boathouse
boathouse

LongHouse Reserve in Long Island photographed by Philippe Cheng

Maryam Eisler is set to revisit the effects of Covid – for good and for bad – through an exhibition at LongHouse Reserve in Long Island, presenting conversations with 164 artists from across the globe into a physical book, ‘Confined Artists: Free Spirits – portraits and interviews from Lockdown’ so as to crystalise a significant period in our common history and humanity.

How easy it is to forget. Four years on from the pandemic, we talk about it only occasionally. Yet it is vital to remember what Covid did to us. Artists, the very pulse of our respective societies, recorded it.

That’s why I put together my conversations with 164 artists from across the globe into a physical book, to crystalise a significant period in our common history and humanity.

During the pandemic, we spoke of rediscovering the importance of connectivity, humanity, compassion and empathy.

Four years on, we live in an ever madder and more dehumanised world filled with hatred. It’s as if the lessons learned then are no longer significant today.

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

I was delighted to be invited by LongHouse Reserve in Long Island to present an institutional show this summer. I hope the book and exhibition will help recover our memories when it comes to those difficult times, and our shared humanity.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, once again.

Read more: The future of philanthropy, with UBS

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Sheree Hovsepian portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

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Eric Fischl portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

“As a sanctuary and place of respite during the pandemic, and founded
as a place for artist conversations, LongHouse welcomes Maryam Eisler and looks forward to reprising her myriad of conversations from the lockdown”

Carrie Barratt, Director, LongHouse Reserve

‘This summer project will bring together the beauty, synergy, and passion of Maryam and LongHouse. Maryam is an extraordinarily insightful artist, friend, humanitarian, and writer who possesses the insight to sensitively document this challenging period.’

Pamela Willoughby, independent curator

Joel Mesler portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

“Since the day I first walked into a museum and later entered an artist’s studio, and even later as I occupy an artist’s studio today, I have come to believe that the documentation of the time and space of the artist’s journey is almost as important as the artworks that get made and presented as artworks”

Joel Mesler, artist

woman

Shirin Neshat portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

“Maryam Eisler is one of my most favourite people in the art world, a visionary woman who has defied all descriptions as a devoted artist, patron, editor and publisher. Her online conversations in lockdown felt comforting, and were a reminder of artists’ need for a community, especially in a time of crisis”

Shirin Neshat, artist

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Mickalene Thomas portrait captured by Maryam Eisler on FaceTime during Lockdown 2020

A series of talks are organised in August 2025 at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton , Long Island, with some of the artists featured in Maryam Eisler’s book, to include Shirin Neshat , Mickalene Thomas, Sheree Hovsepian, Joel Mesler and Eric Fischl. For full details please visit: longhouse.org/products/2024-maryam-eisler-placeholder

 

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A red restaurant with a large window at the back and long rows of tables with benches and chairs on either side and crystal chandeliers over the bar
A rom with with a white sofa and wooden tables with red flowers on them

A view of the glamorous Baccarat suite at the Baccarat Hotel, New York

LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Baccarat Hotel New York for some Midtown glitz

Midtown Manhattan, directly opposite MoMA: until recently, something of a luxury hotel desert. But not now. Exit your car, breathe the interior perfume as you are ushered into the elevator and emerge on a mezzanine floor that is like a very chichi boutique townhouse of the type that might appear in the TV series Gossip Girl.

The mezzanine is a series of interwoven rooms that actually more resemble a series of townhouses melded together. A little reception area here a living-room area there, a bar here and an outside balcony/terrace over there.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A townhouse owned by a billionaire, then. The decor is very out there:  Baccarat crystal chandeliers everywhere, quite beautiful craftsmanship on mirrors (also everywhere), deep-pile carpets, bold darks and bright lights contrasting on the walls and ceilings. The Baccarat feels like a French château reimagined for 21st-century luxe Manhattan.

A red restaurant with a large window at the back and long rows of tables with benches and chairs on either side and crystal chandeliers over the bar

Baccarat crystal chandeliers contrast with checkerboard floors in The Bar

And that’s before we got to our room. Light carpets, a modern four-poster bed, huge windows looking out beyond the roof of MoMA and quite the most striking in-room bar. This comprised a fold-out, red-lacquered piece of marquetry containing a set of striking and heavy Lalique cut-crystal glasses, silver tongs and accessorise, and an array of spirits and bottles. Not feeling like any Blue Label during our stay, we used the glasses for water.

Le Jardin terrace was abuzz with young, wealthy New Yorkers sipping some quite original cocktails, all served in Baccarat crystal, of course. We enjoyed a Magic Eye, comprising tequila, mezcal, cinnamon syrup, green apple and cereal milk, refreshing and quietly deadly. You can eat on the terrace, or in the adjoining Grand Salon, where we had dinner the following night. Jamón ibérico, langoustines de St Tropez, crab daikon roulade – a panopoly of modern European with a brush of East Asian.

Read more: Hotel Crans Ambassador, Crans-Montana, Switzerland Review

The Baccarat’s location is also refreshing in many ways, midtown being literally in the middle of it all, so, even if your meetings are on the Upper East Side, Hudson Yards and SoHo, as ours were, it’s not too far from anywhere, and indeed makes New York walkable. Not that many guests at the Baccarat would do that, I suspect. They would rather get their exercise in the very stylish indoor pool, and add additional glow at the Spa de la Mer, before jumping into the complementary city car service, or jumping into their awaiting Escalade. Chic.

Find out more: baccarathotels.com

 

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A dark green walkway to a bar overlooking the Freedom Tower in New York
A dark green walkway to a bar overlooking the Freedom Tower in New York

Nubeluz at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad by Martin Brudnizki bring guests to the skies of New York

Martin Brudnizki and Bruno Moinard are two of the most celebrated names in interior architecture and design today. Here, Brudnizki takes LUX on a grand tour of Martin Brudnizki Design Studio’s most recent projects, while Moinard shares his design inspiration and creative process

Martin Brudnizki

Nubeluz at the Ritz-Carlton new York, Nomad
With Nubeluz located on the 50th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, our concept for its interior was to create a star in the New York sky. The project’s core is a central backlit onyx bar, and the surfaces are designed to reflect its lighting. A high-gloss lacquer ceiling, a marble floor, mirrored and onyx tables, plus six statement brass saucer chandeliers ensure that light bounces around the room in a magical way.

A man sitting with this hands to his chin at a bar

Martin Brudnizki

The colour scheme takes the project from lightbox to jewel box with a teal envelope to the walls, floor and ceiling, highlighting the coral seating in its luxurious mohair and flame stitch-patterned fabrics. We didn’t want to disrupt the views, so sheer teal-trimmed roman blinds hang across the windows. Our interior is a celebration of light and the city, referencing the classic hotel bar and saluting the views over an iconic skyline. It is modern and quintessentially New York.

nubeluzbyjose.com

Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s New York
This is the illustrious French five-star hotel brand’s first foray into the US. In Paris it is located on the Champs-Élysées, so you might think its natural New York home would be the Upper East Side, but its team chose Tribeca – a decision I love. Our design challenge was to combine a distinctly Parisian ambience with a downtown location.

A brown and red bar with velvets and wood

Hôtel Barrièrre Fouquet’s New York by Martin Brudnizki brings the iconic Parisian hotel to Paris

We have brought together high glamour and elegance in a modern, timeless design, while leaning on the building’s loft-style architecture that blends seamlessly into the Tribeca landscape. Parisian design accents can be found in the rich materiality and colour palettes, while a carefully curated art collection, featuring many local artists, has a gritty urban appeal.

hotelsbarriere.com/en/collection-fouquets/new-york

Vesper Bar at The Dorchester, London
With this project, it was important to respect the past while bringing it to a new era. We were inspired by celebrated Roaring Twenties creatives, such as Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel, who each had a history with The Dorchester.

Two green chairs next to a wooden table and wooden wall

Vesper Bar at the Dorchester by Martin Brudnizki

Their inspiration was integral to the spirit of this landmark bar. We also nodded to designer Syrie Maugham in our use of the mirrored columns. The hope is that the Vesper Bar inspires another Roaring Twenties.

dorchestercollection.com

Mother Wolf, LA
Situated off Sunset Boulevard, Mother Wolf is a playful Italian restaurant that has become a magnet for LA celebrities since its opening in 2022. Working with chef Evan Funke and Ten Five Hospitality, we created a homage to the glamour and elegance of Italian design.

A room with green plants and red leather furniture and mirrored walls

Mother Wolf, LA by Martin Brudnizki

References to architects Gio Ponti and Carlo Scarpa can be found in the dining chairs and central bar, while a trompe-l’oeil scene depicts lemons and pomegranates – an ode to Italy’s chic riviera. With its Murano-glass lighting, antique mirrors and Siena-marble table tops, every aspect of the restaurant’s interiors connects to the design heritage of Italy.

motherwolfla.com

Bruno Moinard

I am guided by lines, materials, light, energy and movement: whether in my work as an architect – in our projects around the world with Claire Bétaille for famous brands and high-profile clients – or in my more intimate work as a designer and painter.

A man standing amongst blue paintings in a studio

Bruno Moinard in his studio amongst his paintings

When I began to appreciate beautiful old cars – and I have three mythical English models – I saw their design is a distillation of everything that makes me vibrate in my creative process. I see these qualities in the bodywork, the leather, wood and chrome, the colours, the interplay between interior and exterior, the vision of the future in front of me and of the road travelled behind.

A red and white lobby with flowers hanging on pillars a large chandelier hanging over a rug

Interiors of Hôtel Plaza Athénee lobby, Paris by Bruno Moinard

So the challenge I set myself is to work with authenticity to evoke an emotion, to give a simple pleasure and generate unique sensations. This is luxury. It has nothing to do with glitz or so-called rarity.

A hallway with a marble floor and staircase

Hôtel du Marc lobby, Reims by Bruno Moinard

So in the cellars of Clos de Tart, a 1,000-year-old Burgundy vineyard with a Cistercian history, we built on the exceptional quality of the historic building, bringing light into the space, giving it life, to place it in harmony with the pure elegance of the wines.

A dark dining room with a chandelier hanging over the table

Hôtel du Marc dining room by Bruno Moinard

In “Résonance”, my recent exhibition in Paris, we made each painting an experiential space that I invited people to enter. My recent furniture collections also seek this sense, which has a direct impact on quality of life and on the welcoming nature of a space.

A living room with cream and grey furniture and a blue painting on the wall

One Monte-Carlo living room, Monaco by Bruno Moinard

My lights, furniture, carpets and objects bring freshness and softness with natural forms and materials. I am privileged to work in complementary fields and my inspiration in both is based on the same triptych of emotion, continuity and sustainability, while promoting the finest workmanship and expertise.

brunomoinardeditions.com

moinardbetaille.com

brunomoinardpeinture.com

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

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

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati

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

Find out more: acaciaweb.it

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

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

Ricky Burrows in a moment of pause © Maryam Eisler

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

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

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

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

Scenes from the Brooklyn Army Terminal © Maryam Eisler

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

ME: When did you start painting?

RB: Around maybe the age of sixteen.

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

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

A man sitting on the floor surrounded by artworks

Burrows sitting on the floor with his works © Maryam Eisler

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

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

A man standing next to a yellow painting

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

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

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

Paintings of colourful distorted faces

Early career works by Ricky Burrows © Maryam Eisler

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

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

Yellow Zebra crossing on a chair

The exterior of the Brooklyn Army Terminal © Maryam Eisler

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

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

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

Looking out the studio window © Maryam Eisler

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

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

plastic dolls and books on a desk

Inspirational objects around the studio © Maryam Eisler

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

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

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

In an around the studio © Maryam Eisler

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

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

blue and white Nike Air Jordans

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

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

RB: Very utilitarian, 100 percent yes.

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

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

"RB" painted in black on a white canvas

Ricky Burrows’ ‘signature’ © Maryam Eisler

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

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

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

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

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

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

ME: You’re having your first solo show at Harper’s this November. What did you say you were going to do with the money from Harper’s show?

RB: Well with the money from Harper’s show – because I know I’m going to sell out – I’m going to develop and start my own apparel company. I’m of course still learning how to manage my finances so I don’t crash out or run out of money. It’s all so new to me.

A picture of a woman coloured in at the top and left blank on the bottom

Works in progress © Maryam Eisler

ME: Please share with me the story behind your ‘big break‘ moment. From the street to Harper…how did that happen?

RB: I met Harper through Rashid Johnson.

ME: And how did you meet Rashid?

RB: Off the internet. At, like, 5 o’clock in the morning, March 6, 2023. I was here. I didn’t have as much stuff; it was a lot cleaner because I was broke. I had just broken up with this girl… she said either get a job or I’m leaving you. That instagram page which you follow me on (@presidentrickyburrows), well, I just made that, two or three days later. I was like, let me give it a shot, so I reached out to him (Rashid). Two hours later, he had his assistant Alex send me a list of paintings that he said he wanted. People tell me all the time ‘I’ll get this, I’ll get that’ so I kind of blew it off and went to sleep. But when I woke up, I had a message from his Alex: ‘I’ll meet you at your studio at 11 o’clock.’ I was like ‘Whatever man, whatever !’ I reread the message like ten times. I also checked the name ten times. That’s when I realised that this is a real page, Rashid’s page. Then his Alex called me and I was like, oh sh*t, this is really happening.

They actually came to see me and two days later, he brought Harper here. Harper lost his mind when he saw my work. He showed some of my work at Nada; it sold out. And, he’s been my best friend ever since.

A man leaning over a bridge overlooking train tracks in a tunnel

A moment of reflection at the entrance of the Brooklyn Army Terminal where Ricky holds his studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: What is the inspiration behind your upcoming show with Harper?

RB: It’s a unified story. I say ‘unified’ because it includes all the people around me… friends, the streets and the Bible; I think the show will just be a nice introduction to my life.

pain brushes in a jar on a chair

Inspiration around the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: The Bible?

RB: Yes, because I grew up with the Church. We’re Baptist.

Read more: An Interview with William Kentridge

ME: Do you work a lot with local churches?

RB: No, I work a lot with and in my mind. I haven’t been to the Church since I was fifteen. I don’t have a religion.

A man wearing a white t shirt sitting on an art work on the floor in a studio

Burrows’ work-in-progress of Jesus coming off the cross © Maryam Eisler

ME: So is it the concept and the philosophy of religion that interests you?

RB: Yes, the concept. It’s really about the human stories. I think I only realised this maybe three months ago.

ME: Would you say you are the ‘Chosen One’ ?

RB: Yes, maybe I am!

The Brooklyn Army Terminal‘s (designed by Cass Gilbert) construction was originally approved in 1918, during World War I, and was completed after the conclusion of the war. The terminal was subsequently leased out and used for various purposes, including as a dock, a military prison, and a storage space for drugs and alcohol during the Prohibition. During World War II, the terminal was the United States’ largest military supply base. The site occupies more than 95 acres, on Brooklyn’s western shore.

Ricky Burrows’ show, Saved, will be on display at Harper’s from November 16-December 23

@presidentrickyburrows
@harpersbooks

All photography by Maryam Eisler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shades of green paint on a canvas

Susan Weil, Landscape, Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery

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

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

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

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

colourful lines in pink and blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

A room with a couch, table and chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

squares with drawn body parts in black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: www.sundaramtagore.com

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A messy bar that says 'Roth Bar' on it
A messy bar that says 'Roth Bar' on it

“Roth Bar” Hauser & Wirth St Moritz, 2022-2023, by Björn, Oddur and Einar Roth

As Vice President of Artnet, LUX Contributing Editor Sophie Neuendorf has a unique view of upcoming events in the art world. Here is her pick of seven shows to visit this season
A blonde woman wearing a brown jacket with her hand together

Sophie Neuendorf

“Roth Bar”, Hauser & Wirth, St Moritz 
This is a fully working bar designed by Björn, Oddur and Einar Roth, son and grandsons of Dieter Roth, who first ideated the bar in the 1980s. Presented alongside a rare self portrait by Dieter Roth, this Alpine gallery iteration is a dynamic and ever-changing installation and an example of the Roths’ cross-generational practice. This exhibition uses the gallery’s ground-floor space as a hub for music, talks, readings and simply getting together.

Until 9 September 2023; hauserwirth.com

“After the Mediterranean”, Hauser & Wirth, Menorca
This profound exhibition is curated by Oriol Fontdevila. It features seven artists whose works address the human and ecological challenges affecting the Mediterranean region, as well as the human capacity to solve them.

A woman running on an open path wearing a red jacket and purple bottoms

Excerpt from The Dido Problem, 2021, by Huniti Goldox

An island in the sea with a house built on it

Hauser & Wirth Menorca, Illa del Rei

Until 29 October 2023; hauserwirth.com

“Basquiat x Warhol. Painting Four Hands”, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris 
Not only is this an incredible space (designed by starchitect Frank Gehry), the exhibition promises to be one of the most notable of 2023, with the dynamic duo having created more than 160 artworks together. Also featured will be individual works, and pieces by major figures such as Jenny Holzer and Kenny Scharf, to evoke the energy of New York’s downtown art scene in the 1980s.

A drawing of two men's faces with crazy hair, one in a blue background and one on a yellow background

Dos Cabezas, 1982, by Jean-Michel Basquiat

A warped shaped glass building with a pool in front of it

Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

Until 28 August 2023; fondationlouisvuitton.fr

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“Georgia O’Keefe: To See Takes Time”, MoMa, New York 
Following the Thyssen-Bornemisza’s survey in 2021, this exhibition explores a different side to the groundbreaking modernist. O’Keeffe is known for her unique paintings of desert flowers and cow skulls, but MoMA focuses on abstract works on paper made with watercolour, pastel, charcoal and graphite, with associated paintings shown alongside.

A red and yellow circle painted above a green and blue line on paper

Evening Star No III, 1917, by Georgia O’Keeffe

A building with a white exterior entrance

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Until 12 August 2023; moma.org

“Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody”, The Broad, Los Angeles 
Astonishingly, Haring has never been given a museum show in the City of Angels. Inspired by Haring’s personal journals, the exhibition will highlight his engagement with social issues, such as nuclear disarmament, capitalism, apartheid and the AIDS crisis. There will also be interactive elements, such as a gallery infused with the sounds of one of Haring’s own playlists.

A red and black painting of doodles

Red Room, 1988, by Keith Haring

A triangle shaped white building on a busy road

The Broad, LA

Until 8 October 2023; thebroad.org

“Marina Abramović”, Royal Academy of Arts, London
I am a huge fan of Marina Abramović, so I’m thrilled she is getting a major retrospective at the RA in London this autumn. One of a number of artists, including Vito Acconci and Chris Burden, who experimented with using the body as a medium in the 1970s, Abramović pushes physical and mental boundaries to explore themes of emotional and spiritual transfiguration. The show includes physical performances of iconic works.

A woman with her hair back wearing a white shirt

Portrait of Marina Abramović

An old style building with a Union Jack flag flying on the top of it

Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, London

23 September-10 December 2023; royalacademy.org.uk

“Women Masters, Old and Modern”, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional, Madrid
From this autumn, the Thyssen-Bornemisza shines a spotlight on ten women artists across four centuries, including Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Cassatt and Sonia Delaunay. Curated from a feminist perspective, the show focuses on groups of artists and gallerists who shared values and socio-cultural conditions and were able, despite the patriarchy, to establish alternative gazes.

Read more: Patrick Sun on LGBTQ artists in Asia

An old painting of a woman wearing a red dress showing her leg

Portia Wounding Her Thigh, 1664, by Elisabetta Sirani

A building with a large tree on the side of it

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional, Madrid

31 October 2023-4 February 2024; museothyssen.org

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

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A painting of a devil with red, green and black paint dripping on the canvas
A painting of a devil with red, green and black paint dripping on the canvas

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Devil), 1982. Private Collection; © 2023 Phillips Auctioneers LLC, all rights reserved; © Estate of Jean-Michel
Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

Eight monumental works created by Jean-Michel Basquiat when he was 21 years old are brought together for the first time in an exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, institutional partner of Swiss luxury watch brand Richard Mille. By Darius Sanai

What is it about Jean-Michel Basquiat that continues to captivate, 35 years after his death in the summer of 1988 at the age of 27? His art, for sure. Although he wasn’t quite the global superstar he would become after his death, his art was recognised at the time as being original, monumental, complex, important.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Then there are the societal and political themes. Born to a Haitian father and a mother born to Puerto Rican parents, Basquiat was, and arguably remains, the only black artist to have achieved global superstardom. The representations of racial oppression in his works came less than 20 years after segregation – a form of apartheid – was formally abolished in the US.

A painted black canvas with bits of blue and a devil with his hands in the air wearing red

Jean-Michael Basquiat, Profit 1, 1982. Private Collection, Switzerland © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo by Robert Bayer

And then there is the social context. Although many of the themes in his work are deadly serious, Basquiat was a pioneer and a high-flier in perhaps the most exciting art scene that has ever existed in the western world, that of New York during the birth of hip- hop, punk, new wave and rap. He was friends with Andy Warhol, sold his first painting to Debbie Harry (for $200) and made music with some of the biggest names in the emerging hip-hop scene. Basquiat was friends with Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, as well as a punk-art crowd at the Mudd Club and CBGB. He also had a good fortune, or misfortune, to shoot to fame during one of the art world’s biggest booms, which subsequently went bust not long after his death of a death heroin overdose.

The 1980s are, in many ways, when the contemporary era began, and Basquiat, and graffiti poet, musician and multimedia artist, was a fresh symbol of the era, both in his works and his vivid social life, making Warhol at the time seem old and outdates to many. There is also the fact that Basquiat was making art in parts of New York that were run down to the point of abandonment – this is a city that declared bankruptcy in the 1970s – and which are now the site of the homes of wealthy art collectors, who may have been children when Basquiat’s legend was being established.

A yellow and blue painted canvas with a black painted woman and a body on the side

Jean-Michael Basquiat, Untitled (Woman with Roman Torso [Venus]), 1982. Private Collection © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo by Robert Bayer

Basquiat’s life itself seems to be out of a fictional movie so cruel it could not be made. Inspired in art and poetry by his moth, who subsequently disappeared into a universe of insanity; a poet writing on walls with a sharpness of words and perceptiveness that could shock society; a socialite and charmer so handsome he was asked to work as a catwalk model and who counted himself as Madonna‘s first boyfriend; an artist of such originality and brilliance that his work s have grown with time; and a young man with countless pressures pressing down on him who died of a drug overdose in new York’s 1980s peak.

Ultimately, it’s all about the art, as this monumental exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland, demonstrates. “Basquiat: The Modena Paintings” showcases eight huge canvases, all over two metres by four metres, created by the artist when he was invited to create works in the Italian city in 1982, at the age of 21. Already a celebrated name on the contemporary art scene, Basquiat was invited to Modena by the Italian gallerist Emilio Mazzoli, who provided Basquiat with a warehouse space to create work for an intended solo exhibition. It was not a happy time for Basquiat, who later commentated, “They set it up for me so I’d have to make eight paintings in a week”, adding that working in the warehouse made him feel like he was in a “sick factory”. He made eight paintings, before a disagreement between the artist’s representative and Mazzoli led to the cancellation of the exhibition. The gallerist paid Basquiat for his work and he returned home.

A painting of a stick man with a body and top hat in black on a pink and blue painted canvas

Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Guilt of Gold Teeth, 1982. Nahmad Collection © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo by Annik Wetter

It took time for the eight works to find homes – astonishingly, in retrospect, as they are now considered some of his greatest works, perhaps his greatest. The exhibition at the Beyeler was the first time they have ever been reunited and shown in one place, and the location is highly apposite. In 1983, a year after his unhappy trip to Modena, Basquiat was invited by Ernst Beyeler to take part in the exhibition “Expressive Painting after Picasso” at his gallery in Basel – a Basquiat work was on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. Years later, in 2010, the Fondation Beyeler, of which luxury Swiss watch brand Richard Mille is an institutional partner, held the first major museum Basquiat retrospective.

