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“It is a bit risqué,” said Mr.B, weighing the pros and cons of an eight-month-old idea. “To dedicate a whole spread to a local artist, much less a cover feature for the Christmas issue!” As always his apprehension was explainable. But at the top of the editor-in-chief’s worries was the challenge in finding one artist in this country who appeals to the masses and yet whose image does not conflict with the vision of the magazine. And since we, the Lebanese, are not exactly the biggest fans of us, the risk is multiplied by four. To start with, the Plastik* reader enjoys a certain standard that the team was apt to maintain throughout the past issues, and it would be unjust were we to tarnish that luxury. But bearing in mind what the readers expect from us is not the biggest hitch. “We are a bit too harsh on ourselves; we throw away ideas like there is no tomorrow for others to pick them up, ignoring our potential in turning a whiff of the imagination into a product of dreams,” concluded Mr. B at the point of making a decision in this dilemma. And it is with his very words that we decided to approach the issue: THE POWER TO DREAM BEYOND THE PICKET FENCES BUILT BY OUR SOCIETY. The formula was easy. We pretended to be taking the SATs and swaying before the multiple choices of a rather difficult question: To meet our potential candidate, what would be the most significant attribute that makes her eligible to be on the Plastik* cover? A.She has a stamp of approval from countries other than Lebanon and the Arab region. B.She is not a trashy “slashie” (e.g. previous model/singer, singer/actress, title-holder/ singer, model/TV presenter…) C.She always manages to pull off the “I’m-bored-and-better-than-you” look, but never fails to use it responsibly. D.She is 100% Plastik* E. All of the above. And so, our obvious choice was E – as in Elissa. The day of the shoot, Lebanese singing sensation Elissa showed up on time, looking stunningly casual in Dolce and Gabbana (of course!) silk boxing sweat pants from the BOXE line, a matching white top, a vintage Balenciaga Paddington bag, and a Missoni cardigan – just in case. And just when I thought that she must have left her infamous diva tantrums at home, she looked at me and said, “I don’t mind to wait, just as long as I’m doing something!” After two and a half hours of preparation time (ok, my bad!), came the moment of truth: how would you style a woman whose walk-in wardrobe at home even Carrie Bradshaw would kill to have? Thanks to our fitting session from the late night before, Elissa opted for three exquisite looks from a wide selection. She looked dashing in a Lanvin black lace-ruffles dress, flirtatious in an Oscar de la Renta tutu number, and radiant in a white empire-waisted Marchesa. The moment she was joined by the other characters in the story, Mr.B’s doubts were put to an end. The set was turned into a festive extravaganza with everyone having an early merry Plastik* Christmas. Elissa herself emerged as a true heroine. She was a constant motivation for everyone on the set who literally looked up to her as the fairy Godmother she appeared to be. And just as we started to drift away in that fairytale of the lonely princess and her imaginary friends, the photographer’s “It’s a wrap!” echoed through the walls of the vast mansion. As Elissa got prepared to run off to her next adventure, I asked her opinion of the shoot. She had a glow in her eyes followed by her signature one-sided dimply smile and, of course, her trademark, Candy* “IT’S OK, TANKS! ”®

Editor in Chief / Creative Director ELI REZKALLAH Fashion Editor RYAN HOUSARI Managing Partner ZEINA ZEIDAN Financial Manager HUSSEIN SABBAH Graphic Designer MAYA EL HELOU STEPHANY IBRAHIM ASMA HOBALLAH Assistant to Creative Director HASAN KAMEL SABBAH HEKMAT GHANDOUR RANA HACHEM Contributing Writers PETER SPEETJENS RAFIQ AJAMI PAUL COCHRANE LAETECIA SPROUSE ERIKA ADELEINE NORMA BEJJANI Contributing Photographers STEVE KOZMAN PETER TAMLIN Advertising Department Responsable Manager ALBERT CHAMOUN Special Thanks PORTEMILIO RESORT Printing Dots printing press






FAV 10



LE MUST 050. 052. 054. 056.









130. RABIH KAYROUZ 134. CALINE CHIDIAC 146. 147. 148. 149. 150. 151.



EXPOS 160. 162. 164. 176. 168. 170. 170.








PLASTIK was a product of pure imagination* Upon a shooting star, we hoped that Santa would make our wishes come true Little did we know, that we were left amidst the darkness of an empty wonderland, armed with nothing but a dream.


PLASTIK is a pure imaginative product* We have climbed up the stairs of our creative bubble, and tip-toed on the clouds fogging our vision The playfield is now lit The merry-go-round is filled And the rollercoaster is ready to roll But Santa is not* invited to the party


You will jump aboard the carousel and ride the rollercoaster You will join the circus of high-heeled jugglers and bespoke clowns Tomorrow you will live to tell your own fairytale of a vision And your “once upon a time” will be your “happily ever after”

Daytime TV queen Oprah announced that “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will be coming to an end in – mark the date – September 2011, after 25 years on top. Great, so what are we going to watch next? Tyra?

Amidst the renaissance of the 90’s supermodels in the late noughties, Claudia shows us the meaning of being back and better than ever. At 39, the model veteran is on top of her game, fronting the first rows of runway shows and landing major ad campaigns for the likes of Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, Alberta Ferretti, D&G, and Ebel. This supermodel is here to stay.

When Madonna gets a divorce, she dates Jesus. And the rest is ancient history. Ever since filing for bankruptcy late last year, world-famous French couturier Christian Lacroix was left with only 12 workers to complete his A/W 2009 Haute Couture collection, with each paying 50 Euros to fund the show. Rumor has it that the sheikh of Ajman is set to buy the business and save the Parisian fashion name.

Chris Brown and Rihanna’s love goes back to high school. He beats her up; she goes back to him. He gets accused of assault; she gets accused of sending the wrong message to kids. He gets sentenced to stay fifty yards away from her; she breaks-up with him. Now he wants her back. Or not. We know, it is all very confusing.

Half-Dutch, half-Brit supermodel Lara Stone was first headhunted at the JFK airport in New York City (Ok, that is Kate Moss’s story, but she is just as good!). With a freakishly size 4 (in model terms, of course), Stone’s career took off when she was first signed by IMG and singlehandedly picked by designer Ricardo Tisci to open his Givenchy couture show. Ever since, Lara has invaded so many runway shows and magazine covers that people started to question whether we were in the Stone Age.

Broad shoulders, sexy sequined minis, and Swarovski-crystallized boots, the fashion world has been officially under the spell of Christophe Decarnin for Balmain. In what seems to be the most copied collection by other designers to date, Decarnin’s creations for Fall/Winter 2008-09 has taken the world by storm. Even the ever-versatile pop diva Madonna chose nothing but a long-sleeved, crystal-studded mini dress by Balmain for her “Celebration” video.

The youngest one of us has gone goo goo for Lady Gaga - the best thing that came out of America this year since, well, Obama. The Plastik* Girl of the Year has an exceptional stage stamina and an unpredictable fashion sense. And you still wonder where those kitsch couture creations you see on the runways end-up?

We loved her onscreen impersonation by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada in 2003, and her appearance this year as herself in R.J Cutler’s documentary The September Issue. Since 1988, Anna Wintour has been at the helm of fashion publications as editor-in-chief of US Vogue, preserving her image as the most-feared and most-respected mentor in fashion for the biggest designer names. We are anxious to see what is next for our favorite woman of the year.

Suzan Boyle. All we know is that she appeared in another one of the reality talent shows in Britain (no, not the X-Factor, the other one), and despite being the critics’ favorite, she came in second place “of course!”. Today, she has a number-one album in the charts, I Dreamed a Dream, thanks to her powerful soprano voice. Oh, and did we mention that she looks rather “odd.”

One in every three Japanese women owns an original Louis Vuitton bag, while the other two own a swine flu mask. You do the math.

After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium (also famous for designer alumnus such as Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten and Anne Demeulmeester), Peter Pilotto emerged as the newest hot talent in fashion since the launch of his label in 2008. Famous for his avant-garde draping and signature prints on silk, the Austrian-born designer is a name to watch.

Farah Fawcett and Patrick Swayze may have also died this year, but if there were sadly a limelight for the most shocking death in 2009, king of pop Michael Jackson would earn it. With an audience of over a billion worldwide, MJ’s memorial outnumbered that of US president Ronald Reagan’s and Princess Diana’s, proving to be the most memorable burial of the decade. As the mystery surrounding his death remains unveiled, the legend of the king continues.




berytus bldg. / corner of park avenue and avenue franรงaise beirut / lebanon t +961 1 97 65 65 / +961 1 97 65 66




Mario Testino (2009)



One simply cannot go wrong with Mario Testino, and one simply cannot go wrong with his take on Brazil’s heavenly city Rio de Janeiro. The Peruvian photographer has been in love with the city ever since his first visit as a 14-year-old, and he has been going back ever since. Beaches, bikinis, sunsets and Carnival: an ode to Rio!

This book is a must have for anyone interested in fashion and beauty. A curator at the MOMA Costume Institute, Harold Koda explores the relation between fashion and iconic beauties who during the 20th century shaped and changed the feminine ideal: from Twiggy to Cindy, from Dorian Leigh to Naomi Campbell.

The dog is a man’s best friend, his most loyal companion, as well as a welcome fashion accessory. When researching the Vogue archives, Judith Watt found a wide range of top notch portraits and fashion shoots featuring dogs. The result is this beautiful book on “canine chic” in Vogue throughout the years.


Harold Koda (a.o.) (2009)

Judith Watt (2009)


RANKIN’S CHEEKY Rankin (2009)


Another great photographer and another great photo book! Coinciding with his first major retrospective at the Petit Palais in Paris, this book offers an overview of Demarchelier’s rich and varied career in fashion and portrait photography for such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

Featuring a foreword by Mister Hugh Hefner, this is a delicious ode to the female curves by the British photographer famous for his kinky yet cheeky erotic compositions. This is in fact his second publication within a year following “Heidilicious,” a no less wonderful collection of Heidi Klum nudes.

A stunning book documenting nearly 70 years of Richard Avedon’s portraits and fashion photography in such publications as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and The New Yorker. The book was published following the American photographer’s first major retrospective at the prestigious International Center of Photography in New York in 2009.



Bruce Weber (2009)


Nick Knight is one of the fashion photographers most in demand today. This beautiful book is a collection of his most famous photos, including many images never published before, for clients such as Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yohji Yamamoto and Yves Saint Laurent.

As the title indicates, this book is a love letter to Cartier, originally a jeweler of kings, yet today known as “the king of jewelers.” Edited and directed by American photographer Bruce Weber, the book combines original images taken by him with archive photos and essays to highlight a dazzling, mind-boggling collection of jewelry.

Art and fashion go hand in hand in this gorgeous book documenting the collaborations between the house of Louis Vuitton and renowned artists, designers and photographers such as Olafur Eliasson, Zaha Hadid, David LaChapelle and Annie Leibovitz. What about architecture? Well, every store needs a front, which is a whole art in itself.


Nick Knight (2009)

Carol Squiers (a.o.) (2009)




SIGNÉ CHANEL Loic Prigent 2005



From Karl Lagerfeld’s first design to a top model’s body: Prigent offers a poignant look into the “kitchen” of the prestigious French fashion house, where real people really work, and suffer, before a flawless world of beauty and dreams is enacted on the catwalk.

An homage to the enigmatic French fashion genius Yves St. Laurent. The camera takes us behind the scenes, as YSL prepares his next Haute Couture collection, and recreates his life and career on the base of old footage, photos and documents.

