Matches for: “luxury” …

Early Modern Luxury, Greed, Ethics: Conference at Villa I Tatti, 25-26 Sept

itatti_logoThis conference, Luxury and the Ethics of Greed in the Early Modern World, will take place at the Villa I Tatti on 25-26 September 2014. It will unravel the complex interaction of the competing paradigms of luxury and greed, which lie at the origins of modern consumption practices. In the western world the phenomenon of luxury and the ethical dilemmas it raised appeared, for the first time since antiquity, in Renaissance Italy. Here luxury emerged as a core idea in the conceptualization of consumption. Simultaneously greed, manifested in new, unrestrained consumption practices, came under close ethical scrutiny. Other European countries soon followed suit, and similar debates emerged in Ming China with the twin concepts of schechi and shemi. As the buying power of new classes gained pace, these paradigms evolved as they continued to inform emerging global cultures through the Early Modern period. Speakers and their abstracts can be found here.

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Palaces, skyscrapers, villas, follies ….. and six styles of architectural luxury

9781409433217.PPC_Layout 1Today luxury and its celebration are hardly confined to European élites and the American leisure class. Apart from the adornment of the body, the displays of luxury surround us most visibly in built and unbuilt environments. In The Architecture of Luxury (2014) Annette Condello focuses on a range of contexts in Italy and Western Europe, Latin America and the United States to trace the myths and applications of luxury in architecture, interiors and designed landscapes. Moving from antiquity to the modern era, she identifies six historical categories of luxury – Sybaritic, Lucullan, architectural excess, rustic, neoEuropean and modern – and relates them to their different historical periods and cultural contexts.

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Luxury and its underside

Rosa Salzberg   University of Warwick

Luxury is one of the concepts most closely associated in the popular mind with Italy today and in the Renaissance period which I research and teach.

A diamond is forever

‘A diamond is forever’ (Don Draper, 1948, after Anita Loos, 1925)

But the precise value and consequences of luxury – of the skills it preserves and innovation it generates, but also of the social inequalities it reflects and arguably exacerbates – are still matters of heated debate. I am part of a recently-launched International Network entitled Luxury & the Manipulation of Desire which aims to explore these questions anew, linking the contemporary agenda to scholarship on the history of global luxury from the Renaissance to the present. It focuses on three key areas: the production of luxury, the regulation of luxury and the geography of luxury.

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The architecture of luxury

Annette Condello   Curtin University


Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. Begun by Adamo Boari in 1901.

The idea of luxury – how it can be defined and what forms it takes in different cultural contexts and historical periods – is the theme of an earlier post. My own interest is in the application of luxury in the field of architecture. Building on my previous research, which examined Francesco Venezia’s contemporary architectural spolia in Italy and France and Adamo Boari’s early modern designs in Mexico and the USA, I am developing a project which examines the meaning and application of luxury. Luxury has become a contentious issue in architecture: is it an unqualified benefit or something that should be present only within strict limits? The project’s scope spans from antiquity to modern (and contemporary) times.  Continue reading

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Sustainable Lina: the architecture of adaptive reuse

Lina Bo Bardi220px-masp_at_paulista_av_in_sa%cc%83o_paulo (1914-1992) was an Italian-born designer of buildings, furniture and jewelry. She trained in Milan with Carlo Pagani and Giò Ponti, working also for Domus and Milano Sera directed by Elio Vittorini. In 1946 she moved to Brazil where she became well-known for her modernist buildings, notably the São Paulo Museum of Art and the Glass House where she lived in the remains of the rainforest surrounding São Paulo. An analysis and appreciation of her work has recently been published under the title Sustainable Lina (Springer, 2016) edited by Annette Condello and Steffen Lehmann. It concentrates on the social dimensions of her adaptive reuse projects from the 1960s to the early 1990s, interpreting her themes, technical sources and design strategies for the creation of luxury as sustainability and pointing to the Italian influences on her approach.

