Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale (detail), 1964, Oil on canvas, 46x38cm. Courtesy Dominique Levy Gallery.
At some era, different artists from different parts of the globe seem to be working on the same wavelength, even if they are not in contact with each other....
When everybody is trying to understand today how Jihadi John made the transition from a shy nice kid to a cold merciless killer, music composer Purcell and playwriter John Dryden already attempted to grasp such a thorny issue in the late 1600s. Wars are nothing new and an insatiable appetite for innocent human blood seems to be the norm, not the exception. Rather worrying because any of us could become the next Jihadi John. However, Purcell takes the story much further than the usual Hollywood blockbuster epic because it shows the characters as humans. It attempts to portray a clash of cultures between the Spanish conquistadores and the native Indians. It attempts to comprehend how such a compassionate religion as Christianity, or currently Islam, emerges as merciless and an excuse for killing innocent people.
The Indian Queen. Courtesy ENO and the photographer Richard Hubert Smith.
Peter Sellars, the director, takes Purcell's rich score and incorporates some of the composer's most ravishing sacred and secular pieces, adding vibrant set designs from Chicano graffiti artist Gronk and choreography by Christopher Williams. Woven throughout the production is spoken text taken from Rosario Aguilar's novel The Lost Chronicles of Terra Firma, which recounts the initial confrontation between Europeans and the Mayans of the New World through a personal account from a female perspective. The result is a spectacle of music, theatre, dance, literature and visual art.
Although the duets do not work, the opera was left unfinished and Purcell's brother completed it, and perhaps they were his, it is full of special moments. Having a countertenor describing a lovemaking scene with such a poetic aria is unforgettable. South Korean countertenor Vince Yi, a star in the making, elevates something so intimate to heaven. Other voices such as countertenor Anthony Roth and sopranos Julia Bullock, a magnetic presence, and Lucy Crowe shows there is no shortage of talent in the ENO. Puerto Rican actress Maritxell Carrero enchants us with her superb storytelling skills reciting texts taken from Aguilar's novel The Lost Chronicles of Terra Firma. Carrero manages to add layers of meaning to the story without interfering in the interaction among the characters of the opera.
The Other Mary and The Indian Queen have a shared theme of retelling history recorded by men through the eyes of women - bringing out the humanity of the work and giving a voice to individuals who, over time, have been erased from history. Sellars is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the performing arts in the world. A visionary artist, Sellars is known for engaging with social and political issues through art. Chicano painter, printmaker and performance artist Glugio Nicandro (known as 'Gronk') has designed the set for this production. Best known for his murals, Gronk's abstract and vibrant set design comprises large, colourful panels that take inspiration from ancient Mayan art. Baroque specialist Laurence Cummings leads an exceptional cast and the ENO chorus to conduct The Indian Queen. Cummings is Artistic Director of London Handel Festival and Internationale Händel-Festpiele Göttingen. The four dancers: Sonya Cullingford, Alistair Goldsmith, Lucy Starkey and Jack Thomson raise the performance to a new level. Completing the creative team is costume designer Dunya Ramicova and lighting designer James F. Ingalls.
The Indian Queen, actress Maritxell Carrero. Courtesy ENO and the photographer Richard Hubert Smith.
This opera deals with the personality of a warrior switching between a sweet father and a despot husband and cruel soldier. It has nothing to do with the usual tragic love stories we are accustomed in opera. It is vibrant, elegant, profound and relevant to current times and just for that is highly recommended.
For more information about The Indian Queen and the English National Opera, please visit the website
The latest boom years in the 90s and early 2000 saw an implosion of artists as mass commodity producers for a new bourgeoisie eager to invest vast amount of money while enjoying their conscious left intact. Dot making Master Damien Hirst and hare photographer and soft-porn filmmaker
English National Opera Music Director Edward Gardner will lead the world-class ENO Orchestra and Chorus alongside an outstanding cast of 89 orchestral musicians, a chorus of 90 and 17 principal singers in Wagner's comic masterpiece The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. Known for championing British and British trained talent, ENO will field a predominantly British cast led by one of ENO's major discoveries of recent years, Iain Paterson, making his role debut as Hans Sachs. His charisma, exquisite voice and profound humanity perfectly holds such complex opera.
