geranium, with a wholly plant-based menu.

LUX: After bronze and silver, how important was it to you to finally win the Bocuse d’Or?
Rasmus Kofoed: I did it because I wanted to win; that was the first priority. Winning was great, but I enjoyed the process leading up to the competition very much. You develop, you create new ideas, you optimise what you do. It was everything around the competition that I enjoyed.

LUX: What did you change between winning the bronze in 2005 and the gold in 2011?
RK: I think I was more confident with what I loved to cook and eat myself. It was totally based on Nordic and Danish ingredients, like wild forest garlic, elderflowers and lump fish roe. We had just opened Geranium at the same time as I won the competition and a lot of the elements that I made at Geranium I used in the competition, just combining them in a new way.

3 plates of different coloured foods, yellow, pink and grey

desserts at Geranium including milk chocolate and rose hip petals, and chocolate egg and pine

LUX: Having won the gold, and with a three Michelin-star restaurant, do you have any unfulfilled ambitions left?
RK: Not really. Of course, I enjoy achieving those prizes, and the motivation is very good for the team as well, but I enjoy the training. I also enjoy the days which focus on the work leading up to creating a great experience for the guests. I don’t think about the awards when I’m here. I think more about how we can optimise everything and how we can work better with the team, and create a better work–life balance. That’s the priority. If you’re happy, it’s easier to make others happy.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What does a better work–life balance for the team look like?
RK: We just focus on it a bit more. We did not let anyone go because we wanted to keep them; they are a part of the future and we believe in them. Another thing is to try to balance all the working hours, eat a lot of vegetables. They also have gym memberships and that’s very important. It’s not a secret – if you feel good, it’s easier to make others feel good.

A restaurant with round wooden tables and grey chairs.

The dining room at Geranium

LUX: Do you think that vegetarian restaurants like Angelika will be the way forward, given the climate crisis and the pressure to reduce meat?
RK: I think so, and that’s why I opened Angelika. It was a year ago and I could not just go back and open Geranium like we normally did. I felt that, after the first lockdown, we needed to do something different. I’d been on a plant-based diet for the last year and a half, so I was very much into that way of cooking, which is not easy, but when you can do it, it just feels good. I also wanted to pass on my love and care for the planet, and health, to other people. That’s why we opened Angelika: to inspire people to eat more vegetables.

LUX: How has your relationship with sustainability evolved over the years?
RK: I live in the countryside, so I am very close to the forest and to the sea, the ocean and nature, which I really enjoy. It’s very peaceful to go out there and I think it’s something we all need to do sometimes.

I focus a lot more on it at home, but it’s something we care a lot about at Geranium. You can always be better, but we use a lot of biodynamically farmed vegetables, and in that way of farming you give good energy and vitamins back to the soil, not just take them out, and that’s a good mentality, to treat Mother Earth with respect.

A flower shaped crust on a plate with flower petals in the centre

Crispy Jerusalem artichoke leaves and pickled walnut leaves

LUX: Where did your love of working with vegetables stem from?
RK: I was raised eating biodynamic vegetables because my mother was vegetarian and she wanted to give the best and healthiest food to her kids. It’s something I’ve been using for a long time, not because it’s trendy, or for PR. I do it because I care and think it’s important to look after the planet. At Angelika, the idea was very much ‘from kitchen to table’, not spending a lot of time plating. At first, it was difficult for the chefs, because they’re used to working with tweezers and taking their time, but you need to be faster, otherwise you lose the energy in the food.

Two white plates and gold cutlery with onion and a green dish

Grilled lobster, elderflower and dried onion

LUX: How did the pandemic affect you professionally?
RK: If it wasn’t for the pandemic, we would have never opened Angelika. It was because of the lockdown that I was saying that we need to open a plant-based restaurant. Since I was on a plant-based diet myself, I wanted to show people that plant-based cooking can be delicious and healthy at the same time, and that you can actually have a great meal, and feel good in your body after. A lot of horrible things happened because of the lockdowns and the coronavirus, but Angelika was this green shoot growing out of the dark times.

Read more: Chef Clare Smyth: Core Célèbre

LUX: What legacy do you hope to leave on the culinary world?
RK: I do it because I love my craft. I love to be in the kitchen, with the energy, the flavours. I love creating new ideas, new ways to serving things. I enjoy cooking delicious food, but I also enjoy eating something which is good for my spirit, my body. As the ancient Greeks said: “Food should be your medicine, and let the medicine be your food.” I love to inspire with my love for the green kitchen.

Rasmus Kofoed is head chef and co-owner of Geranium in Copenhagen. Angelika is temporarily opening on special dates.

geranium.dk

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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A colourful painting that says Nepali Power in an art gallery
An art gallery with pink and yellow walls and a piece saying 'Nepal Power'

Köken Ergun and Tashi Lama, Nepali Power, 2022

LUX sends Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh, to report on the opening ceremony of Garden of Ten Seasons at Savvy Contemporary in Berlin

At the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale an announcement was made at the Nepal Pavilion, that a collaborative initiative between Kathmandu Triennale, Savvy Contemporary, Para Site, Siddhartha Arts Foundation and Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), with further support of Wellington and Virginia Sun Yee Trust, was going to take place.

A precursor to the Kathmandu Triennale (KT-2077), Garden of Ten Seasons engaged 40 international artists, aiming to investigate identity, cultural hegemonies and the politics of material. The exhibit aimed to connect different developments in the art scene in the South Asian region, from paubha painting in Nepal to ink in East Asia and barkcloth in the Pacific. The show discussed appropriate frameworks of understanding and bringing together these multiple aesthetic and cosmological lineages active today.

 

A gold and orange tapestry on a pink wall

Front:  Sainchi Phulkari Textile, late 19th century
Back: Mary Dhapalany, Untitled, 2018, Pandanus mat
© Raisa Galofre

a group of people standing in front of a pink and gold wall

Opening of Garden of Ten Seasons at Savvy Contemporary, 2022, with Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Aqui Thami, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, Cosmin Costinaș, Hit Man Gurung, Elena Agudio, Karan Shrestha and Durjoy Rahman © Raisa Galofre

A printed beige, black and red tapestry hanging from the ceiling and a gold rug below it

Citra Sasmita, Timur Merah Project II; The Harbor of Restless Spirits, 2019, Ink on leather, turmeric powder
© Marvin Systermans / Raisa Galofre

clothes hanging on wooden bars in a gold art gallery

A selection of amulet clothes, mid-20th century–2021
© Marvin Systermans / Raisa Galofre

People looking at art on golden walls in a gallery

Installation view of Garden of Ten Seasons at Savvy Contemporary, 2022 © Raisa Galofre

Find out more: savvy-contemporary.com

This article was published in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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An inflatable white structure that says 'Zero Nukes' in Times Square

María Berrío, ‘Anemochory’, 2019

New York City is a buzzing city known for its love and support of art and culture. The city is now making up for lost time since the pandemic and celebrating life and the endurance of the human spirit. As the 10th Edition of Frieze New York opens today, Sophie Neuendorf tells us what she’s most looking forward to this week

Having lived in New York for most of my life, I have a soft spot for Frieze Art Fair. In fact, the entire “Frieze Week” is always an eye-opening, immersive experience. There’s even more energy in the city than usual, and it really heralds the beginning of Spring art season.

Opening on May 18, Frieze Art Fair will welcome visitors to The Shed on West 30th for the second year. It’s also Frieze NY’s 10th anniversary edition and the first under the stewardship of new director, Christine Messineo.

Performance shot of Aphrodite Navab from The Homeling, ‘Ink and Lipstick on Paper’, 2017. Aphrodite Navab is represented by A.I.R.

What I particularly enjoy about Frieze New York is its meticulous programming and marvellous events, with well-curated shows, gallery openings, and spotlights on up-and-coming artists. This year, in a touching tribute, Frieze is celebrating New York-based non-profit organisations that have also seen significant anniversaries over the past year. These include A.I.R., Artists Space, Electronic Arts Intermix and Printed Matter, Inc. Frieze New York will highlight and honour each organisation and celebrate their continued contribution to the New York cultural landscape.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

In an especially poignant tribute to current events, A.I.R., the nation’s first all-female artists co-op gallery, will respond to the seemingly imminent overthrow of the landmark court case Roe v. Wade with Trigger Planting, a map of U.S. states where abortion will likely be outlawed. Interestingly, it will be made with herbs traditionally linked to fertility and reproduction.

A woman hanging upside down on a rock climbing wall and a braid hanging from a ceiling

Baseera Khan, ‘Braidrage’, 2017-ongoing. Performance, duration variable. Photograph documenting performance at Participant Inc., New York, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York. © Baseera Khan. Photo by Maxim Ryazansky

According to Messineo, the participating organisations’ “support of emerging visual and performing artists, especially women, Black, and LGBTQ practitioners, reflects the spirit of many of the artists exhibited at this year’s fair.” Continuing that, “The mission of these organisations remains as urgent as when they were founded in the 1970s, and Frieze New York pays tribute to their creative lives.”

A picture of a tree with branches and pink blocks put together with numbers on them

Charles Gaines, ‘Numbers and Trees: London Series 2, Tree #1, Blomfield Street 2022’. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

With 65 galleries showing at the fair this year, it’s going to be tricky to select favourites. However, a few of my must-sees are Alice Neel and Tracey Emin at Xavier Hufkens; Maria Berrio at Victoria Miro (the proceeds of this work will support Unicef’s humanitarian response in Ukraine!); Luiz Roque and Solange Pessoa at Mendes Wood Gallery (both artists are showing at Biennale); and Charles Gaines at Hauser & Wirth.

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

One of my favourite fairs, Volta, is finally returning to New York after a few tumultuous years. Opening with 49 international galleries, it will now take over 548 West 22nd Street, most recently home to Hauser and Wirth but best-known as the longtime home of the Dia Foundation. In contrast to the blue-chip heavy-weights showing at Frieze, Volta caters to a middle market. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing their eclectic mix of galleries and artists, from Istanbul to Tokyo, Berlin and Lebanon.

two people looking at abstract art on the wall

VOLTA Art Fair. New York City. Photo: David Willems

Also returning after a three year hiatus, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair is opening with presentations from 25 galleries. In a surprising departure from the usual locations they were previously in the west village and red hook), the fair is moving to Harlem this year, the city’s historic African American enclave. This is perhaps a tribute from a fair dedicated to art from Africa and the African diaspora. Look out for one of their special projects, an NFT collaboration with Christie’s.

An inflatable white structure that says 'Zero Nukes' in Times Square

Amnesia Atómica, ‘Zero Nukes’

From an inflatable mushroom to the celebration of 20 chefs at the Brooklyn Museum, there’s a lot going outside the fairs. Apart from the Frick Collection, which is always worth a visit, not only for the collection but as an oasis of tranquility, I’ll be rushing to these exhibitions:

1. Amnesia Atómica NYC: Zero Nukes, at Times Square. This oversized, inflatable mushroom cloud sculpture by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes will spend the week in the heart of Times Square as part of an effort to raise awareness of the anti-nuclear movement.

2. Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. at MoMA, because Barbara Kruger is an icon and one of the most important artists of our time.

An artwork that has writing on it

Barbara Kruger, ‘Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.’

3. Baseera Khan: I Am an Archive at the Brooklyn Museum, which explores the lived experiences of people at the intersections of Muslim and American identities, both today and throughout history.

In this year’s Frieze Week, the art world seems especially sensitive to current events and taking the time to highlight internationally important socio-political issues, maximising the soft power of art and culture to affect positive change. In turbulent times, the art world can be a beacon of hope and strength.

An orange awning with white writing

Sant Ambroeus restaurant, New York

For those looking for lighter entertainment to mix it up, London-based luxury fashion retailer Matches, who’ve collaborated with Frieze London on several occasions, opened a pop up shop on 160 East 83rd Street. Take a break and browse the latest high-fashion summer collections as they celebrate Frieze Week in the city. Relax at Sant Ambreous in between and above all, enjoy the New York City energy.

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A green and pink statue
An orange vase with eyes on the side

Black-Figure Chalcidising Eye-Cup, Greek, Attic, circa 520 BC Pottery Diameter: 29.2 cm

As the second edition of Eye of the Collector opens its doors tomorrow at London’s Two Temple Place, the founder, Nazy Vassegh, tells LUX which pieces to look out for

I am writing this column after a long and busy first day installing the second edition of Eye of the Collector. Free of the normal white tents and gallery booths, we have been working for the past six months with our participating galleries to curate a new type of show that encourages creative new dialogues and collecting pathways.

Over one hundred and fifty works from three thousand years of art history have arrived in the past days, each one to be hung with care and consideration ‘as if in a collector’s home’. The whole event is set against the stunning backdrop of Two Temple Place, a neo-gothic masterpiece built in the late nineteenth century for William Waldorf Astor. Our aim is to make the experience of visiting an art fair an enjoyable journey of discovery.

When you enter the private space of an art collector there are always surprises, works that unexpectedly fall outside of their main collecting categories, ‘cri de coeur’ purchases or inherited pieces passed down through generations. It is this curatorial excitement that we strive to recreate through the juxtaposition of works at the fair, suggesting new ways of collecting.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This year we have a broad cross section of galleries representing the international canon of art history.

Starting at one of the earliest works, I totally adore this Chalcidising eye-cup being brought by Ariadne Gallery. A drinking vessel for toasting the gods, as the wine went down so the head of Medusa would appear inside.

From the Horn of Africa, we welcome Addis Fine Art to the fair this year, representing some of the greatest artists from Ethiopia and the diaspora. I have been so impressed by the quality of painting led by Tadesse Mesfin, and continuing through two of his students also on show Tizta Berhanu and Nigatu Tsehay.

a painting of a black man disfigured in front of a green background

Nigatu Tsehay (b. 1981), Momentary Glimpse XXV, 2021 Acrylic on canvas 79 x 71 cm

After the Second World War, many of Europe’s artists left in pursuit of a socialist ideal in the Americas. Some of the most talented ended up in Brazil where the Modernist movement was growing rapidly. This year we have some of the finest works from this period being brought to the fair by Ana Escarzaga Gallery, a specialist in that period. My personal favourites are a pair of chairs made by the trailblazer Lina Bo Bardi, designed originally for her own home Casa de Vidrio in São Paulo in the early 1950’s.

Read more: The Inspiration Behind The Eye Of The Collector Art Fair

Following this year’s theme concentrating on the importance of female artists throughout history, one work that has really touched me is Leni Dothan’s Sleeping Madonna, 2011. This video work, showing the artist breastfeeding her young son, is a direct reference to the canon of Christian iconography and grand master painting where the female figure of Mary Magdalen is often portrayed as passive and alone.

Two brown leather chairs

Lina Bo Bardi (b. 1914), “Bola” chair, circa early 1950s. Designed for her own house, “Casa de Vidrio” in São Paulo, this is an edition done in 1980 by Nucleon under Lina´s supervision. Saddle leather with a beautiful patina, black painted iron structure, solid & heavy brass balls and bolts.

