El Anatsui in the Haus der Kunst – “Triumphant Scale”

El Anatsui (*1944) is a Ghanaian artist who has worked for most of his life in Nigeria. The youngest of 32 children, he lost his mother early on and was forever searching for something that had “more relationship to me”.

By pure coincidence, he once found a bag full of bottle tops and took them home, where they were forgotten for a while. When he found them again, he cut the caps into different pieces, formed them and joined the pieces with copper wire. Why expensive copper wire? According to El Anatsui, copper has been part of man’s culture for all times, used to make bronze, weapons, pots and pans, and so forth, making copper mine owners rather rich.

The hangings made of metal and plastic caps weigh very much. They are held up by steel wires and beams, nails and in the case of “waves”, the hanging is buoyed up by rabbit wire which the artist went off to buy himself in a hardware shop.

The “curtains” of Liligo Logorithm form a kind of labyrinth, some overlap and form an opaque layer, some have ornamental insets, some are open and airy.

The black and white prints titled “Cassava” are the 3D prints of the cassava fruit graters. Oil canisters are cut into pieces, holes are punched into the metal and then enlarged to make a grater for the fleshy part of this seed fruit, also known as manioc. Manioc is a staple food in Ghana. The whiter print is a photo of the cuts and grooves of the working table.

The hangings in black-red-gold are an hommage to Germany. The big red one is called the “Red Block” and the black one the “Black Box”. Most caps are from alcohol bottles and it is quite intentional that the large red caps are “The Lords” and farther up the caps are tinier.

On one photo (9) you can see the “Tiled Garden”, a series of square white “tiles” surrounded by round floral designs in green and red and the stump of a “tree”. The golden hill (bottom row right) is titled “Yams’ hill” to imitate the real hills that yams are grown in, a staple food in Ghana.

His works in wood symbolize traditional plates or indicated the need to save the trees and not waste wood.

Meanwhile El Anatsui employs many people to help him prepare his works of art, some of which take half a dozen years to finish. Each and every exhibition is unique since the buildings, the wall paint, the hanging and the “waves” are always different. Should you have the opportunity, do go to see the originals, photos are not half as good!

Painting with the ground we stand on

Should you live in or be visiting Munich, don’t miss out on the show of paintings next weekend, with Sunday brunch. Trisha Kanellopoulos has experimented with different styles and for some years has experimented with different colored soils which she collects wherever she goes.

In the end, my main goal is always striving for the ultimate color and the perfect surface”

Trisha Kanellopoulos

Studio: Hellabrunner Str. 30

81543 München

info@trisha-k.net

http://www.trisha-k.net

The Samurai Exposition

A number of most beautiful and costly Japanese Samurai artefacts are on show in the Hypo Kulturhalle, Theatinerstraße, Munich through June 2019 and will then tour to other places. The pieces are on loan from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum in Dallas, Texas.

Japanese society was organized in castes, in the Tokugawa period, the general shogun was at the top, then came the nobility, the daimyo, or regional lords with at least 10,000 koku income. One koku was 180 l of rice, enough to feed one person for one year. Daimyo showed off their wealth by building castles. In order to control the approx. 260 daimyo, the shogun obliged them to come to Edo at Himeji castle every two years and leave their wives and children as hostages. On the other hand, the lords were also able to parade their fantastic armor made of leather and metal plates, silk threads and unique decorations.

This armor should have been a model for European suits of armor, as they weighed much less. The sizes could be adjusted from father to son by snipping through the threads of one row and adding or taking out rows of plates. The threads, laces and leather parts also ensured flexibility of movement: soldiers were no longer encased in a hard shell that could not be removed in case of injury.

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Boots were soled with removable straw soles, every soldier bushi had an extra pair. Swords were short and of the very best steel, folded over innumerable times. Some swords are worth two to three hundred thousand euros meanwhile. The samurai would start by putting on his undergarments, his arm guards, the various pieces of armor, and finally his coat, his boots and his helmet. Bushido means “the way of the soldier”, his fighter’s ethics.

