Art Topics


Art Topics


Elfie Semotan exhibition Contradiction at C/O Berlin Museum 2019

Elfie Semotan exhibition Contradiction at C/O Berlin Museum 2019




July 019

“Trau dich doch”: I dare you. This provocative slogan, part of a late-1970s advertising campaign for the Austrian brand Palmers, appeared on posters featuring photos of models in seductive black lingerie—nothing short of scandalous at the time.

Untitled, Inspired by Diane Arbus, Vienna, 2019 from the series Americana, Motif for Out of Order Magazine   © Elfie Semotan Courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain

Untitled, Inspired by Diane Arbus, Vienna, 2019
from the series Americana, Motif for Out of Order Magazine
© Elfie Semotan
Courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain

The photographs by Austrian photographer Elfie Semotan bear witness to a new, hedonistic zeitgeist that was gradually challenging conventions through playful experimentation. To this day, her photographs have lost none of their cool elegance, imperfect beauty, and discreetly erotic subtexts. They often reveal much more than the subject matter suggests, and their astute references to iconic works of art history blur the boundaries between art and commercial photography.

Semotan started her career as a photo model in Paris. She was introduced to photography in the late 1960s by her partner at the time, Canadian photographer John Cook, who sparked her passion for working behind the camera. The art of photographic storytelling became her forte: photos that have the look of film stills; visual compositions and figural arrangements that tell stories extending beyond what is shown. This principle led to her years-long advertising campaign for the Austrian mineral water company Römerquelle with photos depicting diverse variations of a ménage-à-trois. Her advertising photos and her portraits of prominent figures from the worlds of art, film, and theater—Louise Bourgeois, Willem Dafoe, Elfriede Jelinek, Milla Jovovich, Maria Lassnig, Martin Kippenberger, Udo Kier, Jonathan Meese, and Daniel Richter—and not least of all, her exclusive artistic collaboration and friendship with fashion designer Helmut Lang brought her international renown. Just as Lang’s minimalistic design had a defining influence on international fashion, Elfie Semotan’s libertine advertising and fashion photos for him as well as for international magazines like Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, The New Yorker, and Vogue created a new photographic aesthetic.

Like her German contemporaries Barbara Klemm, Herlinde Koelbl, and Sibylle Bergemann, Austrian photographer Elfie Semotan used the free spaces that existed within photography to conquer a medium that—like most other artistic disciplines—had long been dominated by men, and to assert her own feminine perspective.

Elfie Semotan – Contradiction, C/O Berlin
on display 07/09/19

Untitled, NY, 2003
From the series TV-Story
Motif for i-D Magazine
© Elfie Semotan
Courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne



Tyler Mitchell – I Can Make You Feel Good at FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam 2019

Tyler Mitchell – I Can Make You Feel Good at FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam 2019



*I Can Make You Feel Good @FOAM

may 019

This spring, Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam proudly presents I Can Make You Feel Good, photographer and filmmaker Tyler Mitchell’s (1995, US) first solo exhibition. Alongside a selection of images from the artist’s personal and commissioned work, Foam is also premiering two of Mitchell’s video works: Idyllic Space and Chasing Pink, Found Red.

(c) Tyler Mitchell   Untitled (Two Girls Embrace), 2018

(c) Tyler Mitchell
Untitled (Two Girls Embrace), 2018

Tyler Mitchell
is a photographer
and filmmaker living
and working in Brooklyn.
His career started at an
early age: filming skate
videos and documented
the music, fashion and
youth culture in Atlanta.

Tyler Mitchell’s work visualises a black utopia. Making use of candy colour palettes and natural light, Mitchell captures young black people in gardens, parks or in front of idyllic studio backdrops where they appear as free, expressive, effortless, sensitive and proud. He produces holistic imagery of individuals from his community and brings their humanity to the forefront.

In 2018, Mitchell wrote history with his photographs of Beyoncé gracing the cover of two different editions of American Vogue’s ‘September Issue. Only 23 at the time, he became the first black photographer to make the cover in the 126-year existence of the prominent magazine. This along with many other accomplishments has made him one of the most closely watched up-and-coming talents in photography today.