As it happens with many artists, private life permeates through the narrative of his works. Wagner had to spend some time in Zurich where he met what perhaps was the love of his life: Mathilde Wesendock. A married woman and, therefore, beyond reach and idealised. The relationship with his next-door neighbour blossomed and, although unlikely to be consummated, made it all the more intense. A sentiment he shares with the character of Hans.
Rachel Nicholls and Iain Paterson. Courtesy ENO and the photographer, Catherine Ashmore.
Originally created for Welsh National Opera in 2010, Richard Jones's spectacular staging of Mastersingers comes to London for the first time. Jones provides a rather amusing retelling of Wagner's drama about the 16th-century guild of amateur poets and musicians called The Mastersingers. The tensions between creativity and conformity are played out in a society obsessed with rules and regulations.
This production originated at Welsh National Opera where Richard Jones's interesting presentation was enthusiastically received. The Mastersingers of Nuremberg forms part of a series of works that Richard Jones will direct as part of an ongoing collaboration with ENO. His recent productions for the company include Rodelinda and The Girl of the Golden West, both of which received an outstanding critical and audience response. Richard Jones has been made a CBE for Services to Music in the recent New Year Honours List.
Leading Wagnerian bass-baritone and former ENO Company Principal Iain Paterson will sing his first Hans Sachs. This will be his second Wagnerian role debut this season, following on from his success as Kurwenal in Christof Loy's production of Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House.
Brilliant singing-actor Andrew Shore, whose ENO triumphs range from Donizetti to Britten, makes his stage role debut as the pedulant Beckmesser. He was most recently seen at ENO in the twin cameos of Benoit and Alcindoro for La Bohème, and will return to the London Coliseum in May as Major-General Stanley in Mike Leigh's new production of The Pirates of Penzance.
British soprano Rachel Nicholls, an exceptional and experienced Wagnerian, sings the role of Eva regaling such beautiful and delicate notes that you wonder if she comes from another planet. She sang her first Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung for the 2012 Longborough Festival, returning for three complete Ring Cycles in 2013. Her performances as Senta in Scottish Opera's 2013 production of The Flying Dutchman were very well-received by the public and the critics.
Welsh tenor and ENO favourite Gwyn Hughes Jones sings the role of Walter. American bass James Creswell sings the role of Pogner. Both are impressive. Joined by ENO Harewood Artist Nicky Spence as David and former ENO Young Singer Madeleine Shaw as Magdalene. Completing the cast is baritone David Stout as Kothner. He recently performed at the London Coliseum in the title role of Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro.
Nicholas Folwell, Quentin Hayes, Jonathan Lemalu, David Stout, Timothy Robinson. Courtesy ENO and the photographer, Catherine Ashmore.
2014/15 will be Edward Gardner's final season as ENO Music Director. Gardner was nominated for an Olivier Award for his 2012 performances of The Flying Dutchman. Gardner will return in June to conduct his final production as Music Director, The Queen of Spades.
The creative team is completed by set designer Paul Steinberg, wild imagination by the costume designer Buki Shiff, lighting designer Mimi Jordan Sherin and choreographer Lucy Burge.
The Mastersingers of Nuremberg opens at the London Coliseum on Saturday 7th February for 8 performances - Feb 7, 14, 21 & Mar 7 at 3pm, Feb 18, 25 & Mar 3, 10 at 5pm.
For more information, please visit the website
There has been lately a great interest in the post-war Italian art. Overshadowed by Abstract Expressionism from New York, it has not reached the mass media attention it deserves. No wonder at the last Frieze Week the highlight was The Italian Sale at Christie's setting a world record for Alighiero Boetti and healthy sales by Piero Manzoni, Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana. A rediscovery of one of the most interesting times in the history of the Arts in Italy alongside the Golden Age of Italian Cinema with filmmakers such as Fellini, De Sica and Visconti.
