Thursday, 5 January 2023

New Exhibition: Behind-the-Scenes of Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio Film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Film director Guillermo del Toro with a puppet of villain Count Volpe on the set of Pinocchio. Image courtesy Jason Schmidt/Netflix
A fascinating new exhibition has opened at the Museum of Modern Art showcasing the work of celebrated film director Guillermo del Toro and his latest film Pinocchio. The show explores the world of stop-motion animation, including the team of craftspeople and artists behind the film, reports Antonio Visconti from New York 

The director gazes at a Pinocchio puppet 
with the spectacular church set in 
the background. Image courtesy
of Jason Schmidt/Netflix
Called Guillermo del Toro: Crafting Pinocchio, the new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art shows the exacting process behind the filmmaker’s first stop-motion animation film. This is only MoMA's fourth major gallery exhibition to focus on the art of motion picture animation since 2005. 

 “With Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, we had the unique opportunity to organize an exhibition during the active production of a feature film by one of this generation’s most important filmmakers,” says curator Ron Magliozzi. “The chance to observe firsthand how Guillermo and fellow director Mark Gustafson engaged with the craftspeople and artists on their team inspired our selection and installation of the works on display.” 

Visitors will be able to explore the collaborative craft of stop-motion animation filmmaking, from look development to the years-long production process, through a presentation of five full working sets and four large set pieces, alongside puppets and marionettes, maquettes, sculptural molds, drawings, development materials, time-lapse and motion-test videos, digital color tests, archival photography, and props from the film. 

"We had the unique opportunity to organize an exhibition during the active production of a feature film by one of this generation’s most important filmmakers"

Co-director Mark Gustafson with
Guillermo del Toro on the set of
Pinocchio. Image courtesy of
Jason Schmidt/Netflix
There are also images of the hundreds of crew members from three animation studios: Shadow Machine in Portland, Oregon; Taller del Chucho in Guadalajara, Mexico; and McKinnon & Saunders in Altrincham, England, who all worked together under del Toro’s direction to bring the reimagined classic to life. 

There is a scene-setting display of three classical and contemporary editions of Carlo Collodi’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) from Italy and the United States, including the 2002 edition illustrated by Gris Grimly, which inspired the filmmakers. It features an installation of oversized pizza boxes, which were used during the production of the film to store hundreds of 3D-printed Pinocchio faces, approximately 300 of which will be on view. 

The opening gallery also presents a time-lapse video of an animator at work using stop-motion photography to shoot a Pinocchio puppet being tossed in a wave, contextualized with real-life examples of the multiple Pinocchio puppets used during filming and a fully disassembled version to display all of the puppet’s components. 

“The chance to observe firsthand how Guillermo and fellow director Mark Gustafson engaged with the craftspeople and artists on their team inspired our selection and installation of the works on display.” 

Sets from the film showing the extraordinary
detail and skill of the modellers with the lighting 
and camera set ups. Museum of Modern Art
New York. Image Emile Askey
The first section of the exhibition, titled Look Development, centres on the research and experimentation done by the production team to create the natural elements that made up the film’s world and inspired the appearances of each character. 

This gallery includes the historical and topographical models for Pinocchio’s village, lifelike studies of wood and stone elements, and a number of archival photographs used as references to ground the animation in historical reality. 

The adaptation of Pinocchio is reimagined to be set in 1930s Italy, with fascism on the rise. The pairing of the work Loading Dock 'M' Gate on view in this gallery, with an untitled archival photograph from 1934, depicting the giant "M" installed to meet Fascist politician Benito Mussolini's arrival in a small Italian village, highlights historical source material that informed the production team. 

This part of the exhibition also introduces examples of all of the finished puppets from the film, paired with look- development maquettes in varying stages of the process, such as the silicone and resin castings of vegetables that provided inspiration for the character Dogfish’s monstrous skin, texture, and scarring. 

Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of Pinocchio is reimagined to be set in 1930s Italy, with Fascism on the rise
The many faces of Pinocchio, 
at the Museum of Modern Art's 
New York Guillermo del Toro:
Crafting Pinocchio show. 
Image: Emile Askey 
The second section of the show, On the Set, opens with a Production Scheduling Board and features eight sets from the production.

