Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

I was extremely happy and lucky to get a chance to attend the private view of the V&A’s major exhibition, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams before it opened to the public today, 2nd February. It certainly was everything and more. The signature look was evident through the timeline of Dior. A wasp-waist jacket with full skirt, which has stood the test of time together with princess worthy haute couture evening gowns.


I have remained a Dior fan since my first purchase some 20 years back, so this exhibit was particularly special for me. It all started when I purchased my first Dior handbag at the age of 22, which didn’t leave much change from my modest months salary. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed that I’d spent that much and it was maybe a little irresponsible at the time, but I also felt extremely proud of my purchase and it started a love affair with Dior that has endured. The handbag, designed under then creative director John Galliano has now, become a firm vintage favourite of mine which compliments the newer pieces which I have purchased since.




The exhibition highlights the early start of Dior in 1947 to the present, and traces the history and impact of one of the 20th century’s most influential design houses, exploring the enduring influence of the fashion house. A must see.



V&A Exhibition

Dr Maya Angelou | Phenomenal & Inspirational

Dr Maya Angelou – Celebrated Poet, Memoirist and Civil Rights Activist

Maya Angelou - poet, memoirist & civil rights activist - courtesy of

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Dr Maya Angelou became one of the most celebrated and leading voices of our time. She was the first African American woman who publicly discussed her personal life through her book I know why the caged bird sings. The book covers her eventful childhood up until age 16 when she gave birth to her son, Guy. This was the first of seven autobiographies that she wrote through her life time.

The title of Dr Angelou’s most famous autobiography came from the third stanza of Paul Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”. Dr Angelou admired his works for many years, and also credited him and William Shakespeare with forming her “writing ambition”. The title was suggested by civil rights activist and jazz vocalist Abby Lincoln.

“I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings”

– Paul Lawrence Dunbar

A young Maya - courtesy of

A young Maya

Dr Angelou was born on April 4th 1928 as Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. She spent her formative years in the harsh segregated Stamps, Arkansas with her parental grandmother, Annie Henderson, and her kind but cripple uncle, Willie. At the age of three, after her parents’ divorce, Maya and her brother, Bailey (who gave her the nickname Maya), were sent to live with their grandmother. Her grandmother, who owned the general store in black Stamps, helped Maya to develop pride and self-confidence. However, at the age of seven, during a visit to her mother, Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. She told her brother about the rape. After testifying at Freeman’s trial, Freeman was found beaten to death (some belief at the hands of her uncles). In her seven-year-old mind, Maya though it was her voice that killed him and she refused to speak in public for five years as a result of her guilt and belief. It was during these years that she discovered poetry and her love of art when Mrs Flowers, an educated black woman from Stamps and friend of the family, introduced her to the literacy world. At the age of 13, Maya and her brother re-joined her mother in San Francisco. Maya’s love for art won her a scholarship to San Francisco’s Labor School where she studied dance and drama. It was during this time that she started to speak again. At age 14 she dropped out of school to become San Francisco’s first African American female streetcar conductor, but she returned to school shortly thereafter to complete her studies. She became pregnant in her senior year and at age 16 gave birth to her only son, Guy, a few weeks after her graduation. In order to support her and her son, she worked as a night club dancer, a singer, a prostitute and a fry cook, while not giving up on her talents for music, dance, performance and poetry.


In 1950 she married a Greek sailor, Tony Angelos, but the marriage did not last long. She moved to New York City to continue her study of dance, later returning to San Francisco to sing at the Purple Onion Cabaret where she was noticed by talent scouts. She toured Europe from 1954 to 1955 as a member of the cast in the touring production Porgy and Bess. She recorded her first album in 1957 named Calypso Lady.


She was also known for her ability to write lyrics and perform spoken word. She collaborated with Quincy Jones writing lyrics for B.B. King in the film For Love of Ivy, a Sidney Poitier film.

Dr Maya Angelou has won three Grammys: Best Spoken Word Album, Best Spoken Word or Non Musical Album 1993 for On the Pulse of Morning, Grammy for Best Spoken Word or Non Musical Album, 1995 for Phenomenal Woman, Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, 2000 for A Song Flung up to Heaven.

