man in an orange suit and green patterned scarf and hat standing in front of a patterned wall
A man in a yellow suit standing by a green wall wearing a long colourful scarf

‘My path is full of petals- I have not swept it for others.’ Image courtesy of Sol Golden Sato

Born in Malawi, Sol Golden Sato is a London-based artist who incorporates philosophy into his paintings and sculptures. Here, he speaks to LUX Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, about the connections between identity, place, community and art

Maryam Eisler: How would you define your identity Sol?
Sol Golden Sato: I came to London from Malawi on my twentieth birthday. I had a strong Malawi and African identity but I wasn’t really political, even though I had left because the politics had changed so much. I came to London and instantly found myself working as a commercial migrant. That was my first identity crisis. Living in Brixton in rented accommodation… I think I was paying around £25 a week rent, with no heating. I was really enjoying it at such a young age. I stayed there for four or five years and I found myself doing other jobs. I had never really thought of my identity in that sense at that point. I think it was only when I personally started changing, in particular when I started identifying more as a Londoner, that I began thinking ‘how do I or should I actually present myself’ ?

Maryam Eisler: The concept of being a ‘Londoner’ is interesting. Talk to me about that.
Sol Golden Sato: It all lies in the nuances. I want to be known as an international artist or a London artist or better yet, a London-based artist, who tells stories of my life here in London whilst equally referencing my experiences growing up in Malawi. It is no longer a conundrum; rather, it is normal for somebody like me in London, to have moved around a great deal and become malleable with the definition of one’s own culture or cultural identity.

A painting of an African man laughing

‘One message from home is wroth a ton of gold.’ Image courtesy of Sol Golden Sato

Maryam Eisler: Do you think you have had to sacrifice certain parameters in order to fit in? Or has it been a a seamless integration?
Sol Golden Sato: It is never seamless. I spoke to someone who was a diplomat at the time, and he said ‘you have to soften your edges so that you can walk into a room, not be what they want you to be, and yet be able to connect with a variety of people from the perspective of their point of view rather than your own.’ When you are in a diaspora, you soon learn how to be diplomatic.I see so many displaced people here and they all have something important to contribute to the conversation in this forever changing world. You may lose on some points but you definitely gain on others. And sometimes, you may just forget the environment you grew up in altogether. In my case, I have not spoken with anyone from Malawi for all this time, so I have forgotten most of the language, which is quite a painful and sad process. At the same time, I have spoken to psychiatrists and speech therapists and they all say ‘You will remember it as soon as you go back’. How is it possible that your brain can and will switch off bits of you altogether over time?

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Maryam Eisler: I would even push you further by saying that you are not a London artist, but rather a Chelsea artist, given that the Kings Road in particular seems to be home to your studio but also to your public art.
Sol Golden Sato: Yes, it is one of those things, when for years, I didn’t quite realize how much I was presenting within and giving back to the Chelsea community just by being in it. I think the history of the Kings Road and the manner in which I like to dress somehow connect with each other. I think place has both a psychological and a spiritual identity and it is something that I try and seek in other places too. When you invest yourself in a community and find out what that community’s identity is all about and how that relates to you, you can then, and only then, make it. The Kings Road is where I have learnt those principles actually. I have also done projects near the Portobello road, and I instantly found a way of connecting with people through the Grenfel community but also through the Notting Hill Carnival… with a particular interest in trying to understand how different cultures live together amongst themselves, but also side by side with other communities.

A man wearing an orange shirt and yellow shirt staring at a vase

‘You have been in my dreams, old friend- I miss you.’ Image courtesy of Sol Golden Sato

Maryam Eisler: You have an amazing way of tattooing yourself on the walls of these spaces and places because, even though you have a studio you are also very present and visible on the street. You have somehow managed to integrate the outdoor skin of these communities.
Sol Golden Sato: Yes, it is something that did not start with an ideology, just “Oh, there’s a piece of wall, we could do something there”. But now I am starting to see it as a mission: that the artist should always be present, not just where they live but where they are. I have been following a number of people who want to activate communities, especially via the act of making art. I did this in Portobello and I am trying to do these activities in other centres and gardens now too. Sometimes the local people can’t do it on their own, and it takes a cultural activator to come in and say, “I see this, we can do this” and then it is a way of tattooing culture into a place, like a renewal of some sort.

