Christmas Wish

I first came across Partners & Spade in 2009 when I was living in New York - their East Village advertising studio is a fantastic space which curates a rolling exhibition of art and design - I was lucky to catch their celebrated collection of Lehman Brothers paraphernalia (Investment Of Taste, September 2010) in the wake of the insolvent firm. 
This week I received a brilliant email from the studio which I have to share with you all - while the streets of the world's financial capitals may be occupied with strikes and capitalist contempt, it is not to say that everyone's aspirational tendencies won't be making an appearance during the festive season. Partners & Spade make sure everyone get's their Christmas wish this year with their humorous It's The Thought That Counts initiative...
Visit Partners & Spade to view a selection of their over-priced products in their Storefront as well as information about their Studio services.

Partners & Spade
40 Great Jones
New York


Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn heat with Pantone 1655 C

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers 
across the pond and beyond!



How far would you go for LOVE? Since 2008 Cartier have been asking this very question and have been inviting artists such as Lou Reed, Phoenix, Olivier Dahan and Camille Henrot to interpret an answer for the renowned French jeweller. This year Cartier invites electronic music duo AIR to be inspired by the luxury brand's popular LOVE collection, producing an original soundtrack and music video that depicts a young artist in New York in search of his muse, aptly titled Painted Love...


Brand AD

I am very fortunate to call Windsor my home – twenty one miles from central London, the historic town in Royal Berkshire is famed by its castle and its royal residents throughout the centuries, of which the current Royal House adopted its namesake during a First World War rebrand – unsurprisingly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha didn't quite have the right ring to it. The town is pseudo-country; formed around the private and public crown estate of Windsor Great Park, one can instantly be lost in an ocean of forest or fields when exploring off the tourist ant-trail, only to discover there is much more history beyond the castle walls. Down the Long Walk - arguably the most impressive approach to a residence in the Land - and beyond the Copper Horse, lays a community of duty and heritage. While accessible only by foot or by bicycle to the public, The Great Park is my home turf and my runs around this five thousand acre estate over the years have still not taken me to its every corner. A few weekends ago I stepped back in time – the twelfth century to be precise – to visit the exhibition A Pageant of Heraldry organised by The College of Arms and Cumberland Lodge.
Cumberland Lodge is a residence within The Great Park dating from the middle of the seventeenth century. Since its formation as a charitable foundation in 1947, it provides an informal centre for academic exchange – it’s panelled rooms proved one of the most interesting exhibiting pop-up spaces I had been to for a while. 
During my time with the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle a few years ago, I could not resist growing a fascination with heraldry. Besides the fact that there is symbolism carved onto every chair, table, pane of glass and slab of stone around the castle apartments, as an artist the visual language that these symbols created were truly mystifying and formed one of the first concepts of a brand through visual recognition in history. Whether it is the sea of shields across the ceiling of St George’s Hall or the sacred decoration that is at the heart of the foundations of St George’s Chapel, it is easy to be enchanted by the genealogical history of characters past and present.
Heraldry derives from the word Herald and was first mentioned in Western Europe about the time of the First Crusade (c. 1100). Acting as messengers, diplomats and army staff officers, Heralds were attached to household rulers and magnates around the country where they used their expertise in identifying army commanders by their coat armour - markings painted on their banners and shields – since helmets denied facial recognition during war. This was a valued skill and precise identification in battle was paramount. Their experience led to taking responsibility of ceremonial duties at court and they were acknowledged as members of the Royal Household under Henry V in 1415 as ‘King of Arms’. 
Their device of indexes, rules and terminology around the insignia of arms form the basis of heraldic law and language that continues to provide a service today by the office of the Earl Marshal – itself a hereditary position through the Dukes of Norfolk since 1672 - who represent the Sovereign in the authorisation of all arms and grants. 
The exhibition illustrates the importance of heraldry as a mark of identification and charts the importance of heraldic seals as a means of authenticating documents in the late Middle Ages to the interest of institutions and public bodies from the beginning of the eighteenth century of which interest maintains in contemporary society and continues to be presented with an ornate Grant of Arms document approved with a Great Seal.
Tabard of King of Arms, bearing the Royal Arms on velvet
Tabard of Pursuivant of Arms, bearing the Royal Arms on silk
Highlights from the exhibit include tabards of King of Arms and Pursuivants of Arms beautifully embroidered on velvet and silk respectively, as well as The late Queen Mother’s personal banner which is uniquely on display.
While it is assumed that coats of arms are only reserved for royalty and nobility, with the emergence of a celebrity class towards the end of the last century within Britain’s inherent class system, a slice of noble decoration can in fact be purchased by anyone, at a price. With the trend ignited by rock royalty such as Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney, celebrity culture in Britain aspired for heraldic heritage – this was notably documented in the press when David Beckham and then-to-be wife, Victoria Adams commissioned a coat of arms inspired by the British Premier League Football trophy in 1999. Reports came out that the couple wished for the swan - that is incorporated in the design - to face a specific direction and that it had been suggested the swan should face the opposite direction since the great heraldic lexicon dictated the original direction would have implied the male bearer’s sexual preference to men. Most recently however, the coat of arms of a certain Kate Middleton received global attention on the announcement of her engagement to Prince William. Royal protocol requires both parties of the royal couple to provide arms – the Middleton family commissioned a coat of arms with the help of Garter Principal King of Arms, Thomas Woodcock, resulting in a personal design that symbolised the family’s association with West Berkshire and their interest in outdoor pursuits, while representing all five members of the Middleton family through colour and composition.
Printed onto the official souvenir programme on the day of the Royal Wedding earlier this year (Something Old Something New, April 2011) it is undoubtedly the most recognisable coat of arms in 2011, if not this century. However once Kate Middleton officially married into the Royal family to assume her title of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, her coat of arms instantly ‘combined’ with that of Prince William. Where protocol necessitates this new design will be used to represent the Duchess and also gives the opportunity to watering holes around the country to fashion themselves after the newly appointed royal – the first pub in the country to be named after the Duchess was in fact registered in Windsor where the coat of arms can be seen above the entrance.

The importance of heritage in contemporary society is no more evident than in the new advertising campaign that was launched by British Airways in late September. While companies invest millions into rebranding their product with a new direction, the airline looked to their past and reintroduced a brand element from their 'Landor' livery that was used between 1984-1997. Perhaps a clever marketing strategy on the eve of the British Monarch’s Golden Jubilee as well as the hosting nation of the Olympic Games next year, the airline has chosen to reintroduce a newly stylised version of their coat of arms and motto, To Fly. To Serve - granted to them by the College of Arms in 1975 - on their aircraft, uniforms and all other aspects of brand BA. Profiting from the ‘made in Britain’ trend that is proving to be a currency worth investing in across all market sectors, the expression of genuine heritage is an element of branding money cannot buy. The majestic nature of a coat of arms supersedes any fancy, modernist design, embodying a sense of seniority, quality and even timelessness that will no doubt charm customers aboard the nation’s flag carrier.
A series of crests - including a chrysanthemum of the Emperor of Japan (centre) 
While contemporary events of public interest shine the media spotlight onto the heritage of the College of Arms today, it is the annual event of the Most Noble Order of the Garter within the walls of Windsor Castle at St George’s Chapel - heraldry’s spiritual home since the Order’s foundation in 1348 by Edward III – that emphasises the historical importance and splendour of a service that is so intrinsic in this country’s very own brand identity that will last for another eight hundred years.
A Pageant of Heraldry may still be viewed at Cumberland Lodge on Wednesday 26th November – click here for visitor information. For further details on heraldic history and lineage, enquiries may be made to the Officer in Waiting at the Collage of Arms, which is open on weekdays throughout the year. Access to St George’s Hall and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is open daily – the wardens are well versed in the castle’s history and are more than happy to help with any questions – ticket information can be obtained at The Royal Collection.  

The College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street
London EC4
Cumberland Lodge
The Great Park
Windsor, Berkshire

The Colour Of Luxury

While the nation dreads a repeat of last year’s white winter, Selfridges London reminds us that white is not to be feared but admired. Besides the majestic hues of gold, purple and scarlet that have garnered royal favour throughout history, pulling off white in today’s twenty-first-century-of-grime is the ultimate in luxury – one only needs to look to Queen Elizabeth and her notorious white gloves and shoes (pictured). 
This Christmas Selfridges is making this colour of luxury available for all: from art to artefacts, Birkins to bubbly and cashmere to casseroles, a series of products have been given the white once over. The White Wonders concept store on the ground floor offers a collection of bespoke items and collaborations with international artists and designers – Marc Quinn, Drakes, Alexander McQueen, Moleskine, Valextra - as well as exclusive objects specially selected by Christie’s auction house that include an original hand-drawn Snow White cel animation from Disney and an ancient Greek bust in white marble.
To get your slice of white lux, drop into White Wonders in Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London this Holiday season or visit the dedicated website here for a selection of the exclusive range.


