People sitting at tables in front of a large window overlooking a city
A pedestrian area with white parasols and a view of a city

Adrian Bridge, opened Porto’s Cultural District, WOW, in 2020

Starting his career in the British Cavalry Regiment, Adrian Bridge moved to Portugal in 1994 and is now CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, which produces Taylor, Fonseca, Fonseca-Guimaraens, and Croft Ports. Here, Bridge speaks to LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh about being a driving force behind wine tourism in Porto and developing the city’s new Cultural District WOW
a man in a suit holding a glass of port

Adrian Bridge

LUX: What do you think your training at Sandhurst taught you?
Adrian Bridge: The military teaches a great deal about leadership and confidence. You also learn to make decisions based on the available information, no matter how imperfect. However, in planning action it is in the details where success lies. That requires breaking down a problem to its parts and thinking through all of the details. I believe that all business is about the detail and that is where success lies.

LUX: How would you say this has influenced your dynamic style of leadership?
AB: The moto of Sandhurst is ‘Serve to Lead’ and I strongly believe in leading from the front. This creates a company culture where everything should be possible. I do not ask people to do things that I would not do myself. I think that this allows us to push forward, to take risks, to do things that others might not attempt.

A bar with a decorated ceilings

Angel’s Share is the name given for evaporation process that takes place when wine is ageing in barrels. It is also the name of the WOW wine bar

LUX: Why is the house so good at innovating?
AB: To me, innovation is all about pushing boundaries. To remain at the top, you simply can’t sit still. You have to continuously question, push and evolve or someone will overtake you.

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Established in 1692, we are one of the oldest companies in the world simply because we don’t sit still. We are continuously expanding and innovating to appeal to both new and existing audiences. We have a reputation for quality and excellence that has been built up over time and continues to be sustained through the generations.

One of our best examples of innovation has to be the creation of Croft Pink; the first ever Rosé Port. We launched this product in 2008 with the goal to introduce Port wine to a younger generation. In 2011 we continued to expand this concept and launched a canned “ready to drink”- Rosé tonic.

 grapes in boxes and woman picking through them

The Fladgate Partnership produces Taylor, Fonseca, Fonseca-Guimaraens, and Croft Ports

LUX: Oporto is already a UNESCO World Heritage City, so what was your vision for WOW?
AB: Porto is a beautiful city full of history, charm and culture – all of great significance to Portugal’s identity. The vision of WOW was to bring a totally new set of cultural concepts to Porto and in this way offer quality content to the region.

We wanted this to be a game-changing space for both locals and travellers that really celebrates the culture, gastronomy, history and industries of Portugal. WOW is as educational as it is fun. To achieve this, we needed to make sure this was a dynamic district that featured regular exhibitions, unique events and seasonal experiences.

A lit up walkway with rocks on either side

The District is over 55,000sqm and includes 8 museums and experiences and 11 restaurants and bars

LUX: What does an immersive experience offer that can complement the traditional vineyard visit?
AB: One of the reasons WOW originally came to be was in response to the booming number of visitors coming to Porto – demand that we helped to create by building The Yeatman – and the lack of experiences that Porto had to offer. To appeal to this market, we continuously try to ensure that there is something new for people to do and see in the district. Technology really allows us to engage with guests in a more interesting and meaningful way.

After the traditional vineyard visit, I would definitely suggest spending a day at WOW. It’s a good idea to choose one or two museums, do a workshop at The Wine School or at The Chocolate Story – the chocolate museum, enjoy a typical dish in one of our restaurants, appreciate the sunset in our Angel’s Share bar while drinking a Port Tonic and stay to be amused by the video mapping in our main square.

steel factory with chocolate dripping

The Chocolate Story Museum

LUX: What is a sustainable vineyard model and how are you working to secure the future of viticulture?
AB: We are committed to protecting the environment and the future of our vineyards and the Douro Valley where our family has produced Port wine for centuries.

Our sustainable model incorporates a number of techniques and strategies which work together to create a balanced, diversified and sustainable vineyard environment. The basis of the model is the construction of narrow terraces each of which supports only one row of vines.

People sitting at tables in front of a large window overlooking a city

The view from Angel Share’s Wine Bar

This model was awarded the prestigious BES Biodiversity Prize in 2009, which recognises achievement in the fields of conservation and environmental sustainability.

In order to encourage industry change on a global level we established the Porto Protocol – the wine industry’s climate action network. Since our first summit in 2018, we have brought together more than 230 wine and wine adjacent companies from 22 countries to share solutions to combat climate change in the wine industry.

LUX: This year you have opened a new museum with a ground-breaking exhibition from TATE at the Atkinson Museum, what was the strategy behind that?
AB: The vision of WOW is to bring a totally new set of cultural concepts to Porto. The new exhibitions, especially the Atkinson Museum, reinforce this destination as a “must visit” hub for international travellers.

At the centre of WOW is the Atkinson Museum. Originally built in 1760, we have meticulously restored and modernised the space to meet international museum standards and attract exhibitions from the international art pool.

A sculpture of a hand pouring wine into a glass

Adrian Bridge has a private collection of 2,000 vessels and glasses which tell the story of  the evolution of drinking vessels from earliest civilisations to the present day with some of the collection dates back to 7,000BC

Our most recent exhibition, The Dynamic Eye was produced by the TATE Collection and featured over 100 works from 63 artists – this was the largest number of works travelling from TATE to Portugal. This is an amazing example of the quality of major exhibitions we are bringing to Gaia.

The idea is to bring new and different major international exhibitions, such as The Dynamic Eye, every year.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

LUX: How can cultural philanthropy shine a light on the house values?
AB: As a family business, we are built on a set of strong shared values. We are continuously seeking opportunities that align with our core values. At the moment, one of my key priorities is sustainability in the wine industry and coming up with new ways to create new industry practices.

a blue map on the floor in a room that looks like a boat

Porto Region Across the Ages Museum

LUX: What would you like to be remembered for?
AB: When I came to live in Porto in 1994, I came to into a Port Wine Trade that was very traditional. Our company helped to consolidate that industry and lead it forward, not least with the innovation of various new styles of Porto. This was an achievement and in doing this I hope that I will be remembered for helping to enhance one of the greatest wines and wine regions in the world. This also includes putting Porto on the map as a destination and through that work we have helped to stimulate the development of the town and create jobs and wealth. However, I will probably just be remembered for altering the city centre through the construction of The Yeatman and WOW.

Find out more: fladgatepartnership.com

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Small Pacific island nations like Tuvalu are at most risk of rising sea levels due to climate change; COP27 last year created a Loss and Damage Fund to alleviate their plight, but no funding has yet been forthcoming

There is a major issue with meeting our sustainability goals: the financial and structural support is, in many cases, just not there. Deutsche Bank’s Markus Müller explains to Darius Sanai what needs to happen to close the gap

LUX: What is the sustainable financing gap and what is the biggest problem we face for bridging it?
Markus Müller: It is usually defined as the difference between the cost of meeting United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) and the amount of investment actually being delivered. Big numbers are common here but we need to put them in perspective – the latest OECD estimated the annual financing gap is 3.9 trillion USD, but this is much smaller than global GDP of around 100 trillion USD. The biggest problem isn’t the size of the gap, but making sure that investment projects and systems are viable. Bringing down borrowing costs and making sure there’s a level playing field for investments are big parts of this.

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LUX: Financing sustainable development should be a priority. But is short-term thinking still making it difficult?
MM: I wouldn’t blame the sustainable finance gap simply on short-term thinking. I think most people are rightly uncomfortable with how close we are to the planetary boundaries, and this is spurring action: we aren’t just leaving this to future generations. Fixing the finance gap now needs innovation, an ability to break free of current ways of thinking and a clear view of where we want to be. Returns and cost of capital remain key issues.

Houston, Texas is attracting new technological investment due to incentives created by the US Inflation Reduction Act, which is in effect a green subsidy

LUX: You have observed that our international social infrastructure for dealing with global collaborative action (the UN, and the economic institutions arising from Bretton Woods) are from another era. Do they need to be updated?
MM: Existing international institutions provide good framework to support transformation. They can cooperate in new ways with other bodies if necessary – note President Macron’s Global Financial Pact summit earlier this year. This is a matter of evolution, not replacement. Look at the discussions, for example, around how to repurpose IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR, invented back in 1969) to support biodiversity and other initiatives.

LUX: The climate crisis – or triple planetary crisis – requires global nations’ collaboration on a probably unprecedented scale. But is such collaboration now more difficult in our increasingly multipolar world?
MM: Collaboration is fragile by nature, but it is still possible in a multipolar world. We start from a base point where the world’s resources – financial, material, natural – are unevenly distributed. Developing economies have more physical resources (for example, metal and minerals deposits) so it may make sense for them to collaborate. But if developed economies want to participate in these discussions, they must deliver more real support. This is often lacking: for example, there have been no inflows into the Loss and Damage Fund agreed on at last year’s COP.

At COP27 in Egypt in 2022, world leaders agreed to take tangible steps towards alleviating the climate crisis, but it remains to be seen whether they will be executed

LUX: Are you optimistic that the US, EU, Russia and China (for example) will agree on and enact workable policy solutions to counter the climate crisis? What would be significant markers of progress?
MM: Yes, I am. We have seen one important, recent example of this: major technology disputes between the U.S. and China did not stop the two sides meeting for climate talks. This shows that environmental issues do not have to become a destructive bargaining chip in broader trade or investment disputes, although we should not ignore the fact that environmental operating standards do have an impact on competitiveness and thus trade tensions. For me, the key marker of progress is continued discussion and agreement to stay within overall multilateral environmental policy targets.

LUX: If we are indeed entering a more unstable era (in terms of global climate and related issues like biodiversity), do the fundamentals of policy making need to change in order to accommodate constant change?
MM: I think this is a matter of learning how to overcome unforeseen challenges, rather than simply accepting instability. As our understanding of environmental issues and how to tackle them gets better, policy will change. The fundamental shift may involve us stopping seeing policymaking as proceeding along an inflexible straight line. We need to be more flexible and accept that policy may zig-zag. Policymakers’ ability to adopt to changing knowledge to find optimum solutions should be seen as an indication of strength, not weakness.

China, one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, has recently cleaned up its urban pollution and has agreed to restart formal climate change talks with the U.S. as of November 2023

LUX: Past successes like the Montreal Protocol were one-time events. How can we ensure more sustained policy progress?
MM: I don’t think we should think of policy advances as one-time “successes”. In reality, we often don’t know the real impact of policy agreements for many years. Some agreements that are hailed as successes at the time – for example, the Aichi goals of 2011 – have subsequently proved insufficient to meet the challenge at hand. The importance of agreements is really that they drive us, one uneven step at a time, towards better environmental outcomes.

Read more: Marküs Muller on the economy and biodiversity

LUX: How important are subsidy and protection programmes for transition technologies, and can they be harmful?
MM: It’s important to distinguish between different sorts of policy support. There are good and long-standing arguments for the support of “infant industries”, in the economics jargon, but we have to be careful that this does not slide into protectionism as these industries mature. U.S. support via the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is giving us a good preview of transition policy support, and what really determines where new industries locate and thrive. (Consider why Houston is attracting new technologies and Miami is losing out, for example.) Ultimately, it’s all about kickstarting specific industries that will really work.

Markus Müller is Chief Investment Officer of ESG & Global Head of Chief Investment Office at Deutsche Bank’s Private Bank

Find out more:  deutschewealth.com/esg

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Person running down a road towards snowy mountains
Person running down a road towards snowy mountains

Photo by Andrea Leopardi

Can creating new products be sustainable? Franco Fogliato speaks to LUX about Salomon’s sustainability efforts and how he believes consuming differently can be more important than consuming less

LUX: When did Salomon start focusing on environmental responsibility?
Franco Fogliato: Nature is our backyard. We live in the mountains, we are mountain people. Every time we do something we are trying to be less impactful on nature. Fifteen years ago, we began looking for new technologies, new developments and ways to create positive impact in the way we do things. It has gone from creating shoes that are 100% recyclable, to being the first company in France to make its shoes in our home country, minimising the carbon footprint associated with shipping from factories overseas. These are all initiatives that started ten or fifteen years ago, which have been accelerating ever since.

LUX: How is sustainability at Salomon influenced by its athletes and employees?
FF: We are a company that is led by our athletes. Our athletes are at the forefront of our industry. They push the boundaries of what we do every day to ensure not only that we are the highest performers, but also the most sustainable.

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We also have a generation of employees that are younger, who are in their late twenties and early thirties, and have grown up with sustainability as a daily topic. Sustainability is part of what our teammates want and what they love. Every time they think about a new product, they first think about how they are going to create it without impacting the world and the planet.

Mountain scene with run rising against the rocks

Photo by Kaidi Guo

LUX: How do you approach innovation and sustainability together, ensuring that product development aligns with the brand’s commitment to minimising environmental impact?
FF: It’s a tough conversation. Do you choose the most performant product, which is not sustainable, or do you choose the product which is sustainable but less performant? There are examples every day: we had great shoes which had a great insole, but the insole was unsustainable. We changed the insole with a sustainable insole but which was less resistant, and consumers were not happy. The constant push that comes from athletes and the consumer comes back to our factories and our teams to come out with new technology, that pushes us to the next level.

LUX: Because of your company’s heritage and long-standing reputation in the outdoor industry, do you feel like you have more responsibility than others to be initiating this fight against climate change?
FF: We have to be leaders, it’s not a choice. It’s also what we like to do. It’s pushing the boundaries, in sport and building new products which are more sustainable. Sometimes people use the challenges we face just to make noise, rather than focusing on the actions that are needed. Sometimes my teammates ask me, how we’re going to build the company; people will need to consume less, they say. I say, if you think people will consume less, you are mistaken. There will be new technologies which are a lot less impactful than the way they are today.

LUX: Does creating new products contradict your aim to be environmentally friendly?
FF: I think there is a challenge still on the consumer side where there is a little bit of confusion around what is and is not sustainable. I think people see consuming less as the major driver behind minimising climate change, but in fact the driver is not consuming less but consuming differently.

Sunny mountain scene

Photo by Kalen Emsley

The carbon footprint impact of producing a pair of shoes is equal to driving a car for thirty miles. I have a theory that people should stop using cars and just run. I tell my people that they should stop using their cars to come to work and just run here. Why do you need a car? The human being was built on running. I think really activating a different consumption and pushing people outside is really what we want to do. We have a challenge with sustainability, but we also have a challenge in the evolution of the population globally with the digital. We have to take care of how people will evolve.

Read more: Rapha CEO Francois Convercey on diversity and sustainability in cycling

LUX: What are some of the initiatives at Salomon which have made the biggest difference towards sustainability?
FF: The biggest impact on producing a product is transportation, so there is an opportunity going forward in the evolution of the sourcing base, to source closer to the consumer. Many brands have tried that in the past and failed. Lately we had the French President, who had recognised our efforts, visiting our shoe factory in France. That factory would never have been born without us sharing our talents and skills with the local entrepreneurs. No one knows how to build shoes in France any more, as the entire production of shoes has shifted to Asia or Eastern Europe. These are the efforts which have made us recognised by the press and by the media.

LUX: What set Salomon apart from other outdoor gear brands which are also focusing on the sustainability mission?
FF: We like to think this is not a battle for who does the most. The battle is not between companies, it’s much bigger. We have to be ourselves. We have the first fully recyclable shoes; we were the first to do that in the marketplace a couple of years ago. But if someone comes in and is better than us, great! We’ve got to learn to do better, to improve. This is a battle we all fight together. I don’t have a problem with sharing technologies or doing anything which will help make the world into a better place. For once, it’s a competitive environment where there is a team. We are competing all together to make the planet into a better place.

Find out more: salomon.com

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CMG Orchestra in Hollywood performing a piece composed by AIVA. Photo by Lance Bachelder

AIVA AI is an AI music composer which allows people to create their own personalised life  soundtracks. Here, LUX speaks to its founder, Pierre Barreau, about the future of AI and its impact on the music industry

LUX: Can you give us some background about your company and why you founded it?
Pierre Barreau: AIVA is a company I started almost seven years ago with my co-founder, whom I met at university. We were both musicians and engineers, and there was a natural inclination to start this company with a focus in both fields. The premise we started with was that, while music is an insanely rewarding thing to do and create, it also requires a lot of time, money, and tools. We believe more people out there should be able to create music and would enjoy it, but they don’t have the time or resources.

Our idea was to bring music creation to the masses: we want to help people who are complete amateurs or be able to create music with technology, as well as assisting professional musicians who may just want an assistant to suggest ideas when they have writer’s block, or need a guiding hand to in their creative process.

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LUX: You have both a creative and scientific background, from your filmmaking experience to your studies in computer science and engineering. When did you realise it was possible to marry these two fields?
PB: When you do any sizable project, it becomes very obvious that a good director or composer is one who is well-versed in technology. As a film director, you need to deal with camera software to edit the video you are shooting, you need to deal with lighting. For music creation, it is a bit more nuanced; of course, you can write music with pen and paper, but some of the most prolific music creators these days use their laptops to create music or synthesisers to create music digitally.

You open yourself up to the realm of possibilities if you consider technology as a creative partner when creating music. There is sort of no way, in my opinion, you can be an effective composer or director if you completely shut off technology.

Pierre Barreau

LUX: How would you respond to claims that AI is going to devalue the work of human beings, especially in the creative industries where job security is an issue?
PB: It is an important question; whenever you have a technology that raises the bar for what people are able to do in terms of creating music, it can be a bit scary. But what I would say is that historically there have been other technical advances that have brought music-making to the masses, and these have not reduced human creativity. In fact, they have supercharged it.

When the synthesiser was created, people were very scared that it was going to replace acoustic instruments and that it was going to lead to this world of digital, horrible sounding music. Instead, what it created was a world where we have new genres of music like hip-hop and electronic music. Another example is the invention of the digital audio workstation. It allowed people from their bedrooms to become producers so they didn’t need to hire expensive studios to record their music.

LUX: Can you tell us about your vision to create a personalised life-soundtrack for every person?
PB: I think the interesting thing is using AI to do what we can’t do as humans right now. One such thing is this idea of personalised soundtracks; let’s say you are going running and you want music tailored to your own performance or to stimulate you for the extra mile. Then imagine an AI that could compose what you need based on your own rhythm.

I think that would be a hugely powerful thing to have for very different industries, in this case, running, video games, and interactive content that have a lot of diversity in the gameplay and the stories that they tell, but the music tends to stay the same. Just being able to generate the music as the player moves through the game and the experience, and help them create their own story, can enhance the experience they are having.

LUX: Do you ever think this tool could ever be a danger to society? Could people use it as a means to cause damage?
PB: I don’t think I am worried about the directly manipulative aspects of AI, specifically in music. There could be a lot more said in other domains, like the audio, text and visual domains.

CMG Orchestra in Hollywood performing a piece composed by AIVA. Photo by Lance Bachelder

I think one potential challenge that could be very real is giving powerful tools to those whose intentions are just to flood the market and devalue music by humans. But I think that, fundamentally, human music operates on a completely different set of parameters. We go to concerts not to see a computer performing music but a performer dances, has a show and tells us about their own personal life story through their lyrics. People connect to stars because of their own personal drama and the story surrounding them. I think for that reason, It is more about the economic side, not about manipulation, despite what many depictions of AI would have you think.

LUX: Do you think we could ever get to a point where AI could compose a piece of musical genius, or would they always need human input to do this?
PB: In my opinion, whether we call someone a genius tends to be determined by two things. Firstly, the personal; some people will argue certain composers are geniuses, whilst others will argue totally the opposite. It depends on taste. Secondly, there is hindsight, like how we celebrate composers of the past who weren’t appreciated in their time. I think one of the reasons for that is because, in order to create something which is truly genius, you have to be ahead of your time. It won’t be appreciated immediately, but people will learn.

I think with AI , the aim is to create something humans appreciate now – that’s kind of the point. I am not sure anyone will be able to connect to something that an AI creates that we can’t appreciate now. That is also part of the reason why I am hopeful there will still be human creativity, because we can really only connect to something that pushes the boundaries if it is created by humans, if there is a story behind it. Otherwise, it may be devoid of meaning. But as far as creating something that is exceptionally good in terms of quality, I think AI can definitely do this.

CMG Orchestra in Hollywood performing a piece composed by AIVA. Photo by Lance Bachelder

LUX: How do you imagine an amateur would use your service, and how is this different to the way a professional musician might use it?
PB: For amateurs, the AI will help them to create a composition. Maybe they will modify the composition to better fit what they have in mind, or swap an instrument, add a little bit of musical effects, or switch a few notes here and there. But fundamentally, they will be equal partners, with the AI as writers.
Professionals may use more in-depth features like providing their own musical material instead of letting the AI generate compositions based on that. In general, Making a more in-depth modification of the material is usually the difference between the two.

LUX: Will AI be able to create experimental music like the kind that has never been heard before, or would it always be taken from what’s already existed?
PB: It is very possible to do something that does not exist. But again, we go back to this idea of being able to appreciate what pushes the boundaries, and I think it is harder for humans to appreciate something that is truly out there if it is created by a machine. Whereas, if it is created by humans, it is easier to find a way to connect to the story behind it, which leads you to appreciate this novel idea. Whilst it is functionally possible to do it, I don’t think it creates as much value as when a human does it.

Read more: Deutsche Bank’s global innovators meet in Silicon Valley

LUX: Do you think musicians today are welcoming this kind of innovation, or do you anticipate any backlash to this? What responses have you received so far?
PB: Both. Some people are extremely enthusiastic, even some professional composers that see it as an extension of their own abilities, as a tool. And then there are some people who are completely against it. Looking back at previous technological innovations, it is pretty much the same as before. There tends to be a change of opinion when people try it. Once they begin to try the software, they quickly realise it is just a tool. But when you just talk about AI music on a high-level, conceptual basis, people might be more inclined to fill in the blanks and think the technology is something that it actually isn’t, or does something that it actually can’t do. And so, for that reason, the feedback tends to be quite positive when people tend to use the product themselves instead of discussing high-level concepts.

Find out more: aiva.ai

All photos courtesy of AIVA AI

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Wendy Schmidt and the R/V Falkor (too)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wendy Schmidt inside the Falkor (too) control room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An aerial image of R/V Falkor (too)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All images courtesy of the Schmidt Ocean Institute

Find out more: schmidtocean.org

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(left to right): Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless, Oceana Board Member Dr. Daniel Pauly, X, Oceana Chief Policy Officer Jacqueline Savitz, and Oceana President Jim Simon attend the Oceana’s 2021 SeaChange Summer Party in Laguna Beach, CA. Photo by Kevin Warn

Jackie Savitz is a marine biologist and the Chief Policy Officer for Oceana, an ocean conservation organization focused on influencing policy decisions. Here, she speaks to LUX about how and why governments need to be pressured to introduce fundamental policy changes for the good of all

LUX: You have an extensive background in environmental science. When did you decide to dedicate your career to ocean conservation?
Jaqueline Savitz: Ever since I was a teenager, I knew that I wanted to protect the oceans. After I was exposed to a marine science program at Wallops Island, VA, there was no turning back. I grew up spending summers at my grandparents’ on the New Jersey coast and fell in love with the ocean at an early age, so when it was clear that ocean conservation could be a profession, I was sold. It was obvious to me – even as a kid – that human impact on the environment needed to be managed, and that the implications of not doing so would undermine the integrity of the environment, including our oceans.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Can you tell us more about Oceana’s goals and values, and your role within the organisation?
JS: At Oceana, we recognize that the oceans can provide food for a billion people or more, on a regular basis, if they are properly managed. Making fisheries sustainable is key, but it’s not the only thing we need to do to realise that goal. We also have to prevent pollution and climate change, which both threaten biodiversity and the health of marine ecosystems. For example, plastic pollution does not belong in the stomachs and digestive tracts of sea turtles, sea birds, fish, marine mammals, or even humans. The fact that this is already the case indicates a threat to the survival of sea turtles as they are threatened or endangered species, and it could also compromise populations that are not yet endangered. We also advocate for transparency which, when built into our policies, or made real through technology, can allow our societies to better manage resources.

As Chief Policy Officer, I oversee Oceana’s campaigns in the United States as well as in Belize, Mexico, and the European Union. My goal is to make sure we have impactful and successful campaigns that rebuild fisheries, reduce illegal fishing, and protect the marine ecosystem from oil and gas development and plastic pollution.

Jackie Savitz speaks as Oceana Presents: Sting Under the Stars in Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.
Photo by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

LUX: Working on this global scale, can you tell us about the challenges you’ve encountered while navigating different political landscapes when working towards policy change?
JS: Oceana works in countries that have a democratic process in place, which is key to creating people-driven change. However, even in a democracy, there are impediments to winning policies to protect the oceans. Strong corporate lobbies like the petroleum, plastics, and fishing industries have a lot of muscle to push back against policies that benefit all of us, such as those to stop overfishing and ensure we have fish in the future, or policies to transition to clean energy and reduce the impacts of climate change. But we have found that we can win when politicians hear science-based messages from diverse voices, all saying that a new direction is needed.

LUX: How can organisations like Oceana effectively communicate complex environmental issues to the public to encourage action and engagement?
JS: Communicating science in a way that makes sense to the public can be difficult, but it is essential and not impossible. We recognise that our audience is much larger than the scientific community, and it includes journalists, lawmakers, and citizens of every profession. We speak to our audience, and that may mean we write scientifically for scientists or legalistically for legislators, and we speak to citizens in plain language that allows them to interpret the message and take action. We have found that when we engage the public, we can influence legislators on all sides and win campaigns that may look impossible at the outset.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro via Unsplash

LUX: How is the use of technology transforming the field of marine conservation?
JS: There are so many technological tools that are now being applied to marine conservation that we should anticipate great leaps forward as a result. Satellites bring us increasingly complex data on ocean conditions and activities, providing the locations of cargo ships, fishing vessels, and more, and introducing a world of new possibilities. The application of machine learning and the ability to work with massive amounts of data is incredibly empowering. Oceana, along with our partners at Skytruth and Google, used those tools to build a web platform that makes the actions of fishing vessels visible in near-real time, and we make it available to the public online for free. It’s called Global Fishing Watch, and it has continued to increase capabilities since its formal launch in 2016. This is creating transparency on fishing globally and allowing Oceana to continue to evaluate fishing activity so we can identify and enforce against illegal fishing.

LUX: Given your background in academia, how do you think we should be bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and policy-making?
JS: Science is fundamental, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Politics is real, and it has an impact everywhere. So much of policy is not based purely on science. It is influenced more and more by powerful lobby groups and the only way I know of to overcome that is to organise voters, real people, who are affected by policies, and make sure their elected officials are hearing from them. Voters are the main source of accountability and when there is accountability, we can create an environment where science and public interests prevail.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry and Jacqueline Savitz at the launch of Global Fishing Watch reception in 2016.
Photo by Franz Mahr

LUX: Oceana has had numerous key victories in the realm of ocean conservation and policy making. Which of these victories are you most proud of?
JS: I’m incredibly proud of our teams that have stopped bottom trawling in 90% of the U.S. West Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington. We have fought bottom trawling in Europe, Belize, and Brazil, as well. And our teams in the U.S., Belize, and Europe have taken many types of gillnets (some of them a mile long and many stories deep) out of the ocean. So much habitat has been protected, and so many animals have survived because of those campaigns. We hope to replicate that elsewhere and continue to increase protections against bycatch, overfishing, and habitat destruction.

LUX: You’ve spoken before about the link between conserving the oceans and feeding the world’s hungry. What key changes need to be made in the seafood industry to address the problems we are facing today?
JS: Governments need to set science-based limits to prevent overfishing, prevent bycatch of species that are not targeted including other fish, as well as marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks, and more, and we need to protect marine habitat that fish and other sea life depend on for activities like feeding, breeding, and shelter from predators.

Read more: Jean-Baptiste Jouffray on the future of the world’s oceans

LUX: What do you hope is the next big policy win on the horizon for Oceana?
JS: On offshore drilling, President Biden is preparing to issue the government’s next five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing. Normally, there would be several new lease sales to petroleum companies in this plan, which could then pursue permits to drill for oil and gas in U.S. waters. What’s different this year is that President Biden vowed to offer no new leases for oil and gas drilling, and Oceana has pressed for a plan that does not include, and therefore would not allow, new leases to be sold.

