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Editor’s letter


f, like I do, you come from a country of cold winters and warm summers, this time of year is the season of action, when everything is light and alive. Action can be both physical and mental, of course, and who is to say which is more important. We have no shortage of both types of action in Azerbaijan and in this issue of Baku magazine. My home country is proud to be hosting the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games (p72) this spring, which brings together athletes competing in some of the ultimate forms of human action and endeavour. A little later, in June, we are delighted to host the F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix (p98), which brings the world’s greatest drivers and their glamorous show to the city: as a type of action, watching an F1 car race down our famous Boulevard at close to 300km/h takes some beating. A very different form of action relates to something close to my heart. Endangered species of animals are dying out in the world at an alarming rate. I set up my campaign IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action) to provoke discussion about this, and recently have created a travelling art exhibition of endangered species to showcase what we need to do – we have taken the ‘Live Life’ show to London, Paris, Berlin and Moscow. All of these subjects are covered in this issue of the magazine, along with others such as the showpiece photographic essay on the beautiful and unique Old Town of Baku (p42), and on the mountains of Azerbaijan (p66); and my eye-opening eco-tour of three species-rich islands in the Indian Ocean (p80). I hope you enjoy the pages, and that you visit us in Baku very soon.


Leyla Aliyeva Editor-in-Chief

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The most adventurous holidays needn’t cost the Earth, as these stylish eco resorts prove.


Michelin-starred French cuisine meets traditional Azerbaijani fare at chef Akrame Benallal’s new Parisian venture, Shirvan.



Must-see events this summer, including a hat trick of couture exhibitions in Melbourne, Marrakech and New York.





104 DRIVING FORCE As a new F1 season begins, we go behind the scenes with Mercedes AMG to see if they can continue their winning streak.



A quiet Frenchwoman, a Young British Artist and a Polish ‘rock star’ curator are among this season’s people to watch.


How much?! Paddles at the ready for our pick of the top classic cars to buy for your collection.


Dead as a dodo? Think again. New advances in science could see the resurrection of extinct species.




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130 THE ILLUSTRATOR There’s a rumble in the jungle.


Anyone for karate, gymnastics or table tennis? This year’s Islamic Games in Baku has all this and more.

The islands of Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion are home to a mind-boggling array of flora and fauna.

129 PROFILE Jemma Iskender tells us why it’s a good time to be an entrepreneur in Baku, as she juggles PR, publishing and baking.

The awe-inspiring scenery of Shahdag National Park culminates in its soaring snow-capped peaks.


126 MY ART Colourful crystals and psychedelic paintings inform jeweller Noor Fares’ eclectic art collection.

In Russia, poetry is for the people as this ancient art form finds new expression among a young audience.


123 TIPPING THE SCALES What is over 200 million years old, produces fine caviar and is rapidly disappearing from our planet? Read up on the sturgeon.

A unique photographic portrait of Baku’s enigmatic Old Town.




Martin Roth is in hot pursuit of the new as he moves from the V&A in London to the Venice Biennale.



Five Baku-based artists invite us into their studios for an exclusive look at the creative process behind their work.




Does the fountain of youth exist? Try the Chenot Method, in the foothills of the Caucasus, to find out.

Jewellery designer or storyteller? Rasmina Gurbatova is both, with enamel creations inspired by her country’s heritage.


READY SET GO Insights from drivers and expert pundits bring you to the very heart of the action at this year’s F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Emerging designers from Russia, Georgia and Kazakhstan are rising through the fashion ranks with their playful, edgy energy.


FAIR PLAY The sports stars using their fame and fortune to help others.

Russian artist Anna Titova questions self-identity.



132 THE CIRCUIT People, places and parties around the world.


136 TABULA RASA German-born Leonie Mergen cites the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan as the inspiration behind her latest fashion collection.

COVER. The Old Town, Baku, photographed by DAVID EUSTACE.


Editor-in-Chief Editor-in-Chief, Condé Nast

Creative Director Managing Editor Deputy Editor/Chief Sub-Editor Associate Editor Editorial Co-ordinator Editor-at-Large Contributing Editors

Picture Editor Designer Production Controller

Deputy Editor, Russian Baku Magazine Director, Freud Communications Director, Media Land LLC in Baku/Advertising

Co-ordination in Baku

Deputy Managing Director President, Condé Nast International

Leyla Aliyeva Darius Sanai

Kate Law Maria Webster Abbie Vora Laura Archer Francesca Peak Simon de Pury Maryam Eisler Jarrett Gregory Dylan Jones Jean-David Malat Emin Mammadov Hervé Mikaeloff James Parry Harriet Quick Kenny Schachter Nick Hall Arijana Zeric Leonie Kellman

Tamilla Akhmedova Hannah Pawlby Khayyam Abdinov +994 50 286 8661; Matanet Bagieva

Albert Read Nicholas Coleridge

BAKU magazine has taken all reasonable efforts to trace the copyright owners of all works and images and obtain permissions for the works and images reproduced in this magazine. In the event that any of the untraceable copyright owners come forward after publication, BAKU magazine will endeavour to rectify the position accordingly. BAKU magazine is distributed globally by COMAG Specialist, Tavistock Works, Tavistock Road, West Drayton, Middlesex, UB7 7QX; tel +44 1895 433800. © 2017 The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, Vogue House, Hanover Square, London W1S 1JU, United Kingdom; tel +44 20 7499 9080; fax +44 20 7493 1469. Colour origination by CLX Europe Media Solutions Ltd. Printed by Pureprint Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited.


has exhibited his photography internationally, and in numerous publications. What’s your favourite insect? The scarab beetle. It is strong and legendary. Will humans destroy the planet? Yes, unless we stop making war. If you could, where would you start over? Either in Paris, right after the Second World War, or in New York City. What is the best sporting moment you’ve photographed (p72)? During the 2012 City Challenge race in Baku, one of the cars crashed immediately in front of me. Thrilling, but dangerous.


is a landscape and nature photographer, and has worked on several books and magazines. What’s your favourite insect? The Rosalia longicorn (rosalia alpina). Will humans destroy the planet? Maybe not the planet itself, but life on it. If you could, where would you start over? Dozens of countries are on my list, so ask me again when I’ve visited them all! How do the mountains of Azerbaijan inspire you (p66)? I feel very at home there. Even in summer they have snowcaps, but they’re surrounded by alpine meadows with rivers and clear-water springs. It’s beautiful.





became a photographer after a stint in the Royal Naval Reserve, and has shot the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and John Hurt. What’s your favourite insect? The Scottish Highland midge – a ‘fond and lovable rogue’, as it’s often known. Will humans destroy the planet? No, but their greed may do serious damage. If you could, where would you start over? I’ve no wish to start over, only to fulfil my hopes and dreams for the future. What surprised you most about Baku’s Old Town (p42)? How bold and fragile it is in equal measure.

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has been reporting on international sporting events for more than 10 years. What’s your favourite insect? I’m fascinated by the elegance of the butterfly. Will humans destroy the planet? Professor Stephen Hawking said it was a near-certainty, and who am I to argue with that? If you could, where would you start over? I’d start every day with cream-filled chocolate patisserie in Paris. What should we look out for at this year’s F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix (p98)? How the drivers navigate the narrow eighth turn in the wider and heavier 2017 cars.

lives and works in Baku, and favours a reportage style for her photography work. What’s your favourite insect? I’m afraid of insects, but I do love the dragonfly. Will humans destroy the planet? I think yes, but at the end of the day we will all die. If you could, where would you start over? After all the travelling I’ve done, my home town of Baku is still the place where I find my balance and inner harmony. How was it shooting Baku’s creative community (p116)? In a world of social networks, not everyone wants their photo taken. But a smile goes a long way!

is a wellness writer, whose work has taken her from Estonia to Java, and beyond. What’s your favourite insect? A bumble bee. Cross-pollination saves the world and days spent among flowers sounds lovely. Will humans destroy the planet? Yes. A lack of respect for nature is a lack of self-respect, and without nature we die. If you could, where would you start over? Above the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy. It feels like another world. What does wellness mean in 2017 (p112)? Ageing positively through lifestyle and science. Simply, wellness is happiness.



Illustration by VINCENT S


Top-notch eco credentials and luxurious digs go hand in hand at these world-class resorts.

green zone



1 Sadie Cove, Alaska, USA 4 Rincón del Socorro, Argentina Built from driftwood, this offRun by the Conservation Land grid lodge is set on a private Trust (a group of biologists and beach in an ancient forest, vets), this former cattle ranch is accessible only by plane or boat. known for the top work the CLT It runs on wind and hydro power is doing to preserve the area. and offers a peaceful retreat to Try a night safari, horse ride or observe eagles, otters and the laze by the pool. (no website) occasional whale.

2 Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica 5 Regua, Brazil Co-exist with the lush rainforest This simple but super comfortable in stylish tree houses and open eco lodge, 80km from Rio de bungalows with polished wood Janeiro, sits amid the endangered floors. Go white-water rafting on Atlantic rainforest. The Regua the pristine Pacuare River, then organization is dedicated to relax in a hammock or springreplanting it, and all income water pool on your private deck. from guests goes back into their restoration work. 3 Napo Wildlife Center, Ecuador To preserve the ecosystem, guests are transported in a canoe along the black waters of the Añangu, passing macaws, tapirs and jaguars, if you’re lucky, to thatched huts on the vast lake.

6 Wolwedans Boulders Safari Camp, Namibia With crisp white sheets, billowing mosquito nets and endless desert views, this camp, part of a collection, operates sustainably in the spectacular NamibRand Nature Reserve – a luxe base for a safari adventure.



7 Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa Architecturally organic, this five-star safari resort borders Kruger National Park. Each suite has a plunge pool and there are wooden sculptures by artist Geoffrey Armstrong dotted about. 8 Masoala Forest Lodge, Madagascar Constructed by local artisans, the lodge also serves as a cultural museum, boosting community spirit. Look out for birds, reptiles and lemurs from your tranquil ocean-view tree house.


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( maPPed out




8 9



10 Shirvan Eco Lodges, Azerbaijan Staff are on hand at these wood cabins to cook regional dishes with home-grown produce. Plus, trained guides will talk you through the flora and fauna in the surrounding national park.

9 Otentic, Mauritius 11 Forsyth’s Lodge, India 12 Song Saa, Cambodia Take a tech detox in one of the Near the Satpura Tiger Reserve, Ecological and cultural spacious canvas tents at the only in reclaimed jungle, are 12 conservation initiatives are eco camp on the island. Set in a eco-chic cottages. The main top priority for the foundation garden of palms, they each have lodge, made of rammed earth, behind this mind-blowing an ensuite made with salvaged offers mountain views from private-island resort. Thatched wood from old creole houses. its first-floor terrace and bar, villas fan out from the shore Explore the east coast by kayak, and a library devoted to Indian on stilts in the ocean, each paddle board or bike. wildlife. with its own pool.

13 Belka Hostel, Siberia, Russia Complete with a Russian banya (sauna), these solar-heated traditional wood cabins sit in a quiet cedar forest near breathtaking Lake Baikal – considered to be the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake.


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( cultuRe FIx




Where Zurab Tsereteli Art Gallery, Moscow, Russia What The conservation-themed exhibition finally lands in Moscow, after stints in London, Paris and Berlin. Featuring Azerbaijani artworks, such as Ghost by Fidan Novruzova (2017, above), together with pieces by Russian artists, it highlights the plight of endangered wildlife. Startling figures run alongside the dazzling works to sobering effect. 19 Baku.



Where National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia What To mark its 70th anniversary, the French couture house offers up a sumptuous historic exhibition (above, Dior models arrive in Australia in 1957). Iconic looks, from ball gowns to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s recent designs, will be on display.

Where Venice, Italy What ‘Under One Sun: The Art of Living Together’ is the title of Azerbaijan’s pavilion for the 2017 biennale (above), curated by Martin Roth, the former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. To reassess the meaning of co-existence, young artists have drawn inspiration from the many cultures and ethnic groups that make up the country, with works from such rising stars as Elvin Nabizade.

29 JUNE–21 OCTOBER UTAH SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Where Cedar City, Utah, USA What Utah and Shakespeare may seem an odd combination, but this is a true celebration of the Bard’s work (above, in 2016). The twist in this tale is that the classic plays feature alongside plays inspired by the great writer, plus some venues are open-air, for that authentic Globe Theatre

OPENING 3 OCTOBER 2017 MUSÉE YVES SAINT LAURENT Where Marrakech, Morocco What With more than 5,000 items of clothing, 15,000 haute-couture accessories and several thousand books and archive drawings, the collection of the legendary French couturier Yves Saint Laurent is just too big for one institution. Hence this 4,000sq m space in Morocco (below), a country that so inspired his work, is set to coincide with the launch of a sister museum in Paris. It includes a research library, plus a cafe and restaurant.




Where Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia What Garage recently opened up its atrium to artist commissions, inviting them to respond to the cavernous space. With a background in set design, Korina is the perfect candidate and this installation (above) is her biggest yet. Her immersive show incorporates building facades and ‘secrets’ to be discovered.

1 JULY–27 AUGUST LE VOYAGE A NANTES Where Nantes, France What Artists, gardeners, chefs and DJs bring to life the sixth edition of this cultural festival (above, in 2015). Follow the itinerary for a journey all over the Loire Valley city to discover public art, music in abandoned shipyards, or even a trail through lush vineyards.

Where The Met Museum, New York, USA What Kawakubo’s inimitable androgynous style (left) continues to be a game changer more than 30 years since her first Paris fashion show. With 150 womenswear garments on display, it examines the space between boundaries.

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Where Istanbul, Turkey What The fair returns for its 12th edition, touting a new collaboration with TabanliogluArchitects, a local firm which has overhauled the space. It also underpins an architectural theme for 2017, and brings together artists from Turkey, such as the Istanbul gallery Pi Artworks (above, 2016), and worldwide.



Where Serpentine Galleries, London, UK What The British national treasure is known for his wit and sharp social commentary, with works such as Death of a Working Hero (2016, below). This new show tackles current issues such as Brexit and Donald Trump.

( ( on the RAdAR

Portrait by Igor Klepnev

true identity From collage to sculpture, artist Anna Titova’s powerful works reflect a transient upbringing in Soviet Russia. Take note now, says Jarrett Gregory.

ne of my favourite games at the age of three was assembling imaginary worlds from buttons of different colours and shapes,” says Anna Titova, who grew up in 1980s Russia. “The precarious nature of my childhood, with little means and yet strict social commitment and order, affected me in many ways.” This can be seen in her work, as one of the most promising and fascinating young artists to watch. Recently on show at New York’s prestigious Armory Show, it is rich with references – from Dada and Surrealism, to social movements and institutional power – and delves into big subjects, such as the construction of personal identity, through the lens of feminism. Titova’s oeuvre, encompassing sculpture, installation, collage and photography, is at once powerful and slippery. Titova honed her methods in her early twenties, when, in 2007, she studied with the artist and professor Stanislav Shuripa at the Institute of Problems of Contemporary Art in Moscow – where she continues to live. As a child, she travelled a lot with her engineer parents, who met while working for the Baikal–Amur Mainline (BAM), an ambitious alternative to the Tran-Siberian Railway. The project terminated in 1984, the year she was born in Ulan-Ude near the Mongolian border, and her parents were assigned to work in different factories. As a result of witnessing the 1991 revolution, she says, “reality became a 3D collage; everything became a sign meaning something else. And art seemed to be the only medium to reflect it.” It’s a poignant reflection as the first Triennial of Russian Art at the Garage Museum in Moscow, in which Titova’s work was featured, closes. Jarrett Gregory is a curator at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC

Anna Titova at Artwin Gallery in Moscow, with her work Untitled (2016). Below: Identikit (2017).


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On the catwalk at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow, 2016.



nce up on a time, not so long ago, the only way to be taken seriously as a designer was to show your collection during New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks. Many other cities have tried to break into that calendar to showcase talent and show off cultural capital, but often to little avail. Now the tide is turning as retailers and powerhouse brands scout out talent in emerging markets, with Georgia, Russia, Copenhagen, Seoul and Istanbul high on the list. Why? Authentic voices and alternative visions are catnip in the current style landscape. Within that shift, the work of a generation of designers who grew up through the post-glasnost years in Russia and the former Soviet Republics has become a subject of fascination – difference being a big part of the

appeal. Ironically, it is the activity of expat talents that has helped raise their profile. Georgian-born Demna Gvasalia, the creative director of Balenciaga and co-founder of Vetements, has helped shine a spotlight on the region (his family fled the country during the civil war), as has fellow Georgian, Londonbased David Koma, who helms Mugler. In Moscow, Gosha Rubchinskiy has built a cult following for his streetwear brand produced in partnership with Comme des Garçons. These success stories have helped galvanize the ambition of future stars as well as the professionalism of emerging-market fashion weeks. There is no one look or style. Today’s under-the-radardesigners are as diverse in their imaginative scope as they are in their geographic locations and cultural heritage. “I wanted to mix Audrey Hepburn femininity with

bloc party

Emerging designers from former Soviet countries are subverting fashion stereotypes to usher in a new era of cool, says Harriet Quick.

