LUX checks in to Borgo Santandrea, a sweet spot on the Amalfi coast which feels far from the madding tourist crowds

‘Everybody should have one talent, what’s yours?’ Or so says Dickie Greenleaf in the thriller – most recently a Netflix hit – TheTalented Mr Ripley. If it was Italy, rather than criminal Tom Ripley, responding, the answer would not be ‘forging signatures, telling lies, impersonating practically anybody’, but, perhaps, ‘Venezia, Roma, Toscana… Amalfi’. But how could one pick just one? Across its various shooting locations Ripley’s Amalfi shone out in staggering blue. I couldn’t resist.

A private beach, a pool, and ancient buildings look out onto the Amalfi Coast

A private beach, a pool, and ancient buildings look out onto the Amalfi Coast

It’s hard not to reach for clichés when, checking into the room, one is faced with a vast abstract painting of two blues – that is, sea and sky – contained like a Rothko in their window frame. The room seems to lead one towards this, across bespoke furniture and their signature tiles of blue and white.

Read More: Mandarin Oriental, Zurich, Review

Tucked away, 52 metres above sea level, one sleeps cocooned in something which is clean, refreshingly modern. And yet, at the beach bar, Marinella Beach Club, one still feels that one might just hear the fisherman, raising a glass of limoncello up with a clinking ‘salute!’ after a long day of hauling nets into its ancient building.

a table, a moon, and the sea

Alici, for fine dining at Borgo Santandrea, is a 1 Michelin star restaurant

Holding onto both old and new is the Marinella Restaurant. A Cardinale Twist to begin, for me. Its bitter freshness is what I want in the salt air, while I browse the menu. It seems wrong to bypass fish while sitting by the setting sun over the sea. Borgo Santandrea do it as they should – tender, fresh, not overdone or too spiced up; the ingredients are as fresh as they can be, so I begin with a platter of shellfish sprinkled with Amalfi lemon zest.

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Next comes a confession. I’m afraid I have a weakness for ‘Zucchini alla Scapece’. It’s that type that has its natural sweetness balanced by the acid of its vinegar marinade and freshened by mint. It brings me back to a Neapolitan chef in Tuscany, who – unable to comprehend how one of his customers didn’t like garlic – would stamp about the kitchen, thumb to fingers shaking his hand in the air, muttering histrionically, ‘è aglio, dio mio’. But fear not, here – garlic brings out the juices of a tender, grillet fillet of fish, paired with potato.

a pool, the sea, and a floor

Each room at Borgo Santandrea is styled in a different way, looking at various shades Meditteranean styles

Not that a need a ‘pick-me-up’, or ‘Tiramisu’, following this, but it did the trick. And my swim provided a salty digestivo, and, under its soporific gauze, I fell into a deep slumber, back in the bedroom of signature artisan chic, just 50 metres above the sea.

boats on the sea

Bespoke boat trips are offered for guests across the hotel

I have no doubt that The Talented Mr Ripley will be sending lots more people Amalfi’s sun-warmed way, and I’m lucky I had got there before. Lucky, too, that – contrary to ‘telling lies… impersonating practically anybody’, Borgo Santandrea provides a rare pocket of honesty along an increasingly tourist-ridden place. It seems to pare itself back to the essence of Italy’s talent – if there is just one, that is – that laidback elegance and spirit that can’t help but leak into one, and see the utter necessity of shaking one’s fist at garlic.

Find out More:

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a man with a pencil between his lips and a hat on his head
a man with a pencil between his lips and a hat on his head

The late Armando Testa founded Studio Armando Testa, one Italy’s largest agencies, in 1956.

Armando Testa is the greatest 20th-century design figure you’ve never heard of. Armando’s creations, straddling design and art, were groundbreaking and epoch-defining, but suffering from snobbery on the part of the high-art world towards what was and still is considered the lowlier and more commercial discipline of design. A new show at the Venice Biennale, conceived by Gemma Testa, Founder of Acacia Foundation, and curated by London’s Design Museum Director Tim Marlow, seeks to redress the balance. Here, Testa and Marlow discuss Armando’s legacy in a conversation moderated by LUX and edited by Isabella Fergusson

LUX: Gemma, why did you collaborate with Tim Marlow in curating the Armando Testa retrospective at the Venice Biennale this year?

Gemma Testa: I wanted to enable the work of Armando to become internationally known. Tim seemed an excellent choice, with his deep knowledge of both contemporary art and design.

a chair made of meat

Meat Chair, by Armando Testa, 1978.

LUX: Tim, what made you interested in the project?

Tim Marlow: This is one of the most important Italian artists in post-war and visual culture whom I didn’t know enough about, and many others like me don’t. The chance to explore and shed light on someone who beautifully straddles the worlds of graphic design and art, advertising and popular culture and supposed fine art was a wonderful opportunity.

Tyres with an elephant trunk; artworks

Advertisement for Pirelli tyres, Armando Testa, 1954

LUX: Could you tell us about Testa’s significance?

TM: Armando was utterly radical from the beginning. He trained, learned painting, visual arts, art history, graphic design and advertising. He was a pop artist before Pop Art had even been invented. He understood the distilled language of Minimalism – look at his work in the 1940s and 50s before Minimalism existed. But he also understood that visual culture was a means of communication. There is this extraordinary creative trajectory that straddles very different worlds. His favourite word is ‘synthesis’.

GT: The main difficulty for Armando, for many years, was the lack of a proper gallery to represent him. Advertising is seen simply as commerce. Galleria Continua asked me to present Armando. This is a great opportunity to let his work gain recognition – he always believed in the great connection between art and advertising. While working on campaigns, he asked me many times, “What do you think about this?” I’d answer, “What is the aim? What are you working for? Who is the client?” and he’d answer, “You have to look at the sign; you have to look at the mark, at the drawing itself.” He has always understood and believed that there is a link between these two disciplines – advertising and art.

chilli on a plinth in a gallery

Tango Caliente, by Armando Testa

LUX: What are your purposes for the Venice exhibition?

TM: It’s the need and opportunity to present Armando’s works to a new audience, art scene and culture. The natural place for Testa – as a designer and as an artist – might be the Architecture Biennale, which is porous, looking at all sorts of disciplines. But it is decisive and important that it opens during the Art Biennale. Though the art world talks of porosity, it can be very territorial, and it can be a little defensive about people who come from disciplines other than the art world itself. Armando genuinely had a symbiotic relationship between the two. Even artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto – who studied at Armando’s design school – felt the importance of Armando as an artist and, as he put it, a “genius ad man”.

pictures in a gallery

“Punt e Mes”, by Armando Testa, 1974

LUX: Gemma, how do you respond to that?

GT: Yes, some friends of mind suggested that I present Armando to the Architecture Biennale, but I felt that this could have limited his position. And there is a generation who know none of his works as an artist: this is who the exhibition is for.

TM: The great ‘Punt e Mes’ campaign is a very condensed example of why Testa is so brilliant – his sphere, half-sphere piece. It is a pun on the name ‘Punt e Mes’ [‘Point and a Half’]. It is a visual pun on a sphere and a half-sphere. He paints it. He makes a sculpture of it as well as a poster of it. He interrogates it in every way and makes it universal. An advertising campaign for Vermouth, using an Italian dialect, ought only to resonate with a specifically Italian audience, but it doesn’t. That is what we want to show.

LUX: How would Armando wish to be remembered following the Biennale? As an artist, a designer, or something else?

GT: Perhaps he would want to be remembered more as a creative, a multidisciplinary artist than an advertiser or a designer; the exhibition represents all the shades of his creative universe.

Exhibition Armando Testa is at the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna Ca’ Pesaro, Venice, 20 April-15 September 2024

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thread hanging on a wall coming of a textile
thread hanging on a wall coming of a textile

Works by Aiko Tezuka on display at Asia Now Paris in the Majhi International Art Residency booth

The Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) continues its mission to bridge the art communities from the East and the West through the Majhi International Art Residency, this year taking place in Paris

The Majhi International Art Residency was started by DBF in 2019, with its first edition in Venice. Since then, the residency has taken place every year in different locations in Europe including Berlin, Eindhoven, Amsterdam at the renowned Rijksakademie, and now Paris.

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This year’s two-week residency programme saw three artists from Asia and the Asian diaspora creating new works for an exhibition curated by Ricko Leung. Ricko Leung was born and raised in Hong Kong but has lived in Paris since 2014. Her art and curation focus on topics including, fear and control, cultural identity, and post-colonialism, as well as eco-feminism.

