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L’École, School of Jewelry Arts’ new home on one of Paris’ Grands Boulevards

On 6th October, after 10 years in Place Vendôme, the Van Cleef & Arpels-sponsored L’École School of Jewelry Arts is relocating to a beautifully restored 18th-century mansion on Boulevard Montmartre. The historic building – Hôtel de Mercy-Argenteau – will be open to the public for the first time and will be home not only to the school but also to a large exhibition space and a one-of-a-kind bookstore dedicated to the world of jewellery.

The ethos of L’École has always been to share an appreciation of fine jewellery with the world; thus, all temporary exhibitions are free to the public. “Our world shouldn’t intimidate, or turn anyone away,” says Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “And this new Boulevard Montmartre address feels more accessible than our Place Vendôme location.”

The building has a rather gilded history: built-in 1778 by architect Firmin Perlin, the mansion was not named after its first occupant, the greatly influential Florimond Claude, Count of Mercy-Argenteau. As an ambassador under Maria Theresa of Austria, Claude arranged the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who considered…

A horological entente cordiale across The Channel

In the 18th century, there was an acknowledged entente cordiale between the small clock and watchmaking firms that populated London and Paris. In this business, the French artisans were Anglophiles and in return, the English were Francophiles. National naval interests aside, the aim was the refinement and pursuit of horology. Ferdinand Berthould, then appointed to […]

Vacheron Constantin joins the Leeds Street Art Trail

Usually associated with its University (Keir Stammer, Mark Knoffler, Chris Pine and Princess Kako of Akishino are all among their notable alumni), its summer festival and Emmerdale, Leeds is also a bastion of culture, with both a resident opera and a ballet company, inspiring museums and a remarkable street art scene, which has become one […]

The legacy of a timeless icon

Opening on 16th September 2023, the V&A is to stage the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of French couturière, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, possibly the most influential woman in fashion, ever. She devoted her life to promoting a new kind of elegance based on freedom of movement and revolutionised the world by introducing garments such as the woman’s suit and the “little black dress”, the quilted bag, costume jewellery, and of course, one of the most famous fragrances in history, Chanel No. 5, created as an extension of her clothing and interpretation of modernity.

This long-awaited show charters the evolution of her iconic design style and the establishment of the House of CHANEL through 10 different sections, which go from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to the showing of her final collection in 1971. The curators have carefully analysed her professional career, the emergence and the development of her style, and her contribution to the history of fashion.

Examples of the ensembles designed by Gabrielle Chanel on show at the V&A exhibition in London.

Showcasing many for the first time, the show presents a stunning array of Chanel’s most notable designs from her 60 years in fashion as well as jewellery, accessories, cosmetics, and perfumes. Highlights include original costumes designed by Coco for the Ballets Russes production of Le Train Bleu in 1924; outfits created for Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich; her British inspirations such as the adoption of tweed; an early example of Chanel’s ground-breaking evening trousers and ensembles from Chanel’s final collection of 1971.

Lydia Sokolova, Anton Dolin, Bronislava Nijinska and Leon Woizikowsky after the first performance of Le Train Bleu in Britain, at the Coliseum Theatre in London (1924).

Visitors will be able to explore the origins and elements of her enduring style, see for themselves the templates laid down by Gabrielle Chanel, which to date, are still being used as a source of inspiration by CHANEL. Such was Coco’s charisma, talent and determination that, despite her very poor origins and breaking up every rule in the book of fashion at the time, within five years of opening her first shop, she had attracted the interest of the richest and most influential women in Paris. Her motto, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury” probably was the silver bullet that marked the end of all previous fashion styles, which involved rigid corsets, bustles, wire frames and other contraptions that would have probably always belonged in a torture chamber rather than in a closet. 

Left: suit A/W 1963-64 in wool tweed, silk pongee, flecked galloon and gilded metal Paris; suit A/W 1960-61 in Burg wool, wool braid, silk pongee and gilded metal Paris. Middle: evening dress A/W 1929-30 in silk and tulle embroidered with fantasy paillettes Paris. Right: Evening dress S/S 1930 in silk and satin with inserts Paris. All patrimony of Chanel. All three pictures © Julien T. Hamon

Described by Vogue in 1964 as “the world’s prettiest uniform,” the Chanel suit was a declaration of her vision of modern femininity, stylish, comfortable and easy to wear; so much so that it remains a staple reference for fashion today. As early as the late 1950s onwards, Chanel had adapted her suits to include a range to be worn into the evening. These cocktail suits followed the same form as those designed for the day but realised in a plethora of richly decorative fabrics such as gold and silver lamés, textured weaves and intricately patterned silks.  

Gabrielle Chanel, dress and jacket in silk taffeta from the S/S 1926 collection, the same year she created her immortal “little black dress”. © CHANEL.

Chanel designed first and foremost for herself. By creating clothes for an independent and active lifestyle, she anticipated the needs and wants of modern women. Chanel’s innovative approach to fabric, silhouette, and construction drafted a new framework for fashion in the twentieth century, leaving a legacy that has never gone out of style.

Gabriel Chanel. Fashion Manifesto

V&A London. Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL

16th September 2023 – 25th February 2024

Exhibition presented in partnership with Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, Paris Musées.  

More information and tickets HERE. 

Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson

Opening image: Gabrielle Chanel, 31 rue Cambon, Paris (1937). Photo: Roger Schall. 

New paintings by Damien Hirst

Presented by HENI, Where the Land Meets the Sea is a selection of works from Damien Hirst’s latest paintings series – Coast Paintings, Sea Paintings, and Seascapes – being shown at Phillips’ London galleries this summer.

The series was inspired by Hirst’s lifelong connection to the sea. Drawing influence from abstract expressionism, namely, Robert Motherwell’s Beside the Sea series from the 1960s, the works in Where the Land Meets the Sea wonderfully evoke Hirst’s pastime of walking on the beach and watching the sea, most recently in the UK, during the winter.

