Library Brass

This week I’m very excited to be working with jewellery brand Library Brass. I will be art directing the photographic campaigns for the Taiwanese brand on its forthcoming collection in London. Designed by the über talented Chiayi Chuang, this will be Library Brass’s third collection and the brand is growing from strength to strength with its trademark use of various materials from fabric to brass chains and decorative objects that are thoughtfully and intricately intertwined to create contemporary statement pieces, inspired by their designer’s artistic background as a performance artist.

Don’t miss posts and photos from the shoot throughout the week – until then, follow @JMVELARDI for all the latest #highlife news on set and visit Library Brass for more information about this new and exciting jewellery line which will be landing in London soon – don’t forget you heard it here first! 


Safari Streets

Jungle City is in full swing in Edinburgh and after the hugely successful exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens (In The Wild: Jungle City, August 2011), the animals have been unleashed onto the streets of the city for the month of September before all one hundred and thirty crocodiles, orangutans, hornbills, tigers and elephants are auctioned by Sotheby's Scotland on 29th September at The Great Jungle City Gathering gala held at The National Museum of Scotland
Tribal Tigris has been standing proudly on the popular cobbled promenade of Grassmarket in the historic Old Town of Edinburgh - here are a few photos of my tiger, which has been generously sponsored by BT, in situ in this area of the city known for its independent retailers and eclectic watering holes. 

Keeping Tribal Tigris company is the World Wildlife Fund's Barcode Tiger which has been created in partnership with the People's Postcode Lottery. The playful yet powerful design of barcode stripes reflects the conflicts tigers face between the natural and commercial world, and highlights the tragic reality of illegal trading of tigers and other endangered animals. I'm honoured that my tiger has been installed next to the WWF UK's contribution to this year's Jungle City event - my own inspiration for Tribal Tigris explores the immortalisation of a tiger into logos and mascots within the commercial world, when in reality the species is being driven to extinction - both tigers complement one another in both style and statement and add a dash of the exotic to their historic surroundings of Grassmarket. 

If you are interested in bidding for Tribal Tigris you can register your interest online here at the official Elephant Family eBay page - bids for all the unique and life size animal creations will open on 22nd September at 10am and will close on 2nd October at 5pm. Elephant Family are aiming to raise £1million to support their own charity work for Asian elephants as well as supporting the work of six UK conservation charities - Care for the Wild, Orangutan Foundation, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Sumatran Orangutan Society, TRAFFIC and WWF Scotland.

Follow @JMVELARDI for more updates to the run up to the Jungle City auction - discover your wild side and get involved! 

Images courtesy of Murray Horne


Change Clothes & Conquer

Jay-Z: man of the minute, hour, month, year and perhaps decade in the entertainment industry. With an illustrious music career, record label and clothing line under his belt, it has not yet been six months since the launch of his online lifestyle platform Life And Times of which he is curator, that the artist and businessman can officially add taste maker to his expanding repertoire, if he hasn't done so already. Keeping it fresh has always been the way this urban mogul rolls - you only need to look at this summer's highly anticipated, unorthodox and subsequently viral album launch with Kanye West that saw creative collaborations with fashion designer Ricardo Tisci, director Spike Jonze and a pop-up shop in New York's Mulberry Street SoHo that housed a specially customised Maybach that contributed to the release of the LP, Watch The Throne to fully appreciate the ingenuity and attention to detail that keeps Jay-Z on top. 

Life And Times works in partnership with Jay-Z's company SC|Enterprises and covers a range of creative content from fashion to the arts, technology and sport. While the site is not as conceptual as fellow collaborator Kanye West's official site that launched in early 2010, Life And Times channels a more editorial display, popular with design-conscious online platforms while being accessible with relevant and on-the-pulse content across the board. More expanding empire than emperor's new clothes, Jay-Z is a twenty-first century chameleon adapting to the fast digital pace, providing his new and existing fan base an insight into something that money, no matter how much you have, cannot buy: taste
This week the site released an alternative music video for the 2009 record, Empire State of Mind that features a roster of international female models rocking around the city of NYC no less. Your'e the man Jay-Z...


Double Vision

Dear loyal followers, over the next two weeks I'm undergoing the final stages of surgery to both of my eyes and I therefore apologise for my lack of posting since the weekend. The sensation of not being able to focus at all in one eye is one that I hope will be only temporary - so until I am gifted with clarity, I thought it would be rather appropriate to share a selection of my favourite Gerhard Richter works of the necessary and not-so-necessary items of the everyday, in all their unfocused glory... 
 Rokokotisch (Rococo Table) 1964
 Flämische Krone (Flemish Crown) 1965
 Klorolle (Toilet Paper) 1965
 Zaum (Fence) 2008
Chicago 1992

During my mini-break from the blogosphere you can still follow me @JMVELARDI for the latest #highlife and #lowlife news, all in one hundred and forty characters and all just about bearable before the paracetamol have to come out! 