Moving back to New York, Dr Angelou joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild in 1958 and under the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she started to write the first book, “I know why the caged bird sings” which was published in 1970. The book received international acclaim. However, it was banned in many schools at the time due to her open honest writing of her rape, a long taboo topic in the culture at that time. During her time in New York, she acted in the historic Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom. She was also the first African-American woman to write a script that was filmed. She wrote the screenplay and composed the score of the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia which received a Pulitzer Price. She also appeared in Alex Haley’s series, Roots (1977) and John Singleton’s Poetic Justice (1993). She directed her first feature film, Down in the Delta, in 1996.

Dr Angelou also received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die, which was published in 1971. She later wrote the poem “On the Pulse of Morning”—one of her most famous works—which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She was the first person to recite a poem at an inauguration since 1961 when Robert Frost recite his poem at President John F Kennedy’s inauguration. The recording of the poem won a Grammy Award.


In 1960 Dr Angelou moved to Cairo, Egypt with South African civil right activist, Vusumzi Make. She served as the editor of the English language weekly The Arab Observer. Their relationship ended and she and her son moved on to Ghana where she taught at the University of Ghana’s School for Music and Drama, wrote The Ghanaian Times and was feature editor for The African Review. During her time abroad she read and studied with enthusiasm. Dr Angelou was fluent in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Western African Fanti.

Whilst in Ghana, Dr Angelou met Malcolm X and in 1964 returned to America to help him build his new organization of African-American Unity. He was assassinated shortly after her return and the organization dissolved. She also counted Dr Martin Luther King Jr as one of her friends, and was devastated when he was assassinated on her birthday in 1968. He asked her to serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She has continued her works in civil rights and she is also recognized as an international ambassador for goodwill crossing lines of race and culture.

Maya Angelou receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama - courtesy of

Dr Maya Angelou receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama

In 2011 President Barak Obama presented Dr Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Dr Angelou died at home in Winston-Harlem, Northern Carolina on 28 May 2014 at the age of 86 but her voice continues to live on in her poems and memoirs.

On The Pulse Of Morning – Poem by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou - courtesy of

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers-
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours- your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes,
Into your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Phenomenal Woman – Poem by Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman - Maya Angelou - courtesy of

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Researcher: Riette van Zyl

Banksy: A contemporary cultural icon of solidarity

A Time Magazine dubbed ‘graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur’, what is the artist all about? Now captivating a global audience, Banksy has a plethora of fans, with books, posters, tattoos and even an App demonstrating a distinctive skill set. The man (gender taken for granted here) anti-centralized authority. Whether it’s the government, the arms industry or big business, his art reflects fighting for the little man, and often this is done very tongue-in-cheek.


“There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover” Metropolitan Police spokesperson, a quote from the back of his latest book, a collective of more than just his artwork.


In his youth, after finding his name, finding his style and finding his message, and after a hectic run-in with the transport police, he fell for the stencil design. For Banksy this wasn’t mere vandalism. It was dissent. Obviously, he’s not quite matching Che Guevara or Karl Marx, nor will he claim to be, but the socio-political edge was always there for him, and this can be seen throughout his lifework and its locations.


The identity behind Banksy: Who is he?


Everyone who knows Banksy knows that no one really knows who he is. Confused? You should be, although more has become known in recent times. Apart from being born in Bristol and what you can take from his literature (mainly imagery anyway), the rest is fairly up in the air. In 2008 the Mail on Sunday used their investigative powers to come to the hotly debated conclusion that Banksy is a 43 year old man named Robin Gunningham, an ex-public schoolboy born into a middle-class family, (Queen Margaret University also released a scientific, apparently conclusive, study that points right at the public schoolboy). Anyhow, isn’t it interesting the peoples paper (owned by a multi-billionaire Lord) almost mock his middle-class upbringing, nearly demanding him to be from the lowest economic order to meet his ‘anti-authoritarian renegade’ persona? Although studies seem to be confirming the Gunningham hypothesis, naturally it is all being denied by anyone with any authority on Banksy.

In August 2016 Craig Williams had a stab at finding out the secret identity, throwing the controversy back into the air with traceable solid evidence. Although the base of the evidence was formed from a 2010 rumor that it is actually a group of artists, not a single persona, following around the band Massive Attack on its tour of the United States. Previous dates and drawings were dotted together, including locations and involvement, over multiple years, which show quite the compelling theory. There is also the intimate links of Banksy with the Massive Attack frontrunner Robert Del Naja (graffiti name ‘3D’), believed to be the possible culprit in chief. The varied global brilliance certainly lends its weight to the multiple artist theory.



