Posts Tagged ‘Coco Chanel’

Auction | Playing with the Female Form

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Modern & Contemporary Photographs
Hotel Drouot, Paris, France
Auction: 30th October, 2013
Private previews: by appointment until 25th October, 2013
Exhibition: Hotel Drouot
29th October & 30 October, 2013


Above, Purple Nude. Erwin Blumenfeld, New York, 1940
€1,500–2,000


Distorsion #159. Andre Kertesz, Paris, 1933
€8,000–10,000


The works about to go on show in Centre Pompidou’s Surrealism & the Object (30th October 2013 – 3rd March 2014) demonstrate that objects were the main preoccupation of the surrealist movement. The human body was another, but often, as in Man Ray’s photograph The coat-stand (1920) – one of the exhibits – the body, almost invariably female, was itself objectified.

Ray’s image of Jean Cocteau, showing the artist with his sculpture Débourre-pipes (1928, not shown), the floating, decapitated head of a woman sculpted in wire, is one of almost 300 lots in a varied sale of Modern & Contemporary Photographs at Hotel Drout in Paris, in which an array of early travel photography, modernist interiors, Parisian and American street life, glamour portraits, and portraits of a good number of other famous artists, will be auctioned.

A total of 44 photographs by André Kertesz, from a Swiss collection, exude a strong presence amongst the list of lots. In 1930, Carlo Rim, the editor of the magazine VU, asked Kertész to take his portrait. Kertész, who was already experimenting with distortion, persuaded Rim to do it at the hall of distorting mirrors at Luna Park fun fair in the Bois de Boulogne. Shortly after, a pair of portraits of Rim – one with an overly tapered body, the other making him appear dwarfed – appeared together in VU.

The idea of using distortion in art probably had its genesis in the African and Polynesian wood carvings that had begun to appear in Europe in the late 19th century, the influence of which was absorbed and first exploited by Picasso and later by, among others, Henry Moore, as well as the surrealist sculptor, Giacometti. For many artists, exploring distortion was also a way of dealing with the atrocious mutilations that were the legacy of the Great War.

During the early years of the new century, women had begun to demand, and had won, greater freedom for themselves. Parisian women, during the 1920s, were the first to be released from the corset by Coco Chanel and, in the same decade two-piece bathing costumes, which were little more than a bra and skimpy shorts set, began to appear on the French Riviera. Nudes, as the subjects of ‘tasteful’, artistic photography were becoming less taboo, which led to magazine editors in France becoming more daring. And, impressed by the distorted portraits he saw in VU, the editor of the rather racy Le Sourire (Smile) magazine asked Kertész to make a series of distorted nude images of two female models. However, the editor didn’t – or was not allowed – to publish them, and it wasn’t until 1976, when they appeared in the book André Kertész Distortion (Editions du Chêne Paris), that they became one of the photographer’s most famous series. A number of images from this series, including the bizarre and disturbing Distortion #159, (above), and some of Kertész’s earlier, experimental prints are also included in the sale.


Les Jeux de la Poupée. Hans Bellmer, 1935
€1,000–1,500



Nu blanc. Jeanloup Sieff, Paris, 1967
€2,000–3,000


Gog et Magog. Pierre Molinier, c 1965
€2,500-3,000


As a child, in Germany, Hans Bellmer, (1902-1975) found refuge from an oppressive family atmosphere in a secret garden decorated with toys and visited by young girls, who joined in sexual games. In the 1920s he became involved with the Dada movement, and in 1933, built his life-sized Puppe (Doll) sculpture, a representation of his yearning to escape from the reality of Nazi Germany. In 1934, he published ten photographs of this work accompanied by a prose poem in which he demonstrated how the seemingly innocent pastimes of his childhood had developed into the sexual fantasies of an adult. Acclaimed and adopted by the Parisian surrealists in 1935, he published a French translation of Die Puppe – La Poupé. That summer he altered the sculpture giving it ball-joints to allow for increased mobility – the stomach became a large sphere around which two pelvises could be articulated, each with its own legs and feet – pushing it into the area of distortion. The auction includes a hand-tinted print, made in 1970, entitled Les Jeux de la Poupée (1935, above), and dedicated to Man Ray.