Arte Povera, literally poor art, and other artists not included in this movement such as Bonalumi succeeded in challenging preconceptions in the use of materials such as 12 alive horses presented in an art gallery or the traditional definition of media. Bonalumi exhibited in the 60s monocoloured canvases stretched and deformed in a way that blurred the boundaries between the two-dimensional painting and the three-dimensional sculpture. Light and shadow also became important elements in his works. A new exhibition of his works, in collaboration with Archivio Bonalumi and curated by Francesca Pola, opens at Mazzoleni London in Mayfair this Friday, the 6th of February. A unique opportunity to understand why the avantgarde half a century ago is so fresh and prevalent today.
Luigi Mazzoleni, the gallery director, has kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
1. Can you please tell us a bit about your background?
I recently re-located to London to open the second outpost of my family's gallery Mazzoleni. Before this, I worked with my parents and brother at our Turin gallery which was founded in 1986. The gallery evolved from years of private collecting and I remain an avid collector today. In Turin, we have presented a curatorial programme focussed on museum calibre Post-War Italian Art through exhibiting artists such as Afro Basaldella, Alberto Burri, Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, and Paolo Scheggi. I also expanded the gallery's programme to include Arte Povera exhibiting key artists such as Alighero Boetti and Mario Merz. For now, the London gallery will continue to present a similar programme and will eventually develop a contemporary Italian art programme.
Agostino Bonalumi, Giallo, 1994, PVC, enamel and glass, 86 x 86 x 94 cm. Courtesy Archivio Bonalumi and Mazzoleni London
2. How did you get to know Bonalumi and why did you decide to curate an exhibition by him now?
My family has been collecting Bonalumi's work for a long time and our gallery was fortunate enough to have represented him during the last 10 years of his life. Through all these years of collaboration and trust with Bonalumi, a great relationship emerged that now continues with Fabrizio, his son and director of the Archivio Bonalumi. It was our joint decision to have a sculpture show in London and present at the same time a large-scale monograph of Bonalumi's sculptures. Bonalumi had a premature death as he could have done so much more around his new research on materials and shapes. I think that he reached a crescendo during the last part of his career and particularly in his later sculptural work. There is a purity and integrity about his work that is rare to find and I am delighted to be bringing this selection of works to London and a wider international public. The works create a lyrical atmosphere with their simplicity and models of symmetry.
Agostino Bonalumi, Giallo,1969, Shaped Ciré, 150 x 120 cm. Courtesy Archivio Bonalumi and Mazzoleni London
3. Post-war Italian art was the highlight of the Frieze Week due in part to the auction in Sotheby's. What do you think are the reasons behind such interest?
Even though these artists were working over 50 years ago, their work continues to look incredibly contemporary which is part of their universal appeal. The contribution these artists made to the evolution of a new aesthetic and the role they played in raising the profile of Italian art internationally has become more widely recognised amongst museums, curators and prominent collectors and this in turn has led to rising interest in the major auction houses and commercial galleries who haven't traditionally operated in this field.
4. Why do you think people should come to see Bonalumi's exhibition?
It is the first time many of these works have been shown in the UK and therefore a chance for audiences to discover more about an incredibly influential Italian artist through some of the best examples of his work.
For more information about the Bonalumi's exhibition, please visit the website
When Picasso died in 1973, Spanish painters complaint that he had left a bitter legacy: the void. They felt that after a genius the avenues of experimentation were closed. Chillida's death, the most prominent Spanish sculptor from the last century, had the opposite effect: a blossoming in the sculptural field. Although moving towards figurativism rather than abstraction, Spain enjoys a Golden Age with the most clear example of Juan Muñoz. He was invited to the second commission at the Turbine Hall and had, later, a retrospective at the Tate Modern. Manolo Valdés and Xavier Mascaró are part of this accidental figurativism. These three artists share a similarity with an obsession that was typical of the Baroque and I would describe as expressing the underlying tensions of human life - opulence versus asceticism, pleasure versus fear - in which the presence of the figure could be considered a mere accident. Rather than individual sentiments; the whole of Society is packed in each work.
