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Who Is David Hockney and Why Is His Latest Work Getting Dragged by Londoners?

Up until this week, I had never heard of David Hockney.

“Preposterous,” I hear you huffing. “How can you not know one of the most influential British artists of modern times?”

Well, pardon me for being an uncultured swine, but while I like and appreciate art, it’s not exactly necessary knowledge for me to pay my bills. So yeah.

But I digress.

To the uninitiated, David Hockney is an English painter, widely considered to be one of Britain’s most celebrated living artists. His early works often featured swimming pools in Los Angeles — where he lived in the 1960s — and they were his signature for a long time. In 2018, a 1972 artwork dubbed “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” broke records at a Christie auction by selling for $90.3million (RM3.7bilion) — making it the highest price at auction for a work by a living artist.

To put it into perspective, the Selangor state government of Malaysia (where I’m staying) had a revenue of RM2.32billion in 2019. Which means that Hockney’s one piece surpasses the revenue that the richest state in Malaysia makes in an entire year. (**If you want to see how a $90.3 million painting looks like, click here.) In recent years, Hockney has transitioned to creating whimsical digital pieces using his iPad.

Over the years, there have been numerous debates on why Hockney’s works are so famous, and whether or not they’re worth the price they’re paid for. Now, I know that art is a very subjective thing — what you like may not be appealing to others. Personally, I do like some of Hockney’s works — they have a very Picasso/Matisse-esque quality to them. But I also know how the art world can be… biased in their way of valuing things (more on this later) — and there comes a point where as an ordinary person, you seriously question if some of these artists (and those in the art society) aren’t just… you know. Trolling the masses.

Recently, London’s mayor unveiled Hockney’s latest work at Piccadilly Circus as part of the #LetsDoLondon campaign, to revive domestic tourism and encourage Londoners to get out and support local businesses. It certainly got people buzzing — but not all of the noise was positive:

British people had a field day in the responses. (Swipe right for more)

While the majority took the mickey out of the painting, there were also those that thought it was a smart and provocative move. Yet others believed that people were making much ado about nothing.

Meanwhile, young artists have also joined the conversation, calling the entire campaign a ‘missed opportunity’ for the mayor’s office to not only help struggling artists and businesses, but also showcase London’s diversity. Some have shopped works of their own onto the space where Hockney’s works are currently being displayed. *Look up the hashtag #letsdolondonbetter — there are some seriously amazing artworks here!

While Hockney’s piece was apparently done for free, the mayor did spend £7million on the entire campaign — which no doubt included marketing and the engagement of an agency and what not to a) promote and b) put up the posters. Which, to many artists whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic, is a double slap to the face because Hockney has not lived in the UK for a long time (he’s based in the US). Perhaps the only possible good reason for choosing him over everyone else is the clout that Hockney has — so in a way I guess the work achieved its purpose to create conversations, because like I said: I didn’t know who Hockney was until recently.

This brings me to the next point which I mentioned earlier: how we value art today.

If you’ve ever watched the horror/thriller movie Velvet Buzzsaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal, it’s a brilliant satire of the art world today. In the film, Gyllenhaal plays a seemingly independent art critic, who gets pulled into the world of price fixing after his girlfriend — who works for a prominent art gallery owner — discovers cache of haunted paintings by a dead artist. They decided to display the paintings, to great success, but as greed and avarice take over, the trade off becomes deadly.

While the story’s plot is pretty outlandish, its portrayal of price fixing — and how critics, gallery owners, and buyers are basically complicit in ‘valuing’ how much an art piece is worth — is accurate imo. Take Mr Hockney’s latest piece for example, and this article. It is well written, full of praise like “a great piece of public art” and seemingly thought-provoking points like how public art usually adheres to ‘safe, sterile taste of private developers keen to bring artistic flair to artificially created public realms void of people or life’. And it makes you think, hey, maybe there IS more to this. They sound like valid points.

But I guess if you asked a child what they would see — without the pomp and flair and fancy words — they’d tell you like it is: it’s a doodle. One that they could probably make, given the right tools and materials. Eg: 5-year-old Rob makes a painting. Parent: “It shows how artistic he really is. Look at the composition. The brilliant pairing of colours. It’s sublime and it expresses the human condition.”

