Wish You Were Here

Since 1991 Visionaire has pioneered the limited edition – bridging the worlds of art, fashion and design to create original and exclusive publications in all shapes and sizes. Different themes and formats are driven by each issue’s artistic direction that have included boxed, bagged and even audio presentations.
Inside Mr Porter's online closet is a selection of Visionaire’s highly collectible publications over the years that include issues by Hedi Slimane, Ricardo Tisci, Levi’s and Louis Vuitton. In 2000, Jean-Louis Dumas, President of Hermès created Issue 32 titled, Where?
Inspired by Dumas’s very own travel sketchbook, Where? takes the form of fifty-five silver-edged postcards with images contributed by international artists and photographers such as Andreas Gursky, Wolfgang Tillmans, Bruce Weber, David LaChapelle and Jeff Burton. The collection are presented in none other than a soft, tan leather pouch crafted in the workshop of the French luxury house in Paris.
An edition of 3500 numbered copies were produced and provide an alternative to the holiday postcard as well as a charming contemporary statement in an ever diminishing world of pen to paper correspondence. Whether it is from your private island or urban retreat these art postcards will guarantee best wishes for both sender and recipient par avion
Visit Visionaire to view their avant-garde series of issues to date.  


Mellow Yellow

Detox is word-dropped at the beginning of every new year when the excesses of December quite literally consume our body and mind. Earlier in the week I took refuge in Selfridges from the delayed festive weather to explore how London's luxury mecca was coping with its very own detox. After the adrenaline-fuelled sales period, the Oxford Street landmark has taken a leaf out of its founder's notebook - Mr Harry Gordon Selfridge created a Silence Room in 1909 for shoppers to "retire from the whirl of bargains and the build up of energy". This remarkable foresight is as relevant today in an age of instantaneous 24/7 commercial information and stimulation that is unfortunately not exclusive to Christmas but right across the other 364 days of the year. 

And so to the launch of No Noise - conceived by Alannah Weston, Creative Director, the campaign is directly inspired by Mr Selfridge's quiet concept and celebrates the beauty of function through a number of in-store projects free from the harshness of promotion that we are now so accustomed to. 

From the mellow felt-lined meditation pods dotted around the store, created by Headspace, to The Quiet Shop which showcases a curated collection of minimal items as well as a run of limited edition de-branded products that Weston describes as "iconic...needing no introduction". This includes the department store's equally iconic yellow shopping bags which have been rid of their black text and emphasise the power of brand recognition and the breakdown of unnecessary design that floods everyday life.

mellow yellow at Selfridges
The Quiet Shop concept space, located in The Wonder Room on the ground floor, has staged many exciting displays over the years (White Wonders, December 2011), and its subtle staging for No Noise is just as seductive as its previous guises. Acne, Jil Sander and Caran D'Ache are a number of brands that span The Quiet Edit and join Crème de la Mer, Heinz and Marmite who have exclusively de-branded their products from logos and text to create a silent, yet symbolic, installation of colour, form and utility in the shop space.

 No Noise Marmite 250g
 No Noise Heinz Baked Beans 415g
No Noise Heinz Tomato Ketchup 342ml
 No Noise Caran D'Ache Classic 844 Mechanical Pencil
No Noise Crème de la Mer Moisturising Cream 60ml
As with all concept projects, the window space that surrounds The Quiet Shop has been transformed into a gallery. In collaboration with the Hayward Gallery four works by London-based artist Katie Paterson have been installed on street level and present her mixed media practice that includes the work 100 Billion Suns - a confetti canon which is set off everyday at 12pm. 
However for the ultimate No Noise experience The Silence Room, located in the basement, has had a twenty-first century makeover by Alex Cochrane Architects and is a wonderfully serene space, isolated from noise and retail urge and would no doubt have made Harry Gordon Selfridge quietly content. 

You can escape the noise at Selfridges London until 28th February 2012 - for more information about the No Noise campaign including in-store events click here

Images courtesy of Selfridges. 


A Portrait Of A Duchess

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, 2013 - oil on canvas by Paul Emsley
It was the morning after the media furore as I walked up St Martin's Place to the scene of much debate and criticism. While the press pack had come and gone only the day before, my Twitter feed on Saturday morning continued to show virtual commentary on the Royal state of affairs that was the first official painted portrait of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge“It’s just amazing…” said The Duchess to Paul Emsley, the award-winning Scottish painter who took brush to canvas for the Royal commission by the National Portrait Gallery, of which The Duchess is Patron.