And so, although accredited as a Champagne Socialist for some of his actions to help the needy of Stokes Croft (a Bristol area), why does he choose to remain anonymous and why does this generate such an appeal? Ultimately, he named the reason being the legality of his occupation (if you can call it that), but on a deeper level he is clearly not a self-serving artist, especially if you look at the messages delivered throughout his work. Each piece of art he delivers is a risk; he can ‘go down’ with the law, so it is necessary to take the correct precautions. Studies and investigations aside, the secrecy and anonymity is all a part of Banksy, and in the globalised age of money and ego’s, the statement he may be trying to make is that his messages are more important than his name.



Banksy Artwork

You will be able to find detailed compilations of the global icon littered throughout the Internet, and a brief google image search will show you nearly all of his known installations. So the aim here will be to focus on a small portion of his work. Not all his messages are delivered through solitary stand-alone art pieces left on derelict buildings, random doors, or war-torn walls in Israel. Although, if it does, the process of operations involves sneaking around in the middle of the night, creating the image with apparently no-one aware, and then uploading the images on his website at some point the next day.



A 2015 exhibition funded by Banksy, featuring 10 originals, included 58 other artists. This exhibition was named ‘Dismaland: bemusement park’ and was located in a small town called Western Super-mere right next to his birthplace. Attracting many celebrities the self-proclaimed ‘UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction’ was a dystopian theme park following the classical Banksy image of pointing out the ills of Western Society.



The notable feature as you entered, besides the novel artwork, was a purposeful lack of any amusement or helpfulness from any of the bored and distressed staff walking about the park, including an unpleasant greeting from angry doormen. It took the pessimism of the UK’s political and social woes and bundled them into a ‘relatively’ entertaining area of an unused, degrading outdoor pool. Miniature exhibitions, role-plays, talks, discordant artifacts and other interactions attempted to mock the over stimulatory feel of the real Disneyland.




So if you were someone who hates everything, you would have left Dismaland with more than just a smile, and a greater understanding of Banksy’s over-arching directive.


However, notably it was his stand-alone pieces that shot him to global fame in 2005, when he went to the West Bank in Israel and drew on the Palestinian side of the 425-mile long wall, messages of destitution and apartheid regime (what can we expect from someone born out of the left-wing hub of an already alternative city?). Pictures included windows to utopia, freedoms and escapism.



Things got interesting when guns were drawn on him as he went to work with his tools.

Soldier: “What the f*** are you doing?”

Banksy: “You’ll have to wait until its finished.”

Soldier (to colleagues): “Safety’s off.”


And another interesting interaction from the Middle East recorded by Banksy. An old Palestinian man came over to tell him he thought that the painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, only to hear the response,

“We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.”



Banksy’s most expensive piece sold reached 6 figures and was sold in 2008 – Keep It Spotless was sold in New York City at Sotheby’s charity auction for over $1,870,000. The amusing part is that it was previously only estimated at around $300,000. Created in 2007, it is a defaced Damian Hurst painting of an L.A. hotel maid pulling up the original Hurst piece to reveal a framed window. Although this may be the most expensive piece ever sold, it certainly was not the only one to hit 6 figures. In 2007 the day after Sotheby’s London charity, Banksy’s website hosted an image of an auction house with bidders and the caption, “I Can’t Believe You Morons Actually Buy This S***”. This was the response to 3 of his paintings hitting the 6-figure mark.



“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish…but that’s only if its being done properly.” Banksy. Anti-establishment, anti-war, anti-government, anti-capitalist, anti-consumerism – with a common subject theme of using rats, monkeys, policeman, soldiers, children and the elderly.






