One of our last genius; Ferran Adrià

Spain is a country with  powerful creative minds,  that is why through the centuries great artists were born.  It is no longer a secret that my favorite genius is Velázquez. But who are my favorite artists of the century? Painter and sculptor Miquel Barceló and chef Ferran Adrià.
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We are fortunate to have in Madrid until March 1 a very interesting exibit  about  the creative process of this genius.

Ferran Adrià invented 1,846 dishes and then stopped. He felt he had created enough and that soon he would reach his peak. He had to go further, and therefore decided to close elBulli. This was back in 2011, the beginning of the second part of his life. From thereon in, he would dedicate himself to, as he says, sharingeverything we have learnt over these years regarding the creative process and its methods”. Both in the kitchen and out.

From his restaurant his inventions could be shared with 6,000 people a year. From his foundation he can reach millions. This new format allows him to spread the word concerning his research and share his knowledge in order to inspire “future generations to be more creative”.

Ferran is a fervent believer in generosity. He says that this is what has moved him to pass on everything he learnt over 25 years at elBulli. During this period, years were split into two halves. Six months were dedicated to research, six months to the restaurant. Its final closure in 2011 represented his absolute commitment to investigation. “We have turned elBulli into a laboratory for the creative process”, he says. Over the past three years this has meant his dedicating his time to putting all the knowledge he has accumulated into some sort of order so that he can pass it on to the rest of the world. The aim is to reveal what led him to revolutionise gastronomy and whether this model can be applied to other industries. The idea was that what had worked for them might work for others. He has long held that this has been a “revolution”, albeit a “pacifist” one, a nuance he always adds with a knowing smile.

This revolution began back in 1987. Ferran attended a conference given by Jaques Maximin. In mid-presentation, the famous French chef suddenly said: “Creating is not copying.” This sentence hit Adrià like a bolt of lightning. As he says, still with a certain sense of awe: “A sentence that can change your life”. No need for muses or supernatural powers. Adrià believes in studying what others have done before, in research, and in stretching that work beyond its limits.

Ferran believes that the most profound driving force behind creativity is ambition. This is what made a 17-year-old teenager who washed dishes in a Castelldefels hotel strive to become the greatest chef in the world for five straight years. Here we should add the many awards he has received as well as the Honoris Causa granted him by the Universities of Barcelona (2007) and Aberdeen (2008) and Valencia Polytechnic (2010). The year 2010 also saw Harvard University ask Ferran Adrià to abandon his administrative studies in order to give classes as a guest professor at its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

cocina-molecular-principiantes_2_569748This ambition is all about learning, inventing, discovering and seeing life as did the 18th century explorers. “Our most important task is to find challenges for ourselves” he says. “We get up every morning with a challenge. That’s what makes us happy. And happiness is the most important thing in life.”

This ambition can also be called passion, emotion or even obsession. This is a word the ever-curious Adrià uses to describe himself. “The ability to spur action is my obsession” he says. “I’m like a whirlwind”.

He is striving to decode gastronomy as someone who does not believe in muses. He does, however, believe in investigation. He discovered its value through research. Close El Bulli  was a decision that would change his life. Creativity at elBulli was multiplied by a thousand. And when he decided to close the restaurant for six months a year in order to research, creativity was multiplied a billion.

 

 

In 2004 Adrià understood that research required time. “In order to make a dish of asparagus, we would dedicate a whole week to studying asparagus”, he says. revista017-2

Ferran passes all his ideas through a filter, a simple question: “Why?” This is the guiding principle of research, one he has dedicated almost all his life to.

It’s lunchtime and all Adrià is eating is fruit. He doesn’t have the time for any more.

He also seeks to surround himself with professionals he admires and who are far removed from his normal day-to-day working life, people he describes as “ten times more efficient than people from other disciplines”. These individuals are the executive vice-president of MIT, Israel Ruiz; the former director of London’s Tate Modern, Vicente Todolí; the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz; the director of the Telefónica i+D Internet and Multimedia centre, Pablo Rodríguez; and the chef Juan Mari Arzak. These men form the group that Adrià calls his ‘angels’.

