Sunday, June 29, 2008

African Photography In Amsterdam

An outstanding show of contemporary African photographs opened on Friday at the Stedelijk Museum - it's a must-see. The picture on the poster is by Nontsikelo 'Lolo' Veleko, from South Africa. My own favorite works were by Hentie van der Merve (South Africa) and Luis Basto (Mozambique).
I haven't returned to Sub-Saharan Africa since I left Kenya, via Zimbabwe and South Africa, at age 5. The show brought me back to a continent whose intense light, raw colors, and sublime nature I miss with all my heart.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Nemo

Architect Renzo Piano, who won the Pritzker Prize a few years ago, designed the children's science museum, aka The Nemo, in Amsterdam. A drawbridge went up before me as I headed for the green structure, and I saw a boat pass by; its sleek lines and its hefty metal anchor eerily echoed Piano's structure...
Make sure to check in again this weekend, as I'll post on an outstanding African photography exhibition.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On The Thalys - My Playlist

I'm on the Talys (the high speed train between Paris, Belgium and the Netherlands), on my way to Amsterdam... I bought the Wallpaper city guide for the Dutch capital, from Phaidon, a publishing company that always has beautiful graphics and photographs. They list some architectural feats I hope to visit this week.

I cannot travel without my ipod, so I'm taking this opportunity to answer to Everybody Says Don't's tag, on my current Playlist. (Only 7 tracks, that's tough!)


Bach Cantata BWV 8 by the American Bach Soloists
Violente Femmes's Blister in the Sun
Martha Wainwright's BMFA
Sonic Youth's Superstar
Alisha Chinai's Kajra Re
Aretha Franklin's I Say a Little Prayer
Blondie's Heart of Glass

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zao Wu Ji at the BNF

Chinese painter Zao Wu Ji, who has been a Parisian for the past 60 years, may well be my favorite living artist. Last year, he donated many of his printed works to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which is now offering an exhibition celebrate this manna. I visited it today and fell for the etchings as well as the illustrations Zao created for poetry collections by Leopold Senghor, Shakespeare, Ezra Pound, and two of my favorite French poets, the sublime René Char and the whimsical Henri Michaux, who was one of Zao's life-long friend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shoes: Maurice Arnoult Exhibition (2)

A few days ago, I posted about the Maurice Arnoult exhibition. He is a true French treasure, and fortunately teaches aspiring shoe makers to keep his extraordinary craft alive.

The exhibition features models by some of his students: the elegant black and white boots with wooden buttons are by Tamamo Nagashima, and the shoes with the exquisite bow and pin are by Isabel André, while the two pairs of super creative lace-up/button-up boots are by the amazing Elodie Gaulard.
I have their contact info and will try to get them to answer any questions you may post in the Comments.

On a walls of the exhibition were quotes, including one by Sacha Guitry: "High heels were invented by a woman who was tired of getting kissed on the forehead".
I liked how it suggested that thanks to shoes and heels, women become fully-fledged adults, not patronized creatures...

"To be carried by one's shoes, to find wings in them" (Roger Vivier)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Meeting a fox and a purple cat

In the Jardins du Ranelagh, I met a slender and graceful fox.
At the feet of poet Jean de La Fontaine, whose fables are peopled by animals, the lovely creature showed no interest in the little kids bustling around him.

A little while later, on the sidewalk I ran into a purple cat... Benjy was not impressed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shoes: Maurice Arnoult Exhibition

Maurice Arnoult is a craftsman, artist and teacher (as well as Righteous Among the Nations), who will turn 100 next week, and has been creating exquisite handmade shoes since 1937 in his Belleville atelier. I just visited the wonderful exhibition that pays tribute to his work and if you're in Paris this week this is absolutely a must-see show. In addition to shoes, you'll also be able to see a selection of photographs, Arnoult's amazing tools, and his ancient Singer machine. Kudos to the scenographer!
See more pictures on the exhibition's site (including snapshots of the step-by-step creation of these black and gold boots) as well as on Miss Glitzy's fab blog.

10am-7pm, Ateliers de Paris - 30 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine 75012 Paris. Métro Bastille

Later this week I will show you the works of some of Arnoult's gifted students.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Girl About Town

Yummy as a raspberry macaron, MAC's Girl About Town hue has been brightening up my days and my face for the past few days. I have spoken already on this blog about my admiration for the great Elsa Schiaparelli, whose Shocking Pink was a signature color, and with this lipstick, I feel like I am paying tribute to her untamed spirit.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Joanna Concejo's illustrations

A dear friend recently gave me the French edition of Joanna Concejo's Il Signor Nessuno, a beautifully illustrated book. I love the poetic and pared-down drawings, as well as the typography - does anyone know what font this is?

When I need to make a gift and don't know what to get, I find one can't go wrong with a hardcover illustrated book. It just makes the recipient feel like a child again. It's always fresh, and more original than an art book...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Childhood Photographs (1)

During my nomadic childhood,whenever we moved to a new country, my mum made sure to always pack our family albums, which my sister and I loved leafing through; it gave us a sense of continuity. I've started taking digital copies of those snapshots (over 620 just to cover the first 5 years of my life!) and thought I'd share some of them with you, as some readers have expressed interest in my early life and travels.
First is a picture taken shortly after I was born to a French father and an American mother in Paris. On my very first outing, mum took me to Paris's Jardin des Poètes - no wonder I became a poetry lover!

