Photographer Bob Tabor is the Ansel Adams of the Modern Generation

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—Except with a twist; Bob Tabor’s black-and-white and low-contrast color portraits of horses and the ocean are ethereal and effortlessly American. And they pull you right in.

But while Adams photographed the American landscape in high contrast black-and-white, Tabor’s landscapes are often more abstract. A close-up on the break of a wave; a large-scale portrait of a horse’s eye—Tabor focuses on the beauty in the details of some of nature’s most mysterious subjects. His works are equally enigmatic. A black-and-white image of a splash of rustling water could, if you didn’t know what it was, just as easily be a painting, or a slab of granite. That’s part of their unmistakable beauty: Tabor’s work makes you want to stop and examine things a little closer; think, consider, and really take things in.

The former advertising executive and creative director, who got his start in photography only ten years ago after learning how to use a camera while on vacation in Napa, has released his own coffee table books, Horse Whisperings, Polo: Equine Warriors, HORSE/HUMAN: An Emotional Bond, and Dreamscapes: Finding a place to call your own; Ralph Lauren decorates their stores around the world with Bob Tabor’s stunning equestrian images; and exhibited his work all around New York City and The Hamptons, where he currently lives and works. Now Bob is aiming global as interest in his works pours in.

A selection of some of Tabor’s latest work will be on view as part of the opening of BlackBook’s new experiential art gallery, “BlackBook Presents,” beginning November 28 in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

We spoke with Bob Tabor at length about his work and show at BlackBook Presents:

 

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Tell me about your background.

For 46 years, I was an Executive Creative Director for advertising agencies and worked on leading accounts with major brands globally. I worked with Alka Seltzer, Dentyne Ice, off-track betting—I introduced that way back when—pharmaceutical accounts, everything, and I won every award in the ad industry. But I always had that feeling of wanting to create. It was just that I was always creating for other people—that’s what I did during the week. Then, the weekends came, and I didn’t want to do anything except get my head together and look forward to the next week. So, I never did my own creative work for me. Then, for my 60th birthday, my—at that point—new wife and I went on vacation to Napa, and she bought me a point and shoot, simple digital camera. But really just for fun, and to enjoy the holiday. But what happened was, the moment I picked up that camera, I started to see things differently and from different perspectives. I shot non-stop for that entire week in the vineyard, and that started the whole thing.

When did you go from shooting for yourself for fun on that vineyard to being a professional artist?

Pretty much immediately, people saw my work and started putting it in galleries. One day, while I was photographing in a vineyard in Bridgehampton, I noticed a horse being ridden by what looked like a model. I followed them, and ended up finding the stables. So, I picked up my camera again and just started shooting the horses. A week later, I came back to share the images that I took because I felt that the horses looked like sculptures, and the way that the light hit them—it was just a whole new world for me. A gentleman came in while I was sharing the work, and said, ‘That’s my horse! Is the photo for sale?’ I mean, I hadn’t even thought about selling my work. But he told me, ‘Buddy, I think you should meet my boss.’ I asked him who he worked for, and he ended up being one of the store designers for Ralph Lauren. So, talk about stepping in it. I stepped in it. The rest is history, and my love for horses, my love for photography—it grows every single day.

Do you think your job in advertising had anything to do with your career move?

For me, it really was a natural progression of what I was doing for others—I became a brand, and the brand of Bob Tabor is very sacred to me. I respect the work, I respect the prices people pay for it, I don’t just look to sell and undercut prices, and I only make a limited edition of eight of each of my fine art images. But I let people order it in whatever size they want. So, each one is limited edition, but each one is also an edition of its own. I truly don’t believe it’s art unless you bring it into your life. That’s why I don’t want to feel limited for the consumer to say, ‘Oh it’s so nice, but I wish my wall was smaller,’ or ‘This is four feet and my wall is twelve feet.’ And again, because of my background in graphic design, playing with negative space, the way I crop an image—those things are very important to me, and part of what, I think, makes my work my own.
If I can’t make things that are different than all of the other photographers out there, I just won’t do it. I need everything I make to be mine—even my polo work. So, when I’m shooting polo matches, I don’t care about the scenery, I don’t care about the people watching the game—I want to see the horse. He’s the warrior. I want to see his muscles, I want to see his eyes. In all of my equine work, the star is the horse, the eyes of the horse and the opening of the soul of the animal—the beauty, and the sensitivity. That’s what I try to capture in every portrait I do.

How do you think your advertising work has affected your eye as a photographer?

Because of advertising, I have that graphic design sense where I know how to look at a page, or a canvas, or in this case, a photo, and now how to make it appealing for a consumer to stop when they’re looking at a magazine with a hundred other photos trying to gain their attention. So, the way I do things with my photography is also very graphic. Also, the conceptual fun of thinking up an idea to make it inviting, to create something that makes someone stop and view something differently—that’s equally important in photography. It’s about how you present it, and how they interpret it to make it art. It’s basically the same job again—I keep on doing the same thing over and over. Groundhog Day.

Before advertising, when you were younger, did you ever have any interest in the arts?

No. I never had an interest. The camera was always only there to take photos of my children when they were growing up. Before that, when I was in high school, I was accepted into the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and my major at that point was fine art. That’s what I wanted to be—a fine artist, and teach college level art so I could put some food on the table. In school, I really excelled at painting, but I had a real dose of reality when my father sat me down and said, ‘You’re going to have to support yourself. You got into a bad habit eating five times a day, and I can’t keep it going.’ So, I went back to my counselor at SVA and asked him how I could stay in the art world, but know that I could make a living when I graduate, and he said advertising. So, that’s what I did, and truthfully, I loved it as much as I loved fine art, because I was still creating.

Walk me through your process. The idea of using natural light, but replacing the natural background is really unique. Why did you start doing that?

Well, I really break my work up into two worlds: the equine world and the landscape world. With the equine world, I want to take away anything that’s distracting the viewer from the face and eyes of the animal. It works in my favor to tell the story of the animal. So, I do actually photograph animals in the worst possible lighting—hard lighting in the middle of the day, early afternoon, when it’s so hot and so bright. I only shoot the animal in their environments—their barns, their stables—in their comfortable environment, with natural lighting so they don’t get uncomfortable with lights flashing all around them. My shutter is constantly being clicked, so I am the sound that they hear—they think a shutter is part of me—and I can go up and stick that camera right up next to their eye, because they trust me. I talk to them. There’s no rush for me to get a photograph. So, I really try to build a friendship—a bond—with these animals, so that they’ll let me shoot them in their most special, and vulnerable way.

What about the process with your ocean graphics?

