Saturday, 27 May 2023

Venice Architecture Biennale

African Architects Challenge Venice Exhibition to Decolonise and Start New Conversations

Ghanian-born curator of the biennale Lesley Lokko. Jacobo Salvi/La Biennale di Venezia

By Tomà Berlanda, Professor of Architecture, University of Cape Town

Presented since 1979, the Venice Architecture Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) is possibly the most influential architecture exhibition in the world. For the first time, this year’s edition is curated by an African architect, Lesley Lokko. She has ensured that a strong African presence is the central feature of the show. Indeed, the 2023 exhibition is part of an undeniable shift towards a more just representation in global architecture.

The biennale, a cultural institution established as early as 1895, is a manifestation of a world order established by European imperialism. It is an international platform for a network of powerful academic and professional groups, material producers, construction firms, developers and public authorities. They come together in Venice to show and discuss their work.

A man stands in traditional African attire in an exhibition space with red artworks suspended from the ceiling.
Visitors to the central exhibition, Force Majeure. Simone Padovani/Getty Images

The biennale relies heavily on private sponsors and numerous countries host their own pavilions in Venice. While an African curator has no influence over these pavilions, she has ample latitude to determine the shape of the main pavilion and its exhibitions, the Force Majeure and the Dangerous Liaisons sections.

As a professor of architecture with a scholarly focus on African cities and non-western architectural forms, I have been attending the preview week in Venice. I believe that the African presence at the event brings a much needed – and complicated – new perspective that needs to shape the future of the biennale.

Lesley Lokko and Demas Nwoko

In the very first room of this year’s show, at the entrance of the Corderie dell’Arsenale – a thin 300 metre long building where the Venetian navy produced its ropes for over seven centuries – a diffused blue light shines. It invites visitors to reflect on the notion of the blue hour, the time after sunset and before night. For Lokko the light marks a new era: “A moment between dream and awakening … a moment of hope.”

A Ghanaian-Scottish architect, educator and novelist, Lokko is the first woman of colour to curate the show. In her curatorial statement she highlights the “laboratory of the future”. Rather than a place for scientific experiments, the laboratory needs to be thought of more as a workshop. Here different practitioners can collaboratively test new forms of architecture. In the west, says Lokko, one continues to associate architects as the figures who build buildings. But they do much more, they build society, competency, knowledge, in a rapidly hybridising and interwoven world.

An elderly man with grey haired a white robe sits in a chair.
Demas Nwoko. Titi Ogufere/La Biennale di Venezia

Lokko subverts perspectives. She invites visitors to look at Africa not as a place where western models should be transferred to, but rather from which much can be learned.

The decision to award the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Demas Nwoko, a Nigerian architect and artist born in 1935, is significant to Lokko’s perspective.

His relatively few buildings are cited as “forerunners of the sustainable, resource-mindful, and culturally authentic forms of expression now sweeping across the African continent – and the globe”.

An example of this is the Dominican Institute and Chapel he completed in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1975. The motifs of a Christian building are reinterpreted through an African sense of place and ornamentation.

Lokko’s approach represents a radical shift in the way the biennale operates. It is an important contribution to the creation of genuine “contact zones”: places of productive exchange between people offering different views. This replaces the old arbitrary hierarchies with a reciprocal respect for diversity.

The tower above the altar of Nwoko’s chapel in Ibadan, Nigeria. Joseph Conteh/La Biennale di Venezia

This year’s event sparked a controversy over visas being denied to African architects. A good starting point for reciprocal respect would be to make it really possible for all to participate and attend, by breaking the barriers imposed by systemic inequalities and xenophobic immigration policies.

What’s on show

Of the 89, mostly young, participants invited to this year’s show, over half of are from Africa or the diaspora. They are carefully orchestrated in the show’s two main venues, the Giardini and the Arsenale, and six sections.

In the main pavilion, where the Force Majeure exhibition sets the scene, a towering installation by Nigerian visual artist Olalekan Jeyifous epitomises the imagery of the African future. His images are powerful spatial metaphors of the relationship between architecture, communities and environment. And the need to repair the damage done by former colonial powers.

