Archive for May, 2014

Design | The Fine Art of Sun Worship

Friday, May 30th, 2014

AGAY, c 1930. Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000





The Art of Travel
Christie’s,
London, UK
18th June 2014

Villa America. It sounds like the title of a film. Was it one of those shown in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival that ended last week? No. But if the villa and its inhabitants had never existed, then the festival might never have been established at all in this area of the South of France, and to have a tan may never have become fashionable.

By the late 19th century rail networks were so widespread that the French Riviera / Côte d’Azur had become an accessible and attractive destination for wealthy northern Europeans – Russians, the English – seeking a winter escape. To accommodate them, all along the coast luxury hotels were established. Casinos flourished. From spring to autumn, everything closed. But then Gerald and Sara Murphy, a well-to-do American couple, who had escaped their families’ mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage and become the toast of avant garde Paris, holidayed on the Riviera in the summer of 1921. Promising to return the following year, they convinced the grand Hotel du Cap in Antibes to remain open so that their friends could come to see them and have somewhere to stay.


MONACO, 1932. Robert Falcucci (1900-1989)
Estimate £15,000 > 20,000


ANTIBES, c 1928. Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Estimate £6,000 >8,000


COTE d’AZUR,1931. A M Cassandre (1901-1968)
Estimate £10,000 > 15,000


THE FRENCH RIVIERA FOR PERPETUAL SUNSHINE, 1930.
Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Estimate: £4,000 > 6,000


Far from ordinary friends, the Murphy’s friends were extraordinary writers and artists, among them Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter and Dorothy Parker. Significantly, two others were F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Although the Murphys themselves and some of their friends recognised much more of F Scott and Zelda in the characters, it is widely accepted that the Murphys were later to become the models for Nicole and Dick Diver in Fitzgerald’s book Tender is the Night (1934).

In the meantime, the Murphys, who with their glamorous, arty friends would appear to have popularised the fine art of sunbathing, which quickly became fashionable and every summer in succeeding years would draw ever-increasing numbers of sun-seeking visitors to the Côte d’Azur, decided to stay, buying the house at Cap d’Antibes they called Villa America.

The colourful and graphic posters of the era in Christie’s forthcoming sale The Art of Travel, in London, were exhibited throughout the Cannes Film Festival at the JW Marriot Cannes.


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Books | Looking for Helsinki

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

House of Vuokko Nurmesniemi, designer
of the Wärtsilä coffee pot, produced by Arabia

Photo Osma Harvilahti






Out of the Blue
The Essence and Ambition of Finnish Design
By Nokia Design
Edited by Nokia + Laura Housely
Full color | hardcover | 416 pp
20 x 29 cm, portrait
Text in English
Published by Gestalten | May 2014

Back in 1980, in London, our upstairs neighbour – a friend from the Royal College of Art, where I also studied – had bought a set of Olofström saucepans at a knock-down price in a sale at a nearby store. Admiring them, my girlfriend and I dashed out and purchased our own. A little while later, we bought an Wärtsilä enamel coffee pot and two bowls, all with the same black sheen finish, all white inside, all made by Arabia. We had admired the Artek stackable stool 60 – that we had seen in the few design magazines that were around in the those days, so much that we had four copies made, but they were heavy and lacked the elegance of the original. By now we were married and when it opened in 1987, were amongst the first customers of the UK’s first Ikea store. My wife’s Fiskars dressmaking scissors were bought for their sharpness but also for their distinctively ergonomic orange handles, in about 1990. An undulating white vase from the series designed by Alvar Aalto in 1927 – filled with flowers or plain empty – has been a permanent fixture in the middle of our dining table for many years. Every day, we eat our breakfast from Iittala bowls using our everyday unfussy, stainless steel cutlery that sits well in the hand and has a tiny flag stamped into it – the symbol of the Scandinavian shipping company for whose luxury cruise liner, Vistafjord, it was originally specified in 1973. In the evening, we might dim the electric lights and put a few Iittala tea lights around the place. Matching Jacob Jensen very reliable alarm clocks have sat on both our bedside tables for around five years, while the duvet cover in our guest room is by Marimekko. I aspire to one day own a Poul Kjærholm PK 22 chair and perhaps another by Hans Wegner. Bought in the mid-90s, my first mobile phone, and the various updated versions I used until just two years ago were all made by Nokia – my wife recently bought one from their Lumia series (see below).


The Nokia Lumia family includes smart
devices such phones, tablets and hybrids.