Beijing – October 10th 2016 –In Christie’s 250th year, the company announces continued expansion in China led by a brand new flagship space that will open in Beijing in autumn 2016. The new exhibition and office space will be unveiled at a grand opening on October 15th. A special exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) will explore his influence on Chinese artists. The space will also showcase works by other leading pioneers including Max Ernst, Fernando Botero, Sanyu, Chu Teh-Chun, and Zeng Fanzhi. Patricia Barbizet, Chief Executive Officer, Christie’s, “We are proud to have found Christie’s a new home in Beijing, a city that is characterized by its tremendous cultural heritage and a profound collecting tradition. Christie’s continues to grow and invest in China and our new Beijing space marks an important milestone during our 250 year mission to connect art and collectors. We look forward to further exchanges with the art community and contributing to the diversified Chinese cultural landscape.”

As the world’s leading art business, Christie’s remains committed to its mission of promoting dialogue and cultural exchange within the art ecology in China. Following the opening of Christie’s Shanghai at the historical Ampire building in 2014, Christie’s continued focus is on increasing access to collecting and the enjoyment of the arts for all audiences across China. Located on #82 Jinbao Street and spanning over three floors, the new Beijing space is equipped with state-of-art facilities over 800 square meters. Conceived under the same aesthetic principles of Christie’s international sites such as London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong, Christie’s Beijing provides a multi-
functional and interactive venue for exhibitions, art forums, lectures and other activities.

A special exhibition of six works by Picasso, the most heralded artist of the 20th century, will be unveiled for the grand opening of the new flagship space. This exhibition will explore the artist’s extraordinary oeuvre– the themes and muses that populated his art throughout his prolific career, as well as Picasso’s connection to Chinese artists.

While Picasso’s paintings and his various artistic styles may not reveal distinct influences from Chinese art, the artist, in fact, was familiar with and curious about the Middle Kingdom’s rich painting tradition. Picasso especially liked and studied the lively and energetic paintings by Qi Baishi (1864-1957) and became friends with Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), the two most influential modern masters from China. This exhibition is an exclusive preview of Picasso’s works which will be offered in Christie’s New York Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on November 16. Highlights to be exhibited include Tete de Femme, 1943 and Buste de Femme, 1938, two very different portraits of his great wartime lover and muse, Dora Maar. Jinqing Cai, Chairman, Christie’s China, “As we raise the Christie’s flag in our newly established art space in Beijing, I sincerely hope it becomes an integral part of the rich cultural heritage and the diverse art community of the city. We will continue our role in acting as a cultural ambassador and provide best access and expertise for art lovers, collectors and institutions between China and the world.”

Visit to explore special multi-media sale promotions, browse our illustrated catalogues and leave absentee bids through LotFinder(R), Christie’s online search engine, and register for Internet bidding with Christie’s Live(TM).


Preen by Thornton Bregazzi


Beginning of Preen


Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi met at the age of 18 at art college on their native Isle of Man.  But it was only five years later when they had both upped sticks (Bregazzi to the University of Central Lancashire; Thornton to the University of Winchester) and arrived in London years later that they became a couple.

After graduating, Thornton began collaborating with Bregazzi when his then-employer, Helen Storey, invited her to freelance on design projects.

The opened their first store in 1996 in a small shop in Notting Hills, Portobello Market. Two years later (1998) Preen went whole sale, and before the turn of the millennium (1999), they opened two shops in Tokyo.

Right from this start, their early, one off creations displayed many of the themes that Preen would revisit over the next decade: Victoriana, Recycling, deconstruction, utilitarian clothing, always with that masculine and feminine hard/soft mix the couple bring to their designs.        

Sharing the same vision and attention detail, the synergy between Thornton and Bregazzi has produced some incredible collections.

Their debut collection at London Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2001 composed of punkish elements; vintage lace and hand crafted effects,  this collection received rave reviews, described as a sartorial traditional clash, with a very British sense of tongue-in-cheek chic. Liberty Ross wore their ‘rosary bead’ blouse to the British fashion awards straight from the runway, putting Preen firmly on the fashion map.

Subsequent collections have built on this early success, with increasing sales and extensive press attention. As a regular must-see show on London Fashion week schedule, Preen made the decision to move their twice yearly runway shows to New York Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2008, becoming a much anticipated part of New York show calendar. Since showing in New York, the international exposure of Preen has magnified and sales doubled.

They came back to London for their Spring Summer 2013 show, receiving rave reviews. Spring /Summer 2008 saw the launch of ‘Preen Line’, their contemporary line, this gave the designers an avenue for the rock and roll, easy wear elements of their design, with a strong emphasis on effortless everyday cool.