This continues the exploration of the studio process, highlighting the attention to detail given to each of the sets, a testament to the handcrafted process of stop-motion filmmaking. Of particular note are the stained-glass windows and frescoes on the walls of the “Church Corner” set that reference both Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and his other films. 

Animation work screens and time-lapse video recordings interspersed in these galleries give visitors behind-the-scenes insight into how animators use live-action video and stop-motion animation to bring scenes to life. 

The largest Pinocchio puppet, made up of a head and torso measuring approximately 172.2 cm, which was used to film closeups of the character, is suspended from the ceiling. This large-scale hanging puppet is accompanied by a look-development study of the “Branch Nose Bridge” maquette, crafted from cardboard and masking tape.

Animation work screens and time-lapse video recordings give behind-the-scenes insight into how animators use live-action video and stop-motion animation to bring scenes to life

Shadow machine. Columbina Production Puppet.
2019~2020. Steel, wire, resin, paint, fabric, brass.
8.9 x 8.9 x 22.8 cm. Guillermo del Toro's 
Pinocchio 2022. Image courtesy of Netflix

Other props and materials from the film, include the annotated pages from the original musical score by composer Alexandre Desplat, a “Cricket under oversized glass and hammer” prop, and a display of 24 distinctively illustrated editions of Pinocchio from eight countries, dating from 1898 to 2020. 

Three newly commissioned video essays by filmmaker Javier Soto explore motifs that are frequently addressed in del Toro’s films: the monstrous, spaces on screen, and mortality. 

 There are also displays of original studio-edition posters and alternative posters designed by pop artists for the 12 feature films directed by del Toro, along with a site-specific soundscape that will feature acoustic references to the director’s films, by sound editor and designer Nathan Robitaille.

Guillermo del Toro: Crafting Pinocchio runs from December 11, 2022 – April 15, 2023, Floor 2, 2 South, The Paul J. Sachs Galleries of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

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Wednesday, 14 December 2022

‘A three-storey, luminous birdcage with suspended hanging gardens and an extensive crypt below’: Sydney Modern is open at last

Aerial view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building, 2022. Photo © Iwan Baan
Sasha Grishin, Australian National University

The Sydney Modern Project had the odds stacked against it since its inception in 2013. It has surely been the most controversial state gallery extension to be built in Australia.

Michael Brand – a Canberra-born, ANU and Harvard trained art historian with an outstanding museum career in Australia and America – was appointed as director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2012. This was on the retirement of Edmund Capon, who held the post for the preceding 33 years.

Brand launched the unfunded plan for a new building in 2013, the Tokyo firm SANAA won the architectural competition in 2015 and construction commenced in 2019 with a budget of A$344 million. The knives were quickly out for Brand and his project.

Some, like Paul Keating, did not like the location and called it a “gigantic spoof”.

Others did not like the design; a book was published by a former gallery employee attacking the project; and the new culture at the gallery. Prominent people in the Sydney art scene lined up to attack the project and the director.

Aerial view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building, 2022. Photo © Iwan Baan

There were some people who simply did not like Brand. He is a reserved, scholarly individual with a brilliant eye, in total contrast with the flamboyant, media savvy Capon.

There were faults with the original architectural design and significant modifications were implemented before construction commenced.

There were also external circumstances that impacted on the project: the murky world of NSW state government politics, bush fires that shrouded Sydney in smoke, COVID-19.

However, Sydney Modern, now that it is open, is a spectacular achievement. The floorspace of the gallery has almost doubled, creating a gallery precinct (Brand prefers to call it a “gallery campus”) with two buildings connected by an art garden.

On one side we have the stately neo-classical building that looks like a traditional 19th century art gallery with a series of extensions by Andrew Anderson, on the other side, a new 21st century structure.

Interior view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building , featuring Takashi Murakami Japan Supernatural: Vertiginous After Staring at the Empty World Too Intensely, I Found Myself Trapped in the Realm of Lurking Ghosts and Monsters 2019. © 2019 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved, 2022, photo © Iwan Baan

A luminous birdcage

The new building may be described as a three-storey, luminous birdcage with suspended hanging gardens and an extensive crypt below. The main architectural concept is that of three limestone-clad, cascading pavilions leading down towards the water with a huge supporting rammed earth wall.

