CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Anacapri | HotelJuly 4, 2010

Living with Art

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"For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings." - Joan Miro

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." - Pablo Picasso

Talking about washing people's souls off from daily life: bidders defied grim market sentiment this month, with the majority of lots attracting enthusiastic souls bidding at Damien Hirst's "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" sale at Sotheby's, London.

The highly publicized sale, which took place over two days, realized $207,169,510 above the high estimate, and included a new auction record for the artist with "The Golden Calf", which sold for $19,227,777 to an anonymous collector.

"We are born with a scream; we come into life with a scream, and maybe love is a mosquito net between the fear of living and the fear of death. " - Francis Bacon.

A 1976 Triptych by Francis Bacon brought $86.3 million at Sotheby's last May, becoming the most expensive work of contemporary art ever sold at auction and a retort to doomsayers who had predicted that the art market would falter seriously this season because of broad economic anxieties. "Recession? What recession?" Barbara Gladstone, a Chelsea dealer, said jokingly as she was leaving the salesroom.

Although the sale had top-quality art and dealers predicted it would be a success, it went well beyond even the auction house's expectations, bringing in $362 million, above the sale's $356 million high estimate. Three telephone bidders went for the painting, the most expensive postwar work of art ever sold at auction and sold by the Moueix family, producers of Château Petrus wines.

"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches." - Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol's Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn) at Christie's auction house in London October 14, 2008. The picture was expected to fetch up to 6.5 million pounds ($11.4 million) at the Christie's post-war and contemporary art sale on October 19.

The death of Marilyn provided Andy Warhol with the perfect pretext to capture, in a range of monochrome and multi-colored works, her celebrated visage smiling out with a pout rendered slightly ridiculous by association... In Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn), one of the early images on this theme executed in the months immediately following the star's death, these features have been printed in black on the primed canvas, creating an elegant, even austere Pop stele to the tragic star. It was Two Marilyns and its sister-pictures that both ushered in Warhol's own fame while cementing that of the star.

Nobody has done more to capitalize on Andy Warhol's increasing popularity than Mr. Mugrabi. Together with his two sons, this self-made former cloth merchant from Bogotá, Colombia, says that over the past 20 years he's amassed about 800 of the artist's works, a stake that's easily three times larger than any other private Warhol collection in the world and nearly as large as the paintings collection owned by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Dealers and major auction houses rarely buy or sell a Warhol without Mr. Mugrabi's knowledge, and anyone who wants to buy one at auction must be prepared to outbid the family.

Tonino Cacace's story is a little different and more inventive and creative than the aggressive Mugrabi family approach. The owner of the luxurious Capri Palace & Spa commissioned the Italian artist Giorgio Tonelli to paint the bottom of two of the hotel's private swimming pools: Andy Warhol and the Rene Magritte in the gardens facing the Monte Solaro with the inspiration of the artist's works in the rooms and bathrooms. The Mondrian and Kandinsky suites have some of their walls painted with the same concept.

The hotel is an art gallery on its own. Tonino Cacace makes a point to share his refined taste on Italian post-modern and contemporary art collection with his guests. After all, there's a reason that guests receive on arrival a "Welcome to your home " key holder booklet on their way to the rooms.

Among the large collection of interesting art works, I decided to mention a few, especially as I loved the context in which each one has been carefully placed.  The five-star hotel owner's passionate involvement with life and the space he created, visibly transcend through the artist's own understanding about the present space, the atmosphere, and finally the cultural background. The result is a natural and harmonic blend of cognitive and unconscious associations of personal and intimate well-being and exclusive, almost private hospitality.

A beautiful painting by Giorgio De Chirico, founder of the "Metaphysics School" in 1960, "Ettore and Andromaca" stands close to the reception desk almost implying the longing for the guests' arrival.

Renowned Italian sculptor and recognized worldwide for his particular spheres and discs, both made of bronze, Arnaldo Pomodoro's "Disco" invigorates the hotel's main living room creating around a dynamic  perceivable movement of people socializing. A Keith Harring lithograph of people dancing in the middle of a pair of ormolue Louis xv style wall lamps reinforces the energy.

The intriguing and gigantic bronze helmet "Elmo" by Mimmo Paladino has been exclusively created for the Capri Palace lobby entrance. The artist who represents silence made up of shadows and mysterious magic declares: "Art is not a superficial thing, nor a poetic storm. Art is a process around a language of signs."

I have often noticed children playing around the eyes and openings of the art piece almost perceiving with gentleness how Mimmo Paladino, the painter/sculptor, regards his work as nomadic art, based on repeated passages, and explains that by nomad he means a crossing of the various territories of art - both in a geographic and temporary sense - with a great technical and creative freedom. Children realize their stay in "Paradise" is provisional and they'll be back home and to school soon.

