Over the weekend Lebanese fine jewellery designer Noor Fares tied the knot with her love Alexandre Al Khawam in France. In celebration we revisit MOJEH Issue 20 where she told us why she holds the city of Jaipur close to her heart.
My favourite place to eat: The Kitchen at Jaipur Modern.
My favourite style piece: MUNNU The Gem Palace Jewelry, 22-karat Gold Moonstone Earrings.
For the plane: My sketchbook and pencils.
My favourite Jaipur memory: The pink sky at night.
The best time to go: Anytime!
Who I take along: Friends or anyone who wants an adventure.
My favourite song for the setting: Khwaja Mere Khwaja by A.R. Rahman.
My cultural highlights: The City Palace.
My undiscovered gem: The Jantar Mantar is fascinating with its innovative sundials and astrolabes. I found it so inspiring.
My favourite book inspired by Jaipur: A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur by Gayatri Devi.
A piece from my collection most fitting for Jaipur: My Fly Me to the Moon Wing Earrings in rose gold with mother of pearl.
The best place to stay: Narain Niwas Palace.
My favourite activity: Getting lost in the jewellery bazaars.
Images courtesy of Corbis.
60 years after her death a new exhibition in London shows why we’re still captivated by the artist Frida Kahlo.
By Susan Devaney
Her dark hair shaping her head like a sculpture, those brightly coloured chunky earrings, that unapologetic monobrow – and flowers, everywhere. These characteristics shaped Kahlo’s distinctive look and told her story. Known more for her famous paintings - Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird and The Two Fridas - Kahlo's personal style was part of her own artwork too. From long flowing skirts to statement prints to heavy embroidery, Kahlo had a penchant for clothes and a unique sense of style. She never toyed with the fashion of the 1930s and 40’s instead she always aimed to stand out. Today, her style choices have inspired designers such as Dolce & Gabbana and Marc Jacobs.
Born in Mexico City in 1907, clothes became some kind of armour for Kahlo throughout her life. In her childhood she suffered from polio and when she was a teenager she was involved in a terrible bus accident that left her with a permanent disfigurement. Throughout her life she flamboyantly decorated her casts and corsets to conceal their necessity to aid her in walking. In short: clothes made her feel great.
All images courtesy of Ishiuchi Miyako.
Known for her self-portraits and confessional style painting, Kahlo was a true creative where style and substance went hand-in-hand. Following her death in 1954 her husband locked away all of her clothes in a single room in their house until 2004 when world-renowned photographer Ishiuchi Miyako captured Kahlo’s clothes in their aged state. From her elaborate choice of sunglasses to her sun bleached swimming costume, this photographic record of nearly 300 items can be seen in London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery until 12th July 2015.
What: Cosmic Communion
Where: Cartoon Art Gallery, Al Quoz 1
When: 17th - 23rd August
What’s going on: The Cartoon Art Gallery is a popular venue for lectures, workshops, events and private exhibits, and prides itself on collaborating with regional curators and artists. The space boasts an impressive roster of artists, which includes a multi-generational mix of Middle East-based and international creative talent. Illustrators, cartoonists, and animators are brought to the city’s artistic forefront through various exhibitions. Cosmic Communion is the gallery’s current showcase, and is guaranteed to add a much-needed whimsical spin to your weekend.
Where: Citizen E Art Gallery, d3
When: Until 30th August
What’s going on: Citizen E’s Epiphany explores just that; an epiphany - often described as a moment of sudden and great revelation. Oftentimes an unspecified and lightening-quick realisation brings about the bigger picture. This feeling of discovering is captivating, and an intangible concept that’s difficult to express or explain. This weekend, nine creatives from around the world have gathered together to do exactly that. Collective works of fashion, design and video attempts to capture the phenomenon.
What: Paper Maker
Where: Carbon 12 Gallery, Alserkal Avenue
When: Until 5th September
What’s going on: This weekend, check out Amba Sayal-Bennett’s first solo exhibition in Dubai, which features her minimalist and eerily spacious artworks that often explore multiple compositional possibilities and geometries. A regular at London's Saatchi Gallery, Sayal-Bennett's work was displayed at Art Dubai earlier this year. Entitled Plane Maker, her current showcase is made up of multiple drawings, projections and sculptures. Each creation has been carefully designed to resemble non-factual blueprints or diagrams. Sayal-Bennett’s work explores the relationship between art and the person who is admiring it, eventually coming to the conclusion that the piece’s importance lies with the viewer.