Read more: The Richard Mille Art Prize with Louvre Abu Dhabi

We can only imagine what Basquiat – who would be in his sixties now – would have produced had his life not come to such an early end; what contributions he would have made not just to the art world, but to the broader world of the arts – to poetry and to society as a whole, as perhaps the first celebrity contemporary artist. But in these canvases in Basel, his power and brilliance are compelling.

Find out more: fondationbeyeler.ch

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Reading time: 4 min
A woman with her arms folded wearing a white and blue dress
A woman with her arms folded wearing a white and blue dress

Sana Rezwan at Barwara Kothi, Jaipur

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

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

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

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

A group of people standing in a gold room

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

paintbrushes, paint and art on a table

Artist Tanya Goel’s New Delhi studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more:
publicartstrustofindia.org
theartlab.studio

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

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a sofa in a lobby with colourful works of art on the walls behind it
a sofa in a lobby with colourful works of art on the walls behind it

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

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

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

A landscaped terrace at the Deutsche Bank Center

A landscaped terrace at the Deutsche Bank Center

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

Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century by Andy Warhol

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Fei Lai Feng by Thomas Struth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faces of Infinity (Unfinished) by Charles Avery

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: art.db.com

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

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Reading time: 5 min
A man in a white hoodie sitting next to a man in a striped shirt

William Rand and Rene Ricard 1988, Rand Studio NYC 1988. Photo by Will Daley © Estate of Will Daley

William Rand, has dedicated his latest book, ‘Rene’ to the life of his friend, tumultuous artist and poet, Rene Ricard. Here he reminisces with Maryam Eisler about New York’s exciting community-led art world during the 1980’s and 90’s and his more mellow life now as he resides in Maine

Maryam Eisler: ‘Rene’, your latest book, is a form of diary of your East Village studio from the 80’s to the 90’s, with a backdrop of your friendship with the artist and poet Rene Ricard, set within an atmosphere of tragic events interlaced with street crime and drug addiction. Let’s talk about the shoe box time-capsule method you used for recording these events.

William B. Rand: I remember writing things down because the first time I did it, I couldn’t believe what was happening at my studio. It was so surreal; the drama and the fear around Rene was the most intense you could probably find in the whole of New York City.

ME: You have made references to a ‘safari’. Was it really the ‘jungle’ you have often referred to?

turquoise book cover and a black and white photo of a man's profile

RENE book cover, front and back. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, quote by Raymond Foye, executor Rene Ricard Estate. Courtesy of William Rand and Osprey Press

WR: Rene himself referred to it as ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’! It was all so over my head really, that I felt like ‘ok I’m just going to write this down, because this is all too unbelievable for me not to write down’. The way Rene spoke, the order of his words, it was all so unique that five minutes later, he wouldn’t remember anything. So, writing things down as he said them was the closest way to preserving his rapid-fire complex communication – I just put them all in a box, and I certainly couldn’t let him know.

ME: What I found interesting about the time you are referencing is this sense of strong (artistic) community that reigned in New York City. Rene sometimes slept on the street, but there was a real sense of community that pulled itself together to support him … at times even paying him above normal artist rates, to perform, so as to keep his voice alive! In today’s art world, I don’t feel we have this same sense of artistic community and support. It may have been very chaotic then, on many levels, but to me, it seems like there was more authenticity in feelings, in compassion, in humanity, than there is now?

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WR: Well, the people that cared about Rene could calm him down; Brice Marden and he had a very stable and authentic friendship; Brice is from the Boston area, as was Rene – they really understood each other. There were a number of us who were truly dedicated to him, and as Schnabel and other friends of his learned only too quickly, Rene loved being broke. ‘If he got $60,000, it would be gone by 5:00 pm, and Rene would be begging for cigarette money’ as Raymond Foye once said.

A man wearing a black shirt holding a cigarette

William Rand by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders 1982 from the series Art world. Collection of MoMA, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders 2023

ME: Were there many other big names in the art world whose careers were strongly linked to Rene’s?

WR: Yes. Rene, for example, wrote about Francesco [Clemente] and it was used for a publication at Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London. Rene was the one person who could cut through everyone and tell them what he thought; they all loved his poetry, Clemente especially. Rene would often say ‘We’re going out, we have a mission!’ and I’d get dressed and go with him, and it was often on a very good adventure; sometimes, there was trouble lurking around the corner. He was a junkie but there was always this fabric of poetry, art and life behind it all, which made it both interesting and intellectually rewarding.

A collage of black and white photographs

Debra Grid, William Rand. 16 canvases assembled, collage. All decades 32″ x 32″ © William Rand/ARS NY 2023

ME: Any stories of Ricard with Basquiat?

WR: I remember when gallerist Pamela Willoughby was living on Ave A over the Pyramid Club, in the 80’s, with my friend Hayne. One summer, Rene and Jean Michel were living in a tent across the street on Tompkins Square Park. They would always ask to come up and take showers, and Hayne would always let them in, much to Pamela’s horror. They would put on such innocent faces at the door- you had no choice but to let them in!

Rene was the one who said ‘Jean Michel doesn’t draw, he makes lists’. He would often talk to me about Jean Michel in his studio. He was heartbroken when Jean Michel died; after his death he famously went to a gallery opening of Jean Michel’s works, and placed a bottle of champagne on the table; it literally exploded! Rene believed in magic and he often referred to Basquiat as a saint. What Jean Michel became was the voice of inclusion for all the people that had been excluded to the party. He was a major movement-shaker for human change.

paintings in a studio

William Rand Maine studio 2017. Painted Collages. Rand Photo © 2023 William Rand/ARS NY

ME: Any memorable stories related to Ricard and Schnabel?

WR: Well, I asked him once if we could go and meet Julian and he said ‘that would take a papal decree…’ because – as you’ll read in the book – Rene had smashed up Julian’s car and he went to jail for it… in Rene’s mind, it was a very big deal. He had to wait a long time to get let out. I mean, Rene was drunk driving. Rene came in and out of the rain like a wet crow, I just held him as he sobbed and sobbed. Jean Michel was dead, his apartment across the hall from Allen Ginsberg had burned down, he was fired from Artforum, the eighties were shutting down hard. I was receptive to his pain. I think Rene did wonderful things for Julian; their work is highly connected and I would like to see Schnabel’s paintings hung with Rene’s paintings one day, because, love and war … well, they are connected. That’s a page of art history right there.

ME: What I find interesting is that whilst the book gives the reader a great insight into Rene’s life, I also think it projects a great picture of NYC’s subculture of the time, both high and low brow… the speed of the city, its psyche. I loved all the references to Warhol, to Edward Robert Brzezinski being rushed to the hospital after eating a Robert Gober artwork … All these funny anecdotal stories, above and beyond Rene’s story, yet all part of his world, and also yours!

WR: Exactly. That world, our world, was like a circus with so many rings going on … some of them were badly lit, and some of them were even less lit. I have to say when I left New York in 1996 to go to Europe, I brought the notes with me to Spain; that’s when I started transcribing them. And I said to myself, I don’t know what will happen when all the anecdotes are put in a row – will they breathe? I didn’t know what it would all do, but what had been a thorn on my side clearly became a rose.

a poem on a piece of paper with a drawing

Rene Ricard ‘On the Subway’. Ricard poem 1989. 8 1/2″ x 11″ on photo copy © 2023 Estate of Rene Ricard. Courtesy Willoughby Gallery NY

ME: Well, it’s an amazing way of telling the story of a time, a space, a place, and a stellar powerfully charged bohemian within it all… a mover and a shaker, a real iconic operator. You get a real sense of New York, but also realise how much the art world has changed. How mould- breaking it used to be. I, for one, don’t feel that same sense of art pushing boundaries today. Society and the art world have become more clinical, more sanitised.

WR: To answer your question on the Rene front, most of the gallery people were scared when I walked in because I was so associated with Rene and well, things happened around Rene. And a lot of what happened around Rene was in very select areas, amongst the elite, in a very beautiful but dangerous atmosphere. His friends were Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol… and he had a very strong opinion of his position. Yet, Rene was sleeping on trains. Today, art and money go hand in hand – you can’t be a bohemian anymore in New York City. It’s all about the commerce.

ME: I think there was also less fear of judgement then?

WR: Interesting you say that. Yes. Rene came out of 60s street theatre. These are the people who stopped people in the streets, did things, provoked them, and that was very much part of the fabric of Rene’s life. Of course, now that’s all gone. That was very much the downtown thing, to attack the squares. He truly belongs to a different era.

A collage with black and white squares and a woman's face

The Diamond Thief. Courtesy Willoughby Gallery NY

ME: Interesting that you were one of the only few people in Rene’s world who escaped this vicious circle of homelessness, addiction and trauma. You continued beyond that time, fruitfully, as a painter and a poet in your own right. Do you feel like you’re one of the lucky few who managed to escape that chaos?

WR: I left because somebody was going to get hurt. I also left New York in 1996, because the art world was very cliquey – who was in, who was out. It was just like Junior High!

ME: Let’s get onto your own practice – Peter Frank said that you belong to a generation of American artists ‘reared on images, on consuming them, on producing them, but not controlling them’. Do you agree with that?

WR: I grew up on black & white images.

ME: You were the first TV generation, right?

WR: Yes. Black and white TV, photographs, image reproductions in books… Records were also printed in black and white. So, yes, I agree with Peter because I would drown myself in thousands of images, looking for the one that calls itself the question, the one that did something, that hooked you, that engineered something.

writing on a turquoise piece of paper with vertical grey lines

‘The other side of the mirror’. Poem by Rene Ricard 1988 3″ by 5″ on green lined paper, pencil and typewriter. © 2023 Estate of Rene Ricard Raymond Foye Executor. Courtesy Willoughby Gallery NY

ME: Much like your memories placed in a time-capsule, your artwork, adopts a grid format; you create a puzzle of images and thoughts, and then you recreate a narrative out of it all. Tell us about this approach to your work?

WR: Yes, I make the grid. The viewers then bring their narrative to the artwork; they make up the story.

ME: It’s like hanging your psyche on the wall, but you ask the viewer to make sense of it?

WR: The grids are modules so they can be combined in any shape or form you want… each slot can be combined; I find this process fascinating and I continue to explore the process. I have grids and grids and grids, 4ft by 4ft, 5ft by 5ft… they’re my notes and I love them. I particularly love what they can say.

ME: Let’s now switch to your 90s modular ‘Ava Gardner’ grid mural, an assemblage of painted canvases brought to life through a collaboration with poet Richard Millazzo… letters, poems, photos and paintings…much of which is based on your conversation with the concierge at the Madrid Hilton Castellana hotel, a man who lived through much of the Ava Gardner narrative you exposed. Talk to me about this project and its inspiration. Is it a form of Ophelia sinking into dark waters?

WR: Well Ava Gardner came to Madrid, when she ran away from LA and Las Vegas, Sinatra and the guns. She loved Spain. She was pretty wild. She had the gypsies over all the time, they’d steal all the silver, all the furniture but she didn’t care – they would stay till dawn!

collage of black and white images

The Modular Ava Gardner 2000-2002 Madrid, William Rand. 54 square metres, assembled, mixed media on canvases. Exhibited at Galeria Najera Puerta Alcala 2002 Madrid. Essay by Richard Milazzo © 2023 William Rand/ARS NY

I have lots of notes of her antics jumping on beds, running up and down the hallways naked, ringing up the reception ‘Oh I see you have a new bus boy, could you send him up right away…’ She went through the whole staff! The worst thing was how the piano went off the balcony… and the desk rang up and said ‘Excuse me is everything alright in the room?’, and she [Ava Gardner] said everything was fine, then the front desk said ‘We see the piano has gone off the balcony, would you like to explain?’ and she turned around and said, ‘As you can see gentlemen, this is the finest and most expensive suite in Spain, and we are used to the best. The piano was not good enough, so we threw it off the balcony – it was out of tune!’

I unveiled my Ava project in ‘The European’, this magazine back in the 90s which was in every Ritz hotel in Europe. The American Embassy people came to my opening. Funnily enough, the opening was two days before the one year anniversary of 9/11. The embassy had set up a huge ceremony for Americans, with military bands, speakers… but guess what? My Ava Gardner project took up all the press in the whole country. The embassy said: ‘You stole our press for 9/11! You stole our show!’ But in fact, they were happy for me.

A doodle on a lined piece of paper

Raymond Foye Executor © 2023 Estate of Rene Ricard

ME: What took you to Spain in the 90s in the first place? Why not Paris, why not London?

WR: In the 90s, I had met a lot of Hispanic people in the East Village through the festivals. They would pray to the Virgin Mary and drink beer at the same time! And I said to myself, these people are very relaxed about it all! I also got involved in the Hispanic scene on the Lower East Side. When I arrived in Spain, I didn’t speak a word of Spanish – I had to learn it on the streets. And I didn’t really know anybody but I saw these drag queens, and thought to myself, ‘If I want to get ahead in Spain, I may as well hang out with these people’, so I introduced myself. They then introduced me to all the movie people, and I immediately had a peer group.

ME: Talk to me about your ‘Les Affiches’ project. Affiches were big during the Belle Epoque period in Paris; they were used to advertise military recruitment, political opinions, advertisement etc. What did they mean to you?

WR: It was funny; one of the last things Rene said to me before I left New York, was ‘You know, you would make a great affichiste !’ – I’ve always loved posters, I’ve always loved graphics … the Russian Revolution… the Black Panthers… flat areas, letters and images with volume… Graphics are what move you… they are punchier than art. ‘Les Affiches’ is very much about war, and the price women pay in war; it’s about the spirit of resistance, socio -politically and culturally.

black and white paintings along a road

Les Affiches, 2017-2019, Mixed Media on Wood. Courtesy of William Rand Studio

ME: It seems to me that although there’s continuity in your work, there’s equally a referencing to the past, a continuous dialogue between today and yesterday?

WR: The eternal present.

ME: What are your current concerns?

WR: I’m obsessed with painting with linseed oil, the house smells so wonderful! I love the shiny black surfaces in my new work … I guess I would just say that moving on and continuing is the best reward and inspiration.

ME: And not being afraid to try new things – is abstraction your new frontier?

WR: It’s actually something I never get to do; abstraction is so fun because it’s so different from realism. I’m doing some paintings of the surf at night. I’m interested in the materiality of things, and I’m really not getting too hung up on the images themselves.

painting of gold sand and stars

Guitar player in the surf, 2021-2023, William Rand

ME: Would it be fair to say that you belong to the fluxus generation, with Marcel Duchamp being a forerunner of that movement?

WR: That’s a very good question – it is precisely what I’m doing.

ME: It’s reductive and it’s meditative.

WR: Very right! Albert Fine saw me painting in art school, French interiors, and he said ‘this is not going to do, we’ve got to take some responsibility of you.’ And he went to the art shop and came back with this black spray paint. And then he said ‘I want you to start going to New York, forget about what they’re teaching you here, none of these colours are permitted; what they’re doing to you is criminal and we have to get you back’. So, I got involved with new materials. I hid the work I was doing with Albert when the professor came around. If I hadn’t met Albert, God only knows what I would have turned into!

Read more: Joel Isaac Black: The Coolest DJ In The Alps

ME: Please share your last memory of Rene.

WR: I saw him at the Chelsea [Hotel]; he had just had a show with Ronnie Wood in London. He had a brooch on, in the shape of a pirates’ skull, encrusted with a big dazzling jeweled eye, probably a ruby. He had received a lot of money obviously and had acquired all these fancy things. We were excited to see each other; it had been a long time. But it also brought back memories of why I left the scene.
Wherever there was cash there’d be crap, parties, degeneracy, and as long as there was cash it would just go on for days, Rene and whoever he got involved with. That was the danger. That’s why I left.

A man with a beard and black hair laughing with his eyes closed

Rene Ricard, 1990, photograph by William Rand

ME: Now you’re back in wholesome Maine, are you happy?

WR: Although I had my parents die, my husband die, and I was very sad, I had learned how to read as a child in Blue Hill [Maine], so I decided to move there. This 1840 house was the town funeral home; no one would buy it and it was sitting there for years, empty. I said to myself ‘I’m getting it’ and I truly love the house – the chapel, the front rooms, this and that… I have a private park of four acres, and I’m writing and painting, and couldn’t be happier.

ME: Are you still using the same method of putting ideas in a box?

WR: Oh yes – people tell me so many things and I go home and write them down and put them all in a box.

ME: Any exhibitions planned?

WR: Yes, I have an exhibition and artist-in-residence week late September 2023 at the new Willoughby Gallery in Southold, on the North Fork of Long Island. Pamela Willoughby is an art world veteran, and this new gallery is unique and very cool. Southold is different from the Hamptons, so that is very attractive.

Find out more:

williambakerrand.com

@mainenewyork

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Reading time: 16 min
multi coloured sparkles on circle canvases
A paint brush and scalpel on a table covered in glitter

Studio detail with glitter tondo. Photo by Maryam Eisler

LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, visits Peter Dayton to photograph and interview the East Hampton-based artist at his studio. Here, Dayton speaks about the intention and ideas behind his artworks as well his relationship with Peter Marino and Chanel

Maryam Eisler: What lies behind the eye candy, the glitz and the glitter?

Peter Dayton: I feel like I’ve reached a kind of pinnacle where it’s just about incredible celebration. And, it’s interesting to me because I don’t always want to make work that looks really good. And somehow this glitter thing, which really shouldn’t have worked, is in fact working. By taking everything out of the picture including figuration, I feel like I’ve really got something that has a lot of meaning.

A man standing by a large canvas of blue squares

Right Blue Wave, 2022. Left Magic Carpet Ride, 2022. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: What’s even more interesting is that you are not staying shy of beauty, something we don’t see much of in the art world these days.

PD: We’re in a new art world. And, you know, to me, beauty is the law. I do it intrinsically. It just happens. I’ve always been a little left of centre because of that, and it just isn’t on the surface. It’s deep. Peter Marino saw immediately that I had a gift for this ‘beauty thing’ and he just took me under his wing. That’s how and why my association with Chanel has been so great.

rocket shaped sculptured in different colours

The Rockets, 2016-2018. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: Has the act of ‘glittering away’ all day every day scared you in any way?

PD: It’s a little scary. Yes, because I’ve been spending the past 12 months just doing glitter and, you know, there are bills to pay. But I do feel like there may be a super happy ending to all this. Or, better yet, a happy beginning!

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ME: I was taken by your choice of words and thought association; you said ‘It’s time for celebration!’ This is a positive outlook, also rare these days.

PD: Well, the negative is so real right now, but let’s face it, this isn’t like the bubonic plague. You know, I don’t want to intentionally make people happy, but I do want to give them a chance to choose happiness. So, I make these paintings. The time feels right for it.

glitter on round and square canvases

Studio wall detail, Too Many Planets, 2022. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: I’m also interested in the idea of space and place. I know you’ve been coming out to the East End [of Long Island] since 1975 and started living and working here full time in 1988. Have things evolved a lot since then?

PD: Yes, there’s been a lot of evolution out here. On a personal level I got married and started a family. And East Hampton as a town has certainly evolved – it used to be dead in the winter. As an artist it was total evolution. I’d been studying art since I was 12 and then ditched art to play punk rock. I basically reinvented myself as an artist out here after living in Paris for couple of years making music.

A man in a grey t-shirt and yellow shorts

Portrait of the artist. Photo by Maryam Eisler

I also happen to love de Kooning, and I love Pollock; I love the idea of all that is anchored here- even before I was aware of all this, when my mother moved here all those years ago and when I started coming here from Boston where I was studying at The Museum School. I always thought, ‘my Lord, this place is beautiful.’ And then I understood the special light that’s out here. I think De Kooning called it ‘double light’. It relates to when the sun reflects off the water, back up into the sky! I don’t harp on it, but, you know, it is very important.

multicoloured lines

Noland, 2014

ME: In your work, I see surfboards. I see flowers. Where do they coincide?

PD: Good question! The flowers started because I had been doing music professionally for ten years, and then I burnt out completely. I went to Paris for six months to find myself and I stayed for three years. And it was fabulous. And I did find myself. ‘Myself’ was somebody who wanted to grow old in his studio, making pretty pictures – but pretty serious pictures too.

Too Many Planets, detail 2022. Photo by Maryam Eisler

The ‘flower’ phase started because I thought to myself, I missed the eighties. It happened by chance. There was a construction site behind my mother’s house. I saw a big dumpster. I went to the dumpster and I looked in. There were hundreds of House and Gardens from the 50s, and I thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be so weird if I made flower collages out of old magazines and seed catalogues’? In a way it was this kind of totally ‘immature-ish’ thing you know, the kind of craft that grandma would do at the kitchen table. So I made one. And that’s when I first showed that work with Paul Morris in 1994 in Chelsea when the area was just starting. There was a really big splash about the work and it went really well. That’s also when and where I met Bob Colacello and where Peter Marino came in. Bob was so supportive right away. The show was more successful than I could have imagined.

A picture of black, white and grey flowers

Camellias for Chanel, 2005. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: Historically, with the collages, there was a process of appropriation of others’ images which when rearranged, became your own. With these new glitter paintings, however, it’s your own hand at play.

PD: The cut-up method borrows. Taking pictures from a source that you shouldn’t be taking them from and turning it into something – in my case, into something that was weirdly beautiful.

A red and yellow painting with 'Barnett Newman' written in the centre

Surfboards by Barnett Newman, #4 New Generation

ME: And if it’s good enough for Chanel, it should be good enough for most! Tell me about your relationship with Chanel over the years.

PD: It’s been great. Peter [Marino] was collecting my work early on and doing things with private clients and for himself, too. He’s been supportive all the way. It must have been at least 12 years ago that he contacted me and said, ‘I want you to do the interior of the elevator for the 57th Street Chanel store’. And I’m saying,’ sure, I’ll do that’. So I made a map card of all these small Camelia collages. I showed that to him and that’s how he designed it. And then I did one in Beverly Hills. And I think that one is still going. I also did one for the Peter Marino Foundation recently, which is amazing as it’s permanent.

blue and pink sparkles and wooden beams

Studio detail, Northwest Coast Surfboards, and glitter paintings. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: It seems like you are highly influenced by the lifestyle of this area, in particular anything that has to do with surfing. You then associate your ‘surfboards’ with known art world figures. Please tell us more about this.

PD: I feel like all the artists from the early 50s all the way to pop art were acting with a lot of swagger and they were just doing these minimal paintings that were so challenging. And I have always equated them with surfers, those who go out there by themselves and ride these giant waves. So, I just put the two together. What they did was like a sport. And very physical. And there’s also the American cultural idea of surfing. I’m not a ‘surfer’ but I am a water person. I boogie board and belly board and all that stuff. There’s also that idea of great freedom in the water.

A man wearing a grey t-shirt and yellow shorts standing in front of a large pink canvas

Portrait with glitter paintings. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: And it all started with Barnett Newman?

PD: Yes, when I saw his painting in the Met, ‘Concord’. There are two pieces of actual tape, which I think he left in the painting. But if he didn’t, he taped it off and pulled it off. I forget. And I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s the stringer on a surfboard’. Because every surfboard in the centre has a piece of wood running through it for stability so it doesn’t snap in half easily; and I just found that fascinating. So, I went ahead and made one exact copy of the painting, kind of green, and put his name on it. And I remember Robert Rosenblum was alive then. And he said, ‘Boy, these are really odd, Peter. I kind of see what you’re doing, but I’ve never seen this before’. And I thought to myself, ‘Well it must be cool!’

a red, green and white sign that says "Barnett Newman"

Surfboards by Barnett Newman, custom made decal, 2008

ME: Who are your other icons?