New York State Of Mind

Since the beginning of the month our eyes, our ears and our hearts have been invited to turn to New York City in preparation for the ten year anniversary of three numbers and a forward slash that can arguably claim to be one of the greatest visual and audible icons of the twenty-first century. The wealth of information that is stored on the web and press pages across the globe – from the minute-to-minute eyewitness accounts, to the intimate memories of those who were murdered, to the political data that form every fact, as well as fuel any conspiracy - is as daunting to digest as the time that has past since the world that I had known changed overnight on 11th September 2001.
As the saying goes, you will never forget where you were and what you were doing. It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was playing a game of inter-house rugby at secondary school when the first plane hit WTC 1 – by the time I got back to my house the rumours that a small private plane had crashed into a skyscraper were rectified by BBC’s breaking news coverage in our TV room that would normally have been blaring out MTV – it was quiet and the sight of both towers, hit by commercial jets and now burning like gigantic candle sticks, was nothing but amazing. No Hollywood film could recreate these scenes of reality that were so unfamiliar to our eye, this unimaginable, this degree of perversion. As the evening wore on, I noticed the silence around school and the silence in the sky – the westerly flight path to America from Heathrow that passed over the campus was bare due to the hundreds of planes that had been grounded. What proceeded was to be a new way of life instilled with insecurity and fear. I can still just about remember the days when smoking was allowed on planes; when I was able to pay a visit to the cockpit with my parents when we flew to America, the controls all lit up in technicolor and the pilot's view of the horizon so clear and bright. I remember sitting in the jump seat of a very full flight to London from Europe one summer - just the pilots and I - I will never forget that landing, a sight very few people witness or even have a peak at through the doors of the cockpit that are now sealed and protected – all moments in my early lifetime practically inconceivable today. I remember when security wherever you are didn't use to take the extreme precautions that are now standard procedure; when awareness towards another human being’s appearance and manner – and religion - was less ruthless of stereotype, and if you are a dark skinned Italian who had not shaved before going through airport security would not result in a full pat down and even one time, an invite into a full body RapiScan (one of many products created for a post-9/11 world).

Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad at the 9/11 National Memorial

The attacks on the United States of America were social and cultural attacks that have had global consequences affecting the everyday that has adopted a subconscious paranoia for generations past and where “war on terror” slips off the tongue as easily as the daily death count of civilians and soldiers in the war-torn Middle East witnessed by children of the new Millennium. 
This weekend the people of New York will reminisce beyond the landmark date, on what will be yet another year since their city was violently attacked, while the rest of the world dissects the past decade from the capturing and death of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Osama Bin Laden this year; questions will be asked about capitalism and religion and of the lessons that have been learned by both the East and West, if any, through a plethora of social media outlets that were not even around in 2001 – a sign of the times that may have magnified a greater real-time hysteria that was so well documented during this year’s horrific Japan tsunami.
What is certain is the fact New York will not allow to be defined by the terrorism on 9/11, it’s heart far from broken, hurt and still healing, but not broken.

Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad will be officially inaugurated on 11th September at the the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, Manhattan, New York City.

In London, After 9/11 – an eight metre tall sculpture fashioned from steel girders from the World Trade Centre wreckage - by artist and New York native, Miya Ando has been installed in ‘The American Ground’ of Battersea Park, Wandsworth, South London.


Sex, Drugs n' Fish & Chips

The Reading Rooms at the V&A began the run up to London Fashion Week and celebrated the annual Vogue’s Fashion Night Out on Thursday evening with an intimate talk by author and first men’s editor at Vogue, Geoffrey Aquilina Ross. Appropriately held in the library at this V&A outpost, surrounded by coffee table books and catalogues from the worlds of art, design and fashion, Aquilina Ross began his introduction of his new book, The Day of the Peacock: Style for Men 1963-1973 with a title bestowed on him in recent years, “… they call me a veteran editor”.