Emblematic of the spirit of discovery at the fair are the sublime works by Alice Walton. With a forensic eye, Walton produces highly complex and multi-layered objects infused with a rich tonal blending technique. These textured surfaces are intense and yet calm.

A green and pink statue

Alice Walton (b. 1987), The Travelling Portland, 2021 Jasper Clay H34 x W20 x L17 cm

Continuing the theme of female artists, we are delighted to have an important work by Australian female First Nation artist Nyarapayi Giles. Unusual amongst her peers, Nyarapayi embraced vibrant colour to tell the story of her life. The subtle and flowing application of paint shows great originality; the style she has developed is readily recognisable and unique to her works.

Two circles in red and yellow

Nyarapayi Giles, (b.c.1940), Warmurrungu – Two Circles, 2016 Acrylic on canvas 179 x 148 cm (Framed)

The first edition of Eye of the Collector last September was a great success. We had always said we would be happy if we managed to get 3000 people through the door over the four days. We have nearly half that booked now for VIP Day alone tomorrow.

Tickets are available at eyeofthecollector.com for Thursday 12th, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May 2002

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luxury hotel bedroom

hotel facade

Málaga might not be the first place that springs to mind as a luxury destination, but the recent opening of sophisticated boutique hotel Palacio Solecio alongside the first international outpost of the Pompidou centre and a super-yacht marina signals a new future for the historic Andalusian city. LUX checks in for a weekend of food, art and culture

We arrive on a warm spring evening. Our taxi drops us on the edge of the pedestrianised cobbled streets of Calle Granada, Málaga’s old Jewish quarters, where our hotel, Palacio Solecio, is located in a former 18th century Andalusian palace opposite a peach-coloured 14th century church. This part of the city has a serene, almost earthy feel to it, perhaps partly due to the plethora of historic buildings and narrow winding alleys but also because it feels lived in. There are none of the Irish bars and nightclubs that are so popular with hen and stag dos – although if that is your thing, the central strip is a matter of minutes away too. That said, Malaga has done much in recent years to shake its reputation as a party destination. With a new sleek port, a first-class culinary scene and a growing clutch of artistic attractions, it’s slowly beginning to attract more culturally-orientated visitors.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

After we’ve checked in and been shown to our bedroom – an elegant junior suite with an enormous four poster bed and a french balcony overhanging the street – we head back out to find somewhere to eat and stumble upon El Pimpi, a rustic tapas bar where, in true Mediterranean fashion, local families are crowded around tiny tables for a late night snack and glass of sherry. The menu is scrawled in Spanish on a large blackboard behind the bar and we pick a few plates, largely based on words we recognise. A few minutes later, a thick yellow wedge of tortilla arrives on our table along with boquerones en vinagre (white anchovies in oil and vinegar), patatas bravas drenched in a rich tomato sauce and crispy calamari. Málaga is renowned for having some of the best tapas in Spain and this is strong start.

luxury hotel bedroom

A junior suite with french balconies

The next day is bright and fresh – warm enough to go without a jumper in the sun. We have been given an extensive list of recommendations by the hotel’s staff (all within walking distance), but decide to spend the morning wandering and set off without any particular direction in mind.

What strikes us the most is the sheer beauty of the city: its sun-washed palette, patterned ceramic tiles, hidden churches and vibrant plazas,  the way in which the ancient and modern coexist so seamlessly. One minute we’re walking past high street brands and the next, we’re standing in front of the ruins of a Roman theatre. The cathedral is especially astounding both for its monumental scale and the lush gardens that surround it. On our visit, a woman is sitting against one of the walls, singing a slow, haunting tune.

Read more: A tasting of Dalla Valle wines with the owners

For lunch, we take the hotel’s advice and find a table on the edge of the famed Atarazanas food market, listed as one of the best markets in the world by The Guardian in 2019. The food is exceptional: tortillitas de camarones (crispy prawn fritters) followed by fresh tuna kebabs with thick slices of beef tomato and pepper, and two enormous grilled king prawns. We then head down to the waterfront to visit the Pompidou Centre Málaga, the first international branch of the Pompidou Centre outside of Paris to view its permanent collection which includes a promising range of works by the likes of Picasso (Málaga’s most famous son), Bacon, Giacometti and Frida Kahlo. Although some of the pieces are compelling, we find the experience as a whole disappointing: the space is disorientating and the display lacks any curatorial concept. The Carmen Thyssen Museum, however, is wonderful. The permanent displays on the lower levels offer an intriguing insight into Spanish art history with a strong collection of Old Masters, while the upper galleries stage visiting exhibitions – during our visit, there’s an excellent presentation of works by American photographer Paul Strand.

restaurant interiors

Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant

That evening, we dine at Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant, located in a light-filled atrium edged with pillared archways. The menu focuses on Andalusian dishes made with fresh, local produce. Our waiter recommends we choose a few plates to share and  we opt for the tomato tasting platter and kale salad followed by the red tuna tartare and scallops cooked in tomato stew (a local recipe packed with flavour). The dishes are modestly sized, but perfect after our indulgent lunch while the unpretentious serving style feels very much in keeping with hotel’s relaxed, homely atmosphere.

After dinner, we make our way to Hammam Al Andalus (a five minute walk from the hotel) where we bathe in candlelit heated pools until midnight when the baths close and we drift back to our room for one of the best night’s sleeps we’ve ever had.

Rates from €179 per night on a room only basis. For further information or to book, visit www.palaciosolecio.com/en/

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Iran Issa Khan wearing an orange scarf and orange earrings
Iran Issa Khan wearing an orange scarf and orange earrings

Iran Issa-Khan

Born in Tehran, Iran Issa-Khan moved to New York in the 1970’s, and became one of the world’s most celebrated fashion photographers and a favourite of celebrities and political figures during the following two decades. Here, Iran speaks to her friend and LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, about widening her focus from the beauty of the human form to exploring the majestic scale of the natural world. The artist now resides in Miami where she has been working on her Nature series for the past twenty years.

Maryam Eisler: What occupies your mind these days, Iran, creatively speaking?
Iran Issa-Khan: Well, I am working on my book which is going to be about fifty years of fashion and personalities. I am trying to get that off the ground by next year.

Maryam Eisler: You have had a fascinating career. On the one hand, people, in particular celebrities, have played a big role in your oeuvre, and on the other hand, you have had this incredibly beautiful dance with nature and its zen moments.
Iran Issa-Khan: Yes. In a way, if you look at my magazine covers and the people I have shot, nature’s beauty is always present, and I enjoy celebrating it with my lens. To me that is very important and you know, being from the Middle East, I am used to being surrounded by beauty so, this is what has carried me throughout life, in this country included [The United States].

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

I stopped shooting fashion, in the nineties when my make-up artist died of old age, and I moved to Miami. I left New York, and an artist friend of mine, asked me to shoot some black and whites of nature. I had never done that before, but suddenly I started looking at it with a new perspective, as if earth was opening up to me in such a new and beautiful way. I thought to myself, I have to capture it, because no human being can be that perfect. I just used my eye, my sense of aesthetics and all the lessons that I had learned while shooting fashion and people and put it all towards something that nobody had necessarily paid much attention to: a plant, a flower, even a small shell. Some of my shells are minuscule, but I blow them up to five by ten feet. So, for me, nature takes on a whole new meaning in terms of its grand beauty but also in terms of its emotive connection to me, personally. There is purity. Everything is so clean, so ordered, so pleasing to one’s eye and to one’s soul.

Harper's Bazaar Covers

Harper’s Bazaar Covers by Iran Issa Khan

Maryam Eisler: Stepping back in time, what led you to photography in the first instance? When did your journey start?
Iran Issa -Khan: We are talking about the late seventies when we left Iran with the Shah. I hadn’t worked a day in my life and somehow a friend of mine who worked at The New York Times said “Why don’t you become a photographer?” I said, “What do I know about photography?” She said, “Well you love the arts, why don’t we get you a teacher?” So, I hired William Minor Jr, a very well-known photographer and I worked with him for a whole year and all of a sudden, I learned how to process print, and everything else about photography. I realised this was going to be the love of my life because I could capture meaningful moments and shoot them. I built it up and then I went to Harper’s Bazaar and I said “I want to do some covers for you. I am a refugee and I am stuck here and have to work” They said “Yes, but you know a lot of personalities all over the world, so why don’t you do a year of personalities and if you’re good at that, we’ll let you do covers.” And so I did personalities… Carolina Herrera, Nancy Reagan, Diane von Furstenberg, Bill Blass, Rufino Tamayo, the Ferragamo family …all the people that I knew. Somehow, because of my upbringing and the way we had travelled all of our lives, I felt comfortable walking into these homes and telling people what to do. After a year, they said “Okay, you are good enough to do covers.”

My first cover was of Paloma Picasso and she loved it. She loved the pictures so much so that she hired me to do all her ad campaigns for twenty five to thirty years. So, we did that and then in between I got all the top models. Somehow, I got there by sheer belief in myself.

Oscar de la Renta standing in a red room by a mirror

Oscar de la Renta photographed by Iran Issa Khan. Courtesy of Iran Issa-Khan

Maryam Eisler: What is your most important life lesson?
Iran Issa -Khan: It is very difficult for me to explain the life we led back home in Iran. The connections we made both at home and through our travels… It was a different world; you were educated twenty-four hours a day and what I learned most importantly from my mother was to be good to those who work for you, because they can’t talk back at you. It raises your bar and makes you a stronger person. So that is what I did all my life and during my career as a photographer too. Additionally, my whole life has been about connecting people together. With that, I too became stronger, with a voice to be heard.

Shell

Courtesy of Iran Issa-Khan

Maryam Eisler: Tell me about one of your most memorable and most cherished, social moments.
Iran Issa-Khan: I think meeting Zaha Hadid was one of the best moments of my life. First of all, she came from Iraq and I come from Iran so we connected right away on those terms. It was instant love between us but she had to be tougher than me. She not only wrote a forward in my book but she pushed me in my career and bought my work. She had it in her bedroom in London, and said to me “You and I have a lot in common because we both come from countries that have constant beauty everywhere …in nature, in architecture, in people, in everything!’. So, we had this connection which was deep and strong. I think she did a lot for me and my work. She made me see things in a way that I hadn’t seen before. I would come and sit and we would talk for hours, sharing stories. In Miami, we spent a lot of time together, having fun and laughing, so she relaxed and became herself. I would say that she is one of the few people that has really touched me in a very deep and meaningful way, teaching me all along to be better every day and believe in myself.

an art gallery

Iran Issa-Khan’s ‘Forces of Nature’ exhibition curated by Natalie Clifford and Space Gallery St Barth currently on display at the Musee de Wall House in St Barth

Maryam Eisler: If you were to give any advice to a young, female photographer, who is just starting in her career, what would you tell her? And I am emphasising ‘her’.
Iran Issa-Khan: Good, because I really believe in helping women get ahead because women have always played second fiddle and it is not fair because they also have to be mothers, wives, best friends. They have empathy, they have love, they have care. But they can also take a picture and make it beautiful. With their art, they can make you cry, they can also make you laugh, that is their power. To bring children into the world and raise them is a lot of work, so they can do anything they set their minds to. I want them to stick to their passion, their career, believe in themselves, go for it and don’t let anything or anyone take you down, and I mean nothing and noone. Be proud to be a creative woman. Own it.

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

Maryam Eisler: What makes a good photograph?
Iran Issa-Khan: Something you would never forget. You see it once and that’s it. It is with you always.

a white curly shell

Purity by Iran Issa-Khan. Courtesy of Iran Issa-Khan

Maryam Eisler: I love the fact that you don’t stay shy of embracing the vocabulary of ‘Beauty’. Some would say it’s a taboo word in the art world today!
Iran Issa-Khan: For me, that is the only thing I live by, Beauty. Don’t forget I am going to be eighty years old in February, so I have lived a long, long, life. I live in an apartment in Miami Beach where I have water on both sides, I have boats and I look at the sky early in the morning and the sparkling lights at night. For me, it is all about beauty. Even when it rains, even when we have hurricanes, it is all beauty. It is a very special kind of beauty that only God and nature can give us – and that, rules my life and my work.

Iran Issa-KhanMaryam Eisler: How wonderful that you have so seamlessly managed to connect your work around nature with a place of great natural beauty, St Barts, where you currently have a show of your photographs ‘Forces of Nature’ at the Musee de Wall House.
Iran Issa-Khan: Not only that but I used to go and spend my birthdays in St Barts every year, with twenty, thirty friends, many years ago and I never realised then how fabulous it was. The museum opens its doors and all the yachts are right there…with people walking all around; It is such a perfect place to show my art.

Iran Issa-Khan’s ‘Forces of Nature’ exhibition curated by Natalie Clifford and Space Gallery St Barth is currently on display at the Musee de Wall House in St Barth until 10th February 2022.

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Fireworks and lights with William's Shakespeare's face on the side of a theatre
Fireworks and lights with William's Shakespeare's face on the side of a theatre

Celebration for the 400th anniversary and Shakespeare Live, 2016. Photo by Lucy Barriball

The mass closure of theatres in recent years has signified the loss of a vital creative touchpoint for audiences around the world. How, indeed, are theatres to continue captivating spectators with their doors closed? Samantha Welsh speaks to Catherine Mallyon, Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), about how the global heritage brand is weathering that storm – and has emerged from it thriving. From interactive online shows to its Next Generation talent development programme, the opening of its new theatre in Stratford to its ongoing work with schools, Mallyon reveals that the RSC’s future is more exciting than ever
Catherine Mallyon wearing a white shirt and blue blazer

Catherine Mallyon. Photo by John Bellars

LUX: From city trader to leader in arts administration: was this pivot by accident or design?
Catherine Mallyon: Entirely by design! I wanted to develop professional skills for arts administration and thought finance was a good place to start. Having said that, I ended up undertaking a range of roles within the bank and found it fascinating.

LUX: As Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, would you say that you are managing a global heritage brand?
Catherine Mallyon: I’d certainly agree that we are a global brand with a strong heritage, but the Company is a forward thinking, innovative and contemporary industry leader. I believe that people associate the RSC with excellence, innovation, and ambition in all the work we do. And of course, great entertainment. We believe that all societies are richer if everyone has access to great theatre. Our mission is to inspire and captivate audiences wherever they are, and to transform lives through amazing experiences of Shakespeare’s plays and great theatre.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: How can the next generation help, whether as patrons, or as managers of tomorrow?
Catherine Mallyon: We have a Next Generation talent development programme and a very active Youth Advisory Board – all young people from backgrounds and areas that have little access to theatre or careers in theatre. The focus is to give them the chance to explore a career in acting, directing or working backstage, but also developing their leadership skills so they can make their way in a career in the arts and be tomorrow’s leaders.