Ahead of the exhibition, Hirst remarked, “Where the Land Meets the Sea is an exploration inspired by the seaside in grey British winters; I grew up in Leeds in West Yorkshire and often holidayed in Scarborough, Filey, Whitby, where Count Dracula landed, Robin Hood’s Bay, and Skegness. I have always spent a lot of time walking and thinking on the beach and watching the sea, witnessing the powerful action of the crashing waves in winter. It gives me a feeling of unimportance and vastness and inevitability, that this whole world and everything in it will eventually wear out to nothing.”

Left, Port Quin Bay (detail), Damien Hirst, 2019. Right, Marsden Bay, Damien Hirst, 2019

Coast Paintings, created in 2019, are colourful works which intend to convey the energy, excitement and change experienced by the seaside in winter. This is expressed in a series of abstract action paintings that Hirst developed while painting his acclaimed series, Cherry Blossoms. The Coast Paintings began their life as grey canvases which were laid on the floor of Hirst’s studio. Each painting is named after a British coastal location and, affixed to the back of each canvas, is a matching postcard.

Phenomenal, Damien Hirst, 2022

The works in Sea Paintings mark the latest iteration of Hirst’s long-established practice of producing paintings after pictures, freezing the power and energy of coastal storms in grayscale. Hirst’s 64 Sea Paintings capture in photorealistic detail images of coastal storms from across the world. They were produced in two different sizes, all rendered in greyscale, with the intention of echoing the temperament of the British coastlines that Hirst has observed during winter.

Mesohigh, Damien Hirst, 2021

Seascapes use the photorealistic scenes of Sea Paintings as the foundation upon which Hirst creates additional, tactile layers of action through splashes of paint similar to those in his Coast Paintings, capturing the scenes and sensations of crashing seas.

As I viewed these beautiful thought evoking and dramatic works, I reflected on how different they are from the works by Hirst that I have come to recognise, even from his abstract works. It felt as if I was seeing another side to Damien, more grown up, more thoughtful, maybe a bit nostalgic.  

Where the Land Meets the Sea is an exploration inspired by the seaside in grey British winters. The paintings started their life on the floor of my studio, while I was working on Cherry Blossoms.”

–  Damien Hirst

I look forward to seeing his yet unfinished River Paintings. Perhaps they will shed some light on the artist’s new direction and give us an insight into what is to come. All the works in this show will be going to auction after the exhibition, which ends on 18th August 2023. More details and information HERE.

Where the Land Meets the Sea

Phillips, London Galleries, 30 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6EX

Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson

Opening image: Okta, Damien Hirst, 2021

Thought-provoking books to feed your grey matter

I am a self-confessed book warm. I read everything, from comics and thrillers to science-fiction, biographies, history, science and even books on mathematics and philosophy. The avidity with which I read though poses a problem when I go on holiday, that of my suitcase being half filled with books. For this reason, and despite my love of paper, I use e-readers when travelling.

My latest and favourite is the Kobo Elipsa 2E, which comes with a highlighter/pen (Kobo Stylus 2) so you can make notes on the screen. This, to me, is a game-changer since I always highlight passages and make notes in the books I read. But not only that, but I can also use it to review PDFs and export them wherever I want, as it comes with integrated cloud services. Equipped with a variety of notebook templates, folders and even a search tool for handwritten comments, it makes finding them afterwards even easier than if you dog-eared a page. And… the absolute best: it converts handwriting to typed text! At night, no eyestrain at all thanks to its glare-free E-Ink technology and ComfortLight PRO, which helps you adjust the brightness and reduce blue light.

The Kobo Stylus 2 also plays Audiobooks. You just need to connect it to your wireless headphones, speaker, or car stereo via Bluetooth. For more details or to purchase one, visit HERE.

Equipped with my new Kobo, I can read to my heart’s content, lying on a sun lounger with my headphones on, so people leave me alone. Sometimes I read light stuff, some others, I prefer to dive into books that will make my brain juices going. This summer I am going for the latter. Below, are the five I have enjoyed the most so far and which I wholeheartedly recommend you read.

THE BECKET LIST VOLUME II, Even More First World Problems

The “lightest” of my selection, the second instalment of The Becket List (read our review HERE) is as funny as the first one, if not more. The combination of Tony Husband’s cartoons and Henry Becket’s commentary makes for an irresistible read that will see you nodding and laughing at almost every page. Becket’s “in-depth” analysis of all the stupid and absurd stuff that surrounds our 21st-century lives is as accurate as it is irreverent. Basically, he is putting in writing what 99 percent of us think but can’t be bothered to express, because we have given up on fighting for common sense, good manners and high standards.

“It is the profoundly irritating, utterly unnoteworthy stuff of daily life that more than anything eats into your soul…”

 –  Henry Becket

I dare you not to laugh at Becket’s take on Apple, the packaging of things bought online, Mamils (I personally believe that no woman will ever have sex with a man they have seen wearing lycra and cycling shoes, and if you find one who does, she is probably a serial killer, beware), or those who remove their shoes on a plane. You can buy it as an e-book from the Kobo store HERE or on paper from Waterstones HERE.


As the title indicates, one could say this is a journal describing Rosemary Mac Cabe’s experiences with men in her first 40 years on the planet. Each chapter is dedicated to a man, starting with her first crush – when she was five – all the way to her husband in a journey aimed at finding who she really is.

“Focus more on yourself. Ask what it is that you want. Ask wo it is that you would be, if you were given the freedom to decide.”

  –  Rosemary Mac Cabe

Although at first, it could seem like a cruel revenge on the men that have hurt Mac Cabe over the years, the reality is that the book is humorous and honest, and I am convinced you’ll find yourself nodding and/or smiling to yourself as you read about events and situations that you have lived yourself. Mac Cabe also touches on deeper issues related to discrimination, low self-esteem and abuse in relationships. Available to purchase as an e-book or on paper from the publisher, Unbound, HERE.