Eduardo Chillida sculpture Berlin for the Bundeskanzleramt in Berlin. Photographer, Hans Peter Schaefer. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Mascaró, born in Paris in 1965, who has developed his career between Europe and NorthAmerica, uses figures, be it a guardian, a warrior or a Hindu goddess, as a blank canvas to express the contradictions within the human soul: strength and fragility, the mask we wear everyday versus the need to open up and to share, locality and globality.
Last September, he had a solo show at the Saatchi Gallery receiving rave reviews. Alastair Smart, the arts editor and chief art critic of the Sunday Telegraph, described his sculptures as: eerie, timeless and evocative. Mascaró has also participated in public art projects and heavily borrows elements of ancient cultures and the human body just as Moore did. He is currently working on a project as the guest artist of the El Mundo stand in ARCO2015, curated by Rafa Sierra. The most important art fair in Spain which takes place from the 25th of February to the 1st of March in Madrid.
Guardianes, Xavier Mascaró. Paris, Jardin du Palais Royal. Courtesy the artist
Meryl Rose, an art collector who sits on The Rose Art Museum Board of Advisors, says:
Xavier Mascaro's work is powerful and strong, yet it has a softness and serene beauty and elegance that is undeniable. It evokes ancient times, cultures and thought; and still it is completely contemporary and relevant. The man himself is a beautiful human being.
Kosme de Barañano, ex-museum director, full-time professor and one of the most respected art critics in Spain today, adds:
Mascaró follows the tradition of the history of Spanish art, from the realistic imagery of Gregorio Fernández to the Baroque painting of Valdés Leal. His language is figurative but it addresses the in-visible, presenting pieces of bullfighting life (saddles, tack, horses, ropes) or everyday life (toys, crosses, reliquaries) which always imply the presence of a human being, or as Maurice Blanchot said, his passing, his absence. An absence that is tinged with a tragic feeling of life.
Bookshelf by Xavier Mascaró which will be exhibited at ARCO2015. Courtesy the artist.
Mascaró had kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
1. Born in Paris, Rumanian grandmother, Spanish father, French mother, brought up in Barcelona, studios in Madrid and Mexico city and planning a new one in Los Angeles. Do you consider yourself as a citizen of the World? Is that the main reason why some of your works are deeply rooted in a specific culture such as Egyptian, Greek or Mayan, but somehow become International?
I feel like as being an amalgam of different cultures. For years I have been living in more than one place at the time. I like the distance and perspective that you get when you are abroad from where you grew up. For instance, the first couple of years that I spent in New York, where I had a studio for 15 years, I fell deeply connected to my roots, to Spain and its recent history. Some of my recent works are inspired in the strength that I can feel in works from Pre-Columbian civilizations, as it has been the case in my work with other cultures distant in time such as Nubian, Egyptian or Cycladic. I am currently fascinated by the people, the culture and the energy that I find in Mexico. Some of my recent works are inspired in the strength that I can feel in works.
I have been interested for some time now in producing works that are some sort of icon. They might be considered figurative because there is a recognizable shape represented, but in my mind they are more abstract. They are symbols in the shape of an icon. My Guardians originated from a will of combining serenity and strength in one image. These were emotions that I could feel for instance in the presence of representations of the Buddha, or in ancient armours, and I sort of combined them in my mind.
3. Although you are a figurative sculptor, would you say that you are highly influenced by Abstract Expressionism because you are constantly attempting to express emotions?
I don't think of myself as a figurative sculptor. Although my sculptures represent shapes that you can recognize I think that this is accidental. In fact, I consider them abstract, because to me they are some sort of vehicle to express the energy that I feel inside, in my inner self, which has no shape. I never thought of a connection of my work with Abstract Expressionism, but now that you point it, I would think that there is something about expressing the inner-self and the energy inside, that might relate my work to the ones of those artists. I deeply admire them, they were so brave...They have a heroic dimension.
4. Can you introduce us to your next exhibition at the stand of the newspaper "El Mundo", at the next Madrid Art Fair ARCO?
I will be showing a group of sculptures and drawings: Queens, an installation that consists of 5 iron large heads, together with Bookshelf a wooden structure that holds 40 smaller heads in ceramic and iron, and some drawings on one of the walls. I think it will be interesting to see this combination of gravity and lightness, of sculptures and drawings.
