Jan Kempenaers: Enjoy the Process

Jan Kempenaers: Enjoy the Process is a substantial mid-career survey of Jan Kempenaers’ new and recent work at Breese Little gallery in London, introducing the breadth of Kempenaers’ work beyond his most renowned images: from photographic series, such as the iconic Spomenik, and individual images, to recent experiments with screen-printing and a full display of artist’s books.

Kempenaers’ photographic body of work is highly considered and meticulously compiled. Most series are restricted to a few carefully chosen shots of striking compositions, while his archiving procedure shaves down any surplus imagery in favour of crucially representative images. The photographer presents a spectacle of cities and nature linked by understatement such as S.F. – L.A. (2010), a series that documents a road trip down the West Coast of America, privileging plants, trees and cacti along the route, whether in the desert or the central reservation of a highway.

Kempenaers is best known for the stark photographs of his Spomenik series, iconic images charting World War Two memorials commissioned by General Tito in the 1960s and ‘70s in the former Yugoslavia. Crucial to his career and recent development, a number of Spomeniks will feature in the exhibition, alongside new works entitled Ghost Spomeniks, monochrome re-workings of Kempenaers’ original views of the monuments.
Jan Kempenaers: Enjoy the Process will run until October 25th 2014 at Breese Little in London.

Images courtesy of Jan Kempenaers and Breese Little 

Alvar Aalto: Second Nature at Vitra Design Museum

Right from the outset, Vitra established itself as a guardian of good design: though it is mostly known for distributing Charles and Ray Eames’ iconic products on the European market, it has also, through the years, built an impressive list of collaborations with contemporary designers and architects, who gradually gave shape to its nearly too perfect domestic universe. When, in September 2013, the news spread that Vitra had acquired Artek, it appeared a natural (though not inevitable) union of design giants.

Artek was founded in 1935 by Alvar Aalto as both an international furniture company and a gallery. Aalto was the most notable Finnish architect and designer, who, much like Carlo Scarpa in Italy, embraced a design method that was firmly grounded in the peculiarities – natural resources, history and cultural heritage – of his home country, yet without renouncing on utopian visions of 20th century Modernism. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vitra Design Museum has recently inaugurated an exhibition that offers a new reading of Aalto’s work, in lieu of his rich relationship with 20th century avant-garde movements and its reflection on the contemporary.

“Alvar Aalto – Second Nature” – running until March 1st 2015 – explores the architect’s oeuvre through four thematic sections: the first space is concerned with Aalto’s early work up to the legendary design of the Paimio sanatorium (1928-1933). This part of the exhibition traces vividly how Aalto’s work evolved towards the modern movement. The second space revolves around Aalto’s relationship with art and his dialogue with important artists of his time, illustrated by individual artworks – such as works pieces by Alexander Calder and Jean Arp – and through an in-depth presentation of two key works, Villa Mairea (1938/39) in Noormarkku, Finland and Maison Louis Carré (1956–1959, 1961–1963) in Bazoches-sur-Guyonne, France. The third exhibition space approaches Aalto as a designer of furniture, lights and glass objects as well as surveys surveys the history of Artek. The fourth and final space is dedicated to Aalto’s international ascent in the post-war period and his large-scale projects in architecture, city and masterplanning.

Acting as a ‘chief of orchestra’, Aalto has given shape to objects, spaces, glassware, artworks, and, most notably, revolutionary ideas which continue to be relevant and influence the international design scene. In fact, in an effort to fuse Aalto’s work with the contemporary, Vitra Design Museum has commissioned the photographer Armin Linke to produce photographs and videos of the architect’s selected buildings, proving, once again, that good design often also means good business.

Rujana Rebernjak 

Paris Fashion Week: Three Trends for the Next Season

After nearly a month of exciting, yet tiring, runways, this fashion season is coming to a close, with main shows of Chanel and Valentino ending the Paris Fashion Week today. This year’s Paris Fashion Week was actually quite intense: we saw the farewell of Mr. Jean Paul Gaultier from ready-to-wear world, enjoyed Yohji Yamamoto’s sensual experiments, and breathed a typically Parisian avant-garde air (in some cases tragic, in others utterly relaxed). Speaking about most notable trends, we must point out three main lines of development: net composition, denim and a ‘modern princess’ inspiration.

Let’s start from the first one, netting: it might sound weird, but for next season, various designers have worked on the mesh element. Alexander Wang, at the helm of Balenciaga, played with different consistencies, and created long light coats, as well as ethereal white skirts and pink tops, with a futuristic, yet minimal attitude. At Dior, Raf Simons gave a taste of the trend, with net details made of silk styled over dresses, in a way that was more hidden than revealed. Céline exploited the mesh trend in a completely Phoebe Philo style: it firstly came out as a long sleek dress, created through sapient marquetry, later turned into a bigger weft in black and ivory tanks.