Horses were small, as they had to be imported from the north. Stirrups were often decorated with monkeys and goats, animals that were kept in the stables to keep the horses moving to prevent any hoof ailments. The Japanese loved bear fur on their helmets, yet had to import such goods from the north as well, so traders would sell them all sorts of fur as long as the imitation looked like the real thing.

Symbols are interpreted differently from country to country. Whereas Germans believe that rabbits are easily frightened, in Japan they are considered intelligent beings. To us an aubergine or eggplant is simply a vegetable, to the Japanese they bring you good luck. Thus such symbols were often used creating the unique helmets, with antlers, horns, devils’ faces, ears and sweatbands, a long nose (with a hinge to breathe), crests and crescents, etc.

In the Japanese caste system, the shogun was the highest ranking person, then came the 260 daimyo, then the peasants and all the way at the bottom, the tradesmen. During the 240 years of peace in the Edo period, the warriors were retrained as civil servants and tax collectors. Many of the suits of armor collected by the Muellers were never worn in battle. Some date back to the 13th century and are still here for us to look at and admire.

Museum Brandhorst in Munich

Should you ever happen to be in the lovely city of Munich, capital of Bavaria, you should not miss out on visiting several of the fantastic museums there. Most of them are concentrated in the area Schwabing and the Königsplatz, there is a special Museum-Bus no. 100 running from the Train Station East (Ostbahnhof) to the Main Train Station. Nearby you will find the three Pinakotheken, the Mineral and the Egyptian Museum, a bit further on the Glyptothek, the Staatliche Antikensammlung and the Lenbach-Haus

The Collection Brandhorst in the Theresienstrasse specializes in modern art, currently showing oeuvres by Alex Katz and many others, such as Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, Laura Owens et alia. The entire upper level is dedicated to Cy Twombly.

Admission fee is €7 for adults. The locker room and restrooms are airy and pleasant downstairs from the information desk. The snack restaurant cooks excellent soups and salads, closed on Sundays. Sundays the admission fee is only €1. All museums offer audioguides for enhanced analysis of the works on display. Don’t miss out!

Uruguay, Colonia and Punta del Este

Our cruise liner left Buenos Aires and headed for Uruguay to the east. We had decided not to take the tour through Montevideo, but rather visit the oldest settlement of Uruguay since 1680, Colonia del Sacramento, World Heritage site of the UNESCO, with a quick peek at the capital.

The tiny town was built as a fortified outlook at the Río de la Plata. It seems to have had a different Spanish or Portuguese governor every 10 to 25 years, depending on who won the last altercation.

After a pleasant walk past the low stone buildings and cobbled streets of Colonia’s center and some glimpses of Montevideo through the windows of the bus, we continued to the small town of Punta del Este with its “wild” Atlantic beach Playa Brava and its “mild” Río de la Plata beach Playa Mansa. The tourists simply love “The Hand”, “La Mano” or “Los Dedos” (fingers) poking out of a mound at the top of the beach by a Chilean artist. We then drove out to the Museo Ralli, of which there are several worldwide. The one in Punta del Este has quite a few lesser known works of Salvador Dalí and many others, drawings and sculptures in nice sunny courtyards. We could also visit the outdoor sculpture garden by a lake where some sculptures are being chiseled while you watch, also a venue for art lovers’ meetings.

We finished the day at the delightful restaurant de Narbona, chatting, eating, looking out over the vineyards and shopping delicacies.

Elba and Napoleon’s 300 days

Elba is a rather small but beautiful emerald-wooded island with beaches varying from pebbles to fine golden sand, but always with clear blue-turquoise waters. We stayed at the Biodola Beach at a fine hotel with great facilities such as 2 snack bars, an ATM outside the parking lot, a smooth-running AC and exquisite cuisine with four courses to choose from and a salad bar. Parasol pines and giant agave plants dot the landscape.