Meanwhile, in a theatrical form of distortion, former landscape painter, who quickly turned to fetishistic/erotic photography, Pierre Molinier’s (1900-1976) Gog et Magog photomontage (1965, above) typically, placing her in a sexy stage set, removes his model’s body, reducing her to a head at the crux of four stockinged legs, each terminating in patent and pointed stilletto-heeled shoes. With something akin to Molinier’s staging, for Jean Paul-Goude’s Grace Jones Revised and updated (1978, not shown, a print is included in this sale), each of the black singer’s limbs, as well as her neck, are slimmed down, stretched and given a highly-polished finish, so that she resembles a life-size, semi-naked, art-deco-inspired, carved mahogany figure.


Nude. Weegee (aka Arthur H Fellig) New York, c 1940
€1,200–1,500


One of the surprises in the Hotel Drout event is a sensitive nude study (above), shot in the studio around 1940, by Weegee (aka Arthur H Fellig) – better known for his stark black and white New York street scene photojournalism. In the 1950s Weegee experimented with distortion, producing nudes, including Nude (easel trick and plastic lens) c 1953-6, which appeared in the book Weegee’s Women, (Showplace, first published, July 1956), in which the model appears to have extremely long, giraffe-like legs, and Marilyn Monroe (plastic lens) c 1960, where a beautiful initial image of MM pursing her lips, eyes closed, as if waiting for the camera to kiss her, is altered in a succession of distortions, rendering her unrecognisable.

Rare examples of male distortion, two of Philippe Halsman’s (1906-1979) famous images of Salvador Dali (not shown), from the photographer and artist’s 1954 collaboration ‘Dali’s Mustache’, will also go under the hammer.

Lot #175, Jeanloup Sieff’s (1933-2000) thin, twisted and angular Nu blanc (1967, above) might be a template for the figure of the modern woman that has proliferated via women’s fashion magazines since the 60s, whereas Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) who is represented in the sale by Purple Nude (1940, top) proves that the visual dismemberment of a female model need not invoke feelings of revulsion, but rather that by careful and sympathetic reconstruction, a sphisticated image of subtle and elegant female beauty can be created.


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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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All Categories | Past Forward

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Christian Marclay – The Clock
MoMA
New York City, USA
Until 21st January, 2013

David Bowie Is
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, UK
23rd March – 28th July, 2013

As we look forward to the David Bowie Is retrospective at London’s V&A in 2013, Christian Marclay’s film, The Clock, ticks away the remainder of 2012 at MoMA in New York, where it opened last week.

Completed in 2010 – already three years old – a monumental icon of contemporary art, The Clock, for which Marclay won a Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, is cleverly constructed from 24 hours-worth of clips from the past 100 years of cinema, almost all including a clock or a watch. Perhaps the film and the Bowie show can be taken as signs of the times. Certainly, referencing and re-assessing the past was a theme during 2012 and indications are that the trend is set to continue.

If we pause to consider, true innovation is a pretty rare thing and, while there’s no current lack of it, the flow remains uneven by nature. In comparison, art and design history – recent and ancient – is vast and has left an enormous, carefully refined legacy, much of it eminently worthy of our attention, reconsideration and reinterpretation, some of it recyclable.

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum reopens its doors in April 2013 following an ambitious 10-year renovation programme. Already launched, the very forward-thinking Rijks Studio initiative, makes a digital collection of 125,000 items from the museum’s historical collection accessible to all for free. Members of the public are invited to create their own works of art by downloading high-resolution images and using them in a creative fashion, copyright free.

Editor of the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Justine Picardie is the author of several acclaimed books including Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (HarperCollins, 2010). Talking about her first proper issue (January, 2013), she explains her preoccupations with Chanel, Vreeland, Dior, et al, as an exploration of how understanding the past is a way to move forwards. And it’s important to get it right. Opinions differed on the October launch of Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent – the label’s original inspirational concepts still present, but updated and made inimitably Slimane’s own, were seen by some as underwhelming.