We have trained generations of the very best theatre makers but recognise that young people from low income backgrounds remain under-represented across the industry. We work with over 150,000 young people through our Associate Schools programme, alongside our 12 partner theatres. This work is in depth and long-term and demonstrates the power of Shakespeare and the arts to impact on young people’s lives and futures. They are very much involved in shaping the work that we do, and we hope their involvement helps to develop a lifelong love of theatre and Shakespeare.

a fake elephant and a boy on a stage for a musical

From The Magician’s Elephant. Photo by Manuel Harlan

LUX: UK government funding for the arts has plummeted in recent years. Why is it important to counteract this?
Catherine Mallyon: School is where first encounters with Shakespeare are guaranteed to happen for all children in England and Wales, and 50% of school children around the world. These formative experiences can define how we feel about Shakespeare and theatre for the rest of our lives. We therefore place a special emphasis on working with children, young people and teachers in primary, secondary, special schools and colleges.

We have compelling evidence built over many years that demonstrates Shakespeare’s plays taught using approaches inspired by the way RSC actors and directors work in the rehearsal room can have a significant impact on young people. It raises aspirations and attainment, develops resilience and confidence, promotes wellbeing, inclusion and a sense of belonging in individual children, parents, whole school communities and in adults.

LUX: Do you see the arts as soft power?
Catherine Mallyon: Theatre and the performing arts are British assets of global significance. The UK Box Office alone generates £1.3 billion per year and theatre directly employs 290,000 people. Britain’s 1,300 active theatres draw a combined audience of 34 million people – twice that of the Premier league. We can achieve so much with a strong, inclusive and vibrant arts sector.

LUX: How did the Board manage to minimise losses over the last 15 months?
Catherine Mallyon: Covid has impacted all our areas of our operations. We lost the majority of our income overnight and had to do everything we could to minimise losses. We adapted swiftly so that we could continue to serve our communities. We offered a range of activity including launching the Royal Shakespeare Community online, offering Homework Help to children, young people and their parents; we continued to work online in communities with our network of partner schools and theatres; we performed outdoors to socially-distanced audiences in our Dell Gardens; and continued our nationwide programmes of talent development and young Shakespeare Ambassadors with young people from backgrounds currently under-represented in our workforce.

We’re delighted that our sponsors and partners continued to support and collaborate with us on our digital, Learning and community programmes and we can now welcome them back to live performances on stage with the opening of our temporary outdoor theatre – The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre over a river

Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Photo by Sara Beaumont

LUX: Which productions have been most commercially successful in recent years?
Catherine Mallyon: Far and away it has been the wonderful Matilda The Musical – it has won 99 international awards and is still the thing to see in the West End. It came back to celebrate its 10th birthday this autumn. Our productions of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies were also extremely successful, and we were thrilled to present The Mirror and the Light this autumn alongside Playful Productions.

Read more: Nayla Al Khaja on filmmaking and female empowerment

LUX: And artistically speaking, which productions would your Artistic Director say have broken new ground?
Catherine Mallyon: Audiences experienced a new performance environment easily accessed on their mobile, desktop or tablet with Dream, led by the RSC and created in collaboration with 15 partners including Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The performance used the latest gaming and theatre technology together with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors’ movement during the show. We learnt a huge amount from that project and it was a fantastic collaboration.

A castle behind and stage with red seats and lights around

The Comedy of Errors, July 2021. Photo by Pete Le May

LUX: With theatres reopening, the RSC has launched its fourth theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Tell us more!
Catherine Mallyon: It is very exciting to finally have audiences back at on-stage performances. The new, outdoor Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre was a brilliant way for us to welcome audiences back as many have told us that they are nervous about returning to an indoor setting. It can seat up to 500 people but we performed to a reduced capacity over summer. It’s a beautiful setting by the banks of the River Avon and with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre directly behind. The Comedy of Errors looked fantastic on the stage.

Catherine Mallyon is the Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

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Reading time: 6 min
Nayla Al Khaja sitting by a film camera wearing a pink dress
Nayla Al Khaja sitting by a film camera wearing a pink dress

Nayla Al Khaja

Nayla Al Khaja is the first female filmmaker in the United Arab Emirates and a pioneer of Middle Eastern film on the global stage. Here, she speaks to LUX Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh,  about the importance of recovering nuance and overcoming prejudice through storytelling.

Nayla Al Khaja is not one to shy away from glass ceilings. Besides founding Dubai’s first film club (The Scene Club, which has over 22,000 members), she has received widespread acclaim at international film festivals for challenging gendered and cultural stereotypes in her work. Now, Al Khaja is striving to bridge cultural difference and inspire the next generation of Middle Eastern filmmakers. Her conversation with LUX is timely: as Saudi Arabia announces unprecedented investment in cinema over the course of the next five years, it seems that Al Khaja’s work is only set to skyrocket.

LUX: You describe yourself as a storyteller, is that right?
Nayla Al Khaja: My curiosity has always had a bigger appetite than anybody else around me. What drives me is human stories that touch the heart and mind. The power of storytelling encompasses a lot: it breaks [everything] down to its bare minimum. That’s what brings us together as humans. Film does that in such a visceral way.

film crew working on a lake at dawn

Private film made for an initiative under the office of H.H Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid

LUX: Your work often challenges the dominant western narrative of the Middle East. How important is it to you to retell that story in different terms?
Nayla Al Khaja: The Middle East has always been portrayed in one light. I don’t feel that the West quite understands the nuances of different countries, and the [varying] position of women, in the region. It is exhausting. I think people would be shocked to see that female empowerment is a massive checkpoint here. There are some stunning examples of women – ministers, judges, criminologist – who are really leading the way. 62% of graduates and workplaces are helmed by females in powerful positions. Of course, there are families that are still very conservative towards women. If today I [were to] take an hour and a half flight and land in Beirut Lebanon, it would be a completely different tolerance level. But things are changing quite fast. To paint twenty or more countries in the same way is murderous, in my opinion.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Your films explore cultural differences in a way that bridges divides and reveals our shared humanity. Is that key for you?
Nayla Al Khaja: It is very key for me. My first feature film, which is scheduled to be shot in March 2022, is precisely that. It’s called ‘THREE’ and its part of a trilogy. It’s about an Arabic woman who fights very hard to save her son’s life in [the face of] various adversities. She finds help in the hands of a total stranger, an American doctor, who gets complete access to this conservative family. Things kind of break down and, in the end, they find common ground. It’s based on a true story in Dubai in the 90s. It’s very heart-warming; the meeting of minds. We are looking at casting a very big name either from UK or USA. I am very excited about it.

Nayla Al Khaja wearing a pink head cover

LUX: You’re currently working on another work that flips gender stereotypes entirely. Tell us about that.
Nayla Al Khaja: I’m doing an anthology called ‘The Alexandria Killings’, which has been in my mind for years. It’s [a true story] about two sisters from Egypt in 1921, who ran brothels in Egypt, then resorted to killing when Egypt crumbled after the British empire left. It’s out of this world: I’ve been obsessed about them and have done a lot of research. I like the fact that it’s about women who weren’t ‘proper’: women usually get stereotyped, but those two were really a mafia. They ran a whole gang. You never connect that with the oppressed Arab women who are painted in the West. These two sisters are going to break that completely. I pitched it to Rocket Science [film studio] in London, who really liked it, and they ended up getting Oscar winner Terry George to be the director. I sit on it as the executive producer. To have something I have been dreaming of for years realised is such a blessing. It’s like my first international glass ceiling has been broken.

LUX: How has your work been received at home?
Nayla Al Khaja: There has been a sea change among young people. Although I’m a tiny fish in a massive ocean outside [my country], I am a fish in a small aquarium here. I can really make a difference in my home, amongst my people, because I can see the influence. Young people constantly email me! It makes me realise how one person can impact a generation of young people to think outside the box, to be daring and push the status quo. Every time there is a push like that, things expand. They might be slow expansions, but if we look back ten years ago, we have come very far.

Read more: Philanthropy: Cultural Changemaker Surina Narula

LUX: That responsibility to share your expertise with others, does it inform any other elements of your process?
Nayla Al Khaja: I like to street cast. In my film Animal, many of the actors hadn’t had any experience before and they were absolutely brilliant. The young actress had never been in front of a camera before. The father hadn’t had much of acting experience either: this was his second short film. But when you give them the right tools you can really get gems out of them. With Animal, I won best film in Milan out of 72 entries!

LUX: Are you optimistic about the future of film?
Nayla Al Khaja: I feel we are losing the golden era of cinema. Everything is going at a much faster pace, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. [Previously], it was all about character and story, but now it’s about special effects; the bigger the better. We need to stop, pause, take a deep breath, and start to appreciate the beauty outside rather than the technical. One thing that’s worth noting is that Saudi Arabia announced the opening of over four thousand cinema screens in the next five years, which means it could be the next Mecca for filmmaking, and all the incredible talents will have a platform. The potential in storytelling and financial gain here is enormous.

filming on a lake

LUX: How do you propose to drive that change?
Nayla Al Khaja: I have a sensational art house film which could potentially really shake festivals, because there has never been anything like it. Not because I’m directing it but because of the aesthetics: we are going to shoot in the mountains in the gulf, where no one has ever filmed, in a language that’s dying, which my grandma used to speak [the mountain language, Shehi]. Unfortunately, the challenge that I face is that it’s virgin ground. People often think, ‘it’s easy for Arabs to find money’. Believe me, raising money for films may be difficult everywhere but it’s excruciating here. There has never been a local film with international presence and financial returns. So, I’m finding a formula to crack that. I’m just glad to be pioneering.

As with all of our philanthropists, readers who have their own foundations and philanthropic interests are encouraged to reach out to our interview subjects and their institutions directly

Find out more: www.naylaalkhaja.com

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Reading time: 6 min
A building
A building

The OWO by Raffles, Whitehall, London

man wearing a suit

Jeff Tisdall

The Old War Office was the centre of operations for the UK war effort. Three quarters of a century later, The OWO has once again become a focal point, but this time as one of the leading hotels and branded residences in Central London. Ahead of the hotel’s opening next year, Samantha Welsh speaks to Jeff Tisdall, Senior Vice President of Development, Residential & Extended Stays at Accor, about Raffles’ first London-based project

1. How significant is Raffles’ arrival in the UK and London?

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of Raffles’ arrival in London. Really, there is an argument that this is the most important milestone in the evolution of the brand since the opening of Raffles Singapore back in 1887. Raffles Singapore takes its name from the British statesperson Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of the modern city-state. It has been setting the standard for luxury hospitality for more than 130 years, introducing the world to the concept of private butlers. There is something very fitting and meaningful about bringing the brand back to the UK as part of this extraordinary development.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. Why does The OWO standout in the London super prime market?

The OWO has really set itself apart in London’s resilient, super prime residential market. Over the last decade, branded residences have really come into their own and often dominate the very highest end of leading property markets around the globe. In this market context, The OWO Residences stands out as a one-of-kind opportunity. The dedicated Raffles team will deliver an unmatched service offering. We spent a lot of time during an extensive planning phase, curating the offering and designing an unrivalled set of private facilities that are exclusive to residents.Without question, this will be an extraordinary address to call home.

dining room

The dining room at The OWO. Image courtesy of Grain London

3. Have you seen as much branded residential development in London as has been observed in other super prime markets?

I think it is fair to say opportunities to develop luxury branded residences have been more constrained in markets like London, where we see greater reliance on historical conversions. The integration of the hotel and residences at The OWO ensures an array of services will be available to residents, with an internal courtyard that provides the residences with some physical separation from the hotel. It is this perfect balance between service on one hand, and privacy, exclusivity and security on the other, that is often so elusive, and perfectly achieved at The OWO.

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

4. How does The OWO compare in scale to other Raffles residences?

Each Raffles Residence project forms part of a global portfolio of extraordinary private homes – all meticulously designed, luxuriously appointed, and of course infused by Raffles legendary passion for service. Yet, each project is entirely unique.

In terms of scale at The OWO, our partner, the Hinduja Group, has taken the private amenities available to a new level of luxury. Residence owners will have access to an extremely generous 30,000 square feet of exclusive residential facilities. Of course, The OWO will also be a culinary destination, featuring nine restaurants and bars.

a bedroom with white sofas

Principal bedroom at The OWO. Image courtesy of Grain London

5. Why have branded residences become so appealing post pandemics?

For many, the pandemic has served to help bring what is important in life back into clearer focus. The fact that for purchasers at The OWO, their homes will be serviced by Raffles, a brand with experience and trust accumulated over more than 130 years, brings tremendous peace of mind. Today’s UHNW buyer is also looking for authentic, meaningful luxury. From a service perspective, we focus on what we describe as emotional luxury. How we make a resident feel is every bit as important as the services we deliver. From a dedicated concierge team to fitness and wellness attendants, dog walking and sommelier services, private chefs and legendary Raffles Butler services, there really is no detail overlooked.

6. What benefits do residents of The OWO receive?

The Residence Director leads a dedicated residential team of 25-30 people. This team is focussed solely on The OWO residents. In-residence dining, catering for private events, spa treatments and housekeeping are just a few of the optional a la carte services that can be arranged. Homeowners will also be embraced as VVIPs at Raffles London, enjoying priority reservation privileges at dining venues and preferred pricing. The effect is to create a sense of belonging, recognition, and privilege. Additionally, through the Raffles Owner’s Club, this preferred status is extended beyond The OWO to 5000+ participating hotels and resorts worldwide, and more than 40 brand portfolios.

Find out more: theowo.london

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Reading time: 4 min
people gathered round dining table
people gathered round dining table

One of La Cura’s intimate supper clubs hosted by Olivia Muniak in Los Angeles

In her first column for LUX, Los Angeles-based chef and entrepreneur Olivia Muniak traces the historical and modern significance of coming together to drink and dine

woman holding plate of food

Olivia Muniak

Gathering together to drink and dine has a long, primal tradition as a social glue of humanity. In Roman times, banqueting was an important social ritual involving extravagant menus with multiple courses, luxurious tableware, and diverse forms of entertainment. There were even civic feasts offered for all of the inhabitants of a city, often accommodating large numbers of diners.

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Of course, food or rather the lack of it has also given rise to revolutions. Marie Antoinette infamously uttered the phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (“Let them eat cake”) on hearing that the peasants had no bread during one of the famines in France under the reign of her husband King Louis XVI. While it’s uncertain whether or not Marie Antoinette actually spoke these words, the phrase has acquired symbolic importance as an illustration of the upper classes’ ignorance, and the beginnings of the French Revolution.

If we look at religious holidays and the types of food that have been and continue to be served, we can also find connections with history. Lamb, for example, is served on Easter as a good omen, and is said to represent Christ while on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, apples and honey signify hope for future.

All of that is that is to say: food does not influence culture, it mirrors it and provides an important insight into the evolution of humanity. A pivotal point in American culture, for example, was the advent of the TV dinner which represented a huge shift in the archetype of family and our modern world. In the early 1950s, millions of white women entered the work force meaning that mothers were no longer at home to cook elaborate meals and pre-made frozen dinners provided the perfect solution: all you had to do was pop them in the oven, and thirty minutes later the family could be eating a hot supper while enjoying the new national pastime: television.