PD: Gene Davis. Which is the striped one, he did multi-coloured geometric stripes on canvas. I’ve also done Ken Nolan and Frank Stella. In all cases, I’ve done a facsimile of their works and superimposed their names into the actual surf decal. Dewey Weber is placed in the same script as Barnett Newman. So when a surfer sees that detail, he goes, ‘Oh my God, Dewey, Who’s Barnett Newman?’ Because I also equate the artists in their large studios in Soho all by themselves, smoking cigarettes, staring at these giant paintings with guys in California, making surfboards in their garages; they’re all kind of doing the same thing. Even though one is super high culture and the other is not, they’re kind of the same thing.

multicoloured stripes on a painting

Surfboards by Gene Davis, 2007, collection Carl Bernstein

ME: But that’s what Warhol did- marry high and low culture so seamlessly.

PD: They come together. They always do.

Read more: An Interview With KAWS

ME: You were once part of this band called ‘La Peste’ out of Boston. Music is a different form of expression, but it’s still part of your own language, your identity…two complementary worlds, would you agree?

PD: Yes, I still have the guitar to prove it! And there’s great new interest in my band, maybe even a double album coming out next year on a label in Brooklyn. It’s really exciting. It’s been 45 years …

A guitar hanging on the wall by a small piece of art

Studio Wall. guitar with glitter. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: Talk to me about your relationship with Peter Marino. He’s been a patron of your work.

PD: Peter’s a genius and it’s a privilege making work for his projects. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about absolutely everything that has to do with art, architecture, music – a total renaissance man. I’ve never met anyone who knows that much and can articulate it in front of you at any given moment. He’s a patron to a number of artists and his support has been so important to me. Working with him is great because he gives me great freedom to do what I want to do and that’s all an artist could ask for.

glitter on a table

Studio work table with glitter and brush. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: A final comment from me: I could practice yoga in front of your paintings and just wonder with my eyes. Such serenity!

PD: Thank you. I think the glitter is here to stay, for the world to enjoy. Even though the refraction of light is so busy, there’s a certain calmness to it all. That’s probably what you feel. So I invite you to sit back, relax and lose yourself in it all day!

Find out more: peteredayton.com

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Reading time: 10 min
A woman with long black hair wearing a blue black and white shirt with her hand up in a karate position
A woman with long black hair wearing a blue black and white shirt with her hand up in a karate position

Portrait photograph by Melanie Dunea

Marina Abramović has been tortured and almost killed, by her own audiences, for the sake of her art. She has also redefined the genre and democratised it. The world’s most celebrated performance artist, whose works span five decades, speaks to Darius Sanai ahead of a major retrospective at London’s Royal Academy

In The Marina Abramović Method, a board game-style card set recently issued by the world’s most celebrated performance artist, you are told to spend an hour writing your first name, without pen leaving paper; walk backwards with a mirror for up to three hours; open and close a door repeatedly for three hours; and explore a space, blindfolded and wearing noise-cancelling headphones, for an hour. Some of the instructions, given on large, Monopoly-style cards, are more onerous: swim in a freezing body of water; move in slow motion for two hours. But none of them come anywhere close to asking users to inflict on themselves the suffering and danger Abramović has put herself under over five decades of pushing the boundaries of art.

As she explains below, the Method was intended to take its users away from their phones, and put people in contact with themselves, inspired by her own journey, over 50 years, to understand her own body and mind. Purchasers of the card set can be grateful that Abramović does not suggest they train to become her. The New York-based artist has been lacerated, tortured, cut, stabbed, asphyxiated, rendered unconscious, and more, in the name of her art. She first came to public consciousness in the 1970s with performances like ‘Rhythm0’, in Naples, when she stood in a studio for six hours, provided the audience with implements including a scalpel, scissors, a whip and a loaded gun, absolved them of responsibility, and told them to do what they wished. She did not flinch as she was assaulted, cut, and manipulated.

A woman falling through the air with a green background wearing a nude coloured dress and heels

Marina Abramović in a scene from her performance ‘7 Deaths of Maria Callas’, in 2019

Other performances in the same era saw her render herself unconscious; in 1997 she spent four days scrubbing bloody, rotten cow bones in a performance of protest against the war in former Yugoslavia. Possibly her most celebrated performance, ‘The Artist is Present’, which remains the most significant performance artwork in the history of New York’s MoMA, she spent a total of 736 hours sitting static in the museum’s atrium while visitors lined up to take it in turns to sit opposite her (among those who did: Lou Reed, Björk and James Franco).

So, what would Marina Abramović the person, rather than the silent artist, be like? Catching up with her ahead of a major exhibition spanning her life’s work at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (dates to be announced), I was prepared to interact with someone as brutal and scarred as she has a right to be, but was surprised to find a pleasant, highly articulate, methodical, thoughtful, quick-witted and humble interlocutor. Her thoughts on cancel culture and the effects of social media on creativity are as sharp as the scalpels she once offered the public to cut her with. Her answers are art in themselves.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: I have been playing around with The Marina Abramović Method: Instruction Cards to Reboot your Life.
Marina Abramović: The Abramović method came from my long search for how to train myself as a performance artist to be able to really understand my body and mind. For that, I went to different cultures, I went to deserts, to Tibet, to shamans – lots of places to work in different retreats and to try different techniques. This is really dedicated not so much to artists or performance artists, but to everybody. Everyone – farmers, soldiers, politicians, factory workers, young children – can do this method. The exercises are very simple, which I think is beneficial, and it puts you in contact with yourself. I also liked the idea of creating cards, so they’re playful. You have that playfulness, like in a game: you close your eyes and pick a card up and do the method. This exercise is my effort to go back to simplicity, away from technology and video games, away from all this presumption that takes you away from your own intuition.

A group of people surrounding a rock being videoed

Marina Abramović cutting crystals whilst exploring Brazil in 1992

LUX: Your performance over the years has involved a lot of danger, personal suffering, and challenges to yourself.
Marina Abramović: In my cards, there is no suffering, no bleeding, none of this stuff. I am not responsible for anyone else, only myself. To me, one of the biggest human fears is the fear of pain. It’s interesting to me that if I stage painful experiences in front of an audience, when I go through this experience to get rid of the fear of pain, and I show that it’s possible, I can be inspirational for anybody else. It doesn’t mean people have to cut themselves or do dangerous stuff, but to understand at the same time that pain does not have to be an obstacle. You have to understand what it is and how to deal with it in your own life. If you look at rituals in different cultures, every initiation conquers the moment of pain, and it really strengthens the body and mind. If you’re afraid of something, don’t sit there and do nothing about it, go through it and have this experience. That is the only way you can be transformed, getting out of your comfort zone.

LUX: Are you trying to change the audience through your performances?
Marina Abramović: The only way that I can get all this attention and understand what I’m doing is to show courage and ability at the same time – that I’m vulnerable, but I also have the guts to do it. Two things. An artist should be inspirational to other people. They have to have a message, to ask questions, not always to have an answer. The pain, the suffering, the fear of dying: these are all elements not just of contemporary and classic art, but the history of humanity.

LUX: Were you always very brave as a child?
Marina Abramović: I was. It was not an easy childhood, to start with. I had a very strict, military upbringing. I was also very sick as a child. I suffered from a condition that caused long durational bleeding, a bit like haemophilia but different, so if I had a tooth taken out, for example, I would have to be in bed for three months sleeping so as not to choke from the blood, because it wouldn’t stop. I had lots of obstacles. Being raised under Communism contributed as well – Communism is all about being a warrior, not caring about your personal life, and sacrificing your life for something. When I came to the West, everybody looked so spoilt to me.

A man with a yellow snake wrapping a brown snake around a woman on a bedazzled top sitting on a chair

Marina Abramović in a scene from her performance ‘7 Deaths of Maria Callas’, in 2019

LUX: Does it affect the depth of what modern Western artists can create if they haven’t suffered or seen difficulty?
Marina Abramović: The young generation has a whole different set of problems than I had. Their problem is a feeling of being kind of lost and melancholy, of apathy and a lack of belief. You can’t generalise, and of course there will always be one Mozart in every generation, someone who starts creating art at the age of seven. But the others have a lethargic way of life. Everything is available to them. They don’t need to fight for anything. Computer, video games, ice cream: whatever they want, they have it. When I was growing up, I was allowed ice cream once a month if I was good, and mostly I was not. All of this is different. So, I always see them as spoilt, but at the same time it doesn’t come from them, but rather their parents. It’s complicated. I think it’s important now, the idea of the Forest School learning model. They have it in England. Kids can come to the forest and make their own fires, to find food, to learn simple survival techniques. I think it’s a way of going back to simplicity. Simplicity is the way to survive.

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

LUX: Before, in the 1980s and 1990s, people were either creators and artists or they were audience. Now, everyone is a creator. Does that devalue real art?
Marina Abramović: Some years ago, I was invited to go to Silicon Valley to talk to tech people about art, and to my incredible surprise, I found out that they seriously believed that Instagram is art. That was so surprising to me. Instagram is, to me, a very personal way of seeing the world and sharing it with other people. It’s a tool for communication. It’s so far away from art. Art is so different. Also, now, with NFTs and all this new technology, all anyone is talking about is how much it costs and the amount of money that can be made. It has quickly become a commodity. But I really don’t see content, real profound ideas that can move me and bring me emotions, and I think that’s what art is about. [Digital media] unifies people and breaks the borders between countries and individuals, but this is not art. I’m sorry, but it’s not art.

LUX: Has there been a fundamental change in art since the 1970s or 1980s?
Marina Abramović: It is so different. The needs of society are different. In the 1970s, there was so much experimentation. There was incredible freedom in the art scene. Now, we are facing political correctness and diminished creativity in so many ways. So much art that we were doing in the 1970s would never be possible now, because it would be so scrutinised and criticised that galleries and museums would not show it. This is something that, unfortunately, does not help creativity right now.

A woman outside by a tree with clouds in the sky wearing a black coat

Portrait photograph by Melanie Dunea

LUX: Are people stopping themselves from creating because of political correctness?
Marina Abramović: The true artist does not care about this shit. They don’t care. They will always find a way to do things, if not publicly then it could be underground. Historically, that has always happened. Artists cannot stop creating. It’s an urge, like breathing. You can’t question it. You wake up with ideas and have to realise them. This is your oxygen.

LUX: Do you think the West – what we used to call the ‘free world’ – is going to have a movement of underground artists because they can’t express themselves publicly?
Marina Abramović: I really think so, yes.

LUX: You are taking over the Royal Academy in London. What will we see there?
Marina Abramović: The Royal Academy is, for me, a very big obligation – an honour. I care so much about this show right now, because it’s showing what makes my 50-year career. There will be some really important major artworks from each part of my career of 50 years, but also there will be a big amount of new work, which nobody will have ever seen before. There will be a reperformance element, with young artists reperforming my early works, which I introduced some years ago. Some of my contemporaries say a performance cannot be reperformed – I disagree. And then I am also preparing my new work, which I can’t talk about because I’m superstitious, but I’m definitely doing a personal performance. The show is called ‘Afterlife’. I like this very ironical title, because I’m still alive. I have waited a longtime for this show, because it was supposed to be in 2020 but then Covid came, so it was postponed for three years. You know, at my age, three years is a long time, so I’m really looking forward to the fact that finally it will happen.

A woman standing in a cave

Marina Abramović in a cave whilst exploring Brazil in 1992

LUX: If you had been brought up now, in America, compared to when you were brought up in what was then Yugoslavia, would you still be the same artist?
Marina Abramović: I don’t know. I was very happy where I was brought up. At that time, I read all the books that Americans don’t. Not all of them, of course, but generally Americans don’t read. I was very happy with my education. It was so intense. Full of poetry and art and everything.

LUX: Do you still put yourself in as much danger and physical stress as 20 years ago?
Marina Abramović: I have to say, ‘The Artist is Present’ was a hell of a performance and I was 65, my dear. I could never do this when I was 20, or 30. I didn’t have the willpower, wisdom and determination. There was no way. I needed time in order to have the strength. You get strength when you get older and not younger.

Read more: LUX Art Diary: Exhibitions to see in May

LUX: Do you fear getting older?
Marina Abramović: Not so much now – sometimes, when I wake up on a rainy day with pain in my ankles and shoulders, but not generally.

LUX: Do you fear anything?
Marina Abramović: Of course, I fear. Everyone fears things. I have a childhood fear, that if I go to the deep sea, a shark will come and eat me. Even if I go to the ocean and they tell me there aren’t sharks there, I know that the shark knows I’m there and is going to come for me. But that is an old fear from childhood. Like everybody else, when I go on a plane and there is turbulence, I’m immediately writing my testament. I fear. But I think it’s natural, it’s living, you’re living, you’re alive. You’re not immune to fear. Nobody is.

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 12 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
artist with artwork
portrait of a man in front of artwork

Photograph by David Taggart

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

red balloon dog sculpture

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

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

porcelain sculpture

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

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

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on new wave collecting

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

silver sculpture of a rabbit

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

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

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

artist with artwork

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

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

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

painting with sculpture

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

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

public sculpture of a ballerina

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

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

Find out more: jeffkoons.com

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

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Reading time: 7 min
A man painting by a window with a skyscraper outside
A man painting by a window with a skyscraper outside

Artist Jared Owen during his residency at the World Trade Center. Photo by Josh Katz

With the support of Silverstein Properties, Silver Art Projects was founded by Cory Silverstein and Joshua Pulman in 2018. Here, the two philanthropists speak to LUX Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh, about providing a space for underrepresented artists in an iconic location, the World Trade Center, New York City.

LUX: How did you meet?
Cory Silverstein: It’s a really interesting story! Joshua and I met in college and bonded over art. I was exploring a work I was interested in by Julio Le Parc, and I knew Joshua was very knowledgeable about art – so I approached him one day in the library. That is how our friendship and interest in supporting artists started.

LUX: Who or what were your inspirations?
Cory Silverstein: My grandfather, Larry Silverstein, and Michael Bloomberg are two of my biggest inspirations, largely for their philanthropic endeavours that focus on the arts in New York City. Our residency program Silver Art Projects was primarily inspired by K11 in Hong Kong and Manifesto in Paris.

Two men standing with masks on in a lounge in a skyscraper

Cory Silverstein and Joshua Pulman at the opening of the World Trade Center Artist Residency

LUX: What drove you both to found Silver Art Projects?
Cory Silverstein & Joshua Pulman: We observed a great demand for studio space in Manhattan as artists have been forced to move further and further from the galleries they work with and the institutions who that inspire them. We wanted to support these artists, and together with the commitment of Silverstein Properties to nurturing art in Lower Manhattan, we were able to establish Silver Art Projects.

LUX: How would you say you are disrupting arts patronage?
Joshua Pulman: We are providing access to some of this country’s most premier real estate to a group of up-and-coming artists, all made possible by the generous support of foundations and individuals as well as unique corporate social responsibility efforts from companies in the area. In this way, we have been able to enhance the neighbourhood while supporting artist communities beyond it.

New World Trade Centre

Larry Silverstein was the developer of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Julie di Majo

LUX: The world watched with collective horror the destruction of the World Trade Center and its communities on 9/11. Each of us remembers where we were that day. How does Silver Arts Projects go beyond renewed real estate?
Cory Silverstein: 9/11 was a tragedy that impacted everyone, but it also reminded us of our collective humanity and the societal need for community engagement. Hope emerged from the adversity as well as a desire to rebuild and re-engage. For me, there was a personal commitment and obligation on behalf of my family to nurture culture in Lower Manhattan and across the city, but this was something that resonated with the wider neighbourhood. Art brings people together, and the World Trade Center is an important and iconic site to do that. There has been an evolution of artist-led programs and residencies in the area, and we are hoping to continue that legacy with Silver Art Projects.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What measurable impact have you had so far working with marginalised communities?
Joshua Pulman: As Silver Art is at the epicentre of commerce in New York City, our program focuses on enabling artists to achieve more sustainable financial and business practices. Looking back at our first cohort, eighty-five percent of artists who came to Silver Art Projects without gallery representation achieved it after the program. Several artists have also gone on to achieve other impressive accolades, from press coverage in prominent publications to awards and institutional recognition. Ultimately, we gauge the impact Silver Art Projects has by our artists’ long-term ability to support themselves through their art practice.

A man sitting in front of blue canvases

Tariku Shiferaw during his residency at the World Trade Center. Photo by Josh Katz

LUX: How do you manage the engagement between emerging artists and artist activists?
Joshua Pulman: Some artists who joined our Social Justice Cohort are active activists in their communities, while others seek to incorporate narratives addressing social justice into their practices. By creating a melting pot of these artists in one place, we have seen pure magic happen at the intersection of artistic practice and activism.

A woman painting in a denim shirt

Helina Metaferia during her residency at the World Trade Center

LUX: Which mentors have particularly stood out and why do you think they are so effective?
Cory Silverstein and Joshua Pulman: All three mentors who support the 2021-2022 artist cohort really stand out:

For Freedoms and Hank Willis Thomas provide monthly Wide Awakes Sessions at Silver Art Projects. Artists are invited to participate in monthly disorientation sessions, encouraging artists to connect in an open forum by reimagining the future together. This has been effective in bringing together our community of artists and giving a voice to everyone in our cohort.

A man sitting on the floor paining on canvases with art works around him

Chella Man during his residency at the World Trade Center. Photo by Josh Katz

Chella Man understands the importance of representation and aims to be the kind of role model he wishes he had growing up. Just last month, Chella hosted an open discussion on ‘Creativity and The Productivity of Resting.’ Chella has been a great mentor to many of the underrepresented artists in our community, as he talks about authenticity and remaining true to oneself.

Read more: Volta’s Kamiar Maleki On Supporting New Artistic Talent

Tourmaline’s mentorship and involvement at Silver Art has particularly stood out because Silver Art Projects provided her with new space and perspective to connect and inspire emerging artists in our community. A member of the Black trans community, she’s passionate about sharing and celebrating the stories of her predecessors. Last month, Tourmaline took a group of the artists to visit her work on view in The Afro Futurist Period Room at The Met, encouraging other artists to live joyfully, confidently and authentically.

An art work of people standing with political signs in protest

#StopAsianHate by Susan Chen, an artist from Silver Art Projects

LUX: How is your vision for social justice informing upcoming projects?
Cory Silverstein: Our program is guided by the mission of supporting underrepresented artists. Artists in our 2020-2021 cohort, for instance, were all selected for their focus on social justice and activism. As an organisation, we are equally committed to developing programs that nurture more awareness and equality. In partnership with Art for Justice, we recently announced an extended commitment to supporting formerly incarcerated artists by dedicating a quarter of all future residency spaces to ex-prisoners. We are also seeking to bring in other art forms and interests to widen the conversation and offer greater support.

Find out more: silverart.com

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A girl posing in an art gallery and a man taking a photo on his IPhone
A girl posing in an art gallery and a man taking a photo on his IPhone

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

Kamiar Maleki entered the art world at a young age and quickly became a leading curator and collector. Now Director of Volta Art Fairs, he speaks to Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh, about the opportunities Volta is creating for new galleries and artists, ahead of the opening of the fair in New York on 18 May
A man wearing a suit, white shirt and green tie

Kamiar Maleki. Photo by Kenneth Nars

LUX: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you spent your formative years?
Kamiar Maleki: I was born in Iran in 1978 to a family of politicians, military generals, and diplomats. We escaped Iran in early 1979 before the revolution. My formative years came thereafter, spent between France, USA, Germany, and the UK.

LUX: How did your appreciation for art become a compulsion to discover and collect?
KM: My appreciation for art started in Germany. I remember seeing sculptures by Niki De Saint Phalle in the squares of Germany and was mesmerised by them. We also spent much time in Vienna, where my parents exposed us to galleries, museums, and the theatre. My love of art transitioned from a love of sculpture to painting and then well beyond.

The compulsion to collect came after college. As a gift, my father gave my brother and I funds with which to begin our collections. These funds came with a condition. We were advised to extensively research and pitch to him the merit of works we wanted to acquire. If we wanted to sell anything, we had to follow the same philosophy and were required to reinvest the proceeds back into art. This activity functioned as our own personal art fund in a way. I was lucky to discover some gems early on during this period, from Ged Quinn to Oscar Murillo. The discovery of new talent became a compulsion — I truly loved meeting, supporting, and cultivating fresh talent.

two people looking at abstract art on the wall

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

LUX: Over time have you evolved personal guiding principles?
KM: Absolutely. The more art you see, the more you read, the broader the mindset becomes. Your ideas change as well as your tastes. You learn to hone your eye.

LUX: Is there a conversation to be had about how we buy and show art?
KM: Yes, I believe progress is always centered on continuing to question existing models. Whether through my curatorial work or my involvement in the market, I have a practical understanding of how connoisseurs and collectors discover new artists:

The art world is a social market and it operates cyclically, like a traveling nexus. If you’re setting out to expose seasoned collectors to new talent, you need proximity, both geographically and ideologically, to the key players of the art market.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Six years ago, I curated my first show on how one buys, sells and researches art on platforms like Instagram, having bought my first piece on Instagram over seven years ago. Just last summer, I curated the very first art-in-residency program to create NFTs by collaborating with different industries, across the music industry, digital art and traditional art.

It is the responsibility of the curator or director to vet quality and content, to ensure that what you present resonates across audiences. Through exposure and education, there exists the possibility to reinvigorate how we transact.

A woman staring at a black piece of art of coming out of the wall

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

LUX: What was the pull for you to work for Will Ramsay of Ramsay Fairs to lead Volta Art Fair?
KM: I identified in Volta — and by extension Ramsay Fairs — a fair model that mirrored my approach to the art market. I gravitate towards discovery and towards support of galleries, artists, and platforms that posit new and fresh ideas. I see profound opportunity in the role Volta plays as a complement to the entrenched fairs in the art market’s capitals.

LUX: ‘From adversity comes opportunity!’  During the two years of the pandemic you have rebuilt and reset your pillars to ‘Discover. Connect. Collect’.  What does this entail?
KM: I am confident that after the statewide pause in New York and several challenging years globally, VOLTA can reestablish its foothold as a strong emerging- to mid-market platform at the heart of New York’s fair season.

With the May art fair calendar in New York undergoing significant transitions in the past few years, we’re energised by the chance to align Volta with Frieze Art Fair. We have the opportunity to expose new and established collectors to a distinct roster of new and returning galleries unique to Volta. Despite the challenges we faced these past years, those galleries that have emerged have done so with a newfound commitment to their program — and we have as well.

LUX: At a personal level, you mentor artists and gallerists; how do you manage this day to day?
KM: In all honesty, it has become a bit more difficult, as I am committed to fulfilling my role as director of Volta which requires a lot of travel and long hours. I’ve reframed my responsibilities to strengthen the fair’s program and to create a platform that supports our gallery network. In focusing my attention on supporting the galleries, the artists are supported by extension.

A woman showing people an art work of flowers painted on a canvas

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

LUX: How is Volta positioned for multi-media presentation, viewing rooms and so on?
KM: We leverage our website, the Volta Voices blog, and social media as a tool to communicate the highlights of our fair program, but we remain committed now more than ever to the in-person experience. When you navigate a fair comprised of legacy, blue-chip galleries, you’re often confronted by artworks and artists with whom you are already familiar. Our gallery roster is more experimental and less universally recognised — and that for us is very exciting! The experience of seeing the work in person and dialoguing with the gallery or artist directly at Volta is what marks that critical point of discovery and therefore distinguishes us.

Read more: 6 Questions: Bettina Korek, Serpentine Galleries

LUX: At the same time, Volta has upscaled experiential engagement, leasing a 40,000 flagship for Frieze NY.  What are you showcasing this year?
KM: At the heart of Volta New York’s program, and taking up the majority of our real estate, is a dynamic roster of over 50 galleries, some of which join us for the first time, others who previously exhibited with Volta in 2014, or 2019, and have since returned to us. Having these galleries join us on our journey has been critical to our success and therefore they are the focal point of this year’s program.

Beyond our exciting roster of exhibitors, we are welcoming several new programming partners to activate the space. For instance, we will be co-presenting the Volta Spotlight Prize with an exciting NFT platform with whom we’ve partnered. Given that we are able to congregate in person again, we’re also quite looking forward to the return of our full-service café and lounge.

