Jules de Balincourt Exhibition Will Open ‘Paris Gallery Weekend’

 

 

Jules de Balincourt was born in Paris. Yet he grew up in Los Angeles, completed an MFA at NYC’s Hunter College in 2005…and then became one of the pioneers / central figures of the burgeoning Bushwick artistic community with his anything-goes Starr Space—where he could be found rubbing shoulders with the likes of Terrence Koh and Harmony Korine.

His work is now exhibited quite extensively (we caught a group show in Lille in 2019 that he was a part of), and is repped by galleries in New York, London, Copenhagen and Paris, where he is returning to help usher in Paris Gallery Weekend, the first significant art event in the French capital since the coronavirus lockdown back in March. Indeed, his dramatically titled new show There Are More Eyes Than Leaves on the Trees, opens July 2 at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in the Marais.

 

 

That title was actually culled from an old Costa Rican proverb, which posits that even in times of isolation (like, a global pandemic, for instance), the world around is always sort of aware of us and what we are doing. It also confronts the worsening relationship between humans and nature, especially as powerful political operatives continue to lay waste to crucial environmental protections.

But de Balincourt himself reveals that the featured works were very much an experiment in steering around, or away from narrative, in order to free the act of painting from any literal constraints.

 

 

“I was curious to see what would arise when simply painting a painting,” he explains, “pushing painting away from its narrative quality. I like the idea of placing the viewer at these crossroads of painting, in which one’s emotive response hovers between rational realism or figuration, on the one hand, and the abstract subconscious or primitive on the other.”

He hopes viewers will be allowed the privilege of traveling between the conscious/known, and the enigmatic/unknown. Which, considering the rather ominous, nay apocalyptic quality of our current reality, seems like not such a bad thing.

There Are More Eyes Than Leaves on the Trees runs from July 2 through September 5 at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, and is also available for viewing online at Ropac.net.

 

Aussie Photographer Tamara Dean’s New Exhibition Meditates on Nature & Isolation

 

 

Australian photographer Tamara Dean has long explored the fragile relationship between human beings and nature, something which has become increasing antagonistic as the 21st Century unfolds. Indeed, statistics on the health of the ocean and the extinction of species are at near apocalyptic levels.

The global pandemic has only served to ratchet up the contentiousness, as humanity does daily battle with an insidious, but naturally occurring virus, that has already taken nearly half a million lives. So the timing of a new UK exhibition of Dean’s work could not be more poignant. For the latest in its Artist Spotlight series, the venerable Informality Gallery in Henley-on-Thames has assembled some of her most striking recent works, those which depict enigmatic human immersion in natural settings, which somehow appear both serene and slightly ominous—while seeming to meditate on the condition of isolation.

There is also a palpable mystical/spiritual element to each; and collectively, they singularly capture the current emotional and environmental zeitgeist.

 

 

Dean offers the ethereal explication, “Once I enter the forest, I shift into another place inside myself. The smell of the Earth and leaves, the sounds, the textures, and the play of light through the foliage, all come together to create an elevated sense of reality for me. It makes me feel more active and more capable of being in the moment. I drift into what I could only describe as something akin to a daydream. I am mesmerised by the micro and the macro. My senses are heightened. For me, this is the closest to what I would consider a spiritual experience.”

Also a sign of the times, the show will be part physical, part digital, with British galleries having cautiously undertaken re-opening. But as we’re not likely to be hopping a plane to London any time very soon, it makes perfect sense.

Artist Spotlight: Tamara Dean will be on show at Informality Gallery through July 23.

 

 

 

 

The View From a Re-Opened Hotel: NYC’s Arlo SoHo vs. The Pandemic, Part III

Images by Lauren Zelisko

 

 

Out our window, watching cars flooding through the Holland Tunnel was oddly enough like a spark of new life, after three months of sheltering under coronavirus conditions. It was a sign that New York was getting back to its business, if cautiously, as COVID-19 casualty numbers thankfully continued to plummet here. (Despite escalating elsewhere.)

