Twitter Art Exhibit

 

Last year I chanced upon the Twitter Art Exhibit ,  an organization  which has devised an original and fun way to help various charities. Artists of all kinds are invited to donate a postcard-sized piece of original art, to be sold at an exhibition and, for the pieces that are not sold, online.

 

 

 

There is no entry fee, no theme, there is nothing to win, and everyone is included. It is a way to give back, and, for amateur artists who might not otherwise get this opportunity, to see their work featured in an international exhibition. It’s also fun to follow TAE on Twitter or Instagram and see the huge variety of work submitted. See below a wall from a previous exhibition.

 

As I said, I only stumbled upon this last year, but TAE was set up 10 years ago by artist David Sandrum to help buy books for the children’s department of a library in Norway.
The social media-powered exhibition has since then gone from strength to strength, and the sales have raised around $64.000 for various charities around the world!
Each year, over 1000 artists of all levels sign up to donate a piece of their art. See below my own contribution for 2019.

 

This year, Twitter Art Exhibit is curated by artist Sam Banister, and takes place in Scotland’s historical capital city of Edinburgh, in support of the local charity, Art in Healthcare ( click here to find out more).

Their mission is ‘to use visual art to improve health and wellbeing’, a concept I cannot but endorse, since I really believe in the power of art as therapy.

 

 

The opening day of the exhibition is Saturday 11th May 2019, the show will run until the 13th, and thereafter sales will continue online.

 

 

 

I encourage any one of you out there who has the slightest interest in making things, to have a go. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it could just be a simple collage or a crazy doodle! What have you got to lose, nobody will judge you, and it’s all in a good cause. The deadline is April 29, 2019, but if you want your card to be included in their lovely catalogue, make sure your entry is in by April 12.

 

A Greek director at the BAFTAS

I must confess I have seen none of Yorgos Lanthimos’s films so far,
because they are dark and bleak and I never seem to be in the right mood for them. However, he has been going from strength to strength, and I am now rather tempted by his latest offering, which was a huge success at the BAFTAS.

Lanthimos was born in Athens in 1973, and went to film school in Greece, hoping to make commercials—the prospect of making films in Greece in the 80s and 90s was dim, to say the least.

 

 

Through the 1990s he directed a series of videos for Greek dance-theater companies, moving on to TV commercials, music videos, short films and experimental theater plays. He was also a member of the creative team which designed the opening and closingceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Lanthimos, realizing his youthful ambitions, then went on to make feature films—and, just under a decade ago, released Dogtooth, a grim tale of a father keeping his family in total isolation.  It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, but was booed and hissed by voters during a committee screening, and lost to Susanne Bier’s In a Better World. After that, Lanthimos became notorious for his wild imagination and bleak inscrutability.

However, his first English-language film, The Lobster (2015), proved a significant art-house hit, being set in a world where single people must find partners or be transformed into animals. Its follow-up, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), is a bloody revenge drama infused with classical mythology—while his characters keep having absurdly mundane conversations.

He became a leading member of the ‘weird wave’, Greek film makers who were anti-commercial and aimed to provoke, if not to shock. Nevertheless, over the course of his six films, he managed to escape his image as a European oddity, acquire global recognition and achieve significant box-office success, attracting top actors such as Nicole Kidman.

 

 

His latest film, The Favourite, is an opulent period drama set in the court of Queen Anne and featuring stellar performances by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

Based on fact, it is the story of two women vying for the attention of Queen Anne, who, plagued by gout and haunted by the 17 children she’s lost over the years, has basically given up governing her country.

 

 

According to reviews, it is supposed to be less disturbing than his other films, although still dark, and features a witty script spiked with anachronisms, and lavish costumes and scenery.

The film won seven awards at the BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), including outstanding British film, original screenplay, leading actress for Olivia Colman and best supporting actress for Rachel Weisz.

 

 

Next stop, the Oscars? Not bad for a Greek boy who wanted to make commercials.

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider and give The Favourite a chance.

 

All photos from Google

The joyfulness of Joan Mirò

I finally managed to make it to the Mirò exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris, just before it closed. Mirò was far from being my favorite artist, but these retrospectives always contain a number of treasures, and I was not to be disappointed. Although there are always too many people in blockbuster shows, they also feature paintings from private collections or faraway museums, which you would never get the chance to see otherwise.

