Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Renaissance Man: Giovanni Battista Moroni

Giovanni Battista Moroni's Portrait of a YoungWoman, ca. 1575, showing his virtuosity as a painter, not only in the subject's expressive eyes but the fine depiction of her rich jewels, the luxurious fabric of her gown and white lace. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Photograph: Michael Bodycomb.

A major exhibition of Italian Renaissance artist Giovanni Battista Moroni's work has opened at The Frick in New York. It brings together Moroni’s most arresting and best known portraits, exploring the experimentation and innovation of these works. They are shown alongside jewellery, textiles, arms and armour that bring to life Moroni's 16th Century world, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento with additional reporting by Antonio Visconti
Moroni's work exhibited in the Oval Room
at The Frick in New York, showing the richness
and large scale of his full-length portraits.
Photograph: Michael Bodycomb
THE Italian Renaissance artist Giovanni Battista Moroni spent his career in his native town of Bergamo, in the Lombardy region northeast of Milan. He left a tremendous body of work, including numerous portraits, many more than those of his contemporaries who worked in important artistic centres, such as Titian in Venice and Bronzino in Florence. Although, Moroni never achieved their fame, he was a great innovator in portraiture.

In Renaissance Italy, one of the aims of portraiture was to make the absent person seem present through a naturalistic representation of the sitter. Moroni was a master of capturing his subject, although the proportions of the people in his portraits sometimes seem unnaturally compressed and they don't always have either the grandeur and perfection that Titian and Bronzino were able to bring to their paintings. But Moroni had an eye for detail and skilfully rendered fine jewels, rich fabrics and even intricately-painted curls of hair that appear to leap out of the picture frame with a sense of three dimensional realism.

The unidentified sitter in Portrait of a Young Woman (see main picture above) wears a pink brocade dress woven in silver and silver-gilt thread that Moroni has captured in all its Renaissance glory. The fabric of the gown warranted the painter's skill as it was the result of an extremely costly, labour-intensive process in which thin strands of precious metal are wound by hand around silk threads then brocaded into the fabric. The painstaking process is difficult to appreciate without close inspection of an actual piece of fabric made in this way.

In the Frick exhibition, called Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture, a fragment of a sixteenth-century brocade shows how deftly the physical and visual qualities of textiles were translated by Moroni into paint. It also demonstrates the extraordinary craftsmanship of the objects Moroni encountered through his sitters and the artistic challenges and opportunities they presented.

Moroni created both religious paintings and portraits but is best known for works that seem to show his sitters exactly as they appeared before him. According to an anecdote first published in 1648 in Carlo Ridolfi’s Le meraviglie dell’arte, Titian, when approached by a group of would-be patrons, recommended that they instead sit for Moroni, praising his ritratti di naturale (portraits from life). The naturalism for which Moroni was most acclaimed, however, also became a point of criticism: his apparent faithfulness to his models caused some to dismiss him as a mere copyist of nature, an artist without “art ~ that is, without selection, editing, or adherence to ideals of beauty.

In Renaissance Italy, one of the aims of portraiture was to make the absent person seem present through a naturalistic representation of the sitter

The artist was one of the most prolific portrait painters
in Renaissance Italy, as seen in the exhibition's numerous
works in The Frick's East Gallery.
Photograph: Michael Bodycomb
Bernard Berenson derided Moroni in 1907 as an uninventive portraitist who “gives us sitters no doubt as to how they looked.”

Subsequent scholars restored his reputation; the art historian Roberto Longhi, for example, in 1953 praised Moroni’s “documents” of society that were unmediated by style, crediting him with a naturalism that anticipated Caravaggio.

But Moroni’s characterization as an artist who faithfully recorded the world around him ~ whether understood as a positive quality or a weakness ~ has obscured his creativity and innovation as a portraitist.

Moroni was born in the early 1520s in Albino, a small city less than ten miles from Bergamo. Although it was part of the Venetian Republic during the sixteenth century, Bergamo was geographically ~ and, in some ways, culturally closer ~ to the Duchy of Milan, then under Spanish rule. Moroni encountered clients, fashions, and luxury goods from both Milan and Venice, which offered an entrée to a wider more international world of different cultures.

Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli,
called The Man in Pink,
Dated 1560, oil on canvas
Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni,
Bergamo Lucretia Moroni Collection
Photograph: Mauro Magliani
In the early 1540s, Moroni trained in Brescia in the workshop of Moretto da Brescia. The paintings of Lorenzo Lotto, who spent more than a decade in Bergamo in the first quarter of the Cinquecento, were also a significant influence.

After brief periods in Trent during the late 1540s and early 1550s, Moroni worked from the mid-1550s predominantly in his native Albino and Bergamo, providing local clientele with religious paintings and startlingly lifelike portraits.

He achieved his characteristic naturalism through exacting attention to detail, psychologically potent and vivid expressions, and a “warts and all” approach that, at times, resulted in seemingly unidealised portrayals.

