Very Pink Photo of Queen Elizabeth Fetches Hefty Sum at Sotheby’s

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Considering how 41 years ago, Queen Elizabeth and her Silver Jubilee were the target of the Sex Pistols’ wickedly seditionary “God Save the Queen” (naturally, the song was banned by the BBC, and went straight to number one), it was a delicious pleasure witnessing her own little, but quite important act of “rebellion” against President Trump this past July. Indeed, she showed up for a meeting with 45 wearing a brooch gifted to her by President Obama – the recipient of endless Twitter ire doled out by his petty successor. She knew exactly what she was doing, of course.

So yes, the Queen is “cool” right now – and as part of the Sotheby’s Made In Britain auction in London, a very pinked out photograph of her by Chris Levine just sold for £150,000. The pre-show estimate was only £70,000-100,000. The photo, titled Lightness of Being (Pink), was taken in 2015, and is also studded with Swarovski crystals – though we’re not sure if there is a particular metaphor connected to that.

The auction, meant to be a sweeping survey of British contemporary art, also included works by Banksy, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, and the late Lucian Freud and Zaha Hadid.


Banksy’s Bar Code

Pussy Riot Release Statement on Peter Verzilov Poisoning

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Last week Peter Verzilov, a member of the Russian punk/art/protest collective Pussy Riot, was arrested during a day of widespread protests in Moscow. It was later revealed that he was hospitalized in serious condition, in what appeared to be an incident of intentional poisoning.

Since then, there has been much speculation and much-warranted indignation around the episode. To help clear things up, the other members of Pussy Riot released this statement yesterday.


German doctors from Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin hospital, Prof. Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl (CEO) and Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Eckardt, held a press conference today and they said their medical conclusion was that Peter Verzilov was poisoned in Moscow. 

We wish we could get a comment from Peter about his poisoning, but we cannot since he’s still disoriented and not fully with us as the Peter we know. He’s dizzy and confused, he cannot remember where he is right now. He remembers his friends and relatives, but he does not understand that he’s in Germany, that he’s in a hospital and there are doctors around him, not prison wardens. “Are you the director of the prison?”, – Peter asked yesterday to the head of the hospital. It’s amnesia, but the good news is that this particular form of amnesia is reversible. In the very beginning he could not recognize his mother. Nothing like that anymore. But Peter’s thoughts are jumping from one subject to another quickly, which does not allow him to be fully present. And if you ask Peter why do you think you were poisoned, he most likely will tell you about the recent arrest of Igor Sechin, whether there is mobile connection in Arctic or not, about Marina Abramović and Ulay’s performances and his postmodernist phantasies. It may be scary, but most of the time Peter still has his unique sense of humor. When he saw me and Nika Nikulshina yesterday, he said “So good to see you without handcuffs”.

These effects are reversible. All the symptoms, as both Russian doctors at Sklyfosovsky hospital and the German doctors say, look exactly like effects of poisoning by anticholinergic agent. It’s a group of drugs, 40 or 50 of them, though the doctors cannot specify yet what exact compound is it. The benefits of anticholinergic drugs for those who want to poison someone is that they don’t last long in blood and urine, and in a few days they are gone (which means that German doctors may not find the exact compound used in the poisoning).

One possible poison from anticholinergic group is scopolamine, which is also known as “Devil’s breath”. It’s known among criminals, those who want to poison, rob, or rape someone. It’s also known as a “date-rape drug”. It has no taste or smell, you can add it to the food or drink. And it causes amnesia, it means that you can do whatever you want with someone and they will not remember who you are. 

It’s important to realize that Peter’s life was in danger. He might be dead now if Nika Nikulshina was not around to help him. In large doses anticholinergic drugs can cause respiratory failure and death.