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GRADUALLY A NEW LANDSCAPE HAS EMERGED, AESTHETICS THAT SET THEM APART FROM This page, top row: Ukraine Fashion Week, 2016. Aika Jaxybai (right) and (below) a look from her s/s 2017 collection.

1980s Mexican-wrestler style,” says St Petersburg-based designer Yury Pitenin. The 27-year-old can already count Lady Gaga and Rita Ora as fans. They are drawn to his playfully subversive fusion of East and West aesthetics that stems from his upbringing in St Petersburg and his teenage years in Tokyo – his label, accordingly, is called Saint Tokyo. For summer, highlights include ‘cookie cutter’ gingham shirt dresses with rose and star embellishments; ‘wrestler’ studded silver leathers; and bespangled animal-print chiffon slips that are both sweet and fierce at once. The label is three-and-a-half years old and the energetic, boyish Pitenin runs the business from a studio in St Petersburg, where he now employs five people. “I discovered I loved making clothes when I was seven years old,” he says. “It became my hobby.But it was not until my family moved to Tokyo that I became aware that fashion could actually offer a viable career. In Russia at that

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time, being a fashion designer was not deemed realistic or acceptable.” Pitenin studied for a master’s degree in fashion at St Petersburg University before plucking up the courage and funds to launch his own label. His debut featured robot transformer prints on prom-girl dresses inspired by the work of American comic book illustrator Bob Budiansky. “I’m proud of the energy here and I love the feeling that I am part of something,” says the designer, who now has retailers in Russia, Switzerland and London. “The industry is young but it is growing fast.” In the late 1990s, following the euphoria of the post-glasnost years and the dramatic crash of the rouble, the picture for young entrepreneurs was dire. It was hard to set up business and find quality manufacturers, and the import duties on luxury Italian and French fabric remain high. Yet gradually a new landscape has emerged, populated by highly trained designers with distinct aesthetics that set them apart from their European and American counterparts. The vision might be as diverse as Saint Tokyo’s hybrid popstyle, the lyrical artisanship of Kazakh designer Aika Jaxybai, or the screen goddess elegance of Georgia’s Datuna Sulikashvili. But what they share is talent, drive and an empowered view of women. Sulikashvili, who counts the First Lady of Georgia as a client, is a shining example. “During the last four years, my business has grown significantly,” he says. “Interest from the press, buyers from different stores and stylists has been increasing.” As with Pitenin, the urge to create struck young. “I have been attracted to clothes since early childhood,” he recalls. “I always had a conflict with my parents because I was destroying

my mother’s and grandmother’s clothes and remaking them the way I saw them. I was so young when I fell in love with fashion that I don’t even remember what the trigger was.” At 46, Aika Jaxybai has witnessed the change in the political and social climate. “I was born and grew up in Kazakhstan during the Soviet period. My father was a construction engineer and my mother a teacher of Kazakh language and literature,” she says. “We didn’t have much fashion, so to speak, at that time. But my mother was always interested in style and making clothes, as was my grandmother, and she always looked the best dressed in her school and university pictures. My sense of fashion and beauty came from my mother and probably from the desire to be individual.” From these early experimentations, these designers have found a unique sensibility. Sulikashvili has become known for languid tailoring, sensual gowns in silks and velvets infused with a sense of smoky drama in the noble silhouettes, and flourishes such as floor-sweeping tasselled scarves. “I do not usually take fashion trends into consideration,” he notes. “The woman I create for doesn’t change too much from season to season. I think that today’s fashion needs beautiful shapes and flowing lines – the client wants to remain womanly.” One could easily see his clothes sitting next to The Row, Dries Van Noten or Lanvin in a wardrobe. In Tbilisi, there are also evocative locales to wear those clothes, like the eclectic Rooms Hotel and an ever-growingnumber of artsy restaurants and hangouts. A nascent scene is rapidly emerging and there is a rich cultural history to draw on in interior design, art, fashion and accessories (particularly silver and enamel jewellery) as well. Alongside


POPULATED BY HIGHLY TRAINED DESIGNERS WITH DISTINCT THEIR EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN COUNTERPARTS. Sulikashvili, labels including the colourful, girly Tata Naka, the knitwear brand Lalo, and Atelier Kikala are all enjoying commercial success. A good cross-section can be found on Georgia-based online store,and also through The buzz has been boosted by social media and, crucially, fledgling fashion weeks that offer credible platforms and a keen audience of international buyers and press. Mercedes-Benz sponsors showcases in Moscow, Tbilisi, Kiev and Almaty. The traditional fashion weeks in these locales cater more to the respective domestic markets. “We try and make fashion week more and more professional each season and we work with designers the whole year round. The most important thing is for them to sell globally and grow a real business,” says Sofia Tchkonia, the founder and creative director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, where Russian and former Soviet Republic designers are also invited to show as guests. “We need to create production and commercial centres in Georgia to help designers. Involvementfrom the government and from big companies will help put Georgia on the map.” It is by no means easy getting a business off the ground. Aika Jaxybai paints a similar picture of the industry in Kazakhstan. “We have to work with almost 100 per cent imported fabrics and haberdashery goods such as zippers, buttons, ribbons and threads,” she says. “This, together with high labour costs [due to the oil and gas dependency of the economy], causes substantial production costs. The domestic market is quite small (the country has 17 million inhabitants) so Kazakh designers must look to international markets.”

This page, top row: backstage at fashion weeks last year in Kiev and Tbilisi. Left: Saint Tokyo’s show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, 2016. Below: Yury Pitenin takes a bow after the Saint Tokyo s/s 2017 presentation in Moscow.

One of the key attractions to these designers is how they parlay local traditions, idioms and craftsmanship into luxury fashion. Jaxybai is evangelical in her mission under her label Aika Alemi (Alemi meaning world). “I always wondered how to use traditional Kazakh techniques to create clothing,” she says. “One method is felt on silk – we use hot water and soap. The fibres of the silk and wool intertwine and amalgamate, and then they become one, while the wool sits on the silk in certain shapes. Usually we use authentic Kazakh motifs. “I love hand-stitching and using detailed artisan techniques. Traditional Kazakh crafts are still largely unknown to the rest of the world and I want to show how deep, wise and beautiful our history and traditions are,” she adds. Jaxybai came to fashion after a career in the corporate business

world and training as a filmmaker and visual artist in the US. Her light-bulb moment came in New York when a woman bought a cardigan off her back for $250. She has now made seven collections. “I work with a lot of craftswomen in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, and we all love the challenge of creating luxury from the place where it is least expected,” she says. “In this day and age of mass production I strive to create pieces that have a lot to say and that will last for generations. Something that will capture the world that is disappearing.” This sentiment is expressed in her emotive yet sophisticated clothes that are rich with organic textures and handcrafted embellishment. The work of these designers has a new relevance in the landscape of style. These are clothes with a provenance, a design rigour and a beautiful multilayered story to tell.


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movers and shakers

3 Documenta 14 The prestigious German art extravaganza reaches new shores.

It’s summer in the city and the cultural mercury is rising. Anna WallaceThompson rounds up the people, places and events setting our imaginations alight over the coming months.

For the past seven decades, the Documenta exhibition has maintained its position in the pantheon of the art calendar’s hottest events. Its curators have included celebrated figures such as Massimiliano Gioni and Catherine David, and the project, which is held only once every five years, will tackle subjects such as nationalism and the Syrian conflict. The Polish ‘rock star’ curator Adam Szymczyk (above) has taken the helm for Documenta 14, and his reputation for championing unknown ‘disruptive’ artists and producing big surprises in his curations has ensured an eager audience for the 100-day event. For the first time, it’s taking place across two cities – Athens (until 16 July) and Documenta’s home of Kassel, Germany (from 10 June until 17 September), in the hope of creating a mutually beneficial dialogue between the voices of north and south.

Christine Macel The French curator celebrating diversity as well as a renewed focus on the artist. As chief curator at the Pompidou Centre in Paris since 2000, Christine Macel is already a name. But when she was announced as the curator of the Venice Biennale 2017 (main image, this page), global attention was refocused on the quiet Frenchwoman (below), who in the past two years alone has curated in Palermo, Dublin, Munich and New York. Her selection for this year’s show, ‘Viva Arte Viva’, sees a focus on female and non-Western artists. As Macel says, this show was “designed with the artists, by the artists and for the artists” – something of a contrast to Okwui Enwezor’s powerful yet often doom-and-gloom show two years ago.


2 Mat Collishaw The ever-relevant British artist blurring boundaries between reality and illusion. The Young British Artist remains at the forefront of the weird and wonderful, with his probing mix of saturated glamour sitting alongside the seedy, the morbid and the mesmerizing. This year he’s been examining the often too-trusted world of photography with two new projects in London. In ‘Thresholds’, at Somerset House, he recreated the world’s first photography exhibition from 1839 as a life-sized virtual reality space. This coincided with ‘The Centrifugal Soul’ (above) at Blain Southern gallery, in which, as well as a strobed installation of feeding birds of paradise – embodying our desire to place the visual above all else – he used “technology that appears photographic but is totally un-photographic” in a 7m-wide holograph of an ancient oak tree.

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( who, what, where




Yarat The contemporary art space bringing world-class artists to Azerbaijan as well as championing local talent. A non-profit initiative founded by artist Aida Mahmudova (above), Yarat has been flying the flag for Azerbaijani art since 2011. It has hosted regular residencies, and its exhibition and education programme fosters local talent, for whom it also promotes dialogue with global artists. Yarat has made a splash abroad with significant events such as ‘The Union of Fire and Water’ at the 2015 Venice Biennale, as well as at home with a show by Colombian superstar Oscar Murillo. Now on at Baku’s bayside Yarat Contemporary Art Centre (main image) until October is ‘Suns and Neons Above Kazakhstan’, displaying seminal Kazakh works from the 1990s and early 2000s, plus new pieces by emerging artists.

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath This curatorial duo is reinventing the art of the show. The two halves that comprise the curatorial and academic partnership Art Reoriented are certainly in demand. Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath (below) burst on to the scene with ‘Iran Inside Out’ at the Chelsea Art Museum, New York, in 2009. The past year has seen their exhibition on Egyptian Surrealists, ‘Art et Liberté’, tour Paris and Madrid; and now Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf (July to October) and Tate Liverpool (November to March 2018). They were named co-chairs of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation and recently guest-curated Art Dubai – and are due to return for its 2018 edition.


Garage Museum of Contemporary Art Commemorating the Russian Revolution through insurgent works.


As it nears its 10th anniversary, Moscow’s cutting-edge Garage Museum launched the Triennial of Russian Art in March, marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and featuring works such as Voroshilov Street (2013) by Kirill Garshin (right). Garage exerts a powerful influence with its largescale exhibitions, such as this year’s ‘Your Age and My Age and the Age of the Rainbow’ by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. This summer, Russian artist Irina Korina’s ‘The Tail Wags the Comet’ (until 6 August) is a three-storey architectural installation, placing facades and disorientating trails in the atrium to carry viewers into new worlds.


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This page, from left: an engraving after the author Edward Lear’s illustration of the passenger pigeon from 1835; Martha, the last of the species, who died in 1914.



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eptember 1914: the bird keeper at Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, US, passes a cage and notices that Martha, a passenger pigeon, has fallen off her perch. She’s lying on the floor, dead. Not a huge surprise, as Martha was 29 years old – a grand age for a bird. But Martha was the last survivor of her species. With her demise, Ectopistes migratorius became extinct. Passenger pigeons formerly roamed across much of North America in flocks of many millions, blocking out the sun as they flew and alighting on trees in such numbers that their weight brought down swathes of forest. Once the most numerous bird on the continent, it was subject to uncontrolled hunting with nets and guns by the late 19th century, and destruction of its habitat had reduced the population to a few scattered individuals. A few decades later the bird was extinct. But in the near future, the seemingly inescapable fact that the passenger pigeon had disappeared forever with the death of Martha may be turned on its head. Advances in genome technology and DNA manipulation are opening up theoretical possibilities, including the mind-boggling return of species thought to be irretrievably lost. Think dodo, woolly mammoth, Tasmanian tiger and Madagascan elephant bird. The race to achieve ‘de-extinction’ has begun. Genetic scientists have been involved in saving endangered






Dead as a dodo? Not for much longer, if cutting-edge genetic engineering has its way. James Parry reports on how extinct animals may be about to make a comeback. flora and fauna for decades. But their focus has usually been on selective breeding to promote the characteristics or features of a particular species considered to be worth continuing. With horses, this has been carried out for centuries to ensure the development of qualities such as endurance, strength and temperament. Through techniques such as the sequencing of the horse genome (the complete set of equine genes), science has bolstered this tradition to protect the bloodlines of endangered breeds, such as the Karabakh horse in Azerbaijan. “The Karabakh has retained many of its original genes,” says horse expert Doris Lütz, an adviser on the 2016 film Sarylar – A Journey to the Karabakh Horse, which traced the history and qualities of the breed. “Without careful selective breeding, these could be diluted and the genetic purity of the Karabakh compromised or lost entirely. Science is an essential part of this process.” Selective breeding can only go so far, though. Sometimes a creature is in such dire straits that a much more radical approach is called for. Take the northern white rhino. Wiped out in the wild by poachers, this subspecies survives only in the form of three captive individuals, living under 24-hour armed guard on a ranch in Kenya. The lone veteran male, called Sudan, is 43 years old and no longer able to mate with his two female companions, Fatu and Najin. He has a low sperm count

anyway, and it’s not clear if Fatu and Najin can conceive naturally. Without human intervention, the northern white rhino is doomed. Stem cell specialists, who have grown mice from simple skin cells, are now looking to harvest natural gametes from this last-chance threesome and multiply them alongside stem cells to create viable embryos. These could then be implanted in a surrogate southern white rhino, the northern rhino’s closest relative. No one knows for sure if this will work, but a lot of time, effort and money are being spent trying to ensure that the northern white rhino doesn’t go the way of the dodo. Yet now it seems that not even the dodo is necessarily past the point of no return. Conservationists are actively discussing the possibility of ‘de-extinction’, recreating lost species through techniques such as cloning. Also dubbed ‘resurrection biology’, the approach marries salvaged fragments of DNA from the vanished creatures with live cells taken from closely related living species and tries to create new organisms resembling the extinct ancestor. It is a difficult process. Forget Jurassic Park boffins extracting DNA from mosquitoes ‘frozen’ for millions of years in bits of amber. DNA decays rapidly and so finding viable genetic material in something that is centuries-dead is a needle-in-haystack affair at best. About 10,000 years ago, humans co-existed with mammoths. Many of

This page, clockwise from top: the last woolly mammoths died out about 4,000 years ago; a boy holds an extinct elephant bird egg; the enormous creature reached up to 3m in height; passenger pigeon feathers, up close.