A mother and child standing in front of a wall installation

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

LUX: How are you finding young artists are reacting to new realities, disruption and distortion?
KM: Beyond the logistical challenges, I see a renewed fervour to create and a strengthen commitment to their practice. So many artists were unable to visit their studios, to source materials, and to exhibit their work. It led to a need to innovate and adapt, hence the proliferation of digital media and new modes of creation. Now I think this digital sensibility or lens has infiltrated the market. Yet, there is still a deep desire to return to experiences, to in-person connection, to tactility.

LUX: Through ‘Volta Voices’ how are you championing emerging talent?
KM: VOLTA Voices is our online editorial platform that features a series of interviews with vanguards of the contemporary art world and friends of Volta , past, present and future. We pride ourselves on welcoming cutting edge, pioneering galleries to Volta. By extension, we see Volta Voices as yet another platform for our exhibitors to communicate their unique vision and that of their artists.

LUX: What advice will you give your children when they embark on their collecting journey?
KM: Stay curious. Don’t let the market dictate where you seek out new artists. Follow what speaks to you, ask lots of questions, and be willing to discover.

Find out more: voltaartfairs.com

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Reading time: 7 min
woman lying on sofa in red dress
As fashion week kicks off in London, we’re celebrating designers who are paving the way for a more sustainable and ethical industry. Here, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, the founders and creative directors of cult fashion label Preen, discuss their collaborative design process and instinctive approach to sustainability
man and woman

Justin Thorton & Thea Bregazzi

Justin Thorton and Thea Bregazzi have been upcycling and recycling materials since well before ‘sustainability’ became a fashion world buzzword. The couple first met as teenagers on an art foundation course on the Isle of Man, where they both grew up. They moved to London in 1990s after university to launch their label Preen in a small shop in Portobello, the creative hub of the time.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

One of their first design hits was drainpipe trousers, made famous by Kate Moss, and over the years, they have continued to draw a celebrity cult following. Their pieces have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Alexa Chung, Scarlett Johansson and Michelle Obama.

Today, the brand maintains its punkish sensibility, but with a grown-up edge of sophistication. With a focus on longevity and practicality as well as beauty, many of their pieces are made to be worn in different ways. A mac coat from their Pre-Fall 2022 collection, for example, comes apart into a cropped jacket and a gilet dress while a double-layer dress of red stretch tulle and acid green floral print can be worn together or as two separate pieces. Here, the duo talk through some of their recent inspirations.

two models in dresses

LUX: How would you describe Preen’s design ethos? And has that changed at all since the brand’s inception in 1996?
Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi: We have a very organic approach to designing. There is a certain irregularity to all that we do. We have developed and grown throughout the years but “darkly romantic” has all ways been our style.

Read more: Patrick McDowell on the social impact of sustainable fashion 

LUX: What’s your typical process for designing a new collection? Do you each play specific roles or do you work collaboratively throughout?
Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi: Every time we design a new collection, we try to open ourselves up to experience as many things as possible. We talk a lot about what we are loving and what’s inspiring us, and then we start to edit our inspirations and draw from those. We work very collaboratively throughout the designing and creating processes.

LUX: How do you think your experiences of living and working in London and then, New York have shaped your design thinking?
Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi:
Showing our collections in New York really made us focus on being an international brand. However, living and working in London is so inspiring to us, it’s such a multicultural, creative city.

LUX: You’ve said before that you pay some consideration to how your clothes will photograph. How do you think image-based social media platforms have impacted the fashion industry?
Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi: When we design it’s important to consider [how the garments will appear] on all platforms, but at the heart of it, what we’re trying to create is an emotional reaction whether that’s in person or through a screen.

Read more: Olivia Muniak’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in Los Angeles

LUX: You’ve been upcycling fabrics more or less since the beginning and are now on a mission to become a 100% sustainable brand. What does that mean exactly?
Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi: We’ve never considered ourselves to be “a sustainable brand“, but we try our best to offer as many sustainable, recycled and organic options within our collections as possible. It’s important that all designers make an effort to produce a product that doesn’t destroy our planet.

Two models wearing dresses

LUX: What was on your mood-board for the Summer & Resort 2022 collections?
Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi: We were greatly inspired by the work of [French artist and photographer] Guy Bourdin: his bold colours and strong graphic lines. We also looked at dance – in particular [Scottish dancer and choreographer] Michael Clark’s work.

View the collections: preenbythorntonbregazzi.com

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Reading time: 3 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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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
luxurious drawing room with plants
grand building facade

The Park Avenue entrance to Waldorf Astoria New York’s luxury residences, The Towers

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, the luxury hotel and resort brand of Hilton Worldwide, recently embarked on a major transformation of its historic New York hotel, creating 375 luxurious private residences which are set to open, along with the hotel, in 2023. Here, the group’s Senior Vice President and Global Category Head, Dino Michael discusses the importance of creating memorable experiences, understanding your guests and building local partnerships

1. What makes a luxury brand?

Experiences are everything. Truly personalised touches that create unique moments and memories are what distinguish a luxury brand. There is more license to be whimsical in luxury now more than in the past, to be familiar and welcome guests as if they are visiting someone’s home. Yet while the luxury industry is becoming more approachable and inclusive, luxury customers still appreciate and want a certain level of prestige and truly seamless, elegant service from their luxury brands. Waldorf Astoria, for instance, is a brand known for its effortless service and for creating unforgettable moments for our guests while making them feel at home no matter where they are around the world.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. How do you approach global brand development for companies like Hilton, which already have a firmly established reputation and history?

In times of uncertainty, consumers gravitate towards brands they know and trust, and we want our loyal customers to be confident that they can continue to find that with Hilton. It is because of this deep connection we have with our guests that we are able to expand and further develop our brands, particularly Hilton’s luxury category.

We are looking forward to continuing to grow and develop our luxury footprint in both established urban destinations, such as the Waldorf Astoria London Admiralty Arch opening in April 2023, as well as within more remote resort locations like the Seychelles, to give consumers a trusted place to stay while exploring the world. In addition to our hotel offering, we are also seeing momentum with our residential portfolio, most notably with Waldorf Astoria New York’s luxury residences, The Towers, and Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Residences Miami, both open for sales and seeing incredible buyer interest.

luxurious drawing room with plants

The “Winter Garden” at The Towers

As an organisation we work tirelessly to meet the evolving needs of the luxury traveller, including having a long-term approach and being able to forecast where and how our discerning guests will want to travel. With privacy and exclusivity more important than ever for our guests in the post-pandemic travel landscape, unique offerings such as the recently unveiled Private Island at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi provide both a safe and reassuring way to travel, as well as the ultimate in luxury experiences.

In addition to Waldorf Astoria, Hilton’s two other luxury brands, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and LXR Hotels & Resorts, both have aggressive development timelines in the next five years. LXR, Hilton’s collection of luxury hotels and resorts, recently launched in the U.S. with the debut of the oceanfront Oceana Santa Monica which will be closely followed by openings in the Seychelles, Las Vegas and Kyoto, Japan. Conrad, our contemporary and design-forward luxury brand, continues to expand its global presence with recent openings in Punta de Mita and Abu Dhabi and upcoming openings in Las Vegas, China, Morocco and more.

3. You have worked across the hospitality sector – from culinary to residential. How does your approach to brand development vary depending on the industry?

Ultimately it is about understanding your guest as they are the heart of the hospitality business, no matter which part of the industry you work in, whether that be hotel, residential or F&B. A good example can be seen with our two Waldorf Astoria developments – both with a residential and hotel component- in New York and Miami. Waldorf Astoria New York is being restored to resemble the hotel’s classic grandeur yet will blend the old and new in a balance of modern comfort with Art Deco opulence that celebrates the scale and beauty of the iconic property. The hotel, residences and F&B components will also reflect the New York City guest and resident in a way that caters to every need they might have visiting and living in Manhattan.

Read more: LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on media

On the other hand, we have Waldorf Astoria Miami – another residential and hotel development- which
Soars 1,049 feet above Biscayne Bay as the tallest building south of New York City and a new modern architectural wonder in South Florida. We’ve taken the rich culture of Miami and let it inform how this property comes to life, while still maintaining the personal service and best-in-class experiences people come to know from Waldorf Astoria. Like all properties we develop, this project will be truly unique to its destination, offering a sense of geography and locale first, followed by the comforting reassurance of being “home” second.

This guest-centric mentality is also integral to how we develop our culinary programs across Hilton’s luxury portfolio. Overseeing the evolution and growth of our luxury F&B program is a passion of mine that stems from my humble beginnings in food and beverage within the hospitality industry. As food tourism continues to be in high demand in the luxury travel market, we continue to innovate and showcase the natural bounty of each destination through the work of world-renowned chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Dave Pynt, Michael Mina, Bryan Voltaggio, Richard Sandoval, Heinz Beck and more, bringing our guests exclusive and truly unforgettable dining experiences.

luxury apartment living room

The living room of one of the private residences at The Towers

4. Given the hotels you work with span many locations across the globe, are there any golden rules to ensure consistency of brand quality?

A defining factor of the Waldorf Astoria brand is that each property is a true representation of their destination and captures the culture and essence of locale. We aspire to create hotels for their destination, not merely in a destination which means that guests should feel that sense of place and localisation first and the Waldorf Astoria brand second.

With that said, Waldorf Astoria properties across the globe work tirelessly to deliver personalised, elegant service, unforgettable experiences, and award-winning culinary excellence, all in marquee destinations which, while perhaps a world away from home, feel like a refined, welcome haven for our guests.

5. Has there been a particular strategy by the hotels under your aegis to survive the global pandemic, given they have had to shut down for the most part?

With ever-evolving guest expectations and comfort in travelling during the pandemic we, as an industry and company, continue to innovate and find unique solutions for the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and post-pandemic climate.

We are seeing increasingly blurred lines between business and leisure travel as people have more flexibility in their work environment. As many people are choosing to “work from home” in a variety of locations outside their home, our luxury properties have capitalised on this trend by offering specialised packages catering to the extended stay traveler as well as offering alternative work spaces for those wanting to stay closer to home, including an “Escape Longer” package at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal and an “Office with a View” getaway offer at Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles.

indoor swimming pool

The “Starlight” indoor pool

For a property like Waldorf Astoria New York, many of the restoration changes already happening for the hotel and residences naturally work in a post-pandemic environment, such as fewer, larger guest rooms and residences allowing for more personalised attention and service for each guest and resident. Scaling down to 375 guest rooms will enable us to concentrate on delivering our renowned Waldorf Astoria service.

Read more: Louise Cottar of Cottar’s Safaris on meaningful luxury experiences

Additionally, Waldorf Astoria continues to align with and implement Hilton’s industry-defining initiatives and cleanliness protocols to adapt to the needs of our guests. Programs like Hilton CleanStay, an industry-leading standard of cleanliness and disinfection, along with EventReady and WorkSpaces by Hilton, allow us to provide our guests with the peace of mind and assurance that our hotels are not only operating at the highest cleanliness and safety standards, but that we are working to create programs and initiatives that allow guests to still host events, work remotely and travel in a way that makes them feel not only comfortable, but catered to.

6. To what extent does relationships with the local community play a role when establishing hotels in new locations?

Local relationships and partnerships are extremely important as we expand because they drive our impactful and authentic destination experiences across Hilton’s luxury properties. We engage with local shamanas and curanderas for native healing and wellness rituals; partner with elite establishments on private excursions that deliver a sense of place and culture in an intimate setting; and bring the region’s natural ingredients and resources to our restaurants for memorable and immersive dining experiences.

Our Conrad hotels across the globe take local engagement and social impact especially seriously, with many of our hotels offering dedicated programs that directly engage or give back to local communities. For example, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island collaborates with several local environmental groups to help promote sustainable travel and encourage guests to reduce the use of materials that impact the environment and ocean. Our Conrad property in Washington, DC also embeds sustainability into its operations, integrating Hilton’s food waste training program into the kitchen culture as well as partnering with Clean the World to recycle and redistribute soap from guest rooms to communities in need around the world.

Conrad Washington D.C. will partner with DC Central Kitchen on a culinary internship and training program for youth. The hotel will the world. All of these programs are part of Travel with Purpose, Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy to redefine and advance sustainable travel globally.

Another example of our engagement with the local community can be seen at The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York, where last year over 15,000 furniture pieces from the original hotel were put up for auction with Kaminski. The proceeds from this auction were given to support St. Bartholomew’s Conservancy in its mission to help restore and preserve the exteriors and gardens of fellow neighbourhood landmark St. Bartholomew’s Church and Community House, a celebrated local historic site and marvel of Byzantine-Romanesque architecture directly across the street.

Find out more: hilton.com/en/waldorf-astoria/

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Reading time: 8 min
architectural pavilion in a city
black and white portrait of a man

Santiago Calatrava. Portrait by Jacqueline Roberts

The beauty and purity of form of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s buildings around the world belie the marvels of engineering that he brings to his show-stopping designs, as well as sometimes the controversies over budget overspends, design flaws and construction delays. But, as Mark C. O’Flaherty finds when he speaks to the architect, his extravagant vision never loses sight of each project’s singular purpose

Few things truly warrant the term ‘sensational’. Santiago Calatrava’s architecture demands it. You don’t look at his structures, you experience them. He engineers a feeling. Each project has its own potent energy, from the exhilarating elongated archery bows of his Puente de la Mujer in Buenos Aires and Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin, to the balletic falcon silhouette of one of his most recent works, the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. “Look, let me show you something,” he says, sitting in the garden of his home in Zurich. “See…?” Taking a finger to his iPad, he draws the outline of a bird in flight, with curlicued feathers, reminiscent of a Cocteau sketch. “And here is my signature…” Again, he creates an effortless swoosh and a soaring gesture on screen. “Birds were a big part of my childhood. I grew up in a house next to a tower full of doves and watched them come and go. Using nature as an approach to architecture has always fascinated me. Not in a decorative way, but as a purity of spirit.”

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Calatrava’s career began in the early 1980s, with warehouses and railway stations in Germany and Switzerland and the Bach de Roda Bridge in Barcelona. Even then his style was fully formed, with its roots in fine art. He left Spain in 1968 with the intention of studying in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts. But fate – and that year’s student riots – closed one door and opened another. “I visited Notre Dame one morning,” he recalls. “The light was streaming through the windows on the south side of the building and it was the first time I realised how sublime architecture could be, and how it can reach levels of expression that move your heart.” He left Paris and returned home to Valencia to study architecture for the next six years. Today, his work has been acknowledged with twenty-two honorary degrees, a retrospective (in 1993) at MoMA in New York, and a gold medal from the American Institute of Architects in 2005.

radical architectural structure

Innovation, Science & Technology Building at Florida Polytechnic University, designed by Calatrava in 2014. Image by lan Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava

In person, Calatrava radiates enthusiasm and charm, frequently appending sentences with an endearingly accented English “…isn’t it?” When he isn’t hard-wired into his studios in Zurich, Dubai and New York, he reverts to painting and sculpting. “I think of it as patient research, and parallel to my architecture,” he explains. “It all has the same energy. All my work is figurative. Even when I sculpt something abstract, the weight and tension in it are related to the human body. It’s all based on nature.” Those doves at the family home are part of an expansive flowchart of a global ecosystem that is Calatrava’s mood board. “I used to visit the Paleontological Museum in Valencia with my brother, and I was fascinated by the shells there,” he says, “I take inspiration from things that are skeletal, but also unicellular organisms visible by microscope. My PhD thesis was called ‘The Natural is Mother and Teacher’. I see the science of engineering as empirical – it comes from observing the behaviour of natural structures.”

a bridge lit by pink neon

The Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires, 2001. Image by Diego Grandi/Alamy. 

A Calatrava building is anything but simple. It also certainly isn’t cheap. In 2013 The New York Times ran a critical piece on the architect, flagging up certain projects in Europe that ran two or three times over budget. His striking red bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice, completed in 2008, had various parties lawyering up after it took an extra €4.6m to complete, while his PATH station in New York City – the World Trade Center Oculus – is rumoured to have cost $4bn, twice its original estimate. Money aside, many wondered if the Oculus would ever actually be finished. But, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and Calatrava’s are some of the most ambitious buildings in history. Walking into the Oculus, despite the visual noise of its retail outlets, is akin to walking into the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, or St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The spatial qualities are sublime.

new york buildings

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York, 2016. Image by Alan Karchmer

The architect’s vision for the future of our cities is as ambitious as his individual projects. While much of his work is for private clients – including the Turning Torso residential skyscraper in Malmö – he is a go-to for governments. He creates landmarks that market their location, but he is also, for all his flash, obsessive about the impact on a landscape. “We have an obligation to deliver for the next generation,” he says. “Communities need to be respectful of all things natural – something that begins with government, and then private clients react to that.” One forthcoming project is a new bridge across the Rhine in Eglisau, intended to pull traffic flow from the town centre, while being harmonious with its idyllic landscape. The jury behind the project flagged Calatrava’s design as having “a certain discretion” while still being “extremely elegant and self-confident.”

steel building entranceway

Innovation, Science & Technology Building at Florida Polytechnic University, Lakeland, FL, 2014. Image by Ian Karchmer for Santiago Calatrava. 

Modern architecture and nature can seem at odds, but Calatrava’s skill is in elevating what currently exists – he is a paradigm of the future of city planning as well as a high-profile architect. His 2015 Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) in Rio de Janeiro, which focuses on the role of science in the future of the environment, is remarkable for several things. The structure features solar panels that shift according to the direction of the sun, while water from the bay it overlooks regulates the temperature inside. “If you visit the museum, you learn so much, so simply,” he says. “We built a miniature forest and created a series of pools around the museum, drawing from the river. Gravity pumps it to the end of the pier and it cascades to the sea, not only filtering it, but oxygenating it. We are condensing an idea – showing how important the forests are around the city, and how the bay can regenerate things.” The museum also represented a major intervention in the existing urban plan of Rio. “We demolished the viaduct that had cut the city in two,” explains Calatrava. “Architecture can transform a city and contribute to a better way of life. Look at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – it brings magic to that Pacific bay.”

Read more: Product designer Tord Boontje on sustainable materials

While working in Rio, Calatrava met Brazilian master architect Oscar Niemeyer, whose contemporary art museum opened in Niterói in 1996. Its blindingly white, futuristic, flying-saucer form offers a dialogue with Calatrava’s new building across the water. “He was over 100 when I met him, but still capable of enormously clear thinking,” he says. “He was my idol. His work showed me how you can transmit a kind of poetry through the shapes and forms of architecture, and how it goes beyond the everyday needs of people, and becomes art.”

station escalator

Guillemins TGV Railway Station, Liège, 2009. Image by James Ewin

Art is inherent in Calatrava’s work. Like the sculptor Richard Serra, he creates negative space that generates a sensation: “It is the void that delivers the atmosphere and emotion,” Calatrava says. “It is a constant for me. Even with my bridges, there is a space beneath them, and looking up at it can be as interesting as crossing over it. Architecture is essentially a material casket around a space you are developing. And, like a wheel without the hole in the middle, it won’t turn. It’s the most important aspect.”

walkway through a building

The Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York, 2016.

His use of negative space to create emotion is perhaps most apparent at the Oculus and at the neighbouring St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, currently under construction. Both are in his typical reductionist Mediterranean white, and both expose internal space to the sky. “The Oculus is a strip and the church is a circle,” he explains. “The latter has ribs in the dome to let the light in, and the void there has an image of the Almighty at the centre of the roof.” Calatrava references the beauty of the Pantheon in Rome, where the focal point of everything is, essentially, the hole at the centre of the ancient dome – “The emotion of the immaterial being framed by the material,” as he describes it. So with the church, it is Jesus that is framed rather than the sky. But at the white-winged Oculus, it is pure air. “The roof is designed to open,” Calatrava explains. “We calculated it precisely so that when it retracts each 11th September, at 10.28am to mark the time of the 2001 tragedy, the orientation of the sun delivers a strip of light down below. It is the light, and the void, that deliver the message.”

Find out more: calatrava.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 8 min

Rashid Johnson in the studio with a work from his series Anxious Red Paintings. Photograph by Sheree Hovsepian

Rashid Johnson is a cult superstar among contemporary artists, inexorably leading the cultural narrative. His wife Sheree Hovsepian, herself an acclaimed artist, photographs him for LUX at their New York home, while Millie Walton speaks with him about culture, identity and the future

Chicago-born artist Rashid Johnson is on his ‘daily constitutional’ around his neighbourhood in Long Island, New York where he lives with his wife Sheree Hovsepian (also an artist), and his son Julius. We’re speaking on the phone and occasionally, the whoosh of passing cars, birdsong and the artist’s breathing filter down through the speaker. As for many of us during lockdown, walking has become a vital addition to the artist’s daily routine that normally involves him being in the studio from 9am until 3pm.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

During those hours, Johnson says he is not always actively making art, but it is the time he commits to “laying [his] creativity bare… you can’t just wait for it to happen, you have to show up and work. I get a lot of joy from making art, and I say joy specifically because I don’t really know how to participate with happiness or what that is, but I also experience a lot of frustration and disappointment. All of those things feed into my project and why I’m doing it.”

artist portrait

Portrait of Rashid Johnson by Sheree Hovsepian

I wonder how this period of prolonged confinement, reduced travel and fewer physical exhibitions has affected him. “I feel like I’ve been crazy busy,” he says, “in both making artworks and doing a lot of talks and community engagement projects, but I’ve also spent a lot of time with family. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot from watching them so closely.”

Johnson is one of the most influential of contemporary American artists. He is a cult figure, in fact, among many collectors and others in the art world who see him as the voice of a generation and a commentator on the issues of race and social upheaval.

paintings and installation

From right to left: Untitled Anxious Audience (2016) detail; Fatherhood (2015) by Rashid Johnson. © Rashid Johnson and courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Johnson found early success following his inclusion at the age of 24 in the celebrated group exhibition ‘Freestyle’, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. His intimate portraits of homeless black men taken with a large-format camera immediately grabbed the attention of both the art world and the wider public. Since then, the 44-year-old artist has racked up an impressive list of solo museum shows and commissions, including a major project for the atrium at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and, most recently, an installation at MoMA PS1 in New York entitled Stage (on view until autumn 2021), which comprises five microphones standing at different heights on a raised platform. There are references to protest and public oratory in this work, and also to hip-hop culture (a recurring influence on Johnson’s practice). The microphones are available for anyone to use; their words will be recorded, archived and, occasionally, broadcast via the museum’s website. The use of everyday objects is familiar Johnson territory, but the installation’s straightforward simplicity and direct call to action mark a new direction.

Read more: Artists to watch in 2021 – Arghavan Khosravi

As a black male artist, Johnson’s work is inevitably being seen in the context of the protests following the killing of George Floyd. This might risk an over-simplified or less nuanced interpretation of his work. When asked about this, he’s patient, self-analytical, and explains carefully his way of thinking. “[My work] is about how I identify and how I’ve grown in that identification – both realising when I should consider the collective nature of being a man, a black man, an American and a man in his forties, and also getting really granular with it: what are my obstacles? Which aspects of my life am I most interested in talking about? What are my character defects, and how do I start the process of unpacking some of those?”

mosaic and installation works

From right to left: Falling Man (2015); and Standing Broken Men (2020) by Rashid Johnson. © Rashid Johnson and courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Has he ever felt under pressure to make a certain type of art? “No, but I knew that when I made decisions they were going to be interpreted in a certain way,” he says. “Oftentimes, as an artist of colour, in particular a Black American artist, people imagine that the effects of racism and slavery and other oppressive aspects of our history reflect on me and my project in specific ways, but what I’m really interested in is how those more monolithic racial concerns are filtered through someone like me. I’m searching for autonomy, which I think, in some ways, is what every artist is searching for.”

artist portrait

Portrait by Sheree Hovsepian

This process of self-reflection has, for Johnson, largely been through various forms of abstraction – a build-up of spontaneous gesture, vibrant colour and embedded layers of symbolism – which, as Megan O’Grady points out in a recent article in The New York Times, aligns his practice with a new generation of black abstract painters such as Mark Bradford and Shinique Smith who are also making non-representational work in ‘defiance’ against traditionally narrow expectations of how their work should express black identity. “None of us want to be the representative of any kind of idea or concern,” Johnson continues, “and that’s not to suggest that I see the purpose of an artist as being an individual genius – I don’t subscribe to that concept at all – but I do see the artist as an individual living in the world and interpreting that world from a very specific location.”