Part of the France 5 “Empreintes” series, “Sonia Rykiel: L’Intranquile” is an intimate portrait of the famous fashion designer. France’s most famous redhead talks about her youth, her work and career and her many friends in the field of art and fashion.

Jerome de Missolz 2009

Corinne Jaemmet 2008

HOME ALONE II Chris Columbus 1992

A touch of youth sentiment for a rainy day with smart little Kevin, who this time around is not locked inside the house, but lost in New York City. Armed with cash and credit cards, he has hell of a time, and again manages to outwit the two same ol’ bad burglars.



What else to watch on Christmas than this Burton classic, in which Jack Skellington and his creepy mates from Halloweentown discover Christmas and decide to give the feast a flavor of their own. A wonderfully crafted and imaginative film!

Portrait of one America’s most famous photographers. The film traces her youth and career from Rolling Stone to Vanity Fair, showing a lot of her work, many admiring celebrities, and a bit on drug abuse and her relationship with writer Susan Sonntag. Perhaps that’s only normal for a film made by her sister.

Tim Burton 1993

Barbara Leibovitz 2007



RYUICHI SAKAMOTO PLAYING FOR THE PIANO Legendary composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, a former member of the Yellow Magoc Orchestra, has played everything from jazz to ambient and contemporary, while he is arguably most famous for his film scores. Named after his world tour, this compilation album features a selection of his personal favorites.

BEAK - GEOFF BARROW FROM PORTISHEAD RECORDINGS 05/01/09 17/01/09 Beak is the side-project of Portishead’s leading man Geoff Barrow. Produced in 12 days without overdubs, the result bears traces of the typical eerie-dreamy Portishead sound, yet has more of an edge as it seems influenced by American post-punk



The influential funk-punk/ disco label, founded by a British ‘Z’ and a French ‘E,’ exists 30 years. Hence, this DJs visit to the label’s archives, which produced a varied celebrative compilation album with remixes of the likes Kid Creole, Material and Garcons.

One of the most original artists at the Warp label, Bibio follows up his critically acclaimed debut album, Ambivalence Ambient, with an excellent new album of remixes and four new songs. Cool and groovy, Bibio mixes dance and electro with sounds from the contemporary experimental music scene.



Limited edition! Celebrating 5 years of Mule Musiq, legendary Japanese DJ Kentaro Iwaki mixed his favorite Mule tunes to create this wonderful compilation of techno, jungle, trance and house.

From Manchester with love: Demdike Stare is the long awaited debut album of Pendle Coven and Canty, mixing everything from Turkish, Iranian and African music to techno and Indian film soundtracks. Highly original!




Sebo K is the 4th DJ to compile an album for Berlin’s famous Watergate club. The German DJ has so far produced the warmest and “housiest” album in the series with the likes of DOP, Rick Wade, Agnes and many, many others.

Le Baron, the famous Paris club exists 5 years. Reason enough to release this celebrative and extremely varied 33-track double album that will take you right back to the intimate Cabaret-like atmosphere and “white nights” of the place-tobe in the French capital.

Last summer, subscribers to the Alice Russell website could listen to 90-second audio clips to vote for their favorite Russell remixes. The most popular ones, by the likes of DJ Vadim, Kid Gusto and Shawn Lee, made it onto this 22-track double album, which is still funky and full of soul!




Behind the rather obnoxious name of Fuckpony hides Jay Haza, an American artist living in Berlin, who has worked on many electronic projects, before releasing this mature and consistent solo album on which he mixes electronic music with good ol’ soul and rhythm and blues.

This San Francisco-based DJ knows how to party, yet is well aware that you cannot be on the dance floor all the time. With the collaboration of none other than Funkadelic’s Bootsy Collins, Bird Brain is a great mix of funky up-tempo dance tracks and more laidback tunes.

The 8th compilation album issued by the French electronic label Kitsune. As always, Kitsune offers you anything they deem cool, hip and trendy: from surfer pop to new wave and disco.


GUY BOURDIN WAS A COMPLEX AND DISTURBED MAN. WHILE HE CREATED TIMELESS BEAUTY, THE LEADING FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER WAS IN FACT OBSESSED WITH DEATH, AND ALWAYS HAD A DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP WITH WOMEN. ABANDONED AS A CHILD BY HIS MOTHER, HE OFTEN MALTREATED HIS MODELS, WHILE AT LEAST TWO OF HIS FORMER LOVERS COMMITTED SUICIDE. Inspired by Man Ray and Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin revolutionized photography in the latter half of the 20th century. He was among the first to break with the realistic approach to advertisement and fashion photography. To him, it was no longer enough to just see a pretty girl in pretty clothes in a pretty environment. Instead, he created voyeuristic scenes that were at once erotic and subversive, a weird mix of death and desire, Eros and Thanatos, the Beauty and the Beast. The first photo he ever published (in French Vogue) set the tone for what was to come. It shows a stylish lady wearing an immaculate white hat, while standing under a series of freshly butchered cow heads. Later photos include that of a model lying face-down in a pool of blood; a woman lying naked over a table, while another is hung from the ceiling; and a pair of high-heeled legs lying in grass, suggesting a murder just took place. Bourdin often shows but a woman’s legs. Another reoccurring theme is that of a beautiful, glamorous woman standing alone along the road. “A prostitute?” we are left to wonder, “or just a girl whose car broke down?” Bourdin’s photos present a carefully constructed scene, which hint that something (bad) may have happened, yet which leave it up to the viewer to fill in the accompanying tale. The fashion item hardly plays a role of importance. Take for example Bourdin’s iconic image of a crashed car, behind the outline of a female body and a pair of brightly colored sunglasses and high heels. Anyone who observes that scene will ponder: what on earth has happened here, and what will happen now? It is as if you walk into a cinema in which the film shown has been put on pause.



The beauty and glamour of Bourdin’s subjects starkly contrast with the often gloomy setting, which naturally only enhances the viewer’s sense of shock and bewilderment. Here, one arguably detects the influence of the Surrealist movement. After all, Bourdin had studied fine arts and in 1950 became a pupil of Man Ray. Yet, Bourdin’s obsession with violence and death, as well as difficult relationships with women, seems to be more deeply rooted in his troublesome youth. Shortly after his birth in Paris in 1921, he was abandoned by his mother, and his stepbrother has claimed that Bourdin had never forgiven her. He was raised by his father’s parents and reportedly saw his mother only once in his life. She is said to have been a pale, yet elegant redhead. It appears that Bourdin was not a very pleasant man. Editors who worked with him described him as a small man with a high-pitched, whiny voice. One of them said he looked like a peasant in a Breughel painting. He was furthermore known to be extremely demanding. Take the photo of the three girls in bathing suits and high heels, hanging upside down from a gym’s ceiling. Knowing Bourdin’s obsession for detail, you bet this was not a one-shot affair. I mean, this was a man who once insisted on coloring the sea, as the blue was not entirely to his liking. Most famously, he once wanted to photograph two women completely covered in black pearls. So, he poured glue over them and packed them with precious stones. Yet, as their skin could not breathe, they soon fainted. When his editor warned Bourdin later that the models could have died, he smiled and said that would have been “beautiful.” His demanding and, at times, cruel way of treating models was nothing compared to his personal relationships with women. Bourdin proved to be an extremely possessive man who, arguably out of fear of re-abandonment, had the nasty habit to lock his partners inside the house. He did not even allow them a phone. The consequences were terrible. In 1961, Bourdin married Solange Gèze, a secretary, with whom he had a son named Samuel. They soon grew apart and Bourdin started first to go out with Holly Warner and then with a redheaded photomodel named Eva Gschopf. And here the horror began. Warner tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists, but

survived and left Bourdin. Gschopf reportedly fell from a tree and died. Bourdin then hooked up with her best friend, Sybille, who was again a redhead. Bourdin’s 13-year-old son Samuel in 1981 found her hanging from a rope in their apartment. Meanwhile, Bourdin’s wife Solange had already died in strange circumstances. Some say from an overdose. Others claim she had a heart attack. One famous image Bourdin made for Charles Jourdan shoes shows a headless woman lying on a bed with a TV blaring next to her and a young boy standing in the doorway. It appeared much later that this scene was in fact a (partial) reenactment of Solange’s death. Another example illustrating Bourdin’s morbid fascinations: he once planned to photograph dead bodies in a morgue over the period of a year to document their decay. A graduate in fine arts, Bourdin discovered his love for the camera in 1948 during his military service in Dakar and, upon his return to Paris, did all sorts of odd jobs to follow his dream. As said previously, after six refusals, Man Ray in 1950 accepted Bourdin as a pupil. Two years onward he had his first exhibition, and five years later he did his first shoot for Vogue, for which he continued working throughout his life. Meanwhile, he also did famous ad campaigns for Charles Jourdan, Chanel, Ungaro, Versace, Pentax and Bloomingdale. Strangely, Bourdin always refused to have his work published or exhibited outside magazines, while in 1985 he refused the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, even though he was by then in desperate need of money. It has never become clear why Bourdin was so vehemently opposed to see his work in books or galleries, and why he refused the award. Most likely, despite his success, Bourdin remained insecure about himself and his work. His work may be regarded as excellent photography, it was perhaps not the “art” he had dreamt of as a youngster. Bourdin died in Paris in 1991. Ever since, his work has been exhibited around the world and published in the book “Exhibit A.” And so Bourdin’s legacy lives on: the beautiful, sensual and somehow sinister world of what seems a sadly disturbed and unhappy man.





And there clearly is no Hallmark card to congratulate her on all of that. Not when she seems to be holding all the cards; being the Premiere Dame of France, she makes it seem like there is little difference between strutting down the runways of Paris and strutting down the hallways of the Elysées Palace. In her hey-days in the 90’s, Carla gave us the kick of a true catwalk queen. She emerged as one of the first generation of power supermodels that included Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford. With those blue kitten eyes, high cheek-bones, and retroussé nose that screams of her aristocratic heritage, Carla became one of the most highly-paid models of her time. She embraced over 250 magazine covers and landed ad campaigns for Dior, Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent. And she could read. Not chick-lit, mind you, but she would hide a Dostoevsky piece inside a Vogue or Elle during her backstage make-up and hair sessions. “It would be pretentious of me to say I was more intelligent than the other supermodels of that era,” Carla once told The Independent. “I was always just curious about everything.” Yes, God forbid the resemblance. That is, however, not the closest she ever got to being a literati; she once was married to, and has a son by, philosopher Raphael Enthoven, surely after dating his father. But that is just the cherry on a sundae in her extensive relationship archives. Her promising résumé of boyfriends reads like a who’s who in the world of music, literature, business, and politics. Carla has been dubbed the arm candy of Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Kevin Costner, and Donald Trump. On the bright side, she never had to worry about accessorizing. But what do all these men have in common? “A strong feminine side,” she says. “I find feminine men very virile and macho men very fragile. Machismo is a defense mechanism.” Harsh, but as always, well-spoken, and she could probably say it in three other languages. Well-bred Carla Bruni could never fit the soi-belle-et-tais-toi stereotype associated to models. She ditched modeling for music in her late twenties – not surprisingly, given her past romance with British rocker Eric Clapton, a history of tours with the Rolling Stones, and a list of family-friends that included Maria Callas. She released her first album Quelqu’un M’a Dit in 2003. The breath-taking selection of folk hits was met with international acclaim; over a million copies were sold in France alone, and two million in Europe. After establishing herself as a leading female vocalist, Carla reassembled and put her voice on her favorite poetry by the likes of Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, and Yeats in her second album, No Promises, which proved to be another cult hit. With her latest release Comme si de rien n’était, not only did Carla Bruni charm the French with her breathy, sensual voice, she charmed their president. Her gig at the Elysées remains her best performance yet. And with something old, something blue, and something borrowed, Italian émigré Carla Bruni married newly-elected French president Nicholas Sarkozy, putting an end to a six-months public speculation around the nature of their romance. Of course, it was too bold a move against the nitty-gritty of French leftists, but all that was history, when Mme Bruni-Sarkozy fit the profile as perfectly as the dresses she once modeled. On a global level, she was instantly looked at as a fashion icon, raging a style war in the papers between her and trans-Atlantic counterpart Michelle Obama. On her first state visit to Britain as the French first lady, she smartly filled her trousseau with outfits by John Galliano for Dior to hinge on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries (Galliano, who is British, designs for the French fashion house, Dior). Obama’s defense? Change is good. But what’s next on Carla’s list? Well, if worse comes to worse, Carla is an heiress who would make Paris Hilton turn over in her pink grave. She is, in fact, the granddaughter of the wealthiest tire magnates in northern Italy. And if that is all too much, don’t hate her because she has it. Hate her because she has it all.