In Italy, food, drink and socialising go hand in hand. An aperitivo (pre-meal drink) is a cultural ritual, signifying the end of the working day. The Milanese take their aperitivo so seriously that the slang term apericena came about as a description of when drinks spill over into dinner. In Spain and some Latin American countries, sobremesa is the tradition of relaxing at the table after a heavy meal to relax, digest and converse, and in Sweden, it’s considered essential to make time for fika, a short coffee break, every day. We Americans go for all of it: cocktails, fine dining, street food, food trucks, coffee shops. We love a reason to get together with friends and indulge. The point is: humans have an appetite for good food and good company.

In 2019, I founded La Cura, a sustainable catering and event production company, based on that principle, but also because I was yearning for experiences that supported meaningful connection. I had recently moved to Los Angeles from New York and was eager to build a sense of community, and so it began, as a supper club in my backyard. I sold tickets to multi-course, family style meals. The first event was 32 guests, all different ages and from diverse backgrounds, crammed around one table. Guests had to pass platters of food to one another, share bottles of wine and the warmth of these very ordinary gestures created fast bonds between perfect strangers. The best story I heard from one of those events is that two guests (who both randomly ended up getting a ticket because a friend couldn’t go) began a podcast together.

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

Over the last year or so, we have been starved of this simple, sensory act of gathering over food and drink. Instead, we met across screens – on Zoom, Facebook and Whatsapp – or hosted the same small circle of friends or family. When it became safe and socially acceptable to gather again, my company was booking a month plus in advance for brand events and dinners centred mainly around intimate dinners, which provided an escape from the ordinary. And this trend is only set to continue with many people hosting their own dinner parties having honed their cooking skills and invested in tableware over the various periods of lockdown. Alongside my company, which curates the menu and the evening, there are many consumer facing tabletop rental companies such as Social Studies which make it easier to throw larger events or themed parties within the comfort of your own home.

dinner party scene

 

These kinds of social acts are good for us: they break up our days, increase productivity, provide a space for us to unwind, relax and have fun. They add colour and depth to our lives, and now, in the wake of the pandemic, meeting for a drink or meal has become more meaningful than ever. What this time has taught us is that food and drink is what binds us. It connects us to our personal memories, a sense of self, as well as to our cultural histories and traditions. I have a childhood friend, whose mother makes a marble cake for every birthday celebration and every time I see a marble cake, I think of both her birthday and my family’s restaurant, where is also served it by the slice. Wherever I am in the world, it brings me a sense of comfort and nostalgia.

No matter our background or culture, the act of eating and drinking together is something we all share. It’s a basic human need and a communal pleasure. More importantly, in this hard-to-predict time, the ritual of dining and drinking brings a sense of grounding and normality to our lives.

Olivia Muniak is the founder of La Cura, a Los Angeles-based catering and events company. For more information, visit: thisislacura.com

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Reading time: 5 min
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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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
luxurious hotel suite with arched ceiling

luxurious hotel suite with arched ceiling

Suite “Antonia” features the building’s original high-vaulted stone ceilings

Occupying a restored masseria – farmhouse – on a quiet street in the historic town of Lecce, Puglia, La Fiermontina is a five-star hotel with a homely, boutique feel. LUX discovers its quiet charm

Arrival

Like many beautiful Italian cities, Lecce has an unprepossessing ring of suburbs. But drive through an archway and a magical vision appears like an ancient Roman city, even more mesmerising at night, still and lit by gentle oranges and yellows on the ochre walls.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Past the arch and La Fiermontina is down a quiet street. Walk up a stone staircase lit by uplighters into a walled courtyard, turn into the reception area, and then exit again to wander in a garden enclosed by the hotel’s ancient buildings and the old city walls. The light from the sky and the garden lighting is otherworldly.

The Room

Our suite was reached via a short staircase (there is a lift also, but it seemed a bit inauthentic) and seemed to span two buildings, old and new. The huge terrace balcony looked out over the courtyard, from where gentle jazz wafted up each evening. The bedroom had a vaulted ceiling and light stone walls, with contemporary furniture, art books and little clutter. If there is a more compelling bedroom in the whole of Italy, we would love to see it.

The Experience

We arrived on a weekday evening, slightly frazzled after flying in, renting a car and navigating the racetrack/autostrada for the hour’s drive. (Taking a taxi, easily arranged by the hotel, might be a better option next time.)

Read more: The Best of Tuscany’s Wine Resorts

Walking down from the room in search of the bar and a bite, we came across an enchanting sight. The hotel holds occasional evenings for locals and guests to sample regional beers and wines, and local cuisine in a buffet style. Puglia has been acclaimed for its wines but what is less known is that it’s part of Italy’s microbrewery revolution as well. It was hard to choose between the local beer and a local chardonnay. For the cuisine, we chose from a giant pan of pasta with sausage and melted cheese, and some antipasti.

Choices made, sit at your table in the gardens, under the olive grove near the pool, next to the walls of the ancient city, listen to the jazz and you feel far from the airport transfer.

restaurant with outdoor tables

The hotel’s outdoor restaurant focuses on local, seasonal produce

Exploring

The hotel is in the heart of the most compelling city where you can wander through the latticework of ancient streets. You can get a guide or allow your instincts to guide you. Doing the latter, we stumbled upon a hidden square with a single restaurant and terrace where lunch turned into an after-lunch digestif and into an early evening aperitif.

Verdict

The most mesmerising way to stay in one of Italy’s most interesting cities, and with a homegrown, not a big chain feel. Exquisite.

Find out more: lafiermontina.com/hotel

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 2 min
summer in the alps
summer in the alps

Andermatt in summer

As well as making it a world-class ski resort, the development of the Swiss village of Andermatt has from the very start aimed to attract people who want to live there full-time. Karen Chung meets three residents who, in their different ways, call it home

Andermatt was born from the conviction that if you build it, they will come. With the ultra-ambitious yet sustainable mega-development of what was previously a sleepy, tucked away Alpine village, the town now offers an unparalleled lifestyle mix in a traditional setting.

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The development has since grown into so much more than simply a luxury holiday destination, with a high-low mix from its flagship hotel The Chedi Andermatt and world-beating concert hall, Michelin-starred restaurants and serviced apartments, through to cosy pizzerias, its relaxed attitude and a wish list of outdoor activities and cultural events accessible all year round.

But what is it actually like to live there? Seven years after The Chedi Andermatt hotel put it firmly on the map, three residents reveal why Andermatt has it all.

 

JOHAN GRANVIK
The serial entrepreneur

Johan Granvik grew up near Andermatt and travelled the world before ending up back in his hometown. The businessman behind Andermatt’s boutique Schwarzer Bären hotel and its delightfully cosy-modern Italian restaurant admits his career trajectory has taken him by surprise. “Usually, people tend to go to the big city and never come back,” he says. “I left for the US at the age of 16 and never imagined I would come back. But I said to myself, if a project like this is happening in my own hometown, I want to be part of it.”

hotel courtyard

The Chedi Andermatt courtyard

He joined the launch team for The Chedi Andermatt hotel in 2013, stayed a year and a half, then with a friend he set up his own bar and nightclub. “There’s a lot of opportunity here. We added a restaurant on the slopes and another nightclub, then two summer businesses a few years later.” He notes that the development has brought in more people, but also left enough space for start-ups to do their own thing. “Although Andermatt is growing at an exponential pace, for me the character of the town is pretty much the same. Some thought it would become like St Moritz, but I don’t think it will. I talk to a lot of people in our restaurants who love it here because it’s so down-to-earth, and that’s quite unique. For us the focus is on improving the business,” he says. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

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

Swiss village

Looking down on the Piazza Gottardo. Image by Valentin Luthiger

KAREN O’MAHONY
The working-from-home holidaymaker

“In normal times, I travel a lot in the US, UK and Europe reviewing potential investment opportunities, followed by months of intensive due diligence and analysis. When I need peace and quiet to think, I find the fresh air and light of Andermatt, and the lack of distraction, makes me really productive,” says Karen O’Mahony, a private equity investor who realised the full potential of her holiday home after London’s first lockdown. Sure enough, she swiftly joined the ranks of professionals who, forced to hit reset on their professional lives during the pandemic, swiftly saw potential upsides in the new normal. With the seismic shifts in working pattern and ties to major cities loosened, she can fit in two hours of cross-country skiing first thing in the morning, and be back at her desk before the London business day begins.

alpine golf course

The Andermatt Swiss Alps Golf Course. Image by Valentin Luthiger

“At any time of the year, Andermatt is steeped in nature with views of the mountains on all sides. From skiing, walking, golf and eating out, there’s something to do all year around, and this makes it much more of a home than a holiday property,” she says.

Man in a ski jacket

FRÄNGGI GEHRIG
The local

Folk musician and accordion player Fränggi Gehrig juggles a schedule of rehearsals and concerts during peak season with working on his own music and enjoying the mountains during quieter spells. As he appears on the screen from his home studio in Andermatt, the windows behind him reveal a tantalising view of snowcapped mountains in a stroke of unintentional Zoom one-upmanship. “I was lucky to be born here and to live in the mountains, the beautiful weather, the sun,” he says. “And we’re right in central Switzerland, so most places where I work are at most just a two-hour drive away.”

With a laugh, he recalls how he did his military service in the area where the resort now stands. “It’s hard to say how the town would have developed without this investment,” he says. “Now I might play between 80 and 120 concerts a year. In summer I might play four or five concerts a week. I also play a lot more now in Andermatt than I did a few years ago.

interiors of a concert hall

The auditorium of the Andermatt Concert Hall. Image by Anthony Brown

And, of course, for me as a musician, the most beautiful thing is the new concert hall” – which opened with an epic inaugural concert by the Berlin Philharmonic in summer 2019 that put Andermatt firmly on the cultural map. “The fact that a venue like this, with such an incredible acoustic, is right here in my hometown is amazing – and the other half of the concert-hall complex is a conference centre, so I also play private gigs for companies at dinners. It’s a good place to network, and as it grows, I think there will be even more opportunities for me as a musician. I could never imagine living anywhere else.”

Find out more: andermatt-swissalps.ch

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 5 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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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
man in vineyard
man in vineyard

Lamberto Frescobaldi is the president of Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi

Lamberto Frescobaldi is the 30th generation (yes, you read that right) head of Florence’s Frescobaldi dynasty which has done everything from build bridges and palaces in Tuscany to create one of the world’s most epic wine groups. In the first of a new series on leaders in the wine world, the owner of Masseto, Luce, Ornellaia and many other wines chats to LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai over a tasting of the Frescobaldi’s flagship Luce wines

Lamberto Frescobaldi:

“Frescobaldi is a family that goes back to 1000 when they showed up in Tuscany, and then arrived in Florence around 1100, so from a little village out of Florence to Florence. Then a gentleman called, like me, Lamberto, in 1252, built the bridge where now is Ponte Santa Trinita, there is a little square called Piazza de’ Frescobaldi, for the bridge that he built there and he owned all the houses there.

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He comes up quite strongly under the light of Florence in that century. Then the Frescobaldi, began to do as many families of Florence did, they became bankers. Because in those days one of the things that was complicated was to ship money. Money was risky, has always been risky, and so funnily enough the first cheque ever invented was here in Florence by Francesco Datini, he invented the cheque, it was a revolution. Think of taking a piece of paper and writing a value! It was a total revolution.

vineyard estate

The Luce wine estate in Montalcino, Tuscany

And then they understand that it is important to move the paper, but not to move the money. So, the money was here and there. Then the Frescobaldi, around the 14th Century, they actually become important bankers through Europe. It was the aristocratic families of Europe, they were always fighting between each other. The Frescobaldi became bankers of the families of England. They actually moved to England, and they became very powerful because they were bankers of the king. And the king actually gave them the run, in Devonshire, of the silver mines. Then they became too famous and too powerful and then the king, I can’t remember which one, but he kicked them out of England. Then they came back to Florence, and from bankers they became farmers.

Read more: Durjoy Rahman on promoting South Asian art

wine cellars

Inside the Tenuta Luce cellars

So, long story short, I believe that my family have always been very forward-looking and innovative. And that is reflected in what happened with me and the Mondavi family (the legendary wine family of California, who have Italian origins). Around the mid 90s they show up in Italy, and they wanted to do something in Italy. They had moved from Italy 1908, and they went to America because Italy was a tough country in those days. And here they wanted to come back, and we got together, and there was again a beautiful relationship. This changed my way of doing my job, Mondavi opening up a window, a window opened giving me the opportunity to taste wines everywhere around the world. Sharing fears and also the beauty of producing a wine together. And now it is the 25th anniversary of Luce, the wine we created together.”

wine bottles

The Luce wine library

There follows a tasting of Luce wines, with Darius Sanai’s notes below each:

Luce 2013

A big, powerful, rich wine but also fresh and light, a remarkable combination. Plenty of fruit, plenty of tannin. I would drink this in five years with a pici al cingiale (thick Tuscan pasta with a wild boar ragu) on the terrace of the Villa San Michele above Florence at sunset.

wine bottle

Luce 2017

Luce 2006

Less power, more softness, an almost gentle wine but with a long backdrop of olive groves, fading into the olfactory distance. One to drink while perched on the old city wall of Montalcino, looking over the Colline Metallifere hills towards the sea hidden beyond, and across the endless forest.

Luce 2002

An almost gentle red wine, belying the Tuscan reputation for producing big reds. Yet there’s a persistence of dried berry, vanilla, and the kinds of herbs you sprinkle on pizzas that make it very moreish. A lunchtime wine, on the Piazza del Campo in Siena, looking at the people wandering past as another day disappears.

Luce 1998

Wow. You wouldn’t believe this wine is older than this millennium. Both powerful and zingy, it has a different character to the others, fascinating to see what can happen as great red wines age. Peppers, cherries, and also a waft of Bistecca alla Fiorentina, beautifully balanced. One to drink over dinner, in late autumn, in your Florentine palace, with your loved one; and like the Frescobaldis, I think this wine will last forever.

Thank you to Lamberto Frescobaldi for his time and the wines for this tasting.

For more information, visit: en.lucedellevite.com

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Reading time: 4 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
man sitting with bags
man sitting with bags

Jonathan Riss has designed a collection of bags exclusively for One&Only

Belgium-born designer Jonathan Riss is the founder of JAH AHR, a luxury brand which transforms authenticated vintage designer bags through embroidery techniques. His latest collaboration with One&Only Resorts – a collection of limited edition custom-designed vintage Louis Vuitton Keepalls – is inspired by the local heritage and culture of each of the brand’s destinations. Here, Abigail Hodges speaks to the designer about his creative process, sustainable fashion and the future of travel

1. What led you to start re-crafting iconic vintage fashion pieces?

We live in a society of significant over-production and if you analyse consumer behaviour, you quickly see that people prefer iconic pieces, not because of their value, but because of the work and effort to perfect these pieces over time so they too reflect the values and desires of society.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Today, there is an increasing demand for sustainability as well as individualisation. The idea that we not only take vintage objects and give them a new lease of life, but also to continue to work on them. To be part of this pursuit of perfection, but at the same time to continue to reflect the wants of society by offering singularly unique pieces is very interesting.

gorilla bag2. Can you tell us your favourite story about one of the bags you’ve sourced?