4 women standing together outside a building in Paris

The artists and curator involved at the residency, left to right: Aiko Tezuka, Ricko Leung, Raisa Kabir and Rajyashri Goody

The theme of this exhibition was textile and indigo, in particular, around the history and meaning of indigo, being a material very closely tied to the colonial history of Bengal. Indigo is a material also used very frequently in the textile industry, which coincided with the focus of the venue partner, Asia Now Paris. The artists selected for the residency were Raisa Kabir, Aiko Tezuka and Rajyashri Goody.

Raisa Kabir is an artist, textiles researcher and weaver based in London. Kabir’s creations cover the interwoven cultural politics of cloth, archives of the body and colonial geographies, by using woven text and textiles, sound, video and performance.

A room with a red tapestry hanging on the all and pictures hanging on strings beside

Works on display at Asia Now by Rajyashri Goody (right) and Raisa Kabir (left)

Kabir’s (un)weaving performances use queer entanglement to comment on structures of trans-national power, global production, and the relationships between craft and industrial labour. Her work speaks to cultural anxieties surrounding nationhood, textile identities and the cultivation of borders.

Aiko Tezuka was born in Tokyo but has lived in Berlin since 2011. Using different readymade fabrics Aiko produces unique works in which she unravels materials to create new structural forms using her own techniques.

A woven tapestry in pink, blue, yellow and green of a bird flying

Details of an artwork by Aiko Tezuka

Rajyashri Goody is from Pune, India and currently works between India and the Netherlands. She was also a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam from 2021-2023. Goody’s practice has been heavily influenced by both her academic background and her Ambedkarite Dalit roots.

Read more: Mera Rubell on catalysing cultural change

She focuses on messaging around how basic needs of everyday life, including food, nature, language and literacy are actively used as tools to enforce caste rules for generations. She shows this messaging through various mediums incorporating text, voice, paper, pulp, ceramics, photography, printmaking, video and installation into her works.

A poem next to a paper coloured in blue

Indigo not only has strong ties with the colonial history of Bengal, but its pigment is extremely prominent in textiles, which was a point of focus at Asia Now

‘Majhi’ can be translated into English as a ‘leader’ of a house or group of people. In some ways, the Majhi International Art Residency programme acts as a leader by bridging divides, connecting individuals and creating a vibrant channel for the exchange of ideas and experiences.

Find out more: majhi.org

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A woman wearing a balck top and large diamond necklace standing net to a wall with frames and black boxes in the frames
A woman wearing a balck top and large diamond necklace standing net to a wall with frames and black boxes in the frames

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

In the first part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo who founded her fondazione in Turin in 1995. Today, the extraordinary initiatives of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo include transforming an abandoned Venetian island into a beacon for art and ecology

LUX: What was the first artwork you bought?
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo: Anish Kapoor’s Blood Stone. It was on a trip to London in 1992 that changed my life.

LUX: What drives you to support art education?
PSRR: When we started in the 1990s, contemporary art received little attention in Italy. Education defines the fondazione’s identity and builds awareness of contemporary art in Italy. We offer a rich programme for schools, families and vulnerable people, and we train teachers. Our Young Curators Residency Programme sees three international graduate curators curate a joint exhibition from the work of artists they meet in Italy during a three-month stay. This develops curatorship and places Italian art in a global context. Campo is a similar course we have for Italian graduates.

books in glass boxes in a library

A view of the Lucas Arruda exhibition at the Ateneo de Madrid

LUX: What are ArtColLab and Verso?
PSRR: ArtColLab is our non-profit project to produce collaborations between artists and designers in order to help widen engagement in art – for example, Nicholas Kirkwood and Paul Kneale created beautiful limited edition shoes. Verso focuses on empowering people aged 15 to 29 in democratic processes. It is an experimental, poetic pedagogical model of exhibitions, workshops and more, on themes of citizenship, inclusion and the collective construction of possible futures.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Tell us about your philanthropy in Spain.
PSRR: I love Spain and we established the Fundación Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Madrid in 2017. Madrid is a global capital and a bridge to Latin America. The fundación is now nomadic. We presented Lucas Arruda at the Ateneo in Madrid in 2023 and we’ve also brought the Young Curators Residency Programme to Spain.

A red ball of paint on a white wall with red paint dripping

1000 Pieces, 1983, by Anish Kapoor

LUX: Who are the artists exciting you today?
PSRR: Globally, they include the painters Michael Armitage and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and the work of Josh Kline, Marguerite Humeau, and Klára Hosnedlová. In Italy, works by Giulia Cenci, Giulia Andreani, Guglielmo Castelli and Ludovica Carbotta have joined the collection.

installations in a gallery including one with a bright green light

Installation view of Rough Rides, Police States, Broken Windows, 2015, by Josh Kline; Vandal Lust, 2011, and Slavs and Tatars, Mystical Protest, 2011, both by Andra Ursuţa, at the fondazione’s recent show, “Backwards Ahead”

LUX: What is the San Giacomo recovery project?
PSRR: This island, a military site abandoned for more than 60 years, will become an outpost of dreams, a place to produce and show art, and host research and discourse on contemporary culture.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Umberta Beretta

With its delicate lagoon ecosystem, we will implement principles of sustainability and energy transition there. The fondazione will enable San Giacomo to become a meeting place for artists, environmentalists and the public.

An island with a house on it in the middle of the sea

The isola San Giacomo, which has been a pilgrim refuge, a place of quarantine and a military site, is being transformed by the fondazione in the name of art

LUX: What will be your legacy?
PSRR: I hope I am giving back to the community what I have been fortunate to learn during 30 years in contemporary art. Time passes and I think of my two sons, who are also passionate about art, so I am building something that will take on new shapes with future generations.

 fsrr.org

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

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A man in a suit with a red waistcoat standing in a room with art
A man in a suit with a red waistcoat standing in a room with art

Durjoy Rahman, founder of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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

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

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

A group of people standing for a photo outside a building

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

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

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

A group of people standing by some pillars holding a flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colourful cube sculpture and wall art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: durjoybangladeshfoundation.org

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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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Painting
Painting

Marlene Dumas, ‘Betrayal’ (1994). Private collection, courtesy David Zwirner. Photo by Emma Estwic. © Marlene Dumas

As VIPs swarm to Venice for the pre-opening week of the Biennale, LUX columnist Sophie Neuendorf gives her tips for visiting the all-consuming art event, the biggest of the year

Sophie Neuendorf

There is something magical about Venice. No matter what time of the year one travels to the historical city, it’s always a delight. Though, it’s especially lovely during the opening week of Biennale.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Biennale several times already, and always thoroughly enjoyed rushing from one exhibition or event to another.

During my last, pre-pandemic visit to Biennale, a renowned art fair director, who somehow never received a VIP card to the opening (and who shall remain nameless), showed me where I could possibly gain illicit entry by jumping over a fence.

During another visit, a well-known gallerist showed me how he uses the service corridors and stairs to gain secret entry into the parties at the Bauer Hotel.

Art projection

Bruce Nauman, ‘Contrapposto Studies’, installation view at Punta della Dogana, Venice (2021). Jointly owned by Pinault Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Marco Cappelletti. © Palazzo Grassi, Venice. © Bruce Nauman by SIAE, Rome, 2021.

Aside from those shenanigans, there are many sites, exhibitions, museums, and, of course, parties to visit during the opening week.

It is most likely that one won’t be able to see everything on offer during the Biennale, so it’s wise to pick and choose beforehand. As previous Biennale director Massimiliano Gioni said, “The fact that people are still congregating periodically to look at art made in 80+ countries around  the world, there is a kind of madness to it. So, I say, embrace the madness.”

The opening of Biennale di Venezia is on April 23, and the extravaganza is curated by art world veteran, Cecilia Alemani. Alemani is the fifth woman to curate the show in the biennale’s 127 year history. In 2017, she curated the Italian pavilion—the largest national pavilion on site—which she said gave her a “definite advantage.”

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The exhibition is titled The Milk of Dreams, after a book by Surrealist artist and author Leonora Carrington, which Alemani describes as “very simple, very joyful, but also quite macabre.”

The exhibition suggests a fitting bit of symmetry with our own moment: the Surrealist movement emerged in 1924 just after the end of World War I, in part as a reaction against totalitarianism and militarisation.