The industry currently holds more than a thousand leases that it has not even used, so no new leasing doesn’t mean there would be no more drilling. There is enough area leased to support our fossil fuel needs into the next decade, and demand is expected to decline. So, standing by the pledge for no new leasing would be an important and clear signal that the U.S. takes seriously the need to shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, which is the only way we can reduce the impacts of climate change.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro via Unsplash

LUX: What do you believe our oceans will look like in 10 years time?
JS: There is a big push right now to protect marine habitat through the development of marine protected areas. The goal is to protect 30% of ocean habitat by 2030. So, in 10 years we could see a much larger amount of our oceans being protected. If so, it will have a major impact on marine biodiversity. Marine protected areas, when well-managed, can not only provide a refuge for marine life, but also seed the surrounding waters, since fish and other animals don’t adhere to boundaries. The benefits of this movement toward protection will be felt beyond the boundaries of the protected areas, and in much more than 30% of the oceans. There is a caution here, because, without true protection, such as bans on bottom trawling and other non-selective gear, such protections could provide a false sense of success, without delivering the promise of abundant fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.

Our oceans are facing diverse threats from climate change, overfishing, plastic pollution, and more. We know the solutions; it’s not rocket science. But to protect the oceans, we need public engagement to hold decision-makers accountable for making the right policy choices that ensure we have abundant fisheries continuing into the future, with healthy ecosystems free from pollution to support those fish and other important marine animals too.

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A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea
An underwater vortex of waves in the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

Creating a sustainable blue economy – meaning we can invest in businesses directly related to the oceans while avoiding negative impact – is one of the most important tasks on humankind’s to-do list. Below, LUX speaks with Muriel Danis of Deutsche Bank about the challenges. Chris Stokel-Walker also speaks to entrepreneurs trying to make a positive impact in the ocean space

Muriel Danis on building investment opportunities in the sustainable blue economy

A woman wearing a white shirt

Muriel Danis

One of the challenges faced by investors interested in the sustainable blue economy is that it is an emerging landscape. “It’s a very nascent space,” says Muriel Danis, Global Head of Product Platforms and Sustainable Solutions at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank. “There are few products dedicated to the blue economy. What we see more often, especially in the private markets space, is a broader, impact approach to investing, with a sub-allocation for ocean-based investments.”

Danis is overhauling the products at Deutsche Bank by making sustainability a central part of the tenet. She is incorporating ESG qualitative and quantitative factors into the product development process to meet regulatory requirements and help identify “best in class” managers and solutions. That is easier said than done. Most liquid products available today focus primarily on what Danis calls a “do no harm approach”: they tend to exclude from investment portfolios any sectors or activities that have a materially negative impact on the oceans. However, in private markets there may be more product opportunities able to deliver material and measurable positive outcomes. “We are seeing a number of VC funds that are directly investing in technologies and capabilities that protect marine biodiversity,” says Danis. “By targeting overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change, they are supporting a sustainable blue economy.”

A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

“We think this will be an expanding universe,” adds Danis. That’s partly driven by investor demand, and partly by increased policy action. A good example is the recent UN High Seas Treaty, which aims to place 30 per cent of the seas into protected areas by 2030. This will support increased finance flows into sectors of the sustainable blue economy impacted by the 30 x 30 agreement. “As the market becomes more mature,” says Danis, “we will see more need for financing to support the transition of business models to what I would call a blue or green model.”

Danis is spearheading that transition by making connections to blue economy pioneers. One such opportunity was the DB x ORRAA Ocean Conference hosted in 2022 in Mallorca. In the first conference of its kind, Deutsche Bank invited a range of companies and their founders, including some of those featured below, to demystify the sustainable blue economy and show how private capital can help achieve positive ocean impact at scale.

Entrepreneurs on creating businesses for the good of the oceans

A new generation of individuals are setting up companies worldwide to radically overhaul how we interact with our oceans, and help save our planet while building a sustainable economy

A woman wearing a black top and glasses

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz

Replacing ship engines with sails
Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz
Co-founder, bound4blue, Barcelona

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz always wanted to be a doctor. “I thought the only way to do good in theworld was to save lives,” she says. But a chance conversation with a teacher who suggested engineering changed her path.

Muñoz became an aeronautical engineer, working on planes and space shuttles before pivoting to the maritime industry. That aerodynamic expertise helped when she launched bound4blue with her co-founders. The challenge was to overcome the shipping industry’s fuel-consumption problem – shipping alone accounts for 2.5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

“I think engineering can help solve today’s hardest problems, make sustainability profitable and be something that can be developed and implemented,” says Muñoz. The company has developed a wind-propelled eSAIL that can reduce emissions by up to 40 per cent, and which it has tested on three ships. “The intention is for around 80 per cent of the global fleet to benefit from this type of solution,” she says.

bound4blue.com

Marine-friendly robotics
Liane Thompson
Co-founder, Aquaai, California and Norway

A woman with long wavy hair

Liane Thompson

As a journalist for The New York Times, Liane Thompson used to travel the world. Once, while she was in South Africa, she reported on an entrepreneur called Simeon Pieterkosky. Little did she know then that she would reconnect with Pieterkosky around a decade later in 2014 to develop Aquaai.

The husband-and-wife’s marine-robotics company builds affordable Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), which it calls Nammu. These are shaped like fish and are used to gather environmental data deep underwater, without intruding on the marine life living there. The AUVs are 3D printed and come installed with off-the-shelf cameras and sensors – deliberately so, says Thompson, so that people can build their own in communities that need them most.

And that need is ever increasing, says Thompson, “given superstorms, floods, the proteins and food sources coming out of underwater farming, and the need to protect marine habitats and corals.”

aquaai.com

Biodiversity-friendly coastal concrete
Ido Sella
Co-founder, ECOncrete, Tel Aviv

A bald man wearing a white shirt

Ido Sella

Marine biologist Dr Ido Sella has been fixated on the impact of coastal construction on the marine environment for more than 20 years. His bugbear? Concrete, as it doesn’t support the same biodiversity as other substrates. In an ideal world, natural reef would mark out ports and create promontories – but that won’t happen. So Sella worked to develop a material that would be better than the concrete used in 70 per cent of coastal infrastructure.

And so, in 2012, ECOncrete was born. A decade ago, the company started experimenting in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The findings were shocking: the mix itself was an issue, as was the surface and the structural strength. ECOncrete solves all three problems: its Admix can be added to regular concrete to provide a better chemical balance for marine life, its texture agents help marine life cling to the structures and their moulds help create ecological niches and strengthen the structures.

ECOncrete is now used in breakwaters and ports globally. “There is a real drive from the industry to look for these solutions,” says Sella.

econcretetech.com

The curve of a wave and the blue sky

Photo by Ben Thouard

Large-scale coral regrowth
Sam Teicher
Co-founder, Coral Vita, Freeport

A man with a beard wearing a white t-shirt and shirt

Sam Teicher

At the age of 13, Sam Teicher gained a scuba- diving certification. “I’ve loved the ocean and nature my whole life,” he says. “As a kid from Washington D.C., I grew up imagining I was going to become a coral farmer.” Teicher studied the environment and climate change in college, then grad school. It was through working at a friend’s NGO between courses that he was first introduced to coral restoration – and it became his life’s work.

Coral Vita, the company Teicher co-founded in 2019, grows coral 50 times faster than it would grow in nature – so it can be replenished as modern life diminishes our reserves of the natural resource. Started with a $1,000 grant from Yale, where Teicher and his co-founder met, Coral Vita is now behind the world’s first commercial land-based coral-reef farm, in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where the coral grown is being used to replenish the reef. In 2021, the company won Prince William’s inaugural Revive Our Oceans Earthshot Prize. “We hope to kick-start the whole restoration economy,” says Teicher.

coralvita.co

Biodegradable packaging and materials
Jack Sieff
Corporate Development Manager, Polymateria, London

A man sitting down with his hands on this lap wearing a suit

Jack Sieff

Plastic waste is a major problem for the world’s oceans, strangling marine life and jeopardising biodiversity systems. There is now an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic waste in the world’s sea and oceans.

Founded in 2015 by Jack Sieff’s father Jonathan, Polymateria has developed biodegradable alternatives to plastic. In 2020, Polymateria reached a major milestone, achieving certified biodegradation of the most commonly littered forms of plastic packaging in real-world conditions, all without creating the harmful microplastics the world is seeking to avoid. “Since the launch of that standard, we’ve seen a domino effect,” Sieff says, as many countries are adopting similar standards.

Polymateria’s biodegradable materials are now utilised in items such as masks and wipes, along with other uses. The company raised £15 million in its Series-A funding before the pandemic hit, and is about to close out a Series-B round, bringing in a further £20 million.

polymateria.com

Autonomous sailing fleet that creates power
Ben Medland
Founder, DRIFT Energy, London

A man wearing a back suit and white shirt

Ben Medland

Engineer Ben Medland didn’t know how to answer when his eight-year-old son asked him, “Daddy, why is the climate broken? And how can we fix it?” Medland’s son had been reading about a recent COP conference, and had noticed that the nearby wind farm just wasn’t moving. What could be done? Medland vowed to try to change things by turning the 70 per cent of the planet that traditional renewables don’t reach – the world’s oceans – into an energy source. He admits that it is a “crazy” idea, but it is one that works.

DRIFT, founded in 2021, creates sailboats, augmented with turbines, which will go through the water, guided by AI to inform them of the most beneficial route to pick up power. The tides themselves generate energy into the turbine, which is stored onboard as green hydrogen using a process called electrolysis.

Better yet, that onboard green energy can then be used wherever the sailboats end up docking – bringing green energy to the parts of the world that need it the most.

drift.energy

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

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

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of W1 Curates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of W1 Curates

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

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

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

Find out more: www.beeple-crap.com

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Reading time: 14 min

CEO Guido Terreni. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

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

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

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

The Parmigiani Fleurier Manufacture. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

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

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

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

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

The Parmigiani Fleurier Maison. Courtesy of Parmigiani Fleurier

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

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

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

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

Find out more: www.parmigiani.com

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Reading time: 5 min
A woman wearing a blue jumper with her arms folded standing in front of colourful paintings
A woman wearing a blue jumper with her arms folded standing in front of colourful paintingsBernadine Bröcker Wieder is the CEO of Arcual, a blockchain software created by an art focused ecosystem for the art world. Here Wieder speaks to LUX’s Leader and Philanthropist Editor, Samantha Welsh, about buying and selling art on the blockchain and the effect it will have on the next generation of art collectors

LUX: How has your experience as an artist and art historian shaped your values?
Bernadine Bröcker Wieder: I am always thinking about the future and often thinking with artists in mind, as I originally trained as a classical artist, before managing an Impressionist and Modern gallery in London. I love exceptions to the rules and creativity. When you are building technology but thinking about how it might be used in the future, the tech has to be capable of being customised, upgraded and scalable. You cannot employ a one size fits all approach to anything in life yet technology is about binaries.

Given my background working with museums with my first venture, Vastari, I learned about ethics. Museums built international standards throughout the world to attempt to uphold a neutrality to preserve our culture and knowledge. This is so difficult to do, and there has been heated debate about what ethical behaviour looks like this century, taking into account our evolving thinking around sustainability and inclusion.

Additionally, I believe in the importance of giving back. I am excited to see how Arcual develops its next features with museums and other non-profit organisations in mind. For example, can we facilitate resale royalties receivable for those non-profit institutions that commission artworks from artists so as to help ongoing funding of those institutions?

colourful vases on a shelf in the middle of a room

Athene Galiciadis, Empty Sculptures, 2023, courtesy of von Bartha Gallery Copenhagen

LUX: How did your understanding of sales dynamics inspire you to test a new approach to managing exhibitions?
BBW: People often go into the world of art and tech because they identify problems that can be solved. I noticed that museum exhibitions often showed the same works over and over again from the same group of lenders, and excluded privately owned works, so with my first venture, I built a matchmaking service for collectors and museums. Having a museum show can greatly impact the perceived value of a work of art, so opening-up that value creation to a greater pool of lenders seemed sensible.

As Vastari grew, we received feedback from the museums that they also wanted matchmaking services for touring exhibitions so we evolved to include this in our offering. So much of the sales process is about listening to what the customer really needs and how to solve for that.

At Arcual, I know that our offering will continue to change and evolve based on the feedback we receive, and that’s what is beautiful about technology – it is iterative.

A picture of white flowers hanging from a branch

Detail from Nocturne by Phoebe Cummings, 2016

LUX: How did this change definitions of art and art communities?
BBW: At Vastari, I learned the benefits of involving various different stakeholders in the art ecosystem, and the importance of being involved with associations. We became a member of the International Council of Museums, the American Alliance of Museums, and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries. These associations were instrumental to our technological innovation becoming aligned and involved with, rather than trying to go against, the status quo.

I am personally a member of many communities, from AWITA and PAIAM to The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars and Sandbox. These communities shape the way I see the world and connect to it, and help me interact with others with different opinions or viewpoints to my own.

black and white faces on circles stacked together on a wall

Bon appétit IV, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Sabrina Amrani

LUX: New technologies are often seen as ‘taking out the middleman’ and an opportunity for direct engagement between artists and collectors. What do you think will be the impact of blockchain on art world infrastructures and relationships?
BBW: Technology can certainly be considered as a disintermediation tool, but you are still using a technology platform to connect. That can be Facebook, Youtube, TikTok, Docusign or OpenSea. We are trusting new technology-based middlemen to transact even if these platforms are perceived to be neutral.

So it’s about looking deeper at the new middleman, and whether you trust them. With blockchain you can at least make sure that your data is not held hostage by one organisation. At Arcual, we are founded by a collaboration between the LUMA Foundation, MCH Group (the parent company of Art Basel) and BCG X.

So, going back to the idea of taking-out the middleman in the art world, many think the future is about artists selling directly to collectors. I believe that there is a reason why the gallery or dealer historically played an important role in that relationship. So our system is about collaboration, as opposed to competing and ‘cutting-out’; more about reinforcing why that relationship exists in the first place. For example, Arcual generates digital certificates of authenticity for artworks with dual signatories, signed by both the artist and the gallery for added trust, before an artwork’s provenance is logged into the blockchain.

colourful blue and yellow paintings hung on a wall

Fiona Rae, Faerie gives delight and hurts not, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris Brussels

In the coming months, we will also launch an expanded digital Certificate of Authenticity feature, which can contain attachments, be personalised and much more. The expanded CoA enables artists and galleries to build out and affirm the authenticity of an artwork, acting as a kind of digital dossier, which strengthens the connection and makes it more valuable for a collector.

As a technology provider, Arcual aims to bring value with the features we build and also uphold the existing value that different parties bring to the ecosystem.

LUX: What does the Arcual team look like and how do you all bring your strengths?
BBW: Arcual has developed a unified team with such a strong sense of purpose since I joined as CEO, just over a year ago. With 34 talents across 17 different nationalities and growing, based in Zurich, London and Berlin, we work collaboratively towards one mission, that of empowering the art ecosystem to embrace innovation, for a more equal future.

LUX: How is blockchain disrupting how the art market functions?
BBW: Blockchain engenders trust through its checks and balances, ensuring that information is encrypted, secured, and timestamped. The fact that it processes automatically according to the terms of an agreement can ensure that all parties in a transaction are protected.

zoomed in flowers made of clay

Phoebe Cummings (clay) detail (2)

Arcual’s blockchain aims to work with and for, as opposed to against, existing art world structures. Later this year our whitepaper outlines our approach to privacy and governance, that we maintain rights of privacy but the transparency of the transaction can offer parties confidence.

Our backers stand for quality, and for championing sustainable growth in the future of the art market. We are one company, but our shareholders form a decentralised governance, and there will be a gradual process of decentralisation of the technology and governance in line with blockchain principles.

LUX: Why is this significant for next gen emerging artists?
BBW: Arcual has been purpose-built to offer artists greater participation in their own careers. Our agreements, certificates and smart contract terms are approved by artists. This is significant because it gives artists an opportunity to codify their preferences for the future conservation, care and installation of their work. For gallerists, the 2023 Art Market Report (AMR) showed that finding and engaging new artists is a key priority, particularly for primary market art dealers. In 2022, sales from the single highest-selling artist accounted for an average of 31% of sales for galleries, while their top three artists accounted for just over half of sales.

Galleries that use Arcual’s blockchain technology are committed to empowering artists from the very beginning of their careers. This is an important message and attractive offer for engaging the next generation of artists.

red cloth on the floor

Lea Porsager, Mandorla breaks Open, 2023

LUX: How will these changes affect collectors?
BBW: As Arcual helps engage new artists, it also engages new collectors. The AMR also flagged that ‘blockchain is helping to lower barriers to entry into the market, enabling new collectors to enter [which is] essential to its long-term health”. With the failure of some internet-based businesses, the uncertainty of social media pages’ longevity, potential internet disruption, and with the inherent risks associated with only having paper certificates, it is the availability and security of information stored on the blockchain which is attracting younger generations and new collectors.

LUX: Please sketch how ledger principles apply to art transacting and smart contracts?
BBW: Ledgers basically help everyone to understand what has been agreed and that these terms have not been changed until that is added to the ledger. Arcual’s smart contract terms and ownership agreements offer a chain of ownership and digital certificate of authenticity that is protected on the blockchain and can be harnessed for future secondary market sales and acquisitions.

LUX: What is next for Arcual and how can the community get involved?
BBW: In June, Arcual will be an official partner for Zurich Art Weekend, hosting a panel discussion with some exciting speakers around how technology is impacting power dynamics in the art world.

During Art Basel in Basel, I’m thrilled that Arcual will have a booth in the Collectors Lounge for which we have commissioned a unique sculptural artwork by British artist Phoebe Cummings to spark conversations around our new Digital Dossier feature. We will also take part in events and talks around the fair, including the Conversations series panel around blockchain, ownership and copyright.

Find out more: www.arcual.art

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Reading time: 8 min
A virtual world with green plants and trees
A virtual world with green plants and trees

Shezad Dawood, Night in the Garden of Love, 2023. VR environment, duration variable, produced by UBIK Productions, co-commissioned by WIELS, Brussels and Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Courtesy of UBIK Productions

British artist Shezad Dawood is presenting his latest exhibition ‘Night in the Garden of Love’ at WIELS in Brussels this May. Commissioned by WIELS and the Aga Khan Museum, this exhibition marks Dawood’s largest presentation of new work since 2019 and his first solo exhibition in Belgium

Shezad Dawood is known for his experimentation across numerous different disciplines and exploration of different cultures. Inspired by the works of musician Yusef Lateef, ‘Night in the Garden of Love’ showcases a captivating blend of music, drawings, virtual reality experiences, painted textiles, algorithmic plants, costume-sculptures, and live choreography.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

He first came across Lateef’s music in his youth, and later became fascinated by his abstract drawings which often feature dreamlike landscapes and strange but beautiful life forms inspired by music pieces. Dawood’s latest exhibition, however, is based on Lateef’s novella, from which it takes its title.

A person wearing an orange and blue string outfit with their face covered

Shezad Dawood, Night in the Garden of Love, 2023. Performance rehearsal, Choreographer and Dancer, Wan-Lun Yu. Costume by Ahluwalia. Image by Miranda Sharp. Courtesy of UBIK Productions

Lateef pioneered a methodology he called Autophysiopsychic music, which he defined as “music from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self”. Like Dawood, he integrated cultures and traditions from across the world into his artwork and experimented across many different mediums. The exhibition serves as a dialogue between Dawood’s practice and Lateef’s, and through it, Dawood aims to create a metaphysical and virtual space, leveraging technology to imagine new forms of togetherness while also addressing the climate crisis.

A person wearing a VR kit standing in a blu and green maze with a tapestry hanging from the wall

Installation view ‘Shezad Dawood, Night in the Garden of Love’, WIELS, Brussels, 2023 © We Document Art

On wide variety of mediums featured in the show, Dawood told LUX: “It took me almost 8 years to bring this project to fruition, and one of the key aspects for me was the set of correspondences and echoes between Lateef’s music, his drawings and his writing practices, which I began to see as one expansive score.

Art works lit up in the dark

Installation view ‘Shezad Dawood, Night in the Garden of Love’, WIELS, Brussels, 2023 © We Document Art

This allowed me to build the show as an iterative score, where each element leads to the next and informs and amplifies it, like stars in a constellation.

Read more: Vik Muniz’s Mixed-Media Reflection on Perception and Materiality

When I paint I often think of colour in terms of a palette of sound and music, and then elements from my paintings informed the digital seedbanks, as I derived the base designs for each algorithmically generated plant from my paintings, that were in turn responding to Lateef’s original drawings, which also feature in the show.”

‘Night in the Garden of Love’ is running until Sunday 13th August at WEILS in Belgium

This article was published in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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Reading time: 2 min
orange suitcases and rucksack in front of a black sportscar
orange suitcases and rucksack in front of a black sportscar
Ava Doherty reports on Tumi and McLaren’s collaboration on a limited-edition luggage collection titled ‘Unpack Tomorrow’, appreciating the history of the British motorsport brand through motorcar themed designs

The quintessentially English motorsport brand, McLaren, has paired with the travel and business manufacturer Tumi to produce unique limited edition travel pieces to commemorate McLaren’s 60th anniversary.

The collection was unveiled at the final event of the brand’s Spring 2023 campaign, ‘ Unpack Tomorrow’ which championed the Tumi crew member and McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris.

Lando Norris holding an orange rucksack and standing next to an orange suitacase

Tumi and McLaren’s commemorative partnership aims to combine fashion, technology and lifestyle. The brands aimed to highlight their shared ethos of functionality, modern design dialogue and a forward-facing outlook.

Goran Ozbolt, Chief Designer art McLaren Automotive commented, “This edition of luxury travel pieces also celebrates our founder Bruce McLaren’s passion for looking to the future, pushing the boundaries, and matching effortless functionality with a modern design language that reflects the ethos of both companies.”

A black suicase next to an orange car

New technology incorporated into their design process includes ultra-durable Tegris composite material, flexible CFX carbon fibre accents, and the integrated USB charger of the Velocity Backpack.

Tumi aims to further globalise its partnership with McLaren with an international content series at key Grand Prix races featuring influencers, community engagement and exclusive prizes.

Black suitcase and luggage next to a car

Tumi’s Creative Director, Victor Sanz said, “We are thrilled to have collaborated on this collection with McLaren, utilising their famous papaya colour and combining modern, lightweight materials to create luggage, bags and accessories that celebrate their 60th anniversary.”

Find out more: tumi.com/McLarenCollection

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Reading time: 1 min
two men standing together wearing black
two men standing together wearing black

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

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

Ayodhya, india 1993

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

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

Crowds of people walking in a town

Chawri Bazar, old Delhi, India, 1972

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

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

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

Mother Teresa putting her hands to her mouth in prayer

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

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

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

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

Some children sitting amongst ruins in a city

Imambara, Lucknow, India, 1990

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

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

A woman sitting on a floor in a striped tent

Indira Gandhi at a Congress session, Delhi 1967

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

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

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

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

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

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

A woman pushing a heavy cart on a road

Woman pushing cart Delhi 1979

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

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

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

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

People working in a field holding baskets on their heads

Hand building highway – Hydrabad, India, 2004

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

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

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

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

Local commuters at Church Gate railway station. Mumbai, 1995

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

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

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

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

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

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

All images © Raghu Rai

Find out more: 

durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

projectdastaan.org

 

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A yellow 'YO' sign in front of a building

Stanford University has the most funded startup founders among its alumni

Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank gathered a group of 70 next gens for a Global Innovation Summit  at the heart of technological advancement, Silicon Valley. The group heard from leaders in the tech industry and learnt about the potential of technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems for a better future

Among the plethora of respected speakers at the summit were John Chambers, former executive chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, Jensen Huang, NVIDIA founder, Nikesh Arora, Chairman and CEO of Palo Alto Networks, Lloyd Minor, Dean of the Stanford School of Medicine and Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud.

Two men sitting on stools on a stage with a Deutsche bank logo on a screen behind them

Gil Perez, Deutsche Bank’s Chief Innovation Officer and Thomas Kurian, founder of Google Cloud in conversation at Google HQ

Being at the headquarters of these institutions provided a unique setting enabling participants to witness first hand the advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and even everyday life.

two men standing net to each other

Salman Mahdi, Deutsche Bank Private Bank’s Vice Chairman and Jensen Huang, Founder of NVIDIA

At Google HQ the group worked on an interactive session with Google’s Innovation team, solving real-world problems. It became abundantly clear how vital their work continues to be. Their goals are not only to solve the world’s problems through technology, but also to search for more problems in order to be able to find solutions before issues arise.

conference room with a red board and a man speaking on a stage

Lloyd Minor, Dean of the Stanford School of Medicine

The breakthroughs in medicine, molecular biology, sustainability and immunology also resonated with the group during a visit to Stanford University.

Salman Mahdi, Deutsche Bank International Private Bank’s Vice Chairman, attended the summit along with the group, having made access to these CEOs, founders and pioneers possible.

He declared, “there is no better place in the world to come to than Silicon Valley to get this window into the future. I hope people will use an opportunity like this to refocus on ten, twenty, fifty years down the line. What we do today will change the world in decades.”

Find out more: www.db.com/innovation-network

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A woman wearing a grey blazer

Dr Oxana Mulholland

Dr Oxana Mulholland is the Investment Director at the London Technology Club, a space for investors and tech professionals to network and exchange ideas within the industry. Here, Dr Mulholland speaks to LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh about women in the tech industry and the future of the tech world

LUX: With your background in strategic investment advisory, what drew you to specialise in tech investing and VC?
Dr Oxana Mulholland: The simple answer- I love it! Right now, the old industrial platform is collapsing, and we can’t quite make out what’s coming next. Flows of information are fuelling vast networks of knowledge, allowing us to tinker with everything from the building blocks of life to technologies that behave more like natural biological systems. We’re entering a period of increasing human-tech collaboration.

This shift from one platform to the next is likely to create massive amounts of obsolescence, but also opportunity. I see this as a thrilling opportunity for our investments to help shape the future and with the London Technology Club we can bring savvy investors along with us.

LUX: What are the barriers to entry (if any) for women entering this field and how did you deal with these?
OM: The data is compelling. Wage inequality, entrenched views about women’s and men’s roles, a lack of industry role models, and negative stories like Elizabeth Holmes are among the barriers identified by women thinking of entering the field.

Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina discovered “the positivity ratio” or the fact that it takes three positive thoughts to counter a single negative thought. For me, this “three-to-one” ratio plays out. Even though the roles are there, the data tell us there simply aren’t enough women applying.

I think it’s time we flipped the script. I think it’s time we adopted a growth mindset and reframed these negative data points as rocket fuel. Spend any time with the extraordinary and inspirational women transforming the industry and you’ll experience this first hand. In my experience, these women echo author John Irving’s blunt and straightforward advice on persistence: “Get obsessed, stay obsessed.” Of course, early-stage passion looks very different to late-stage passion. Early-stage passion is multiple curiosities coupled with a few successes. While the goal may be to “get obsessed, stay obsessed,” my advice to women entering the field is “get curious, stay curious.”

A woman wearing a white shirt giving a talk in a boardroom to a group of men

LUX: What would you advise other talented women aspiring to join the tech and VC industry?
OM: It is such an important question. It also raises a more fundamental question: We are on the threshold of a new era of human-tech collaboration, so what skills will the next generation of talent need to thrive?

History tells us that in times of rapid change, success favours those who can make big leaps of imagination, courage, and effort. And the faster the world changes the more fluidly you need to adapt. It reminds me of a quote from the renowned futurist Alvin Toffler who wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

So, here’s my advice to the teams I mentor: Instead of expecting traditional business schools to do what they can’t do, take your learning into your own hands. Use traditional courses for what they can do – introducing you to what’s well-known – and in parallel, explore other ways to discover what’s less well-known, what’s special to your own interests, and what’s of real value to you. This could be anything from an apprenticeship to a personal project, or a self-prescribed reading program. But when you shift your focus from results to gaining understanding, you set yourself on the road to mastery. You learn how to learn.