Read more: How will the art industry change post-pandemic?

Inevitably, that location changes over time, and Johnson’s initial interest in the art world was that it might be “really exciting to be a filmmaker”. Arriving at Columbia College in Chicago, however, he found he had registered too late and all of the film classes were full. He ended up graduating with a BA in photography in 2000, and later, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he took up painting, sculpture, installation and film. His directorial debut, Native Son, released on HBO in 2019.

man standing inside sculpture

Photograph by Sheree Hovsepian

He has become known for his distinct visual language, which comprises specific, non-art materials that reflect his own experience as well as referencing history, literature and philosophy – subjects he was taught to deeply respect by his mother who was a poet and lecturer in African history. One of his most frequently recurring materials is shea butter, which he sometimes carves into dense, golden, bust-like forms that appear amongst leafy plants in his large-scale steel structures. “One day, I was putting it on whilst listening to the Tavis Smiley Show on the radio and I just thought to myself: this is it, the honest space,” he recalls. “It’s a material that I’m actually using in my life and on my body and it talks about Africanness, and displacement and healing and moisturising and utility.” Interestingly, the more recent additions to his ongoing Anxious Men series see the artist returning to more traditional materials (oil and linen) and consciously placing himself “within the discourse of art historical engagement”.

man on the beach at sunset

Photograph by Sheree Hovsepian

Ever since his Anxious Men made their first public appearance, coinciding with the initial rumblings of Donald Trump running for president, the wild, boxy characters, rendered in a scratchy, urgent style, have become the symbolic protagonists of the artist’s practice. But it is the Broken Men series (2020) that leave an even deeper impact. Monumental to the point of being intimidating in their scale, the works in this latest series comprise fractured mosaics of cartoon-like figures assembled from cracked ceramic and glass, scribbled over with paint, melted black soap and wax. Standing before them at Johnson’s solo exhibition ‘Waves’ at Hauser & Wirth in London at the end of 2020, I found myself struck by an allusion to the end of one era and the uncertain beginnings of the next. “We are now deconstructed, we will never be exactly the same,” Johnson agrees. “I’m not suggesting that the world wasn’t tragic and problematic prior to all of this, which of course it was, but this is my relationship to it now. We’re putting [the world] together again through a piecemeal process.”

With thanks to Maryam Eisler
For more information, visit: hauserwirth.com

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue alongside Rashid Johnson’s logo takeover.

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Reading time: 7 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
luxurious interiors

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

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

Simon de Pury

1. Where does your curatorial process generally begin?

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

blue abstract art

An artwork by Philippe Decrauzat from the Waldorf Astoria collection.

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

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

abstract art

An artwork by Benjamin Ple from the Waldorf Astoria collection.

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

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

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

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

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

grey mountains

Mountain by Minjung Kim from the Waldorf Astoria collection

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

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

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

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Reading time: 2 min
Man awarding medal

Keith Breslauer congratulating a wounded British veteran during The Veteran Games

Keith Breslauer is the founder and Managing Director of private equity company Patron Capital, and a trustee and donor to numerous charities including the Royal Marines Charity and the Prince’s Teaching Institute. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, he speaks to LUX about building bridges between charities and the corporate world, his work with disabled veterans and how philanthropy differs in the US and the UK
man in suit

Keith Breslauer

LUX: What inspired your interest in philanthropy?
Keith Breslauer: I was brought up to believe that giving what you can is the biggest triumph in life. I took this belief and inspiration from my parents and religion into my career and to help create a platform to give what I can to those who need it, enable others to do the same and make a lasting difference.

LUX: Why did you decide to support the Royal Marines?
Keith Breslauer: I’m from the US where veterans are celebrated on both a public and personal level. However, when I moved to the UK twenty seven years ago, I was disappointed to learn that British war veterans often receive marginal public support. That is why I started ventures that manifested as fundraising for all veterans with a focus on volunteering for the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC).

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What led you to create Patron Capital?
Keith Breslauer: Lehman Brothers allowed me to come to Europe and work on distressed assets, which was a niche sector of real estate at the time. I loved being in the UK – everyone said ‘Breslauer is a New Yorker, he’ll never stay’ – but I love that on a typical Friday night (pre-Covid) I have five-plus cultures and languages at my table. So, when Lehman Brothers asked me to go back to New York, I decided to stay and took the leap to start our business with a great team of partners and the rest is history.

Keith with Royal Marines and a team from the Royal Navy on a riverbank during their re-creation of Operation Frankton, which was sponsored by Patron

LUX: What are the principle benefits of a business involving itself in charity?
Keith Breslauer: We’ve worked hard for Patron Capital to be positioned as a leader of successful commercial business while also available for charitable good – rather than just donating funds. As a team we’ve built the business to be a bridge between charities like the Royal Marines and the corporate world. We can offer them everything from business plans, employment advice, office space, secretarial services, to our business contacts and expertise.

We also utilise our business to give a voice to the extraordinary people we raise money for. In 2017, we established The Greatness Lectures, a forum to inspire, educate and create opportunities through Patron’s extensive business network. Through education, The Greatness Lectures can involve every member of the audience and ensure everyone has a part to play in the Patron value of ‘creating a positive change whenever and wherever required’.

LUX: How does philanthropy differ in the US and the UK?
Keith Breslauer: The key differences between the US and the UK lie in the construct of giving, the perception of philanthropy and the landscape of donors. In the US, it is not just tax-deductible, but also a status symbol for many and there are significant givers across the spectrum. However, while in the UK, it is a tax credit and the dynamic of it being a status symbol is far less prevalent – instead, there is much more grassroots support where individuals across the country might not give a huge amount, but they donate what they can on a regular basis.

Read more: Katrina Aleksa Ryemill on helping women in the arts

LUX: Is there anyone in particular who inspires you philanthropically?
Keith Breslauer: There are so many people, but I will always be inspired by Harvey Krueger, an early boss of mine at Lehman Brothers who is known for being the first banker to bring Israel, really, to the international capital markets. He embodied what it means to me to give as he gave a lot of his time and limited resources but remained focused on the primary objective of how to help those who needed it.

LUX: What feels more rewarding: enabling people to get involved in charity, or simply giving?
Keith Breslauer: I am a big believer in doing more than just giving. If you don’t immerse yourself in the act of charity, then you can only help on a superficial level and you will never understand the satisfaction of knowing what a difference you’ve made. To understand what a charity stands for – getting under the skin of why you’re trying to raise money – you need to endure some sort of hardship to help. You need to get know the people you are helping. At Patron, we encourage employees to take part in fundraising events that help people push their own preconceived limits. For example, in 2019, Patron sponsored Rock2Recovery’s flagship fundraising event – a sponsored climb of Ben Nevis in Scotland – and we were really proud to see an all-female team from Patron join the 140 climbers taking part. In total circa £26,000 was raised for the charity.

man on mountain summit

Keith (top) with his youngest daughter Samantha on Mont Blanc Massif, and at the summit of Pointe Percée

LUX: How has your religious background influenced your charitable work?
Keith Breslauer: My religious background is incredibly important to my approach to charity and giving – it’s the core of it really. For a start, a principle of the Jewish faith is to give away about 10% of what you earn, and I adhere to this with my time and money. Next, there is the concept of ‘tikkun olam’ which comes from Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings, and is defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. This is key to how I was raised and how I try to live my life; if you have the ability to make a difference then you should whenever and wherever you can.

LUX: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in your lifetime?
Keith Breslauer: I have learned so much throughout my life and I am still learning, but one of the biggest lessons that has stayed with me comes from the late Lord Rabbi Sacks, and that is about working hard and seeing the possible where others see the improbable. We can achieve more than we think we can if we try.

Read more: Entrepreneur Wendy Yu on creativity & charity

LUX: How has Covid-19 affected your philanthropic efforts?
Keith Breslauer: In the first few months of lockdown, it was really difficult for everyone as no one knew what the future would hold – everyone suffered. We tried to stick to a routine at Patron and this is why we took the Greatness Lectures, a forum to educate and inspire the Patron team, our friends, and partners, online. This included “Reports from the COVID-19 Frontline” with Dr Seb Vandermolen and Nurse Laura Pinches, who had both been working on adult COVID-19 wards at St Thomas’ and St Bartholomew’s hospitals respectively.

Alongside our efforts to establish The Women In Safe Homes Fund, believed to be the world’s first gender lens property impact investment fund being launched as a solution to the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes across the UK for women and their children, who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk, I’ve made a personal commitment of £1 million to demonstrate how important this fund really is. We’ve also organised a Greatness Lecture with Chloe McCardel and Jane Jutsum to share different perspectives on domestic violence and providing help and inspiration to its survivors. Chloe is an elite athlete whose love of marathon swimming helped her recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, and she holds the world record for the longest non-stop ocean swim – 124km. Jane Jutsum is Director of Business Development at Solace, a charity that exists to end the harm done through violence against women and girls.

All of our charities have suffered this year; the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC) alone needs £1.5 million of vital funds. We’re always looking for ways of raising money and connecting those who wish to help with any one of our 30 charities.

LUX: What has been the most surprising discovery in your philanthropic activities?
Keith Breslauer: The most surprising thing for me to discover is the significant impact we can have through the multiplier effect of dedicating both time and money, rather than just one or the other. Our initiatives focus on funding projects and events with the potential to harness a multiplier effect either driving further donations, raising awareness, or helping deserving individuals who have suffered injury, illness or disadvantage achieve personal goals and build self-esteem.

man with climbing wall

Keith with the in-house climbing wall at Patron Capital

LUX: What are your passions outside of business?
Keith Breslauer: I’m obsessed with mountain sports, especially skiing, and climbing. I even had a climbing wall fitted in our office. When I first moved to the UK, I was introduced to European mountaineering through a trip to Mont Blanc. My wife told me I was only allowed one trip, but I’ve been addicted ever since and have now climbed, notably; Old Man of Hoy, Denali and various summits and routes in the Mont Blanc Massif. I also strive to incorporate social impact into everything and anything I do. And, last but not least, my family – they are everything to me.

LUX: How have you combined those interests with charity work?
Keith Breslauer: My personal philosophy on life and in business is to lead by example. Through working with the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC), I’ve been able to share this approach undertake challenges with some extraordinary individuals that also raise awareness and funds for those in need. For example, in 2017, we sponsored The Royal Marines’ recreation of Operation Frankton, an 85-mile paddle and a 100-mile run described as the most courageous raid of World War II. This commemorated the 75th anniversary of the legendary feat which was immortalised in the 1955 film ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’ and raised money and awareness for the charity. I joined the team as we retraced the route of 10 commandos who paddled up the Gironde estuary in December 1942 to attack enemy German ships moored at the port of Bordeaux in occupied France, before making the 100-mile journey on foot to rendezvous with the French Resistance in Ruffec. Only two men survived to tell the tale – the others succumbed to hypothermia or were executed by the Germans – but the operation’s significance reportedly led Winston Churchill to say he believed the raid could have shortened the war by six months. For me, our re-enactment was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

LUX: Should we expect to hear of any upcoming projects?
Keith Breslauer: I’m looking forward to working with disabled veterans as they take on new challenges, including in the near future with a disabled veteran Mark Bower. More generally, we have a range of both adventure projects and practical projects with different charities to drive reach and penetration where charities have lost traditional channels of outreach and fundraising due to the pandemic.

Find out more: patroncapital.com

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Reading time: 9 min
Woman standing amongst tyres
woman in car garage

Ruth B. photographed during making of her video for the single ‘Dirty Nikes’, 2020. Image by Gabriel LN.

Is Canadian singer-songwriter Ruth B. the new Tracy Chapman? She has a soulful voice, thoughtful and concerned lyrics, and a growing wave of followers around the world. She also has some of the most creative videos around. Oh, and she speaks fluent Amharic. LUX speaks to her about the music business, social media, BLM and whether playing the piano matters

Ruth B. is a musician very much of her generation. Born Ruth Berhe in 1995 in Edmonton, Alberta – her parents had emigrated from Ethiopia to Canada – she started posting short videos on the now defunct Vine platform in 2013. One of these fragments of a song gained thousands of likes and eventually became her bestselling single ‘Lost Boy’, which in turn has received over 500 million plays on Spotify alone. That song features on her album Safe Haven, released in 2017 on the Columbia label.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

This kind of rapid rise in the music industry is one that has been made especially possible by social media. But it has also been made possible by Ruth B.’s own skills as a singer and keyboard player – her warm, soulful voice and subtle piano style have won her fans across the generational divides – and by her dedication to her art and her ambition to have artistic control over her songs and videos.

Like most musicians, Ruth B.’s career has been put on hold during lockdown brought about by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, but it hasn’t stopped her working entirely as she continues to write songs at her home in Edmonton, where she was living when LUX spoke with her.

LUX: When did you start being interested in music. Was it when you were very young?
Ruth B.: I think for me music was always a really prominent part of my life. I just naturally gravitated towards it. I loved singing; my mum sang a lot around the house. I just really loved to make noises with my voice or make sounds with pots and pans, or whatever it was.

LUX: And were your parents musical? Did they encourage you down that route?
Ruth B.: My mother sang in a choir. No-one was particularly musical, but my whole family appreciates music, and they were always very supportive of me, and put me in piano lessons.

Woman on the phone

Image by Gabriel LN.

LUX: You’re a very contemporary singer, but there’s something very classical in the way you play piano and sing. Are you aware of this?
Ruth B.: I don’t know if I’m aware of this, I just think that’s the type of music I love listening to and love making. When you start to get more into the music world you get to know what kind of production you want, but I’m aware that I want to keep it organic and stripped back.

LUX: When you were young, playing around with music, did you think you would end up as a global star? Was it an ambition of yours?
Ruth B.: I kind of always hoped I’d end up in music. I didn’t know in what capacity or what that meant, but I certainly knew that music was going to become the focal point of my life.

Read more: Prince Robert de Luxembourg on wine, gastronomy & storytelling

LUX: Do you feel that you have succeeded? Or are you on the path to other things?
Ruth B.: Yeah, I’m always working towards different goals. I’ve definitely had successes… I think in the beginning I was always super critical and hard on myself, but now I think it’s important to celebrate wins and the good things that happen. But I think I still have a long way to go, and there are still things I want to accomplish.

LUX: Like what?
Ruth B.: One goal that I always tell people about is to put out an album that I write, produce, engineer, all by myself. I’ve done the writing, and the production a bit, but all the other stuff I’m still learning. So that’s my biggest goal, to put an album that’s just, you know, completely me.

LUX: Are you releasing an album or some more songs this year?
Ruth B.: Yes, I brought out a new single this summer, and we shot the video for it it in my hometown. And an album towards the end of this year or the beginning of next. It’s been in the works for the past three years now.

LUX: Your videos are very dreamlike and artistic. Do they come from your ideas, or is there someone else who directs them?
Ruth B.: For most of my music videos have been made by different directors, but I’m pretty heavily involved in everything I do. So, I write up my ideas for the video of a song and send it out to three or four producers, and whoever’s vision matches mine is who I’ll go with. I’ve been lucky to work with some really talented people.

LUX: Some of the ideas in your videos are quite surreal, aren’t they?
Ruth B.: They really are. I like to focus on the little details and surprises here and there. I’ve always been into fantastical and magical stuff since childhood, so it’s seeped its way into the videos for my songs.

surreal image of woman floating

A still from Ruth B.’s ‘Lost Boy’ music video.

LUX: How important are the videos?
Ruth B.: They’re very important. A visual alignment with what you’re hearing is important, especially for a lot of people, and it can sometimes make or break a song. I’ve had songs in the past where we’ve shot an entire video and spent three days and a lot of money on a video, and it just doesn’t work, so we end up not using it.

LUX: Looking on, it seems you’re just doing what you love, and that’s it. But is it difficult?
Ruth B.: Yeah, it is, like any job. But with music it’s hard because sometimes people forget that just because you love music, it doesn’t mean you’re like this super outgoing, big personality. For me, that was the hardest part – getting used to being at the forefront of things. Even being on stage at the beginning was super hard, because growing up I was pretty introverted, but I think over time I’ve got used to it and grown a love for it. It comes with its hardship. You pretty much give your whole life to touring. But I think at the end of the day, if you really love it, then it is worth it.

Read more: Penélope Cruz on designing jewellery for Swarovski

LUX: And what are the biggest challenges?
Ruth B.: I think for me it’s the being away from home and family. Being from Edmonton, Alberta, I spent a lot of the early years, at 18 and 19, away from home. That was difficult – just always being on and ready to go. Shows can be really tiring, and that whole thing of being on stage for an hour or two every night can be hard, but again, you’re doing the thing you really love, so in the back of your head, you’re thinking this is amazing, regardless of how tired you are.

LUX: Do you find it difficult being a young black woman in music?
Ruth B.: Yeah. Being a young black woman in general is difficult in our world, but in music I’ve definitely faced some adversities, but it’s kind of always been that way. It’s not new. It’s stuff I’ve faced in workplaces before now, or in school. It’s certainly there, which is unfortunate.

LUX: Do you think things are changing with Black Lives Matter and recent developments?
Ruth B.: It’s inspiring to see people talking about it and it being at the forefront of a lot of conversations. That inspires change, and with the people I work with, talking about how we can change the industry for black people.

LUX: Do you experience any ageism as well?
Ruth B.: Yes. I think in the beginning I had a hard time with it, because I would always be like this 18 or 19-year-old girl walking into a room of older, usually white men, and it can be a little bit… ergh. But I think for me, at least in my experience, the older I got the more confident I became in my ideas, and more married to the idea of executing things in the way that I wanted them done. Over time I’ve grown a thick skin.

LUX: Thinking about ‘If I Have a Son’, did you write that as a reaction to BLM?
Ruth B.: Yeah, I wrote that after everything happened with George Floyd. I mean, those feelings were always there, but I never thought to put them in a song, just because I never thought I’d get that honest or deep in my music. But when you’re faced with such a hard pill to swallow all you can do is try to channel it, so for me that’s always been music. It’s my go-to therapy, just writing out everything I’m feeling in response to what’s going on.

woman being filmed

The singer on set for ‘Dirty Nikes’ 2020. Image by Gabriel LN.

LUX: Do you have a good idea about who your fans and listeners are? Is there a single type?
Ruth B.: You know, I don’t think it’s one type of person, because at my shows it’s such a diverse mix of people. That’s like my favourite part, you have little kids and older people and different races and backgrounds. It’s really nice.

LUX: Do you have plans to direct movies or anything beyond pure music making?
Ruth B.: I’ve always been really interested in a lot of stuff. I love to read; I love to write. Eventually, one day, I would like to write a book. I don’t know what kind; it’s always been on my bucket list.

Read more: American artist Rashid Johnson on searching for autonomy

LUX: What kind of books do you like reading?
Ruth B.: Growing up, it was very much fantasy, magic, dragons. As I got older, I got to like mystery. I like poetry, that’s where my heart is now. It goes hand-in-hand with music.

LUX: What poets are you reading?
Ruth B.: I read a lot of Maya Angelou, I love Robert Frost. I also really love Pablo Neruda. I think for me it just helps with my song writing, and garnering inspiration for that. Poetry is really just music without melody, so it’s inspiring when I’m trying to write my own music.

LUX: Do you see yourself as a businesswoman? Is making money a goal or just what happens?
Ruth B.: As you get older you start to think more about business, and you get more on top of your stuff. It’s never been that important to me, but I have my friends and family who tell me I need to keep on top of that. So, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to become more business oriented. In the end, though, the main priority is making music, and I’m happy to be where that can be my main focus, just creating art.

LUX: You came to prominence through Vine. How important is social media?
Ruth B.: It’s really important. And I say that mostly because I’m from a tiny little city in Canada that not a lot of people know about. It’s such a great tool just to get your voice out there in real quick time to spread the word fast. You know, ‘Lost Boy’ started off as a six-second Vine and if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

LUX: Has your use of social media changed?
Ruth B.: I’m not as active now as I once was. I don’t plan things out as I used to. In the beginning I would post a cover or some kind of lyric every day. It’s really important when you’re trying to get your foot out. Now I use it to tease music, when I’m about to put something out. Or I’ll tweet lyrics, and I won’t tell people that they’re lyrics, over a few months, and then the song will come out and people will say, “Oh, I remember when you tweeted this ages ago”.

Read more: Designer Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar on bringing dream worlds to life

LUX: I guess you’ve been at home in lockdown like the rest of us. What’s that been like?
Ruth B.: It’s been a challenge, for sure. There’s been some good things, spending time with friends and family. Returning to my roots, and being in my bedroom just writing and with my keyboard. I’ve been so lucky to work with different producers and writers all over the world, but now it’s back to the very beginning, in my room.

LUX: Outside of lockdown, what is a normal day for you?
Ruth B.: A normal day for me… I was living in New York and I would probably spend somewhere between nine and twelve hours in the studio, and then come home, eat dinner, go to bed. And it’s probably my favourite part about all this, being locked in to create music and getting to do that every day.

music studio

Ruth B. in the studio. Image by Marc Offenbach

LUX: You once said that you weren’t a big party person, but do you still feel like you have to be on the scene to keep up your image?
Ruth B.: Erm, no. I think you can be whoever you are, whoever you want to be. It’s easy, when you’re young, to get caught up in who you should be and what you should want to do, but I’m 25 now, and I have a good idea of who I am, and where I’m going… I’m still figuring it out, but I’m OK with being who I am, and with the fact that I don’t like to go out. I do, from time to time, but it’s not my thing, and that’s OK. There are people who are the same as you and who can be your clique or group. The older you get, the more you’re just like, “Hey, I’m me”.

LUX: Looking forward 10 or 15 years, what would you like to have done by then?
Ruth B.: I guess by then I just want to have made music that means something to me. With everything going on over the past few months, with ‘If I Have a Son’, it’s really inspired me to use my voice and my platform to do good, and to talk about things that actually matter. I just hope I will have done that in some sort of way, and stuck true to who I am. That’s the most important thing to me.

Read more: Get to know the marine biologist pioneering coral conservation

LUX: The reflective and spiritual nature of your songs remind me of Tracy Chapman.
Ruth B.: Well, thank you, that’s so kind. I love Tracy Chapman. That means a lot. I’m a very spiritual person, and very into what I love (which is music), and if people feel that, that’s always a really good feeling for me, so thank you.

LUX: How have you managed to stay grounded as your career has exploded?
Ruth B.: In the beginning it was a lot to handle, because you’re whisked away from home and it’s not like you can call up your friends like you used to. It’s a whole new life. For me the hardest thing was just feeling misunderstood, even by friends and family. You know, as much as they wanted to, they just couldn’t really understand what was going on in my life. They could be there and support me, but I couldn’t go to my best friend and say, “What do I do here?”, because she just didn’t get it. But I’m so thankful to them for keeping me grounded. I think it’s just about keeping those people close to you, and keeping those things the same, because it’s not easy staying yourself when the whole world is changing around you. I think if you make it a priority to not lose yourself in all of it, it’s doable.

LUX: You’ve said that you’re filming a video in your hometown soon. Why is that?
Ruth B.: Mainly because I’ve been isolating at home with my family. I didn’t go to New York when all this started, so I’ve just been in Alberta with my family. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to shoot something at home. I think it’ll be cool for people to see where I’m from and where a lot of these songs have come from.

LUX: How do you write a song? Does it come to you quickly, or does it take months?
Ruth B.: It’s become very abstract. When I started writing two years ago, there was a method to everything. I’d sit at the keyboard, and have a lyric, and I’d write around that. Now it’s all over the place, and I prefer it that way. I could be having a conversation with a friend, and something they say could stick out, and I grab my phone and write a note. Lately I’ve been into coming up with new melodies and writing around that. Life inspires me, really, so whatever feelings I’m feeling – happy, sad, mad, in love, heartbroken – that’s the main focus.

