New Ribbon
Slide 1


For spring/summer 2015, PPQ presented clothes to wear to 'the coolest party of the fashion season', finished with high gloss hair taken to a creative extreme READ MORE...
Slide 3


Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
Slide 3


It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
Slide 3


think we could all use a dose of soft, pretty and innocent right now. Paul Costelloe brought his unabashed femininity to the runway READ MORE...
Slide 3


Carmen Dell’Orefice...if this is what being in your 80s looks like then I'm looking forward to it! The legendary model, who once declared to Vanity Fair, “If I die, it will be with my high heels on”, is set READ MORE...
Slide 3


The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
Slide 1


The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
Example Frame

October 23, 2014

Chanel Revue Film a Stunning Mini-Epic Retrospective

(Email subscribers: click the post title to view the film)

Trevor Undi has outdone himself in the fashion film genre. Sure, Chanel offers the most dazzling and copious fashion subjects, but what to do with so much history, so much detail (the details!), so much artistry? Well, you pack in as much amazingness (normally I hate that word but here it actually fits) as you can in each second of a four-and-a-half-minute film. And you set it against an orchestral score composed by Gabriel Yared. This exuberant retrospective showcases intimate behind-the-scenes footage, detailed artistry, revisits memorable campaigns, international events and spectacular archival footage from the House of Chanel.

Chanel is a brand I will probably never be able to afford (fate is nodding its head in agreement somewhere). Normally I begrudge a brand a little bit for that and reserve my gushing for something more accessible as I don't like to go all nuts over something I can never have. But Chanel is the exception; what their artisans create in their ateliers is magical, it keeps the tradition of couture craftsmanship alive and thriving, and therefore I see the house's shows and imagery as records of this exquisite legacy. (Sure beats seeing it as a giant tease?)

This rapid and rich film is bursting with so much beauty and fascinating closeups that beg for further investigation, so I went a little mental and looked at each frame of the film and captured the stills. There are so many that are worthy of a longer look that I had to create a second page. You can view the rest here












Chanel_15 Chanel_17













And here's the rest 

September 09, 2014

#UnlockArt Film Series Ends on a Humorous Note


The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll.  It was a lighthearted end (though humour was present in each narrative) to a series that achieved exactly what it set out to do. Sharp-witted writers, charismatic presenters we all know, first class production and astute directors addressed topics such as How to Buy Art, Where are the Women? and Pop Art, making high art easy to understand and enjoyable. 

Clearly, I'm a huge fan of the series, I really can't say enough about it. I spent four years in university studying art and art history, and I thought performance art was, well, kind of rubbish to be honest. Misguided weirdos wanting attention and calling it art. That's how I saw it because I didn't understand it. Usually I take the attitude that something shouldn't be dismissed unless you do your part in trying to wrap your head around it, but in this case I felt my assertion was valid. It so happened that the debut film in the series addressed this very subject, and in a matter of five minutes I finally understood what I hadn't been able to get my head around for years. Performance art still isn't my thing, but I get it now, I've made friends with it, and I can appreciate its cultural influence and the place it holds in art history. What a great way to begin. 

And here is the room where the #UnlockArt series officially wrapped up, in Le Meridien's opulent, violet-tinged, Adams Room where all eight films ran on a loop on the wall, providing the backdrop to a fantastic, #UnlockArt-themed dinner, created by Chef de Cuisne Michael Dutnall:


Franz served up his delicious cocktails, some of the molecular variety: 




LM-8Le Meridien's Chef de Cuisine Michael Dutnall 

LM-8 (2)


Our sorbet palate cleansers (in this case it could be palette as well?) were served in mini shopping bags marked SOLD to tie in with the film How to Buy Art. 

Theswellelife-lm-final-4 (1 of 1)

Theswellelife-lm-final-3 (1 of 1)

Dessert was served in a themed box, mine being...can you guess? Pop Art, of course.

KAPOW! to my glucose levels indeed, look what was inside:  


I was too full to even think about dessert (I left out a couple courses in the photos because sweets and tiny food present a lot nicer than meat), but there was no way I was leaving it behind, so this box of goodies came back to my room and I got into it when I woke up. 

