Monday, October 31, 2011

An Idea for a Lucca Holiday


Dreams of memorable holidays fill countless hours of our sleeping moments but we can recall only a fraction of them. When one of these dreams fortunately occurs moments before we awaken we savor its visuals forever, wondering if we'll ever get to live the reality of it all, hoping that one fine day we just might.

That dream might look a bit like this, steeped in a kind of peace so rarely found these days. You can still find it in Tuscany, though, in Lucca, in a small village called San Macario, at a charming and sumptuously realized converted farm house called Villa dell'Artista.

Its owners are an enormously talented couple of artists (of many media) who've considered every detail here—they've created it for themselves, but when they're not in residence it might just be all for you.

Endless sunshine, views, solitude, olive trees ...

fantastic meals, summer swims.

The elegantly simple garden is all about understatement—these sheep are not intruders, but are the work, in bronze, of artist Karen Wilberding Diefenbach.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Visit from Point de Vue


Point de Vue isn't very well known outside of Europe, but here it has a distinguished and devoted following. What at first glance seems to be just another slick gossipy review is in fact a magazine for "monarchists," if that's the word, for those who love Europe's noble heritage, who pine for the days when the king was still on his throne and who would reinstate our deposed royal families in a minute, albeit with a democratic constitution. It's a magazine with a somewhat intelligent content, if not particularly deep, and there's virtually no gossip in its pages of any kind. It features articles about culture, politics, history, but mostly about Europe's living nobles and royals, the births, the deaths, the weddings, the parties, the glamor. And why not? After all, these are the beautiful people—Hollywood doesn't even come close!

This autumn three groups of Point de Vue's passionate readers have had the pleasure of visiting the fine and historic gardens of Tuscany. This is the first group in the garden of Al Pastore, here at Villa Massei, about a week ago.

The trips were promoted in this fashion, with a full scale article proposing the itinerary prepared by Hortibus, a wonderful group travel company out of Paris.

And this is the second group yesterday, all very attractive and refined, holding up their copies of Un Giardino a Lucca, which they'd bought in our "pop-up" shop after the tour. Group 3 arrives on Sunday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mini-Gardens of Remberance


As the Day of the Dead approaches I thought I'd feature this charming graveyard beside a small church in Klosters, Switzerland, where the dead are honored with miniature gardens tended by the surviving.

Each plot is the same in size and the plants and flowers, all very Swiss in taste, tend to be colorful and gay. The cemetery makes it easy for its gardeners, furnishing watering cans and tools. It's like a patchwork quilt of remembrance, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Grand Canal Hotel


There are many hotels on the Grand Canal in Venice, but Palazzo Stern is a rather small and pleasant one and it gets my recommendation. It's sort of chic, but not too, and the people are smiling and kind. Its great advantage is this wonderful terrace for a long leisurely breakfast.

The palace itself is magnificent, with whimsical Venetian decoration everywhere. It's from the 17th century.
This is the view from the water bus as you head off to Piazza S Marco.

Its neighbors are just as lucky. These are private homes gazing off into the morning sunshine.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Venice Contemporary


Now that it's October the Venice Biennale of contemporary art is relatively quiet compared to the spring when the opening ceremonies and parties attract art people from all over the world. It's not for first-time Venice visitors and you could all too easily dismiss it as having nothing to do with Venice in any way. But in fact the Biennale is yet another wonderful thing that contributes to making this great city what it is. The above pigeons perched on the roof hardware of the main pavilion are the work of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan; they are the real thing, life-size and taxidermied. Asked whether he’d shot the pigeons himself, he laughed and said, no that he’d got them from a theater supply company. It's a funny idea from an artist who a few years ago captured lots of attention with his stuffed real horse jumping through a wall at the Dogana.

I love the bookstores here—there are several. This is a display table holding hundreds of beautifully produced books about contemporary art, some well-thumbed by some of the most interesting visitors Venice receives.

This year's show is called "Illiminazioni." Organising the Venice Biennale’s headline exhibitions in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and the Arsenale is the high point of most curators’ careers—and also one of the most exposing. Swiss art historian Bice Curiger, the curator of the Zurich Kunsthaus and co-founder of the art magazine Parkett, is only the third woman to be entrusted with this task and the sixth non-Italian. She has called her show “Illuminazioni”, and has invited 83 artists to take part.

One of the many reading rooms adjacent to the bookstore shown above.

The American pavilion featured works by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, the young Puerto Rican duo. I'd read about their efforts quite a bit before coming here and I hadn't expected to like it. But I did. The pieces are bigger than merely clever—but I won't go into it here. This ATM is very amusing to say the least. When you make a withdrawal the organ plays.

And this upside down tank is also theirs. When the runner runs the wheels roll and the noise is enormous!

At the Korean pavilion artist Lee Yonbaek showed these mirrors. You hear a gun shot and the mirror is smashed by a bullet before your very eyes (all cleverly done by projection). Here's a double self portrait of Gil and me in the shot-up mirror.