We’d been watching the city struggle back while checked-in at the Arlo SoHo, which was also working diligently and fearlessly to get its groove back. And that groove was more important than might be readily imaginable—as it has been since its opening in 2016 a hotel that had always relied on its ability to hum with a singular sort of cultural savvy. It was a place where you came from Chicago, Austin, Paris, even New Jersey or Minnesota, not just to sleep, but to be immersed in the electricity of Downtown NYC. You want cool? The hotel even has its own fragrance, which they call Dark Wood—but which a colleague of ours mistook for Le Labo’s popular Santal 33.

“We get that all the time,” confirmed a friendly gent at the front desk.

 

 

But of course, there were still no gatherings of the creative cognoscenti for the time being—as such events are yet understandably disallowed.

“We are normally very engaged with the urban explorer,” says General Manager Bassim Ouachani. “I mean, what other hotels have cabins in the yard? We can even have apple picking out there. That’s why I think we’ve succeeded, because we are always doing something very different. But we had to adjust to people coming now and just staying here for the room.”

He observes that a return to their regularly scheduled “programming” will have to be slow, methodical, and very carefully considered.

“We have to take it step by step. Activations are going to take some time to come back at the same level—I’m thinking 2021. But one thing we can maybe bring back quickly are the movie nights, because we can create social distancing.”

Yet we had been visited by assorted music biz and event production friends whilst at the Arlo—and over cocktails in the garden, they were already plotting the possibilities for future happenings at the hotel’s various spaces. As we rocked in the rocking chairs outside those aforementioned and very woodsy-chic cabins one evening (the hotel’s Bodega is selling bottled cocktails and frozen drinks in lieu of the rooftop lounge being open—which is slated for early July), we imagined a time in the near future when those coveted seats would actually be a little  tougher to get.

 

 

But the buzz of masked guests in and around the hotel’s uniquely stylishly designed public areas (we love the smartly mismatched furniture) was a site to behold after months of isolation. Most were upbeat and gregarious, making it the first time we’d experienced a genuinely social atmosphere since early March (seriously, the Target check-out line doesn’t really count). Encouraging, as just weeks ago the Arlo was hosting heroic healthcare workers who were returning to the hotel each evening after their shifts, exhausted and dispirited.

“Just to see them come back at the end of the day, after working 12 hours,” recalls front desk manager Amaris Ayala, “…all we could really do was offer them a glass of wine. Then we suddenly started to see how their moods were changing, that things were getting better.”

Yet whatever the adjustments of the last few months, one constant reminder of the hotel’s DNA was its unquestionably good taste in music—which we cannot emphasize enough, considering how many so-called “hip” hotels get it so terribly wrong. To wit, beyond grooving contentedly to Prince and Janet Jackson one evening in the garden, at various moments during our stay, we caught “Patricia” by Florence & the Machine, Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” “Fall Down” by Crumb, “Indigo” by Only Sun, and even Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” (the latter which just happens to be our own personal ring tone) all coming through over the soundsystem, keeping us endlessly entertained. It was a very knowing soundtrack, exactly what you’d expect from a hotel not beholden to corporate machinations, but rather to its own keen sense of the cultural zeitgeist.

 

 

But strolling around the neighborhood, the faint scent of optimism had noticeably begun to fill the air. More people were on the street just because. Outdoor drinkers filled the tables at Spring Street’s legendary Ear Inn. Trendy restaurants like Houseman and Adoro Lei were getting creative with their sidewalk displays to lure in passersby for walk-and-drink cocktails or some well-reviewed gourmet pizzas and salads. And the hotel’s own Harold’s restaurant was opening on the 24th for dining in the garden area and at Renwick Street terrace tables—very exciting indeed.

There’s still a long way to go to defeat this pandemic, physically, spiritually, financially. But at the Arlo SoHo, we were getting a good glimpse of the returning sense of normality we’ve been hoping to get back to these last few months—whatever normality means in New York City, anyway.

And we were very much looking forward to our first real restaurant check since February at Harold’s.

 

 

June Art Fair Partners w/ Hauser & Wirth For New Digital Viewing Experience

All images: June Art Fair 2019

 

 

Though galleries and museums are cautiously opening across Europe, a new zeal for digital strategies has decisively taken over the business of art, and will likely be permanently transforming it. Of course, another casualty of the pandemic (following Art Basel Hong Kong and Frieze New York) was Art Basel in Basel, the original fair which turned 50 this month in a sadly less-than-ceremonious way.

