Category: Art & Photography

What was good about 2016?

Art, art & art: exceptional art shows!

 

Exceptional art exhibitions around the world faced down ugly politics…

jbosch6Panels of the “Visions of the Hereafter” by Hieronymus Bosch, ca. 1505-1515

During the traditional “feel good” New Year’s Concert in Vienna on the first day of the year, I want to remember  what inspired me in 2016, rather than what depressed me. Without a doubt three exceptional art shows (amongst many more) spring to mind!

First, the Hieronymus Bosch show in the painter’s hometown of ‘s Hertogenbosch in Holland. Every Bosch painting demands hours of attention, an impossible task at a very busy show, and it is nearly impossible to fathom how a man living in a provincial town in Holland in the late 15th century could have had such fantastical and  unparalleled visions of, well: everything!

I was most intrigued by the last polyptych in the exhibit, the mysterious “Visions of the Hereafter”, as shown above with in the middle the panel of the “Ascent of the Blessed”. The most puzzling thing was the way the backsides of the panels that were painted in mysterious splatters, one orange red, the other black… Jackson Pollock would have appreciated. I could find nothing on these back panels, what they mean, they seem very deliberate…most intriguing…

Second, the Klimt and the Women of Vienna’s Golden Age, 1900–1918 show in my favorite New York museum: the Neue Galerie! These near life size portraits, shown close to the “Woman in Gold” portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer were phenomenal. Amongst them, an earlier portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the only woman he painted twice.

klimt6Portraits of Elisabeth Lederer, Adele Bloch-Bauer and Mäda Primavesi

Thirdly, the Sir Lawrence (Laurens) Alma-Tadema show in the picturesque capital of Friesland: Leeuwarden, in Holland. Proud to be of Friesian descent, it was a joy to drive with my mother over the longest dyke in Holland in a magical wintery landscape to the Fries Museum. Why is the show there? Well, Alma-Tadema was born in 1836 in Friesland, that quaint province of Holland famous for the oldest Planetarium in the world (in Franeker), friesian cows, the 11-town skating race (weather permits) and courageous resistance during WWII!

atmoses“The Finding of Moses”, 1904 – Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

This show is phenomenal and will go on to Vienna and London, the town where Alma-Tadema became one of the most celebrated painters of the late nineteenth century. His historical and orientalist paintings were highly appreciated and fetched enormous prices. What makes his painting enduring is their historical accuracy and evocative atmosphere of life in ancient times. Every detail of hair styles, robes, furniture, objects and architecture was historically accurate, to a point that Alma-Tadema’s paintings were templates for the set and wardrobe designs of most famous Hollywood peplum movies!

In the show you see scenes from these films projected above the paintings that inspired the art directors of the films the Ten Commandments, the Last Days of Pompei, Quo Vadis, Exodus and Gladiator!

It turns out that the young Gustav Klimt was very inspired by Alma-Tadema’s paintings!

klimtalmatleft: Alma-Tadema “Venus Esquilina”, 1877 – right: Klimt “Roman Women’s Bath” 1890

Much will be written about the year 2016, with all it’s momentous twists and turns, but luckily (judging by the huge crowds) ART is still the universal language of the human race!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Prehistoric Pinterest

Before the virtual version, there was actually the real deal: the pin board.

Board3

Before “cut and paste” were key strokes on your computer there was actually CUT AND PASTE, or in the case of your pin board: cut and pin!

CartoonHow current is this McNelly cartoon from 1990 today!

There is Pinterest, that “pins” for you without allowing you to arrange your board the way you want it…and then there is the real thing where you are the master of your universe!

Cartoon2Cartoon from the New Yorker, when the book “Why French women don’t get fat” was all the rage.

I have always had large mood boards or even whole walls with newspaper cuttings, fashion photos, cartoons and all things that capture my attention and I want to preserve.

BricoloThe now closed “Bricolo Café” at the BHV department store in Paris, decorated as an old workshop.

This is just one of my walls and most of the things up there are already quite old, but have not lost any of their significance to me.

ArtSonia Delaunay and Gerhard Richter

It is my very tangible and private diary of everything that inspires or interests me, and I love sharing it with insiders, but not necessarily with the world…

FeauBeautiful “boiseries” by Féau in Paris at the Biennale a few years ago, I will paint my new library like this!

I could tell you a whole story about each item, why it is there, what it means to me and how it is still significant today…

Cartoon3Peanuts, by the great philosopher Charles Schultz

It is an insight into my psyche and probably fodder for a psychiatrist, an eclectic mixture of humor, deadly serious subjects, photographs of all sorts, frivolous subjects and personal memento’s, a bit what I want my blog to be like!

GulfWarFantastic cover of Mad Magazine about Gulf War II: how true!

Fashion, politics, critical journalism, documentary film, cartoons, postcards, personal photographs, badges of events I attended, invitations, notes…

BoardDetailDetail of my board: Schiele, Peanuts, Avadon, my horoscope for 2014 that I still want to believe in…

It records my life in a mosaic of images and words, in no particular order or chronology.

PhotoMy sister and I, we are still this close today.

There is Pinterest, that “pins” for you without allowing you to arrange your board the way you want it…and then there is the real thing where you are the master of your universe!

ChristInvitation to René Stoeltie’s “Visions of Christ” exhibit in Majorca

It is here that all these ideas, inspirations and images come together and form a “smorgasbord” of my life…

When Napoleon met his Waterloo

The debate over the Battle of Waterloo rages on in a not-so-united Europe!