The ocean graphics—there’s actually two parts to the story. The first is that I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean. Growing up, my parents ran a hotel in The Rockaways in Queens, and during summertime, I spent my days at the beach, from the time I was an infant until I was six years old. So, I was always drawn to the ocean. For me, like for most people, the ocean really is a space for rebirth; it’s a calming factor; it’s soothing, even when the ocean is at its roughest. Even right now, I’m sitting here looking at a photo I took of the ocean that’s currently in my living room. Just looking at gives me an instant calm feeling.
There was a series I did called ‘Dreamscapes,’ and they were really just the beauty of the ocean. From that series, I started to delve into the thought process of my own life—thinking of the future, thinking of the past, thinking of the moment—and I started to do another series called ‘White Seascapes.’ They’re all bleached white, no color—just grays and whites. There’s a whole series like that, which will be featured in my new book, Splash, which will be my fifth coffee table book.
But this series deals with something that I was unaware of. It was not only dealing with the future and enjoying the moment, and getting caught up in the thought process, but there was uncomfortable pattern coming out regarding my past. While I was working on it, in post-production, taking out the color and giving it this more heavenly look, there was this uncomfortable pattern I started to notice. The work is well received and truly, people enjoy it. But that’s when I met [Blackbarn’s] Mark [Zeff]. He saw the white on white photo and asked me to sit down for a meeting. So, I went to go meet him and he made me uncomfortable for the very first time since I had worked in advertising. He said, ‘Push the envelope. Give me something different. Take the water and change it.’ That just totally shocked me, and at first, I thought ‘No way. That’s not Bob Tabor.’ But then I started to go back and did this major exploratory, and wound up with that whole series of ‘Splash’ pieces, which are actually the tip of the surf from the ‘White on White’ series.

You said you were having a sort of bad, anxious feeling when looking at the seascapes. What was that about? Did you ever figure it out?

I’m the baby of three brothers, and fortunately, both of my brothers are both still alive. But I went to my brothers and said, ‘I’m dealing with something with this water process and I can’t figure it out.’ I don’t swim. I’m 70 years old, I live near the beach, I have a pool, and I’m fascinated by the ocean. But I just can’t put my head under water. My brothers, who are 8 and 16 years older than me finally said, ‘Well, didn’t Mom ever tell you that you almost drowned?’ What the fuck? I just had an intuitive reaction. Apparently, my father—like I said, we spent summers at the beach—when I was two years old, carried me into the ocean, and a big wave hit him, knocking me out of his arms. I obviously was looking under water to see the type of lighting that I’m now re-creating in my art work.

 

 

What’s your favorite part about photographing the subjects you do?

When I photograph, I know exactly what I’m looking for before it happens—whether it’s the churning of the waves, I’ll stop and wait for a particular feeling that I just know the ocean is going to deliver, or if it’s a horse and I pick up a certain head movement as it happens. I’m a quick read of what’s around me. And really, I see the finished photo before I even take out my camera. That’s why, when I’m commissioned to do work, I say, ‘It make take an hour, or it may take a week. I’ll stay there until I have it, and I know I have it when I leave, otherwise I don’t. I’ll stay as long as it takes to get the right moment. I don’t look at photos after the fact and think, ‘Oh that’s great! Let’s use that one.’ I try to make it exactly how I think it should be while I’m there in the moment.

How do you know if you got the shot?

It’s a commitment. But it gets to the point of trusting your vision, and knowing what looks right, and what you’re trying to communicate with your piece. You just have to be able to step away, and trust your instincts.

You do use some color in your work, with the equine photos and some of your ocean landscapes, but a lot of your work is in black-and-white. Why is that?

If you look at my Dreamscapes, they’re all color. But I love the ethereal quality of the black-and-white that I really try to communicate in my work. Each subject matter I take on has its own personality. I try not to set any rules in what I’m trying to accomplish—it’s very important for me to start with a fresh canvas each time you sit down with something.

Remind me—how long have you been doing photography professionally?

I had my first show, my first sale to Ralph Lauren—everything—in 2008.

How do you think your work has grown or changed in the last decade?

I see graphically a sophistication, and a sort of awareness of what I’m doing, particularly in post-production, within this media. I also feel my thinking has broadened, not for the 8 ½ x 11 ½ page, but large-scale images. It’s not a price factor with me, as much as it is the impression that the image leaves. So, if I could, I’d do everything in large, large scale.

Why?

I love the impact. I love that you step into the subject matter, that you become one. You’re standing at the shore and the sea is at your footsteps. I love that you can step right into the stable and look right into the horse’s eyes. You and your thoughts become transported into that environment. If imagery is small, it’s confined—you dominate it. You don’t become a part of it. And with all of my work, I want the viewer to be a part of it. I want to get them thinking.

Having started with photography so late in life, how do you see your career moving forward? What do you hope for yourself?

I hope that I can continue to learn and discover the love I have for the arts. It may be taking photography and marrying it with other media; maybe I do a 360 and do photography as well as painting and putting them together. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I’m very happy with today, and I think if you feel that there’s always something to learn, and something that brings excitement to your daily routine—it’s fantastic.

What do you want people to take away from your work?

I want people to work while they’re looking at my work. Yes, I want them to feel a connection, a love for the work. But I want them to write the storyline of the visual. That’s why none of my works have a name, they all have a number—because I want you to look at that piece of art and say, ‘Oh my god, that reminds me of when I was a child,’ or ‘Oh my god, I’m going through a rough time now and this gives me some peace,’ or ‘Oh my god, look at the horse.’ A woman stopped me once after she saw one of my photos and asked me ‘Where did you shoot that horse?’ I told her I didn’t know and she told me she knew the minute she saw it that it was her horse from when she was much younger. So, she kept asking me where I photographed it and I told her, finally, ‘I don’t remember but if that’s your horse, then that’s your horse.’ And she bought it. It’s those types of experiences that I want to create with my art. You write your own script—I just supply the visuals.

 

More of Bob Tabor’s work will be on view at the BlackBook Presents opening on November 28 through January 1, 2019 at 20 John Street in Brooklyn, NY.

 

Publications:

2015, ‘HORSE/HUMAN: An Emotional Bond’, Glitterati

2014, ‘Dreamscapes: Finding a place to call your own’, Antique Collectors Club Distribution

2013, ‘Polo: Equine Warriors’, Antique Collectors Club Distribution

2011, Featured in Linda O’Keefe’s ‘Brilliant: White in Design’, The Monacelli Press

2010, ‘Horse Whisperings’, Antique Collectors Club Distribution

 

Exhibitions:

2018, Emmanuel Fremin Gallery at REVEAL International Contemporary Art Fair

2018, Contempop Gallery at Market Art + Design

2016, Contempop Gallery at CONTEXT Art Miami

2015, Contempop Expressions Galleries at Art Toronto

Artist Francesca Galliani Explores: Feminism, Human Rights and The Female Body

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Italian populism is on the rise, fueled by the era of Trump, but artist Francesca Galliani continues to push the democratic ideals where art and freedom of expression meet seamlessly between Italian and American culture via the rise of globalization. Photographer, Francesca Galliani doesn’t just take photos—she captures emotion. Through her imagery, which also includes mixed media works, collage and painting, the Italian born and New York-based artist explores feminism, human rights and the female body. From subjects including impoverished towns in Southeast Asia, to members of the transgender community, Galliani’s work has taken her across the world—and her photos bring the viewers right along with her.