Despite being one of the most important, painful and pressing issues of our time, the truth is that most of us mean well but struggle to comprehend the many layers of inclusion and diversity, so in general, we do our best to be nice and not get into trouble. Suzy Levy, the author of Mind the Inclusion Gap, helps us navigate these turbulent waters in order to understand the issues around inclusion and diversity and furthermore, to realise how we can become agents for positive change.

“Most of us are curious about diversity, and some would go so far as to call ourselves allies, but very few of us are skilled at inclusion.”

–  Suzy Levy

In her book, Levy starts from the point of view that things are not black and white, but all shades of grey. She starts by stating some embarrassing facts, such as that, despite women accounting for 49 percent of the human population, there are only eight percent female CEOs in a Fortune 500 company; or the estimate by the World Bank that there are only six countries in the world where women hold 100 percent of the same fundamental rights than men do; or that in the FTSE 100, 11 companies still have all-white boards and only three percent of the top three roles are occupied by a person from an ethnic minority.

Mind the Inclusion Gap analysis the roots of discrimination in our society in all its forms, as well as the influence of religion and social norms. Through the different chapters, Levy dissects the problems and encourages every one of us to take active action and stop being just “nice”. She also takes the time to see things “from the other side”, and advocates for sensible debate, allyship and using our sphere of influence – as large or as small as it may be – to drive and lead others onto the journey of positive change. Mind the Inclusion Gap is available as an e-book from the Kobo store HERE and on paper from the publisher, Unbound, HERE.

WILDLIFE IN THE BALANCE, Why Animals Are Humanity’s Best Hope

As Dame Joanna Lumley points out, “Reading this book may change your mind about almost everything.” This is because Wildlife In The Balance reveals how important wild animals are to the welfare of our planet, and how we can’t effectively combat climate change if their numbers and diversity are maimed. Earth has lost two-thirds of its wildlife in the last 50 years. Author and ecologist Simon Mustoe has thoroughly researched the overlooked role of wildlife in keeping at bay the imminent threat of climate and biodiversity disaster that Earth is currently experiencing.

“We’d be better off to change our relationship with them [animals] from one of domination to one of cooperation before it’s too late.”

–  Simon Mustoe

In the book, Mustoe explains why we need animals to rebalance our de-stabilised planet, and how they are at the heart of the solution we need to survive. Ceasing to use fossil fuels and planting millions of trees is not enough, we need all kinds of animals to repopulate their natural environments to prevent entropy – and its ally chaos – from taking over.

Mustoe also introduces the ground-breaking idea that we need to treat animals equally, rather than insist on dominating them as if they were here just to be of use to us. Think about gender equality and now apply it to animals. If we start doing that, we still have a chance to “rebuild a world rich with a diversity of vibrant and abundant wildlife”.

I have found this book cathartic and utterly engaging. So much so, that I am determined to speak to Simo Mustoe at length and help in whatever way I can to spread his message. I love the end of his book when he suggests that when our sun finally dies in around five billion years in a magnificent supernova explosion, our planet will disintegrate and bits of it will spread all over the universe, maybe contributing to the formation of another solar system, and the process may start all over again. How is that an immortality concept?

Wildlife In The Balance is available as an e-book from the Kobo store HERE and on paper from the author’s website, simonmustoe.blog, HERE.


The fur trade is a multimillion-pound industry worldwide. It is estimated that over 100 million animals are killed in fur farms every year to feed the demand. Animals farmed for their fur include mink, foxes, racoon dogs, rabbits, and chinchillas.

Written by Directors of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Prof Andrew Linzey and Dr Clair Linzey, An Ethical Critique of Fur Factory Farming exposes facts about fur farming that will freeze the blood in your veins. Purdue University ethicist, Professor Mark Bernstein describes this book/ report as providing an “unanswerable” case against fur factory farming. He continues that “Anyone even remotely thinking about buying fur, needs first to read this book.”

Andrew and Clair Linzey  argue that, from any ethical perspective that takes animal suffering seriously, fur factory farming fails basic moral tests.

Prof Linzey and Dr Linzey present all the arguments for pro-fur farming and those against it. Believe me, the data and evidence they present here are horrifying and difficult to challenge or question. The book also shows how short the Welfur system falls off its aim. Welfur is an initiative funded by the fur industry, which claims to ensure a high level of animal welfare on fur farms. However, numerous scientific reports demonstrate that WelFur is not able to address the serious animal welfare problems inherent in fur production (source: Fur Free Alliance).

Welfur considers it appropriate the keeping animals in small cages, and this study found that it doesn’t care either about the harm inflicted, which results in unhealed injuries, half tails missing, fur-chewing, severely bent feet, self-harming and psychological stress. The study also found that factory fur farms make it impossible for these animals to express normal behaviour. Basically, they live their lives in absolute misery.

Fur factories are simply inhumane and should be banned worldwide. They are prohibited in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, but they are still legal in the United States, Canada, Russia and China; and in many countries, such as Spain, Germany and Japan, they are only partially banned or controlled by stricter legislation.

 An Ethical Critique of Fur Factory Farming is published by Palgrave Macmillan and can be purchased as an e-book from the Kobo store HERE and on paper from Springer Link, HERE.

Words: Julia Pasarón

A unique perspective on the climate emergency

Under the generic title Planet Summer, the Southbank Centre has been running this season a series of programmes, shows and events exploring themes of care, hope, connection and activism aiming at inspiring us all to reconnect to the natural world, and to find new ways of treasuring and protecting our climate. Reframe: The Residency Exhibition is the latest show.

“Reframe” is a programme which provides the technical tools and resources for emerging creatives in the UK to develop their own voices and position themselves for lasting careers in their chosen fields, helping to address and remove the systemic barriers to career development these artists face.