For example, his Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova conveys with emphatic clarity his sitter’s goiter, her sagging neck, wrinkled skin, and other features that do not conform to Renaissance ideals of female beauty. At the same time, she is as dignified as his most dashing cavalieri, including the celebrated Man in Pink (see at right).

This portrait, dated 1560, commemorates an event in Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli's life, but to what specific aspect of his biography it corresponds remains unknown. The antique torso represented in the painting is an allegorical sculpture suggesting the learning of the classical world. A relief on the wall to the right of Grumelli depicts the biblical scene of the Prophet Elijah ascending to heaven, and letting fall to his successor, Elisha, his miraculous cloak.

On the ground is a fragment of an antique sculpture that appears to have toppled from a niche, only the sculpture’s right foot remains, possibly alluding to the passage of time or the succession of the ages. The Spanish inscription ~ MAS EL ÇAGUERO QUE EL PRIMERO (More to him who follows than the first)~ seems also to refer to succession.

Moroni’s most famous painting, The Tailor (see below), is unusual for its portrayal of a tradesman at work. It has impressed viewers for centuries with its lifelikeness and suspended action. In 1660, Marco Boschini, in his celebrated poem about Venetian painting, La carta del navegar pittoresco, proclaims Moroni’s Tailor so lifelike that it seems able to speak “more eloquently than a lawyer.” Paintings like The Tailor anticipate the narrative portraits for which Rembrandt would be celebrated the following century.

Moroni achieved his characteristic naturalism through exacting attention to detail and psychologically potent and vivid expressions

The Tailor, (Il Sarto or Il Tagliapanni)
ca. 1570, oil on canvas;
The National Gallery, London
Photograph:©The National Gallery, London
Scholars have debated the precise meaning of The Tailor, prompting consideration of the social status of Moroni’s clientele: does the painting simply present a tailor carrying out his daily tasks, or is it an allegorical portrayal of the unidentified man’s family name (one such as Tagliapanni, meaning “cloth-cutter”)?

Based on the sitter’s clothing ~ fashionable and costly though made of wool, rather than the more expensive silk ~ the painting most likely depicts a well-to-do tailor.

A portrait of the sculptor Alessandro Vittoria was presumably painted early in Moroni’s career, when both artists were in Trent in the early 1550s. It shares a number of qualities with The Tailor, above all the portrayal of the figure as if suspended in an act related to his profession, here addressing the viewer as if interrupted while presenting, studying, or working on a sculpture.

Vittoria’s sleeve is rolled up to reveal his muscular forearm, as if to suggest the physical strength that sculpting requires. He owned at least five painted portraits of himself, and Moroni’s is probably one of two large paintings listed in the inventory of the sculptor’s possessions.

Moroni’s surviving works suggest that he offered his clients relatively standard bust, half- and three-quarter-length, and full-length portraits. Interestingly, he produced at least three full-length portraits of women, a format typically reserved in Europe for depicting men of the highest social rank. Two of these, Isotta Brembati (see below) and Lucia Albani (National Gallery, London), present the women seated majestically in Dante chairs.

Moroni's Isotta Brembati, ca. 1555–56
Oil on canvas. Fondazione Museo
di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo
Lucretia Moroni Collection
Photo: Fondazione Museo di
Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo
The spectacular green and gold dress worn by Isotta Brembati (see at left) seems to be painted with precision; however, considering the weaving techniques used during the sixteenth century, it would be extremely unusual for the repeating pattern of a textile to increase in scale, as it does in the portrait, from the bodice to the skirt. Though the dress may have been based on one worn by the sitter, Moroni appears to have manipulated the pattern for heightened visual effect; his painted portrayal may lie somewhere between fact and fiction.
The other luxury items with which Isotta is depicted ~ the fan, a pendant cross of rubies, emerald, and pearls and the marten fur ~ also may have been embellished or altered for the portrait. Rare surviving examples of each type of object are included in the exhibition.

The objects also enable viewers to better grasp the discrepancies between Moroni’s paintings and the reality they purportedly record. Though marten furs were highly popular among elite women during the Italian Renaissance, very few have survived. The example included in the exhibition is the only one with a gold head with precious stones and enamel (see below).  It is composed of a sheet  of gold, hammered paper thin and chased to simulate fur, adorned with enamel, pearls, garnets, and a ruby.

The artist produced at least three full-length portraits of women, a format typically reserved in Europe for depicting men of the highest social rank

The extraordinary Venetian gold and jewel-encrusted
Marten's Head, ca. 1550–59 .A similar one is
depicted in the portrait of Isotta Brembati.
Gold with enamel, rubies, garnets, and pearls;
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore;
Museum acquisition by exchange, 1967.
Photo: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

The gold marten's display alongside Moroni’s painting ~ in which the sitter’s marten fur with an enamelled gold head drapes casually around her neck ~ underscores the opulence of this accessory as well as its duality, being at once beautiful and grotesque.