Installation by Nigeria’s Olalekan Jeyifous. Matteo de Mayda/La Biennale di Venezia

In another room, the Oral Archive by Nairobi-based collective Cave Bureau celebrates the oral tradition of passing down knowledge across generations as a way to keep humans in community with the earth. On a multimedia screen three channels overlap. They display conversations with cave-dwelling communities, sequences from the Anthropocene museum, and drawings, maps and models done across vast geological sites.

The emphasis on two of Lokko’s overarching biennale themes – decolonisation and decarbonisation – can also be found also in the long, and at times uneven, sequence at the Arsenale. Here the Dangerous Liaisons section is interwoven with the curator’s special projects titled Food, Agriculture and Climate Change; Gender and Geography; Mnemonic; and Guests from the Future.

Work by Kenya’s Cave Bureau. Matteo de Mayda/La Biennale di Venezia

Here the synthetic landscapes of Nigerian-born film producer and director Michael Uwemedimo are presented. A physical ground made of clay and contaminated by global capitalism is transported from Port Harcourt in Nigeria to Venice. It is a departure point to imagine the future, displayed through AI-generated images on the ceiling.

Congolese artist and photographer Sammy Baloji expertly deconstructs the official narration of colonial occupation, suggesting a view of architecture and the human body as traces of social history. This is done by displaying an old colonial Belgian documentary poetically interwoven with film footage taken today.

What this all means

The 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale is an important and complicated edition, with a necessary message. One can only hope that the event will continue the process of decolonisation started by Lokko after years of absence of confrontation, comparison, and exchange between different positions.

A radical rethinking of the biennale, and of the (architectural) world in general, is long overdue. We need a different future. Enter the blue hour.

The biennale opens to the public on 20 May and is on until 26 NovemberThe Conversation

Tomà Berlanda, Professor of Architecture, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Wednesday, 24 May 2023

In London Christie's is Holding a Special Fine and Decorative Art Sale from Three Private Collections

A detail of The Necklace by John William Waterhouse R.A (1848~1917). One of the highlights of the Christies sale, estimate GBP 150,000 to GBP 250,000. Cover picture: Figure with Red Dog and Book (1973) by Arthur Merric Boyd, estimate GBP 40,000 to GBP 60,000. Credit: Christie's Images Ltd 2023

Christie's London sale Three Private Collections: Belgravia, Berkshire and Guernsey, includes 300 lots with works from the 17th to 21st century and different genres, with estimates ranging from £300 to £250,000. Collectors and enthusiasts have the opportunity to own a piece of the past and admire the exceptional skill and artistry of some of the most celebrated craftsmen and artists of the time, reports Antonio Visconti

A view of the Belgravia Collection, with
a George II giltwood pier mirror,
circa 1740. Credit: Christie's Images Ltd 2023
The Belgravia section of the Christies London sale showcases a beautiful near pair of George II giltwood pier mirrors circa 1740, in the manner of William Kent (see at left). Estimated at £50,000-80,000 they are a testament to the unrivaled skills of English furniture makers. 

The display, created by Robert Kime, also includes 19th-century furniture, highlighting the Gothic Revival, Aesthetic movement, and Arts and Crafts styles. 

Featuring the works of some of the most renowned designers and craftsmen such as William and May Morris, Pugin, Crace, Godwin, and Liberty, the collection displays a captivating range of decorative art. 

Among these are an intricate 'Hammersmith' carpet designed by William Morris, woven by Morris & Co, circa 1890, estimated at £70,000-100,000. An early Victorian Gothic Revival burr-walnut, sycamore, holly, boxwood, amaranth, and marquetry octagonal center table by Crace & Co., circa 1855, after a design by A.W.N. Pugin, is estimated at £25,000-40,000.

However, the furniture is not the only treasure in the Belgravia collection. The Pre-Raphaelite paintings on display are a true delight. John William Waterhouse's masterpiece, The Necklace (see main picture above), is a highlight of the collection, estimated at £150,000-250,000. The works of Sir Samuel Luke Fildes, R.A. and Edward Reginald Frampton, among others, offer a glimpse into the Victorian era's artistic splendor.

Featuring the works of renowned designers such as William and May Morris, Pugin, Crace, Godwin, and Liberty, the collection displays a captivating range of decorative art 

An important William De Morgan
and William Morris framed
 tile panel (1876). 
Credit: Christie's Images Ltd  2023 

Also featured is an important William De Morgan framed tile panel circa 1876, designed by William Morris, estimated at £20,000-30,000 (see at right).