Want to know more about Humour in Art? Let's take the last of the tours that art historian and author Linda Bolton (how we will miss her!) designed to explore works associated with the film topic. Here's a selection from the works we saw at Tate Modern earlier that day, which illustrate how humour comes in many different forms, in Linda's words:

Niki de Saint Phalle – Shooting picture, 1961

She did what? Shoot stuff? That was her thing. Niki de St Phalle said she was angry. In her zip fronted white leather cat suit and hard attitude, she told everyone in her sexy French accent that she was angry with everyone and everything. She wanted to shoot everything and everyone. Niki made shooting paintings: she put liquid paint in a bag, sealed the bag, pinned it to the canvas and covered it in plaster. Plaster dried, she shot the plaster, punctured the bag below and the colour bled down the picture. 


 Makingshootingpicture (1)

Thomas Hirschhorn – Candelabra with heads, 2006

Hirschhorn is known for his sculptures and installations made from everyday materials such as cardboard, plastic and paper, bound together with brown packing tape. This work was originally part of an exhibition called Concretions, a term from geology and medicine that suggests the gradual growth of a solid mass. Hirschhorn related the theme to a broader social and spiritual petrification. Here the faces of mannequins seem to be emerging from – or submerged into – larger biomorphic forms.

Thomas Hirschhorn – Candelabra with heads 2006

(I have to admit that every time I see this work I feel crampy. I don't need to explain why, do I?)

Stanley Spencer – The Centurion’s Servant, 1914

As we looked at this painting, Linda told us the humorous story (to us, but surely not him) of how Spencer fell in love with a lady called Patricia Preece, married her, yet took his ex-wife Hilda Carline on honeymoon with him. Preece began to manage Spencer’s finances and slowly duped him of his money, even though she refused to consummate their marriage. Stan really didn't play that one right. Find out more here.


David Shrigley – I’m Dead

David Shrigley's art is almost always humorous. His Leisure Centre is a funny play on words and concept, as is his I'm Dead placard-holding taxidermy dog.

David Shrigley – I’m Dead

Bruce Nauman – Run from fear fun from rear, 1941

Bruce Nauman makes a fun word play in his neon work. It's a bright, post-pop shout-out for irreverent fun.


Roy Lichtenstein – Mustard on White, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein makes an art joke in his Mustard on White. The great pop artist makes fun of the American abstract expressionists here. The pairing of colours sounds like the title of an abstract work and at the same time jokingly refers to a condiment on white bread.


And before we go, here's something I found kind of funny from one of Franz's magic molecular demonstrations at the Terrace Grill and Bar - when he lifted the cloche after scent-infusing the cocktails, his head seemed to disappear into a delicious-smelling iquid nitrogen cloud:

TheSwelleLife-Le-Meridien-Franz-fog-2 (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife-Le-Meridien-Franz-fog (1 of 1)Photos © Dave Watts unless otherwise credited

A huge thank you to Le Meridien for providing what is hands down the most fun and exciting learning experience I have ever had. Sure beats university! (At least the one I went to.) If you want to see posts on the preceding films scroll down here, and to view the entire series of films you can visit the Unlock Art site

Part of Le Méridien’s ethos is to support emerging artists. It furthers this commitment through its Unlock Art™ Programme, which offers Le Méridien guests complimentary access to forward thinking cultural institutions around the world. These partnerships allow guests to explore a local, inspiring cultural experience, simply by presenting the Unlock Art™ room key. Le Méridien’s Unlock Art™ partner in the UK is TATE Modern and TATE Britain

Tate is a family of four galleries: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives.  Tate is responsible for the National Collection of British art from 1500 and international modern and contemporary art from 1900. Tate's Collection of over 66,000 works of art embraces all media from painting, drawing, sculpture and prints, to photography, video and film, installation and performance.  The Collection is displayed at Tate's four galleries and through loans to temporary national and international exhibitions and long loans. 

August 27, 2014

Design and Craft: Made London Returns to One Marylebone


The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 highly original makers and designers from the UK and Europe, the show offers visitors the opportunity to view and buy unique hand crafted pieces in a friendly, informal and beautiful atmosphere. Long established and well known makers mix with emerging makers to offer a selection of works that are truly varied and exciting.

At the fair you'll find a vast range of expertly crafted items including colourful glassware, soft knitted textiles, functional ceramics, beautiful jewellery, classic furniture as well as great fashion. A full list of exhibitors can be seen here.

One Marylebone is a stunning church conversion in central London near Regents Park. MADE LONDON will occupy all three floors, including the double height crypt and mezzanine.  Be sure to stop by the cafe in the crypt to relax with a drink and a treat!

