Friday, February 29, 2008

Tribute to a black angel:Katoucha

She was one of the most exotic and beautiful creatures that ever walked the catwalk. Unfortunate enough to be working in the same era as that other gazelle of fashion, Iman, Katoucha was nevertheless a favourite among the European designers for modelling their most exquisite couture creations.

In Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture

Regularly featured in the major fashion magazines for couture photography, she graced their pages with the exoticism of her Guinean heritage and the strength of her personality. She was the muse of Yves Saint Laurent, who always featured her in his shows with spectacular results.She was nicknamed the Peul Princess after the Peul ethnic group of Guinea and eight other West African states.

In Christian Lacroix

Apart from modelling and designing her own eponymous clothing line, she was active in fighting against the female circumcision in the Third World. She published a book about her personal experience and was active in many ways, drawing attention to this horrific practise that makes numerous women suffer around the world.

Her book, Dans Ma Chair (In My Flesh)

Her body was found in the river Seine this morning in Paris. She was missing since late January. She will be dearly missed.

With Yves Saint Laurent at the end of a couture show

An excerpt from her book:

'I grew up surrounded by hibiscus and ylang-ylang flowers. I used to get drunk on the richest perfumes and saw myself as a perfumer or a model,' she wrote in the book. But then her life changed forever after she underwent excision. 'One day, mother said we were going to the cinema. And I found myself the victim of a horror movie. 'An unimaginable trauma that I had never managed to talk about, until I found love and wrote In My flesh,' she said. She said she saw her career as a top model as a form of 'revenge' for the horror of excision. 'I embodied the most arrogant and admired kind of feminity, I who was supposed to be diminished.'

In Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture

The other Alexander Calder

Everyone knows Alexander Calder: even if you have never heard the name, you have definitively seen his works. The famous mobiles, with their abstract geometric forms and colours, have been a part of our collective unconscious for years now. One of my favourites is below:

An American pioneer, showing a talent for sculpture at the early age of 11, he studied mechanical engineering, physics and kinetics, later creating exquisite wind driven mobiles and motorized devices, in addition to painting and sculpture.

Alexander Calder in his workshop

What most people who admire Calder do not know however is that he had designed and made exquisite fantasy, one of a kind jewellery. Only slightly more than 1800 of them were made, all unique and beautiful, strange exercises for the imagination.

This photograph by Evelyn Hofer of model Angelica Huston wearing Calder's spectacular "The Jealous Husband,” a circa 1940 brass wire necklace, appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in 1976. Esteemed critic Hilton Kramer wrote that the object has "the humour of mock aggression and shameless self-assertion.”

He made almost every kind of personal decoration, not just necklaces, rings and shirt studs but also metal crowns, ponchos, breastplates, even a pair of Groucho Marx-esque glasses complete with bobbling nose. And, like his sculpture, he showed his talents in this early on too: at eight years of age, he began fabricating baubles and trinkets for his sister΄s dolls and toys.

This curvilinear gold and steel wire pin was given by Calder to his wife, Louisa, as a 53rd birthday gift in 1958. The inscription, "XIX.II.L.VIII,” marks the date. This spectacular piece measures 2½ by 5¼ inches. Private collection, New York. ©2007 Calder Foundation, New York City.

Being a whimsical character, his jewellery could not of course be anything but ironic in spirit: an early piece, made for fashion designer Elizabeth Hawes, was a wire chastity belt with the French cafe motto "ouvert la nuit", or "open at night" written on it. Or naming the huge necklace sported by Angelica Huston on the cover of New York Times Magazine in 1976, "The Jealous Husband".

Calder hand crafted this "Necklace” around 1943 for his wife; it is inscribed "Calder.” It is made of silver wire, string and ribbon, with the loop 15¾ inches around. Private collection, New York. ©2007 Calder Foundation, New York City.

Some of the jewellery Calder made for his family played with letters and words, like his first gift to his future wife, Louisa: a brass bracelet made of hammered wire shaped into the word "Medusa" as he nicknamed her for her curly hair.

Calder often incorporated "primitive” touches into his work. The closely laid, parallel strips of flattened silver wire of this "Bracelet,” circa 1948, may have been inspired by his knowledge of ornamental objects worn by African tribesmen. Private collection. ©2007 Calder Foundation, New York City.

There is an exhibition, "Calder Jewellery" opening this month at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., then travelling to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (July 12–October 19); Metropolitan Museum of Art (December 8–March 1, 2009) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (March 31–June 22, 2009). Its catalogue, a massive 225-page volume compiled by Alexander S. C. Rower, who directs the Calder Foundation, his brother, the artist Holton Rower; and his sister-in-law, the photographer Maria Robledo is published by Yale University Press in association with the Calder Foundation and the Norton Museum.