 

 

Joan Miró i Ferrà was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist. He was born in 1893 in Barcelona, the son of a silversmith and watchmaker.

 

 

He began drawing classes when he was 7, and at 20 he moved to Paris and joined the art community in Montparnasse. Below is a surprisingly monochrome but strangely alluring painting.

 

 

Mirò is considered a pioneer of surrealism. He tried to portray the subconscious mind, to recreate the child-like and also subvert what he saw as the art of a bourgeois society. He loved color and used it in unexpected combinations.

 

 

During the German occupation Mirò fled to Spain, and between 1940-1941 he created the 23 gouache series Constellations, on of which you can see below. They are small, delicate compositions, and gain nothing through my phone photos.

 

 

Mirò was always testing out new territory, and experimented with all available mediums, trying his hand at collage, sculpture, and even tapestry. He kept working until late in life, creating amazing large-scale works in his 80s—including a tapestry for the World Trade Center, which was lost in the September 11 attack.

Below is a detail from one of his sculptures, in which one can see his irreverent and playful spirit.

 

 

I came away with a new-found appreciation of his work, being especially drawn to his joie de vivre and explosion of color.

 

The spitzmaus mummy and other treasures

Who could resist reading an article with a title like that? Who even knows what a spitzmaus is? Clue: the article was about an exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, so the obvious guess was that it’s German for some kind of rodent. So far, so intriguing, but what was more, the exhibition in question was curated by Wes Anderson, of whom I am an ardent fan. A trip to Vienna started looking like a tantalizing prospect, especially since there was another blockbuster exhibition on in the same museum, a collection of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. A mini- break with friends was duly organized.

In 2012, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna started a new series of exhibitions where creative individuals were invited to put together their own personal selections of objects drawn from the museum’s historical collections, which number more than four million objects, and span a period of five thousand years. The first was curated by the painter and draughtsman Ed Ruscha, and the second by the British ceramicist and writer Edmund de Waal (whose book, “The Hare with Amber Eyes”, is about a collection of special objects.)

 

 

For this year’s exhibition, cult director Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”) partnered up with costume designer and author Juman Malouf to sift through the museum’s vast collection, probably driving the staff mad in the process, which took two years. They came up with an eclectic selection of 423 objects, of which 350 came from the museum’s warehouse and have never before been shown to the public.

The collection is quirky, just as expected. Totally disparate objects are lined up next to each other, sometimes the only obvious connection being that they are of the same color. Below, in the green room, a huge emerald in front of a green dress worn in a production of Hedda Gabler.

 

 

The exhibits come with no explanations written on the cases, so that the viewer must figure out the connections for himself, without distraction ( however, booklets are provided with lists where you can look the exhibits up). And, speaking of cases, one of the rooms is entirely devoted to just that—weirdly shaped decorated boxes containing such disparate things as a scepter, a collection of flutes or a crown. There is ‘a suitcase for the war-robe of a Korean Prince’, and a ‘case for one hundred ostrich feathers’. And there is a large, completely empty glass case—the premise here being that we seldom look at the cases themselves, only at their contents.

The main object of the exhibition is to point out invisible affinities between very different worlds.

Next to the room mentioned above, with the exclusively green objects of every kind and every era, there is another with an assortment of animals, some stuffed, some carved, and three black emu eggs in a custom-built case that looks like an incubator. All are arranged around the famous spitzmaus, an Egyptian mummy of a shrew, in its own tiny wooden sarcophagus with its portrait pained on the side. By the way, I looked it up, and a shrew is not a rodent at all.

 

 

There are also 16th century portraits of the Petrus Gonsalvus family, all suffering from hypertrichosis (see one of their unlucky offspring below), and 22 exposed busts, arranged not in chronological order but according to size.

 

 

There are miniature snowshoes,

 

 

 

And miniature musical instruments.

 

 

 

And a room devoted to portraits of children.

 

 

 

The exhibition was wonderful—and outside, there was Vienna,  and concerts

 

 

and statues, and Christmas markets.