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“THE CHANCES OF FINDING MAMMOTH SAMPLES WITH ENOUGH SUFFICIENTLY INTACT DNA FOR SUCCESSFUL CLONING ARE EXCEEDINGLY REMOTE.” these goliaths, long extinct, lived on the Siberian taiga, where scientists are now rushing to salvage mammoth material in an audacious attempt to recreate the modern elephant’s woolly ancestor. Every summer, a research partnership between China, Russia and South Korea sends teams to remote areas to retrieve samples of mammoth DNA from carcasses frozen in the permafrost. Cloning a mammoth, or any extinct creature, requires finding viable cells with a complete, intact genome. A potential “Eureka!” moment came in May 2013, when a pair of mammoth tusks was found protruding from a slab of melting ice. They proved to be attached to an exceptionally well-preserved specimen, nicknamed ‘Buttercup’, which, when first dislodged from the permafrost, was actually oozing blood. There was hope that Buttercup would retain some living cells, but when extracted blood was examined, the cells were no longer intact. An autopsy was carried out as the carcass slowly defrosted and revealed that Buttercup had died 40,000 years ago, eaten alive by wolves after getting stuck in a peat bog. “The chances of finding mammoth samples with enough sufficiently intact DNA for successful cloning are exceedingly remote,” says Professor Love Dalén, an expert on evolutionary genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Dalén believes that it’s more productive

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to focus on identifying the genetic differences between mammoths and their nearest living relation, the Asian elephant. Together with teams from Harvard Medical School in the US and McMaster University in Canada, Dalén and his researchers have mapped the first complete genome of a mammoth, opening up the prospect of a future cut-and-paste exercise to help create ‘mammoth’ embryos using stem cell genomes from an elephant. The end product remains the subject of speculation, however. “It could just be a hairy elephant,” admits Dalén. Similar issues loom large in the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback project, a central plank in a ‘deextinction’ programme called Revive & Restore, funded by the non-profit San Francisco-based The Long Now Foundation. By comparing fragments of passenger pigeon DNA with the genome of its closest living relative, the band-tailed pigeon, Dr Ben Novak and his team are hoping to assemble a genetic approximation of an actual passenger pigeon. “Our projected goal is to have some form of passenger pigeon by 2022,” he enthuses. “The bird we create will hopefully be a bird that looks and acts like a passenger pigeon, but at a genetic level it’s a band-tailed pigeon that’s been adapted into being a passenger pigeon.” Perhaps not quite the real thing, then? De-extinction is nothing if not controversial. Critics argue it’s little more than headline-grabbing

From far left: a Karabakh horse; the last Tasmanian tigers, in 1933; the striped tiger pelt.

sensationalism that diverts precious resources and can provide excuses for habitats to be destroyed on the basis that the creatures there can be ‘recreated’ elsewhere. Professor Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University in the US, has railed against the whole de-extinction concept. “Conservation is about the ecosystems that species define and on which they depend,” he said. “[It’s] about finding alternative, sustainable futures for people, for forests and for wetlands. Molecular gimmickry simply does not address these core problems. At worst, it seduces granting agencies and university deans into thinking they are saving the world [and] it distracts us from guaranteeing our planet’s biodiversity for future generations.” Professor Dalén sees profound ethical issues, as well. “Impregnating Asian elephants with manufactured

“IMPREGNATING ASIAN ELEPHANTS WITH MANUFACTURED EMBRYOS IS FRAUGHT WITH RISK… THEY’RE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES, SO I DON’T THINK WE SHOULD DO IT.” embryos is fraught with risk, not least for the elephants,” he explains. “The rate of rejection and complications would be high, and the surrogates might suffer in the process. They’re an endangered species, so I just don’t think we should do it.” Yet with up to 40 per cent of the world’s living species estimated to be at serious risk of disappearing by the year 2050 as a result of global warming, habitat loss and other human activities, the support of geneticists is likely to prove invaluable in helping species survive. “Stem cell research on mammoths and other extinct animals could have really useful wider benefits,” says

Dalén, “both for endangered wildlife and humans as well.” Some de-extinction techniques will likely end up in the toolbox of conservation science, and may also inform the wider debate. “The real point of de-extinction as an emerging field beyond mammoths and passenger pigeons is this notion of revolutionizing conservation,” stresses Dr Novak. “Conservation has done 40 years of save the pandas, save the rhinos. It’s been a lot of doom and gloom, with not much emphasis on, ‘Here’s a problem, how do we solve it?’ What we are trying to bring to the floor are solutions to new challenges.”




Clockwise from above: Sudan, the last male northern white rhino; guards in Kenya with another of the three surviving rhinos of this species; a mammoth tusk at the Swedish Museum of Natural History; a woolly mammoth skeleton; a preserved Tasmanian tiger pup, whose DNA may help bring back the species.

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( Sketches ( Photography by Natavan Vahabova

the new heirlooms

For designer Rasmina Gurbatova, jewellery is a medium through which Azerbaijan’s rich history and culture can be shared with the world, says Lauren Cochrane.

asmina Gurbatova is a bundle of contradictions. She’s the founder and designer of Azerbaijani jewellery brand Resm, but barely wears any jewellery. She has a finance background but refuses to tailor her creations for commercial gain. She’s a talented musician who plays only at private parties. And she is, by her own admission, “not a very organized person”, who manages a team of seven, moving between meetings, research and making jewellery, while caring for two young daughters. It was Gurbatova’s perpetually long to-do list that helped her realize

where her vocation lay. While she now works in jewellery, it isn’t her passion as such – you might even call her a reluctant jeweller. What really makes her light up is the rich history of her country, and telling the stories, legends, traditions and tales that make Azerbaijan what it is today. “Back then, we didn’t have souvenirs to tell the story of our culture,” she explains. “So my idea was to translate national ornaments into new mediums. I’d previously thought I might use textiles, but one day I designed a pendant based on the border of an Ajima carpet. I knew

Rasmina Gurbatova (above) wears her own designs: ‘Karabakh Kilimi’ earrings, named after the 11thcentury carpets, and a ‘Mughan’ bracelet.

then that enamel was perfect. Resm means ‘picture’ in our language, and the concept was for jewellery that would convey something,” she says. The idea didn’t come out of the blue. Gurbatova’s father is a jeweller and he helped her create that first piece. While she had previously shown little desire to follow in his footsteps, the stars aligned when she saw the grass-green and claret enamel pendant. “When I’d finished my first item at the workshop, I realized just how cool it was going to be,” she says. Gurbatova was working at the World Bank in Baku when she set

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“MY CUSTOMERS APPRECIATE ART AND LOVE THAT SYNERGY OF BEAUTY INSPIRED BY HERITAGE. THEY ARE BEARERS OF CULTURE WHO WEAR THE JEWELLERY AND TELL THE STORY.” up the brand in 2011. “Back then, I was working at the bank full time, and then from 6pm until late I was developing my products,” she says. “My family were so supportive.” The leap-of-faith moment came when she had to turn down a promotion at the bank in order to pursue this new departure. Gurbatova’s father was unsure at the time. “He knows how hard the jewellery industry is and thought, ‘Why do you want to do that when you have a really great job?’” she says. And now? “Now he’s very pleased,” she adds, laughing. Using ancient symbols, exquisite, tiny scenes are played out on rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants. Recent collections have been based on the carpets of the region and the Gobustan rock petroglyphs from the 12th century BCE. Each piece comes with a certificate telling the story of the motif. A red and white pattern on rings and earrings is related to the Kufic script of the 8th century; a design of two lions on a pendant was inspired by the carvings on the gates of the Old Town in Baku; and triangular-shaped earrings are fashioned after the ‘muska’ amulet, which has magical powers. Gurbatova is the middle daughter of three sisters, and married her husband, who works in government, in her early twenties. With two daughters – 12 and six – her work-life routine has to balance: “My studio is at home and I have an office, but I draw pretty much everywhere, as long as I have my crayons and a piece of paper.” Azerbaijani jewellery tends towards diamonds and gold, so Gurbatova’s hand-finished enamel pieces – with gems such as rubies, amethysts and citrine – stand out, and provide a modern choice for younger clients. “My style is something different.” Gurbatova “designs on inspiration” and so releases collections throughout the year. The forthcoming range, out in September, features dragons. Often associated with Chinese culture, they are present in Gurbatova’s heritage, too. “In the 15th to 18th century there were dragons in Azerbaijani carpets,” she explains. “There is much more to our history, aesthetically speaking, than meets the eye.” Popular motifs include the ‘buta’, a plant-like shape said to bring long life, and the pomegranate, a symbol of fertility. ‘Fantastic Birds’, a cage design using motifs that give its wearer protection, is a bestseller for weddings because it “symbolizes immortality and a long life,” Gurbatova says. “My customers

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appreciate art and love that synergy of beauty inspired by heritage.” Gurbatova’s fresh perspective is her strength. “I never looked at bigger brands for inspiration before and I deliberately don’t now,” she says, adding that Resm’s different approach comes from taking something out of context. “When I take an ornament, such as a carpet, and detach it from its traditional setting, it looks like something else,” she says. Perhaps this individualism explains her effect on the local fashion and art scene. Her store in Baku has been visited by those looking to set up their own businesses. “They told me they were inspired by my story; I am always really happy to hear that,” she says. While Gurbatova sees her mission primarily to teach Azerbaijani history through jewellery, the idea also has international reach. “Our audience are bearers of culture who wear the jewellery and tell the story,” she says, “but foreigners will also appreciate the beauty and cultural elements.” The brand has exhibited in Dubai and Paris, as well as BaselWorld – the annual international jewellery and watch fair – in March 2016, which demonstrates how bright Resm’s future is. “We were the first Azerbaijani brand represented there,” says Gurbatova, “and were surprised at the level of attention and feedback given.” A concept store abroad is now on her bucket list. Before she can do this, however, Gurbatova needs to consider how to grow her brand. “I currently design most of it but I’m getting requests from business people and other designers who want to join me,” she says. “I have to think about that. I want to be successful but also keep it unique.” This includes making choices that might raise the eyebrows of any potential financial partner. “When I do sets [bracelets, necklaces and earrings in the same design] it’s more popular with customers, but I don’t always want to do that with a particular motif because it can look artificial,” she says. It’s plain that Gurbatova has built her brand exactly how she wants it – and that she wants it to stay that way. Gurbatova’s single-minded creativity is what has taken Resm to where it is today. The designer says her greatest satisfaction comes from enabling her customers to give something precious – and lasting – to their loved ones. “People put meaning into jewellery,” she says. “It is not like a dress; it lasts forever, and will get handed down, too. It makes me happy to provide that for people.”


Clockwise, from right: Necklaces with ‘Bashmag’ shoe pendants; the ‘Kochak’ pattern on these rings symbolizes protection; this ‘Kilim’ design is inspired by the rugs; a ‘Pomegranate’ brooch; and ‘Findighan’ rings.

A NEW WORLD ORDER From the V&A to Venice, Martin Roth is no stranger to the big stage. But for this year’s Biennale, he’s focusing on undiscovered talent and emerging markets in a reinvigorated search for what’s new in art. Words by FRANCESCA GAVIN


am standing outside an art-deco villa on the edges of southwest Berlin. The area exudes a kind of serenity that feels a perfect place to step away from the intensity of the creative world and think. This is where Dr Martin Roth has returned to after years overseeing some of the world’s largest and most broadly conceived museums – from Dresden’s German Hygiene Museums to the Victoria and Albert in London. He is now no longer at the helm of a giant ship, and is rethinking his next moves. His first project is co-curating the Azerbaijan pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Dr Roth – a slim, well-dressed, sharply intelligent gentleman in his early sixties – has a long-running connection to Baku and Azerbaijan. “It’s a very long story, but I’ll try to make it short,” he begins over tea and apple cake at his dining-table. He had long been interested in

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the contemporary art from former communist countries, reflecting his own experience of a changing German landscape in the 1980s and 1990s. “I was really interested in what would happen in all those countries after the political change,” he continues. “I learnt that contemporary art was quite active in Baku. I went there and met the curator Leyla Akhundzadeh. She was just brilliant. A lot of energy, extremely solid, reliable. She had created a show of contemporary art from Azerbaijan in Dresden in 2008. Normally with those shows, people aren’t really interested. But not with that exhibition – a lot of people came. Honestly, it was a surprise. A few years later, she had a horrible car accident and was killed. That was my first contact [with Azerbaijan]. You could even call it a kind of emotional contact,” he muses. He first travelled to Baku in the early 1990s after becoming aware


As director of the V&A, Martin Roth (left) oversaw blockbuster exhibitions including the recordbreaking ‘David Bowie Is’ (opposite, left) in 2013. This summer he will be in Venice (opposite) curating the Azerbaijan Pavilion, featuring digital works by Hypnotica (above and below).

of the country’s creative output. “It was still a dusty place – beautiful but dusty. I came back six or seven years ago, and that was a surprise. Zaha Hadid’s building was an eye-opener to the architecture, culture and contemporary art there. They created an atmosphere for new ideas.” Last year, Roth was approached by curator, gallerist and old friend Emin Mammadov, who had also lived in Berlin since the early 1990s, to co-curate Azerbaijan’s pavilion at Venice. “Being a museum director for I don’t know how many years, I hadn’t created a show for a very long time,” Roth points out. What drew him to the project was the idea of working in a group to discover new artists from the region. “The original idea was to use an archive of photography from different parts of the country. Azerbaijan combines of a lot of different ethnic groups, different social backgrounds. There are a


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“AZERBAIJAN COMBINES A LOT OF DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS, LANGUAGES AND SOCIAL BACKGROUNDS. DESPITE THESE DIFFERENCES, THE COUNTRY LIVES TOGETHER IN PEACE.” lot of different languages, different alphabets.” His aim was to explore ways of representing how that breadth of cultural background and experience has co-existed together for centuries. “Despite different religious, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, people there continue to live together peacefully.Why don’t we show it?” The exhibition provides an interesting contrast to the rising nationalism in much of the world. But it’s not a political statement against nationalism; instead it’s a positive example of how people live together. Rather than invite the same big names that always show on the art circuit, Roth used the biennale as an opportunity to search for the new: “That was the original idea of Venice. Where are the really new ideas?” The result is a two-floor show at the Palazzo Lezze in Campo Santo Stefano entitled ‘Under One Sun. The Art of Living Together’. The projects, by two artists, began from photographic archives of Azerbaijan, and recorded statements in the different languages of the country. Sound, light, projection, and the moving image are all part of the immersive installations on show by artists Elvin Nabizade and Hypnotica, also known as Javid Guliyev. Guliyev

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Clockwise from top left: Martin Roth; images from ‘Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains’ at the V&A; the German pavilion at EXPO 2000; a David Bowie costume at the V&A; the sculpture gallery at the V&A; the German Hygiene Museum.


comes from an architectural and design background, and his works have included video performances and projection mapping pieces. Nabizade, in comparison, was born in Georgia and studied in Azerbaijan, focusing on sculpture and installation. Roth did not want the digital elements in their work to be used flippantly. Instead, it was a medium to create a reaction in people. One memorable work involves people walking and losing elements of their identity to those around them. “It’s a very symbolic method to explain what it means if you are confronted with a different culture. It’s not about education and explaining to somebody what they have to do, but showing examples,” Roth enthuses. That experiential element seems to embody the entire approach to the pavilion. Here, the senses become a powerful and central mode of communication. The pavilion is being put together by a small, dedicated team of about six people. This is an interesting contrast to Roth’s past experience as director of major museums, with hundreds of people under his influence. The museums Roth has worked at have not focused on contemporary art. Instead, he comes from a broader background. He worked as a curator at the German History Museum, before directing the largest science museum in Germany and overseeing various applied art and design museums in Dresden. He was director of thematic exhibitions at Expo 2000. “The Science Museum and the German Hygiene Museum were my babies. That’s why I started to work in museums,” he explains. “In the 1920s, there was this idea of a new community, a new audience, this Weimar Republic democracy, and then the Nazis came and turned it around to the exact opposite. So I was always interested in the museum. I’m not an artist. My background is sociology and anthropology.”Roth’s strategy? Do not do what people expect. When the V&A asked him to take over,he couldn’t refuse. “I was the first non-British citizen to run a national museum – and on top of it, German! That was incredible.” He opened up the space to an audience beyond the norm, commissioning exhibitions that fed into wider areas of popular culture, such as the ones devoted to David Bowie or Pink Floyd. The former broke V&A visitor records. “The social component combined with arts and culture was always my driving force,” Roth says, insisting his success was due to having a good team and taking risks. When the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, Roth became an accidental hero for Europe. He quit the V&A, partially blaming Brexit, and in doing so made international headlines. The broad, public reaction

“IT’S A VERY SYMBOLIC METHOD TO EXPLAIN WHAT IT MEANS IF YOU ARE CONFRONTED WITH A DIFFERENT CULTURE. IT’S NOT ABOUT EXPLAINING TO SOMEBODY WHAT THEY HAVE TO DO, BUT SHOWING EXAMPLES.” to his departure was a surprise. “I didn’t expect that at all. I really believe in – it sounds pretty naïve today – but I believe in Europe. I believe in non-nationalism. I believe in languages. I really remember the Cold War – difficult moments, atomic weapons being installed here in Europe and by the Russians. I met my first Russian when I was 25 or 26 – before that I’d never seen a Russian person. I don’t want us to go back to that. And I will do everything I can.” Hiring a German to run a very British national museum felt to Roth like a European impulse. Brexit was the opposite. “I said, OK, this is not me,” he says. “I can’t be in public working for the government and at the same time criticizing the government. It’s just honest to leave.” Roth is still being regularly interviewed about his Brexit views, but he notes this was not the only reason he left the V&A: he was ready for new things. He has continued to work on a number of boards in Dubai and Germany. He is on the Board of the Goethe-Institut. He was also on the Board of the British Council, though his tenure is ending soon. “Now I’ve got quite a lot of offers for curating shows. I haven’t thought about it, but I really enjoy it.” Do not expect Roth to become the next super curator name to drop. He is all about collaboration and bringing people together, rather than showcasing his own ideas. And he has been focusing on the future of the museum. Rather than permanent collections, temporary exhibitions and international blockbuster shows, Roth sees a future where the connectedness and a personal relationship to objects can lead to new forms of knowledge and discovery. Where a digital network can enable objects within museum collections to communicate between each other directly to create new ways to access objects and learn. “Years ago we would have said we don’t have enough capacity. It’s completely different now – we can do everything. You have a totally accessible collection,” he explains passionately.Roth sees a future of discovery and access – for academics, businesses and simple enthusiasts. Under it all is a reinvestment in the emotional, human aspect of seeing things around us.