Below is the crypt, locally called the “tank”, in recognition of its origins as a fuel storage reservoir secretly and speedily constructed at the start of the second world war to store fuel for Allied shipping.

It reminds me of the huge water cisterns in Istanbul constructed by the Byzantines to store water for the city.

Installation view of Adrián Villar Rojas The End of Imagination 2022 in the Tank at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. © Adrián Villar Rojas, photo © Jörg Baumann

The tank is presently occupied by Adrián Villar Rojas’ “time-travelling sculptural forms” dramatically lit by constantly changing light sources. The smoke and mirrors display is deliberately disorientating, evoking more of a mood than a visual assessment of the artwork.

In the upstairs birdcage, it is very easy to orient yourself and be aware of your location and the various possible exits. In the crypt all is murky and unpredictable as you gradually negotiate the spaces and dodge the pillars and protruding sharp edges of the sculptures.

Indigenous art at the heart

Although there is an emphasis on Indigenous art with the transfer of the Yiribana Gallery from the basement of the old building to the entry gallery of the new one, this is more than simply a symbolic gesture to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the heart of the gallery.

Indigenous art is found at all levels of the new building and is integrated into the display of non-Indigenous Australian and international art.

Installation view of the Making Worlds exhibition in the new building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales , featuring Shireen Taweel tracing transcendence 2018-21 (foreground) and Mabel Juli Garnkiny Ngarrangkarni 2006. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Zan Wimberley

One of the highlights for me are the newly commissioned woven metal pieces by Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Her huge metal handbags made from discarded, well-weathered metal sheets from the outback have a stark sense of presence and are laced with wit.

Her work looks out onto the most ambitious project, the sprawling art garden by Jonathan Jones scheduled to open mid-2023.

Installation view of the Yiribana Gallery featuring Lorraine Connelly - Northey Narrbong - galang (many bags) 2022 © Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Zan Wimberley

Less a deliberate policy and more as part of the process of what Brand describes as selecting the most interesting new art, women artists make up 53% of the 900 exhibitors in the new building.

The major thematic groupings, or exhibitions, in the new building are Dreamhome: Stories of art and shelter, Making worlds, Outlaw and Rojas’s The end of imagination in the crypt. These will remain in place for the next six months before there is a new set of exhibitions.

Installation view of the Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter exhibition in the new building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, featuring Samara Golden Guts 2022. © Samara Golden, photo © Iwan Baan

An elegant build

Despite the slings and arrows, Sydney Modern (now known somewhat unimaginatively as the North Building of the Art Gallery of NSW) has come to fruition.

Possibly not the most magnificent art gallery in the world, as the NSW premier and his arts minister spruiked at the opening, but an elegant, formidable and very functional new building.

Exterior view of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA - designed building. Photo © Iwan Baan

Politicians in Australia have always been very good at throwing money at new buildings, the true test will come if this doubling in size of the gallery will be accompanied by a substantial increase to the operating budget of the institution.

With new gallery spaces projected for Melbourne, Adelaide and possibly Canberra, funding is required for more than rammed earth, glass, bricks and mortar. Australia does not need a stampede of white elephants. The Conversation

Sasha Grishin is Adjunct Professor of Art History at the Australia National University

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Thursday, 8 December 2022

 Clothes women wanted to wear: a new exhibition explores how Carla Zampatti saw her designs as a tracker of feminism

Carla Zampatti middriff top and pants, 1971. Photograph: Warwick Lawson
Peter McNeil, University of Technology Sydney

The late Carla Zampatti is celebrated in a splendid retrospective Zampatti Powerhouse at the Powerhouse Museum. Planned well before the fashion designer’s untimely death last year, the unveiling of her legacy will be bittersweet to her many fans.

Zampatti is often referred to as “Carla” by friends and those who worked for her, rather than her brand name, Carla Zampatti. Here, the simple name “Zampatti” removes the emphasis from Zampatti as designer to a simpler assertion: businesswoman, mother, philanthropist-entrepreneur.

