Back in a city completely built and populated by refugees. Tel Aviv. Is there a better role model for the world of today? It seems like everybody is getting in one way or another paranoid about the “refugee problem” which is not a problem but the oldest pattern of the world. Rome, Paris, New York, all built by refugees, without them the world would be a different place. Pretty boring I suppose. In Tel Aviv, that youngest of world metropolises, the refugees at first only came from some parts of the world, then from some more parts of the world and now from all parts of the world. It works. Well, but aren´t they all Jewish? Just another lesson to learn over here. As with “the refugees” there does not exist anything like “the Jews”. They are as different as can be and the idea of a “Jewish look” is probably the oldest form of discrimination around. Just imagine, how people in Oslo perceive it in contrast to people in Cairo or Tel Aviv for that matter. The “Jewish look” is a myth and as such a sad proof of the fact that discrimination is still the origin of most problems we have. Let us stop discriminating people and start looking at them, one by one. A refugee is not the refugee, just as a Jew is not the Jew.
On the 8th of January 1959, his 12th birthday, David Robert Jones opened a strangely looking brown leather case and found a brand new Selmer alto saxophone inside. It was all white with golden keys. His father asked him if he liked it and young David just nodded silently. He would have loved a guitar. He wanted to be an American rock star just like the one on TV who was dancing wild with the guitar hanging around his neck. He only started to like the saxophone when his teacher Ronnie played him a record by some good looking American guy, whose alto saxophone sounded crazy and wonderful like the birds in the sky. David immediately wanted to stop even playing one more note.
I will never be able to play like that.
What a great name that is, „Art Pepper“, it sounds so cool, almost like a song. I want to have an American name too. Do you think I could call myself David Pepper?
Because „Jones“ sounds boring.
Rubbish, there are tons of great musicians by that name.
That is the problem!
Listen Dave, first you become a musician then you change your name not the other way around.
Driving around Liverpool in the perennial december rain. Ringo behind the wheel, the fab three looking out the window, blurred images of the town they know so well. When they arrive at the waterfront it is raining so hard they can´t get out of the car. Paul is humming a melody and John starts to sing, „if the rain comes they run and hide their heads, they might as well be dead if the rain comes, if the rain comes...“. We should call ourselves the Rainbirds, George says, whenever it is raining we start singing. Right? It is always raining. Without the rain we wouldn´t even have a band. If the sun was shining the whole day, we had not written a single song. We need the rain. We are not the Beach boys. We are from Liverpool!
When the the Statue of Liberty was given to the United States of America by the French people in 1886, it was officially called „Liberty enlightening the world!“ After the terrifying events of last week that very obviously tried to darken (eclipse) the free world people asked themselves, why France, why Paris?
I guess we tend to forget that after all France still represents the ultimate power of enlightenment, the secular stronghold of the free. No Burqas.
When I took the picture of Lady Liberty back in 1989 the World Trade Center was of course still standing. The picture was taken from the South tower platform. That afternoon nobody was using the tower telescope so I tried it as an additional lens and through it did this picture.
The torch. The ultimate symbol of the free.
1957, a small town somewhere along the Bible Belt. Norman Potts a married man of 36 years, having his own house, a wife, two kids and a great love for music steps into his favorite record store to buy some new music to listen to after dinner when his wife Laura is cleaning up the kitchen and the kids are in bed, smoking a cigar like he does every friday evening after a hard week´s work. While Norman is talking to Tony, the local record shop owner about the latest stuff by the likes of Sinatra, Herman and Brubeck he sees this.
Isn´t she hot? Really nice voice too.
Is she from London?
No, it´s just the name, all American girl!
Wanna have a listen?
Back home Norman puts the record on and listens all the way through to „Go slow“ when Laura is coming into the living room, „Go slow Baby, ooooh honey, take it easy on the curves...“. She throws Norman an irritated look followed by a shy smile, that Norman returns the same way before they both start to undress in front of the fireplace. What a great record!
Walking down the beach yesterday I was hit by a copy of the Gazzetta dello Sport the most notorious and extravagant of the three daily sports papers in Italy, headline letters saying „Grand´Italia!“ Living in Italy now for a while the Gazzetta strikes me as a perfect metaphor for the country. The day before the Gazzetta had published a slamming report on the state of the „Calcio Italiano“ doomed to perish in the global waves. First of all, the tag line doesn´t say something like „All the news that´s fit to print“ but „Tutto il rosa della vita“ which besides the double meaning of „rosa“ as „squad“ could easily be translated as „the bright side of life“. Thus reading the pink paper is a fantasy, it is not about the news and buzz than about your favorite team but about the inexplicable formula of Italian life as such. Only hours before the Gazzetta had slammed the Italian „calcio“ as mentally crippled doomed to perish in a couple of months. Dolce Vita, the Roman decadence of its origin, the golden abyss, the Italian way of life, reading a slamming report on your favorite player while drinking a black espresso in the morning, riding to work in a red Alfa Romeo or diving into the blue ocean, it is an all Italian fantasy come true.