As a teenager, Mitchell spent a lot of time on Tumblr, a social media platform utilised by young photographers as a space to share their work. It’s a period of time which would become heavily influential on his vision, as Mitchell explained, “I would very often come across sensual, young, attractive white models running around being free and having so much fun – the kind of stuff Larry Clark and Ryan McGinley would make. I very seldom saw the same for black people in images – or at least in the photography I knew of then.”

In Idyllic Space – one of two video works in the exhibition – young black people enjoy simple pleasures, such as eating ice cream, hanging around the pool and playing tag. Mitchell cites the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice – a 12-year-old boy who was shot by Cleveland police while playing outside with a toy pellet gun – as an urgent call-to-action, Mitchell’s video installation highlights the mindless activities many of us take for granted, to the point of being overlooked, as a bold visual reminder that these moments have historically been denied or discouraged among black people.

The video installation Chasing Pink, Found Red leaves little to nothing for speculation. A camera pans over a group of young black youths in a park on a warm summer day. However, the scene is punctuated by commentary crowdsourced by Mitchell from his followers on social media. In these sound bites, their voices express frustrations about their own experiences of racism and prejudice. The contrast of the commentary with the video’s optimistic imagery raises the notion that since an early age it is commonly built into a black youth’s psyche that they should be careful about being too off-guard in public for fear of persecution and even violence.

Tyler Mitchell – I Can Make You Feel Good, Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam
19 April – 5 June 2019

header image
(c) Tyler Mitchell
Boys of Walthamstow, 2018



JANNIS KOUNELLIS at Fondazione Prada Milano

JANNIS KOUNELLIS at Fondazione Prada Milano



*fondazione Prada, mostra Venezia

may 019

Developed in collaboration with Archivio Kounellis, the project brings together more than 60 works from 1959 to 2015. The show explores the artistic and exhibition history of Jannis Kounellis (Piraeus 1936 – Rome 2017), highlighting key moments in the evolution of his visual poetics and establishing a dialogue between his works and the eighteenth-century spaces of Ca’ Corner della Regina.

Jannis Kounellis Untitled, 2011 coats, hats, shoes  in the background  Jannis Kounellis Untitled (Giallo), 1965 oil on canvas

Jannis Kounellis Untitled, 2011 coats, hats, shoes
in the background Jannis Kounellis Untitled (Giallo), 1965 oil on canvas

The artist’s early works,
originally exhibited between
1960 and 1966, are
presented in the spaces
on the first floor of the
Venetian palazzo and
deal with urban language..

In an early phase, these paintings reproduce actual writings and signs from the streets of Rome. Later on, the artist transferred black letters, arrows and numbers onto white canvases, paper or other surfaces, in a language deconstruction that expresses a fragmentation of the real. From 1964 onward, Kounellis addressed subjects taken from nature, from sunsets to roses— these latter represented on canvases using automatic buttons. In 1967 Kounellis’ investigation turned more radical with the aim of overcoming the traditionally pictorial uniformity of his early production, embracing concrete and natural elements including soil, cacti, wool, coal, cotton, and fire.

Kounellis moved from a written and pictorial language to a physical and environmental one, where the conceptual process became interwoven with elementary materials. The elitist, aseptic and authoritative language typical of the art world is replaced by a more expressive one based on the primacy of vital elements and a terrestrial relationship with art. Thus the use of organic and inorganic entities transformed his practice into corporeal experience, conceived as a sensorial transmission and investigation. In particular, the artist explored the sound dimension through which a painting is translated into sheet music to play or dance to. Already in 1960, Kounellis began chanting his letters on canvas, and in 1970 the artist included the presence of a musician or a dancer. An investigation into the olfactory, which began in 1969 with coffee, continued through the 1980s with elements like grappa, in order to escape the illusory limits of the painting, embrace the world of the senses and join with the virtual chaos of reality.

Throughout his artistic research Kounellis develops a tragic and personal relationship with culture and history, avoiding a refined and reverential attitude. He would eventually represent the past with an incomplete collection of fragments, as in the work from 1974 made up of portions of plaster casts of classical statues laid out on a table and accompanied by a lit paraffin lamp. Meanwhile, in other works the Greco-Roman heritage is explored through the mask, as in the 1973 installation made up of a wooden frame on which plaster casts of faces are placed at regular intervals. This wooden support encloses a black canvas that evokes a theatrical space in which the mask, according to Greek tradition, establishes the role and identity of the character, defining its origins and destiny.

