Beirut’s design scene, Four Seasons Magazine, Winter 14
Read my interview with Lagerfeld on his new Odyssey space at the Métropole
Marseille: European culture capital of 2013, Ralph Lauren Magazine, Summer 13
My article about renegade artist JR is on Nowness: http://www.nowness.com/day/2013/1/31/2778/jr–blow-up?icid=Previously_Home
Looking for ideas for your holiday decorations? Check out my latest article for Ralph Lauren Magazine
Just in time for Pop Montreal, my article on Montreal’s indie music scene is live on MTVIggy
My latest article is about Chinese pop star and fashion icon Laure Shang on Nowness
My book, Boho Beirut: a Guide to the Middle East’s Most Sophisticated City, is finally out! It’s an insider guide to the city, with profiles of tastemakers and tips that only locals would usually know.
Boho Beirut is available at major Lebanese bookstores and through the following booksellers:
Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal
McNally Jackson, New York
It was a grey, rainy day when I landed in Brussels and took the train to Ghent, the Medieval city that was once a major port and textile center. My taxi passed the Gravensteen (Castle of the Count), waffle stands and canals, and finally stopped in front of an unassuming storefront behind which my chambre d’hôte, Chambre Plus, was tucked. I walked through the garden and pond and reached my room, a two-floor suite with bright orange and red touches and a cosy fireplace nook. Perfect for me. And the jacuzzi was just a bit large for myself alone. The best moment, of course, was breakfast: A decadent succession of fruit salads, home baked pastries and breads, jams and the divine chocolate-hazelnut spread concocted by the owner, Hendrik Mesuere.
The cobblestoned streets of Ghent are quiet and charming, filled with students and laid back locals. This kitsch bar caught my attention:
Ghent has a brilliant mix of historic and contemporary culture, such as this installation on the river bank:
This is the Rococo centerpiece in St Baff’s Cathedral:
At Volta, I had a very memorable dinner.
Day one – after a speedy flight from JFK we land in sunny Helsinki. The city is clean, quiet, soothing even. Stylish young people on bikes, trams, design stores and cute cafés. Yes. I am finally in Europe.
Helsinki was voted best place to live by Monocle and I can see why. The air is pure and the sky is a crisp blue. The Finns are endearing and sweet and have a bit of a dark sense of humor. And of course, they love their saunas. Here it’s all about the saunas. At night we take a ferry to one of the island restaurants and taste the freshest raw salmon and down neat vodka. We sing drinking songs while the sun, with its neon pink ribbons, kisses the still river. Kippis. (Cheers)
Day four – after traveling throughout the country on Eurail trains and looking at the stark tundra through the massive windows, we hop on the Allegro – Europe’s first high speed train to Russia – and promptly pass the borders. As a dashing blonde man with chiseled cheekbones checks my passport, the flashbacks of the Russian visa application nightmares vanish. Soon we’re looking at soviet bunker style buildings, barbed wires and modest houses. Olga, a language teacher and guide, is waiting at the St. Petersburg station. Later tonight we have a reservation at The Idiot, named after Dostoyevsky’s famous book. But now I have a date at the New Holland cultural complex, located on an old industrial site.
Model, editor and art patron Dasha Zhukova is transforming historical wood warehouses into to art studios, venues and perhaps a store or two. That’s thanks to her husband Roman Abramovic’s 4M$ investment. On the site, a flat, vast field covered in gravel and grass, giant inflatable rats greet visitors. They are by the Bruce High Quality Foundation and part of the summer exhibition at New Holland. My hostess, lovely Anna Dyulgerova, offers me a tasting of Georgean cheeses – pungent and complex- and herb tea which we drink with spoonfuls of honey, wrapped in thick wool blankets.