Maryam Eisler: We should open minds at a young age as opposed to allowing brains to be imposed upon by tradition and old world thinking, would you not agree?
Sol Golden Sato: Yes. When we were doing this project in Notting Hill, I had forgotten my brushes so I thought I would just pour paint on canvas and move it around with my feet. The kids said, “You’re dancing ! We want to dance on the canvas too !” Now I am talking to some people in Nine Elms, where the Battersea Power Station is, asking ‘ Why don’t we do a large, forty-metre-long dancing painting where you get all the kids involved together, side by side’. It is another way of activating a community that is continuously and radically changing at a fast pace.

a painting of two children sitting on a ledge with a yellow background

‘Wind, light and time ever revolve; Let us then enjoy life as best we can.’ Image courtesy of Sol Golden Sato

Maryam Eisler: What are the types of topics that interest you when making your art? What are your paintings inspired by?
Sol Golden Sato: My art still goes back to stories coming from people, almost all relate to time and place, and more often than not, to very specific times in history.

Maryam Eisler: Can you talk to me about your interest in the iconic gangsters, the Kray brothers and their trip to Nigeria as depicted in your current work- in-progress painting ? In a way, it is a perfect example of you linking two continents, but more importantly linking a very London story to stories elsewhere.
Sol Golden Sato: Yes, Northern Nigeria 1964; I found a little document in the form of a photograph and I just asked the question: what were the Krays doing there and most importantly, how did that trip affect them or better yet, did it affect them at all? From there, I linked other more universal questions about how different cultures communicate or connect with each other. If I were to say, “let’s look at black African migration in the East End of London,” it would be an equally interesting subject, but if we look at it from the cultural phenomenon of the Kray brothers, that is so much more interesting and potent to me.

A man in a pink shirt and checked beige suit standing infant of a painting

‘It’s all one single grief.’ Image courtesy of Sol Golden Sato

Maryam Eisler: You are always attracted to and explore the same kind of topics but you treat them from different perspectives?
Sol Golden Sato: Yes. Certain subjects I strongly feel should be portrayed through paint and others might be more cinematic in nature, like the story of the Kray brothers. I am also starting to learn that some thoughts can be better communicated through public art installations and others are better suited to a gallery presentation. That’s how you engage different and wider audiences.

man in an orange suit and green patterned scarf and hat standing in front of a patterned wall

‘Could I get mansions covering ten thousand miles, I’d house all the poor.’ Image courtesy of Sol Golden Sato

Maryam Eisler: Today, you have enveloped your own body in these beautiful, lush and colourful fabrics; I am assuming they are of African origin? You are using your own body as artwork and communicator of ideas.
Sol Golden Sato: Yes. It is interesting to see how different people do it. In my case, I have always liked and been inspired by Salvador Dali, mythologising himself and creating something beyond his own immediate persona. The fabrics I am using today are originally Dutch fabrics that were developed and designed for local flavour. As such, It is also interesting to study how trade and culture work together. One of my heroes or idols is Quentin Crisp. He used to get frequently beaten up  for being effeminate, so he decided, to wear make-up so it was easier for people to know who he was.I like that because it is actually quite inclusive, being different and making people come up to you and ask questions.

Read more: Michael Xufu Huang on Arts Philanthropy & Making Art More Accessible

Maryam Eisler: I suppose it is a visual cue that attracts people, the same way you caught my attention whilst crossing the Kings Road?

Sol Golden Sato: Yes, it attracts. Sometimes my rule is to just be the opening and see what happens from there. Sometimes it’s brilliant. I have had some funny moments: a football fan started a chant saying “who brought the pimp.” You can interrupt normality.

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Reading time: 8 min
Richard Curtis and Keira Knightley wearing red noses
Richard Curtis working on a set with a camera crew
Richard Curtis, the screenwriter and film director behind Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually has launched a new campaign – to ensure people pressure their pension providers to follow sustainable principles. If successful, it could trigger a seismic shift in ESG investments. He speaks to Ella Johnson.