In this "Pin” or "Brooch,” fashioned around 1945, Calder twisted silver and steel wire into a characteristically idiosyncratic shape. It is 4¼ by 6¾ inches. Private collection. ©2007 Calder Foundation, New York City.

©2007 Calder Foundation, New York City - photo captions ©2008 Antiques and the Arts Online

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Moroccan influence: new Zara Home catalogue

This season, Zara Home products echo Northern Africa: they travel us through Tangier, Marrakesh, Casablanca and Alexandria to exotic, mystical, colourful places, away from mundane reality.

The colours and textures are so varied, one gets dizzy just looking at the options. It takes guts to try and decorate with all that stuff without having a kitsch and overdone result. Of course these are catalogue photos, styled by experienced editors, decorators and photographers, so please, do not try this at home! Not without an experienced eye to guide you in any case.

Of course, my favourite colour, green, makes an impressive appearance, from modern versions of the ubiquitous bird cage to full-on green-as-theme room decoration:

Green bird cages

Green themed patio - awesome!

Green vases - I just love the colour!

Green dining room. Would look great in a big kitchen too.

Green bathroom too!

Eye-popping glassware is always one of their strong points:

And this veranda is one of the best I have seen in a while:

Wireframe fruit bowl and decorative fruit - simply divine:

Whenever I visit their shop, I cannot avoid searching for hours in the children's area - the stuffed toys are always surprising in their materials and colours, their softness making them most wanted.


I just love that sheep under the bed!

So if you need to turn your place into an Moroccan hideaway this spring and summer, try looking at Zara Home for inspiration. I know I will!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Inspiration: Tilda Swinton

In honour of one of my very favourite actresses: Tilda Swinton. The incredible Scottish (her mother is Australian and Tilda's family is one of the oldest in Scotland) actress with her indomitable style and incomparable talent, inspiring not only for directors (she was Jerek Jarman's muse and inspiration) but also for designers (Viktor & Rolf were inspired for their 2003 collection, Stefano Pilati for YSL & others).

She was awarded the Oscar for supporting actress last night, for her role in the film Michael Clayton. Always a formidable presence on screen and off, she mystifies audiences with her otherworldly physique and unique ability of transformation for each part:she inhabits the part completely.

Her bold choices of roles has resulted in a roster of films that vary from Derek Jarman΄s War Requiem to Disney's Narnia. Never one to shy away from demanding parts, she eerily portrayed Orlando in Sally Potter΄s film, playing an immortal that changes gender throughout the ages.

In a much talked about project, The Maybe, in 1995 she was herself an installation in London's Serpentine Gallery, on public display, asleep, or so it seemed, in a glass box. The following year, the performance/installation was repeated in Rome, at the Museo Baracco.

She lives in Scotland with her painter boyfriend and father of her twins. Her unconventional life has been talked about in Britain, as well as her radical political views.

In a magazine interview, the reporter asked her if her daughter plays with Barbies (as Tilda has talked against capitalism many times). Tilda answered that the little girl has never asked for toys except for one Barbie. Asked how she felt about that, she replied with a laugh:"Defeated".

Tilda studied Social and Political Science at Cambridge University, but changed courses and graduated in 1983 with a degree in English Literature.

Apart from film she has played on stage, notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She does not like the theatre though.

She has also appeared in the video clip for The Orbital's song "The Box"

She was declared one of the ten best dressed women in the world by Vanity Fair in 2007.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Great Walk to Beijing 2008-A million steps in the fight against cancer

From one of my very favourite and close to my heart singers, for a worthy cause:

Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John leads a team of stars from sports and showbiz, along with everyday survivors of cancer, in a 21-day extreme challenge to trek along the Great Wall of China from 7th April 2008. Their million steps journey symbolizes the cancer patient’s journey – with extreme physical and emotional challenges.

Each step of the walkers’ trek can be sponsored at a dollar a step, to fight cancer through the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre Appeal.

Who will benefit:
A unique part of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre will be the first Wellness Centre in Australia to be based at a major cancer research and treatment hospital. The centre will provide complementary therapies to support patients on their cancer journey, treating mind and spirit as well as the body. The Wellness Centre is Olivia’s special passion with a focus on the whole person and not just the disease.
Cancer patients worldwide will benefit from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre’s dedicated research facilities and clinical trials, with the development of future cancer vaccines and therapies through the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research - which is head quartered in New York. The centre will be the primary site for clinical trials globally.

Olivia with Adam Shutton, Heath Ledger's friend and inspiration for his role in Brokeback Mountain

The Great Walk to Beijing takes place in April 2008 over 21 days. It will be officially launched in February for you to sponsor your favourite walker at “a dollar a step” on their million steps in the fight against cancer.