There are so many stories across the different mediums that we are transforming. One that springs to mind for the Keepall collection is a bag we sourced in Moscow that was originally made in 1991, on which we placed the USSR flag as this was the year of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Another bag we found was in Hong Kong that was made in 1997 which was the year of the historic handover so we imprinted this bag with the Hong Kong flag. We also sourced some bags in Tehran which have our Persian rug design reflecting the philosophy of our collections, which is to highlight the imprint of the local culture where the object was used or sourced.

 

designer in the studio

Riss at work in his studio

3. What does your design process typically involve?

The most important aspect of what we do is not the design itself, but the narrative that sits behind and around each piece. So the provenance often leads the design as the actual story of each object is much more interesting, and the design is an extension of the story, but of course, exploring different techniques of texture is a vital part of the design process enabling the execution of the narrative.

Read more: Win two life coaching sessions with Simon Hodges

4. How did your collaboration with One&Only come about?

This is a beautiful topic. One&Only owns a stunning portfolio of unique properties all over the world that really reflects the philosophy of our collection. The opportunity to create a bespoke heritage collection that allows us to showcase the cultural, social and natural aspects of each destination was an incredibly exciting opportunity as this is exactly what we do with all of our collections.

bag and kangaroo

5. When deciding how to celebrate each destination, which elements were particularly important for you to highlight?

There are almost too many elements to consider, so again, we were often led by the bag itself. For example, for Cape Town we had a bag that was originally made in 1994 which was the first year of Nelson Mandela’s Presidency so we created a design celebrating the great man himself.

Similarly, we had a bag for Rwanda that was from 2002 which is when the new Rwanda national anthem was officially inaugurated so we placed the lyrics from the anthem on an interpretation of the national flag. For Dubai, we wanted to showcase the incredible architecture as well as the importance of Islam so we overlaid a blessing on the Dubai skyline. In Mexico, we are fascinated by the contrast of the colour and vibrancy of the Dia de los Muertos with meaning behind the celebrations. In Malaysia, we loved the romance of discovering ancient statues and carvings in the jungle. The breadth of inspiration is also important to us.

6. What’s inspiring you currently?

Given what has happened in the past year, I am getting excited by the future of travel, and how the quality and experience of travel will evolve. As we have seen, anything can happen that impacts society in a dramatic way so what is interesting is to see how we elevate ourselves and I am working on a new project thinking about this, so watch this space.

Follow Jonathan Riss on Instagram: @_jay_ahr_

To purchase one of Jonathan Riss’s bags for One&Only email: [email protected]

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Reading time: 4 min
public gardens by residential towers
Tree sculpture

Conrad Shawcross’s sculpture Bicameral at the pedestrian entrance to Chelsea Barracks.

Chelsea Barracks has already established itself as one of the most desirable places to live in London. Its gardens, with their planting schemes, public artworks and open access, are adding to the city’s continuing and defining history of garden squares, as Anna Tyzack reports

There are many measures by which London could be said to be the greatest city in the world. It is a (possibly the) financial and business hub; a crossroads between the Americas, Europe and Asia; a cultural centre that combines 2,000 years of history with being on the world’s leading edge in creativity in the 21st century.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

It is also the world’s most liveable great city. Yes, there are surveys published in trendy publications each year that tout the virtues of earthy locations in crispy-clean countries. But successful, ambitious humans want to live and work in a place where they can be surrounded by their peers: to be right in the heart of a city teeming with global leaders in finance, the arts, creativity, science, philanthropy and international trade. And yet they also crave a standard of living. Their villa on Cap Ferrat for summer and lodge in Aspen for winter have infinite light, space, nature; and London is the only city of its level in the world that can offer these semblances of space and green alongside its myriad other draws. London is the greenest city in Europe: almost 50 per cent of its surface area is parks, gardens, natural habitats or water.

In the most authoritative measure of its kind, London and New York regularly swap places at number 1 and number 2 slots in the Knight Frank Wealth Report Global Cities Index: but for the ‘lifestyle’ subsection, London is, in 2020, at the top.

Leafy walkway along a building

Bourne Walk at Chelsea Barracks

One unique aspect of London lifestyle is its garden squares. They developed naturally as spaces for inhabitants to relax and play as the city grew; became protected in law; and now many of them are the most desirable addresses in the city. Garden squares in London can be public (run by the local councils) or private (owned and used by the local landowners); the best are hives of culture, leisure and joy.

And now there is a new crop of squares coming to life. Uniquely, they are in central London, an area not known for its propensity to be developed. They are the creation of Chelsea Barracks, a new super-luxe five-hectare residential area built between super-prime neighbourhoods Chelsea and Belgravia on the site of what was for 150 years an army barracks.

Read more: In conversation with ballet dancer Sergei Polunin 

It is also unique in its concept and ambition. Rather than build yet another cookie-cutter set of branded residences inside an enclosed compound, sell them off and take the money, owner Qatari Diar is in for the long term: the aim is to create a new neighbourhood, not just for those fortunate enough to afford the residences lining the new streets, but to welcome anyone who is drawn in by the beautiful and distinctive urban planning.

And the squares. There are two hectares of garden squares and public spaces, open to all, in the development: in all, seven new squares are being created. The idea is that residents can enjoy them permanently, and through an artfully curated cultural programme, visitors can pass through, linger and enjoy the first, and last, new area on this scale likely to be developed in central London for, well, probably ever.

Residential building

Whistler Square is named after the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler who once lived in Belgravia

They are also very much not a recreation or pastiche of existing garden squares. “Our gardens are very different from the traditional idea of railings around a set of trees and a lawn – we didn’t want rules or hostile architecture giving any sense that people were being segregated,” says Richard Oakes, Qatari Diar’s Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Europe & Americas. “Given we were working on what is going to be the most exclusive addresses in London, we had to find a new way of considering what is a garden square.”

This takes a delicate balancing act. The open spaces at Chelsea Barracks (which amount to a lot more than just garden squares) are aimed at attracting visitors and establishing the area as a cultural hub; while residents still feel a sense of exclusivity.

Read more: Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos on the poetry of jewellery

The landscaping is contemporary in style, while referencing the traditional garden square, with water features to bring a sense of calm and tranquillity and bulbs and flowering trees such as magnolia to add colour and structure throughout the seasons. The red Chelsea Barracks rose, inspired by the intricate petal-shaped window in the restored Garrison Chapel, and cultivated for Chelsea Barracks by grower Philip Harkness, features prominently in the planting. “The gardens provide a spectacular new front door for Chelsea Flower Show, which takes place next door, at the Royal Hospital,” Oakes says.

public green spaces

public gardens by residential towers

Here and above: Mulberry Square’s garden planted with lavender, rosemary and strawberries

In Mulberry Square, for example, residents overlook a shallow water rill and a fragrant garden planted with lavender, rosemary and strawberries, a tribute to the patterned canvases of artist Bridget Riley. Here there are benches to sit on with a book or to enjoy a peaceful moment listening to the sound of the water.

Read more: How Gaggenau is innovating the ancient art of steam cooking

Meanwhile Whistler Square, in the northern part of the Barracks, is named after the artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who lived in Belgravia and Old Chelsea. It has as its focal point a bronze-edged Cumbrian black-slate scrim, no deeper than a finger nail, decorated with fragile etched lines to represent the lost rivers of London.

But culture, as much as gardens, is at the heart of the development. Garrison Chapel, which forms the centrepiece of the development, is a restored, listed and significant historical structure. It has been painstakingly restored by a host of British artisans including lime plasterers, fresco artists and stained-glass experts and will once again be a place for locals to gather. The new bell, an exact replica of the damaged original, was commissioned from Britain’s last surviving bell maker, John Taylor & Co of Loughborough.

Strikingly positioned, it will be the centre of an art and culture programme, which will spill out into the squares and spaces. It will involve performance art and installation as well as static art, with a focus on giving young and emerging artists a bedrock in the centre of London, an area for so long dominated by art dealers rather than artists. Striking also is the focus away from just retail: life, space and culture, rather than transaction, is what this new area aims to be about.

Public artwork at Chelsea Barracks

A tree-like sculpture by Conrad Shawcross is the first public artwork to be installed at Chelsea Barracks. Casting dappled shade onto Dove Place, the pedestrian entrance to the development, Bicameral comprises 693 components and stands 8m in height. It can be  seen, as Shawcross explains, as an Arcadian symbol for reason, humanity, rationalism, progress and hope, and it was designed to pay homage to the craftsmanship found at the Barracks. The sculpture was created entirely without welding; its interlocking forms are held together by techniques derived from Japanese wood joinery.

Chelsea Barracks in numbers

  • Apartments in Chelsea Barracks cost from £5.25 million.
  • Townhouses, each with a roof terrace, spa with pool, gym, garden and private garage, cost from £38 million.
  • The Garrison Club is for the exclusive use of residents. With all the advantages of a private club, amenities include a 1,800 sq m spa and gym; private cinema, games room, residents’ lounge and business suite with two boardrooms.

Find out more: chelseabarracks.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Artist at work sculpting marble
Artist at work sculpting marble

One of the participating artist’s in the process of sculpting marble at the inaugural edition of Jeddah’s Red Sea Sculpture Symposium

Saudi Arabia is working hard to rediscover its cultural roots, promote contemporary art and establish itself as a cultural destination, with a series of new art events and residencies. Following on from the inaugural edition of Jeddah’s Red Sea Sculpture Symposium, Art & Digital Editor Millie Walton investigates the rise of the coastal city as a new cultural hub

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been creating for itself a cultural renaissance, catalysed by the reforms of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the country’s 32-year-old de facto leader. In 2018, the Kingdom opened the doors to cinemas after a forty-year hiatus, announcing the start of a new vision for the country’s ongoing cultural development, with an aim to support local craft as well as attract international creatives. Led by the Ministry of Culture, the vision seeks to reposition the country it as a dynamic place for business and leisure, responding to the demands of a new, youthful generation who are tech-savvy and plugged into the pulse of global culture.

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Jeddah is one of the main hubs in this strategy. Once seen as culturally conservative, the city is now home to hip contemporary art galleries, graffiti murals and public art installations. Later this year, Art Jameel, a nonprofit organisation set up by the wealthy car-dealing family of the same name, is due to open Hayy (derived from the Arabic word from neighbourhood), an ambitious creative complex with studios and exhibition spaces, whilst the Ministry of Culture launched its first arts initiative in the city last year in the form of a cross-cultural live-sculpting event.

Artists sculpting marble sculpture

Artist sculpting marble

The artists could be watched live sculpting at a location in Jeddah’s historic district of Albalad

The inaugural Red Sea International Sculpture Symposium invited twenty international and local artists to hand sculpt free-standing monoliths over a three week period (21 November – 10 December 2019), using blocks of white marble imported from the Sultanate of Oman. Participants were asked to create artworks in response to the city’s geographical location and historical heritage as a trading hub, whilst also drawing on the diversity of its contemporary society.

Abstract marble sculpture on column

Agnessa Petrova, 2019

Marble sculpture on black plinth

Takeshi Kubo, 2019

The sculpting itself took place between 8am and 6pm at a location in Jeddah’s historic district and UNESCO heritage site Albalad, purposefully distanced from the city’s main cultural attractions and tourist hotspots so as to welcome new art audiences whilst also providing artists the opportunity to interact with local residents throughout the day.

Artist free sculpting marble structure

‘This global interaction reflected Arab and international cultural experiences on the artistic and cultural scene in historical Jeddah. This enriches the local scene because it shows positive results and contributes to the recipient’s diverse visual nutrition,’ commented Issam Jamil, one of three participating Saudi sculptors along with Rida Alalawi and Kamal Almualem. European artists included Michael Levchenko (Ukraine), Kamen Tanaev (Bulgaria), Jose Carlos Cabello Millan (Spain), Mario Lopes (Portugal), Jo Klay (Germany), Sylvain Patte (Belgium), Butrint Morina (Kosovo), Aggnessa Petrove (Bulgaria), Anna Maria Negara (Romania) and Anna Rasinska (Poland) with Asian artists Takeshita Kubo, Fan Chilung-Lien and Lin Li Jen, and Arab artists Ali Jabbar (Iraq), Hisham Abdulmuty (Egypt) and Hany Fisal (Egypt).

Read more: Why we love Hublot’s limited edition spring timepieces

Whilst all of the selected artists’ practices incorporated stonework, each participant specialised in different materials and techniques, and for some, it was their first time carving marble, a material chosen for its aesthetic appeal, durability and historic significance.

Abstract marble sculpture

Ali Jabbar, 2019

The finished pieces varied in both scale and style with some reflecting the city’s architectural magnificence and the natural environment of the Red Sea, whilst others evoked modern and abstract minimalist forms.

Still standing in the location in which they were originally sculpted (with plans to relocate around the city in the near future), the works appear haunting and luminous against the vibrant colours and textures of Albalad, providing a striking symbol of the city’s new-found creative energy.

Abstract white marble sculpture

Anna Rasinska, 2019

An introduction to Jeddah’s wider cultural scene

Jeddah’s Art Residency Initiative

This year, the creative momentum is set to continue with Jeddah’s newly launched Art Residency Initiative, which invites artists to attend six-week residency programmes at various points across the year. Alongside the residencies, the city will also feature events, showcasing the Ministry of Culture’s annual theme: the ancient artistic practice of Arabic calligraphy.

21,39 Jeddah Arts

Organised by the Saudi Arts Council, 21,39 Jeddah Arts is a contemporary art festival featuring gallery exhibitions, workshops, and panel discussions with many of the region’s leading creatives. This year’s edition (open until April 19) is entitled I Love You, Urgently and focuses on the global climate emergency with artists presenting a diverse collection of work including everything from Islamic painting techniques and calligraphy installations to ethically-made clothing and digital print collages.

Red Sea Film Festival

Whilst the launch might have been postponed, the inaugural Red Sea Film Festival promises a diverse 10-day program of screenings and talks, supporting emerging and established talent from Arabic and International cinema.

Hayy: Creative Hub

Set to open in the winter of 2020-21, Haay: Creative Hub is a 17,000-square-metre arts complex developed by non-profit organisation Art Jameel. Designed by UAE design studio waiwai, the space will include art and design galleries, performance and comedy clubs, cafes, artist studios and a theatre as well as an independent film cinema designed by Jeddah-based practice Bricklab.