This artwork is an excellent example of the synergy between the Arts and Crafts movement and the Pre-Raphaelite style, both of which were prominent during the 19th century. The Belgravia collection shows both the grandeur of English furniture and the beauty of Pre-Raphaelite art. 

One of the highlights of the Berkshire part of the sale are three striking Japanese articulated dragons. The Myochin Nobumasa, dating back to the Edo Period (18th-19th Century) is more than 42½ inches or 108cm long. This rare piece, estimated at £120,000-180,000, shows the artistry and cultural richness of Japan.  

An early painting by Ben Nicholson, O.M., titled The Red Necklace, created between 1916 and 1919, is estimated at £100,000-150,000 (see below). This captivating piece exemplifies Nicholson's mastery of color and composition, capturing the essence of the era. 

There are also more contemporary works, such as the digital animation piece by Rob and Nick Carter. Titled Transforming Still Life Painting, this three-hour continuous loop animation, executed between 2009 and 2012, challenges the boundaries of artistic expression and blurs the lines between the physical and the digital realm. This artwork, in an artist's frame, is estimated to be worth £20,000-40,000. 

The works show the synergy between the Arts and Crafts movement and the Pre-Raphaelite style, both of which were prominent during the 19th century

The Red Necklace (1916~1919) by
Ben Nicholson O.M. 
Credit: Christie's Images Ltd 2023
There are two chandeliers by artist Stuart Haygarth, the first, titled Tide, is constructed from discarded plastic that washed up on the coast, while the second, named Drop, is made from repurposed single-use water bottles. 

These installations, estimated at £10,000-15,000 each, explicate the artist's dedication to transforming waste into objects of beauty.

Colorful textiles by Robert Kime, with exquisite craftsmanship, complement the setting, along with comfortable furniture upholstered in William Morris fabrics. 

Amid this ambiance are contemporary animal sculptures, including a striking Scops Owl by Geoffrey Dashwood. 

This sculpture, signed by the artist himself, adds a touch of whimsy to the collection and is estimated at £1,500-2,500

The Guernsey part of the sale includes a superb group of 31 paintings by George Chinnery. The works display the artist's talent as a portrait painter and show a fascinating view of quotidian life in 19th-century India and China, and the surrounding landscapes. One of the highlights of this collection is the lively Portrait of William Jardine, estimated to be worth £40,000-60,000. The painter masterfully captures the personality of his subject and brings to life the sitters in his portraits. 

The Guernsey collection includes a superb group of 31 paintings by George Chinnery. The works show a fascinating view of quotidian life in 19th-century India and China

 A Landscape in Macau with a Herdsman along
 a track by George Chinnery (174~1852).
Credit: Christie's Images Ltd 2023
An outstanding work is A landscape in Macau with a herdsman walking along a track, (estimate £30,000-50,000) which evokes Chinnery's skill as a landscape artist and transports us to the serene countryside of Macau (see at right.)

The collection also includes Chinese 'export' paintings and works of art inspired by the natural world in Asia. The exchange between East and West during this period, highlights the cultural intersections that shaped the artistic landscape.

Dutch 17th-century paintings by Jan Mijtens and Cornelis de Heem are displayed alongside sporting art, including works by John Wootton, Henry and William Barraud, and Charles Towne. 

These works also display the wide range of artistic styles and subjects during the period. There are also three exquisite paintings by the Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw, with the evocative A lane near Chester, 1881 leading the way (estimated at £70,000-100,000).

The Guernsey collection also has Georgian furniture juxtaposed with contemporary paintings. Among the highlights is Legong Dancer, 1979 by Balinese painter Dullah (1919-1996) estimated at £5,000-7,000 which captures traditional dance. Works by Australian artists Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd (1920-1999) and Lawrence M. Daws bring an antipodean flair to the collection. Boyd's Figure with Red Dog and Book, 1973, (estimated at £40,000-60,000), showcases the artist's distinctive style and exploration of the human form. The collection demonstrates the diverse artistic expression spanning continents and centuries and mixing East and West with both the traditional and contemporary. 

Christies is holding the sale on 25th of May, 2023 in London at 8 King Street. St James's SW1Y 6QT United Kingdom. T: +44 (0)20 7839 9060.