The (London) Royal Academy’s Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 ran over into January, 2012. Reviewing it, The Guardian reminded us that the Russian avant garde which emerged out of the futurist cafés and cabarets of the mid-1910s was probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the past century. Sergei Tchoban (with partner Sergei Kuznetsov) of SPEECH Techoban/Kuznetsov, designed the astonishingly futuristic and much-praised Russian Pavilion that caused such a stir at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale in August. The entirely QR-coded environment – an homage, conscious or otherwise, to the square: architectural cornerstone of a few thousand years standing, but currently out of favour in a world of curvilinear structures – addressed the country’s future while referencing early 20th century influences. Italian Futurism, 1909-44, will run at The Guggenheim in New York from in 2014. When it appeared, in 1909, the original Futurist Manifesto, that had inspired the Russians, called for the demolition of museums and libraries; Foster + Partners recently mooted $300 million renovation of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, intended to begin with the eviction of 1.2 million books, provoked more adverse reaction than it bargained for. Similarly, London’s uncompromising tall and dynamic Shard, inaugurated in July, caused an immediate sensation, but earned a chilly reception from some quarters for its apparent lack of sensitivity towards the existing cityscape.

Steeped in ancient tradition, the Olympic Games has brought the modern world some its most daring, groundbreaking and well-considered architecture, product design and graphics. The London 2012 Games – modest in terms of scale by comparison to recent predecessors – didn’t fail to deliver more of the same. Among other items, the event’s Olympic torch designed by Barber Osgerby, was buried in a time capsule as part of the ground breaking ceremony for the new Design Museum that will be installed in the former 1962-built Commonwealth Institute, after its rigorous but nevertheless sympathetic redevelopment by John Pawson. Elsewhere, Herzog & de Meuron, architects of the Beijing 2008 Olympics‘ astonishing ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, and designers of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 (with Ai Weiwei), recently completed the Parrish Art Museum at Southampton on Long Island. ‘Our design for the Parrish is a reinterpretation… of the traditional house form,’  said Jacques Herzog, ‘…something very specific, precise and also fresh.’

This month at Christie’s in New York a lacquered and painted wooden screen made by Eileen Gray in the 1920s, sold for over $1.8 million. Paris, where Gray spent most of her life, hosts a retrospective of her unique work at the Pompidou Centre, starting in February. American photographer, Man Ray, also spent the greater part of his life in Paris. Man Ray’s Portraits is at London’s National Portrait Gallery in February, while Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light will run from March to August at MoMA. It takes Inspired curating with a new and interesting perspective, combined with creative presentation to make exhibitions and events based solely on archival content current and vital.

Frieze Masters was launched in October by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, co-founders of Frieze. The new fair, coinciding with, and within walking distance of Frieze London, in Regent’s Park, was based on the idea of applying a contemporary approach to selling pre-21st-century art, from ancient to modern. The inaugural six-day event, in which 90 galleries from 18 countries took part, was attended by around 28,000 international visitors and was a massive hit. Sales were brisk; one of the most significant reports was of widespread contemporary collectors’ interest in historical work and vice versa. Not surprisingly, Frieze Masters will happen again in 2013 and is set to become a regular fixture.

The apposite title of the V&A’s forthcoming show, David Bowie Is, recognises that the David Bowie phenomenon, so influential over the past 40 yearts, is important historically but also as a source of inspiration for today’s and tomorrow’s innovative thinking. Set in motion, sequences from it cast out on to the internet, it’s unlikely that The Clock will ever stop.

Images from top
Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997,
Frank W Ockenfels 3

Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with
David Bowie
© Frank W Ockenfels 3, 1997

Video still from The Clock, 2010, Christian Marclay
Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours
©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

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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Design | Swarovski Goes Digital at Design Museum

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum
The Design Museum, London, UK
5th September – 13th January, 2013

When, in 1989, Terence Conran whose concept it was to create ‘the first museum of modern design’, in London, and whose company converted a 1940s banana warehouse into the Design Museum, his involvement may have had a little to do with personal vanity but probably wasn’t an exercise in brand awareness for his then-burgeoning string of high-quality retail outlets and smart restaurants. Along with Conran, the project was funded by many companies, designers and benefactors whose aim was to raise design awareness and the general standard of British design.