“Why’d you make this piece, Rob?”

5-year-old Rob: “I dunno. I just like it.”

Anyway, what this environment creates is a small, select group of ‘elite’ artists whose works are considered extremely valuable, and you have the rest of the artists — whose works by the way are no more or less than others — but are undervalued and taken advantage of. I personally know artist friends who struggle to make ends meet despite how talented they are, because there are clients who constantly want discounts, aren’t paying them fairly, and think that art isn’t ‘worth’ anything. These same clients would gladly pay thousands for a prestigious piece from an artist who somehow managed to market themselves better.

A sketch I made. Value: priceless.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, the art world as we know it today has lost its true meaning and purpose. When they say art can be anything, I didn’t think these people would literally take it to heart and spin in that way lol. There’s that artist Maurizio Catalan who duct taped a banana to a wall and someone paid $120,000 for it. There are also a series of paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that comprise of completely white pieces. According to SFMOMA’s website, the primary reason for the artist’s creation was to “create a painting that looked untouched by human hands”. The site later goes on to say that they have an important place in art history as precursors of Minimalism and Conceptualism.

Yeah… you keep telling yourself that, buddy.

Maybe I’m dumb. I’m not a professional artist or an art critic. But what I see are blank paintings, and a lot of ways to describe why they’re revolutionary, ground breaking, amazing. It reminds me of the story of the Emperor and his New Clothes, where everyone was too afraid to call out that the emperor was parading around naked; instead clapping and applauding because everyone around them was doing so. It took a child’s innocent eyes to call it for what it was.

What do you think about Hockney’s work, and art today in general? I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my views, especially if you’re an artist. Let me know in the comments below!

You Can Now “Wear” Hup Seng and Gardenia Bags!

Remember last year’s Indomie-inspired shoes by Indonesian designer Jonathan Gustana? If not, here’s a refresher:

Indomie is probably Indonesia’s most popular instant noodle, renowned across the world. The 20 pairs of customised Nike Air Jordans went for 3.3 million rupiah (RM 988) each, and they were sold out within two days.

Taking a leaf out of the food-into-fashion trend, Batu Pahat-based designer Wan’s Handmade has turned two beloved Malaysian staples – Hup Seng Cream Crackers and Gardenia Bread – into wearable fashion! The project, part of Wan’s Plastic Reborn Project utilises packaging from these brands to create adorable and nostalgic bags, giving them a new lease of life.

Of course, people are going crazy for the bags – who doesn’t love Hup Seng ? Founded in the 1950s in Batu Pahat by four brothers, the brand is an iconic part of every Malaysian’s childhood – there’s nothing more satisfying than dunking these crackers into Milo for breakfast, or as a tea time snack.

Gardenia, of course, is another staple of Malaysian life. It was so sought after during the quarantine, the company actually had to step up production to meet demands – so it’s only fitting that you can show your love for the brand by wearing it as a fanny pack or crossbody bag lol.

The Plastic Reborn Project bags are priced from RM79. Orders can be made via Wan’s Facebook page or Instagram.

 

*Photos courtesy of Wan’s Handmade’s Facebook page. 

FERN launches Hari Raya Collection, Inspired by Morocco

Hey guys! I hope you’re all holding up well, wherever you are.

Hari Raya (Eid), which falls on May 23 this year, is just around the corner. Obviously it’s going to be a subdued affair – but I figured we all need something other than depressing reports on COVID 19, so here’s some exciting news for the fashionistas.

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Known for its elegant batik wear, local design house FERN has announced its latest Raya collection called The Moroccan Series – inspired by the landscape, beautiful nature, people as well as rich culture, history and traditions of Morocco. Blending Moorish architecture and nature motifs, the collection will feature FERN’s trademark designs blended with a variety of elements, from the landscapes of the Sahara desert and Atlas Mountains, the night sky filled with stars and the beautiful damask rose, to the intense blue tones of the little town of Chefchaouen, palm trees towering over its streets, and beautiful mosaic patterns filling the Medina of Fez.

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Fern Chua, founder and designer of Fern, says the inspiration for the collection came from a visit to Morocco last year.