Photo Marcus Ginns


Lollipop work by Oiva Toikka, from 1969.
The colour and playfulness were
a purposeful reference to pop art.

Photo courtesy Design Museum Helsinki


Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I – as I would imagine many other Brits and a fair number of mainland Europeans, until just a few years ago – had never given much thought as to exactly where in Scandinavia our cherished Scandinavian products had come from. Few of us had travelled to the region for work or holidays and we had little notion of what differentiates Swedishness from Norwegianess or Danishness, or, for that matter, Finnishness, from any of these others. The prime source for many of the items mentioned in the paragraph above, and lots more ‘Scandinavian’ products in London is the Skandium shop (or via their website where we are told, that they are: ‘Retailer and contract dealer of modern Scandinavian furniture, lighting and homeware’). So I suppose I might be excused for having thought up until now that Finland is a Scandinavian country.

Now, out of the blue, along comes German publisher Gestalten’s Out of the Blue, subtitled ‘The essence and ambition of Finnish design’. At the beginning of the book and called Finland Debrief, a single double-page spread of tightly-edited information provides an indispensable, albeit pleasantly random, guide to many things Finnish. Here I learn that Finland is one of the wider Nordic group of countries, which consists of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, The Faroe Islands and Aaland, and that it is not included in Scandinavia. While the shape of Denmark, bounded almost completely by water has long been fixed in my mind, along with that of Norway and Sweden which share the great Scandinavian peninsula, I had only a vague notion of where Finland is, or indeed where to find Helsinki. Here there’s a simple map of the country in relation to its neighbours on which one can also see that the interior is an impenetrable mass of lakes, and that the few cities are all on or near the Baltic coast. On these pages I discovered the interesting fact (the book is, after all Nokia-sponsored – confirmation, for those of us who were unsure, that the company, although now owned by Microsoft, and which sounds like it might be Japanese, is actually Finnish) that since 2007, due to the growth of mobile phone use, all public telephone booths in Finland have been removed, some turned into garden bars, others into saunas. I was unaware that Finland is a mecca for Tango Dancing, that it was the first country in Europe to grant women the right of suffrage, or that access to the internet has been declared ‘a fundamental right’ of all Finnish nationals.


Siren, 1964 by Armi Ratia.
Gingko, 2008 by Kristina Isola

Images courtesy Marimekko Corporation

Visu Chair by Mika Tolvanen, for Muuto, 2012
Photo courtesy Muuto


Marko Ahtisaari, head of Nokia Design 2009-2013, in his foreword to Out of the Blue, tells us that Nokia made this book to better understand themselves, however it provides a fascinating insight into Finland for the rest of us. He asserts that Finns are not nostalgic, that their design world is vibrant and fast moving. In the opening essay, Designing Finnishness, British ‘designer and urbanist’ Dan Hill, who has spent time working in Finland, explains that the sparsely-populated country – made independent from Russia in 1917 – was, significantly, born and developed concurrently with modernism, and that it is one of few countries in the world whose national identity is a form of modernity. Finnish national culture, Hill tells us, is expressed via the industrially-designed, rather than by crafted objects. However, it is an inescapable fact that products produced by Finnish designers – and there is ample evidence further on in this book – very often look and feel like craftsman-made pieces, and it is this intrinsic humanist quality which makes them so attractive to contemporary homemakers, the world over. Moreover, it’s interesting to note that two of the major Finnish design companies Arabia, established 1873 and Iittala, founded 1881 – making them older than Finland itself – are nowadays to be found under the same roof of the parent company they share, Fiskars, formed in 1649, as well as under ours.



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Interview | Philippe Garner on Aram on Kuramata

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Solaris, 1977
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000



Mouth to Mouth Interview
Philippe Garner, Christie’s International Head of 20th Century
Decorative Art & Design interviews owner / manager of
the Aram Store, London, UK – established in 1964 –
Zeev Aram OBE




Born in Israel and having relocated to London in 1957 to study design, Zeev Aram opened an office and retail showroom in London’s King’s Road in 1964. It was the first in the UK to sell the work of iconic modern designers including Achille Castiglioni, Marcel Breuer, and Le Corbusier. Aram also holds the worldwide licence for Eileen Gray. Mostly gathered by him in 1981 on the occasion of the first exhibition dedicated to the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata in Europe, the 19 pieces in the forthcoming sale at Christie’s in Paris come from Aram’s personal collection, where they have remained for more than 30 years

Philippe Garner | This packing list of the Shiro Kuramata pieces shipped from Tokyo to London in 1981 for your exhibition reminds me of how many years ago it was that you connected with him. How did you meet him?