Jannis Kounellis Untitled, 1993–2008wardrobes, steel cables Jannis Kounellis Untitled, 2004lead rolls, fabric

Jannis Kounellis Untitled, 1993–2008wardrobes, steel cables
Jannis Kounellis Untitled, 2004lead rolls, fabric

The door, displayed in this exhibition in three different declinations dating from 1972 to 2004, is another symbol of the artist’s intolerance for the dynamics of his present. The passageways between rooms are closed up with stones, iron reinforcing bars and lead sheets revealing the historical interiority of the building and making several spaces inaccessible in order to emphasize their unknown, metaphysical and surreal dimension. Over the years Kounellis would present the door motif in various versions, sometimes accompanied by bells and plaster casts of classical statues, the stratified memory of a visual and sensorial legacy at once profound and impenetrable.

The retrospective is completed on the ground floor by documents 3⁄4including films, exhibition catalogues, invitations, posters and archival photographs3⁄4 that trace Kounellis’ exhibition history, and by a focus on his theater projects. 

JANNIS KOUNELLIS at Fondazione Prada, Mosta Venezia
from 11 May to 24 November 2019

curated by Germano Celant
seen by Agostino Osio
courtesy Fondazione Prada



“Not That We Don’t” Chloe Wise at Almine Rech Gallery, London 2019

“Not That We Don’t” Chloe Wise at Almine Rech Gallery, London 2019



Chloe Wise
*Not That We Don’t @Almine-Rech-Gallery

written Tagen Donovan

may 019

“Not That We Don’t” brings into focus the construction of self. Large rainbow-hued portraits with an unwavering painterly skill tower over office blue carpeting, charmingly installed throughout the entirety of the exhibition.

detail view  Tormentedly Untainted , 2019 (c) Chloe Wise

detail view Tormentedly Untainted, 2019 (c) Chloe Wise

Human extremities
dilute the Benneton-
esque scenes, hands
float around in gesturally
symbolic movements.

Taking time to put a pause on the general structure of portraiture, which relies vehemently on reading emotion and social information via facial expressions. Wise capitalises on the importance of hand gestures, an increasingly forgotten sign of communication within the context of our online culture.

Familiarity also sets the foundation for each painting. Wise incorporates commodities of popular culture, mundane items that bare a sense of kitsch irony. Focus is centralised around; hand sanitizer, soap and tissues. Well-known store-bought brands colourfully brandish each canvas, communicating something deeper than just their standalone purpose. Perhaps Wise is exploring social commentary? With each subject of her paintings illustrating millennials, a generation persistently famed for over-sensitivity or lack thereof.

installation view  Which Lake Do I Prefer , 2018 (c) Chloe Wise

installation view Which Lake Do I Prefer, 2018 (c) Chloe Wise

Another vital prop Wise plays with throughout her practice is produce. Be it; corn, cheese, leafy goods, milk and other earthly ingredients. Combined with each subject, one can't help associate with the 18th Century Eurocentric Art movement. Johannes Vermeer's' prolific painting The Milkmaid (c. 1657– 1658) which famously champions an emphasis of abundance and celebration of harvest. Similarly, Wise exemplifies these core illustrative qualities throughout her work, with painterly finesse and attentive technical skill.

“Not That We Don’t” Chloe Wise
10th April - 18th May 2019 at Almine Rech Gallery, London

header The Tedious Matter of Personal Will, 2019 (c) Chloe Wise
others as displayed



Manifesta 14 in Prishtina, Kosovo 2022

Manifesta 14 in Prishtina, Kosovo 2022



Manifesta 14
*Pristina Appointed Host City of Manifesta 14

may 019

Since its inception in the early 1990s, the mission of Manifesta is to examine the changing cultural topography of Europe. Every two years, Manifesta looks at the world through the prism of the specific situation of a new host city. The Supervisory Board of Manifesta selected the city of Pristina in Kosovo because of the geographical and geo-political importance of the Balkan in relation to Europe’s recent history and its future. In its relatively short history as the capital of the youngest nation state of Europe, the city of Pristina has experienced major transformations in its landscape by unrestrained neoliberal policies of privatization of open urban spaces. Manifesta aims to support the citizens of Kosovo in their ambition to reclaim public space and to rewrite the future of their city as an open-minded metropolis in the heart of the Balkans.