The programme has two key components, “The Residency”, a career acceleration programme for black and black mixed heritage creatives aged 18-30, of which this show is part of; and “Inspire Schools”, a project for 21 secondary schools to spark a passion for creativity among the next generation of talent, providing a powerful creative experience for participants early in their creative journeys. Together, they aim to inspire Black creatives to make the art of the future, building a cultural legacy for the UK.

Reframe: The Residency Exhibition reflects the response of 77 emerging black artists to the climate change emergency.

These two distinct programmes are offered across three creative hubs: in London at the Southbank Centre, and by working in partnership with Factory International in Manchester, and STEAMhouse and MAC in Birmingham.

Reframe: The Residency Exhibition presents 13 works by collectives of artists from the areas of London, Manchester and Birmingham. Through an immersive audio-visual installation that combines film, photography, music and sound design, 77 emerging black artists present their response to climate change. The collaborative nature of the show symbolises the urgent need for collective action to safeguard the future of our planet.

In the show, the artists explore themes and topics about how climate change disproportionately affects communities of colour and younger people.

Responding to their familial heritage from the African continent and the Caribbean to the urban landscapes of Britain, the artists explore themes and topics about how climate change disproportionately affects communities of colour and younger people, which may be triggering or challenging for some visitors. As such, some of the scenes are very impactful, depicting dead animals, content relating to the death of a child and the medical impact of pollution on children. Definitely a thought-provoking show that may leave you feeling a little bit uncomfortable and hopefully, even more aware of how close we are to losing the battle against global warming and its consequences.

Reframe is supported by Apple and is part of the company’s global Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). 

Reframe: The Residency Exhibition runs until 27th August 2023 at The Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. More information and tickets HERE.

Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson

Opening picture: © Linda Nylin

The Cheltenham Music Festival

Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha is a captivating soprano hailing from South Africa, whose extraordinary talent has garnered international acclaim. Known for her versatility and emotive performances, Masabane has carved a niche for herself in the world of classical music. A significant part of her charm is her African warmth and lust for adventure as she travels the world in pursuit of her passion, which has already established impressive professional foundations with Opera’s finest including, Sir Antonio Pappano at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

On the 11th of July at 11am, her enchanting voice, accompanied by Kunal Lahiry on piano, will be showcased in a special recital at The Cheltenham Music Festival, which will also be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Here, Masabane will perform a diverse repertoire that includes Franz Schubert, works from her birthplace, selections from musical theatre, and American spirituals. The programme encompasses her wide-ranging talents and narrates her musical journey, from her professional beginnings in Cape Town to maturity in London, Washington and Moscow. Having won the 2021 Song Prize, as well as reaching the Main Prize final of the famous Cardiff Singer of the World competition where she was described as “transcendental”, she went on to become a BBC New Generation Artist and since then her career has gone from strength to strength – she’s also performing at the Proms this year.

In 2021, Masabane won the Song Prize and reached the Main Prize final of the famous Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

Born in the Limpopo province in South Africa, Masabane began by singing on her mother’s knee and subsequently now embraces her heritage by incorporating works from her home country into her performances. With rich melodies and vibrant rhythms, these pieces reflect the diverse musical traditions of South Africa. From traditional folk songs to contemporary compositions, Masabane’s interpretations highlight the power and resilience of her people, providing a glimpse into the vibrant cultural tapestry of her birthplace. As a nod to the rich legacy of African-American music, Masabane will also perform a selection of American spirituals. These deeply moving and soulful songs originated in the African-American community and served as a source of strength and solace during times of hardship.

In addition to classical repertoire, Masabane’s versatility shines through her interpretations of musical theatre classics. Whether it’s the soaring melodies of Rodgers and Hammerstein or the fiery passion of Stephen Sondheim, she effortlessly embodies the characters and narratives of these beloved shows. Her commanding stage presence and impeccable vocal technique make her a standout performer in this genre, leaving audiences spellbound.

Book your tickets HERE.

The Cheltenham Music festival takes place between the 8th and the 15th of July.

Further highlights from The Cheltenham Music Festival include:
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra invoke the wild and pastoral on Cheltenham Music Festival’s opening night concert. Celebrating the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams through the much-loved The Lark Ascending, the concert features a new work from James B Wilson (Last Night of the Proms composer 2022), and Tamsin Waley-Cohen on the violin (8th July, 7pm) Town Hall, Main Hall.
Byrdwatching (9th July): A unique musical tour of Cheltenham’s Regency-era Drawing Rooms, beautifully preserved and usually off-limits to the public – including a newly commissioned work by Scottish Composer Academy alumnus Aileen Sweeney.
Classical Mixtape (12th July): A classical music takeover of local craft brewery, DEYA Taproom, for an evening of relaxed, rule-free classical music, featuring top-level artists such as the Manchester Collective and the Carice Singers.
Two unique electronic sets hosted in the Old Courthouse, a beautifully refurbished historic venue in the heart of the town, complete with judge’s chair, press gallery and jury box – Laura Cannell on the recorder (8th July), and Rakhi Singh on violin (14th July).
For more information, please visit HERE.

"Don’t call me African-American"

Morgan Freeman has played Nelson Mandela, the US president (three times) and, of course, God. He is, as you would expect, thoughtful and humble. He even sports a grey beard. On Instagram his biog says: “That actor whose voice you recognise” – and, aged 86, he still talks like low, rumbling thunder.

Only one thing shocks me. And it’s not his two gold earrings. It is that, after years of trying, I’m finally talking to him. Freeman, the embodiment of 60 years of Hollywood history, has not given an interview in decades.
He is chatting to me from his home on the Alabama Gulf coast because of A Good Person, a film he has made with the young British star Florence Pugh. The reviews have been, shall we say, mixed – far from the peak Freeman of The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgiven, Glory, Invictus, Driving Miss Daisy, Seven and Million Dollar Baby. He plays Daniel, a former cop who suffers a tragedy and must bring up his granddaughter. Yet the melodrama has its tender moments, especially when Freeman and Pugh share a screen.

Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Invictus (2009) opposite Matt Damon, who played South African rugby player, Francois Pienaar.

It is, at least, Freeman’s 117th film. Nobody seems sure how many he has made. How does he pick them? “Sometimes you just work to pay the rent,” he says. Perhaps this is why he avoids interviews. Then he expands. “When my career started in film, I wanted to be a chameleon. I remember De Niro early on, doing very different parts. Almost unrecognisable as the same actor. I had opportunities like that. But as you mature in this business, eventually you become a star. Then you’re pretty screwed in terms of referring to yourself as a character actor. You play a lot of the same type of role – people hire you and say, ‘It’s you that I want.’ And you live with it.”

So these days he is hired as a star, rather than as an actor? “Exactly. I don’t think I’ve done much in the last 10 years that was much different. Driving Miss Daisy and Glory were different. Now? It’s just . . . me. The character will adapt itself to you rather than the other way round, so I do what piques my interest. Sometimes it’s just the money alone.”

Well, this is honest. In A Good Person Freeman is, you will not be surprised to learn, something of an old sage. But, because he doesn’t need more money, must he enjoy these samey parts? “Well, yeah, it’s what I do. Is that an answer? If I don’t do this, I don’t do anything. And if I don’t do anything I might as well lie down.” So, you don’t like being bored? “Hmm, boredom,” he ponders, smiling. “A job is the break in the boredom.”

He veers wildly from the dismissive to the profound. When I ask what he brings to his new role, he says that people read too much into preparing for a part. “Learn the lines and they will speak for the whole job,” he insists. “On Shawshank, actors felt they had to go into prison to find out what that’s like. Well, actually, you don’t.”

“The world does not promise you forgiveness. You have to try to live your life in such a way that you don’t need to be forgiven.”

– Morgan Freeman

Then we talk about a line when his character Daniel says, “There are things that are impossible to forgive.” The film pushes the idea that the best aim in life is to simply be a good person. “Yes,” he says, taking his time. “The world does not promise you forgiveness. You have to try to live your life in such a way that you don’t need to be forgiven.” His voice cracks a bit. “Being thanked is much better than being forgiven.” No wonder people have cast him as God.

Freeman was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1937 – one of four to his mother, Mamie, a teacher, and his father, Morgan, a barber. It was the era of segregation and his great-great-grandparents were slaves. He recalls his early childhood as being “hot summer days, running, dust and sweat”, before the family moved to Chicago when he was six. By 13 he knew he wanted to act and, after four years in the air force, started acting classes in Los Angeles in 1959. He had an acclaimed theatre career and four years on the children’s TV show The Electric Company before, finally, the Hollywood big time called in 1989. He was 52.

It must have taken guts to keep on going. “I agree,” he says. “But you meet people who say, ‘I always wanted to do that.’ But they didn’t because, if they did, it’s what they’d be doing.
“People ask, ‘What would you be doing if you didn’t make it?’ I don’t know. Driving a limo? But I would be in community theatre. I would be acting. But along with guts it also takes luck. You need courage and serious luck. I credit my career with both.”

He can also credit changes in America. His career started in the final stretch of the Hays Code – a censorship list of what films were allowed to show. It banned, among other things, “ridicule of the clergy” and interracial relationships. It was only dropped in 1968, when the civil rights movement was making it easier for black actors to be cast in roles that used to go only to white actors.

Read this interview in full in our Summer issue, available now in selected newsstands, WHSmith Travel, Selfridges and our online shop HERE.

Words: Jonathan Dean
Morgan Freeman’s studio pictures: Styling by Anna Roth; grooming by Therese Willis for Beauty & Photo; suit by Hugo Boss; shirt by Etro; Photo by Patrick Fraser/Corbis via Getty Images.
The Interview People/The Times

Into the light

Hidden love, shame, pride, youth and death are the stuff of great art, great opera and great literature. They are also the grand, emotionally charged themes that run through Welsh tenor Elgan Llŷr Thomas’ recent release, Unveiled, a musical tale of queer British culture from the 20th century to the modern day.

Thomas has already established himself as a modern representative for young, queer singers, performing on some of the most iconic stages across the UK and beyond. But as a gay musician and composer, he has often found himself frustrated by opera’s traditional focus on heterosexual relationships. So he resolved to find more LGBTQ+ representation in vocal music. To achieve this, he has crafted an album that sheds new light on works from the UK’s most iconic gay composers and poets alongside music by typically marginalised artists.

The album opens with Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (1940), written by a man some would claim to be Britain’s most iconic queer composer, Benjamin Britten. Britten wrote these songs for his life partner, Peter Pears, at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offence, which may explain why he used Italian poems for his text – to better hide their true meaning from audiences at home.

“I’m trying to find a new audience for classical art song, to show that it isn’t elitist, stuffy or boring, but highly relevant and utterly beautiful.”

       – Elgan Llŷr Thomas



Homosexuality remained illegal for most of Britten and Pears’ lives, but after Britten’s death, Pears was increasingly open about their relationship. Their love is now an iconic story to much of the classical world and beyond. For this project, Thomas specially commissioned theatre director, lyricist and translator Jeremy Sams to write a brand-new English translation of the songs to highlight their deeply intimate meaning and make plain the romantic nature of Pears and Britten’s connection.

This album also features Ruth Gipps’ rarely performed 4 Songs of Youth For Tenor and Piano (1940), set to texts written by bisexual war poet Rupert Brooke. Gipps’ work remains relatively unknown due to the discrimination she faced as a female composer in her early career – indeed, there is just one catalogued instance of these songs being performed 70 years ago. This album represents the very first time these songs have been recorded commercially.

Michael Tippett’s Songs for Achilles (1961) follow, a song cycle by yet another composer known to have wrestled with his homosexuality.