Check out my interview with Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck, one of the Antwerp Six who’s having a retrospective at MoMu in September! Love, sex and David Bowie… http://www.hintmag.com/department/hinterview
Lately I have been restless. In May I visited Antwerp to report on the historical port’s new slew of avant-garde talent. I walked through the tiny cobblestone streets, taking regular breaks to bite into a steamy, sticky gaufre or crunchy praline-filled chocolate. Young people overcrowded outdoor terraces, drinking icy beers and munching on fries; there was a sense of careless freedom in the air. I attended the opening of the much-awaited MAS Museum, which celebrates Antwerp’s portuary history and the rich cultural exchanges that took place there throughout the centuries.
One day one, we flew over the city in a helicopter. The Schelde glistened, the Gothic Cathedral rose from the flat city, and the MAS, with its rust indian bricks and asymetrical facade, stood proudly on the waterfront.
The MAS is a massive cabinet of curiosities, filled with antique boats, paintings from Flemish masters, contemporary installations, and art works commissioned from the city’s best talent. There is an in-house composer, whose remarkable noise-like ambient tracks add an eerie dimension to the shows. Vicky Geunes, the region’s most celebrated chef, serves his delicate compositions in his Michelin-starred restaurant, ‘T Zilte, which is surrounded by glass and overlooks the city. I tasted an acid-green iced cucumber yogurt bonbon, fresh and fragrant and delicious.
A woman stands in a silk emerald dress and little victorian booties, holding a straw umbrella. Curled tribal earring hang from her ears; her chocolate hair is twisted in braids and buns. She sings in front of her big band, The Smoking Time Jazz Club. Men of all ages, some bearded, some dark from the sun, play their trumpets and strings. A tall man with a bowl hat and a frizzy goatee dances with a young woman with an athletic build and a cotton skirt. They twist, tap and swing, looking into each other’s eyes and smiling. It’s smoking hot. Further, a tune of old blues on a guitar. A man is playing in his tweed vest and pants, sweating in the sun. Sometimes he gently taps his tambourine with his foot for a jingle.
Families pass by, the men dressed in seersucker suits and bow ties, the women clad in tight cocktail dresses, elaborate flowered hats and stumbling on their vertiginous heels. Tourists in souvenir t-shirts flaunt the shiny, colorful plastic bead necklaces they have collected from the parade, where exuberant characters on floats pitch plastic trinkets and candy on the crowd’s heads.
At Antoine’s, a French Quarter French-Cerole restaurant that’s been open since 1840, pink, green and blue balloons rise from wooden bistro chairs. A fleur de lys motif decorates the wallpaper and moldings of the high ceilings. Antique chandeliers cast a dim light on a very colorful crowd. Here, a man in a Hawaiian printed shirt; there, a woman with fifties cat frames, tomato red lips and nails and a flower-printed dress. In the corner, a woman with a waxy complexion and thick red-traced lips sings oldies with a deep, sensuous voice. Her orange flame-printed dress billows softly as she moves her hips.
My charming waiter lights up a brandy infused with lemon peels and brandy. He stirs the potion to heat it up, then mixes it with coffee and serves it in a little cup. I dig into my warm pecan bread pudding and take a sip of the hot, sweet, toxic concoction.
She dashes in, a lithe, golden body, her sun-kissed mane undulating wildly, her tan highlighted by a petrol-blue sweater with a hoodie. She is 64. In her sun-drenched penthouse conference room, fuchsia and white orchids bloom by the floor-to-ceiling windows; leopard-printed rugs line the floor; zebra skins adorn massive wood chairs; the heavy conference table is scattered with colored pencils, images and books. As for the walls, they are covered with hundreds of artworks: Man Ray lips, a tortured Anh Duong self-portrait, a picture of veiled women on a beach by Shirin Neshat.
Diane Von Furstenberg sits straight on the edge of the couch, throwing her shoulders back like a ballerina. She puts down her Ipad, with its lip-covered screensaver. She holds her thick locks in her hands for a moment, closing her eyes. It has been a busy morning, as usual. Then suddenly she perks up again, beaming and talking about her business – her favorite topic. This year her resolution was to expand in China; she is leaving for the country in a few days. On April 2nd, Diane Von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress, a major exhibition of her work and influence, opens at Pace Beijing after a stop in Moscow, featuring portraits of the princess by Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente and Helmut Newton, dresses. Portraits DVF has commissioned from contemporary Chinese artists (conceptual artist Zhang Huan, photographer Hai Bo, painter Li Songsong and multimedia artist Yi Zhou) will be unveiled.
