Curator and critic Donatien Grau—who was on our At a Distance podcast last week—talks with us here about the new book he produced in collaboration with the late couturier Azzedine Alaïa, Taking Time (Rizzoli), a series of wide-ranging conversations on art, time, and creativity. Among the visionary voices featured—most of whom were close friends of Alaïa’s—are Ronan Bouroullec, Isabelle Huppert, Charlotte Rampling, Julian Schnabel, and Robert Wilson.
How did this project first begin, and what led to the idea of presenting it as a series of conversations about time?
Azzedine always fought for people to be able to make things at their own pace, and he was a paramount example of this. This was something that he had been thinking about, struggling with, and advocating for decades. Then, around 2012 or 2013, it was something he wanted to make people aware of—that there was a need to change how we approach time and creativity, and, progressively, he wanted to bring in some of his friends and fellow travelers from all different disciplines to share their stories, visions, and insights. Initially, he wanted to host great events to discuss the pressures exerted on contemporary creativity, but thought that might actually become a source of pressure. Instead, we began to host these conversations over the course of three to four years, with the idea that they would eventually become a book—his manifesto.
In a way, what I have been is an instrument for the realization of Azzedine’s project, rather than an author of it. It was Azzedine’s idea and project, and at the time I was very lucky and fortunate that he chose me as his steering partner. After his passing, I made sure that the book would come out and reach the public.
In the book, you write that each of the interviews is “like a couture dress made of words.” Could you tell us a bit about how you and Azzedine arranged each of the pairings?
Azzedine had this extraordinary community of friends and practitioners that gathered around him, and the basis of this community was really a sense of mutual respect for people who may be very celebrated, and may be famous, but who were also hardworking. This idea that you work your way through life, doing things your own way and making things, was very important to their interactions.
Every participant is somebody he was friendly with, admired, and respected. As we invited people to join the project, we would ask each of them to come up with somebody that they would like to speak to, and often the person was another friend of Azzedine. That was the case, for example, with the conversation between Isabelle Huppert and Robert Wilson. It was a very organic process of constructing these conversations: Sometimes they had very personalized ideas, and other times they wanted us to suggest people to speak to. From the beginning, it was very important to bring in contributors from different worlds and cultural spheres to really share their own experiences, and, in a way, it was also important that the project be performative, in that we were talking about taking time, but also taking time as we were doing it.
They were all moderated by Azzedine and me, so we were both present, and they were all hosted around his kitchen table, which is a very important and iconic part of his house. He would host his friends and collaborators every day, and easily have twenty to forty people over for lunch and then at dinner—and famously, he always left an empty seat for one of his friends who might show up and want to join them. There was a sense of purpose that animated the whole community—something, I think, that is quite an important message today, which is to claim a form of ownership of one’s time.
As a critic and historian, you’ve written about art and creativity. How did working on this book for several years change your understanding of both?
Being with Azzedine, as a friend and as a collaborator, has completely changed the way I work and think. The way people talk about creative communities from the 1920s—people around Jacques Doucet or around [Paul] Poiret—what Azzedine did was exactly that, but you weren’t reading about it in books, you were experiencing it for real, and with a level of intelligence and precision, as well as a deep human connection.
Obviously, everybody who’s worked with him and has been close to him has had their vision completely changed by him. He was somebody who would completely challenge everything you could see. He was an extraordinary creator and maker, as well as somebody who had impeccable taste in other people’s artworks and creations.
With the ongoing Covid-19 slowdown, people around the world are adapting to a new, altered sense of time, taking stock of the present and rethinking the future. How has this period changed your perception of time and relationship to it?
It’s quite fascinating to see the book come out at this very precise moment in history. As Naomi Campbell writes in the foreword, Azzedine was very often ahead of his time, even if you didn’t know it at the time when he was doing it. Obviously, when he passed away, in 2017, we didn’t plan on the book coming out in 2020. We didn’t plan on it coming out two weeks before the Met Ball themed around time [which was supposed to take place next month, but has been postponed], and we certainly didn’t plan to publish it during a world pandemic. The values that Azzedine advocated for—this emphasis on creating one’s space, owning one’s time, and being aware of the industry pressure as something that tends to devour you, and making yourself mindful of the lessons from older generations, as well as from the younger generations—these are all lessons that are really important right now.