It is a move as deft and elegant as the rest of the exhibition choices.

In one of the best-looking fashion exhibition designs Australia has seen, creative director Tony Assness serves up a dynamic vision of clothes punctuated by a vibrant red (one of Zampatti’s favourite design choices) that encourages excitement and discovery. Clothes are arranged by themes – jumpsuit, jungle, graphic, blouson, power – rather than date.

Curator Roger Leong leverages his years of experience to do a relatively new thing for Australian museums: tell the stories of clothes through the stories of women who wore them.

‘Animal’ group with close-up of beaded ‘Carla’ cape, 2016 . Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

A migrant story

Zampatti’s story is an Australian migrant story. Born Maria Zampatti in Italy in 1938 (not 1942, as is often believed), she did not meet her father, who had migrated to Fremantle, until she was 11.

In Australia, she was forced to change her name to Mary. It was claimed the other kids could not pronounce Maria. She did not finish school. When she moved to Sydney in her late 20s, she reinvented herself as Carla.

The fashion business started on a kitchen table in 1965 under the label ZamPAtti. By 1970, Carla had bought out her business partner husband, and was sole owner of Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd.

Zampatti flourished in fashion. She had a finger on the pulse, was in the right place at the right time, and knew a more glamorous role was possible for a fashion designer than the industry “rag trader”.

Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

In the 1970s, the markets suggested that the ultra-expensive haute couture was about to disappear, to be replaced by informal ranges created by a new type of designer often called a “stylist”. It was the decade of flower power, retro dressing and ethnic borrowings.

Until the 1960s, fashion had been dominated by the rise of haute couture and the “dictator-designer” system – mainly men who determined hem lengths and silhouettes for women. But in 1973, the French body governing high fashion added a new layer of designers, créateurs (literally “creators” or designers), who produced only ready-to-wear.

In 1972 Zampatti opened her first Sydney boutique, inspired by informal shops she had seen in St Tropez. Zampatti offered women bright jumpsuits, art deco looks and peasant-inspired ease.

Model promoting the Carla Zampatti Ford Laser and Ford Meteor, 1987. Photo courtesy of the Carla Zampatti archives

She aimed to provide women clothes they wanted to wear. She draped the cloth and colours on herself. Like many women designers historically, she was alert to how her clothes made women customers look and feel. Zampatti remained the fit model for the whole range and would not produce anything in which she did not look and feel well.

Zampatti saw her “clothes as a tracker of feminism”.

The 1980s cemented Zampatti’s rise to prominence. She became a household name, even designing a car for women. In this time, personal expression became more important than unified looks dictated by designers. Zampatti’s Australian designing coincided with a new development in Italy: the stylisti. Small, focused family businesses alert to the zeitgeist and understanding quality flourished. It was an approach that emphasised quality and glamour.

Zampatti identified talent. She employed well-known couturier Beril Jents on the shop floor after she had fallen on hard times. She then employed Jents to improve the cut of her designs.

Zampatti continued to embrace the services of stylists and other designers including Romance was Born, whom she recognised could take her work to the next level.

Carla Zampatti preparing models for Spring - Summer 2010 show. Photo courtesy of Prudence Upton

The stories of clothes

Worn equally by politicians and their circles on the right and the left, Zampatti injected more than power dressing into women’s wardrobes. She inspired a sense that women wore the clothes, not the clothes them.

In this exhibition we are given many examples, from Linda Burney’s red pantsuit worn for her parliamentary portrait to a gown worn by Jennifer Morrison to the White House.

Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

The exhibition viewer can turn from serried ranks of brilliantly styled mannequins and enter large “listening pods”, screening brilliantly edited videos in the manner of artist Bill Viola. The women, who include Dame Quentin Bryce and Ita Buttrose, discuss the creative mind of Zampatti or reflect on their own Zampatti wardrobe. They are amongst the best such “talking heads” I have seen in a museum.

Like many designers, Zampatti was not that interested in her own past. She did not keep substantial archives and records, which is a testament to the skills demonstrated by the museum in bringing us this show.

Zampatti never turned her back on her personal story, but she was a futurist, one who looked forward rather than backward.