This season, Thornton and Bregazzi took on the ruffly tendency—something that began with a bout of the Shy Di ’80s nostalgia that has been breaking out in London lately—by putting deep flounces on the shoulder line of a black pantsuit. Slightly weird but compelling things also happened with the satin blouses, whose boxy, piped shoulders looked as if they might’ve slipped off an armchair. There was a lot of playing around with ’70s smocks and that moment when hippies began getting involved with Art Nouveau gothic romanticism. And that’s when the strongest pieces started coming out: a series of velvet dresses in deep green, burgundy, and pink; midi skirts with dippy scarf hemlines; and then the razzle-dazzle sequins for the girls at the backstage door.



Now designing six women’s wear collections a year, with a style that is described as deconstructed chic with a minimal opulence, Justin and Thea have grown their label from a tiny shop in London’s Portobello Road, to selling in over 25 countries worldwide. Preen designs are worn by high profile women including Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Cate Blanchett, Kate Bosworth, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce, Rhianna, Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron.


Mini Preen



Indeed, not only are they successful professionally, but personally as well, which accounts for what is perhaps their greatest collaboration—two little girls Fauve and Blythe. Inspired by their daughters Fauve and Blythe and described by the designers as “ a labour of love”, their first children’s wear collection was launched in 2014.

When asked why the introduced  children’s clothing line- Fauve really likes to put on my dresses and ‘swish’ around the house. Also when I was young, my mum dressed my in mini versions of her clothes, which I just loved. So the Mini Preen idea was born. We ‘tested’ the designs on Fauve and her friends, and she was our fit model, which she hated, but she loves the finished products. And baby Blythe wears the tops as dresses– very cute!
What is your inspiration? Justin and Thea bring the same whimsicality to their kids’ collection-They take inspiration from our adult collections—the styles and prints, etc. Then shrink them! They use the exact same prints for Preen Mini as we they do for the adult’s Preen collection, but with smaller proportions! Striving for everything to have a relaxed feel while making it stand alone with modern distinctive style.

Information Source: Preen Runway

Research: Riette van Zyl.

Antony Gormley | Fit


Preview: Thursday 29 September, 6 – 8pm

30 September – 6 November 2016

South Galleries, Bermondsey

RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)   

Richard Avedon

A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.

Timeline of Richard’s Early  and Personal life


Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923 in New York City. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family of dress manufacturers, and his father, Jacob Israel Avedon, owned a clothing store called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue. Inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses, as a boy Avedon took a great interest in fashion, especially enjoying photographing the clothes in his father’s store. At the age of 12, he joined the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) Camera Club.
Educated in the New York City public school system.  He attended DeWitt Clinton where one of his classmates and closest friends was the great writer James Baldwin. He and Baldwin served as co-editors of the school’s prestigious literary magazine, The Magpie.

  • In 1941 “Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools. After high school, Avedon enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry. However, he dropped out after only one year to.
  • In 1942 he enlisted in the Merchant Marine during, taking identification photos. Returning to civilian life in 1944. Avedon attended the New School for Social Research in New York City to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the acclaimed art director of Harper’s Bazaar.
  • 1944, Avedon married 19-year-old bank teller Dorcas Marie Nowell who later became the model and actress Doe Avedon; they did not have children and divorced in 1949.
  • In 1945 he was hired as a fashion photographer by Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper’s Bazaar. He demanded that his models convey emotion and movement, a departure from the norm of motionless fashion photography.
  • In 1946 he established his own studio .
  • In 1966 to 1990 he worked as a Photographer for vogue Harper’s Bazaar’s Chief rival among fashion magazines; and also contributed contributed photographs to Theatre Arts, Life, Look, and Graphis. He continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with surreal, provocative and often controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently.
  • Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s he created elegant black-and-white photographs showcasing the latest fashions in real-life settings such as Paris’s picturesque cafes, cabarets and streetcars.
  • In 1951, he married Evelyn Franklin with whom he had one son, John Avedon; she died on March 13, 2004.
  • In 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus.The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash
  • On October 1, 2004, Avedon died at the age of 81 in San Antonio, Texas hospital of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was in San Antonio shooting an assignment for The New Yorker. At the time of his death, he was also working on a new project titled Democracy to focus on the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

Peak of his career

Already established as one of the most talented young fashion photographers in the business, in 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus. The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash. She is posed between two elephants, her back serenely arched as she holds on to the trunk of one elephant while reaching out fondly toward the other. The image remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time. “He asked me to do extraordinary things,” Dovima said of Avedon. “But I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.”

Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965. In addition to his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. His black-and-white portraits were remarkable for capturing the essential humanity and vulnerability lurking in such larger-than-life figures as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. During the 1960s, Avedon also expanded into more explicitly political photography. He did portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Julian Bond, as well as segregationists such as Alabama Governor George Wallace, and ordinary people involved in demonstrations. In 1969, he shot a series of Vietnam War portraits that included the Chicago Seven, American soldiers and Vietnamese napalm victims.

Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power exhibition  The exhibit is a very powerful collection of Avedon’s work over the past 6 decades.“This exhibition traces one artist’s fascination with the animating forces of American democracy. Seen together, the photographs comprise a kind of historical group portrait, showing key figures from a half-century of political life. They provoke questions about the complex motivations of portraitists and their subjects, who work—sometimes at cross-purposes—to depict or project an image that conveys personal history, character, ambitions, and ideals. Finally, they reveal an extraordinary career-long investigation into the complex nature of power. Surrounded by the faces of the powerful, leaders and ordinary citizens alike, the audience is itself empowered by the dialogue that results between those who use power to exercise control and those who seek it to affect change.”


           Malcom x                                             Marian Anderson                       

Avedon later described one childhood moment in particular as helping to kindle his interest in fashion photography: “One evening my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue looking at the store windows,” he remembered. “In front of the Plaza Hotel, I saw a bald man with a camera posing a very beautiful woman against a tree. He lifted his head, adjusted her dress a little bit and took some photographs. Later, I saw the picture in Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t understand why he’d taken her against that tree until I got to Paris a few years later: the tree in front of the Plaza had that same peeling bark you see all over the Champs-Elysees.”

f228ae9e470fb9a59b02cce08f47d297                                                                        President Obama  

Awards and notable achievements


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imageParis – The whole team of Christie’s is honored to present the outstanding collection of Post-War and Contemporary art, thoughtfully accumulated over decades by Claude Berri, one of the most famous French film directors. An important selection of works will be offered in a dedicated sale on October 22nd during the international FIAC fair. In addition to this auction, other sessions will be organised during the second semester in order to offer the other art works of the collection such as photographs during the Paris Photo fair in November and an online sale to be launched in October. Claude Berri gave his passion to his son Thomas Langmann who now wishes to pursue his own collection.

Edouard Boccon-Gibod, Managing Director of Christie’s France: “Christie’s France is very proud to have been entrusted with this fabulous collection of more than 400 works of art. This sale will also be the occasion for international collectors, present in Paris during the international fair, to pay a last tribute to Claude Berri, one of the most talented French Film directors and producers of all times “.

Francis Bacon | Insight



Francis Bacon – Power, emotion, grotesque

Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) was one of the most prominent British painters in the 20th century. Indeed, there was nothing ordinary about this man – not in his art, in his lifestyle or in his personal life. It can be said that he wanted to experience all aspects of life, good or bad. Bacon traveled the world, often changing his place of residence; he loved to gamble and even ran a casino for a while, indulging in sexual relationship with men of all ages and social backgrounds. He was a prominent figure in the artworld of Europe and the U.S. Simply put, he was truly extraordinary.

Francis Bacon in Studio - courtesy of

Francis Bacon in Studio – courtesy of


Bacon was born to an Irish family and had quite an unhappy childhood – growing up gay with a homophobic father (a retired Army Major with anger issues) and a self-absorbed mother will have such consequences on a child’s life. The only close relative he was fond of was his grandmother Winifred Margaret Supple, ‘Granny Supple,’ who really didn’t like her son-in-law. It is believed that parts of her house – namely, the bow-ended rooms – are echoed in backdrops of many paintings created later by her grandson. So, the painter had the misfortune to learn about the ugly side of life at a very young age and this knowledge has, obviously, been one of the most important influences that shaped his artistic credo. By his own account, Bacon was expelled from his family home in 1926 (when he was 16), one of the main reasons begin his sexual orientation – reportedly, his father caught him trying on his mother’s underwear. Also, according to the official website, “Bacon’s humiliation was heightened by a strong physical attraction towards his father, first realised through sexual encounters with stable hands” (it is also said that his asthma – that followed him through life – made him even more inadequate in his father’s eyes). Thus, left to fend for himself, he stayed in London for a few months and then moved on to Paris.