Ferran says that he feels he is facing one of the greatest challenges of his life. Teaching others to invent is now as important to him as inventing itself was to him in the past. Teaching anybody. Not only a chef or someone with grand, world-changing aspirations. Absolutely anybody working in any field.

What he has in his hands right now “is a three-dimensional bomb”, he says


AMERICAN IMPRESSIONISM

AMERICAN IMPRESSIONISM AT THE THYSSEN BORNEMISZA MUSEUM, by Teresa de la Vega

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum presents the first exhibition in Spain on the dissemination of Impressionism in the United States. Curated by Katherine Bourguignon, from the Terra Foundation for American Art and an expert in late 19th and early 20th century French and American art, the exhibition, which has already been seen at the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny and the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, includes nearly 80 paintings that allow for an analysis of the way in which North American artists discovered Impressionism in the 1880s and 1890s and its subsequent development around 1900.

While artists such as Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent had spent some years living and exhibiting their work in France and enjoyed close relations with painters such as Degas and Monet, it was not until the exhibition of French Impressionism organised by the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel in New York in 1886, that American artists began to deploy the new brushstroke, brilliant colours and fleeting effects characteristic of the French movement, and many of these artists decided go to Paris in order to become acquainted with it at first hand.

There are some amazing pictures to be seen. Here are a few of Teresa  favorites:

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Autumn. Profile Portrait of Lydia Cassatt (the Artist’s Sister), 1880

Mary occupies a central place in the history of the movement, as she was the only American to exhibit in four of the eight shows held by the group, an as promoter of  her French colleagues in the States. I specially love her sketchy brushtrokes and her luminous palette.

 

 

John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood,1885

Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood ?1885 by John Singer Sargent 1856-1925

Sargent, who-like Cassatt-live in Paris during the years when the Impressionist developed, threw himself into the practice of painting “en plein  air” after having visited Monet in Givenchy in 1885. Although he never actually exhibited with the group, he has instrumental in spreading the new technique among other American artists. The canvas they Monet is painting has been identified by experts, and has been brought from Boston to Madrid.

 

Theodore Robinson, The Wedding March, 1892.

Theodore_Robinson_-_Le_Cortège_nuptialGiverny became a pilgrimage for admirers of Monet. A colony of American artists established themselves at the small town, though only a few maintained a significant relationship with the master. One of them was Theodore Robinson, who witnessed the wedding procession of Suzanne Hoschedé, Monet’s step-daughter and Theodore Earl Butler, a painter from the States

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It is interesting to compare the influence of Monet in his younger colleagues.See, for example,the Haytacks ( 1891)painted by John Leslie Breck, who struck up a friendship with Monet´s daughters and who created the series on the left shortly after as a way of studying the Shifting effects of light

Whistler, Nocturne in blue and silver: Chelsea, 1871

Whistler’s monochromatic and mysterious lanscapes were to exert an influence first on the members of the Impressionist group, whose ranks he never joined, and later on his own compatriots like Twachtman, who represented the rural milieu of Connecticut with a poetic and mystical air

Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea 1871 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1903

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Carlos de Amberes Museum dedicated to Flemish and Dutch Old Masters.

It´s always a great new that Madrid re-open a Museum this week, the Museo Carlos de Amberes is located in a former church in the well-heeled area of Barrio de Salamanca and dedicated to Dutch and Flemish Old Masters.

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The museum heralds a new era for the Fundación Carlos de Amberes, which started as a charity back in 1594, when Philip II of Spain was also Lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands. By 1987, it had shifted its focus towards artistic and educational philanthropic activities, and, since 1992, it has run an active program of temporary exhibitions, lectures, and research.

The private foundation, however, doesn’t have an art collection. The only painting that it owns is Peter Paul Rubens’s The Martyrdom of St. Andrew (1637). This means the Museo Carlos de Amberes will follow an unusual structural model more or less entirely based on loans.