“There is a certain charm to the elements found in Morocco. Being a Muslim country, there are many similar motifs that are also found here in Malaysia. A keen eye could see the interpretation and use of Islamic geometric influence in most Muslim countries. Combining local and foreign silhouettes while staying true to the FERN identity proves to be my biggest challenge. The similarities between the two countries is what I look to connect with for my Raya collection this year through the Moroccan Series,” she says.

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The Moroccan Series Raya collection will showcase 15 patterns which entails a mix of block prints and abstract prints drawn from the Sahara, palms and roses, and will have up to 20 looks – FERN’s biggest collection yet. Made with high quality natural materials and designed with versatility in mind, the Raya 2020 collection aims to create unique looks for individuals from all walks of life. In addition to the collection, a range of jewellery made by local Moroccan artists are also introduced to complete the looks.

Pre-orders for The Moroccan Series can be made online now on fern.gallery. 

Here are some more of my favourite looks from the collection! I like how some of them are suitable even for daily wear.

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**Photos courtesy of FERN. 

Union – Beijing’s Latest Bar – Opens at The Opposite House In Sanlitun

UNION – Beijing’s latest bar – opens at The Opposite House in the Sanlitun district, bringing with it a brand of elegance, comfort and the free spirit of an artist’s studio infused with a curated hospitality experience.

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With a 20th-century modernist sensibility, the beautiful space embodies the spirit of 1920s modernism with a showcase of artworks and objects reminiscent of the International Expos of the era, paired with drinks inspired by the ancient Silk Road.UNION was designed by leading, New York-based design firm, AvroKO.

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Seemingly whimsical in nature, UNION was created to have a clear social flow. Copper architectural frames and metal mesh sheets showcase artwork, sculptures and objects, drawing in and engaging guests, whilst hidden elements such as the bar trolley, spicery wall and DJ booths enable a seamless transition from day to night. The interiors are inspired by potter Lucie Rie’s studio – a beautiful yet versatile space well suited to living, working and socialising. The aim is to create a sense of belonging and discovery, evoking the sense of witnessing something for the first time. A carefully curated soundtrack allows the bar to seamlessly transition from day to night with the perfect eclectic mix of tempo, BPM, energy levels and genres.

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A sophisticated drinks menu consists of an extensive wine list made up of 60 bins that are all available by the glass, as well as selection of signature cocktails and alcohol-free drinks. The wine list changes monthly and whilst it features some well-known wineries the list is carefully curated to provide representation for lesser known producers, hard to find bottles and biodynamic wines.

As for the signature cocktail list, it encapsulates a diverse range of flavours inspired by international tastes; non-alcoholic creations include Spring breeze (a representation of Eastern Chinese flavours) which has pear, vanilla, coconut, citric acid and sea salt , whilst the traditional cocktail menu includes highlights such as Genghis Khan Martini (Mongolian representation) with French Gin, Mongolia Milk Wine, Dry Vermouth, Elderflower, Coconut and Sea Salt.

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The Opposite House by Swire Hotels is one of four Houses in The House Collective. Located in Taikoo Li Sanlitun — a vibrant open-plan shopping, dining and entertainment destination developed by Swire Properties, The Opposite House was designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s most celebrated art and design geniuses.

The House’s 99 guest studios include nine spacious suites and a penthouse duplex with a 240-sq m roof terrace, all pet-friendly with special treats and amenities available for guests’ furry companions. More than half of all the studios are over 70 sqm and all are strikingly simple with natural wooden floors and subtle touches of Chinese décor. The Atrium of the House presents itself as a contemporary art gallery, showcasing art steeped in fresh cultural insights. The House has one restaurant and a bar, Jing Yaa Tang, which specialises in local fare including the famous Peking duck.

 

Hilton Kuala Lumpur Launches Tropical Allure – A Mid-Autumn Series Collaboration With Malaysian Designer Christy Ng

Hey guys!

With the Mid-Autumn Festival just two months away, some hotels and brands are already rolling out their mooncakes. Fans of Hilton Kuala Lumpur‘s mooncakes will recall their unique collection of mooncake boxes last year, which were designed in collaboration with Khoon Hooi (they were absolutely gorg, by the way).