The artist’s visually stunning representations of sitters of different social ranks have been appreciated as “documents,” but not sufficiently as innovations. Perhaps it is because of the relative freedom Moroni enjoyed outside the major artistic centres that he was able to exercise the moments of license and experimentation that complicate traditional notions of him as a mere documentarian.

Moroni's Pace Rivola Spini, the pendant of Bernardo Spini (Accademia Carrara, Bergamo), is arguably the first full-length portrait of a standing woman shown alone, painted during the Italian Renaissance (see Spini portraits below). 

Because of the freedom Moroni enjoyed working outside major artistic centres he was able  to be more experimental as a portraitist
Giovanni Battista Moroni’s Lucia Bernardo Spini
and Pace Rivola Spini, ca. 1573-75,
Alabastro d’Orta, oil on canvas,
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo;
Photograph: Michael Bodycomb
Using this format for his depiction of a relatively unknown noblewoman of Albino, Moroni defies portraiture’s conventional social hierarchies. The choice of format raises questions about the nature of the commission and who suggested that Pace Rivola Spini be portrayed in this way: the painter, the sitter, or her husband. Unfortunately, no document related to this portrait (or any other by Moroni) has come to light
Moroni may have first encountered full-length portraiture through his teacher, Moretto, who is credited as the first artist of the Italian Renaissance to paint, in 1526, a full-length portrait of a standing man (Portrait of a Gentleman, now in the National Gallery, London).

The various full-length portraits Moroni painted throughout his career demonstrate his diverse approach to the format, from the austere Spini pendants to the sensational Man in Pink (see above), a composition enriched with allegorical imagery.

 Moroni's Pace Rivola Spini is the first full-length portrait of a standing woman shown alone, painted during the Italian Renaissance

Among Moroni’s inventions is a genre of so-called “sacred portraits.” These originated from the tradition of donor portraits, which depict individuals (usually the person who commissioned the work) alongside sacred figures. Moroni’s three surviving sacred portraits are brought together for the first time in the exhibition, calling attention to the varied roles that portraiture played during his time. Presumably intended for domestic settings, Moroni’s sacred portraits, including Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael, are distinguished by the scale and the naturalistic depiction of the people of the time in relation to the divine figures.

Moroni's sacred portrait of Two Donors
in Adoration Before the Madonna
and Child and St Michael, ca. 1557-60
Oil on Canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,
Richmond. Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Photograph: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Katherine Wetzel
In a departure from the tradition of donor portraits, in which the donors are subordinate to the divine beings they worship, the sitters of Moroni’s sacred portraits dominate the composition. Stylistic disparity also plays a significant role in these paintings. Moroni applied his strengths in naturalism to the depiction of human beings, those he saw and studied with his own eyes, but not to imagining the divine. His sacred figures are rendered in a more stylised mode, often modelled on earlier devotional images.

For example, in Two Donors, the unidentified couple appears to have been studied from life while Saint Michael and the Madonna and Child are reproduced from figures in an altarpiece of about 1540–45 by his teacher, Moretto da Brescia, in Verona’s Church of Sant’Eufemia.

This and Moroni’s other sacred portraits dispel the notion that his works were unmediated by style. It has been convincingly argued that Moroni’s sacred portraits present the sitters practising a kind of meditative prayer popularised by the Exercitia Spiritualia (Spiritual Exercises) of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1548). The text instructs devotees to contemplate sin and episodes of Christ’s life and afterlife, imagining the use of their five senses to fully immerse themselves in the experience.

Thus in the portraits, the divine figures would represent the objects of the devotee’s contemplation. Included in the exhibition, a first edition of the Exercitia Spiritualia from the collection of the Library of Congress represents the popular practice of using a material aid like a prayer book to achieve spiritual enlightenment. As Moroni’s sacred portraits may record the practice of a particular type of prayer, they also emphasise the sitters’ religious piety (an important aspect of social respectability), and, as part-sacred image, they memorialise the sitter in perpetual association with the divine.

The painter's three surviving sacred portraits are brought together for the first time, calling attention to the varied roles that portraiture played during the Renaissance

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Lucia Albani Avogadro,
called La Dama in Rosso
(The Lady in Red), ca. 1554–57.
 Oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London
Photograph: © The National Gallery
The exhibition at The Frick draws attention to the remarkable achievement of this artist's portraiture and brings to life a Renaissance society at the crossroads of the Venetian Republic and Spanish-ruled Milan.

The exhibition was organised by Aimee Ng, Associate Curator, The Frick Collection; Simone Facchinetti, Curator, Museo Adriano Bernareggi, Bergamo; and Arturo Galansino, Director General, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. The show is presented in the Frick’s main floor Oval Room and East Gallery and is accompanied by a catalogue and series of public programs.

In conjunction with this major exhibition, The Frick Collection and Scala Art Publishers have produced the most extensive scholarly assessment in English of Moroni’s portraits to date.

The book, Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture, features two illuminating essays by the show’s curators Aimee Ng, Simone Facchinetti, and Arturo Galansino. These along with another thirty-seven entries, provide new insights into the artist and his sitters and reveal Moroni’s creativity in translating his world into paint. The book is available in the Museum Shop or can be ordered through the Frick’s Website.

Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture is at The Frick, 1 East 70th Street, near Fifth Avenue, New York, until June 2nd  2019.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Issey Miyake's Colourful New Geometry

Three dimensional textiles, resin-printed in brilliant blue, purple and yellow were the key motifs for the new Issey Miyake ready-to-wear collection shown in Paris last month. Photograph and cover picture by Elli Ioannou for DAM
We look at Issey Miyake the designer and his Japanese fashion house's latest collection, one of the highlights of Paris Fashion Week. The company was founded on its experimental designs and new fabric technologies are still key to its ethos. Creative director, Yoshiyuki Miyamae has brought a new textile called Blink to this season's collection, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting and photographs by Elli Ioannou

A pair of models wearing fluid stripes walk
 the runway at Paris' Lycée Carnot
THIS month, Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake turns 81 and although he hasn't designed his men's and women's collections since the 1990s, devoting his time to research instead, he still oversees his staff's work and the various lines the company produces.

The designer became known for his technology-driven work and the artistic vision that he brought to all of his early collections.

Miyake was born in Hiroshima in 1938 and studied graphic design at the Tama Art University in Tokyo. After he graduated in 1964, he worked in Paris and New York City. By 1970, he had moved back to Japan and based himself in Tokyo, founding the Miyake Design Studio.

During the Eighties, Miyake began to experiment with new methods of pleating that would allow greater ease of movement for the body. The garments were cut and sewn, then placed between layers of paper and put into a heat press, where they were pleated. The material's 'memory' maintains the pleats and the piece can then be worn. Issey Miyake developed a friendship with another great innovator in technology, Apple's Steve Jobs. The designer went on to make all of the the black turtlenecks which would become part of Jobs' signature look.

During the Eighties, Miyake began to experiment with new methods of pleating that would allow greater ease of movement for the body

 Voluminous overcoats and collars made
of the Dough Dough fabric that can be
sculpted into different shapes
But by 1994, Miyake turned over the design of the men's collections to Naoki Takizawa, so that he could return to research full-time. In 1999, he also gave Takizawa the reins of the women's wear collections too. Eight years later, Dai Fujiwara became the creative director and ran the Issey Miyake fashion house until 2012.

The Spring/Summer 2012 women's collections were then designed by Yoshiyuki Miyamae and Yusuke Takahashi was made responsible for the men's line.

Experimentation is still at the heart of Issey Miyake under Miyamae, with last season's "Dough Dough" textile that can be moulded by twisting or crumpling into different shapes and now the current collection's new "Blink" fabric. This is made from a material created using resin printed on to it in bright, vivid colours.

"Dough Dough", the textile used in last spring's collection, was also included in this season's and is a polythene-based material, allowing it to be sculpted into different forms. For Autumn/Winter 2019,  it appeared to be more malleable and colourful, using a new mix of fibres, including wool.

“A sudden inspiration invites you into a journey, where unknown sceneries take your breath away; unknown scents captivate you," said the designer about this collection. "You find yourself humming songs and getting to know unforgettable tastes, thinking thoughts you never had before. Chance encounters continue to stimulate our creativity."

Innovation is still at the heart of Issey Miyake under Yoshiyuki Miyamae's direction, with last spring's Dough Dough textile and this season's new Blink fabric

Models criss-cross the runway in
choreographed movements
that reflected the designs
of the collection 
These ideas were expressed in the way the models walked in pairs and groups during the Paris show, like a choreography of people meeting and literally crossing paths, creating a geometry of movement. Held at the airy, shabby chic French Lycée Carnot, the AW19 show had live music by singer-songwriter Hiroko Sebu playing her Korg with another musician on a drum synthesizer.

Models criss-crossed the open space covered with dark-green girders and a glass roof. It was a lively and vivid collection with bright dashes of colour mixed with more subtle confections and different textures like knobbly pale grey knits for coats and dresses. A pale pink coat had a fluid, wave-like collar and there were dresses with kaleidoscopic motifs in brilliant colours with flowing silhouettes.

The motif of this Issey Miyake collection is the combination of fluent forms and a palette of neutrals mixed with unusual combinations of colour. For example, the floating purple, yellow, green, blue and black skirt paired with a navy blue jacket and lime turtleneck worn with a long, blue skirt. The first looks in the collection included coats and skirts in the “Dough Dough" material that can be moulded to create a variety of shapes.

Polychromatic looks played with geometry and colour, highlighted by the show's pastel looks in plain knits that built to a finale of strong patterns and vibrant hues 

Looks in subtle greys worn with black
stockings and ankle boots were a foil
to vivid tunics & overcoats
There were also looks that included the Issey Miyake pleats ~ more like loose folds ~ in black and white with patterns like a sheet of music.

The new fabric with it's triangular grids of pattern was used for voluminous coats and long dresses in panels of multicolour technical pleating.