The 2022 exhibition focuses on the many inquiries that saturate the sciences, arts, and myths of our time – “How is the definition of ‘the human’ changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates plant and animal, human and non-human? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people, and other life forms? And what would life look like without us?”

A building on a river

The Ca’ d’Oro, or Palazzo Santa Sofia, is a palace on the Grand Canal in Venice where a group of significant Renaissance sculptures will be on display during the Venice Biennale

These are some of the guiding queries for this edition of the Biennale Arte, which concentrates on three thematic areas in particular: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technology; the connection between bodies and the Earth.

Among many highlights, this year’s edition will be showcasing NFT artists, such as Kevin Abosch and Eduardo Kac among several others, for the very first time – courtesy of the Cameroon Pavilion. This year also marks the first time the United Kingdom has chosen a black female artist to represent the country at the Biennale: Sonia Boyce.

In response to the nomination, Boyce commented “I do think part of the question, as it is posed to me, is about [how] I’m black and British, and what does it mean to “carry the flag”? It will be interesting to see how she tackles this immense and multi-facetted question.

Read more: The LUX Art Diary: Exhibitions to See in April

Outside the Biennale, worth visiting is the multi-sensory work by Danish artist Jeppe Hein. The fruit of French champagne house Ruinart’s fifth artist residency (previous collaborations included Vik Muniz and David Shrigley). The work is inspired by the maison’s residency’s chalky, sun-dappled terroir.

The renowned Palazzo Grassi is showing work by South African artist Marlene Dumas, curated by Caroline Bourgeois. It will show works from 1984 through today, with many previously unseen masterpieces. Her work focuses on human figures dealing with the most intense emotions and paradoxes.

A man with his finger in his forehead

Irish NFT artist Kevin Abosch

While you’re there, don’t miss the Bruce Nauman show, which is an homage to the influential contemporary artist. Awarded the Golden Lion at the 2009 Biennale di Venezia, the show brings together old and recent works, some of which have never been exhibited in Europe.

One of my favourites is the Palazzo Fortuny, a beautiful palace and museum. It was constructed between 1460 and 1480, commissioned by a Venetian nobleman. Today, it houses a wonderful collection of masterpieces.

This year, Colnaghi Gallery is collaborating with the Direzione regionale Musei Veneto and Venetian Heritage to present a group of significant Renaissance sculptures at Ca’ d’Oro. An exquisite Gothic jewel, the Ca’ d’Oro is the most famous Gothic building in Venice after the Doges Palace. It was hugely admired by Ruskin, who recorded its facade in a beautiful watercolour in 1845. The exhibition will include works by the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance, including Donatello, Lombardo, and Rovezzano.

The whole city is a work of art, with many yet-to-be-discovered treasures. After surviving the pandemic, discovering art from 80 different countries is a call to live and let live.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice President at artnet. 

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

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

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

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

elephant sculptures

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

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

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

hanging textile artwork

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

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

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

Read more: In the Studio with Idris Khan

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

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

sculptures on a table

art collection

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

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

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

Read more: Helga Piaget on educating the next generation

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

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

installation artwork

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

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

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

man speaking into microphone

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

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

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

light artwork

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

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

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

artist drawing in front of canvas

artist at work

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

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

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

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

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

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

group of people standing underneath arch

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

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

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

black and white street photographs

portrait of man by fence

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

How to define the Global South?

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

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

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

Find out more: durjoybangladesh.org

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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Didier Guillon with his son Maxence who will take over leadership of Fondation Valmont in 2022

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

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

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

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

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

art installation inside historic building

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

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

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

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

views to the sea from a villa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

doorway into a palace

The grand interiors of Palazzo Bonvicini in Venice

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

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

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

Find out more: lamaisonvalmont.com

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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Reading time: 6 min
artist studio
abstract artwork

Untitled drawing by Hugo Wilson made with charcoal, black chalk, sandpaper and a sanding machine, paper mounted on aluminium. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

London-based artist Hugo Wilson works with drawing, painting and sculpture, combining images and techniques from Old Masters with contemporary references to create dynamic, layered artworks. LUX contributing editor Maryam Eisler visits his studio to photograph him and discuss refining his practice, creativity in lockdown and finding artistic freedom
colour portrait of Maryam Eisler photographer and contributing LUX editor

Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Let’s talk about your surfaces.
Hugo Wilson: I think a lot of my work has been very clean in the sense that the surface is quite finished, and quite considered. Whilst I wasn’t particularly aiming for that, that is just how I work. People have said to me over the last few years, ‘You should be leaving thin bits… you should have thick bits…’ and that is fine, but there needs to be a good reason for it all. Just creating surface texture to please makes no sense to me. I am quite bloody minded. I am certainly not going to do something unless I think it is the right thing to do. But slowly, after five or six years, rubbing away has become a part of my practice. Re-painting has also become a part of it. In the case of these particular drawings, I have also pulled things out of seven or eight dark layers which are muddied or clashed to the point of a problem. Suddenly, a sanding machine seemed like the only option. What I realised is that textures were beginning to appear, but they appeared out of clean, conceptual ideas. That required intuition, that required pulling something out of a chaotic situation.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Maryam Eisler: There is also great physicality and dynamism involved in your process. Would you agree that the paintings possibly represent a stamping of your own collective energy?
Hugo Wilson: Not consciously, but I think that any great work of art that I love has an honesty of intention, and an honesty of process to reach that intention. In the case of these works, I have, maybe, in a way, understood that my intention is less fixed than I had previously wanted it to be. In the past, I had a plan which I delivered, one way or another, but in this case what I’ve realised is that having a plan is almost pointless. So, creating works that are borne out of an obstacle course make perfect sense. These works also refer to many things, without ever holding a single position. Obviously, collective consciousness then has to come into play.

Man on chair

abstract drawing

Hugo Wilson (top), and one of the artist’s works in progress (below). Photographs by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: To me, it seems like you are referencing freedom?
Hugo Wilson: I feel freer today than I ever have felt. That is for sure. I think moving towards more confidence is what I’m doing do. I also think that a heart punch is far more powerful than a head punch.

Maryam Eisler: Less agonising over process?
Hugo Wilson: I think all artists have this immense problem when they walk into an empty room with an empty canvas or a piece of clay or a block of wood. So, we sort of have to have a strategy in order to start, but also, we need to remember to break the rules that we have imposed on ourselves and to trust in that process. It is hard because it requires dropping things that have worked whether that is making a successful work of art, or selling it, or being liked by curators. Just because you are an artist you are not immune from all that; I wish I was. This last year was really hard because I had success for the first time in my career, and then decided to suddenly throw a hand grenade into my own practice, but it got to the point that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do it.

Read more: Diango Hernández’s disruptive Instagram art project

Maryam Eisler: Speaking of bombs, how has this COVID period affected your work?
Hugo Wilson: The last six months have been the best period of work that I have ever had, for two or three reasons. One, the imagined pressure of the art world sort of disappeared for a bit, which I liked. I also realised that I’m terribly untrendy. I think that what is going on in the art world may be a great thing, but the fact that I am not involved in it, is not something that I am bitter about. In a way, I have had to look at that and question ‘well, what does that mean?’ In my case it meant freedom, the freedom to truly know what you care about and want from this. And I think that the answer is to create something, that goes well beyond my own limits, consistently. It can be exhausting though.

sculpture and drawings

A collection of Wilson’s charcoal works and sculptures. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Would you say it’s also about personal evolution and revolution?
Hugo Wilson: I think last year was particularly difficult because I had given myself a year to change my practice. I thought, okay I shall only do one show, which was the Berlin show I did earlier this year, which actually ended up feeling and going much better than I thought it would. I also had to have my right lung removed. I have been sober for many years since my mid 20s, for a good reason! And suddenly I was on morphine… It was tough, much tougher than I thought it was going to be, because I am one of those lucky people who nearly crashed and burned young, but didn’t. Most of my adult life, however, I have felt pretty happy, no more or less unstable than most other people. And then suddenly, I was right back in the darkness again, mentally. It was very frightening. At the same time, I was sitting in an empty studio. You know, I sound posh. I sound like I have had advantages that actually I didn’t. I was on big scholarships and so on, but actually, I set myself against the world quite early on. I have always been very intolerant of the “hippy artist” and the idea of self-indulgence. As an artist, it’s natural that you experience bleak periods where you don’t like your own work, but you are going to have to keep going into the studio to make it happen. I had one of those periods, quite a long one, and I can tell you, it is hell.

abstract sculpture

An untitled glazed ceramic sculpture. Photograph by Maryam Eisler.