For more information about the Madrid Art Fair ARCO2015, please visit the website: www.ifema.es/arcomadrid_06
For more information about Xavier Mascaró, please visit the website:
ArtRooms presentation video. Courtesy ArtRooms, Lorenzo Stabile and the artists.
January is usually blue, but not in the Visual Arts. It is red. It is the beginning of the year and starts with a big bang: Art Fairs, top quality exhibitions, talks, performances... Everybody wants to welcome the New Year in the best possible way. The unstoppable energy, vibrancy, hunger for new ideas and re-interpretations of old ones makes the third week of January red.
The London Art Fair, 21-25 January, has invited the Pallant House Gallery, in Chichester. It is one of the finest collections of British Art. Simon Martin, Artistic Director, will curate a unique exhibition, The Figure in Modern British Art. The display will explore how different artists in Britain approached the human figure, from Walter Sickert's celebrated Jack Ashore depicting a nude female and clothed man in a charged bedroom interior, and the languid Post-Impressionist Bathers by the Pond by the Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant; to the abstracted figures of Henry Moore, Wyndham Lewis and Graham Sutherland, and works by David Bomberg, Lucian Freud and their contemporaries. Other artists included in the exhibition led the post-war revival of figurative painting in British art schools. Furthermore, the Fair will present some of the most exciting Galleries of Modern and Contemporary today. Special mention deserves the Art Projects and Photo50 that perfectly complements the Fair with a strong programme of talks. Art of Angel in the nearby station of Angel is worth a visit.
Amelia Stein, White Stable. Courtesy of Oliver Sears Gallery
A new Fair has emerged to energise such intense week: ArtRooms2015. It is an innovative concept of art exhibition that offers independent artists and galleries the opportunity to exhibit their artworks in an intimate dimension. The unique setting of a luxury hotel room becomes a pioneering way to access art. The first edition of ArtRooms will take place from the 24th to the 26th of January at the Melià White House Hotel in Regent's Park. The fair includes an exceptional program of events and workshops and galleries such as: Amstel Art with works by Warhol and Lichtenstein, Reissue Korea with a great selection of Korean artists, Le Dame Art Gallery specialised in Italian and Contemporary Art and The Cult House presenting the avant-guard in London. A highlight is the exhibition curated by Miguel Mallol, a series of 8 rare oil portraits by Gaspare Manos exhibited in 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in Minsk. He has also shown at the Palazzo Duodo during the Venice Biennale 2013.
"We trust that galleries exhibiting at the London Art Fair will also be interested in discovering "our" talented artists"says Cristina Cellini Antonini, Founder of ARTROOMS 2015 and Co-director together with Chiara Canal at Le Dame Art Gallery. The fair will represent as well a great opportunity to raise funds for the Charity Partner Bow Arts Trust, during the Gala Dinner there will be an auction with pieces of art being donated by exhibiting artists.
Gaspar Manos, Nelson Mandela. Courtesy the artist.
Parasol unit, in East London, has just open a superb survey of the highly respected, albeit rather young, artist Katie Moran with paintings already in the Tate Collection, Zabludowicz Collection and Walker Arts Centre. Her gallery, Modern Art in Clekerwell, opens on Thursday a new show by the American artist David Altmejd. In 2007 he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. This exhibition is comprised of a number of enigmatic and surreal head-like sculptures, as if witnessing a sci-fiction movie, that stand on tables and plinths.
David Altmejd, Young Mother. Courtesy the artist and Modern Art.
Virgile Ittah & Kai Yoda will transform the Hus Gallery, in Mayfair, into an immersive and sensory environment. Visitors are encouraged to touch the objects on display and to move freely throughout the installation. The Middle East Ayyam Gallery, also in Mayfair, will present landscapes by the Syrian painter Thaier Helal in his first exhibition in the UK. Ronchini Gallery, based in Mayfair, has organised a show by the Italian Arte Povera artist Pier Paolo Calzolari. It will focus on drawings, studies and projects that will span the course of Calzolari's career from the early 1960s to the present and give an overview of many of Calzolari's signature concepts, offering insight into the artist's ongoing interest in light, matter and time. Finally, do not miss the Serpentine Galleries with a Latino Fiesta / German Seriousness combo for a great fun afternoon in Hyde Park before it ends mid February.