Zeev Aram | I was introduced by a mutual friend, the architect John Pawson, who had been working in Japan. I met Kuramata when he came to London in 1980. Then I went to see him in Tokyo; we spent four days together. He was a wonderful host. We went to Kyoto and all over the place. And I chose whatever we should show; the exhibition was the result.

Was that his first showing in Europe?

Yes.

And what sort of exposure had he already had in Japan?

Quite good but not enormous. People like Isozaki and Issey Miyake – the guys at the top of fashion, design, and architecture – knew of him because he was really exceptional, the way he designed things, especially interiors, the most fantastic interiors, which was unusual. On my visit to Tokyo, we went to a small, perfect sashimi bar he had created. It could only accommodate a very small number of people. It was so pure, a wonderful space.

Kuramata was received there like a God – in the nicest possible way. It was the same in Kyoto, because they don’t give private rooms so easily to people in these very old inns, with the Geishas serving you. So he was known, but within a certain community.

So it was within a relatively small, informed circle. He wasn’t a commercial success at that stage.

No, the bigger recognition came later. I have an invitation to his exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 1996, fifteen years after my show.

So was your exhibition the most extensive exhibition of furniture that he had put on at that stage?

Abroad, certainly. It was anyway the first substantial one.


OBA-Q lamps, 1972
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

Furniture in irregular forms, side 1, 1970
Set of drawers. Original production by Aoshima Shoten Co Ltd.
Painted birch, Formica and aluminium, mounted on casters
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000


You have kept for over thirty years the majority of the pieces that you showed in 1981. Was it because you found no takers, and would you have staged it anyway, for the furniture’s sake, if you had realised it would not be a commercial success?

Was it a commercial exercise? In a roundabout way, like my initial interest in Eileen Gray. I took my chance, and I said I like it and if I like it, hopefully some people will like it. We re-ordered some pieces from Japan, but I knew that I could not produce these models. I rely on manufacturers and because of the complication of his designs I knew it would be horrendously expensive. Anyway, to give a short answer, my prime interest was in his designs and his products; we sold some, but by no means a significant quantity.

Did you then make the conscious decision that, having tried, enjoyed the experience, realised it wasn’t the right commercial moment, you were just going to put the collection out of sight?

Well, what also happened, unfortunately, is that he died. He died quite young, in 1991. He wrote me the most wonderful letter in 1988 – by then he allowed himself to call me Zeev; before that it was always ‘Dear Mr Aram’ He wrote, ‘In the oriental expression, you dug a well for me. I’m very grateful for your kind collaboration. The exhibition triggered a new book, with an essay by Ettore Sotsass. Interesting. My exhibition was well received.

So you had a good critical response. I love the reference here, ‘On show at Aram Designs is a collection of furniture… in the middle of the great Anglo-Japanese love affair which has been consuming London,’ The Architectural Review, September 1981. Do you have any particular favourites among the collection?

He had a period when he was obsessed with drawers. Then he produced the 49-drawer cabinet and I said, ‘This one is very odd.’ I could see the mathematical progression, because the diagonal is made of squares that change proportion sideways. And he said, ‘That’s the only way I could solve it to make it attractive. Every time we face drawers we decide what to put where, but in this instance the drawer also has a say, because if I want to put in a shirt here, I can’t, but if I want to put the pants, I can put, you know? So the size matters.’ So I say, ‘OK it’s very, very Zen and interesting,’ and we laughed.

But that was a period when he was really obsessed, literally obsessed with containers, drawers, and how we live our life in them. You put things [in them] from your own momentary intimacy, which are sometimes left there for years and it becomes a memory bank, a part of your biography. And we are not doing it consciously. We are just putting things in there and forgetting them.

So he invites the drawers themselves to play a part in the process?

Yes.

Can you recall other interesting comments that he made?

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this – I said, ‘Listen, the Japanese are so well known for joinery joints because of all the houses and beams so beautifully pieced together, almost like a puzzle, and they just put the peg in and the whole thing is held together, so how come the furniture, especially the drawers, [are] made in such an unusual way?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean, unusual?’ And I replied, ‘Well, we don’t do drawers like this, with nails and so on.’ And he asked, ‘Oh, how do you do it? At the exhibition opening, he was accompanied by three gentlemen, and they were the managing directors or the owners of the glassworks, the joinery, and the metalwork companies, respectively. And they came out of respect for him. In the evening when we prepared the layout, each of them had an apron on; they put them on over their beautiful suits, and they were handling the furniture. I said ‘My God, if these were Italians they would be stood a mile away.’ So he said, ‘Do me a favour; please see Mr Aoshima tomorrow.’ And I said ‘OK, “OK, but I’m not a joiner.’ And so we had this quick session the next day, when I went and showed him [Aoshima] how you use dovetails – he didn’t know what a dovetail was – though once I showed him he understood. Or secret dovetails, where you don’t show the ends. When it came to modern furniture they kept absolutely to the design but the details of manufacturing went back almost to model-making.