Maryam Eisler: Now you have come out of that darkness with these wonders, and you’ve almost cut out all the noise …
Hugo Wilson: I am using a 300-gram paper on aluminium. This stuff can take a real beating. I am also using sanding machines and spikes, maybe even fire one day.

Maryam Eisler: And yet, you are classically trained.
Hugo Wilson: I am very classically trained, within an inch of my life!

Read more: Loquet’s Sheherazade Goldsmith on sustainable jewellery design

Maryam Eisler: Can you tell me about your early days in Florence?
Hugo Wilson: I remember going on a school trip to Venice when I was fourteen. I was sitting in front of a Tintoretto and I nearly cried. Now, I understand that I was completely moved by the power of the image, but not one part of me thought I was going to become Catholic. I think, in a way, that the sort of silly, ambitious, quite stupid, young man just thought, ‘I am just going to fucking learn how to do that. He did it, why not me!’ The classical training was, by the way, extraordinary. It was a seventeenth century atelier. There was the master, and everyone who had been there longer than they could teach you, and it was amazing; we drew from plaster casts for a year, before we could draw a naked person, and only two years later, could we actually paint. I do not regret the training at all, but it was a very difficult thing to unpick. It was very addictive. The point is: I was interested in that language, and I learnt it.

artist studio

abstract sculpture

Hugo Wilson in his studio with charcoal works in progress (above) and an untitled bronze sculpture. Photographs by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: So, that old world story is in your DNA?
Hugo Wilson: I am an English man. The works I have seen throughout my life are from this tradition. Slowly, slowly I am getting far more interested in other traditions actually, like Japanese woodblocks for example. I have also always loved those medieval bronzes and the historical anomalies where you look at a bronze from the fourth century and then you look at a Japanese incense holder, and you realise that they are identical, and that idea is at the very core of my practice. That we don’t change. It doesn’t matter what colour you are, or what time in history you are from, we will create idols which speak to us viscerally. I am not really doing anything different. The advantage I have is the internet, two thousand years of art history available at my finger tips and the ability to compare and contrast, and initiate dialogues. Also, 200 years of psychology and human psychoanalysis, and the realisation that actually the human need to create is far more important to understand than what is actually being done.

Maryam Eisler: What inspires you today?
Hugo Wilson: I am far more interested in process than I have been for years. I’m also looking at artists like Auerbach and Kossoff. Lovely Bacon… sexy Francis! Physical Freud…I have equally realised that these intuitive works take a really long time to create. I know that sounds odd, but, in my case, it’s been twenty years of me in the making, from being classically trained to using a sanding machine!

Maryam Eisler: Why so long?
Hugo Wilson: The process is the reason why it took so long. I think I rather stupidly assumed and felt that these were big physical gestures done in a week, but no. I suppose growing older makes you relaxed. But did I trust the process even last year? No. And it was my wonderful panel maker, that called me and he said, ‘Hugo you have ordered ten panels last week, and I came into your studio and every single one of them has been painted on and then painted over. Are you okay?’ To which I said ‘I am not, actually!’  All of that feeds into what is happening now and the weird joy that I am experiencing. I am not often this joyful, trust me!

art studio

Artworks by Hugo Wilson. Photograph by Maryam Eisler.

Maryam Eisler: You seem able to seamlessly move across mediums. Your sculpture works in particular appear to be an extension of your paint brush, with a few ‘sculptural’ interventions.
Hugo Wilson: Yes, that is what I want. I think that, with these new sculptures particularly, I can be “brave” in a way that I would find trite if they were to be paintings. In a way, given that I have not had a formal training in sculpture, I feel I can be braver with it. I am taking an object and in a way re-contextualising it. Just like a scholar rock, but even a scholar rock is a ready-made. I think it talks about what I am interested in, which is the human need to make systemic ideology. Three thousand years of non-monotheistic history has been placed on these rocks. But, it’s a fucking rock! It is bonkers. These things are going in Christie’s for millions!

Even though I had classical training, I then did a very conceptual master’s degree at City & Guilds [of London Art School] and I had a brilliant tutor called Reece Jones. He was an absolutely wonderful man and a good artist. He was also an angry young man; he would punch me for saying that. Most importantly, he made me ask these questions before starting any artwork: Should this be an artwork? Should it be an artwork made by me? And if it should be an artwork made by me, what is the delivery? And in the case of these bronzes, they are far better than anything I could ever draw. I also like the surface which you really notice. I don’t want to talk about the history of sculpture at all. Hence, my choice of sand casted bronze with its non-finish look, like stone or wood. It is a finish which doesn’t hold any historical position, and that suits me.

Find out more: hugowilson.com
Follow Hugo Wilson on Instagram: @hugowilsonstudio

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Reading time: 11 min
Woman sitting on leather sofa in a contemporary space
Woman sitting on leather sofa in a contemporary space

Shirin Neshat at home in New York City

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Monochrome image of white-shirted men on a cliff edge

Veiled women walking across a beach towards the sea

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

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

Monochrome image of hands inscribed with symbols

Artist labels for wine bottles

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

Man shaking hand of woman at event

Neshat with Ornellaia’s estate director Axel Heinz

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

Portrait of a man illustrated with Farsi script

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

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

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

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

Woman crouches in doorway to stroke dog

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

Artist working in her studio

The artist in her studio

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

Portrait of a girl sitting in front of illustrated wall

Raven Brewer-Beltz (2019) by Shirin Neshat

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

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

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

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 8 min
Prosecco bottle against brown background
Prosecco bottle against brown background

Ombra Di Pantera is a new producer of Prosseco, and businessman Utsava Kasera’s latest investment

Utsava Kasera is an entrepreneur and investor with interests in luxury brands, fashion, art and tech. Most recently, his attention has turned to new Prosecco brand Ombra Di Pantera. Here, he tells us about this latest investment, finding a gap in the market and his new year ambitions

Man in suit and bow tie

Utsava Kasera

1. How did you first come across Ombra Di Pantera?

I always wanted to be involved in the drinks industry and the stars aligned when I met the other promoters of Ombra Di Pantera over a lunch through a common connection. The opportunity looked very good and we are on an exciting journey now.

Our inspiration for ‘Ombra’ is delivered from a unique heritage and a fabled history which stretches back to the Roman wines of antiquity. In ancient times, traders who served wine in Venice’s Piazza San Marco would follow the shadow of the Campanile to cool their wine as there was no refrigeration, and the Venetian expression, ‘Ombra de Vin’, meaning ‘Wine’s Shadow’, is still used to order Prosecco in its original heartland. Another interesting fact about Prosecco is that typically a glass contains fewer calories than wine and there is a town called Prosecco nearby Venice, where the name of this bubbly comes from.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What drew you to invest in the business?

The huge demand for Prosecco in the UK and lack of branding around it gives an opportunity to fill a missing gap in the market. The sales of Prosecco have overtaken champagne in the UK, which is now the second biggest market in the world after the US. Besides that, it’s a delicious Prosecco which embodies the elegance of Italian luxury and I believe it has the potential to make its mark in the sparkling wine world.

3. What sets Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco apart from other brands?

Ombra is traditionally crafted from a single vintage, using superior Glera grapes from our delicately cultivated Conegliano vineyard, to deliver a pure expression of the very finest Prosecco. The Prosecco is created ‘in bianco’, meaning the fermentation is without the skins creating the delicate sparkle that is captured over 60 days to produce a fine, persistent perlage. The steep hills of the vineyard provide the perfect conditions to grow  Glera grapes, which require cultivating and harvesting by hand relying on traditional methods refined over a thousand years. Ombra Di Pantera is dedicated to celebrating the traditional heritage and craftsmanship of Italian viticulture to deliver an authentic, exclusive Prosecco experience and can stand up to any high quality champagne or sparkling wine in blind tasting.

Vineyard with lush green vines

Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco is made from Glera grapes grown on their vineyard in Conegliano

4. How does the company fit into your wider investment portfolio?

My investments are across a wide spectrum of industries from tech to hospitality. I particularly invest in industries and projects, which I am passionate about rather than just looking at the numbers. Having said that, Ombra compliments a couple of my investments, which are in private members club, one called 1880 in Singapore and a wine bar chain in London called Vagabond.