From that point, it can be really challenging to follow his movements, as he often moved – Chelsea, Monte Carlo, Côte d’Azur, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe), London, Morocco…

Francis Bacon and George Dyer - courtesy of

Francis Bacon and George Dyer – courtesy of


Practically having no family, Bacon found support and understanding in the circle of close friends and lovers who, also, provided constant inspiration for his art. Among them we find Lucian Freud – the subject of one of Bacon’s most famous paintings – John Deakin, Muriel BelcherHenrietta MoraesDaniel Farson and Jeffrey Bernard. Bacon often painted his friends, believing that best form of inspiration can be found in things and people that surrounded him.


Francis Bacon - courtesy of

Francis Bacon – courtesy of

Two especially important figures in this sense were George Dyer and John Edwards. Dyer was, by many accounts, a kindred spirit – a borderline alcoholic, like Bacon, he was said to be obsessed with his appearance (and only his appearance), but his dark personality and troubled mind proved to be an unending source of inspiration for Bacon. Their turbulent relationship, unfortunately, ended with Dyer’s suicide that strongly affected Bacon’s state of mind and thus, his art. Death became a constant preoccupation. In 1974, Bacon met John Edwards, a man with whom he forged one of his most enduring friendships and who inherited the artist’s £11 million estate. Their relationship sparked public much interest and spawned many gossips since, both men were openly gay, yet Edwards – who died in 2003 – insisted on the fact that they were never lovers. In any case, he definitely provided Bacon with stability and love he sought throughout his life. Francis Bacon died in 1992 in Madrid, from a respiratory distress – asthma finally got the best of him.

Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X 1953 - courtesy of

Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X 1953 – courtesy of


Looking at Bacon’s artistic output, one can’t help but notice a lot of consistencies that seem to contrast his eventful life. It seems, namely, that his expression matured, but never changed drastically. He was strongly influenced by surrealism, but was also very fond of the great masters, such as Matthias Grünewald, Diego Velázquez – whose Portrait of Pope Innocent X was the inspiration for Bacon’s Head VI, a painting that was largely responsible for launching his career – and Rembrandt, as well as Picasso. He remained true to figurative painting, never fully embracing abstractionism that was popular among great painters of the 20th century. Bacon mostly (but not exclusively) painted male figures, each one being “deformed”, revealing his preoccupation with the grotesque and darkness. His attachment to surrealism is also evident in the fascination with the “other” side of human nature, with decadent, twisted and troubled aspects of humanity. Hence, death represents a very important motif. Another persisting theme are his “screams”, appearing in a number of his paintings from the 1940’s and 1950’s – Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953), Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950), or Head VI (1949). Bacon became fascinated with screams after seeing The Battleship Potemkin (1925) by Sergei Eisenstein and the famous Odessa Steps scene. In his apartment, he kept a still from this scene, showing a close-up of the nurse’s head screaming in terror that provided inspiration on many occasions.

The Three Studies of Lucian Freud - courtesy of

The Three Studies of Lucian Freud – courtesy of

One of his most famous paintings is titled Three Studies of Lucien Freud (1969) and it reveals many features typical for Bacon’s art. First of all, there is the obvious – a male figure, painted in a surrealist fashion, a study in figure painting that reveals his practice of painting friends or, in this case friends/artistic rivals. As the title implies, this is a triptych, the three paintings making a whole, envisioned to be exhibited together. They show Freud sitting in a cage – another important motif – positioned in front of a headboard of a bed (originating in a set of photographs of Freud by John Deakin). Triptych reveals an extraordinary contrast between two and three dimensional space, as paintings appear at the same time flat and possessing depth, depending on which part of the composition one’s eye is focused on. Freud’s figure is distorted and deformed, painted from different angles, portraying movement and stillness at the same time. All three paintings show the same things – feeling of isolation, preoccupation with things “beyond” what the eye can see and a serious study of the 20th century human body.

Figure with Meat - courtesy of

Figure with Meat – courtesy of


Thank you, to guest writer Adriana Sabo