It’s important that we were able to move Peter from Russia to Germany, Charité hospital. First, his life is still in danger in Russia. Second, in Germany we can find out what happened, since Russian doctors are under the influence of Russian government, those people who possibly poisoned Peter. Third, treatment here is dramatically more humane. In Moscow Peter was tied up with his arms and legs to the bed – to prevent panic attacks, according the doctors there. We believe tying somebody up can only cause panic attacks, not prevent them. Peter is free to move here in Charité. Doctors are open, they have nothing to hide from relatives, they let us be with Peter 24 hours a day, and they share with us every piece of information they find.

Please follow these accounts for updates:
Pussy Riot:
Nadya Tolokonnikova:
Peter Verzilov: (currently not active)

Maggie Gyllenhaal Joins the Autograph Collection’s ‘Screenwriters in Residence’ Program

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Despite memorable roles in blockbusters like The Dark Knight and White House Down, Maggie Gyllenhaal will always represent a particular sort of indie spirit, one that ever cultivates story over visual bombast and special effects.

So it makes perfect sense that she has just been appointed Independent Film Advisor to The Autograph Collection’s Indie Film Project. With a goal towards supporting not just independent talent, but specifically aspiring women, Gyllenhaal was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s 1929 feminist essay A Room of One’s Own, in shaping this year’s Screenwriters in Residence program.

It was all kicked off with a splashy bash at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Maggie pal Martha Wainwright took to the stage for an electrifying performance.


Martha Wainwright image by BFA


“I think the words of Virginia Woolf – written almost 90 years ago – still ring true,” observes Gyllenhaal. “We are at a moment, culturally, when people are hungry for stories that are emotionally true, rooted in diversity; and reflective of different voices. I am proud to support emerging female screenwriters in independent film, which has always been a place you can tell stories in an honest and authentic way.”

Those voices, as thoughtfully selected by the actress, include Sarah Jane Inwards, specifically citing her script for Jellyfish Summer; young documentarian Chiara Towne, whose most recent screenplay V.I.N. was featured on the 2017 Black List; and budding screenwriter Amanda Idoko, who is currently working on Central Park, an Apple-produced animated musical.

The Autograph Collection is a group of unique luxury hotels located across the continents, from Tokyo to Dubai, Berlin to Miami and beyond.


Hotel am Steinplatz Berlin

Vienna Overtakes Melbourne as the World’s Most Livable City

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As American and British cities crumble under the weight of the decline of once great empires, the capital city of what, until 1917, was actually the world’s greatest empire, has taken the top spot in the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s 2018 Global Livability Index.

Indeed, once the seat of the 600-years-strong Hapsburg Empire, most of Europe was ruled from the palaces of Vienna. Alas, after being on the wrong side of World War I, that Empire was permanently broken up, and Austria has spent a century in (mostly) peaceful political insignificance. And, as of now, very high living standards.

The survey is conducted each year by the EIU, and takes into consideration such factors as stability, healthcare, education and infrastructure, as well as culture and environment. Hardly surprisingly, no U.S. city cracks the top ten, which is in the overall dominated by Canada, Japan and Australia, whose Melbourne lost the top spot to the Austrian capital this year.




Suffering through seven years of civil war, Syria’s Damascus turns out to be the world’s least livable major city, lagging far behind Dhaka, Lagos and Karachi. The biggest decliners were Kiev, post-hurricane San Juan and Damascus; the greatest improvers were Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Hanoi and Belgrade.

Paris came in at a respectable 19th, but the West’s other major urban financial/culture centers did not fare very well, with London ranking 48th, New York City 57th – proving that a bleeding edge art scene, an endless supply of trendy restaurants, unrivaled cultural institutions, and a concentration of celebrity and power do not a livable city make.

Though, we pretty much knew that already.


Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 World’s Most Livable Cities

  1. Vienna, Austria – Rating: 99.1
  2. Melbourne, Australia – Rating: 98.4
  3. Osaka, Japan – Rating 97.7
  4. Calgary, Canada – Rating 97.5
  5. Sydney, Australia – Rating 97.4
  6. Vancouver, Canada – Rating 97.3
  7. Toronto, Canada – Rating 97.2
  8. Tokyo, Japan – Rating 97.2
  9. Copenhagen, Denmark – Rating 96.8
  10. Adelaide, Australia – Rating 96.6



Olivier Rousteing Cast a Group of CGI Models in his Latest Balmain Campaign

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CGI’s not a completely new tool in the fashion industry – after all, cyber It-Girl Lil Miquela has collaborated with brands like Prada and NYC-based AREA. But Olivier Rousteing took the trend to a whole new level when he decided to cast three CGI models for his latest Balmain campaign. That’s right – as if women didn’t have enough to stress over in looking at real life models, we now have to compare ourselves to digital perfection.


For the brand’s Pre-Fall 2018 campaign, Rousteing reached out to digital artist Cameron-James Wilson to “construct a new, alternative and virtual Balmain Army.” Wilson became popular earlier this year with his virtual model Shudu, who has almost 150K Instagram followers, and has graced the pages of The Cut and The New Yorker.


For the Balmain campaign, however, Wilson created two more models, Margot and Zhi, so the trio could model digital versions of the brand’s Pre-Fall collection created by CLO, a company that creates “true to life 3D garment simulation” to help designers throughout their development process.


The campaign definitely looks cool, but also, kind of like a Sims version of a fashion ad. Yet is Balmain just the first brand to reject IRL models to dive head first into CGI? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I guess we should all follow Shudu on Instagram. I mean, she’s already stealing our jobs. So, best to keep an eye on our man’s DMs.


A Bowie Themed Cocktail Bar Will be Opening in London

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When David Bowie made the decision to retire the character of Ziggy Stardust in 1973, he did so with a now legendary concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. But the after party had been just as carefully considered – and was thusly carried out in outlandish fashion at the legendary Cafe Royal, appropriately once a haunt of Oscar Wilde.

In 2012, the hallowed space was swallowed up into the opening of the rather impressive Hotel Cafe Royal, a plush Soho boutique sleep owned by The Set Hotels group, who have also recently made over Paris’ storied Lutetia hotel. The cafe itself also retained the name, but was glammed up for the entertainment of the new international jet set.

Now the hotel will open a new bar, the not-mysteriously-monikered Ziggy’s, styled around the late, ethereal leader of The Spiders From Mars. As one might expect, the establishment will be decked out in photos by the venerable Mick Rock, Bowie’s “official” photographer back in those fabled days. Cocktails will also nod to the theme, drawing on song lyrics from the album – Darkness and Disgrace, Tigers of Vaseline, Animal Grace – without necessarily fully revisiting the illicit decadence of a 1970s rock & roll after party.

Ziggy’s will open September 20. The clock waits so patiently on you…

New Yoko Ono Track ‘Now or Never’ is a Poignant Plea For Sanity

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In these bitterly contentious times, voices of genuine sanity are in worryingly short supply. But most encouragingly, the glorious and legendary Yoko Ono, at 85, is proving to be as essential as ever, when it comes to countering the madness with reason, empathy and forbearance.

And so it is that she has released a deeply poignant new single, “Now or Never,” which begs us in resolute earnestness to reach down deep for every bit of humanity and magnanimity that we can muster – as the only possible answer to our seemingly impending decline.

Indeed, she makes a most impassioned plea for benevolence, affectively entreating, “Are we gonna keep laying empty words and fists? / Are we gonna be remembered as the century that failed? / People of America / When will we learn / It’s now or never / There’s no time to lose.”

“The world is so messed up, it’s a warzone that we are living in,” she observes, while hopefully offering, “I like to create things in a new way. Every day things change.”

The song itself seems musically a tribute to her late husband, the still lamented John Lennon – and it might just bring you to tears considering how much he is missed at a time such as this.