If you lived in 1950’s Hollywood and had a breast size of a munchkin, your career would have surely been doomed to demise before it could have even started. But then again, you would only be competing with the likes of sex Goddesses Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. Amid the post-war infatuation with bombshell blondes, Grace Kelly rose above the archetype; she exuded poise, elegance, and a kind of mystique that even studio directors found impossible to decipher. Because unlike the fellow starlets of her time, Grace’s career was not built on breasts. Her life is an embodiment of the American dream par excellence. Born in 1929 to a first generation of rich Irish Immigrants, Grace Patricia Kelly became a rising Hollywood star whose marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco provided a classic fairytale that enthralled the world from the second half of the twentieth century until today. Her first rise to fame was alongside Gary Cooper in High Noon. But it was John Ford’s Mogambo that earned her international acclaim and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, upstaging co-stars Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. However, Grace Kelly will always be remembered as Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite heroine. Hitchcock was drawn into her cool demeanor and underlying sexual elegance in his film Dial M for Murder. The off-screen chemistry between the two landed her the role of a fashion editor in another thriller Rear Window. The pinnacle of her success was in 1953; she appeared in six films and became a major box-office draw in America. In 1955, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl and remained on top of her game until her retirement the following year, to lead yet another role-as a princess. And once upon a time, the Prince of a small, relatively-unknown municipality close to the French Riviera fell in love with one of America’s leading screen sirens. It was a match made in heaven: Rainier wanted an heir to the throne in order to keep the monarchy intact and avoid reverting to France; Grace, ever the true believer in old-fashioned love, wanted someone who wasn’t threatened by her success. The two got married in the cathedral of Saint Nicholas in a spectacular televised ceremony that the world has not witnessed since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In an ill twist of fate, the cathedral became the very same site of her funeral in 1982. Since her tragic death in a car accident at the age of fifty-two, Grace Kelly remains the epitome of refined elegance that identified 1950s glamour. Throughout her lifetime, she adhered to classic lines and clean cuts that flattered her figure and matched her public persona. Her signature look: a fusion of shirt-waist dresses, kitten-heeled shoes, a pearl necklace, and a penchant for gloves that later became a wardrobe staple among postwar American women, and an inspiration for contemporary designers. Perhaps the endless waiting-list on the Hermes “Kelly” tote remains a living testimony to her enduring popularity and appeal to today’s fashion. Despite a short-lived career as an actress and a later on as a princess, Grace Kelly led a regal lifestyle of a true lady. She defied the beauty ideals of her time, refusing to pose even in a swimsuit, yet she still managed to take Hollywood and the whole world by storm, let alone charm a prince. With whichever role that was assigned to her, there was a certain aura in the way she approached it. Some call it allure. Others call it grace.



Her death forced grownup men to tears and shocked both Kingdom and country. In what seemed a classic rags-to-riches fairytale, Diana Spencer, better known as Lady Di, Princess of Wales, lived the life of dreams, albeit one that ended in a nightmarish scenario that could serve as the backbone of a first class Hollywood thriller. Chased by an army of paparazzi, Diana Spencer died in a freakish accident (or not?) in Paris in 1997. Lady Di however, will live forever as the “people’s princess.” Diana had entered the public arena of fame and glory, when she married Britain’s Prince Charles in 1981. She immediately became a people’s favorite, as she was everything Charles was not. Diana was cute, open, and had a sophisticate eye for style, while Charles was generally perceived as a stuck-up bore. Of course, as is the case in fairytale land, neither was completely true. Diana was in fact the blue-blooded daughter of Lord Spencer, who could claim to be a descendant of King Charles II through four illegitimate sons. English royalty was known to sleep outside the marital bed, and stiff-upper-lip Charles seemed no exception. In all secrecy, Charles had an active love life before marriage, a hobby, Diana claimed, he did not altogether give up having tied the knot. It was the main reason for their separation and divorce in the early 1990s. Diana was by then a mother of two, William and Harry, heirs to the British throne. While during her marriage she had given the British royal family a much-needed touch of humanity, following her divorce she became a well-known face on the international jet-set circuit. She attended fashion shows, was portrayed in magazines, wined and dined celebrities, and had several affairs. It seems that Diana was finally able to live the life she was denied by marrying at such a young age, not just with Charles, but with a centuries-old institution dusty with traditions and protocols. Diana also put her face and name to good use, for example in the famous anti-landmine campaign shot in Angola. Not everyone in the establishment approved of her new lifestyle and her meddling in affairs of politics and power. Her being romantically involved with Dodi Al-Fayed, son of Egyptian multimillionaire Mohamed al-Fayed, was approved of even less. Could the mother of England’s future King to be remarried to a Muslim? It was not to be. On August 31, 1997, she and Dodi crashed into the 13th pillar of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. They were chased by paparazzi. Although several police investigations have concluded that it was indeed an accident, until this day Lady Di’s death remains surrounded by a cloud of rumors that the British secret service had in fact orchestrated “the accident.” Just how popular Lady Di was, may be illustrated by the massive pile of flowers people left in front of her house in London, the billions of people around the world who watched her funeral on TV, while Elton John’s re-release of “Candle in the Wind” is still the most-sold single ever. Just five month before her death, the Peruvian master photographer, Mario Testino, eternalized Lady Di in a photo shoot for Vanity Fair, which was published in book form by Taschen. He shows her at her very best: charming, classy, beautiful, and armed with a disarming smile. Diana may have died on that dreadful day in 1997, yet Lady Di will live forever in people’s hearts.




























Channel your inner GaGa in Bauhaus art-inspired prints. Step into geometric cuts and pleated numbers from Christopher Kane, or literally wear your eau de toilette in Mary Katrantzou’s perfume bottle-prints. Accessorize with techno ribbon-tie necklaces from Oscar de La Renta and Lanvin, and adorn with killer heels from the hottest new cobbler name - mark this down – Nicolas Kirkwood.


Dress-up for your last day on earth in a Hussein Chalayan body-con dress or flaunt your global warming-savvy in a Christopher Kane printed silk number. Take hints from the latest disaster movie 2012 and arrive as a survivor in the hottest new collection from the Rodarte sisters. Armageddon has never been so chic.














ANIMALIA: It is the trend we all love to hate, but somehow it always sneaks into the designers’ scrapbooks and straight into the runways. For this season, animal prints are given an 80’s revamp as seen on the Balenciaga catwalk, or sized up in new proportions in Dolce and Gabbana



Once again Alber Elbaz proves how much he loves women in a new collection of feminine jumpsuits, transparent blouses, and draped dresses that we cannot wait to hit stores! chapeau bas, Mr.Elbaz.

Natasha Poly and co. at the Dolce and Gabbana show finale

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Louis Vuitton


Lady Gaga in New York Fashion Week. Beth Ditto in London Fashion Week. Janet Jackson in Milan Fashion Week. Rihanna in Paris Fashion Week.

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Natasha from Russia. Mind the rhyme, and the classic historical association of the name to the land of the Kremlin. She is, after all, Russia’s current national treasure. The fashion world is officially under her spell: Parisian high-end heaven Colette created a shopping extravaganza inspired by her, Muse magazine dedicated an entire issue to her, and Carrie Bradshaw has long before named it – “Natasha Obsessed.” The theory goes that in order to become a hot supermodel nowadays, there are only two ways to make it happen. One is landing an adcampaign for either one of the fashion powerhouses like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and mainly Prada. And two, is being single-handedly snapped by Carine Roitfeld to be shot for an editorial spread in Vogue Paris. It is this way or the highway (in modeling terms, the highway means ending up in fishnet stockings and red lipstick on the Bois de Bologne). Trip on the catwalk and you are fashion-road-kill. Front the campaign for Gucci, however, and you will find yourself more booked than a table at Zuma on a Friday night. And legend has it that our girl, Natasha Poly, not only has gone far beyond being more booked than a table at Zuma – she can actually afford to be on one! She does, of course, belong to a long list of postcommunist Russian revolution of starving-skinny young models that escaped their little towns and found themselves amongst Ladurée macaroons (Natasha herself started modeling at 15 after fleeing her home at Perm, Russia). But unlike her fellow Slav peers, everyone remembers her name. Let alone her looks. If you do mistake her distinctive high-sculpted cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes, and long limbs, you can never mistake that runway stare of someone who is able to strip you down your pants. She is the “cat” in the “catwalk.” Since her runway debut at Emanuel Ungaro in 2004, Natasha has invaded the most coveted fashion magazines and designer shows. Last year alone she was signed off for at least five major ad campaigns including ones for Gucci, Givenchy, Blumarine, Jil Sander, and Nina Ricci -upstaging Miss Kate Moss herself. She has been ranked the no.1 first face on the catwalks consecutively for the last three years, opening and closing shows like no one’s business. During the Spring/Summer 2010 Fashion Week in Milan, she opened for Gucci and led an army of bland skinny models at the show finale for Dolce and Gabbana (a hint from the top-selling designers of her leading status in reality among today’s models, perhaps?). Flip through Natasha’s casting portfolio and you will find her on a plethora of covers of the most respected fashion and visual magazines. She has been on the cover for Vogue Paris, Numero, V magazine, Vogue Nippon, Vogue Russia, W and I-D, to mention a few. Most recently, Muse decided to celebrate Natasha Poly in a whole glossy with full spreads taken by the greatest image-makers in today’s arts and fashion scene, each interpreting the Russian beauty through his own lens. She posed naked and vulnerable for David Hamilton, naughty but nice for David Sherry, raunchy and provocative for Terry Richardson, dark and morbid for Craig McDean, covered in kabuki for Solve Sundsbo, and sultry yet demonic for Ricardo Tisci. Other collaborators including Prada, Jeff Koons, Missoni and Richard Philips worked their own magic on the ever-versatile Goddess. With a lobby like that to support her back, her PR stocks are skyhigh, where “obsessed” doesn’t even begin to describe it.