The polychromatic looks were a play on geometry and colour and these were highlighted by the clever way the Paris show began with pastel hues and plain fabrics and then built to a finale where there were strong patterns and vibrant hues in purple and lime green.

There were even brilliantly hued checks in wool used for tunics and overcoats. The geometric diamond design was inspired by Issey Miyake's signature Bao Bao bags. This pattern was used for coats as well as tops and trousers in both black and white and vivid colour.

The new collection by Miyamae managed to combine both technological innovation with designs that were comfortable yet with the avant-garde Issey Miyake aesthetic that gives a dash of poetry to wearing clothes.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel Winter Wonderland

Cara Delevigne and Mariacarla Boscono lead the way at the end of Karl Lagerfeld's last show for Chanel in Paris.
Photograph by Lucille Peron. Cover picture backstage at Chanel with Kaia Gerber
Karl Lagerfeld's last show for Chanel was majestic, set in a snowy, mountainous landscape of fir trees and wooden chalets, all created under the great dome of Paris' Grand Palais. We look back at the highlights of the fashion maestro's Autumn/Winter 2019 pret-a-porter collection. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting by Antonio Visconti. Pictures by Lucille Peron

Cara Delevigne wearing a
sweeping, houndstooth greatcoat
A peaceful mountain village with pretty snow-topped chalets was the scene Karl Lagerfeld conjured up in his imagination for what would turn out to be his last show for Chanel. It was a beautiful scene when brought to life under the soaring glass roof of the Grand Palais, combining his signature grandiosity of gesture with his mastery of creating visual drama, another world in the heart of Paris.

There was a panorama of mountains, twelve Alpine huts with smoking chimneys and real pine trees.The atmosphere was like a sparkling, snowy winter's morning but one overlaid with the poignancy of the great designer's loss. A silence of one-minute before the start of the AW19 show, recognised how Karl Lagerfeld will be missed and the 36 years he devoted to building and expanding the Chanel fashion house. After the quiet, all you could hear was the sound of wind whistling in the trees and Karl Lagerfeld's voice from a recent Chanel podcast.

Looking back at when he first took over Chanel he spoke in French, until he finished in English describing the gasp of a guest: “Oh! It’s like walking in a painting!” He always liked to surprise, shock and delight with each of his haute couture and ready to wear shows.

The atmosphere was like a sparkling, snowy winter's morning but one overlaid with the poignancy of the great designer's loss

A brilliant fuchsia caped jacket
and trousers added a dash
of colour
One of Mr Lagerfeld's favourite models, Cara Delevigne, opened the show wearing a sweeping, houndstooth greatcoat, striding out from the Chalet Gardenia at one end of the village street that formed the runway. Mr Lagerfeld's other favourite muses were on the catwalk or seated in the audience, including Penelope Cruz, Kaia Gerber, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell.
After the show, Penelope Cruz said: "It was all about him, it was all about honouring him. I am very happy I was part of it. It was really emotional. I felt like smiling and crying at the same time."

The snowy street that formed the long catwalk was filled with Karl Lagerfeld's strolling, elegant mountain dwellers and Romantic dandies wearing tweed fedoras and long coats. The collection mixed both masculine and feminine silhouettes with a palette of winter white, beige, black and navy blue with dashes of purple, fuchsia, brick and emerald green.

The voluminous jackets were in houndstooth and tartan with big check motifs. The suits had wide trousers cut high on the waist combined with the long overcoats. Karl Lagerfeld designed many variations on the coat, some fastened with a shawl collar and mini cape, or enhanced with a trompe-l’œil bolero or a faux fur lapel. His virtuosity was once more displayed in the details from the straight, trapeze or double-breasted cuts, some belted with large, buttoned pockets.

"I thought the show was breathtaking," said actress Elisa Sednaoui. "It was so Karl in so many ways. I was sitting there, hearing his voice and the music and it was a collection of memories."

Italian model Mariacarla Boscono wearing
a long, enveloping tweed coat
The tweed jackets were trimmed with a thick wool braid, woven or left almost raw. Others revealed a flared collar or another version of the trompe-l’œil bolero. The soft knit pullovers were mixed with sweaters embroidered with crystals and cardigans with mountain motifs. There were also ski outfits mixed with urban wear, such as a down jacket with wide-cut trousers in check tweed plus zip-up ski-suits. The little tweed jackets were braided or adorned with a patch pocket to slip in a ski-pass and combined with a pencil skirt.
Another Chanel muse at the show, actress and singer Alma Jodorowsky said she felt "there was something very soft and very reassuring in these warm, enveloping clothes. They give a cozy feel that is quite wonderful. Yet its mixed with very feminine, flowing materials."

Large over-jackets had a certain swagger and were worn with wide-cut trousers in leather. Giving the softness to the collection were knitted scarves in embroidered chiffon, big blouses with jabots, necklaces in glass beads worn with white pearl earrings. It all translated into a sophisticated kind of comfort especially with the generous, fluid silhouettes.

