Showing posts with label Art & music & misc reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art & music & misc reviews. Show all posts

Friday 17 March 2023

It's Friday, it's Fontvieille, and it's fish and chips

We don't do too badly for fancy fare in Monaco. The 2023 Michelin Red Guide for France was published at the beginning of March, awarding a total of 9 stars to restaurants in the Principality. If something quick and simple is required the humble pissaladière and barbagiuan are delicious and can be bought for a few euros in my local boulangerie (or for a lot more in a starred restaurant in England, but that's another story). Sometimes tho', only a taste of home will satisfy, something from my native land: British ale, Tunnocks Tea Cakes, and of course, that staple of the working class, fish and chips.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

General Elektriks, merci infiniment!

In 2004 I went over to Cimiez Gardens, City of Nice, to the Festival de Jazz. You can't do that now, it's not held there anymore. But that night I heard a band that for me redefined the word funk. I remember being knocked out by their energy, their stamina and their tidy clothes. That band was France's now legendary General Elektriks. 18 years and 5 albums later General Elektriks is still going strong. So when I heard that the Elektriks was promoting a new album called Party Like A Human and was planning to perform in Monaco, well, needless to say I jumped at the chance to write the blog post that you're about to read. I wanted to capture the sights and sounds of a November Sunday night. (1)

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Celebrate good times, come on!

Did you ever dream of being in a pop group? I certainly did. I was young and starry-eyed and I played bass guitar in a band called The Young Mark Twains. The practice sessions and politics are best forgotten, but being on stage... Wow! That was amazing.

The experience of performing music to an audience is what's behind Monaco On Stage, which opened on 15 October in the Salle d'Exposition du Quai Antoine 1er. It's not strictly an exhibition, more an immersive experience, a bit like a side show to the fun fair. Let me give you a tour.

Thursday 22 September 2022

Massive prawns in Monaco?

It was Friday morning and I was texting an old friend in the UK I hadn't seen in ages.

"How's the expat life, Cabbie?"

"It's great, mon ami."

"Lots of massive prawns then, Cabbie?" (1)

And, it got me thinking. I can't remember the last time I had massive prawns in Monaco

Monday 5 September 2022

The Prince and the Painter

I nearly missed this year's summer exhibition in Salle Antoine 1er, and you will too if you don't hurry. Le prince et le peintre - Albert 1er et Louis Tinayre, une amitié a la découverte du monde (1904-1922) has been on since mid-July and ends 11 September. It contains several items normally on show in the Oceanographic Museum, as well as loans from the Palace Archives and various institutions around France.

Entry is free in the afternoons from 13:00 to 19:00.

The artist

Louis Tinayre's life (1861-1942) was one of upheaval and adventure.

Monday 22 August 2022

Christian Louboutin, L’Exhibition[niste], Chapitre II - Art or cobblers?

Make some time to see the Christian Louboutin exhibition before it closes on Sunday 28 August. I always find something interesting at the Grimaldi Forum summer shows, and this year is no different.

The official blurb calls it a "celebration of art through the wise and joyful eyes of contemporary designer Christian Louboutin". It's not just about the shoes then, plenty of which are on display. There are also examples of artworks that have inspired him, as well as collaborative projects with artists he admires.

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Helmut Newton: Amazonian women and Wild West gunfighters exposed in Monaco

Newton, Riviera Gallimard/NMNM 2022
An exhibition of Helmut Newton's work is on at Monaco's Villa Sauber (5) until 13 November 2022. Newton, Riviera features photos taken mostly on the French Riviera from the 1960s until the photographer's death in 2004. Some 280 images include fashion shoots, personal snaps and private commissions.

What the pundits say

Newton's work has been labelled kinky, perverted, and misogynist, but a better description may be ambivalent. A large part of his output is not at all provocative, and pretty much everyone agrees that he's had a major influence on fashion photography.

What Helmut said

If you know nothing about the man, go straight to the end of the exhibition and start with the film Helmut by June (1995) (3). Shot by his wife, aka Alice Springs, it runs on a loop and captures Newton at home and at work. Be aware it's 53 minutes but well worth it.