THERE IS ALWAYS THIS ONE PARTICULAR DAY OF THE YEAR THAT YOU FIND YOURSELF ANXIOUSLY WAITING FOR MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. FOR KIDS, IT IS CHRISTMAS. FOR MOVIE STARS, IT IS THE OSCARS. FOR HOUSEWIVES, IT’S WATCHING OPRAH GIVE AWAY HER FAVORITE THINGS ON NATIONAL TV, BUT FOR FASHIONISTAS, IT WAS* THE GUCCI SHOW. Once every season in the hectic fashion calendar, you would find yourself fixed before the TV screen, taken by the magic of the catwalk, enchanted by the music and the absolute diviness of the outfits. A cry of beauty; the Gucci show was like Breakfast at Tiffany’s for every fashion-infatuated girl and sexually-confused guy. And the mastermind behind it all was the genius visionary Tom Ford. It was the turn of the century, the period between 1995 and 2003, when signs of an economic resurgence blossomed for the first time since the eighties. Ford was only there to depict the social mood of an era. In seven years as creative director, he put Gucci back on the fashion map transforming it from a family-run saddlery and luggage label into one of the top three globally renowned, multi-brand groups only to be rivaled by

LVMH and Richemont. And better yet, he did it with much of his trademark ease and nonchalance. Ford was probably the only designer who read the stock market pages of the Wall Street Journal as religiously as the fashion reviews in the International Herald Tribune. He understood the power of money and visualized the desires of the noveau riches who unashamedly wanted it to flaunt it-let alone spend it. And of course, spend it in style. This is where the vision behind Gucci came in. Tom’s suave combination of “sex” and “money” created a modern morality tale of The Great Gatsby, catering for the Buchannans of that time. There is no talk of Tom Ford without the word “sex” clicking in every now and then. After all, this is the man whose use of sexual imagery as a marketing force crystallized a new visual aesthetic to Nineties fashion. Tom’s sex-sells approach combined with Gucci Group’s aggressive marketing strategy rewarded the company with a major profit growth. Millions wanted to relate to his interpretation of high-voltage, sexed-up glamour, thus flaunting their Gucci G-strings at every opportunity. The ad campaign for spring/summer 2003 fueled a public outrage, as it featured a model whose pubic hair was trimmed in the shape of a G logo. Luckily, the barely-there kimono she sported flew around the global market and off-the-stocks like no-one’s business. Even during his days at Yves Saint Laurent, an advert for the Opium fragrance showed a nude chubby model Sophie Dahl looking like butter-wouldn’tmelt in her mouth. And if you think he has toned down on the sex, think again; the latest campaign for his self-titled men’s perfume shows the bottle nestling in the buttocks of a male model, or in between a shaved woman’s crotch. “How else are you going to sell perfume to heterosexual men? Put the bottle where they want to look,” he once exclaimed, putting an end to your dilemma.






If you need to sell dildos to nuns, then Ford is your man. Perhaps it is his ability to set the trends and market them as products of desire that made him the most influential fashion designer of the past decade. But it is definitely his impossibly good looks paired with the usual dose of je ne sais quoi that made us all fall for the cult of Ford. The 47-year-old Texan-born designer himself doesn’t wear any underwear, neither a tie, but he somehow perpetually manages to look like a total modern dandy in bespoke tailored suits. His shirt is always unbuttoned to reveal manly chest hair that seem to have been meticulously combed and dipped with a generous amount of Baby Oil. He has admittedly lost dignity to Clinique non-streak bronzer and cover stick to maintain that Oompa Loompa tan. And if that is not enough, Ford’s macho charm has been credited with creating a new breed of heterosexual selfconscious males who probably own more beauty creams than your average prima donna. But who inspires him? “I am my own muse,” he says. “I know my value as a product, and I’ve divorced myself as a human from myself as a product.” Product or not, men still want to dress like him and women still wish to be dressed by him. After ten years in the reign over the house of Gucci, and three at Yves Saint Laurent, Ford shortly ventured into the beauty world, striking a deal with American cosmetics giant Estee Lauder. He launched two makeup collections and revamped their classic fragrances, Amber Nude and Youth Dew. Later on, Tom spread his wings to the world of movies. He has three film projects on the way funded by his own production company, Fade to Black. His latest is an on-screen adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel A Single Man, starring Julianne Moore

and Colin Firth. And while some believed that Tom’s foray into the beauty and movie business was a shift too far from fashion, he launched his own exclusive menswear label with a flagship store on Madison Avenue and around 13 other branches worldwide, providing eyewear, perfumes, suits, shirts, and most recently, jeans. When Tom left the Gucci empire in 2004 due to feuds over establishing a new contract with owners PPR (Printemps-Pinaul-Redoute), his departure was conceived in the fashion world as the end of the golden age of luxury. Shortly thereafter, boho and indie ideals have evolved seemingly to dictate a new direction in fashion, albeit to last only for a little while. Tom’s collections and shows mainly hinged on the Seventies (who can forget the Diana Ross hair on the catwalks of YSL Rive Gauche, or the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby playing in the background of a Gucci show?). Yet today, fashion is all about recycling looks from the Eighties and designer collaborations with high-street chains. For a man whose name has long been synonymous with high-fashion luxury, a disco-inspired capsule collection for H&Mwith clothes reeking of disposability seems as unlikely as Martha Stewart causing a fire in the kitchen. But then again, this is the man who never understood not aspiring to dominate the world. “I had a voice in popular culture,” Tom once revealed. “It is important to me to be part of the cultural flow of the times, to impact on the system and change it.” Always a visionary, never just a designer. Ryan Houssari


The YSL Rive Gauche ad campaign inspired by Guy Bourdin left


“At the MTV Video Music Awards, someone asked Madonna on camera what she was wearing, and she said, ‘Gucci, Gucci, Gucci.’ That was really the beginning.” Tom Ford

Left: Jennifer Lopez in Gucci at the Grammy Awards. Above: Flame-haired Karen Elson in YSL Rive Gauche eau de toillete ad campaign

The Golden era of Gucci Below: The controversial Gucci S/S 03 ad campaign. Above left:The collection of minidresses and kimonos.

2002 Tom Ford’s friend and Vogue Paris editor-inchief Carine Roitfeld was the muse for Gucci F/W 20012002 gothic-inspired collection

The G-logo Gucci g-string that everyone wanted to flaunt

The iconic Gucci white backless dress that Toni Braxton wore in the video “Un-Break My Heart”

Kate Moss on the Gucci F/W 2000-2001 runway Sophie Dahl in YSL Opium ad campaign

The YSL Ruffle dress: Demi Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker

The day we all cried: Tom Ford’s last collection for Gucci and YSL F/W 20042005

Tom Ford at the Venice Film Festival for his movie A Single Man based on the famous Christopher Isherwood novel.

Tom Ford appearing with a naked Keira Knightley and Scarlet Johannson on the cover of Vanity Fair

Charlize Theron in Gucci at the Oscars

The final Gucci and YSL menswear collections The ressurection: Tom Ford self-titled range of perfumes, eyewear, and watches

Concept and Creative Direction Eli Rezkallah, photography Steve Kozman, fashion supervision Ryan Housari

Among the playlists of my electro-filled mini I-Pod, I look around for one I have secretly downloaded for my guilty pleasures, like a fourteen year-old hiding a stack of Playboys under his bed. And the best part is, there is a tune for every moment of your day. She is in my car, while watching the sunset on my way back from the beach, thinking if I had a martini in hand, this would be purely Almodovar. There she is again, my date on my night out in town, prepping me to party in style before I join the happy nation in the dream to fly over the rainbow so high. There is always a trip, beyond your very now, when you listen to her songs. This is when you know it is quality music - it takes you places. Elissa is the soundtrack of my life. What is it about Elissa that we embarrassingly yet admittedly cannot get enough of? “Embarrassingly” only because she happened to be in a time where the music scene in Lebanon is dominated by the silicon-pumped one-hit-wonders, and a handful of the old ones trying to catch up with the same needed dose of botox. And “admittedly” because she simply surpassed all this madness and managed to avoid being one of the faux plastics.

Dress LANVIN,Shoes Christian Louboutin available at PLUM.

Dress Oscar De La Renta,Shoes Christian Louboutin available at PLUM.

Dress Oscar De La Renta,Shoes Christian Louboutin available at PLUM.

Dress Oscar De La Renta,Shoes Christian Louboutin available at PLUM.


In a very short time, she has been eager to stay at the helm of her career choices. She has a razor-sharp eye for knowing what contributes to her image as a genuine diva, always particular in everything from the lyrics to her songs to deciding what to wear. In what seems as enough reason to walk outside of the house happy, she has a wardrobe that gives Gabrielle Solis a run for her money. Despite adhering to a classic lady-like look, Elissa has been dubbed the original trendsetter to millions of fashion diehards thanks to her impeccable style choices. Local designers may trip over each other with sharp pins in hand for the chance to portray their fantasies upon her, but she simply opts for the crème de la crème of names in ready-to-wear fashion. In fact, her ability to maintain a brand identity of her own has been the main attraction for international advertisers to single-handedly pick Elissa to be the spokesperson and image de marque for a their globally-renowned brands. Yet Elissa herself is a woman we can never know. Thanks to her dim public appearances, to the millions of her aficionados, she will never be more than the flat plastic character of tabloids production. And in some sandwich wrap-worthy glossies, a two-dimensional portrayal of the star has long accused her of a classic prima donna behavior.

Dress Oscar De La Renta,Shoes Christian Louboutin available at PLUM.

But what you do not know about Elissa is her genuine interest to be in lieu of our times. She has a penchant for all things old Hollywood, names Audrey Hepburn among her favorites, and indulges in watching Desperate Housewives and Friends religiously. And despite the fact that she probably gets most of her updates from ETV or Oprah (who doesn’t?), she skillfully captures your attention with her own version of the topic du jour. Even if “how Paris got thrown out of a club outside L.A” falls at the end of your must-hear list, you might think twice if it is coming from Elissa’s deep sensual voice and discerning sense of irony. In a worst-case scenario, if there is anything in the showbiz scene that seems to pass her by, she would google it. But if you google Elissa, you will find to her record a total of 6 albums, 13 videos, 7 ad campaigns, 1 self-titled perfume, and 2 consecutive World Music Awards (for her best-selling albums Ahla Donia in 2005 and Bastanak in 2006), along with many other titles. In a career spanning nearly a decade, Elissa has raised the bar for songbirds of her age and set the standards for many of her protégées. Her vocal capabilities and diva-esque status has come to define a new musical vision that amounts to a cultural landmark in Lebanon since the early noughties. Much so, insiders in the music business discuss Elissa in terms of religious diction, talking about the industry B.E (Before Elissa), and A.E (After Elissa). With her long-awaited new album promised to set the records within its release in midDecember, Elissa is bound to continue to top herself proving her longevity as the number one diva in the region, and securing her name a spot to be immortalized among few other Lebanese singing legends. It was the summer of 2002, when I decided to come back from London to Beirut. Aishalak was swimming through the radio stations and TV channels like no-one’s business. This was the very girl whose debut album I bought a couple of years before, much to the scrutiny and ridicule of my “cool” classmates. The epiphany struck me to the core, albeit she oozed more glamour and seemed to acquire a chutzpah to rival Lady GaGa’s. This is how I’ve always imagined Elissa: playing in her own field, indifferent and unwary of the madness going on around. Within each of her sensational tracks, she takes you away to a world of her own, a world of hopes and make-belief romance – strictly platonic. And, it is at least comforting to know that, whenever you feel like a stranger in a world you chose to live in, no matter how far it is from home, you will always have Elissa. Ryan Houssari

Dress Marchesa, available at Boutique 1. Hair Elie Esper, Harout by Simon El Mendelek, Make up Christian Abou Haidar.


