Sun Seeker

This weekend I had an unusual craving for the sea, so I followed the sun southwards to Brighton...


Art Detox

When I was at art school I had a saying for some of the artworks produced by my peers: "Skip Art" was when I would throw my own refuse into the communal skip only to find it had been glued, nailed or balanced on someone else's 'creation' a few days later. With great irony, this week sees much media fascination with Michael Landy's exhibition, Art Bin, at South London Gallery. The six-week installation, consisting of a transparent polycarbonate and steel 'skip', invites the public to bring their artistic failings and create a monument to creative failure. I'm interested in Landy's take on taste and the process of what defines good and bad Art from both the artist and the viewer in the controversial context of contemporary art - the fact that submitted artworks for Art Bin will be chosen by Landy and his representatives says a lot. Damien Hirst's contribution with a large print of For The Love Of God, will hopefully set a trend and allow anyone who has produced anything emblazoned with skulls, that has plagued the art world in the last two years, to have a creative detox - if not for the artist, for the sake of everyone else.


Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal

... may be a great t-shirt slogan, but they are the words said to have been uttered by Picasso and they resonate strong with contemporary art practice today. I was first introduced to The Rubell Family Collection this time last year when I was living in New York - the private collection, based in Miami since 1993, pioneered the concept of a 'Miami model' with such collections opening themselves up to the public to create independent institutions. The Rubell Family have 45,000 square-feet of independence and their current exhibition, Beg Borrow And Steal attributes Picasso's wise words. All 260 works by the 74 international artists on display, including Duchamp, Koons and Prince, are owned by the Collection and they explore the artistic practice throughout generations of appropriation as a reflection of their own moment in time. The Rubell Family are conscious of the speed which contemporary art travels and by referencing the earlier landmark artworks in the collection, a greater understanding of the past defines the present and embraces the future,
"... The most interesting contemporary art almost always engages with a future that is not yet known, and we believe this new work is dealing with that future. The same way Andy Warhol predicted our current culture of fame, artists today are working around something we are just beginning to understand. It has to do with information overload, time, the collapse of time, indistinct authorship, virtuality and intense individuality. In the future, there might be a simple explanation, but for the moment it is a glorious mess of things."
Beg Borrow And Steal runs to 29th May 2010 and the exhibition catalogue is now available through the Foundation's website.


Pole To Pole

I was in Oxford over the weekend and paid a visit to Modern Art Oxford where I was welcomed by stewards in head to toe gold lamé suits - as one who considers first impressions absolute, I deterred my usual rule of thumb, politely denied to wear the golden suits on offer to the public and forged my way into the (usually quite conservative) museum, to enter the world of Pawel Althamer's Common Task and Miroslaw Balka's Topography. In conjunction with POLKSA! YEAR - a series of 200 projects celebrating Polish culture and the arts to the British public - Althamer takes his vision global with his work, Common Task, that has been travelling across continents with groups of 'astronauts' in golden suits and golden luggage, in their golden plane with their adventures documented in the exhibition. In contrast, Balka's video work explores the minimal landscape of his native Poland in a series of multi-projections on walls and floor screens paired with a chilling soundtrack of leather-whipped metal and industrial drones. Offering a different insight from his commission at Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, the cold reality of a country stricken by war throughout history is present in both instances. The artworks from the artists present both the future and the past of a country that well deserves a year of celebration.
POLSKA! YEAR runs at Modern Art Oxford to 7th March 2010 and The Unilever Series: Miroslaw Balka How It Is runs to 5th April 2010.


Campaign Quiz

Possibly the best Spring/Summer campaign of the year - if not of all time? - fashion photographer Nick Knight places model-turned-snake charmer Raquel Zimmermann in an uncompromising position. Start the weekend by feasting your eyes over my quiz - fingers on buzzers...
Spot a) the model & b) the product


A Casualty Of Politics?