Penelope Cruz: "It was all about him, it was all about honouring him. It was really emotional. I felt like smiling and crying at the same time."

Model and music producer, Caroline de Maigret, and another favourite model of Karl Lagerfeld, said  the show "was very beautiful and very moving. I could see Karl the whole time in the colletion. I found every piece, every fabric so beautiful. It was amazing."

Contrasting with the maxi coats were airy tops, skirts and dresses in white chiffon printed with mini skiers and CC chairlifts, scalloped collars and flounces that floated to the rhythm of the body's movements. The Romantic theme was enhanced by great capes in wool, dresses with Claudine collars and tiers of rounded panels, skirts in snowy guipure lace and white tuxedos in duchess satin.

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz
wore a fluffy "snowball" skirt
Finishing the show were delightful "snow-ball" skirts and dresses in chiffon and feathers with the bust embroidered with snowflakes in white and gold (see Penelope Cruz at left). Lagerfeld designed bags for the collection in black or white quilted leather, tweed with a double C clasp, one in faux fur plus a camera case in braided shearling.

Removable purses were designed to be attached to small bags with shoulder straps. Hip bags in faux fur or leather embroidered with glossy camellias alternated with gondola lift minaudières in rhinestoned resin, that looked very desirable to collect. The signature Chanel bags included the Gabrielle in leather and fluffy checked tweed, frosted with embroidered sequins and one in neon-orange quilted leather.

The finale of the show closed with Cara Delevigne and Mariacarla Boscono crying and clapping, leading the charge of models across the snow, the audience standing in an ovation celebrating Karl Lagerfeld's genius, his tremendous contribution to fashion, his fierce intelligence and energy that made him outstanding on the fashion stage for more than sixty years.

His right hand support for thirty years, Virginie Viard made a brief bow from the Chalet Gardenia at the end of the show. She will continue his legacy as creative director at Chanel. After the show, Naomi Campbell said: "I am so happy Virginie is going to be the head of the house. She has been by his side so many years, it makes so much sense."

Watch the story of the Chanel show in Paris below:

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Liquid Light: 500 Years of Venetian Glass

Venetian glass is famous throughout the world for its vibrant colour and crystalline clarity, elaborate design and unmatched craftsmanship, honed over hundreds of years by local artisans on the island of Murano in Venice, Italy, writes Isabella James

Venini & Co., Murano manufacturer Italy est. 1921
Fulvio Bianconi 1915–96
Handkerchief (Fazzoletto) vase 1949
Liquid Light: 500 Years of Venetian Glass draws upon the National Gallery of Victoria’s extensive holdings of Venetian glass, ranging in date from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, including the NGV’s especially rich material from the nineteenth-century revival period.

In displays exploiting the characteristic brilliance and vivid colour palette of Murano glass, the exhibition traverses five centuries of style – from Baroque to post-modernism – through a display of glassware, including elaborate champagne flutes and goblets, bowls and vases, tableware and decorative objects.

Highlights from the exhibition include an opulent Serpent-stem goblet from the early seventeenth century, replete with intertwining dragons that coil around its stem, and a bottle-shaped Patchwork vase by Fulvio Bianconi, c.1950, created by masterfully fusing blocks of coloured glass into a kaleidoscope of colour.

The exhibition will showcase the Venetians’ technical prowess through considered displays of the famous cristallo body, known for its transparent, watery fineness, as well as lattimo, a milky, white glass coveted for its resemblance to porcelain, and vetro a filigrana – glasses decorated with fine white threads twisted into elaborate patterns.

Though the secret formula for Venetian glass was heavily guarded on Murano, its qualities were emulated by major European glasshouses, particularly in the Netherlands. Through exquisite displays of ‘façon de Venise’ glass, the exhibition will celebrate the indelible impact and legacy of Venetian glass on glassblowing world-wide.

Venetian glass experienced a major revival in the nineteenth-century as Venice became part of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy. The unification sparked the restoration of traditional Italian industries, including the Muranese glass industry, which enjoyed a resurgence in connoisseurship and supremacy.

In 1871 a large collection of Venetian glass was acquired by the NGV directly from Venice by the proconsul to the Kingdom of Italy, and a further group of works was acquired in 1874, from the manufactory of Antonio Salviati, the father of the Venetian glass revival. Further important groups of nineteenth-century Venetian glass entered the Collection from the Italian displays at the 1880–81 Melbourne International Exhibition.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV said, “The first examples of Venetian glass entered the NGV Collection nearly 150 years ago. This exhibition will celebrate not only the breadth and beauty of the glassware in the NGV Collection, but also the rich legacy of the art form from the sixteenth century to today."