Having discovered photography by chance, after taking a summer course in order to learn how to use her camera, Galliani fell in love with the dark room—and the process. Using experimental techniques to manipulate her photos, she doesn’t believe in boundaries. Instead, Galliani uses art to break as many barriers as possible, while always communicating a powerful message.

As part of the opening of BlackBook’s new experiential art gallery, “BlackBook Presents”, we’ve curated some of our favorite pieces of Galliani’s work, which will be on view starting November 28 at BlackBook Presents in Dumbo Brooklyn.

In anticipation of the show, we sat down with the artist to talk about her work and her responsibilities as an artist.

 

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Tell me about your background.

I’ve been an artist since 1983. My background is: I went to art school and started out as a photographer. I originally just wanted to do fine art photography, but then eventually expanded. I come from the old school of being in the dark room, and developed some techniques that are unique to me. I use toner to do a manual intervention and take the image to another dimension. I’ve always been into manipulating images. So, I started in the dark room and eventually went to mixed media. I always start with my images and then add paint and other elements, especially with words. I love words, I love to take them out of their context and give them a new meaning when you isolate them. I’ve been working in the dark room for 30 years and that’s still my home base. I still am always in the dark room. There’s a magic in there.

Do you consider your work collage?

I think they’re bigger than collage—they take it a step further. So, I’d call it mixed media. I mean, I always start in the dark room, with my images, and then I work to manipulate them. There are elements of collage there, of course, but I also use things like paint, graphite, charcoal.

How did you first get into photography?

It really happened by coincidence. When I was younger, I decided I wanted to learn how to use a camera. So, I went to a summer class to learn, and had this nice surprise of really being in love with it. Then, you know how when you fall in love with something or someone, you just want to do it or be near them all the time? That’s what happened, and I started shooting, and working in the dark room everyday. But when the class was over, my teacher took me aside and she said, ‘The technique, everyone can learn, but the eye—you either have it or you don’t. And you have it. I urge you to keep going.’ I went to the Corcoran School of Art where I got a BFA specializing in photography.

What is it for you about photography that really allows you to express yourself in a way that other mediums maybe wouldn’t?

Any time I create—it could be photography, or painting—the process keeps me alive. It gives me life. The process of creation itself is everything—the medium doesn’t really matter. They all have the same result of feeding me, feeding my soul. But I also believe it’s the art itself that tells you what to do—that we, as artists, are just channels. So, when I create a painting it’s based on instinct—that whatever I’m creating is going to be best served by a painting rather than a photo. It’s just about following your intuition and letting it flow, not thinking, ‘Oh I should do this because the angle looks good.’ No. Go with your gut.

When did you start working with collage, though?

Around 2004.

What made you want to start?

Well, look. I started in 1983, so it took me basically 20 years to get to that point. But I started because I use these toners that are very powerful. They give a great punch to the image, but they also contain Mercury, which is toxic. So, at a certain point, I used to think, ‘For my art, I don’t care if it kills me.’ But then I started getting sick, and my lungs started to hurt, and I realized I didn’t want to die just for the sake of my work. I changed my mind. But I wanted to keep creating in a unique way. So, I decided to continue shooting analog photos, then scan my work and create really large pieces. Then I decided I could still manually intervene, like I used to with toner, but with paint, or with collage, and still achieve that same effect. And I ended up loving the process.
When I was in art school, the first few years, you have to take sort of basic classes. So, everyone—myself included—had to take classes like painting, figure drawing, etc. But I did end up getting real training in painting. Of course, when I was in school, I didn’t care about painting—I just wanted to do my photography. But it was amazing, because later on, that education really served my work. Like, the work I’m doing now, I’m working with abstract painting, which I’ve never done in my life. But I just had this voice in my head telling me, ‘Abstract. You have to do it.’ At first, I thought it would be a disaster, but the more I work, the more I fall in love with it. And that, for me, is really the point of making art.

As far as photography goes—a lot of people find that photographing someone is almost like communicating to them non-verbally. Do you find that that’s true?

Oh, absolutely. A lot of my work is really socio-political, even my nudes. If you look at the women I photograph, they’re all strong, powerful women. Usually, with nudes, it’s all about seeing and showcasing the body. But with my photos, it’s about showing female strength, and the power in their form. I’ve also been photographing transgender people since 1998. Now, that’s much more accepted, but especially in the ‘90s, it wasn’t something everyone was doing. I did all of those portraits to show the dignity and the beauty of the community. So, I definitely like to use my work to communicate a strong socio-political message.

 

 

Do you consider your work feminist?

Of course. My work is about human rights, and women’s rights are human rights.

How does your work explore human rights?

The LGBTQ community, being a woman, even poverty—these are all things that experience prejudice, and with my work, I want to shine a light on them, and the show the dignity in those communities. I do like to have a wide spectrum, and not just focus on one thing, because I want to share the power of all these different things. Even when I traveled to Southeast Asia and photographed all of these impoverished communities—that’s important to me. So many people think of success as how much money you make, or how many nice things you have, but I wanted to show that success can mean many different things. It was similar to what I did with the transgender community in that I wanted to show the beauty in these people, to show that they, too, are human. As for the abstract stuff, it’s really about exploring uncertainty and uncertain times, which is really what the whole world is dealing with right now—not just the United States. Everything is changing, shifting to the extreme right side, so there’s a lot of fear and people are looking at art for answers, and to preserve humanity.

I know you’re from Milan originally. With your work, you’re clearly touching on relevant socio-political themes in regards to what’s happening in the U.S., but do you think your cultural background plays a part in your aesthetic?

Of course my culture has a role in shaping my work. But I came to the United States at a very young age, and the work I’m doing has always engaged with my current experiences. As an artist, I think we work 24 hours a day—we’re at work, even when we’re not physically creating. Sometimes you don’t necessarily feel inspired to work, and I used to have a really hard time with that part. Like, ‘Why are you not producing?’ But then I realized you need those periods of rest when you’re job is putting yourself, and all of your feelings, out there for the rest of the world to interact with. It’s necessary to recharge if you want to create again. So, who I am, the culture that I’m in, just walking around—all of that influences my work. And who I am is what I believe in, which has a huge impact on what I do.

I know you said you really fell in love with photography because of the process, and your experience working in the dark room, but do you think its ability to tackle these kinds of topics—like human rights or feminism—is part of what makes it so appealing to you?

As artists, I think we have a responsibility to create. You’re given a gift and it’s a responsibility for you to use that gift to create and share a message. Like I said, when I first started, I just wanted to learn how to use my camera. But then I learned to follow my gut, and my instincts, and use my camera to share what I believe in. It’s my responsibility to address what’s happening in the world, however it comes out in my art. Whether it’s more obvious with words, or just an abstract image, people can interpret it however they want, but I’m really not a conceptual artist. My work is emotional, and speaks directly to people. That’s why I don’t give titles to most of my pieces—because I want the image to show what it has to say. There’s a really intimate connection between art and the person who’s looking at it. So, I really don’t like to interfere. My job is just to act as a vessel and let the work speak for itself.