Its founding principles being to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers, it was royal patronage that provided the driving force behind the Victoria & Albert Museum, set up in 1852 in the wake of the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. In a boom time for British industry, generous Victorian benefactors and a less competitive art market than today’s meant that the young museum was able to make many very important acquisitions and quickly build up the most astonishing collections. Although it set out to acquire the best examples of metalwork, furniture, textiles and all other forms of decorative art from all periods, it also acquired fine art – paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture – in order to tell a more complete history of art and design but recognising, and this is key, that there was a significant difference between the two. Commercial sponsorship of design would follow in the 1890s when Arthur Lasenby Liberty built strong relationships with many leading English designers who were prominent figures in the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. Liberty himself, through his commissions, became instrumental in the development of Art Nouveau and in consequence his shop, Liberty, became one of the most prestigious in London.

Everyone is getting in on the relationship/benefactor/sponsor/collaborator act these days, and in particular there’s an ever growing crossover between luxury goods brands, architecture, design and the arts. It’s difficult to see where it will all end up. On the one hand, if fashion companies flirt with fine artists, inviting them to collaborate – as, notably, Marc Jacobs did at Louis Vuitton in 2002 with one Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami (who had already worked with Issey Miyake) and more recently with another, Yayoi Kusama – they blur the line between fine art and commerce. On the other hand, it can be said that in modern times the practice has been going on since the 1960s, when Pop art turned commercialism on its head, Op art visual illusions were applied to fabrics that were turned into dresses and Yves St Laurent designed his 1965 Mondrian dress. Taking hold of the baton in 2003, milliner Philip Treacy put Andy Warhol images on to his hats.

Selfridges and Primark owner the Canadian, Weston family claimed the top fashion spot in The Sunday Times Rich List, 2012. No strangers to art sponsorship, through the Garfield Weston Foundation, they are among the most generous supporters of the arts in Britain. Selfridges’ creative director Alannah Weston is quoted as having said: ‘My goal is to make Selfridges a destination where people can have an extraordinary experience. I have to surprise, amaze and amuse them.’ And by transforming and opening up the store’s interiors, establishing a gallery in the basement and by inviting well-known artists and young hopefuls to create cutting edge window displays, since she took on the role in 2003, she has certainly done that. And, if that wasn’t enough, she’s appointed The Shard’s architect Renzo Piano to redesign the entire store.

We’re in the middle of a confusing time when architects – Rem Koolhaas, 2009, United Nude – launch fashion footwear collections and design the stores they are sold in; when designers of the Olympic Torch, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have shown non-functional designed objects at the Haunch of Venison gallery and Farrow & Ball are the official paint sponsor of Manchester City Galleries. Last year Swarovski, collaborators with the Museum of the forthcoming exhibition Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum, worked with the Hello Kitty brand and Manhattan-based, Taiwanese Canadian Jason Wu’s Resort 2013 fashion collection, will contain hundreds of Swarovski crystals. Shared core values: artfulness, simplicity, creativity and beauty, apparently make it a safe bet to presume that Hello Kitty and Jason Wu customers will appreciate Swarovski’s creations and vice versa. Maybe, in the post-analogue era ‘when our relationship with objects and even with time is changing’ these same reasons are behind Swarovski and the Design Museum’s joint project, because  with these sorts of temporary partnerships it’s always a quid pro quo situation – nobody’s in it for nothing.

Swarovski, the world’s leading manufacturer of cut crystal was established in Austria in 1895 and has a long tradition of links with the fashion and jewellery industry, collaborating in the 1950s with Christian Dior and Coco Chanel to create avant-garde crystal jewellery. 42-year-old Nadja Swarovski, vice-president of international communications at the company began her career at the Gagosian Gallery, which probably explains a lot about her interests and the areas she’s taken the company into.