So what was visible was impeccable?

Perfect.

But I think the story is worth telling, because that’s what distinguishes your pieces from the later production pieces.

Yes, then of course there were the pieces produced by Cappellini, which people I suppose should know. The licensing to Cappellini came later, from 1987, but I don’t think Cappellini is doing it anymore.

Tell me about the 1985 ‘Homage to Hoffman’ chair

It’s very simple, the story is very simple. He considered Thonet to be one of the initiators of modern design and he knew that Joseph Hoffman designed the famous armchair for them. Not the coffee-house chair Model 14, which was the famous model, but this one. So he said, ‘Well, how can I somehow involve the spirit of Hoffman, pay homage to him, and at the same time tell everyone that this was the beginning of the beginning?’ So he took an original Thonet chair, wired it up and he set light to it. He incinerated it. Then he just polished it [the wire], that’s all.. And what remains is the wire, and just a trace of the original.

Where did this happen, where was the event?

In Japan. Also he says that only Issey Miyake and I have this chair. There are only two because he doesn’t want to produce any more.

So presumably, because they’re wrapped in wire in a very spontaneous way, the two chairs will not be identical?

No, they couldn’t be.

So the chair was an artistic happening, a conceptual event.

Let me tell you a story about the wiggle form of the tall drawer cabinet. Apparently Isozaki had two made. And Shiro went to visit him and saw that Isozaki put them symmetrically against the wall, not near the wall but with drawers facing the wall, not facing into the room. And he asked Isozaki why they were facing the wall, did he not want to use the drawers? Isozaki said, ‘Because I want to experience the shape going around it.’ Such a Japanese expression! Just to go around it to experience the shape. Because it was two different shapes, if you go this way or that way.

Had he made a mirror pair?

No, two of the same.

I love Solaris; on those long legs it looks like an alien spaceship that has landed.

Yes, or like an oil-drill platform.

It’s wonderfully illustrative of the over-riding importance to Kuramata of the imaginative, metaphorical, and philosophical dimension of his creations.

Exactly. It was those qualities that made his designs so attractive to me all those years ago; and they have lost nothing of their exceptional character. Shiro Kuramata was a unique figure and I am very, very fortunate to have known and worked with him.


This is an edited version of an interview of 8th January, 2014, published in full in the catalogue Christie’s Design sale, Shiro Kuramata: Collection Zeev Aram, on 20th May, 2014, at their showroom in Paris, France. The pieces can be viewed there until May 20th

All furniture designed by Shiro Kuramata (1934 > 1991)
All images © Christie’s Images Limited 2014



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Sweet Life / Cheap Shots

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Marcello Mastroianni,
on the set of La Dolce Vita

c 1960



The Years of La Dolce Vita
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
London | UK
Until 29th June 2014




Richard Burton
and Liz Taylor
kissing in Ischia
June 1962

Brigitte Bardot
in Spoleto
June 1961

Raquel Welch
and Marcello Mastroianni
at Cinecittà on
the set of the movie
Shoot Loud, Louder,
I do not understand …
1966

Carlo Ponti,
Sophia Loren and
Vittorio De Sica
Rome, 1961



To put it plainly, in comparison to Hollywood, studio costs at Rome’s Cinecittà were cheap. Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were made there at a fraction of the budget required to produce such epics in the US. And when big stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Charlton Heston went there to work, their friends would tag along to play.

The day’s filming over, the action shifted to the streets. The presence of Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Alain Delon, and any number of cinema’s pantheon of stars who happened to be in town, in the restaurants and shopping on the exclusive Via Veneto transformed the street into an open-air film set.

If the 1950s and 60s were a golden age for Italian cinema, when home-grown directors Federico Fellini, Michaelangelo Antonioni, and Pier Paolo Pasolini came to the fore, making some of their most famous and successful movies, the era represented an absolute gold mine for photographers.