How do you think your work has changed since you first started?

It has definitely evolved. I always like to be experimental, and push boundaries with what I’m doing. I never like to find something that works and just get stuck in it. So, I’m always creating and trying to push myself to create differently. I think there are artists who get stuck in what they’re doing, and others, who get too excited and change their style quickly. I tend to be that kind of artist. So, I do need to force myself to slow down a bit, but I never want to stop evolving.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I don’t know. I’ve asked myself that many times. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. Art is my passion—I don’t know how to be anything but creative. I did do fashion photography for a number of years and I did really enjoy it, but that’s still a creative thing. The difference is, you have to follow directions from the client, which forces you to be creative within limitations. But when I do my own art, I don’t want any boundaries—I want to break them.

What do you want people to take away from your work?

I just want to make people think, and open up something inside of them that makes them want to be creative. Of course, I know there are people who aren’t going to like my work. But for the people that like it, I want to touch their emotions, and make them feel good. Someone who bought a few of my pieces once told me he likes coming home to my work because it makes him happy. That’s great. I can’t ask for anything more than that. I just want to have a positive impact.

 

See more of Francesca’s work at the BlackBook Presents opening on November 28 through January 1, 2019 at 20 John Street in Brooklyn.

 

Francesca’s recent exhibitions include:

2018 M.A.C. Milan-Italy

2018 Studio Tiepolo 38, Rome-Italy

2018 Biennale Internazionale Arte Contemporanea (Bias) Palermo

2018 Mc2 gallery, Milan-Italy

BlackBook Interview: Peter, Bjorn & John on Melancholy, Climate Change and What They Love Most About Stockholm

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Photo by Johan Bergmark

 

Despite their significant international success and recognition, Peter, Bjorn & John have always been dedicated supporters of the music scene back in Sweden, where they run the artist collective and label INGRID (even David Lynch and Lykke Li have been collaborators). And since their 2016 album Breakin’ Point, they’ve also been signed to that very same label.

The second such release under that arrangement is Darker Days, which is out this month. It’s a bit of a departure for them, especially in terms of the overarching mood. To wit, “Gut Feeling,” feels like somber, mid-’80s Cure; while “Velvet Sky” is chilling, melancholy noir, with lyrics to match (“There’s a sign saying ‘Don’t fear the reaper'”). But while the solemn “Heaven and Hell” sends a decided chill up the already tingling spine, “Wrapped Around the Axle” – with its more upbeat Sergeant Pepper psychedelia – at least attempts something a bit more sanguine, less bleak…to striking effect.

Proving their unending cleverness, they also released a special 3-in-1 video, which sort of pits each member against one another for attention. Spoiler alert: no one really wins. As well, they’ll launch a short, 9-date North American tour on November 19, taking them from Allston, MA to San Francisco on December 9.

We caught up for a quick chat with PB&J, and also asked them to tell us what they love most about their home city of Stockholm.

 

 

 

What was the reasoning behind releasing the 3-in-1 video for all three singles?

John: The total “band-consensus” method we used on our previous album nearly killed us. So, this time we split up the band in three parts. In every part of the process. We wrote, sang and produced our own songs separately. We even choose to wear our own clothes in the press-photos this time. And, the 3-in-1 video was a natural extension of this process.

So it ties in conceptually with the album itself?

John: With PB&J you always get three for the price of one; but this time it’s personal…

What were you influenced by when recording the new album?

John: Swedish winter darkness, American political darkness and private mid-life darkness. I’m selling this album pretty badly, aren’t I?
Peter: There is no shortage of darkness to inspire in the present day. The idea behind the title was indeed mainly the Swedish winters, originally. But Trump, Brexit, old Swedish Nazis forming the third biggest party here at home, and above all climate change and the possibility that we are actually getting near the end of the world thanks to our western capitalist lifestyle isn’t exactly cheerful stuff. And it’s stuff you constantly think about; so it’s hard to keep out of songs.

It does seem the title is telling in regards to the content.

John: Yes, you can expect Swedish melancholy, Stockholm break-up mysteries and some Ingmar Bergman indie rock. There are hints of light in between all the gloom. I think it might be one of our strongest albums so far.
Peter: The lyrical content takes in ten shades of different darkness, from politics to personal. And actually one very positive hopeful song as a counterbalance. Composed, laid back, desperate and anxious indie-pop. It’s all a mess, but a good one.

What inspires you most about Stockholm?

Peter: It’s so varied. You can take a one day holiday to a part of it you haven’t been to in a while and get a completely different vibe just by looking around you. We’ve got water, nature, archipelagos, green lush suburbs and parks. And it’s got everything that a common big city offers, too: great food, exhibitions, theater, arts, lovely architecture and historical places…and lots of concerts to see.

And the music scene?

Peter: It’s wide and varied; and if we’re talking music, I get inspired by seeing musicians in different fields perform live. But also love to just talk to them and discuss and learn and jump between genres and personalities.

 

 

Peter, Bjorn & John’s Stockholm Favorites

Peter

One of the best things and maybe the most unique thing about Stockholm is the nature.That its so green and that water is everywhere. That you don’t have to go far out of the city centre to experience wildlife. To me that’s the biggest sell. As a country boy, I get the best of both worlds.
In the suburb where I live, there’s even a huge nature reservation area, perfect for strolls and running; and I’m fifteen minutes from the centre.
If you have time, take a boat out to an island in the archipelago. Or at least take a walk round one of the half-islands, like the lush Djurgården. Lots to see and do there, too.
One area where I spend lots of time is the phonily called SOFO. (South of Folkungatan, sort of like a business idea from the boutiques in the area I think –  but it is a convenient name to throw around). Some of my favorite bars, restaurants and cafes are here – like the pub Harvest Home and the Waffleplace Älskade traditioner; and there’s also the lovely Nytorget square and Vita Bergen (“the white mountains”), as well as some great record shops in An Ideal for Living and Pet Sounds. So I would definitely spend an hour or two strolling round this area.

 

SoFo

Bjorn

If anyone is into sports, I recommend going to a game with Djurgården’s ice hockey team. Their home crowd is nothing but unbelievable. The best and coolest team of course is Skellefteå AIK…but they’re located in Skellefteå.
If anyone wants to come say hi to us in the band, your best bet is probably a café called Kaffebar – it’s connected to the INGRID Studios where we hang out a lot. It also has artwork from our Gimme Some album hanging on the walls.

 

Kaffebar

 

John

We are proud of our Swedish public libraries. Some are bigger than others, though, and the Stadsbiblioteket at Odenplan in Stockholm is big and worth a visit. Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund drew this simple but fantastic cylinder-formed library in the 1920s. The outside doesn’t look that impressive, but the inside is kind of magic. When you walk in there you feel like this: “So many books, so little time…”
Siv och Åke is a superb vintage store, conveniently located between the INGRID Studios and the INGRID label office near Mariatorget. Over half my wardrobe is filled with items from here. Not sure if that could be considered to be the best selling point….but…..anyway….nice place and a fantastic staff.