The National Library of Kosovo in Pristina. Photo by Ferdi Limani.

The National Library of Kosovo in Pristina. Photo by Ferdi Limani.

Pristina presents a unique location from which to look at the past and think about the present challenges Europe is facing from an unexpected and heterogeneous perspective. This fast-changing urban centre at the crossroads between Southern and Eastern Europe will allow Manifesta 14 to investigate how contemporary culture and social practices can address the identity of a country that is as composite as it is polymorphic.

Pristina was selected by Manifesta to host the 14th edition of the biennial based on the strong bid submitted by the City of Pristina. The Board received bids from various European cities and subsequently undertook in-depth research into each candidate, including research travels, as part of the se- lection procedure. The selection of the host city three years in advance of the biennial is part of a strategy that enables a greater engagement with the host region and build links between host cities.

At an official press conference in Pristina on 3 May 2019, the Director of Manifesta, Hedwig Fijen; the Mayor of Pristina, Shpend Ahmeti; the Director of Culture City of Pristina, Blerta Bosholli; and the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport of the Republic of Kosovo, Kujtim Gashi; officially announced Pristina as the host city of Manifesta 14.



COS × MAMOU-MANI’s >>CONIFERA<< during Salone del Mobile 2019

COS × MAMOU-MANI’s >>CONIFERA<< during Salone del Mobile 2019




april 019

During this years Salone del Mobile, COS has recently unveiled >>Conifera<<, a large-scale 3D printed architectural installation made from renewable resources by London-based French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani.

COS x Mamou-Mani  Salone del Mobile 2019

COS x Mamou-Mani
Salone del Mobile 2019

“Mamou-Mani’s work is a glimpse of the future; showing what is possible when renewable materials are coupled with modern technological advances that draw inspiration from nature. Seeing the installation in situ at the palazzo is a realisation of a vision that has evolved through our work together, a combination of our shared interest in craft and innovation. We hope visitors find it as inspirational as we do, and that the work processes serve to inform the future of design and architecture.”
—Karin Gustafsson, Creative Director /COS


Digitally designed and fabricated using innovative 3D printing methods, Conifera is comprised of seven hundred interlocking modular bio-bricks, creating a sculptural pathway of wood and bioplastic composite lattices, woven together to create a journey from the central courtyard of Palazzo Isimbardi to its garden.

As visitors journey through the installation, the architecture of the installation shifts from a wood and bioplastic composite in the courtyard to a translucent and white bioplastic foundwithin the palazzo’s garden, communicating a digitally fabricated bridge between themanmade and the natural world.

Conifera has been conceived in response to an open brief from COS, with the final structure a result of a parametric design process that has seen the installation evolve with each new technological and material innovation throughout its conception. The piece vertically integrates design and construction, forming a direct connection from design to build through a dialogue with robotics: the architect is at once designer and maker. Conifera’smodular form offers a legacy for the installation, with the piece able to be reformed in alternate configurations and in response to new contexts.

Visitors to Palazzo Isimbardi will be able to observe one of the Delta WASP (World Advance Saving Project) 3MT Industrial 3D printers used to fabricate each of the 700 bio-bricks that comprise the installation in action. The installation marks COS’s eighth consecutive installation during Salone del Mobile and itsfirst collaboration with Mamou-Mani.