Richard Curtis is celebrated for comedic masterpieces like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). Making nearly $300 million apiece at the box office, his Oscar-nominated films have starred everyone from Hugh Grant to Julia Roberts, Renée Zellweger to Colin Firth – to name but a few. Now, Curtis has launched a campaign aimed at ensuring fund managers put their money where their marketing material is on the green transition. For an industry worth $56 trillion globally, this would be a key pillar in achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goals.

It’s not the first time Curtis has turned his hand to social impact. He is the leader of Project Everyone, the not-for-profit creative communications agency raising awareness around the UN’s Global Goals. Following the 1985 famine in Ethiopia, Curtis also co-founded Comic Relief with actor and comedian Lenny Henry. Through its annual Red Nose Day comedy telethons in Britain, which have involved a star-studded roster of celebrities including Justin Bieber and the Duke of Cambridge, the charity has raised £1.3 billion for disadvantaged communities around the world. It also inspired the launch of a US edition in 2015, which names Jennifer Garner and Jack Black among its contributors and has raised $270 million to end child poverty to date.

Yet with trillions’ worth of pension schemes failing to commit to robust Net Zero targets, Curtis’ next venture could have an even greater (and greener) impact. According to him, it is all well and good spending your life fighting for great causes – but if your pension is funding precisely the opposite cause, what good are you really doing?

LUX: You describe people’s pension investments as a “superpower” hidden in plain sight. What does that mean?
Richard Curtis: It all changed for me when I saw a brilliant TED talk by an Australian cancer doctor called Bronwyn King, who discovered that a lot of her pension money was invested in tobacco companies without her knowing – meaning she’d actually been killing more people with her investments than she’d been saving with her life’s work.

The more I looked into it, the more examples of this I saw. From peace activists investing in weapons, to climate campaigners funding fossil fuel companies, to vegans investing in the meat industry – it was clear that many of us had become accidental investors in the practices we fight against.

pink billboard sign

LUX: What’s the key element of your campaign?
Richard Curtis: A key part of our campaign is to showcase what’s possible if we direct our money towards funding the best companies. Our 21x Campaign centres upon research conducted with Aviva and Route2, which found that moving from a default pension to a sustainable one could be 21 times more powerful at cutting your carbon footprint than giving up flying, becoming a vegetarian and switching energy provider combined.

Imagine if all £2.6 trillion in UK pensions was in sustainable funds; helping tackle the climate crisis, restore nature, alleviate poverty, provide affordable housing, and support medical research – the impact could be extraordinary.

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LUX: Why is this awakening happening now?
Richard Curtis: I think we’re now at an incredibly exciting moment in civic activism. People are no longer waiting on others to change the world for them – they’re taking matters into their own hands and asking ‘what can I actually do to make a difference with my everyday actions?’ They are finding answers in unexpected places: in the clothes they wear, the food they eat, and how they travel. They’re discovering it in the products they buy, the brands they engage with, and the employers they work for.

Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Richard Curtis and Domhnall Gleeson on the red carpet

Left to right: Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Richard Curtis and Domhnall Gleeson arriving for the About Time UK Premiere held at Somerset House, London, 2013

LUX: Does following ESG guidance mean lower returns?
Richard Curtis: Research has shown that investing in sustainable, long-term businesses can have a positive impact on the environment and on society, and still secure healthy returns.

Morningstar examined the performance of 745 Europe-based sustainable funds and found that the majority of them had done better than non-sustainable funds over one, three, five and 10 years. In fact, many industry leaders have called the green transition the greatest economic opportunity of a generation.

We’re entering a time where it doesn’t have to be values vs. value, money vs. morals; you really can have both.

LUX: How are you raising these issues to the top of the agenda for the young generation?
Richard Curtis: Our first job is to get this issue on the radar of businesses leaders and CEOs – making sure that pensions are the new frontier for sustainability minded organisations across. After all, why serve vegetarian meals in the canteen if your pensions are invested in factory farming? Why install renewable energy across your offices, but continue to invest in coal? And why build a world beating sustainability plan if your pension money is directly undermining those actions?