 

Stadsbiblioteket

BlackBook Interview: Leon Bridges on Style, Red Rocks + Playing Gil Scott-Heron Beside Ryan Gosling

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Leon Bridges has a way of making it all feel so easy – as the soft-spoken Texas singer has managed to go from unknown dishwasher to twice Grammy-nominated fashion plate in less than a few years.

Fresh from LA to launch the limited-edition AHLEM sunglasses inspired by his sophomore album, Good Thing, he quietly glides between interviews, photo shoots, stage set-up and soundcheck as if he’s just sitting down to dinner. Today, the place is Missoula, Montana, and Bridges has managed to sell a packed stop on his tour, even here. He warmly smiles and stands against a wood-paneled trailer wall, casually talking about his role as Gil Scott-Heron in the upcoming Ryan Gosling film, First Man. Directed by Damien Chazelle, and hitting theaters October 12, it tells the story of the years leading up to and through man’s first walk on the moon.

 

 

Photo by Scott Hoeksema

 

The year is 1969. America is a country torn apart by extravagantly priced, questionable government agendas and deep social strife (sound familiar?). The Vietnam War rages on, set against deepening poverty, social inequality and of all things, the space race. From the perspective of the late, legendary musical poet Gil Scott-Heron, it was a blur of inspiration for his politically charged spoken-word performances, from drug addiction to a nuclear meltdown to the Detroit Riots.

Today, Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong, a man largely hailed as the hero who made history aboard the Apollo 11. And Bridges performs Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon,” during a protest, underscoring the unthinkable price that was paid for…a white man to walk on a planet far away from the issues that burned so deeply at home.

Bridges’ demeanor suggests that it is perfectly no big deal that his young career has culminated in an appearance in a film that is going to be, actually, a very big deal. And considering today’s political climate, Scott-Heron’s words ring truer than ever.

 

 

Wearing a vintage jacket he bought in London and black pants with a maroon side-stripe, Bridges leans back on the sofa and adds up how it all came together.

“I met Ryan while we were both on Saturday Night Live together,” he recalls, “but Damien had caught wind of me and felt I would be great for the part. I perform the piece during a protest scene; it was cool – they really let me just be myself. I didn’t even have to change my hair, which is in a freaking perm. I don’t even look like [Gil Scott Heron] – his hair was always in a fro.’”

And while he connects the dots in his nonchalant style, it’s even easier to forget how green Bridges is. He reflects back to the difficulties he had when his tour stopped at Colorado’s Red Rocks amphitheater. 

“I just have never performed in a venue that size,” he says. “I had to get a sense of what my show really was and how to fill it into a space that size.”

 

Photo by Scott Hoeksema

 

The 29-year-old is, of course, known as much for his trademark style as his music. Dapper, fresh, yet somehow effortless, his interest in fashion was born when he was still just a young child.

“Even as a kid, I was so into it. I just couldn’t afford to do exactly what I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I studied dance in college. When we performed a Bob Fosse repertoire, African or even a jazz piece, we had to pick out outfits for dance. The costume shops were filled with vintage clothing, and that is where my love for vintage started. I would steal pieces from the costume shop and wear them.”

 

With Ahlem Manai-Platt at the AHLEM for Leon Bridges launch party, image courtesy of AHLEM Eyewear

 

Today, Bridges has broken into completely new ground in just one album’s time. Blazing past the sepia confines of hi ’60s, soul-inspired debut album Coming Home, his latest Good Thing is indeed a colorful, hi-fi affair and draws inspiration from influences as varied as ’70s southern country soul, to R&B, à la Jodeci. Each track is completely different from the next, yet each is still steadfastly rooted in Bridges’ personal style. The result of studio sessions he took to LA with producer Ricky Reed, he calls Good Thing a collaborative affair and shyly nods in agreement that it’s a glimpse into his true musical wingspan.

“I just knew that if I was to make another project similar to the first one that I’d be stuck forever,” he says. “I’ve been able to grab more of the attention of the black community with this album, which I really wasn’t able to do before.”

Looking a bit like David Byrne crossed with James Brown gyrating through his setlist, whatever box Leon Bridges may have been in, he’s popped right out of it. Comparisons to anybody, much less Sam Cooke, be damned. And he makes it all look and sound like the easiest breath of fresh air.

“I just like to live within the rhythm,” he adds. Just like that.

 

The Coolest European Cities You Don’t Know: Antwerp & Maastricht

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We’ve been plenty busy in 2018, gallery-hopping in London, glacier-gazing in Iceland and eating our way across Croatia. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of autumn, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city – the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day.

When fall arrives, we can often be found beating a path to fashionable Antwerp (Belgium) and sophisticated Maastricht (The Netherlands). Take note, if you’ve yet to fall for the charms of the Benelux, a couple of days in each city will cure you of that straight away.

 

Antwerp

Clockwise from top left, The Jane Restaurant; Antwerp architecture; Hotel Julien; MoMu

 

If fashion has held a central place in your life and you haven’t yet been to Antwerp, you should readily acknowledge a slight tinge of embarrassment. From the Antwerp Six on to today’s new guard of Belgian design, the exalted Royal Academy of Fine Arts continues to turn out some of the most astonishing talent, whose creations can be found in the vanguard boutiques in and around Nationalestraat – where you’ll also stumble upon the hallowed flagships of the likes of Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Nearby, as well, is the MoMu, the city’s incomparable fashion museum, which, though currently closed for renovations, is still hosting MoMu Fashion Walks the first Saturday of each month. (Between boutiques, stop in for a de rigueur lunch at Verso Cafe, within the concept shop of the same name.)

Antwerp is also a place of staggering physical beauty, with its gothic-looking Flemish Renaissance cityscape and majestic harbor. The latter is now home to industrial-chic restaurants like Het Pomphuis (in a grandiose former pump house) and the sleek, Michelin-starred ‘t Zilte, on the top floor of the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom).

And speaking of vanguard, the thought-provoking M HKA museum, and independent galleries such as Valerie Traan, Stella Lohaus and Annie Gentils are central to Antwerp’s thriving contemporary art scene. If it’s architecture that sets you atingle, plan a leisurely stroll along the Cogels-Osylei, a street in the Zurenborg district where art nouveau, neo-Renaissance, neo-gothic and Tudor-revival styles (amongst others) all come together in a strange but elegant sort of harmony.

Antwerp nightlife, it must be said, is totally bonkers. Start with a glamorous dinner at The Jane, fitted into a stunning 19th Century former chapel; the 13-course prix-fixe menu is €140, but the upstairs bar has much more agreeable prices, and seats you closer to God. Continue on to the extravagant scenes at over-the-top dance clubs like Red & Blue, Publik and Cafe D’Anvers. Expect a significant degree of mind-altering.

Stay

Hotel Julien is a smart, mostly-minimalist guesthouse with an intimate subterranean spa; Hotel Banks is a stylish sleep amidst the best fashion shopping; De Witte Lelie is the joining of three 17th Century townhouses into a place of utterly ethereal beauty (and favored by notable fashion designers).

