Forest Of Meditation

Between a mountain and a small lake in Gifu lies ‘Meiso no Mori Municipal Funeral Hall’. The Funeral Hall takes its name ‘Meiso no Mori’ from the Japanese words meaning “forest of meditation”. The old crematorium on this site in Gifu was to be demolished and architect Toyo Ito began to realise his dream of creating a funeral hall not constrained by religious content. Ito wanted to create a place for quiet reflection a space whose organic forms would suggest a closeness to nature. With a curving roof that measures only 20 centimetres the crematorium echoes its mountainous surroundings beyond and the billowing clouds above. The concave and convex forms of the roof flow into twelve tapered columns (which also serve as drainage). The undulating roof of ‘Meiso no Mori’ allows visitors to walk, contemplate and find places for quiet reflection. Peaceful.

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Green Light Corridor

Bruce Nauman (born December 6, 1941) is one of the most prominent, influential and versatile American artists to emerge in the 1960s. Although his work is not easily defined by its materials, styles or themes, sculpture is central to it. Nauman’s Post-Minimalism blends ideas from Conceptualism, Minimalism, performance art and video art. Using an array of media including video installation, performance, sculpture and photography, Nauman is known for conceptual works that explore space, language and the body. Nauman infuses his pieces with irony and humour, creating verbal and visual puns to often-unsettling effect, challenging viewers and making them aware of their own physicality. In 1969, Nauman began making his corridors; the first was built as a prop for a video, yet he soon introduced them into gallery settings, allowing the audience to walk down them and, in so doing, put on their own performance. These pieces are simple, gypsum-walled walkways, into which the artist sometimes introduces lights, video cameras, monitors or speakers. Some were too narrow walk down (challenging the claustrophobic among us) others wedge shaped. ‘Green Light Corridor’, 1970. Yikes!

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Casa de la Amistad

It looks like the stuff of fairytales and tells a tale that is the stuff of fairytales … this is the history of the ‘Casa de la Amistad‘ in Havana. It begins as all good fairytales begin with a love story between a Spanish landowner named Juan Pedro Baró and a Cuban beauty called Catalina Lasa. Catalina was heralded as being the most beautiful woman in all of Cuba. She was in a loveless marriage to a rich aristocrat named Pedro Estevez Abreu. At that time there were no divorce laws in Cuba so Catalina had no choice but to remain in the marriage. Catalina was desperately in love with Juan Pedro Baró, what to do? The two of them fled to France, where they were married. Catalina returned to Cuba after the country adopted divorce laws (and co-incidentally she was the first person to benefit from these changes). To show his great love for his new wife, Juan built her a fantastic mansion, using only the most luxurious materials he could find and painted it all in pink, Catalina’s favourite colour. But Catalina and Juan paid the ultimate price. With so much love and so much happiness comes so much suffering. After fighting so hard to have their relationship legitimised as a marriage, Catalina soon became ill and died. Juan refused to continue living in the house without her and returned to Europe, a shattered man. ‘Casa de la Amistad’ is now a restaurant and bar. If you like interior design and fairytales then this is the place for you to dine. This exquisite mansion was built in the 1920’s by Juan Pedro Baró for his wife Catalina Lasa.

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The Beekman

The dark twisty canyons of the Financial District used to be home to bankers and lawyers. Now that ‘One World Trade Centre’ and its environs are filling up with creative types and fashion magazines such as ‘Vogue’ the area is getting a facelift. One of the new kids on the block is ‘The Beekman’. This pint-sized 19th-century ‘skyscraper’ was built in the early 1880s around the same time as the Brooklyn Bridge. Its nine floors are capped by two big turrets (now a pair of two-storey penthouses). At the heart of this handsome red-brick structure is the atrium with fantastical wrought-iron balustrades depicting dragons, sunbursts, flowers a glass pyramid dome and pretty terracotta floor tiles. ‘The Beekman‘ is on a quiet street just one block from ‘City Hall Park’. From there it’s a five-minute walk to ‘One World Trade Centre’, the ‘9/11 Memorial and Museum’, the ‘Oculus’ (with an ultra-posh mall) and ‘Battery Park’. Also nearby is ‘South Street Seaport’ which boasts unique boutiques, wine bars and the hip ‘Smorgasburg‘ food market. At Pier 11 Wall St you can take the ferry to Brooklyn or Hoboken. The interior décor is by British architect Martin Brudnizki – famed for London’s ‘Ivy’ and ‘Le Caprice’ restaurants. The result feels like the setting for an Agatha Christie murder mystery – all fringed lampshades, enormous bookcases filled with curios and a clubby palate of absinthe green and dusky pink. The lighting is set permanently to twilight. There are 287 rooms in total and providing pizzazz are two of the city’s top restaurateurs, so you won’t go hungry or drunky.