Showcasing a carefully curated selection of works spanning 25 internationally renowned artists, Gold, is a new and exciting direction for Opera Gallery that exposes guests to the various meanings and ways of perceiving the precious metal under the lens of myriad artist interpretations. “When I come up with exhibitions, I always try to balance the visual impact of the show, and its relevance at a specific time and place and right now, Gold makes perfect sense for the region,” says Sylvain Gaillard, director of Opera Gallery Dubai.
As Gaillard suggests, gold has always been and will continue to remain an intrinsic part of Middle Eastern and Arab culture, but the exhibition sheds new light and meaning on the medium. The exhibition will include creations from iconic pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein as well as Kossi Aguessey’s golden doll sculptures and Roy Nachum’s careful use of gold leaves designed to bring onlookers’ attention to social values and responsibilities. Meanwhile, the ever-popular LOVE sculptures of Robert Indiana, relay the most universal and poignant message in a medium that has continued to fascinate mankind.
Gold at Opera Gallery Dubai, Gate Village, Building 3, DIFC runs for a month from 5 October 2017.
The best regional and international artists from across the globe have flocked to KOA’s show apartment in Dubai to partake in the architectural concept’s first art exhibition, in collaboration with Cuadro Gallery in DIFC.
Conceived and designed with the ‘next generation’ of Dubai creatives in mind, KOA is an arts-focussed Dubai-based developer that encourages community engagement and luxury living with a high-end, cultural difference.
This month (August), Cuadro will host a showcase of the gallery’s most desirable emerging and established artists in an exhibit, entitled Canvas. Jaffar Al Oraibi’s introspective, bright and luminous paintings are on display, as are Zeinab Al Hashemi’s site-specific installations. The Connor Brothers, American twins whose work explores the definitions of truth and fiction, will also adorn the property's expansive walls.
Mohammed Bin Zaal, the founder of KOA, comments: “KOA is passionate about supporting regional talent, and pride ourselves on our collaborative spirit, so we’re delighted to partner with some of the region’s most outstanding creative for our first exhibition.”
“The artworks will be rotated and updated during the coming months to allow the audience to engage in Cuadro’s international contemporary art platform,” adds Adam Hardy, curator of Cuadro Gallery, “with carefully selected artworks being site specific to the unique space."
The exhibition will run at KOA Canvas, Mohammed bin Rashid Gardens, off of Emirates Road, until 31 August
Sarah’s Beydoun is the founder of luxury handbag label, Sarah’s Bag, and the woman responsible for reshaping her community through her partnership with one of Lebanon’s most notorious prisons, teaching its inhabitants needlework and artisan skills to produce her pieces and earn a crucial salary.
Federico Poletti is well-versed in the production of runway shows. The Italian fashion commentator and editor of online magazine Man In Town published The Fashion Set last year, which takes an in-depth look at some of the most iconic runway sets of the last three decades. Here, he talks to us about the importance of the runway set.
Why do you think runway sets are so important?
Fashion shows excite us and make us dream. A good set catapults us physically into the fantastic world created by designers to tell their story. The atmosphere makes the experience unforgettable and is a way to communicate the meaning and inspiration of the clothes to as many people as possible, in a simple and immediate way. The best shows are a highly concentrated combination of theatre, emotion, explosiveness and often, good old-fashioned spectacle. A fashion show does not last more than 12-15 minutes, and in those short minutes everything from the lights, music and timing has to be coherent and coordinated.
Do you think elaborate or over-the-top sets distract from the clothes?
Colin Mc Dowell once wrote,“A rare jewel requires a beautiful setting." Which is true of a runway setting. It is really important for brands to utilise their sets as a form of communication. The set has to be balanced, while closely linked to the inspiration of the collection, it has the function of creating a frame to contextualising the clothes. A good set, no matter how elaborate, will not overpower the outfit, but instead they help the viewer to enter deeper and deeper into the world in which he or she is watching.
What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve ever attended and why?
Over the years, designers have literally transported us to the most varied situations. The Chanel autumn/winter14 supermarket is one of the most memorable for me. I'll never forget Louis Vuitton Express for autumn/winter12, during which a handsome one-carriage steam train, built especially for the show brought the models the models and porters into the venue. The show set transported the label back to its beginnings as a luggage company. Another fabulous and memorable fashion show was Fendi’s Great Wall of China in 2007, the atmosphere, the location, the light - everything was extremely magical. Chanel, Dior, Prada, Antonio Marras and Louis Vuitton shows always tend to be incredible.