 

Maastricht

Clockwise from top left, Kruisherenhotel; River Meuse; Stijl boutique; Maastricht streets

 

Famous as the place where in 1992 the modern European Union and the euro were born (the anti-Brexit, if you will), Maastricht is actually a seductive mix of international college town and exquisitely cosmopolitan city. And seriously, nearly everyone seems to have a bloody great sense of style here. With its right and left banks straddling the majestic Meuse River, the ethereal setting might easily have you thinking it can’t possibly all be real – but it most definitely is.

Wedged almost covertly between Belgium and Germany (Cologne is just 70 km away), history and modernity play very well together in this comely Southern Dutch town. Roman cathedrals bookend narrow 17th Century streets, which are abuzz with urbane cafes, indie fashion boutiques and intimate contemporary art galleries. And to be sure, one of the vigorously recommended activities is just…walking around.

Remarkably, for a relatively small city, Maastricht packs in rather a lot of Michelin stars. Tout a Fait, Beluga loves you, Toine Hermsen, Au Coin des Bons Enfants and the glorious Chateau Neercanne, just outside the center, all boast at least one – and chefs can be wildly experimental. But there are also more bars per capita than even Amsterdam – so a jenever (gin) soaked night on the tiles requires little planning. Still, make sure to hit The Lab for more perception-altering cocktails, and Complex for bleeding-edge dance music.

Culture vultures should make time for the architecture and design gallery Bureau Europa, as well as the Bonnefantenmuseum, with its fascinating mix of Italian and Flemish Renaissance and baroque works, and brilliantly curated – Richard Serra, Sol Lewitt, Neo Rauch, Gilbert & George – contemporary collection.

Stay

The Kruisherenhotel (a member of Design Hotels) might literally be the most spectacular hotel in the known universe, fitted as it is into an awe-inspiring, 15th Century former monastery and cathedral; the Beaumont, right on the buzzy Stationsstraat, has minimalist rooms and the chic Harry’s restaurant; Hotel Dis is an artistic 7-room guesthouse with its own contemporary gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: The Knocks Chat w/ Foster the People About Break-Ins, Kardashians and ‘Ride or Die’

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The Knocks image by Dusty Kessler 

 

When Foster the People had their breakout moment in 2011, the curiously infectious single “Pumped Up Kicks” seemed something of an unlikely hit. Yet with its languid groove, psychedelic vibes and Mark Foster’s oddly effected vocals, it propelled the LA quartet to genuine stardom (it’s since wracked up almost half a billion YouTube views). Their debut album Torches, and its 2014 follow-up Supermodel, both went top ten. A third album, 2017’s Sacred Hearts Club, was perhaps their most musically adventurous and ambitious yet.

Across the nation over in NYC, The Knocks‘ 2010 debut single “Make it Better” grabbed national attention when it was picked up for a memorable Corona commercial. The prolific DJ-production duo of Ben Ruttner and James Patterson would go on to release a string of excellent singles, collaborating with the likes of M83, X Ambassadors and Cam’ron, before finally birthing their debut album 55 in 2016. But back in 2011, one of their first high profile remixes was – you guessed it – “Pumped Up Kicks.”

 

Image by Mats Bakken

 

So surely it was inevitable that the two entities (The Knocks + FTP frontman Mark Foster) would creatively converge – which is exactly what happened in an LA studio earlier this year. The result was the awesome single “Ride or Die” (under the banner The Knocks ft. Foster the People), which has been picking up momentum since its March release, going Top 20 Alternative just last month. The song is taken from their eagerly awaited upcoming album New York Narcotic, to be released on the 28th, through Neon Gold / Big Beat (it will also feature a collab with Sofi Tukker).

Both had chosen to skip the summer festivals. But they will converge this Monday, September 10, for what will surely be an unforgettable appearance together on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. But for the full Knocks experience, catch them at their record release party at NYC’s Public Arts on the 27th, or at the Neon Gold X: 10 Year Anniversary bash at The Knockdown Center.

Foster the People will play 17 dates in North and South America this autumn.

In the lead up to the Colbert appearance, we sat James, Ben and Mark down for a chat about how it all came together.

 

 

What actually brought you guys together for “Ride or Die”?

Ben: We got together through a mutual friend Kenny Laubbacher, who went on to direct the “Ride or Die” video for us. I actually met him through a songwriting camp in Nicaragua called SOCAN.

Were you guys already fans of each other?

Ben: Yeah, definitely. As you know, one of our first remixes back in 2011 was of “Pumped Up Kicks.”

Both Foster the People and The Knocks were sort of unexpected successes, in that you didn’t fit any particular musical trends. But that was still a pretty exciting time in music, a time of possibilities. 

James: Yeah, the song has the feel of around 2010, which was a really good time for indie music.

What was the actual process? Did you actually wind up in the same room together?

Mark: I flew in…do you remember where I was coming from Ben?
Ben: You were coming from doing a radio show somewhere…
Mark: We basically had a day in the LA studio, since they had to get right back to New York. They already had the foundation for the song, and we got about 90% of it done that night.
James: I got in that day also, and we wrote the majority of it that night. And the whole thing actually ended with Mark getting his car broken into!

Wow, you mean right there at the studio?

Mark: Yeah, I had parked in a guarded lot. At the end of the session, the LAPD called my cell phone, “Hey Mark, this is Officer Johnson, why don’t you give me a call back about your car?” So we walked out into the lot, and my windows were broken. The stole everything I had from my flight, even my toiletries. It was such a low blow!

It doesn’t really seem to be worth it – why would you steal toiletries?

Mark: Desperate times, man.

I guess in Trump’s America, now you have to resort to stealing shampoo.

Mark: Bernie Sanders in 2020!

Were you genuinely thrilled with the final “Ride or Die” – is this the start of something more between Foster the People and The Knocks?

James: Yeah, I think so. After all, why do collaborations have to just be rappers and DJs?

It does seem like these days everyone is pushed to do these collabs to make an event out of everything. It’s like, “Rihanna and Keith Urban” – together for the first time!

James: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Foster the People

 

But this one didn’t feel at all staged. Was there a real sense of musical kinship between you guys?

Mark: You never really know what you’re getting when you go into the studio with other people. Artists are sensitive, and musicians tend to be lone wolves. But you’re all there for this common goal, which is to create something great. Music is a language within itself, and we quickly bonded, because we complemented each other so well musically.
James: And it’s not always that way!
Ben: We both came up around the same time, which I think also gives us a common perspective.

The music scene does feels like it’s become a bit polite and orchestrated now, no?

Mark: I think you’re probably right. That’s why The Weeknd and Post Malone have become so big, because they’re individuals and not afraid to be themselves. Marilyn Manson did that awhile back, of course, but time finally caught up with him. He was so ahead of his time.

He couldn’t be controlled by the music business. 