One innovative initiative brings the June Art Fair together with ArtReview and art powerhouse Hauser & Wirth, for a digital viewing experience that will take place August 20-31. The former—collaboratively founded by galleries VI, VII of Oslo and Christian Andersen of Copenhagen—burst onto the scene during Basel Art Week 2019, setting up in a concrete bunker turned exhibit space designed by Herzog & De Meuron. Rather than just adding to the din of the fair, June was instead a more exclusive, even secretive, in-the-know affair, meant to re-focus attention on established but perhaps under-appreciated artists, as well as promoting a well-curated program of emerging talent.

But with Basel Art Week shifting online, so has the June Art Fair, only at a later date.

 

 

“We are super excited to be collaborating with ArtReview in supporting June Art Fair this summer,” enthuses Hauser & Wirth Partner Neil Wenman. “By hosting the fair on our digital platform we aim to increase the exposure and audience for the participating galleries. New digital endeavors are challenging the art landscape and redefining how we can all connect.”

Participating galleries will also include Croy Nielsen, Vienna; Document, Chicago; Embajada, San Juan; Empty Gallery, Hong Kong; Green Art Gallery, Dubai; Misako & Rosen, Tokyo; Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt; and Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam XYZ. So it will yet be a genuinely international affair, brought together by contemporary technology.

“We are very grateful to Hauser & Wirth and ArtReview for supporting our first digital initiative,” says June co-founder Esperanza Rosales. “The inaugural edition of June was a proposal for new models, and continuing along that trajectory, we are thrilled to be able to experiment in finding ways to support artists in new and dynamic ways—this time online.”

 

BlackBook Virtual Travel: Three Vienna Museums Go Digital

 

 

One of our favorite places to be in Europe—or anywhere—is Vienna in springtime (though as the late Anthony Bourdain finally had to admit, it’s pretty bloody charming at Christmas, as well). And though our recent plans to visit were shelved by the coronavirus outbreak, we’re making every effort to feel like we are actually there right now, via the miracle of 21st Century technology.

Of course, the Austrian capital is a wealth of art and culture at any time of the year, thanks to 600+ years of Hapsburg rule. And the city has deftly reacted to the worldwide travel lockdown by virtually opening up its magnificent museums for utterly fascinating digital viewing.

Certainly, we’ll miss the view of St. Stephen’s while nursing a glass of Zweigelt at the Onyx Bar at the Do & Co Hotel; or sweating to the grooves at canalside club Grelle Forelle. But right now, a bit of Klimt and German Expressionism will do just fine, thank you—while we look forward to our inevitable return to Österreich.

(N.B. Vienna tourism has a full complement of virtual tours available for viewing here.)

 

 

Albertina Museum 

Housed in the striking 18th Century palace of Duchess Maria Christina and Duke Albert of Saxen-Teschen, the Albertina holds some of the most exalted works of German Expressionism, the Russian avant-garde, and the greats of Cubism and Surrealism. But it is also boasts one of the most important collections of Old Master prints, and modern graphics and photography. The virtual tour features beautifully provocative works by Albrecht Dürer, Egon Schiele, Jean-Antoine Watteau, Jean-Honoré Fragonard…we could go on. It will keep you rapt for hours.

 

 

Museum of Applied Arts – MAK

An internationally renowned arts and crafts museum housed in the 19th Century Stubenring building, it is a regular pilgrimage for architecture and design aficionados. But two current exhibitions that have been moved online convey the artistic range of this always surprising institution. First, the Hamazanama is a 16th Century heroic epic from India, telling the story of Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib, who was, believe it or not, the uncle of the prophet Muhammad, with strikingly transporting imagery. While Gustav Klimt and the Palais Stoclet allows for an edifying peek into the working methodology of the visceral Vienna Secession master.

 

 

Schönbrunn Palace 

The opulent Schönbrunn Palace is a World Heritage Site, and Vienna’s most visited cultural institution. Once the summer playground of the Hapsburg princes, its more than 1400 lavishly Rococo rooms now make it one of Europe’s most significant architectural treasures. The virtual tour takes you through hundreds of historical furnishings, porcelains, ceramics and, of course, canvases. Plan to primp up a bit before signing in, for a properly aristocratic experience.