To learn more about the Ministry of Culture’s forthcoming initiatives, visit: moc.gov.sa/en

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Contemporary style kitchen with stools
Showroom kitchen with contemporary interiors

The Gaggenau stand at the EuroCucina 2018 exhibition

Man hanging out of white frame

Stephen Bayley

Of all rooms in the house, kitchens demand the best design for function as well as looks. Cultural critic Stephen Bayley reveals their modernist origins and meets kitchen appliance-maker Gaggenau’s head of design Sven Baacke to talk about his design thinking, what luxury means and the poetry of fridges

No-one is ever going to want a virtual dinner. The one thing electrons, sensors, code, AI, VR and haptics will never provide is a perfectly executed, steaming hot perdiz estofada Casa Paco, a Madrileño classic with fumes of wine, garlic, onions and bacon, garnished by an improbably big handful of parsley. Not to forget its ideal companion, a perfectly chilled 2016 Finca Allende white from Rioja.

For this reason, the domestic kitchen with its hob, oven and fridge will always remain a part of civilised life. App-driven delivery services may flourish on their wobbly bicycles, but they have more effect on the precarious margins of the traditional restaurant trade than the home cook with his gastronomic library, bleu de travail pinafore and wooden spoon.

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Despite changing behaviour – going out, staying in, hot yoga, crazy exercise regimes, fasting and peculiar diets – the kitchen is a remarkably resilient feature of building design. Although some experts estimate that New Yorkers spend 130 per cent more on eating out than other Americans, the fact remains that every new apartment in Manhattan is still equipped with an impressive new kitchen.

Man standing in front of factory background

Gaggenau’s head of design Sven Baacke

And that probably means a new German kitchen. Like the German car, the German kitchen has reached a global archetypal status that Carl Gustav Jung would have appreciated and understood. Never mind that the same new German kitchen in that vertiginously tall apartment building on East 57th street is rarely used and never contaminated with actual hot food, it is a powerful and universally understood status symbol. Why? Because the design and manufacture of a kitchen and its equipment combine the disciplines of architecture and industrial design at which, at least in the modern era, Germans have so excelled.

It was in 1926 that Grete Schütte-Lihotzky unveiled her Frankfurt Kitchen, a functionalist masterpiece designed for that city’s ambitious socialist housing programme. Exploiting industrial processes and materials, it was tiny, ergonomic, modular, intelligent. It was everything the Bauhaus claimed but often failed to achieve.

Contempoary style refrigerator

The Vario 400 refrigerator

True, the American dream kitchen, with its pastel-coloured and chrome-plated laboursaving appliances attended by a blonde model in a flared and pleated A-line skirt, presented consumers with an alternative in the 1950s and 1960s, but the Frankfurt Kitchen set the enduring design standard. So much so, that examples are in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Vintage photograph of a kitchen

The Frankfurt Kitchen from the 1920s

In a nicely paradoxical way, this austere design language has become the ultimate luxury product. This is because luxury today is not about excess or vulgarity, but of having time to spare for, among other things, cooking.

Now, I want you to imagine Sven Baacke riding his adored 1962 Lambretta scooter, a machine he enjoys dismantling and reassembling, around Munich. Baacke is the Gaggenau designer. He was born in 1974 and attended the Staatlichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart.

This is an inspirational city for a design education. At the beginning of the last century, the local museologist Gustav Pazaurek organised an influential exhibition called ‘Geschmacksverirrungen im Kunstgewerbe’ (Errors of Taste in Design). Pazaurek hated fuss and admired logic. And in 1927, the great Mies van der Rohe participated in Stuttgart’s magnificent Weissenhofsiedlung, or Weissenhof Estate, a real-life demonstration of architectural possibilities embodied by the International style.

Today, Baacke says his favourite building is Mies’s pavilion built for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. And, of course, Stuttgart is the city of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, with all the industrial discipline and design prowess that suggests. And if Baacke’s new home is Munich, remember this is the territory of BMW, a company that made its reputation through design as much as through automatic self-levelling suspension.

All these architectural and design influences I think can be seen in Gaggenau, but I wanted to check this thought with Sven Baacke. So, I asked him.

Stephen Bayley: Is there such a thing as ‘German Design’?
Sven Baacke: Of course. We have the Bauhaus. And Gaggenau has been in the Black Forest for more than three hundred years. There’s nothing more German than the Black Forest! But at Gaggenau, while we certainly admire precision, we have soul as well. That’s not something you’d dare admit to a German engineer!

Bauhaus building

The Weissenhofsiedlung, designed by Mies van der Rohe, 1927

Stephen Bayley: What’s your approach ?
Sven Baacke: I reduce everything to the essentials, but do not remove the poetry. To me, a fridge is architecture. There are so many variables involved, so many different criteria. But everything comes together in a well-balanced kitchen. One thing is certain – I like open spaces, not closed doors.

Stephen Bayley: How do you define luxury?
Sven Baacke: Luxury is not so much about owning things. I don’t like to talk about Gaggenau as a luxury brand. In any case, luxury is culturally determined. If you live in a Chinese city, the ultimate luxury is fresh air. In Tokyo, it is space. For us Europeans, luxury is a personal thing. It is subtle. It is personal. It is about experience. And especially the experience of cooking, taking time to buy ingredients and spending time with friends.

Stephen Bayley: And are you a good cook?
Sven Baacke: Ah, but what is ‘good’? Certainly, I do not like baking because it is all about chemistry. I prefer to be intuitive. I love being in Sicily because the produce is so good that you hardly need to change it.

Contemporary wine cabinet inbuilt into kitchen

A Gaggenau wine cabinet at the EuroCucina exhibition

Contemporary style kitchen with stools

A Gaggenau kitchen design incorporating a Vario 400 series oven

Stephen Bayley: So, would you agree with [cookery writer] Marcella Hazan when she said, “I don’t
measure, I cook”?
Sven Baacke: Yes!

Stephen Bayley: Does good design last forever?
Sven Baacke: Yes. I admire Apple, but a first-generation iPhone is now obsolete. Our 90cm oven has been on the market since the eighties. It’s an investment, not an indulgence!

Stephen Bayley: Where do you find inspiration?
Sven Baacke: I like the oak cutting-board I recently bought at Margaret Howell in London. And I have just bought an electric Audi, but I also want to buy an old Porsche Targa or an original 1959 Mini. I am in love with combustion engines, but this is not a technology that’s going to get us to the next generation.

Monochrome photograph of contemporary pavilion

Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion

Stephen Bayley: What about the Frankfurt Kitchen?
Sven Baacke: My grandma had something like it. Very German. But its successor was Otl Aicher’s book Die Küche zum Kochen (The Kitchen is for Cooking) which inspired me at college. Aicher was the designer who gave BMW and Lufthansa graphics their amazing clarity.

Stephen Bayley: What new technologies will influence cooking in the future?
Sven Baacke: Revolutions are very rare. Cooking will always be an analogue activity. Look – we are not going to the moon, so I think future improvements will come from better manufacturing. And from a better understanding of how, for instance, we can make cleaning easier. Perhaps we will be able to make equipment disappear from view when not in-use.

Stephen Bayley: You have ten designers working at Gaggenau. What do you tell them?
Sven Baacke: Well, you have heard of forecasting. We have this intellectual game I call ‘back-casting’. I ask my designers to jump into the distant future and then jump back to the near future. And, with the jumping concluded, we both firmly agreed that the idea of wanting to save time in the kitchen was ridiculous, because wherever else would you ever want to be other than in a well-designed kitchen?

Find out more: gaggenau.com/gb

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Rooftop garden in a city landscape
Rooftop garden in a city landscape

The K11 MUSEA features a roof garden where clients can grow their own herbs and vegetables

Adrian Cheng has high hopes for the new K11 MUSEA in Hong Kong: to change the way retail, art and culture collide, says Darius Sanai
Portrait of an Asian man wearing a suit and glasses

Entrepreneur Adrian Cheng

When billionaire Hong Kong entrepreneur Adrian Cheng opened his K11 MUSEA development on Hong Kong’s Victoria Dockside late last year, he heralded it as “The Silicon Valley of culture”. It was a concept that some found hard to get their heads around, but a visit to the development is enlightening and points to ways K11’s innovations could have influence across the world in future.

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At the heart of K11 MUSEA is a funkily designed luxury and fashion retail mall, housing the usual roster of names found elsewhere in China, from Alexander McQueen to Supreme. It’s the architecture and design, headed by New York-based James Corner, and the depth of concept in the detail, that is so innovative. K11’s roof is a kind of kitchen garden-cum-safari park, with spaces where clients can grow their own herbs and vegetables, a natural butterfly park (open for visits by any passing butterfly), a giant aquarium mimicking Victoria Harbour directly below, and rangers working to show local school groups the rooftop flora and fauna Inside, alongside the living walls and slides connecting different floors, is a constantly rotating roster of curated public art, chosen by Cheng (a significant collector) and his team. An e-sports zone allows you to indulge in the sports of your choice, there are public art and performance spaces, and nattily attired concierges sit at desks made of recovered logs.

Inside a futuristic mall setting

The interiors of the luxury and fashion retail mall

Cheng’s aim in the development, which sits on prime waterfront land in Kowloon directly facing Central Hong Kong across the water of Victoria Harbour, is to bring retail, culture and technology together. Cheng is himself a complex and multifaceted entrepreneur: third generation heir to a multi-billion-dollar property and services empire, he is reinventing the family company, which also includes
brands like Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, for the future. He has as many friends in art and fashion as he does in the traditional family industry, and you feel Cheng is never happier than when reinventing something – and yet he has also invested time and money into a foundation to restore traditional Chinese crafts, and is something of a craftsman himself – it is his own hand that forms the calligraphic decorations around K11 MUSEA.

Read more: Plaza Premium Group’s Founder Song Hoi-see on airport luxury

The development has innovative platforms being planned using AI and facial recognition, as well as tie-ins with AI retail companies Cheng’s group has invested in, across the water in Shenzhen’s technology zone and across the globe: these are the spaces developers and retailers around the world will be watching.

Cubic sculpture on a broadwalk

The Kube kiosk designed by Rem Koolhaas’ studio OMA

As Cheng tells LUX: “When you purchase or sign up for something at K11 MUSEA, our loyalty programme allows us to understand your preference, basically what excites you the most. With enough samples, we can sufficiently draw correlations that will shape how we curate our brick-and-mortar spaces in the future. This is the advantage of running vast spaces like K11 MUSEA because it offers flexibility and a lot of possible curations. It’s about growing with our customers, predicting their needs and also working with brands and partners to create an inspiring customer journey. In fact, one of the companies I invested in, Moda Operandi, which we brought into K11 MUSEA, has a similar model. Online preferences will shape the store display, styling services and the various events that they host. Both K11 and Moda believe in creating a journey of wonder, for customers to learn and discover.”

There is also, importantly for Hong Kong’s current climate and from a scion of one of its most important families, a significant public/ community aspect to K11 MUSEA and the surrounding Victoria Dockside area which Cheng and his family company, New World Developments, has revitalised.

K11 MUSEA may be ground-breaking, but it’s unlikely to be the last creation of its kind from the peripatetic multi-business, multicultural Hong Kong dynamo.

‘Musea: A Book of Modern Muses’, published by Condé Nast, is available at boutiquemags.com

For more information visit: K11musea.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
Guggenheim museum Bilbao at night
Guggenheim museum Bilbao at night

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Image by Niclas Dehmel

This month, our columnist and Abercrombie & Kent’s founder Geoffrey Kent focuses in on Spain’s diverse offering of cultural itineraries

As an art lover, dabbling collector – I particularly like Joan Miró – and founder and co-chairman of a travel company that caters to a clientele made up of ultra-high-net-worth individuals and connoisseurs of many persuasions, these kinds of topics come up frequently. For a cultural odyssey which takes in some of the world’s great art houses, my current top tip is: take a Spanish sojourn.

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Spain’s contribution to the world of art packs an impressive punch – and has done for centuries. This year, the country’s great treasure trove of art is celebrating its 200th anniversary, so right now is the perfect time to experience this cultural hothouse, as viewed through its famous art institutions: among them the Prado, Museu Picasso, and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Madrid

city of Madrid at sunset with aerial view

Image by Florian Wehde

Museo del Prado

The Prado is undeniably one of the most important art museums in the world – and one of the planet’s most visited tourist attractions. It houses an outstanding display of works by Spain’s three greatest painters: Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco, together with famous pieces by Flemish, Italian, and other European masters. Together, its collection is considered among the finest ever assembled, spanning the 12th to early 20th centuries, numbering in the thousands, and containing not just paintings and sculpture, but also historic documents, prints, and drawings. Founded in 1819, this year it celebrates its bicentenary as Spain’s premier gallery. For a deeper understanding of the works on display, A&K offers guests the privilege of enjoying the Prado’s collection and temporary exhibitions privately after hours, guided by specialist art historians.

Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

Located near the Prado, the magnificent Thyssen-Bornemisza boasts one of the most important privately assembled art collections in the world. It offers art lovers an experience that is nothing short of extraordinary. The museum’s permanent collection spans eight centuries of European painting, as well as a display of 18th- and 19th-century North American paintings. Until 26 January 2020, the temporary exhibition will be exposing the relationship between the Impressionists and the art of photography.

Read more: Champagne Bollinger celebrates 40-year James Bond partnership

Museo Sorolla

Off the beaten track for most visitors to Madrid, you won’t be overrun by tourists as you wander the Sorolla’s light-filled spaces. Originally the house and studio of Spain’s greatest late 19th- and early 20th-century painter, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) – known as the ‘Spanish Master of Light’. It houses an eclectic collection, including paintings by family members, his daughter Elena among them. Although his work is sometimes compared to that of Sargent, Sorolla does not belong to any specific school, and the house also contains pieces by the old masters who inspired him. The galleries also host special exhibitions by current artists. As a result, Museo Sorolla presents a fascinating journey through Spain’s history of art.

Where to stay: The Westin Palace, which is steps from both the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.

Barcelona

Aerial view of a city

Image by Alfons Taekema

Casa Vicens

One of the world’s first Art Nouveau buildings, this house designed by Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) for Manuel Vicens i Montaner is rightly considered a masterpiece and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing in the tranquil neighbourhood of Gràcia, it is an oasis of calm covered in striking green and white tiles. Inside you can learn about Gaudí and his significance within the Modernism movement. Guests of A&K get the opportunity to beat the morning crowds with a private before-hours visit to Casa Vicens, or a sunset tour.

Museu Picasso

Set on Montcada Street in La Ribera neighbourhood (once home to Barcelona’s great and good), Museu Picasso lies in the heart of the city’s cultural, commercial, and tourist district, surrounded by centuries of history and art. The museum itself is housed in five medieval palaces, architecturally as impressive as the artistic treasures within. Containing 4,251 works by one of Spain’s – and history’s – most influential artists, it is the largest gallery dedicated to Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and the only one established during his lifetime. It is the ideal place to study the artist’s formative years, containing many early works, and illustrating his enduring relationship with Barcelona.

Read more: One&Only opens a second luxury resort in Rwanda

Fundació Joan Miró

For me, a trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to this great Catalan artist. Miró was born in the city in 1893 and he established the Joan Miró Foundation in 1975. Located on the Montjuïc Hill, this art space in one of Barcelona’s most popular museums. It houses more than 10,000 pieces of Miró’s art from his first sketches to final paintings, including many seminal works. It also contains ‘Espai 13’, which promotes the work of young experimental artists.