For more information you can visit

July 04, 2014

Showstudio Illustrates the Men's Collections SS15

Showstudio_john-booth_juun-j-paris-fashion-week-illustrationJohn Booth's collage interpretation of looks at Juun J in Paris

Each season Showstudio invites their favourite fashion illustrators to create their own unique view of the collections, then they present each series on their tumblr. Whereas New York kicks off the women's collections, it's where the men's wraps up, so these are being conjured up right now. So far we've got London, Milan and Paris, interpreted through a variety of media and perpectives. (Just a thought after browing the Showstudio homepage, something I do often - Is there a better site for conveying the visual excitement and energy of fashion? I don't think there could be. If there is, please show it to me!) 

Here are a few that stood out to me, and if you see an illustration you love, you can buy the original from Showstudio's online shop

PARIS by John Booth, London-based illustrator and textile designer: 

Showstudio_john-booth_paris-fashion-week-illustrationDior Homme


Henrik Vibskov


Paul Smith


MILAN by Marie Cunliffe, London-based womenswear designer:


Frankie Morello




Bottega Veneta




LONDON by Eduardo Mata Icaza, Marseilles-based illustrator: 


Alexander McQueen


J.W. Anderson




Jonathan Saunders

May 05, 2014

Great Double Acts: Two Talents, Singular Vision

KillsAlison Mosshart and Jamie Hince of the rock duo The Kills present the #UnlockArt film Great Double Acts, about our greatest art duos. Click the photo to watch the film on the Unlock Art site.

We love to worship a single entity, but the truth is that a lot of the creative brilliance in this world is the result of more than one person's work. Sometimes it's a behind-the-scenes collaboration where muses might play a crucial role, and sometimes it's a bold, stand together, declaration of the power of two, like Gilbert and George, who still reside in London and are said to be as close as ever. We're talking about art's greatest duos, the theme of the Unlock Art film Great Double Acts. As with the previous films, it's a highly entertaining and informative piece that will get you up to speed in a major art topic in just five minutes. (If only all learning could be so enjoyable!)

Now I had to miss the events around this film launch as I couldn't make my monthly escape down to London with Le Meridien Piccadilly and Tate, but I'm still going to take you along on the tour and we can pretend we were there together. Art historian and author Linda Bolton lead the tour through the London streets. It begins with some wonderful insights into the life of Gilbert and George and the rich history of their Spitalfields neighbourhood, where they still live and work, in her words.

Gilbert-and-george-Fornier-streetGilbert and George on Fournier Street. This street with the French name features many original Huguenot houses dating back to the early 18th century. Linda pointed out how some of the houses have elaborately decorated doorways and shuttered windows. The silk workers who worked here had a very difficult life – in the early 1700s, imports of calico and cheap silks by the East India company made a number of Spitalfields silk workers unemployed, resulting in the poverty in the area. Today these listed houses have been bought back to life, mostly with private owners ensuring the bricks are cleaned and the painted shutters are intact.

Gilbert-George_Drunk-with-godDrunk with God, Gilbert and George. 1983.

"The well-known artistic duo met many years ago at St Martins and apparently it was ‘love at first sight’ - many suggest that their partnership is so strong because George was initially the only person who could understand Gilbert’s rather poorly spoken English. They are creatures of habit and visit the same restaurant every day at the same time in East London. According to rumours, they only keep champagne in the fridge (just in case they have guests coming over). Every piece of artwork they create, they call a ‘sculpture’ regardless of whether it's a portrait, etc. According to speculation, before his partnership with George, Gilbert was married with a child. Interestingly this rumour has never been confirmed or rejected – it is fascinating how the duo remain in the public eye, yet still hold so many secrets. Gilbert Proesch was born in South Tyrol, Northern Italy and George was born in Plymouth. The duo adopted the slogan ‘Art for All’, aiming to be relevant beyond the narrow confines of the art world. The pair are residents of the well-known Fournier Street in Spitalfields – their entire body of work has been created in and focused on London’s East End which they see as microcosm of the rest of the world. According to George ‘nothing happens in the world that doesn’t happen in the East End’."

Linda is great at giving context to a subject, so the tour included some interesting facts and features about the neighbourhood:


Street art and graffiti. "Shoreditch is home to a colourful selection of art, cafes, bars, galleries, markets etc. which add to the varied and interesting culture of the area. There is an ever changing vibe of creativity and energy, which was initially made famous by the hipsters who lived in the area during the 70s and 80s – in a time when many people lived in one house."