The second picture was taken 8 months later, across the Atlantic and the equator, in Uruguay, where we flew so that I could meet my grandparents' family. I am getting friendly with my grandfather's super plump dog; you see, dear Benjy was not the first dachshund in my life...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Peter Doig at the Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris

The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (not to be confused with the National Museum of Modern Art, aka the Pompidou Center) features a sumptuous exhibition of works by contemporary Scottish artist Peter Doig. I visited the show this morning and loved the paintings, with their melancholia reminiscent of Edward Hopper , their ghost-like figures and sometimes incandescent colors...
From top: Hitch Hike, 100 Years Ago, Lapeyrouse Wall and a detail from Concrete Cabin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rina's Tag

I've been tagged by Rina, a maravillosa art-and-literature-loving Argentine who lives in Chile...

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I was teaching and doing research in literature and languages. I spent the crazy summer of 98 in Middlebury, Vermont, in a Japanese immersion program.

2. What are the 5 things on your to-do list today?
Buy fresh fruit, blog, sew ribbons on my pointe shoes, catch up on late emails, take a ballet class.

3. Snacks you enjoy
Anything with chocolate in it, really good bread, summer fruit.

4. Places you have lived
In chronological order: Iran, Kenya, Iraq, China, then-British Hong-Kong, Paris, Cambridge (Massachusetts), Paris again.

5. What are 5 things you would do if you were a Billionaire?
I'd give to charities devoted to animals... fund virtual libraries... get everyone plenty of presents... travel to Russia and Japan... buy a house with horses by the sea in California.

6. People you want to know more about:
Writers Emily Dickinson, Marina Tsvetaeva, Idea Vilariño and JM Coetzee, ballerina Anna Pavlova, choreographer George Balanchine, Ballets Russes master Sergei Diaghilev, politician Jawaharlal Nehru.

I'm a bit too shy to tag 6 people but right now I'd like to tag Chloé and PVE Design. Post rules at the beginning of the post. Answer all of the questions, tag 6 people, go to their blog and leave them a comment to inform them that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog for rules. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answers.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Damien Hirst's dots

I blogged sluggishly last week, swamped as I was with work. But this week is going to rock! Let's kick it off with a snapshot a 2004 etching by Damien Hirst, which I saw this morning in the lobby of the British Council. It's called Tetrahydrocannabinol - maybe we should find another title for this work!
How do you like it?

Friday, June 06, 2008


I've been obsessed with World War 2 since I was little and when I think of France not only being occupied by the Germans, but also collaborating actively with their loathsome policies, my heart shrinks; that's pretty much the only time I feel very French deep down. So naturally June 6 is always a special day for me. That is when the allies landed on the beaches of Normandy and started liberating Europe from the German grip, bringing with them jazz, gum and my dear liberté.
Update: a reader posted Paul Eluard's poem "Liberté" in the Comments! Enjoy this masterpiece...

If you want to read about France during the war, one of the best novels ever is Irène Nimerovsky's splendid Suite Française, which I have already recommended on this blog. Another unforgettable read is Carmen Callil's Bad Faith, about Darquier, a French official who shamelessly championed the Nazi agenda in France. Feel free to share other recommendations!

Can anyone guess what product the poster above promotes?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Au Revoir, Monsieur

As I write today, the funerals of Monsieur, as Yves Saint-Laurent was known, are taking place at Paris's Eglise Saint-Roch, which has been considered the church of the artists for over 450 years. His ashes will be kept in the legendary gardens of his Marrakech home; maybe he would have liked the peony above - it reminded me of the exquisite roses on Laetitia Casta's head and dress, which concluded Saint-Laurent's final show.
Saint-Laurent was more than a designer or a couturier; he was an artist. With his pant suits and tuxedos, he empowered women without making them look like porn stars or sex workers, a current trend I loathe; "his" women looked happy, not jaded or on drugs. Among my favorite pieces by the master are his Mondrian dress and his Russian-inspired designs.
There have been countless tributes to Saint-Laurent over the past few days. I especially recommend Chloe's post and an interview with Suzy Menkes, the Herald Tribune's excellent fashion critic.

Saint-Laurent is survived by his mother, his partner Pierre Bergé, muses such as Catherine Deneuve, as well as thousands of women who will wear his creations and love him always.

Update: see images of the funerals, and read an article including passages from Pierre Bergé's moving eulogy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I Love Bulgakov

I have loved Russia and its literature ever since my mum gave me a copy of Anna Karenina - I was 12! Samovars, gilded churches, adorable old women, that fabulous Cyrillic alphabet, peasant blouses - everything seems enchanting and enchanted. Years later, my mum also introduced me to Mikhail Bulgakov, the extraordinary heir of Gogol, with his hapless characters, cruel humor and absurdity-packed Soviet universe, underpinned by poignancy. Now I just bought Bulgakov's Black Snow and am eager to read it.
Where to start if you haven't read any Bulgakov: his masterpiece is The Master And Margarita, but you may want to try to novella Heart of a Dog first to discover his uniquely zany universe.

During a trip to Moscow a few years ago, I went to visit Bulgakov's apartment in the city. The experience was straight out of a novel by Bulgakov, with closed doors, stairs leading nowhere and building residents so elusive and puzzled by my search that I began to doubt the great writer had ever existed at all...
Russia remains my dream destination. I long to discover St-Petersburg and to see again the birches and the Baikhal Lake I sped past on the Transsiberian, on my way from Beijing to Paris via Moscow by rail, when I was a child.