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Many cities have them – remnants of an old walled town harking back to its medieval past. But few are as enigmatic as Icheri Sheher in Baku. A Unesco heritage site, the Old Town dates back well beyond the 12th century, with its iconic, mysterious Maiden Tower and commanding Shirvanshah’s Palace. We asked the celebrated photographer DAVID EUSTACE to go and capture it, in words and images.

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Previous pages, opening spread: “There’s something about the way the light hits the Maiden Tower that makes it look as modern today as it did back in the 12th century. From certain angles, it could be a Frank Gehry creation. Good architecture never dates. My shot (left page) was to celebrate the graphics, the shapes, the architecture of this ancient structure and show it in a contemporary way – and to juxtapose it with the old photographs of the tower on the facing page.” Second spread, from left: “This image inside the Shirvanshah’s Palace is actually one photograph, even though it can appear as two. I love the layers and different levels here, and how it leads on to somewhere else, through the doorways – there is an air of mystery, and the light is beautiful. We’re sharing a moment, a view, with the people who lived here in the 15th century.” This spread, from left: “This ceramicist, Mir Teymur, was all about passing on his wisdom and passion to the next generation. He had students in his studio, who referred to him as ‘the master’, and he really cared about teaching them his craft. I told him I liked that little ceramic head, and he immediately gifted it to me.”

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This spread, from left: “This wall is part of a university, shot from the street just outside the Old Town. Again, the graphic shapes have drawn me in, along with the visible layers that have been added over the centuries. As an artist, I look for details rather than an overall picture; there were many treasures and surprises that I discovered within the multilayered Old Town. The Shirvanshah’s Palace (above), viewed from this angle, is yet another example. What struck me about visiting the Old Town over several days, was the way it changed so greatly depending on the time of day – the shadows created vastly different dimensions and shapes.”

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This spread, from left: “These vessels were set up like this in the ceramicist Mir Teymur’s studio. There was such an eclectic mix of items in there; and there was a quietness to the studio, an effortlessness and sense of place. On the facing page is a close-up detail of a statue of Azerbaijani poet Aliagha Vahid, designed by Rahib Hasanov. The statue’s hair is made up of little figures (pictured). The obvious image would have been the statue as a whole, but I thought the detail was far more intriguing.”

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This spread, from left: “These domes, again, form part of the palace. We were granted special access to take this shot, so it’s an angle most visitors wouldn’t see. I was standing on a flat roof looking across the rooftops. What I loved was that balance between the old and the new. It’s very old, yet very modern. The shot of the big wooden puppet (above left) was also taken from an unusual angle – I was lying flat on my back in the main entrance to the Puppet Theatre. It’s interesting and brilliant that someone would think of embedding a back-lit puppet in the ceiling. It’s worth looking up! The next shot (above right) is just like walking back in time. It’s one of the many street corners that evoke such a strong sense of history and energy – especially at night. The ghostly figure represents all the people over the centuries who have walked here, too. I like visiting first thing in the morning and late evening, when it’s just you and the spirits of yesterday. That greatly appeals to me.”

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This spread, from left: “Stained glass in bright, bold colours is one of artist Ali Shamsi’s specialities, and I thought it looked interesting shot out of focus. Ali (above) is a real character, with a kind of old-world charm. He is sitting in a studio he’s developing in the roof of his house, upstairs from his current studio. I liked the rawness of the building site, with its graphic shapes, alongside the colourful glass on the facing page.” Next spread: “This image inside the palace is, again, all about the light and shadows – the shapes within the shapes. I love that you can compose something within a frame and give it a whole new depth when the light hits it in a particular way. The shadows are the same as they have been for centuries; there’s nothing else there that distracts from it.”

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This spread, from left: “One of the Flame Towers, seen between the old domes of the palace; this rooftop view is the ultimate celebration of the past and the present. The buildings complement each other, while neither dominates. The Flame Towers are an incredible feat of engineering and skill, and the same goes for the ancient decorative doorway (above) – but they’re centuries apart. Both are testament to craftsmen, artisans, visionaries.” Next spread, from left: “When you walk into the Old Town you think, ‘Wow’. But then it’s the detail that’s really fascinating. I liked the graphic shadows on this cobbled road; and also the triangular shapes they cast on the wall (right). You can look at it as a wall, or, like me, you can delve a little deeper and look beyond. The greatest commodity of the Old Town is something you cannot buy, and that’s history.”

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Creative director Kate Law Producer Maria Webster Photographer’s assistant Jim Yorkston Special thanks to Behruz Huseynzade for access to his photographic archive

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This page: Boris Ryzhy. Opposite, from top: a reproduction of a woodcut of Futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) by Yury Mogilevsky; young poets Alexei Avdanin; and Ruslan Shishkin.

theword Russian poetry is alive and kicking with young guns blogging to millions of fans, fronting bands and sparring on stage.

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isout he advertisement had promised jazz, hip hop, Dagestani rap and – even more exotic – ‘poems like heavenly birds’. Not exactly what you would expect to find at the Duma Club, a cosy, retro bar that, tucked away in a warren of courtyards in downtown Moscow, seems more suitable for secret meetings. Inside, a poet is reciting in impassioned tones to a full house of fashionably dressed twentysomethings clinging to his every word. “Stop! My mascara is running,” cries one. “No, go on. Let’s have more.” Welcome to Chtetse (The Reciters), a poetry-reading movement that’s at the forefront of a revival in Russia’s most respected literary form. “It’s about synthesis, the maximum number of genres and the development of new forms,” says Pavel Krasnov, aka ‘Pasha Plokhoy’ or ‘Pasha The Bad’ – a one-time rap artist who promotes and organizes Chtetse events at bars and clubs across town. “We are the intellectual underground.” It’s hard to think of a country where poetry and poets are more revered than in Russia. In central Moscow, statues of Pushkin and Mayakovskydominate squares named after them, and memorials to other poets, from Sergei Yesenin to Alexander Blok, are scattered across the city’s squares and boulevards. Reciting poetry comes easily to Russians, who are taught as children to memorize and recite masterpieces from the country’s literary canon at social gatherings. President Vladimir Putin congratulated women on International Women’s Day (8 March) by reading a poem, while foreign minister Sergei Lavrov composes verse in his spare time. Public poetry readings were popular in Soviet times but vanished in the 1990s as more Western-style entertainments became available for the first time. They’re now returning



in a new format that is rewriting the rules of the Russian literary scene. The days when hushed crowds would cram into stadiums to hear respected poets recite over crackly microphones are gone. “Poems need silence, but it’s hard to get people to come unless there’s music as well,” says Ruslan Shishkin, a poet who recites at Chtetse gatherings. Chtetse grew out of the hip-hop scene in Ekaterinburg in 2009 and, with a network of affiliates that has expanded to nine other Russian cities, has been driving the wave of interest in poetry events. In Moscow alone the number of poetry readings taking place at literary festivals, theatres or small private bars has soared in the past few years. “We’re seeing an explosion in poetry,” says Alexei Avdanin, a chemistry student in Moscow who has been writing verse since he was 12. One of the newest venues is the Theatre of Poets in Moscow’s Begovayadistrict, where the stage is


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From top: a statue of Alexander Pushkin in Moscow; Pavel Krasnov; and Pushkin in 1825.

open for all to perform, rather like – although serious poets may wince at the term – a literary karaoke. Even whackier are the poetry ‘battles’ where contestants, after first reciting their poems in more formal fashion, pit their wits against rivals, exchanging jokes and insults in verse. The winner is decided by the level of audience applause. Battles are all about hype and can be an ordeal for sensitive souls. But performing in public is the price poets must pay for recognition, says Ruslan Shishkin, who began reciting with fellow poets in his home town of Belgorod, in southern Russia, when he was a teenager. “I was so frightened the first time,” he says. “I remember reading from my mobile phone and my hand was shaking.” Some readings go better than others, but the sheer thrill of sensing an audience’s appreciation was enough to make Shishkin resolve


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never to give up writing. “Performing made me understand what poetry can do for people,” he says. Stars in Russia’s new poetry universe include Vera Polozkova, Sola Monova and Akh Astakhova, who tour the country performing to packed theatres reciting poems about love, personal relationships and day-to-daylife. At once glamorous goddesses and kind elder sisters, these poets have achieved rock-star status, performing with live music and videos. For fans who can’t afford it, there’s always YouTube, where these emotionally charged recitals can be played again and again. Russian critics tend to turn their noses up at the new breed of ‘internet poets’, but they no longer have the last word on what passes for literary merit. The age of media has buried forever the romantic stereotype of the introverted poet doomed to “write for the table” with no hope of ever being heard, says Veniamin Borisov, a Russian poet who performs at – and helps promote – Chtetse events. “Fame is now decided with just one click.” Dedicated literary websites have proliferated over the past few years, offering poets a forum to publish and discuss their work and find news about forthcoming literary events. Russia’s Writers Union has thrown its weight behind (which translates as ‘poems’). With more than 200,000 daily visitors it is one of the most influential of these online platforms. Meanwhile, VKontakte, Russia’s Facebook, has launched a ‘Writers and Poets’ page where you can post your work, or videos of recitals, but poems may soon drop down the page if they don’t quickly gather enough likes. Websites like these dangle the possibility of fame but, as Avdanin says, “there’s no guarantee” that a poem will attract even one of the vital clicks. A traditional way for poets to get attention is to perform in the streets. Moscow’s pedestrianised Arbat

VERA POLOZKOVA This 31-year-old poet has been writing poetry since she was five. Her approach is outward-looking, love-laden and deals with confession and self-realization. Her live performances feature meditation and musicians improvising to her theme as she stands at the front, the lead singer of her ‘poetry band’. Married with a son, she’s fast growing into an older and wiser poet, but is bringing with her hundreds of thousands of younger fans, who fell in love with her albums, poetry blogs and YouTube clips of her performances.

SOLA MONOVA Poetry can seduce an audience, and Sola Monova is a master of this art, with a website featuring an ‘18+’ stamp and photos of the poet pouting in high heels. Monova’s live performances in Moscow and elsewhere sell out quickly and often feature a cast, including herself, who play out her poems as vignettes. With half a million followers of her blog, she’s arguably the most popular live poet in Russia, and perhaps the world.

From top: lyrical poet Alexander Blok (1880-1921); Futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (18931930) reading his poems in 1927; poet and songwriter Bulat Okudzhava (19241997); portrait of Pushkin by A. Kippenski; Imaginist poet Sergei Yesenin (1895-1925); Mayakovsky in his editor’s office.

ALEKSEI AVDANIN After graduating in biotechnology, Avdanin made his name on the streets, busking poems and working his way up by winning live poetry competitions. He’s now an influential jury member of many of these, but has also found time to get involved with helping children express themselves, heading up the youth charity The Benefits of Poetry, backed by Moscow’s Department of Culture.



Сердце нежное просит воли, Сколько можно сидеть внутри? Грудь свою разорвать не больно, Если есть для кого светить. – aleksei avdanin

Street, where the legendary 20thcentury bard Bulat Okudzhava once lived, is a popular venue. When the weather is fine, Avdanin performs here, often reciting in a commanding voice for up to three hours. Passersby are usually appreciative – unless they are police, who make a point of moving street artists along. Like many young Russian poets, Avdanin began writing love poems, but abandoned sentimental themes after discovering the work of Boris Ryzhy (a poet from Ekaterinburg who won the Anti Booker prize in 2000, then one of Russia’s most prestigious literary awards). Ryzhy came of age just after the Soviet Union collapsed, and wrote about the horrors of life as crime and violence swept across impoverished Russian provincial towns in the 1990s. TragicallyRyzhy, who committed suicide in 2001 at 26, did not live to see the respect his work now enjoys in Russia. Things are much better than in Ryzhy’s time, says Avdanin, but Moscow, with its harsh weather, grim buildings and monuments redolent of Russia’s tragic history, evokes a strange combination of resilience and melancholy that infuses his work as a poet. Ryzhy also influenced Shishkin, who writes emotionally charged poetry he describes as “screaming aloud”. He says he searches for truth and justice in his work and connects with people of all ages and backgrounds. “They feel I know the pain they go through,” he says. Shishkin is grateful to Chtetse for providing him with a nurturing family in Moscow that has helped him find his feet as a poet and develop a less aggressive voice. Offering a sense of belonging is what Chtetse is all about, says Pasha the Bad, who detests poetic snobbery. The sense of the universal quality of poetry, that, like a bird, can transcend all boundaries, is central to Chtetse’s philosophy. “It’s not important what you did before a Chtetse event – made sculpture, loaded trucks or slept all day after a wild night out… You’ll find yourself in a world where you can express yourself and be yourself.”


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ROCK MY WORLD Right: the setting sun illuminates the northwestern walls of the 4,243m Mount Shahdag, with Mount Tufandag and other peaks in the background. Above: the nearby Qizilqaya (‘Golden Rock’) is a scene of craggy landscapes, but verdant pastures also thrive on its slopes.

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Photography by EMIL KHALILOV

From golden escarpments to sky-high summits, the Shahdag National Park is a snow-capped wilderness in this land of fire. Also home to rare and endangered species, and primitive cave dwellings stretching back at least 9,000 years – this may just be the prehistoric heart of Eurasia. 67 Baku.

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INTO THE WILD Clockwise from far left: the walls of Qizilqaya attract hardy rock climbers; Mount Shahdag is often robed in clouds, hiding the glacier that forms on its slopes; Mount Bazarduzu, on the border with Russia; Qarabulaq, or ‘Black Spring’, is often used as a rest stop by hikers on their way from Laza village to the highlands.

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GREEN LIVING Right: Mount Shahdag as seen from the Yataqdara valley, and (top) its western face. Above: the view of Mount Qizilqaya from the Shahyaylaqpastures.

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GAME ON Athletes from around the world came to Baku this May for the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games. We captured the home team in the pool, on the court and in the arena as they prepared to go for gold. Photography by ELMAR MUSTAFAZADEH

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Clockwise, from far left: Rafael Agayev, karate; Allahverdiyev Vazir, table tennis; Niyaz Aghazada, shooting; Ilaha Rajiyeva, swimming; Bense Talas, gymnastics; judo competitors; Ayshan Bayramova, gymnastics; and Orkhan Manafli, tennis.

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The judo, swimming and water polo teams in action. Right: Maksim Shemberev in the pool.

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Clockwise from top left: gymnasts Vasileva Siyana, Celep Elif Zeynep, Platonova Aliaksandra, Bayramova Ayshan and Doman Diana; Vasileva Siyana; and Marina Nekrasova.

Clockwise from above: Farida Azizova, taekwondo; Teymur Mammadov, boxing; and Kamran Ismaylov, weightlifting.

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had long dreamt of visiting Madagascar – a wondrous island with amazing wildlife. So, late in 2016, I travelled to the Indian Ocean to see not only Madagascar, but also Mauritius and Réunion. The purpose of my trip was, as always, to see new places that are known for their diverse flora and fauna – both for personal passions and for my IDEA campaign (International Dialogue for Environmental Action). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I found were three totally different islands, each beautiful in its own way. Réunion is like a little slice of France in the tropics. Mauritius is famed for its coastline, but its

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Clockwise from right: treetop views over wild Madagascar; and a volcano near Ankisabe; Salazie, a volcanic caldera in the French commune of Réunion, shrouded in mist; Leyla Aliyeva in Madagascar.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Leyla Aliyeva takes a trip into the unknown, to discover for herself the astounding variety of flora and fauna in Madagascar, Mauritius and RĂŠunion.

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Clockwise from left: the Avenue of the Baobabs is one of the most-visited sites in Madagascar, with trees up to 800 years old; spectacular waterfalls in Mauritius; flying foxes hanging around in Madagascar; the island’s Betsiboka River is full of silt from erosion caused by deforestation; a lemur; and ked karst limestone formations.

less well known interior features soaring volcanic peaks, plunging waterfalls and dense rainforest home to many bird species, including the endangered pink pigeon. Madagascar, meanwhile, is the world’s fourth largest island – twice the size of the UK – yet was isolated for more than 160 million years, which means 70 per cent of its wildlife and 90 per cent of its plant species are found nowhere else in the world. How mind-blowing! While the contrasts were great, the islands are united by their animals, from the lemurs of Madagascar to the giant tortoises on Mauritius and the huge flying foxes of Réunion. It was particularly moving to see how the islanders treasure

REUNION IS LIKE A LITTLE SLICE OF FRANCE IN THE TROPICS. MAURITIUS IS FAMED FOR ITS COASTLINE, BUT ITS LESS WELL KNOWN INTERIOR FEATURES SOARING VOLCANIC PEAKS, WATERFALLS, DENSE RAINFOREST, AND THE ENDANGERED PINK PIGEON. their wildlife. In Madagascar, the locals are exceptionally proud to share their home with the world’s biggest population of lemurs. Even here, however, their numbers are decreasing and the people are striving to protect them. For me, more wildlife means a richer Earth. No matter how much progress humans make, we can never recreate the beauty of this planet.