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Thursday, 11 May 2023

Archaeology: Roman temple discovered in Brittany, France thought to be dedicated to Mars could have been used to worship many gods 

An artist's depiction of the temple at La Chapelle-des-Fougeretz as it would have looked in the first century AD. Marie Millet INRAP

By Tony King, University of Winchester

Archaeologists from the French research
institute INRAP 
at the site in Brittany.
Photograph: Bastien Simier
In April, archaeologists excavating at La Chapelle-des-Fougeretz, in Britanny, France, announced that they had discovered a large Roman temple, dating between the late first century BC and fourth century AD. 

They speculated that it had probably been used by Roman soldiers for hundreds of years to pay homage to Mars, the god of war.

It was the discovery of a fine bronze statuette of Mars that suggested the temple may have been a shrine to the god. But the site also had clay figurines of Venus and the mother goddesses, leading to uncertainty about which deity was worshipped there.

Two buildings were at the core of the site – a square within a square, one slightly smaller than the other. This design is typical of Romano-Celtic temples (found in modern France, parts of Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the north-west provinces of the Roman Empire).

Scholars of ancient religion in the Celtic north west regions of the Roman Empire (of which ancient France was a major part) used to regard a double temple arrangement as a dedication to a divine pair, one male and the other female, such as Apollo and Sirona or Mercury and Rosmerta.

Excavation at the temple site in France.
Emmanuelle Collado/INRAP
The female names were usually derived from Celtic languages, while the male gods were from the classical Graeco-Roman pantheon, implying some sort of “marriage” between them and by extension, the synthesis of local culture with that of Imperial Rome.

But this theorising was a reflection of 19th and 20th century colonial thinking. Present day experts have found that ancient people chose their forms of worship, rather than having religions imposed upon them.

Ancient communities could preserve Iron Age traditions or adopt aspects of Roman classical religion. This is reflected in the archaeology of their temple sites.

Some had wooden buildings and few, if any, featured classical images of gods. Others, particularly in the towns, opted for a more full on Roman style of worship, even if the old native traditions still underpinned the rituals.

How the gods were worshipped at these temples

Looking at excavations of temples in Gaul (modern France, with parts of Belgium, Germany and Switzerland) and Britain, it is striking that the architectural form is often quite standardised.

The temples are usually in the Romano-Celtic design, with a small square central tower surrounded by a portico (a row of evenly spaced columns with a lean-to roof up against the central tower).

The sculpture, inscriptions, artefacts and sacrificial remains are, however, widely variable. They reveal the development of a highly localised suite of ritual activities that varied significantly from one temple to another.

Equally striking is their long-term stability. It seems that once established (either in the early Roman period or sometimes in the pre-conquest late Iron Age), rituals quickly settled down into patterns that continued, at some sites, for centuries.

The bronze figurine of the Roman god Mars
found at the temple. Emmanuelle Collado/INRAP
The end usually came in the late Roman period, as pagan shrines were abandoned in the face of the expansion of imperially promoted Christianity.

Mars, Venus and the mother goddesses (and possibly others not yet discovered) were probably the deities included in the rituals observed in the two shrines and the equally important open air courtyard in which the shrines stood.

It is in the courtyard that much of the public ritual, such as sacrifices, would have taken place. From this perspective, archaeologists cannot be sure that, for instance, the bigger temple was for Mars and the smaller one for the female deities. We do not know the exact purpose of the temple buildings themselves. The central cella area is usually thought to be a “house for the god”. Plinths are sometimes found within them, suitable for a statue or other cult idol.

The surrounding porticoes are secondary features, as some temples start life as a simple square structure and the portico is added later. At the site of Pesch, near Aachen in Germany, the portico of one of the two temples had altars to the Matronae goddesses (a variant on the mother goddesses). The cella, meanwhile, contained a statue of Jupiter.

It looks as though the porticoes developed as a shelter for votive offerings, up against the central shrine building.

Many gods in the sacred landscape

At many temples, a wide variety of images and god names have been found.

At Gerolstein, near Trier in Germany, there was Minerva, Venus, Mercury, Bacchus and Hercules. At Le Hérapel in the Moselle region of France, there was Sol, Luna, Mercury, Bacchus, Hercules and Epona. At the Bregenz temple site in Austria, there is an inscription to “the gods and goddesses”, showing that many deities were worshipped collectively.