Zampatti Powerhouse is at the Powerhouse Ultimo, Sydney, Australia until June 11 2023.The Conversation

Peter McNeil, Distinguished Professor of Design History, UTS, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished with permission from The Conversation.

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Thursday, 1 December 2022

Exploring the Man Behind the Myth: Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen

Stella Tennant wore Alexander McQueen's dramatic design for the first look of his It's a Jungle Out There collection, Autumn-Winter 1997-98. Face veil by Sarah Harmarnee. Photograph: Robert Fairer 

Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria has a major new exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse, opening next week. This is the first Australian show to explore the work of the avant-garde British fashion designer. His creations from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the NGV Collection are juxtaposed with artworks showing his inspirations and influences, reports Antonio Visconti 

McQueen in happier days, backstage
at his Pantheon as Lecum collection, 
Autumn-Winter 2004-05. 
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Alexander McQueen was one of the most avant-garde fashion designers of the late twentieth century, celebrated for his conceptual and technical virtuosity. 

Both shocking and critically acclaimed, his work mixed superlative tailoring with his startling explorations of art and culture. His brilliant career was cut tragically short by his suicide in 2010 when he was 40 years old. 

The new exhibition, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), is unique to Australia. It includes 60 garments and accessories drawn from LACMA, plus 50 designs by McQueen from the NGV Collection.

The show aims to provide deeper insights into how McQueen worked by looking at 70 historical artworks including painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts and works on paper and how these references influenced his designs. 

"Juxtaposing Alexander McQueen’s designs with artworks in a wide range of media opens up a new perspective on his process and artistic legacy. We are thrilled to share this groundbreaking exhibition with Australian audiences," said Michael Govan, director and chief executive officer of LACMA.

Both shocking and critically acclaimed, McQueen's collections mixed marvelous tailoring with his explorations of ideas and art

The evocative Widows of Culloden 
collection Autumn-Winter 2006-07.
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Models: Hana Soukupova, 
Daria Werbowy, Gemma Ward
& Raquel Zimmerman
The artworks alongside McQueen's designs evoke his creativity and the way he tells stories with each collection. The show features examples of the designer’s earliest and most acclaimed collections, including the controversial Highland Rape, Autumn-Winter 1995–96 and the poetic The Widows of Culloden, Autumn-Winter 2006–07. 

Both take inspiration from McQueen’s Scottish ancestry. Other highlights from the show, include Deliverance Spring-Summer 2004 as well as his final complete collection, Plato’s Atlantis Spring-Summer 2010. 

"Alexander McQueen is beloved for his boundary-pushing and highly conceptual designs that set him apart from his contemporaries," explains Tony Ellwood, director of the NGV. 

"With meticulous craftmanship and an intellectual rigour seldom seen on the runways before or since, he created a new vocabulary for fashion design that still resonates today."

The exhibition also features commissioned headpieces by Los Angeles-based artist and designer Michael Schmidt, as well as garments originally owned by McQueen’s muses Isabella Blow and Annabelle Neilson. 

Planned around four themes, the exhibition shows McQueen’s work across different phases of his career. The three collections inspired by mythological and religious belief systems, are grouped together and illustrate his visual references taken from a plethora of cultures and art movements. Another section looks at collections with dramatic narratives that reimagine past historical events.

The artworks alongside McQueen's designs evoke his creativity and the way he tells stories with each collection

McQueen's brutalist Horn of Plenty
collection,Autumn-Winter 2009-10.
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Model; Kamila Filpcikova
Several explore his own family history, such as Salem, 1692, Autumn-Winter 2007–08, which describe McQueen’s antecedents in colonial Massachusetts including a woman who was one of the first to be executed in the Salem witch trials. 

The Widows of Culloden, Autumn-Winter 2006–07, was an interpretation of the designer's Scottish heritage and the brutality of the British in Scotland during the 1746 Battle of Culloden.

Closer to his own home, an ancient elm in the garden of McQueen’s Sussex home, inspired a story written by his friend and muse Annabelle Neilson. 

This led to his combining British and Indian history with punk references for the whimsical The Girl Who Lived in the Tree collection, Autumn-Winter 2008.