In the early ’90s, artist, aesthetics expert, and writer Leonard Koren was bathing at a hot-springs resort near the Japa
“Magazines may be a dying breed,” says Jon Kelly, a former Vanity Fair editor who founded its politics, business, and technology website, Hive, in 2015, after working as a staff editor for The New York Times Magazine and as a founding team member at Bloomberg Businessweek. (His career in media began at Vanity Fair, as an assistant to the legendary editor Graydon Carter.) “But magazine-style writing is always in vogue.” With this coPuck, a subscription-based website where elite writers tell insider stories that lie at the nexus of Hollywood, Wall Street,
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According to business coach Holly Howard, those looking to run a flourishing enterprise should begin by taking a deeper Ask Holly How, in 2012. Since then, she’s worked with more than 500 businesses and founders, guided by the belief that effective entr
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Since 1915, New York Public Library users in search of visual information have consulted its Picture Collection. It consists of images cut from magazines, catalogues, and books, each glued to backings and organized into folders enc
In branding and marketing, animal imagery abounds: Lacoste’s crocodile, Bacardi’s bat, Geico’s gecko, Swarovski’s swan, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), animals appear in approximately 20 percent of all advertisements. These creatures, however, receive little to n
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The title of Yves Béhar’s new monograph, Designing Ideas (Thames & Hudson), gets straight to the heart of the Swiss designer and entrepreneur’s 20-year career. After founding h
Floral jewelry has been a tradition of the French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels since it opened its first boutique atFlorae” (on view through November 14), presented alongside floret-filled photographs by Japanese photographer and film directo
In 1983, French photographer Simon Chaput arrived in New York City for a weeklong trip, and ended up staying for nearly –1991) in California and Japan to “The Floating Piers” (2014–2016) in Italy. Along the way, in 1984, Chaput met the artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who recognized Chaput’s love oNew York,” which he began in 1996, that chronicled the developing built environment of Lower Manhattan.
“In the last few years, something distinctly different has been happening in the ways that technologies come to market, The Economist, and launched a popular tech newsletter and podcast called Exponential View. (Last year, he discussed the present-day role of the smartphone, among other digital-related issues, as the guest on Ep. 56 of our At a Distance podcast.) Azhar cautions against the speed with which innovations such as artificial intelligence, automation, and big data emeThe Exponential Age: How Accelerating Technology Is Transforming Business, Politics and Society (Diversion Books), out next week. With clarity and insight, he outlines new ways of thinking about technology, alongsid
Wassan Al-Khudhairi, the chief curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, is the curator of this year’s Focus, a Armory Show—one of America’s biggest art fairs, on view from September 9–12 at New York’s Javits Center—that features contemporary
The concept for Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley’s new book, Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine (MCD), began forming about 12 years ago, when the world looked considerably different from the way it does now. During aEp. 33 of our At a Distance podcast) noticed an old quarantine station turned luxury hotel on a picturesque peninsula across the bay. “Our first questions
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Omer Arbel, an Israeli-born, Vancouver-based artist and designer who creates boundary-defying objects and architecture, Omer Arbel (Phaidon), edited by Stephanie Rebick, an associate curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery, celebrates the depth and bread
As Paris emerges from lockdown and its streets come alive, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, an art center Cherry Blossoms” (on view through January 2, 2022), an exhibition of expressively impastoed, large-scale oil paintings by British artistold the BBC. “My mum used to say, ‘There’s enough horror in the world. Why can’t you just paint flowers?’ So maybe she got to me.”
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“Clouds are not something to moan about,” Gavin Pretor-Pinney says in a 2013 TED talk. “Far from it. They are, in fact, the most diverse, evocative, poetic aspect of nature.” Pretor-Pinney, a British authoThe Idler, a magazine that extols the virtues of slowness, became fascinated with clouds after noticing them in the skies depicte
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Several years ago, Claus Sendlinger began contemplating ways to address his concerns about overdevelopment in the boutiqSlow, a hospitality venture dedicated to creating places that draw upon their locations’ culture, environment, and history aagriturismo (farmhouse retreat) called La Granja. The working farm practices regenerative agriculture, and teaches visitors how it
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To stay healthy, we know that our bodies need nourishment, hygiene, and exercise. According to those who study neuroaestEp. 34 of our At a Distance podcast) who runs the International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab)—an initiative at John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine that connects brain scientists with artists to Arts + Health & Wellbeing, an immersive online tool kit that offers visitors an engaging dose of art, and consequent mental fitness, from anywherEp. 11 of our Time Sensitive podcast.)
“A question I get asked a lot is, ‘How do I get your job?’” says stylist Kate Young. “That answer is complex, because pe10th episode of Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown.
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For those of us who are lucky enough to have a full plate right now, consider helping those who don’t. One avenue for alCoalition for the Homeless, forced to cancel its annual fall fundraising gala due to the pandemic, is launching the Artist Plate Project, a limited-edition collection of porcelain platters depicting works by 50 legendary artists, including Tauba Auerbach, Ep. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast). The series will be available on the organization’s website beginning Nov. 16. Profits from the heirloom-worthy tableProspect, will go toward serving the 59,000 New Yorkers who currently live in shelters or who struggle to survive on streets andA recent study by Columbia University predicts that homelessness will increase by 40 to 45 percent within the next year due to Covid-19—making the coalition’
Durham, North Carolina–based journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala has been particularly productive of late: In addBecoming America anthology, he’s host of the TED podcast Pindrop and a mentor to emerging Asian and Asian-American filmmakers through a new fellowship program called The Sauce.