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America After The Fall

American After The Fall: Painting in the 1930s’ is a new exhibition taking place at the Royal Academy until June 4, 2017. Amongst the 45 paintings on show is one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable works, the much copied and parodied, ’American Gothic’ by Grant Wood. This painting has never left the U.S.A. before, with only one visit to Canada during it’s lifetime. At the age of ninety ‘American Gothic’ is finally making its way to these shores via a sojourn at the ‘Musée de l’Orangerie,’ Paris. When it was the originally painted in 1930 ‘American Gothic’ was snapped up by the ‘Art Institute of Chicago’ where it has remained ever since. Fun fact the woman standing to the right of the farmer in ‘American Gothic’, whom many take for his wife, was intended by the artist to be his daughter. 1930s America had been a tough decade. The 1929 Wall Street Crash had brought about worldwide economic depression. America’s Republican president, Herbert Hoover, was reluctant to intervene in the mass unemployment, rising personal debt and homelessness that swept across the country. By 1933, the nation was ready for change and eagerly elected Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who campaigned on the promise of direct federal intervention. In between “fireside chats” broadcast to the nation over the radio, Roosevelt swiftly implemented his New Deal: soup kitchens, clothing grants, public works, increased wages, job provision and bank regulations eventually pulled America out of despair. In the uncertain ferment of depression and recovery, many artists began to ask how America might be captured in a single image. This exhibition goes some way to explore that with 45 truly iconic works, painting an electrifying portrait of this transformative period. The artists on show range from Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper to Thomas Hart Benton, Philip Guston and many more. These works have rarely been seen together before, so go get your ticket now. Due to popular demand the Royal Academy will be open until 10pm this Saturday 18 March.

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Ice Castle In The Sky

Meet photographer Ben Khuns the man responsible for these spectacular photos of the magical ‘Ice Castles’ in Utah. Salt Lake City-based photographer Ben Kuhns, who also happens to be one half of creative network Lunar/Solar captures these enchanting images of towers of ice, aptly known as ‘Ice Castles’, in Midway, Utah. The massive, icy structures are given a mysterious appeal through Kuhns’ firsthand perspective, his point of view from afar within the frosty trails and beneath the spiky icicles are stunning documents of the space. Illuminated from within with multicoloured LED lights, the castles are given a slightly muted glow that further heightens their enigmatic draw. There’s something within the walls of the structure that beckons spectators to venture forth through the coarsely formed tunnels. Kuhns’ photographs brilliantly capture that sense of mystery, magic and adventure.

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Cat Head

For more than four millennia cats have fascinated and inspired our own less poised species. The ancient Egyptians went as far as to mummify their feline friends, who they also happened to worship, and the four-legged creatures have since made their way into our contemporary homes, hearts and news feeds. It’s hard to imagine what the Internet would be today without its glittering cast of celebrity kittens, Grumpy Cat now has her own memoir and an animatronic waxwork at Madame Tussauds, Pusheen (LOVE Pusheen) the slightly cumbersome burger-eating tabby, Choupette – the fabulous life of – not forgetting ‘Neko Atsume’ (obsessed – give up your momento Conductor Whiskers) the two-dimensional Japanese gaming app that allows you to collect kittens and spoil them with fictional toys and treats. Perhaps such cultural currency was what inspired Jonathan Anderson, Loewe’s famously esoteric creative director, to celebrate our somewhat sacred relationship with these creatures. Crafted from nappa leather, Loewe’s cat head pendants are feats of its leather workshops which have somehow managed to make the material look like marbled porcelain. There’s an air of the kitsch ‘maneki-neko’ to them, the plastic Chinatown cat figurines with a paw raised firmly in the air believed to give good fortune to their owners and as it turns out, just like the Egyptians, we’re utterly in awe of a statement charm and we wouldn’t mind taking this one to our tombs.

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Mad Men The Book

‘Mad Men’ the book. You read that right. TASCHEN’s effortlessly cool two-volume tome is filled to the brim with stills from the show, stunning costume details, interviews with the cast and crew and excerpts from the award-winning script. The book is as good-looking as ‘Mad Men’ itself. ‘Matthew Weiner. Mad Men‘ is enormous yet sleek, as beautifully appointed as January Jones in evening attire and as well-curated as an ad man’s liquor cabinet. The book’s first volume showcases photo stills from all of the show’s best moments, alongside the snappy scripts that made them so unforgettable. The second volume is packed with interviews, production ephemera and design notes for those mouth-watering costumes. When ‘Mad Men’ premiered on AMC in 2007 it was promptly celebrated as a landmark for cable television due to its layered historical insights and meticulously plotted sets and costume designs. Never before had a TV series so deeply immersed viewers into its setting—the cutthroat, martini-swilling, decidedly alpha male-dominated world of swinging ’60s advertising. The acclaimed show’s incredible attention to detail and rich visual flair are encapsulated in this photo book with Volumes 1 and 2 stacking up to a door-stopping 1,040 pages both of which are clothbound and sold together in a slipcase. Need more ‘Mad Men’ and have a Bert Cooper-sized wallet? Splash out on the full limited-edition set, which comes with the book, scripts for all seven seasons (signed by Matt Weiner) and a signed print of artwork from Season 6. Cue Coke ad.