The second trend was the one related to denim. Even though is not a big deal to see a pair of jeans or a denim jacket take a stroll down the catwalk, it must be said this year their presence was notable. At Chloé we saw a 90s revival, with trompe-l’œil effects – both a skirt and blouse and a pants and blouse tandem at a first glance seemed to form a unique piece – and huge frontal pockets. Refined Christopher Lemaire wisely paired indigo with navy blue, leaving the hem free. The youth vibe came from Kenzo, where maxi palazzo pants were alternated with extra large zip coats.

We finish our tour with the jolly one, the modern princess style. If the girl imagined by Rochas is a preppy student who dares to show a bit of her young skin and wears white socks with precious heels, the one by Rick Owens definitely emerged from the dark side, without leaving the romanticisms behind. We should end by mentioning Undercover, one of the real surprises of the last fashion week: theatrical, intense and dreamy, the collection – as well as its princess – was a mix of influences blended in a unique mood, that partly sums-up Paris Fashion Week.

Francesca Crippa 

Style Suggestions: In Bloom

Summer has come to an end, but that doest mean that your wardrobe has to become dull. Florals, in any shape, fabric and form, can keep you feeling solar ever at the coldest of times.

Jacket: MSGM, Shoes: N°21, Bag: Givenchy, Jewelry: Delfina Delettrez

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 


Joan Jonas | Performance Is Always A Living Matter

The Pirelli Hangar Bicocca in Milan is almost ready to open “Light Time Tales”, the first major exhibition in Italy of the queen of performance and video art Joan Jonas (b. 1936, New York). The huge retrospective, curated by Andrea Lissoni, encompasses the long lasting career of the American visual artist, presenting historical and recent works – 10 installations and 9 videos, with an original piece specifically conceived for this show – and gives us the occasion to spend some words about a crucial figure of contemporary art.

Jonas’ artistic research, started in the late 60s and 70s, mainly focuses on the connections between video and performance, exploiting the use of other complementary media such as installation, sound, text, and drawing, without leaving behind her initial interest for sculpture, to develop the earliest formalist and feminist videos ever. Since 1968, her practice has been characterised by a pioneering multimediality strictly connected with theatrical language which analyses the body – for long time, her own body was the core of her work – and its interaction with physical environments and systems of token props and motifs such as mirrors, dogs, landscapes, the sun and the moon, etc. Interrupting the vision of the surrounding space, mirrors change the perception of the world symbolically turning the reality into its representation.

Jonas’ poetic is based on a non-linear, open narration, which plumbs different sources, from mythology to poetry, passing through fairy tales, past and everyday life situations, and explores in a fragmented way diverse intimate issues creating landmark references that are able to examine the potential of the medium in depth. Minimal gestures, sinuous movements, acoustic images, floating lights, the act of compulsory drawing (one of the artist’ distinctive marks), these are all repeated movements that contribute to making Jonas’ performances intensive and fascinating; as a kind of modern, hypnotic rituals.

Once again Mr. Lissoni offers the opportunity to meet the work of an extraordinary leading figure of international art world. The must-see exhibition will run from 2nd October 2014 to 1st February 2015.

Monica Lombardi 

New York Art Book Fair 2014

Within the endless universe of book publishing, art books are a unique, particularly characteristic yet highly elusive niche: it can encompass objects as varied as xeroxed zines, art catalogues, illustrated manuscripts, unique, hand-made books, as well as artists’ editions. It is a world in constant flux whose boundaries are constantly re-defined by developments in technology and conceptual negotiation. It is, thus, fairly easy to imagine how an art book fair held in Bologna, Italy would be imbued with history and a more traditional approach to book-making, while the one held in New York would focus on emerging practices and contemporary spheres of artistic production.

The New York Art Book Fair, in its ninth edition, opening today at MoMA PS1 in Queens, represents the most innovative and experimental approaches to art publishing: from artists’ books and catalogs,to monographs, periodicals, and zines, the fair features over 350 booksellers, antiquarians, artists, institutions and independent publishers from twenty-eight countries. Organized by Printed Matter, an established institution dedicated to preserving and promoting books as a central medium of artistic production, the fair features a rich series of events, talks, performances and presentations.

Now in its sixth year, The Classroom has become a classic element of the fair, comprising a curated series of informal conversations, workshops, readings and other artist-led programs, organized by David Senior, the librarian of the Museum of Modern Art. This year’s talks sport titles like: Performance as Publishing, OHO and the Korean Avant-Garde Association, How to Hack an Abstraction: Google Warhol, Check Your Vernacular or Publishing as Research & Development. The series of exhibitions celebrating artist’s books this year include, an showcase of books by Dorothy Iannone, the American-born, Berlin-based artist famous for her whimsical, colorful and, perhaps most importantly, explicit depictions of female sexuality – which have, since the 1960s, often fell prey to censorship; an exhibition celebrating 10 Years of Nieves Zines, showing all 200 zines produced by Nieves since 2004 together for the first time; as well as a site-specific installation by Iván Navarro and Hueso Records showing the work of non-musicians who maintain an audio practice as an extension of their body of work.