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While the contrasts were great, the islands


are united by their animals, from lemurs to giant tortoises.

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Having won two Michelin stars for his French fusion fare, chefdu-jour Akrame Benallal has found a new direction – soulful sharing plates inspired by Azerbaijan in the heart of Paris.

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“I like to make people happy, so I always give it my best.�

Previous spread, clockwise from top left: dishes at Shirvan Café Métisse, including the raw Choban salad with red endives, courgette seeds, dill and coriander; plov with saffron and fresh herbs; a tomato omelette; tandir garlic bread; tempura aubergine, courgette, sweet potato, baby corn and kale; and spiced tandir chicken served with green chilli sauce. This page: pomegranate, lemon and mint granita with pomegranate syrup. Opposite: the two-star Michelin chef Akrame Benallal at his newest Paris venture, Shirvan.


t the tail end of Avenue George V, in one of the most exclusive arrondissements of Paris, sits Shirvan: inconspicuous with its chic black frontage, but entirely unmissable due to the warm spicy smells emanating from within. Into this serene setting steps Akrame Benallal, fresh from the lunchtime service at his eponymous restaurant nearby, and he is visibly relaxed among the pale wood panelling and casual atmosphere that welcomes him to his latest venture. The 35-year-old French chef has already achieved star status, of the Michelin variety. His first fine-dining restaurant, Akrame, opened in 2011 and soon won two stars, with several branches of a stylish meatfocused bistro, Atelier Vivanda, to follow – in Paris, Hong Kong, Manila and Baku. Now, Benallal has taken a new turn with Shirvan Café Métisse, named after a region of Azerbaijan and inspired by the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that represents a shared world of spices, tastes and food culture. “What I do at Akrame is about the personal experience: you have your own dish and you focus on the emotions you feel,” he says. At Shirvan, however, it’s all about sharing plates and a collective experience, which Benallal was inspired to explore having noticed diners swapping dishes to sample each other’s food. It may not be the Parisian way, but it is proving a hit – and there’s always the option to personalize your portion with spices and seasonings served alongside. Benallal has become a frequent visitor to the Caucasus – and Azerbaijan in particular – which, for him, has highlighted the local passion for food. “The Silk Road


This page: traditional sadj of guinea fowl with aubergine, roasted tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and fresh mixed herbs. Opposite: scenes inside Shirvan, in the exclusive 8th arrondissement of central Paris.

“The Silk Road connects so many different elements…” 89 Baku.

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This page: a piece of vegetable tempura. Opposite: a traditional Azerbaijani tea set. Producer Maria Webster. Special thanks to Shirvan Café Métisse, Paris.

“I FIRST VISITED BAKU LAST YEAR, WHEN ATELIER VIVANDA OPENED, AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY,” HE SAYS. “I FELT A CONNECTION WITH THE CITY AND ITS PEOPLE IMMEDIATELY.” connects so many different elements, and this connection is important to me; being with the people you love, eating delicious food,” he says. This devotion to cuisine comes from Benallal’s mother and heavily influences his cooking philosophy, which Benallal sums up as: “I like to make people happy, so I always give it my best.” The Baku branch of Atelier Vivanda has already become a firm favourite there. “I first visited Baku last year, when the bistro opened, and I was blown away,” he says. “I felt a connection with the city and its people immediately.” The importance of spice is something that Benallal has only recently appreciated, and quickly incorporated it into his cuisine. The warmth and freshness of the country’s fare is perhaps most evident in the qutab, Benallal’s favourite dish. “To me, this is perfect: the mix of herbs blend so well together,” he says, smiling. “This is the taste of the mountains of Azerbaijan.” Here, at Shirvan, it’s cooked in a traditional tandir, as are most dishes, which results in incredibly rich and tender morsels. Don’t be surprised if arguments break out around the table over who gets the last piece of the slow-cooked lamb. Never one to sit still for long, Benallal has ideas to open Shirvan in London, Istanbul and Baku. The concept of sharing food, he says, is a kind of rebellion against social media: “The more time we spend online, the more distance we have between each other, and the more important enjoying food together becomes.” Cheers to that.

“A qutab is the taste of the mountains of Azerbaijan.”




ore and more, sports stars are finding themselves near the top of the annual rich lists, jostling alongside entrepreneurs, actors and oligarchs. The best command six-figure sums not just in prize money, but from lucrative endorsements ranging from clothing to technology. But far from sitting on their fortunes, these sports stars are working for and donating to charity. “A lot of athletes are doing a lot of work in this field,” confirms Gary Stannett, the chief executive of Active Communities Network, a sports-based charity that works with young people from deprived backgrounds. “They either give their time to established charities like the Prince’s Trust [the Prince of Wales’ youth charity] or they set up their own foundation.” In fact, in the past 12 months three UK Premiership players – Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, Watford’s Troy Deeney and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy – have all set up organizations dedicated, in different ways, to creating opportunities for people who are less fortunate than them. In the case of Vardy, the striker who was at the heart of Leicester City’s fairy-tale season last year when the 5000-1 outsiders won the Premier League, it is an academy to give non-league players a chance to break into the professional game. Deeney’s foundation aims to raise money for children with learning disabilities, while Carrick’s looks to help children in deprived communities in Manchester and Newcastle in the UK. Another footballing hero, Ronaldinho, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and twice won La Liga with Barcelona, has set up

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Many sports today are as lucrative as they are high-octane. And, increasingly, star players are giving back, with philanthropic initiatives to help those less fortunate follow in their footsteps. Words by PAUL KENDALL

fair play

a chain of soccer academies, from Japan to the UAE, and is opening a new academy in Baku early next year, which aims to encourage more children in Azerbaijan to play football and pursue a healthy lifestyle. Outside of football, England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson has founded an organization to help people with mental health problems, and tennis legend Rafael Nadal has opened an academy in his home town of Manacor in Majorca, Spain. All of these projects are a far cry from the popular image of sports stars as selfish multimillionaires, who split their time between the playing field, the casino and the Aston Martin showroom. What has changed? Perhaps the best advocate for sports philanthropy is John Amaechi. A former basketball star, and the first ever Briton to make a starting line-up in the NBA, Amaechi began mentoring troubled children while still at college in the US. He

currently works for three charities: Greenhouse Sports, a Londonbased sports charity; the English Federation of Disability Sport; and the NSPCC. “Sometimes you have to boil what you do for a living down to its core components,” says Amaechi. “I put a ball through a hole for a living. It was so eminently dumb, it was so unworthy of hubris, that the only way I could imbue my career with anything real was by using my privileged position to do some good.” His philanthropy, he says, gave him far more satisfaction than his basketball career (for which he was inducted into the US Basketball Hall of Fame). “There is no comparison,” he says. “It is a bloody amazing experience. If, at the end of a career of 20 years, if you’re lucky, or five years for most, all you can say is that you kicked a ball real good, then you screwed up. You missed out on the whole point of being that powerful.

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You squandered an opportunity. Everybody should do it. Not for any higher purpose or to secure a place in heaven, but because they should. It is what people of good conscience, and who have great privilege, do.” Amaechi’s fervour makes the spine tingle and the effect he has on those who participate in his projects is legendary. As well as counselling young people while in America, he adopted two teenagers from troubled homes (now grown men), and went on to qualify as an organizational psychologist. Today, he advises FTSE 250 companies on major transformation projects and initiatives to improve the productivity of their workforce. But his achievements are even more astonishing when you know his background. Born in Boston to a Nigerian father and a Mancunian mother, Amaechi was brought to Britain aged four when his mother fled his abusive and controlling father. She arrived in Stockport with just US$2,000 and had to rebuild her life – and that of her three children – from scratch. The young Amaechi showed little interest in sport – preferring books – and grew into a tall and rather overweight adolescent. Things changed when he was spotted by a scout in Manchester city centre, and he set his sights on playing in the NBA. Despite having never picked up a basketball before, he decided to move to a US college, where he could pursue both his education and his basketball simultaneously. In 1995, after several setbacks, he achieved his goal, signing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Amaechi is the sort of person who is always looking for the next challenge. “When I was in the NBA, I suddenly realized that every day, driving to practice, I went past

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this school and as I got better and became a featured player on the team, kids would wave and notice. And I said to myself, ‘I drive past this place anyway, what harm would it do to stop in for an hour once a month?’ Not to do a big thing, just to walk into one classroom and say, ‘Your teacher says you’ve been doing really well, so how about we talk for a little bit?’ And so that’s what I started doing. It was that easy.” Amaechi believes far more sports stars should combine their professional obligations with philanthropic work. So why don’t they? “Even if someone is willing to help, they are often baffled as to how they should help,” Amaechi explains. “They are inundated with requests to do stuff and find the barrage difficult to manage. They often have little or no support managing it, nobody to say, ‘This would be a good way to start you off, this would be a good thing to do first’. Nobody helps them with that. “Also, many athletes have people around them who are controlling what they can and can’t do,” he adds. “Their teams will literally control what they should and shouldn’t do philanthropically. They also have agents and managers and all kinds of people around them who tell them what they think would be advantageous for them to do – with a view to creating the most marketable person. “There are some athletes out there who are entirely disinterested because, right now, for the next five or 10 years, they’re focusing on their feet or hands. “But there are a large proportion of athletes who are engaged, who Previous spread: Rafael Nadal’s foundation builds schools and tennis centres for children, such as this one in India. This page, from top: John Amaechi and Rio Ferdinand.


The late boxing legend Muhammad Ali gave $1m in medical aid to Cuba in 1998.

Russian tennis champion Maria Sharapova donated more than $50,000 to victims of the Beslan school siege in 2004.

American martial artist Ronda Rousey donated $30,000 to a Brazilian charity programme, which teaches judo to poor children from the favelas.

Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo has donated millions to charitable causes, including $83,000 for a 10-month-old baby’s brain surgery, and £5m towards the Nepal earthquake relief efforts.

Tennis superstars Serena Williams and Roger Federer both have their own foundations and are also Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors.


Clockwise from top left: Rio Ferdinand Foundation helps young people from deprived backgrounds; Michael Carrick meets fans at the Manchester United Foundation Dream Day; Ronaldinho with young footballers in Baku, where he will open a soccer academy; Troy Deeney; Jonny Wilkinson; Michael Carrick; Jamie Vardy.

want to speak out about a social issue, but know that if they do speak out they risk controversy.And their sponsor will tell them, ‘Well, this wasn’t really part of the deal’. Sponsors want someone who is as blank a sheet of paper as possible, so they can plaster their logo all over them.” One star who has always managed to combine his elite career with causes close to his heart is former England football captain Rio Ferdinand. Brought up by a single mother on one of Britain’s toughest council estates, Ferdinand has worked with young people from deprived backgrounds ever since signing for West Ham at the age of 17. Now retired, he devotes much of his time to his Rio Ferdinand Foundation, a charity that uses sport to introduce young people to a range of traineeships and pathwaysto employment. More than 5,000 people have taken part in the programme and many of them have gone on to great things. Gary Stannett, an adviser on Ferdinand’s board, talks about one young man from a violent, crime-ridden estate in London, whose life was spiralling out of control. One of his friends had been shot and killed, other friends were in prison. But, thanks to his passion for football, he started attending the foundation’s activities and, although he was never good enough to

“THERE IS NO COMPARISON. PHILANTHROPY IS AMAZING. IF, AT THE END OF A CAREER OF 20 YEARS – IF YOU’RE LUCKY – OR FIVE YEARS FOR MOST, ALL YOU CAN SAY IS THAT YOU KICKED A BALL REAL GOOD, THEN YOU SCREWED UP. YOU MISSED OUT ON THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING THAT POWERFUL. YOU SQUANDERED AN OPPORTUNITY.” become a professional footballer, developed leadership and communication skills, became a qualified youth worker, and eventually took a degree in sports science. He is now working as a project co-ordinator at Celtic FC Foundation in Glasgow. “He has recognized that he is a leader,” says Stannett. “If a young person develops a sense of self-worth, if they realize that they can achieve, if they have a vision and an ambition to work towards, then they feel a lot stronger in themselves and have a much more positive impact on other people.” Not all sports foundations are as successful as Ferdinand’s. Many, launched

amid great fanfare, fold a few years down the line after running out of money or failing to deliver on their promises. “The ones that last more than four or five years, you can count on the fingers of one hand,” says Stannett. “Sometimes the problem is with the player, who is not always clear what his or her mission is. Or they receive bad advice or make bad appointments. Or they don’t focus enough on long-term sustainability. If you are looking to deliver programmes, it can’t just be the footballer’s money because that’s going to run out,” he adds. Indeed, Ferdinand has pumped his own money into his foundation, but the organization has a ‘mixed economy’ and raises its own money via fundraising events, grants and corporate sponsorship. “If an athlete is particularly passionate about something,” Stannett continues, “and they feel like they want to drive that agenda, shape the way the world is, then they should do it, but they need to have a very, very clear vision. They need to have the right people around it and they need to think about longterm sustainability. If you haven’t got that then you run the risk of it being seen, rightly or wrongly, as an ego project. Even worse, you run a project and then, when the money runs out, you let down the very people you’re meant to be helping.”


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The street circuit of the Formula One Grand Prix in Baku has rapidly gained a reputation as one of the most challenging and interesting in the world. Here, former F1 driver David Coulthard takes us on a walking tour of the racetrack. Words by CLAIRE BLOOMFIELD Photograph by VLADIMIR RYS

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nd it is Nico Rosberg back winning again. Rosberg wins in Baku. The Championship leader extends his advantage at the Grand Prix of Europe,” screams the commentator as the Mercedes AMG Petronas driver took a lights-to-flag victory. The German, who went on to become the 2016 world champion before his shock decision to retire, held off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Force India’s Sergio Perez to claim top spot on the podium in the inaugural race at the Baku city circuit in June 2016. Architect Hermann Tilke had ensured this specially constructed street circuit pushed the stars of Formula One to their limits, with turns seven to 11, 15 and the pit-lane entry all ramping up the adrenaline factor. “I remember thinking, ‘This is a track I would like to drive’,” says former racing driver David Coulthard, who scored 13 grand prix wins and 62 podium finishes in a glittering career spanning 15 years. The 45-year-old, who drove for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, still oozes F1 glamour, as he adjusts his designer sunglasses in the glorious spring sunshine while we walk to some of his favourite spots on the Baku city circuit. “I was quite good on street tracks and I know the challenges that you have there as a driver,” says Coulthard, looking out across the unique ‘dual carriageway’ stretch of the circuit, opposite Neftchilar Avenue. “I raced in the Macau Grand Prix in Formula Three [1991] and I was lucky enough to win that. I also won in Monaco [F1 Grand Prix] a couple of times [2000 and 2002].” Now a presenter and commentator after retiring from the sport, Coulthard has more of a backseat view these days. “You get a feel [for the track] yourself, but it means nothing because you’re not actually going to be competing,” he says. “But, when you see the excitement from the drivers, you just know Baku has done something that has reminded the drivers why they got involved in F1 racing.” Passing turn five and heading towards the city’s hub, Coulthard points out Paris Bistro, a chic upmarket restaurant that makes you feel as though you’re just


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way towards the Presidential Palace, Coulthard points out the circuit’s highest vantage point at turn 13, standing 2.1m above sea level and offering panoramic views of the sweeping coastline. “There’s a steep downhill section just after turn 15 and that’s where you catch a glimpse of the Caspian Sea before the last significant turn of the circuit,” Coulthard explains. From the exit of turn 16, past the iconic Maiden Tower, the 2.2km straight goes all the way to the start-finish line. It was a stretch


a stone’s throw from the ChampsElysées, which proved popular throughout F1’s visit to Baku. Overlooking White Lilies Square, locals keen to investigate the loud roars rippling through their city, and F1 fanatics who had travelled specifically for a glimpse of their heroes, gathered to admire the spectacle in the shade of the trees. Strolling along to the eagerly anticipated turn eight, Monacobased Coulthard adds: “The circuits should be fast and scary, but in a positive way. As a driver, being pushed to your physical and mental limits is a good thing as it helps to discover who you are.” A quick right turn sees the drivers speeding past a row of luxury boutiques including Tom Ford and Tiffany’s (in Aziz Aliyev Street) on the approach to Icheri Sheher, the city’s Unesco-protected Old Town. It’s here that the track narrows significantly. With two temporary layers of asphalt laid over the historic cobbled streets, the 7.6m-wide turn eight is the narrowest in all of F1 and demands the utmost precision due to the proximity of the 12thcentury walls of Sabayil Castle. “This is the yahoo moment,” Coulthard says, smiling, as he seemingly enjoys a flashback to his days behind the wheel. “Anything from turn seven until after turn 19, this is where the drivers can really get stuck in. It’s a tricky little section at very high speed and that’s your magic moment. That’s where you are joining the dots on what is necessary to have success.” To Coulthard’s surprise, Rosberg’s arch-rival and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton crashed out in a messy end to last year’s qualifying session after hitting the wall at turn 11. “One thing that stands out from last year is Hamilton’s mistake at turn 11 in practice,” he said. “He never seemed to connect with this track. In a way, I thought it would have been tailor-made for him. He just didn’t turn up that day.” Heading past three consecutive left-hand turns and working our

Previous spread: the Flame Towers loom large over Baku during last year’s grand prix. This spread: high-octane scenes from the 2016 race in Baku, including Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Force India (above). David Coulthard (left and below right) in Baku this year.

that was expected to generate speeds of 340km/h – until Valtteri Bottas stunned even the track designer. “Bottas, who was then driving for Williams, set an all-time F1 record last year and clocked up a top speed of 366km/h on this long straight,” Coulthard explains. Residents in apartments overlooking the circuit could be seen gathering on their balconies for a glimpse of the action as the drivers raced through Baku. “I remember the energy in the evenings during race weekend,” Coulthard recalls. “Although the locals don’t really know much about F1 yet – and it will take time to build that culture – people were just celebrating the fact that F1 was in town. They were sitting out on terraces and wandering the streets to soak up the atmosphere. It is not as mature as somewhere like Montreal or Monaco, where people spill out into the streets, but there was an air of excitement.” Although still very much in its infancy, the sport here is garnering attention and curiosity, Coulthard believes, and the city is well on its way to cementing its place in the F1 calendar for years to come.