In Britain, the temple at Lamyatt Beacon, Somerset, had a cache of statuettes of Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Minerva, Hercules and a Genius. Similar hoards of figurines have been found elsewhere in the province.

Mars and Venus in a wall painting from Pompeii. Venus is seated with Mars embracing her from behind.
Mars and Venus in a wall painting from
Pompeii. ArchaiOptix CC BY 
Clearly, the “poly” in polytheism meant just that – many deities, worshipped together. There may have been a main or original god or goddess at many temple sites, but there was a clear tendency to worship a range of deities, possibly accumulating new idols over time.

The broader sacred landscape adds clarity to the finds at La Chapelle-des-Fougeretz. The site is complemented by another temple at Mordelles, to the west. Both were within easy reach of the Roman city of Rennes and it is quite possible that they were linked to the town by processional or pilgrimage routes.

In the heart of Rennes itself, evidence for worship of Mars is strong. All three places may have formed the sacred landscape of the citizens, in the form of processions and seasonal festivities.

It is tempting to think of ancient religion in monotheistic terms – one temple, with one god. But the evidence from the Romano-Celtic regions of the empire suggests otherwise. It is much more genuinely polytheistic. Several deities were worshiped at most temple sites, with strong regional networks linking many gods and goddesses together.The Conversation

Tony King, Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of Winchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Monday, 1 May 2023

Remembering Barry Humphries, the man who enriched the culture, reimagined the one man show and upended the cultural cringe

Barry Humphries painted by David Hockney at his studio on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles in 2015. Courtesy David Hockney. Photograph: Jean-Pierre Goncalves de Lima 

By Anne Pender, University of Adelaide

Barry Humphries in London in 1965. 
Barry Humphries began his career as a Dadaist. His street performances around Melbourne in the early 1950s foreshadowed performance art in Australia. He was the most daring student prankster Melbourne University had ever known.

Years later, academic Peter Conrad accurately described Humphries’ adolescence as a “one man modern movement”.

The young man secured his first paid acting role after a number of complaints from various women about a Dadaist event called Call Me Madman!, staged at the University of Melbourne’s Union Theatre in 1953. It was anarchic, just like the early Dada shows of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich several decades earlier.

Call Me Madman! opened with a single musical phrase played on a violin over and over again, then a pianist sitting out of view of the audience sounded the same chords and notes in repetition, and ended in a ferocious food fight, with Humphries hiding in a cupboard from the outraged students who stormed the stage.

This parody taught him how to provoke his audience, securing their complicit and violent participation in his act. It also gave him his first taste of the power of an audience to determine what happens in the theatre. It was both risky and intoxicating.

When John Sumner, founder of the burgeoning Union Theatre Repertory Company (which would go on to become Melbourne Theatre Company), heard the complaints about the revue, he offered the young man a job.

The birth of Edna

On a tour of country Victoria with the company, Humphries performed a spidery Orsino in Twelfth Night, directed by Ray Lawler with Zoe Caldwell as Viola.

Humphries entertained the cast on the long bus rides, with falsetto speeches in cruel but hilarious parody of the predictable words of thanks given in every town by ladies of the Country Women’s Association over tea. The character invented to pass the time on the bus made her debut in Lawler’s Christmas revue in 1955.

Edna was a composite portrait of various women whose mannerisms had imprinted themselves in his brain as a boy, growing up in staid Camberwell.

With his new character, Humphries summoned a whole new world to the stage and created a comedy of ordinariness that had never been presented before.

This Mrs Average took on a life of her own and shone as the centrepiece of Humphries’ theatrical world for the next 60 years, becoming Dame Edna Everage – elevated by the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam himself – in Barry McKenzie Holds His Own in 1974.

Just two years later, Humphries’ extravaganza Housewife Superstar! charmed the West End. Wearing a massive hat sculpted to resemble the Sydney Opera House, Edna stopped the crowds at Royal Ascot that year.

The image of her in that sumptuous creation (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum) launched Edna and Humphries around the world.

Conquering the world

Edna hosted a series of chat shows on British television, watched every week by an audience of eight million. She skewered dozens of politicians, pop stars, singers and actors who graced the program every week.

Her appearance with Jerry Hall singing Stand by your Man remains one of the most hilarious television moments of that time.