Now this. Patti Smith is performing her 1975 record „Horses“ in Florence, the city of modern man, or maybe more accurately postmodern man. If they had the word back then they would probably called the renaissance just that. Postmodernism. Modernity reborn. But to play a whole album of music 40 years later of course is more than that, it´s classical.
As if we hadn´t known it all the time, Divas age badly!
Sophia Loren, my all time favorite Italian Diva (and there are many) has finally done what seems inevitable for Divas to do. She has ruined herself, trying to reach facial immortality. Where there used to be those full, fleshly lips they now look like badly cut slices of ham, the beautiful long, aristocratic nose, gone, the wavy chestnut colored hair faded like a toasted bun, the skin hanging down the sides like some withered lettuce leaves. Poor Sophia!
And who the fuck is Hamburger?
Yesterday we finally opened the new gallery „Il Garage“ in Pari. As I have mentioned before Pari is a most unusual place where I spend some time during the year among roughly 100 „natives“ and a handful expatriates from mostly English speaking countries. The official number of registered inhabitants is 204. Most of them actually came to the vernissage and it was a real pleasure to not only have the art crowd but people from the village come and look at the exhibited works.
One of my all time favorites. Doesn´t the picture convey an image of complete innocence? I guess the people at Fantasy thought about the cover to be a perfect visual analogy to Paul Desmond´s pure sound on the alto saxophone. Of all the cool players that emerged in the 50s on the West Coast Desmond to my ears was the only one really sounding cool or as some critic said, "Paul sounds like a dry Martini“. Just listen to „Sacre Blues“ for the coolest drink in jazz history! Paul Desmond who went on to play with the Dave Brubeck Quartet for more than 25 years never played better than on this record accompanied only by bass, drums and the wonderful mellophone sounds of Don Elliott who at times sounds like a musical incarnation of the elephant on the cover.
8th of July 2014, a historic day in every respect. The Brazilian national team would play the semifinal against Germany without the famous 10. Sem Dez. Never before did a Brazilian national team play an important game without the 10. One doesn´t have to be a hard core aficionado to know that the 10 is the symbol of creativity in the world of football. The player with the 10 always symbolized the creative quality of a football team, especially that of the most creative football team of them all, Brazil. Not anymore, the Brazilians had played pretty poorly throughout the tournament and only Neymar, the 10, could sporadically display some moves and goals that would qualify as jogo bonito. Jogo bonito, the beautiful game. To wear a number 10 jersey for a Brazilian simply follows the idea to support the identity of Brazilian football. On this day there was no number 10 player, Neymar was out. As if there was a chance of collectively replacing the most important player it seemed like every Brazilian football fan would wear that famous shirt on this historic day, the 8th of July, 2014.
What happened to the girl from Ipanema? Today she is mostly black, overweight and from some Favela up in the hills. She will probably listen to Hip Hop and think of Joao Gilberto as a retired soccer player. The girl from Ipanema is dead, dead like Jobim, dead like Vinicius, Elis, Luiz, Chico and all the other beautiful voices that once were surfing the bossa nova right to the shores of the most famous strip of sand, which now covers their bodies and souls.
Italianitá is the opposite of the American dream, it is the principle of looking back, indulging in the beauty of the past. Where in America „the best is yet to come“ in Italy one tends to be constantly reminded of the best already being accomplished. It is a rather conservative attitude but one that reminds us of the simple fact that not everything is getting better all the time. Has there ever been built something like the Pantheon or the city of Siena again? How come we still think we would have another Michelangelo, Shakespeare or Beethoven soon? I doubt it and I suppose most Italians doubt it too. Since people in Tuscany started to look for the future in the past some 750 years ago, calling it „rebirth“, Italians seem to have that unerring feel for tradition revisited. It can be detected in almost everything they do, be it a restoration of a wall or the interpretation of something as diverse as a pasta dish or a folk song. Thus in the world of art and architecture the essence of Italianitá could best be described as the aesthetic principle of decomposition.
Better do nothing than do the wrong thing !
One can argue that Guidoriccio is the true figurehead of Siena, the essential Senese character. Why? First of all, he is not Senese. He was born in Fogliano, hence he is historically referred to as „Guidoriccio da Fogliano“. Like all „fantinis“, the famous jockeys riding in the Palio, he was a mercenary paid to do the dirty work for the power driven nobility of the city. As with the Palio the pride of the Senese character seems to rather originate in the art of strategic control and the knowledge to play the intricate game of power than risking one´s own life.
While the controversy among art historians about the real attribution of the fresco is still going strong - Guidoriccio might not be the guy portrayed and Simone Martini not even the painter – it is very clear that everybody who´d ever seen the enormous wall painting will always recognize it, be it on a wine bottle, a coffee mug, an apron or a piece of chocolate.