A year ago today history was made when the first African American was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. Like with any anniversary, one looks back to the past to reflect and contemplate the future - but today is, unfortunately for Barack Obama, not just any anniversary - today represents the end of a year that had been fueled by a historical Democratic political campaign, declaring 'Change', 'Hope' and 'Yes We Cans' which have resulted a year on in a disappointing chorus of 'No We Can't'. But apart from the promises that Obama has been unable to meet on both national and international stages that only highlight what Presidential life is like when it is shared with Senates and Congress, I want to ask what position the power of art now takes, having played such an important role in the election campaign of 2008, when Obama's approval rating has dropped by thirty per cent with only a popularity of 50 per cent today? His rise to power played with ideas of a Superman figure, battling between good and evil, that was so successfully driven by the Obama campaign and adopted by the world's press, it awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize for what seemed to be based on only a series of promises. The artist Shepard Fairey undoubtedly played an important role in the candidacy. Art critic for The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl, called Fairey's 'HOPE' poster, "the most efficacious American political illustration since 'Uncle Sam Wants You'". The artist created the iconic design, originally featuring the word 'PROGRESS', independently from the Obama campaign with Fairey taking the position as a visual commentator with a passion for politics and the power that poster art inherently possesses. Once campaign officials embraced the popularity Fairey was generating, a series of revised artworks featuring the words 'CHANGE' and 'VOTE' were released with record-breaking distribution numbers of half a million posters, cementing his name in history and all the success he could ever hope for. Fairey's art was everywhere and on everything around the world, teamed with Obama's growing celebrity status, his career propelled him to take on corporate commissions for the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, publications and into the world's most prestigious collections including The Smithsonian, MOMA and the V&A. But with the world's most recognisable figure inseparable from an artwork and style that is so recognisably Fairey, are there consequences for an artist who has displayed such a personal allegiance towards a Superman that in reality, is just another politician? Does the artist have responsibility for attributing to the power of electioneering - for contributing visually in order to place a figure in politics that happens to helm the most powerful country on earth? Very little can be done in a political year and 2009 has experienced exceptional circumstances. There is no reason why Obama cannot achieve all that he has promised in time, for if anyone is to cease from war, bring America's healthcare system into the twenty-first century and improve climate change to name a few, he is the man to do it. But there are obstacles that may never be jumped over and with the ever-increasing criticism of the inexperienced President, is it possible in a world of makes-and-breaks for Sheperd Fairey to be a casualty of politics?


The Religion Of Luxury

The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much:
but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
Ecclesiastes, 5:2-3

These may be the words according to Ecclesiastes, but what the labouring man may not know is that the sleep of the rich is sweeter aided by their abundance as they lie under their 100% cashmere blanket thanks to the art world's high priest, Damien Hirst. Produced under his exclusive marketing arm, Other Criteria, the blanket features icons from the artist's New Religion series, measures 1470 x 1830mm and is made in Scotland by traditional techniques and finishes to create the most luxurious look and feel. If you have £975.00 to donate towards the cause of Other Criteria, enquiries are being accepted here.


As Cunning As A Fox

Congratulations to my indie-film-legend Wes Anderson who has been honoured with a Special Achievement Award in Filmaking from the National Board of Review for the fantastic, Fantastic Mr. Fox! Even off set, Anderson continues to push the boundaries in his own very unique way, by accepting the award with a stop-motion film of himself in character as the weasel who he played in the film. To win is one thing. To win and produce one of the best acceptance speeches possibly of all time is another. May the bar rise higher and higher and may the awards continue to tribute... what's next Mr. Anderson?


Man In The Mirror

Takashi Murakami has received royal approval from The Palace of Versailles with an invitation to hold a two-month retrospective later this year from September 12th to December 12th. Following in the steps of the successful, if controversial, exhibit by Jeff Koons and from French artist, Xavier Veilhan in 2009, Murakami will inject his notorious contemporary sensibility into fifteen rooms in the palace including the apartments of the King and Queen as well as the renowned Hall of Mirrors. Murakami's practice and his Superlfat movement has been practically tailored for Western audiences and will reignite Versaille's curiosity of the East once more: Superflat c'est Super!