This year, the hotel has teamed up with Malaysian shoe designer Christy Ng for their Tropical Allure series – a beautiful mooncake box that looks great on its own as a statement piece.

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Available in two colours – Crimson Red and Royal Purple – the rounded faux leather bag features hibiscus prints paired with gilded zippers and trimming. Aside from hand-carry, the bag can also be converted into a crossbody bag by attaching a handbag strap (sold separately for RM20). Each box comes with four pieces of Chef’s choices’ baked mooncakes at RM168. The Snow Skin Package retails for RM178, with any choice of four pieces of snow skin mooncakes. If you just want the bag and not the mooncakes, its RM148.

Classy and elegant!

The Hibiscus print also matches the hotel’s signature snowskin mooncake – the Chynna Rose (after China Rose, another name for the hibiscus flower, with ‘Chyna’ being the name of the hotel’s Chinese restaurant).

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The Chynna Rose features lusciously smooth lotus paste infused with ginseng, tart hibiscus jam and crispy almond nibs, all encased within a subtle lavender-hued snow skin.

I’ve never been a big fan of mooncakes because of how sweet they are (you tend to feel queasy after a few bites), but the Chynna Rose is not overly sweet, and the tartness of the jam is rather refreshing.

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Hilton KL chefs demonstrating how they create their signature snow skin mooncakes during the launch of the series.

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The wooden molds that are used to get perfectly shaped mooncakes. The chef explained that traditionally you’re supposed to knock three times to get the mooncake out of the mold, but I can’t remember why lol.

Aside from Chynna Rose, you can also opt for the hotel’s other renowned snow-skin flavours, such as the Heavenly Gold (Snow Skin with Pure Premium Musang King Durian – RM56), Blue Moon (Snow Skin Amaretto Lotus Paste with Blueberry Cheese Feuillantine – RM35) and Flower Drum (Snow Skin Lotus Paste with Soft Custard Egg Yolk – RM35).

For those who prefer the classics, there is Baked White Lotus Paste (RM35), Baked Pandan Paste with Single Yolk (RM35), Baked Red Bean Paste with Almond Flakes (RM35) and Traditional-style with Five Nuts Mix (RM38).

(From left) Hilton Regional General Manager Jamie Mead, model, designer Christy Ng, Director of Business Development Alex Cotterill and Director of Marketing and Comms Eugene Oelofse.

The Tropical Allure series is available for purchase at the pop-up store in Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s lobby until 13 September 2019, as well as at major shopping malls such as Pavilion Kuala Lumpur (23 August – 12 September 2019), Mid Valley Megamall (22 August – 13 September 2019) and One Utama Shopping Centre (29 August – 12 Sepetember 2019). Alternatively, order online at takehome.hiltonkl.com, call +60322642006 or email kulhi_chynna@hilton.com.

*Photos not watermarked courtesy of Hilton Kuala Lumpur. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Phuket’s Historical Old Town District

Phuket may be known for its beautiful sandy beaches and party scene, but if you’re into culture and heritage, then Phuket Old Town is a definite must visit. Comprising several roads including Dibuk (Thai for ‘tin’), Thalang and the narrow but extremely popular alleyway called Soi Romanee, the area is a haven of old shops and hipster cafes, selling everything from artisan ice cream and drinks to cheap clothing, accessories and jewelry.

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Before it became a popular island destination, Phuket’s riches were founded in tin, and in the late 18th century, Hokkien Chinese immigrants made their way to its shores, establishing themselves in the trade centres which would later become bustling towns. As such, the architecture is reminiscent of regions in Southeast Asia with a similar ethnic heritage and past, such as Penang in Malaysia as well as Singapore. The architecture style, dubbed Sino-Portuguese, features colourful facades and elaborate decorations, blending both traditional Chinese /local elements with European touches.

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While small and narrow, Soi Romanee is perhaps the area’s most popular (and Instagrammable) street, flanked on both sides by cafes, hole-in-the-wall eateries and boutique inns.

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Apparently a great place to get ice cream (especially in Phuket’s scorching weather!) is this ice cream parlour called Torry’s.

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Also like Penang and Singapore, the area has been spruced up with large and colourful murals adorning the sides of several buildings – bringing together the old and the new.