I was seeing a friend the other day who told me about this place in Koreatown, that would still be some kind of an insider place where only the „real people“ go. I was a little sceptical, first of all because I am not the greatest fan of Korean cuisine, especially the spicy sauces that won´t let you taste what the actual ingredient is and secondly I didn´t quite understand what he meant by „real people“. Who am I going to a Korean resto, unreal? As we walked in it not only smelled worse than I had expected it was also completely empty and somehow felt like a setting right out of a David Lynch movie. Before we even sat the waitress came and wanted to take the order. As is common with most Asian waitresses they don´t give a damn about what you want, it´s only about numbers! So we ordered 67, 99 and a side dish called 117. It felt strange and I would have really enjoyed some other company except my friend, just to make sure some other people die too. Before she ran away I asked the waitress if she could turn off the TV since nobody else was there and I wasn´t in the mood for TV dinner. She said „No.“ Just like that. „No.“
As we were still wondering about the Lynchiness of it all we concluded that the TV set on the wall was not for the customer to watch but for them to watch the customer. Enjoy.
Even for the non believer climbing up the Sun Pyramid inside the famous Teotichuacan complex is an uplifting experience. The Mexicans as the Aztecs before them are a very religious people, if they assumed God to be somewhere above in heaven, I guess they will definitely feel closer to him once they have climbed the top. I read some stuff in advance but still didn´t quite understand why they had called it the „sun pyramid“. It was early in the morning and I asked the only guard around. As he was also trying to remember the actual origin of the name, the sun came up behind the pyramid that moment and hit the guard´s head like a divine beam of light sent by the Almighty himself.
What a great Xmas gift, „la mejor de Santana“, a must for every record collector, a three lp box - only released in Mexico - of the greatest songs of the greatest Mexican musician ever to have left his mark on the world heritage of music. If I had to pick only one piece of music for a Mexican island, I´d pick this one!
For years I refused to go to the Getty Villa in Malibu. The idea of an oil mogul building a Roman villa for himself on the Californian coast just seemed a bit too tacky and absurd. Having seen it now I must admit that even though it is tacky and somewhat absurd there is something beautiful about the place and the relentless will of a man on a mission. The mission? Keeping the origins of Western civilization present in our heads and minds by collecting whatever he could get his hands on from the Greek, Etruscan and Roman periods. The most stunning exemplar is „Isidora“. It is one of the most beautiful mummy portraits still existing. Isidora is looking at us not only from a distant world but the early days of painting as such. Even art historians tend to forget that next to poetry, architecture and sculpture the art of painting was also „reborn“ in the Renaissance even though most of the original paintings were lost forever. Only in Pompeii under piles of ashes can they be seen and on those mummy portraits which were never meant to be seen again by anyone but transit to the realm of the living dead.
Yesterday spending some time off from the commercial crowd at the National Gallery. For the first time I noticed a beautiful painting of the Table Mountain that, even from a close distance appeared to be a really original if quite unknown piece out of the extensive German Expressionist catalog. But did Max Beckmann or one of the „Brücke guys“ ever set foot on the South African coast, let alone painted the table mountain under a pseudonym. If you google Maggie Laubser, you´ll be surprised to learn that she was a South African painter of rural background who happened to travel Europe in a time when the art of painting reinvented itself, constantly changing names and labels on the way to final abstraction. Impressionism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Dadaism, whatever label you put on it was trying to close in on abstact art without yet being abstract. Fortunately enough Maggie didn´t think too much about categorization or labels but just went on painting in the style of her young idols who weren´t at all unreachable for her as the painting of the table mountain strikingly demonstrates. When Maggie finally went back to South Africa in 1924 the people back home judged the state of her art considerably different.
"Is there any normal, sane human being in all South Africa who is able to appreciate as a work of art, to enjoy as a picture the one sent by Maggie Laubser?"
- Bernard Lewis (art critic)
The Pyramids, the Colosseum, the Empire State, the Eiffel Tower? Not quite! I am absolutely sure the most iconic snapshot of them all is the „holding shot“ of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. „Dad, I wanna make one too, they all do it!“ my daughter begged. No excuses. After a couple of rather lame tries from the „official“ Piazza del Duomo side we shot some more from the opposite side where the „keeping the tower from falling“ illusion comes off even better. It actually looks like it was put together later but it really is an old fashioned "in camera" I Phone shot.
Every year in June, after the movie people had their event under golden palm trees, the advertising crowd is heading for Cannes to have their own beach event dancing around the golden lion. As a friend of mine once said, it feels like spring break for managers.
This year the bubble suddenly burst when the news of Mr. Soprano´s death broke on friday morning. Sitting on the Carlton terrace in the warm morning breeze the advertising crowd must have realized what really seperates them from the palm people. They won´t be remembered.
They must have been tripping. I don´t know what kind of weed those cats at the art department smoked but it must have been massive. How in the world can someone come up with a cover art like this for some of the best Romantic music ever written? Is there a symbolism we don´t understand, some secret code or is it just one of the most radical jokes ever to see the light of advertising? Imagine the art direction guy getting into the office of Mr. Chairman of Westminster Record presenting the layout of the cover?
Her´s the new cover design, how do you like it?
What is it?
I can see that, but why the eggs?
You said, „covers should have a meaning“.
What´s the meaning of fried eggs?
They are tasteful. Like the music.
You think people who wanna buy music by Brahms will like it?
I don´t know.
You think Brahms liked fried eggs?
I don´t know.
But why did you do it then?
Didn´t you say it is a cover for a budget line?
Well, it´s like a breakfast special, two eggs any style, a lot of Brahms for 1,99$!