LUX: Which women-led tech businesses are consistently outperforming their markets?
OM: When Ayumi Moore Aoki founded Women in Tech in 2018, I was honoured to join her Web Summit launch event. Since then, Ayumi has turned Women in Tech into a global movement to help women embrace technology. The event was also a pivotal moment for me as I spent time with game-changing trailblazers like Canva’s Co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins. With her blend of laser focus, drive, and humility, Melanie and Canva’s meteoric rise come as no surprise.

Blockchain and real estate are a potent combination. But only the team at Propy, led by Founder and CEO Natalia Karayaneva are truly disrupting and reshaping the real estate market with automated transactions and the world’s first settlement on smart contracts.

A woman with red hair wearing a white shirt

LUX: Where are the most promising areas in the tech landscape right now?
OM: From an investment standpoint, I’m most excited by technologies that increase the opportunities for human-tech collaborations. At a macro level that means AI and Blockchain. While both technologies have always shown potential, it is only now that we’re beginning to understand what they are capable of.

I can see AI reaching a tipping point soon. As massive amounts of information meet quantum processing power it will open new worlds of possibilities. One of the most exciting predictions is the potential to break language barriers, enabling AI to understand and interpret different languages simultaneously.

Right now, someone is creating a blockchain solution to disrupt a traditional business model. Blockchain-enabled business models present a seismic shift to how business is conducted in the future. But navigating dated rules and age-old playbooks is the greatest challenge to its universal adoption. As blockchain becomes more widely and systematically understood I can only see its rapid proliferation into our everyday lives.

LUX: Does your evident passion for discovery spin out to interests beyond tech?
OM: I’ve always believed that travel is the best investment you can make in yourself. Whether it’s an impromptu weekend in the Cotswolds, catching the perfect wave on the Moroccan coast, or exploring the spiritual heart of Bali, leaving my daily habits behind allows me to see things differently. As writer and avid traveller Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Closer to home, there’s nothing I enjoy more than pottery. While spinning clay the world seems to melt away and I lose myself in my creative bubble. Perhaps it’s the elementary combination of earth, fire, air, and water with pure imagination, or just an excuse to get messy, but the transformations are magical.

 

LUX: So how important is it to achieve a work-life balance?
OM: I have a superpower: I love what I do. And as a tech entrepreneur, my husband loves what he does too. Perhaps it’s why we’re so comfortable blurring the lines between our work life and our home life. It could also be because I feel there’s more value in finding the similarities in things than seeing the difference between them. I’ve always found that while there are two opposing sides to balance, there’s no possibility of progress, only compromise.

The common ingredient when I’ve tried to “do it all” and find I can’t even “do a little” is how well I manage stress. A little stress can be a great motivator, but out-of-control stress can be overwhelming. But I’ve discovered a secret: Stress isn’t about bad experiences; it’s about how much control you have over the bad experiences.

LUX: What pearl of wisdom would you give to your 18-year-old self?
OM: Nothing! I was having so much fun at 18. I’ve always enjoyed having fun. I’ll continue to enjoy having fun. All the choices I’ve made have made me who I am, and I don’t regret a single moment.

Find out more: londontechnologyclub.com

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

Alice Audouin at the Art of Change 21 office

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

An exhibition with an installation of a boat in the middle

Views of ‘Novacène’, Lille, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Views of ‘Novacène’, Lille, 2022

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

Read more: Artist Precious Okoyomon on Nature & Creativity 

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

Find out more: artofchange21.com

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

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blue wave splash
blue wave splash

Marine biologist Matt Sharp was awarded the Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year in 2020 for his incredible images, such as this one of a wave breaking in the Maldives in 2019

Marine life is threatened by climate change, pollution and overfishing. And depleted oceans risk collapsing the whole global ecosystem. A new generation of business startups is aiming to reshape the ocean economy, making it both truly sustainable and profitable. Michael Marshall reports

The blue economy is gaining momentum. Hundreds of startup companies around the world are aiming to protect, and even restore, the oceans, while making a profit. They want to get food and other essential resources from the sea in ways that benefit marine life – or at least don’t harm it. What’s more, there are plenty of organisations that aim to support these startups, whether with money or expertise or both.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“We are not going to save the oceans if we don’t change the economy,” says Tiago Pitta e Cunha, the CEO of the Oceano Azul Foundation, a Portuguese non-profit that supports a variety of initiatives designed to stimulate the growth of the sustainable blue economy. The good news is that the business case for ocean conservation is real and growing. “There’s a wonderful opportunity for startups and new companies to develop business models,” says John Virdin, director of the Oceans & Coastal Policy Programme at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in Durham, North Carolina.

The ocean certainly needs our help. It faces three big problems – overfishing, pollution and climate change – that “tend to make each other worse”, says Nancy Knowlton, a professor of marine biology and Sant Chair in Marine Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. However, she adds, there have been some real success stories for ocean conservationists in recent years. Take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), for example. These are regions of the ocean in which extractive industries are either banned or tightly regulated, and they have proven highly beneficial when implemented fully. In 2020, fully implemented MPAs covered 5.3 per cent of the ocean, and this area is growing every year. As a result, some animals that were once considered on the brink of extinction have increased in numbers, including many whale species.

At the moment, the blue economy is dominated by “a few really big fish”, Virdin points out. In 2021, he co-authored a study that found 60 per cent of all revenues obtained from the ocean came from just 100 companies, almost half of which were from the oil and gas industry. Such companies have “rigid processes in place, for good reasons”, says Alexis Grosskopf, the founder and CEO of OceanHub Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, an accelerator for ocean impact startups. Those processes “could not be disrupted smoothly and quickly enough, without blowing up or imploding”.

This is where startup companies come in. Small outfits with radical technologies and new ways of doing things can overthrow existing practices, if they’re successful enough. And in the blue economy there are now hundreds aiming to disrupt a variety of industries, from fishing and aquaculture to renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and waste management. Some want to take an existing industry, such as fishing, and do it better, causing less harm to the ocean ecosystem. Others are aiming to restore and repair, actively improving the marine environment while also making a profit.

As with all startups, the challenge is to survive long enough to build a customer base and break even. A startup company may attract an initial burst of funding on the basis of a good idea, which enables it to start operations. But they then face ‘death valley’, when they risk running out of money before they start earning any.

seaweed shot under water

Intertidal seaweed beds on the west coast of Jersey, UK, in 2020

To address this challenge, a number of incubators and accelerators have been established in recent years to help ocean startups become profitable. These include Katapult Ocean in Oslo, Norway and OceanHub Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. Another is Blue Bio Value, which was set up by the Oceano Azul Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2018 to “help entrepreneurs create commercially viable and sustainable businesses” and thereby “accelerate the transition to a global and sustainable blue bioeconomy”. It is now on its fish set of startups.

Previously, the Oceano Azul Foundation – which owns the Lisbon Oceanarium – had focused on ocean education, but its leaders decided this was not enough. “We thought that, as a credible foundation, we need to also put our money where our mouth is,” says Pitta e Cunha. “We only accept startups that, through their production, will ease decarbonisation of the planet or high consumption of natural resources.” Many of these startups are led by scientists, he explains, who have essential specialist knowledge but little experience of markets or running businesses.

Alongside the accelerator, the team has also created an ideation programme to link academic researchers and business leaders, to encourage the formation of new businesses. “We are trying to manufacture new startups, because they are needed,” Pitta e Cunha says.

With so many funders, incubators and accelerators entering the ocean economy, the challenge for the owners of a new startup is how to navigate this business world. Several organisations have now been set up to organise everything and help startups find their way.

At Investable Oceans, in New York, the co-founder and principle, Ted Janulis, likes to say he was “born with an ocean gene”, which means he “can’t walk past a body of water of any type without jumping in and splashing around”. Several decades in finance convinced him that there were market-based opportunities all over the ocean economy. But the investors were scattered and disconnected. “The people who invested in plastic mitigation weren’t necessarily the people investing in better fisheries or aquaculture,” he says. So he set out to create a single platform where people could come and learn about investment opportunities in the blue economy across all asset classes and sectors. “We’re not an incubator, we’re not an accelerator, we’re not a fund and we’re not a broker dealer,” he says. “Our goal is to connect people.”

Plastic pollution along the beach– knee-deep in some places – in the Maldives in 2019

More recently, an umbrella organisation called 1000 Ocean Startups was launched in May 2021 to accelerate ocean impact innovation by bringing together “incubators, accelerators, competitions, matching platforms and VCs supporting startups for ocean impact”. Its members include Katapult Ocean, OceanHub Africa and Investable Oceans and so far it has backed 168 startups: 115 focused on sustainable use of ocean resources, 33 addressing pollution and 20 tackling climate change. “We’re still in the infancy stage,” says Grosskopf. The aim is to back 1,000 startups by 2030.

The challenge for all these companies will be to compete against existing ocean businesses that are not making efforts to be sustainable, and therefore have lower operating costs. Some consumers are prepared to pay extra for sustainable products, but many will not or cannot, so the startups must compete on price to attract mass-market consumers.

Fortunately, there are many routes to success, says Janulis. “Some of it might be that it’s a standalone company that becomes really big,” he says, but startups can also be absorbed by larger companies that see their methods as an opportunity.

Janulis says there is also “a rising sensibility and more awareness”, a point echoed by many. “I was born as a digital native,” says Grosskopf. People from the generation below, he says, are “sustainable natives”. “The consumers of tomorrow, the employers of tomorrow… they have sustainability in their DNA.”

It will soon be impossible for companies to behave unsustainably, Virdin suggests. “These issues of sustainability of ocean ecosystems and communities, they’re not luxury issues,” he says. “These are core issues to the future of the business model, whether it’s social licence to operate or whether it’s risks to your operating environment in the coming decades.”

Scottish coastal waves

Duncansby Stacks last year, on the exposed north- east coast of Scotland, where seals and seabirds thrive

Knowlton cautions that it’s unlikely startups alone can fix the marine environmental crisis. “The problem is that we’re kind of in a race against time,” she says, so there will need to be top-down action as well. “The role of government is really important because it can motivate change quickly.” However, she acknowledges, startups are where creative ideas can be brought to fruition quickly. “I think you have to encourage entrepreneurship – and much of it will fail, but some of it will work.”

Read More: Kering’s Marie-Claire Daveu on benefits of the blue economy

In other words, it’s not a choice between buccaneering startups and rules-based government. To save our ocean, both will have to work together.

Savvy Ocean Startups

Pesky Fish: Many of the fish that are caught at sea, particularly by trawlers, are wasted. Because they aren’t fashionable, they are discarded as ‘bycatch’. The British company Pesky Fish aims to change that by allowing fishers to sell directly to consumers. It has a rapidly updated online shop and overnight delivery service.

Recyglo: Plastic waste is one of the biggest problems facing the ocean ecosystem. Today most plastic enters the ocean from east Asia, where waste management systems are poor. Recyglo is aiming to change that by bringing modern recycling to the region. It already has branches in Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia.

Cascadia Seaweed: Farming seaweed has enormous potential to feed the growing human population, remove carbon dioxide from the air, and restore the ocean by providing habitat for marine animals. Canadian firm Cascadia Seaweed is turning kelp into food for people and farm animals. It is working in partnership with First Nations groups.

This article appears in the Deutsche Bank Supplement of the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 8 min
Man
Windmill

Octopus is one of the largest owners and managers of renewable energy assets in Europe

As the International Energy Agency warns that the worst of the energy crisis may be yet to come, governments around the world are stressing the importance of accelerating the move to renewable energy. We speak to Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy Group, the technology-to-investment energy platform, about the importance of government intervention in energy policy, the role of technology, and how a greener future could be nearer than we think

Greg Jackson founded Octopus Energy in 2015 with a view to using technology to make the green energy revolution faster and cheaper for consumers. Now worth approximately $5bn, the privately held company supplies renewable energy to three million households worldwide. It is also one of the largest owners and managers of renewable energy assets in Europe, with more than £4bn under management. Jackson credits the company’s success to what he calls the “en-tech” model whereby proprietary technology plays a leading role in the company’s value offering. Here, he speaks to Ella Johnson about why there can be no alternative to radically updating the power grid and large-scale investment in renewable energy.

LUX: How will Octopus innovate the energy sector in the long term?

Greg Jackson: Octopus’ long-term goal is to generate roughly as much as its users use, with Kraken, our proprietary technology platform, matching generation and consumption at any time and location to make the most efficient renewable energy company possible.

A decentralised workforce allows us to greatly increase the pace of innovation and learn from many people with many different perspectives. We are a cloud-native company and have had a very successful remote customer operations team for over four years now. This allowed us to ensure we had processes and communication platforms in place when lockdown hit, and it has been absolutely vital as we’ve grown internationally, building successful Octopus Energy hubs in several countries around the globe.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

So far, we deliberately haven’t made a profit. Instead, we’ve focused on scaling the business, investing in new green technologies and making sure there is enough support available to our customers who are struggling. We are lucky to have investors that believe in our long-term goal and are absolutely committed to help us achieve this, so we don’t have to worry about short term profits to achieve our number one purpose, making green energy cheap energy around the world.

Waterloo Station

Octopus is working to digitalise the power grid through its proprietary Kraken technology

LUX: When did you realise the energy sector was ripe for a tech revolution?

GJ: I had built digital platforms for e-commerce and other sectors before to digitise and increase efficiency, and I quickly realised that applying the same technology to energy would greatly improve the way things are done in the sector.

LUX: What makes Octopus’ operating business model unique?

GJ: Our operating model is unique thanks to Kraken, our technology platform which we built from scratch. Where other suppliers rely on convoluted solutions for different functions, Kraken integrates them all into one giant robot, offering efficiency, better customer service and end-to-end management of the whole supply chain to allow us and our licensees to save costs, take better care of customers and drive the green energy revolution.

But we know we can’t drive change quickly enough if we’re on our own. So we’re licensing Kraken to other large energy companies across the globe who share our vision of a cleaner, better energy future, including E.ON, EDF and Origin Energy.

Windmill

Octopus has licensed its Kraken technology to support over 20 million customer accounts worldwide

LUX: How must existing infrastructure be adapted to accelerate this shift?

GJ: We need to digitise the power grid so that we can use it more efficiently, cutting bills and making the most of green electrons when they are abundant. The current grid was built to manage a few hundred fossil fuel power plants. We need to make it fit for a decentralised energy world in which millions of electric cars, rooftop solar panels and home batteries will be connected to it, importing and exporting energy from the grid.

LUX: How does Octopus overcome the unreliability of wind and solar sources?

GJ: The key to unlocking a cheap green energy future is to build a digital system that is interconnected and flexible. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow where we are – but they always do somewhere in the world.

Read more: Dimitri Zenghelis on Investing in the Green Transition

Working with other countries and layering different sources of green energy and ways of storing it (like batteries) will allow us to create a system in which we can make the most of solar and wind energy where they are abundant. For example, we invested in Xlinks, the company building the world’s largest subsea power cable. Once built, it will deliver 3.6 GW of green power from Morocco to the UK for an average of 20 hours a day – enough energy to power about 7 million homes. We need more large-scale renewables projects like this.

Protester

Renewable energy is the only way to increase our energy security and stop climate change, says Jackson

LUX: One of your tariffs provides carbon neutral gas. What do you say to those who argue carbon offsets are not a real substitute for climate action?

GJ: We have carbon offset our Super Green customers’ gas usage in a few different ways over the years: helping reforest and conserve vast areas of the Amazon, and working with our main offsetting partner, Renewable World, to bring innovative renewable energy technology to fuel-poor communities worldwide.

But while it has very worthwhile applications and can help a lot of people, carbon offsetting is only part of the puzzle in helping fight climate change. It cannot decarbonise the whole energy system and move us away from fossil fuels. For that we need more innovative technology to make energy greener and cheaper for everyone.

LUX: Is natural gas an adequate transition fuel?

GJ: In the short and mid-term, we still need natural gas as a backup energy source for renewables. But in the long term, we will have to wean ourselves off gas completely if we want to increase our energy security and stop climate change – and we can only do that if we go hell for leather for renewables now.

Man

Greg Jackson, Founder and CEO of Octopus Energy Group

LUX: How can policy speed up the mass uptake of renewable energy?

GJ: Historically, the creation, testing and licensing of a vaccine took around 15 years. With Covid, we managed to get the 15-year process of developing a vaccine down to one year. We need to do the same with wind energy. Due to planning approvals and grid connections, it currently takes on average 5-7 years to build and connect a wind farm. This could be done in one year. Do that now and we will literally start seeing bills come down next winter.

Read more: Inside Konstantin Sidorov’s London Technology Club

LUX: What role can renewable energy procurements play in corporations’ broader net zero goals?

GJ: Through our Renewables investment arm, we sign a number of agreements with large energy users to switch to green energy. Those making the choice to go green are taking massive steps forward for decarbonisation agendas across Europe – they are the trailblazers of their industries, and soon the rest will follow their lead.

Greg Jackson is founder and CEO of Octopus Energy Group

Find out more: octopusenergy.group

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colours bursting out from a white city from a birds eye view
colours bursting out from a white city from a birds eye view

Still for VR work Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City, Cai Guo-Qiang, courtesy, Cai Studio, Vive Arts

Celina Yeh is the Executive Director of Vive Arts, a platform trying democratise the art world through digital innovation. Here, Yeh speaks to Samantha Welsh about the endless opportunities that technology is bringing to the art world as well as extended creativity for the artists themselves.

LUX: Is your background in tech or art?
Celina Yeh: Before I became the Executive Director of Vive Arts, I was the Head of Global Partnerships, working directly with artists and museums on projects across the digital spectrum. My background has always been in art and design. I previously worked in cultural organisations and design consultancies in London, New York and Taipei. In these roles, I often worked on experience and exhibition design, which gave me substantial production experience and a strong understanding of the creative process and how things are made.

One of the strengths of the Vive Arts team is the diversity and depth of our experience. Our willingness and interest in engaging with collaborators from all disciplines allows us to innovate and develop new possibilities for artists and creators.

LUX: Why did the Vive Arts partnership programme and art market platform spin-out from tech giant HTC?
CY: Vive Arts was established in 2017 as HTC’s art and technology programme, aiming to harness the latest technologies to transform how art and culture can be experienced.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

We started by working with museums in a range of different ways, from developing content that told the stories of their collections and exhibitions, to supporting with hardware or the physical installation for digital works. In 2018 we started collaborating with a group of contemporary artists and really exploring the possibilities of VR as a medium for art.

Over the past five years, we have now partnered with over fifty international institutions, including the Louvre in Paris, the Museum of Natural History in New York and the Tate Modern and V&A in London and worked with visionary artists – such as Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Cai Guo-Qiang on their first VR works.

A blue painting of a woman holding her child on the ground

Slav Epic VR

At the end of last year, Vive Arts launched a new chapter, with a new brand identity, website and our art marketplace platform, reflecting our own evolution and the rapidly changing digital art space. As digital technologies have become an increasingly integral part of the art world and daily life, we wanted to continue to innovate new frameworks for artistic expression.

HTC actually developed the first blockchain smartphone in 2018 and had been exploring this field for some time. So when NFTs exploded, it seemed very natural for us to expand our remit, so that we could offer new services spanning VR, XR and metaverse technologies to the creative community.

LUX: Can you tell us about how digital mediums such as AR, VR, XR offer different experiences of immersive art and open up access to the metaverse?
CY: VR, XR and AR offer new ways to create and experience art – fundamentally they enable experiences that would not otherwise be possible.

To discuss the differences – In VR – instead of standing in front of an artwork, you are immersed inside it, in a 360-degree virtual environment. This offers a powerful first-person experience, as you look around and explore, interacting with others and the space itself. AR in contrast, brings the virtual into the physical world, showcasing artworks only visible through your phone or another device. This opens up opportunities to host interventions in public spaces, expand an exhibition with a digital layer or present pieces that could not be produced in any other form.

These digital tools and mediums are the building blocks for the metaverse, a 3-dimensional, spatial iteration of the internet and will become increasingly important as the boundaries between online and offline become increasingly blurred and these technologies become more seamless. At HTC, we are constantly improving our sensors, eye-tracking and face-tracking, so that if you want to have a realistic avatar in the metaverse you can show facial expressions and when you speak your lips will follow. These technologies will determine how we access and interact in the metaverse, allowing users to experience an artwork or attend a live event or exhibition, from anywhere in the world.

A woman with a VR headset on looking at the Mona Lisa

Still from Mona Lisa Beyond the Glass, Courtesy Emissive and HTC Vive Arts

LUX: We are familiar with digital forms of art experimentation, so what kind of institutions, artists and creatives are asking you to partner with them?
CY: We work with a range of artists, institutions, and creators and have had a particularly busy programme this year. We partnered with Serpentine on their major solo exhibition by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and worked with Dominique for the second time, producing Alienarium, a new VR art experience for the show. We supported critically acclaimed artist and filmmaker Wu Tsang on her mesmerising film and sound installation Of Whales for the Venice Biennale, which she has iterated into her first ever VR work for Art Basel.

We are also currently working with the Triennale di Milano and are preparing to launch a special new VR experience for the 23rd International Exhibition. This piece is quite different as it celebrates the Fondazione itself, shining a light on its most important exhibitions from 1933 to present day and its impact on the world of art and design.

Additionally, we are also developing several exciting NFT collaborations, that will launch on our marketplace, spanning sound art, astrology, photography and more.

We get a lot of exciting proposals, including those from the education sector and from independent artists and creators. We are therefore thinking about doing an open call in the near future.

A screen on the river underneath arches and the reflection in the water of a galaxy

Wu Tsang Of Whales. Photo by Matteo De Fina, supported by Vive Arts

LUX: To what extent would you say you are cultural custodians?
CY: An important part of our mission is to preserve art and culture and to make it accessible to wider audiences. In our partnerships with museums, we explore creative ways to add a new dimension to their collections and programming, extending their reach beyond their physical walls. For example, in our ongoing partnership with the Mucha Foundation in Prague, we collaborated with them on Slav Epic VR, a VR experience dedicated to Alphonse Mucha’s iconic series of paintings. While it is difficult for the monumental 20-canvas series to travel, this experience can be hosted in exhibitions around the world, offering audiences an opportunity to engage with the artist and his legacy.

LUX: What kind of creative freedom does immersive experimentation potentially offer an artist?
CY: As these technologies are constantly evolving, I believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of what can be achieved creatively in these new mediums, especially with the radical innovation and experimentation of artists.

Immersive mediums enable artists to bring their vision to life, unconstrained by what is possible in the physical world, and they offer their own powerful forms of storytelling. VR invites viewers inside an artist’s world, for a deeply personal experience, where you can embody new forms and perspectives and have visceral sensations, such as gravity or movement.

For example, Wu Tsang often explores different visual languages and narrative techniques in her practice. She was interested in experimenting with the world building potential of VR and game engine technologies and has used them to create different encounters throughout her series of Moby Dick adaptations. This ranged from building virtual environments, that were incorporated into her live-action silent film to creating a poetic rendering of the ocean, through the eyes of the whale for Of Whales. A mighty mass emerges, again offers a completely different artistic experience, as viewed through the VR headset, audiences are immersed under the surface of the ocean, as the whale completes its deep dive cycle.

fish making a whirlpool in the sea

VR still, A mighty mass emerges, Wu Tsang, 2022, courtesy of artist and Vive Arts copy

LUX: Does the use of digital technologies irrevocably change what art is about and the creative process?
CY: I think that the use of digital technologies doesn’t so much change what art is about but opens up new areas of engagement and enquiry. The creativity of artists often inspires us, as in our experience each artist approaches digital mediums in their own distinctive way, their existing practice, putting their own imprint on the discourse.

For example, the two VR artworks we are premiering at Art Basel, by Albert Oehlen and Wu Tsang were created using Unreal Engine and Unity, which are both game engine technologies, but the creative process and pieces are entirely different. While Wu has used the technology to enable viewers to imagine and inhabit a non-human perspective, Albert has created an amazing, hyperrealistic avatar of himself, using photogrammetric scanning, a motion capture suit and other techniques found more in films and video games.

Albert has been exploring the aesthetics of technology since the 1990s, using inkjet printers and computer aided drawing programmes in his paintings. In Basement Drawing you can get up close to him as an avatar and watch him create an ink drawing in real time. He plays with reality and fiction in this virtual scene, adding his own glitch, flashing green and red lights, pounding electronic music and a surreal arm, sticking out of a self-portrait in the room.

Another unique approach was when we worked with renowned Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang on his inaugural VR piece Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City. He wanted to ensure the ‘hand of artist’ could be seen, producing the key elements in the physical world, including producing a real, large-scale day-time fireworks display and a handcrafted alabaster model of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

A cartoon of a rabbit in a pink room with a blind fold and a hand coming out of the wall pointing at it

Still from Curious Alice, a VR experience created by the V&A and HTC Vive Arts. Featuring original artwork by Kristjana S Williams, 2020

LUX: From this, what will be the take aways from Vive Arts’ partnership with Art Basel this year?
CY: We are thrilled to be partnering with Art Basel in Basel for the first time this year, following our previous presentations at Art Basel in Hong Kong. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to our lounge and showcasing Wu Tsang and Albert Oehlen’s first VR works. We feel that these two new VR works really speak to our mission of transforming how art can be experienced and demonstrate the technological progress, innovation and creativity taking place in the digital art world. We hope that visitors will enjoy being transported into Albert’s studio or Wu’s ocean world and have a new and distinct experience of art at the fair.

LUX: Tell us more about transacting in Vive Arts marketplace?
CY: There can be a lot of ‘hype’ in the NFT space and when we were developing the Vive Arts marketplace we really wanted to keep the focus on quality and content of the artwork itself, as did the artists we work with. We have a holistic approach and as with our other digital art projects, we work with artists and institutions from the very beginning to think about the concept for their NFT series and what they would like to create. We see the platform as a virtual gallery space and metaverse solution for the creative community and due to HTC’s expertise and experience, it has a technologically robust infrastructure that can host all forms of digital art, including complex immersive pieces.

Read more: Alissa Everett: Covering Beauty

Our aim is for the platform to democratise the digital art market, offering access to creators and collectors, whether they are well versed in NFTs or exploring them for the first time. It is designed as a curated, easy-to-use, intuitive smart marketplace, which accepts both crypto and fiat currencies and we have in-house artist liaison, art advisory and technical teams that can offer support through the whole process.

The marketplace is part of HTC’s metaverse platform Viverse, so that users can seamlessly explore, experience and purchase the digital art works.

LUX: So, in the Viverse, buyers are effectively avatars in a transactional alternative universe?
CY: Viverse is a virtual universe that people can inhabit to learn, explore, create, shop and socialise together but it can be experienced in a number of ways. HTC has designed the platform to be accessible, so it can be entered through a phone or laptop as well as VR headset. Some experiences may be first person, while for others you might create an avatar as a way to socialise or explore the virtual space.

A screen on the river underneath arches and the reflection in the water of jellyfish

Wu Tsang Of Whales. Photo by Matteo De Fina, supported by Vive Arts

LUX: What energy-conscious, sustainable alternatives are there to blockchain provenance and what are you doing better than competitors?
CY: We are aware that NFTs have been criticised for their impact on the environment and on our platform, in addition to Ethereum, we provide a more energy-conscious alternative Proof of Stake (PoS) and Proof of Stake Authority (PoSA) Blockchains. We are constantly looking for ways to be more energy conscious and to offset our carbon footprint and are exploring and supporting technological advancements that will create a sustainable future for digital art. We have joined the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA), an initiative inspired by the Paris Climate Agreement, committed to decarbonising the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, though accelerating the development of digital #ProofOfGreen solutions and establishing new industry practices.

LUX: What are the first steps for anyone wanting to engage with Vive Arts?
CY: We would love for visitors to Art Basel in Basel to come and experience our latest art commissions and collaborations at the Vive Arts Lounge or to visit our other projects that are currently on show, at the Serpentine in London and at the Venice Biennale.

We would also like to invite audiences from around the world to explore our projects, through the Vive Arts website and marketplace and through Viveport and other VR platforms, where you can experience several of our past projects such as Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, which was developed in collaboration with the Louvre for their blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in 2019 or Curious Alice, which we developed for the V&A’s Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser last year.