JANE DOE. By Eli Rezkallah, photography Peter Tamlin, fashion supervision Ryan Housari hair Harout by Simon ElMendelek make up Christian Abou Haidar

Jacket and Belt Alexander McQueen, boots Christian Louboutin available at PLUM,

Jacket Alexander McQueen. Boots Christian Louboutin available at PLUM, Gloves Aldo Accessories, Body La Senza.

dress PETER PILOTTO available at BOUTIQUE 1, sunglasses and gloves VINTAGE STORY Jacket Alexander McQueen, Boots Christian Louboutin available at PLUM, Gloves Patricia Fields New York.

Dress Victoria Beckham available at BOUTIQUE 1 Shoes Charlotte Olympia available at Plum, Gloves Patricia Fields New York

dress LANVIN available at PLUM, shoes PRADA vintage, sunglasses VINTAGE STORY Dress Roland Mouret available at PLUM, Necklace and bracelet Lara Bohnic available at Boutique 1, Shoes Aldo

Dress Lanvin available at PLUM, Shoes Aldo, Gloves La Senza

Skirt Christopher Kane, shoes Nicolas Kirkwood, necklace Lanvin, available at Plum Jacket, Belt Alexander McQueen.

Dress Peter Pilotto available at Boutique 1, Ring Alexander McQueen.

Jacket and Belt Alexander Mc Queen. Boots Christian Louboutin available at PLUM, Gloves Aldo Accessories, Body La Senza.

Dress Rue du Mail available at PLUM.

Dress Christopher Kane available at PLUM, Gloves La Senza

Dress Rue du Mail, Necklace Lanvin available at PLUM, Shoes Aldo.

130 FAV 10

DOLLS (2002) “This is a film about love affairs gone bad. Yet, the main characters somehow try to help each other, and in doing so take the viewer on a journey through Japan today. It’s a sad film, yet esthetically amazing. It’s the kind of film you can watch without sound.”

FUNNY FACE (1957) ”A funny film about fashion. It’s a bit “The Devil Wears Prada” from the 1960s, but funnier, and more beautiful. Richard Avedon did the art direction and the costumes were made by Givenchy. It’s light, but not stupid. A nice film for the afternoon.”

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968) “This is again a very beautiful film, with a great art direction, and the main characters [played by Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway] are so sexy. Contrary to “Dolls,” this is a film you must listen to, as it has great dialogue and such an intriguing script. It is all about seduction, both physical and mental.”

WINGS OF DESIRE (1987) “If you want to cry, then watch this movie. Yet, although it is sad, it is also very serene. It is not a heavy sadness. I don’t exactly know how to put it. It’s a very sweet film as well. And it is beautifully shot in black and white.”

“I just love how this film manages to unite three different eras, as the same story more or less repeats itself through the ages. It’s a great exercise how to visualize and adapt the same story to different pasts. A very inspiring film.”

“A great musical. If you want to smile, then just watch this.”

“This is a documentary about Alexander Calder, the famous sculptor, who made these miniature mechanized models of performers and animals to form a circus. An exceptionally beautiful film.”

THE COOK, THE THIEF, THE WIFE AND HER LOVER “I love the way how Greenway managed to treat this film as if it were theater. There are only a few settings, but the decors are so beautiful, inspired by the classic Dutch paintings, while most of the costumes were made by Gaultier. Such a beautiful film, and yet the story is so cruel.”

“A beautifully animated film and a great story. Seeing the themes of war and wanting to leave, the film has a bit of a personal connection as well.”

ROMA (1972) “I love Fellini and I had to put at least one of his films. I chose Roma, because it is a beautiful film, of course, but also because I saw it in a certain period of my life when it reminded me a lot of Beirut: the chaos, the baroque, the role of religion. This film really touched me a lot.”

134 FAV 10

Born in Beirut in 1974, Caline Chidiac studied to become an optician in Paris before opening her own business in Beirut. After some 7 years however, she switched careers completely. Today she does PR for furniture designer Nada Debs. Yet her true passion is and will always be music. Caline is one of Beirut’s more wellknown DJs, known for her love of the 1970s and 1980s. “As a DJ, I like to think that I make a kind of musical collages,” she said. “I take a record of today and connect it with something from the 1970s or 1980s. I like to introduce today’s youth to the music of the past. The past has not disappeared. I mean, take hip hop. All the main hip hop grooves stem from the 1970s and 1980s. My list is a mix of records as well, with a lot of great voices, cause I’m not too big on instrumental music. I love voices.”

GRACE (1994) Jeff Buckley

“A very melancholic album. I love it, especially the song “Hallelujah,” which I think is better than Leonard Cohen’s original. Every time I hear it, I can cry. One should know that this also the only album by Jeff Buckley, who died at 23, yet still became such an icon. As said, I love voices and his is truly a noble voice.”

PARIS (1994)

Malcolm McLaren “People may know Malcolm McLaren as the producer of The Sex Pistols, but this is a very different album. A weird album. It has a duet with Catherine Deneuve for example. But when you listen to this album, you feel in Paris. It’s really a great, great album.

MUSIC FOR MEN (2009) Gossip

“I love Beth Ditto’s voice. She performs with a band but it is really her voice that stands out. Normally I don’t like remixes, but this album has a great version of “Heavy Cross.” But the whole album is excellent.”

SINGLES (1995) Alison Moyet

“This album has 25 songs and not one of them is not unbelievable. Alison Moyet has such a great voice, and she is really one of the icons of the 1980s.”

LUNGS (2009)

Florence and the Machine “Of all the new bands today, Florence and the Machine really stand out. They have this strange, poppy, disco-ish sound. Yet, even if you are not into that kind of music, you will like it. They have such an incredible energy and the singer reminds me of Kate Bush.”


“This is a very emotional choice, connected to a certain period in my life. I first heard her when I was completing my studies in Paris and loved it. Without listening, I bought all her albums at once. Later in her career she became cheesy, but then she was amazing.”

WHITE ON BLONDE (1996) Texas

”This album is also related to a certain period in my life. I like all Texas music, but I think this is perhaps their best album. On the other albums there are always a few songs that stand out, yet on this album they all do.”

STATUES (2003) Moloko

“Moloko has such a nice sound. It is a bit soft electro, and yet very disco. And the singer, Rosy Murphy, is such a character. The way she behaves, what she wears. Great!”

NUMBER ONES (2003) Michael Jackson

“I saw the film “This Is It” recently and I realized you cannot make a Top 10 list without him. His music is at least 20 years old, has been so influential, yet still feels new. It always puts a smile on your face.

ZIGGY STARDUST (1972) David Bowie

“Well, what can I say: Bowie is Bowie. His elegance, his style, his craziness, he has made such an impact on our music culture. He is a full-on artist. I chose Ziggy Stardust, as it is unusual, a concept album, which was so strong on visuals as well.”





Jeff Koons was asked to exhibit at the Versailles Palace last year. He could not have been offered a better venue for his first European retrospective: the ultimate Baroque French palace for America’s King of Kitsch. Visitors were able to admire fifteen of Koons’ trademark works, including sculptures of a giant red lobster and Michael Jackson hugging his pet chimp Bubbles, amidst the usual curly-curvy furniture and portraits of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette. Koons defined the Versailles show as the absolute highlight of his career, yet not everyone shared his opinion. A group known as the National Union of Writers of France protested outside the palace, calling Koons and his work an insult to the artistic and cultural heritage of France. Born in 1955, Koons is one of the world’s bestselling and most controversial artists. While collectors pay millions of dollars for his sculptures, many critics accuse Koons of being a media doll interested more in enhancing the fame and glory of his own persona, than that of his work. Now, regardless of the question if his work is art or not (who cares, really), fact is that Koons is hardly the artist who takes pride in solely living for the sake of art, no matter what: he has always been closely associated with money, and adores being part of America’s celebrity culture.

Early in his career, Koons actually worked as a Wall Street broker, while establishing himself as an artist. This enabled him, as soon as he received his first recognition, to open a factory-like studio in Soho and, Warhol-like, employ a small army of assistants. Today, he has a similar studio in London with some 80 employees. Although he was a great admirer of Dali, and painted Surrealist paintings in his youth, these days he hardly touches a brush, but merely directs and supervises. According to Arifa Akbar, a journalist who writes for The Independent, Koons has always been very aware of “the business of doing art” and the power of PR. If art, as some people claim, is but the next product in our consumerdriven society, then playing the media is an essential tool of marketing. Akbar claims that, years before Koons became a household name, he hired an image consultant and paid for his own ads in international art magazines.

Having said that, let us have a look at Koons’ stormy career. His early works stem from the late 1970s and are mainly realistic reproductions of every day items, such as tea and coffee pots, hoovers, miniature cars and trucks, and a pair of basketballs floating in a water tank. 

He first hit it big with his Banality series in the late 1980s, which consists of porcelain statuettes of cult figures such as the Pink Panther and, most famously, a life-size gold-painted sculpture of Michael Jackson and his Bubbles. While most people, with the arguable exception of Jackson fans, would not want to have the thing in their living room, even if they were paid money on the side, Sotheby’s New York sold the piece in 1991 for no less than $5.6 million. 

In the same year, Koons married Ilona Staller, better known as Cicciolina, a former porn star who, by regularly flashing her boobs in public, had managed to become an Italian MP. Together they were one of the weirdest and most media-hyped couples of the 20th century, not in the least thanks to Koons himself, as he produced Made in Heaven: a series of realistic photos, paintings and porcelain sculptures portraying him and his muse exhibiting sex positions with such “poetic” titles as: Jeff eating Ilona; Ilona on Top; Blow Job and Jeff on Top. Yet, the match made in heaven did not last very long, not did it end very well, as the two love birds soon filed for divorce. And some divorce it was! Having agreed mutual custody for their son Ludwig, Cicciolina and her son ran off to Rome. Until this very day the former lovebirds fight over their offspring. In 1998, a US court granted Koons sole custody, which failed to change the status quo, while Cicciolina in 2008 sued Koons for having failed to pay child support. 
Despite these unfortunate hick-ups in his personal life, Koons continued working, and successfully so. In 1992, he made Puppy, a 12-meter-high steel structure covered by flowering plants depicting a baby terrier. It is, in my opinion, one of his most beautiful and intelligent works, as he managed to create a sculpture that is able to change shape and colors according to the seasons – a sculpture that has come alive somehow. First made for an exhibition in Germany, Puppy today adorns a terrace outside the gorgeous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Ever since, Koons has made several similar flowering sculptures.



“A VIEWER MIGHT AT FIRST SEE IRONY IN MY WORK, BUT I SEE NONE AT ALL.” get. And what you get is at times pretty inthe-face plain. Take his work called Dogpool Ladder, which is a plastic dog pool impaled by a ladder. No need for further reflection, for it is exactly that: a plastic dog pool impaled by a ladder.

Koons rigorous refusal to intellectualize his work did not do him any favors with the critics. So, Mark Stevens called him “decadent” and defined him as “another of those who serve the tacky rich.” Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times claimed his work was the worst the 1980s have produced. Robert Hughes has often compared today’s art scene to that of showbizz, and thinks Koons has become the undisputed star attraction. 

He continued in the 1990s with Celebration, a series of mainly highly polished, colorful, stainless sculptures of such things as balloon dogs, ribbons, party hats, diamonds and hanging hearts. Sotheby’s New York in 2007 sold one of his enormous hanging hearts for $23.6 million, which was at that time the most expensive art work ever sold by a living artist, while Christie’s London in July 2008 sold one of his balloon flowers for $25.7 million.