DAVID COULTHARD’S 2017 FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX PREDICTION David Coulthard explains what we can expect from the race in Baku this season as Formula One racing enters a bold new era. “This season we have wider cars and it will be more physical so it could lean towards the drivers with a bit more experience,” says Coulthard. “Ferrari, if they are strong, have both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who have good experience now. “It’s not tight enough or difficult enough in normal dry running to suddenly give McLaren-Honda the advantage, even though Fernando Alonso is behind the wheel. “It could be a different story if it rains. We have got a lot of areas where bravery and skill are required. In the same way that Max Verstappen stood out in Brazil last year – he really shone head and shoulders above the others – there could be someone who does that here in wet conditions.”

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2017 ROOKIES & LEGENDS By Maurice Hamilton




It doesn’t matter what track I am racing on or how difficult it is, I always try to be as fast as I can within the first five laps of practice. I’ve always been like that, because my dad [ex-F1 driver Jos] taught me how important it was to do that – particularly when I was karting and coming up through the junior formulas, when the time allowed for practice was very limited. So, even on a track as challenging as Baku, that’s what I will be doing with my Red Bull. We may have longer to practice in F1, but, when you are competing against a strong teammate [Daniel Ricciardo], you’ve got to be on it straight away. Anyway, I enjoy driving like that!

I am under no illusions that my first season in F1 is going to be tough. But I’ve been in similar situations before. When I started karting in Europe at the age of 12, I was up against kids who had been competing pretty intensely for six years already. So I had a lot of catching up to do. I had some good results but also some horrible results. That’s how it goes. These were tough days and F1 is no different. But I love what I do and I worked very hard before the start of this season on the simulator and in the gym. The Williams team has been a fantastic help and will do everything possible to make sure I’m well prepared when I go to Baku, even though I have never raced there before.

On our first visit to Baku last year, I found the track wasn’t easy – not because the layout was particularly difficult to learn but because it was very slippery. Street circuits tend to be like that because they aren’t used for racing, and it takes a while for the racing rubber to be laid down by the F1 cars and replace all the oil and grease you get on a public road. It’s like Monaco in terms of braking and how close the barriers are – but you are arriving at much higher speeds in Baku. And this year, with the new cars, we will be arriving even faster still, so it is going to be quite a challenge. Racing in Baku takes a lot of focus, which is something I like, particularly when driving a car as good as the Mercedes.






When I heard about Nico Rosberg’s surprise decision to suddenly retire at the end of last year, I obviously knew Mercedes would be looking for a replacement. I was well aware of the situation I was getting into, being teammate to Lewis Hamilton, a three-time champion and a guy who is very fast. But I couldn’t wait to get going. This is my opportunity because, before 2017, I hadn’t really proved anything in F1. I had some podiums but no wins. I was ready for the challenge and not worried at all about the mental battles that were bound to come. Baku is one of the many challenges; I really like the track. It’s very demanding with some high-speed corners and some twisty, more technical areas that you have to get absolutely right.

I remember watching the grand prix races when I was young and I always had a sweet spot for McLaren. So, becoming a full-time driver for them this year has been a huge achievement. F1 is always a high-pressure environment, but I felt at home immediately because I have been with the team for four years as part of their Young Driver Programme. I’ve always had a good relationship with Fernando [Alonso]; he’s a very competitive guy and I know what it’s like to be with him and learn from his experience. When you line up on the grid, you are getting on with your job and making sure you don’t make mistakes. It’s so important to stay focused. There’s no room for thinking about being a new guy.

I began in F1 only halfway though 2016 [with the Manor team]. So I came into this season knowing how things worked generally – but, having switched to Force India, I’ve been learning how this team does it. I have been building up a relationship with my engineers and mechanics. It’s very important that we understand each other, particularly when there is a lot to be done on a grand prix weekend and you are racing on very different tracks, such as Baku. It’s a street circuit where you can’t afford to make mistakes and lose valuable time during practice because you’ve touched a wall. Baku will be a big challenge for me in a year of very big challenges. It’s tough – but it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

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Despite dominating the field in F1 recently, Mercedes AMG is not resting on its laurels. At its Brackley HQ, changes are afoot to secure even bigger wins – both on the track and on the road. Words by JASON BARLOW

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driving force


ames Bond’s nemesis Blofeld, Sir Norman Foster and Ridley Scott would all be impressed. Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains’ (HPP) HQ is a meld of gleaming modernist architecture and advanced engineering, the bucolic countryside setting underlining the unusualness of the building’s purpose. This is where one of the world’s greatest engines is designed and manufactured. A Formula One car hangs from a vaulted ceiling in the entrance atrium, and a selection of engines sit on plinths. “There are six departments here,” explains engineering director Andy Cowell as he ushers us through. “Our aim is simple: what can we do to make a racing car go around a circuit faster?” Blofeld and his minions would appreciate the scale of this place and its logical structure – not to mention its focus on world domination. A string of gantries connects HPP’s different divisions, and viewed from above it looks imperious. “There’s a performance engineering division, an electronics one, and we have guys who develop new concepts before bringing them to life,” Cowell says. “A reliability group then determines if the product is good enough to leave the factory. Engineers are actually a pretty unruly bunch who never really want to commit to something when they can keep on being creative. So there’s a management group whose job it is to get them to commit.” F1 has a habit of making stars of figures like Cowell: in the past, the sport has canonized the likes of Gordon Murray, John Barnard and Adrian Newey, geniuses all. Since the introduction of the hybrid engine formula in 2014, the Mercedes AMG team has dominated the sport in a way rarely seen since modern F1 began in 1950. Big rule changes historically provide scope for the sharpest brains to find new solutions, and the mild-mannered Cowell and his people really hit the mother lode with HPP’s 1.6-litre hybrid V6 turbo. Between them, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have won 51 races since March 2014, turning the driver’s title battle into an exclusivelytwo-way fight, while Mercedes has obliterated its rivals in the constructors’ championship.

So much so, in fact, that the sport’s governing body has effectively pushed the reset button for 2017. The cars are wider, lower and look more aggressive. Pirelli’s tyres are also much bigger, the net result overall being much higher cornering speeds and lap times that look set to improve by five seconds per lap as the season progresses. Mercedes’ executive director Toto Wolff insists the changes “take everything back to zero”, but despite a turbulent winter – newly crowned world champion Rosberg shocked everyone by retiring five days after winning, and technical director Paddy Lowe left a month later – Mercedes, known as ‘the Silver Arrows’, have redoubled their efforts. Winning is difficult in F1; to maintain a streak like this is almost unprecedented. (Ferrari in particular is determined to break Mercedes’ stranglehold.) “The fastest racing car needs an outstanding driver, great vehicle dynamics, great aerodynamics, and a lot of grunt,” Cowell says. “And that means lots of specialist teams pulling together to look after one car. Then it’s down to tactics, and reacting to events. We want F1 to constantly bring in exciting but relevant new technology,to be a spectacle.” The key to Mercedes’ recent success is the powertrain, which refers to the various mechanisms that drive the car. There are no fewer than six of these in the current F1 generation powertrain – the 1.6-litre V6 internal combustion unit, the turbo, a motor generator that converts kinetic energy tapped under braking into power for the engine (MGU-K), another that turns heat energy into power for the engine (MGU-H), an energy store to save this power for when it’s needed, and a control box that oversees all the electronics. Now imagine how tough it is getting all those components to ‘talk’ to each other, while withstanding the temperatures generated by an F1 engine during a race. From 750bhp (brake horsepower – the measurement of a car’s power) in 2014, the V6 engine now produces in excess of 850bhp and may reach 1,000bhp by the end of the season’s 20 races. This is largely thanks to rule changes designed to make the

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Previous spread, main image, and this picture: Lewis Hamilton driving for Mercedes AMG in 2017. Previous spread, top, and this spread, left: Mercedes’ factory in Brackley. Far right: Andy Cowell (left) and Toto Wolff.

sport more exciting. But anyone who thought these changes might erode Mercedes’ advantage in 2017 should think again. “[The team] has made improvements in every single area,” Andy Cowell noted earlier this year. “The base architecture of our Energy Recovery System is similar to what we started with in 2014, but it’s more efficient. There are improvements in reliability, so we can run it harder for longer.” Cooling – a vital process in any high-powered engine, but especially on these complex hybrids – has also been optimized. “The MGU-H and MGU-K are completely new. It’s a big evolution.” Internal procedures have also been tightened up, following some controversial reliability problems for Lewis Hamilton last season. “There are some very big changes in Brixworth, from the way we do our research, the way that we do our concept reviews, the way we work with suppliers, our manufacturing and the way we assemble parts,” Cowell confirms. Under current regulations, each driver on the grid is allowed a maximum of four engines per season. Mercedes HPP manufactures a total of 50 engines per season. Some of these go to Force India and Williams and they also need units for testing, as well as the ones that are pushed to the limit during evaluation. While the blocks are cast in a Daimler facility in Stuttgart, everything else – down to the tiniest screw – is made in-house. F1’s flirtation with exotic materials in engines, such as beryllium, was ended by the FIA years ago due to safety concerns and prohibitive costs for smaller manufacturers, but an F1 engine’s internals are still supremely clever, a tall tale of millimetre-thick tolerances balanced against high-revving repeatability and reliability. Three different grades of aluminium are used depending on which component they’re destined for, and what sort of temperature or kinetic load that component has to cope with. The pistons, for example, are rather busy during a race weekend, so they’re stronger.

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“WE’VE BEEN WORKING NIGHT AND DAY TO MAKE OURSELVES COMPETITIVE. WE’LL ALWAYS KEEP THE HUNGER, THE INNER UNREST. WE WANT TO WIN. ON TRACK, ON THE ROAD, EVERYWHERE.” Back at Mercedes’ HQ, an HPP supercomputer, overseen by 20 experts who run constant simulations, measures the variables and optimizes the engine’s performance depending on the track. Every engine made by HPP is also strenuously bench-tested. During my visit, a simulation of the much-loved Spa circuit in Belgium was being conducted; computers monitored the engine’s vital systems as it mimicked lap after punishing lap. During a race weekend, a team of HPP experts will be monitoring the performance of the six engines in real time from a control room in the factory, wherever the F1 circus is in the world. About 60 parameters are constantly measured on the engines, a further 50 on the Engine Recovery System. The feedback is triangulated between the circuit, Brixworth and the other teams’ HQs in real time. The car industry is obsessed with connectivity; it simply doesn’t get any more connected than this. Should the Grand Prix not go according to plan, there’s a Tuesday morning ‘fault meeting’. “It’s very aggressive,” Cowell says. “There are maybe 15 of us sitting in a room. You can’t sit there and say, ‘Oh, it’s a one-off, it won’t happen again’. It’s self-policing, and that can be very uncomfortable.” The new F1 order is determined by fuel efficiency rather than power delivery; the most efficient car will win the Grand Prix, and it’ll do so by using 35 per cent less fuel than in 2013. Technical concepts such as thermal efficiency and reduced frictional losses are examples of the F1 tech-to-road transfer, although


the 2017 season is pointedly putting the emphasis back on sheer entertainment, thanks to the faster, better-looking cars, whose increased capability will in turn ask much more of the drivers’ skill – and stamina. But for a company like MercedesBenz, the benefit of F1 goes deeper still. As the performance subdivision AMG celebrates its 50th anniversary, Mercedes is planning to unveil the ultimate road car at the Frankfurt motor show in September. As chairman and CEO Dieter Zetsche recently told me: “The success of AMG is a significant contributor to the perception of Mercedes as much younger,cooler and more relevant. The [Project One] hypercar will be the missing link, legitimizing the integration of AMG with the Formula One team. It will be limited production, and ideally we want it to be sold out before the first one is delivered. It will be perceived as the ultimate sports car.” AMG’s straight-talking boss Tobias Moers adds: “It was very clear to us that it could not be a V8 or V12

hybrid car. It should be something really special. Who else, other than us, could try to bring a Formula One engine to the street? I called Andy [Cowell] and said, ‘Can you do it?’ He said, ‘Give me two months’. And then the answer was yes.’’ But let’s give the last word to Ola Källenius, the Mercedes board member for research and development. “We are crazy enough occasionally to say, ‘Let’s do it’. We are putting a Formula One powertrain into a road car: not an F1-inspired or derived engine. We’ll have more batteries, and we’ll probably have a higher total power output than we do in the F1 car, but it is the F1 powertrain, full stop. “The last three years have been unbelievable, almost like a dream. I visited the team a few weeks ago and sensed an atmosphere of hunger almost as if we’d won no championships in the past three years. The rule changes are effectively a ‘control-alt-delete’, a start again. But we’ve been working night and day to make ourselves competitive. We’ll always keep the hunger, the inner unrest. We want to win. On track, on the road, everywhere.”


107 xx Baku.

Illustrations by BEN CHALLENOR Words by SIMON DE BURTON

Putting the rev into revenue, these are the classic cars collectors are lining up for at auction. Gentlemen, start your engines.

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BENTLEY SPEED SIX COUPE W.O. Bentley introduced the highperformance Speed Six models in the late 1920s to ensure the standard 6-litre cars could match the supercharged engines being created by privateer ‘Bentley Boy’ Sir Tim Birkin and rival marque Mercedes-Benz. Buyers acquired their cars as a rolling chassis and commissioned coachbuilders to fit bespoke bodywork. Most chose open-top designs, so original coupés are rare and valuable – starting from €300,000. Buy one because: you want to relive the days of flapper girls and sporting gents.

CADILLAC ELDORADO BIARRITZ Cadillac’s range-topping Eldorado first appeared in 1953, but many see the third-generation versions made from 1957-1960 as the quintessential Caddy. Perhaps best of all was the drop-top ‘Biarritz’ of 1959, almost 6m of unashamed, convertible decadence with huge rear fins, distinctive ‘bullet’ tail lights, air suspension and electric everything. Expect to pay €100,000-200,000. Buy one because: you want to show the world you sure ain’t shy.

BMW ISETTA One of the best loved of all microcars – and yours for about €20,000 – the Isetta originated from the Italian firm Iso in 1959. It was built under licence in various countries including Germany, where it was produced by BMW, which largely re-engineered the Isetta and fitted it with a single cylinder motorcycle engine – enabling it to cover 145km on 4.5 litres of fuel. Buy one because: you’re small, hard of hearing and take a masochistic approach to discomfort.

MCLAREN F1 Capable of more than 370km/h, the McLaren F1 remains the fastest normally aspirated road car ever made. Produced in just 106 examples between 1992 and 1999, this mid-engined, centre-steering automotive legend, designed by Gordon Murray and Peter Stevens, is widely regarded as the world’s first hypercar and worth €10-20 million. Buy one because: you want to own one of the most important cars of the 20th century.

LAMBORGHINI MIURA Made famous in the opening scenes of the 1969 film The Italian Job, the Miura was the first mid-engined, road-going supercar when it was launched in 1966. Allegedly it was designed by Lamborghini engineers in their spare time because Ferruccio Lamborghini was more interested in grand tourers. A 12-cylinder, four-litre engine crammed in behind the two-seater cockpit endowed the Miura with a ride as wild as some of its screaming colour schemes. Expect a price tag of €1 million. Buy one because: Matt Monroe singing the opening lines of ‘Days Like These’ sends a shiver down your spine.

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Baku. 110 Baku.

“The Gaz 21 Volga is a true Soviet icon.”