Read more: Knight Frank’s Andrew Hay on the best emerging markets for real estate investment

5. What are your ambitions for 2020?

I would like to focus on making Ombra di Pantera bigger by aligning with more luxury partners and concentrate on strategic growth of the brand. I am also a co-founder of ‘Sidehide’, which is a tech app for hotel booking, providing a seamless experience for users and I will be involved in the launch and marketing campaign during 2020. Lastly, I would like to do some volunteering work with one of the charities I am involved with, and learn to play the piano.

6. How do you switch off?

I have a passion for whiskies and cognac. Enjoying a dram of Springbank 21 years whisky or Louis XIII cognac in company of friends relaxes me. Recently, I have started taking out time to cook and I am enjoying it at lot. Travelling is another passion and therapy of its own kind for me.

For more information visit: ombradipantera.com

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Reading time: 3 min
Courtyard party showing large monochrome artwork of hands
Courtyard party showing large monochrome artwork of hands

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s label designs on display at the closing ceremony of the Ornellaia auction at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice

Italian wine producer Ornellia’s 11th annual online benefit auction in collaboration with Sotheby’s and the Solomon. R. Guggenheim museum, featured vintages with label designs by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat. Digital Editor Millie Walton recalls the closing ceremony at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice

Photography by James Houston

Gliding along the Venetian canals as the sun sets is one of those rare moments when real-life seems to align with cinema. More than a couple of times during the evening, as we stood in the courtyard and then, on rooftop of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection sipping glasses of Ornellaia vintage, someone compared the evening’s scene to La Grande Bellezza. We were invited though, not just for the wine, views and glamorous company, but to celebrate the funds raised by the Sotheby’s conducted auction of Ornellaia in support of the Mind’s Eye Program at the Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum.

Party guests stand in courtyard watching a screen

Guests watching the final few minutes of the online auction projected onto a screen

Large wine bottle with artistic label

One of Neshat’s label designs

The auction is part of the Italian wine producer’s Vendemmia d’Artista project, which each year, commissions a different contemporary artist to create an artwork for a series of limited-edition labels. The artist is give a single word description of that year’s harvest as the starting point. For Shirin Neshat, the prompt was “La Tensione” (or tension in English).

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Known for her iconic monochrome aesthetic and poetic vision, the Iranian artist produced a haunting series of photographs of luminous white hands captured in various postures and inscribed with Persian script. These images became labels for bottles of the 2016 vintage, which were auctioned in 11 unique lots, the most coveted of which included a visit to the Ornellaia vineyard and a luxurious overnight stay.

Two women speaking at a drinks party

Artist Shirin Neshat, who produced a series of monochrome photographs for the Italian wine producer

Following a series of speeches from various team members at Ornellaia and Neshat herself, the auctioneer called an end to the bidding, announcing an impressive total of $312.000.

For more information on Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista visit: ornellaia.com/en/vendemmia-d-artista

 

 

 

 

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Reading time: 2 min
Abstract painting in bleached colours
Portrait painting of a woman's face

‘Twenty Seventeen’ (2017), by Luc Tuymans, Pinault Collection

Favouring themes of conflict, violence and death, renowned Belgian painter Luc Tuymans fulfils the brief of brooding artist, yet his work is deeply layered and complex. With two major retrospectives on his work being held in Europe this year, Millie Walton meets the man behind the canvas
Painter Luc Tuymans in his studio

The artist in his Antwerp studio

Through a garage door and down a wide passageway: a man’s bleached face stares blankly ahead with large, piercing eyes. To the right, there are two more enormous pale faces. “These are dead people,” Luc Tuymans says of the series of three portraits hanging in his studio in Antwerp. They will soon be shipped off to form part of his upcoming show at De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art in the Netherlands, one of two major retrospectives this year. We sit on two sagging armchairs; there’s a small table between us with a cup of cold black coffee and in front of us, another much smaller painting of a ghostly, hooded figure tacked onto the wall with masking tape. It’s a present for the director of De Pont, Tuymans tells me, lighting up the first of many cigarettes. Apart from the paintings and a table stacked with paper and dried-up paint mounds, the studio is stark, almost blindingly white in the sunshine. A former laundrette, Tuymans bought it over ten years ago, having previously worked in a much smaller apartment, which looked “more like Francis Bacon’s studio”. This place, he says, is, “antiseptic, but it works well”.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Belgian artist famously completes most of his works in one day, giving the impression of a feverish outpouring of creativity, but really the works have been brewing for some time, often for months, before Tuymans applies paint to canvas. For him, the process begins with a careful curation of pre-existing imagery, drawings, Polaroids and photos he takes on his iPhone, or things he encounters online. He selects his source material according to its relevance and paintability, by which he means, “what kind of kick I can get out of it”. Considering that much of his subject matter is violent, morbid or at the very least, deeply cynical, we might consider these ‘kicks’ to be somewhat sadistic.

Painting of a target with blue centre

‘Disenchantment’ (1990), by Luc Tuymans, private collection

Right from the start of his 40-year career, Tuymans has been depicted by the media as the brooding artist, in part due to his intimidatingly large physical presence and flickering eyes, but also because of his ongoing fascination with the darker corners of European history and reluctant approach to beauty. Speaking of his current retrospective exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, he laughs growlingly at the idea that people might consider his paintings beautiful. In the press video for the show, he is depicted as a stereotypical villain lurking in dark alleyways and brandishing his paintbrushes as weapons. It says a lot that Tuymans himself made the short film.

Collage painting of a man wearing sunglasses

‘Die Zeit (pt 4/4)’ (1988), by Luc Tuymans, private collection

And yet, something in Tuymans tells you not to trust appearances. Just as his paintings may appear prosaic in their imagery, their significance is deeply layered. To view his work is to enter into a game in which you neither know the rules nor the aim. “You could actually see my work as the deep web, or the precursor of it,” says Tuymans with a slight smile, making it hard to gauge how seriously to take such statements. Nevertheless, his practice is certainly preoccupied with peripheries, hidden objects and meanings, things the ordinary eye would ignore or miss. There is a tension in his paintings between uncovering and disguising, remembering and disremembering. As with the series of cadaver portraits, his subjects often seem to be disappearing, fading from memory and simultaneously, clinging desperately to life.

Read more: The new age of Chinese ink art

Abstract painting in bleached colours

‘Allo! I’ (2012), by Luc Tuymans, private collection

“From very early on, my work was born out of an insane and very profound distrust of imagery,” he says, which is now especially relevant in the age of the digital image and mass reproduction – where the lines between originality and forgery are increasingly blurred. This distrust, in fact, was the reason Tuymans started painting as a teenager in the late 1970s, seeking a deliberate ‘regression’ by creating a work that had the appearance of another era and thus, developing a practice of so-called ‘authentic forgery’. However, this seems somewhat reductive to Tuymans’ intentionality, which is one of total disillusionment. Take, for example, the mosaic of pine trees that covers the floor in the entrance hall of Palazzo Grassi. Visitors might be forgiven for assuming it to be part of the Palazzo’s grand decoration rather than an act of wilful deception by Belgium’s most famous contemporary painter, who worked with an Italian firm to perfectly match the green marble to the existing floor colouring. Then there’s the fact that the mosaic is based on Tuymans’ iconic 1986 painting Schwarzheide, named after a Nazi labour camp where many inmates were worked to death. This seemingly picturesque cluster of pine trees represents the evergreens planted along the border of the camp to hide it from public view.

Abstract painting of flowers in a vase

‘Technicolor’ (2012), by Luc Tuymans, private collection

Portrait of a priest in bleached paints

‘München’ (2012), by Luc Tuymans, Pinault Collection

Encountering works such as these for the first time, how can we know or begin to understand their embedded contexts? “I am a big believer in not overestimating or underestimating the public,” says Tuymans. “I don’t believe in wall texts. You’re given a reader, which you can choose to look at whenever you like, but there is a point I’m trying to make in the experience through which you have a feeling of not just oblivion, but utter ignorance.” This comes from the fact that the exhibition at Palazzo Grassi, titled La Pelle after Curzio Malaparte’s book of the same name, is a retrospective show in one of the world’s most visited cities, so the audience being addressed is the wider public rather than art experts. Tuymans notes that many viewers may be drawn not by the art, but by a “certain kind of voyeurism to get into spaces such as the Palazzo”. He relishes the idea that the exhibition may disrupt their expectations, functioning as “a strong confrontation with the space”.