Find out more: www.vivearts.com

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two men standing at the end of a table giving a talk
two men standing at the end of a table giving a talk

London Technology Club lunch with Alexandre Mars at The Arts Club

Konstantin Sidorov founded the London Technology Club to create a space for investors and tech professionals to network and exchange ideas within the industry. Here he speaks to Samantha Welsh about the benefits of bringing like-minded individuals together to establish trusted relationships.
grey suit and pink shirt sitting in front of a sign that says 'London Technology Club'

Konstantin Sidorov

LUX: What is your opinion on the valuation of tech companies right now?
KS: It is useless to discuss the overall tech market valuation in general – many people have different opinions. Some companies look too expensive, some fairly reasonable. It is worth looking at the valuation of a particular company. And our task as a club is to provide our expertise and opinion to our members regarding the company valuation and potential value growth.

We have always reinforced the need to exercise discipline as a tech investor. At LTC, we examine both the prospects and tech moat of a company – but also the deal terms of an investment opportunity. We source our opportunities from world-class VCs that are often lead investors in a round, and therefore there is conviction from them in terms of the company and its technology.

LUX: Why did you create the London Technology Club?
Konstantin Sidorov: Venture capital is an access class not an asset class, and, when I first moved to London, I found that getting access to the best tech investment deals was all about trusted relationships. I saw that London was the capital of the world for clubs – for wine, automobiles and art – but there was no club to bring together like-minded people passionate about tech investing. So, I turned an initial idea into a sophisticated community of tech investors to have access to the best tech deals. By working with our VC partners, we are able to provide curated, high-quality level of deal flow for our members.

men standing in suits on a terrace

London Technology Club event in Dubai

LUX: Can you tell us about your preferred fund structure and your approach to diversification?
KS: Our trademark fund is the LTC Pledge Fund: a segregated portfolio fund that raises once a year. We diversify through a mix of directs (80%) and funds (20%), and in terms of verticals – from AI to mobility, and impact to fintech. We are also diversified in terms of geography; while a slight majority of our investments go to US, we are also spread across Europe, Asia and MENA. Given the sort of ticket size required for the best growth stage opportunities, by creating our fund we provide access that the limited partnerss would be less able to access on their own.

LUX: You started Pledge Fund I in 2020 and Pledge Fund II in 2021. What have your case studies shown to be your sweet spot – and how are you achieving those internal rates of return (IRR)?
KS: Since the start of Pledge Fund I we have had five exits and they were built off the back of my personal investment exits – such as Airbnb and Spotify. We were able to return 30% of capital of Pledge Fund I back to investors within 20 months with IRR above 86%.

Our sweet spot is companies with a valuation of $100m – $1bn, with proven revenues and growth. Our five exits to date reinforce our strategic approach where we balance risk and reward.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: How have you seen ESG emerge during your career, and how do you see it developing from here?
KS: We are incredibly proud of our Future Technology Series reports; we’ve published over 13 in three years. They explore how technology will impact areas that our members are passionate about – from space to art, F1 to longevity, and finance to property.

ESG was one of our recent reports. For me, what has changed is people’s realisation that companies can’t just be focused on shareholder returns. We are part of an interconnected system and have a duty to both people and the planet.

People sitting around a long table with breakfast food on it

London Technology Club breakfast with UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan at the Royal Automobile Club

While everyone should be looking at ESG as business hygiene for their own companies, it is also important to consider how ESG is integrated into investments. There is some way to go, especially within venture capital. Many companies are early on in their ESG journey which we see as a good opportunity to ensure they instill ESG into their business processes. We firmly believe there is a strong correlation between companies that have strong ESG fundamentals in place and investment success.

LUX: Where do you see the role for tech in ‘slow’ industries where rarity, heritage and craftsmanship are the inherent values?
KS: We have written reports about the impact of tech on fine wine, art and fashion. From our research, we have seen a move towards the ‘creator economy’ where a craftsman or woman creates and ‘mints’ their product (i.e creates a digital asset as part of the process).

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

NFTs are an example of that currently. Fine wine makers could, for example, by creating digital tokens to accompany their bottles, ensure that they can track the onward sales, opening, value and storage.

This tracking ability means that the creator benefits from smart contracts that dictate that every time that bottle is sold on, the creator receives a percentage commission. It means that the creator, rightly so, reaps more reward from their creation. Tech is at the centre of progress for luxury and collectibles and I would recommend our reports to readers.

a wine bottle in a wooden case

London Technology Club Super Tuscan Wine Tasting

LUX: How are you personally leading the deployment of tech to explore solutions to problems in the real world?
KS: For tech to be effective and generate returns it must solve real world problems. We are very interested in climate-first technology and have invested in numerous foodtech companies that are looking to solve challenges on food security, waste, cultivated meats and reduce environmental impacts. We have invested in companies that seek to reduce the cost of transport and improve mobility. We are big believers in tech as a force for good and so hope that our club creates the right environment for investors to be able to deploy their capital for returns that also have a positive impact on societies. As LTC’s General Partner I lead from the front to create such environments.

LUX: At LUX, we share your love of Ornellaia and Sassicaia .. please tell us about how this passion came about?
KS: We are a club known for our regular live events in Mayfair, so when lockdown came we moved quickly to gather the community online. Being based above 67 Pall Mall, the amazing wine club in London, we were able to arrange distribution for wine to be sent out to members. We would do group Zoom calls where we tasted Super Tuscans while discussing tech investments. Both Simon, our COO, and I have a love for Italian wine so it was an easy one to agree internally to do, and it reiterates our mission as a club to provide the best technology investment opportunities, discussion and experiences.

Find out more: londontechnologyclub.com

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James Chen standing in front of plants
James Chen standing in front of plants

James Chen, Chairman, Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation and ‘Vision for a Nation’

‘Moonshot Philanthropist’ James Chen speaks to LUX about the importance of risking capital for a mission that matters

James Chen is on a mission to tackle a major problem that most of humankind doesn’t even realise exists. There are more than two billion people worldwide who suffer from debilitatingly poor vision, with no recourse to help. And yet all it would take to transform their lives is a simple pair of prescription glasses. Poor vision is a life sentence that could easily be lifted, with just a little help. In what he refers to as ‘moonshot philanthropy’, Chen – softly spoken, thoughtful and himself a wearer of prescription glasses – set out to change the world.

During his eighteen-year philanthropic journey, Chen has pioneered developments in optical technology through his company Adlens and overseen its implementation in the developing world through his NGO, Vision For A Nation. In July this year, largely due to pressure from his campaign Clearly, the UN adopted a Vision for Everyone resolution, which was unanimously agreed upon by all 193 member states. By recognising vision as a basic human right, the resolution will kickstart a global effort to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Here, Chen speaks to LUX about his mission.

LUX: You were influenced by your father to become involved in philanthropy. Tell us about that.
James Chen: When my father retired from business, he devoted himself to philanthropy in his hometown. I think a lot of people at that time were very generous, [but] they [only] wrote cheques. The difference with my dad was that he actually went there himself, a few times a year: he made that seven-hour trip [to his hometown], got to know the people and their needs. He set up schools, hospitals, town halls, and everything in between. Later, when he got old and stepped back from it, [I used it as] impetus for setting up the family foundation. Personally it was very gratifying to work with the family, and to build on his legacy, in China. But I wanted do dig into something meaningful globally. I had no idea what it would be.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: So how did the problem of vision come onto your radar?
Jame Chen: I came across this Oxford professor [Dr. Rob Stevens] who invented adjustable-powered lenses, and it immediately clicked with me. I grew up in Nigeria, where our family business still is, and for most of my career I’ve also been in developing Asia. The thing that struck me was that very few people wore glasses there – either because they don’t need them, or they don’t have access to them. When I met this professor, I could see how I could help solve the problem.

people trying glasses in Rwanda

Thanks to Chen’s campaign Clearly, the UN is aiming to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Image by Sarah Day

LUX: Adlens is the vehicle you created to tackle this. What was that journey like?
James Chen: I formed Adlens with [Dr. Stevens]. We wanted to develop the technology and apply it commercially in the developed world, and socially in the developing world. My team spent two years knocking on the door of the World Bank, which ultimately rejected us. The industry and professionals said that it couldn’t be solved, but their model of delivery of glasses is to high resource environments: that model falls over in the developing world. That’s why we set up Vision For A Nation, an NGO, to test our model in a low-resource environment. We picked Rwanda, and developed a protocol to train nurses in three days to do a good enough eye test, and to dispense glasses. In five years, we screened 2.5 million of the 12 million population in Rwanda and dispensed 300,000 pairs of glasses. We left at the end of 2017, [having] done the thing that the policymakers said couldn’t be done.

LUX:  How did you scale that model?
James Chen: Instead of replicating the program one country at a time, I knew that this was a global problem: we had to think differently. That’s where I applied my risk capital to start the Clearly Campaign. Our target was to get policymakers to understand what we called ‘the problem that the world forgot’. We said, ‘if you have uncorrected poor vision, how are you going to achieve your sustainable development goals?’. For someone who has poor vision, it’s probably going to affect their educational outcome, their productivity; even gender equality is affected by poor vision. That’s the crux of our campaign.

LUX:  This concept of philanthropy and vision, had anyone done that before you?
James Chen: No one [has] thought of it in terms of a bigger scale. That’s why I had a brick wall when I first started looking into this. People do these programs [where they] go to a village and take glasses, but that doesn’t, to me, solve the problem. Poor vision is always put into the health silo: in the priorities of what governments have to tackle in developing countries, there’s a whole list of things that are perceived as higher priority than blurry vision. But there are 2.2 billion people in the world who have poor vision, of which, for at least 1 billion people, all they need is a pair of glasses to correct it.

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

LUX: Why do you think it took a philanthropist with no prior knowledge of the sector, instead of scientists and governments, to solve the issue?
James Chen: A key problem in the world of aid is there is very little risk capital available. As a philanthropist, I am in the privileged position of being able to take risk with my capital. If it’s successful, it’s hugely impactful. If it fails, I can absorb that loss. It’s now my prime mission [to incentivise] the high net-worth community to do the same. I coined this phrase ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’, and I came up with a tagline: ‘privatise failure, socialise success’.

James Chen giving a speech

Chen delivering a speech at a Sightgeist event in London

LUX: What would you say to people to encourage them to do ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’?
James Chen: Recognise the superpower that we have as ultra-high net worth individuals: we can deploy our own capital, and we can take as much risk as we want. Most of the high net-worth community do not deploy that superpower.

LUX: Do you think there is enough dialogue between philanthropists?
James Chen: No. There’s still a lot of scope [for that]. There’s all this noise around impact, investing, and social enterprise, and lots of donors have become confused. Most people who call themselves philanthropists are really doing charity or patronage. With the ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’ idea I want to plant that seed so that there is a model for people to use. I think I’m in a unique position to reframe this, to help people to grasp it. That’s the good thing about philanthropy: it’s different from business. In business you’ve got a great idea and then you try to maximise the value. In philanthropy, if you think you have a great idea, share it, and let people run with it. That’s the best way to scale it.

LUX: What’s next?
James Chen: I’m very focused on proving the link between vision correction and its impact on things like productivity and education outcome. We need to provide the evidence base so that governments will invest. It’s not just helping me by doing all this; I’m bringing more awareness, and capital, and support to the whole sector.

Find out more: jameschen.vision

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urban park

Manfredi Catella, CEO of COIMA and president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation

Manfredi Catella is the CEO of COIMA, the real estate company behind Porta Nuova in Milan, one of the most important real estate developments in Europe. He is also president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation which aims to promote sustainable and responsible urban development by improving and animating public spaces. Here, Catella discusses transforming urban environments, mixing business with philanthropy and how technology advances sustainability efforts

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has had an interest in promoting sustainability long before sustainability became a buzzword, how did this come about?
Manfredi Catella: The Riccardo Catella Foundation was established in 2005 in honour of my father, the entrepreneur Riccardo Catella. At the time, not many entities were focused on promoting ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), or impact indicators in investments, and we felt it could be our contribution to set up a non-profit organisation committed to promoting sustainable territorial development. We also have the ambition to educate communities about the effects of climate change and what actions need to be taken to fight and prevent this phenomenon. We do this through a citizen engagement program of civic-cultural projects within the realm of green and public spaces in the city of Milan. We believe it is important to listen to citizens in order to understand their vision for the urban space surrounding their homes and integrate programs and services that can improve their quality of daily life.

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LUX: What is the most exciting philanthropic project you are currently working on and why?
Manfredi Catella: At the moment, the philanthropic project where we are dedicating a lot of our energy to is The Riccardo Catella Foundation’s management of Milan’s third largest park, BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano), which we undertook together with COIMA on behalf of the Municipality of Milan. It is the first public private partnership in Italy that allows a private foundation to manage such a vast public and green space in the city centre. The 10 hectares of the botanical garden, which was developed by COIMA as part of its Porta Nuova development, is a ground-breaking project that aims to involve companies, non-profit sector, and citizens (BAMFriends) in the management of a public area. In addition, we animate the park through a cultural program based on four pillars: open-air culture, education, wellness and nature.

urban park

BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano) is Milan’s third largest park, managed by The Riccardo Catella Foundation

Ensuring the safety of the local community in the outside spaces has been particularly important since the start of the pandemic. We have been increasing services to enable greater green mobility over the past year. The changes are visible to park visitors. In outdoor areas, new bike racks have been set up, with information on anti Covid-19 measures, sanitising gel dispensers and continuous sanitisation services for floors, children’s playgrounds and communal areas. Safety is the starting point for a series of inclusive initiatives such as Wi-Fi enhancement and the launch of the Porta Nuova Milano app, which is designed to book events and services in the area.

LUX: Please explain your workings in neighbourhood community management?
Manfredi Catella: COIMA believes that the only way for the built environment to help fight climate change and to promote diversity is to integrate them into the basic economic, social and environmental model of every real estate development and by setting measurable objectives and transparently reporting on those objectives. We believe in placing nature and humans at the centre of all real estate development and urban regeneration schemes. In Porta Nuova, we have created a thriving urban environment that enables constant interaction between nature and architecture. There are walkways, green spaces, and piazzas with spaces created for exercise, relaxation, and socialising, all of which welcomes 10 million people every year. It includes Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano (BAM), an innovative urban park and botanical garden, which plays host to a diverse programme of cultural events and activities for residents, workers, and visitors alike.

Read more: Michelin-starred high altitude dining in Andermatt

LUX: Why do you think it is important to mix business with philanthropy?
Manfredi Catella: In general, the corporate approach to philanthropy has really evolved, and over the last ten years in particular, there has been a shift towards a model of collaboration and sustainable, long-term initiatives. It is important to mix business with philanthropy because corporations have a highly influential role on the social and natural world in which we live. It is also important as sustainable business models have a strong track record of delivering superior returns. Corporate philanthropy is no longer about simply giving money and walking away. By using the skills, tools, and approach of our business, we can continuously monitor the impact of our work and ensure it is having the best possible outcome for those who need it.

The pandemic has highlighted the fragile nature of our world and we believe that business has a duty to create positive change and a sustainable future as we recovery economically from Covid. This led us to establish the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund in 2020; an investment fund focused on sustainable urban regeneration. We aim to use this fund to redesign new physical and social models for housing, tourism and urban regeneration of neighbourhoods and believe that sustainable real estate can play a central role in a post Covid recovery. As responsible managers of institutional capitol from all over the world, we believe can help shape the future.

skyscraper

Bosco Verticale was designed by Boeri Studio, and built and managed by COIMA as part of the  Porta Nuova development

LUX: Apart from sustainability projects, are there any other philanthropic causes you have a particular interest in?
Manfredi Catella: Since 2018, we have been promoting an important social inclusion project through the Riccardo Catella Foundation, together with the Dynamo Camp association, called the Porta Nuova Smart Camp. It is an inclusive and innovative project for children both with and without serious pathologies and disabilities. Nature, sustainable architecture, and technological innovation are topics at the centre of the camp’s activities, along with incorporating the values of the Foundation and the community of COIMA’s Porta Nuova development.

LUX: How has working closely with local communities over the last 10 years changed your outlook on real estate development?
Manfredi Catella: We are recognised as a sustainable real estate company because it has long been our goal to create projects with a strong positive social and environmental impact on its community. The past year has reaffirmed that we all need to continue conducting our business and investing in a responsible way. The past ten years has taught us that it is essential to always look at the bigger picture. For us, this means that we look at a neighbourhood scale instead of a single building. By doing this, we can effectively redevelop urban spaces and provide a selection of amenities to better serve a variety of city users. For example, the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund has just acquired the railway yard of Porta Romana in Milan, together with Covivio and Prada, and we are very excited about exploring this neighbourhood scale development.

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

Through our passion and experience, we have also developed our own sustainable vision called COIMA Roots which focuses on driving sustainable, economic, and social performance across our developments. COIMA Roots has been created in line with our belief that humans and nature should sit at the heart of all urban regeneration and development. To accomplish this, our set of values, or roots, are nature, beauty, affordability, human, happiness, ethics, service, and knowledge.

LUX: What were your principal goals when creating the Riccardo Catella Foundation?
Manfredi Catella: When we started the Riccardo Catella Foundation, our goal was to actively support the local economy and to promote the culture of sustainability and innovation in territorial development. We also wanted to make sure we were improving the quality of urban life and public green spaces through the foundation’s cultural projects. I feel that the challenge to create a place of nature, inclusion and growth in the heart of the city at the BAM park will be one of our challenges over the coming years. We are working to create a park that engages the community through a rich cultural programme inspired by sustainability but at the same time would like to create a sustainable business model that could be replicable for other parks in other cities around the world.

street art

A street art project at BAM in Milan

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has been around for almost 15 years. What has been the most significant change in sustainability during this time?
Manfredi Catella: Two main drivers: awareness and technology. When we began the foundation, sustainability and climate change was not a common topic as it is today. In recent years, we have witnessed a major shift and an increased awareness and now all players, from the public administrations to corporate to citizens, are recognising the need for urgent concrete action. Also, today, we have technological solutions that before were not available and it is fundamental to stay at the forefront of these technologies to continue to push the bar in integrating these solutions in development.

LUX: Which regeneration projects by others have particularly impressed or even inspired your philanthropic efforts?
Manfredi Catella: When we began working on the proposal for the management of BAM, we visited many parks around the world, including The High Line in New York and Millennium Park in Chicago. Then we worked on creating our own interpretation that would integrate well into the city of Milan.

LUX: Is there a major difference in approach between European, Asian and American organisations involved in philanthropic urban regeneration programmes?
Manfredi Catella: Across Europe, philanthropic engagement is an integral part of corporate social responsibility and reinforces related strategies. More and more companies of all sizes are dedicating financial resources, products, knowledge, and time to the common good. The world of philanthropy is renewing itself and dated foundations are starting to make way for a new approach to charity that incorporates social purpose and sustainability through impact investing. We believe that impact investing will become mainstream and that the positive environmental and social contribution will be integrated into traditional investments. We are dedicated and are working actively in that direction.

Find out more: coima.com

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Reading time: 8 min
interior space
interior space by Culture A

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

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

monochrome portrait

Anne T. Rogers

1. What inspired you to create Culture A?

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

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

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

abstract artwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

artist scarf

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: culture-a.com

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Reading time: 3 min
portrait artwork

Jimi Hendrix, London, 1967, Gered Mankowitz

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

Sophie Neuendorf

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

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

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

abstract art

Untitled, 1964, Sam Francis

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

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

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

artwork of forest

Study for Canadian Forest, Robert Longo

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

Sophie’s 5 top tips for buying art online:

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

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

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

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

5. Enjoy yourself. Art collecting is excellent fun!

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

 

 

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Reading time: 4 min
luxury pen
luxury fountain pen

Montegrappa’s online configurator allows full customisation of the brand’s iconic fountain pens

Responding to the ever increasing demand for custom-designed products, Italian luxury brand Montegrappa has recently launched an online configurator which allows customers to fully personalise their hand-crafted fountain pens. Here, the brand’s CEO Giuseppe Aquila discusses the rise of a collector culture, adapting to a new generation of luxury customers and how personalisation supports the artisanal industry
Man wearing blue suit on the stairs

Giuseppe Aquila

‘As a company that has remained dedicated to handmade production, a service like the configurator is something we had always aspired to offer, but the technology and market climate simply didn’t exist until relatively recently to make such a step possible.

After spending years reorganising and refreshing our supply chain, eventually we were encouraged by the efforts of a few luxury brands to sell and offer individualised services online. From the outset, though, we knew that our offer needed to be much more than simple monogramming.’

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‘On the one hand, the generational shift in luxury is causing great upheaval. These emerging luxury customers have been nurtured on digital goods and platforms like Nike ID, so we must respond. On the other hand, people in general are much more interested in cultivating a personal style than adhering to fashion. To be different is the fashion.

Then there is the fact that acquiring truly scarce objects has become much more competitive in recent years – in almost all categories. Bespoke and custom production are avenues for collectors to expand their wish lists and secure ‘grail’ items on different terms. Collector culture is growing and diversifying – and will continue to do so.’

woman with a fountain pen

‘[Personalisation] is very welcome trend that allows artisanal industry to return to its roots. Of course, now our customer could be anywhere in the world; but in 2020, technology makes it possible to offer them a similar service to what a walk-up private client might have received in 1920. Unlike a century ago, though, production needs to be swift. This means that the modern atelier needs to be well stocked and perfectly organised.

Read more: Artist Yayoi Kusama’s designs for Veuve Clicquot celebrate joy and innovation

Personalised products also help craft businesses show their full repertoire. Many of the options found on the configurator are the result of experimentation and artisanal curiosity. Though beautiful and worthy, most would have considerably less opportunity to flourish if we were confined to offering our products within traditional distribution structures.’

fountain pen

‘The configurator is the only platform of its kind in the writing world, so it has been a been a real drawcard for our site and for Montegrappa in general. More importantly though, it has been tremendously helpful with attracting new customers: these are people whose desire to own a writing instrument is distinct from seasoned aficionados and collectors, and are interested in other paths of discovery.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect has been the acceptance from established Montegrappisti. The configurator has been like a release valve for all their ideas – all the pens they have secretly wished to own. It has helped us make many good friends within the community, and to learn from them.’

Design your own Montegrappa pen: montegrappa.com

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Reading time: 2 min
man listening to music with headphones
man listening to music with headphones

Warwick Acoustics’ flagship headphone system, the APERIO, promises the ultimate listening experience. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics

British company Warwick Acoustics has developed a reputation for innovating and producing innovative audio technology. Their flagship headphone system, the APERIO, takes both sound quality and product design to the next level with a 24 karat gold hand-finished limited edition. Here, LUX discovers how the ultimate listening experience is achieved

Numerous studies have shown that listening to music can positively impact your mood, well-being, sleep quality and cognitive ability, reduce stress, and even ease physical pain, but is there such thing as a perfect listening experience?

‘Sound is definitely a subjective experience and what is considered ‘perfect’ for one person may not be for another,’ says Martin Roberts Director of the Headphone Business Unit at UK-based audio technology company Warwick Acoustics Ltd., whose products are designed to achieve an exceptionally high level of sound clarity. Their recently unveiled flagship headphone system, the APERIO (named after the Latin word meaning to uncover or reveal), follows the company’s Sonoma Model One (M1) electrostatic headphone system, and is the result of three years of extensive sound exploration and technical development carried out in their Warwickshire workshops.

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‘Simply put: the APERIO is designed to reproduce audio content as pristinely and accurately as possible – revealing the details and complexities in the original recording without colouration or alteration,’ explains Roberts. A review in Hi-Fi News claims that the system possesses the ability ‘to deliver rare insights into your music.’ Whilst this level of sound quality is naturally more geared towards professionals in the music industry, the company hopes the product will also appeal to music-loving high-net-worth individuals as a high-functioning collectible item.

design workshop

Each APERIO is assembled by hand in the company’s Warwickshire workshops. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics

In terms of design, the company believes in American architect Louis Henry Sullivan’s ethos that ‘form follows function’, and aspire to create products that have a timeless appeal.

Read more: Why it’s important for banks to incentivise sustainability

The standard version of the APERIO, for example, is understated in sleek black with soft sheepskin leather and stylish detailing such as the curved metal patterning of the headphone grilles, which visually evokes undulating sound waves.

headphones

The APERIO standard version. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics.

The limited-edition Gold APERIO is more flashy, crafted from 24 karat gold (including the headphone grilles, hardware and Amplifier front panel) in England’s historic jewellery quarter in Birmingham. Limited to 100 units globally, the system is now available to buy in the UK exclusively from Harrods in Knightsbridge, London.

It’s not just the design that has been upgraded, however, the Gold system also utilises the highest grade Balanced-Drive HPEL Transducer (the component that determines the quality of sound reproduction) innovated by Warwick Acoustics to guarantee outstanding performance. That level of quality doesn’t come cheaply though; the Gold model retails at a cool £30,000/US$35,000 whilst the standard version is priced at £20,000/US$24,000.

gold headphones

The Gold Aperio is limited to 100 units, available in the UK exclusively at Harrods, London. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics.

But how exactly is audio performance or sound quality measured? Each APERIO undergoes rigorous testing, including at least three human listening tests, before the product is released from the company’s Warwickshire facility. ‘The APERIO is about listening to music as if you were there,’ says Roberts. ‘I remember when I visited a very famous recording studio in Los Angeles and a mastering engineer listened to a remastered recording by the great Frank Sinatra… He listened intently to the same track several times then just sat back and said, “Wow.”  When I asked him how his experience was he said, “Amazing, I have literally listened to that Sinatra track a thousand times and this is the first time I have ever heard him smacking his lips in the pauses between verses of the song…Simply astonishing detail”.’

Read more: Artist Yayoi Kusama’s designs for Veuve Clicquot

sound testing

Warwick Acoustics’ anechoic chamber where the headphones are tested. Image courtesy of Warwick Acoustics.

Attention to detail is at the heart of Warwick Acoustics’ engineering philosophy. The whole system is designed to work harmoniously together, rather than piecing together disparate components and technologies. In many ways, it’s a similar process to the development of a supercar or ultra-high-performance watch, and ultimately, that’s what you’re paying for: the experience. Listening to music is, after all, a process of immersion, of gradually getting closer to the sound, of being slowly transported into another place, self, or way of being.

For more information visit: warwickacoustics.com/headphones, or contact [email protected]

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Reading time: 4 min
Chinese business woman
Chinese business woman

Dr. Li Li is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of MEBO Group

Li Li is a woman on a mission. Taking over her husband’s Beijing-based medical company MEBO after his unexpected early passing a few years ago, she has built it into one of the most significant and serious players in the rapidly developing field of regenerative medicine in China, the US, and beyond. While her business, which has dual headquarters in China and the US, has built partnerships with the likes of Harvard University, she is also on a personal crusade to increase cultural understanding and links between East and West, as LUX discovers

LUX: You have won many awards as a female entrepreneur. What are the challenges that you faced?
Li Li: The lack of access to market information is a challenge for many women entrepreneurs. Secondly, the speed of social development is constantly accelerating. So women entrepreneurs constantly need to learn and absorb new professional knowledge to cope with the changing external environment.

The next generation of women entrepreneurs in China need to become more open-minded, more pattern-oriented and more world-oriented. I also welcome women entrepreneurs from all over the world to join us in building a platform of win-win cooperation.

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Also important is to set up an industry role that people can use as a reference. MEBO has been committed to public welfare, including international public welfare, for more than 30 years. I hope the next generation of female entrepreneurs can further enhance their sense of social responsibility and make more contributions to society, while promoting the development of enterprises through this way.

Women are the symbol of warmth and love. There is a good conjunction between public welfare, responsibility and femininity. Female entrepreneurs should reflect this in their own power and method of working.

woman at horse racing

Li on the occasion of her receiving the Barony of Yair at Royal Ascot in 2019

LUX: You have a focus, perhaps unusual in China, on developing international relationships with institutions all over the world. Why?
Li Li: Good international relations will bring new vitality to enterprises. Currently, MEBO has established cooperation with more than 70 countries and regions. The world is becoming more and more integrated, the establishment of friendly international relations is important. It is important also for business to further enhance the connection among the people of the world. We can enhance the trust among people of all religions and beliefs, and this will improve the quality of life.