This is a huge gap, but more importantly an enormous opportunity for impact. With customers, shareholders, investors, and employees increasingly asking businesses to ‘walk the talk’, authenticity and consistency across organisations’ climate change strategies can create a real competitive advantage, alongside real-world impact.

Richard Curtis and Keira Knightley wearing red noses

Richard Curtis and Keira Knightley for Comic Relief Red Nose Day

In putting their money where their mouth is, businesses can turbocharge their existing efforts in their race to net zero, engage new customers and clients, and help build a world fit for their employees’ retirement. All while protecting their investments from the worst effects of climate change.

Read more: Catherine Mallyon on The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Success

LUX: Your career has been dedicated to alleviating human suffering – through the £1.3 billion raised by Comic Relief to date; and now, through the £1 trillion worth of pension money that has been diverted towards tackling the climate crisis. How do you maintain clarity of vision and purpose on this scale?
Richard Curtis: Everything I’ve ever done has mainly been the work of so many other people. I’m the guy who opens the door for everyone else to come through. The real answer is that I sometimes do worry that I’m not doing the right things at the right time – but what I try to do is just work out where I, with my limited skills, can be most useful. And, when I find something like Make My Money Matter, I try to actually treat it like a proper job and spend my time making things, and organising events and campaigns – rather than just talking round things. My motto has always been ‘To make things happen, you have to make things.’

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Reading time: 5 min
park in summer
Our party page could have been blank this issue, but the human spirit always finds a way to emerge. Meghan MacKillop photographs London’s international soul, finding it alive, well and defiantly sipping aperitifs in Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Notting Hill

Top row, from left: Oana Piriiac (left) and Tadas Radvilavicius; Lara WT (left) and Isobel Kelly; Julia Raspberg (left) and Amelia Persson. Middle row, from left: Brendon X (left) and Tony Soprana; Chloë Casel (left) and Alice Pickard; Cindy van Niekerk (left) and Johanna Kriisa. Bottom row, from left: Niki Asal; Debbie Smith; Louis Henbrey (left) and Chris Nam; Sly Augustin

This article features in the Autumn 2020 Issue, hitting newsstands in October.

Reading time: 1 min
Dinner table laid out with champagne bottles and antique plates
Dinner table laid out with champagne bottles and antique plates

Hotel 1729, a one-bedroom hospitality concept designed by Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson

This week, Ruinart opens the doors to a one bedroom luxury hotel concept created in collaboration with fashion designer Jonathan Anderson
Man stands leaning against a pillar with the plaque 1729

Designer Jonathan Anderson outside Ruinart Hotel 1729

Last year, it was designer Tom Hingston and Primrose Hill. This year, Ruinart’s pop-up hotel is the creation of fashion designer Jonathan Anderson inside a Notting Hill townhouse. Named Hotel 1729, guests can check-in for a one-night only experience hosted by the champagne house’s Maître D’, Olivier Livoir.

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The dining experience is the focal point of the evening, designed to cater for up to eight guests in total, who will be taken on a sensory culinary exploration through Ruinart‘s history. Whilst the exact details of Anderson’s concept are kept strictly secretive, his main inspiration comes from a recent visit to the Ruinart Maison, and the 1735 artwork Le Déjeuner d’huîtres (The Oyster Lunch) by Jean-François de Troy which includes the first appearance of a champagne bottle in painting.

Antique painting of a huge chaotic feast in a stately home

‘Le Déjeuner d’huîtres’ (The Oyster Lunch) by Jean-François de Troy (1735), Musée Condé (Chantilly, France)

The menu itself has been specially created to perfectly pair with Ruinart cuvées by Chef Luke Selby, who previously worked as head chef at Ollie Dabbous’ HIDE. All drinks and courses will be served using antique glassware and ceramics from the 17th century, the same era in which Ruinart was established.

Curious? So are we.

Hotel 1729 in Notting Hill, London is open from Thursday 4 July until Sunday 14 July 2019. For more information visit:

Rates: £1200 for a one night stay for two people including chauffeur transfers in partnership with BMW, dinner, breakfast and a selection of Ruinart Cuvées. Hotel residents can invite up to six guests to share the dining experience at an additional £160 per person.

Reading time: 1 min