It was here that the term paparazzo – taken from the name of a photojournalist character in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) – was coined. It appears that Fellini’s screenwriter borrowed it from Italian poet Margherita Guidacci’s Sulla riva dello Jonio (1957), who in turn had used it in her translation of English author George Gissing’s travel book By the Ionian Sea (1901), in which a restaurant owner is called Coriolano Paparazzo. By the late 1960s, transformed into a noun – usually in the Italian plural form – paparazzi had entered the English language. Used to deride intrusive photographers, it can also sometimes be unfairly employed as a cheap shot at their camera-wielding, alleged persecutors by those who feel intruded upon.

The eighty photographs on view in The Years of La Dolce Vita exhibition at the Estorick Collection capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’), vividly evoking an era of extraordinary glamour, creativity and decadence enjoyed by Italian film stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s. Juxtaposing real-life images taken by Marcello Geppetti – among those on whom the paparazzo role in the film was based – whose work has drawn comparisons with that of Cartier-Bresson and Weegee – with behind-the-scenes shots on the film set by its cameraman, Arturo Zavattini, the curators challenge visitors to consider their response to the media’s obsession with celebrity, the invasive nature of the images, and the guilty pleasure we take in looking at them.

All photographs Marcello Gepetti(1933-1998),
except top, Arturo Zavattini (1930 >).
All photographs MGMC & Solares Fondazione delle Arti,
except top,
Solares Fondazione delle Arti



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Erwin Wurm in Sixty Seconds

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

One Minute Sculpture, 1997
C-print

Courtesy Centre Pompidou, Paris
and FRAC Limousin, Limoges



Erwin Wurm:
One Minute Sculptures

Städel Museum
Frankfurt am Mein | Germany
7th May > 13 July 2014

How many minutes have passed since the instant in 1997 when Austrian artist Erwin Wurm (1954 >) began producing the works in this series? The mind boggles… Seven years ago he was probably wondering himself how long the idea of inviting gallery / museum visitors to become sculptures themselves, albeit for only 60 seconds – that’s 840 seconds (14 minutes) less than Andy Warhol allegedly promised us all that we could be famous for – would endure. But, like Christian Marclay’s audiovisual work, The Clock, lasting 24 hours – on view at Paris’s Centre Pompidou from 17th May > 2nd July, where it was first shown in 2011 – Wurm’s concept has remained fresh and stood the test of time.


Fat Car (Convertible), 2005
Polystyrene / styrofoam and polyester


Of course, audience partition in art isn’t new. It was an integral part of Futurism (key dates 1909 > 1944) which both celebrated and derided the crowd as a force for the future and as representative of the primitive past. In 1920, at the reading of the Dadaist manifestos by, among others, Francis Picabia, André Breton and Tristan Tzara, which ended in uproar – exactly as they intended – the audience pelted the stage with rubbish. Yves Klein in France and Yoko Ono in New York City were pioneers of performance based art, and part of a broad movement originating in the 1950s and 60s, when artists began pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, sometimes combining elements of music, dance and sculpture in their attempts to create new forms of artistic expression, for which audience participation was often integral. While Wurm’s creations are nowhere near as epic as the cast of thousands, human nude art installations that New York based photographer Spencer Tunick has been creating all over the world for the past 20 years. As an artist he is no less serious, questioning the role of galleries / museums in contemporary society, his work no less sophisticated for appearing – at least superficially – fun and sometimes funny.


One Minute Sculptures, 1997
C-prints

Courtesy Centre Pompidou,
Paris and FRAC Limousin, Limoges


From his early minimalist clothing sculptures that he began producing in the 1980s, throughout his many exhibitions at a range of international venues that include the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, Dallas Contemporary, USA, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France, and the Albertina in Vienna, Austria, through the ephemeral One Minute Sculptures to the grotesquely bloated objects such as Fat Car (2000 / 2001) and Fat House (2003), Wurm has concentrated consistently on expanding the concept of what a sculpture, when it is no longer cast in bronze or chiselled from marble, could be.

The main thrust of Erwin Wurm: One Minute Sculptures at the Städel Museum is built on the dynamic between the artist and the audience. Visitors to previous One Minute Sculpture events have been invited, by means of the artist’s sketches suggesting nothing more than a hint or starting point, among other things, to balance their bodies on oranges, to insert a range of desktop items into every orifice in their heads, and to create a sculpture using only their own bodies and a folding sunbed, but always only for one minute.

In addition to the living sculptures with which the visitors can interact and temporarily become part of the Städel collection, some twenty selected photographs and films from the series will also be on show.

All images except* © Studio Wurm / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier




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