In the series Easyfun-Ethereal, Koons seemed to return to his early years in which he painted Surrealistic works. The oil-on-canvas paintings depict a mix of bikinis, food items and landscapes. The results are quite striking and look like collages of cut-up ads and commercials. In his most recent works, Koons was mainly inspired by pool toys and cartoon characters such as the Hulk and Popeye, the spinach-devouring sailorman.

Although his work seems to contain a certain element of irony, Koons has in several interviews insisted that his work has no hidden meanings. not even irony. “A viewer might at first see irony in my work, but I see none at all. Irony causes too much critical contemplation,” he once said. In other words: what you see is what you

Hughes prose is as beautiful, as it is venomous: “Koons is an extreme and self-satisfied manifestation of the sanctimony that attaches to big bucks. Koons really does think he’s Michelangelo, and is not shy to say so. The significant thing is that there are collectors, especially in America, who believe it. He has the slimy assurance of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida. And the result is that you can’t imagine America’s singularly depraved culture without him.” 

Hughes places Koons just above Seward Johnson, who gained fame with his realistic life-size statues of everyday people in everyday situations. Comparing their careers, Hughes said, is “like debating the merits of dog excrement versus cat excrement.”

Pro-Koons critics however, will argue that he is but the natural continuation of Marcel Duchamps and Andy Warhol. He is the man who took pop art one step beyond. Now, that may be true, and some of Koons’ work is definitely funny, as well as pleasing to the eye. Yet, I wonder, how much did Koons really add to the book of art, seeing the fact that Duchamps exhibited his “readymades” (found objects exhibited as art) as early as 1913, while his infamous toilet (entitled “fountain”) stems from 1917. But, whatever the war of words between the critics and art historians may be, Koons has exhibited in every major museum on the planet, broke the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art’s public attendance record with some 86,000 visitors, and was asked to decorate the Versailles Palace with giant balloon dogs and hanging hearts. Now, if he did all that, he has got to be doing something right, right? Peter Speetjens






Lewis Carroll’s two iconic children’s books, “Alice In Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” tell the story of little Alice, who follows a rabbit down a hole and is transported to a strange world. Since the books’ publication in the 1860s, more than a few drops of ink have been spilt about the author’s sexual ambiguity vis-à-vis the little girl who inspired his main character. Given the swirling mixture of child-like innocence, ambiguous characters, and bizarre situations in these stories, it somehow makes sense that this “Alice” springs from the mind of American animator, writer and director Tim Burton. For two decades now, Burton has piqued audiences’ appetites for morbid worlds that are gorgeously rendered, peopled by figures whose cartoon-ish beauty has been drained of sexuality and re-animated by a prankish, sometimes ghoulish, sense of humour. His rendering of “Alice in Wonderland” will secure Burton’s reputation as American cinema’s most provocative adaptor. His most recent film, 2007’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” sets Stephen Sondheim‘s Broadway musical to celluloid, but not before straining it through the sieve of Burton’s visual imagination. Before that, in 2005, Burton served up “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” his retooling of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel of the same name. Like “Alice,” both these films give Depp’s seemingly ageless face pride of place – playing the title role in “Sweeney Todd,” while in “Chocolate Factory” he delivers one of his more deeply odd turns as confectionmeister Willy Wonka. If Depp is Burton’s favoured male face, his preferred leading lady is Helena Bonham Carter, his wife, whom he met on the set of his 2001 recreation of Arthur P. Jacobs’ 1960s B-movie sensation “Planet of the Apes.” In addition to his prodigious visual imagination, you might reasonably assume that Burton’s greatest talent has been his penchant for revisiting time-tested material and talent. Yet that is an assumption that is not unconditionally true.

Burton didn’t grow up in America’s puritan heartland but in Burbank, California, near the city’s Valhalla Cemetery. He took up drawing at an early age. After winning a fellowship from Disney studios, he studied animation at the California Institute of the Arts. He later went to work at Disney, where he laboured on such films as “The Fox and the Hound” (1981). He baulked at Disney’s staple of saccharine sentimentality, but the company kept him in its stable. There he worked on his own projects and generated his first short film, the six-minute “Vincent“ (1982), an animated black-and-white tribute to B-movie icon Vincent Price. Two years later, he released the 27-minute live-action “Frankenweenie.” That was deemed unsuitable for a children’s audience, however, and never released. Pee-Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) did see “Frankenweenie” and asked the 20-something Burton to direct his 1985 feature film debut, about a man-child who embarks on a mission to find his stolen bike. To the bewilderment of the studios, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” was a runaway box office hit and Burton was catapulted into the helm of the 1988 Michael Keaton vehicle “Beetle Juice.” Recounting the story of the poltergeist-like haunting of a suburban couple by Keaton’s eponymous, perpetually oozing ghoul, “Beetle Juice” is replete with the same madcap energy as “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” with a generous dollop or three of rotting-body humour – to appeal to the sophomoric sensibilities of the college-flick fans in the audience. Burton’s first taste of respectability came with his first successful adaptation from print. And what better template upon which to improvise than the monochrome gloom that the artists of DC Comics found in Gotham City. Though “Batman” saw Burton continue his collaboration with Michael Keaton, in the role of the emotionally subdued Bruce Wayne, it is arguably Jack Nicholson’s channelling of The Joker that provided the gouts of garish colour needed to bring the gothic to life, and to make this first big-screen expansion of the dark knight an aesthetic success. No doubt Nicholson’s leering grin also contributed to the box office success of “Batman,” which, in financial terms, remains Burton’s most successful film to date.



” ” For all the prototype’s success – and the fondness for adaptation evinced during his later career – Burton appears to have lost interest in the dark knight relatively quickly. Though in visual terms “Batman Returns” (1992) was darker and more peculiar than the first film, its narrative sluggishness betrayed the writer’s boredom with the material. Rather more grist for the creative mill came out of the movie Burton directed between the two Batman flicks, “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), which set the standard for the genre invades-suburbia film, a species of comedy that first reached popular audiences with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s “Neighbors” (1981). Here, Burton engineers the collision of the gothic B-movie with a pastel suburbia far more heightened than anything David Lynch ever imagined. It is the story of Depp’s soft-hearted and misunderstood monster (like so many of Burton’s protagonists), the creation of a kindly, if mad, scientist (Vincent Price), who died before having a chance to attach the boy’s hands. “Edward Scissorhands” was a watershed film for several reasons. It is, firstly, one of only three feature films for which Burton takes full writing credit. It may be no coincidence, then, that it is also his best-conceived send-up of American suburbia. Commenting on this a few years ago, he said: “It’s weird. I don’t know if it’s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there’s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity.” “I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious. It was just the framework. There was no passion for it, no passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you’re living in.” “Edward Scissorhands” was also important in collaborative terms. It was Burton’s one feature-film project with Price, who died in 1993 before Burton could make his film biography of the actor. It also marked the writer-director’s first outing with Depp.

Since then, the two have made six movies together – “Ed Wood” (1994), “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005), “Corpse Bride” (2005), “Sweeny Todd” (2007) and now “Alice in Wonderland.” This collaboration also seems to have left its mark on Depp’s career. Anyway, he has taken on many more cartoon-ish roles since 1990 than he had done before. After “Batman Returns,” Burton could return to territory closer to his heart with “Ed Wood,” his loving, and inspired, bio-pic on the life and work of America’s schlock king, the “Worst Director of All Time.” The movie was a box-office disaster but it raked in critical accolades the likes of which Burton had never seen before. None of Burton’s films veer anywhere near naturalistic film conventions. It is interesting to note, though, that the one movie that most assiduously lodges the hyperbolic telling of tales within human frailty is also the one that evoked the most subdued popular and critical response. “Big Fish” (2003), John August’s screen adaptation of the novel by Daniel Wallace, depicts a journalist son having to endure one last round of tall tales from his estranged dad, who’s on his deathbed. The film features an A-list cast with Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Buscemi and Danny DeVito, yet was received with reserve. Evidently Burton’s admirers prefer it when his art is blowing in the gale like the proverbial screen door. If that’s true, they may be pleased to know that, after “Alice,” the next pirouette on his dance card is something called “Frankenweenie.” It promises to be a feature filmlength reworking of his 1984 short of the same name – the one that never got released because it was considered inappropriate for kids. Evidently Burton feels that, a quarter-century on, the film now has a better chance for a theatrical release. Rafiq Al Ajami





When God created woman, he must have thought of Brigitte Bardot. With her waving blond locks, her seductive black-rimmed eyes and bikini-perfect curves, she was every man’s dream, certainly in the 1950s and 60s, the era in which Europe finally freed itself from centuries of Christian-imposed chastity. It is no exaggeration to state that, with her American equivalent Marilyn Monroe, BB became the embodiment of the sexual revolution. On September 28, 2009, she turned 75 – reason enough for Espace Landowski in Paris to launch the first major retrospective ever dedicated to this all-time French icon. The exhibition is divided into three sections, which will take you on a journey through BB’s vibrant life: from the pre-fame family days at home and school to the star-studded years and party life of St. Tropez and, since 1973, her life devoted to the struggle for animal rights. Of particular interest are the portraits made by famous photographers, such as Sam Lévin and Robert Doisneau and artists like Andy Warhol and Kees van Dongen. In addition, several dresses made by Paco Rabanne, Esterel, Christian Dior and Balmain are on display. BB was of course also a popular model who single-handedly popularized the bikini, while even today we speak of the “Bardot neckline,” which is a wide open neck exposing both shoulders. Many of the objects on display stem from Bardot’s personal collection, including lots of films and photos her father made of a young Brigitte growing up. She was in that time an aspiring dancer, one with talent in fact, as she was accepted at the Paris national conservatory. Yet, she already had her looks and in 1950 appeared on the cover of French Elle, which proved to be her career’s launching pad. French director Roger Vadim was so impressed by the cover that he asked her to play in his first film and went on to marry her. And who did not want to be in his shoes? “She is every man’s idea of the girl he’d like to meet in Paris,” film critic Ivon Addams famously wrote in 1955. One year later the girl became a woman, and a truly global star, when she played the title role in “And God Created Woman.” The film was a tremendous success, especially in the more prudent US where it was banned in several states. Having played some 50 films and recorded some 80 songs, most notably with Serge Gainsbourg, she suddenly in 1973, not even 40 years old. Ever since, she has become an animal rights activist and regularly runs into trouble due to her outspoken opinions on politicians, immigration and homosexuals. One thing is certain: one rarely has dull moment with Brigitte Bardot!