Luxurious rooftop pool

Views from Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s rooftop

Where to stay: I particularly like Mandarin Oriental hotels, and the one in Barcelona is located on the glorious Passeig de Gràcia, mere moments from Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.

Bilbao

Landscape image of Bilbao city

Image by Yves Alarie

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

With its sweeping curves of glittering metal and glass, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao building itself needs no introduction – the scale and futuristic beauty of Frank Gehry’s 1990s titanium structure leaves a lasting impression. It was built to showcase art works such as Jeff Koons’ sculpture Puppy, Richard Serra’s unique sculptures and Mark Rothko paintings. Next to the museum’s permanent collection, the regular rotation of temporary exhibitions across different periods – not always Modern – draws art enthusiasts back time and again.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

The city is also home to the wonderful Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, which houses paintings from the 12th century to the present day and is considered one of the finest art museums outside Madrid.

Where to stay: The just-renovated Gran Hotel Domine – it boasts the best views of the Guggenheim.

For more information visit: abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Reading time: 5 min
Abstract ink painting in black and pink
Ink painting of a moon

‘Moon Walk’ (1969), by Liu Kuo-sung

Navigating the deep waters of the Asian art scene could be treacherous, without a guide such as Calvin Hui. Jason Chung Tang Yen talks to the Hong Kong and London-based globetrotter, art connoisseur and entrepreneur about his mission to bring contemporary Chinese ink art to the global stage

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

“Ink is not just a medium; it embodies a cultural language,” says gallery owner and art fair entrepreneur Calvin Hui. He’s referring to contemporary Chinese ink art and the enterprise he founded, a booming art platform titled Ink Now, first launched in Taipei and generating considerable buzz among art lovers and collectors. However, Hui’s vision for Ink Now extends beyond any fixed formats; he has introduced a notion of “more than ink, and more than an art fair. We are bringing awareness of ink art’s essence and spirituality in a cultural context, beyond its pure medium form,” he says.

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For more than 2,000 years, ink art, once made with burnt pine trees and organic matter on rice paper or silk, has been the primary – and most celebrated – form of artistic expression for Chinese calligraphers and painters. The traditional art form reached its peak in the Song Dynasty, from 960-1279AD; historical masterpieces from that era are still preserved in the palace museums in Beijing and Taipei and Qu Ding’s Summer Mountains has a permanent home at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Western artists, from the Impressionists to Pablo Picasso, have long been inspired by the ink art tradition, but in recent years, new media and influences from the West have made their own mark on the medium. Today’s artists often turn to or reinterpret traditional ink art techniques while in pursuit of a contemporary breakthrough, resulting in multi-layered works that are filled with cultural references and meaning. And some advocates for the medium, such as Calvin Hui, are hoping to lay the foundations for a new golden age of ink art.

Contemporary style Chinese ink painting

‘Far Side of the Moon’ (2019), by Victor Wong.

Asian man in suit sitting in installation artwork

Calvin Hui at Victor Wong’s solo exhibition ‘TECH-iNK Garden’

A network of contacts and the ability to plan on a grand scale are required to make this happen, but Hui has long operated in the nerve centre of the art market, bridging the gap between contemporary Eastern art and the market in the West. He is the cofounder of the 3812 Gallery, with an outpost in Central Hong Kong and St James’s in London, and his company also provides professional and private art consultancy services. His vision for the Ink Now venture is driven by his passion for Chinese artists who are producing works steeped in heritage, but who look towards the future.

One such artist is Hsiao Chin – a favourite of Hui’s and a master of abstract art in Asia – whose work captures the duality of Taoist philosophy and will be shown in a solo exhibition, PUNTO: Hsiao Chin’s International Art Movement Era at 3812 Gallery next year to coincide with the artist’s 85th birthday. “Hsiao Chin’s work perfectly interprets the ‘Eastern origin in contemporary expression’ principle advocated by Ink Now and 3812 Gallery,” Hui declares. “Though the artist always claims that his work is not Chinese ink, it is obvious to see that Hsiao applies Eastern philosophical thoughts such as Lao Zhuang in Western art.” These influences translate into abstract paintings that merge colourful brush painting with modernist compositions. The show will also include a variety of archival materials that will be shown for the first time outside of Asia.

Read more: Viviane Sassen’s ‘Venus and Mercury’ at Frieze London

And Hui, unsurprisingly, has big plans to take what was once a niche market mainstream. “The objective of having a brand and platform like Ink Now is to materialise the pursuit of art from a cultural perspective to a commercial one,” he enthuses. “Over the last century, particularly in the US and Europe, the shifting influence of culture exported from the East [has transformed] due to political power shifts.” With billions of people now familiar with ink’s cultural language, the discipline is poised to gain widespread popularity.

For Hui, the “Western perspective on Chinese contemporary art was, in a way, too repetitive and rigid while lacking historical and aesthetic context.” Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, agrees that although Chinese inks inspired and continue to inspire Western art, there is still much for us to learn. “Picasso himself once said that had he been born Chinese, he would have been a calligrapher, not a painter, and there was a tablet of Chinese calligraphy on Matisse’s wall. Whether or not Western artists understand the Chinese culture or fully understand the context of ink as a colour and ink as a linear expression, it has inspired many generations of artists both in the East and the West.”

Art exhibition with press

The inaugural Ink Now art expo in Taipei earlier this year

Ink Now is designed to deliver a more nuanced study of the genre by creating a platform for academic discussions, online archives and collectors’ gatherings. Hui’s approach allows an international audience to access material and information in a “globalised community on one’s palm via smartphones,” as well as physically in the gallery spaces and exhibition venues. Ink Now is not merely an art fair; it is “trans-regional and multifaceted”, enabling “international dialogues in various cities”. And, as Hui revealed in our interview, the initiative will be coming to London, perhaps as early as 2020.

Hui knows that the words we use to talk about art are significant, and that the name ‘Ink Now’ underlines the platform’s forward- looking approach to cultural identity. The emerging and established artists promoted by Ink Now create work that is supremely relevant to the issues that preoccupy us in the present. ‘Tech Ink’ is another phrase coined by Hui to refer to our relationship to art in the online age. “Discovering, appreciating, collecting art all happens in the digital realm now. It is a new era; we are particularly fortunate to be part of making new history.”

Abstract geometric artwork using ink

‘Magical Landscape’, by Wang Jieyin

Liu Kuo-sung is a Chinese artist whose Modernist work is part of this new history. For Kuo-sung, “Ink has always been part of our culture’s DNA,” not just a media but, “really something much deeper. To me, ink is more spiritual.” He believes our era of digital connectivity will help to both influence the market and inspire ink artists. “With the evolution of technology, culture exchange and influence will be easier and faster. During my early career, information [was] scarce and I needed to either borrow a catalogue from a public source or physically go to a museum or gallery to see artworks. Today, you get so much information without needing to leave your house.”

Read more: Spanish artist Secundino Hernández on flesh & creative chaos

Museum director Jay Xu thinks the medium could even challenge the lens through which we view art history. “From the Renaissance, the scope and definition of art has been evolving, and though art has been regarded [in relation to] a Western canon, what ink could possibly do is to rethink the canon of art in general. It is a much more diverse world that we live in now. The global phenomenon must include artistic expressions of all cultures and regions, in which each have their own definition of what art is.”

The art form finds perhaps its most modern expression when machines are involved in its creation. “Digital art is definitely a trend, especially in the Western market,” Hui points out, citing Victor Wong’s artificial intelligence ink paintings, a collaboration between the artist and his AI assistant, Gemini. The robot that Wong programmed has created a fascinating, meticulous body of shuimo ink work, heading into uncharted artistic territory and prompting a wider discussion on AI artworks and the definition of art.

The relationship between traditional and contemporary inks is one duality that is explored in the art form; the tension between Western and Eastern influences is another. Jay Xu cites artist Xu Bing and his ability to “create scripts writing English alphabets in Chinese calligraphic strokes – an iconic mode of expression that is part of the ongoing evolution of calligraphy.” The museum’s 2012 exhibition, Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy, featured works from the Jerry Yang collection, including animated calligraphy by Bing and “juxtaposing Western abstract expressionism with ink art to form a dialogue”.

Abstract ink painting in black and pink

Abstract ink painting

Here: ‘L’inizio del Dao-2’ (1962); above: ‘L’Origine del Chi-3’ (1962), both by Hsiao Chin

As both a gallery owner and a collector, what does Hui think about mixing business with pleasure? “The inevitable marriage of art and investment is an agreeable phenomenon; however, the danger of treating art solely as an investment means to neglect its artistic value while focusing on the price. Art should always be about value, not the market price.” Value should be established first, and the market should follow. “As an art consultant, I take great precaution in investing in art. It is crucial to know the difference between cultural assets and financial products. The art market is much more complex, with different factors and less regulations and compliances than the financial sector.”

There is no doubt that the ink art market is growing: “The regional market in China itself is an important index on the one hand, but on the other, acceptance and exposure in locations such as London provide outlooks for the market trends.” As a gallery owner, Hui has a track record of successfully bringing works by celebrated regional artists onto a more international stage, and platforms like Ink Now often mark the beginning of a surge in the market; the growth of the contemporary African art scene in London and New York followed a similar trajectory. Ink Now’s strategy is to focus on ink art, “not just as a category, but rather as a set of mutual cultural linguistics that bridge various cultures and markets together.”

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Calvin Hui and Ink Now’s mission has artist Liu Kuo-sung’s backing: “As an artist, we need to understand our mission in life is not only to create good art, but also to leave a mark or make a contribution to our culture and civilisation. Ink art has evolved so much in the past 50 years. Today, young ink artists are creating some amazing new forms of ink art, and I have also seen some great ink art works from Western artists as well.”

On the business of collecting, Hui is equally passionate: “Mankind is drawn to collect, it is in our nature. Owning art is owning experience, emotion, and a piece of the past, it should have a story of its own, to have an interaction with the collector. It is a highly individual and subjective act. One should always collect what one loves. Buying art should not always be about investment. It is about the purest form of passion. I only buy what speaks to me, something I can engage on a deeper level.”

And what was the first piece of art that Calvin Hui collected? A lithograph by Joan Miró, an artist who was fascinated by Eastern culture and who incorporated calligraphy and ink art into his oeuvre. In other words, the artwork that Hui first chose was not only a testament to his impeccable taste, but a glimpse into his future.

Find out more: ink-now.com/en

abstract artwork with multiple lines

‘Moving Vision: Neither Dying or Being’, by Wang Huangsheng.

Calvin Hui’s six artists to know

Wang Jieyin
From the start of his career, Shanghai-based Wang Jieyin has been inspired by the cave paintings in Dunhuang. His contemporary take on ancient Chinese art results in artwork with a muted palette, a focus on natural shapes and romantic, abstracted depictions of landscapes.

Chloe Ho
Chloe Ho’s ink art references both her American and Hong Kong background with unexpected elements such as coffee and acrylic paint. Her exhibition, Unconfined Illumination, runs at 3812 Gallery in London until 15 November.

Chinese ink painting with pink and black ink

‘Volcano;, by Chloe Ho

Wang Huangsheng
Living and working in Beijing, Wang Huangsheng is a curator and professor whose minimalist contemporary ink drawings convey a range of moods, suggest landscapes and allude to calligraphy.

Victor Wong
Victor Wong’s debut in TECH-iNK is a breakthrough in combining technology with art, calling into question our definition of art and culture, while creating highly detailed, original ink depictions of surfaces, such as the moon.

Landscape painting in ink

‘Contraction and Extension of the Twilight’, by Liu Dan

Liu Dan
Liu Dan is known for the contemporary twist he applies to his organic, shaded landscapes, devoting himself to detailed studies of flowers and rocks using Chinese ink and brush techniques.

Hsu Yung Chin
Hsu Yung Chin’s practice incorporates both writing and painting, merging boundaries between the two forms of expression, and breaking all the traditions of calligraphy in order to create works that feel relevant to contemporary Chinese society.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 11 min
Man in a suit standing next to a red ferrari sportscar
Detail shot of a sports watch with black and red watch face

The Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT 3D

No detail is small enough to escape Ferrari designer Flavio Manzoni’s razor-sharp focus. Rachael Taylor discovers how his expertise in supercar design lends itself masterfully to the Hublot and Ferrari watch collaboration

In the Ferrari Maranello plant in northern Italy, you will often find Flavio Manzoni and his team convening at a ten-metre-tall LED wall display. The images they’re looking at are often enormously scaled-up photographs of the miniscule parts of a Ferrari engine or exterior. The extreme magnification is used to perfect infinitesimal details you might never notice should you take the car for a spin. And this, says Manzoni, is the essence of luxury design.

“The luxury of a Ferrari is more a consequence than an objective,” says Manzoni, the car manufacturer’s senior vice president of design, who this year accepted the Red Dot Design Team of the Year award. “There are two perspectives [of design]. One is from the distance, where you see the whole harmony of the object. The other is with the lens, when you magnify every element and put a lot of art into every single detail.”

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Focusing on each and every element – no matter how small – and making sure that it not only performs brilliantly, but is also aesthetically exciting, is what makes Ferrari cars among the most sought-after, and expensive, in the world. It is also this zoomed-in approach to design that has made the switch to designing watches a seamless transition for Manzoni.

Manzoni joined Ferrari in 2010. The following year, he was working on a top-secret project for the company’s first hybrid sportscar, LaFerrari, when he was also brought in to oversee the development of a watch in collaboration with Swiss atelier Hublot. He kicked off their first meeting with a rejection.

Man in a suit standing next to a red ferrari sportscar

Award-winning designer Flavio Manzoni has been with Ferrari since 2010

“At the beginning, their idea was to propose some concepts to us,” says Manzoni. “They wanted to draw inspiration from the central shape of a Ferrari, the dynamic shape, but my idea was to avoid that because it makes no sense to give an aerodynamic shape to a watch.”

Instead, he wanted the Hublot team to look beyond the obvious and dive deep with him into the romance of the details. “I tried to guide the research towards the technical beauty of certain mechanical components of a Ferrari, like the engine for example.”

Luxury watch product image in black and gold

Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT King Gold

Product image shot of a luxury watch

Hublot Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph

The result – the Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari watch – was spectacular. A tapered, angular case covered entirely with sapphire crystal, showed off the inner workings of an unusual movement, with the time displayed on off-centre cylinders rather than hands. In place of the traditional flat cogs and springs, an industrial-looking central column of gleaming aluminium barrels gave the impression of a watch that revs rather than ticks. Being Ferrari, performance excellence was important too, and a super- charged power reserve function was created that allowed the mechanical tourbillon watch to carry on ticking off the wrist for what was, at the time, a record 50 days. “I think they attract customers because of their uniqueness,” says Manzoni of the Hublot Ferrari watches, which he believes appeal to a much wider audience than the Ferrari fan base. “They speak out from the mass in the field of watchmaking because they are different. We try to use an out-of-the box approach, which comes from the attitude that we have towards our cars.”