Geoffrey Aquilina Ross in conversation

While not in the fashion mix anymore, Aquilina Ross went from fish & chip shop to the inner sanctum of Mr Fish during the swinging Sixties – a career path that one can only imagine today from an era that certainly deserves the veteran status – and he amuses at the title as if the decade of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll was a war which he survived and is able to tell the tale. Many unfortunately are not. The Sixties proved to be a curious time of social shifts: when straight-laced boys from the King’s Road joined the punk rock youth of Carnaby Street to meet at a sartorial crossroad on Savile Row. The banker, the rock star and the dandy developed a market within the fashion world that had showed very little interest for the male consumer in the past. The cut of your cloth was just as important as the tailor cutting it and as popularity grew thanks to icons such as Cecil Beaton, Mick Jagger and Peter Lichfield, the shifts towards men’s fashion throughout the decade saw the limitations of bespoke transform into off the rail production, providing male identity to the masses.

The Day of the Peacock: Style for Men 1963-1973 travels from Granny Takes A Trip to Mr Fish as well as everything in between and charts the Vogue editor’s shoots with legendary photographer David Bailey of the movers and shakers from a decade that pioneered male expression through cuffs, hems and lapels. 


Behind Closed Doors

It is impossible to tune out of the developing events in Libya - the hunt for Muammar Gaddafi has cemented itself onto the news headlines for months and with the passing days and hours since the rebels advanced into Tripoli in late August, journalists and editors are already compiling the biography, or obituary, of the captured dictator when that day arrives. The Arab Spring has undoubtedly been the story of 2011. Waves of civil revolution along the Equator States have inspired the downfall of autocracy and government corruption in the name of positive change and the passionate demonstrations from everyone from exhausted nationals to citizens who returned to their native country to support the cause, has resulted in an incredible degree of social expression that has not been allowed an international stage until now. Expression plays a critical role in times like this - whether it be the formulation of a political manifesto that holds the burden of the ears of governments throughout the world, or the intimate act of elders passing their accounts on to future generations. Artists and curators from the Arab world are unsurprisingly gaining greater attention within international art markets for their genuine expression and reflection of the developing situation from their respective homelands. This year saw the debut of the MENASA Art Fair that showcased artists from the region gaining much international interest, particularly in Europe. It is hoped that the tired labels of 'ethnic' and 'exotic' are not driving this interest such as in African or Indian markets and the political weight that drives creativity is not merely a trend or short-term emerging market.

Yesterday night I proudly attended the opening of Behind Closed Doors at Bischoff/Weiss gallery to support my very good friend and fellow Slade alumnus, Aya Haidar. The mixed media exhibition incorporates a collection of photographic prints onto linen and an installation that relates to her practice of the process of handing down stories of Lebanon past and present, personal and political, which she encounters through family and friends on her visits to the Middle East. While Lebanon has served as a military playground for neighbouring powers, it's transparency and open society has saved itself from the absolute contempt felt by citizens in the Arab Spring. Once the Paris of the Middle East, the streets of Beirut are documented and manipulated by the artist - print IV from Recollections (Seamstress Series) embodies the meeting of the city's old world glamour and the reality of the everyday; depicting the French luxury boutique Hermès with an embroidered graffiti tag 'Haifa for President' above the boutique's entrance - referring to Haife Wehbe, a female pop star considered to be a sex symbol in Lebanon. The installation that can been seen from the street on Hay Hill, Mayfair invites the viewer to consider access and movement - actions that are taken for granted in everyday life; everyday life that benefits from the privileges of democracy. Unhinged was created for the exhibition and is a series of found doors connected together, their handles removed, to create a physical barricade within the space. Simulating the border restrictions and road blocks that are an everyday occurrence in the Arab world, the practical symbolism of a door is made redundant. What is so powerful about the work is the everyday-nature of a door - its very ease to erect is equal to its potential to be taken down.

Recollections (Seamstress Series) IV, 2011

As well as recycling materials to create installations, Haidar recycles the narratives that have been passed down to her and re-expresses them through her own voice and more literally, through her own hand with the intricate embroidery that is worked across the linen prints as a means of mending or perhaps preserving the well-travelled narrative that successfully engages with the political and historic within a contemporary context. I particularly like the term 'Seamstress' in the titles of the embroidered print collection - not only contesting the stereotype of craft within the art world. In the same way the artist has gathered stories from the market trader to the policeman, or from her very own Mother and Grandmother, they are all characters in the make up of society; all of whom have a story to tell. By therefore granting herself a role in this very make up, the 'Seamstress' playfully takes on both the intimate character who listens attentively while she sews and the powerful role as visual artist with something to say: opening doors one by one.

Recollections (Seamstress Series) XXI, 2011

Big congratulations to Aya for a brilliant show - for further information about the artist and her body of work visit Bischoff/Weiss.

Behind Closed Doors
7th September - 6th October 2011
14a Hay Hill
London W17 8NZ

Images courtesy of Bischoff/Weiss