Liquid Light: 500 Years of Venetian Glass will be on display from 8 March 2019 – 13 April 2020 at NGV International.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor

Alexander Calder, American 1898–1976 Four Black Bottoms and Six Reds 1957.
Known as the man who made sculpture move, Alexander Calder was one of the most influential and pioneering figures of modern art in the 20th century. Revered for his ingenuity, inventiveness and innovation, Calder will be celebrated in his first retrospective at an Australian public institution, exhibiting an impressive display of Calder’s most iconic works, those famous suspended mobiles, writes Isabella James

Calder with Cirque Calder, Paris 1930
OPENING at the NGV International next month is the new exhibition Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, featuring nearly 100 works spanning the artist’s oeuvre, ranging from early childhood sculptures to avant-garde innovations to large-scale objects from the last chapter of his career in the 1970s. Organised in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada, the exhibition brings together sculpture, drawing, painting, jewellery and other media from North American art museums and private collections, including generous loans from the Calder Foundation, New York.

Central to the exhibition will be an immersive canopy display of Calder’s hanging mobiles, demonstrating his radical and pioneering approach that changed the course of modern art. The display includes Jacaranda, 1949, a striking cascading mobile made in a heavy gauge of wire and steel, as well as Black Mobile with Hole, 1954, a masterpiece in how to occupy, but not fill, space: strategic voids cut in biomorphic forms provide the necessary weight and counterweight to create a moving sculpture of exceptional grace. Visitors will experience Calder’s works by engaging with them in an immersive environment, appreciating sculptures that are only partially understood when represented through photographs or film.

Black Mobile with Holes 1954.
Photo: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource.
‘This exhibition will invite Australian audiences to immerse themselves in the evolution of Calder’s artistic career and gain a deeper and richer understanding of his inventiveness. Alexander Calder’s masterful manipulation of wire and innovative use of sculptural movement and balance has undoubtedly cemented him as a radical 20th century artist,’ said Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV.

Exhibition visitors will witness Calder’s ingenuity with wire and metal through his early wire sculptures that demonstrate his first major ‘invention’. In addition to wire portraits of contemporaries including fellow American artist John Graham, on view are complex works introducing the theme of the circus, such as The Brass Family, 1929, a wire sculpture of balancing circus performers, and film documentation of Cirque Calder, 1926–31, one of the earliest examples of performance art.

Calder, an American in 1920s Paris, was immersed in cosmopolitan artistic avant-garde circles. A visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio changed the nature of Calder’s practice, triggering his interest in pursuing abstraction. His works increasingly began to include kinetic elements, some using motors (such as Half-circle, Quarter-circle and Sphere, 1932), while others relied on air currents, balance and tension to move. These were coined mobile by Marcel Duchamp in 1931, which in French suggests both movement and also a ‘motive’. ‘Mobile’ soon entered common usage to describe suspended sculptures, appearing in Webster’s New International Dictionary in 1954.

Aluminum Leaves, Red Post 1941.
Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor will present many incarnations of Calder’s signature sculptures, including: ‘standing mobiles’ (mobile elements suspended from a base), ‘gongs’ (mobiles with elements that produce sound when by chance they collide); ‘Constellations’ (carved pieces of wood connected by a network of wires); and ‘stabiles’ (grounded sculptures made from bolted sheet metal).

The exhibition will also feature maquettes and large-scale sculptures that represent Calder’s endeavours on a grand scale. A working maquette of Montreal’s civic emblem Trois disques (more commonly known as ‘Man’) is on show; its unpainted stainless-steel surface inscribed with measurements infers the highly complex combination of engineering, construction and aesthetics that underpin his monumental works.

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor will be accompanied by a dedicated workshop space for budding artists, Alexander Calder: Workshop for Kids, featuring hands-on and multimedia creative activities inspired by Calder’s works. Drawing from Calder’s interest in creating three-dimensional work, kids and families will be able to construct their own animal creatures using unique paper pop-outs and in a specially designed digital activity, build their own virtual large-scale public art work and place the sculpture in bespoke urban environments.

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor is on display at NGV International Melbourne from 5 April 2019 – 4 August 2019.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Manish Arora's Bohemian Tribe Ignite Paris Fashion Week

  Manish Arora's dramatic AW19/20 show at the American Cathedral in Paris with extravagant headdresses and sequined gowns. Shot for DAM by Elli Ioannou

Amid anodyne pret-a-porter shows at Paris Fashion Week, Manish Arora offered a tribe of brilliantly-hued urban warriors for his Autumn/Winter 2019 collection. The designer, wielding his pencil like a conductor his baton, created music from an orchestra of seemingly discordant instruments. Yet his mastery of colour and composition underpinned the theatricality of the show, producing covetable pieces, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting and photography by Elli Ioannou 

The Manish Arora show at
American Cathedral in Paris
SET under the soaring stone arches of the Gothic American Cathedral in Paris, Manish Arora's jewel-coloured new collection recalled the luminous hues of the stained glass windows above.

There was a tremendous buzz of expectation among the pews from the audience before the show. As guests took their places, they fell into an enthralled silence as the first models appeared wearing intricate masks by Dan Schaub and sparkling sequined gowns in a palette of vibrant blues and pinks. Bucolic scenes of cyclists and punks in platform shoes printed or embroidered on skirts and dresses contrasted with the dramatic masks and headpieces.