 

Fendi Taps the ‘Soul of the World’ for its ‘Anima Mundi’ Livestream Concert

 

 

It’s been a difficult time for fashion, with most of the word sheltering-in for the last three months, and not necessarily thinking about dressing to kill all that much. But some brands have notably and commendably turned to activism, at a time when their level of influence is surely needed.

But our empathetic friends over at Fendi have taken a more ethereal approach, having apparently been hard at work organizing what will surely turn out to be one of the more memorable digital events of this long, dispiriting (but obviously necessary) lockdown. Indeed, on Saturday, February 20, the exalted Roma fashion house will present FENDI Renaissance – Anima MundiLatin for “the soul of the world”—a summer solstice outdoor concert, in partnership with the Eternal City’s own Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

 

 

With star violinist Anna Tifu front and center, the Academy’s orchestra will perform Vivaldi’s fittingly soulful, hopeful The Four Seasons, with all members draped head-to-toe in Fendi—a bellissimo reminder of fashion’s long and inextricable relationship with music. The stage will be the brand’s exquisitely photo-ready headquarters at the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a stunning 1937 example of rationalist architecture by Ernesto Bruno La Padula, Giovanni Guerrini and Mario Romano

“We would like this to be a moment of renaissance,” enthuses Fendi CEO Serge Brunschwig, “linked to our home, our Roman roots, and celebrating our artisans’ craftsmanship as much as the Accademia’s artists.”

And with so much strife and division in il mondo right now, a renaissance seems just what we need.

Stream FENDI Renaissance – Anima Mundi here on Saturday, June 20.

 

12 (Sort Of) Questions w/ Tommy Lee About Quarantine, Mötley & Possibly Collabing With the Whole World

Image by Myriam Santos

 

 

His reputation follows him—and, let’s face it, it’s a spectacularly well-earned one. After all, arguably no one in the short history of rock & roll has wrung more out of its potential for joyful, hazardous depravity than Tommy Lee, Mötley Crüe’s legendary drummer and longtime scourge of conservative America (conservative everywhere, if we’re being honest). Certainly, the debauchery had abated by the band’s outrageously successful 2015 reunion tour; and these days Lee can be found contentedly locked in the basement studio of his Los Angeles home, diligently working on his own curiously artful music.

Artful indeed, as the results of those enthusiastic subterranean solo sessions have proven strikingly unexpected. The best of it can be heard on his extravagantly outlandish and just released new solo album ANDRO (Better Noise)which is literally startling in its wild experimentations, as if Lee had allowed himself a series of full on possessions by the gods of so many musical genres you would never dream of associating with him.

 

 

But it wasn’t pulled off alone, mind you; rather, he enlisted several equally extravagant accomplices from around the globe to fully conjure this curious sort of masterpiece. So we get South African rapper and blazing fireball Push Push lending her inimitable stylee to the twitchy-glitchy hip-hop track “Tops.” And an unrelenting Killvein practically brings the world to its knees on the industrial-metal stormer “Knock Me Down” (sonically NSFW, just be warned). But other moments may cause a few jaws to veritably drop to the floor—for instance, Lee covering Prince’s “When You Were Mine” into what sounds like a Juju-era Siouxsie track, then summoning his own version of The Purple One with the utterly funkariffic “You Dancey.”

If that weren’t enough to make you tilt your head in bewilderment, the blippy synths on “Caviar on a Paper Plate” sound like an earnest homage to Man Machine period Kraftwerk. And then we get Tommy showing his more sultry side, coaxing a winsome vocal performance from King Elle Noir for the slinky R&B of “P.R.E.T.T.Y.”—which is exactly what it says it is.

And just to make sure he’d done something that seemingly no one else had ever thought of doing, he went sort of accidentally conceptual with the whole project: precisely half of ANDRO is female energy, half is male.

Amusingly, he’s also one of the most charmingly unassuming and effortlessly funny really famous people who we could ever hope to engage for an interview—which is just what we did, from our mutual quarantine positions on opposite coasts.

 

 

 

 

So how are you doing under quarantine?