Find out more: ruthbofficial.com

This article features in the Autumn Issue, which will be published later this month.

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Reading time: 15 min
Artist works in the studio
artist with collage painting

Mickalene Thomas with her work Clarivel #6 (2019). Photograph by Maryam Eisler

New York-based Mickalene Thomas is an important and innovative voice in the art world. Her dazzling portraits of African American women use collage, enamel and her signature rhinestones to explore femininity and ideas of beauty. Maryam Eisler visits her in her Manhattan studio to photograph her and talk beauty, sexual politics, identity and racial stereotyping

LUX: Your work is almost exclusively about women – real women, everyday women, in different sizes, with different stories, textures, colours. Tell us a bit about this.
Mickalene Thomas: I love everything about women and more – confident women, smart women, the I-don’t-give-a-sh*t women, with all shades of blackness. When I think of all the women in my life, I think of those who have mentored me, about those I’ve read about in books and their stories. I think about all the women who have trail-blazed and sojourned that I aspire to be, about all the women who I haven’t met yet and who protect me. When I think of blackness, I think of my grandmothers. I remember seeing one of them at 95 years old in her apartment sitting in her favourite chair, and the wrinkling, deep indigo colour of her skin, that blackness, the ageless glow in her eyes, and thinking about all of the history that she’s endured and the things unspoken, all those secrets. I think of her vulnerability, her beauty, her fragility, her strength.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: There are many stereotypes of black women set by white patriarchal societies. Is there an expectation for you to fit within a white canon of beauty? Not that you have ever conformed to that way of thinking, of course!
Mickalene Thomas: Yeah, especially when you think of the ideology of a beauty that was put forth, setting a paradigm and an agency for everyone to follow. I’ve always tried to figure out how that happened and how it remained at the centre of our world. Because there were so many other powerful empires that had their own notions of beauty and aesthetics.

Artist and partner in front of artwork

The artist with her partner Racquel Chevremont, in front of October 1975 (2019). Photograph by Maryam Eisler 

LUX: How did you extricate yourself from this way of thinking about beauty?
Mickalene Thomas: As a woman of colour, I was fortunate to be raised by a very strong group of women. I never grew up wanting to be anything other than what I am, or wanting to question my own blackness. I never thought, “Am I light enough for you?” I’ve always had natural hair or locks. I’ve never straightened my hair. That’s never been an issue. So that white notion of beauty has never been imposed on me.

Art installation interior

Installation view of ‘Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure’ at The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2019. © Mickalene Thomas. Photo Mitro Hood, BMA/The Baltimore Museum of Art.

LUX: Was this down to the influence of your mother and your grandmother?
Mickalene Thomas: Yes, they let me know that I was beautiful enough for myself and no one else, and that I’m of a new generation and can be a leader and that my blackness and difference is important. I questioned their ideas of beauty because they were vastly different from mine – but I also think that growing up with Black Power in the 70s made me think differently. Looking around the room and seeing women with hair in Afros was very empowering. It’s about freedom, really.

Read more: How Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah is establishing itself as a cultural hub

LUX: Yes. And owning it, right?
Mickalene Thomas: Yes, absolutely. However, you start questioning these ideas of beauty placed on you by the media because it’s the only representation that you see. You know that within your own community some things are considered beautiful, but then the media tells you otherwise.

Portrait artwork

Untitled (Maya #4) (2019) by Mickalene Thomas. © Mickalene Thomas.

LUX: Does that make you wonder if you’re creating your own bubble?
Mickalene Thomas: Yes. And you’re constantly up against creating your own agency. Where do you fit in exactly? How do you navigate this world and this image consciousness as it is? Forget double consciousness!

LUX: With the histories and background stories involved, it’s probably more like a tenfold consciousness?
Mickalene Thomas: Yes! I think that if we embrace the diaspora and look at ourselves as the melting pot that we are as a people, then we can start tolerating our differences and embrace the various forms of beauty that each of us harbour.

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

LUX: Do you think we tend to forget about our humanity as the common ground?
Mickalene Thomas: Yes, that would be a much healthier way of looking at the world – to try and understand the way we are because we had to migrate and move around for a variety of reasons, such as adverse conditions, weather, food, nature and much more!

LUX: What does it mean to question such stories of migration within your own community on a daily basis, in this day and age and in the USA of all places, the country of migration par excellence?
Mickalene Thomas: The entire country is based on migration. And for me, to even have to think about it gives me an ulcer. To think that America is leading this atrocity of deportation, when it is built on people immigrating here for many different freedoms.

Artist works in the studio

Studio shot of two works from Thomas’s 2019 series based on images from the Jet Magazine pin-up calendars from the 1970s. Image by Maryam Eisler

LUX: Where is this re-examination of colour, race, faith, culture coming from?
Mickalene Thomas: I think there are many people in the world who operate specifically out of hatred and fear. I was raised a Buddhist and I think that was one of the fortunate gifts my mother gave my brother and me, this sense of spirituality and the sense of philosophy of life. It’s not necessarily a religious practice, but more a philosophy of understanding, through knowing your causes and effects. The people who commit atrocities, such as mass shootings and bombings, are feeling displaced and threatened in society, and the causes are deeply rooted in their ancestors’ past. We want to live right now and right here, but there’s a lot we don’t look at in our pasts. I really believe that, as an artist, you have to look at history to move forward. We’re just moving forward without resolving our past histories. Times are tough. Our economy is about to take a huge shift, and I think it won’t just affect the poor or the middle classes – it’s going to affect many people in ways that they haven’t really seen before.

LUX: And there’s a lot of anger out there.
Mickalene Thomas: Yes. And people want something that they feel is owed to them, or that they are entitled to. And they think that immigrants and people of colour have been given some special privilege, not realising that most of us, if not all, have worked very hard to get to `where we are.

Mirror installation of artworks

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights’, at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, 2019. Photo Jessica Klingelfuss, courtesy of Mickalene Thomas and Jessica Klingelfuss

LUX: Can we talk about ownership of one’s sexuality?
Mickalene Thomas: You’ve got to own it! You only have one life. Period. And it took me a long time to recognise my own power and strength.

LUX: And while it’s okay to flaunt it, it seems that women and men are judged differently when they do…
Mickalene Thomas: Men have much more access to self-expression as well as the freedom to navigate the world and go about doing whatever they want to do. I remember arguing with my brother and having to figure out how to deal with those complications and being very argumentative with my family about it: “So why is he able to do certain things and I can’t but that I do better?”

Collage artwork portrait

August 1977 (2019) by Mickalene Thomas. © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020, photo Elisabeth Bernstein

LUX: Your work can be flamboyant, exuberant and cacophonous, with much layering and fragmentation. Is this a case of eye candy on the outside, but with deeper issues beneath?
Mickalene Thomas: These ways of telling stories, of thinking about how the women I depict collected their own histories, making sacrifices and compromises with little means and making the best of it. They went from one place to the other, transcending time and space.

Read more: Gaggenau presents new combi-steam ovens

LUX: So, it’s about stitching together a patchwork of life events?
Mickalene Thomas: A lot of the layering of material and patterning is about their own journeys, their own perseverance, their own struggles. The residue, the unearthing of time and space, is about their scars, and mostly it’s about the artifice of what you may think you see and the reality of it being another truth.

Art installation of living room

Installation view of ‘Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me’ at The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, 2018. Photo Luke Stettner, courtesy of Mickalene Thomas and The Wexner Center for the Arts.

LUX: The visual effect is powerful, and the nostalgia palpable.
Mickalene Thomas: There’s the power of the visuals, yes, and how we begin to believe our own truths or memories, whether or not there’s myth, and how they then become our reality. And so, as artists we create time capsules for histories. I find this very interesting, how people believe their own lies, their own truths, or their own memories or fantasies or dreams. These become reality to the point one might think: “Well, did that really happen?” When my mother passed in 2012, I came across photos that were almost a validation of my memory of childhood experiences. The photos encapsulated many moments for me – “Okay, now I have some evidence of what happened in my life. Now I have images from which to work. So now I have material to use for creative ideas and put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

LUX: So, above all, is your art a journey of research and self-discovery?
Mickalene Thomas: I think, as an artist, if you’re not doing self-discovery, then you’re really no longer making the art. It’s always a journey.

For more information visit: mickalenethomas.com

This article will also be published in the Summer 2020 Issue, hitting newsstands May 2020.

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Reading time: 9 min
photograph of pink fields
Contemporary artwork

Crown (2006) by Wangechi Mutu. Courtesy of Deutsche Bank Collection

One of the key elements of this year’s edition of Frieze New York was to have been an exhibition drawn from the legendary art collection of Deutsche Bank, to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The fair may have been postponed, but the significance of the collection, its works and ethos, is undimmed, says Wallace Ludel

At Deutsche Bank’s headquarters in New York, several hundred exceptional works of art are hung throughout the building’s 47 floors. The Wall Street tower was built in the 1980s and certain floors still retain that era’s American wooden-clad banking aesthetic; long oak and cherry desks and accents provide a warmer, more characterful context for the high-calibre artworks than a typical white-cube gallery setting. The click of dress shoes and hum of conference calls in the background create an atmosphere quite unlike the usual art exhibition experience.

The artworks displayed here represent only a fraction of one of the largest corporate art collections in the world, comprising over 55,000 important pieces.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Deutsche Bank employees are proud of the art that surrounds them, says Friedhelm Hütte, the bank’s global Head of Art. “They feel it helps the company and it does so not only in a general way but also when meeting with clients and prospective clients, because more and more people are interested in art, in going to exhibitions, or wanting to collect.”

photograph of pink fields

Düsseldorf (2018) #1 (2018) by Maria Hassabi. Courtesy of Deutsche Bank Collection

In 2020, Deutsche Bank is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its art collection, as well as the company’s 150th anniversary. Part of the celebration was intended to involve a major exhibition at Frieze New York. The show, titled ‘Portrait of a Collection’, brought together works from more than 40 artists from the bank’s holdings, including works by Wangechi Mutu, Amy Sillman, Glenn Ligon, Camille Henrot, Lucy Dodd, Hank Willis Thomas and many more. And although the fair was cancelled, the importance of the artworks and the philosophy of the collection remains as relevant as ever.

“Deutsche Bank has both the foresight to champion artists such as these in the early stages of their careers, and the power to contextualize them alongside an established canon within their collection,” Loring Randolph, Director of Frieze New York, tells LUX. She adds that Frieze and the bank are “aligned in their commitment to innovative curatorial programming and public art initiatives, including our mutual support and enthusiasm for artists.”

Purple hills of a landscape

Sugar Ray from the series ‘The Enclave’ (2012) by Richard Mosse. Courtesy of Deutsche Bank Collection. © Richard Mosse, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, photo Argenis Apolinario.

While Deutsche Bank’s enormous collection spans many decades and various movements of contemporary art, it does have a few points of focus – one being that the vast majority are works on paper. In this respect, Hütte and his team bucked the trend. “The bank decided to focus on an area in contemporary art that’s not so often covered by museums or private collectors,” Hütte says. “We wanted to build a collection that had a smaller focus placed on it. We now have one of the most important collections of post-1945 works made on paper in the world, even when compared with museums of the same era. This has allowed us to function as a kind of archive for artists and museums.”

Read more: Artist Peter Schuyff on the spirituality of painting nothing

Preparatory drawings for larger projects, including studies for public projects by Christo and mural-sized paintings by James Rosenquist, constitute this informal archive. Hütte says he is fascinated by the way these works illuminate the artists’ creative processes. The insights they provide are worth pursuing. “If you are not an expert in art, you can see these works and understand more about how an artist is developing his or her ideas. You see the moment of invention and of introducing something new. This is very much linked to business, and the ways we come up with new ideas.”

“We are always looking to discover new artists,” says Hütte, adding that this “doesn’t mean that the artist has to be young; it could be that an artist is older but hasn’t found the success that we feel he or she should have.” Supporting emerging artists is also a financially advantageous approach; the company does not have to lavish the same kind of sums on their artworks that collectors often pay for well-established artists. Hütte says that the bank, which has high-profile art hanging in offices all over the world, relies on the experience of their own team of curators and – in some cases – regional art experts to look out for creative talent. Additionally, the bank employs staff to oversee the collection, arrange exhibitions, facilitate loans and more.

Photograph of women

Four Little Girls (blue and white) (2018) by Hank Willis Thomas. © Hank Willis Thomas, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

While the biggest concentrations of works from the collection hang in the private offices of Frankfurt, London and New York, the bank opened its new museum-quality exhibition space and cultural programme, Berlin’s Palais Populaire, to the public in 2018. However, you may not have to travel to Berlin to explore the art from the company’s private collection. “We loan artworks to museums on a regular basis – normally every week,” explains Hütte. “We feel we have to support the museums and the artists, so there’s no ulterior reason. We give works for temporary exhibitions as well as for more or less permanent loans; for example, we recently loaned 600 works to the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.”

The Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year

One of Deutsche Bank’s initiatives to support young artists is their ongoing Artist of the Year programme. Previous winners include Wangechi Mutu in 2010, Yto Barrada in 2011 and Roman Ondak in 2012. All have since gone on to have exceptional careers. “It’s not simply a prize of a sum of money; it’s really to support the artist so they can reach a new level,” explains Hütte. The artist is selected with the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, whose council members have included the curators Udo Kittelmann, Victoria Noorthoorn, Hou Hanru and the late Okwui Enwezor. The winning artist is given a solo exhibition – the 2018 winner, Lebanese artist Caline Aoun, held her show at the Palais Populaire – with a published catalogue of their work. “Most often, it’s the first large catalogue for this artist, and it’s normally their first museum exhibition. We also buy works from the artist for our collection,” says Hütte.

Discover the collection: art.db.com

This article will also be published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out later this month.

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Reading time: 5 min
Gallery exhibition of art
artworks hanging on wall

Installation view of ‘Works on Paper’ by Peter Schuyff at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London

Peter Schuyff was a central figure in New York’s East Village scene in the 1980s, where he worked for a period at Studio 54, sitting for Andy Warhol and living in the historic Chelsea Hotel. Over the years, his artistic language has evolved from loose figuration to abstraction. Following the opening and subsequent suspension of two consecutive exhibitions at White Cube, Masons’ Yard and Carl Kostyál, London, Nick Hackworth speaks to the artist about lockdown, nothingness and Sylvester Stallone

LUX: So, how’s the apocalypse going for you?
Peter Schuyff: Well, I’ve run out of pencil lead unfortunately. I’ve started work on this very obsessive project and I was using a rather specialised pencil and half-way through I ran out of lead and I can’t think of a single place where I might get more…. I’ve been working on these samplers. It’s what I often do when I get frustrated, or right after a big show. I sit down and make these very obsessive renderings that are like a smorgasbord or a sampler of all my oeuvres.

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LUX: Like the one you had in your show at Carl Kostyál Gallery a few years back?
Peter Schuyff: Yes, that one was called Plato Combinato. That’s a really good example. At the moment, I’m making a portrait of the show that I have at the White Cube.

Abstract artwork on wall

Plato Combinato (2010), Peter Schuyff

LUX: Why do you think you tend to do these sampler works after completing shows? Are you visually cataloguing or processing the shows?
Peter Schuyff: Yeah, I’m visually cataloguing the show I guess, just so I can see it clearly. I’ve always had a fascination with pictures of pictures, whether it’s in 17th Dutch paintings where you often see paintings hanging in the background or in those preposterous 18th century paintings of salons. I’ve often commissioned friend to make drawings or paintings of my drawings and paintings. They help me see my own work a little bit clearer.

LUX: I managed to catch your show just before it got locked-down along with the rest of the world. It’s stunning, so congratulations, but commiserations on the timing. How are you feeling about it all?
Peter Schuyff: It hurts, of course. I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of years now and I guess I was expecting the show to be a liminal moment for me, y’know? With a before and after. Somehow, that before and after thing has been taken away a bit. But if it would have been a show of new paintings, I think I would have been really destroyed.

Read more: Art photographer Senta Simond on the female image

LUX: Because of all the labour you would have invested in the work?
Peter Schuyff: No, no, it’s not the invested labour, it’s about momentum. When I show new paintings, they’re paintings I want to show now, not later. Do you know what I mean? Whereas these painting were shown last year (in a touring show at Le Consortium, Dijon and Fri Art, Fribourg) and many people know them already, so it doesn’t feel quite as much of a loss.

LUX: What’s it like walking into a show of your works from three to almost four decades ago? Do you still feel connected to the paintings?
Peter Schuyff: I’m really impressed by them! I’m impressed that I was young and handsome [laughs] and so I could afford not to give a shit, which is a great recipe for making paintings! Today, I’m old and cynical so I have another way of not giving a shit, which enables me to make really clean and clear paintings and I love that. There was a lot of time in between where I couldn’t do that. When I see these works I always surprised at how big they are and how much balls I had. My God! Especially the paintings at White Cube, the audacity I had.

Gallery exhibition of art

Installation view from ‘Works on Paper’ by Peter Schuyff at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London

LUX: We’ve talked over the years and you’ve always said your paintings are ‘about nothing’. Is that how you thought about the paintings when you were making them back in the 80s?
Peter Schuyff: Yeah, I did. A teacher of mine in Vancouver, Michael Morris, used to talk about the problem of nothing. I guess it was almost a spiritual principle of work not needing to be about something. When I got to New York, that came more naturally, but I always talked about my work in this way and it’s always been an issue. When I showed in Germany in the mid-80s, I remember a lot of the German artists being mystified by how little was there was going in the work.

LUX: In your other show at Carl Kostyál, you’re showing several of your 80s watercolour works, which I love. I’ve been trying to get my head around how you achieve the precise gradations of colour and shade in them?
Peter Schuyff: So, I’ll answer it this way. That great big painting downstairs at White Cube, the one with the prism of colours, it’s a ten-foot-square canvas, and it’s broken up into one-inch units, and I made that with a four-inch brush with a round bristle. So knowing that, you should be able to figure out how I made them… It’s the same with those watercolours. Those watercolours were broken up into little squares that are about a half a centimetre squared or something? There’s no way I’m going to pay attention to each of those little squares.

watercolour artworks hanging on wall

Both Untitled (1990), watercolour on paper, Peter Schuyff at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London

LUX: Well, it’s a very effective trick then, because the apparent precision is amazing in those works.
Peter Schuyff: And just like a good magic show, it’s all about engineering.

Read more: Boundary-breaking artist Barbara Kasten on light & perception

polaroid of two men and a woman

Peter Schuyff with Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen

LUX: In the book accompanying ‘Works on Paper’, there’s picture of you with Brigitte Nielsen and Sylvester Stallone. I gather Stallone is a bit of a collector?
Peter Schuyff: Oh yeah, a very sensitive collector. One time that I remember particularly was when Sylvester came to my house. I had all these Louis M Eilshemius paintings on the wall and Sylvester walks in and – I can’t do a Stallone impression, I wish I could –  says, ‘Oh my God, you have all these Louis M Eilshemius paintings!’ He knew exactly who Louis M Eilshemius was despite him being a totally obscure American cultural presence in the 1910s and 1920s. I was so impressed. Sylvester was so well read about American art from the early 20th century, The Ashcan School period and so on. He was so smart. Another time we met in Los Angeles and he gave me a tour of the post-production set of Rocky and I met Apollo Creed, which is the guy he fights at the end of the film.

LUX: Sounds like an interesting time.
Peter Schuyff: Well, it was different. When I first showed up in New York there was this idea of the underground. It was about glamour that was absolutely free. All you had to be was some kind of fabulous. It didn’t matter what kind.

Peter Schuyff’s exhibitions ‘Works on Paper’ at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London and ‘In Focus’ at White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London both opened in March 2020 and are currently suspended due to Covid-19. For further updates visit: kostyal.comwhitecube.com

Nick Hackworth is the Director of Modern Forms, a contemporary art collection and platform founded by British financier, Hussam Otaibi. For more information visit: modernforms.org

 

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Reading time: 6 min
Woman's face close-up
Black and white portrait of a woman's face

Copyright & courtesy of Senta Simond

Art photographer Senta Simond sets out to explore the female image through what she calls her own definition of a woman. She talks us through images from her latest series, shown in New York this year

“I discovered that being a woman photographing women allowed me to capture these intimate images, and that was an advantage that I wanted to explore. In a way, we constructed the images together.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“I wanted to show women’s bodies from my own perspective, so that’s why they are not overly sexualised. It was more about trying to find an interesting image, even a little uncomfortable maybe. Also to catch the subject in an in-between moment. I want my images to talk, not only about the form of the subject but something deeper and more complex.

Black and white semi nude image

Copyright & courtesy of Senta Simond

“I try to present a multidimensional personality. My images are filled with an admiration for the subjects rather than evoking desire. I believe this is a healthy relationship to women’s bodies.”

View the artist’s full portfolio: sentasimond.com

This article will also be published in the Summer 2020 Issue, hitting newsstands in May 2020.

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Reading time: 1 min
Church and square
Church and square

Knight Frank launched its 2020 Wealth Report at Chelsea Barracks, a new luxury residential development in Belgravia, London

Last week saw the official launch of the 13th edition of Knight Frank’s Wealth Report at Chelsea Barracks in Belgravia, London with a new focus on on data relating specifically to ultra-high net worth individuals, providing invaluable insight for investors and those seeking to buy new homes. Here’s what you need to know

Wealth is increasing on a global scale

Despite geopolitical uncertainty, the global number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) is still growing and is expected to rise by 27% over the next five years, taking the total to an estimated 649,331.

The US still dominates with the largest UHNWI population (240,575), followed by China (61,600), Germany (23,000), France (18,800), Japan (17,000) and the UK (14,400). India has the fastest growing UHNWI population with an estimated 73% rise over the next five years.

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New York wins for lifestyle

The report assesses 100 cities based on their global appeal as a place to invest, live and spend time. This year, New York came top, pushing London into second place followed by Paris, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

Wellbeing is a new priority

According to The Wealth Report Attitudes Survey, 80% of UHNWIs are dedicating more time and money into their wellbeing. There is also a growing focus on wellness as a measure of national performance with Oslo in first place followed by Zurich and Helsinki tied in second place.

And so is sustainability

This year’s report discusses the impact of luxury travel on the environment, featuring insights from William Mathieson, Intelligence Director of The Superyacht Group and Thomas Flohr, Founder and Chairman of Vistajet into how their businesses are becoming more sustainable.

Read more: Darius Sanai’s Luxury Travel Views Spring 2020

Residential trends are changing

The report also includes the latest results from the Prime International Residential Index (PIRI), which places Frankfurt at the top of the second homes market, followed by Lisbon, Taipei, Seoul and Houston.

Man on stage with presentation

Lord Andrew Hay, the Global Head of Residential at Knight Frank, presenting data at the launch of this year’s Wealth Report

10 neighbourhoods to watch according to Knight Frank’s property experts:

1. Road to Amizmiz, Marrakech, Morocco
2. Fengtai, Beijing, China
3. Sentosa, Singapore
4. Sydney Harbour, Australia
5. St Martin-de-Belleville, The French Alps, France
6. SoPo, Berlin, Germany
7. Mahou-Calderón, Madrid, Spain
8. Maida Vale, London, UK
9. Museum District, Houston, US
10. Imperial Beach, San Diego, US

To view the full wealth report visit: knightfrank.co.uk

Restoring the Garrison Chapel

The Garrison Chapel was constructed in 1859, and functioned as an active church for 150 years before it was deconsecrated. In 2018, after an extensive refurbishment supported by the Chelsea Barracks Chapel Trust, the building was reopened as a community arts and culture space.

Watch the below video to learn more about the project:

Chelsea Barracks – The Garrison Chapel from Chelsea Barracks, London SW1 on Vimeo.