Mark: Like it or not, that’s why the Kardashians are the biggest thing on TV. They are so over the top, and just don’t seem to care what anyone else thinks.

This would seem to be a good time for artists to be speaking up about things that are more…urgent.

Mark: I would love to see more activism. But a lot of artists are afraid to make statements, even though they have the chance to make real social change. I guess they don’t want to, because they don’t want to risk losing any of their fanbase.

Making statements seemed to just be more organic to making music back in the day.

Mark: If you look at Bowie cross-dressing in the ’70s, everything that John Lennon did with Yoko Ono – it was all so radical.

If you had the chance to go into the studio with anyone right now, who would it be?

Mark: I think Kanye. But I think it would also be great to sign someone new, somebody that nobody knows about, and do something fresh and forward.
Ben: We’re trying to get more into artist development. We’re working with this new girl Blu Detiger, 20 years old, born and raised New Yorker.

Is there a reason you’ve chosen such a provocative title for the new Knocks album, New York Narcotic?

Ben: New York Narcotic is just a comment on how you get to a city like New York and it becomes like a drug – it’s basically about not being in the suburbs. It really does get to be like a high.

 

BlackBook Interview: The ‘Sharp Objects’ Set From The POV of Its Roller-Blading Teen Stars

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Photo: Anne Marie Fox/ HBO

 

We’re assuming by now, five episodes in, HBO’s Sharp Objects has you trembling with fear and anticipation, as you await the next chapter of the limited series each Sunday night. The Amy Adams led adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel is equal parts gripping crime thriller and heartbreaking exploration of a woman deeply troubled by her childhood and her battle with alcoholism.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the show is its handling of children – particularly the three young roller-skating party girls at the plot’s center. Eliza Scanlen plays 13-year-old Amma, the younger sister of Adams’ Camille Preaker. In the most recent episode, we saw her popping pills on stage with her two cronies, played by real-life sisters Violet and April Brinson.

We’ve seen their backlit silhouettes gliding down the nighttime country roads of Wind Gap, Missouri all season, their miniskirts fluttering as a psychopathic killer of young girls remains on the loose. As the show progresses toward its sure-to-be grisly conclusion, we couldn’t help but wonder: what’s it like on set in the deep south (Barnesville, GA), alongside a somber Amy Adams, a sinister Patricia Clarkson (playing Camille and Amma’s cold-hearted mother), and several fake corpses?

Who better to answer that question than the true flies on the wall: the Brinson sisters, who watched the show unfold from the comfort of their roller skates.

 

Walk me through the casting process – how did your audition(s) go? 

Violet Brinson: Well, before we even got in the room with casting, we had to submit a roller-skating video. April and I filmed separate videos that we sent to casting. It was really funny because they called up April’s agents and asked them if April had a sister, and her agents didn’t know, so they said she didn’t. Then casting called again asking if she had a cousin or something, because our last names are the same and our videos look very similar. April’s agents called our mom and finally asked whether or not she had a sister or cousin auditioning and my mom confirmed that, yes, April has a sister that is also auditioning. Everyone got a good laugh out of this. After we read for casting the next step was the director’s session with Jean-Marc Vallée.  At first, it was a bit bittersweet because we were both going in for the same role. We really had to channel our inner Serena and Venus Williams (sister goals).  We were so thrilled when we both got cast!

Had you read the book before coming in? 

April Brinson: As soon as I found out I was going to be reading with casting I read the book. I loved it and became attached to the characters and story almost instantly. I had previously read Gone Girl, so I was already a fan of Gillian.

How familiar were you with Amy Adams, Jean-Marc, and Patricia Clarkson before signing on? 

Violet: Oh my gosh!  I knew exactly who all three of them were!  I’ve seen Dallas Buyers Club and Wild and Demolition and they are some of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve grown up watching Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson. They are such successful and talented actresses, who I have looked up to since I was young. Being on set with them was so surreal.
April: I had seen almost every project each of them had worked on. I had grown up looking up to them. While I was going through the auditioning process, Big Little Lies was being released and I was obsessed. So I couldn’t help but be thrilled to work on Jean Marc’s next HBO series.

 

 

What were your feelings toward your fellow cast members going in versus how you feel about them now? 

Violet: I was terrified! Going onto a set with such extraordinary artists who have been my idols was very nerve-wracking.  But they were all so welcoming and so warm. They really put me at ease and made me feel comfortable enough to do my very best work.
April: I was extremely nervous. They all are such talented and hardworking people, I really felt like I had to step up and be the best I could be. As soon as I arrived on set, everyone made me feel at ease. Because of everyone’s kindness I was able to do my very best work and since it was such an inclusive environment, I was really able to soak up so much knowledge from everyone around me. I was really fortunate to work with them and get to know what amazing and compassionate people they are.

What was it like on set? Was it scary and serious, or lighthearted? 

April: It was a very passionate and hardworking set. Everyone really loved what they were doing. That being said, the content is very dark and difficult. When we were working on some of the more difficult scenes, there was a respectful and professional tone so that the actors could stay in the emotional state they needed to be in. However, overall it was a very warm set.

Did you know how to roller skate before this, or did you learn for the part?

Violet: It’s funny, because both April and I were competitive figure skaters when we were young, but we haven’t spent much time roller skating. However, I do believe our figure skating along with our dance training helped a lot when learning to roller skate. Eliza, April, and I were taught by a World Champion for about two months before we even started filming and it was so much fun!

Did you both become close friends with Eliza Scanlen? How was it working with her? 

Violet: April, Eliza, and I connected really well right from the get go. Learning to roller skate together really gave us the opportunity to bond. We all became great friends. Eliza is such a hard worker, she is so sweet and talented and getting to know and work with her was such a blast! We love her and are still great friends today!
April: Working with Eliza was not only incredible because she is so talented and hardworking, but because when the three of us are together, on or off set, we have a total blast. It was so nice being able to form such a close bond with her, she is such an amazing and thoughtful person. We both adore her.

BlackBook Interview: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Star Fiona Xie on Respect, Cultural Nuance & the Inimitable Charms of Singapore

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Images Courtesy of Warner Bros

 

It’s not hard to imagine why, with Hollywood in full ownership of the concept of “blockbuster” cinema, films spotlighting other cultures continue to find mainstream U.S. success fairly elusive. But the lead up to the release this weekend of the Singapore-based Crazy Rich Asians has all the buzz of a massive superhero sequel.

Based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel about wedding-focused extravagance amongst the Singaporean one-percenters, it also happens to be coming at a particularly socio-politically charged moment – with journalist Sarah Jeong’s hiring at the New York Times setting off a heated debate on the context and boundaries of racism in America. Interestingly, the film actually kind of pokes fun at the strict class delineations in Singapore, something pretty much anyone anywhere can relate to. But perhaps most importantly, it features bold, memorable female characters.

But what you should really come to CRA with, is the anticipation of seeing a riotously funny film, through the exotic lens of Singaporean culture, with tradition butting up against contemporary life – as it tends to do. And much like so many English costume dramas, it also plays as something of a Singapore travelogue, showing off the city’s sultry, dynamic charms. (It’s currently on so many “hottest destination” lists.)