Read more: Rockstar turned designer Lenny Kravtiz on champagne and creativity

It has been eight years since Hublot and Ferrari first joined forces, and Manzoni and his team have very much taken control of the design process. They select which movements to build around, and work up 3D models of prospective timepieces before presenting the concepts to Hublot. Each watch produced (using that same digital ‘wall’ for extreme close ups) continues to focus on the details of Ferraris – the ceramic carbon brake discs, the peccary leather seats – and often uses the same materials that are lavished on the supercars. No flourish is too small to champion, and it gives the team a platform to celebrate much-considered elements of the cars that might otherwise be overlooked simply as pleasant minutiae.

Black watch pictured on a red background

The limited edition Scuderia Ferrari 90th Anniversary Platinum and 3D Carbon watch

This year, Scuderia Ferrari is celebrating 90 years of making supercars, and to celebrate, three Hublot Ferrari watches have been released to mark its past, present and future. Each a twist on Hublot’s popular Big Bang model, the trio of timepieces are all powered by a UNICO movement with a flyback chronograph that offers a 72-hour power reserve and are anchored with bezels cut from the same ceramic carbon that helps Ferrari’s cars to screech to a halt.

Man in a suit standing by an abstract artworkThe first watch in the series recalls long- past glory days with a brushed platinum case to echo the dashboards of classic Scuderia Ferrari models, as well as a leather strap and bright-yellow markers and hands to bring to mind old-fashioned speedometers. The model celebrating the here and now does so with a 3D carbon case and a strap made from Nomex, the fire-resistant material Ferrari drivers rely on to keep their suits from going up in flames.

The third watch, the one that nods towards what Ferraris might look like in the future, uses sapphire crystal to create a see-through case that exposes its inner workings. The futurist aesthetic is continued with a strap made from Kevlar, a composite material that Ferrari uses to protect its carbon-fibre chassis from stones spraying up from the road.

The latest automotive launch from Ferrari is the SF90 Stradale hybrid, an evolution of the LaFerrari that inspired that first Hublot Ferrari watch. So are we likely to see this latest model transformed into a wrist-ready format? “I don’t think that there will be a literal translation, but for sure there will be some inspiration,” muses Manzoni, who never feels bound to tie the latest watches into the latest cars. “It’s always nice to create cultural bridges between different disciplines.”

Discover Hublot’s collections: hublot.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Painting of erupting volcano
Painting of erupting volcano

‘Vesuvius in Eruption’ (1817–20) by JMW Turner

The Watercolour World is an ambitious online project to digitise the world’s watercolours and rescue this all-too-often overlooked but artistically and historically significant medium from being forgotten. It is creating a wealth of riches for all of us, says Michael Brooks

Fred Hohler describes the idea as “blindingly obvious” in hindsight. Having spearheaded the creation of a digital record of the United Kingdom’s oil paintings, the former diplomat soon realised his Public Catalogue Foundation had left an ‘orphan’ collection of watercolours in dark drawers, cabinets and basements across the world.

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Now, though, these paintings are emerging, blinking, into the light. The Watercolour World is a rapidly growing website that hosts digital reproductions of watercolours from around the world. Even in these early days – the site’s official launch was in January 2019 – it has become an engrossing collection. Whether you are captivated by an 1840 view of Kings Cross as a rubbish dump – the ‘Great Dustheap’ – or sailors chasing a slave ship near Zanzibar in 1876, a seemingly inexhaustible supply of riches is coming into view. “I have a new favourite about four times a day,” Hohler admits.

Watercolour is often passed over as an unimportant medium, despite the fact that Ruskin, Gainsborough, Turner and Constable all used it at various times. “The lower status of watercolour was owing to the fact that it had been invented relatively recently, had not been used by the Old Masters, and was widely used by amateurs for documentary purposes,” says Sir Charles Saumarez Smith, senior director of Blain Southern gallery, and former chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Watercolour architectural style drawing of a tomb

‘Untitled’ [Section of the tomb of Psammuthis in Thebes, discovered and opened by Belzoni in 1818] (1817–20) by Giovanni Belzoni or Alessandro Ricci

In many ways, this negative view of the medium is what makes the new collection so compelling. In the 17th century, for instance, watercolour was the military medium of choice. Before photography, painting was considered the best way to keep tabs on where the military had been, and how easy its terrain and infrastructures would be to defend. “From the time of George III, the way of making a record for the military, then the civil service overseas, and the navy, was watercolour,” Hohler says.

At Woolwich Military Academy and elsewhere, officers studied drawing and were taught how to survey a landscape and draw coasts and harbours so that the knowledge of newly gained territories could be spread amongst the military. The watercolourist Paul Sandby was among those who did the training, and the courses were clearly popular, with many accomplished amateur painters emerging from the military academies. As a result, military, government and private collections are awash with watercolour landscapes from across the world, all painted with an attention to detail.

watercolour painting of rising dust clouds

‘The Great Dust- Heap, next to Battle Bridge and the Smallpox Hospital’ (1837) by E. H. Dixon

Many of them, however, have not seen the light of day for decades, if not centuries. “Watercolour as a medium is naturally more susceptible to the effects of heat and light,” says the charity’s chief executive Andra Fitzherbert. “As a result, they tend to be hidden away in dark places or kept in albums where they’re rarely pulled out and enjoyed.”

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And that’s where The Watercolour World project comes in. Launched with the patronage of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and realised through support from the Marandi Foundation, The Watercolour World aims to collate hundreds of thousands of watercolour paintings, many of which have never been available to the public until now.

Watercolour painting of Mount Vesuvius erupting with plumes of smoke

‘Untitled’ [eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 1760–61] (1776) by Pietro Fabris

It’s a labour of love, but it will also be very useful, Hohler says. For a start, the watercolours facilitate the re-creation of lost historical artefacts. Paintings in the collection show the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which has been extensively destroyed by ISIS. Hohler and Fitzherbert hope that The Watercolour World will one day be useful to its regeneration. Then there are the watercolours depicting the tombs of Pharaoh Sety I. The wall paintings of these tombs were damaged by those keen to profit from exhibiting the contents and recreating the spaces for a London audience in the 19th century. Thanks to watercolours, there is a record of how they once looked, and The Watercolour World will be an invaluable resource for future archaeological research.

Watercolour painting of horse and cart by Thomas Gainsborough

‘Woodland Scene with a Peasant, a Horse, and a Cart’ (c. 1760) by Thomas Gainsborough

Just as exciting is the scientific potential of the project. Many watercolours offer a view of a world that no longer exists and are a means by which conservationists, ocean scientists, coastal engineers and geologists can reach back into the past, make sense of the present, and perhaps safeguard the future.

There is strong precedent for this. In the 1860s, the government moved the Gunditjmara, the Aboriginal people of the area, off Tower Hill, an extinct volcano in Victoria, Australia. They proceeded to clear the land’s thick vegetation for grazing. Only in the 1960s was there a move to restore the area. Fortunately, the watercolourist Eugene von Guérard had made a painting of the virgin land in 1855, a painting so detailed that the authorities could identify more than 20 species of plant to use in the restoration project.

Read more: Geoffrey Kent discusses the influence of top-earning millennials

The vast and growing catalogue of paintings in The Watercolour World means that similar restorations might be possible in other areas. Some of the paintings are already in use in a project to catalogue changes in the British coastline over the past 250 years. Geologist and coastal engineer Robin McInnes is in the closing stages of The State of the British Coast Study, which was commissioned by The Crown Estate, the European Commission and Historic England. Using a range of sources, including paintings in The Watercolour World, McInnes has been able to discern where and when beaches have eroded, cliff lines have changed and engineering projects have made an impact on the shoreline. The results of the study will be used to aid conservation and ecological efforts. “They’ve been feeding me coastal images, many from private collections that have never been seen before. I’ve been able to use some in my study,” McInnes says. Some are from less highbrow sources, too. “Postcard companies employed some prolific watercolour artists to paint the coast.”

Watercolour painting of an old fashioned campsite

‘The Encampment in Hyde Park’ (1781) by Paul Sandby

Another environmental application will be in surveys of glaciers. Watercolours have a strong history here. The first known depiction of a glacier, made in 1601, was Abraham Jäger’s painting of the Rofener Glacier in Austria. By the middle of the 19th century, artists were painting faithful renditions of scenes at the heads of glaciers. John Brett’s Glacier of Rosenlaui, for instance, shows the position of the glacier in 1856, as well as a detailed portrait of the erratics, the boulders at its head that had been carried by the ice. The Watercolour World’s collection includes renditions of glaciers by Horace Bénédict de Saussure, the precision of which give a marker for recent glacier retreat. “Climate change is on almost everybody’s mind right now, but in the 19th century artists and scientists were working together documenting glaciers,” says Barbara Matilsky, who curated last year’s ‘Vanishing Ice’ exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. Many of the show’s 47 artworks, dating from 1860 to 2017, showed evidence of climate change.

watercolour painting of cliffs and the sea

‘Bat’s Hole’ (no date) by Henry Joseph Moule

Using The Watercolour World as a scientific resource is a “fabulous idea”, Matilsky says. She points out that artists and scientists have long worked together to document the natural environment. In the 19th century, for instance, geologists at the Museum of Natural History in Paris commissioned artists to paint glaciers. “They wanted to show students what they look like so they could intuit from these works the processes that formed the glaciers,” Matilsky says. “Scientists were very much aware that artists were important in communicating scientific concepts.”

At the other end of Earth’s temperature scale, The Watercolour World includes dozens of paintings of volcanoes. The 1776 eruption of Vesuvius is particularly well represented, because the British diplomat Sir William Hamilton commissioned the artist Pietro Fabris to paint 54 illustrations of the volcano for his scientific studies of its geology.

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Fitzherbert is keen to point out that The Watercolour World will be of relevance to everyone, not just to scientists and culture professionals. All of the images have searchable location and keyword information, allowing people to explore their family history and their local area’s past. “We want to make it personal so that people can navigate through a map and find local places of interest and find family homes or where they were brought up,” she says. “People can use these paintings to reflect on their own lives.”

The Watercolour World operates a small team, equipped with a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, to perform the digitisation. In addition, a group of volunteers tag and categorise the images, adding their locations and all relevant data about the artist’s intentions. Only then are they uploaded onto the site.

The project has yielded unexpected gains. One is that, in some ways, the website offers something even better than a gallery viewing. The scanners provide a depth of colour and an ability to zoom in that just aren’t available in a static display. What’s more, observing the paintings on screens means they are, effectively, backlit. “You see it in an entirely different way,” Hohler says. “It’s given a brilliance to these images that you don’t otherwise get.”

Though the collection is already clocking in at 83,000 images, a queue is forming. “The wonderful thing is, as soon as you launch a project like this, it belongs to everybody,” Hohler says. Many institutions and organisations have offered their digitised collections. The Watercolour World is even receiving offers to scan private collections that have never been made public, let alone digitised. “We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s positivity and encouragement,” Fitzherbert says.

Find out more: watercolourworld.org

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue

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Reading time: 8 min
Woman walks in front of an artwork fanning herself
Woman walks in front of an artwork fanning herself

Artist Amani Althuwaini pictured with her work Present Tense. Image by James Houston

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre brings Kuwaiti contemporary art to Venice with a mixed-media group exhibition by young emerging artists

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, otherwise known as the ASCC, is a colossal museum complex housing six separate institutions: a Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Museum of Islamic History, Space Museum, Fine Arts Centre and theatre. It’s the largest of its kind in Kuwait with the aim of promoting cross-cultural learning and awareness. With that in mind, the centre’s most recent initiative invites emerging Kuwaiti artists to apply for a residency, in which they are given space to work, and opportunities to exhibit overseas.

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This summer marks the first edition of the programme, which launched earlier this month with the opening of a group shown entitled ‘In my dream I was in Kuwait’ at the Scuola dell’Arte dei Tiraoro e Battioro . The building itself is a relic of Venice’s rich artistic history; it was once the home of the guild of artists and makers of gold thread and gold leaf. Now the building, offers a grand space for events and exhibitions in one of the world’s most picturesque settings. From the gallery’s top windows, you can watch the boats floating along the Grand Canal and almost imagine that you’ve slipped back in time. As such, the current exhibition of contemporary Kuwaiti art makes for an interesting contrast, uniting not only two distinct cultures, but also eras.

The show is split into two halves with the work of three artists (Amani Althuwaini, Mahmoud Shaker, and Zahra Marwan) currently on display until August when the next three artists will take over.

Small paintings hanging on a dark blue wall

A selection of artworks by Zahra Marwan. Image by James Houston

Marwan’s small-scale watercolour illustrations, which occupy the first floor gallery space, ahave a picture-book quality both with regards to the light-hearted brushstrokes and their narrative descriptors. The description of After the Fish Market reads: ‘I was able to choose my own fish at the market, and I thought it would come to life at home.’ Yet, many of these miniature works are also imbued with an air of melancholia and longing, depicting characters lost in nostalgia and half sleep states.

close up image of artwork with scripture and red painted faces

Detail of We See Everything by Mahmoud Shaker. Image by James Houston

Shaker’s works in the upper gallery space also contain an element of storytelling, combining photography and painting with handwritten lines from his own poetry in Arabic. Whilst we might not be able to understand the verse, the lettering gives the work the appearance of another era, and thus creates an intriguing tension between tradition and contemporary subject matter.

Read more: What to see at this year’s Masterpiece London

Althuwaini’s work, however, is the most striking both in composition and themes. Present Tense depicts an oversized chest of drawers, which references the Kuwaiti dowry tradition and its contemporary manifestations. The flatness of the piece presents a critique on the modern prioritisation of quantity rather than quality.

Gold embroidered words floating on a veil against a white wall

Detail of installation artwork He is not your choice by Amani Althuwaini. Image by James Houston

Another of Althuwaini’s installations, entitled He is not your choice, hangs suspended from the ceiling in one corner of the upper gallery. This is a wedding veil embroidered with the story of the artist’s friend who accepted an arranged marriage because of the groom’s perceived eligibility. The veil itself is translucent, whilst the gold lettering appears bold, defiant and doubly inscribed by the sunlight as it casts shadows of the words against the walls.

A woman using an old fashion weaving machine

A weaver at work inside the Tessitura Bevilacqua workshop, Venice. Image by James Houston

Whilst these works offer audiences insights into Middle Eastern artistic practises and cultures, the artists themselves are invited to explore traditional Venetian craft through workshops with weavers Tessitura Bevilacqua and glass maker Leonardo Cimolin amongst others. The central idea being that the Kuwaiti artists will find inspiration for their contemporary practise in ancient methods, and so continue the cross-cultural dialogue.

‘In my dream I was in Kuwait’ runs until 28 November 2019 at Scuola dell’Arte dei Tiraoro e Battioro, Venice. For more information visit: ascckw.com

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