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“I remember he had all the props from window dressing at ‘John Stephen’ as well as Art Nouveau mannequins and statues draped in ropes of pearls which I wore to ‘Biba’s’ black and pink-themed New Year’s Eve fancy dress ball. Piggy also got me my first modelling job for a drinks brand with him and me shot in the World’s End pub by Helmut Newton.” – Yvonne Gold. Meet David Worth who’s unique presence enlivened the flat world of male fashion in England in the early to mid-70s. Worth wasn’t just a model, he was also a clever stylist and nonpareil antiques and vintage collector. ‘Piggy’ was Worth’s model pseudonym, a mickey-take of ‘Twiggy’. Lucky for us his friend Tony Hall was there to document it all. This is the first time these images have been published in 45 years after Hall came across a box of negatives which feature props and clothing from Worth’s vast collection. Hall was a 19-year-old trying to catch a break in photography while Worth, who was a couple of years older, was working as a window dresser for ‘John Stephen’s’ Carnaby Street empire and harbouring ambitions to move into fashion. The photographs were taken in a variety of locations, including Worth’s grotty Chelsea flat in Edith Grove and a plush Bayswater apartment owned by acquaintance Graeme Edge, drummer of the ‘Moody Blues’. Worth had a passion for clothes and antiques, particularly from the 20s and 30s as well as a lot of Art Deco and Art Nouveau. In fact Worth lent his 1930s clothes collection to Shirley Russell who used them in the film ‘The Boyfriend’ (co-starring Twiggy) directed by her husband Ken. Hall used a second-hand Pentax S1a to capture these shots. The two worked in a spontaneous and collaborative way. In Worth’s circle were the likes of the American artist/writer/thinker Judy Nylon, who lived at 14 Edith Grove and appears in some of the photos, British make-up artist Yvonne Gold and members of the crowd congregating around Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End outlet ‘Let It Rock’. In the 80s, his modelling days at an end, Worth became a porter at London’s ‘Royal Marsden Hospital’ and also volunteered at weekends for 17 years to work with HIV and Aids patients and at ‘Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Sisters’. After taking retirement Worth passed away in 2012. To see more of David ‘Piggy’ Worth visit Tony Hall’s website.

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“People are starting to figure out this is more than just a Hollywood thing. “We’re talking about women’s issues, we’re talking about very upsetting things that are happing now, not just in Hollywood but in business with women.” – Ryan Murphy, ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’. If you’ve seen the trailer for ‘Feud’ then you will have seen Susan Sarandon (Bette Davis) kicking Jessica Lange (Joan Crawford) in the head. Yes, FX’s ‘Feud’ is devious and delicious but there’s more to this camp-fest than meets the eye. Whilst it’s hilarious and fun with a capital F, ’Feud’ is actually doing some pretty great things for women in an arena where women-attacking-women catfights have become the new gold standard in reality TV. Not only does the 10-episode limited series from Ryan Murphy shine a glaring red light on women’s issues; equality, ageism and sexism, it’s also putting its money where its mouth is behind the scenes. The set was run predominantly by females. In fact seventy percent of the department heads on ‘Feud’ were women, there were fifteen roles for women out of forty on set and half the episodes were directed by women, including one directed by Helen Hunt. The legendary Hollywood story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford can’t help but feel a bit heightened, given the actresses’ exaggerated personalities in their later years. The series picks up in 1962 when, after years of side-eyed competition, they come together to shoot the cult classic movie ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ Yes, there’s hair-pulling and tension and costumes galore but the real beauty of ‘Feud’ is that it digs deep. ‘Feud’ isn’t glorifying women tearing each other apart, ‘Feud’ is condemning it. It’s saying one can be much more powerful united than opposed. The 10 episodes also peel back the layers on why this feud happened, why all feuds happen, and the forces behind the scenes that pitted these two women against each other. “Great feuds are never about being bitchy or anger, there’s always some huge amount pain behind it,” Murphy explains. “These two women had more in common I think than any two women in their lives. They were both married four times, they were both actresses, they both struggled being single mothers.” In these ten episodes ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ show us in vivid colour what has changed and what hasn’t when it comes to the treatment of women in the past fifty-plus years. Murphy, who started ‘The Half Foundation’ in 2016 to give female directors more opportunities believes there is much more work to be done, particularly when it comes to Hollywood’s treatment of women over forty. ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ premieres March 5 on FX.

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