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

Installation shot of a painting in a grand gallery space

Installation from ‘La Pelle’, ‘Turtle’ (2007), by Luc Tuymans, private collection

Does he think of himself as a political painter, then? “No artist can be political because you can’t load up an artwork from the start, if you do, you’re just making propaganda,” says Tuymans. “But that doesn’t mean the work cannot have a political stance at a certain given moment.” Whether his paintings work or not, in his opinion, has a lot to do with the images that surround him. “I need an extreme tension when I paint,” he claims, also referring to the anxiety that he feels each time he approaches the blank canvas. There are conditions for his creative process: Thursdays and Fridays only (“because it’s the end of the week”), a clear head (“no drinking the night before”) and a sense of risk. “I think that fear of failure is very necessary,” he says. “Otherwise I may as well do a 9-to-5 job.” Of course, failure is a less painful prospect when you’re one of the world’s most respected painters. Now, Tuymans has the luxury of “throwing away” a painting when it’s not working, and by that he means literally into the bin. Antwerp residents, take note.

Abstract painting of a clown

‘Ballone’ (2017), by Luc Tuymans, private collection.

“Whenever I’m asked the question: why do you still paint?,” muses Tuymans, “the answer is always: because I’m not f*cking naive. Painting is a medium that works within its own proposition with time and it’s always had this inheritance of being an anachronism within that time, which has an appalling impact on your brain.” The impact he speaks of relates again to the multilayered aspect of his work, to the way in which he both draws from and mimics the past, while simultaneously and inevitably applying his contemporary, subjective perspective. It is this perspective, combined with the cultural context in which the work is viewed, that creates its relevance. So the significance of Tuymans’ paintings – as perhaps with all artworks – is continuously reforming. “I’m currently working on a two-year project with three scientists,” he says. “We’re going to put [my] work into algorithms. Not to make a painting with a computer, because that’s stupid, but to see what the signifiers mean in terms of language. Language is something that is always changing and the aim is to compare that to the anachronism of painting and to see what the outcome would be.” Admirers of his work will anticipate this next incarnation with interest.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 7 min
A man painting onto an orange wall
A man holding a paint palette

The artist Secundino Hernández in Venice, holding one of his preparatory studies for a larger palette painting

LUX Contributing Editor and photographer Maryam Eisler is entranced by Spanish artist Secundino Hernández. Here, she visits and photographs him on his residency in Venice to discuss inspiration and physicality in painting and the organised chaos of the creative process

Maryam Eisler: It is intriguing to hear about your visceral/carnal take on Venice; its tones and its ‘fleshiness’, as you call it.
Secundino Hernández: It was a coincidence. I only noticed it when I came here. I never had these memories about Venice before; I never thought about the colour of the buildings looking like flesh. It suddenly became evident as I looked out the window of my studio. I walk the city streets inspired, and I now combine the flesh tones by mixing them in the studio.

Maryam Eisler: What about the parallels with the work of L.S. Lowry?
Secundino Hernández: Yes, the palette! It’s amazing how Lowry developed his whole career with only five colours! The challenge is not to imitate, but to be inspired by his process. I have done this before with watercolours, based on Cezanne’s 14 colours.

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Maryam Eisler: It’s interesting that you’re taking a figurative approach to painting in Venice. It seems to me that you are very much about this yin and yang, constantly meandering between lightness and heaviness; between monochromes and colour, the abstract and the figurative.
Secundino Hernández: Yeah. Someone asked me once, after I was done with these black and white works: “What is next?” and I said, “Back to the body.” It was shocking but it was true. After the freedom of the abstract paintings, I needed to go back to the exercise of representation. The mentality changes with the technique. It’s a new, open field for me. This is the most exciting part of painting. It’s not that I feel obliged to do this or that, but I push myself to try something new all the time. That’s what makes it rewarding.

Painting of a female nude

Maryam Eisler: You have taken an almost academic and art-historical approach to figuration; you even use a human model, although your figurative work is quite abstract.
Secundino Hernández: I want to explore how to paint figuration, after painting abstraction for a long time. It’s what I feel comfortable with. That’s why I paint with a model present and be academic in that way, but I always try to go a step further.

Maryam Eisler: So, you layer your work? You take all your past experiences, including the abstract, and layer it with the figurative. And then there’s magic…
Secundino Hernández: Yeah. I don’t move to figuration just for the sake of it. It’s about this inner exercise in order to see where the abstract works lead to. It’s like a mirror game. I want to test my abstraction, and for that, I need to have a reference, and that reference at this moment is the figure. This is the starting point for something new. The main thing is to open possibilities and new potential. I always thought it was easier to explain figurative work more than abstraction because abstraction is based on concepts, but I am realising that figures and bodies can also be very conceptual. We have seen the figure represented in paintings for centuries, so how do I paint a figure as if it’s being painted for the first time?

Artist painting a model in the studio

Hernández works with a live model to inform his figurative yet abstract works

Maryam Eisler: Going back to the language of the figurative and carnal, you often talk about ‘skin’ and ‘bones’, even with your abstract paintings. You scratch the surface of the painting like the surface of the skin and you dig deep into its bones.
Secundino Hernández: The pure linen is the bone because everything starts from this structure. I also like the idea of going backwards. It’s more like a sculpture, where you are sculpting and taking away from the form. Normally with a painting, you add to it. I like the idea of working with almost no paint at all, or even just with the primer.

Watercolour painting of a female nude

Maryam Eisler: You talk about ‘scars’ and you’re interested in dereliction. I see it so evidently as we walk through Venice. Anything that peels, anything that’s scratched, anything that has weathered texture to its surface. Is there an element of temporality and or timelessness in your work?
Secundino Hernández: Yes, that is very much present at the beginning of the palette works. They are nice to admire, but for me, they’re about the memory of what happens in the studio – every day, the process, the passage of time. I used a clean brush and I started to mix colours and they started to grow and grow and grow. I like this idea of growth and subtraction because the works are like pendulums. Some are about adding, and others are about taking away. Everything happens in between and in the physicality of the paintings.

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

Maryam Eisler: Speaking of physicality, your act of painting is very physical, almost performative. You also ripple between large and small-scale works…
Secundino Hernández: It’s demanding. I like it now, but maybe in ten years’ time I will not have this energy level. It’s about not repeating the same process, the same scale. So, going back to the body, I thought it was nicer to paint on a small scale because it is more practical and, in a way, easier to develop the idea faster.

Maryam Eisler: In both your abstract and figurative work, in the way that you use the power-jet, the steamer, in the way that you peel and scratch the surface of the canvas, it seems to me that there is an element of chance and creative fate.
Secundino Hernández: It’s all about fate, you know. I believe that it’s got to be that way, otherwise I would never do any of it.

A man painting onto an orange wall

Hernández is inspired by derelict surfaces and the ‘fleshiness’ of the colours in Venice, such as this peeling wall and rows of buildings

Maryam Eisler: Does the sublime play a role in your practice? Spirituality, or just trust in the universal powers of being?
Secundino Hernández: It’s about reflection. When you work every day as I have for so many years, there needs to be something meditative and spiritual in the process.

Maryam Eisler: Primal?
Secundino Hernández: Yes. I’m a very primal person [laughs].

Abstract white artwork

‘Untitled’ (2018), by Secundino Hernández, rabbit skin glue, chalk, calcium carbonate, titanium white on linen, 276 x 249 cm

Maryam Eisler: You also go from monochrome palettes to a plethora of colours. Is there something emotive going on when you do this ?
Secundino Hernández: Actually, it’s about practicality. When I go to the studio, I start mixing colours and I work on these palette works which have no limits. If I get a bit overwhelmed or stuck, I go back to the palettes. The palette works are always there because their physicality enables the creation of other paintings. Without them, the others don’t exist.

Maryam Eisler: Coexistence and codependence? From peace to chaos?
Secundino Hernández: Yes, but it’s organised chaos. I’m not that chaotic, as you see in this studio. I’m very tidy. The surface of the canvas, on the other hand, looks chaotic because I tried this and I continued with that; everything is very well planned, most of the time. I even do small sketches to plan it all out in advance. Especially for the large canvases – because if you start painting a 5-metre canvas like a crazy monkey, it’s going to be a crap painting.