It’s weird to say…but awesome. I’ve almost got another record written, it’s frightening. I told my manager that, and he was like, “Okay, hold on a second.” But I’ve just been here in the studio making music, also cooking up new recipes, riding my bike around. It’s just me and my wife, my kids come by a couple of times a week.

It’s a strange time to be releasing music; but people really kind of need it, don’t they?

When I thought about it, I was like, I don’t know—so we pushed the record back. But now people have figured out their daily rituals, and also when they need to turn to new music to make them feel better.

An industry friend said that music sales are up about 25%, especially classical and ambient. Everyone might need to just phreak it right now, though.

Yeah, I have this ambient channel that I listen to, we all really did need a bit of calm. But that’s getting kind of old now.

Regarding the genesis of ANDRO…after the last Mötley tour, were you just recording songs and suddenly realized that you had a cohesive album?

When the Mötley tour ended New Year’s Eve 2015, I told myself I was taking a year off. People said to me, “there is no way you’re going to sit around for a year,” and I was like, “watch.” And I did it, I unplugged for a year. Then I started going crazy, so I started making music with no intention. That turned into two years, and I realized I had some killer shit—so I had to make a record.

How did the process of engaging this worldwide collection of collaborators go? 

I find a lot new music on Hype Machine and Soundcloud. As for Killvein, someone pointed me in his direction, and it was like, “ding ding ding!” I have a track with his name all over it—and we banged it out in a day. And “Tops,” with Push Push…she was on my list of possible collaborators for a couple of years. I love her South African style of rap, that accent—she’s a real firecracker.

 

And the concept of a half male, half female record happened kind of organically?

I tried to sequence the record, and I realized I had as many female as male tracks—and as soon as I separated them it was, “That’s it!” I’m not really sure that it’s ever been done.

Who were the collaborations that surprised you the most?

King Elle Noir, she writes for some big artists—my wife turned me on to her. She came over and listened to the tracks and was so down to do them.

How much is your wife demanding in royalties for that?

Oh, she’s part of the inner “barometer” circle.

How is this record going to change the whole idea of Tommy Lee? Is this a new adventure for you?

I really don’t know. I went to jail in 2000 and spent six months there. It wasn’t fun, I was there in solitary with no TV, no radio…so I just read books, wrote lyrics. That’s where the first Methods of Mayhem album came from. I loved and always will love Mötley. But I decided that I needed something different, I needed a change really badly. Which is fucking gnarley, to quit something that big.

Do you think of yourself as more of an impresario now?

Now I’m inspired to collaborate with other people. I always told myself, when the day comes that I just physically or mentally don’t want to go play live anymore, I would pay it back…or pay it forward, and help other people make records.

What did you learn from making ANDRO?

Ahhh…I learned, and I still am learning patience. When you’re doing it all yourself, it’s just different. And the “pandemic zone” has forced me to further educate myself. I consider, “what does this do, how can I use it, and how can I use it like no one else has?”

What do you want to do once we’re all allowed out of quarantine?

I’ll always do this, I’ll always make music. But it’s going to be something I’ve never done before, and something that challenges me. You know, maybe get the whole world to do something together!

 

Image by Myriam Santos

The View From a Re-Opened Hotel: SoHo Street Art After the Looting

Images by Kristen Spielkamp

 

 

Anyone versed in the contemporary history of New York knows how the city’s SoHo neighborhood went from being a post-industrial wasteland in the 1970s, to an insalubrious artist haunt by the end of that same decade, to being the molten core of the exploding art market in the go-go ’80s (Basquiat, Schnabel, Keith Haring). As tends to happen, trendy nightlife and restaurants followed, before skyrocketing rents sent the art world racing northwest to Chelsea, with the SoHo galleries then replaced by expensive hotels and Prada and Yamamoto flagships and the like.

In recent years, for those who have found the contrived hipstermania of Billyburg and Bushwick to be kind of a drag, SoHo has held something of a charming nostalgia of coolness. The 19th Century Greek Revival / cast iron architecture and cobblestone streets meant it was still Gotham’s most aesthetically captivating neighborhood. But lunch at Balthazar was also still good for a sublime duck confit and an Instagram worthy celeb spotting; while late night goings on at Lucky Strike (a recent victim of the pandemic after 31 years – ugh) still seemed more interesting than anything happening across the river on Bedford Street. A steady stream of a-list Euro and Asian fashion pop-ups has made it an enduring style destination.