In MEBO Group we have been working on the worldwide development of regenerative medical technology in burns, wounds and ulcers. My husband, Professor Rongxiang Xu, founded this technology. Now, I am leading MEBO to introduce it around the world. This technology will bring life hope to more people from all over the world.

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

LUX: How did you develop MEBO Group and what challenges did you face in this process? Why did you switch from medical technology to life sciences?
Li Li: We experienced numerous difficulties and risks while growing MEBO, and our success could not have been achieved without the efforts of the MEBO team and the help of friends throughout the world for more than 30 years. It is inseparable from the worldwide trend of life science development. During the process of development, we worked hard to explore the wet treatment for burns and developed it into a systematic and complete science of human body regeneration and recovery. We encountered a lot of challenges such as the change of the national system, the upgrading of the market structure, the clinical transformation of science and technology, diversified demands for products and in-depth research and development.

Life science is a young discipline, it promotes the improvement of life quality and progress more comprehensively and sustainably. The development of this discipline cannot be separated from more
in-depth scientific research, and R&D is the engine of the new field. Professor Rongxiang Xu proposed the concept of insitu regeneration that has opened a new world in regenerative life science. In this new field, we have accelerated the pace of diversified development and research. We are cooperating with Harvard Medical School, the University of Chicago, the University of Southern California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Caltech (among others in the US), as well as Nankai University, Shandong University and Binzhou Medical College in China to carry out regenerative life-science research, accelerating the implementation and transformation of innovation and products.

man and woman

Dr Li Li with former US president Bill Clinton

LUX: How important do you think innovation is in business?
Li Li: Innovation is the soul of enterprise’s survival and development. Also, it is an important source of business improvement. Innovation in the commercial area could not only bring new products to people, but also change ideas and culture. Innovation plays an important role in improving product quality and also in implementing a strategy of product diversification.

At the same time, only through innovation can an enterprise form its unique brand advantage, improve its organisational form and management efficiency, continuously adapt to the requirements of economic development, and further promote the prosperity of business.

MEBO has changed from a single product structure to a various product structure, including medicine, cosmetics, medical equipment, health products and food, while moving into international markets. These all represent the importance of innovation.

Read more: How Hublot’s collaborations are changing the face of luxury

LUX: Do you think Chinese companies get enough recognition in the world?
Li Li: Since China’s modern industrialisation started relatively late, it may not have stood at the same starting line as developed countries.

However, since entering modern times, China’s development has been phenomenal and has opened the door to the world. Chinese companies are constantly going out into the world and becoming bigger and stronger. MEBO itself now covers more than 70 countries, regions and markets. We have more than 70 domestic and international patents.

LUX: What is your long-term relationship with California and the United States?
Li Li: I started to promote the regeneration business of our group in California in the early 1990s. California is now my second home and an integral part of my life and business. We have dual headquarters in China and the United States, so the US is very important to me in terms of business development and social relations.

US presidents

From far left: Dr Li Li with Kevin Xu, Laura Bush and George W Bush

LUX: Where else is important to you?
Li Li: Britain and MEBO have strong roots. As early as October 1999, my late husband’s special report into wounds sparked great attention from a renowned British expert in wound repair, Professor Mark Ferguson of Manchester University. In 2000, Professor Mamta Shah, the British consultant children’s burn and plastic surgeon, at the University Hospital of South Manchester, and honorary lecturer of the school of biological sciences at Manchester University, came to China for a five-day investigation into the basic research on and clinical application of wet burn treatment technology.

British scholars and medical experts have had increasingly frequent contact with MEBO. Academic exchanges and cooperation are also gradually increased. Last year, we had an in-depth communication with the University of Oxford and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. In June 2019, my colleague Kevin Xu and I attended the third Rhodes Ventures Forum at Rhodes House, Oxford University. We discussed Oxford as a possible first venue for the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference outside the US.

LUX: You also have interests in the entertainment and film industries…
Li Li: I have had a strong interest in art since I was a child. Now the development of the cultural industries is flourishing, so I also pay close attention to the development of the entertainment and film industries in particular. I have good friends who work there and I continuously support the development of film, culture and art. I also follow trends in the cultural industries, trying to inject new blood!

LUX: Tell us about the Boao Forum for Asia, and your work in NGOs and charity.
Li Li: The Boao Forum for Asia aims to build consensus, promote cooperation and spread the voice of Asia. From March 26 to 29 of 2019, I attended the 18th Boao annual conference for Asia in Boao, Hainan Province, at which Chinese premier Keqiang Li delivered the keynote speech. The forum focuses on the open world economy, multilateral and regional cooperation, global governance, the progress of science and technology, and politics, diplomacy and security in the frontier of hotspots in the fields of education, culture and people’s livelihood issues.

All of these are important to an entrepreneur. I have always thought of myself as a mission-driven entrepreneur who actively engages in public welfare. We have launched foundations in the US and China that support technological development, disaster relief and public life rescue, academic promotion and research on regenerative medical technology, and professional training for doctors at the grass-roots level in the three fields of funding, academic research and training.

We are also involved in public welfare action, such as the United Nations Every Woman Every Child Partnership Network Life Regeneration Action Programme, to help people in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

LUX: Do you have hobbies? What do you do to relax?
Li Li: My hobbies are reading, spotting new trends, discovering talent, getting to know diverse cultures, and so on. I relax by watching movies, listening to music and exercising. I want to experience the power of nature and humanity, to feel life, and in order to improve myself to improve the quality of all human life.

Find out more: mebo.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Stainglass windows lining a corridor
Portrait of a man against a white background

French designer Philippe Starck. Image by JB Mondino.

Legendary French designer Philippe Starck gives Mark C. O’Flaherty his radical vision of the future: a time when designers won’t be needed – and maybe even chairs

“I’m not interested in aesthetics anymore,” says Philippe Starck, sipping on a glass of mineral water in the Royal Academy in London. “I am interested only in our evolution, and how the intelligent craft of human production is going to be rerun by dematerialisation. We are working on making things disappear.” As Starck speaks, I notice the periodic flashing of a red LED from beneath the skin on a fingertip of his left hand. It’s extraordinary. I ask him what it does – is it connected somehow to his laptop, perhaps? “Ah, it’s magic!” he says, cryptically, before steering the conversation to his ongoing project with the Roederer champagne house: “I never wanted to just design a bottle, I wanted to share in the making of what was inside. And it was about creating something that had less in it, nothing added, no sugar.”

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We are at the Royal Academy for the launch of the new Roederer-Starck 2012 rosé champagne, where he is judging a competition between 13 artists at the Academy’s Schools to interpret the taste of the champagne through their art. His choice of winner – a white-on-white embossed spiral on paper called Cycles, by Sofía Clausse – is apposite for his ongoing philosophy of design: “It was the most accessible piece,” he says, “It was simple. It captured the spirit of champagne, which to me isn’t a wine, or a reality, but an idea.”

Contemporary plastic chair against white background

Starck’s AI Chair for Kartell

When the world first caught sight of Philippe Starck’s work in the 1980s, the Parisian-born designer had been creating products for a new way of living. He was changing the vocabulary of interiors, rephrasing the language with futuristic accents on everyday items. His choice of materials was aggressively different from the tradition of French design – he selected transparent plastics, metallics and pop colours. He was as New Wave as the cinema of Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix and of the architecture of Jean Nouvel. Today, at 70, he is one of the most prolific designers who has ever lived, having created literally (his studio can offer no official number) countless products from clocks to yachts. Today, he still works on an average of 200 projects a year. And yet, as he tells me, he believes that “fifteen years from now, thanks to technology, every material obligation will have disappeared.”

Read more: Chaumet’s CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt on historic innovations

How does a designer who has been apocryphally credited with 10,000 products balance his current view of a future with nothing in it, with his business model? “The business element will shift,” he says. “We debuted the AI chair with Kartell at Salone del Mobile in Milan this year, and it was the first of its kind ever to be created with artificial intelligence. AI is going to create a new freedom in design. With AI, we can now ask any question, but it’s all about knowing the right question.” He also sees a time beyond furniture. “Design as we know it will be dead,” he says. “There will be better solutions to sitting down than a chair. I think a chair has always put you physically in a bad position. We can do better than a chair.”

Stainglass windows lining a corridor

The entrance to the Starck-designed L’Avenue restaurant at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, with stained glass by his daughter Ara

Starck has always been radical. In 1984 he created the interior for Café Costes in Les Halles. With its theatrical blue staircase and oversized minimal clock, it was as much a postmodern landmark leisure-time interior as Ben Kelly’s Haçienda in Manchester, and Arata Isozaki’s Palladium in New York City. All were created in the same decade, but Starck’s project was notably more dramatic because of its location. This was Paris, a city still stuck in Belle Époque aspic. French design was frozen in curlicues and froth. Starck was an iconoclast.

Contemporary artwork hanging on wall

Photograph of wine glasses

Entries to the Brut Nature competition from Royal Academy students, with (top) The Philosophers’ Reserve by Max Prus, and (here) Tidally locked by Olu Ogunnaike

After a series of successful Paris interiors, he was aligned for a long period with Ian Schrager’s fantastical hotel projects, bringing some of the eccentric visual flair that Schrager and his late business partner Steve Rubell brought to Manhattan nightlife with Studio 54. There was a fairytale, supersized element to much of what he did, from elevated swimming pools to triple-height billowing curtains. From the Royalton in Times Square in 1988 onwards, their partnership helped take Starck’s name and distinctive, witty style to the world.

Read more: Founder of Nila House Lady Carole Bamford’s guide to Jaipur

While his peers, including Marc Newson – who currently holds the record for a design object at auction after one of his Lockheed Lounge chairs sold for over £2 million in 2015 – focused on rarefied edition pieces, Starck focused on mass production. A rare blue glass Illusion Table sold for $50,000 a decade ago, but Starck is known more for his alien-looking Juicy Salif lemon squeezer – which first appeared in 1990 – and continues to be one of Alessi’s best-selling products of all time. At one point, the company produced 10,000 gold-plated versions, purely for display in the home (lemon juice discolours the surface). His transparent plastic chairs for Kartell – the La Marie, which launched in 1999, and the Louis Ghost armchair, which debuted three years later – are as instantly recognisable as any piece of furniture ever made. They brought avant-garde design to the mass market. But when plastics are being demonised, do his polycarbonate objects belong to the past? Starck remains a passionate cheerleader for the material. “For me, it’s the only way to achieve the quality product I want,” he says. “There is a great difference between single-use plastic and a chair that you can keep for a century or more. The media has created great confusion. I prefer to work with fossil energy than to cut down trees and I would rather use vinyl for upholstery than kill cows.”

Woman spitting fountain of water against black background

Artwork etching with mulitcolours

Two further entries from Royal Academy of Arts students to the inaugural Brut Nature competition judged by Philippe Starck, with (top) Self-portrait as a Champagne Fountain (2019) by Clara Halstrup and (here) Sun on the coast of the moon by Richie Moment

One area in which he, and indeed most of us, remain guilty in terms of the unfolding climate crisis is in carbon emissions from flying. But Starck is one of the busiest designers on the planet, and for someone who still uses pen and paper and tactile models to create (“If you create using a computer, you are just creating within the frame of the guy who created the software!”), he needs to appear in person for projects. The day after we meet, he has to get up at 4am to catch a plane to Milan where he’ll be for a few hours before flying off again, heading further south. “It’s fine – I am so used to it,” he shrugs. “I once went to Seoul from Paris for three hours.” At 70, he shows no signs of slowing down, but when he takes time out, it’s the most understated resort he has ever designed that he likes to head to. “I like lots of places I have been involved with,” he says, “but the one I really love is La Co(o)rniche in the Bay of Arcachon near Bordeaux. It’s really just a few cabanas on top of the Dune de Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe. You are there looking at the waves and the sunset and it feels like the best place in the world.”

The choice of a fairly rustic, nay, Zen destination ties in with his world view right now, and his intention to both continue democratising design and make it vanish. Just as he believes the future is chair-free, so he believes our everyday tools and indeed all of our furniture will go. “Designers won’t dictate the aesthetic in the future,” he says, “it will be down to your coach and dietician, because telephones and computers will disappear and everything we use will be incorporated within the body. We will be naked in an empty room, and we will be able to conjure flowers or whatever we want from nothing.” As Starck gesticulates, the red LED flashes on his finger tip again. “So, come on, tell me…,” I ask, “is that part of the new cyborg tech you are talking about?” He smiles. “Oh, this? I got it from the Harrods toy department. Fun isn’t it!?”

Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck

Champagne bottle and caseThe recent launch of the 2012 Roederer and Starck rosé champagne marks 13 years of the designer’s collaboration with the French family-owned champagne house and maker of Cristal. Starck has been involved in each step of the production, including, of course, the champagne’s packaging. From the first brut-nature product in 2006, the champagne has been created sugar-free, with zero dosage. As Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s chef de cave  says: “We have used nature as our collaborator as much as anything with our work with Philippe – it is organic, with minimal intervention and a focus on the real taste of champagne. This came from our discussions with him.” The presentation attempts to democratise the luxury product – it looks more like a chic bottle of olive oil than a grand cru. The hand-lettering on the label and box and the rough line of fluorescent pen creating the edging makes it look effortless. As Frédéric Rouzaud, president and family scion of Louis Roederer says: “It represents spontaneity. He wanted a simple paper for the label, and just wrote by hand what the product is. He wanted it to be approachable, to speak to everyone.”

Find out more: louis-roederer.com & starck.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Artist portrait of a branch
Artist portrait of a branch

Flow Diptych, Part 2 of 2 by Vik Muniz, for the 2019 Ruinart Carte Blanche commission and installed at the Ruinart Art Bar at Frieze London 2019

Brazilian photographer Vik Muniz has responded to Ruinart’s Carte Blanche commission by going back to the roots

“A photograph marks a moment in time,” says Vik Muniz. We sit surrounded by his latest photographic series, ‘Shared Roots’, in the Ruinart champagne bar at the 2019 Frieze London. “One way or another, everything fades and everything ceases to be. Photography is one way for you to hold on a little longer.”

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The Brazilian-born artist is fascinated by the fragile materiality of photography. “Visual technology broke a membrane, and the image became autonomous from any material relationship,” he says. “Our relationship to facts is getting more and more problematic. The idea of information, the idea of representation, is completely disconnected from tangibility, from facts. Psychologically, that has an effect. And, I chose to go in the opposite direction and make things that we have not lost. They require physical presence, they are heavy, even though they’re photographs.” The photographs around us are rooted in this physicality. Muniz used wood and charcoal to create temporary sculptures of hands clutching gnarled vines, captured in overexposed, grainy monochrome. “There is an architecture when you make art,” he says, “I find it quite pyramidal. The base of it has to be optical, haptic, sensory, perceptual. You have to have a physical reaction to it.”

Find out more: ruinart.com

This article was originally published in Spring 2020 Issue.

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

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

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

Entrepreneur Adrian Cheng

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

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

Inside a futuristic mall setting

The interiors of the luxury and fashion retail mall

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

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

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

Cubic sculpture on a broadwalk

The Kube kiosk designed by Rem Koolhaas’ studio OMA

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

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

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

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

For more information visit: K11musea.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Grand university building and lawn
Grand university building and lawn

California Tech University (Caltech), where Kevin Xu has endowed the new Neurotechnology Center, due to open next year

As a business leader, scientist, activist, media owner and philanthropist, Kevin Xu is the embodiment of a Renaissance entrepreneur. Andrew Saunders delves into the businessman’s master plan
Man leaning against a hotel chair in a suit

Kevin Xu

He may not quite be a household name – at least, not yet – but the chair of the MEBO group of regenerative wound care businesses, Kevin Xu, is a force to be reckoned with in the many spheres of his interest all the same. International entrepreneur and mentor; scientist, academic and researcher; advocate for better commercial relations and greater mutual understanding between the US and China; media owner; committed global philanthropist recognised with an Empact 100 award from the UN.

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As if that wasn’t enough, Xu also manages to fit in being a contributor to leading business titles including Forbes, Wired, Inc and Business Insider. No wonder he says wistfully that he doesn’t get much time to keep up with the fortunes of his favourite basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, these days.

It’s an eclectic and impressive line-up of interests for a man whose ‘day job’ is running one of China’s leading biomedical therapeutics businesses, burns treatment specialist MEBO International. But the thread that unites his diverse activities is his personal credo: if you help someone, they will help others in their turn. “I believe in reciprocity and leadership,” he tells me. “I believe that if I can help an individual to lead a different life, then that person may reciprocate back to society when they become a success themselves. That’s why my interests are wide-ranging and don’t have any restrictions – not ethnicity, region, social status or gender bias. It’s all about individuals who I can help and make a difference.”

To aid him in that quest he also possesses two other valuable assets: a packed international diary and a 24-carat contacts list. He was born and raised in California, but we meet in London – he came for Royal Ascot, but also for meetings with charities and NGOs he’s interested in – before he headed to Japan for that country’s first-ever G20 summit. He’s on the advisory board of the California-China Trade Office, serves on the Asian Advisory Board at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology, mentors young entrepreneurs at MIT, is the founder of the Kevin Xu Initiative at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and has endowed a new Neurotechnology Center in California Institute of Technology. The list goes on.

Perhaps the relationships he is most proud of, however, are his ties to two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He’s a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a contributor to the Obama Foundation, and recently spent a fortnight with Clinton in the US Virgin Islands, working with the 42nd president of the United States in connection with its efforts to help rebuild the region after the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

President Bill Clinton with Hillary and another man

Kevin Xu (pictured with Bill and Hillary Clinton here), is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

His view is that great world leaders all share a concern for humanity – and human life – above all. “True leadership involves a value system that puts people’s lives first. Clinton and Obama have that humanitarian aspect and so have other world leaders I have met – people like Pope Francis and [former UN secretary general] Ban Ki-Moon.”

Xu’s connection with the two former presidents was forged in the aftermath of the traumatic death of his father, MEBO founder Dr Rongxiang Xu, in 2015. “It was an accident – an awful shock,” he says. “It was a moment when I realised the power of mentorship. Presidents Obama and Clinton stepped up and carried me through that time – they sent condolence letters and said they would be role models to teach me how to carry on good leadership.”

At the age of 27, Xu not only had to cope with the loss of his father, but also with being parachuted into the pilot seat of the business that Dr Xu had built and run for 30 years. “My biggest fears when my father passed away were firstly that I didn’t know how to run his business in China, and secondly that I didn’t know how to create connections with people there. I grew up in the US, I didn’t know anything about China.”

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

The business was well established in China, where Dr Xu first developed his pioneering moist environment burns therapy (MEBT) in the 1980s. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, the therapy capitalises on the human body’s innate ability to regenerate its own tissues, in a carefully controlled environment. Even deep-tissue, third-degree burns can be successfully treated without the need for painful or disfiguring skin grafts, says Xu. “My father decided to become a burns surgeon because he realised that burns are the most painful conditions people ever face – both pain from the burn and pain from the treatment.”

By the time Xu took over, the business had trained almost a million doctors in the use of its therapy, and had a network of 65,000 hospitals in China alone. Picking up the reins was quite a responsibility.

Barack Obama shaking hands with a businessman

Xu works with former US president Barack Obama

When President Obama invited Xu to stay with him and be part of the official delegation for the US state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, doors were opened that might otherwise have remained closed to him for years. “Obama helped me to make a whole new group of connections between the US and China that are different from those of my father’s era. I met President Xi almost every day.”

That meeting led to MEBO being selected as one of the Chinese government’s official partners on the UN’s Every Woman Every Child initiative, providing medical experts to help deliver the global programme for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in many countries. As Xu explains, there were ten such official Chinese partners, and nine of them were already chosen by the time he and President Xi met. “I believe in serendipity, and that happened serendipitously. President Xi decided to have MEBO as number ten.”

His network of A-grade connections is also helping to bring the MEBO burns treatment to the US, via California-based company Skingenix, of which he is also CEO. The road to approval is not an easy one; when the process began in the early 2000s, the FDA regulator didn’t even have a category for treatments based on Chinese medicine. Thanks to the new regulations implemented under the administration of another former president, George Bush Jr, it does now – the category of ‘botanic drugs’ – and the approval process is ongoing.

Read more: Travelling beyond the beaten track with Geoffrey Kent

What have his experiences taught him about fostering better understanding between China and the US? “It’s like the psychology of dating – the US way of dating and the Chinese way of dating show exactly how they each do business,” he suggests. “If a Chinese person takes you seriously and wants to marry you, they will take things slowly, because they want to get to know you. If a US person wants to marry you, you are more likely to get into a fight early in the romance – they are more willing to say something that might hurt you, because they care about you.”

They are two ways of achieving the same goal he says, the main difference in both love and business being that the Chinese approach involves taking a long view. “Eastern people think further ahead, but they don’t always state their full intention at the start. They use connotations to imply it, and that can cause misunderstandings with western people.”

People having a meeting around a table

Xu leads a mentoring meeting at the University of California, Berkeley

Another leadership challenge Xu has faced is the fact that many of the experienced executives who help him run MEBO are from his father’s era, and are considerably older than their current boss. “My key advice to young entrepreneurs running a company with older people is not to take your youth as an advantage, but a disadvantage. Be humble and learn what they are thinking. Treat them like your parents, people with more experience than you.”

And what of his co-ownership of Californian media outlet LA Weekly, which he acquired in 2017 alongside several other local investors? Where does this fit into the plan? “I bought it because I understand the importance of media. I love the city where I grew up, but there is too much focus on entertainment, movies and gossip. There is also a more humanitarian side to the city, it just needs bringing out. If I want to change the way people think, I must change the media. Since I bought it, it has become more focused on philanthropy and the arts – a channel for distributing positive energies to people.”

So once again, it may look random from the outside but it’s all part of his plan. What’s the ultimate aim? “I have two goals. My goal for MEBO is that the technology should be available in every country, so that when the world needs us, we will be there. My personal vision is that I want to create a new balance between peace, stability and the self. I want to use science and a new way of thinking to regenerate the world, just as MEBO regenerates the body.”

You heard it here first.

Management by horoscope

Cover of LA weekly magazineEast also meets West in one of Xu’s more unusual leadership techniques – using astrology to recruit the right people. “I like horoscopes because I studied neuroscience, and my favourite part of history is Greek mythology. In the company, I know the horoscope signs for most of my people and I place them according to their strengths. Scorpios are more meticulous, for example, so they are suited to finance work, whereas Leos and Aries are more outspoken – it is easier for them to develop new markets.” What does his own star sign indicate? “I am Libra – that’s why I like balance,” he says.

Find out more about the MEBO group: mebo.com

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Portrait of businessman Samih Swiris
Portrait of businessman Samih Swiris

Egyptian entrepreneur Samih Sawiris

Mass automation will mean the majority of human beings will have little prospect of being in employment. It is essential both to provide for them with financial support, and to create a sense of purpose

The transition to the era where the vast majority of people will not be able to be employed will require governments to start seriously thinking about de-demonising not working. Right now, the world is full of Calvinists who believe that God made us here to work, and even if others are not as extreme, there is this subtle belief that if you don’t work you’re no good. And this will have to change as we move into an era where machines will do a lot of the work that people are doing now and where it becomes impossible to create enough jobs. So, de facto, come 2050 a lot of people will be born and live and die without ever really working because the world doesn’t need them as a workforce.

If governments don’t soon start to prepare people for this event, we will have a lot of angry and unhappy people who just don’t understand why some are working and they’re not.

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The second thing that has to happen is to create an association between all these machines and the ex-employees that were replaced by them, and the best scenario would be to start contriving a sense of ownership. Let’s let’s say you used to assemble cars in a factory and now it’s all computerised with robots. Under this system, you would actually own the robot, so your robot is working instead of you, doing the job that you used to do manually. You go in at the end of the month, tap it, pat it and then collect your salary. And basically governments are giving you your tax money back, the factories are not paying salaries any longer but they are paying higher taxes, and that gives the ex-employee more or less the same income, because the productivity has become better. You keep this improvement in productivity for yourself as the factory owner, you pass some of it to the employee, and the government starts giving the people some of the taxes directly, not as unemployment payments but rather as employment, or, specifically, loans to buy their robot. A factory may have a thousand robots, so a thousand employees are given a loan to buy them and they lease them to the manufacturer. The worker feels he owns the robot and the robot’s working instead of him.

Once you have addressed the bulk of the employment problem, you think about other elements. A former Uber driver would become an owner of an Uber car, and he would lease it, and he gets the delta between what the driverless car brings in versus what he would have brought, because a driverless car can drive 24 hours a day, which he cannot. So effectively there are 16 hours more work done that wouldn’t have otherwise been done.

So, with cars, trucks, assembly line workers and other manual jobs, there is a long list of functions that could be addressed in this way. New ideas will ultimately come up to address other sectors, such as accountants, for example, who will be replaced by machines.

I am not saying you’re going to totally eradicate the problem overnight, but governments have to start thinking about this. We have to start preparing children when they go to school that they shouldn’t think they are going to become a surgeon – because even operations today can be done by machines. For example, there is an experiment in which a perfect copy of a liver, including a tumour, is produced. The replica is operated on by a machine until it’s done right, and then back in the operating theatre the robot does the whole job so there is no risk of tearing an artery or other mistakes. Doctors will still have to exist for the training, and they will become much more efficient because they will be present for the first part of the process and in the second part the robot and the computer will do it alone.

Read more: Masseto unveils a new underground wine cellar

It is also empowering. If people who were formerly employees believe they own the tools, whether in a factory or in a hospital, they are being paid for the tools they own, and instead of having employees in the billions and owners in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, it becomes the other way round. There will be billions of entrepreneur/owners: the guy who owns the robot, the doctor who owns the tools. And they will get paid for the use of their tools.

At the end of the day we are only replacing people with machines because machines are going to do a better and cheaper job. So there is a delta, a benefit that’s going to be created – don’t try and keep it in your pocket, give it to the people so that they feel some kind of empowerment. They may not get paid more than they are now, maybe they even get paid less. But such is life: you stay at home, you are paid 70% of your salary from when you worked like an idiot nine hours a day. You are still better off and you have time for your family.

There will be a lot of new industries created. The entertainment industry will triple or quadruple in size to take care of all this new leisure time, and this industry will require manual labour. So the excess surplus time that people will have will by itself reignite job creation for those who just need to work.

At the end of the day we know now that jobs will disappear and the current solution of unemployment money paid to people is socially unacceptable. Society should start thinking seriously about this issue. We need to demand from governments that they be proactive in preparing citizens worldwide for this impending era.

Samih Sawiris is an Egyptian entrepreneur who built the desert city of El Gouna and is the developer of Andermatt Swiss Alps in Switzerland and Luštica Bay in Montenegro

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue

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Installation shot of a gallery exhibition showing digital videos
Installation shot of a gallery exhibition showing digital videos

Installation shot from ‘Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today’ at the ICA/Boston, 2018: ‘Imagination, Dead Imagine’ (1991) by Judith Barry

We live in interesting times – so interesting, in fact, that not only are artists using ever-newer technologies and digital tools, but we are witnessing a whole new generation emerging: artists who were born, live and create with and on the internet. Anny Shaw investigates

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

For several years now, neuroscientists have been arguing that the internet is remapping our brains, rewiring our neural connections – for better or worse. Now it appears that the internet is having a profound effect on artistic practice, with artists creating perpetual iterations of works or keeping projects in continual development, like the tabs left running in your web browser.

“There’s a freedom artists have now, which is perhaps a symptom of how the internet impacts on people’s thinking. There’s never a next stage or a finished version; the possibilities are endless,” says Elizabeth Neilson, the director of London’s Zabludowicz Collection.

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Neilson points to the artists in the collection who use virtual reality (VR), such as the Canadian artist and film-maker Jon Rafman, who continues to work on his animated film Dream Journal that he began in 2015, and the US artist Paul McCarthy, who has created 15 versions of C.S.S.C. Coach Stage Stage Coach VR experiment Mary and Eve (2017), a project first unveiled at the Venice Biennale in 2017.