A man standing above Grand Canal venice

A man standing on a bridge holding a notebook

Hernández on a bridge near his temporary studio in the city. Above, on the roof of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal.

Maryam Eisler: You’re often compared to American Expressionists, such as Pollock.
Secundino Hernández: I think it’s fine, but I feel more comfortable with ‘slow motion’ Expressionism.

Maryam Eisler: Let’s talk about your studio and the lonely business of being an artist.
Secundino Hernández: It’s always a lonely business. Because right or wrong, you are the one and only final judge. And you have to trust yourself.

Read more: Spring Studios Founder Francesco Costa on creative networking

Maryam Eisler: How much work do you destroy?
Secundino Hernández: I try to be successful with everything. But if I do destroy work, I don’t think about it anymore. I learn from the failure and move on. Now, with age, something strange is happening. I sometimes struggle with my paintings and what I can’t control is the frustration. With age, your passion is meant to lessen. It’s not the case with me… it’s getting stronger every day, and I judge myself all the time. I always said there are no mistakes in painting. But how do you know when something is good or bad, right or wrong? It’s difficult. It’s about the relationship between your actions and what you present to the world. I guess I’m only human!

Maryam Eisler: Would it be fair to say that painting is about reality – your reality?
Secundino Hernández: Yeah. That’s the miracle of painting. With some dust and a little bit of egg, you paint something that never existed before. It’s amazing. This is the miracle of painting I think. Also, painting for me is a way of naively understanding the world. Here, with the act of painting, I see Venice with different eyes. I see its surface, its different skin colours and its many people.

Abstract coloured painting

‘Untitled’ (2018), by Secundino Hernández, acrylic, alkyd and oil on linen, 261 x 196 cm

Maryam Eisler: What does it mean to be a painter in the 21st century?
Secundino Hernández: I don’t really know what it means. But I want my paintings to age in a timeless way. I want them to still feel fresh and talk to you in 40 years. This is the whole point. I may be asking for too much. But that’s what I am trying now and always will. Now, more than ever, I’m getting very ambitious. This morning, I was reading an article about Rembrandt and it said that the difference between Rembrandt and his contemporaries was that he not only was a great painter, technically speaking, but that he provided the figure with a certain life and soul. And that’s why his paintings look alive, even today. This is the point. And I was wondering if Rembrandt was even conscious of this. Maybe he was simply enjoying painting or maybe he was suffering and struggling as well, but it’s nice that at least someone writes in this way about your work, 300 or so years later.

Maryam Eisler: And the role of social media in the life of a 21st-century artist? Unlike most artists, you’re not present on social platforms?
Secundino Hernández: I’m not on Facebook and I’m not on Instagram. I have no time for that. Once I went on Instagram and I saw that there were 2,000 posts with my name, then I calculated, if you spend one minute per post, that’s 2,000 minutes of my time, which means two days of my life nonstop doing this sh*t. I just couldn’t do it. I prefer to sit and do nothing.

Maryam Eisler: Is it actually important for people, especially artists, to do nothing?
Secundino Hernández: It’s very important for everyone to be bored. I’m even making big efforts to check my mobile messages once or twice a day only. It’s difficult. It’s like cocaine. I feel like my brain needs it.

Secundino Hernández is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery. His latest exhibition runs at Victoria Miro Venice until 19 October. For more information visit: victoria-miro.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
Woman walks in front of an artwork fanning herself
Woman walks in front of an artwork fanning herself

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

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

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

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

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

Small paintings hanging on a dark blue wall

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

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

close up image of artwork with scripture and red painted faces

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

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

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

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

Gold embroidered words floating on a veil against a white wall

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

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

A woman using an old fashion weaving machine

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

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

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

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Reading time: 3 min
Coloured paper cutouts scattered on a wooden floor
Coloured paper cutouts scattered on a wooden floor

‘Atelier’ (2014). Thomas Demand.

German photographer Thomas Demand has become celebrated for his compelling, sometimes shocking, abstract recreations of the everyday. He talks to Anna Wallace-Thompson about the homogenization of our worlds, finding power in the banal, and Saddam Hussein’s kitchen.
Portrait photograph of a man wearing a white shirt and glasses

Thomas Demand

There’s a particular moment of calm – let’s call it suspended time – when things have settled down while still retaining the memory of the movement that filled them a split second before. Think of the moment when that last dust mote finally settled after drifting down a shaft of light, or the ghostly echoes of the last flutter of a piece of paper as it relaxes into place. Or when you don’t know if the door just slammed shut or is about to burst open. Or sensing the presence of people only through their absence. That’s the moment German photographer Thomas Demand is interested in.

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In fact, at first glance, Demand’s photographs appear simply to be snaps of ordinary places, unremarkable for their sameness, from half-empty supermarket shelves to a bath awaiting its occupant. (This is something that struck him about modern urban spaces, particularly when he first arrived in the US.) Yet, these seemingly humble snaps of everyday situations have earned him a place in the collections of international institutions such as the Guggenheim and MoMA. At auction, his works have sold for more than $100,000 at Christie’s, and he was included in the sale of Mario Testino’s personal collection at Sotheby’s, alongside luminaries such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman.

Close up photograph of pale pink blossom against a blue sky

‘Hanami’ (2014). Thomas Demand

So what is it about these seemingly everyday snaps that has everybody so hooked? Well, further examination reveals each portrait to be a meticulously built paper recreation. Yes, paper. Working in often quite large dimensions, Demand reconstructs the most complex real- life scenarios out of the humblest of materials. They are perfect – or rather, perfectly imperfect, for at the heart of Demand’s work is an interest in the world as a filtered rendering – that is, the paradox of examining past moments through the lens of the present – and even then, through a canny reconstruction of that original moment. “Perfection and beauty are very often seen as interchangeable,” says Demand. “However, if something is too perfect, then it becomes sterile.” And so, working from found photographs of banal scenes (be they supermarket aisles, hotel rooms or office interiors), Demand meticulously reconstructs these tableaux out of paper – warts and all. It is these sculptural paper sets – often quite large in scale – that he then photographs, imbuing the finished image with such an uncanny realism that the eye is often fooled into believing it is looking at the ‘real deal’.

Stacks of folders photographed against a red and white background

‘Folders’ (2017)

“What I have been doing over the years is replacing the time frame of the [original] photograph with another time frame, which is no less a point in time,” explains Demand when we speak. “The original scenario in the media photograph may no longer be there to look at – although it may be from an event that is still in our short or long-term memory, depending on when it was taken. What I suppose you can see in my work is a paradox of time standing still that is both my own fragile paper construction (complete with all the little imperfections and details of ‘reality’) as much as it is a memory of the moment captured in the original photograph.” The sense of transience in Demand’s work is further compounded by the fact that he often discards the sculpture itself (and, in fact, originally began photographing them purely for the purposes of documentation).

Photograph of abstract bright geometric colours

‘Rainbow’ (2018)

In person, Demand is more tidy professor than wild-child artist, his neatly trimmed hair and beard perfectly in sync with his nifty vest and jacket. Get him talking, however, and you can almost hear the thoughts galloping inside his head. When he gets going, he talks a mile a minute, as if the thoughts inside him were moving faster than his ability to articulate them. They tumble out almost in a stream of consciousness, except just when you think he might be going off on a tangent, like a master conductor, Demand deftly brings all the threads together, eloquently and precisely articulating his point.His powers of observation, too, are key to the vision behind the work. Growing up in Munich in the 1960s and 70s, it was when Demand visited the GDR that he first began to pay attention to the power of mass production (or, in the case of the GDR, the lack thereof), and Warhol’s Brillo boxes, for example, remain a key influence: “I grew up in Munich, which is in West Germany, which had plenty of everything.”

Read more: Why we love the New Perlée creations by Van Cleef & Arpels 

As a young artist, travels and study followed – Düsseldorf, Paris, and Goldsmiths in London – as well as the US (he is now based in both LA and Berlin). During this time he began to notice what he refers to as global “homogenization” – a hospital ward in one part of the world looks very much like it does anywhere else, for example, and, with our mass-produced products – be they Nike trainers or even the Tupperware found in Saddam Hussein’s kitchen – we are more united than we think. “When they found Saddam, and showed the photographs, there were so many remarkably recognisable objects,” says Demand. “In one way, it’s the devil’s lair, but in another, it’s possible to see it in parts as your own kitchen. Maybe it’s a little dirtier, but he had the same objects as you and me.” The resulting work – Küche/Kitchen (2004) – could truly be a picture of a kitchen anywhere. “It’s funny how far objects circulate worldwide: you look at photographs of upheavals in Africa and people are wearing the T-shirts of a local bank in Texas, or plastic sandals made in China and marketed in California can end up in Ethiopia. I am fascinated by how the everyday links us to other cultures, from the pervasive blue computer screens that illuminate of office buildings out of hours, or the industrial slickness of an airport.”