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Crossing over to Thalang Road, which boasts the same neat and colourful buildings with shaded five-foot walkways.

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Parts of the walkway are occupied by pop up stalls selling clothing and jewellery. If you’re a fashionista, this would be a great place to get some unique pieces that you won’t be able to find back home – and at cheap prices to boot.

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Reflecting its Chinese heritage (Thailand has the largest population of overseas Chinese in the world), many of the shops here have been running for generations and still carry Chinese names. Next to swanky cafes and cool eateries sit generation-old businesses such as gold shops, optical shops and traditional medicine stores.

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There’s actually plenty to do in the area but we were pressed for time and missed out on alot of places.

Some notable spots for a half-day tour include the Thavorn Hotel Museum (as the name suggests, an old hotel turned museum), The Memory at On On Hotel (where they filmed The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio), Thai Hua Musuem ( a museum on Chinese heritage in Phuket/Thailand), Jui Tui Shrine (a Chinese temple), Blue Elephant (where you can have cooking classes), and many more.

 

Things To Do At Linc KL: Murals, Art And All Things Instagrammable

With Kuala Lumpur peppered with malls left, right and centre, do we really need another boxy, air-conditioned space with the same cookie-cutter brands?

The newly opened The Linc KL, however, offers a different experience. Tucked along Jalan Tun Razak, the artsy retail and creative space features a unique design, promising to connect visitors to ‘nature, community and human interaction’. N and I were in town recently, so we dropped by to check the place out.

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The mall’s design is certainly not traditional. Aside from colourful murals and art installations, the space’s centre court features a giant Ficus Benjamina, or Ficus Tree, which can grow up to 30 metres high. The Linc’s specimen is massive, its large, twisting branches spreading to form a dense canopy three-storeys high.

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Large and airy, the mall incorporates plenty of green (both real and aesthetic) into its design. Murals featuring flowers and foliage run the length of the walls, with artsy poetry to go along. There are also lots of spots with seats where people can just chill and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Retail-wise, there are plenty of independent and artisanal brands and cool eateries. Frangipani Bulk, a zero-waste store, is located on the ground floor, just across from Ben’s Independent Grocer. Other stores include Bendang Artisan, which carries handmade tableware and crockery, coffee place Bean Brothers, and Homes by Rahim x Nik, which sells locally-designed rattan furniture.

What most youngsters will enjoy is probably the Instagram-worthy art installations and murals scattered across the mall,

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The Owl by Amarul Abdullah. All of the murals in the mall are done by local artists.

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The piece-de-resistance – “Doves”, comprising 41,600 folded paper doves in 40 colours, hung from the ceiling to form a mesmerising curtain of shades.

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Since the mall is pretty new, there isn’t yet much to do – but we’re looking forward to exploring more of the space once more tenants move in.

THE LINC KL 

360, Jalan Tun Razak, KL.

Open Daily from 10am-10pm

Anna Sui X FitFlop – Designer Collection

If you haven’t heard of Anna Sui…. where have you been? She’s only one of the ‘Top 5 Fashion Icons of the Decade’, with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, alongside other fashion greats like Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. Her fashion empire is estimated at over $400mil, covering cosmetics, fragrances, eyewear, jewellery, accessories, gifts and footwear.

FitFlop, the British shoe company, recently did a collabo with Anna Sui to launch a line of must-have ballerinas and sandals. This is the company’s third time working with the renowned fashionista, and it promises some beautiful, eye-catching designs that will have your friends looking at your feet in envy…

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Lattice Ballerina Navy – love the pineapple prints! 

Looks are not all there is to these flops – they’re laced with the brand’s signature Supercomff Tech, which makes the shoes lightweight and diffuses areas of high pressure, making them comfy to wear all day long.

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Lattice Ballerina White

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Same print, different design, more ways to wear – the Skinny Aqua is a perfect pair to wear while strolling on the beach or for a casual day out.

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Skinny Navy 

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Last but not least, Printed Ballerina Aqua…

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and Printed Ballerina Midnight Navy.

Prices in Malaysia range from RM439 – RM699, and you can buy them from FitFlop Malaysia. List of stores on their Facebook page. 

 

So, which one’s your fave? Lemme know in the comments below! 🙂