Monday, 31 December 2012

Not So Poor

With a stone stuck in a tree, Giuseppe Penone caused a minor sensation at this year's Kassel Documenta.

Idee Di Pietra (2012), bronze and stone, Karlsaue Park

As the youngest member of the 1960s Arte Povera movement (literally poor art), the Italian mostly used natural materials such as wood, and rebelled against the corporate mentality of the market.

Breathing Leaves, 1979

These days, the complex relationship between man, art and nature is still Penone's focal point. But the materials have become a little less poor. The tree for the Documenta, for example, was made out of bronze.

Penone's new installation Spazio di Luce (Space of Light), now on display at London's Whitechapel Gallery, is an 11-metre long cast of a tree covered with bronze and lined with gold.

Spazio di Luce (2012), 12-metre bronze cast of a tree, gold-leaf interior

But some of Arte Povera's original intention remains. As a way to support the publicly funded Whitechapel Gallery, a limited edition etching by Penone was offered for sale at the Frieze art fair Limited Editions stand. It sold out before the fair was over (just like last year's Wolfgang Tilmanns edition).

Luckily I was there to grab one. Afterwards, I felt rather poor.

Limited Edition - Spazio di Luce, 2012

As a final flirt between Ricchi e Poveri, the Château de Versailles has now announced that Penone will be its Guest of Honour this summer. After the somewhat bombastic shows by Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami (pics here and here), this collaboration promises to be both beautiful and organic.

Let them see Wood.

Sculture di Linfa (2007), marble, resin, bark, wood, leather

Down to Earth

Monday, 24 December 2012


A big fête is nigh.

David Hammonds, Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983); and Pippi Långstrump, the strongest girl in the world (1969) 

For the right sound, check out Kumi's X-mas mix here. And this 90's gem.

          Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas Live - Ca. 1998

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bowie & Bela

This is what I needed for a good start to the holidays: Tim Walker and my favourite model Małgosia Bela unite again for the British Vogue December issue, in a psychedelic homage to David Bowie.

Also, the similarity between Bowie and Bela is striking, especially during his Diamond Dogs period...

Cover of Diamond Dogs

Bowie shot by Terry O'Neill, ca. 1974


Diamond Dogs TV Commercial 1974

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Sing Me a Cake

The French, apparently, love combining music with patisserie. Kumisolo's latest song Fondant au Chocolat is a delicious point in a case. And a recipe to warm up this winter.

And here an inspiration, Catherine Deneuve preparing a love cake in the film version of the French fairy tale Peau d'Ane (1970). 

Cake d'Amour

Bon appetit!

Tokyo-Paris Express

My friend singer songwriter Kumisolo is like a cross between Anna Karina and Sailor Moon: The best of what her cities - native Tokyo and adopted Paris - have to offer.

Recently signed by EMI, Kumi is now taking France by storm. Parisian chic and Japanese kawaii pop merge effortlessly in this stunning single, a consciously plastic song about easy loves and fragile hearts. Wanna sing along?


As a multitalent, Kumi also created flower wreaths with my boy Laurent in Paris as part of her Kumi & Cam series.

Kumi and Laurent

Follow her stylish blog and get her new EP here! And stay tuned for a Vogue Fabrics performance in London. Kumi is coming.

Kumi in action 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Aesthetic Post

Sorry for the silence. Today was my last day in the New World, and I went to send a postcard at the Palacio Postal in Mexico City's historic centre. I did not actually expect a palace.

Mexico City's Palacio Postal (1909)

I was even more impressed when I saw this gigantic mosaic depicting the Aztec's founding story - when the nomad tribe saw an eagle eating a snake on a cactus, that is where they founded Tenotichtlan (later Mexico City). I had to look thrice to believe the whole thing was made out of stamps.

Pablo Magana Gonzalez, "Escudo Nacional" (made from 34 279 stamps stamped between 1890 and 1934)

Now this is dedication to Old World mail.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Cloudy (In a Good Way)

Lately I've been thinking a lot about clouds.

London seems to have a lot of the low clouds...

Luckily there is more variety beyond the science.
Simon Guillain after Annibale Carracci,  A saint (maybe Francis), 1640s

Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Punishment of Tityus (1532)

Konstantin Kalynovych, Museum of Clouds (2000)

Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate (2004-2006), Chicago

Indoor Cloud created by Berndnaut Smilde -  Time's Best Invention 2012

Indoor Cloud Created

Of course some prefer the sun. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Trying Hard to Like You

I hadn't heard of Wilhelm Sasnal until his show at the Whitechapel Gallery earlier this year. Which is kind of embarassing, given that he's the best-selling Polish contemporary artist on the market.

Wilhelm Sasnal

But then I saw the show, and thought: "Really?" From the pigsty next to his parents' house that supposedly looked like a concentration camp, right to a reinterpretation of Seurat's Bathers at Asnières - everything seemed flat and lifeless. Like failed photographs, or Alex Katz - I didn't get it.

The other day I came across this painting. In one moment the visible brushstrokes moved me more than the entire show had. I dug deeper, making my way through metres of Google-Image pages, feverishly looking for work I liked. 

And yet, most of his stuff left me cold. Except for these.

Untitled, 2009

Forest, 2003

Anka in Tokyo, 2006

Warsaw, 2005

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Clark's Cocker

Last week my parents came to town and insisted on a cultural outing. Since I wasn't in the mood for a dusty opera, I took them to see the Michael Clark Company at the Barbican.