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Rizzoli Bookstore Reopens in NYC

Sally Grant   New York

The old Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th St, NYC Photo credit: Rizzoli Bookstore

The old Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th St, NYC
© Rizzoli Bookstore

Book – and bookshop – lovers of the world rejoice! After closing the doors of its beloved 57th Street store last year, Rizzoli New York opened a new flagship in the NoMad district of Manhattan last Monday. While this location, in the nineteenth-century St. James Building at 1133 Broadway, may not be able to replace the now-lost historic charm of its predecessor, with its famed vaulted ceilings (the building has since been demolished to make way for a luxury development – who’d have thought it?), for an independent bookstore to re-open these days is an event to be celebrated.

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Of Coffee, Cakes, and an Obligatory Saint

Catherine Kovesi  University of Melbourne

Bassrelief of San Martino on the Oratory of the Scuola of San Martino

Bassrelief of San Martino on the Oratory of the Scuola of San Martino

Throughout most of the westernised world we have just celebrated the festival of Halloween. Each year many protest the intrusion of what they see as an Americanised festival into their indigenous traditions, and it did look a little anachronistic here in Venice to see Halloween paraphernalia in many shop windows. But now, barely a fortnight later, the windows are full of paraphernalia for a different and delightful festival here in the city, one with many similarities to Halloween in the ways in which it is celebrated by the children of Venice, but which is completely enmeshed in Venetian tradition. This is the Feast of San Martino, celebrated on 11 November for at least three centuries now.

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‘Madonna dei Bagni … Prega per noi.’

Catherine Kovesi   University of Melbourne

P1020061Wandering along the banchette of one of Venice’s regular mercati antiquari the other day, my eye was caught by a lovely little tazza di caffé. Turning it over, I saw that it was by Ginori, and I felt a little pang that I couldn’t fork out the 40 euros that the stall owner wanted for it.

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Power of Luxury flierTo mark the 500th anniversary of Machiavelli’s composition of The Prince, a group of Italian, Australian and US institutions –  the Embassy of Italy in Canberra, the Australian Institute of Art History of the University of Melbourne (Melbourne), the Fondazione per l’Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane (Milan and Florence), the Museo Poldi Pezzoli (Milan), the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane (Florence and Naples) and the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Los Angeles) – has organised a series of international symposia with the participation of leading Renaissance scholars. The first, The Power of Luxury: Art and Culture at the Italian Courts in Machiavelli’s Lifetime, will be held at the University of Melbourne on 19-20 February 2013. Registration is free, and the programme, abstracts and details of the location can be found here.

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The Post-Colonial Humanist: Remembering an Artist and a Scholar

Catherine Dewhirst   University of Southern Queensland

In her reflections over the last nine months of her life, the words of my very dear friend might resonate with readers of this special publication: ‘… at the end of the day… material wealth, work priorities, domestic demands all fall by the wayside – and relationships are all that count.’ These poignant words suggest the wisdom gained from the knowledge of, and preparation for, impending death. Yet, they also intimate the way my friend lived her life and engaged with her professional calling.

I should mention that I had originally intended to submit something to this volume about the teaching of Italian history to students in two south-eastern Queensland universities. But this idea slipped into insignificance when Jo-Anne Duggan died at the age of just 48 in early March. Many members of the Cassamarca Foundation and the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies (ACIS) knew, loved, and respected Jo-Anne and her work. I am aware, too, that her network of associates and friends was also more extensive and complex. So this reflective contribution will not do justice to the personal memories and feeling of loss of those who read it. For me, however, Jo-Anne’s friendship was central to my research, teaching, academic life and comparatively unproblematic personal and professional challenges. She was not only an inspiring artist and scholar but also a confidante. I therefore felt that devoting a piece to her was not only important because of her contributions to knowledge in the field and to the Foundation’s Australia Project but also imperative because of who she was. The recollections that follow cover my experience of four of her creative outputs and her research through ACIS.