Through Unveiled, Thomas aims to bring queer musical stories of the past into the 21st century.

Thomas concludes the programme with a new piece of his own. Swan is set to poems by Andrew McMillan, a gay English poet and lecturer, who was inspired by Sir Matthew Bourne’s famous all-male production of Swan Lake which depicted a human male falling for a male swan. The much-loved music of Swan Lake was, of course, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, widely acknowledged as a closeted homosexual. Thomas, as both composer and performer, reshapes this cultural legacy for the modern age, drawing on his own experiences.

Through Unveiled, Thomas aims to bring queer musical stories of the past into the 21st century. “I’m trying to find a new audience for classical art song, to show that it isn’t elitist, stuffy or boring,” he says. “It’s highly relevant and utterly beautiful.”


Words: Lisa Hillman

Opening picture: © foxbrush.co.uk

The alternative art scene of Barcelona

Considered the most international of the Spanish cities, Barcelona developed a significant arts community in the late 1800s, with artists like Santiago Rusiñol – one of the leaders of the Catalan modernism movement – Ramón Casas and, of course, Antonio Gaudí. Pablo Picasso himself spent nine formative years here, from 1895 to 1904, training as an artist.

The 20th century solidified the reputation of the city as an incubator of artists. Masters like Joan Miró, Antoni Tàpies, Marià Fortuny and the larger-than-life pioneer of surrealism, Salvador Dalí, lived most of their lives in Barcelona. In the 1990s and early 2000s, up-and-coming artists from all over the world flooded into the city, attracted by its creative freedom, magnificent architecture, street art by legends such as El Pez, Konair and Sixeart, and an emerging alternative gallery scene.

Keith Haring, All together we can stop AIDS, (1989). MACBA Collection. Barcelona City Council long-term loan.

In 2013, the Open Walls Conference was born; the festival is dedicated to bringing urban art closer to the community, including the creation of several new murals made by artists including Alex Díaz, Pastel and Stepan Krasnov – a.k.a. 310. These days there are stunning examples of street art all over the city. Be sure not to miss the Keith Haring AIDS Mural from 1989 (now next to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and, in the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), The World Is Born with Each Kiss by Joan Fontcuberta, a mosaic made from thousands of tiny ceramic tiles, each of which represents an expression of freedom. The mural was installed in 2014 as part of Barcelona’s Tricentenary celebrations commemorating the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession.

For this trip, we stayed at the Hotel Arts Barcelona. Now part of the Ritz-Carlton network, the imposing 43-floor tower is located right on the beach in central Barcelona – perfect for exploring the rest of the city. After an easy check-in, we were shown to our room, an incredible two-floor penthouse with floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning 360° views of the Mediterranean, Sagrada Familia and Castell de Montjuïc, past the Barri Gòtic, Sant Antoni and El Poble-Sec. The space is large enough to host a party of 40 people or more – however, unfortunately, that is not allowed for health and safety reasons. The furniture, designed by Jaime Tresserra, is from the 1990s, when the hotel was first opened, and fits effortlessly within the minimalist walls of the penthouse.

Arranged over two floors, the penthouses at Hotel Arts Barcelona enjoy the best views of the city and the Mediterranean.

Paula Pont, PR & Communications Manager, explained to me that the penthouses (all located between the 34th and 43rd floors) include benefits such as butler, access to a Mini to drive around Barcelona, free laundry service and breakfast in the room. The penthouses can be hired for weeks or months, and some have actually been booked for years.

Just 20 minutes’ walk from the hotel is Ciutat 7 Gallery, in the Barri Gòtic, owned by artist Lara Kaló. Originally from Granada, in Andalucía, Kaló has been living in Barcelona for the last seven years. Inspired by fauvism, she uses a technique she calls “spontaneous realism”, where colour and texture are more important than form: “Every stroke of the spatula, and the texture it leaves behind, reflects an expression I want to convey.” She mostly paints the women who have influenced and inspired her. “I paint real women, strong and powerful,” she says. “Some are friends, some are clients, acquaintances, relatives… basically, the women I am surrounded by in my everyday life.” After reflecting for a second she adds, “I have also painted Sophia Loren, because I feel a deep admiration for her.”

“Every stroke of the spatula, and the texture it leaves behind, reflects an expression I want to convey.”


             – Lara Kaló

Just a few minutes from Kaló’s gallery is Canal Gallery, a hub for avant-garde artists from different disciplines including illustration, photography, vintage graffiti and other expressions of urban art. Street artist Balu, the founder, explained to me that the gallery was created to encourage inclusivity and diversity. “Our aim is to create an accessible space in which artists can exhibit and sell their work,” he says. “And visitors can not only buy but also enjoy and learn about all this emerging talent.” The work of Alberto Blanchart caught my eye. The photographer, comic-book artist, cartoonist and painter has combined his two passions – graffiti and urban art – with popular culture. Or, as Balu says, “He creates Star Wars helmets and covers them in graffiti and rust, so they look as they would decades or centuries after being discarded.”

Star Wars helmets by Alberto Blanchart, an artist passionate about graffiti and urban art.

We took a walk back to the hotel to indulge in the hospitality of the Club on the 33rd floor, where one can always find drinks, food and snacks. It’s very convenient for both business and leisure travellers who don’t want to worry about having a set schedule. Only the rooms on floors 30 to 33 have access to the Club.

By the time we have eaten and freshened up, it was cocktail o’clock. So, following Ms. Pont’s recommendation, we went to P41, the cocktail bar named after Barcelona’s latitude. Under the direction of Head Mixologist Diego Baud, the team has created a second-to-none cocktail menu that is sure to satisfy even the most demanding of customers. When we visited, our mixologist was Lamin Manong. We couldn’t make up our minds, so we told Manong what kinds of flavours we like and allowed him to shake up something for us. My companion was presented with a Cherry Thunder Old Fashioned: Maker’s Mark, cherry syrup, chocolate bitters and grapefruit peel. I got a specialty of Baud’s: the Earth & Sea Collide, which combines GinRaw, Fino sherry, saffron, sage and lemon-peel syrup with citric acid. It was the best cocktail I’ve ever had in my life. Basically, it is the soul of the Mediterranean in a glass.