FERRARI F512M The F512M was the final, limited-edition iteration of the iconic Testarossa, whose flamboyant shape was a marker of the 1980s. For its M (‘Modificata’) version, the car acquired a more powerful, lighter engine, racier suspension, a mild redesign, and a top speed of 315km/h – making it one of the two fastest cars in the world in 1995. Only 501 were made, and, once unloved, it is now rising rapidly in value, with the best examples fetching in excess of €400,000. Buy one because: it’s the last truly crazy Ferrari in existence.

CITROEN TRACTION AVANT One of the first cars to feature front-wheeldrive, Citroën’s celebrated ‘Traction Avant’ (officially the 7, 11 or 15cv) proved a commercial hit with more than 750,000 being sold. Other groundbreaking features included monocoque construction and all-round independent suspension. The car remained in production for 23 years and was built in both France and the UK. Today, saloons are worth €25,000 but expect to pay from €150,000 for the roadster version. Buy one because: you always admired fictional detective Inspector Maigret’s taste in cars.

MERCEDES C-111 If Mercedes-Benz were to pull the wraps off the C-111 for the first time today, few might realize it was originally designed in 1969. An entirely experimental design, the gull-wing coupé was made in 14 examples to serve as technological test beds, variously with rotary petrol and turbocharged diesel engines – the latter being capable of more than 322km/h. None has ever been sold but were you to have a chance to purchase one, you’d probably have to stump up in excess of €10 million. Buy one because: you’d be the only private individual in the world to own one.

ALFA ROMEO TIPO B Pre-war Grand Prix cars don’t come more thoroughbred than Alfa Romeo’s 1934 Tipo B ‘P3’ – the world’s first single-seat racer. Built in tiny numbers, buyers today will pay up to €4 million. Its supercharged, straighteight engine produced more than 250 horsepower and made it hard to beat in the hands of star drivers such as Tazio Nuvolari and Rene Dreyfus. Buy one because: you wish you’d been born in the golden era of motor racing.

GAZ 21 VOLGA One of Russia’s first mass-produced cars, the GAZ 21 Volga, named after Europe’s longest river, became a Soviet icon. The first series models were built from 19561958 with styling inspired by American cars of the era and, unusually, featured an automatic gearbox as standard. The early Volga models are identifiable by the chrome star symbol mounted in the grille and fetch from €10,000-15,000. Buy one because: you like your luxury to be a little left field.


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magine a future where people can enjoy their eighties in the same way they enjoyed their twenties, and no longer suffer from age-related diseases,” says Dr Henri Chenot from his eponymous clinic in the South Tyrol. “The only real ‘fountain of youth’ – being healthy and functioning optimally for the long-term – does require a lot of effort, discipline and selfdevelopment from a young age. Unfortunately,we often only realize this too late.” Chenot has spent the past 45 years honing his pioneering approach. ‘The Method’, as it’s affectionately termed by aficionados, pivots on the belief that our body is designed to live for 120 years. “We have a model for successful ageing, optimizing balance in body, mind and spirit,” says Dr George Gaitanos, the Chenot scientific director. This ‘model’ is the culmination of Chenot’s years of study in biology,philosophy, Chinese Medicine and bio-energetic psychology,a marriage between East and West that blends stateof-the-art medical technologies, with ancient understanding of our bodies’ energetic flow for vitality and balance. Plus a clean and calorie-restricted diet, for deep tissue cleansing and resetting the body’s own antiageing responses. Put simply, a Chenot Method experience is not just about detoxing the body to keep where it is now, but about stimulating it to a whole new level of healthy wellbeing. The journey to getting there is more complex and multifaceted, as I found out during my week at Palace Merano, the original Chenot clinic set amid the Dolomites. Here, behind the regal ‘Palace’ façade – and now, too, in the brand-new 6,000sq m medical spa in the Chenot Health Wellness Hotel Gabala in Azerbaijan – a health upgrade

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STAR SPA Who wants to live forever? From Italy to Azerbaijan, those in pursuit of the fountain of youth put their bodies and minds in the hands of Henri Chenot and his famed – and feared – ‘Method’. Words by SOPHIE BENGE Photography by ALDO AGNELLI

“WE CANNOT CHANGE OUR GENES,” SAYS CHENOT. “BUT WE CAN CHANGE THE CHOICES WE MAKE: HOW WE MOVE, EAT, THINK AND FEEL, ALL OF WHICH SHAPE THE WAY WE AGE.” may not print you a brand new liver or lungs, but it’s a 3D course of action nonetheless: diagnosis, drainage and diet, based on the premise that we are all toxic, simply by living. Toxicity reduces the vitality of our cells, tissue and functioning of our organs leading to imbalance that eventually accelerates ageing. And it hits us from all angles: emotional (the relationship bust-up, for example), environmental (the all-too-common, desk-bound city job), hereditary (grandpa’s alcohol addiction .... perhaps) and of course dietary: the coffee, cocktails, red meat and sugar story that we should, by now, be familiar with. “We cannot change our genes,” says Chenot. “But we can change the choices we make: how we move, eat, think and feel, all of which shape the way we age.” Such change is a big ask for anyone, frankly, which is why the Chenot Method for kickstarting change is so mind-boggling and full on. Just like High Intensity Training (HIT), it’s high impact over a short burst of time. This impact continues to elicit change for up to three months afterwards, according to Chenot. The rest is down to us. I spent seven days in a busy blur, scurrying between check-ups, treatments and minuscule meals, along with more than a hundred other guests, most of whom are leaders in their ‘normal’ lives: corporate honchos, oligarchs and the Milan fashion crowd who make the two-hour drive to the mountains before Fashion Week to prepare for the camera lens. But here we are all the same. We all spend the day in dressing gowns, we eat the same food (largely) and do similar things, meeting in the lifts en route between a dietetic assessment or vitamin infusion in the medical, spa or bio-energetic departments, and in the dining room, the most incongruous scenario of all. Here, among mighty marble columns, under crystal chandeliers typical of the baroque splendour of a grand palace hotel, we rub shoulders in our statutory white robes, while eking out a dainty salad or consommé soup, sipping water from a wine glass. There is nothing more levelling than the common pursuit of health. Our pursuit, during these seven days, is tracked via our ‘book’,

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The doctor scans my test results and bioenergetic data. his prescription? “Chill out, dance, don’t meditate.” our bible of health notes that is constantly scrutinized by our medical specialists as results, schedules and daily weight measurements are added. At bio-energetics on the ground floor, I’m wired up to a bleeping monitor that measures the bioenergetic frequency through my organs and meridian lines, on the Chinese Medicine side of the programme. The printed graphs, with alarming levels of red ink, give a picture of physical and psychological stress in my mind and most compromised organs – bladder, small intestine, heart and gall bladder in my case, the areas that the cellular resonance therapy (electric-style acupuncture) and meridian massage will focus on for me. After scanning four pages of seemingly impossible data, my smiley acupuncturist Marie Pierre offers a simple solution. She tells me to go outside and clear my head with daily walks along the nearby river. It resonates deeply: how a simple lifestyle change, just as Gaitanos said, can have such positive impact on our wellbeing. The importance of emotional balance for shedding toxins touched me again a few days later. On the medical floor, in a design-led consultation room – all Flos lights and Eames chairs – Dr Silvano scans my book for blood and urine test results along with my bio-energetic data and suggests a similar prescription: “Chill out, be happy and dance, don’t meditate.” He deduced that I was carrying too much mental weight and, at 51 years old, it was time to stop dwelling. When I told him an ex-lover was picking me up from the Palace for a romantic weekend, we spent the rest of my 30-minute session searching the internet for boutique hotels at nearby Lake Garda. He stopped me the next day to check we had booked. And winked. Back down the medical corridor, with its column lights and glossy white decor straight out of a South Beach hotel, I’m scanned. The Palace’s latest technological device glides down my body (like scanning

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on an at-home printer) then spits out fascinating charts and diagrams analysing the health of my bone structure and distribution of body fat. My bulging thigh tops, it appears, are well within normal range and my bone density is that of a 35-year-old. Some good news here at least. As I lie each morning in the hydro-aromatherapybath and tilt those thighs closer to the nozzles spouting jets of warm water, I feel better and better. I’m then painted and wrapped up like a mummy with warm, micro-algae mud before being jetted, while naked, with a hose – with particular aim on the wobbly bits. This hour-long trilogy of treatments, compulsory for all, is the daily drainage part of the Method, designed to tone and eliminate tension in the muscles and nervous system. With body fluids in flow everyone moves on to a daily massage, which continues the drainage process at the physical level of muscles and tendons and along specific meridian lines that relate to those underperforming organs. Then come the ‘bells’, an electrical development on Traditional Chinese Medicine cupping, that suck and pulse on the body’s energy centres to further provoke stimulation, regeneration and revitalization – all part of what Gaitanos calls “positive stressors”, designed to create homeodynamics that, in turn, leads to a lifted level of homeostasis; in other words, a younger functioning self. The rest of the treatment programme is wholly bespoke according to individual needs. At the new flagship in Gabala, the Chenot team has added the latest cutting-edge technologies for more specific assessment and more effective treatment. Arterial stiffness diagnostics determines, via an arm cuff, the biological age of our arteries. New forms of ultrasound measure the thickness of collagen in our skin, which reflects the collagen in our bodies. Oxidative stress is measured via a drop of blood. Cryotherapy progressively exposes you, in an ice lab, to -110C (-166F)

over three minutes. This punishing cold burst is a small price to pay to drop 10 years from your complexion, such is its effect on skin, as well as immune function, pain relief and blood flow. The high altitude treatment involves inhaling reduced levels of oxygen through a mask or in a chamber to improve aerobic metabolism, which allows for a more efficient use of oxygen. Chenot, while embracing the ancient, also invests liberally in the new. Back at the ‘Palace’ Dr Silvano adds osteopathy (to release my diaphragm) and colonic irrigation (faeces’ description is always part of the consultation process) to my bespoke treatment list. I have a consultation with the aesthetic physician Dr Lakakis. His department is Disneyland for middleaged women, with high-tech beauty treatments that run the gamut from lasers and lymph drainage to cellulite busters and collagen boosters. Outer beauty leads to inner harmony, which in turn leads to health and happiness. This place understands its clientele. Thank goodness for these backto-back treatments – plus exercise classes, gym, pool, saunas, steam rooms and beautiful surroundings. All this diverts from the inevitable hunger pangs that accompany a strict programme such as this. The

Method’s precisely tailored diet is crucial for spring cleaning and rebalancing the body, for reducing inflammation and boosting repair at a cellular level. All guests are in for a meat-, sugar-, dairy- and caffeine-free week, where the science of low glycaemic index foods (for balancing sugar levels), alkalinity (for reducing acidity that hardens tissue) and marination (steeping food in vinegar before cooking reduces advanced glycation end products that cause proteins to stiffen and consequently the onset of chronic conditions) are combined with the theory of calorie reduction. This dual assault, including a fasting day of clear soup only, mobilizes body fat to release the toxins that are stored in it. Such in-depth nutritional knowledge is the lifework of Chenot’s wife, Dominique. She translates her dietary expertise into tasty, if tiny, portions that are delicious enough that 70 per cent of guests return each year. By the time I reach day seven of this, my first visit, I know that I, too, want to come back one day for more. Not only have I dropped 3kg, the mirror tells me I’m svelter. And I’m off to Lake Garda full of positive emotional frequency to support my new level of happy, healthy homeostasis.


Previous spread: the new Palace Chenot in Gabala. This spread: Dr Henri Chenot (above, left) has clinics around the world, including the original Palace Merano in Italy (above) and now Azerbaijan (far left, this picture and right).

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Photography by Natavan Vahabova

Many artists shy away from revealing themselves outside of their work, but five of Baku’s best allowed us into their studios for a rare glimpse of the creative process.

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“THE COMMUNITY IN BAKU IS FILLED WITH AMBITIOUS, ENTHUSIASTIC ARTISTS WHO STAND AT THE MAMMAD MUSTAFAYEV FOREFRONT OF Age: 69. Born: Baku, Azerbaijan. Studied at: Azim Azimzadeh State Art EVERYTHING THAT’S College in Baku and Azerbaijan State GOING ON – AND YET Institute of Architecture. DO NOT FORGET THE How would you describe your style OLD TRADITIONS.” of art? For the most part my work consists of abstract painting. What inspires your work? Everything that surrounds us can be transformed into a sort of creative meditation.  What’s your all-time favourite piece of art? I cannot single out any artist or work. For me, there are artists like Picasso, Mirò, Chirico and Calder and others. But you can discover something new in any artist.  What’s the most memorable or important exhibition you’ve had work in? My works in the exhibition ‘Fly

to Baku’ in London and the ‘Adsiz’ exhibition in Baku went down very well. What’s been the highlight of your career so far? One day when I was nine I didn’t go to school because I was sick. It was then that my mother bought me my first sketchbook and paints. What’s the contemporary art community like in Baku? The community here is filled with ambitious, enthusiastic artists who stand at the forefront of everything that’s going on – and yet do not forget the old traditions. What’s next for you? Work and more work. 

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Previous spread, clockwise from main picture: Composition #17; the artist Mammad Mustafayev; Absheron; The Bottom of the Earth; and Marjana.

“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ISN’T THE CONGRATULATIONS OR PRAISE, BUT SEEING PEOPLE’S REACTIONS TO MY PAINTINGS, THE WAY THEIR FACES CHANGE AS THEY GO FROM ONE painted from within the man. For its PAINTING TO ANOTHER.” mysteriousness and fear, I’d choose ANAR YOLCHIYEV Age: 43. Born: Baku, Azerbaijan. Studied at: Azerbaijan State Oil Academy. Describe your style of art. I couldn’t define my style or manner precisely. My landscapes are probably more impressionist, while my portraits and multi-figure compositions are more realist. The important thing is that you should end up with beauty. What’s your all-time favourite piece of art? There isn’t one single work. But certainly Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velázquez. That portrait was

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Goya’s Witches’ Flight. My favourite large-group painting is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. My favourite nudes are Velázquez’s Venus and Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. There are hundreds of others I could mention… What inspires your work? Different things. Sometimes it’s a girl coming towards me turning her head, sometimes it’s the scent of flowers, but most often it’s a desire to tell and show everyone an entire story. What’s the most memorable exhibition you’ve had work in? Probably my personal exhibition, ‘On Distant Shores’, last December. The most important thing wasn’t the congratulations or praise, but seeing

people’s reactions to my paintings, the way their faces changed as they went from one painting to another. What’s been the highlight of your career so far? About 12 years ago, I exhibited two pastel still-lifes at a spring exhibition for young people. The rector of the Academy of Arts, Eldar Omarov, was at the opening with some teachers and older artists and walked past all the artworks without stopping. But then he stopped beside my work, looked at it for a few seconds, praised it and asked whose it was. Everyone rushed to read the name on the plaque, but all said that it wasn’t one of their students. I felt awkward about going over to them and introducing myself and saying that it was mine.

This page, clockwise from far left: Anar Yolchiyev; and works by the artist entitled Still Life in Blue Tones (2014); and Marlin Hunting (2014).

This page, clockwise from left: Elyar Alimiroyev in his studio; and his works Morning (2015); and The Drummer (2016).

“YOU CAN CALL ART ‘BEAUTY’ – THAT’S A MORE USUAL WAY OF SAYING IT. OR ‘UGLINESS’ – THAT’S A COOLER WAY OF SAYING IT. OR ‘PERFECTION IN THE IMPERFECT’ – THAT’S A MORE INTELLECTUAL WAY OF SAYING IT. BUT THIS IS MEANINGLESS IN THE END… BECAUSE IT’S BETTER TO STAY PURE.” But that was probably the nicest moment in anyone’s assessment of my works. As for the biggest achievement in my career, that’s always been the opportunity to paint what I want, whatever troubles me, what the canvas calls for.  In three words, describe the art scene in Baku: Traditional, modern, unstructured. What’s next for you? Another personal exhibition is the next thing for me. I think it will take about a year to be ready for showing. Most of the works will be in large format, some of them are already finished and some of them were painted a long time ago, but some of them still exist only inside my head, so I have a lot of work to do.

ELYAR ALIMIROYEV Age: 55. Born: Baku, Azerbaijan. Studied at: Aziz Azimzadeh State Art College in Baku. Describe your style of art. My style of art lies in my individuality. A real artist loves nature, not art. So an artist’s style should be the absence of mannerism, when a work of art is created ‘all by itself’, as it were. For an artist, this is the essential condition of your self-expression. And as for how I could define myself stylistically in my art, I’m a rock star, a guitar player who picks violets after a concert. What inspires you in your work? What is already there. Nothing more and nothing less. Of course, you can call that ‘beauty’ – that’s a more usual way of saying it. Or ‘ugliness’ – that’s a cooler way of saying it. Or ‘perfection in the imperfect’ – that’s a more intellectual way of saying it. But all this is meaningless to an artist in the end. You mustn’t bother yourself with such thoughts, because in the end, it’s better to stay pure. What is the most memorable exhibition you’ve had work in? Any exhibition that you have work in, especially a personal one, is a dubious honour. Self-confidence can pass

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straight through you, but, you know, it’s a very deceptive thing. It can paralyse you, leaving you unable to create anything new. At this point you need to go back to your studio, where you’re not a hero, and create, alone. What do you think of the contemporary art community developing in Baku? It’s like a traveller who has been everywhere, who can do anything and yet still doesn’t feel at home anywhere. Everyone wants to achieve something special, but that’s like planting a tree in the ocean. What’s next for you? The most important thing is that I’m not bored. Boredom is the end.