Daniel Arsham merges past, present and future in fictitious archaeology

Daniel Arsham merges past, present and future in fictitious archaeology



Connecting Time
*Daniel Arsham merges past, present and future in fictitious archaeology

January 019

If you step inside the Moco Museum in the coming months, you’d be forgiven for feeling as if you had stepped into a twisted reality. Daniel Arsham, the New York-based artist, has transformed eleven spaces at the museum in order to merge past, present and future and immerse visitors in an absurd experience. His solo exhibition 'Connecting Time' encompasses several disciplines, including architecture, design, fashion, sculpture, film, and fine art. Arsham is fascinated with pop culture, sports and the impact of archaeology, which is expressed through a range of objects and symbols that have been fossilised and eroded. The Moco Museum is the first Dutch establishment to exhibit Arsham’s work, which will be on display until the end of September 2019.

© MOCO Amsterdam, Daniel Arsham

© MOCO Amsterdam, Daniel Arsham

Connecting Time is a retrospective with works that span Arsham’s entire career. He has also created new work, including the Calcified Room, exclusively for Moco Museum. By showing everyday products in calcified appearance, visitors shift from past to present to future. Subtle twists turn architectural interventions, which visitors experience at first as ‘common’, into a surrealist environment.

About Daniel Arsham

Daniel Arsham (United States, 1980) is a New York-based artist whose work explores the realms of architecture, design, sculpture, film and fine art. Achieving his first success as a stage designer, Arsham and his architectural firm Snarkitecture quickly began collaborating with renowned artists, musicians, designers and brands. He is the first and only artist-in-residence at Adidas, and gained widespread fame following his recent collaboration with Pharrell Williams. A central element in Arsham’s work is the concept of fictional archaeology. He creates ambiguous spaces and situations, and conflates past, present and future by presenting millennial-era objects in calcified form. He is also interested in experimenting with the timelessness of symbolic objects and customs across different cultures. Arsham has received prestigious international awards for his work, which has been shown at MoMA PS1 in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, the Athens Biennale, the New Museum in New York, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the SCAD Museum of Art, Carré d’Art de Nîmes and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, among others.

© MOCO Amsterdam, Daniel Arsham, Hiding Figure

© MOCO Amsterdam, Daniel Arsham, Hiding Figure






*Lizzie Fitch + Ryan Trecartin

december 018

Commissioned by Fondazione Prada, their large-scale multimedia installation represents the first output of a creative process begun in late 2016, investigating the perpetual promise of “new” terrain and the inherent instability of territorial appropriation.

© Fondazione Prada, Fitch Trecartin

© Fondazione Prada, Fitch Trecartin

Taking the idealized rurality endemic to back-to-the-land ideologies as a conceptual starting point, the project represents both a return and an escape. Relocating their studio operations to the countryside of Ohio for this work, Fitch and Trecartin conceived the framework for a new movie as a haunted map: a location with its own will and a constellation of permanent built sets which include a large hobby-barn commissary, a lazy river, and a forest watchtower, occupied by a cast of characters who are simultaneously agents and subjects of the map. The artists contort these sites through dislocations of time and memory to explore the notion of borders and boundaries—existential, psychosocial, and physical.

Conceived for the Podium, the Deposito and the external courtyard of Fondazione Prada’s Milan complex, the show is staged as an immersive intervention where visitors navigate constructions suggesting both agency and containment, an active state of limbo. Aural and visual echoes of nature and daily life will merge with distortions of familiar spaces such as amusement parks, homesteads, and fortifications, extending the digital and narrative content of the movie. Fitch and Trecartin’s new work probes the desire to escape and the pervasiveness of systems and techniques that bind us together. The exhibition will be completed with a movie retrospective to be screened at Fondazione Prada’s Cinema.

© Fondazione Prada, Fitch Trecartin

© Fondazione Prada, Fitch Trecartin


When Communicating Scents: Perfumery schooling calls for patience, attention, and perseverance.

When Communicating Scents: Perfumery schooling calls for patience, attention, and perseverance.



When Communicating Scents

november 018

written Julia Ahtijainen
illustrated Gary Chew

A friend of mine, who wishes that one day I’d change my field – “start doing something serious and stop wasting my talent and time” wrote me:

“I was thinking the other day that I really don’t like any perfume per se... All of them are just too damn strong... If they are supposed to enhance the person, they should never overpower them, and it seems that they always do. Too much lipstick for a pig... but still a pig.”