Watch Dream Journal by Jon Rafman:

Another, younger case in point is the painter and self-taught programmer Rachel Rossin, who has previously worked for the American VR firm Oculus. The Zabludowicz Collection pre-purchased her acclaimed VR work The Sky Is a Gap (2017), which Rossin has described as “a Zabriskie Point-like explosion of a building”. The piece premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2017 and the latest version, specially commissioned by the collection, is due to go on show in London in March 2019. “No matter that the work already exists in one form, Rachel will keep working on it,” Neilson says.

The London-based writer and curator Omar Kholeif takes the idea a step further. He suggests that works of art could soon start to evolve independently of the artist. “It’s not about upgrading the video apparatus, it’s about upgrading the coding and how a work of art might actually be produced,” he says. “You could acquire a piece that in 10 years might be completely different. Every time it’s shown, it could be different.” Kholeif is behind two ground-breaking shows examining new media and net art: ‘Electronic Superhighway’, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 2016, and its technologically updated sequel, ‘I Was Raised on the Internet’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in June 2018.

Installation artwork by artist Sondra Perry

‘Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation’ (2016) by Sondra Perry

Of course, net art, or art made on or for the internet, is nothing new. Its genesis can be traced back to the early 1990s, when a diverse group of artists including Vuk Ćosić, Joan Heemskerk, Dirk Paesmans, Alexei Shulgin, Olia Lialina and Heath Bunting began to exhibit online and to build programs to create software art. Even then, artists were exploring the idea of open-ended projects. In 1994, the Israeli-American artist Yael Kanarek began World of Awe, a fictional online diary of a traveler in search of treasure, which she updated several times before finishing it in 2011. Meanwhile, John F. Simon Jr has said that his ongoing work Every Icon, which began in 1997, will take several hundred trillion years to complete with the 1.8 x 10308 possible combinations of black and white squares in the icon’s 32-by-32 grid.

Read more: Artist Tom Pope’s ‘One Square Club’

For these pioneers, the internet was a nascent phenomenon, but, for Generations Y and X, blogging, Tweeting and posting to Instagram are second nature. Indeed, it is increasingly common for younger artists to be just as well-versed in programming as they are in painting. The American artist Ian Cheng, for example, studied computer science while Toronto-based Jeremy Bailey trained as a software developer.

Digital artwork of computer images showing cats

Still from ‘Grosse Fatigue’ (2013) by Camille Henrot

Despite this, there is still a tendency to view the internet as a site for distribution rather than as a space where art can simply exist, Kholeif says. “Artists have a real discomfort with not being part of the white-cube gallery or institutional realm, because that is a space for validation where income is generated,” he observes.

There are, of course, exceptions. In 2011, the Dutch-Brazilian artist Rafaël Rozendaal wrote and made available, with the help of his lawyer and dealer, a sales contract specifically for the sale of websites as works of art – the domain name is transferred to the collector, who must renew it annually, while ensuring the website remains free and available publicly.

Abstract painting of a man by Celia Hempton

‘David, Florida, USA, 28th September 2015’ (2015) by Celia Hempton

Other artists have employed the internet as a form of activism. HowDoYouSayYaminAfrican, a collective of artists and activists, founded thewayblackmachine.net in 2014, an ongoing project that tracks via the internet the proliferation of images, mobile phone videos and news clips of the systemic violence against African Americans by white Americans. “The piece is a reality check about how little the needle has moved despite the wide access to and circulation of these images,” says Eva Respini, the curator of ‘Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today’. The exhibition, which opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston in February 2018, was one of the largest historical surveys of its kind to be mounted in the US.

Respini acknowledges that it is difficult to be optimistic in these divisive, post-truth times, citing “the proliferation of fake news, the internet’s nefarious influence on politics, mass surveillance, and in some areas of the world, strict control over information on the internet”. But she also believes that digital media has given “incredible power” to movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, “mobilizing and giving visibility to those with marginalized voices”.

Digital artwork of a woman's face by artist Frank Benson

‘Juliana’ (2014–15) by Frank Benson

Meanwhile, the artist and writer Miao Ying, who divides her time between Shanghai and New York but whose official biography states that she “resides on the internet”, dedicates much of her work to censorship in China. In 2016, she launched Chinternet Plus, a web-based project commissioned by New York’s New Museum that parodies the Chinese government’s much-hyped Internet Plus, which is aimed at rebooting economic growth but is carefully managed (read: censored) by the government.

Read more: In conversation with artist Victoria Fu

Miao describes her relationship with the Chinese internet as a form of Stockholm Syndrome, whereby she has formed a bond with her ‘captor’. “Chinternet Plus is self-censored,” she says, and consequently full of branding and devoid of content. Despite its seeming banality, Chinternet Plus has been blocked in China for several months. Miao adds that she would never show her political work in China. “A lot of my art has two versions; one is a self-censored version that I show in China,” she explains.

Digital artwork by artist Cao Fei

Still from ‘RMB City: A Second Life City Planning 04’, (2007) by Cao Fei

At the end of 2018, Miao unveiled a new website, Hardcore Digital Detox, commissioned by the privately run museum M+ in Hong Kong. Due to open in 2020, M+ is already known for acquiring digital art, such as its recent purchase of the entire archive of the internet art collective Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, as well as the rights to all their future works by the duo.

The acquisition reflects the growing interest of institutions in net art. This has been spurred on in part by 2019’s 30th anniversary of the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal of the concept of the world wide web to his colleagues at the research organization CERN. As Respini notes, “1989 was also the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, and arguably the beginning of our global era that we cannot imagine without the internet.”

This article was first published in the Winter 2019 issue.

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Reading time: 6 min
Velocity black branded truck in a desert facing sand dunes
Velocity black branded truck in a desert facing sand dunes

Velocity Black offers a start to finish booking service for high-net-worth individuals 

In 2014, Zia Yusuf quit his job at Goldman Sachs and started an online, ultra-luxury concierge service with his school friend Alex Macdonald. The business is run 100% digitally through the website and app, and membership is by invitation only. We put the co-founder in the hot seat for our 6 Questions interview slot.

Portrait of Velocity Black founder Zia Yusuf

Co-founder Zia Yusuf

1. What makes Velocity Black different to other lifestyle services?

Velocity Black is a members’ club reimagined for the digital age and engineered for those looking to lead a limitless life. Velocity Black is built on a breakthrough technology: the world’s first conversational mobile commerce engine for the affluent consumer. Our unique technology is disrupting several multi-trillion dollar industries at once, by re-imagining and simplifying the member experience for discovering and booking travel, dining, events and experiences. Built on the principal that the only thing we truly own is our story and everything else we are simply custodians of, Velocity Black liberates members to make their story as extraordinary as it can be. From planning round-the-world trips, to obtaining the most-sought after luxury goods, a dinner that’ll never be forgotten and original experiences like no other, Velocity Black turns what-ifs, into what’s next.

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We guarantee a response time of one minute 24/7, 365 days a year. We have enabled conversational commerce for the affluent consumer delivering personalised recommendations, automatic payment and fulfilment in real-time, around the clock.

2. How do millennials compare as customers to older generations?

Millennials are the ‘experience generation’. They are bringing a shift in consumptionVelocity Black app showing hotel booking service growth away from goods to experiences, valuing a meaningful life and memories shared over material goods. There is also an increase in awareness of the wellbeing of the planet and the effect of humanity on the environment and communities. Many millennials are increasingly looking to ‘give back’. We see that our members are particularly invested in global change.

In addition, instant messaging on smartphones is the preferred form of communication for millennials and they are much more likely to use messaging while travelling. Thanks to an ‘always on’ lifestyle, millennials live in an age of immediate gratification and our guaranteed response time appeals to this.

3. Will Velocity Black ever run out of experiences to offer?

We have delivered more than 45,000 experiences in 60 countries. We strive to assist members to live a limitless life of unforgettable moments and experiences. The world is our oyster. There is always a new experience or discovery to be had and we connect members to these.

Preview the Velocity Black world:

4. Your founding members include public figures such as Gigi Hadid and Vanessa Hudgens. Why is celebrity endorsement so important for the app?

These people work on extraordinary schedules. The reason they find value on our platform is because we make experiences so easy that all they have to do is go and get on a plane, or arrive at a restaurant. Our membership acquisition is based on an outstanding reputation and incredible offering.

5. What’s the craziest experience requested or organised through the app?

Our members benefit from being part of a closed community and we take privacy very seriously. I am therefore unable to disclose the nature of any individual requests, not even the really crazy ones!

6. Where do you go from here?

Velocity Black is one of the fastest growing tech start-ups and we don’t plan on slowing down. As voice search moves from novelty to habitual routine with time poor individuals looking to optimise their time however possible, you can expect to hear Siri and Alexa booking Velocity Black experiences on our member’s behalf. We will also be launching services in health care, real estate and art, later in 2019.

Find out more: velocity.black

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Explorers climb through an ice cave in the South Pole
An image of a candlelight ceremony at Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan. Instagram: @abercrombiekent

Increasingly businesses and professionals are using Instagram as a way of promoting their brand, but the app can also function as a modern-day diary. LUX contributor and Abercrombie & Kent Founder Geoffrey Kent explains why he’s a social media convert

Oscar Wilde wrote: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” Not many people have led as sensational a life as that of the Irish playwright, but keeping a diary or journal isn’t just for the outrageous, or the pursuit of Adrian Mole-esque teenagers.

A growing body of research suggests that recording your experiences is a good practice, not only for posterity, but also as a good mental-health practice. Other benefits include aiding memory. Oscar Wilde also wrote that “memory is the diary we all carry about with us” – but memory is a funny thing. Impressions can last for years but the minutiae can become lost quite quickly if not written down.

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I discovered this for myself in 1958, as a teenager. When I was 16, I rode a motorbike from Nairobi to Cape Town on a 3,000-mile journey of self-discovery along some of Africa’s most dangerous roads. In my saddlebags, along with my Shell Oil road map, a poncho, tarpaulin sheet and elephant hair bracelets, were a pencil and journal. Every day, I made notes: the route I took, how many elephant hair bracelets I had managed to trade at market, leopard tracks on my tails, that the giraffes that I saw had smaller and smaller spots, that my next challenge would be climbing Kilimanjaro. I also posed more existential questions, such as: who is Geoffrey Kent? What do I think is worthwhile? I usually wrote at midday whilst catching shade from the broiling heat, resting at the base of baobab trees.

Businessman and traveller Geoffrey Kent poses in front of tent in the South Pole

Geoffrey Kent at the Abercrombie & Kent camp in the South Pole. Instagram: @geoffrey_kent

Upon arriving in Cape Town, I felt a profound sense of achievement, duly recorded in my journal‚ and then my thoughts turned immediately to my next challenge – how to get home. I didn’t fancy another 3,000-mile bike ride back to Nairobi. I needed to earn some money so I could go back by boat or train – anything but by two wheels. A friend in Cape Town suggested I write a story about my journey and try to sell it. Thank goodness for my journal and all the notes I had taken along my route. I managed to pull together a good piece, full of accurate, evocative details, and the Cape Argus newspaper agreed to publish the article along with photos of me on my bike.

Due to my scribblings in my journal I was able to get home in style – in first class, aboard the Africa, the best ship in the Lloyd Triestino line, from Cape Town to Mombasa. From that day to this, I have always kept a diary. My diaries were invaluable in researching and writing my memoir Safari: A Memoir of a Worldwide Travel Pioneer. In the pages of Smythson notebooks unseen for years (sometimes decades), I uncovered details that had been lost to time – that I had been granted the first license to take travellers into the Ngorongoro Crater; how dinner with David Niven led me to own my first boat on the Nile; how I got into China before any other travel executive travelling as an Ethiopian citizen (thanks to my sister’s birth in Addis Ababa) in a tour group organised by an Ethiopian pro-Communist group that I had read about in the East African Standard.

Read more: Get to know these 4 new Instagram aesthetes

Over the years however, an evolution has occurred in step with technology and my method of memory-keeping has changed. I now keep a visual diary. Upon opening my Instagram account (@geoffrey_kent), I fell in love with the platform and now use it to – yes, promote my businesses and brands – but also as a photographic journal. It’s my new diary. Social media is the easy, accessible way to record your life and experiences in a public forum (shared with the wide world or just a private, select few – your choice). I post religiously – even from the South Pole.

Explorers climb through an ice cave in the South Pole

An Abercrombie & Kent expedition to the South Pole (Day 5). Image courtesy of A&K

Antarctica is never one to be underestimated, but it is amazing too. I will long remember seeing the Emperor penguins, exploring the ice tunnels, climbing and naming a mountain in the Drygalski mountain range, and making it to the South Pole. Despite what can kindly be called patchy internet access, I posted daily to my grid and look forward to scrolling through my feed in years to come to bring to mind this sensational trip with some new close friends.

7 steps to Instagram success

1. Start by thinking about what it is you like about your favourite account.

2. Try the Preview app – it’s a cool tool for testing out your posts before you commit an image to your feed.

3. Quality rather than quantity – only feature amazing images which are in line with your chosen aesthetic.

4. Be sure to edit – Android and iPhone have excellent built-in photo editing tools for cropping and levelling, but there are lots of apps that can help make your photos picture perfect.

5. Be smart about hashtags – you can add up to thirty hashtags in one post, but you shouldn’t.

6. Include the geotag to boost your post’s visibility.

7. When and how much you post matters – those in the know suggest posting at similar times every day, when your followers are active.

Discover Abercombie & Kent’s portfolio of luxury travel tours: abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min
White cliffs of dover with the channel stretching into a blue horizon

Image of a DFDS ferry floating on the sea

The DFDS ferry from Dover to Calais only takes 90 minutes, but with beautiful views, good food, and the comforts of a VIP lounge, you’ll wish the journey was longer, says LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

What is the most curious new development of early 2019 was a report stating that sales of paper maps are actually increasing. The report quoted extensively from the august merchant of the world’s greatest and most detailed maps, the cartographers Stanfords of Longacre in London. Apparently, in the era when your phone contains not just a map but predictions for exactly you should be doing in the confines of that map, the lure of the paper map is increasing, not decreasing – in some cases, anyway.

On the face of it, this seems bizarre. Why would we need a foldout map, when everything you might have a need to know about a journey is stored inside your phone, and by tapping your destination, it will not only tell you how to get there, it will tell you exactly how long it will take you to get there and how many people recommend the fish pie at each restaurant en route. Astonishing progress. Or is it?

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Think about that for a second: on a Google map, your journey across the country, or across the continent, is reduced to a simple statement of time. This is an amount of time, it is implied, that must be endured until you do what you actually need to do, which is is get to the stated destination at the other end. It completely ignores the fact that the journey might be an end itself, that the journey might be something to enjoy and indulge in.
White cliffs of dover with the channel stretching into a blue horizon

The iconic white cliffs of Dover

Your electronic devices all about maximising the efficiency of delivering a certain message in a certain way. Yet the art of travel is precisely the opposite. Your journey is not data to be downloaded in a microsecond. It is something to be indulged in and appreciated in itself, not simply a means to an end.

These days, there are many very efficient ways to get from Britain across the continent of Europe (Brexit aside), including a plethora of travel by aircraft to different hubs, high-speed trains, and of course the tunnel under the Channel. But all of these assume that the two points of interest in your journey are the beginning and the end, and nothing in between. Or, in the case of the tunnel, assuming that the speed with which you get from one side of the water to the other is more important than what’s above.

Read more: Ingenuity is crucial to human destiny

Until relatively recently you might have been forgiven for avoiding the option of ferry travel, as the vessels that sailed from the UK to France were not the most sophisticated, even though they had their own romance. So, recently, on a DFDS ferry from Dover to Calais, we were both delighted and astonished. An efficient cafeteria served a selection of French-biased food (real vegetables, properly cooked, accompanying meats of various types) which you could take and eat at your leisure in the refectory overlooking the stern of the ship. France, to start with a line in the distance, became a distinct outline of cliffs, beaches, and buildings by the end of the meal.

Meanwhile, a walk round to the outside deck at the back revealed the cliffs of Dover, slowly fading into the haze, as we left the seagulls behind.

Luxury ferry lounge with leather chairs

The VIP lounge offers a comfortable space for travellers to relax and enjoy the views

But the most compelling aspect of all, besides the views, and the sense of reality that you are crossing a body of water between one part of the continent to another (a body of water that has proved the difference between independence and conquest for Britain since 1066), was the simple comfort of the VIP lounge. Here for an extra fare, you can relax in absolute silence on the array of sofas and help yourself to a selection of drinks and snacks. And read magazines and newspapers while watching the world go by for the windows. As an element of a long journey, it is a real respite break for drivers and passengers. It is not inaccurate to say that we were rather disappointed with the announcement that came after just over an hour into the journey, that we would soon be disembarking at Calais.

And there’s the rub. Taking the ferry is actually barely any slower than going underground when all the elements of boarding and embarkation are taken into account. If it’s rough, you may wish to spend a bit more time outside, but you still feel like you have been somewhere, properly traveled, rather than simply been transported. We will be doing it again this summer.

Book your journey: dfdsseaways.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min
closeup photo of turned on computer monitor

closeup photo of turned on computer monitor

By Greg Williams

A LUX x ROSEWOOD COLLABORATION

Black and white portrait of WIRED magazine editor Greg Williams

Greg Williams

In recent years, ambitious parents have added a further endeavour to the list of educational activities they believe will enhance the character of their children. Along with music lessons, chess and languages, coding has become a must for any child whois to compete in the global economy of the future. No longer is it acceptable to master the Suzuki violin method or be proficient with an épée, no, the corporate titans of the future must also be armed with a fully developed grasp of the programming language Python. Tiger mothers from Cupertino to Chelsea compete to secure Imperial College computer science graduates as tutors, fearful that their children will be left behind by the merciless advancement of AI and quantum computing.

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There is some truth to large numbers of young people needing to be proficient in STEM skills. But it isn’t the whole picture. As it has floundered from one recent catastrophe to another, Facebook has demonstrated at in ear to deficiencies in its business, from culpability in undermining the democratic process to data privacy. Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s response that he would ‘fix’ Facebook demonstrated his engineer’s mindset. Having leadership capable of empathy and creative engagement would have served it much better than the obfuscation and platitudes that have become its hallmark.

Technical, scientific and engineering skills are crucial for economies, but so too is the underpinning of all discovery: language. Many in the technology industry believe that coding will soon be done by machines themselves, making much of what humans do today obsolete. What will remain crucial for our advancement are the skills that existed long before the concept of the programmable computer: human creativity and ingenuity. It’s what will determine our destiny.

Six ways to get technical:

1. Realise that it’s not just you; everyone else is also trying to understand what digital transformation means.
2. Ignore jargon. If it can’t be explained simply,you probably don’t need to know about it.
3. Don’t be afraid of the new.
4. Assume big tech is not your friend.
5. Stay curious. You have access to every piece of information ever, why follow Kylie Jenner?
6. It’s not really about technology, it’s about human beings.

Greg Williams is editor in chief of WIRED

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue.

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close-up photo of SPMTE color bars

close-up photo of SPMTE color bars

By Dylan Jones

A LUX x ROSEWOOD COLLABORATION

Portrait of GQ editor Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones

I remember the very first time I met Jonathan Ive [Apple’s chief design officer], 15 years ago, at the old Design Museum near London’s Tower Bridge. It was a winter’s evening and we were sipping entry-level sauvignon blanc and eating overly complex finger food as we stared across the Thames and compared notes on how our respective companies were working together.

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We were talking about the need for creatives to work more collaboratively with those in the emerging tech sector, and, obviously, why it was imperative that ‘tech-heads’ (his term, not mine), should seek out more creatives. A decade and a half later, the penny finally seems to be dropping.

I have long been involved in discussions with creatives about how the big tech companies still think they can get away with treating content providers like serfs, but not only does this situation look as though it is slowly changing, but also it seems that far more people in tech are now reaching out to the creative industries. Not because they still desperately need content, but more importantly because they understand that in order to build long-standing editorial propositions, it is vital for both sectors to work hand in hand. Which means that the creative sector as a whole needs to be more responsive, and perhaps even more proactive in reaching out to tech, in order to start building for the future. It is no use pitching editorial against delivery systems, as they both need each other, more so now than at any time in the past.

Almost unbelievably, there are still those on both sides of the divide who think that one can work without the other. But more fool them. The future is bright and the future is exciting and the future is right here under our noses, but there is little point in trying to embrace it alone.

Six ways to get creative:

1. Build a proposition that partners can co-own.
2. Never clip your own wings.
3. Be transgressive as well as transformative.
4. Listen more.
5. Ask more questions.
6. Own the data.

Dylan Jones is the editor in chief of British GQ and menswear chairman of the British Fashion Council.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue.

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Luxury indoor swimming pool surrounded by plants inside a glass atrium
Luxury indoor swimming pool surrounded by plants inside a glass atrium

The Rosewood Beijing is one of Grand Luxury’s handpicked hotels

Grand Luxury is a curated hotel booking site and a concierge service through which clients can arrange exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. LUX speaks to the company’s founders, brothers Ivan and Rouslan Lartisien about handpicking their hotels, delivering first-class service and making the impossible possible
Colour portrait of founders of Grand Luxury Ivan and Rouslan Lartisien

Ivan and Rouslan Lartisien

LUX: How did you take Grand Luxury from a start-up to a global business?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: From a 3-person company in a maid’s room to a 100-person company based in Paris, London, Dubai, Mauritius, Philippines, Romania and Italy, Grand Luxury has changed entirely in just 10 years. To better serve our individual clientele, we strive to continuously exceed the boundaries of personalisation. We are now the 2nd largest booking force for luxury hotels in Milan, London, Paris, Marrakech. In 2018, we have also become the leading EMEA agency on the luxury segment. The explanation might come from the fact that since the very beginning we have always been truthful to our original values.

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LUX: You handpicked all of the 350 hotels in the booking collection, did you visit them all and what were you looking for?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: We have visited 90% of our hotels and rely on a network of travellers we know since the very beginning for the rest. We also have a team dedicated to visiting hotels on a regular basis but the final choice is always on one of us two.

We are mixing objective and subjective considerations. First of all, the hotel must meet the core standards of a 5-star deluxe hotel. But there must be a rather unique feeling, a special “je ne sais quoi” that will make you feel you are entering in a one-of-a-kind property. A Grand Luxury Hotel might not even feel like a hotel anymore. During our selection process we must have the conviction that we are about to engage in the promotion of a most unique place and enchant our existing clients and of course the new comers to Grand Luxury who we shall lure to our exceptional universe.

Luxury hotel lobby area with contemporary decorations and chandeliers

Grand Luxury clients receive exclusive perks at hotels they book through the site such as the Baccarat Hotel in New York

LUX: What defines first class service?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: For us, luxury starts on-line and off-line when one of us engage on a conversation with the client. Everything has its importance: from the property we had curated, to on-line photos, content and suggestions to enhance the trip. We then ask many questions, not in a formal and mechanic manner but in a way our engagement seem natural and genuine. It’s quite irrational but when you show interest and express empathy, it works.

Luxury used to be materialistic, brand-driven, “stuff”-centric. Today it is more about the “moment”, the parenthesis you open to break away from your daily routine or your busy occupation. From being a Mom of 3 teenagers to a woman who looks after her for that one week and away from the family.

To this end we select, inspect and curate places that are truly exceptional. Not from a physical stand point but from our client’s perspective and for what they really want or need.

Luxury is also about the “results”, the outcome of a trip: be it to celebrate a milestone event or to explore family roots, or simply get away and reunite with your spouse, your mom or your best friends.

LUX: How do the current trends in booking patterns differ from when you started 10 years ago and does it vary across culture?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: To be honest, on some aspects – it did not change so much. We have been quite constant in our strategic vision as we had decided to focus on two salient points: a highly restricted selection of the best hotels in the world, and very personalised service, all of this with a digital twist! The combination of the very best hotels and quality service allowed us to reach a high ratio of repeaters. What has changed in the market is the quest for more experiential travel and the growing desire to experience a destination as locals. That is one of the reasons why Grand Luxury has completely revamped its website, it will be rolled out at the end of the year to embrace these new market trends. Of course, we have to adapt to the cultural aspects.

Read more: How Hublot’s attracting a new generation of customers

LUX: What are the top 5 guest demands?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: Unlike some long lasting and rather terrible clichés, wealthy customers are not capricious and impatient. Their demands (we prefer to use the word requests) reflect who they are and what is important for them (in general or for this specific holiday). If this is a family reunion for a special occasion, all details count from smooth arrivals to small attentions for each member of the family and to make sure you meet these expectations, there is only one technique: ask many questions and anticipate! Do not leave anything to chance (this is good for every single client). Many contact us not to simply find a great holiday spot for them, but for a reason and over the years we had many situations e.g. this famous film director who needed a quiet place anywhere in Europe likely to inspire his writing therefore had to have a solid historic feel without being difficult to reach! This gentleman, a widower for a few months, who wanted to visit all the places he had been happy with his wife before she passed after a sudden leukemia. Imagine the amount of emotion behind his request.

This father who wanted to reward his only daughter for graduating brilliantly. Not a regular five-star palace hotel guest but who had decided to spend well over what he would normally do, to celebrate this milestone event in his family. This very rich family (2 children age 8 and 10) who decided to spend a whole month in Paris and give the children a true education in art, history, culture. They wanted to have a young university teacher every day, capable to take the children on a different experience in a nice, supporting yet demanding manner.

And one day, we had this Australian billionaire who wanted to propose on the third floor of the Eiffel Tower. He wanted to have it for himself and the woman of his life. We managed to obtain a yes from the very traditional institution at a rather high price. Our client was a bit hesitant to spend so much and we knew he was open to an alternative suggestion. In a day we managed to contact the Musée Rodin and to privatise the famous museum for an hour after closing. Champagne had been arranged next to Le-baiser (the kiss) one of the most moving piece of Rodin and of course it work very well as she said yes and was incredibly touched by the gentleman’s surprise proposal.

LUX: Can you tell us more about some of the sought after experiences Grand Luxury can arrange?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: We always try to work on experiences that will work on emotion, memories and take you more deeply in the cultural essence of a country. For instance in Paris, we worked on a specific program about French gastronomy. We picked the clients at 5am at his hotel, brought him to a very nice bakery in the heart of the old Paris to see before the opening of the shop how the croissant and baguette are made, taste it fresh out of the oven. Then the client took a basket of bakeries and was brought on a Riva on the French Seine to eat on a nice private breakfast-cruise, with Champagne of course as you are in France. Then, the client was brought back to his hotel just in time to see the arrival of the food supplies at the Michelin-Star restaurant.

Luxury poolside cabana with plush seating

The Royal Mansour in Marrakech is another of Grand Luxury’s hotels

LUX: How is luxury travel evolving?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: The big change we’ve seen in the last few years is the way people expect to experience a destination. Today, all of our clients from around the world want to feel like a local when they visit a destination, so we bring them experiences that will show them the heart and soul of the place. We have guides in each destination who are really knowledgeable about certain aspects of a place, so we’ll call the guide that best fits the preferences of the guest. In terms of hotels, we’ve seen that more and more people want a more residential feel in the place they stay, so they have a kind of home to go back to in the destination. This is something we’re seeing more and more of with luxury travellers.

Grand luxury app shown on a phone screen

The Grand Luxury app functions as a digital personal assistant

LUX: Is technology increasingly important to travellers or do they want to be off the grid and why did you launch the app to accompany the online site?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: Technology for us at Grand Luxury Hotels is absolutely essential. It has never been used to replace staff but to increase value for our clients. The App is a perfect example. It is a unique opportunity for our customers to have their own assistant directly in their pocket. A transfer, the best new trendy restaurant close to your location, flowers or caviar in your room in less than 30 minutes, a great ballet or musical to go to in the evening! We make it easy for the customer to choose and book among our curated list of partners. And for us, technology is here to answer to clients who want easy and quick options. But if they want to speak to their dedicated adviser, they can of course chat with him/her anytime through the app!

LUX: What can users expects to see with the upscale concierge service?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: Anything, there is no specific limit. It Is all about the client’s needs and wishes. 3 years ago we set a special trip for a small group of opera fans which was meant to end in Prague. On the last night we booked Don Giovanni at the Estates Opera House (where Mozart debuted the famous opera). We had told our clients that a supper would be served after the show but we did not mention where. We had actually arranged for our group to have dinner on stage … with the cast!