Dennis Severs House. "Located in Folgate street, this house is described as a ‘still-life drama’ created by the previous owner as a historical imagination of what life would have been like inside for a family of Huguenot silk weavers. It is a grade II listed Georgian terraced house in Spitalfields. From 1979 to 1999 it was lived in by Dennis Severs, who gradually recreated the rooms as a time capsule in the style of former centuries – it is a must visit in the area!"

Mark-Gertler-housePhoto source

Mark Gertler. This is the Spitalfields house where Mark Gertler lived from 1891-1939, from birth. Mark was a British-born painter of figure subjects, portraits and still-life.  The youngest child of Polish Jewish immigrants, Mark was known for his unrequited love for fellow painter Dora Carrington, whom he pursued relentlessly for many years. Carrington and Gertler had a very complex relationship – when Carrington revealed she was getting married to another man, he tried to purchase a revolver and threatened to commit suicide. 


The Old Truman Brewery. "Truman Hanbury and Buxton & Co were once one of the largest employers of the area. Founded in 1679, the brewery was located in this area because breweries were not permitted within the city walls due to smell. The brewery closed in 1988 and the area is now used by various art, fashion and catering events which all help to shape the culture of the area – it is a real haven for art exhibitions."


Whitechapel gallery. "Located on the north side of Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel Gallery was founded in 1901 as one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London. The gallery has a wonderful record for education and outreach projects, now focused on the Whitechapel area’s deprived populations. The gallery features the work of contemporary artists as well as retrospective exhibitions and shows that are of interest to the local community. The gallery was designed by architect Charles Harrison Townsend – this is one of his most striking original public buildings in London."  

April 28, 2014

Online Galleries: The New Way to Discover and Buy Art

Wylder-FlettWylder Flett's photographs of midcentury vignettes from every day, family life, using dollhouse furniture and figurines to set the scene. Clockwise from top right: Earl, being a housewife is work too!; Jan awaits her punishment; So Peg says to me... and Francine has something to tell Earl. Prints start at $112.

We can buy every other luxury item online, so why not art? For the past several years, galleries have been curating online collections to extend their brand to a broader audience and make art more accessible. These online art platforms cultivate a new community of collectors and raise profile for artists who may not otherwise be discovered beyond their local galleries. It's also the quickest and easiest way to discover new artists, wherever you are.

Recently, we looked at Scream Editions which sells affordable prints online and caters to new collectors on a budget. For a broader offering, one of my favourite online galleries to browse - and hopefully one day buy from - is Saatchi Art. You can consider traditional art such as paintings, drawings, photography, collage and sculpture, as well as more innovative forms such as installation and video. I'm drawn to abstraction in paintings, especially when it's textural, contrasted and coloured, but I also have a thing for lines, and the amount of art that fits the bill on this site is almost overwhelming; it's such a treat. One of my favourite subjects is midcentury iconography, so I searched the term and my favourite find of the Saatchi Art site thus far came up; Wylder Flett's vignettes of family life from the era, modelled with vintage dollhouse furniture and plastic figurines (as seen above). His focussed use of light highlights the figurines with an almost translucent effect, and when contrasted with shadow creates a rather dramatic, poignant scene which pings our own childhood memories and makes this plastic family feel very real. 

If you're wondering how to determine whether a particular piece might work in your home, there's a feature that shows you what the work looks like in a room, such as a painting or drawing over a sofa, so you can get a sense of scale and shape. 

Here are some other works I like from artists I didn't know before visiting the site. I noticed when taking the names that all but one are women artists (we talked about the lack of recognition of women in art as part of the Unlock Art film series not too long ago, but there is no shortage here):


The midcentury modern series of 7 - number 1, Marén Wirths. Photograph.

Saatchi-Melinda-MatyasThe Barricade. Melinda Matyas. Oil painting. 


Cloud 9, Jiyen Lee. Photograph.


A6 Wandering Line 1, Tom Henderson. Plexiglass, aluminium, paint. 


Windy Day, Ieva Baklane. Acrylic. 


Abstract Landscape #20. Yangyang Pan. Oil painting. 

Saatchi-Jennis Cheng Tien LiJennis Cheng Tien Li. Paintings (four separate works shown here) and an installation of mixed media called Counterforce:


Have a browse and see what great new artists you discover!

April 08, 2014

JH Engström Exhibits: "From Back Home"


Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland, in the west of Sweden. Together with his friend, the internationally acclaimed photographer Anders Petersen, the Paris-based Engström revisited his native land to pay tribute to the people, light and landscapes. He says: "I can only make photographs of what I feel, of what results from my encounters with people. In this regard, my work is completely subjective. At the same time, I am interested in objectivity, in the fact that since you take photographs, you always deal with reality. And in this respect, I am not interested in subjectivity. It‘s a paradox”. 

From Back Home is a large series of work spanning 2001 to 2008 of about a hundred portraits, landscapes, still lifes, close-ups and aerial shots in fading colors and black and white. Engström's book From Back Home (Max Ström, 2009) was awarded the book prize at Les Rencontres d’Arles. The images are united by a sense of spontaneity, an ephemeral tone that lends them an air of tenderness. These are works of intimacy and loss, exploring questions of time, memory and the possibility of return; sentiments we can all relate to. 

JH Engström: From Back Home shows until May 10 at Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, Swedish Photography, Karl-Marx-Allee 62, 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain. 

JH Engström_Collage_2_©Swedish Photography


March 23, 2014

Scream Editions Pops up with Affordable Art

Scream_Pakpoom Silaphan_Warhol on Pepsi_smlWarhol on Pepsi, Pakpoom Silaphan

Art just got a bit more accessible. Scream Editions is taking its newly launched online print gallery to the busy streets of Soho with an exciting pop-up. The online platform, which was launched by Jamie Wood (son of Rolling Stones' Ronnie, and owner of London’s popular Scream Gallery) is revolutionising the art world by offering people a chance to start their own art collection on an affordable budget, selling original prints from heavyweights such as Tracey Emin, Charming Baker, Pakpoom Silaphan, Lyle Owerko and Remi Rough.

Gallery visitors will be treated to an incredible programme of activities where they’ll get to see some of the UK’s hottest artists in action. Events will include:

• Several live screen printing events with a number of Scream Editions artists who will be signing prints on the day and inviting the public to participate in their print making process.

• Magda Archer unveiling her new collection of paintings and limited edition prints which will be available to buy during the pop-up.

• David Shillinglaw working live in the pop-up space to build an on-site installation based on his recent trip to Vietnam.

• On Saturday 22 March 2014, Shuby will be working live in the pop-up space to create an interactive wall piece using her signature paste-up style.

• Remi Rough releasing and signing his limited edition book which will be on sale at the pop-up.

• On Saturday 29 March and Sunday 30 March 2014, Jealous Print Studio and Gallery will be welcoming the public to take part in live printing an exclusive run of prints only available to purchase at the pop-up on the day.

The exhibition runs until 18 April, Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 6pm at 20 Foubert's Place, Carnaby, London W1F 7PL. For up to the minute info visit #Carnaby #ScreamEditions

To receive 10% OFF your first purchase at the pop-up head to ‘Join’ on the Scream Editions website.


Shape XV, Paulina Varregn

Scream Editions - Magda Archer My Life Is Crap

My Life is Crap, Magda Archer

Scream_ali punches on coke

Ali Punches on Coke, Pakpoom Silaphan

Scream_David Shillinglaw_Bottles

Bottles, David Shillinglaw 

Head-for-the-Clouds_Rob-SteelHead for the Clouds, Rob Steel

March 19, 2014

Nicolas Ruel Goes 'From Architecture to Fashion in 8 Seconds'


Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main subject, creating a new dimension. Ruel uses this process to capture an unseen urban look of the world, and to date this body of work - called 8 Seconds after the shutter speed used - spans an impressive sixty cities in forty countries. As you can see below, Ruel presents a very unique tour of the world's most fascinating places, demonstrating a knack for transferring the energy of the city to the viewer; the result is quite exhilarating and you don't want to stop looking. 

The originality of Ruel's work  struck Thierry-Maxime Loriot, Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, who then asked him to set up a photo shoot in Jean Paul Gaultier's atelier in Paris. Ruel has been chosen to appear alongside famous artists and fashion photographers to showcase his work in the travelling international exhibition devoted to the French couturier, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, during its stop in London at the Barbican Art Centre from April 9th to August 25th, 2014. In this context, Ruel's double exposure technique pays tribute to the duality that prevails in the world of Jean Paul Gaultier.

"Nicolas Ruel has a young and refreshing eye that is very different from most photographers. His pictures have an artistic tone that goes beyond simple fashion photography. The quality of his work compares to the same level as those from Andy Warhol, Pierre and Giles or David Lachapelle that we selected for the exhibition," says Loriot.

Watch Jean Paul Gaultier speak about the exhibition and its stop in London, as only JPG can (email subscribers can click on the post title to watch this on the blog):


Here is a glimpse of Ruel's fashion work:



And now a mini tour of some of my favourites from Ruel's 8 Seconds project, of which there were a ton:



Tower Bridge, 2007


Time, 2011 


Canvas, 2009



Prologue, 2010


Nicolas_Ruel_ beijing

Maze, 2009


Nicolas_Ruel_ Pont-des-arts

Pont des Arts, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ boudoir_paris

Boudoir, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ Paris_2

Les Éclusiers, 2009

Nicolas_Ruel_ paris

Apparat, 2013



Equation, 2012


Nicolas_Ruel_ tokyo

Trend, 2009

Nicolas_Ruel_ tokyo_3

Fast Forward, 2009


Dori, 2009



Pace, 2009


Nicolas_Ruel_ Centrum_Amsterdam

Centrum, 2013 


Nicolas_Ruel_ toronto_3

Zenith, 2008

Nicolas_Ruel_ Toronto

Témoin, 2012

Nicolas_Ruel_ toronto_2

Yonge, 2012


Nicolas_Ruel_ Palais_Montreal

Palais, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ Montreal

Place de L'horloge, 2013




Martin Place, 2009


Look Right, 2009


Avalon, 2009

Photos © Nicolas Ruel 

Source: v2com

March 11, 2014

Unlock Art: A Short History of Art Undressed

NakedorNudeClick to view on the Unlock Art website

"The nude is a painting of a man or woman who looks at ease and confident. If they look vulnerable or embarrassed then they're naked. Not nude anymore." -  So said the 18th century critics to keep artists from being accused of 'ungodly behaviour'. This is from A Short History of Art Undressed, the fifth film in the Tate Unlock Art series, supported by Le Meridien. As with all art prior to the 20th century, it was no coincidence that its subjects fell into a narrow range of categories, and even more restricted was how they were allowed to be presented. This film looks at nudes throughout history and their reasons for being. The rules have changed now, but is the change enough? I talk about this a bit further down in our meeting in London last month with author Frances Borzello

Before we get into the heavy, I can't not show a little bit of the treats from our wonderful day. I'm always excited to see what our 'greeting' cocktail at Le Meridien Piccadilly will be and how it will tie in with the theme of the film. This time Franz created for us the 'Undress Lady’, a fresh and fruity virgin cocktail made with peach juice puree, lime juice and apple juice, garnished with the physalis fruit as decoration, the leaves opened up to reveal the 'naked' fruit: 


We later came back to a really lovely afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly, and since we're already talking about the goodies I'll get to that right now, and it includes our talk with Frances which leads into our tour of nudes at Tate Modern.

Theswellelife_desserts (1 of 1)

We indulged in all kinds of sweet and savoury delectables and I went back and forth between them before I decided I should stop before I burst. And on our way out we were given a box of three eclairs made for the film - the eclair is the new macaron! - with silhouettes of nudes in chocolate dust on each. I don't have a photo because I was on my way to the train station but I can tell you they were very rich and delicious. 

As mentioned, we had a special guest, Frances Borzello, who is the author of the book The Naked Nude (Thames & Hudson, 2012). We were each given a hardback copy to take home which also came in handy for the intriguing discussion we had over our tea with Frances. Frances told us that the book is dedicated to her grandchildren - who aren't allowed to look at it! Frances is such a lovely person, very warm and approachable, and later when she was asking each of us about our blogs it came out that she was once a fashion editor for the Chicago Sun-Times! (I'd mentioned to someone that day that Le Meridien has connected us with so many talented, intelligent and truly delightful people connected to the Unlock Art project either directly or indirectly - author and art historian Linda Bolton, art critic and writer Jessica Lack, director and producer Susan Doyan, artist Olivia Plender, and now Frances - and that I'd just realised that they've all been women.  Well I recognised that each was a woman of course! But I mean I eventually clued in that the collective has been all women, razor sharp and contributing good, meaningful things to the world.)

Anyway! Frances spoke about what prompted the book, which began when she was asked to respond to Kenneth Clark’s The Nude of 1956 in which he said the nude was a category - like portrait or landscape - cleaned up for art. Not so much anymore, as some of the more recent works cited in The Naked Nude prove, with no modesty to be found. I'm not showing any here, but you can google Jenny Saville for examples of nudity at its most raw and emotional (she paints with a Bacon-like brush). Frances raised a fascinating point, that being the fact that we don't have a way of looking at such rawness, these direct and provocative expressions of nudes. You realise immediately that she's right and it's an observation that slips by the rest of us because we take our recoiling for granted; it's natural so therefore it's the right response. But is it? There's no code like there was in the past when nudes were used to illustrate religious or mythical stories, and women were idealised as nudes, presented as passive or motherly and never looking directly at you so it was ok. There was a framework entered into and so the viewer was safe, but this began to be challenged, from Manet's Olympia to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and today we've got strangers' private parts coming at our faces - sometimes not even the ones we expect - and what do we do?! This opens a fascinating discussion; if we can resist the urge to say 'ew'  and look away, interesting things can happen. As Frances points out, the artists are asking questions. They don't have the answers, they just want you to consider what's in front of you. She thinks that's a good thing. I think being able to do this has a lot to do with acceptance of ourselves and others, naked. For now, it seems most of us just don't want to know. 

Theswellelife_frances (1 of 1)Frances Borzello hosting our afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly

Earlier, when we arrived at Tate Modern we found ourselves on the southwest side and noticed this unusually structured building going up right behind the museum:  

TheSwelleLife_Tate_Modern_Changing_works (1 of 1)

It turns out it's going to be an extension of Tate Modern, and this is what it's going to look like:

TheSwelleLife_Tate_Modern_Changing (1 of 1)

The day before we visited Tate Modern, it served as a London Fashion Week venue for the Topshop Unique show - a first for both. The video of the collection was running on a screen in one of the common areas, but my focus was on the people in the shot:

TheSwelleLife_unique (1 of 1)

And now we start the tour that Linda Bolton created for us - you know her from the previous Unlock Art posts - that takes us through the ways in which nudes were used to tell stories and express ideas and emotions:


The KissRodin. 1901-1904

"The Greeks sculpted them. So did the Romans. In renaissance Italy the idealised nude was the top subject but made respectable by choosing the subjects from the bible or classical mythology. We’ve got an over life-size idealised nude in Rodin’s Kiss made at the beginning of the 20th century." 

TheSwelleLife_three_dancers_picasso (1 of 1)

The Three Dancers, Picasso. 1925

(continuing on from above) "But around that point vanguard artists were painting the nude in a different way. The jagged forms of Three Dancers convey an explosion of energy. The image is filled with Picasso’s personal recollections of a triangular affair, which resulted in the heart-broken suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas. Love, sex and death are linked in an ecstatic dance. Her face relates to a mask from Torres Strait, New Guinea, owned by the artist and points to Picasso’s association of ‘primitive’ forms with expressiveness and sexuality. Picasso didn’t ever go completely abstract. Even though this painting is slightly abstract, you can still make out exactly what it is. The painting depicts three girls dancing in what is apparently a hotel room – you can see blue skies and a balcony in the background giving the impression of joy, celebration. The wallpaper symbols reflect Russian text, which translates into a joyful word. The painting also gives the impression of bullet wounds in places, with jagged edges and shapes that are far from beautiful. Perhaps these negative connotations further portray the triangular affair and the heart broken suicide of Picasso’s friend by gun shot." 

Theswellelife_picasso_1 (1 of 1)

Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, Picasso. 1932 

"This work belongs to the remarkable sequence of portraits that Picasso made of Marie-Therese Walter at his country property at Boisgeloup. Marie-Therese is presented as a series of sensuous curves. Even the scrolling arms of the chair have been heightened and exaggerated to echo the rounded forms of her body. The face is a double or metamorphic image, the right side can also be seen as the face of a lover in profile kissing her on the lips. Her hands almost look like dove wings – giving an impression of beauty."

Theswellelife_picasso_1 (1 of 1)-2

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, Picasso. 1932

"Another painting of Marie-Therese Walter in another flattering stance – she is presented in this painting as a series of pink curves once more."

Theswellelife_picasso_3 (1 of 1)

Nude Woman with NecklacePicasso. 1968

"This painting is somewhat different to Picasso’s paintings of Marie-Therese Walter. The subject is Jacqueline Roque, his second wife of which he is thought to have worshipped and resented for her youth and beauty. The painting presents crude connotations such as bodily fluids and flatulence and she is presented almost as the sum of her sexual parts. The green colour could also be seen as beast like – however it could even be suggested that Picasso was simply finding a contrasting colour to the red cushions. Picasso was in his 80s when he painted this picture." I will say that this painting is even more provocative - and not just a little bit gross - in person! 