Taking the economic crisis that is affecting art institutions all over the country into consideration, however, the question remains: Why launch a museum now? After all, how will Museo Carlos de Amberes compete with the Museo del Prado, only a mile away?jacob-jordaens-apollo-as-a-winner-about-pan-ca-1637

Catherine Geens, the museum’s director said:

“The crisis was precisely one of the main reasons to move forward with the institution”. “Each temporary exhibition organized had a budget of around €1.5 million, while developing the structure of a museum to host a large, more permanent exhibition alongside a program of temporary exhibitions of works on paper is of €700,000,” she explained.

“What sets us up apart within the Madrid cultural landscape is our focus”

 

The Prado is a magnificent museum, but it is also enormous and broad. People visit the Prado to see Goya, Velázquez, Bosch… But they will come to us to enjoy a careful selection of 16th and 17th century Flemish masterpieces. Because we are showing a sizeable collection of 40 paintings, we are also able to provide extensive interpretation and pedagogical material on each of the pieces,” she continued.

“Our research also showed us that the span of attention of the average museum-goer is of 90 minutes,” Geens added. “This is why boutique museums such as ours are starting to flourish.”

The inaugural permanent exhibition, which gathers 40 Flemish masterpieces, has been assembled by securing loans from several other European institutions. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, closed until 2017 due to renovation, has loaned an astounding 21 works. They include important paintings by Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Bernard van Orley, David Teniers II, and Michaelina Wautier, one of the very few female Flemish painters of the period.

But not all the loans come from afar. Museo del Prado loaned 10 works for a period of a year, with the possibility of an extension. These include The Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia (c. 1615) by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, Policena Spinola, Marchioness of Leganés (1627) by van Dyck, Apollo as Victor over Pan (1637) by Jordaens, and Original Sin and The Construction of the Tower of Babel by Frans Francken the Younger.

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POP ART

Thyssen Bornemisza in Madrid will be showing the exhibition, Pop Art Myths, exploring  one of the most liberating movements in the history of art, as it brought an end to the division between “high” and “low” culture, opening up a debate over the possibility that even everyday objects could become art.

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There’s always more to Pop that meets the eye, as Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans reveal. In the summer of 1962, the celebrity artist showed his 32 Soup Cans in his first solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, in what was described as “a brilliant slap in the face to America”, transforming the artistic panorama forever. The idea is usually credited to an art dealer and decorator, Muriel Latow, who a year before had suggested to Andy that he should paint money, or “something people see every day, like a Campbell´s soup can”. Accordingly,the next day, Warhol bought each one of the 32 varieties, and inmediately started making a series of drawings.
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Campbell’s Soup was also linked with Andy’s memories. The Warhol family, originally migrated from Ruthenia, in the Carpathians, used to have a sándwich and some Campbell’s soup for lunch, and it was young Andy´s privilege, as his mum’s favourite, to choose the flavour of the day.
At first, the show was object of derision, and a nearby gallery filled its windows with cans and offered “the real thing for only 33 cents a can”. But the artist, a genius in self-promotion, turned that into his own advantage, as he took a photographer to the supermarket and got his picture taken signing cans, in an image that was picked up by the Associated Press and that made the news.

The gallerist’s determination to keep the whole series together, proved to be one of the most lucrative moves in the history of modern art. He bought several canvases back from collectors who had paid 100 dollars for each and eventually sold the original set to MoMa for 15 million!
They have been refered to as “portraits”, and in a way they are, as the artist considers the can as he would a human face, condensing in it what Pop Art was all about: a reflection on the effects of unprecedented consumerism in modern society, of mass production, proliferation of objects and waste.

Teresa Vega

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Greco was an idealist who strived to bring out the beauty in the most mundane aspects of daily life and his unique skill made him a revolutionary

Art is very subjective; certain pieces provoke feeling and others don´t.

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It could be that those which evoke feeling have something; soul…a soul that is similar to yours and for this reason, it excites you, inspires you, makes you feel.