McQueen was fascinated by both the fragility of existence along with the possibility of regeneration.  The Horn of Plenty collection, Autumn-Winter 2009–10, was a critique of mass consumerism, which McQueen emphasized by recycling his own archive and famous silhouettes from fashion history. 

The Dance of the Twisted Bull, Spring-Summer 2002, portrayed bullfighting as a metaphor for brutality and beauty, while Deliverance, Spring-Summer 2004, presented an allegorical “dance to the death” inspired by the film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? McQueen's last complete collection, called Plato’s Atlantis, Spring-Summer 2010, imagined a world consumed by the ocean.

McQueen was fascinated by both the fragility of existence along with the possibility of regeneration

An exquisitely cut and embroidered
creation from McQueen's Girl who 
lived in a Tree collection,
Autumn-Winter 2008-09
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Model: Danielle Hamm
The savagery and sense of power he managed to create in his works, expressed even in McQueen's earliest designs, include the show's garments from the NGV collection: Banshee, Autumn-Winter 1994, Highland Rape, Autumn-Winter 1995–1996, and The Hunger, Spring-Summer 1996. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the examination of McQueen's innovative and technical mastery in tailoring. 

He was very skilled at constructing his designs and experimented with new fabrics and technologies, such as laser-cutting and digital printing. 

By contrasting works from different periods of McQueen's career, the exhibition highlights his formative years as an apprentice Savile Row tailor and his later metamorphosis into a sophisticated fashion designer capable of expressing complex ideas through his peerlessly fluid drapery.

 Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse runs from 11 December 2022 – 16 April 2023 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Adele Wears Custom Schiaparelli for her First Performance at Las Vegas' Famed Colosseum

Adele at her debut show at the Colosseum in Las Vegas, wearing a specially designed Schiaparelli gown.
BRITISH SINGER ADELE performed for the first time in Las Vegas this week at Caesar's Palace Colosseum to rapturous audiences. Her soaring vocals and the show's startling special effects drew gasps from the 4,000 strong crowd. 

The shows, called Weekends with Adele, launched her residency at the famed locale which hosted Celine Dion's long reign. Adele's residency will run for five months until March next year and will include a New Year's Eve performance. 

For the opening shows, she wore a soigné haute couture Schiaparelli gown, designed by the Paris-based fashion maison's artistic director, Daniel Roseberry. The black silk velvet, column-shaped creation with an elegant bateau neckline was enhanced with a drop-waist satin sash, fastened with a gold, jewelled buckle glistening with pavé crystals. 

Adele's signature glamourous look will be highlighted by wearing black gowns for each weekend she performs, but with different details and hues. Some twenty looks were specially created for her by a range of designers from Loewe and Louis Vuitton to Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne. ~ Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Schiaparelli's artistic director, Daniel Roseberry, drew a first conceptual sketch for Adele's gown. 

The designer's final drawing shows the crystal and gold belt buckle and the long sweep of black silk velvet.

Adele said she felt very nervous doing the shows, but she had the audience enraptured during her two performances. 

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Tuesday, 15 November 2022

More than a story of treasures: revisiting Tutankhamun’s tomb 100 years after its discovery

Howard Carter, Ahmed Gerigar and King Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus, opened three years after the tomb was discovered, in 1925. 
Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Flinders University

On November 4 1922, a young Egyptian “water boy” on an archaeological dig is said to have accidentally stumbled on a stone that turned out to be the top of a flight of steps cut into the limestone bedrock.

The stairs led to one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in history and the only almost intact funerary assemblage of a pharaoh – the Tutankhamun’s tomb.

A century after this discovery, it’s worth revisiting the story of Tutankhamun’s tomb and how it eventually became a symbol for Egyptian nationalism.

The ‘child king’

Tutankhamun is often referred to as a “child king” and the “most famous and least important” of the pharaohs; he was almost unknown to history before the tomb’s discovery.

The son of one of the most controversial pharaohs in history – the champion of monotheism, Akhenaten – Tutankhamun ascended the throne around age six or so. After a rather uneventful reign of restoring temples and bringing Egypt out from a period of political and religious turmoil, he died sometime between the age of 17 and 19.