For more information on Chelsea Barracks visit: chelseabarracks.com

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Reading time: 2 min
Woman sitting on leather sofa in a contemporary space
Woman sitting on leather sofa in a contemporary space

Shirin Neshat at home in New York City

Shirin Neshat’s devastatingly striking art combines dream, reality and an undercurrent of anger and sadness. As a major retrospective of her work is held in Los Angeles, Millie Walton meets the artist at the launch of her collaboration with celebrated Italian winemaker Ornellaia, famous for its artist labels

Portrait photography of Shirin Neshat at home in New York by Maryam Eisler

Iranian-born filmmaker and artist Shirin Neshat sits demurely drinking a cup of coffee in the palatial breakfast room at Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venice. It’s the morning after the Sotheby’s auction at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection which saw the sale of limited-edition bottles of 2016 Ornellaia wine with Neshat’s label artwork. A total of $312,000 was raised, with all profits going to the Mind’s Eye programme, which was conceived by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to help blind people experience art through the use of other senses.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The success of Neshat’s collaboration, following that of William Kentridge’s in 2018, was well deserving of late-night celebrations, but the artist is composed and alert, her jet-black hair scraped tightly back from her face, and her dark eyes lined with black kohl. It’s a look that would seem somewhat severe or even theatrical on most, but Neshat wears it with authenticity, grace and a sense of homeliness. She pulls up another chair close to hers so that I can hear what she’s saying over the clamour of the breakfast buffet and tells me that she’s been ordering coffee to her room each morning and is worried that Ornellaia will have to foot the bill. Given the sum raised last night along with Neshat’s status as the world’s most important and widely recognised contemporary Iranian artist, it’s hard not to laugh, but she speaks softly and sincerely, taking time to consider each of her answers and apologising when yet another admirer interrupts for an autograph. She has a lot of fans it seems, yet her politically engaged work continues to generate debate. She admits, “Some people dislike what I do. There are a lot of people who hate my work in Iran, but still it is discussed, so I think I’m relevant.”

Monochrome image of white-shirted men on a cliff edge

Veiled women walking across a beach towards the sea

Here and above: stills from Neshat’s video Rapture (1999)

Neshat was born in the city of Qazvin, north-west of Tehran, but left for California at the age of 17 to finish her schooling. Her training as an artist began with her undergraduate and masters degrees in fine art at the University of California, Berkeley. However, she abandoned art-making and moved from Los Angeles to New York in the early 1980s. It was a decade later, through photography first and then film, that she found her artistic vision. She has now been working as an artist for more than 30 years and has won numerous international awards, including the Golden Lion at the 1999 edition of the Venice Biennale for her powerful short film Turbluent, which explores gender roles and social restrictions in Iranian culture. The film plays out on two screens: one shows a male performer singing a love song by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi to a large audience of men, whilst on the other screen, a veiled woman waits in an empty auditorium, her back turned to the camera. When the man’s performance finishes, the woman begins a wordless song of guttural cries, mournful melodies, panting and animalistic screeching. This film was not only significant in establishing Neshat’s career, but also in paving the way for her succeeding works, which all, in one way or another, deal with the restrictions of female experience. Though embedded in narratives of conflict, Neshat’s work offers a sense of hope in which women find freedom through art in all its various guises.

Monochrome image of hands inscribed with symbols

Artist labels for wine bottles

Neshat’s designs for Ornellaia’s ‘La Tensione’ bottle label

Man shaking hand of woman at event

Neshat with Ornellaia’s estate director Axel Heinz

Given these preoccupations, the artist’s decision to collaborate with Tuscan winemaker Ornellaia is somewhat baffling. “In our culture, wine is a way not to escape, but to transcend reality and so [drinking wine] is a sacred, spiritual act,” says Neshat. “But in general, I feel like an occasional step out of your own milieu is actually very positive. For one thing, it puts your work in front of a new audience, but also, for me, [commercial work] is an attractive way of financing my projects. I make work that takes me six years and I make zero money so I think that any patronage that finances your practice and gives you the freedom to do your work is great.” Her series of images for Ornellaia, interpreting the theme ‘La Tensione’ which gives this vintage its name, depict white hands inscribed with Persian script, luminous against a black background. The use of hands, along with literature and monochromatic shades are all typical of Neshat’s aesthetic and imbue the work with a haunting, dreamlike quality. “I’m very interested in the subtlety of body postures and how they can reveal emotion, especially coming from the Islamic tradition and how provocative and problematic the body can be,” she says. “There’s a certain universality about hand gestures.” She places one palm against her chest: “This, for example, could be love”.

Portrait of a man illustrated with Farsi script

Ibrahim (Patriots) from The Book of Kings series (2012) by Shirin Neshat

The work is reminiscent of Neshat’s first series of black-and-white photographs, entitled Women of Allah (1993–97), which was created following the artist’s return to Iran in 1990, her first visit following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. When Neshat arrived back in Iran, it was in the wake of dramatic cultural changes. Women of Allah not only marked the rebirth of her making art, but also her engagement with the country’s political landscape – an engagement which led to her current state of exile. The series focuses on female martyrdom, showing veiled women holding weapons, their faces, hands and feet again inscribed with Farsi poetry, highlighting the revolutionary Iranians’ dual identities as both Persians and radical Islamists, as well as the tension between devotion and violence.

Read more: Introducing the next generation of filmmakers at Frieze LA

Her practice continues to be preoccupied with contrasts, highlighted by the minimalism of black and white, but also with conflict. “There are plenty of artists whose making of art is an aesthetic exercise, which is important because it has intellectual and artistic values of the highest level,” she explains. “But for artists born to a country like Iran, the relationship to art is personal in a way that it cannot be separated from daily realities. I don’t think we have the emotional capability of distancing ourselves from these issues, and it is an incredibly fulfilling process when you make work that is politically conscious. It also means that you have a relationship with an audience that is larger than the [usual] art audience because people are able to identify with the subject matter.”

Woman crouches in doorway to stroke dog

Despite Neshat’s acute political engagement, her work has a sense of timelessness achieved by incorporating literature and music as well as elements of the surreal. “Music is very existential,” she says. “It sort of neutralizes a political reality, but it also contains all these cultural references and has a strong physical impact. Powerful music affects your heart.” This is perhaps most apparent in Turbulent, which was inspired by a young blind woman who Neshat saw singing on the streets of Istanbul. Many of her works have involved collaborations with composers and musicians as well as writers and cinematographers. “It’s an essential part of my work to collaborate, especially with people who know me and my work well,” she says. “I’m doing a lot of work in media that I never studied. It’s been really interesting to surround myself with people who have the expertise.”

Artist working in her studio

The artist in her studio

Neshat’s artistic ‘family’ is international, but she has gravitated towards other Iranians in New York: “I am sitting on the outside [of Iranian culture], others are by choice and others not; either way, we’re naturally drawn to each other and spend a lot of time helping each other. I do feel integrated in American culture as far as the artwork goes, but I can also see the limitations of not being Western, when your practice is considered to be a little bit outside the box.” Reflecting this duality, Neshat curated ‘A Bridge Between You and Everything’, an exhibition of Iranian women artists held at the High Line Nine Galleries in New York in November 2019.

Portrait of a girl sitting in front of illustrated wall

Raven Brewer-Beltz (2019) by Shirin Neshat

Neshat has called New York her home for many years, but her latest project, Land of Dreams, is the first time that she has directly turned her artistic attention towards the US. The project explores her experiences of being an immigrant, focusing on an Iranian woman who collects dreams that portray American people and takes them back to an Iranian colony for analysis. The project is now being shown for the first time as part of Neshat’s major retrospective ‘I Will Greet the Sun Again’ at The Broad in LA, and one wonders at the colony’s interpretations. “It’s kind of an absurd comedy,” she laughs, “but it was also [about] how to tackle a very important political subject – the antagonism between the two cultures as well as the corruption on both sides – through a human surrealism so that it escapes absolute realism. I want it to be timely, but I don’t want it to have no value in a hundred years’ time.” Are these surreal imaginings ever drawn from Neshat’s own dreams? “Yes, I try to write down my dreams every time I wake up. I like how ephemeral dreams are. My work is like the story that comes after.”

‘Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again’ is on show at The Broad, Los Angeles until 16 February 2020: thebroad.org.

Shirin Neshat ‘Land of Dreams’ opens at the Goodman Gallery in London on 20 February and will run until 28 March 2020. For more information visit: goodman-gallery.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 8 min
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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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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Reading time: 7 min
Two young men in their rooms

You’ll bump into The Gstaad Guy at the yacht club, the art fair and on the slopes; if you don’t know him already, you’re clearly in the wrong milieu. Here, the Instagram legend’s two alter egos, super-wealthy Eurotrash Constance and his nouveau New York cousin Colton, take our questionnaire. Interview and photographs by Maryam Eisler

Constance

Your favourite brand?
Loro Loro, Piana Piana of course! They just know! And the vicuña, the best of the best.

Your favourite music?
Whatever you can dance to holding a glass of wine! Bocelli at the top. And then you drop
some Julio [Iglesias] and Dalida into the mix and you get perfection! And, of course, my very own ‘Commercial Flight’.

Your favourite car?
A Jaguar E-Type, no doubt. Pure class.

Who do you like hanging out with the most?
My dearest Prince Will. Prince William. Sometime Bill [Gates] and Jeff [Bezos] join us, too.

Your favourite artist?
Picasso. He just knows.

Your favourite resort?
Cheval Blanc, because it’s the Cheval Blanc. And I don’t count the Gstaad Palace as a resort, as it’s my second home. My pied-à-terre.

Your favourite restaurant/favourite dish?
Cipriani. Tuna tartare and artichoke salad to start, and a veal farfalle for main.

Colton

Your favourite brand?
Chrome Hearts – fo sho.

Your favourite music?
Travis. He’s savage! 21. Lil Pump. You know, the classics.

Your favourite car?
LAMBO TRUCK.

Who do you like hanging out with the most?
Cousin Constance.

Your favourite artist?
Alec Monopoly! He’s just crashing it and cashing it!

Your favourite resort?
Amangiri fo sho. Do it for the gram!

Your favourite restaurant/favourite dish?
Cipriani, plain penne. And in LA, Omakase at Matsu[hisa]. Can’t beat it!

Find out more: gstaadguy.com
Follow Constance & Colton on Instagram: @gstaadguy

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 2 min
Woman standing on cliff

graphic banner in red, white and blue reading Charlie Newman's model of the month

Middle aged woman posing in studio setting

British model and founder of Wilder Botanics Rachel Boss. Image by Aaron Hurley

LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about their creative pursuits, passions and politics

colour headshot of blond girl laughing with hand against face wearing multiple rings

Charlie Newman

THIS MONTH: British model Rachel Boss has had a longer career than most, shooting with industry legends including the late Peter Lindbergh as well as appearing in all the Vogues, the Pirelli calendar and numerous fashion brand campaigns. Alongside her husband, she recently founded her own brand Wilder Botanics, which specialises in holistic products created from organic, wild ingredients. Here, Rachel opens up about the tough side of modelling, becoming an entrepreneur and her aspirations for the future.

Charlie Newman: Let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like?
Rachel Boss: I grew up just outside of Manchester. I had the perfect mix of countryside and being on this great music city’s doorstep back in the late eighties early nineties, so I was constantly going to gigs when I could. We lived in this beautiful old farm, not that we used it, but my mum only ever cooked using home grown vegetables. I went to a convent which wasn’t great! I went there from 3 to 18 years old as a day pupil. Looking back it had a huge effect on me with the guilt that comes from Catholicism. It was awful, it was heaven and hell, it was retribution. My mum stuck up for us by not letting us do confession: what 7 year old has anything to confess? That’s why I had my confirmation much later because you can’t get confirmed without having confessed. I haven’t been to church in a long time now but it’s still in there. I remember going to school and seeing these propaganda posters and being so appalled by these extreme elitist views, but in reaction to this quite a few of us were rebellious. The young nuns were slightly more liberal singing Kumbaya with us, whilst the elder ones were just dreadful. The only two male teachers were science teachers which meant that we really weren’t pushed to do science – things have changed hugely since then. Safe to say, I would never send my children to a convent, in fact I went the complete opposite and sent them to a school where they call the teachers by their first name!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Charlie Newman: How did fashion come into your life?
Rachel Boss: I can remember always being taller than my peers and everyone telling me I could be a model but I never even considered it because modelling wasn’t a career back then. I saw fashion as my escape, it was my ticket out of Manchester. Interestingly, people from Manchester generally always stay there, they don’t often move. I don’t know whether that’s typical of most towns but I couldn’t wait to get away. University was never on the cards for me, it wasn’t even something I wanted to do and I don’t know why because later on I went to study off my own back. Even though I didn’t go to university straight after school, I still want my children to because I hate the idea of them being out in the world without a purpose. When I left school that’s exactly how I felt, so when I got asked to be a model I took the chance. I was staying at a friends house in Dublin and then somebody asked me to do a show for John Rocha. From that show an agent picked me up, it’s not a very glamorous story! In that first season I worked for John Rocha, Katharine Hamnett and a few other Irish designers. After that, I came back to Manchester and then moved to London at 19 years old so I was a late starter for a model.

Model pictured standing on cliff edge

Charlie Newman: What were your early experiences of modelling like?
Rachel Boss: Once I signed with an agency I was whisked straight away off to Tokyo, and I didn’t really like it. Whenever I see friends who were also models at the time we look back now and realise that actually we really weren’t treated right as teenagers. Thank goodness for the way my mum brought me up else I would have ended up in some compromising positions. People were always saying to me, ‘Why don’t you relax? Why don’t you go to that club? Why don’t you go out for dinner with them?’ But I wasn’t having any of it which meant that I was spending a lot of time on my own. My first trip was to Tokyo for 4 weeks which was a real eye opener, it was like a cattle market. We weren’t marketed as human beings, never having time to eat or break. Then at night we had to go to club openings which was just not my thing. I left Tokyo with not very fond memories and from there went onto Paris after a brief stint at home in between.

Read more: Artistic visions of Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature 2012

Charlie Newman: Paris is the centre of old school fashion houses, and with it often comes an old school mentality. Did you come across this and how did you deal with it?
Rachel Boss:  I really struggled in Paris because the French bookers were always the toughest. We’d be staying in a model apartment 25 years ago for 600 euros a month and it would be a mattress on the floor, with no light bulbs, nothing in the kitchen and with 6 other girls in the flat, it was completely wrong. Even though I was a tiny bit older than my peers, I felt a lot younger because most of my friends within the industry were from cities so were a lot more streetwise than me. They were in the right crowds immediately, whereas I was very far from it. I must have been really hard to manage because I was forever saying, ‘Sorry but I’m going home now!’ I realise now that I was suffering with anxiety without even realising it because anxiety disorders weren’t discussed then. I remember berating myself thinking, ‘What’s the problem? All you have to do is get on that plane, go to the hotel, get up and go to the job.’ I remember forever talking myself through it and every time on the plane home I’d congratulate myself. So it wasn’t an enjoyable period for me but then again I did have a couple of years which were just incredible. That was when everything changed.

Woman standing in white studio

Image by Aaron Hurley

Charlie Newman: What changed exactly?
Rachel Boss: I moved to New York in 1991 where I stayed for a year, and then I moved back there at the age of 25 which was just fantastic because there was a real resurgence of health in fashion. The heroin chic look was out and the more healthy, robust girl was in. People were waking up to the benefits of nutrition and that really opened my eyes to what I wanted to do. I went to an amazing Ashram in upstate near Woodstock, where I learnt the teachings and philosophies of yoga and meditation. I had the time to really read and expand my knowledge whilst I was in New York purely because all of my work was based there and I didn’t have to catch a flight all the time. But by the age of 26 I was moved to the ‘Classic’ table and was told I was past it. That had a real effect on me mentally because I suddenly woke up to the idea that I was a woman and I needed to have a family. I was being portrayed as a 46 year old woman at 26 which I wish I hadn’t agreed to. Afterwards, I just tucked myself away and studied and studied at the Holistic Health college. I was studying to be a Naturopath alongside Nutrition, Homeopathy and Iridology which is recognising genetic traits through Iris formations. I love it because it’s one of those subjects where you’re forever learning.

Charlie Newman: You published Super Herbs: The best adaptogens to reduce stress and improve health, beauty and wellness in 2017. How did that come about?
Rachel Boss: I was approached by The Little Brown publishing house after having just given birth. I remember being so incredibly exhausted at the time and without thinking I went along to the meeting. I remember thinking in the meeting at this really smart office, ‘What the hell am I doing here? I am so tired, and here I am saying that I can write a book!’ I think it must have been the endorphins that come with breast feeding! I wrote it like a job, or studying, so I was really strict with deadlines. I so enjoyed writing it. The book focuses on the history of the herb. It’s a really easy read and helps direct you on how to slot herbs into your life and make you feel better. When you have a chronic illness quite often you get used to it (unless it’s acute) and you end up ignoring it, like chronic digestive issues for example, but in my book I explain how herbs can help you. I also highly recommend reading Rosemary Gladstone and Christopher Hedley’s books. Christopher was my tutor and is simply amazing.

Read more: Designer Philipp Plein on mixing business with pleasure

Charlie Newman: You’ve had such a long and diverse career in an industry that is notoriously short. How has your career developed as you get older?
Rachel Boss: I was more editorial at the beginning, but then I really pushed for it to become a money earner. When I came back to London I was doing the likes of John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Next, which was great money! There was a time when I was doing everything in London and it was just fantastic, I could drive to work, I absolutely loved it. But then of course they move on as they always do and have to. I’m also very aware that I’m extremely tall to be doing commercial work. I’m just over 6 foot so I’m extremely grateful to them for being so kind to me, most of the other models were 5’9. However, the other day I did my first editorial shoot for a while with the wonderful Renaissance magazine. I met this amazing guy who was Turkish but brought up in Sweden, the hair and make up was from Tokyo and the stylist from America – we all just couldn’t stop talking! I’ve always loved that part of fashion, every shoot has a real mix of people from all over the world. Perhaps it’s because I’m older and more confident, but I feel as though I’m no longer seen as an object that has to be moulded to other peoples desires. I am my own person whilst modelling now.

Charlie Newman: Looking back at your career now, what do you wish you had done differently?
Rachel Boss: My career has forever been in flux between forcing myself to do the job and then retreating. Even when it was French Vogue or shooting with Peter Lindbergh, it was terrible because in my head I just wanted to run for the hills. I look back now and wish I just got on with it for four years and then left. But instead I dragged it out over decades! Often when I left a city I would leave an agency too because then I felt like I could always start again and have a fresh start. The agencies were always very damning of my opinion when really it should have been a joint decision, but luckily I had one wonderful agent who understood that when I said no, I meant no. I became very good at saying no because for years I’d forever been a yes man. As a result, I had a reputation for being difficult. It’s been an interesting journey. Talking and reading about the past now amongst friends and colleagues makes you realise how intense it is as a job.

Charlie Newman: What advice would you give to young models now starting out?
Rachel Boss: Please enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously. I was forever being told that I was ungrateful because I didn’t want to do the jobs, but really there’s alway someone else who will do the job. If it’s not your route or desired path don’t do it.

Charlie Newman: What has been a career highlight for you?
Rachel Boss: I think it’s got to be living in all the cities. I loved working in New York and Morocco and even though living in Paris was hell, I’m so pleased I did it. Now I know all the areas and I met Yves Saint Laurent and so many other incredible people. I was lucky enough to have a good wage so wherever I was, I did whatever I wanted. If there was some restaurant I wanted to go to, I’d try it, if there was anywhere I wanted to go to, off I went. I was very, very happy with my own company, which was hugely beneficial for me because I’d got into such a huge state of panic before where I felt as though I always needed to be with someone, so that was a huge turn around for me. It’s so important to have times in your life, especially when you’re young, to go off and do your own thing because you’ll probably never have that time again. Even if you do get the opportunity to do it when you’re older, your mind is constantly elsewhere and wanting to be with your children. So for me to have had that time was something I really relished. It’s so important as a human being to sit by yourself and be happy.

Man and woman portrait in living room

Rachel and her husband Charlie co-run Wilder Organics, doing everything from the making of products to the selling.

Charlie Newman: What made you decide to start your own company?
Rachel Boss: The company was talked about for years. I was so aware that herbs were still seen as something a bit odd or witchy or something that only people wearing linen and blankets could prescribe to and I didn’t like that! It was the same with when I went to my lectures too. It was all too intense and I wanted to prove that you could be interested in Naturopathy, whilst also enjoying a glass of wine with a steak. The whole idea for Wilder Organics was about bringing herbs into the contemporary lifestyle and fitting it into the everyday. Before it was only really Neal’s Yard, but within the past 5 years I’ve seen a huge surge in interest.

Read more: Island paradise at the Ritz-Carlton Abama resort in Tenerife

Interiors of a cosmetics shop

The Wilder Botanics boutique, Broadway Market

Charlie Newman: How did you make Wilder Organics a reality?
Rachel Boss: It started with me creating a herb infused body oil and two teas. I asked my friend Lerryn Korda, who is a beautiful illustrator of children’s books, to design the beautiful labels for me. Each type of herb has a different illustration because I really wanted to draw people back to nature and get them to recognise what they’re actually drinking, and maybe even encourage them to go and pick the leaves themselves. This was back in October 2017. I had a little stand at this wonderful sale that supports creatives called The Hand Sale in Kensington and everything sold! I didn’t know what the whole worth was of my product so that’s when my husband swooped in, and he’s totally immersed in it now. It’s just us two and one other person who comes in every so often. We do everything, from the making to the selling to the wholesaling. Everything is biodegradable and recyclable nationwide, it can even be put into your compost. All of our products are recyclable grade 7 which means all councils recycling systems will accept it, which sadly isn’t the case for a lot of other products out there.

Charlie Newman: Where would you like to see Wilder Organics in the future?
Rachel Boss: We would really love to see our beauty products in Liberty because we’re obsessed with everything in there! We have endless ideas for the future, but I’m particularly excited about delving more into women’s health. Alongside our 10 stockists, we’d also like to be stocked worldwide, but without ever losing the core values of our company.

Charlie Newman: And finally, who is your role model of the month?
Rachel Boss: It’s got to be women for me, I love women in every form. If I had to pick one individual it would probably be Julianne Moore, I think she’s just heavenly. My friend works with her who’s a make up artist and said she’s the real deal, she’s true to her persona, so kind and brilliant. I was listening to Zadie Smith on Radio 4 yesterday and I thought she was just amazing, partly because she doesn’t appear to be a people pleaser. I grew up in a generation where everything was about being liked, fitting in and not being a burden. I really rock boats with that even now. I hope my children are like that, I tell my children all the time, just because someone’s an adult it doesn’t mean they are right.

Discover Wilder Botanics’ range of products: wilderbotanics.com

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Reading time: 15 min
Glamorous woman lounging by exotic pool
Glamorous woman lounging by pool wearing blue dress

Photograph by Mattia Aquila

Launching our new insider guide feature, Italian designer Alberta Ferretti reveals her favourite spots in her hometown Cattolica – as well as a few from further afield. 

My favourite view…

The view of the sea from my town, especially from above, gives me energy; it recharges, relaxes and regenerates me. Gazing at the horizon leaves me with a sense of freedom, which inspires me to follow my imagination. Living in a city by the sea gives me a freedom of thought, an openness to travelling and visiting other places, observing and studying other cultures. From this, my collections are born, the sense of lightness that I bring to my fashion: the lines and volume of the clothing, as well as the colours and fabrics.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Dining spots to die for…

Wherever there is an open terrace overlooking a beautiful landscape: at the sea, in the mountains, in the city. The terrace of the Gente di Mare restaurant in Cattolica, where you can watch the bay. The tables in front of the large windows of the Hakkasan restaurant in Shanghai, when the Bund shines with sensual lighting.

Where I escape to…

San Bartolo Nature Park [just south of Cattolica].