Graphic Gear

Off the back of my previous post of wearing your art on your sleeves and shoulders (Moore Substance Please, October 2011) the partnership between contemporary art and contemporary fashion design remains a successful formula. After spending the weekend roaming around the brilliant exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Substance 1970-1990 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I thought it appropriate to report that this Holiday season two brands team up with the estates of two celebrated postmodernist artists to produce graphic collaborations for your kicks and threads.
Reebok continue their creative partnership with the Basquiat Foundation with a series of signature markings printed and embroidered on the Omni Pump Lite created by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. Featured on two colourways, the mid-top sneaker includes the artist’s iconic signature and silhouette hairstyle detailing.
Set to launch later this month at Dover Street Market, London, Comme des Garçons has collaborated with the Keith Haring Estate on a line of monochrome tees and sweaters with Haring’s distinct art graphics. 
The Comme des Garçons Original x Keith Haring collection will be available in lambswool and cashmere – for more information visit DSM


The Angolan Art Scene

Earlier this year I was invited to contribute to Angola Today – the first comprehensive online platform in the English language on the Republic of Angola that is targeted at an international business and investment readership. 
My article, The Angolan Art Scene, introduces the status of visual arts from craft to the contemporary: spanning traditional Tchokwe objects that continue to be highly desired on global art markets to profiling emerging artists who are presenting Angola’s turbulent identity in a contemporary context, as well as the growing foundations for art education and production in the capital of Luanda. While the art world maintains a Western-centric view on critique and taste, the popular and profitable rise of Asian and Oriental market interest will no doubt turn eyes onto emerging territories such as Africa and South America, placing Angolan contemporary art at an exciting junction for growth and development. I profile Luanda-based photographer Kiluanji Kia-Henda, who has achieved a number of high-profile residencies and exhibitions with his large-scale portraits rooted in Angola’s socio-political history and post-colonial identity. 
Kiluanji Kia-Henda - The Merchant of Venice, 2010
The Angolan Art Scene simultaneously launches in the run up to this year’s Paris Photo, which will open at the Grand Palais Paris, France this week. This annual art fair will honour photography from Africa, hosting a series of exhibitions – 'Les Rencontres de Bamako' and 'Private Collection' from the Artur Walther Collection – as well as presenting galleries and publishers who support African art from around the world. The four-day event is guaranteed to be an exciting insight into African art through the lens and is a date not to be missed for collectors and investors alike. Visit Paris Photo 2011 for a full programme of events.
The Angolan Art Scene is now available to read at Angola Today - for more information about the article or if you would like to contact me for future editorial commissions please get in touch on 07843 158 319 or at jmvelardi@yahoo.co.uk


Ground Truth

The marking of the end of summer has always been for me the sight of revellers trudging around London’s mainline railway stations with their muddy Wellington boots and tall backpacks weighing down their posture, swaying to and fro towards their homebound platform after another year of festival excess. Swapping the comfort of warmth within four walls for a sleeping bag and a tent with a mind of its own has grown in popularity year on year with trends of summer festivals and stay-cations enticing urbanites into the dark depths of Nature’s womb. For some, camping remains a liberating exercise, free from inhibition and free from the continuous rhythms of commercial speech that engulf our urban landscape. 
Yesterday evening, with gravity winning over the autumnal leaves, I made my way across the Thames to the opening of Ground Truth by Louisa Fairclough at Danielle Arnaud. Fairclough’s practice has always incorporated elements of analogue since a student at The Slade School of Fine Art in the late nineties and she had introduced me to 16mm and Super 8 film when she returned to the school as a tutor; her approach hearty and physical towards the equipment which was in contrast to my fear of pressing the wrong button and ending up with an empty reel.
Bore Song, 2011
With the success of Tacita Dean’s Turbine Hall installation at Tate Modern there is no question analogue film is experiencing a renaissance in the public’s perception of contemporary art. Ground Truth – a geographical term of analogue land verification - consists of two film and sound installations as well as a series of drawings exhibited on the first floor of this Georgian terrace gallery. Fairclough, who is now based in the natural surroundings of Gloucester, has given sound an important role to play – it is the first sense that welcomes you into the space and it remains with you throughout the exhibition. Bore Song (2011) is a beautifully executed 16mm film loop of a young woman surrounded by the water of the River Severn projected onto a small slice of glass – she opens her mouth to a continuous piercing note that fills the space, the pitch reminiscent of analogue TV during midnight hours. In the moments of silence Song of Grief (2011), in the adjoining space, invites your attention with the same note emitting at different intervals. Two 16mm projectors face one another; their empty film is suspended and travels up and across the space to create a shimmering installation of white light and sound, creating a ghost-like and yet embracing atmosphere. Celluloid film has always possessed an additional layer of attention that the digital lacks. The artist is inherently conscious of exposure, frame and shot and while I have always respected the medium of film I have never experienced the reaction that I felt towards Fairclough’s new body of work. Intimate, poignant and raw, the works invite the viewer to access the artist’s personal expression of grief for the loss of a sibling as well as an account of her journey to the Severn by bicycle with her young son - genuine events in one’s life that have been reinterpreted in beautiful visuals and moving audio. 
Ground Truth, 2011
Camping paraphernalia are the subject of the series of fourteen drawings that correspond to these bicycle journeys and the nights spent on the riverbanks under tents and in sleeping bags. The exhibition catalogue written by art critic and poet Cherry Smyth describes these drawings made of pencil, spit and watercolour as ‘a softly creeping calendar of grief’ and Smyth’s essay makes for a wonderful narration of the context behind Fairclough’s Ground Truth – a journey that began with escape and ended in confrontation across the natural landscape that is analogue in every sense of the word.