The discovery of his tomb full of magnificent and unique objects is more than a story of treasures. This is also a tale of the “roaring 20s” in the Middle Eastern version: a story of a quintessential embrace of class, privilege and colonialism juxtaposed against struggle for political freedom and building of new national identity.

Archaeology 100 years ago was very different.

None of the three male protagonists behind the discovery – Howard Carter (the lead British excavator), Lord Carnarvon (the man behind the money), and Ahmed Gerigar (the Egyptian foreman) – were formally trained as archaeologists.

Despite this, Carter is now almost always referred to as an archaeologist, but Gerigar almost never is – further entrenching colonial narratives.

But Carter’s three-decade-long excavation experience, draughtsman’s talent and his meticulousness, allied with the photographic aptitude of Harry Burton of Metropolitan Museum and the skills of the Egyptian excavators assured Tutenkhamun’s tomb – the only discovery of its type and arguably one of the most important archaeological finds ever – was recorded in a systematic and “modern” way.

Howard Carter examines Tutankhamun’s tomb. 

The painter who became an archaeologist

Howard Carter was a young painter who fell in love with Egyptian antiquities while following his father, also a painter, into the houses of London’s elite to add drawings of pets to his father’s portraits.

In 1891, age 17, Carter was recommended as an illustrator to archaeologist Percy Newberry, and joined him at a dig in Egypt at Beni Hassan tombs. From this first trip to his death in 1939, Carter spent his life mostly in Egypt with short trips back to London to deal in antiquities, including those allegedly stolen from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

After Beni Hassan, Carter became an illustrator for one of the fathers of Egyptology, William Flinders Petrie in Tell el-Amarna, the capital of Tut’s father Akhenaten.

Carter then worked in Deir el-Bahari, the funerary temple of queen pharaoh Hatshepsut, located right on the other side of the limestone ravine known as the Valley of the Kings.

It is here, on the western bank of the Nile I also trace some of my humble early experiences in Egyptology.

Walking at dawn from our base at the Metropolitan Museum house in Deir, which Carter frequented, to the temple, I followed in his footsteps and mused on how lucky he was when the “water boy” stumbled upon a staircase to the tomb.

Lord Carnavon and Howard Carter at the entrance to the tomb in 1922. 

That year, 1922, was supposed to be the last season after seven fruitless years of digging in the Valley in search of Tutankhamun’s elusive resting place.

After clearing the staircase, Carter found the doorway sealed with cartouches – the hieroglyphs which enclose a royal name. He ordered the staircase to be refilled, and sent a telegram to Carnarvon, who arrived from England two-and-a-half weeks later.

On November 26 Carter made a “tiny breach in the top left-hand corner” of the doorway.

Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” and Carter replied with his famous line: “Yes, wonderful things!”

Opening the burial shrine in 1924, photographed by Howard Carter.

Across 3,000 years, about 300 pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt. All royal tombs had been broken into by thieves.

The spectacular find of Tut’s tomb was also not a fully intact discovery. The tomb had been looted twice in antiquity, and Carter estimated that a considerable amount of jewellery was stolen. But it is the only surviving almost complete funerary assemblage.

Consisting of over 5,000 objects, only 30% have been studied so far.

A story of its time

Following Egyptian independence on February 28 1922 and the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Egypt, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb became an optimistic symbol for Egyptian nationalists.

After the initial documentation, the official opening of the tomb in early 1924 coincided with the inauguration of Egypt’s first elected parliament.

Despite the new independence, colonial attitudes continued. Lord Carnarvon sold the rights to the story of the discovery of Tut’s tomb to the London Times for a significant sum.

Arthur Mace and Alfred Lucas working on the conservation of a chariot from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Given the delay of a couple of weeks with sending photos on the ship from Cairo to London, Egyptian newspapers and readers were only able to follow the unfolding discovery from reading delayed British press. This caused a lot of resentment among the newly independent Egyptians, especially the middle classes.

Nevertheless, the discovery was very significant for nation building and new national post-colonial identity.

Taha Hussein, a notable Egyptian philosopher of the time, coined a notion of “pharaonism”. This unified national identity was supposed to transcend religious and ethnic differences between Arab, Muslim, Coptic and Jewish Egyptians.