We Lebanese are always worried. We’re paranoid about politics, people, everything and anything. We think everything is a mysterious and dark conspiracy. We don’t really believe in a better world; battered by centuries of political manipulations and war, we have mostly accepted the corruption and decay in our country. In Beirut, most people dream of the “West.” People save up for shopping trips to Paris. They plan a whole holiday around a London concert. They talk about their relatives in Australia, France and Canada. Who could blame them? In Beirut, there’s not much to do – except tan at outrageously priced beach resorts and comment about so-and-so’s marriage and so-and-so’s outfit.
So I didn’t quite know what to expect when I opened American journalist Annia Ciezaldo’s first book, Day of Honey. I knew she had lived in the region and married a Lebanese man; I thought she might offer some insights about the region, like a scholar or a distant observer — or the many cynical correspondents I knew.
But I found the book refreshingly hopeful and poetic. Ciezaldo embraces her husband’s family and culture with curiosity and humor. She learns to make typical Lebanese and Iraki meals. As she navigates the complex, violent realities in both countries, she draws vivid portraits of the courageous and inspiring people she meets. She does write about the absurdities and the contradictions and the corruption, but she also describes how civilians deal with the chaos everyday and shows that they, too, have dreams, even it if may be so much harder for them to reach them. And she shows that everyone needs love and food to survive.
The light has muted from icy to warm and soft; today I went out for the first time without my heavy down jacket (which makes me feel like a very unattractive bear). I opened the windows wide and bought some hyacinths. I’m getting ready for a big cleanup. But before summer comes I want to spend more nights reading in bed. How soothing to be isolated from the noise, smells, and aggressions of the city, to forget about trash culture – Lady Gaga’s eggs, Justin Bieber’s haircut and other subjects everyone seems obsessed with. Right now Philippe Sollers, Mario Vargas Llosa and James Joyce are on my bedside, but I did promise to share my impressions of the last two books I read.
First, La Carte et le Territoire, by Michel Houellebecq, winner of this year’s Prix Goncourt. It’s the story of this strange artist, Jed Martin, who finds massive success in the most serendipitous circumstances. The people he eventually meets include Michel Houellebecq, a degenerate depressive character who’s gruesomely assassinated; Olga, a sex-bomb/PR girl from Russia, Frederic Beigbeder, a coke-addicted celebrity writer who’s equally bitter and hyperactive.
As usual, Houellebecq offers a dark and incisive analysis of our corrupt, PR-savvy, vulgar world. While La Carte et le Territoire is not as powerful as the writer’s older books, it’s definitely an interesting insight into the art world and our times. If you want to be completely disillusioned and demoralized, read it.
Tomorrow the world’s first Nars boutique, designed by star art director Fabien Baron, opens officially.
The intimate Bleeker Street boutique holds the full Nars range and exclusives such as the Bleeker matte lipstick, a burnt red stain. Here you can play with everything with the makeup artists, protected from the hysterical action of malls. I’ve always been a fan of Baron’s sensual black casings for the brand (I remember stealing my mom’s almost-empty Nars eyeshadow palettes and getting the last bits with a Q-tip. I must’ve been 11). I also love the Orgasm blush and gloss (it’s true, you look like you’ve just spent the day doing it on a beach rather than bitching at the New York transit system). The makeup remover is epically efficient and the lipsticks – my fave is Senorita, a golden-peachy nude – are creamy and pigment-rich. For summer, there’s a Studio 54-inspired collection – I’m especially impatient to try on the copper nail polish, inspired by the disco divas and flashy decadence of the era.
Finally, there’s an inspiration wall with books, films, fresh flowers, and other pretty things that evoke the poetic world of François Nars – an adoptive New Yorker who lives in a hotel suite on Central Park South and enjoys long strolls in the Village on sunny days.