Spoils of War
Words by Annie Darling
July 18th 2017
“Culture provides the ties that bind,” asserts Michael Danti, a Boston University archaeologist and academic director at ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives (ASOR CHI). “Without culture, we are not truly human.” With over 25 years experience directing archaeological programs in Syria, Iraq and Iran, Danti has authored numerous works about the destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East. His organisation, ASOR CHI, strives to help Syrians and Iraqis in preserving and protecting the region’s cultural property. Roman, Greek, Babylonian and Assyrian sites dominate the artifact-riddled district, which has recently been ruthlessly demolished and devastated. The war in Syria has spearheaded especially epic damage, with an estimated 321,000 people killed since the uprising began in 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Alongside the abominable human cost, numerous venerable cities including Homs (Syria’s third largest city) and Aleppo (which has emerged as a particularly bloody battleground in the uprising against current president Bashar al-Assad) have been swiftly reduced to rubble – this once esteemed country had six Unesco World Heritage Sites, all of which have either been obliterated or seriously ravaged. The majority of Syria’s glorious museums have also been barbarically plundered, with the fortuitous minority still at risk – take Maarat al-Numan’s Mosaic Museum in Idlib province, for instance; once filled with Roman-era artworks, it’s been gutted by a formidable flurry of army barrel bombs that were unapologetically dropped in 2015.
Art theft and its shameless destruction during periods overshadowed by war is far from a new phenomenon, remarks Will Korner, manager of International Art Fairs at Art Loss Register. This private company boasts the world’s largest private database of stolen, missing and looted artwork, and attempts to uncover exceptional creations that are unaccounted for. “The history of stolen art goes back a long time and has almost always been involved in conflict,” he says in an interview with MOJEH. “You can even go way back, to the time of the Ancient Egyptians, and see how the pharaoh would fight his enemies before destroying their monuments.” Professor Mark V. Vlasic agrees: “For as long as we have had conflicts, the theft and destruction of cultural property has been deployed as a tactic of war,” he acknowledges in the World Economic Forum.
Professor Vlasic has served as a soldier, a lawyer, a prosecutor, and an American diplomat, having notably worked in the White House and the Pentagon, as well as the United Nations. His extensive knowledge and professional experience varies from international law and human rights to asset recovery. “Art is often a forgotten victim of wars,” he examines on behalf of Foreign Policy. “As the toll of human suffering builds, worrying about the fate of paintings, sculptures and antiquities might seem frivolous, even callous.” Although a widely held perspective, quick recapitulations of previous case studies suggest that antiquities represent far more than a person’s, or family’s, personal pleasures – together, artwork has the potential to define and maintain an entire society’s heritage and identity.
This inescapable link to a community’s culture and custom, says Danti, is why artwork has long been a victim of war. “The three major drivers of cultural property crimes during conflict are ideology, avarice, and violence,” he eagerly explains. “When we look to Iraq, Syria, and other conflict zones, we see belligerents destroying cultural heritage for supposed ideological reasons.” In Iraq, for example, satellite imagery has strongly indicated that there’s been widespread looting within prominent historical sites. A large section of the majestic city wall at Nineveh, for instance, dating back a breathtaking 2,700 years, has been viciously battered.
For Danti, it’s about “the erasure of cultural memory, the manipulation of cultural identity, and cultural cleansing [of a society].” Although this is a long-practiced form of warfare, Korner adds that the more recent regional violence has emerged noticeably more aggressive mainly, in part, because of the newly reduced financial incentive amongst looters. “What’s going on in the Middle East is far more ideologically driven, which is why we’re seeing the destruction of objects more frequently,” he explains. “Nowadays sites, in particular, are more vulnerable to destruction because the ideological incentive is far more significant than the financial gain.” An interesting perspective considering that numerous news outlets have quoted multiple art historians who insist that antiquities smuggling, especially by the so-called Islamic State, has skyrocketed in recent years.
It’s also been widely reported by Western intelligence officials that art theft is now the militant group’s second-largest source of finance after the selling of oil (the organisation also frequently makes money from hostage ransoms and racketeering). “Portable cultural property is looted for personal gain or to fund terrorism and military activities,” insists Danti. Precious coins, he adds, are proving to be outstandingly desirable because of their convenient size, which makes them easier to hide and smuggle across country lines. “We (ASOR CHI) also see large numbers of sculptures, primarily from the Classical and Neo-Assyrian periods, as well as mosaics, bronze, terracotta figurines, and ceramic vessels.”
Christopher A. Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International, is one of the world’s foremost experts in recovering stolen artworks. “During conflict, security measures suffer as the populous prepares for war,” he educates. “Supporting funds cease, resources are redirected, and invading fighters steal and loot whatever they can get their hands on.” Be that as it may, it’s incorrect, contends Korner, to envision a vast network of sophisticated smugglers working together to bypass conventional middlemen within the Middle East. In actual fact, he argues, much of the regional looting currently undertaken is performed by civilians, and out of “sheer desperation”. Few risk scouring the battlefields for precious objects, and those that do either hide or bury them so they can be retrieved at a later, and safer, date.