With less than twenty-four hours since its official unveiling, it was a surprisingly quiet Saturday morning in Room 36 with only a handful of visitors standing face to face with the larger than life profile. Kate shares the space with the neo expressionist style of Paula Rego portraying Germaine Greer, the awkward repose of Thomas Adès by Phil Hale; John Keane’s bright strokes of Mo Mowlam and the requisite Royal military presence in neighbour, Lance Corporal Beharry from the Prince of Wales Regiment, in the illustrative style of Emma Wesley. The darkest canvas of them all, Emsley’s style of restrained oil application and glazing is in contrast to the liberal and fluid gestures that surround it. ‘The singularity and silence of form’ is how the artist describes his use of dark backgrounds – pair this with a limited colour palette of blues and greys, the result is certainly silent and perhaps misjudged for a young subject who only turned thirty this very week. Light, an element Emsley has gained recognition in capturing with his photorealist BP Portrait Award in 2007, has refracted into an unattractive haze that has unfortunately gifted her both unnecessary age and formality. Closing in on the canvas equally disappoints – no revelations are unearthed and the rather mottled skin tones that have had blue tones picked out from other areas in a hopeful attempt at depth, fall quite literally flat on The Duchess’s face. With only two sittings and a series of photographs taken by the artist himself, in a press release published by St James's Palace Emsley explains how Kate wished to be portrayed 'naturally' as opposed to her 'official self'. How then naturally translated into soft focus is a curiosity, however the amount of detail that has been dedicated to her hair and cascading locks – a feature that is globally scrutinized and which the artist surprisingly stresses its importance as being 'strong' and 'recognisable' in a trailer for the National Portrait Gallery (below) - has been executed with such staging and minute attention through a spectrum of grey and luminous copper hues; detail that has been starved from anywhere else across the visage. I found myself transfixed on the unusually defined right eyebrow that somehow escaped this soft focus – a distraction that would have been welcomed in the eyes that suffer from icy up lighting. And so to the mouth: does Emsley's notification that it turned from unsmiling to smiling contribute any more or less to my understanding? He only confirms Kate is in fact smiling, albeit enigmatically. In the words of my esteemed friend and artist Ana Cavic, is she the Mona Lisa?, a question that may be on the lips of art historians forevermore. 

It is however not entirely off with his head for Emsley. While he is the executioner, he is not alone for critical execution. It is reported that Kate was involved with choosing Emsley with the help of National Portrait Gallery Director, Sandy Nairne. Include the countless correspondence between palace and institution it would have been undoubtedly a daunting prospect for the new Royal. Yet given the strong signals that both Kate and her husband, Prince William have worked hard at expressing - that of a young, informal, changing face of the House of Windsor - the definitively conservative choice in artist and image is frustrating. The Sloane Ranger returneth is a message that instantly came to mind as I viewed the portrait, exposing another misjudgment on the part of Kate’s Royal advisors, or lack of if reports are to be believed. The Duchess’s choice of a navy blue pussybow blouse, made famous by former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, teamed with heirloom earrings, present not only a potentially loaded composition but a stiff and detached icon of twenty-first century Britain through in an irrelevant Eighties filter. Also to be noted are the blouse’s sleeves that expose a possible amendment from their sleeveless state in the artist’s original photographs, which on canvas display very little effort to unify blouse with sleeve. If Austerity Duchess were the intentions du jour of Kate and company then this equally falls flat with delusion. Emsley and the club of traditional portrait artists command far greater amounts for this formal style of work than an emerging contemporary talent, which in my opinion would have been a far suitable choice - if not only for style, but also for substance. A graduate from London’s many fine art schools such as The Royal Academy or The Slade School of Fine Art, of which aspiring artists from around the world fight for student places, would have been a refreshing and powerful statement against the inevitability of Royal protocol. 

What hangs in Room 36 is a portrait engulfed in safety and unexpected dullness of one of the most photographed women in the world. It is a pity an artist, who may have delved into allegorical integration or played with personality through colour or set design, was not elected. As for the choice of frame – a very plain silver number – unsurprisingly has invited damning comparisons to portraits that may be found in establishments on the British high street: a first in the comparison archives for Royal portraiture to date. 

Emsley will now have to accept his portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge will eclipse his more celebrated works. For Kate, an alumnus of history of art, her first painted portrait now joins its very timeline and with Prince William, their duty as future King and Queen will consist of a whole life ahead of them with portraits and various immortalizations in the name of State and institution. In her early years as a new member of the Royal Family and a time that precedes the imminent birth of her first child, she may have wanted to be reminded of this special occasion in a different light in years to come: when she really is old and grey.

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London from 11th January to 1st September 2013 - click here for visitor information. 
Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery 


Bowie's Back

2013 is set to be yet another year of British accolade. Drum roll please, or should that be synthesizer, for breaking news about a certain Mr David Robert Jones - or David Bowie for non-Ziggy-super fans - who has released a new single today, on his sixty-sixth birthday. 
Where We Are Now? is the first track ahead of a brand new album, The Next Day, scheduled for release in March. It has been ten long years since the Starman's last album and his reclusive nature, away from both public glare and stage, only fuels the anticipation and suspense of a pending new body of work and hopeful tour dates. Having turned down an invitation to perform in person at the London 2012 Olympic ceremonies, with only a few audio tracks to be contented with amidst the best of British fanfare (The Finish Line, 2012),  glam-rockers can look forward to a celebration of the iconic artist's contribution to art, fashion, film and music at the exhibition, David Bowie is at The Victoria and Albert Museum which will open in March and coincide with the album launch. The first international retrospective of its kind with unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive will incorporate over three-hundred objects - from handwritten lyrics to original costumes and set designs to his very own instruments - charting Bowie's sustained reinvention across five decades.
Collaboration will be one of the themes explored in the exhibition and if today's music video is anything to go by, we can expect Bowie will be back with a bang and on the money with continued interest in contemporary art association and the prospect of a digital renaissance across social media for twenty-first century digital addicts. The Where We Are Now? music video is directed by international multimedia artist, Tony Oursler and features his trademark animated projections onto handmade sculptural figures.

The artist's official website davidbowie.com has been relaunched with new content as well as the official twitter page. 

So here's to a new year and the return of the original new
Happy Birthday Mr Bowie!

Find out more about the forthcoming exhibition David Bowie is 23rd March - 28th July at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London here.  

Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum