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Art & Design

Dr John C Taylor

Redefining the perception of time

Dr John C Taylor

Dr John C Taylor : Portrait of a contemporary inventor as an artist

“The perceived duration of each minute varies from person to person and depends on circumstances. As you get older, you become more aware that time isn’t on your side and every minute that passes is gone forever. The Chronophage shows this quite graphically as it relentlessly devours each and every minute.”

Dr John C Taylor

BB Why did you create the Chronophage?

JCT After a successful commercial career, I thought it would be fun to create a clock.

I would say only 1% of people have heard of John Harrison and of those, only 1% would know of the grasshopper escapement. 1% of those who do know of the grasshopper escapement would know how that works.

John Harrison is my hero, so I decided to create a clock with a grasshopper escapement as an homage to him – and as most people don’t know how that works, I decided to make the escapement big and on the outside. After all, I had been using the benefit of Harrison’s creations of bimetal in all my business life and his solving of the navigation problem for my fun flying. *

The Chronophage

The face of The Midsummer Chronophage is a 24 carat gold-plated steel disc 1.5 metres in diameter, polished to resemble a pond of liquid metal with ripples that allude to the Big Bang flowing out from the centre of the Universe. It was created by a series of underwater explosions in a secret military centre in Holland.

The word Chronophage literally means Time-Eater from the Greek: Chronos [Time] and Phago [I eat].

I had a wish to change the popular perception of time and also, the perception that retirement is an inactive time of one’s life.

The prototype half size Chronophage has a 750mm face. Everyone knows a regular analogue or a digital clock but I wanted something new. Another thing I keep in the back of my brain is the idea that anything you can do in a straight line, you can do in a circle and vice versa. I used the calipers invented in the 17th century by the FrenchmanVerier to measure accurately small objects, twisting his concept round into a circle. Behind each hour, minute and second position are fixed continuously illuminated LED lights and a series of fixed and rotating slits. Only when two slits are in line is that particular hour, minute or second illuminated on the dial. It was conceived as a new way of showing time and is a true mechanical clock

Regular clocks are boring. This one stops and starts again which changes it from a dull object into one that demands your attention as it engages with you, makes you think… Surely that’s the definition of art – something that makes you think?

Every five minutes the clock ‘corrects’ itself and accurate time is shown through the light slits. Walking atop the 1.5 metre face of The Midsummer Chronophage is a large kinetic sculpture of a mythical beast. The creature, an integral part of the mechanics of the clock, appears to devour each minute as its jaws snap shut every 59th second . The hour is tolled by the sound of a chain clanking into a small wooden coffin concealed in the back of the clock to remind us that our time on earth is limited.

The Chronophage is four things in one: an innovation, a work of art, a philosophical reflection on the elapse of time and an homage to Harrison.

I donated my first Chronophage to Corpus Christi College of Cambridge because I was an undergraduate there between 1956 and 1959. It is a wonderful place to study and I hope the clock will have an impact on people applying to the college.

Additionally, Cambridge has the oldest court in Britain – anything that is displayed there is going to be there for hundreds of years. I wanted to make the clock of traditional materials that will last hundreds of years, so we used 24 carat plated stainless steel (the time eating creature on the first Chronophage had a vitreous finish – it was enameled). The materials used in my clock will survive 5000 years, never mind a few hundred.

I called my second Chronophage the Midsummer Chronophage because it was unveiled at midsummer. We are discussing with both St Paul’s Cathedral and the Science Museum about displaying it. After that it will be available.

I am hoping that the Midsummer (and the other Chronophage in the series) will be bought by a person or organisation for display in a public space, perhaps by a benefactor, or by a corporation with a public space. People enjoy the concept and challenges of the Chronophage so it would be perfect for it to be on public display.

The Corpus Chronophage has been extremely popular in Cambridge and the Midsummer Chronophage was regarded as one of the best pieces at the Masterpiece Fair when we unveiled it. The price? Just under £2 million – we’ve had up to 100 people working at various stages of the fabrication over a two year period for the Midsummer Chronophage, and the Corpus took over five years but we learned a lot from that.

We intend to make a limited series of 15 in all, but each different in some way.

Categories
Art & Design

Pearl Lam

Pearl Lam, trailblazer and superwoman of the art world

Pearl Lam
Pearl Lam

I meet Pearl Lam at her penthouse appartment in Mayfair, London which is a mini-reflection of her: eclectic, idiosyncratic, original…

For all the influence and respect she commands within the global art establishment, she has retained her mischivieous girl look. Petite, vivacious and very attractive, she speaks passionately about art, but also displays an abundance of curiosity about anything tangential cropping up in our conversation.

My first question is: why art?

The daughter of a Hong Kong property tycoon, the 9th son (and only achiever) in a large family, she could have chosen anything or nothing and lived a life of a wealthy heiress.

Pearl Lam was educated in the UK, but was nevertheless subject to the cultural and generational constraints of a traditional Chinese household – she was not “free”, as she puts it.

Culture was not a priority for her father’s generation in the way that survival was (interest in culture, she points out, comes with prosperity).

When she announced that she wanted to open an art gallery, her father was appalled. He, like all traditional Chinese, saw art as a means to self-cultivation, while having a gallery was tantamount to being a “shopkeeper”.

Pearl made a deal then: she would get involved in the family business if she could open an art gallery.

I didn’t ask her if she kept to the deal, but with four galleries under her belt, regular exhibitions and an art foundation, she has her work cut out.

Her galleries are all in mainland China –three in Shanghai and one in Beijing – because, she says, Hong Kong is merely a financial and trading center, not a culture hub.

Conceptualising Art: West v. East

Pearl Lam is at her most eloquent when it comes to emphasising the difference between the Western and Eastern models of art collecting and enjoyment.

Her historical references are copious and well-rehearsed and she draws a powerful distinction between art patronage in medieval Europe and the mandarins in Imperial China.

Many Chinese mandarins were government officials in the daily life and artists in their spare time – they were the elite- while Western artists were patronised by the elite.

The Chinese viewed art as self-cultivation, while their Western counterparts collected art as an investment first and commercial exploitation later.

Moreover, Chinese art has been traditionally and still is lateral, multi-functional, as opposed to “high art” displayed but divorced from any functionality.

I interject that a lot of Renaissance patronage was religiously motivated, as well as for social advancement, not just for resale.

Pearl emphasises the general difference: the Chinese collected and patronised art to appreciate its intrinsic worth, whereas Westerners used it as a means to another ends – social, financial, religious…

This dichotomy between art for enjoyment and self-cultivation on one hand and commercial profit on the other is at the heart of Pearl Lam’s gallery model.

Returning to her Chinese roots, she created a new model – her own:a fusion between traditional and multi-discipline art combined with clever marketing of the brand.

Most traditional Chinese art, she says, found its way into Taiwan museums at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, so she focused on contemporary art.

She invites and supports artists in residence where they create art works of their view of China (this could be any form of art from the decorative and functional to “high art”) and stages exhibitions that have a strong controversial element around the world.

Her galleries are, in fact, a platform for her beliefs, embracing cross-cultural differences and celebrating art in its different forms.

Art as an investment

In view of the above, I ask Pearl if art should be collected as an investment and what role hype plays in art.

“Any motive for collecting art is a good one”, is her surprising reply.

She elaborates on this:

Traditionally, the elite collected with a degree of passion and appreciation.

The middle classes followed suit and with their lack of confidence, collected what they thought was collectible.

The concept of collecting art for investment was thus born.

It is the auction houses that establish the commercial, rather than the intrinsic value of art. Together with galleries, they create hype and a stock market for art where values are subject to speculation and ultimately, inflation.

The middle classes derive a sense of status symbol which is further validated by this artificially created stock market.

Art as an investment is a very Western and bourgeois concept.

The Pearl Lam Foundation

The differences between the Western and Eastern model of art collecting will soon be bridged if not entirely reconciled through the efforts of the Pearl Lam Foundation which held its first summit in October 2008.

Leading figures from both the Western and Chinese art establishments met at what Pearl established as an awareness and cross-communications platform between the two.

The foundation will provide a working platform to explore ways of collaborating for the ultimate promotion of all good art and artists.

Pearl Lam, trailblazer and superwoman of the art world

I meet Pearl Lam at her penthouse appartment in Mayfair, London which is a mini-reflection of her: eclectic, idiosyncratic, original…

For all the influence and respect she commands within the global art establishment, she has retained her mischivieous girl look. Petite, vivacious and very attractive, she speaks passionately about art, but also displays an abundance of curiosity about anything tangential cropping up in our conversation.

My first question is: why art?

The daughter of a Hong Kong property tycoon, the 9th son (and only achiever) in a large family, she could have chosen anything or nothing and lived a life of a wealthy heiress.

Pearl Lam was educated in the UK, but was nevertheless subject to the cultural and generational constraints of a traditional Chinese household – she was not “free”, as she puts it.

Culture was not a priority for her father’s generation in the way that survival was (interest in culture, she points out, comes with prosperity).

When she announced that she wanted to open an art gallery, her father was appalled. He, like all traditional Chinese, saw art as a means to self-cultivation, while having a gallery was tantamount to being a “shopkeeper”.

Pearl made a deal then: she would get involved in the family business if she could open an art gallery.

I didn’t ask her if she kept to the deal, but with four galleries under her belt, regular exhibitions and an art foundation, she has her work cut out.

Her galleries are all in mainland China –three in Shanghai and one in Beijing – because, she says, Hong Kong is merely a financial and trading center, not a culture hub.

Conceptualising Art. West v. East

Pearl Lam is at her most eloquent when it comes to emphasising the difference between the Western and Eastern models of art collecting and enjoyment.

Her historical references are copious and well-rehearsed and she draws a powerful distinction between art patronage in medieval Europe and the mandarins in Imperial China.

Many Chinese mandarins were government officials in the daily life and artists in their spare time – they were the elite- while Western artists were patronised by the elite.

The Chinese viewed art as self-cultivation, while their Western counterparts collected art as an investment first and commercial exploitation later.

Moreover, Chinese art has been traditionally and still is lateral, multi-functional, as opposed to “high art” displayed but divorced from any functionality.

I interject that a lot of Renaissance patronage was
religiously motivated, as well as for social advancement, not just for
resale.

Pearl emphasise the general difference: the Chinese collected and
patronised art to appreciate its intrinsic worth, whereas Westerners
used it as a means to another ends – social, financial, religious…

This dichotomy between art for enjoyment and self-cultivation on one hand and commercial profit on the other is at the heart of Pearl Lam’s gallery model.

Returning to her Chinese roots, she created a new model – her own:a fusion between traditional and multi-discipline art combined with clever marketing of the brand.

Most traditional Chinese art, she says, found its way into Taiwan museums at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, so she focused on contemporary art.

She invites and supports artists in residence where they create art works of their view of China (this could be any form of art from the decorative and functional to “high art”) and stages exhibitions that have a strong controversial element around the world.

Her galleries are, in fact, a platform for her beliefs, embracing cross-cultural differences and celebrating art in its different forms.

Art as an investment

In view of the above, I ask Pearl if art should be collected as an investment and what role hype plays in art.

“Any motive for collecting art is a good one”, is her surprising reply.

She elaborates on this:

Traditionally, the elite collected with a degree of passion and appreciation.

The middle classes followed suit and with their lack of confidence, collected what they thought was collectible.

The concept of collecting art for investment was thus born.

It is the auction houses that establish the commercial, rather than the intrinsic value of art. Together with galleries, they create hype and a stock market for art where values are subject to speculation and ultimately, inflation.

The middle classes derive a sense of status symbol which is further validated by this artificially created stock market.

Art as an investment is a very Western and bourgeois concept.

The Pearl Lam Foundation

The differences between the Western and Eastern model of art collecting will soon be bridged if not entirely reconciled through the efforts of the Pearl Lam Foundation which held its first summit in October 2008.

Leading figures from both the Western and Chinese art establishments met at what Pearl established as an awareness and cross-communications platform between the two.

The foundation will provide a working platform to explore ways of collaborating for the ultimate promotion of all good art and artists.

Categories
Art & Design

Dakis Joannou

“Collecting is an adventure”

Conversation with Dakis Joannou, one of the most significant contemporary art collectors today and founder of the Deste Art Foundation.

Dakis Joannou

BB Who was the first artist whose work you bought?

DJ Jeff Koons was the first artist I started to collect. As for buying, anything from a very early age…

BB How doe you choose what you buy? Is it love at first sight, or the concept of the piece or the texture?

DJ Everything has to work, he says, and when you look at a work of art, you have to connect with it.

I establish personal relationships with the artists I collect: I befriend them and build a rapport with them, but don’t ask a lot of questions about their work.

We just talk.

BB Do you buy one offs or do you collect works by the same artists?

DJ With some I do, some I don’t. I have several one offs and I can collect others’ work extensively.

It’s important to do this because you give the collection presence, you don’t just collect masterpieces. You create a juxtaposition of various artists and varied artworks.

BB Is hype responsible for inflating the price of contemporary art?

DJ Talent will always out!

BB Have you ever collected fine art?

DJ No, the only thing I did when I started the collection, was to buy some pieces to give reference to the collection and to put young unknown artists into context. Twenty years later, they ARE the context and the supporting pieces are sold.

BB How important is art in general?

DJ I can’t judge this from other people’s point of view, but people in general need art. Everyone has something on their wall, whether Chinese embroidery or photography or anything else. Different people have a different relationship with their art.

BB How do you want to be remembered?

 

DJ I am not concerned with posterity, but with now. What I do, I do through art – that’s my language and my tool.

Art’s purpose is to enrich people’s minds and take them to another level. Contemporary art is relevant to what is happening now.

 

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Art & Design BB Articles Homepage gallery

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

What: ‘On aura tout vu’ presents the Galéa collection
Where: National Museum of Monaco, Villa Sauber
When: 11am-7pm, 22 June to 30 September 2011
10am-6pm, 1 October 2011 to 29 January 2012
Admission: €6, groups (minimum 15 people) €4
Web: http://www.onauratoutvu.tv

Afficionadoes of design will instantly recognize at least part of the title of the latest exhibition at Monaco’s New National Museum at the Villa Sauber: ‘on aura tout vu‘ – whose name roughly translates as ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’  – have been the creative spirit behind some of the world’s greatest couturiers, including Lacroix, Dior and Givenchy. Since 1995 they have developed their own range of pret-a-porter, accessories, design objects and cosmetics, and today are responsible for a wide range of co-branded products with some of the greatest Parisian institutions such as Caron, Le Moulin Rouge, La Maison Fabre, and the Galerie de l’Opéra de Paris.

Now, in an extraordinary collaboration with the National Museum of Monaco, chief designers Livia Stoianova and Yassen Samouilov are breathing new life into one of Monaco’s most famous attractions – the Galéa collection of dolls and automata, by showing off the original mannequins alongside their own amazing 21st century creations.

This Lilliput-sized version of the real world will appeal to everyone interested in seeing how fashions have changed between the 19th century and today – with some fantastic juxtapositions like this one showing the contemporary nightclub scene and its equivalent – a Second Empire ‘rout’.


Clubbing – 21st and 19th century-style!

Madeleine de Galéa was born in Réunion, the French island off the coast of East Africa. Brought up in Paris, she became a lover of Second Empire style and of antique dolls’ costumes in particular. Widowed at a tragically young age, she began to collect in earnest, first traditional porcelain dolls and later an unrivalled pageant of accessories and furniture.

At a time when the world was becoming fascinated with robotics, she extended her already vast collection to included animated puppets and automata, and towards the end of her life hosted frequent elegant tea parties attended by her devoted guests, and robots dressed in – among other items – scottish tartan.

For all the eccentricity of this venture, Mme de Galéa is today remembered as one of the great collectors, whose unerring eye for the quirky and unusual was tempered by a genuine fascination for fashion. After Mme de Galéa’s death in 1956, the collection was offered in its entirety to – and accepted by – HSH Prince Rainier III, who himself displayed a similar passion for collecting, as Monaco’s museum of automobiles testifies. The Villa Sauber, now newly refurbished as the National Museum of Monaco, became home to her collection.

So it’s appropriate that ‘on aura tout vu’, in conjunction with the Villa Sauber, has taken the opportunity to revive the collection in the National Museum of Monaco’s latest exhibition in its ‘Looking Up’ series, initiated by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. The aim of the series is to connect the often bizarre world of Monaco’s history with the wider artistic visions of today.

Last year’s hugely successful Shonibare exhibition placed his ‘anti-colonial’ art in the context of the aristocratic Monaco of the the late 19th century.  The aim of this display is similar, comparing some of Mme de Galéa ‘s most exquisite objects with today’s fashion designs. Since 2002, ‘on aura tout vu’ have displayed their fantastic creations twice a year on the catwalks of the French capital. This latest extravaganza, in Monaco, is rather different but just as thrilling!

This article was originally published in CityOut Monaco