“16th Arrondisement”; Paris 1975; Copyright Helmut Newton Estate



One of the most famous and exclusive photo books ever published is Helmut Newton’s SUMO. No, the title has nothing to do with giant Japanese wrestling men, but everything with the weight and size of this monumental book. Published in poster format by Taschen in 1999, it consists of 464 pages with the German photographer’s most famous images, many of which published for the first time. Philippe Starck designed a special table-like stand for the 33-kilo book, of which only 10,000 copies were printed. Getting interested? Know then that even a secondhand copy today sets you back some $10,000. However, Taschen did start this year to re-print a smaller, and more affordable, version of SUMO. To mark the book’s 10th anniversary, the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin has organized an exhibition, in which nearly all 400 SUMO photos are on display until January 31. There is a bit of everything: Newton’s fashion photos, his portraits of Hollywood royalty, the rich and fabulous and, of course, his nudes. Born in 1920, Newton was arguably the world’s most famous photographer in the late 20th century and he became especially known for his daring, often glamorous nudes, including a whole series of SM and bondageinspired photos. No wonder then that Newton was often attacked by both conservatives (for being too sexually explicit) and the feminist movement (for degrading women). In fact, many of his photos were regarded too hot to handle for US magazines. “To understand his work and the vehement reactions it often evoked, one should imagine the cultural tenor and the dominant public conventions at the time of its publication,” said SUMO’s curator Matthias Harder. Illustrating his argument, he pointed at the photo of two women kissing, one nude, the other in tuxedo, which caused uproar in the time. Yet, looking at the SUMO book’s original cover, an image of Henrietta known as “Big Nude III,” it is hard to understand anyway how anyone could claim it to be a degrading portrait of a powerless woman. There she is, Henrietta, standing fully naked on high heels, yet looking straight into the camera. She may be nude, yet she is hardly vulnerable. Quite the contrary: she seems fully in control. Newton once said working with nudes served to liberate him: “The point of my photography has always been to challenge myself, to go a little further than my Germanic discipline and Teutonic nature would traditionally permit me to. The nudes and bondage shots were my way of going beyond my own bounds. Now that I’ve done that, I want to return to fashion with a fresh and mature eye and do more portraits. As with previous exhibitions at the Helmut Newton Foundation, the SUMO exhibition runs parallel to a sideshow, which in this case is “The three boys from Pasadena.” The title refers to the world of American photographers Mark Arbeit, George Holz and Just Loomis, who were students when they first met Newton in the late 1970s and later assisted him regularly. Today, they are professional photographers in their own right.

“David Hockney” (1974); Andy Warhol; Photo Richard Schmidt; Copyright Tate Modern




Situated in a former power plant on the southern bank of the river Thames, the Tate Modern in London has long been one of the most innovative venues on the British art scene. The museum has a great permanent collection – with lots of Turner and Bacon – while temporary exhibitions are generally of a very high standard. Currently, two amazing shows are on display: “Pop Life: Art in a Material World” and Miroslaw Balka’s black hole. “Good business is the best art,” Andy Warhol once provocatively said. Taking that remark as a starting point of reasoning, the Tate Modern created a retrospective of Pop Art, exploring its legacy and examining the many ways the movement’s artists have infiltrated the art “supermarket,” while embracing today’s celebrity culture and using the media to create their “brands.” Artists on display include: Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Keith Haring and Damien Hirst, as well as a number of British artists. The show starts with a look at Pop-Art-Godfather Warhol’s later work and activities, which include his series “Reversals,” as well as him being a TV personality, paparazzo, and impresario. Among the highlights of the exhibitions are a reconstruction of Haring’s “Pop Shop” and Koons’ controversial “Made in Heaven.” Haring opened his “Pop Shop” in 1986 in New York to sell signed (branded!) objects, such as T-shirts, toys and magnets to as wide an audience as possible. Koons “Made in Heaven,” a series of porcelain sculptures first presented at the 1990 Venice Bienniale, shows his sexual endeavors with the Italian porn star and politician Cicciolina. The Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was commissioned to create a whole new installation. Naturally, Pop Life features many works by British artist Damien Hirst. The museum restages the performance first shown in Cologne in 1992, which requires two identical twins to sit beneath two identical paintings. Pop Life is on in London until January 17 and will then travel to the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Meanwhile, it is every artist’s dream to be one day asked to create an installation in the museum’s giant open space known as the “Turbine Hall.” Currently, as part of the famous Unilever’s Series, Polish artist Miroslaw Balka created an enormous black box, which is at once terrifying and beautiful. It is a 13-meter-high and 30-meter-long container-like structure. You can walk underneath to listen to the voices and feet of people inside, or climb in yourself and experience a pitch black world in which you can only rely on touch. Balka aimed to create a feeling of being trapped, while traveling to the unknown, which is arguably a reference to the millions of Polish Jews who were sent to their deaths in Germany. A more recent reference could be illegal immigrants traveling by truck over the Mexican border to the US. Apart from these underlying connotations however, Balka’s black box is also great fun!

Chi Peng - Sprinting Forward-2 – 2004



If you happen to be in Belgium, yet always wanted to go to China, then the Brussels Museum of Fine Arts (BOZAR) is the place to be. Until early February, Belgium’s leading contemporary art museum puts China in the limelight with a multitude of expositions, lectures and performances. You name it, they got it: from classical opera and ancient puppet theater to the latest in dance, photography and film. This century promises to be more Chinese than ever, yet the “Middle Kingdom” largely remains hidden by a veil of mystery, according to the organizers behind this massive China manifestation. While many people are intrigued and impressed by the country’s culture, ancient history, and its current role as an economic superpower, they often find it hard to look beyond the wall of clichés, such as Mao, kung fu, chopsticks and fake designer brands. BOZAR’s rich and varied Chinese menu is loosely based on two opposing themes: “traditional” and “contemporary.” So, the historical exhibition “Son of Heaven” presents 50 centuries of power and glory. According to Chinese mythology, Pangu separated heaven and earth, which allowed the son of heaven to appear. He is the sovereign tasked with maintaining harmony on earth. The exposition consists of 250 objects, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, illustrating the emperor’s ritual dialogue with heaven through the ages. On the modern end of things, “Still Life” offers a collection of 100 images illustrating the state of photography in China today, which seems to be of a particularly high level. See for example Chi Peng’s wondrous image of a group of naked men chasing airplanes or Rongkong and Inri’s image of two women’s black intertwined hair in a room of sensuous white. “Un-silenced Voices” gives you a taste of independent film and theater in China, while “The State of Things,” curated by the renowned artists Luc Tuymans and Ai Weiwei, offers a slice of contemporary art in Beijing and Brussels. For those in search of sound, “Traditional Voices” is a journey along China’s folkloric musical landscape, while the superstar pianist Lang Lang plays Beethoven and Prokofiev. For people interested in dance, on February 8 the world premiere of Zoetrope I & II, a unique cooperation effort between the Beijing Modern Dance Company (BMDC) and Antwerp’s Cie 13, will take place. While the first part called “Then” focuses on the harmony between humans and nature, progress and tradition, the second part, “Now,” highlights the imbalance of modern day life in China. Cie 13 is a well known dance collective based in Antwerp. Its artistic director, Rosa Mei, has over 20 years experience in dance and martial arts, and is widely praised for her innovative and virtuosic choreographies. Last but not least, there are numerous lectures and debates. So, Gao Xingjian, who won the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature, will speak in Brussels. If you want to know more, check the BOZAR website, where you will find that its Chinese menu truly caters for all tastes.

Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastriani, La Dolce Vita(1960)



Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking film “La Dolce Vita,” Paris honors Frederico Fellini with a series of expositions and projections. Fellini is one of a few directors who did not just make films, but created an oeuvre and cinematic language that changed the medium itself. “La Dolce Vita,” starring Marcello Mastroianni as a young journalist and Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg as a, well, a sex bomb really, deals with decadence in post-war Rome. Fellini is without a doubt one of the greatest Italian directors ever. In fact, many film lovers will include him on their list of the world’s most influential filmmakers. Having started as a neo-realist, Fellini became famous for mixing fact and fiction, creating larger-than-life characters, and a rather ironic look on Italian society and his own persona. His influence is arguably best illustrated by the fact these days we can speak of a “Fellinian” film or character. While the Cinémathèque Française in the coming months will project all of Fellini’s 24 films, the Jeu de Paume gallery until January 17 offers two expositions in honor of the old master. First and foremost, “La Grande Parade” offers an overview of photographs, films posters, drawings and stills from Fellini’s films, which have become icons of world cinema. The exposition investigates such aspects as the autobiographical character of Fellini’s work, his obsession with women, and his main sources of inspiration, which includes dreams as Fellini was greatly influenced by the ideas of Carl Jung. It is quite obvious that Fellini’s personal life is reflected in his work. Take for example “8½,” in which the main character is a director struggling with the many women in his life, while trying to complete his film. In “Amarcord” he portrayed the rise of fascism in Italy, something he himself experienced growing up in a small village near Rimini in the 1920s and 1930s. From 1939 onward, Fellini made a living as a journalist (and caricaturist) in Rome, which no doubt inspired him to make “La Dolce Vita.” The exhibition furthermore highlights Fellini’s methods of film making and the sources of popular culture he used as inspiration, including comic books, circus and TV. Fellini disliked television, as is clear in “Ginger et Fred,” his 1986 critique on Berlusconi’s growing media empire. Until January 17, Jeu de Paume also features two video installations made by Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli, which examine the notion of illusion and fiction within our perception of reality. The media’s hunger for celebrity news, for example, could be seen as a modern variation on creating myths. In the video presentation of his performance “Right You Are (If You Think You Are),” Vezzoli focuses on the media’s obsession with fame and celebrity by focusing on Anita Ekberg. A second video work features Eva Mendez as a Hollywood star opening an exposition that never opens.

“Untitled”; Fassih Keiso; Photo by George Haddad




When visiting Aleppo you expect to bask into the heritage of this ancient city, be drawn like a magnet to the imposing citadel and get lost in the narrow, bustling streets of the souqs. Getting lost can be a cause of concern, yet has its advantages as well. When surfacing from the claustrophobic midst of vendors, donkeys and minivans, I came upon a former church showcasing an event far removed from its historical surroundings: the 10th International Photo Festival of Aleppo. The exhibit had not yet opened, but visitors were free to wander around, as curators hung up the works of forty international photographers. Better yet, this provided an opportunity to view photographs that were later removed following a visit by a plain-clothes member of those infamous spoil-sports known as the mukhabarat. Displayed over three floors, the exhibit was global in scope with photos from the US to Japan. A mixture of documentary photography, portraits and more artistic works, it did not have a unifying theme, although it perhaps unwittingly became: censorship. Among the most interesting artists on display was the Saudi-Moroccan princess, Jowhara Al-Saud, whose sparse multi-textural images of faceless people, imposed onto large photographs of paper, cardboard and envelopes, tackled the issue of censorship in Saudi Arabia. Syrian-Australian photographer Fassih Keiso’s showed rich images of living rooms filled with superimposed images. One was censored, as it showed a bare-chested, barely pubescent girl clutching her breasts, while her brother sprawls topless by the couch. Flying helicopters and fighter jets fill the room on the boy’s side, while Bratz dolls strike a pose on the girl’s side. Danish artist Bent Hedeby Sørensen’s series “Penetration” escaped the censor, despite showing nudity in one photo. The organizers had explained the censors that Sørensen’s self-portraits, in which his body functions as a canvas on which paintings are projected , are art, not photography. The artist plays out a questioning role - what if I was a woman? - by being such female characters as the Virgin Mary, Frida Kahlo, the woman at the counter in Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, and Salome carrying the head of John the Baptist. Sørensen’s friend and fellow countryman Kim Wendt had two of his seemingly natural, yet staged portraits removed. One depicted a topless woman with her breasts marked out for plastic surgery, while the other showed a woman squeezing her sizable décolletage into a top with a naked man sitting on the edge of the bed. The vast majority of photos however, went on display without any trouble. Among the highlights were James Whitlow Delano’s black and white images shot on infra-red film, which showed the gritty reality of contemporary China. Italian artists Claudia Zanfi and Gianmaria Conti showed both photographs and a video of a week-long stay at the Baghdad University in 2002, where they met a wide range of Iraqi artists and intellectuals. The poignancy of such work was highlighted by Zanfi saying she had lost contact with her subjects since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Not to be outdone by the fact that some of the work on display being given the official thumb’s down, organizer Issa Touma felt emboldened enough to put on a side exhibition called “Forbidden” at his Allepo gallery. Ironically, here all images went on display without any trouble Paul Cochrane