The footage reveals his meticulous direction. Newton explains his use of the 'gunfighter stance' which stems from seeing "Gary Cooper as a gunfighter in High Noon. The outline of [the] body... the little waist, the big shoulders". Whatever the pose, it looks like hard work for his models, whether clothed or not, and it must have been an advantage to be strong, the type of Amazonian woman Newton says he admires.

In addition to the movie several of his famous quotes are printed on the walls of the exhibition. They reflect his opinions as well as his sense of humour:

Some people’s photography is an art. Mine is not. If they happen to be exhibited in a gallery or a museum, that's fine. But that’s not why I do them. I’m a gun for hire. (he's very keen to deny his work is art)

I also like to take landscape pictures but I don't get any commissions.

I love the sunshine. We don’t see it in Paris any more. (allegedly what he told the Monegasque official in charge of processing his residency paperwork)

What I think

At a superficial level I enjoy spotting Monaco landmarks in the photos, but what strikes me most is the sense of humour and playfulness. Just look at his portrait at the exhibition entrance in which he wears a pair of high-heeled, sling-backed sandals (Helmut in Pumps, Monaco, 1987).

Irony features in the images too. Woman Examining Man, Calvin Klein, American Vogue, Saint-Tropez, 1975 shows a woman manspreading while ogling a man. French Vogue, Plage du Carlton Cannes, 1981 portrays a female flasher in a bathing costume, her victim staring unmoved into the distance.

A more startling image is Mummy in the Garage, Monte-Carlo, 2000, a woman totally covered with bandages apart from her breasts and her feet shod with six-inch stilettos. It's somewhat unnerving. If Newton had not been so vocal in rejecting his work as art I'd view it more dispassionately, with an eye for the detail, the care with which it's constructed. I wonder if it's really any different from something like Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, 1863 (2), or those pretty paintings of girls freeing birds from cages, which contemporary viewers considered erotic.

Two photos, Cigar Industry I and II, 1997, owned by a private collector, show women smoking cigars. I'm tempted to roll my eyes at the crude phallic imagery and resist the urge to snigger. Another voyeur might be turned on by it. What, then, if the model were a man relishing a big fat Toro?

By comparison Newton's portraits of the rich and famous look rather staid, like postcards a fan might purchase. Jude Law, Monaco, 2001 and Anthony Burgess, Monte-Carlo, 1985 are smoking. Bernardo Bertolucci, Cannes, 1996 clutches a curtain. Sylvester Stallone, Cap d'Antibes, Antibes, 1990 bizarrely wears a formal black dinner suit in the blazing sun.

Chris Roelandt et Gaetan Morlotti
A section is dedicated to photos of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. Male dancers Chris Roelandt et Gaetan Morlotti, Monte-Carlo, 1996 face off in front of Monaco's Salle Garnier. Their defined muscles and stance remind me of Olympic Discus Thrower by Leni Riefenstahl. Before escaping Germany in 1938 Newton was an apprentice photographer in Berlin and some of his images betray a 1930s aesthetic influence, as in one of my favourite photos of the exhibition, Nadja Auermann, Blumarine, Monaco, 1994. She poses with 'fräulein' blonde braids, gazing towards an optimistic horizon that she'll never reach wearing those six-inch stilettos. The way she holds her hands recalls the 'gunfighter stance' Newton mentions in his wife's film.

I don't agree with American writer Susan Sontag who told Newton in 1979, "Je ressens que vos photographies sont très misogynes et pour moi ça c'est des traits déplaisant" (1). Neither do I agree with Newton himself when he says his work is not art. Some images do provoke unease, but they invariably portray a sense of strength rather than submission. It may be a cliche, but in the case of Helmut Newton's work it's also a truism that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. Go see the exhibition and decide for yourself.