British artist, Allen Jones' "Believe It or Not", whose inspiration by European avant-garde movement and Pop Art honored him with numerous international prizes and awards reigns over the bar near the terrace.   Jones's art takes the form of paintings and sculptures. It's easy to notice with a Bellini in one's hand and enjoyable company, how his work connects a woman's threads: As an object, as a subject, with long legs on elongated stiletto heels, the absolute symbol of a timeless eroticism and, in particular, a mirror on our age. But we are soon reminded we are on the island of Capri and everything else like in a fantasy is okay.

One of my favorites is Fabrizio Plessi's "Azzurra". This exclusive installation realized by the artist for the Capri Palace Hotel represents a typical Caprese boat used by the local fishermen to go into the most famous and romantic Blue Grotto.

Five monitors projecting a water flow are arranged inside the boat. Water and video, frequent characters in Fabrizio Plessi's work, have the same blue surface, the same capability to carry objects and ideas, they both acquire their beauty from the reflection of the light. Again living the contrast of reality versus fantasy and possibly be so powerful to be able to enjoy both in the morning at sea and the art work at night in the TV room. Which is real and which is fantasy?

Fabrizio Plessi's work represents a point of contact between technology and humanity: old elements, images coming from our memories and new video-electronic flow are greatly combined to recall a hardly ever seen neoclassical balance. He is one of the major interpreters of video-art.

"Uomo-Corno" (Horn-Man), in polished bronze with an iron hook structure is the symbol and emblem of a mythological world in which past and present, irony and tragedy, tradition and modernity take concrete form in a new vision of the amulet - a good luck charm and artifice of its own destiny. We all know how superstitious Neapolitans are.

His bronzes are worked as if they were made of clay with scratches and furrows, or modeled to highlight the refractive qualities of their smooth surfaces.

The artistic quest of Pignatelli in "Eroi Melanconici" (Melancholic Heroes) forges a path of fascination between archaeology and the exploration of myths - hemp canvases sewn together depicting skies of ash and dust that come alive with rips and stitches in huge spaces immersed in shadow. Depicting the icy face of a sad Aphrodite or the monumental, poetic countryside of reconnaissance flight, Pignatelli's paintings are like mute images from a film projected onto a lacerated screen. I could personally feel Anacapri's landscape, archeological importance but mostly my own global condition of being an almost rootless gypsy (like most of today's travelers) through this artist's canvas.

I will end with Arman Fernandez's L'Envers de Desir, potent and at the same time almost imperceptible among the small trees in planters and gray wicker furniture.

Influenced by Dada, and later by much of the Pop Art movement, Arman's works stand out through their aesthetics; he was the master of composition and this provides even his most absurdest works with beautifully realized compositions. Whether paint on canvas or garbage in Plexiglas, Arman saw the beauty and relevance of the everyday world and created art to reflect his own imaginative ideas on the world. He dared to question traditional views on the nature of art, but stands out as he never abandoned the sense of beauty in composition that has been art's foundation since antiquity. Apart from the incredible title, he is a Scorpio (as am I) and the intensity of this feminine sculpture is unique.

Many more can be examined and appreciated individually. The Capri Palace Art Gallery, Mario Schifano, Velasco, Domenico Cantatore, Alessandro Papetti, Stefano Cantaroni, Aldo Mondino, Jakub Nepra - different artists with different styles, works of creativity that reflect a thousand shadings and life experiences that become the dominant elements within the eternal common denominator of artistic expression.

Apart from the Capri Palace's complimentary acquarello (watercolor) painting classes conducted by painter, illustrator and art therapist Michele Costantini (for guests as well as outsiders), the different art exhibitions that take place in the welcoming space also include a forthcoming project with the New York Guggenheim and Whitney Museums that consist in sponsoring trip expenses and stays in the hotel for young international talents so that they can be provided with ideal conditions to create their art. The world is teeming with art events this season. I will enumerate a few in Joelle's Tips (below).

"I have been lucky enough to be able to live on my obsession. This is my only success." - Francis Bacon

The rest is up to you.

Joelle's Tips:

Get your art Fix in the world next season events:

3rd Biennial of Contemporary Art of Sevilla - 3/10-11/1 (Sevilla) Van Gogh at MOMA - 9/10-9/11 (New York) Frieze - 16/10-19/10 (London) Contemporary Istanbul - 16/10-19/10 (Istanbul) SCOPE - 16/10-19/10 ( London )

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