Theswellelife_green_shirt (1 of 1)

Self Portrait, Christian Schad. 1927

"The nude can become disturbing, take a look at Christan Schad’s take on it. This self-portrait with the female nude is a good example of the new realism. Based in 1920s Berlin Schad looks back to traditional German art – check out his Renaissance-style sheer shirt, but it’s also a distinctly modern work. The nude in the background has a scary and alienated look. Her face is scarred with a brand, inflicted on Neapolitan women by their loves to make them theirs and unattractive to others. It is a startling emblem of the potential violence underlying male possession of the female body. We can also see an industrial scene in the background and a strange singular flower. The juxtaposition of objects present a negative outlook, although the nude itself is attractive and almost idealistic. Perhaps this painting presents a classical nude in the modern day." 

Theswellelife_pigeon_chested_man (1 of 1)

Agosta, the Pigeon chested man and Rasha, the Black Dove, Christian Schad. 1929

"This painting shows a deformed white man and a black woman – both ominous figures of this time in Berlin with the rise of the Nazis. These figures present non-idealistic nudes – the complete opposite to the idealistic Greek nudes we have seen. Both of the figures unerringly return our gaze – the figures were accustomed to scrutiny, earning their living as sideshow acts in Berlin funfairs. Unusually, this unsettling portrayal of the objectification of the body, voyeurism and social alienation is focused on the male as well as the female nude." 

Theswellelife_nnn (1 of 1)

Family Jules NNN (No Naked Niggahs), Barkley Hendricks, 1974

"This picture shows a relaxed nude where the pose and title are confronting the way representations of African American nudes have been received, feared and censored and directly tackles the widely accepted notion of the hyper-sexualised black body. His response seems to say ‘if this is what you expect, then this is what I am going to give you’. However, the spectacles and pipe give the man an intellectual presence, taking away from the initial thoughts of the picture and confusing it somewhat." 

After we discussed this work, we were told that the room it hangs in is offered for event bookings, such as dinners. And that more than a few times requests have been received to cover the painting or even remove it altogether. We all had the same reaction, that if you are going to book a room at Tate Modern, you get it as is - the art lives here after all! (Just to clarify, this request is always denied.) 

TheSwelleLife_deChirico (1 of 1)

The Uncertainty of the Poet, Giorgio de Chirico. 1913

"de Chirico’s quiet square evokes the classical world through a dream-like vision. A sculpture of Aphrodite’s torso is placed provocatively alongside a bunch of bananas. In the background a passing train suggests the sense of the contemporary and the immediate. de Chirico’s early works were hugely admired by the Surrealists, who saw them in a dream-like parallel existence." 

Theswellelife_dali (1 of 1)

Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dali. 1937 (yes, there are nudes in there, a group of skinny ones in the middleground)

"The surrealists looked at the nude and played with the classical nude of Antiquity viewed through the lens of Freud’s investigations into the human psyche" - in other words, this is when nudes got risqué, and gave more than a little away about what was going in Dali's mind as well! 

Theswellelife_Linda_bolton (1 of 1)

As I've mentioned previously, the group just loves Linda, and her style has certainly not gone unnoticed so I couldn't resist snapping a photo of her very 'Linda' coat!

A huge thank you to Frances Borzello, Linda Bolton and as always, Le Meridien, for another eye-opening day of insights into art. 

‘Unlock Art’ is an exciting series of short films offering an imaginative, witty, and enriching introduction to the world of art.  Created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien, Unlock Artfeatures eight short films that put art under the spotlight, with topics ranging from the history of the nude to humour, Performance to Pop Art, presenting all the need-to-know facts. Bold in approach and rich in content, the film series was conceived to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience. Marc Sands, Director of Media and Audiences Tate, said “Our goal is to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British, modern and contemporary art. This series of films launched will offer an entertaining, thought p rovoking yet witty approach to art. With an exciting roster of presenters, and the imaginative and creative content of the films, we want to connect people who might not have considered some of the subjects before with contemporary art.”

Part of Le Méridien’s ethos is to support emerging artists. It furthers this commitment through its Unlock Art™ Programme, which offers Le Méridien guests complimentary access to forward thinking cultural institutions around the world. These partnerships allow guests to explore a local, inspiring cultural experience, simply by presenting the Unlock Art™ room key. Le Méridien’s Unlock Art™ partner in the UK is TATE Modern and TATE Britain.

Photos © The Swelle Life


PORTER Magazine issue 5 now available at NET-A-PORTER.COM

Cupcake Monday!

Interiors & Exteriors

Floral Friday

London Fashion Week

Fashion Illustrator Series

Artist Series

Paris & Cities

Painted Houses Project

Colour Colour 



  • Creative Commons License