More stuff

  1. YouTube - Apostrophes: Helmut Newton à propos de son travail, French discussion, 8 Jun 1979, incl. Susan Sonntag
    • English translation of Sonntag's quote: "I feel that your photographs are very misogynist and for me these are unpleasant features"
  2. Wikipedia - Déjeuner sur l'Herbe
  3. YouTube - Helmut by June, in 5 parts:
  4. Helmut Newton Foundation
  5. Nouveau Musée National de Monaco

Thursday 30 June 2022

Junior Giscombe brings the groove to Monaco

Who would've thought that those of us who've qualified for a bus pass would be exchanging tips about music with generation-z-ers. The kids are now interested in artists from the 60s, 70s and 80s, since our music has been in the charts (Kate Bush), and our artists have played at Glastonbury (Paul McCartney and Diana Ross). In Monaco too Jeff Beck is opening Monte Carlo SBM's Summer Festival, 9 July.

Well, here's a tip for you, whether you're a millennial or a boomer or anything in between. Go and see Junior Giscombe, aka Junior of Mama Used to Say (1981) fame. Last weekend he was on stage for two nights only at Note Bleue,

Tuesday 24 July 2018

General Elektriks: back in Europe

It was hot on Friday night. The temperature didn't drop much below 27 degrees, even once the sun had dipped behind the hotels overlooking Jardin Albert Premier. A guy walked past wearing a black t-shirt that said "Johnny Fucking Marr", and I thought, "Me too, mate." (1)

But hotter still was the music. French band General Elektriks walked onto Massena Stage at 21:15 and didn't stop for 75 minutes. Led by Herve "RV" Salters, the five-star, five-man, multi-instrumentalist lineup was at Nice Jazz Festival to promote Carry No Ghosts, released in February this year. RV writes and records his funk-based music alone in the studio, but when he tours, he's surrounded by talent.

The band looked cool, everyone dressed in white, the only colour being provided by RV's red striped tie and the title of the opening number, Different Blue. Bassist Jessie Chaton channels the 70s with his wild affro and white silk scarf. Jordan Dalrymple, aka Antonionian, adds a touch of 80s with his white framed shades. Touski's Mohican punks up the vibraphone and drums, and Eric Starczan's virtuosity on the guitar needs absolutely nothing else.

The music ranged from the slow and easy Au Tir A La Carabine, through the catchy Raid the Radio to the early-80s-electronic sounding I Can't Relate, all underpinned by a driving, infectious funk beat. RV invited the audience to "sautez avec nous" in David Lynch Moments, and the jumping continued through a gritty-guitar cover of Soft Cell's Tainted Love. During Tu M'Intrigues, RV's torso was in danger of disconnecting entirely from his hips and legs, as he jumped, shuffled and swung whilst his hands slapped at the keys of his Hohner Clavinet. The set ended with Amour Uber Alles, its multi-lingual lyrics reflecting RV's French nationality, his lengthy sojourn in San Francisco, and his current home, Berlin.

General Elektriks is touring France until the end of 2018, with one gig in Belgium. Check out the dates on the band's website here: General Elektriks concerts. It would be cool to see them more often now they're back in Europe.

(1) The French phrase "J'en ai marre" means "I'm fed up".

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Beach or book? Both

It was an easy choice to make on a sunny Saturday afternoon on the Cote d'Azur. I could have gone to the beach, stretched out in the sun and read the next story in Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. Instead I sat in a cool back room at the Scotch Tea House to listen to a bunch of authors talk about their books. Bliss!

Meet The Authors (3 June 2017) was organized by Margo Lestz as a fringe event during Nice's Festival du Livre. Adrian Leeds directed the afternoon and ensured the seven writers passed the baton smoothly from one to the next. Most of the speakers used their knowledge of the South of France to write a variety of fiction, fact, and memoir.

Saturday 13 May 2017

Whatever happened to Depeche Mode?

I'd completely forgotten about Depeche Mode, and I didn't bother to refresh my memory because by the time I made enquiries about the gig at Nice's Stade Ehrmann it had sold out.

The Man wanted to see them. He said they were one of his favourite bands, and lucky for him, we got two tickets that were going spare because his mates' girlfriends decided they didn't want to go.

I wasn't sure I wanted to go either, so I did a bit of browsing to find out what the Essex band's top hits had been, and what their recent output was like. A YouTube search followed, to see if I recognized anything.

And the memories came flooding back…


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