 

 

 

As stated in Part I of this ongoing series, we’ve been watching NYC re-open from the matter-of-factly-cool Arlo SoHo hotel, which has also been finding its feet again following the austerity of the lockdown. Naturally, one of our first trips out was to get a glimpse of the aftermath of the recent looting spree in SoHo that was a shameful, and not at all related sideshow to the peaceful protests in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd.

Despite the bright sunshine of a recent Sunday afternoon there was a certain solemnity about it all, with the boarded up storefronts of Louis Vuitton, Issey Miyake, Canada Goose, etc, dominating the scene.

“We were scared to death,” recalls Arlo General Manager Bassim Ouachani of the SoHo rioting. “But we did not get hit thank god.”

 

 

Nevertheless, and perhaps not all too surprisingly, what had popped up since the chaos was an exhibition’s worth of spontaneous (for lack of a better term) street art, pretty much all of it fiercely political in tone—and, well, much of it quite good and affective. It reminded us of a time when art really did get directly involved, when it was an indispensable part of the revolution that never seemed to stop taking place.

“I’ve been a New Yorker for more than 20 years,” says Ouachani. “And it’s so interesting about the city—we always try to make something out of [tragedy].”

So while NYC museums remain shuttered, one can actually check in to the Arlo SoHo, and make a day of the “street life,” visiting nearby (and the hotel’s own Harold’s) restaurants for take away food and cocktails, and touring what is surely one of the most relevant, nay poignant art shows of 2020—which we captured here in part.

 

 

 

Virgin Hotels Employs Fashionable Mannequins to Illustrate Social Distancing Guidelines

 

 

 

Despite being an international hub, Dallas has experienced just a fraction of the coronavirus cases as has New York (about 9200 vs. 200,000)—so it’s no surprise that gyms, bars, restaurants and shops have already begun opening back up there. And, no surprise, veritably every action being taken has been swept up into the escalating socio-cultural war surrounding the crisis.

Hotels represent unique situations, of course—with guests coming from all over the world to congregate under one roof…all with possibly different ideas of what it means to be taking precautions. So rigorous measures are naturally being undertaken to ensure everyone’s safety.

But what hasn’t been talked about much, are those more ethereal aspects of our contemporary urban lives that have lain dormant these last ten weeks or so, replaced by vintage TV binging and too much bread baking. Fashion, especially, took a bow and left the stage, acknowledging that flouncing around flamboyantly and/or expensively was probably not the best look for the time. But calling upon our dormant desire for nattiness seems to be a reasonable strategy for finding our way back to some sense of normalcy. And Virgin Hotels‘ Dallas outpost is leading the stylistic charge, with a new installation titled Together Again: Reconnecting Through Fashion and Art.

 

 

 

Organized by Kristen Cole of Forty Five Ten (she a style arbiter, it an exalted local boutique), the display is spread throughout the hotel and comprises a dozen chicly adorned mannequins, done up in particularly bold, challenging—and colorful—pieces by designers like Christopher John Rogers (a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner), CFDA Swarovski nominee and milliner Gigi Burris, and 2019 CFDA womenswear designer of the year nominee Rosie Assoulin. Contributions also came by way of Archive Vintage, and some well-chosen contemporary art pieces are woven into the narrative.

But the installation also has a more serious purpose. Indeed, it is meant to make guests aware of social distancing guidelines, without the usually ominous visuals that go along with such a purpose.

“With the hotel located in the Dallas Design District, we wanted to do something artistic, bold and characteristically Virgin to promote social distancing in the hotel,” says Teddy Mayer, Vice President of Design at Virgin Hotels. “Instead of removing furniture or roping off areas, we thought bringing in mannequins to supplement limited capacity requirements would be more upbeat and lively. Kristen Cole brought it far beyond my expectations.”

Cole remarks of the unprecedented assignment, “I selected joyful and bright fashion and art pieces that celebrate life and coming together.”

Seems like precisely what we need right now.