On another occasion we had set a wedding anniversary in Venice. The clients (a very nice couple in their 70s) had decided to treat themselves to a long weekend in Venice. Nothing too original so far – but as they head to the restaurant for a dinner we had booked for them, we sent them by boat to a small palazzo instead, where their family and close friends were waiting for them (we had arranged the group to travel a day after and of course made sure their were completely invisible so another of our Venice property was chosen) the family had asked us to surprise their parents, they also wanted to pay for the stay and finally add a fun touch and a small show at the palazzo to also recognise how exceptionally loved the couple was.

LUX: Where will Grand Luxury be in 5 years?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: 5 years ago we had approximately 10 employees. We are now almost 100. The only limit is our imagination. We already have so many plans for the coming months : full relaunch of our website under a completely new design, deepen our offering with far more experiences to offer, launch our new website www.grandluxurycruises.com … Just for one year. What is sure is that Grand Luxury wants to position Itself as a luxury brand offering 360 degrees offer in the travel industry.

Discover Grand Luxury’s list of hotels: grandluxuryhotels.com

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Reading time: 10 min
Hublot brand ambassador Usain Bolt poses in front of textured wall
Hublot Big Bang special edition watch with red and gold striped strap

The Big Bang Unico Teak Italia Independent, only 100 of which were made

Hublot is fusing smart technology with sleek design to enthral a new generation of customers. Jason Barlow reports

Hublot is enjoying a renaissance. A renaissance that began with four weeks in the global spotlight this June, its prominence during the most compelling football World Cup in a generation exposing this most quixotic of watch brands to a huge new audience.

Inspiring an allegiance between a brand and a client is way more complicated than simply (expensively) forging a partnership with the world’s biggest football tournament, Formula One, or any number of individual ambassadors. Clearly, it helps. But it also helps when the brand in question has something genuinely interesting to say. There are lodestar names in the world of haute horology – Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet – and there are arrivistes, upstarts. Too many to name, in fact, and each freighted with a different set of promises. But certain attributes rise above the rest. Innovation. An engineered aestheticism. Authenticity. This last one is a cornerstone of the entire luxury edifice, and takes time to establish.

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Some get there with incredible rapidity: to take an example from a parallel world, Bugatti began making cars in 1909, artisanal Italian supercar maker Pagani only in 1992. The latter’s cars are the Fabergé eggs of the automotive sphere, precious beyond belief, Pagani’s connection with its clients the ne plus ultra of the car world. Or think of the Marchesi Antinori winery, whose classic Chianti production spans an incredible 26 generations, all the way back to 1385. An astonishing HQ in Bargino, Tuscany, acts as a temple to Antinori’s status and relentless ambition.

LVMH watch bosses Ricardo Guadalupe and Jean-Claude Biver

Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe and Jean- Claude Biver, head of watchmaking at LVMH

Hublot made its debut in 1980, but has navigated its way to a position of formidable brand power. In 2017, it enjoyed a record year, with a growth in sales of 12 percent, against an industry-wide backdrop of reduced revenues. How has it achieved this? CEO Ricardo Guadalupe’s approach is a fascinating one to dissect. “At Hublot, we strive to have technology at the service of the aesthetics,” he explains. “For us, it is not a battle but a right mix to find.”

I ask Guadalupe to delineate the brand’s ambassador strategy.

“Firstly, we go where our clients are! We continuously focus on our customers, we elaborate our partnerships in accordance with the interests of our clients, to better suit their needs and their expectations. Football, cars, art and music are such areas where our customers are.

Read more: Moynat unveils new collection of bags in London

“We are partnered with FIFA and UEFA, which are the two most important organisations in the football universe. And with Ferrari, which is certainly the most famous car brand in the world. We do things
according to our motto: ‘First, unique, different.’ When entering a new partnership, we always research to fuse our world with that of the ambassadors. What is important is that the potential ambassador is already a Hublot client and that he/she loves the brand. This really matters for us.”

Hublot brand ambassador Usain Bolt poses in front of textured wall

Brand ambassador Usain Bolt

It’s sometimes tempting to think that many high-end brands are 70 percent marketing confections, 30 percent watch. Tuning this approach with the right sensitivity and science is something Guadalupe and his team are acutely aware of.

“We try to have the same strategy for all the countries in order to allow everybody to be part of the Hublot world,” he says. “But of course, we have some differences and some specificities for some markets. In China, we do not do print advertising, only digital. We also stage events around our boutiques or around the department stores where we are present. We have some ambassadors linked to their country: [pianist] Lang Lang is known all around the world but in China he is even more than a superstar.

“Our prices start from about £3,000 and we have a large selection at different prices. It means every person with a budget for a luxury watch can find his or her Hublot timepiece. Besides, we indeed think that we sell a dream, but it is not necessarily the most expensive watch. It is just about the emotion the client shares with their watch.”

Hublot's world cup watch in collaboration with FIFA

The Big Bang Referee watch, to coincide with the 2018 World Cup

Entry points are moot. When former CEO of Hublot Jean-Claude Biver (now head of watchmaking at LVMH, to whom he sold the brand in 2008) decided to lower the barriers to TAG Heuer ownership to bring in the next generation of customers, it risked diluting its appeal to older, wealthier, arguably more discerning clients. Here, too, is another link with luxury brands beyond the watch world, and it had to be done. Ask any CEO in the automotive sector to outline the challenges they face, and high on the list will be reaching millennials. They simply don’t have the same relationship with cars that their parents did, partly because connectivity means something very different in 2018 than it did in 1988. The smartphone is the device that conquered the world, not always beneficently. So, how does Hublot tackle this challenge?

“As in the car, your first watch cannot be a Hublot,” Biver says in his typically forthright way. “You need some culture and knowledge, and most importantly you probably need to buy first one or two ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ watches, before being ready for a disruptif and fusion watch.”

And what of the threat posed by so-called smart watches? Here, surely, is the item craved by millennials, at the expense of traditional watch-making.

“I am fully aligned with Mr Biver’s view,” says Guadalupe. “Smart watches should be considered as an advantage for the Swiss watchmaking industry because they conquer the wrist of people who weren’t wearing any watch. Moreover, one day, those young clients will also be interested in owning a piece of art on their wrist – and this is what we do.”

Watchmaker in Hublot workshop

Hublot watches are still made in Switzerland

tattoo artist Maxime Büchi standing in front of a wall marked with Hublot logos

The brand collaborated with tattoo artist Maxime Büchi

Guadalupe also believes that Hublot’s very youth permits the disruption desiderated by so many brands, including some heritage names. It also liberates Hublot from the urge to simply reboot past successes. Instead of yet another tribute to something, he’s more interested in using new material, such as ceramic or sapphire. The partnership with Ferrari is emblematic of this approach: Hublot’s Techframe imports Ferrari’s expertise in advanced materials, to thrilling effect – how does titanium, King Gold or PEEK (polyether ether ketone) sound? Working with Italia Independent’s Lapo Elkann also maximises
the opportunity for what the fabulously flamboyant scion of the Agnelli family calls ‘contamination’. Tattoo artist Maxime Büchi has worked wonders there.

Read more: Château Mouton Rothschild supports restoration of Versailles

But back to connectivity, and Hublot’s unique manifestation of the concept.

“We created our first connected watch, the Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup, as it was a specific need expressed by FIFA,” says Guadalupe. “Wanting a customised watch for the referees, FIFA asked Hublot to conceive the perfect watch to accompany them on the pitch during matches.

“Moreover, it was not possible to have all the necessary information on a mechanical watch, that is why we did a connected one. Nevertheless, it has all the attributes of the iconic Big Bang. Its emblematic architecture cut out of the lightness of titanium, its bezel decorated with six H-shaped screws, its Kevlar insert. Even the display on its analogue mode dial could pass for the same aesthetic as that of the automatic models. It is certainly a connected watch, but it is first and foremost a Hublot watch.”

Launch of Hublot's digital boutique in New York

Hublot’s ‘digital boutique’ launch in New York

Two other over-arching trends can’t be ignored. Firstly, does the resurgence of interest in ‘analogue’ – more vinyl records were sold in 2017 than any year since 1988 – favour Hublot?

“I think we must combine the two together,” says Guadalupe. “Digital is important and we must be into it if we want to keep in the era of time, but at Hublot, we keep thinking that it is important to merge tradition and innovation. It is not because we created a connected watch that we are forgetting the past. A key of our success is we are able to find the good balance between those elements.”

The other is the rise of ‘experiential luxury’, the realm that exists beyond the mere act of acquisition. This is a major preoccupation in the luxury world.

“Hublot is aware that the key asset of an excellent customer relationship is based on trust, availability and flexibility,” says Guadalupe. “We have innovatively imagined a ‘virtual’ digital boutique that perfectly complements the role and presence of its physical boutiques around the world. By remotely offering its customers 3D-facilitated access to its products, knowledge and knowhow, Hublot is successfully creating a new bespoke customer service, and preserving the essential denominator of any relationship – that is to say the human connection. It is a new customer experience that is beginning in the United States before being rolled out across the entire world.”

Hublot’s moment looks set to continue.

Discover Hublot’s collections: hublot.com

This article originally appeared in the LUX Beauty Issue. Click here to view more content from the issue.

 

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Reading time: 8 min
Man testing wine from a line of oak barrels
Man testing wine from a line of oak barrels

Tuscan winery owner Giovanni Dolfi, who acted as a mentor to 2016 Gaggenau Sommelier Award winner Marc Almert

The art of the Master Sommelier is steeped in tradition, but with the rise of ever-more sophisticated technology, Rebecca Gibb reports on the evolution of the role for the modern age
Portrait of Hong Kong's finest sommelier Yvonne Cheung

Hong Kong-based
sommelier Yvonne
Cheung

It was 7.30pm and the sun had descended into the western horizon, leaving another sultry evening in Hong Kong. The cacophony of car horns resounding from the tomato-coloured taxis inching their way along Queensway became a murmur, as diners ascended the 49 floors to the calm of luxury hotel The Upper House. In its restaurant, sommelier Yvonne Cheung was guiding a bottle of 1989 Cheval Blanc from its rack, as if it were a newborn. Sealed almost three decades ago when Hong Kong was still a British colony, its russet liquid was about to be released from its glass cocoon. But with no candle to hand, she gave the traditional process of decanting a modern twist, pulling out her iPhone, scrolling up and clicking the flashlight button, transferring the bottle’s precious contents with the assistance of Apple. Some 8,000 miles away, Patrick Cappiello’s lavishly tattooed arms were on full display as he sabred another bottle of prestige Champagne in a New York wine bar. Once a suit-and-tie-wearing sommelier, Cappiello encapsulates everything that has changed in the world of wine service, ditching the formal business attire, and adding a sense of fun.

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Cheung and Cappiello are key members of the sommelier revolution. The meeting of tradition and modernity in wine service has tracked fine-dining trends: in recent years hushed dining rooms, starched tablecloths and haughty waiters have been ditched in favour of less formality. This casualisation of dining has occurred at the highest level, which has also altered the appearance of sommeliers: the man or woman dishing out wine advice is just as likely to be wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of their favourite death-metal band as a shirt and tie. Texas-based Master Sommelier James Tidwell recalls: “Everybody used to be in suits. When I started the Court of Master Sommeliers courses, I saw people turning up in tuxedos because that was the standard of the time! Now you see sommeliers serving in jeans and T-shirts. Casualisation of dining has casualised sommeliers, but their role is still: how do you get the wine to the guest in the best possible condition? That might be baskets and candles, but it might be decanting it with your iPhone flashlight.”

The world of the modern sommelier flowed into suburban living rooms in 2012 with the release of Somm, a documentary following a group of sommeliers in pursuit of the prestigious – and often elusive – Master Sommelier (MS) qualification. Variously described as ‘rock stars of the industry’ and ‘sickly gifted’ the film raised the profiles not only of those ‘egomaniacs’ attempting to pass one of the most difficult exams in the world, but of the entire profession. Almost overnight, it became cool to be a sommelier and audiences realised it was worth listening to the guy offering wine advice (it usually is a guy – of the 249 Master Sommeliers in the world, only 25 are women).

The 21st-century sommelier

While technology has helped candle-less sommeliers decant mature bottles, it has also empowered diners. The rise of wine apps means people can now compare the average retail price of the bottle with the list price through Wine-Searcher, they can view drinker ratings on Vivino and, in 2016, a free app named Corkscrew, a ‘sommelier in your pocket’ teamed up with London restaurants, providing food and wine pairing suggestions based on the venue’s menu and wine list. Marc Almert, sommelier at five-star Zürich hotel Baur au Lac doesn’t think apps will replace sommeliers, but they may change their role. These apps, “Help the guest to be more self-assured when ordering wine,” he says. “Thus we become less of a wine consultant and more of a conversation partner. It allows us to exchange with the guests more openly.” Almert’s view of this evolution is echoed by sommeliers on both sides of the Atlantic and the Far East, but with the development of other technologies that replace the need for humans, including driverless cars, the sommelier-less wine list seems to be the logical conclusion.

Read more: Exploring the rugged beauty of Tajikistan along the Pamir Highway 

That said, a survey of 250 sommeliers across the US in 2000 found that when there was a sommelier in the dining room, more than a third of diners asked for wine recommendations, more parties ordered wine and the average bill was higher. It is apparent that some diners avoid buying wine because of the perceived risk – what if they buy something they don’t like or that won’t please their fellow diners? A sommelier can help to alleviate that fear, leading to increased sales. A more recent study of 50 restaurants in the Spanish city of Valencia also found that a knowledgeable sommelier with a well-curated wine list enhanced the customer’s satisfaction, raised the venue’s prestige and increased profitability.

Portrait of a Sven Schnee, global head of brand for Gaggenau

Gaggenau’s head of global brand, Sven Schnee

And there is an increasing number of knowledgeable sommeliers. Since 2012 – the year Somm was released – more than 50 people have passed the MS exam, swelling its ranks by almost a third. What’s more, hundreds participate in fiercely fought sommelier competitions each year in the hope of being crowned the best sommelier in the country – and the world. These competitions aim to test the knowledge and ability of sommeliers, take them out of their comfort zone, and make them better hosts whether they win or lose. Before lunch service begins, you’re likely to find the most competitive sommeliers poring over wine maps, studying obscure appellations or trying to identify the origin and variety of wines from taste alone. The final of the biennial Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2018 takes place in Beijing in October, bringing regional winners from North and South America, Europe and Asia. Sven Schnee, Gaggenau’s head of global brand, is also a judge. “Sommeliers are part of the culinary culture and, unlike chefs, they are heavily under-appreciated,” he says. “The sommelier has the most interaction with the customers. He must understand the components of the food, the wine and the interaction between them, but most of all, must be the perfect host.”

The UK leg of the competition was fiercely fought and judges Richard Billett, head of Maison Marques et Domaines, the UK arm of Champagne Louis Roederer, Craig Bancroft of boutique hotel and Michelin star restaurant Northcote and LUX Editor-In-Chief Darius Sanai were looking for personability as well as wine ability. “It goes without saying that a good sommelier needs to be highly knowledgeable, but knowledge is a precious quality that needs to be handled in a very careful and respectful way,” says Bancroft. “Many customers do not fully understand the role of a sommelier and sommeliers must understand that their role is to provide the customer with the best possible wine experience that suits the occasion and the price range in which the customer is comfortable.” Billett also emphasises the importance of people skills: “A good sommelier who recognises the importance of his role in the customer experience will prove to be a commercial and reputational asset for the restaurant. An arrogant and unhelpful one, a liability.”

Line-up of three finalists at the Gaggenau UK sommelier competition 2018

Zareh Mesrobyan, winner of the first Gaggenau UK Sommelier Awards (centre) with fellow finalists Tamas Czinki (left) and Luca Luciani (right)

Clearly, Almert offered the full package in 2016, becoming the global winner of the Awards. Still in his twenties, he is full of energy for his profession but long – and unsociable – hours, the increasing pressures of the job, and a desire to see what else they can do beyond the dining room means that you’ll find many experienced sommeliers now working outside the restaurant business in distribution, retail and education. For example, Tidwell spent two decades on the floor but now runs an annual conference for US sommeliers, Texsom. “As you get older, being on the floor of a restaurant early in the morning and hours that are not conducive to having families or friends outside of the business is less appealing,” he says. “Plus, the wear and tear on the body will eventually add up.”

Read more: Test driving the Maserati GranTurismo MC 

However, once a sommelier, always a sommelier. Fellow MS Gearoid Devaney is the director of London-based Burgundy wine importer, Flint Wines, and runs City wine bar and restaurant Cabotte. He believes that even if you are no longer on the floor, you are a sommelier for life. “I work as a wine merchant with a sommelier outlook in terms of the service I provide and delivering wine to people. I will always work with a sommelier’s brain. It’s about being the link between the producer and the end consumer and doing that with integrity.”

Whether they are on the floor for a year, a decade or a lifetime, sommeliers are dedicated to being personable and ever more professional in the face of technological advances. Wine is the reason for a sommelier’s existence but distilled to its essence, it is about caring for people. And Bancroft predicts a bright future. “There will always be a place for a sommelier,” he says. “The human touch, the real understanding of what someone is looking for, and for a sommelier to be able to deliver that to a client, truly enhances the dining experience.”

The first Gaggenau UK Sommelier Awards

Zareh Mesrobyan, from two-Michelin-star restaurant Andrew Fairlie in Gleneagles, Scotland, has been crowned the winner of the first-ever Gaggenau UK Sommelier Awards. He will represent the UK in the global competition in Beijing in October. Mesrobyan competed against Luca Luciani from Locanda Locatelli and Tamas Czinki from Northcote in five rounds including blind tasting, food and wine pairing and service role plays. Judge Craig Bancroft said Mesrobyan has a “superb chance of success on the worldwide stage”.

For updates on the Gaggenau Sommelier Award 2018 visit: gaggenau.com

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Reading time: 8 min
luxury wrist-bracelet with black strap and metal detailing
luxury wrist-bracelet with black strap and metal detailing

Two side release clasps open the S177 wrist piece, mimicking the design of a supercar’s ‘gullwing’
doors.

British brand Senturion has launched a new limited collection of high-tech supercar key bracelets

Senturion’s latest collection of luxury tech-bracelets synchronise with your supercar, using embedded RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, to function as an out-there alternative to a car key, on your wrist.

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The Senturion Key S17 collection is limited to only 177 pieces, which are fully customisable from the specifications and strap to the core finish, precious stones and personalised engravings.

luxury bracelet mechanism in calf leather and gold with diamonds

S177 with PVD coated titanium, calf leather, rose gold and white diamonds, starting from £31,750

The piece is compatible with high performance cars such as Bentley, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Bugatti, McLaren, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Porsche, and starts at a base price of £15,850 for brushed titanium.

Read more: Model Emma Breschi on social media and body positivity

Owners of bespoke Senturion Keys include Usain Bolt, Prince Albert II of Monaco, members of Chelsea F.C., Romain Grosjean and the Sultan of Brunei.

Our only gripe: LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai points out the Senturion Keys only work with the technology of the newest generation of Ferraris, meaning classic models like his can’t qualify.

Learn more about the production process of Senturion Key:

To find out more visit: senturionkey.com, or follow the brand on Instagram: @senturion_key

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Reading time: 1 min
Entrepreneur Wendy Yu poses with locals from Rwanda
Colour portrait of entrepreneur Wendy Yu

Wendy Yu. Portrait by Jonathan Glynn-Smith

Wendy Yu – entrepreneur, investor, cultural ambassador, fashion devotee, and frequent flyer between Shanghai, Hong Kong, London and New York – is taking the word ‘global’ to a whole new level, as Elisa Anniss discovers when they meet

Instagram can be hugely revealing about the people who use it, though rarely will you get the fullest picture of any of them. With her 1,913 posts and the 94.1K followers of her Instagram account, @Wendyyu_official, it still paints only a partial picture of this remarkable young woman, who is the founder and CEO of Yu Capital, a major Chinese investor in fashion and technology, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.

Nevertheless, snaps of Wendy Yu with Giambattista Valli, Thom Browne and Charlotte Olympia do reveal her stellar fashion credentials. There are the images of the Met Ball in New York and of a dinner for her friend Mary Katrantzou, co-hosted with Lord Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor. Instagram also tells us that she appears to be something of a collector of evening gowns. Indeed, the rare snap of her in trousers raises an obvious question. “I love both, to be honest,” she darts back, when challenged. “I’m very spontaneous. Sometimes I love things that are dreamy, crazy and imaginative. At other times I just like very simple things. I love to be a chameleon, it really depends on my mood.”

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This morning she’s flown in from Hong Kong. For the flight, she wore head-to-toe Alaïa with a yellow Mary Katrantzou fur. It’s typical of what she wears on planes – Alaïa or a kaftan from Oscar de la Renta paired with flat shoes. “All super comfy so I can sleep easily.” Last month she flew every two or three days. Shanghai is her main base, but Hong Kong, London and New York, are all places where Yu regularly spends time. “New York more now because next year we’re launching an exciting project there,” she ventures, but that’s all she’ll give on the details. Still, Shanghai is where she has a home and where her parents’ live – Yu is heir to her family’s business, the Mengtian Group, China’s leading wooden door manufacturer.

It takes sitting down and talking to this young entrepreneur and philanthropist to see that dressing up and accumulating possessions isn’t really what drives her. Her enquiring mind and the way she lights up, crackling with enthusiasm and talking nineteen to the dozen when discussing her many passions, leaves a lasting impression. It’s certainly something that Instagram is unable to convey. Fashion, disruptive technology, the arts, China and being a Sino- Western bridge connecting people, are just some of the subjects she tackles with energy.

“Wendy is passionate about London designers and entrepreneurs and has definitely made a positive impact by supporting some of the best talent out there. We need more people like her,” enthuses José Neves, the fashion-tech businessman who founded Farfetch, and husband of Daniela Cecilio Neves, in whose business Yu was an angel investor. Undoubtedly, it was Yu’s inquisitiveness that brought her to England in the first place. This involved spending time at school in Somerset, in the English countryside where she got a taste of the British boarding school system as well as meeting other, mostly non-Chinese pupils. Next, she went on to complete a degree in fashion management at the London College of Fashion with a stint in between interning at Vogue China. She has also completed executive business programmes at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, interned for a family office in the Middle East and has spent time working for Mengtian. “Truth be told, while education is important, it’s not until you do internships and start working that you really learn about business,” she says.

Breakfast hosted by Wendy Yu and Caroline Rush

Wendy Yu and Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, co-hosted breakfast for Vogue China’s Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung

Today, Yu is the youngest member of the Fashion Trust, a British Fashion Council charity, and a founding member of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Young Patrons’ Circle. Even though she herself doesn’t use the word ‘anglophile’, with her love of Harrods – “I still vividly remember the first time I went [there]. It really ignited my passion for fashion” – and her appreciation of British life beyond London – “I love the town of Taunton, and Devon is beautiful, too”– it’s a moniker that fits.

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on finding new places in a well-travelled world

In 2015, Yu founded the investment vehicle Yu Capital and in January 2018, Yu Capital became Yu Holdings. Yu Holdings is a platform created to unite the worlds of strategic investment, technology, philanthropy, arts and culture and to reinforce business and cultural ties between China and the rest of the world.

“The evolution of Yu Capital into Yu Holdings was a strategic decision to consolidate my investment activities with my cultural and fashion projects, all with the end goal of bridging the economic and cultural gap between China and the rest of the world, a mission that drives every decision Yu Holdings makes,” says Yu. The investment vehicle is divided into three main areas of interest: Yu Capital, Yu Fashion and Yu Culture. Yu Capital, the investment arm of Yu Holdings, is focused on strategic investment in global technology, lifestyle and fashion businesses that show high potential for growth in a global market.

Yu’s two technology investments are Didi Chuxing (for more information see end of article), the largest taxi-hailing firm in China, valued at US$35 billion and whose other investors include Apple, Alibaba and Tencent, and Tujia.com. This Chinese online marketplace and hospitality service enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging, something like Airbnb (see end of article).

“Because Didi and Tujia are both multi-billion-dollar companies, they have very big and powerful investors. I’m involved financially rather than strategically,” she notes. “I’m generally less involved with technology investments than with my fashion and lifestyle investments, where I look to add value and contribute to their development and growth.”

Models dressed in colourful costume walking down the catwalk

One of Yu Capital’s recent ventures, Mary Katrantzou, with her SS18 show

Earlier in 2017, Yu Capital made its first luxury fashion investment in the London-based designer brand Mary Katrantzou (see end of article) whose sought-after collections are sold in leading luxury stores around the globe. Yu confesses that before she makes the final decision on an investment she consults with her fortune master, who told her great things about Mary, prompting her to go ahead. “At the back of my mind there is always the question, is this relevant to the Chinese market?”

Read more: President of Monaco Boat Service Lia Riva on the family business

Whether she proceeds with a fashion investment or not also depends on the chemistry she has with a designer as well as the company’s future potential. “With Mary, I really like her as a person as well as a business woman. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she’s hugely talented.” She was also struck by Katrantzou’s background in architecture and opportunities that lay waiting in the whole lifestyle sector.

Yu believes that past collaborations with Adidas, Moncler and Topshop have already helped Mary Katrantzou capture the attention of Chinese consumers and that there is still greater opportunity there for Katrantzou’s core brand. “We are very open to the new emerging designers and the purchasing power in China is now very strong. However, one needs to select carefully which partners in China will be the best in the long term because they all want exclusivity.” Yu can help Katrantzou navigate these complexities. “I don’t have any agenda, I only want what’s best for Mary,” she says.

The investment in Mary Katrantzou followed two made in 2015, one in ASAP54, recently re-branded Fashion Concierge, and another in the sustainable accessories brand Bottletop. Yu was drawn to Fashion Concierge by the disruptive technology it displayed at the time of its launch, whereas with Bottletop it was the idea of social investment that appealed to her. “I liked their concept and approach to sustainability,” she says. As a pioneering fashion accessories brand (founded in 2012 by Oliver Wayman and Cameron Saul, the son of Mulberry founder Roger Saul), the brand revolves around the simple idea of re-cycling the ring pulls from drinks cans – hence the name. A novel, sustainable, chainmail-like material, often with an enamel finish in a range of colours, helps to make Bottletop products, which include totes, clutches, backpacks and belts, instantly identifiable. The company also funds the Bottletop Foundation, which supports young people in Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. “Wendy is a rare visionary and we have loved having her as part of the Bottletop family,” says Saul. “Wendy is also very strategic and has supported us with important introductions as we position the brand to launch in Asia.”

This is echoed by Daniela Cecilio Neves of Fashion Concierge: “I’ve greatly benefited from Wendy’s insights as a tech-savvy, fashion-loving individual, who can also provide me with a perspective on China,” she says.

Entrepreneur Wendy Yu poses with locals from Rwanda

Wendy Yu at the Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda

Ever since Yu took a trip to Rwanda with Brita Fernandez Schmidt, the UK executive director of the charity Women for Women International, social investment, and how similar principles could be applied to the less developed parts of China, have been at the forefront of Yu’s mind. “Brita invited me to see her work in Rwanda because that’s where they have the Women’s Opportunity Center. I’m very curious and I’ve always wanted to see different parts of the world. It was the most inspiring trip I’ve ever been on. I’m looking to potentially develop some culture-related projects with Women for Women, as Brita is keen to see rural parts of China. As a Chinese woman, I would like to explore how we could create support areas in China where there are still huge gender inequalities.”

This leads into the overarching ambition of Yu Culture, the purpose of which is to enrich China’s cultural landscape through development and exchange initiatives in film, art and media, and by working in special partnership with international cultural institutions on projects to be unveiled in 2018.

Yu is already closely involved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. “The V&A has been one of my favourite museums since my student days,” she enthuses. “They invited me to join and I said yes without hesitation.” Her role includes introducing friends from Asia as well as a young group of people from the international fashion and art world. “It’s a bridge, again,” she continues. “Introducing people comes very naturally to me. It’s win-win for everybody because they love the V&A and getting to know the industry community, and the museum loves to meet new art collectors.”