MauPal, The Flying Pope. Courtesy the artist and Le Dame...
Mikhail Baryshnikov, a Russian dancer who defected to the West in 1974, moves through dance as Alice in Wonderland through the mirror. Firstly as a dancer, often cited as one of the three best dancers in history with Nijinsky and Nureyev; secondly as a choreographer and artistic director; and, finally, as a photographer. Baryshnikov enjoys a special place to document movement and energy in a way that the viewer gets a second chance to appreciate what is missed in such rapid gestures. Bold and colourful to the point of almost abstraction in some photographs where the figures morphs into another entity.
Untitled #2. Courtesy Mikhail Baryshnikov and ContiniArtUK
The exhibition titled: Dancing Away, currently in the ContiniArtUK Gallery in Bond Street, Mayfair, London, until the 31st of January, is a serene invitation to rediscover the physical aspect of dance. Through the use of a technique known as long exposure photography, which involves opening the camera shutter for a long duration of time, thus exposing the lens to more light. The result records the transition through several positions that takes place while dancing. The viewer becomes a diver who keeps immersing themselves in and out of a work of stunning beauty. It is impossible not to.
Dr Diego Giolitti, one of the ContiniArtUK directors, has kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
1. Can you tell us a bit about ContiniArtUk Gallery's background and about yourself?
ContiniArtUK was opened in May 2014 and is owned by Cristian Contini, the son of Italian gallery owner Stefano Contini. The gallery is set over two floors in Mayfair, Central London and exhibits both contemporary and modern art. The Dancing Away exhibition will be shown alongside a permanent collection of works from artists represented by ContiniArtUK. Artists include Mario Arlati, Fernando Botero, Teresa Emanuele, Enzo Fior, Enrico Ghinato, Robert Indiana, Julio Larraz, Helidon Xhixha, and Igor Mitoraj.
I am a specialist in emerging art markets, with a focus on Iranian, Middle Eastern and Russian contemporary art. I studied at the University of Venice, specialising in Persian Studies as well as at the University of Cambridge with a PhD focusing on Iranian contemporary art and gender. I have worked as a lecturer at SOAS in London, at the University of Cambridge and at the University Ca'Foscari in Venice. I am also an experienced gallery director, having worked in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Paris, and my native Venice.
2. How did you start having a working relationship with Baryshnikov?
Mikhail Baryshnikov has previously collaborated with Stefano Contini in Italy. Cristian and I thought of asking Baryshnikov to exhibit his work in London (for the first time) as soon as the gallery opened in May. We knew how much the UK loved Baryshnikov and the fact that we were already acquainted with his amazing photographic work made the choice a natural one. Baryshnikov was very enthusiastic with the idea and since the very beginning has given us his full support.
3. Where did the title of the exhibition Dancing Away come from?
The title was chosen by Baryshnikov. His exhibitions all have very similar titles: Dance this way, Dancing away. His main goal is to translate the importance of capturing the sense of movement in his photographic work.
Untitled #12. Courtesy Mikhail Baryshnikov and ContiniArtUK
4. Baryshnikov was very generous in paying homage to pioneers photographers in the Dance field such as: Alexey Brodovitch, Paul Himmel and Irving Penn. In which ways you can see their influences in his works?
Baryshnikov definitely studied and was inspired by these masters of photography (he has practised photography and studied the subject for more than 20 years). But in my own opinion Baryshnikov has absorbed and digested previous works in the field and found his own way. What is interesting in his approach to photography is that, like no other, he has been able to translate his trained mind, advanced awareness of the body, and almost mystical perception of movement into a two-dimensional work of art.
5. Photographs taken by one of the most respected dancers and choreographers in the world provide us with a privileged insight in the world of dance, specially movement and energy. What do you think the viewer can learn from this exhibition?
What I am most impressed by is Baryshnikov's embracement of the world of dance as a whole. He is not focusing only on the elite world of classical ballet - Baryshnikov's message is that dance has no colour or cultural entity, but is the expression of the soul no matter where you are from. None of his photos are staged, they portray actual performances or have been taken from the streets of Rio or on a beach in Hawaii.