Manish Arora wields his designer's pencil like a skilled conductor with his baton, creating wonderful music from an orchestra of seemingly discordant instruments. His masterful grasp of colour and cut underpinned the drama of the show, with many desirable pieces. The accessories were standouts too with some intriguing 3D bags in the shape of cars and animals and backpacks with flashing lights.

Withal the horned headdresses and shimmering masks, the designer called the show "Finally Normal People" and had it emblazoned on to the sweater of a hooded model with a face powdered in orange. Arora says the collection was inspired by his own spirituality and the feverish excitement of festivals such as Burning Man.

He describes the characters in his show as "motley cru of Mad Max bohemians straight out of a dystopian future." Shielded by jewel-encrusted visors, Arora imagined the models as apocalyptic androids in desert landscapes with flames embroidered on to floor length trenches covered with graffiti.

The characters in Manish Arora's show are described as "Mad Max bohemians straight out of a dystopian future"
Even though Arora's vision is of an Armageddon, he still managed to create a cheerful ambiance with rose-coloured hues, sunset oranges and striking fluorescent tones. For the digital generation, in love with Instagram, holistic regimes and positive slogans, he emblazoned inspiring messages on faux-fur sweatshirts and t-shirts: What if this is all real, I am the one I have been waiting for and Everything you need is inside of you.

Feathered headpiece mixing motifs worn
with a beautiful, padded jacket with
embroidered patches
Another trope in the designer's personal artistic canon is the contemporary hippy, this time wearing indigo denim, patch worked with crests and teamed with Seventies psychedelic florals. The designer's signature eclecticism and peripatetic travels through different eras also included Art Deco silhouettes and patterns.

There were references to Charleston party girls, reimagined as futuristic flappers, flouting social conventions wearing bugle-beaded scalloped dresses teamed with mesh sneakers and LED backpacks. A sporty motif ran through the collection with hoods and capes in reflective materials.

Arora wanted to create the sense of a world tribe, fusing Navaho, Indian, Tribal and Americana leitmotifs in the collection. There are country and western fringes combined with Native American feathers, peacock prints and tasselled Indian headdresses. Aesthetically he mixed pop art with Hollywood glamour in optical cotton prints with a psychedelic swirl of sequins. But under the theatrical set pieces there were some wonderful clothes. A beautifully cut jacket and swinging A-line skirt could be worn everyday but just without the accessories of a furry, multicoloured hood adorned with pink sequined cones and a spiralling, pair of double unicorn horns.

Arora wanted to create a world tribe, fusing Navaho, Indian Tribal and Americana leitmotifs in the collection

The exuberant show also included some highly collectible accessories including purses ~ shaped like a shark and VW van ~  bags and backpacks lit up with LED lights. But the striking feather headdresses were the standouts with their horns, masks with flashing lights, and a grand finale with sticks of burning incense worn like a crown.

Although the collection appeared over the top, there were some very wearable pieces below the fluorescent fur and multitude of embellishments, including long fluid gowns and trousers in every shape and size from voluminous to slim and shapely. The thirty-four looks in the show all had a mix of Arora's sense of fantasy enlivened with vivid colour and this gave it an unlikely sense of cohesion. The fringing, leopard print, patches, sequins and embroidery all came together to create a collection that may have had its own language but in the end spoke to everyone.

See gallery below for highlights from the show
A beautiful, form fitting, sequined gown with Art Deco motifs topped off by one of the collection's extraordinary headpieces.
A silky hoodie with flames curling up the sides and graffiti, worn with a finely detailed sequined sweater.
An intricate fitted bodice in acid green is paired with a shimmering, puff sleeved gown, a bejewelled mask and blue, embellished hood.
A masterfully draped jacket worn with a pretty skirt embroidered with rainbows and bucolic scenes of punks wearing platform shoes and carrying placards, children on bicycles, playing at the beach and cars sprouting palm trees.

A crown of incense and an elaborate mask atop a brilliant bodice and dress with an wonderful peacock pattern.
The headpiece that sits on the faces of the models and designed to match the gowns.
A scintillating sequined evening gown that is designed with peacock feather patterns and fitted close to the body. The headpiece is an optional extra for the bal.
This jacket show's Manish Arora's virtuoso ability to combine colour, texture and pattern with its hear-shaped padding, charming patches and silky flames at the edges.

Add Indigo denim mixed with leather sky blue fringing and psychedelic patterned trousers and top
One of the highly desirable bags shaped like a cute little van and lit up inside.  

Manish Arora mixes Navaho, Indian and Country and Western motifs with a sure hand.
The fish handbag with its serrated teeth, pink mouth and silvery scales, adds to this looks heart-shaped belt and fluffy, faux fur jacket in mauve, green and orange. 
A wild pink concoction mixing faux fur, a rose encircling a unicorn horn, a heart-shaped skirt and a t-shirt with the slogan
"I am the one I have been waiting for".