“torten housing estat dessau” (1926-1928); Walter Gropius; Harvard Art Museum; Copyright: ® A.R.S./ VE Bild-Kumst



For the first time since 1938, the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has organized a major Bauhaus exhibition. Founded in 1919 and closed by Nazi Germany in 1933, this avant-garde school of art, design and architecture had a major influence on the 20th century. The exhibition brings together no less than 400 works, which include industrial and architectural designs, furniture, photographs, paintings, textiles and sculptures. In addition to the exhibition, a new interactive space at MOMA has recreated the old Bauhaus classroom, where people of all ages can engage in drawing, coloring, and graphic design. The workshops are free of charge; a great option for parents who want to see their kids do something else than play Grand Theft Auto IV. The Bauhaus school was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius. In a pamphlet for the “Exhibition of Unknown Architects,” he claimed his goal was “to create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.” One of the main objectives of was to unify art, craft and technology and create an institute where designers, architects and artists would study side by side. Despite its relatively short lifespan, the school welcomed many famous teachers, such as the German designer Oscar Schlemmer, Hungarian designer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Swiss painters Johannes Itten and Palu Klee, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, and Dutch painter Theo van Doesburg, a founding member of De Stijl. The emergence of Bauhaus, which means a “house for building,” should be seen within the socio-economic and cultural context of its time. First of all, in 1919, Germany was on the brink of collapse following the horrors of WWI and the signing of a humiliating (and costly) peace treaty. The new institution was to help find affordable solutions to rebuild the country, within a new social hierarchy, in which there was no longer room for Der Kaiser. Secondly, despite the horrors of WWI, the early 20th century still believed in the ideals of rationality and progress. Bauhaus was in many ways the opposite of Dadaism and is characterized by a rational, transparent, back-to-basics approach, in which there was no room for “Bourgeois” ornaments and decorations. The typical Bauhaus building consists of straight lines, cubic shapes, flat roofs, and simple white, black or gray colors. As said, although the actual Bauhaus only existed for 14 years it had a major influence on contemporary art and architecture, many of the school’s teachers fled Nazi-Germany and went on to teach in England and America. In fact, Gropius and Marcel Breuer went on to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which produced most of the architects responsible for creating the skyscraper-face of modernist America. Interestingly, UNESCO in 2004 declared part of Tel Aviv a World Heritage Site in 2004, as it has some 4,000 Bauhaus buildings. Some people claim however, that Beirut may have even more …



For a glimpse of Istanbul’s natural and cultural beauty, it is worth a visit to the 14th century Galata Tower, as it offers a 360-degree view over the city and its many waterways. First of all, there is of course the Bosporus. Though only 30 kilometers long, it has been one of the world’s most famous waterways ever since the days of Zeus and Apollo. He - who controls the Bosporus controls the overland trade between Europe and Asia, as well as all maritime trade between the Black and the Mediterranean Sea. Beirut has often been called the “Paris of the Orient” and “The Bridge between East and West,” yet there is only one city in the region that truly deserves such honorary titles: Istanbul. Situated on both banks of the Bosporus, Turkey’s biggest city is literally the bridge between east and west, as it has one foot in Europe and another in Asia. What’s more, like Paris, Istanbul is an imperial city, in which dozens of monuments testify of its past and current grandeur. And, Istanbul boasts a whopping shopping and nightlife district, which may not match that of Paris, yet certainly outdoes that of Beirut. This should not come as a surprise of course, as Istanbul is home to some 15 million people. From the coolest dance clubs to cozy veggie restaurants, from traditional gipsy-like bands and belly dancing venues to the latest in rock and contemporary art: The City has got it all, and as such is the perfect destination for a long weekend (not too far) away from home.

One can easily spend a day just walking along the shore to watch the hundreds of boats pass by wondering where they might sail to. Istanbul boasts two bridges connecting Europe with Asia, yet I prefer to jump on one of the ferries that connect the two parts that make up the “Venice of the Sea.” Istanbul’s Asian side is humbler in appearance than its European counterpart, yet worth a visit. It is generally cheaper and thus attracted a lot of students, artists and with them lots of little café’s, theaters and shops. This is definitely also the best place to taste Istanbul’s rich and varied fish menu. The best ferry trips however, are the ones that take you along the length of the Bosporus all the way to the Black Sea. Just sit back, relax and watch Istanbul float by. If you are lucky, as I was, you may come across a school of dolphins diving in and out of the water. Another truly marvelous daytrip takes you to a string of (car-less) islands in the Sea of Marmara, where you may dream to one day own one of

the gorgeous wooden villas. At the foot of the Galata Tower lies the famous Golden Horn, a natural inlet of the Bosporus that cuts the city’s European side in two. For almost 2000 years, the waterway formed a natural harbor and safe haven for the Byzantine and Ottoman fleets. In times of danger it could be sealed off by a giant chain. Today, four bridges span the Golden Horn, which are permanently manned by a small army of local fishermen. The municipality aims to build a fifth bridge, and not just any bridge, but the 16th century single span bridge Leonardo DaVinci designed for the Ottoman Sultan, yet never saw built. On the opposite bank of the Golden Horn lies old Constantinople, home to most of the city’s monuments, including the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sofia and the 16th century Bazaar, (which today mainly sells fake designer handbags), as well as countless mosques and minarets that pop up from the hills as candles on a cake. Most were designed by the Ottomans master builder, Sinan, the Michelangelo of the East, and one of the most famous architects the world has ever known. During his 50-year career as imperial architect, Sinan supervised the construction of 476 buildings, palaces, schools, harems, mosques, bridges and aqueducts, some 196 of which still survive. Having been the capital of the Byzantine Empire for over 1100 years, the city fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Yet, apart from the

aqueduct, and the Hagia Sophia (the Church of Holy Wisdom) not much remains of the city’s Byzantine past. The Hagia Sophia is to Istanbul what the Notre Dame is to Paris. Built in the 4th century, it was the world’s largest church, until Sevilla built hers 1200 years later. It is a beautiful if bulky structure, quite unlike any church I have ever seen. Following the Ottoman conquest, the church was turned into a mosque (hence the out-ofplace minarets), while since the beginning of the 20th century it is a museum. One of its most striking characteristics is the enormous dome, which was a bit of an obsession for Sinan. One should know that the Romans considered the dome the ultimate architectural design to create a large, spacious and well-lit interior. The art was to give the visitor the illusion that the dome was somehow floating in mid-air. The Romans used the dome to cover temples and other public buildings. The Christians continued building domes in their churches and cathedrals, as did the Muslims in their mosques. The same building tradition can e observed in the use of arches and pillars by the way. Sinan was well aware of the centuries-old architect’s dream to create the perfect dome. He received his chance when, in 1550, Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent asked him to build the Süleymaniye mosque, Istanbul’s most beautiful. The design holds references to Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, which is thought to have been built on the site of Solomon’s

Temple. When the mosque was completed in 1557, the Sultan reportedly entered and said: “Solomon, I have surpassed thee!”. Sinan’s did not surpass the Hagia Sophia however, as its main dome is (only) 53 meters high with a diameter of 26.5 meters. When it was built, it was the highest in the Empire when measured from sea level. Yet when measured from its base, it was lower, as well as smaller, than that of the Hagia Sophia. Years later however, Sinan also built the (gorgeous) mosque in Edirne, outside Istanbul, where he finally did manage to build a dome which –supported by eight giant pillars of marble and granite – was exactly 0.5 meters bigger than that of the Hagia Sophia. Istanbul second most famous mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, stands right opposite the Hagia Sophia, on the site once home to the Byzantine palace. It was built by a pupil of Sinan. It is a truly massive mosque, yet its dome is (only) 23.5 meters. Meanwhile, with 43.4 meters, the Pantheon in Rome held the record for the world’s largest dome for some 1700 years, until the Devonshire Royal Hospital was competed in Britain. Since 1992, the world’s largest sits on top of the Georgia World Congress Center in the US. It measures 256 meters. What the Versailles Palace is to Paris is Topkapi to Istanbul. Situated next to the Hagia Sophia and overlooking both the Golden Horn and Bosporus, the palace is surprisingly modest in appearance. I had expected a pompous, over-the-top construction, but the palace is a

lovely collection of pavilions and courtyards intertwined with parks, gardens and fountains. Interestingly, the exterior seems as important as the interior. It is weird to realize that this secluded little paradise inhabited by Sultans, concubines and eunuchs ruled half the world for almost 500 years. The palace today is a museum with a stunning collection of jewelry and royal kaftans. The true beauty of Istanbul however, is not its monuments. I mean, the city would still be worth a visit, even if it did not have such world heritage sites as Topkapi and the Hagia Sophia. The true charm of Istanbul lies in wandering and wondering about, discovering its many hidden corners, as the city boasts architecture and culture from every century. The city’s true secret however, is its water, which no matter where you go, is always near. Regarding the city’s evening entertainment: just get lost in the narrow streets around Galata Tower, an area known as Tunel, which is home to city’s cool crowd, as well as hundreds of café’s and restaurants. Finally, while Istanbul overall may be in a different league than Beirut, there is one aspect in which Beirut is definitely more Parisian than Istanbul: language. While most Lebanese speak French (and English), most Turks only speak Turkish, and often have forgotten about the many Arabic roots in their own language, however obvious they may be. So, the city’s main shopping street is called “Istiqlal,” every art center is a “merkezi,” and hello is “merhaba.”



In the past, fairytale princes came with a golden unicorn, a white horse, or a sparkly shoe to charm their beloved princess-to-be. But no modern-day fairytale would be complete were the “I do’s” not preceded with prince charming bending down on one knee to take out that one little turquoise, perfectly-beribboned box: the Tiffany box. Holly Golightly might well have had breakfast there, but what she really wanted was that gesture of chivalry worthy of a long, deep whisper of “oh, dahling!” just at the sight of the box and the sheer excitement that it brings. The box has become so iconic that its powder blue color is a registered trademark produced by Pantone exclusively for the New York jeweler under PMS number 1837, the same year that Tiffany & Co. was founded. Ever since, entire weddings were themed upon it, with the Tiffany blue adorning everything from wedding napkins to bridesmaids’ dresses. In Europe, many patisseries were inspired to bake dark chocolate cakes covered with blue marzipan icing and a silver bow made of rolled fondant, also packaged with similar catering boxes to Tiffany’s. Aside from being currently sold empty on eBay, many go into desperate measures in their pursuit of a genuine Tiffany box. Much so, that the company has a policy to remove its trash discretely because people would dig into the bins outside their shops hoping to get their hands on this product of desire. Legend has it that before they acquire those unmatched skills of wrapping up a box, Tiffany’s saleswomen undergo a rigorous training program in a secret place far far away – think a summer camp of Bree Van Di Camps. They are the oldest living strain who breathe to protect an old secret: the very thought that inside this meticulously-packaged box comes a lifetime of bliss and dreams of white picket fences. Yes. It is the fantasy that resides in every young Charlotte York’s psyche; that someday she would live to be gently delivered that box, to un-tie that silver bow with her French-manicured fingers, and to decorate one with an 18-karate stone with which she eagerly becomes someone else’s to hold and to cherish forever. *Candy


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