We caught up with one of those particularly awesome women, actress Fiona Xie, who plays social-climbing actress Kitty Pong – a character viewed with suspicion by her rich boyfriend’s family…providing some of the comic tension that is at the heart of the film’s universal appeal.

 

 

Asian stories are often told in film through Western perspectives here in the West. What do you think has been missing in that point of view?

Integrity and a diversity in terms of culture, as Asian and Western cultures alike are nuanced in many ways.

What attracted you to the film version of Crazy Rich Asians? Had you read the book?

I was actually introduced to Kevin Kwan’s New York Times bestseller by a CEO of a respectable watch company. I didn’t expect him to be reading something with that title. I was intrigued by everyone’s interest and the wide spectrum of audience that it actually reached. It was such a buzz, everyone loved and raved about it. I was [generally] not one for such trends. I did however, pick it up and to my surprise, devoured Kwan’s wicked humor gleefully, chuckling away at how close to home it was.  In the U.S. alone, there have been over 1.8 million copies in print. Genius.

Why do you think there is so much advance hype in the U.S. for this film in particular?

Goldrush. Everyone wants in on what’s good. For the Asian community, it’s also a movement to have a platform to share their real stories and to be heard equally. Ultimately, we are all humans that want to be understood, loved and accepted and to transcend all boundaries for great opportunities.

 

 

What will a Western audience take away from the film about the differences in our relationship issues and traditions?

Curiosity and respect. The same way you would want an Asian audience to appreciate and celebrate the Western culture.

How does Singapore as a place figure into the story in Crazy Rich Asians?

Location, location, location. The ultimate wedding of the year! Technicolor avatars like Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay, synchronized swimming atop the world’s only floating pool above the three-joined towers on the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands, and a glorious assortment of street food at the Newton Circus Hawker Centre.

Are there cultural references that are specific to Singapore?

The entire movie is interwoven with Singapore culture and you will also see a lot of cultural touch points referenced in the movie – and how multicultural Singaporeans live their life.

Ultimately, how do you think Western audiences will connect with the film version of Crazy Rich Asians?

With laughter, tears and a newfound interest in all stories that are ultimately well told.

 

The Real Singapore Locales Featured in Crazy Rich Asians

Images from top: Marina Bay Sands Skywalk; Newton Circus Hawker; Gardens by the Bay

 

BlackBook Interview: Curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot on the Dazzling New Viktor&Rolf Exhibition in Rotterdam

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Images by Team Peter Stigter

 

An inherent Protestantism / egalitarianism had meant that the Dutch had always favored a sense of style that stood athwart the flamboyance of the Brits, the flash of the Italians, the haute of the French. And it was earnestly hard to find fault with that philosophy, considering how well they wore it.

But in 1993, a pair of extravagantly visionary designers took to overthrow their country’s stylistic modesty – and since that time, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have veritably changed the way the world has thought about Dutch fashion design.

To mark the 25th anniversary of their stylistic insurrection, the Kunsthal Rotterdam has undertaken a career survey of the Viktor&Rolf fashion house – and the result, Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists 25 Years, is as breathtaking and perception-altering as one might expect from such a revolutionary pair.

As the exhibition opens this month (running until September 30), we pulled curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot – also responsible for the landmark show The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier – away from his busy schedule to discuss the “whys” and “why nows” of his paramount, and stunning presentation of the world of Viktor&Rolf.

 

What made this a good time for a career survey on Viktor & Rolf?

I think what we see as “art” is very personal, some paintings can be or cannot be considered real art. I see fashion and haute couture definitely as an artistic medium in which artists like Viktor&Rolf chose to express themselves; but not all fashion is “Art” with a capital “A.” In the case of V&R, there is a real way of thinking about fashion that was outside the box from the beginning, and that was not about trends and creating beautiful red carpet dresses for celebrities. It is not what their work is about. It is a very intelligent fashion that shows how you should push your ideas to create. I always like to try to understand it in a social context and look back on the impact it had on history and society.

What does their work mean to you, personally, and as a curator?

It is important historically to understand how Viktor&Rolf have been inventing a new way to present fashion, and also to reinvent the fashion system. The title of the exhibition is “Fashion Artists.” Visitors will understand how they are in their own category as artists, using fashion as their medium; their work is about how they opened the doors to a whole generation of young designers like Iris Van Herpen, who could have not existed without Viktor&Rolf, I think. Dutch fashion was pretty much wooden clogs back then.

 

 

And they changed all that?

They are the first Dutch designers to have international recognition. It is a very inspiring story, they could have stopped many times and they never gave up fulfilling their dream. It is a wonderful message about believing in yourself, even if you are from a small town with no fashion and entertainment connections. They marked fashion history, are still relevant season after season…and for example, when you look at the recent collections of Balenciaga, with the layers, and Alexander McQueen with the pink bows, it is a beautiful homage to see how they are still so influential.

How did you come to decide on the Kunsthal Rotterdam?

Rotterdam chose them and me! The Rotterdam Kunsthal director Emily Ansenk is a very good friend, and I love her team. It is one of the most singular museums in Europe, in terms of programming. Very avant-garde, modern and daring, not only showing beautiful paintings…but she really thinks outside of the (museum) box! Emily had the generosity of opening the doors of her museum to showcase the work of these Dutch national treasures, in their home country, to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They are very excited about it. It is my third collaboration with Kunsthal, since Jean Paul Gaultier and Peter Lindbergh.

 

 

How will the exhibition be arranged?

It is different universes in the five galleries, from the first dress they did and won the Hyères Festival with, to the latest collection. Viktor&Rolf were very generous in giving all of their sketches, and they were very open in terms of display. They have very strong themes, from rebellion to romanticism; they work the opposite of other fashion designers and they really are fashion artists. They first start with the idea of the show, how it will be presented, and they develop the collection around it. It is a different vision, it is their own language, and it is not about trends – it is about pushing ideas and not being worried of the social commentary.

So you would say that their work is as much art as it is fashion?

It is a new art form they invented and that they lead. When you will discover the Russian Doll collection, the Zen Garden collection as well, you understand how they created new dimensions in art and fashion, and the art of performing fashion. We did the selection of the pieces together. They are living artists, for me it is very important that visitors hear their voices as well. It is quite funny, because they made a list of works, I had one as well; and out of 50, we had 49 that were exactly the same So it was resolved quite quickly and easily…we pretty wanted exactly the same things!

It is a unique opportunity to see 25 years of work together, surely.

Even if you are invited to a haute couture fashion show, it lasts not even 20 minutes. This is an opportunity to take time to discover a singular world of Dutch haute couture savoir-faire. The selection is incredible, it is a “best of” I think, everything I could have wished for, and more.

What are some of the highlights for you?

The Russian Dolls collection definitely. And also for the first time, the clown costumes they created for Madonna for Art Basel Miami will be displayed. For me this is a definite highlight – I am a huge Madonna fan!