Oh là là? Contemporary dance can be a gamble, but I was confident: Ever since Come, Been, Gone had blown my mind in 2010 (including music from David Bowie and custom-made backgrounds by one of my favourite painters, Peter Doig) I knew that Clark combined fun and sexhilaration like no other.

Come, Been, Gone, 2009/2010

And of course "New Work 2012" was perfection. In the first half, surreally-built dancers executed measured moves sharp like scarpels to music by 80's band Scritti Politti. Only to woo us after the break: Comme des Garçons-esque outfits, Tetris music and projected word games blended with surprising subtlety.

Scritti Politti - Jacques Derrida

But the end! The backdrop turned out to be a curtain, which lifted and revealed a full-blown band, Relaxed Muscle. Jarvis Cocker, painted like a Mexican death mask and swinging a whip, threw up a live performance which turned the Barbican into hell. In the best possible sense. The dance-cum-rock revelation made me want to stand up and scream my lungs out. Instead, I waited patiently until the end of the show, and clapped. And clapped. My parents loved it too.

The last 37 seconds of the show

Relaxed Muscle - Let it Ride

Avant-garde since the 80's

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Blagging It at Frieze

The man in the Siberian fur hat refused to buy a ticket.
I always get a press pass”, he cried from behind his orange sunglasses. “Don’t you know who I am?

We really didn’t. All throughout Frieze week, a blagger phenomenon besieged the press office. Faux confidence and exotic stories filled the queues. Minor fashion bloggers, botoxed ladies without ID who just “hopped over” from Asia, moustachioed men on shady press missions from Iran. Behind computer screens, we custom-trained twenty-somethings turned away candidates with polite yet firm excuses. “I am sorry, Madam, Frieze is not interested in your jewellery blog” said Lucy, a part-time curator from East London, to a slender woman in bangs.  You can purchase a ticket over there”.

The growing cheekiness of the public is not surprising. This year, a day ticket for Frieze London and Frieze Masters (for pre-2000 art) cost 35 pounds. That is double what the largest international exhibitions such as the Kassel Documenta or the Venice Biennale charge. And unlike these, Frieze is mostly about selling art.

Paul, an arts graduate from Sheffield, managed to get a press pass by covering the fair for a friend’s blog. “Why should I dish out all that money only to make the banker-types and snooty gallerists make me feel like I don’t belong here?

It might just be this perceived exclusivity of the commercial art world which made an anonymous collective stage subtle flash mobs on the fair’s opening day. Members, dressed as regular visitors, froze in casual poses at the ring of a bell. The effect was both comic and intriguing. A ginger teenager pointed at a man with a finger in his nose, petrified next to Hauser & Wirth’s $1.3 million sculpture by Paul McCarthy. “Is that real?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Camp Flickr

A gayish interlude in black and white. 

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Self-portrait), 1973-1975

Krzysztof Jung, Zeus and Ganimedes, 1981

Krzysztof Jung, Pissoir, 1980

Man Ray, Untitled, 1930. Georges Malkine kissing his wife

Giuseppe Penone "To Turn Upside Down Your Own Eyes",
Turin 1970

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


The art world's fashion week is back - Frieze art fair opened last night in London's Regent Park. During the private preview the Thomas Bayrle-designed entrance corridor turned into a fierce runway as gallerists, celebrities and successful wannabes strutted along in meticulously curated outfits.

Thomas Bayrle's design for the 2012 Frieze London

Spottings: Turner Prize winner and cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry, starchitect Zaha Hadid, REM's Michael Stipe. And the most tastefully beautiful people you're likely to see anywhere in one night.

Mucha Actitud

The art (which at times feels secondary in the ego tsunami) was - as usual - more than anyone can swallow. Video installations by Ryan Trecartin, a head by Stephan Balkenhol, large-scale phography by Thomas Struth, or another naked Kate Moss by Mario Testino. These might not have been the most unexpected, but they are the art world's staples (like little black dresses) and will always sell.

Kate Moss naked again by Mario Testino
And with 175 galleries from around the world, diversity and experimentation were not missed. From incense burning on the lawns (Joanna Rajkowska, "Forcing a Miracle"), to self-portraits as rubbish bins (Michael Landy, see below) or tomato fights and horse-milk tastings (which FYI tastes like spermy earth and horse fur - Colloseum of the Consumed, Grizdale Arts), there is something there for every palate.
Just don't overdose.

Michael Landy, Self-portrait as a Rubbish Bin, 2012

Until Sunday, 14 October. Tickets here

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Hidden Magic

This week I saw an exhibition on the multitalent that was Bruno Schulz (1892-1942).

"Shifted Reality", in the Adam Mickiewicz Museum in Warsaw until November 20

Schulz was an eminent writer and painter in inter-war Poland, whose take on Jewish life, identity and the human condition was both magical and unsettling.

Bruno Schulz, Engraving,1921

Bruno Schulz, Autoportrait, 1933

Bruno Schulz, Engraving 1921

His death at the hands of a Nazi officer and the mystery around his remaining work (including a recent rediscovery, and illegal smugglings to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Memorial) continue to fascinate.  Check out the New York Times' slide show, "Painting under Coercion" here

Influenced: Jerzy Janisch, "Sisters", 1933

Years after Schulz' death, his surrealist novel Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (1937) was adapted by Wojciech Has into the award-winning "The Hour-Glass Sanatorium"(1973) - in full below.

The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (1973), with English subtitles

And if you can't get enough of Has, here is his other masterpiece, The Saragossa Manuscript (1965).

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), with English subtitles.

A super-human weekend to everyone.