Photograph of a small silver gas cooker and kitchen

‘Küche/ Kitchen’ (2004)

Window blind photographed

‘Daily #16’ (2011)

As well as the tableaux of media images that he is known for, Demand has experimented with more intimate scenes familiar to social media. The ongoing ‘Dailies’ series begun in 2008 features an ashtray, a plastic cup shoved into a chain link fence, or even a leaf about to fall through a sewer grate. “I was looking at doing something shorter and easier,” he says. “We all have cell phones in our pockets, and the images being circulated are now private photos – subjective little notes that might not make the news, but are still a form of communication and a culture in itself.”

Read more: In conversation with Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson

These ‘smaller’ works also offer a welcome break from larger and more ambitious set- ups. “In a good year I can make five works, but in a bad one just one,” sighs Demand. “Also, working occasionally with a team of 30 people means that if you’re two months into a particular set up, it’s too late to stop, so you keep going until it works, there’s no way around it.” For example, the work Lichtung/ Clearing Demand created for the 2003 edition of the Venice Biennale took months to get just right due to it being displayed en plein air, and therefore needed to be in some harmony with its verdant surroundings, the challenge being that the Venetian foliage kept changing with the seasons while the image was being built.

Coffee cup wedged in a wire fence

‘Daily #15’ (2011)

They leave things open – can you imagine how they might they be reused for something else?” This is particularly evident in pieces such as Rainbow (2018), part of ‘Model Studies’, in which abstract circular shapes in a range of yellows, oranges and reds hint at the full potential of the building they might perhaps one day have been, yet also present themselves as abstract colourscapes.

Most recently, Demand has had a major monograph published. The Complete Papers presents a survey of his work over three decades, and proved to be both a challenge as well as something of an eye opener, as he was able to see an evolution in his work that he had never noticed before. “I thought I was pretty organised, but it turns out there were so many pieces I’d forgotten about – and now that the book is out, there are so many more pieces I realise I would still need to add,” he laughs. “I can see that my work, since the beginning, has been moving slowly towards abstraction, though photography and abstraction can be a bit of a bad marriage in that photography, by its very nature, is figurative.” So what’s the endgame? “If my work were to become too abstract then it would all become a pointless exercise. To be something, the image has to stay on the very edge of nearly becoming something.”

Find out more: thomasdemand.info

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 8 min
Installation shot of a Luc Tuymans exhibition with a small painting between two columns at the top of stairs
Atmospheric painting of people walking with a tree to the right

‘1989 Wandeling’, Luc Tuymans. Photo credit Ben Blackwell. Courtesy David Zwirner New York

Venice is gearing up for the Biennale with a whole host of exhibitions opening up around the city. One of the most interesting is La Pelle by Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi, François Pinault’s gallery on the edge of the Grand Canal. The exhibition is extraordinarily wide-ranging with more than 80 paintings on display from 1986 right up to Tuymans’ most recent works. The title, which translates as ‘skin’ in English, takes its name from the infamously controversial novel by the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte, set in Naples at the tail end of the Second World War.

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War is a theme that permeates Tuymans’ work too, or more specifically the horrors of Nazism. The first artwork visitors come across is a giant floor mosaic of pine trees, based on a painting that the Belgian artist made outside a German labour camp at Schwarzheide. Vertical lines cut through the composition in representation of the way prisoners tore up their drawings to hide them from the guards. Overlooking the mosaic is a small portrait of Albert Speer, the chief architect of the Nazi party.

Installation shot of a Luc Tuymans exhibition with a small painting between two columns at the top of stairs

Installation shot from ‘La Pelle’ by Luc Tuymans,
Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Many of the artist’s works are based on secondary images, such as photographs taken from a television screen, YouTube or Netflix. Tuyman’s paintings favour bleached-out colours, giving the work a spectral quality as if the images are fading right there in front of your eyes. And the show is haunting in the sense that it will stay with you long after you’ve wandered back down the grand staircase and into the Venetian sun.

Painting of a bird sitting on a branch against a blue background

2015 ‘Isabel’, Luc Tuymans. Photo credit Studio Luc Tuymans.

‘La Pelle’ by Luc Tuymans runs until 6 January 2020 at Palazzo Grassi. For more information visit: palazzograssi.it/en/exhibitions/current/luc-tuymans-la-pelle/

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Venice Biennale artists Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev
Venice Biennale artists Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev

‘The Artist is Asleep’, 1996 at the Kasteev Museum of Arts, Almaty in 2015

Once again, Venice becomes a stage for the world’s best art with the 57th edition of the Biennale opening this month. Under the direction of Christine Macel, chief curator at the Centre Pompidou, this is the first year that artists from Central Asia are represented in the Biennale’s main Giardini pavilion, as part of the curatorial project VIVA ARTE VIVA. Millie Walton speaks to Kazakh artistic duo Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev about the re-creation of their 1996 installation, The Artist is Asleep.
Artistic duo, Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev at venice biennale

Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev

Millie Walton: What does it mean to be included in this year’s Biennale curatorial project?
Yelena and Viktor Vorobyev: The most important is the feeling of belonging to a great important international project, when you feel part of the global world. This happens not so often, but here – the Venice Biennale’s main pavilion for the very first time. It doesn’t matter anymore whether the curatorial position coincides with major world trends, the mainstream, so to speak. Christine Macel’s vision is well founded and thought-out. As for our piece, it fits logically into her concept. Thus Macel’s and our positions reinforce each other. We’re glad it turned out that our modest work will not be lost in a series of many interesting three-dimensional projects by 120 invited artists from different countries.

MW: Has the 1996 installation been altered at all for the new space or is it re-created as an exact replica of the original?
Y&VV:Our 2017 version of the installation The Artist is Asleep is not an exact replica of the 1996 original, but it is still very close to the old one. The cover and the bed sheets are different, but it does not matter for the concept of the work. It should just give an idea that an artist is sleeping on the bed. Also the text is handwritten, so the installation is slightly different each time.

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MW:What was your inspiration for the piece?
Y&VV:In 1995 the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan published a series of catalogues on 10 Kazakhstani artists. Among them was published our paintings and drawings catalogue. The organizers of that series asked artists to write a statement. Since we were actually immersed in the meditative practice of painting that bordered on sleep – between the moment of dumb contemplation of an empty canvas and convulsive waking up, the moment of clarity, further action – the following text was written as a credo:

“The Artist is Asleep.

To wake him, to shake him, to urge to conform to his time is an utterly useless endeavour. But the one who is always wide awake, always is “all ears”, knows “which way the wind blows” and has his craft at the ready, does not suit many for some reason.

All one can do is to wait for the sleeping boulder to stir, rub open his eyes and get up as if to relieve himself.

Well then don’t let the moment slip. His efforts may result in a masterpiece.”

Our critics had a good laugh over this strange statement, but printed it anyway.

In 1996 we were invited to take part in a group show devoted to human rights. The exhibition was held in a grandiose building which housed a business center. As we have always been opponents of glamour, we decided to do something that was contrary to that situation to cause cognitive dissonance with a respectable audience. That’s how the idea just to “illustrate” this short text came about. We decided to illustrate it by making an installation with “a poor sleeping artist.”

Venice Biennale installation

‘The Artist Is Asleep’ (detail), 1996, at the Kasteev Museum of Arts, Almaty in 2015

MW: How is the installation still relevant to modern audiences?
Y&VV: We think that the figure of artist, creator still has value. The ability to visualize ideas that are important for many is just an amazing skill. Modern audiences are able to perceive the metaphors offered by different artists. Our work is, on one hand, a metaphor for the secrets of creativity and, on the other, a narrative describing the life of the recent era as well as the ironic context in relation to ourselves.

MW: What’s next?
Y&VV: There are many ideas that we would like to realize and of course we plan to participate in exhibitions.

labiennale.orgaspangallery.com

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