It’s taken from her upcoming album Warzone, which will be released October 19 via Chimera Music. It cannot get here too soon.


The Church’s ‘Starfish’ Turns 30, Gets an Anniversary North American Tour This Fall

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Those looking fondly back at the ’80s are often caught up in kitsch cliches, from bouncy Madonna dance hits to Molly Ringwald celluloid tantrums. But in 1988, as so many of the new wave and synth-pop icons that had radically changed the way we hear music were running out of creative steam, The Church were just hitting their stride – and the result was the monumental Starfish, surely one of the most sublime recordings of its time.

The album turns 30 this year – and to properly honor it (they’ll play Starfish in its entirety), the band are undertaking a North American anniversary tour (all dates below). It will kick off in Long Beach September 30, and carry on until October 26, when they will do the second of a pair of gigs at NYC’s City Winery.

Looking back, the Aussie quartet had rode their particular skill with neo-psychedelic revivalism to ever-increasing cult success throughout their first eight years of existence. But when Starfish‘s first single “Under the Milky Way” hit the airwaves, it was clear that everything was about to change. It indeed launched them into genuine stardom, with frontman Steve Kilbey finally emerging as the ethereal post-punk romantic he’d surely always meant to be.



To be sure, the song’s swoon-worthy lyrics – “And it’s something quite peculiar / Something shimmering and white / Leads you here despite your destination / Under the Milky Way tonight” – delivered in Kilbey’s uncommonly sensual, world-weary baritone still send shivers. While the exhilarating “Reptile” (with its stark but slitheringly sexual guitar riffs) captured all the thrill of the femme fatale’s fatal grip; and “North, South, East And West” poetically encapsulated the tensions of modern life – with lyrics that are still startlingly relevant (“Wear a gun and be proud / But bare breasts aren’t allowed.”

Guitarist Peter Koppes perfectly sums up the band’s enduring, if enigmatic appeal: “Music is like inner space and we’re astronauts,” he says. “It’s a spellbinding thing, it’s hypnotizing. That’s why people like it. It takes them into another world and we’re here to open those doors.”

Something quite peculiar…


The Church – 2018 Tour Dates

Sept. 30: Music Tastes Good Festival, Long Beach, CA
Oct. 1: The Chapel, San Francisco, CA
Oct. 3: Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
Oct. 4: The Fox Cabaret, Vancouver, BC
Oct. 5 + 6: The Triple Door, Seattle, WAA
Oct. 9: Belly Up, Aspen, CO
Oct. 11: The Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO
Oct. 12: Washington’s FoCo, Fort Collins, CO
Oct. 14: recordBar, Kansas City, MO
Oct. 15: Turf Club, St. Paul, MN
Oct. 16: Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI
Oct. 17: Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
Oct. 19: Beachland, Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
Oct. 20: Horseshoe Tavery, Toronto, ON
Oct. 21: Cafe Campus, Montreal, QC
Oct. 23: The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Oct. 24: World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 25 + 26: City Winery, New York City, NY

Boy George & Culture Club Have an Exuberant New Single: ‘Let Somebody Love You’

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One of the truly inspirational modern comeback stories was that of the beloved Boy George. Surely one of the five or six biggest pop stars of the ’80s, he eventually spiraled into serious drug abuse, popping back up here and there to sometimes impressive musical effect. Indeed, no one has ever doubted his talents.

Now, in 2018, the Boy is back with his original Culture Club mates (Roy Hay, Michael Craig, Jon Moss), and touring America to rapturous reception. Fittingly, the band’s first new single in 20 years, is titled “Let Somebody Love You” – something which George has seemed to long struggle with.

The track, a veritable new paradigm of the classic Culture Club aesthetic, is an uplifting, reggae tinged gem, with George exuberantly exclaiming “Love is a revolution.” And isn’t it though?

The band have another 58 North American and UK dates ahead, finishing up in Glasgow November 22nd. A full new album, Life, will be released October 26.