Napoleon, upon being pressed to give up his power came to this small island of Elba in 1814. Within days of his arrival he invited all higher officers and set about reorganizing the marines and rebuilding the town of Portoferraio (lit. port of iron). He had sewer canals dug to keep the water off the streets, he had the little military house dei Mulini (lit. of the mills) rebuilt for himself, he suggested improvements for the entire population of Elba, restless as he was.

One edifice Napoleon did not have to rebuild was the Forte Falcone at the north end of Portoferraio, near the Villa dei Mulini.

Every once in a while Napoleon would seek refuge in a mountain recluse Madonna del Monte where he spent two days with his Polish lover Maria Walewska Laczynska in September, and prayed and talked to his mother who at times joined him there.

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Canova’s statue

Later, Napoleon fell in love with a villa in the valley San Martino that commands a fine view all the way to Portoferraio. He asked his sister Paolina if she could lend him the money. She obligingly sold some jewels and it is said she was the model for Canova’s statue in this wonderful palace. He had it renovated, decorated with his initial and heraldic signs of the Elban bee, and installed a bath that could be accessed by a trap door to the floor below. Next to the bath are a further room and the kitchen.

The husband of his niece Davidoff enlarged the two-storied villa by a large gallery of paintings on the ground level.

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Napoleon’s Villa San Martino

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note the heraldic eagle and the Elban bees

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the hatch that leads from the bedroom to the bath on the ground floor

The so-called Egyptian room is decorated following Napoleon’s campaign there and the publication of two tomes on Egypt. In the middle of the room is a small tub in black and white tiling like the rest of the room. Hieroglyphs are painted on the walls and one table has Egyptian symbols.

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“The Egyptian room”

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view from the Egyptian room to the love-knot room

Another room is known as the room with the “love knot”, a ribbon held up by two doves on the ceiling to symbolize Napoleon’s love for his wife, Maria Luisa, who did not join him on Elba.

D

uring one’s visit, you will also see a turn-of-the-century greenhouse with its panes and heating fully intact, built for the owner of this lovely mansion many years later. Some of the ceiling windows are reminiscent of Gaudí’s constructions.

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turn-of-the-century greenhouse behind the villa

One thing is for sure: the view through the valley to Portoferraio is superb, you will not want to miss it.

In the end, after long preparations to supply a ship, Napoleon decided to leave the island and its inhabitants in February 1815, albeit protesting he loved them very much. The aftermath, the disastrous Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s exile to St. Helen in the middle of the Atlantic, are well-known.

One day in Ravenna

We stopped over in Ravenna on the way down to the ferry port in Piombino. It was worth every minute. I had not realized how many mosaics and works of art and lovely churches there are and many are on the UNESCO world heritage site list.

 

In the center of the old town there is the Piazza del Populo with restaurants, gelaterias and the town hall. We stayed at the quaint Palazzo Galletti Abbiosi, renovated from the 18th century, with tiny rooms yet a lot of ambiance and a decent breakfast. You buy a combined ticket for 5 UNESCO buildings that are worth visiting.

We enjoyed the mosaics museum as well which even offers a reduction in certain restaurants. Yet what was interesting were the examples from different areas and epochs, some modern mosaics are truly amazing.

Don’t forget to visit Dante Alighieri’s tomb. He wrote the Divina Commedia and spent his exile in Ravenna. The theater is named after him and there are many plays, as well as summer concerts in June through August.

One of the best places to sample regional food and wine is the enoteca or wine house Ca’de Vèn in the pedestrian zone, following the suggestion of the young lady in our Palazzo. They have all sorts of fancy food, but they recommend piadine, simple sandwiches with Parma ham and a soft white cheese not quite like mozzarella. The wine is very full-bodied and aromatic.

For other meals we can strongly recommend the Osteris Piatto Forte in the Via del Ariani, 10, right in the courtyard with one of the tinier UNESCO buildings that is unadorned on the walls but has a beautiful mosaic ceiling.

Do take the time and enjoy this wonderful town!