For more information, please visit ContiniArtUK website on www.continiartuk.com
Untitled #32. Courtesy Mikhail Baryshnikov and...
Debut Contemporary, its artists and Barry Martin and Klara Taussig-Cecmanova as co-curators with Samir Ceric, the gallery's director, decided to join forces to raise funds and awareness for the Harrison's Fund Charity. Located in 82 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London, the show will continue...
In 2004, when everybody wanted to be in Mayfair and Fitzrovia, Ziba Ardalan, born in Iran, whose career was developed between the US and Switzerland, arrived from New York and decided to found a contemporary art organization in the far end of the cosy central London. A Victorian furniture factory, which were the studio of the Turner Prize nominee Peter Doig by that time, has become the home of one of the best places in London to experience contemporary art made today. Acclaimed artists such as Charles Avery, who represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale, or Leah Capaldi, who performed at the Serpentine Galleries last summer and described Ardalan as her "fairy godmother", exhibited at Parasol unit first.
Shinro Ohtake, 'Time Memory 28' (detail), 2014. 220.5 x 300.5 x 10.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Take Ninagawa, Tokyo
The current show by Shinro Ohtake ends on the 12th of December. Ohtake, one the leading artists in Japan, moves easily from drawing to video, from installation to sculpture, but his collage works, be it on a panel, be it on three-dimensional objects, are perhaps his strongest form. He has the sharp ability to absorb elements of the contemporary Japanese society and spit it out into a journey of discovery and learning when admiring his works.
Katy Moran, 'Joe's in Town', 2012, acrylic, paper, leather and collage on board, 55.2 x 87.6 cm. Courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneopolis, Justin Smith Purchase Fund 2013.
The next exhibition by the London-based painter Katy Moran, which opens on the 15th of January, is a rediscovery of a traditional medium such as painting. Although abstract at first glance, Moran portrays figures that requires a closer look and an interesting narrative, invented by the viewer and therefore unique, unravels. Her paintings are beautifully fluid and like a good painter plays with the subconscious on a different level.
Ziba Ardalan, founder and curator of Parasol unit, kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
1. Can you tell us a bit about Parasol unit? Where did the name come from? And why in Hackney?
I wanted to give it a general name and not the name of a specific person. This place is about making people welcome. I thought of 'umbrella', because it encompasses various activities we do here, but it seemed a bit sad, so I opted for 'Parasol'. It is positive and radiant but all by itself misses something, so when a friend suggested 'unit', it clicked. The two words somehow complement each other perfectly and express what this foundation is about: promoting contemporary art for the public benefit, a welcoming residency for artists in the summer and an important educational element. Hackney reminded me of SoHo in New York in the 70s before it became fashionable as it is happening now here.2. What is your background? What was your PhD about?
I think I was born as a curator, although I first studied Physical Chemistry and did post-doctoral works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Somehow there was always a creative side and an analytical side in me. So, after two years of working in scientific research, I decided to move from science to art. Scientists and artists are quite similar, because intuition is a crucial part of their work. This has always been very important to me as a curator - when selecting artists and their works for an exhibition or the timing of their exhibition. Anyhow in the early 1980s I went to Columbia University, NY, to study and gained a Masters degree in Art History. This was followed by attending the Independent Study Programme (ISP) for Curating and where I had Vicente Todolí, the former director of the Tate Modern, as a classmate. In 1984, I curated a show about the American painter, Winslow Homer, who started in the late nineteenth Century as a genre painter and moved to almost abstraction in the early 1900s. Homer's works were all over East Coast of America, so I had to travel to small museums and private collections to convince them to lend works to the exhibition - it was a great experience for a first time curator.
3. At the last charity auction, artists such as: Antony Gormley, Isaac Julien and Yinka Shonibare were very complimentary about Parasol unit. How do you feel about it? What do you think it is the reason?