Humphries’ success on British television in the 1980s and 1990s were among the major achievements of his career. He created his very own theatre of the absurd with his reinvention of the chat show. The me-generation could not get enough.

After that, Edna conquered Broadway.

Humphries’ theatrical magic also included dozens of other characters, all of them parodic and sharply satirical, such as the hard-drinking diplomat Sir Les Patterson.

He delighted audiences and prosecuted his satirical attacks on Australian life. On stage and on television, his ingenuity as a performer derived from his instinct for improvisation. At his best, the audience was treated to exceptional satirical theatre.

The early years

John Barry Humphries was born February 17 1934, the oldest child of Eric and Louisa Humphries. Eric ran a flourishing building business (he might be called a developer nowadays) and Louisa was a homemaker. As a child, Barry was close to his sister, Barbara. Barry also enjoyed adult company. He loved dressing up and accompanying his mother on trips to the city or out for lunch with other ladies.

At Melbourne Grammar, Humphries found the boys who excelled in sports rewarded and praised for their achievements. Everyone else was a second-class citizen. An interest in art or music was considered by the headmaster to be suspicious, a disappointment for Humphries, passionate about art.

In time, Humphries found a way to survive Melbourne Grammar – through provocation. When he was reprimanded for failing to cut his hair to regulation length, he stared coolly at the headmaster and said, “There’s one man in the chapel with hair that is longer than mine. His name is Jesus”.

Humphries’ comment was not punished. Before long everyone had heard of his audacious retort.

On icy winter afternoons at the MCG – compelled to watch the titans of the school wrestle in the mud – Humphries found an ingenious way of expressing his view of proceedings. He positioned himself in a chair with his back to the football field, facing the spectators.

Slowly he drew out of his specially made Gladstone bag a set of large knitting needles and ball of wool; he would sit for the duration of the match calmly knitting a cardigan.

A transformational artist

Humphries was resilient and indomitable. He defeated alcoholism. He was generous, competitive and single minded.

With his mask off he was as witty as when he wore it. He married four times and raised two daughters and two sons.

He is survived by his wife Lizzie Spender, and children Tessa, Emily, Oscar and Rupert.

Humphries transformed Australian comedy, bringing an astringent and anarchic Australian theatre to the world. Manning Clark called him one of the “mythmakers and prophets of Australia […] enriching the culture which had been dominated by the straiteners”.

He certainly enriched the culture, reimagined the one man show and upended the cultural cringe. Bravo Barry. Farewell.The Conversation

Anne Pender, Kidman Chair in Australian Studies and Director, JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Highlights of Milan Design Week: Qeeboo's New Collection by Stefano Giovannoni, Philippe Starck, Nika Zupac and Studio Campana

The new coat stand, Saguaro, shaped like a cactus and designed by Stefano Giovanonni. part of his company's new collection launched in Milan. 

Italian brand Qeeboo's latest collection features collaborations with renowned designers including Philippe Starck and Studio Campana, and founder, Stefano Giovannoni. Launched at Milan Design Week, the new works redefine the concept of tableware and the dreamy animal-sculptures have a strong expressive identity, writes Antonio Visconti

Philippe Starck's HelfYourself table, designed.
for the new Qeeboo collection in Milan.
THE most important event
on the international design calendar, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, plus all of the Fuorisalone shows, were back at full capacity this year after the pandemic. 

Italian design brand, Qeeboo founded by Stefano Giovannoni in 2016 launched a new collection at Milan Design Week. The ethos of the company, explains Giovannoni, is to create designs that stimulate self-expression and creativity.

Qeeboo's innovative designs have a twist of pop culture and a quirky individuality combined with attention to detail and high-quality production. 

This year, the company has launched a partnership with star designer Philippe Starck. The new works are called HelpYourself, and are made up of a collection of figurative tables (see above).

“The HelpYourselfs is a family of charming geniuses who watch over the happiness of the house by carrying the tables,” says Philippe Starck. Three legs and three arms are the base for two tabletops of different dimensions and materials. The bigger one (a dining table) holds a glass top while the smaller one (a sidetable) is moulded in one piece with a polyethylene surface.

Italian design brand, Qeeboo was founded in Milan by Stefano Giovannoni in 2016 with the aim of producing designs that stimulate self-expression and creativity

The Brazilian Studio Campana's new Bacana
chair, with its intricate, fluid design. 
Another exciting collaboration was with Studio Campana, the Brazilian design studio, that produced the Bacana, a vividly-colored chair which embodies the fluid lines the company is known for (see at right). 