The words I quoted above are from the eulogy Jo-Anne wrote for herself and which one of her closest friends, Wendy, read out at her memorial service a week after her death. It was a service that Jo-Anne and her life partner, Kevin Bayley, had had the luxury of time to plan in the short journey after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer last year. The time that they shared from that point onwards, as we might guess, was traumatic – by no means a luxury. Even with the diagnostic warning, the degree of preparation they were given might not have been possible due to the ferocity and aggression of her particular tumour. Such diagnoses inevitably come too late and leave too little time to assimilate the devastating news for those in such circumstances. Jo-Anne told me how the necessary arrangements for winding up her life were tedious and time-consuming, which she described as a process of administering the bureaucracy of her life.

Medically Jo-Anne defied the odds against her as another of her friends, Gary Ianziti, put it. Yet, she also transcended the trauma of her diagnosis and the pain of her disease. She continued to produce scholarly pieces and choreograph her final exhibition while simultaneously remaining true to herself in what can only be considered a state of joy. My personal admiration for Jo-Anne aside, this commemorative volume is a timely occasion to reflect on the generous contributions made by a leading Australian artist and scholar since the inception of the Foundation. Describing herself as a post-colonial artist, Jo-Anne was also a remarkable historian, using her talents with precision and leaving us with an indelible message about the role of the scholar in investigating history for our contemporary understanding.

I met Jo-Anne for the first time ten years ago at the inaugural ACIS conference in Canberra in 2001 and felt an immediate kindred spirit. I was struck by her spontaneous kindness, sincerity and encouragement, by her astonishing intellect and by her infectious laugh. She was excited about the possibilities that ACIS offered. We discussed numerous things, including our respective disciplinary training and work. Since she did not present a paper at the conference, I only later discovered the incandescence of her photographic talent and the uncompromising commitment and focus that she brought to her work.

When we met again at the second biennial ACIS conference in Perth in 2003, I made my way to Perth’s Western Australian Museum, excited about seeing Jo-Anne’s work for the first time. She had never really talked much about her research and creativity despite my many questions. She tended to describe her work briefly, then turn the conversation in another direction. This was not self-depreciation. What I understood it to be was contentment with the primacy of her creative life without the least need for self-promotion. Arriving at the Museum, I was curious about the results of her inter-disciplinary studies and the kind of creative terrain she had been exploring. I was richly rewarded that day. As anyone who had the chance to observe her ‘Impossible Gaze’ will attest, the exhibition was breathtaking.

Jo-Anne’s inter-disciplinary engagement with art history, critical theory and photomedia articulated something revolutionary. The ‘Impossible Gaze’ was quite simply a dynamic introduction for me to the ways the art-practice of photography could facilitate interpretations of, and relationships with, the past. Of course, it was not until much later that I realised her stubborn commitment to the use of the analog rather than digital camera contributed to the exquisite beauty of her photography. What she captured through the lens and creative imagination so central to this artistic collection was the intimation of personal involvement in the process of viewing objects of art. By projecting moments from history, Jo-Anne decoded and demystified the seemingly insignificant cursory glances at ‘ordinary’ objects that we all experience in visits to museums or art galleries, not least in Italy.

Viewing Jo-Anne’s work in this exhibition, I felt drawn into a refreshing place which involved, firstly, seeing her own ‘gaze’ and, secondly, my own imaginings about the history of the objects she depicted so skilfully. Hers was an approach reminiscent of the intimate photographic direction in some of Martin Scorsese’s films. Every minor detail told a story. In effect, she mediated a process of emotional engagement. Refocussing the expectations inherent in museum or art gallery visits, Jo-Anne’s work usurped the traditional roles of curator and audience, challenging the relationship between the observer and the observed. The exhibition was profound and sublime.