Battle-of-Waterloo

June 18, 1815 seems like a LONG time ago, but tempers flare and national prides soar or plummet remembering the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated that day at Waterloo in present day Belgium, by a coalition army of the English, Dutch and Prussians, although Wellington takes most of the credit. I will leave the debate about what really happened to the specialists!

I am a not-so-secret admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte for the fact that he managed to restore some of the damage done to France by the Revolution. He singlehandedly revived the great traditions of  the French savoir faire in the great Art Décoratif crafts, seen by the revolutionaries as decadent and obsolete and created the highest French honor, the Légion d’Honneur, amongst other things. And he was the first to have a “European Dream.”

Map1806Map of 1806 depicting Europe

“I wished to found a European system, a European Code of Laws, a European judiciary: there would be but one people in Europe,” declared Napoleon nearly 200 years before Europe finally unifies under the new currency of the European Union. The dream of a strong Europe in which the French, Spanish, Italians, and Germans coexist peacefully as a single united body is being realized today, but it is a dream that was held by Napoleon, based on his vast knowledge of history, and hoped for by many great men after him. Finally this dream is beginning to become a reality although some might argue it has perhaps become a nightmare?

So now, on June 18, 1815 Napoleon is defeated. And that, you would think, was the end of that! But no, a new Battle of Waterloo has ensued between the French and the Belgians about the minting of a commemorative euro coin. The Belgians, excited about prestige of the battle having been waged on their territory wanted to literally make mint of that fact.

waterlooCoin

Yet history has its own currency in Europe, which even a common currency has yet to overcome. Back in March, officials in Paris wrote a letter to the European authorities insisting that the Battle of Waterlo, and altered the shape of European history, had a deep and damaging resonance in the collective French consciousness.

France protested Belgium’s plans for its original coin by saying that basking in France’s defeat threatened to undermine European unity, troubled enough already. The €2 coin, it said, could spur an “unfavorable reaction in France.” In Belgium, the victory embodied in the €2.50 coin is being lauded as if the tiny country had itself triumphed on the battlefield.

deathmaskNapoleon’s death mask, cast on May 6, 1826 in Saint Helena, now in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg

Napoleon Bonaparte may be long dead, but his history is an ongoing battle…

 

 

Fine and Dandy

Dapper dressers of the world show how to stand out in a crowd through elegance and posture

walkerevans1Citizen in  Havana, Cuba, 1933 – Photographer Walker Evans

Some men really stand out in a crowd with a mixture of style and most importantly: posture. I don’t much care for the meaning of the word ‘Dandy’ as defined in the dictionary: “a man who cares too much about his clothing and personal appearance.” It sound quite judgmental! A truly elegant man evokes an air of nonchalance as if his style is a mere casual expression of his inner refinement and something that comes naturally to him…

sape4A “Sapeur” in Brazzaville, Congo – talk about standing out in a crowd…

I much prefer Charles Baudelaire’s definition: “Dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism” and “These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking …. Dandyism is a form of Romanticism. Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of mind.” Take that, sloppy dressers!

Sape5A trio of young “Sapeurs”

An exceptionally active group of Dandy’s today live in Brazzaville, Congo and are known as “Sapeurs”. They  belong to ‘La SAPE’ (Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes) – one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. Members have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality.

sape1Elegant “Sapeurs”

Dandies are never stiff or contrived, their posture self assured without a whiff of arrogance and mostly good company, who does not want to be seen with such a man? In my world Dandy wins over Hipster every time!

ralph_lauren001An ever perfect Ralph Lauren suit

 

Modern Mosaik

Ordinary everyday objects form intricate patterns in the hands of Bejing contemporary artist Hong Hao

things“Tian-B,” 2008

Thank god for the New York Times online subscription, my day was lit up by an article about the works of this artist from China. Everything I love: every day objects, collage, mosaic, still life, abstraction…

Books“My Things No. 7,” 2004 – books

The artist and photographer Hong Hao has kept track of almost every item in his life for the past 14 years. You think he is a hoarder?

bottom“Bottom No. 3,” 2009 – bottoms of ordinary objects

In fact, no: he scans each item and composes what results into colorful, intriguing large-format still life’s. I love this “objet pixel” infinity collage:

circleMy Things About Circle no. 2 , 2006

This collage is made up of ordinary consumer goods packages, chronicling the change in China over the last 14 years:

stuff“Book-Keeping of 07 B,” 2008

The objects are scanned and then arranged according to their forms and colors.

art“My Things No. 5,” 2002

Hong Hao destructs the functional property of the materials and reproduces an undifferentiated, flattened, deliberately superficial world of aesthetics.

books2“My Things Book-Keeping of 2004-05 A,” 2006

The amazing thing is, this is done with a scanner and a computer! No camera, just scanned images carefully rearranged on the computer and printed in large format! I find these images so poetic or in the words of Horace:

“A picture is a poem without words.”

The Bare Minimum


 Zoran, the most “unknown” famous fashion designer

ZoranAmerican Vogue – Photographer Arthur Elgort – 1983

Few fashion designers can boast a cult following while being practically unknown to the wider public as New York based Zoran. Mysterious, secretive and completely disregarding “fashion”, Zoran has endured as a fashion designer of mythic reputation. So secret are his collections, one can only buy from his showroom by appointment…that is; if you have his unlisted number! (I do give some “Create the Look” tips at the end of the post.)

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Window to a Lost World

“The Archives of the Planet”: Albert Kahn’s amazing photographic & filmic encyclopedia of a lost age.

Mongolia_1Mongolia – imprisoned woman – 1913

In 1909 the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world. As an idealist and an internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use the new autochrome process, the world’s first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.

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