Qeeboo's product development expertise, combined with Studio Campana's unique style, brings out the chair's intricate design. 

The Bacana chair is the first Campana project industrially developed, using 100% recyclable polypropylene, known for its durability and resistance. 

The winding curves and tangled knots of plastic represent the designers' way of communicating, their own language of forms. In Portuguese slang bacana means “cool”, and it sums up the Campana’s aesthetic. The new chair uses minimum quantities of material, establishing a new standard for sustainable design and mass production. 

The exciting collaboration with Studio Campana,  produced the Bacana chair, establishing a new standard for sustainable design and mass production

Stefano Giovannoni's bookcase inspired by
hollowed-out stones can be upright either
horizonally or vertically. 
Another Giovannoni creation is Koibuchi, a versatile, freestanding bookcase (see at left). Conceived as a wall of sectioned and pierced stones, the bookcase’s holes are configured as a series of interconnected, irregular spaces that can be used to place books, plants or other objects on. 

The bookcase can be standing either horizontally or vertically in any space you wish, in an office or home, and either stand alone to divide spaces or against the wall. 

Made in recyclable polyethylene and available in different colors, the library can be combined with additional units.

Saguaro, a coat stand in the shape of a cactus typical of the Sonoran Desert, is also a part of the new collection (see main picture above)

The cactus grows different branches as it ages and this inspired the tall stand, also designed by Stefano Giovannoni, for coats, hats and jackets. It comes in a variety of colours and is made in recyclable polyethylene and supported by a metal lacquered base: it would make a dramatic and eye-catching statement in any room. 

“The HelpYourselfs is a family of charming geniuses who watch over the happiness of the house by carrying the tables,” says Philippe Starck

Elisa Giovannoni's Cobble table and chairs that
 has central insert for a pot plant 
or for ice and bottles. 
Elisa Giovannoni's Cobble table features a slender top and a central insert that can be used to contain plants or bottles (see at right). 

The coordinated seats complete the set, creating a sense of harmony and balance.  

The table is suitable for outdoor or indoor use. The sinuous chair is produced in the same colours as the table.

Kris Ruhs, an artist, joins Qeeboo's creative team and presents Kritters, a collection of animal-sculptures with a strong expressive identity. 

He designed the three ceramic vases in black and white. 

These represent different animals: a cat named Dalila, a dog named Bozo and an owl named Spike.

Elisa Giovannoni's Cobble table features a square top and a central insert that can be used to contain plants or bottles

The new Hungry Frog lamp launched in Milan
and designed by Marcantonio.
Marco Oggian, a multidisciplinary artist, contributes to Qeeboo's collection with a new range of products. 

These include tables, mirrors, carpets, doormats and vases, textile decorated products like cushions and poufs characterized by his unique style and bright colors. 

"A collection that pays homage to the monsters, creatures and all the different beings that make this world so colorful and wonderful," says Oggian.

In addition, Qeeboo is renewing collaborations with some familiar names, including Marcantonio, who presents Hungry Frog, a frog that eats a light bulb (see image at left),  

The Hungry Frog is a small table/wall lamp with the shape of a frog which has eaten the lamp bulb that is now lighting up in its stomach. The string which is attached to the bulb, coming out of the frog’s mouth, is covered in fabric with an integrated switch, allowing you to place it in any corner.

"A collection that pays homage to the monsters, creatures and all the different beings that make this world so colorful and wonderful," says Oggian.

Dai Sugasawa's quirky fish-shaped table lamp,
that is inspired by creatures in the deep sea
with their own internal "lights". 

Nika Zupanc introduces the Ribbon mirror, which hangs from a bow. The newly launched mirror is large and rounded and has the same signature motifs of the other products that make up this collection, including chairs and armchairs.

Dai Sugasawa's Abyss fish-shaped table lamp is inspired by the anglerfish swimming in the deep seas (see picture at right). 

The anglerfish are quite a bony fish (and not as cuddly looking as Sugasawa's design) with a luminescent fin ray that acts as a lure for other fish.

The rather lovable, rounded graphic lamp is designed in different colours and can be used at home, at the studio or the office and makes a singular talking point.