Ground Truth will run at Danielle Arnaud until 11th December - visit the gallery's website for further information about the exhibition and opening times. Louisa Fairclough was nominated for this year's Jerwood Drawing Prize and her drawing Ground Truth (2011), named after this exhibiton, is displayed on the first floor. 

Ground Truth
4th November - 11th December 2011
Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art
123 Kennington Road
London SE11 6SF

Images courtesy of Danielle Arnaud 


Music Box

Tlatelolco Clash, 2011
Deep in the diplomatic and exclusive environs of Roppongi, with its international flavour in Minato, lies the subtle basement headquarters of Kaikai Kiki Gallery. Now in its fourth year as an established gallery formed under Takashi Murakami’s creative company Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., currently on show is a body of work by Albanian artist Anri Sala.
Image, sound and space has continued to form the basis of Sala’s time-based practice and it was great to have the opportunity to view his new work while I was in Tokyo last week since I missed the opening of his solo show at the Serpentine Gallery, London. The mixed media installation consists of three video works as well as a snare drum (Doldrum, 2008) and a traditional music box (No Window No Cry, 2011) all centred around English punk rock band The Clash's 1981 hit "Should I Stay or Should I Go". The dark space, complete with tatami mat in one section of the gallery's floorplan, was lit by the large scale projections, filled with the tinny sound of a barrel organ in Le Clash (2010) shot in Bordeaux, France and Tlatelolco Clash (2011) set  in Tlatelolco, Mexico City and the emotional and improvised tones of a saxophone in Long Sorrow (2005) played by Jemeel Moondoc in suburban Berlin, Germany. Sala’s restructuring of sound, image and location produce a decidedly offbeat atmosphere from on-beat elements – the visual narrative of the floating saxophonist or portable musical box is what ties the social contexts together and has the viewer travelling from one work to another, following the sound wherever it goes. 
Le Clash, 2010
If you are in Tokyo next week don’t miss Anri Sala at Kaikai Kiki Gallery, which will close on 11th November – click here for more information about the exhibition and details on future events.

Anri Sala
Kaikai Kiki Gallery
2-3-30 Motoazabu
Tokyo, Japan

Moore Substance Please

Walk into any museum or cultural institution’s gift shop and chances are you will find, next to the glass beaded jewellery and papier-mâché objets from the developing world, a selection of novelty silk scarves. Printed on them will be art works from their respective crowd-pleasing exhibitions or collections - Chagall at the Art Institute, Kandinsky at Guggenheim and Monet at the Met Museum to name only a few - that play to the tastes of those who like to wear their culture on their sleeves and shoulders.
But well before the overly shiny silk scarf tokenism, there was a serious producer in silk manufacture whose creativity was paramount and collaboration with international artists was a respected and highly collectible. Since the 1940s Ascher, founded in Prague by Zika Ascher, has encouraged the link between art and the textile industry through their limited edition silk scarf project that has seen partnerships with Cecil Beaton, Henri Matisse and Feliks Topolski. Believing in ‘substance before trend’, the Ascher brand is reinventing itself and riding the crest of heritage revival that remains a growing market interest. The brand continues to be a family affair today with the founder’s grandson, Sam Ascher commissioning new artists from London, New York and Los Angeles while also reissuing its vast archive of designs, including the house’s first line of scarves designed by Henry Moore that had been originally launched in London in 1945.

The Ascher/Moore collaboration saw a total of four designs that translated the artist’s fascination with the human form through abstract markings executed in Moore’s recognisable drawing style as seen on Three Standing Figures (pictured above). As it was half a century ago, the series is hand printed on the finest 100% silk twill and remains an item worthy of a collector’s wall and wardrobe.
Visit Ascher's official site for more information about new collaborations and rereleases from the house's archives.