Now in its tenth year, the Swarovski Crystal Palace project – one of Nadia’s initiatives – has commissioned some of the world’s foremost  designers including Zaha Hadid, Yvés Behar, Studio Job, Ross Lovegrove, Tom Dixon and more. Initially, the idea was to reinterpret crystal chandeliers but the project has evolved into an experimental design platform allowing designers to conceptualise, develop and share their most radical works. In 2009 Nigel Coates, Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art designed 43 Swarovski ‘Cloudeliers’ for the restaurant at Glyndebourne and in 2011, St Paul’s Perspectives, was created by architect John Pawson, who used a precision-made Swarovski Optik lens and a suspended spherical steel mirror to reflect a new vision of the Geometric Staircase of St Paul’s Cathedral. As well as others, Ron Arad, Yves Béhar, Paul Cocksedge, Troika and Fredrikson Stallard – who actually include a section called Sculpture on their website – have been asked to take part in the Design Museum exhibition, reworking existing pieces commissioned from them by Swarovski, in response to the exhibition brief.

At the end of the analogue era Digital Crystal is intended as a catalyst for debate about the changing nature of memory in the digital world but may also force us to reassess our ideas about the role of designers and architects, and especially the role of fine artists in relation to the commercial world. And certainly there are questions to be asked. There’s something uneasy about design masquerading as art, but is that what it’s doing? Are designers and architects capable of producing great art? Is it all just business as usual? The sponsorship of design and architecture can certainly be said to usefully contribute to innovation when it provides the necessary funds to accomplish experimental projects, large and small, that otherwise might only be dreamt of, and while it can be seen to have democratised art – which must be a good thing – if it also leads to art’s total commoditisation, it remains to be seen whether it will be to art’s long term benefit.

Images from top
Ron Arad, Lolita, originally commissioned in 2004
Redesigned to receive tweets and text messages that can be displayed
on its spiral form

Paul Cocksedge, Crystallize, originally commissioned in 2005
Via single crystals mounted onto a tubular glass frame, trajectory
beams fill the room as light cascades from each crystal

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Comme ci, comme ça

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life
Justine Picardie, HarperCollins 2010, 352 pp hardback

In the middle of a deep recession, one must cut one’s cloth accordingly, and, despite the noise and general acclaim surrounding the publication of Justine Picardie’s biography of Coco Chanel, I didn’t feel like laying out £25 to buy a copy last September, when it was published. I was very pleased (after having dropped a few hints) to receive one as a Christmas present. Picardie, who took 8 years to research and write this very stylish book is not merely a fashion writer – she was once Features Director at British Vogue – but a proper journalist, for the book involved a tremendous amount of research. With hindsight, I should have been glad to pay £25 of my own money for it.

As is made clear, Chanel consorted with the Moderns: Picasso, Cocteau, Dali, and financed Diaghilev’s, avant-garde, Ballet Russes. She was influenced by what she saw them doing but, ever the hard-nosed businesswoman, extracted only the elements which she considered might have commercial value and could be applied to her design work at that particular point in time. ‘Fashion,’ she said, ’should die and die quickly, in order that commerce may survive…’. For the beautiful villa she began building in 1929, La Pausa – incidentally, currently up for sale at €11,200,000, I discovered during my own research for this review – at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, high up in the Alpes Maritimes, with views towards the Mediterranean and Monaco and overlooking the rocky coastline below, in amongst which Eileen Gray’s (1924) radical and uncompromisingly modern villa, E-1207, perches, Chanel chose the Belle Epoque style. Perhaps she regarded Modernism as just another fad.

Mademoiselle Chanel’s reputation for contradiction is well-documented in the book – she altered not only her date of birth in her passport but her early biographical details, too, giving whatever version best suited her purpose at any given moment – and bearing this in mind, Patrick Budge’s smart and elegant design for the HarperCollins book package can be construed as consistent. Incidentally, the book’s cover font is in sans serif on Justine Picardie’s blogspot page, as opposed to the serif font version on the cover above.

Did you read it? What did you think? Please leave a comment

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