 

 

And to eat, schnitzel, and strudel, and hot chocolate. And of course, the Breugel exhibition, of which more to follow.

 

Bleu et rose. Picasso

There’s no need to describe Pablo Picasso—everyone knows about him, and most of us have come across one or more of his works in an exhibition or museum, since he was extremely prolific.
For me, most enchanting were his early works, the Blue and Rose periods, which visitors to Paris have the chance to admire at the Musée d’Orsay. The exhibition is a collaboration between the museum and the Musée National Picasso, and has gathered major works that focus on the period from 1900 to 1906.

 

 

Picasso was a fantastic draughtsman, and could produce detailed academic drawings with great ease. In his paintings, however, he expressed his highly personal viewpoint, often distorting body parts, foreshortening limbs or elongating fingers.

 

 

It is difficult to comprehend today, but at the time he was derided  for this by art critics, and floundered in the teeming artistic milieu of Paris, until he was picked up by American art patron Gertrude Stein. Although they did not speak each other’s language, they became friends, and she had a major influence on his career. He painted her portrait, which everyone agreed did not look at all like her, but which eventually became one his most famous portraits. After 1919 he was giving her paintings for free, since he had become so successful that she could no longer afford to buy them!

 

 

Picasso painted prostitutes, blind men, drunks, but also babies and children. He was moved by the notions of family and motherhood. His palette made up of blues gives off an aura of melancholy. He was also inspired by other artists of his time, such as Van Gogh and Gaugin, whose influence can be seen in some of his work.

 

 

It is amazing that these paintings were made when Picasso was only 20 or 21. The blue period lasted until 1904, when hints of pink started creeping into his palette, to evolve into the rose period,  where joyful pinks, reds and  oranges dominated, and his subjects were harlequins and circus people. This lasted for just two years, and ended with the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, the first painting of the cubist period.

 

 

It is also astonishing how prolific Picasso was. He left behind tens of thousands of works,  even though, when he was young and broke, he reused canvasses and even burnt drawings for warmth.

 

 

Anyone within reach of Paris should go and see this exhibition—it is just wonderful. I left unsure whether to be greatly inspired or simply throw my pens and brushes in the bin and take up knitting!

 

Dance with Carlos Acosta

In contrast to the depressing news from Athens I have been reporting lately, a magical evening awaited us at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus,  where the star dancer Carlos Acosta and his company performed for one night only.

 

 

At the entrance to the ancient theatre a huge full moon greeted us—during the performance we could see it rising slowly above the stone walls.

 

 

Despite a brisk breeze which meant people were wearing jackets (the side effects of a weather front aptly named “Xenophon”), the stands were packed with an enthusiastic audience.

 

People still trickling in

The performance itself exceeded all expectations. The music was a mixture of contemporary, flamenco, and tribal African, and the repertory included works by the Belgium-based Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Cuban choreographer Marianela Boán and company member Raúl Reinoso. The last piece was accompanied by a medley of old Rolling Stones favorites, such as Little Red Rooster, Lady Jane and Play With Fire.

The 25-member Danza Acosta company is made up of a racially diverse group of young people who combine grace with unbounded energy and exude joie de vivre. They are agile, well-trained young Cubans, many of whom gave up good positions in prominent dance troupes to follow the call of a national hero. Acosta is undoubtedly the star of the show, but he didn’t hog the limelight. Everyone got their chance to shine.

 

 

Acosta was born in a very poor neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, on  June 2, 1973. He was the 11th and last child in his family, and grew up occasionally shoeless, with no toys. He was over-energetic and his father, a truck driver, was worried he’d end up on the street, so he made him audition for the national ballet school, which was state-funded and also provided students with a free lunch. From there he rose to the top, finally joining the Royal Ballet in Britain, where he became an international star. He stayed 17 years, and retired at 43, to form his own company—back in his beloved country, which he’d left but never forgotten.

 

 

We felt privileged to be there on such a beautiful evening, which was a rare reminder of the benefits of living in Greece.

 

 

Parts of the proceeds of the show will be donated to the organisation Coeurs pour Tous Hellas  (Hearts for All), set up in 2015 for Greek children with congenital heart disease, which has so far supported 106 children with the disease.