Earth & Sea on the left and Cherry Thunder Old Fashion on the right, two of the cocktails created by Diego Baud for P41.

The hotel has man dining options; spoilt for choice and too lazy to go out, we decided on The Pantry. We enjoyed it so much, I chose to do a stand-alone review for it (read it HERE). It was a fabulous experience; for one thing, the Speakeasy concept is a lot of fun. And secondly, the food is simply fabulous, with sustainability at the forefront of their priorities, bringing to the table the best produce Catalunya has to offer.

If you’re planning ahead, you may be able to score a table at the two-Michelin-starred Enoteca Paco Pérez, which elevates Mediterranean food to the heavens and beyond. This summer, renowned contemporary Japanese restaurant Roka is bringing its famous robatayaki cuisine to the Hotel Arts as part of an ephemeral dining concept. For a relaxed, lazy lunch, head down to Marina Coastal Food, an alfresco lunching proposition serving dishes from coastal cuisines across the world.

Enoteca Paco Pérez boasts two Michelin stars and offers a cuisine based on the freshness of the sea and the essence of farm and mountain produce.

In the morning, we grabbed a coffee and a slice of cake at Hidden Coffee Roasters, also inside the hotel. The founders, Carlos and Mateo, go all over the world to find the best independent organic-coffee producers; this way, they support local communities and reduce the carbon footprint of the industry.

We walked back to the Barri Gòtic, where we visited Barcel-one gallery, which started in 2010 as a space where classic art could sit comfortably alongside the works of contemporary creators. The gallery represents artists such as Paz Vicente, whose art seems to navigate a dimension between reality and the world of dreams, by using lithographic photo engraving and xylography to create images that are as alluring as they are chimerical. Vicente explained that her creative process is very slow: “I first do my research, and then many sketches in a notebook before deciding the media I’ll use for the final work.”

Works from Paz Vicente’s series, When Honey is Sweeter than Blood.

The Hotel Arts itself has a remarkable art collection. The Arts and Mediterranean suites both have original works on display. And in the corridors on each floor there is at least one original artwork. Every afternoon the hotel organises a tour to show guests the collection, from works by sculptor Xavier Corberó Olivella – including El Rei i La Reina, 1988, in the main entrance – to paintings by outstanding representatives of 20th-century Catalonian art.

Feeling a bit arted out, the next day was spent with Javier Fernández Casanova, PR director at ME Barcelona, just a stone’s throw from Plaça de Catalunya, La Rambla, Casa Batlló… you name it, it’s no more than a 10-minute walk. (The only destination that’s relatively far away is the beach.) Casanova knows everyone in Barcelona; there is no place he can’t get you into, and he knows every one of the city’s hidden gems. One of them is Alice Secret Garden, a quirky, slightly surreal bar and restaurant whose decor does justice to its name. In the back, there’s a leafy courtyard where you could emulate Lewis Carroll’s immortal character and have your own tea party, brunch or just a few drinks. If you’re lucky enough to meet the owner, Freddy Valdés, you may persuade him to sit down with you and share some of his amazing stories from the 1990s, when anybody who was somebody hung out in Barcelona.

Alice Secret Garden, is one of the most eclectic and fun places I know in Barcelona.

Casanova recommended that we explored the work of one more artist: Samuel de Sagas. He has coined the term corazonizar (from corazón, the Spanish word for heart), which means the attribution of the elements of an anatomical heart both in shape and substance to elements that do not have them. When I spoke to de Sagas, it all made sense. In 2018, he tried to end his own life. He spent the next year trying to make sense of it all, to start to love himself and move forward. “After nearly 365 days, and thousands of photos, videos and reflections in front of the mirror, I created my first heart,” de Sagas shares. “It was a heart that sprouted water, with two daisies and two hummingbirds feeding from its nectar. It was a symbol of life.” He couldn’t stop painting hearts – and that’s how the term corazonizar came to be.

“My hearts, always depicted as the physical organ, are a metaphor of life. That is the core of the Corazonizar concept.


      – Samuel de Sagas

Reflecting on de Sagas’ words, we went back to the hotel to enjoy el vermut, a wonderfully civilised Spanish tradition. Similar to the French aperitif, el vermut happens before lunch. Vermut (vermouth in English) actually comes from the ancient Greece physician Hippocrates, who macerated wine with absinthe – a plant with multiple medicinal properties. The word itself comes from the way the French pronounced the German word for one of its original main botanicals, wormwood. During the Middle Ages, it adopted the name of Hippocratic wine or herbal wine. In 1838, brothers Luigi and Giuseppe Core started producing it at an industrial level, and Spain – especially Catalunya – adopted and made it its own. Hundreds of recipes have developed since, as drinks companies, bars and families introduced their own little variations.

On Sunday, The Pantry offers its very own vermut in the gardens of the Hotel Arts Barcelona.

Sunday is vermut day. People dress up and go out. From May until the end of summer, The Pantry offers its very own vermut in the gardens of the hotel, dotted with picnic-style benches. The experience starts with a selection of local cheeses, Ibérico cold meats and gourmet seafood, followed by a main course from the generous menu. With a belly full of delicious food, a slightly light head and a heavy heart, we concluded our trip to Barcelona, hoping to be back very soon.