This year has been a blur, but many hard truths remain crystal clear. By now, the Trump administration’s glaring and conthe U.S. hit the 9 million mark in virus cases. While President Trump has continued to shirk responsibility, scapegoat other countries, and callously state that it “is what it is”—even as the White House itself has become a hot zone, seeing two waves of infections in the span of a single month—we kTotally Under Control, director Alex Gibney, along with co-directors Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan, bring sharp-eyed clarity to t
At age 3, Spencer Bailey, writer and editor (and co-founder of The Slowdown), survived the crash-landing of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 19, 1989. In the wake of the tragedy, he found himself the subject of a memorial sculptureIn Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials (Phaidon), examining the power and potential of memorials designed over the past 40 years, from Maya Lin’s Vietnam VeteHere, he describes the process of working on the book, and tells us why the power of abstraction may help us all to heal You began working on this project nearly thirty years after the Flight 232 crash. What has it been like to process and
Japanese artist Makoto Azuma is known for creating poetic botanical sculptures, but the medium in which he works most inFlower Punk, an award-winning film about his work and life, now available for viewing as part of the The New Yorker Documentary series. In just under 30 minutes, director Alison Klayman captures the artist as he creates spectacular arrangements, a“Exobiotanica.” Rigging a camera and a flower bomb to a weather balloon, documenting his terrestrial creation as it soars through the s
Museums and galleries are reopening in New York, and one of the most compelling shows of the season is primed to take plen plein air. Organized by the nonprofit Art at a Time Like This, in collaboration with Save Art Space, “Ministry of Truth: 1984–2020” will reclaim a common component of the city’s visual real estate—the billboard—to display works by an international ran
In 1617, German artist Jobst Harrich completed an oil painting on a copper canvas. The work, which depicts a flaxen-hairposted Harrich’s painting to her feed and tweeted, “maybe if I take my tit out they will stop explaining my own joke back to me.” She applied this tactic to“Conversation in a Park,” depicting a gent gesturing toward a stoic lady (“you would be so much prettier if you smiled”), and a 1959 Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post, which portrays eleven men ganging up on a lone woman in a jury room (“thanks I’m gay now”). The thread went viral. A fMen to Avoid in Art and Life (Chronicle Books), sold out within days of its release. It features more than 90 artworks accompanied by wince-worthy c
An art critic, curator, and author, Antwaun Sargent has become a leading voice for a rising class of Black contemporary The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (Aperture), Sargent is serving up his next, as the editor of Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists (D.A.P.), highlighting the works of Black artists from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art. An exhibition of the same name is currently on view at the Lehmann College Art Gallery (which is temporarily closed due to Covid-19)
New York–based artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd have been creating together for 20 years, using their comple“The Other Side,” on view through Oct. 17 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, the Ladds have welcomed. Offering visceral and emotional depth to a population of society so often silenced and anonymized behind closed doors, t
Election season is upon us here in the U.S., and with all of the anxieties circulating around—pandemic-related risks, poThis is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot (Princeton Architectural Press), a new book by Alicia Yin Cheng, a founding partner of the Brooklyn-based graphic design
Brooklyn-based writer and artist Edith Zimmerman served as the founding editor of The Hairpin—the former general-interest women’s website that defined a generation of online journalism, with pieces like the perenn“Women Laughing Alone With Salad”—and has gone on to contribute to outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and the podcast This American Life. These days, you can find her work in Drawing Links, a frequently published newsletter of comics and musings. We recently polled Zimmerman about her current media diet. He
You are what you Google and “like.” This is an eerie truism of 21st-century life, where our experience of reality is larThe Social Dilemma, a new docu-drama premiering on Sept. 9 on Netflix, delves into the dangerous human impact that social networking has oCenter for Humane Technology (and our guest on Ep. 35 of At a Distance), says in the trailer: “If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, polarization, more election hacking, [and] more i
Our summer quarantine days have far too often been spent gazing at web browser windows—far and away from vacation views,Window Swap, a mash-up of the virtual and physical. Designed as a “quarantine project” by creatives Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Bala
For the past five years, as one of the co-founders of the annual “JONALDDUDD” exhibition, designer Lydia Cambron has put on one of the most consistently surprising and challenging presentations of
School’s out forever—or at least for the immediate future, depending on what city you live in—and it’s certainly taking hands-on lesson plans, open-sourced and free to download, that are inspired by artists and objects from its permanent collection. “Fashioning
There’s a formula for homicide news stories: Place a TV anchor at the scene of a crime, and state that a victim was shotfatally shot in the U.S., including suicides and accidents. The sheer volume of incidents makes them easy to tune out: We don’t know
Five months on, living in a pandemic has become a new liminal normal, shifting our gaze toward the familiar sights, soun“Pandemic Objects,” an ongoing editorial project that highlights and reflects upon everyday objects (defined in the broadest sense) that hathe gaze of the drone, which has seen a surge in use worldwide in recent months, with people dispatching them in their hometowns—even to takejump rope that gives her pause as she riffles through the museum’s archives, uncovering photos, artworks, and accounts about the
The Internet Archive is one rabbit hole we’ve willingly jumped into more than a handful of times since the quarantine beWhole Earth Catalog, the 1960s counterculture print publication often referred to as “the web before the web existed”—its iconic, jam-packeElectric Whole Earth Catalog, now available on the site. Originally launched in 1998 on CD-ROM (how quaint!), the lo-fi “electric” edition offers a