I am at one with nature in…

My home! I am fortunate to live in a house built in a mature park. Our relationship with nature
is fundamental and I get to experience it daily. Every season changes the shapes, the colours, the smells – from the flowering of the trees and the lawn to the movement of the animals that populate it. For me they are sounds and images that mark time as a melody and make it an enchanted place. New York’s Central Park also fascinates me with its many private corners with wonderful villas and shelters.

Read more: ‘Extremis’ by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar opens at Setareh Gallery

The perfect weekend brunch is…

Wherever there are my favourite local dishes, such us tagliolini with cuttlefish ink salmon and cream of ricotta acidified with lime.

Worth a detour…

Montegridolfo, a small village in the mountains nearby, with a palace that I renovated together with my brother Massimo in the 1990s. The village has a lot of history.

LUX met Alberta Ferretti during the presentation of her Resort 2020 collection at Monte Carlo Fashion Week. View the brand’s collections: albertaferretti.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 2 min
Man standing in front of street artwork
Man standing in front of street artwork

Philipp Plein at his Resort show during the Cannes Film Festival in 2018

Philipp Plein is the partying designer for the Monaco private-jet set, who has also retained his status among fashion’s elite. Harriet Quick meets a man with a keen business brain and the unashamedly alpha swagger of a self-made global entrepreneur

“I can remember going to Salone del Mobile for the launch of my furniture line. I rented a truck and drove to Milan with my former girlfriend. We set up the booth ourselves and we slept in a motel. It turned out the motel was also operating as a brothel. Each morning, we had to leave the room empty as it was booked for ‘use’,” says Philipp Plein. “We had dinner at the Autogrill on the highway every night. It was all we could afford.” Plein’s first foray in the business of design was more than 20 years ago and the memory has a fuzzy, sleazy halo.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Male model waring Philipp Plein jacket

A model in Philipp Plein AW19

Today, the Philipp Plein empire encompasses menswear and womenswear collections, accessories, Philipp Plein Sport and 120 stores worldwide (some lease, others franchise), plus the menswear brand, Billionaire (a majority stake of which was purchased from Formula One managing director Flavio Briatore in 2016; it caters for gentlemen who prefer blazers to leather perfectos). It’s been reported that the group generates annual revenues of around €300 million.

As founder, CEO and creative director, Plein exudes the pride of a self-made man. The extrovert alpha male/female personality of his eponymous brand has earned legions of fans who are not in accord with the prissy propriety of high fashion. The stores (on the rue de Rivoli in Paris, London’s Bond Street, Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona and Soho in New York City) gleam with steel and shiny leather, embellished with Swarovski crystals. Mannequins feature six packs that spell machismo, and everything is dosed in irony.

Model standing backstage at a fashion show

A model backstage at Plein’s AW19 show in New York.

“The experience of building a business from scratch makes you really appreciate things,” says Plein of his trajectory from nobody to head of a fashion empire with 1.7 million Instagram followers. “Nothing was a ‘given’ or ‘easy.’ What people forget when they see the stars of today are the years of dedication and sacrifice. People suffer to reach certain goals.” He doesn’t go into the sacrifices he made, yet it is blatantly clear that Plein, who has an art gallery of tattoos on his considerable biceps, is an ‘all over everything’ workaholic. “I don’t get dropped, I drop the best sh*t in the game – on to the next one,” reads an Instagram post on 3 May 2019, with an image of a female model wearing fantasia eye make- up and a knockout crystal embellished body suit. Ahead of the Met Gala Camp: Notes on Fashion extravaganza, it was decidedly timely.

Read more: Gaggenau’s latest initiative to support emerging artisans

The Munich-born entrepreneur (son of a heart surgeon) possesses a fiery cocktail of Italian flare and Teutonic discipline. He launched into the design business creating sleek stainless-steel beds for dogs and then furniture for humans (he still owns 50% of the small steel factory that made his range) and went on to launch a line of upmarket objets and trophy tables with leather inlays. Dog owners from Miami to Zurich fell in love with the designer pet accessories and via that venture, the young Plein received an on-the- job education in the tastes and materialistic whimsies of the super-wealthy.

Model walking on catwalk

The Philipp Plein AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Celebrities sitting on car bonnet

Christian Combs and Breah Hicks at the opening of a new Philipp Plein store in NYC

Philipp Plein the label had planted its roots. Next came the Swarovski crystal-skull- embellished military jackets. They sold from rails at furniture trade shows. That led to an apparel collection featuring more leather, shredded jeans, diva dresses and mini skirts with the kind of proportions, detailing and quality (the collection is made in small Italian factories) that made them several cuts above the average rock ’n’ roll cliché. The collections’ fun- loving rebelliousness appealed to a generation of pop stars, moguls and party kids. Jasmine di Milo, Mohamed Al Fayed’s daughter, was one of Plein’s first customers and bought the line for her mini in-store boutique at Harrods.

“I started marketing the brand into Europe – Germany first and Italy, France and the UK followed,” says Plein. “In the mid oughts, we entered the Russian market and then China. It was a wholesale brand and we went to all the major trade shows.” On early trips to New York’s Coterie show, even his teenage sister came along for the work/vacay ride.

Celebrities attending VIP event

Socialites and celebrities gathered for the opening of the new Philipp Plein store in New York in 2018

The Plein lifestyle – fast cars, nightclubs, champagne, sex – proved a lure. While the level of flash made the arbiters of taste wince, no one could deny the coherence and the quality. This was the era of kick-ass disruption. Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo were turning Chloé into a ‘girl power’ brand, Alexander McQueen was confounding the world with his fusion of romantic beauty with punkish violence while Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga was reviving the moribund house with his electric hybrid mix of futurism, utility and armour.

Through these players, the luxury fashion world was reignited with guts and creative daring. The trajectory was bigger, higher (remember those teetering platform heels?) and in the case of Tom Ford’s Gucci, ever sexier renditions of slinky jersey dresses and low-cut blouses. Plein, who dubbed himself a heroic outsider, was astutely aiming in on the person who did not like concepts and intellectual leanings. In this decade, while fashion trends have leant away from flash and excess, Plein has kept to his groove and it’s paid off. A slew of openings (the majority are franchised stores) followed, aligned with blockbuster shows starting in 2010 and a bonanza of parties.

Do a Google Image search for Plein, and you will be blasted with a showcase of fantastical show sets and extravagance featuring hip-hop stars, racing drivers, sports champs and endless hot models – male and female – living it up to the extremes of camp and bling. The vision was epic and the investment huge. He hired British set designer Simon Costin (the mastermind behind Alexander McQueen’s early shows) and drafted in performers (yes, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Chris Brown) to realise the brand fantasy. A fun park with a rollercoaster, the Harlem Globetrotters, a monster truck crashing into cars – it was all about ‘action’. The brand outbid itself season after season with show costs reaching into the millions.

Luxurious home interiors

Luxury holiday villa

Plein has homes around the world, including his Manhattan penthouse and La Jungle du Roi villa in Cannes

Plein was not an outlier – it was a period of extravagance. The fashion industry in the late oughts valued spectacle, which, via live streaming and nascent social media platforms, could be viewed across the globe. Tom Ford at Saint Laurent showed in giant black Perspex boxes in the gardens of the Musée Rodin; Louis Vuitton under Marc Jacobs created visions of Paris with moving lifts modelled on the Ritz hotel. Chanel spearheaded the interactive, hyper-reality set with a supermarket, a rocket launch pad and a casino at the Grand Palais. The ‘immersive’ experience was born and Plein wanted to spoil his guests with the outlandish best.

Male model on catwalk

The Billionaire AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Sustainability issues, questions of timing and seasons have somewhat tempered the phenomena of the blockbuster show. Louis Vuitton presented its Cruise 2020 collection at the TWA terminal at JFK (now a design gem hotel) with a note that the plants used for the relatively simple décor would be redistributed or turned into compost. Excess and ‘waste’ is not in fashion. Powerhouses are acutely aware that we are seeking diverse indie and often ecologically minded activities, at least in the West.

Some brands are scaling down, while others are changing formats, taking the show on the road and off the traditional Paris, London, New York axis. The Philipp Plein show now is a relatively plain production that concentrates on the clothes. “We staged the last ‘big’ show in Brooklyn and invited 4,000 people,” says Plein. “From that moment on, I thought: ‘I don’t always want to give people what they expect.’ I want to focus on in-store events and see the investment showing up in sales,” he says. “We are a big player online, with €55million in sales, and this does not include channels such as Farfetch. But we believe in offline stores – you need to be successful in both. While more and more people might be consuming online, we still need to dream the dream, enter stores and touch the product. It’s an omni-channel solution.”

Champion boxer on stage at fashion show

World champion boxer Vasyl Lomachenko is the face of Billionaire

While the old school and economy of fashion relied on editor diktats and designer worship, Plein sees the power pass to the consumers, who, via social media, exert influence and opine endlessly. “The consumer is much more powerful than the medium itself: choosing what information to consume, where to find the information and who to follow or unfollow. It’s much more democratic. In the past, we were able to ‘control’ the consumer, now the consumer ‘controls’ us,” concludes Plein.

Read more: At home with minimalist architect John Pawson

On Instagram, Plein is a dynamic, flashy act to follow, allowing access into his personal world. You’ll find him with his feet up in his marble and glass New York penthouse watching The Rolling Stones; in a helicopter with his five-year-old son flying across the Hudson River; or on-site overseeing the build of an Italianate mansion. One of his favourite photo- op situations is in the vicinity of premium cars. His brand recently collaborated with Mansory on a limited-edition series of ‘Star Trooper’ Mercedes G63 vehicles, for €500,000 each.

He looks fit (running six km a day), full of pluck and at the same time, with his cropped hair, stubble and brown eyes, approachable. He calls himself an “old-school guy” – he likes cars, women, the trappings that wealth can buy, sleek modernity and shiny surfaces. He does not smoke and rarely drinks. His vice is Red Bull. “I want to live a long time,” he adds. For all the wild projections, Plein is ultimately tidy. He has his son, who lives with his mother in Brazil. “He has a happy, normal life,” says Plein of his little boy. “Of course, he enters into my world and he is privileged in the sense that he can enjoy both points of view. As parents, we have a big obligation to our children – and how influential we are towards to them. They are born pure and what that child discovers and experiences, builds character and establishes a value system. It is a base that they will then develop themselves.”

As for kicking up his own feet, Plein – who is now in his forties – is dubious. He has weighed up the option of selling his business, but this would mean giving up a majority stake. “My father told me: ‘Money is an obligation. What would you do with this money? If you don’t know, then don’t sell.’ I think I have mastered my own industry – I don’t know anything else and I am not in need of money right now,” he concludes.

Where the brand ego stops and the real Philipp Plein actually starts is hard to gauge. You can’t imagine him seeking an alter-ego life with a rustic cabana and a plot of agave plants in Mexico. “It’s difficult for me,” he says. “I have grown into the brand and the brand became part of my own life and reflects pretty much my lifestyle. You don’t have too many designers who have a namesake brand anymore,” he says.

Plus, future ventures including scent (the men’s cologne, devised by famed ‘nose’ Alberto Morillas is launching this year) and cosmetics, depend on his presence. Earlier this year, he put in a bid in for the failing Roberto Cavalli brand, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy and now seems irretrievable, not a ‘renovation’ investment. “I look at fashion like a sport,” says Plein. “If you want to perform in any industry you have to be mentally fit and able to deliver results, and you are always under pressure,” he says. “Designers are drafted in like soccer players.” He admits that he does not have a lot to say on sustainability issues (gen up quick), but is happy that his manufacturing is Europe- based and small-factory led.

The exotic leathers might be on the way out and times might be turbulent, but Plein’s view on luxury remains constant. “We give people unnecessary things that no one needs, but everyone wants.”

View the designer’s collections: plein.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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.”

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

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
Model lying in underwear and skirt on the ground

graphic banner in red, white and blue reading Charlie Newman's model of the month

Portrait of a mixed race model wearing a white shirt

Model and founder of Metizo chocolate, Avril Guerrero. Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about their creative pursuits, passions and politics

colour headshot of blond girl laughing with hand against face wearing multiple rings

Charlie Newman

THIS MONTH: Having already modelled for twelve years, Avril Guerrero has enjoyed a longer career than most. She has appeared in campaigns for the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Moët, Uniqlo, Avon and Garnier, and has recently launched her own organic chocolate company Metizo. Here, she chats to Charlie about the lessons she’s learned from the fashion industry, running a start-up and tackling issues of sustainability.

Charlie Newman: Firstly, please can you tell us about your childhood and your journey into modelling?
Avril Guerrero: I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic until I left to work in New York aged 16. I went to New York literally the day after my high school graduation never to live in the Dominican Republic  again. I got into modelling through my cousin who was an actor at the time at home. He put me in contact with my first mother agent in the Dominican Republic, who then put me in contact with US agencies who I later signed with. I was with MC squared for 10 years, they were like the family to me. They were the perfect agency to start my career with and now I’ve moved to Fusion, who I signed with about two years ago.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

Charlie Newman: How did you find moving to New York?
Avril Guerrero: The contrast was huge. Honestly, I think there’s something about being so young, you don’t think about things so much. It wasn’t as big a cultural shock as you would expect. If I had to do that again now, it would probably be a much bigger shock, but at the time it just felt right, it was so much fun! The funny thing was that I didn’t even speak English! But it was great because I was so bubbly, thinking back I was just smiling all the time. It was impossible to book me a job where I wasn’t smiling, I wouldn’t have known what to do! I don’t really remember being particularly anxious or nervous.

Charlie Newman: Were you always interested in fashion?
Avril Guerrero: My family aren’t into fashion at all, they’re far more focussed on sports. In fact, all of my aunts on my dad’s side are basketball players, two of which are in the hall of fame in the Dominican Republic for basketball! Fashion wasn’t necessarily something I was seeking, it just happened.

Portrait of a female model in a leather jacket and red jumper

Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

Charlie Newman: What have been your career highlights so far?
Avril Guerrero: I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t really know. I feel like I’ve had an extremely steady career. I’ve never had that career where you’re suddenly thrust into the spotlight with one big job. I’ve had a very progressive career always in more commercial realms. In Paris I do mostly beauty and luxury jobs, but in New York more consistent commercial work. Never a big boom which is good because it’s been progressive and never gone down, well not yet!

Charlie Newman: What advice would you give to any young aspiring models?
Avril Guerrero: Models need to be smart in the sense that it is important to know that this job isn’t going to last forever. The one thing I’ve seen in common with a lot of younger girls is that they don’t understand that this is such an unreliable career and whilst it may go on for as long as mine has, I have to be honest that I don’t see the same girls now as to when I first started working. Also you have to know your purpose: why are you doing this job? For me modelling is a mean to get financial security and is an opportunity for me to travel the world, but that doesn’t have to be the same for everyone, we all have different ambitions. I think it important to be clear about what you want from this job.

Charlie Newman: What has modelling taught you about yourself?
Avril Guerrero: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. To do something for 12 years, has made me think: wait, what have I actually done in all that time? The one thing that modelling has taught me so much is my own strength. It’s shined a light on the capacity of my strength to be self sufficient because I have to travel so much and be alone in all sorts of places, and [it takes strength] to be thrust into so many new places at such a young age. It really takes everything you’ve got, not to just get through them, but also to learn. Modelling has definitely made me a stronger person, purely by being so exposed.

Read more: OMM’s Creative Director Idil Tabanca on creating an art institution

Girl holding a bar of chocolate over her lips

Guerrero’s chocolate brand Metizo

Charlie Newman: How did your organic chocolate company Metizo come about?
Avril Guerrero: My father is an agriculturalist in Dominican Republic and my grandfather had a big farm, which grew cacao and coffee. When my grandfather died around 12 years ago, my family didn’t want to have to deal with the farm anymore because it was a lot of work so thought about selling it, but I really didn’t want them to. Somehow I managed to convince my boyfriend and myself to buy this big farm in the Dominican Republic even though we’re based in Paris and in New York!

We both love cacao and chocolate, and he already works in the wine industry so we decided to use our tools and experience by launching a chocolate company – it’s brilliant! We’ve had the farm for three years now, where we employ three people full time and then during harvest season between 15 to 20 people depending on the yield that year. Then in Paris it’s just my boyfriend and me! We have a library of 15 flavours that we have mastered, but at the moment we are only producing four of them. It’s mostly dark chocolate and for now, we only do direct sales through pop-up shops, online and private events. We also offer classes called ‘bean to bar’ where we teach everyone about the whole process and give them the opportunity to make their own bar.

Charlie Newman: What has it been like setting up your own company?
Avril Guerrero: Extremely challenging, especially because we’re trying to manage people who live in a different country and in a different culture. I might have grown up in the Dominican Republic, but I grew older in New York and in Europe. As a result, I think my mindset is no longer in tune with the in the Dominican Republic, when it comes to business at least. So it’s a lot about learning how to convey your message and maybe even learn how to bend the rules a little, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. There’s a really interesting power dynamic between how to give and how to retain power in order to make things work. So it’s been a big challenge, but to be honest it’s been amazing because I’ve learnt so much about communicational skills as well as about the entire production.

We have complete control over our supply chain which means we can intervene at any moment. I’ve learnt everything about the whole supply chain: how to work the soil, what colour the cacao needs to be, the chemistry behind the fermentation process and how to transport my Dominican Republic bean all the way to France. We harvest and do some post-harvest processes in the Dominican Republic like the fermentation and the drying process of the beans and then the chocolate part of it is based in Paris.

Read more: London to Cornwall in a luxury Mercedes-Benz camper van

Charlie Newman: Is it a sustainable product and business?
Avril Guerrero: That was a big part of the business project. Whilst studying business [at London’s Open University], my favourite class was always sustainability. The whole issue was how in a globalised economy how can we keep the convenience of globalisation and it’s positive effect whilst also minimising the problems it creates. The supply chain is such a big problem because there are so many intermediaries. Transparency is extremely opaque, in cacao it’s really difficult to measure because a lot of the beans come from the Ivory Coast and there is not enough regulation there, so there are many ethical issues. By being able to handle the bad side of the industry ourselves is a huge blessing because we know exactly what is in each chocolate bar, we know how the beans were not only planted, but also harvested. We know our guidelines and we know where we stand and what value we want to incorporate in our company, because at the end of the day this is an opportunity for me to practise what I preach.

I want a more equal society so I’m thinking about how I can do that. I don’t have any public power or governmental power over policies, but now I have the power of a company which is a big lesson for me. Having gone to business school and having my own business portrays the power of the private sector and the fact that change will come from that in capitalist economies. The Dominican Republic may not be the biggest export in cacao, but we are the biggest in exporting organic cacao. It’s still an industry that is growing and becoming more regulated. A lot of the cacao in the Dominican Republic is organic already because of the natural good quality of the soil. We don’t need to treat our soil with chemicals because we don’t have as many diseases as other producers, which has therefore put us in an interesting position within the market.

Model lying in underwear and skirt on the ground

Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

Charlie Newman: What does Metizo mean and what is the story behind it?
Avril Guerrero: Metizo is a combination of Mestizo in Spanish and Métis in French which translates to bi-racial. Again, I want to use my enterprise and platform to deliver my message and in this case it’s about tolerance. At the time when we started to think about the concept of the brand there was a big issue with immigrants coming into Europe and there was a lot of fear surrounding that. It really made me think a lot, especially as in the countries I consider home – the Dominican Republic and the United States – we are all immigrants, no one is from there. To have that fear about new people coming in is understandable, but at the same time it’s extremely hypocritical because we ourselves are immigrants. Everywhere I’ve lived for the past 12 years, I’ve always been an immigrant. The designer for the packaging, Amandine Delaunay, transformed our ethos into physical design. Each bar has different eyes and mouths on it, so the idea is you can combine a different face with each chocolate bar.

This divide and fear we are all experiencing in some shape or form is a phenomenon that is happening simultaneously everywhere, from Europe to the U.S to my own country. I think it’s really important to understand that no one wants to leave their home for the sake of it, no one wants to embark on a mission and endure the hardship of travelling on a boat not knowing if you’re going to get to your destination. This is not a pleasure trip, you’re moving because you have no choice, you need to leave. We need to cover basic needs, people are dying so we need to be nicer.

Charlie Newman: Are there any stores you would like to see Metizo in?
Avril Guerrero: Our product is more on the luxury side of things, we’re not necessarily trying to sell you another chocolate. We’re offering you something different and sharing an interesting story, it’s never about just delivering another product. Our story is encouraging people to be more tolerant and to look inwards in order to see what we all have in ourselves wherever we are from, whatever our situation. I don’t have a a mission to be in all the biggest stores, rather to be in a few hand-selected stores with a similar objective.

Charlie Newman: Finally, who is your role model of the month?
Avril Guerrero: It’s got to be my family because I think a role model has to be someone you trust. I would never choose someone famous because I have no connection with them, I don’t know the real them. Growing up, I believe it’s more necessary to have role models because you have to start making decisions before having experienced them.

Discover Metizo’s products: metizoparis.com

Follow Avril Guerrero on Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

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Luxury hotel interiors of a drawing room with painted walls and soft furnishings
Facade of a grand mansion house

The Rocco Forte Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland

Since he created it in 1996, Sir Rocco Forte has grown his eponymous luxury hotel group to include multiple properties in key destinations across Europe, with a major expansion this year within his family’s native Italy. And there are plans for the boutique group to move into the US, Middle East and Asia. LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to the group’s chairman and founder about new openings, changes in the hospitality industry and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur
Colour portrait of a middle aged man in a suit

Sir Rocco Forte, Chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels

LUX: Rocco Forte hotels is currently in a period of planned rapid expansion – why now?
Sir Rocco Forte: We had a period of consolidation after the financial crisis and have gradually come out of that and the business profitability increased. We’ve improved the quality of the management team. Generally taking the company forward, it was the right moment to start expanding again and looking at adding additional properties…

There are a huge number of different luxury brands within Marriott. Having said that, I think there’s an opportunity for the niche player somewhere, a business that is much more personalised in its approach to its customers, where attention to detail is extremely important. I think people are looking for things which are more individual, more related to where they are going. They want the rubber stamp wherever they go. I think it is going to get more and more difficult for these big companies to actually deliver that, and for a smaller organisation like mine, it’s easier because the top management is hands on. The business and the detail of business has some advantages.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

LUX: How has the landscape and your business philosophy changed since you started?
Sir Rocco Forte: It’s changed significantly on the technological side, the way people buy hotels in particular is much more a business done through the internet than there was than it was before, there are online travel agents who are becoming quite powerful. Customers are now more inclined to book through the web than going to direct to hotel. Then there’s the social media aspect which is also becoming more important, as a means of communication and promotion of properties. There is an interaction between guests who have tried properties and posted comments and so on. This is picked up by other people and used to validate their choice. TripAdvisor type sites didn’t really exist before and now people use it to make up their minds about hotels. Then you have the back of the house side of things; technologies have come in there and give management a greater ability to know their guests. There is increased technology in the rooms, television, wi-fi. Wi-fi became available 20 years ago and now people complain unless they had the fastest band available in the hotel. People used to pay for wi-fi and now they don’t want to pay for it anymore. Telephones, actual landlines have gone out of the hotels; they are hardly used.

In terms of the actual service side, the principles remain the same. The customer wants to be treated as an individual, wants to feel a warm welcome when he goes into a hotel, wants to be recognised. Maybe the relationship between the customer and the staff members has changed to some degree, it’s become slightly less formal, which is something that we did from the beginning.  I wanted to de-formalise the service to some degree. Then you’ve also got to keep up to date in a hotel because there are things that people have in their own houses that they expect to find at a hotel and it is a competitive market place.

Luxury hotel interiors of a drawing room with painted walls and soft furnishings

The front hall at Brown’s, a Rocco Forte hotel in London. Photo by Janos Grapow

LUX: The marketplace is much more crowded nowadays with new players coming in and there’s Airbnb. What is it that has allowed you to keep going and growing with so much more supply?
Sir Rocco Forte: Airbnb doesn’t really effect the