My friend verbalized pretty clearly how I sometimes feel about my job. Communication is a weird field. It’s something in between politics (one has to be always polite and politically correct), babysitting (taking care of the journalists and explaining multiple times the importance of social media, the needed cheesy actions and press gifts to the owners or the creators of the brands), and style (you kind of a need to look and sound and be an extension of a brand, otherwise you might lose some loyalty points from both sides of the business). And then – how do you measure the results in between these three? The blood, sweat, and tears one invested in a couple of nice, sometimes forced, words and meetings. The time that’s been wasted or invested?

But I’m not a pig, neither do I like to use too much of a lipstick. I’m a pretty honest and unfortunately for this field a pretty direct lady. And, I don’t like pigs, neither eating pork... unless it’s a symbolic ‘prosciutto crudo’and a night-out with my Italian friends.

“Pig” is a word that smells. A word that has multiple meanings and is heavy in many cultures, banned within some religions. Italian historian Roberto Finzi in his book called “L’Onesto Porco” (trans. “honest pig”) explains “the meaning of pig” from a cultural, religious and linguistic point of view, and funnily in Italian the worst cursings begin always with a word “porco”, which means also “dirty”. Though, the smell of the meat isn’t always delightful and despite the growing trend of vegetarianism, most of the people in the world still eat pork.

Most of the animals become “dirty” when domesticated, while in nature they’re perceived as they are. In this case – anything and everything can become a sign. And here opens up a Pandora box full of the daily struggles of a semiotician trapped in product-related communications.

I’ve been accused of being too opinionated in this field... Yet, if a parfume“per fumum” means “through smoke”, one can easily become volatile while communicating. To understand a phenomenon, a person or a sign, one has to create types, detect similarities and differences. Put the subject into a system. Into a frame, so that it cannot escape, cannot fade away. There is no reason behind the plain abstraction, an empty expression, a delusion while communicating scents. Michelangelo wrote that the greatest danger for all of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. And one should always aim high.
Communication in perfumery is like leading blind people from the high. Leading them with passion and honesty, at least in my case. Here, I’m talking about the artistic, truthful and humble way of communicating a scent, taking pride in a communication of outstanding masterpieces.


Applied semiotics is ultimately a creative act which helps to communicate and aim high. It involves sculpting one’s tools (frameworks) to make them fit for purpose and applying them correctly to a phenomena. The perfumer judges odors in terms of quality, intensity & duration of perceptibility (volatility). Scent is an entity. Communication of a scent requires the same effort of imagination needed for creation. In order to do this, some sort of power of imagination is required too.

There is probably a frustrated novelist inside many semioticians and once in this field one needs to know how to write, but more important – one needs to know how to read. Reading is a technique not only acquiring knowledge but also for sharpening insight and critical powers. Looking at and comparing the possible oppositions and similarities, reworks, copies and traces.

Semiotic work tends to be more akin to detective work. It requires a need to be provocative. Semiotic theory fragments work well as hooks upon which to hang one’s thinking. Being a “culture vulture” in this case is an advantage and pop culture knowledge is absolutely vital to survive.

The Main Characters or Our (Semiotic) Environment are:

SPEED = messages, responses, feedback, information, execution, rigor, chronicle
CLUTTER = ideas, content, books, music, events, choices, pattern detection
UNPREDICTABILITY = accountability, flexibility, constant changes
DISTRACTION = information overload, concentration, mindfulness
FRAGMENTATION = the niches, subcultures, the big picture, cultural sensitivity
IDEOLOGY = critical thinking, competing, changing ideologies

Now, when I washed away all the possible lipstick hues and revealed the “dirty way” of reading and analyzing the communication of a scent, I shall mention also the style, the taste... or let’s say the intuition. Our sense of smell is indisputably primal: a seat of powerful memory, a scent is an immediate recall and recognition. The most ancient part of our neuroanatomy, the archipallium – is our primitive reptilian brain. Hence – there’s no way to complete any perfume culture detective project or job without an intuition being involved. And one of the best definitions for intuition I found in the field of perfumery.

“Intuition is not a miracle; it is a flame which is sparked only if the necessary amounts of knowledge, experience, reflection, and meditation are available. Perfumery schooling calls for patience, attention, and perseverance.”
– Edmond Rodnitska