British Airways flies to Barcelona up to eight times daily from London Heathrow, and up to six times per week from London City Airport. Return flights in Euro Traveller from £73, and Club Europe from £291. www.britishairways.com

Hotel Arts Barcelona. Tel. +34 93 221 1000. Email: artsreservations@ritzcarlton.com

www.albertoblanchart.net     www.barcel-one.com      www.canal-gallery.com www.larakalobarcelona.com www.mrstoolipartgallery.com     www.pazvicente.es www.samueldesagas.com

Words: Julia Pasarón

Opening image: Lara Kaló, Ruth Morley, acrylic on canvas. 146cm x 114cm.

Exploring race and identity in the digital age

Welcome Collection brings us Genetic Automata, a major exhibition of collaborative video works by artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, exploring race and identity in an age of avatars, video games and ancestry DNA.

British Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong uses film, still imagery, aural and visual archives, live performances, objects and sound to explore ideas surrounding class, gender, cross-cultural and digital identity. With works that examine his communal and personal heritage, Achiampong explores ‘the self’ through the activity of splicing the audible and visual materials of personal and interpersonal archives, offering multiple perspectives that reveal the deeply entrenched inequalities in contemporary society.

David Blandy’s work slips between performance and video, digital and analogue, investigating the stories and cultural forces that inform and influence our lives. Collaboration is central to his practice, examining communal and personal heritage and interdependence.

Having been friends for a long time, Blandy and Achiampong share a strong interest in popular culture and the postcolonial condition. Genetic Automata is the third series they have developed together. Their presentation at Wellcome Collection is their first museum exhibition as a duo.

_GOD_MODE_, by Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, 2021

The exhibition presents a series of four films exploring scientific racism – the false belief that there are innate differences and abilities between races. It will reflect on where deeply ingrained ideas about race come from and the role that science has played in shaping these perceptions. The series highlights how scientific racism is reproduced in contemporary society, from education to healthcare, science, politics and more.

Genetic Automata gives visitors for the first time to view the four video installations together, unpacking the relationship between science and race injustice through the artists’ lens. It premieres the latest work of the series _GOD_MODE_(2023), a co-commission between Wellcome Collection, Black Cultural Archives (BCA), and Wellcome Connecting Science. Each film employs a spoken word soundtrack and includes imagery drawn from contemporary video games, in particular those with dystopian sci-fi plots that feature the misuse of genetic material.

Installation view of A Terrible Fiction, at Arts Catalyst, London, Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, 2019. Commissioned by Arts Catalyst.

The series begins with A Terrible Fiction (2019), which addresses the complex history of classification, categorisation and segregation. It references the history of the theory of evolution and highlights the figure of John Edmonstone, a formerly enslaved Black man living in Edinburgh who taught Charles Darwin taxidermy – but whose contribution to science remains largely unacknowledged.

The second film, A Lament for Power (2020), investigates how science can be used to understand the world alongside its potential for commercial and political exploitation. It centres on Henrietta Lacks, a Black American woman, whose cells were taken without her knowledge and have been used to make world-changing discoveries such as mapping the human genome and the Polio and Covid-19 vaccines. The film references Resident Evil 5, a controversial videogame centred on a bio-terrorist plot in West Africa. The game has been criticised for its portrayal of Black people as zombies designed to be killed repeatedly. The work questions whose voices are erased from society’s narratives, and in doing so, whose interests are served.

Still from A Lament for Power, Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, 2020.

The third installation, Dust to Data (2021), examines the colonial history of archaeology and contemporary parallels in the data mining of DNA and social media image banks. It cites a letter from American sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois in 1912 to Flinders Petrie, a British Egyptologist and one of the originators of modern archaeology. Petrie believed there was a direct correlation between skull size, race and intelligence and used archaeology to justify colonialism. The film mixes CGI, videogame techniques and footage shot in the archaeology collection of the University of Liverpool to lay out the complex history of this discipline in establishing narratives of ‘self’ and ‘other’.

Still from Dust to Data, Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, 2021.

The new commission _GOD_MODE_(2023) is a reflection on the legacy of Francis Galton, the notable Victorian scientist who established eugenics as a scientific discipline at UCL (University College London) in 1904. The film considers the roots and implications of scientific racism, exploring how traces of eugenic practices have left their mark across society today, from education to medicine and politics, whilst presenting hopes for an alternative future.

In _GOD_MODE_, Blandy and Achiampong present the history of eugenics and explore its present-day legacy in philosophical, poetic and polemic terms. Filmed in two halves, the first is voiced by Blandy, who is white and middle class, born in London, of English heritage. He alludes to intelligence tests, racist and sexist discrimination, and the systemic use of sterilisation across the world, all under the guise of objective science. His poignant testimony is layered upon footage from UCL’s Science Collections and features some of the instruments Galton used to measure and categorise people, a selection of which are displayed alongside the film.

_GOD_MODE_, Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, 2023

In the second half of the film, Achiampong, who is Black and working class, born in London of Ghanaian heritage and living in Essex, delivers a lyrical yet powerful account that questions the limits of empathy in the struggle against injustice, suggesting that what is needed is not simply solidarity but real change, which would necessitate the demolition of generations of privilege. This part of the film visually invites the viewers into an immersive videogame environment following a large spider as it travels different landscapes – a reference to the West African folklore legend of Anansi, a shape-shifting demi-god, who changes form to achieve their aims.

Created using Unreal engine, a 3D computer graphics engine commonly used to create videogames, and part of Blandy and Achiampong’s artistic practice, _GOD_MODE_contains multiple references to videogames, including its title which is a cheat code that makes a player invincible and, in this work, alludes to the idea of playing God and the myth of genetic superiority.

Genetic Automata, at Wellcome Collection, runs from 8th June 2023 to 11th February 2024.
Admission is free.
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 to 18.00, Thursdays from 10.00 to 20.00, closed Mondays.

Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE

www.larryachiampong.co.uk /www.davidblandy.co.uk

Words: Julia Pasarón

Opening picture: David Blandy and Larry Achiampong. Photo © David Sandison. Courtesy of Wellcome Collection.

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