If Jo-Anne’s ‘Impossible Gaze’ invoked multiple readings from the transitory moments experienced in viewing Italian art collections, her ‘Sites of Convergences’ exhibition suggested another level of perspective and relationship. I went to its launch in 2006, which was held at the Noosa Regional Gallery in Tewantin, where I discovered that the series was an invitation to move into a number of shared historic and contemporary settings of rooms within several Italian or Italian Australian public institutions. This transnational dynamic already spoke to the important history of relations between Italians and Australia. However, emptied of their human forms, voices and activities, Jo-Anne’s focus on these rooms emphasised communal and civic encounters through four visual effects, as I read later – architecture, lighting, decorations and furniture. The absence of people in the photographic frame only accentuated the meanings behind the ritual use of each space. Seizing the interiors of these buildings in this way, Jo-Anne was creating a new language to encourage discussion about the past and the present, and our connection to both.

By the time of the fourth biennial ACIS conference in Brisbane in 2007, Claire Kennedy had involved a small group of scholars from cross-disciplinary backgrounds working in south-east Queensland universities, including Jo-Anne, in the local working-party. At the conference, Jo-Anne presented a joint paper with Suzanne Goopy on their collaborative work on representing Italian migrant culture visually, which reflected on concepts of space, place and identity. This was a theme that Jo-Anne took up again with Enza Gandolfo in another collaborative project, presented at the fifth biennial ACIS conference in Auckland in 2009. Their work resulted in the ‘Other Spaces’ exhibition, focussed on the multi-layered interpretations we can make of the multicultural migrant donations to the Migration Collection of Museum Victoria. Her slides displayed photographs of the poignant mementos of the donors’ cultural and personal histories, as well as their archival resting places. It was clear from Jo-Anne’s paper and her touching images that her project formed part of an invisible dialogue about homeland and host-society. She was also pointing to the role of the museum as a repository for storing the cultural narratives of our migrant past.

Over the last four years, Francesca Laura and I met Jo-Anne for coffee and cake fairly regularly in Peregian Beach or Eumundi – locals of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast that we have been. Sometimes there were only two us when one or other was in Italy. For the most part, this was Jo-Anne, largely due to one of her final projects on the Gonzaga family of Mantova, which took her and Kevin to Italy together on two occasions. Her great love had always been for Renaissance Italy on which she had already published some reflections, ‘Rinascimento through a contemporary lens’, in the volume Australians in Italy, edited by Bill Kent, Ros Pesman and Cynthia Troup in 2008. However, with the generous assistance of Loretta Baldassar, Jo-Anne launched her ‘Wondrous Possessions’ exhibition at the Monash University Prato Centre in 2010, a set of works which pay homage to the dazzling palazzi and archivio she had the privilege of working in. Although viewing her ‘Wondrous Possessions’ only through her official website, I could nevertheless distinguish the sumptuous tones that have come to typify her art-form. Suggestive of Leonado da’ Vinci’s innovations with gold, the angular series of photographs convey what must have been a dramatic and beautiful visual spectacle to the audience in Prato, doubly appropriate for the regional context of the Italian Renaissance.

In this light, the impact of Jo-Anne’s life and her articulation of visual and material culture recall for me the path-breaking work of Renaissance humanists at once experimental as critical, imaginative and original. Indeed, in the ‘Invisible Presences’ booklet (Arts Queensland, Brisbane, 2006) in which she brought together a selection of three of her exhibitions, Bill Kent described her approach as being ‘at the edge of new directions in combining academic and creative research methods and outcomes’. In the same publication, almost anticipating the words of her eulogy, Jo-Anne recorded how these three exhibitions in part conveyed ‘our transitory encounters with the visible representations of the past that continue to circulate in the contemporary world’.

Jo-Anne’s own relationship to both art and history counted for a great deal in her professional life. More striking perhaps, as her closest circle must have felt over the last year, as did I, was how firmly she maintained her lucidity, her humour, her empathy and her positivity to her last hours, transcending what many of us might not have coped with so well. While we are yet to discover how significant her work will be for future artists and scholars, Jo-Anne’s presence remains with us through the legacy of her stunning achievements and the personal memories many of us will cherish.

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