All of these designs are exhibited at the Qeeboo flagship Store in Via Crocefisso 27, Milan.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2023

The Rossettis: Romantic Revolutionaries of the Art World

One of the richly atmospheric works at the Rossetti exhibition: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Mona Vanna, (1866) copyright Tate. 

Enter the world of the Rossettis, a family of rebels who challenged Victorian society with their radical approaches to art, love, and life. Dante Gabriel, Christina, and Elizabeth were pioneers of the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic movements. London's Tate Britain has a new exhibition of paintings and drawings of all three siblings, writes Isabella Lancellotti

The romanticism of Dante
Gabriel Rossetti's Proserpine, (1874).
Copyright: Tate
Tate Britain’s newest exhibition celebrates the revolutionary and avant-garde spirit of the Rossetti family. Dante Gabriel, Christina, and Elizabeth (née Siddal) were not just siblings but also artists who challenged the status quo of Victorian society. 

Their lives and works were marked by a progressive counterculture, blending past and present to reinvent art and life for a fast-changing modern world. 

Tate Britain showcases their creativity and innovation through over 150 paintings and drawings, photography, design, poetry, and more.

The exhibition begins with a celebration of the Rossetti siblings' precocious talent, revealing the early sparks of creativity that would mark their careers.

 Christina's first edition of poems, published when she was 16, and Dante Gabriel's Ecce Ancilla Domine (The Annunciation) 1850, are the opening pieces, surrounded by an audio installation of Christina's poetry and examples of Dante Gabriel's teenage drawings. These works reflect their early skill and enthusiasm for original voices like William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe.

As visitors move through the exhibition, they are taken on a journey of the Rossettis’ artistic evolution, from the Pre-Raphaelite years to the imaginative and expressive Aesthetic style. 

Their lives and works were marked by a progressive counterculture, blending past and present to reinvent art and life for a modern world. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, La Ghirlandata,
(1874). Copyright: Guildhall Art Gallery
Works from the Pre-Raphaelite years demonstrate how the spirit of popular revolution inspired these artists to initiate the first British avant-garde movement, rebelling against the Royal Academy's dominance over artistic style and content. 

More personal forms of revolution are explored through the Rossettis' refusal to abide by the constraints of Victorian society. Works such as Dante Gabriel's Found (begun 1854), Elizabeth Siddal's Lady Clare (1857), and Christina's poem The Goblin Market (1859) show how they questioned love in an unequal and materialist world.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Elizabeth Siddal's surviving watercolours, displayed in a two-way dialogue with contemporary works by Dante Gabriel, exploring modern love in jewel-like medieval settings. 

As a working-class artist who was largely self-taught, Elizabeth's work was highly original and inventive, but has often been overshadowed by her mythologization as a tragic muse. Her and Dante Gabriel's work together mark the turning point from Pre-Raphaelitism to the imaginative and expressive Aesthetic style.

The exhibition also takes a fresh look at the unconventional relationships between Dante Gabriel, Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth, and Jane Morris. The Aesthetic portraits from the later part of Dante Gabriel's career, such as Bocca Baciata (1859), Beata Beatrix (c.1864-70), and The Beloved (1865-73), are shown in the context of the achievements and experiences of the working women who inspired them. 

Works from the Pre-Raphaelite years demonstrate how the spirit of popular revolution inspired these artists to initiate the first British avant-garde movement.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Venus Verticordia, 
(1878). Copyright: Private Collection 
The exhibition also explores how the poetic and artistic evolution of the femme fatale informed works such as Lady Lilith (1866-8) and Mona Vanna (1866).

Alongside art and poetry, visitors can experience how the Rossettis' trailblazing new lifestyles transformed the domestic interior through contemporary furniture, clothing, and design. 

The exhibition concludes by showing how the Rossettis inspired the next generation, including William Michael's teenaged children who ran the anarchist magazine The Torch, and how they continue to influence radical art and culture to this day.

This exhibition is not just a retrospective of the Rossetti family's work but also a celebration of their revolutionary approach to life, love, and art. It showcases the interconnectedness of their works, their influence on each other, and their legacy in the art world. The Rossettis were true visionaries, pushing the boundaries of art and society, and this exhibition evokes their creativity and innovation.

The Rossettis, 6 April – 24 September 2023, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG.Open daily 10.00–18.00.

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