Her involvement is certainly appreciated by the museum. “As a Founding Member of the Young Patrons’ Circle, Wendy Yu has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Victoria and Albert Museum, not only contributing to the successful launch of this important initiative and its exciting programme, but also through her involvement with the Museum’s annual Summer Party and her passion and knowledge of the V&A’s fashion collection,” says a senior museum spokeswoman.

“I love to be the bridge between China and the rest of the world because I love both cultures and want to enhance the connection between the two,” continues Yu. The South China Morning Post recently described her as being both “a sounding board for British designers negotiating the labyrinthine ways of doing business in China” and China’s “unofficial ambassador for British fashion”.

Net-A-Porter, a company Yu admires because of its “great customer experience”, invited Yu to become one of its global ambassadors. In this new capacity, she is scheduled to take the former Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, and her clothing brand Cefinn, which sells on Net-A-Porter, to China in 2018. It’s a collection she considers to be super wearable with a good price point. “I’ve been wearing her blouse with different outfits and wearing her skirts,” enthuses Yu. “I respect Samantha’s vision and I think Cefinn would be very relevant to Chinese professional ladies.”

According to Yu there are still major differences between the West and China, particularly in terms of technology. In China, she can go out carrying just a mobile phone. She explains that instead of a wallet, Chinese people use Alipay, a third-party mobile and online payment platform established in China in 2004 by the Alibaba group, or WeChat Pay, launched by Tencent.

Her insight into a world that the West is hungry to know more about, is just one of the reasons why she is so in demand in the fashion world. “Wendy’s business acumen and knowledge of the financial sector are invaluable assets to our British designers hence why her support and dedication to the BFC Fashion Trust are so invaluable,” says Caroline Rush CBE, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. Yu describes Rush as “a friend and a mentor” and is someone with whom she co-hosted a breakfast to welcome Angelica Cheung, the Vogue China editor-in-chief, to London. Yu’s involvement in the BFC Fashion Trust has also led to her meeting many designers and learning about the challenges that they face. “You find that a lot of designers are super-creative but they don’t really have that business sense. Nowadays, for a fashion brand to evolve, you have to have both creative vision and to understand the commercial world, exactly who the customers are and what they are looking for.”

Read more: Why we love Club Dauphin on Cap Ferrat right now

Huishan Zhang is a London-based designer in Yu’s friendship circle who is known for his classically feminine evening gowns and dresses that sell in his Mount Street flagship. Like Yu, Zhang was born in China, but left when he was still a teenager. “I’m great friends with Huishan Zhang,” Yu says. “He’s a lot of fun, we share a lot of friends and look to support each other as well, on both a personal and a business level.” According to Yu, he makes her made-to-measure dresses for her and she collects signed sketches of his designs. “Wendy has been a good friend to me,” says Zhang, who doesn’t manufacture in Italy but produces his clothes in his family’s factory in China. “She is an active entrepreneur and supporter of the fashion industry, honing in on new talent, along with great passion and a unique style.”

Colour portrait photograph of entrepreneur wendy yu

Portrait by Jonathan Glynn-Smith

It’s mid-afternoon and we’re coming to the end of our interview now and still there’s no sign of any jet lag or of her flagging post-photo shoot. Yu’s energy levels are high. But then they have to be, as she’s off to Lisbon next, speaking at Web Summit, which bills itself as “the largest tech conference in the world” and welcomes an extensive and diverse line up of speakers ranging from Al Gore to Suzy Menkes. Yu says she’s booked to talk on two panels, one with Caroline Rush and another with the CEO of Matchesfashion.com and Vestiairecollective.com. “It’s all come about very spontaneously and it’s a nice group of industry insiders.”

It won’t be Yu’s first foray into the speaker circuit. In June she appeared on the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Forum panel alongside a group including Yana Peel (CEO of the Serpentine Galleries) and the shoe designer Rupert Sanderson, discussing cultural and commercial partnerships in China. She has also given similar talks covering her investments and connecting with China, in Cambridge and at London Business School, as well as back in China. When asked if she ever gets nervous about speaking publicly she replies: “No, not really. Though I always prefer talking on a panel, it feels more natural. I wouldn’t say no to a glass of champagne if my nerves get the better of me!” And why not, I say.

LUX would like to thank 45 Park Lane in Mayfair, London, for the use of its exquisite Curzon Suite for the shoot of Wendy Yu by Jonathan Glynn-Smith. 45 Park Lane is the artistic sibling to The Dorchester, next door, and has a fabulous program of art events, its own curator, and its own artist in residence. dorchestercollection.com

For more information on Wendy Yu’s investment platform visit: yu-holdings.com

Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou, who won the £200,000 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund prize in 2015, is Yu Capital’s most recent investment. One of the heavy hitters at London Fashion Week, the Greece-born designer delights the audience each season with highly original ideas brought to life using elaborate embroidery and embellishment, a mix of textiles, prints and silhouettes and an inimitable signature that shouts Mary. The London-based ready-to-wear marque was established in 2008, after the designer graduated with an MA in Fashion from Central Saint Martins. She was soon dubbed The Queen of Print by the press, a tag that recognised the enormous influence of her work in the medium. In recent years, collaborations, including capsule ranges with Longchamp, Moncler, and Adidas Originals, have helped to broaden her appeal at home and abroad, and of course in China. Mary Katrantzou doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar store, yet, but she does sell to leading luxury stores in many countries including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Le Bon Marché. “Wendy is an extraordinary person with a pragmatic and forward-looking vision, who is a close friend as well as an ambassador for the brand,” says Mary Katrantzou. “The most important thing for me is to be surrounded by people who understand my vision and support me in building a truly international lifestyle brand. It’s very exciting to enter our 10th anniversary with a board of incredible women advisors who are shaping the industry in their own right and will be helping us shape our future and reach our full potential.”

Tujia

The rental company has taken couch surfing to a whole new level with $300 million of investments announced in October 2017. Giving Airbnb a serious run for its money, and valued at $1.5 billion, Tujia was founded in 2011 under Tujia Online Information and Technology Company of Limited Liability. With 345 locations across China to choose from and at least 1,000 partnerships internationally, it boasts 650,000 listings and is tapping into a large affluent travelling class, revolutionizing the hospitality industry in China.

Didi Chuxing

The taxi-hailing app is China’s answer to Uber (in fact, it acquired Uber China in 2016) and is the largest such company in the world, with 200 million rides under its belt last year. The app was launched in 2012 and today has over 450m users across the Chinese continent, spanning 400 cities and a variety of services. From social ride-sharing to options including Didi Chauffeur, Didi Bus and Didi Car Rental and Hitch, its social ride-sharing branch, it has taken China by storm and has recently developed an English-language version of the app. It is also looking towards the future with groundbreaking investment into AI technology, with over $5.5 billion raised in 2017.

This article originally appeared in the LUX LOVE Issue, Spring 2018

 

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Reading time: 16 min
Maserati Multi 70 sailing boat pictured in action on the ocean
Colour portrait of world famous sailor Giovanni Soldini

World record-breaking sailor Giovanni Soldini

Giovanni Soldini is one of the world’s most famous sailors, most recently setting the Tea Route record sailing from Hong Kong to London in 36 days on the Maserati Multi70. LUX Digital Editor Millie Walton caught up with the sailor at the Italian Embassy in London to hear about his most recent adventures 

1. Why sailing?

I had always been interested by the ocean, being out on the water and sailing in general from a very young age. However, the defining moment when I knew sailing is what I had to do for the rest of my life, came when I was 17. I managed to convince an old American captain to take me on his boat, sailing across the Atlantic. We sailed from Palma De Mallorca to Antigua and I’ve never looked back. Not only did I pick up an incredible amount of sailing know-how on that trip, but I also learned to speak English from the captain – it really was a defining journey in my life.

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2.What’s it like sailing alone compared to sailing with a team?

People think that sailing alone must be an incredibly lonely experience, but in all honesty, you don’t have time to be lonely. Your mind is racing at 100mph at all times. There’s so much to consider when sailing solo, so you are constantly focused on not capsizing, maintaining speed, checking directions. I’d love to say that it’s therapeutic and you get a lot of time to think but the reality is that you don’t. Sailing with a team is a different experience – especially when you have such a great bunch of guys as we had in our last adventure. The little interactions with each other keep you going.

Maserati Multi 70 sailing boat pictured in action on the ocean

The Maserati Multi70 in action during the Tea Route race from Hong Kong to London 2018. Credit: Team Maserati Multi70

3. What makes the Maserati Multi70 Trimaran exceptional?

It’s just such a fantastic boat to sail. The combination of cutting-edge technology, beautiful design and performance engineering mean that I have the best possible trimaran at my disposal – much like you would have when driving a Maserati car. It is a truly unique boat for ocean racing, with its ‘Manta’ foil that keeps the boat horizontally stable when we are up at speeds of over 40knots out of the water. The adrenaline you feel at these speeds, when you are virtually out of the water flying apart from the rudders is incredible and is a feeling I haven’t been able to replicate elsewhere – except from maybe on a racing track in a Maserati.

4. What’s been your most challenging race to date?

Definitely the two Round Alone races because they were just so hard on the mind and the body. Each regatta has its own challenges anyway, they are all different and unique. The last record, along the Tea Route was very difficult because there were so many unknown factors to take into account and no matter how well you plan in advance, there is always something unforeseen happening and you just have to react as best as you can. When we broke one of the rudders we immediately went to change it (luckily we had decided to take a spare one on board) in the open sea. But not for a moment we let ourselves go, we had to find a way to carry on and beat the record and thankfully we did.

Read more: Model, actress and director Florence Kosky on mental health and women in film

5. You’ve broken so many records — what’s your ultimate ambition?

When I am doing something I am fully dedicated to it. So with Maserati we are currently doing a lot of research and development with the ultimate goal of creating the best trimaran for the Ocean. In the Autumn, after spending the Summer doing Drive&Sail Events we will start racing again.

Maserati sailing boat with maserati car parked in front on the road

Maserati Multi70 on the Tea Route from Hong Kong to London 2018

6. How do you relax when you’re not at sea?

I am always thinking about sailing, even when I am not on the water. I constantly imagine my next challenges or when I can next get out on the water. My family would tell you I never think about anything other than sailing. When we like to relax or go on holiday with my children, it is usually a sailing holiday – although definitely more relaxing than my cross-channel sailing challenges.

For updates on Giovanni Soldini and the Maserati team visit: maserati.soldini.it

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Reading time: 3 min
Portrait of artist Viktor Wynd outside of his museum in east London,
Pearly Queen Doreen Golding portrait in front of orange door by artist Maryam Eisler

A prominent member of the charitable Pearly Kings and Queens Society, Doreen Golding as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler is a busy woman; co-chair of the Tate’s MENAAC Acquisitions Committee,  member of the Tate International Council, trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery and Advisory Council member of Photo London are to name just a few of her roles in the art world, but first and foremost, she is an artist. Digital Editor Millie Walton speaks with Maryam Eisler about her most recent project Voices East London, the power of art versus politics and the democracy of social media.
colour portrait of Maryam Eisler photographer and contributing LUX editor

Maryam Eisler

LUX: You’ve worked in the art world for a long time in various guises and interacted with lots of artists – when did you start taking your own photos?
Maryam Eisler: I’ve actually been taking photographs seriously for about 20 years now; I did courses and all sorts of photographic ventures, but I never dared to go out publicly. Two years ago, I had just completed a residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I explored the arid landscape and the female form, inspired by nature and by the personality of Georgia O’Keefe, in particular- her life and her oeuvre; a friend saw the photographs I’d taken there and she asked me which artist they were by, to which I answered ‘It’s not an artist, it’s me!’ She collects photography herself from the 50s and the 60s and was drawn to the black and white, the classical style – in any case, she asked me to email her a few of them and the rest is history! A few days later, I received a call from the gallerist Tristan Hoare who wanted to meet with me. She had shown him the work without telling me! And that is how this adventure began. Since then, I’ve had a solo show in London, ‘Searching for Eve in the American West’, and more exposure at the Dallas Art Fair and at Unseen in Amsterdam.

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LUX: Sounds very busy – how did you find the time to make your most recent book, Voices East London?
Maryam Eisler: Well whilst all of this was going on, I was playing with the idea of producing a book of my own because I had contributed editorially in the past to several publications to do with artists, studios and creativity (most recently London Burning: Portraits from a Creative City) but I had never done a project where I was in charge of both photography and editorial. My previous projects had pulled me towards the East End on numerous occasions, and everyone I had met there, I felt, was slightly off the wall in terms of imagination, innovation and creativity; so, I embarked on a 22 month journey to the East! What was interesting to me from a photography point of view was that it took me into a kind of parallel world; with my fine art photography, I like to immerse myself in nature, such as the American West or Provence, where I loose myself in thought and in time; but a book project, is a very different cup of tea. This particular book has on offer 80 different creative personalities, many of whom are very well known in their respective fields, the kings and queens of the East End culturally speaking, so we are talking egos, time constraints, fast pace – it’s more of a documentary style approach to photography, and yet in the back of my mind, I always have this aesthetic angle and it’s obviously very important for me to convey my perspective and stay true to my style; it has been fascinating to engage with both types of photographic approaches, at the same time.

pop artist Philip Colbert photographed with his artworks in East London by photographer Maryam Eisler

Artist and fashion designer, Philip Colbert, as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

The photographs are in colour too, which is different for me since I usually shoot in black and white, but the idea was to convey the vivacity and unique colours of that part of London. I live in the west end which tends to be much more sanitised and commercial, and going to the East End every week was like going on holiday! I’d get to meet these wonderful, energetic people, and encounter new minds in the arts, music, fashion. As you know, the East End today is also the hub of technology so it was super important to show the new face of the area. The project was an exploration into the past, delving into layers of history and culture, but also trying to think about what the area has become today and what it stands for, not to mention the challenges that it is faced with in its future.

LUX: Why did you choose to make the book now, given the political climate, and the changes that will come with Brexit?
Maryam Eisler: I’m always concerned about the future of creativity and the role which London plays in this arena – what incredible role it has played in the past, but also and most importantly what global role it will play in the future, if any. That’s the big question mark. I think one of the great successes of the East End, has been its historic ability to empower creative output, and this has much to do with a friction, in my opinion, between glitz and grits, as well as with the cultural layering and diversity of the area, from the French Huguenots to the Irish silk weavers, as well as the Jewish communities and today, a predominantly, Muslim Bangladeshi community. Spending time with Gilbert & George, I once asked them whether they ever go away on holiday and they said, ‘Maryam my dear, why on earth would we go anywhere? We have the world at our doorstep.’ I think that’s a very unique attribute of the East End.

Read next: René Magritte’s photographs and home videos on display in Hong Kong

There’s a sense today, despite gentrification (I hate that word), the cultural cleansing and the commercialisation of the area, that you still have an essence of the past. Whether it’s London or New York, there’s the classic example of artists moving into areas making it all happening and kind of edgy and cool, and then the developers move in, building high risers, destroying artistic communities, with the locals not being able to afford the price of rent, so they get pushed out; but there’s also this industrious spirit in the East End of London, this skill that its inhabitants possess for being chameleons and adapting to and adopting new situations and environments, and although some have definitely been priced out, others do manage to find ways to reinvent themselves. The people there also have an amazing ability of making something out of nothing, in a very artisanal kind of way; it’s a kind of craftsmanship of their own lives, and the sense of community and support there is still very strong.

portrait of stylist jude nwimo in his home neighbourhood of east london by artist maryam eisler

Stylist Jude Nwimo as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

LUX: Do you think that art has a social responsibility, as opposed to art for art’s sake?
Maryam Eisler: I really believe in the soft power of art. In the crazy world that we live in, that is becoming even crazier by the day, politically speaking and otherwise, I think more and more that artistic platforms are the last remaining bastions where critical thinking and exchange can take place in an open manner. Beyond their work, artists have also become the philosophers of today, the thinkers; they are the voices through whom we are enabled to think about the world we live in, and if a work of art makes you think, if it impacts you emotionally and intellectually, then it’s done its job, good or bad. Art has the power to move individuals, to make them think but also and most importantly to make them rethink and reevaluate the issues at hand.

LUX: How do you think social media and digital technologies have impacted on the art world?
Maryam Eisler: What’s incredible about social media in my opinion, is that it has broken, the classic system of accessing and understanding art, offering a direct dialogue between artist and viewer. And that is very powerful. Artists have become their own marketers. And why not! Often what the artists say and think of their work may differ drastically from the thoughts of curators, so removing old communication barrier systems and layers has given space for a new form of engagement. Social media offers a more democratic approach to the issue at hand, with increased possibility and connectivity.

Portrait of Lyall Hakaraia, fashion designer in East London

Fashion Designer and owner of the VFD club, Lyall Hakaraia as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

LUX: In the past art collecting has certainly been regarded as quite elitist…
Maryam Eisler: Yes, I hate the word collector actually. I am an art lover, not a collector. I like to engage with the producer of an artwork; I like to have conversations with them, to get to know their inspirations and passions, which is exactly what I would offer to the people who are interested in my own photography. I enjoy the dialogue and exchange and for me, that’s an important part of the process. Social media opens that possibility for conversation and dialogue more than ever before.

Read next: Walking in the footsteps of fashion royalty at The May Fair Hotel

LUX: Much of your work is centred around the female form – how do you see yourself engaging with feminist discourses?
Maryam Eisler: The crux of my work revolves around the Divine Feminine, in which I celebrate the feminine identity, form, beauty and intellect. I’m interested in the contrast of form and geometry vs context; I am also interested to explore where and how ‘Woman’ with a capital W fits into the world and nature in particular, hence and indirectly a questioning of my own self-identity, I suppose.

As to the current feminist discourses that are going on, I believe in equilibrium and measured approaches, and I’m afraid that I do not agree with what is going on, as I believe that we have entered a zone of revolutionary extremism and zero tolerance which gives no room to ‘ innocence until proven guilty’ ; that is always a dangerous place to be, and this can only lead to more of the same and without doubt to a backlash of greater proportion. Men and women should live in mindful, conscious harmony. Each side should celebrate the other, with respect and dialogue. Anyone can be accused, these days (on either side of the gender spectrum), but it does not mean that they are guilty, until proven so, legally and with proper evidence!

Portrait of drag artist Johnny Woo walking through the streets of East London by photographer Maryam Eisler

Drag artist, Jonny Woo as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

LUX: What’s next for you?
Maryam Eisler: I have my first solo US exhibition coming up in May 2018 at Harpers Books in East Hampton, Long Island. Needless to say that I am very excited about this opportunity. The title of the exhibition is in fact “The Sublime Feminine”, consisting of a cross section of my work shot in New Mexico and in Provence, but it will also include new work shot in the Catskills last summer on beautiful Holz farm which belongs to the acclaimed photographer, George Holz.

I have always been obsessed with the work of Edward Weston, and I had the wonderful opportunity of shooting at his original home on Wildcat Hill in Carmel California last May, in the company of his grandson Kim and wife Gina as well as his great grandson Zach, all of whom follow in the footsteps of the man himself – all are fantastic photographers. I myself was inspired by time, space, place and history. Edward is still very present there. His darkroom is intact. His handwritten chemical recipes are stuck to the walls, and his desk and even the lamp which features in some of his photographs are all there …not to mention artefacts he returned from his trip to Mexico following his then love, acclaimed artist and revolutionary, Tina Modotti. It was like spending time in a living museum. And I think the work I produced there has more of a conceptual nature, honing in on the body and shapes. It’s to do with shadow and light, lines and forms. I will be showing these works at Tristan Hoare in January 2019 London, and given that I was inspired by photographic history and past, the wonderful US-based Martin Axon (who was the printer to Robert Mapplethorpe among other greats) will be printing this particular series in Platinum on special hand woven, hand torn Arches paper….so, I am very excited by these upcoming projects!

maryameisler.com

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Reading time: 10 min
LA based accessory designer Tyler Ellis SS18 Handbag Collection
Handbag from the latest collection by designer Tyler Ellis

Tyler Ellis SS18 Collection

Portrait of accessory designer Tyler Ellis, daughter of Perry Ellis the fashion designer

Tyler Ellis

Tyler Ellis, daughter of American fashion designer Perry Ellis, is one of LA’s hottest accessory designers right now. Her clutches and handbags are frequently photographed on the arms of Hollywood’s leading ladies, favoured for their simple, functional design and luxurious range of fabrics. Digital Editor Millie Walton puts the designer in the hot seat, for our new 6 questions slot.

 

1. You grew up around some of the biggest names in the fashion industry, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors to name but two. Did this inspire you to become a designer?

My mother chose to raise me in LA away from my father’s world to try and give me a private and more normal childhood, so I was not raised in the fashion scene. I remember the first time I went to a Marc Jacobs fashion show, I was around 13 years old and it was at a tented, candle lit pier in NYC, very reminiscent of a romantic night in Italy. That was the first moment that I knew the designer gene was in my blood. The energy in the room was electric – a feeling I will never forget and something that I knew I wanted to be a part of!

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I returned home to LA and for a period of time left my dreams of becoming a designer in NYC. I ended up going to college in Boston and graduating with a Communications degree. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC and started working with the designer Michael Kors that my dream to design reemerged.

Working for Michael and his team was amazing. It was like one big family with people encouraging and inspiring one another to push themselves to do their very best. After this incredible experience I decided to take the leap and start my own line. It was the scariest, but at the same time, most rewarding thing I have ever done and I am very thankful that these impactful experiences pushed me to follow my dream!

2. Your designs have attracted an impressive celebrity following, how influential do you think celebrity endorsement is for contemporary luxury brands?

It has been an unbelievable honour having such strong, incredible and powerful women like Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Salma Hayek and Reese Witherspoon choosing to carry my bags, when they have the world at their fingertips.

Celebrities have literally “made” unknown clothing brands by wearing their creations to major events, giving emerging designers a worldwide platform which most young brands cannot achieve on their own. Exposure is key!

The Golden Globes awards Salma Hayek holding Tyler Ellis clutch

Actor Salma Hayek (left) pictured at the Golden Globes holding the Lily Clutch by Tyler Ellis

The accessory world is a bit more difficult because when a celebrity walks the red carpet, the outfit is always the main focus, jewellery and shoes may or may not get mentioned, and the bag sometimes might not even be carried.

Personally, capturing images of celebrities carrying my bags has been a huge asset to my brand not only because it drives sales, but also because it creates brand legitimisation. In order for most people to purchase an item, especially a luxury piece, they must believe in or have trust in the brand. As I mentioned earlier, celebrities have access to anything they want, and when they choose to carry my bags it sends a message to the world.

3. What makes the perfect bag?

The perfect mix between functionality and luxury. There are many beautiful bags in the world, but what defines the good from the great are the intricate details.
All of my bags are hand crafted in Florence, by a father/son owned factory. I customise my hardware, purchase alligator, python and lizard from Hermès Cuirs Precieux (HCP), an Hermès owned tannery, and source all of my leathers from France and Italy.

To me, what make my bags even more unique are the beautiful details that create functionality. Every Tyler Ellis clutch comes with a hidden, detachable, lightweight chain, holds the largest iPhone, fits comfortably in the hand and most also have discrete exterior pockets and internal dividers for the essentials.

Leather rucksack from the SS18 collection by Tyler Ellis

Tyler Ellis SS18 Collection

Day bags come with phone chargers, extra-long key-fobs, credit card slots, iPad/computer compartments, hidden exterior pockets and zippered internal pockets. Gold plated pinecone feet are offered to help protect the hides and all of the bags are all lined with my signature “Thayer Blue” lining making it easy to see your belongings inside.

My bags are representations of me and my lifestyle, and I strive to make them as best as I possibly can.

Read next: Photographer Maryam Eisler on East London and the power of art

4. What are some of the challenges that face small independent luxury brands today?

Getting the right people in front of the product! People are so busy these days and given the speed and power of social media and the internet there is so much noise out there it’s very difficult to get enough attention from the fashion world to make a difference for an emerging brand. Larger brands have larger budgets, which leads to greater mainstream exposure. As an independent niche brand, I have changed my approach on running my business, relying less on the traditional fashion world and focusing more on intimate events with prominent women in key cities around the world. These women have access to anything and everything and when they choose to purchase and carry Tyler Ellis it’s an incredible validation for my brand and me.

Model Gigi Hadid with ava box handbag by Tyler Ellis

Gigi Hadid pictured with the Ava Box. Photo by James Devaney/GC Images

5. Do you have a favourite material to work with and why?

I always enjoy working with unexpected exotics…skins like ostrich leg, jungle fowl, fish and toad are not commonly used but look and feel super luxe and keep people guessing. Creating these unique pieces excites me because there is so much of the same out there and it’s always refreshing to find something different and individual. The most rewarding feedback I have received from clients is that when they carry their Tyler Ellis bags, people constantly stop them and inquire about the bags, which makes them feel great and excited to be carrying something special and coveted.

6. What’s next for your brand?

I am currently working on a bag collaboration with a very talented Hollywood stylist. It’s a sporty day bag, which differs from my more classic signature style, but I’m very proud of it and super excited for the launch. I will also be continuing an ongoing collaboration with the fashion label Noon by Noor for their Fall Winter collection which will be presented over New York Fashion Week– stay tuned!

I’ve also started to delve into the bridal world. I’m at the age where many of my friends are getting engaged and I’ve been getting requests to design bespoke bags for brides and their bridal parties. I have a quick turn around and can custom most colours and materials. Another added bonus is the interior of my bags are blue, so you are also checking off something new and blue!

tylerellis.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Portrait of new media artist, poet and software designer Eran Hadas
Portrait of new media artist, poet and software designer Eran Hadras

Eran Hadas, Tel Aviv-based new media artist, poet and experimental software designer

Tel-Aviv based poet Eran Hadas uses his skills as an experimental software developer to build ‘augmented poetry’ generators, where algorithms assemble poems. His methods anticipate the dawn of artificial intelligence which will revolutionise concepts of personhood in the future, and demonstrate how poetry will nevertheless retain a vital role in helping us understand and explore these new terrains. In this month’s Poetry Muse, Rhiannon Williams speaks to Hadas about the the Tel-Aviv poetry scene and creative technology.

‘I think [poetry] should both reflect and affect reality,’ explains Eran Hadas in our interview, something that could be taken as insightful not only about poetry but also on the role of technology. Striking a fascinating figure on the Israeli literary scene, Eran is literally reconfiguring poetic function, fusing his technological and literary skills to create radical and intriguing works. For the Mind Your Poem project, for example, Eran used a special headset to record brain waves and create poems from the readings of people’s emotions: a kind of poetry that is as utterly post-modern as could be.

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His innovative projects and poems have featured in the Venice Biennale, the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art and the Warsaw POPełnione exhibition among others. He was the Binyamin Gallery poet in residence in 2016, the 2017 Schusterman Visiting Artist at Caltech and is an exciting part of the biannual Tel Aviv Poetry Festival.

Rhiannon Williams: Could you explain a bit more what you mean by your term ‘augmented poetry’?
Eran Hadas: The inventor of Hypertext, Ted Nelson, said that he felt the four borders of the page were walls of a prison of which he tried to break free, and I feel the same way about poetry. I think it should both reflect and affect reality, and in our time the way to go about it is to step in and out of the printed format, and in and out of the virtual (and mixed) world. For me, poetry involves both print, web and interactive works, involving chatbots, automatic poetry generators, text mixed with other media, but always circling around text and textuality, and striving to explore new possibilities of text.

RW: How did you first become interested in the possibilities for collaboration between
computing and poetry?
EH: I studied computer science, yet poetry has always been my passion. When I got into the literary circles of Tel-Aviv I realised there was some kind of a recurring pattern in the writing of a certain celebrated poet. I decided to devise a simple set of rules that would generate a poem similar to his, but when I got to the technical implementation, it felt so emotional and deep, that I felt I had to do such things for myself, rather than to match or compete against someone else.

Augmented poetry projected onto a wall at an exhibition in Warsaw by poet and software developer Eran Hadras

The Pop/Kolor exhibition in Warsaw, 2016

RW: What would you say has been one of your favourite projects to work on?
EH: My sixth book Code was programmed to reveal all the Haiku poems in the Pentateuch; The