Not all pieces from the same artist reach me, but it´s true that there are many from this artist, born in Cremona, that inspire me.

Who is this woman of such clear complexion who looks at us sideways, dressed in lynx fur and shiny ruby rings? Why, for years, was the authorship of this work accredited to Greco, Sanchez Coello and not to Sofonisba? Why is she named the Dame of Armiño if it´s the lynx that wears the neck?

It can´t be anyone but the second daughter of Philip II and Isabel of Valois. Catalina Micaela of Austria, Duchess of Saboya. Born in 1567, lived only 30 years. She was her father´s favorite and during their existence, for state matters, he maintained endearing letters of his two daughters. These letters depict a loving image of an austere, religious and rigid king of which his black legend divulges.  She married the handsome Duque of Saboya in 1585. Catalina soon adopted a new court, distancing from the rigid etiquette that was imposed by the Spanish Monarchy. Her husband lavished her with dances, private concerts and carnival entertainments.

In ten years Catalina had two children. Her maternal fertility brought great joy to the Saboya court; however it was also the reason for the early death at 30 years of age.

 

Sofonisba Anguissola (Cremona, 1532 – Naples, 1625) is another passionate woman. When the court of Felipe II arrived in 1559, she was already a Dame under Queen Valois and had ordered the memorable portraits of humanists or collogues – and she would continue to do this through the rest of her life, never losing her Italian style. Born into an interesting family, and one of the most creative and intellectual city of Europe, definitely contributed to this great artist.

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Observe this painting. The similitude between Anguissola and this painting do not reside only in the model: other portraits of Sofonisba (the portrait of the girl and the little person, for example). They seem to be overdone in the composition and fulfilment.

Following in the footprints of the paintings of this artist is extremely difficult. We can only imagine some travelling along in the cargo that Jose Bonaparte took from Spain, carrying treasures that were sacked from the Royal Palace. These treasures were then robbed along the journey and arrived, by coincidence, to the Duke of Wellington, whose intention was to return them to Spain. However, the Spanish Minister in English refused his offer and allowed him to keep the treasures as a prize. We can certainly confirm some things: a couple of paintings by Sofonisba were given to the Ermitage along with other Spanish paintings, where they still can be found. They arrived there thanks to the banker Coesvelt, who was from Amsterdam and who lived in Spain during the war of Independence. He knew how to take advantage of the rough waters in order to gain the collection and later sell it to Alexander I of Russia.  At least two more of Sofonisba´s master pieces would run through risky adventures. They form part of the Spanish Gallery of Luis Felipe, in the Lourve of Paris. Their arrival can be attributed to other painters. Firstly, the portrait of the young Dame was considered to be a work from Moro, Bronzino and Sanchez Coello. Now we can see it displayed in the Lazaro Galdiano Museum with a sign saying that it is a Sofonisba. Secondly, the Dame of the armiño, garnered enormous admiration and it´s interesting to point out that the false attributions in the Spanish Gallery of Luis Felipe were well know during his epoch, although they are not accredited to Sofonisba.

One extra detail in admiration of this painting is that Cezzane freely made a copy of it and he called the Greco the creator of modern art.

Cezanne 1885

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It´s worth remembering in order to ask ourselves:  what was the footprint of Sofonisba Anguissola on other artists? Did it ruin the image of the 18th and 19th centuries to have a successful, aristocratic, astute woman, who gave advice and breached social formalities? She married at 50, a man who was double her age, Orazio Lomellini, and a captain of a Genoese boat; he took her from Sicily after her first widowhood. Or maybe they didn´t want that she form part of the history as her friendship with Felipe II caused jealousy and rancor?

 

Giacometti after Cezanne

Giacometti

Or does this melancholy that wanders through the sketches reflect a painful past?

 

 

Enjoy these works. You can admire them in the exhibition of the Palacio of Santa Cruz which is dedicated to Greco. It is full of passion and feeling. Take a look at the sign which accredits the piece to a particular artist and tell me why her name doesn´t appear…Contact us for un exclusive Luxury Art Experience