Over The Golden Gate

You know how it is. After you've visited somewhere that's managed to tug a few sentimental strings here and there you think you could 'live there tomorrow, forever and ever'. I say this most of the time. If it's about California, then I say this a lot. So I give you every right to think 'here we go again' when I tell you that I could live in Sausalito tomorrow, just like that. To be honest it's always been a mystery to me - I've visited San Francisco so many times before and I've never visited this city on the Bay - so when I was there over the holidays I was determined to pay my curiosity a visit. Known well for its wealthy residents and location in the protected Golden Gate National Recreation Areas, the boulevard of Bridgeway, facing on to a sea of yachts and houseboats was a visual pool of eccentricity. Once you realise that yes, there is a floating Taj Mahal moored in the marina (top right), you know you're somewhere alternative and you can feel the creativity from the European-inspired architecture to the local hangouts, such as Cibo which serves up fresh breakfast and lunch. I love the name, the people and where else can you say you live just over the Golden Gate Bridge? If I had to drive over that everyday, I would... forever and ever.
I was so inspired with everything nautical, I designed this critter-style repeat pattern, "At Sea", composed with my initials, J and V to form sprawling anchors. If you would like to find out more about my artwork and projects please visit my website here and any feedback is very welcome at jmvelardi@yahoo.co.uk
At Sea, Illustration, 2010


10013 to 90012

The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art has announced the much anticipated appointment of Jeffrey Deitch as its new Director. What is said to be a unanimous vote from MOCA's board of directors, their unconventional choice displays the direction that the financially-troubled museum wants to take: Deitch is a Manhattan heavyweight with a mind for business (from his past at Citibank) and has introduced the high-lifes to the low-lifes of the art world at his SoHo gallery Deitch Projects - a career that is far from the internationally academic and institutionally-grained art museum candidates that could have been chosen. Deitch may lack professional experience in the American museum world, but his assets are what MOCA have their eye on, as art advisor to some of the world's wealthiest art collectors and with his own penchant for a popular Pop aesthetic, Deitch will bring money to the table and he means business. He will retract from all commercial activity - handing over parts of Deitch Projects to his current East coast employees, his role as art consultant to several committees and importantly relocate to Los Angeles with a "relatively modest" housing allowance. Not commenting on a compensation package for his new directorship, it will not be anything like what he has been accustomed to as an art dealer, so is all this sacrifice worth it? Deitch confesses, "... this is what I've always wanted to do". Mr. Deitch, I salute you.
Jeffrey Deitch at MOCA, Los Angeles Times, January 11th, 2010
And if Mr. Deitch needs a little help getting around Los Angeles later in the year, then Phaidon's Wallpaper* City Guide iPhone application can help. With a slide of a finger, a where-to-go, where-to-eat, where-to-stay list of sights and sounds accumulate in a passport of cool. For the wannabe-Deitchs of you, explore the art scene in Berlin and download the City Guide for free here... the world is officially in the palm of your hand.


Life Is A Cabaret Old Chum

I saw in the new year with some pure talent thanks to the acrobatic acts from Cirque Du Soleil's production of OVO in San Francisco. I've wanted to see a Cirque show for years and OVO was my first - themed around the world of insects, everything from the clowns, trapeze artists and spectacular set changes of ant hills, forests and caves were surreal. Cirque's success has been to integrate a more intimate cabaret-style when entertaining theatre-scale audiences and when acrobats such as the Papillons perform a Spanish Web Duo metres above your head, you feel a thrill that lifts you up off your seat... just maybe not as high as the professionals with no harness attached! OVO runs until the end of the month in San Francisco and continues to tour America throughout the year. But if you don't make the leap over the pond, then be entertained by Varekai that launched last week at The Royal Albert Hall, London. For further information on the world of Cirque click here. Bonne Année tout le monde!