Boris Mikhailov is a somewhat accidental artist. He worked as an engineer in the Soviet Ukraine, dabbling in photography on the side when he was ratted out for taking nude photos of his wife. He was subsequently thrown out of work for spreading pornography – a common practice to remove “undesirable elements,” especially those of Jewish descent. Consigned to the dregs of society, which included the bohemia of the artists unapproved by the state, Mikhailov began to take photos in earnest. Photos that reflected the deep aesthetic and spiritual ugliness of the homeland that betrayed him.
If you happen to be in Paris, don’t miss the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at Centre Pompidou. This comprehensive retrospective, first in Paris since 1984, of nearly 150 works of the German master of pain and reckoning is spread over ten thematically organized rooms. It is an awe-inspiring show, profound and simultaneously quiet and disquieting.
These days the fashion press that still bothers writing about fashion is filled with two types of articles. It’s either opinion pieces decrying the broken fashion system, or news about individual designers taking change into their own hands.
Some of the woes befalling the fashion systems, according to the “broken fashion system” articles, is that the stores demand deliveries too soon and put them on sale too soon, and that the fast fashion system produces knockoffs at far cheaper prices and put them in stores before the real stuff hits the racks. Supposedly, the latter necessitates the former, but designers don’t like to be rushed, and the additional stress put on them is the other reason for the fashion system being broken. We have fall clothes filling the racks in the summer, and summer clothes in the winter. Everyone shops on sale.
Francesca Woodman was one of those art prodigies who has never quite found her place in this world.
She died young, but she has left a rich body of work that consists of photographs that could easily be mundane in the hands of a lesser artist, but in Woodman’s hands become enigmatic.
This past men’s fashion week was marked by a sense of schizophrenia more than anything else. Half of the shows in Paris were held in opulent palatial spaces and the other half in basements stripped of everything but their concrete foundations. The reactions of critics and buyers were similarly split. The editors I spoke with mostly shrugged shoulders and talked of consistently lowering expectations, while buyers thought the season more than solid.
If you happen to be in Venice in the next few months, don’t miss the Sarah Moon exhibit at Palazzo Fortuny. Moon is a perennial favorite, and this sensual, melancholic series of photographs taken at the Palazzon is no exception.
This year is drawing to a close and a lot has happened in fashion, most of it not so good. I am not talking about the departed: Raf Simons from Dior (good for him), Alexander Wang from Balenciaga (good riddance), and Alber Elbaz from Lanvin (good lord!). I am talking about the arrivistes: namely, Gucci under Alessandro Michele and Vetements under Demna Gvasalia. And not just about them, but about the reaction on the part of the fashion media to their work.
New Order, a band that came out of the tragedy that ended Joy Division, is one of those rare acts that have somewhat inexplicably achieved critical acclaim and dance floor popularity. Much ink has been spilled by music journalists to trace the ups and downs of the band over the years. (Former) band members have weighed in – most notably the bassist Peter Hook who has left the band in 2007 and in 2013 released a memoir called “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division,” documenting the band’s fraught existence and his fallout with Bernard Sumner, New Order’s singer.
The closest I got to Tilda Swinton was almost a year ago in Florence, when I gave her my sleeveless jacket. She gave me a cloakroom ticket, took the jacket, touched it gingerly, put it on a table, dragged it around, fixing it with her trademark, hypnotizing gaze. Then she put it on a hanger and hung it on a garment rack. True story. What was I doing with Ms. Swinton is that I was part of a select group of fashion editors at the Pitti Uomo trade fair that got to witness a performance art piece by Swinton, masterminded by Olivier Saillard, the director of the Palais Galleria, Paris’s fashion museum.
Few artists that came into their own after high modernism measure up to Francis Bacon, whose paintings are models of twisted introspection. What’s more, Bacon actually knew how to paint. Not silk-screen, not put messages on LED boards, not make collages, not arrange objects together, but actually work with phenomenal skill like the greatest of the artists had done. And his work hits not only on the visceral level, but on the intellectual as well.