It remains a tool of propaganda to this day – notably with a parade of 22 mummies moving to a new national museum and a lavish re-opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum soon, where much of the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb can be found today.The Conversation

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Flinders University

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Monday, 31 October 2022

 The rise and rise of Harry Styles: how did the former boyband member become the biggest name in pop?

Lillie Eiger/ Sony
Liz Giuffre, University of Technology Sydney

You’ve probably heard the name Harry Styles. He is the current “real big thing” in popular music.

But how did a former boy band star become such a huge musician and award-winning artist in his own right – and does he deserve all the breathless praise?

The hype began in 2010 as a member of mega group One Direction. Paul McCartney gave them his blessing as they clearly tapped into The Beatles legacy.

On a break since 2016, One Direction is still breaking records online. Their 2015 music video Drag Me Down recently passed one billion views on YouTube – seven years after its release.

Since going solo, Styles has wowed audiences as a fashion icon and performer, releasing his third solo album, Harry’s House, this week.

Styles’ latest single, As It Was, is already a world record holder for daily streams across multiple platforms, debuting in its first week with 43.8 million plays.

As a solo artist, he has won a swag of international awards, including Grammys, Brits and ARIAs.

His 2019 album, Fine Line, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and is the most recent album to make it to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

While Styles has groups of young female fans who have followed him since One Direction, his current fan base is much broader, brought together by the community and mood built through his music.

Substance as well as style

Styles’, um, style has been likened to iconic musician David Bowie in terms of gender and genre fluidity. NPR describes him as “dressed in the finery of rock’s legacies”. GQ called him “one of the best dressed men in the world” with “elegance and bold choices”.

Harry Styles at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, winning the award for best pop solo performance for his song Watermelon Sugar. Chris Pizzello/ AP

In 1970, Bowie appeared on the cover of his album The Man Who Sold the World in a “man dress”. In 2020, Styles wore a tailor-made lace Gucci gown on the cover of Vogue.

The nature of his public profile means there has been intense scrutiny about his personal life. Styles has been repeatedly asked about his sexual orientation. His response has been to call these questions “outdated”.

In responding in this way he provides strong leadership for the young mainstream. He is essentially saying no one should need to justify or explain who they love.

Popular music becomes really powerful when artistic statements lead to action. Styles does this most overtly in the song Treat People With Kindness, which he performs draped in pride flags. This is a clear act that tells LGBTQA+ fans they are welcome.

Of course, Styles is privileged in terms of money, race and gender – and this means he can make art and take risks with less to lose than others.

As Billy Porter reminds us, queer people of colour have been challenging expectations about representation for decades, often as a matter of necessity rather than mere choice.

The personal and communal in action

In addition to fine songwriting, which he does with some regular collaborators, Styles also draws from a diverse pool of influences.

Iconic artist Stevie Nicks referred to him as “the son I never had”. In return, Styles said Nicks’ songs “made you ache, feel on top of the world, make you want to dance, and usually all three at the same time”.

At Coachella in April 2022, he invited Shania Twain to perform with him. Introducing her, he said: “in the car with my mother as a child, this lady taught me to sing”.

The next week he invited Lizzo on stage, and together they performed I Will Survive, a tribute to their shared love of 1970s music.

Collaboration with other artists – particularly artists from different perspectives – shows Styles is open to exploring different territory.

Popular music doesn’t have one “sound” over time - it changes with fashion, technology and culture. Staying relevant means being able to embrace different ways of doing things.

Harry’s House

The cover of Harry Styles new Harry's House
His new album, Harry’s House, shows another evolution in Styles’ musical career.

It builds on his pop music background and travels around between 70s style folk storytelling and various eras of great dance music. Lyrically, it moves from cryptic – “I bring the pop, you bring the cinema” – to explicit – “if you’re getting yourself wet for me, I guess you’re all mine”, mostly drawing praise from music critics.

Popular music matters because it brings people together. Harry Styles, and popular music like his, does this on a mass scale. Whether the Style (sorry) is your taste or not, his value is not only demonstrated in the millions of sales, but in the power of the connections he builds between his fans.The Conversation

Liz Giuffre is a Senior Lecturer in Communication at the University of Technology Sydney

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