“The term ‘systematic looting’, which has been used in the press a lot, is very misleading,” reveals Korner, “because it’s not systematic in that groups of people are sending out teams to find relics and left over treasure. There isn’t a system in place detailing how items are going to be sent across the border, or how they’ll be sold on the black market. It’s systematic only in that people take the opportunity. Art theft is always, or the vast majority at least, opportunistic.” However, in the United States alone, government data reports that the value of declared antiques imported from Syria jumped 134 per cent in 2013 to AED 40 million. In actual reality, the amount of illicit trade it simply impossible to accurately access, but an Iraqi intelligence official has claimed that the so-called Islamic State has made as much as AED 132 million from looting a single area around al-Nabek, a Syrian city once renowned for its exquisite wall mosaics.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported reviewing mobile phone footage of a stolen Bronze Age votive bust, which was possibly a jaw-dropping 5,000 years old. It was being touted for sale to unnamed private clients, and supposedly sold for around AED 110,000. “If governments and industry leaders decide to work together, they are in a position to limit the value of such blood antiquities, and thus limit the terrorist financing going to ISIS,” argues Professor Vlasic. “In doing so, they will help preserve the cultural heritage that binds us all, which some day, will serve as a common bond that can help bring warring parties together to find peace.”
Unfortunately history’s not on his side; Adolf Hitler, for instance, pulled off one of the greatest art thefts in history during the Second World War – an estimated 650,000 precious artworks were looted from Europe by the Nazis, many of which have never been recovered. “Less than 15 per cent of stolen and looted artworks are recovered,” reminds Marinello. It was Hitler’s ambition to build, what he considered, the finest museum in his hometown of Linz, Austria, which he had planned to call the Führermuseum. Many of these artworks were stolen by Jewish citizens: “Given that a lot of these families were some of the wealthiest families in Europe, these artworks include incredible pieces of paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewellery and watches,” says Korner.
In 2013, German authorities found a treasure trove of 1,280 paintings and prints worth more than a billion dollars in the Munich apartment of a white-haired recluse. When police and tax officials finally entered the elderly man’s 1,076-square-foot apartment, they found an astonishing collection of stolen creations by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Chagall, Max Libermann and Otto Dix.
“The assault on culture, the fabric of our lives, fuels resentment, insecurity, alienation, and poverty, which in turn foment instability and conflict. We are struggling to break this escalating cycle,” says Danti, but this hasn’t deterred ASOR CHI’s art recovery agents on the ground, who scavenge combar-scarred frontiers in the ongoing battle for their country’s cultural heritage. Our brave Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan colleagues in the field face the risks on a daily basis,” explains Danti. “They are the heroes. Most ASOR CHI personnel work outside the conflict zone to support these in-country efforts. The obstacles that we face are numerous. They can be as mundane as delays in providing support caused by bureaucratic red tape to terrifying ordeals in which our Iraqi and Syrian friends and colleagues are injured or killed.”
Holidaying in Paris this weekend? Here’s MOJEH’s edit of the best art exhibitions that are currently on display in the City of Love.
When: Until 13 August
Earlier this year, a beautiful biopic of the much loved French singer, Dalida, made headlines for its creative innovation and beauty, as did her wardrobe, which is now on display in a tranquil space in Paris. Made up of three chronological sections, the exhibition illustrates the brunette beauty’s incredible style, utilising garments that were bequeathed to her beloved brother Orlando. Red velvet dresses, contemporary trench coats, bowler hats and Christian Dior sandals are but a few of the gorgeous items currently on display.
What: Kiefer Rodin
Where: Musee National Rodin
When: Until 22 October
This year marks the centenary of the death of Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor who has been likened to Michelangelo. This month, his eponymous museum has chosen to pay homage to the inspiring creative in collaboration with contemporary German artist Anselm Kiefer; a well known painter who has studied Rodin’s work for many years. He presents his own recent pieces in the hope that they will resonate as modern reinterpretations of the master’s remarkable creative eye.
What: Montmartre, décor de cinema
When: Until 14 January 2018
The spiraling cobblestones of Montmartre, a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, has played muse to many a cinematographer thanks to its majestic architecture and resounding presence. Now, an exhibition hosted by the local museum is celebrating the city’s significant involvement and influence on world cinema. Video installations, vintage film posters and movie scripts navigate visitors through time, documenting films like An American in Paris to the 2001 adaptation of Moulin Rouge. Without doubt, film buffs and critics will enjoy this iconic showcase.