On the other hand, the fair also includes XE(ROX) & PAPER + SCISSORS and The Small Press Dome, a lively selection of international artists, zinesters, and small presses representing independent publishing at its most innovative and affordable in the MoMA PS1 courtyard, while a special section of the fair is dedicated to contemporary book publishing in Norway as well as to books which focus on photography. If you’re in New York this weekend, join the celebration of books, art and culture at MoMA PS1 in Queens, open from today until Sunday from 11 AM to 7 PM.

Rujana Rebernjak 

The Reinvention of Loewe

British designer Jonathan Anderson is mostly known for his own successfully brand, J.W. Anderson, but since last fall he can add a position as Creative Director at Loewe to his rich resumé. The choice of appointing Mr. Anderson as Creative Director at the Spanish brand came as a surprise to many and the thought of J.W. Anderson’s modern, provocative and conceptual design at one of the oldest fashion houses under the ownership of LVMH, even raised some eyebrows. The question asked by many as Mr. Anderson took stage in October 2013, was therefore how his innovative, conceptual ideas could be combined with the long legacy of Loewe. Almost a year later, our questions have been answered as Loewe showed its first series of designs under his creative direction.

When J.W. Anderson took over Loewe he started to collaborate with the art directors Michaël Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak of M/M Paris to remake the brand’s logo, as well as to collaborate with Steven Meisel to give the Spring Summer 2015 campaign a new look. The ads are now built on some of Meisel’s archive images from a 1997 editorial in Vogue Italia, together with clean and down scaled pictures of this season’s leather goods. Besides the overall appeal and communication of the brand, J.W. Anderson, clearly proposed a new vision for Loewe’s leather goods and accessories – with a color palette mostly based on black, white, brown, red and dark blue, with interesting patterns and innovative cuts, and off course leather bags and espadrilles (the brand is from Madrid) the menswear Spring 2015 collection is a mix of modern and more classic items – an impeccable reflection of the relationship between Loewe and J.W. Anderson.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Artelibro: Festival of Books and of Art History in Bologna

At a time when the conversion of media and communication to digital rather than material platforms seems interminable, Bologna launches a celebration of books as cultural heritage and design object. Open last weekend in the old town centre of Bologna, the 11th edition of Artelibro Festival was based at Palazzo di Re Enzo e del Podestà. Involving antiquarian booksellers, contemporary publishers and printers, scholars and visual art professionals, artists and art lovers, it took the theme Italy: Land of Treasures – a theme that highlights an imperative to promote the value of local culture, as well as the need to preserve an incomparable heritage.

A number of infrequently exhibited masterpieces from Italian museums and libraries was put on display for visitors to the Festival. For example, an outstanding exhibition entitled The Shining Writing – Manuscript Treasures from Italian Libraries is held in the Hall of the Stabat Mater of the Archiginnasio Municipal Library of Bologna, featuring some of the best preserved books of antiquity. These include the Bible of Borso d’Este, the ancient Bible of Marco Polo from the Laurentian Library in Florence, the manuscript known as Vita Christi written by the ascetic and biblical exegete Ludolphus de Saxonia, and a digital copy – made by the Department for the Cultural Heritage of the Region of Calabria – of the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, an extraordinary fifth century codex written in silver ink on purple-dyed parchment pages. Antiquity is partnered with modernity, with a multi-touch interactive board allowing visitors to virtually leaf through these rare and precious books.

The festival included a calendar of events that expands throughout the city centre and lasting beyond the three-day festival, taking place at venues including the Biblioteche di Bologna, Istituzione Bologna Musei and the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. A highlight of these satellite events is an exhibition called Get it right the first time! a competition for the best book covers of 2013-2014, which will be exhibited until the 12th October 2014 at Biblioteca San Giorgio in Poggiale. A group of 15 specialists in editorial graphics have selected 45 Italian covers published between September 2013 to September 2014, a range that encompasses fiction, non-fiction, illustrated manuals, travel guides, illustrated books and exhibition catalogues. Visitors to the exhibition will be given the opportunity to vote for their favourite cover. The result is an exhibition that does not show a series of abstract editorial graphics, but which treats books as concrete objects, to see how they work, how to build with them, and how they interact with the users, while paying some heed to their salience as objects and potential for commercial yield.