I am humbled and honoured by those wonderful comments. My passion for art is genuine and I suppose that could be one of the factors artists appreciate. I work very hard to give those artists exhibiting at Parasol unit great exposure and I am willing to take risks when exhibiting lesser known artists. It is very encouraging to continue when I have the support of such talented and successful artists.
4. Can you summarise in three phrases why people should come to see the show by the Japanese artist Shinro Otake before it ends on the 12th of December?
I love the freedom with which Ohtake executes his works, even after having exhibited at prestigious events such as Documenta or Venice Biennale, indeed he carries on as usual. It is a lesson that an artist or a non-artist can apply to their practice, job or even in their daily life: freedom of thoughts. This exhibition shows his creativity and confidence and is a unique opportunity to discover why he is one of the leading Japanese artists.
5. Finally, can you give us an advance of the next exhibition? Why did your team decide to invite Katy Moran?
Although Moran has only ten years of painting practice behind her, I love the innovative way she goes about painting. Moran has absolutely no allegiance to the history of painting and in the process has created a whole new language, particularly in figurative painting.
For more information about Parasol unit, the current exhibition by Shinro Ohtake and the next exhibition by Katy Moran, please visit the website
Rekha Sameer, an artist and curator based in London, and Rashmi Tapadia, founder and owner of LetArtWork Gallery in Pune, decided to select the most interesting art being made in London today and to bring it to India. Both countries enjoy close ties and Sameer and...
The Gospel According to the Other Mary, being the other Mary the composer's mother and other social activist women, composed by John Adams and currently at the English National Opera until the 5th of December, is without doubt the masterpiece of the 21st century. Premiered in concert in 2013, it received a string of superlatives when reviewed, but nothing gets you ready to the immense experience of what the best of talent, second to none, can offer you. As John Berry, ENO artistic director, says:
"Nothing prepared me for the overwhelming dramatic intensity of the music and the profoundly moving storytelling."
Courtesy Richard HubertSmith, the photographer, and ENO
John Adams, one of the leading contemporary music and opera composers, creates humanist and visually stunning pieces that perfectly resonates in an era of discontent and widening social inequality. A highly respected and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 9/11 Memorial piece, Adams concentrates on what it matters with a strong minimalist approach. The baggages are dumped and he is ready to take you for the journey of your life.
Libretto by Peter Sellars after Old and New Testament sources, intertwined with the voices of four extraordinary women: a Native American woman, a Black American woman, a socialist Catholic woman and a Mexican woman all contribute to a rich and dense text rooted in contemporary history. Sellars, a visionary artist, is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the performing arts in the world. Sellars described the work as an attempt to "set the Passion story in the eternal present, in the tradition of sacred art", and so the narrative continuously attempts to combine the Biblical past with themes and references that remain relevant to a contemporary audience - such a drug addict going cold turkey. The story unfolds from the point of view of Mary Magdalene, her sister Martha and their brother Lazarus.
Courtesy Richard HubertSmith, the photographer, and ENO
Mezzo-soprano, Patricia Bardon, plays the main character of Mary Magdalene with vulnerability, determination and skilful acceptance of the events that unravels such as her brother Lazarus death and resurrection and Jesus crucifixion. Bardon gives a superb performance with ease. A talented star with no ego. Meredith Arwady, contralto, sings with a beautiful and exquisite voice her dilemmas in understanding her sister Mary Magadalene's destiny. Russell Thomas, a tenor playing Lazarus, their brother, is sublime. His voice makes time stop and takes us to a new dimension. One of the undisputed stars of the show is the flex dancer Banks. A visual orgasm. Guaranteed. Banks blends with the music as if it was composed for him. Unexpected, because flex dance is primarily associated with hip hop music. A refreshing surprise in a more classical setting. Finally, Seraphim, a type of celestial being, played by the counter-tenors: Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Nathan Medley, adds a layer of storytelling with such airy voices. Conductor Joana Carneiro, currently Principal Conductor of Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa, makes a great debut.
One of the best and most accessible operas ever. Highly recommended.
The Gospel According To The Other Mary opens at the London Coliseum on 21 November 2014 for 6 performances - 21, 25, 27 November and 3, 5 December at 7.30pm and 29 November, 6.30pm. For more information, please visit website:
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