Olivia and Australian swimmer and TV host Johanna Griggs

Who’s supporting the event:
The Great Walk to Beijing 2008 is headed by Olivia Newton-John who will lead a team of walkers, which will include high-profile celebrities, Olympians, everyday cancer survivors, business leaders, corporate partners. The event is brought together by the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre Appeal at Austin Health in Melbourne, Australia,

Facts about cancer:
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world and will continue to rise with an estimated 9 million people dying from cancer in 2015, and 11.4 million dying in 2030,according to the World Health Organisation.*

*The World Health Organisation Global InfoBase Source Metadata

For more information in the event, visit

For more on the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre Appeal visit
For media enquiries email:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Syn_athr(0)isis - an architectural exhibition in Thessaloniki

From this Thursday, 21th of February, until Sunday 24th of February 2008, at the "CORONA" hall of HELEXPO, the architectural exhibition called Synathroisis (gatherings) is taking place.

Organized by TEE/TKM (Technical Chamber of Greece) in cooperation with HELEXPO AE, and taking place concurrently with Infacoma, it will present the work of ten relatively new architectural offices of international stature. Their exhibited projects research architectural systems as gatherings of units.

The exhibition has as its basic nucleus the presentation of contemporary architectural projects, where architects draw their inspiration from the total of communication codes called "algorithms" in computer language. The projects that are shown use scripting code during their digital design process, so that the swarm logic is the syntax logic of an architectural proposition.

On the opening day, 21st of February, at 19.30, architect Evan Douglis, Chairperson of Undergraduate Architecture Dept. of Pratt Institute NY, will give the inaugural speech. On Friday 22nd of February at 19.00, a presentation of his work will take place at the P. Panagiotopoulos amphitheater of the Polytechnic School of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

The curators of the show are architects Yiota Adilenidou, Sofia Vyzoviti and Christina Spilioti.

The set-up of the exhibition was done by Tetragon Ltd.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another blogger game! Books this time.

One cannot say not to these. Again dear DustRoad (how can one not love this name?) invited me and five other fellow bloggers to play an utterly useless but funny game:

1. Grab the book closer to you.
2. Open the book at page 123 (if there is no page 123, grab the next book that has that many pages)
3. Find the fifth period (that is from one full stop to another if you have forgotten) of this page.
4. Post the next three periods, that is the 6th, 7th and 8th periods of the page.
5. Ask five more people to do the same.

The book nearest to me at any given time for the last months is this:

It is a collection of essays by exhibition professionals (curators etc) edited by Paula Marincola and published by Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative.

So on to the game:

Of course, the agendas of assimilation versus difference become transparent with hindsight. Yet as Steyn also points out, this strategy was accepted by a people whose very survival depended on acceptance within a host community. She continues, " The Jews of Whitechapel, with all their diverse cultural identities, were invited to become spectators of a culture already complete, presented and represented to them and for them by their trustees."

This particular essay, titled Temple/White Cube/Laboratory was written by Iwona Blazwick and is about the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

So on for the invitations: I call for the esteemed collaboration of my friends: Indiktos, Natassaki, Ritsa, Meniek and Tzotza (who still has not finished her previous assingment!).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nixon: my favourite haunt in Athens

Everyone has a favourite place to go out at night. If, like me, one travels to other cities regularly for work, they create a sense of home away from home to you, making you feel at ease as soon as you enter, taking away your exhaustion and angst, relaxing you and making your night fantastic.

Nixon is such a place for me. The bar/restaurant/cinema that Grigoris Stefanidis and his partners have opened at Agisilaou 61B at Kerameikos in Athens, is one of the most elegant places to go out on any night. Great owners, great DJs, great personnel and great people make up a very exciting combination. The inspiring surroundings of course play a major part in the recipe.

The décor features walls painted in deep green, combined with old red leather couches brought in from antique shops, as are most of the things in the establishment. The wall lighting fixture is from the Hilton Athens hotel (before its renovation) as well as two big silver frames with President Nixon's photographs hanging on the walls. Other Nixon memorabilia decorate the place, subtly reminding you the origin of the bar's name.

The big Art Deco chandelier is defining the space, hanging in the centre of the dining area. The ceiling is very high, differentiating the bar from most of its contenders, making the visitor feel more comfortable, even when the place is packed with people.

On the walls you can see some photographs that looked like Nan Goldin's to me, but I might be mistaken. The big bar with the glasses hanging from a metal frame above it attracts a big crowd but the same goes for the DJ booth opposite, especially when friend Makis Papasimakopoulos spins his wild music choices.

The wine list is impressive and the menu is small but great, with the Nixon burger the most enticing choice. It is also open from 13.00 on Sundays for brunch, while kids (big and small) can watch cartoons in the Screening Room. What? A Screening Room?

The "secret" of Nixon is it's Screening Room: a cinema room right next to the main room, all red walls, with big green couches, where you can watch unusual films from all over the world. The latest project was the Psarokokkalo film festival, with great success.