EMIN ASGEROV Age: 38. Born: Baku, Azerbaijan. Studied at: Aziz Azimzadeh State Art College.

“A LOT OF THINGS INSPIRE MY WORK – THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF THE ABSHERON PENINSULA, THE GOBUSTAN MOTIFS, THE EMBROIDERY OF OUR CARPETS, AS WELL AS MODERN ARTISTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY AND SO ON.” This page, clockwise from left: Yellow Spot (2016); Composition (2015); and Collection (2017), all by Emin Asgerov; the artist himself.

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Describe your style of art. It has formed itself during years of focus on the process. This is the process of natural consciousness. What inspires you in your work? A lot of things – the flora and fauna of the Absheron Peninsula, the Gobustan motifs, the embroidery of our carpets, as well as modern artists. I want to organize my personal show. What is your all-time favourite work of art? Not a work, but the 2016 exhibition ‘12 -?’, organized in the Museum of Modern Art in Baku, featuring both young and older artists, was inspiring. What is the contemporary art community like in Baku? Although we have many artists in many different genres, there is a thriving creative atmosphere. In three words, describe the art scene in Baku: Creativity, development, innovation.

“I’D BE LYING IF I DIDN’T SAY THAT BAKU ARTISTS MOSTLY ‘HANG OUT’ IN STUDIOS! BUT WE ALSO SPEND TIME IN NEW UNDERGROUND CAFES AND PUBS.” This page, clockwise from far left: doll installation from Vusal Rahim’s series My Name is Sara (2015); the artist; and art book from his series Diaries of the Guest (2009).

Which artists do you most admire? Mirdzhavad Mirdzhavadov, Murad Ashraf and Kamal Ahmed from Azerbaijan, and, internationally, Rufino Tamayo, Anthony Tàpiyes, Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The work of modern artists grabs me more and more because I see the innovation of their creativity, and this is similar to my style.

VUSAL RAHIM Age: 29. Born: Ganja, Azerbaijan. Studied at: Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Arts. How would you describe your style of art? Abstract expressionism, although more recently I’d say I’ve been leaning towards conceptual art. What inspires your work? The human body, and the social and psychological state a person lives in. What’s your all-time favourite piece of art? Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits. What’s the most memorable exhibition you’ve had work in? ‘Black Woman’ at Yay Gallery in Baku in 2013. It was based on an earlier series of works in tribute to the woman – both mother and lover. Where does Baku’s art crowd hang out? I’d be lying if I didn’t say that they mostly ‘hang out’ in studios! But we also spend time in new underground cafes and pubs. In three words, describe the art scene in Baku: Small, young, enthusiastic. What’s next for you?  Finishing my ‘Story of My Body’ series, along with two other video art projects, and then I’ll be holding another exhibition and finishing the plays that I’m art directing.


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Endangered TIPPING THE SCALES One of the most ancient fish species is also most at risk from extinction, but the new Varvara hatchery in Azerbaijan is determined to save the sturgeon – and caviar, too. By Francesca Peak

s conservation efforts go, saving the caviar industry isn’t one that garners much attention. However the humble sturgeon, which provides caviar roe, has been under threat of extinction since the turn of the millennium. Of the 27 species in the sturgeon family, 19 are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered, making sturgeon by far the most

at risk of all groups of species. Endeavours to increase the Caspian Sea’s sturgeon population are more a matter of saving a fish as old as the dinosaurs, rather than preserving the global luxury caviar industry – which gets 90 per cent of its non-farmed supply from the Caspian. A project undertaken by the Azerbaijan-based IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action) campaign aims to do the former. The Varvara fish hatchery in Yevlakh, near Baku, is also championing the cause. Its owner, Manuchehr Ahadpur Khanghah, committed to developing a hatchery in 2007, and has since increased its size and scope, resulting in its official opening in April this year. “The primary intention of the farm is to restock the Caspian Sea with young sturgeon, or fingerlings,” explains Khanghah. “The final goal, by 2030, when we are running at full capacity, is to restock the sea with 50 million fingerlings per year.” This sets Varvara apart from other fish hatcheries around the world, only some of which consciously release fingerlings back into the wild. Fingerlings are released when they weigh between 3-5g, before reaching sexual maturity, and can eventually grow to 100kg.

Left: Manuchehr Ahadpur Khanghah, founder of Varvara fish hatchery. This picture: sturgeon fisherman on the Caspian Sea in Iran, in 1964.

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Setting fingerlings free works for both conservationists and caviar aficionados: once the fish reach sexual maturity, at varying ages for each species, they return back home, to the same river’s delta – benefiting both reproductive efforts and caviar production in the area. The sevruga, or starry, sturgeon return to hatch their eggs at six years; ossetra mature at nine years; while beluga lovers have to wait a long 12 years. For a species that has been around for more than 200 million years, its physiology has barely changed. Sturgeon skeletons sit close to their skins, which, with their bony plates This page, from top: tins of Russian and Iranian beluga caviar; sturgeon meat hanging out to dry in Turkmenistan, 1997; Varvara hatchery; and its breeding pools.

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running along their back, makes them almost indestructible and contributes to their lengthy lifespans of more than a century. Many grow up to 5m long, with some belugas eventually weighing up to 1,000kg. A female sturgeon can yield 80kg of caviar, so the older they are, the more valuable to poachers and farmers. Incredibly, caviar was once merely a substitute for meat during religious fasts, often eaten by the bowlful alongside porridge. Its transformation into a luxury product in the 19th century dramatically increased demand, and the sturgeon population has been in steady decline ever since – due to a lack of replenishing projects and chronic overfishing. Illegal farming methods mean eggs are harvested by killing the females just as they have reached sexual maturity, thus preventing them from reproducing further. Such methods threaten legitimate farming stocks.

Beluga, ossetra and sevruga sturgeon, responsible for producing the three most sought-after types of caviar in the world, have all been ranked by the IUCN as ‘critically endangered’ since 2001. This puts them in the same group as the Caucasian leopard, orangutan and black rhino. The population of the beluga sturgeon alone fell 90 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s. Before consumer demand even affected sturgeon, man-made dams restricted their migration movements, and they were unable to access freshwater to breed. Dams in the Volga river in Russia and the Kura in Azerbaijan have restricted sturgeon migrating to and breeding in these freshwater rivers. It’s not surprising, then, that both countries have invested in breeding farms. Such farms have also cropped up in somewhat unlikely places, including California, France and the UAE. The new Varvara fish hatchery is spearheading the charge – the project is the largest sturgeon fish farm in the world. And it really is a labour of love: Khanghah imported the first mother sturgeon in 2007, but it was only when she could have fingerlings, several years later, that the centre could finally progress.

“Today, we have more than 95,000 fish in the hatchery, weighing anywhere from 1-140kg,” says Khanghah. “Half of those are female fish, which we are now using to hatch and extract caviar.” Pioneering methods involve massaging the caviar out of pregnant sturgeon, or using an injection to release eggs for hatching, leaving the female sturgeon alive and unharmed; this is increasingly important as so few fulfil their potential lifespan of more than a hundred years. While the centre plays a long waiting game for the females to reach sexual maturity, in the meantime some of the male sturgeon are used to breed more females or sold for meat, so that the overall population of the centre rises. This page: back when sturgeon were more abundant, Iranian fishermen at work in 1998 (top) and 1961 (below); a catch of sevruga sturgeon for caviar (above) in Iran, 1959; sturgeon features on a postage stamp (right) from Russia in 1975.

Elsewhere in the world, the decreasing sturgeon population in the Danube river in central Europe has reached critical levels; Romania and Bulgaria have imposed bans on sturgeon fishing until at least 2021. The US banned all imports of Beluga caviar and products from the Caspian Sea in 2005, and various import bans and quotas have restricted the amount of caviar entering countries including Australia and the UK. These efforts to curtail demand are aimed at illegal traders, but also encourage bilateral agreements on responsible sturgeon farming. Significant funding has been poured into university research since several species were declared endangered, and new methods of caviar extraction don’t involve killing the fish. As the international demand for caviar shows no sign of slowing, the importance of sturgeon conservation has never been greater. If the population is not replenished and responsibly sourced, international quotas and restrictions will make caviar disappear from our menus and, more crucially, push sturgeon to extinction. Although it may not be the most attractive fish out there, losing such an ancient and noble creature would be a tragedy indeed.




“The final goal, by 2030, when we are running at full capacity, is to restock the sea with 50 million fingerlings per year.”

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My Art TALES OF THE EAST AND WEST Colour, texture and geometry form the backbone of Noor Fares’ collection, stemming from a rich cultural heritage and inspiring her eponymous jewellery label. Portrait by KALPESH LATHIGRA

Noor Fares in her Belgravia home in central London, with Luca Missoni’s Moon (2008) series on the wall. Inset: a painting by Neil Raitt hangs above the fireplace.

What was your first piece of art? I bought a photograph of a veiled woman covered with calligraphic Farsi text, by the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat. How did you become interested in collecting? My mother was always an inspiration, and her love for art and design influenced me as I grew up in Paris. My parents, both Lebanese, are collectors, so I was immersed in it. I liked the stories told through art. What does your collection say about you? It reflects facets of my personality – it is eclectic and colourful. I’m drawn to textures and geometry. I’m also very emotional and intuitive – if I truly love something, then it is a must-buy! Any favourite pieces? My crystals, which I collect because they transmit powerful energies into my home; my two Shannon Finley paintings, because of their psychedelic qualities; and my Francesco Clemente portrait, for his ability to capture a moment and a feeling so precisely. Do you tend to discover new additions by chance? I’m very curious, and love to spend time researching art – via museums, art fairs and friends in the art world. Why is art important to you? Art is a form of expression; it is a universal language. I cannot live without art. Does art inspire your jewellery? Art and architecture definitely inform my practice. For example: Op Art, the artists Hilma af Klint, Olafur Eliasson and Clemente, but also ancient art. I often visit the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum for visual research and inspiration. Are there any artworks you would ultimately love to own? I’d love a piece by the DanishIcelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. I’m fascinated by his work.

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Profile HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT Global ambition and a passion for art have led to a small but flourishing business empire for Baku-based Jemma Iskender, whose PR, media and cake-decorating branches are in full bloom. emma Iskender is rather busy. Not only does she run her own PR agency (with clients such as Rolls-Royce) and a digital lifestyle magazine with contributors worldwide, she also has a blossoming decorative cake business on the side, as well as being a mother of two small children. So what has driven her to such wide-ranging success? “I always thought, from a young age, that I might run my own business,” she says. “I wanted to find something that interested me. I loved cooking and the presentation of food, and art is my passion – everything I do stems from art and creativity.” Based in Baku, where she was born and raised, Iskender’s expanding JA brand (combining the first initial of her and her husband Aleksander’s names) includes JA PR, JA Lifestyle Journal and JA Bouquet Cakes. It has local roots but global ambition, encompassing as it does impeccable style, a worldly outlook and entrepreneurial nous. These qualities have grown from her varied career, beginning in fine art and fashion, then, after further study, a job in the travel industry, before landing in PR. Iskender’s desire to explore the world has inspired her ventures. “I love travelling,” she says with a smile. “I went to some extraordinary places through my work. That’s what led me to start a blog in 2015.” Since then it has evolved into a broader digital magazine published in Russian and sometimes French (when her French husband writes for her, interviewing figures such as chef Guillaume Gomez of the Elysée Palace). “I try to show our readers less obvious places – for example, when I go to France I always visit areas other than Paris, such as Normandy, which is fascinating,” she says. “I want to expand, but it’s difficult with two children. That’s why I went out on my own in PR.” JA PR launched last year, and now has a growing list of clients, including drink brands, and the Azerbaijani artist Rashad Mehdiyev. Taking her love of art and food even further, Iskender also toils away on exquisite cakes, painstakingly decorating them with hyperreal edible flowers. “I will spend three days on one cake,” she explains. “They are expensive to make, but they are artworks.” Naturally, Iskender has plans to develop this “hobby”, as she calls it, by opening bakeries in Baku and Paris. “It’s a good time be an entrepreneur here; there are great opportunities. And you get to be a kind of pioneer.”



“I loved cooking and the presentation of food, and art is my passion – everything I do stems from art and creativity.”

Jemma Iskender painstakingly decorates her cakes with lifelike edible flowers.


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The Illustrator JUNGLE BOOGIE

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By Leyla Aliyeva

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The Circuit ‘LIVE LIFE’ ON TOUR An arty and academic crowd gathered in the German capital for a conservation-themed show. Leyla Aliyeva. Raksana Çivisova and Dr Wilfried Fuhrmann.

A freezing February night in Berlin didn’t deter the art world from venturing out in the name of conservation. ‘Live Life’, an exhibition of nine artists from Azerbaijan and Germany, landed in the German capital at Galerie Berlin-Baku after previously showing in London and Paris. Hervé Mikaeloff curated the collection of thought-provoking works inspired by the beauty of nature. Guests browsed the paintings inside before braving the temperature to refuel at the wine truck parked outside in true Berlin style, while the after-party moved on to local hot spot Das Meisterstück for bratwurst and craft beer. Next stop for the exhibition: Moscow... Nuran Huseynov. Sabine Burmester.

Jean-David Malat.

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Anar Alakbarov, Leyla Aliyeva and Emin Mammadov.

Tanya Makrinova and Jakub Kubica. Christa Korn-Wichmann, Elko Wichmann, Berta Rist and Hanna Ehrari.


Naiba Shirinova.

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The Circuit ‘LIVE LIFE’ ON TOUR Zurab Tsereteli Art Gallery hosted stylish Muscovites as the exhibition arrived in Russia.

Leyla Aliyeva.

Sati Kazanova.


Sergei Semenov.

Dmitri Dibrov.

Aidan Salakhova. Boris Krasnov.

Anar Alakbarov.

Nikas Safronov. Eugeny Gerchakov and Anna Komkina.

Kamil Larin and wife. 135 Baku.

Tabula Rasa THE RIDE OF HER LIFE Horse motifs, harnesses and carpet patterns from the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan hit the international fashion circuit thanks to emerging German designer Leonie Mergen. way from the dazzling bigname catwalk shows during London Fashion Week are a host of off-schedule events, where you’re likely to discover some of the brightest new stars. It was at one such event, back in February, in an east London studio, that Leonie Mergen staged her autumn/winter 2017/2018 show to much acclaim – a collection inspired by the rich cultural traditions of the Karabakh region in Azerbaijan. The up-and-coming German designer says she is often influenced by different cultures. She first encountered Azerbaijan while studying for her master’s degree at Berlin’s International University of Art and simultaneously working with the traditional tie manufacturer Edsor. “I worked on designing a collection of Karabakh-inspired scarves and prints,” Mergen says. “The prints were so beautiful that I wanted to bring them to a wider audience.” So, she arranged a trip there in 2015 to research the traditional carpets and clothing of Karabakh, in the southwest of the country. “I didn’t only focus on the beautiful patterns, but also the history behind them and national symbols, such as the pomegranate and fire,” says Mergen. The same geometric patterns have been used for carpets since the mid-19th century and, as the region is known for breeding the elegant and fast Karabakh horse, the everyday dress has a suitably equine appeal. It is this combination that Mergen has modernized and translated in her latest menswear and womenswear collections. Pieces include an embroidered, navy silk floor-length dress, leather belts and harnesses crossing over tailored jackets, patterned turtlenecks for men, dresses with capes, black knee-high boots and even a take on the cylindrical papaq hat. In sum, it’s a collection that Mergen describes as “elegant and wearable, but with a twist of ethnic influence”. The standout piece is an elaborately embroidered wool and silk cape jacket, with a graceful cut that evokes the wind streaming through a horse rider’s clothes. “This really was a labour of love,” says Mergen. “I redesigned the pattern about 15 times. I wanted to get my interpretation just right, and there were only three of us working on all the stitching and cutting.” About 90 hours later, a work of art was born. Bringing a centuries-old cultural tradition to a 2017 fashion audience surely isn’t easy, but Mergen has pulled it off with style and finesse.

Above: the bold geometric patterns of a Karabakh carpet. Left: Leonie Mergen at Berlin Fashion Week; and her a/w 2017/18 show.


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Profile for Baku Magazine

Baku Magazine - Issue 21