In this Festival of Books and Art History, the book is finally considered a work of art in its own right, judged by its quality as a physical object, not solely in terms of beauty or aesthetics, but as a building material, a real object, with both historic importance and lasting cultural value.

Philippa Nicole Barr 

Challenging the Runway: Impossible Catwalk Shows

While hoards of slender models follow a well know script and walk runways one right after the other in capitals of fashion, some people are questioning the future of the catwalk itself, right form the inside. The latest, chronologically speaking, were Gareth Pugh, who paired up with Lexus and, for the first time, left Paris for New York Fashion Week with an acclaimed performance, and Ralph Lauren, who used holograms to launch Polo for women, his new line. Far – but not so far, after all – from the madding crowd of fashion week, an exhibition at the Space Fashion Gallery in London takes part in the ‘runway’ debate. Curated by Ligaya Salazar, the exhibition showcases the latest works of Simon Costin, set designer who collaborated with, among others, Alexander McQueen, Tim Walker and Gareth Pugh.

The exhibition is concentrated in one room and shows a set of models of both real and imagined spaces that could possibly host a fashion show. The exposition challenges the obsolescence of the catwalk, above all in its clearness and declared aim: show a collection of clothes. Here under the spotlight is not the collection, but the concept at its basis; the strength of the exhibition lays in its ambiguousness: a fashion exhibition that openly distances clothes from its focus and puts ‘the stage on stage’.

Costin explores the possibilities and chooses a series of ‘situations’ to demonstrate that the future of shows will more and more be about the unconscious and less about reality. A cardboard forest, a sanatorium, even a nuclear power station: uncanny settings seeking a new kind of fashion, less shallow and with an ‘intellectual’ background. The exhibition wants to be thought provoking both for clients and designers, trying to turn fashion shows into a complete cultural experience, detached from its commercial roots. It is an attempt to make fashion a cerebral discipline while working on its surface, using the dream-making machine of the show to convey messages and, in some ways, explain the reasons behind collections shown.‘What I want to present here are a series of suggestions as to how fashion presentations could be; an invitation to dream and speculate’ stated Costin. But, between suggestions, dreams and incredible settings, the strong question that comes to mind is: are garments still the privileged objects of fashion?

The power of fashion rests in the dream it sells; with this exhibition, Costin shows us that this dreams can be shaped and presented in infinite ways, with imagination as the only limit. It shows that fashion is not only about clothes, which become of secondary importance, but about the space, the story, the idea. Yet fashion is at once the most volatile and the most concrete of disciplines – a giant with its head in the clouds and its feet on the ground – and it is exactly what makes fashion interesting, its being across-the-board. It deals with the amazing and the impossible, yet it is always grounded on its own, unavoidably commercial, set of rules. The real challenge is not to negate this dichotomy, but rather to creatively display it.

Marta Franceschini 

A New Beginning for Jil Sander

When you step on a new career path, it can sometimes feel as if the whole world is watching; and in Rodolfo Paglialunga’s case, this statement isn’t too far from truth. After Raf Simons switched sides, leaving Jil Sander for Dior and Jil Sander herself stepped down as creative director of her iconic brand – which in many ways was synonymous with minimalism of the 1990s – for the third time, it became vital to find a worthy successor. In April this year, Italian designer Rodolfo Paglialunga was chosen to take over the Jil Sander helm.

Paglialunga studied at the Marangoni Institute before starting his design career at Romeo Gigli in the 1990s. At Gigli, his creativity was allowed to flourish in a welcoming and open dialogue. In 1996 he joined Prada where he stayed for more than a decade, until he was appointed creative director of Vionnet in 2008. During his time at Prada powerhouse, Paglialunga gained knowledge of the industry and how a big fashion brand is run. His love of research has given him a greater frame of reference as well as an approach guided by reverence and respect for the brand for which works. His approach isn’t about copying previous work, but rather about understanding the core of the brand in order to push it in new directions; a quality from which Jil Sander will surely benefit.

When viewing Paglialunga’s debut SS 2015 collection for Jil Sander last Saturday, the match between the two creative forces seemed to be made in heaven. Flashes of the upcoming spring season’s hottest trend of sporty chic were clear, yet subtle in tone. Instead, the focus was on androgynous play of the classic school girl appeal, with an updated retro look. While Jil Sander’s core idea of minimalism and essential simplicity has been left untouched, Paglialunga has managed to keep his mark clear and transparent in each piece sent down the runway, among which the nappa leather socks were the most curious and iconic elements. Although some of bottoms might have been almost ‘overworked’, it was an interesting interpretation of “skirt over pants”, an iconic 1990s look, without taking the trend to literally. Paglialunga’s first collection for Jil Sander was a new and fresh outtake on the most classic basic pieces, and we might as well predict that this collaboration will be an enjoyable one to watch in the future.

Victoria Edman