The darker side to celebrity


Steven Klein certainly comes across as a photographer who enjoys the darker side to life. Merging eroticism, celebrities and high fashion, Klein creates cinematically charged images with often controversial outcomes that have been used for campaigns with Alexander McQueen, D&G, Calvin Klein, and Tom Ford, as well as working with celebrities such as Madonna, Brad Pitt and Lady Gaga.

Now for the first time at CWC Gallery, Berlin, a selection of Klein’s body of work will be on show, along with the collaborative series with designer Tom Ford, “Valley of the Dolls”. 

Steven Klein
Until 8th September 2012




Looking for a touch of culture clash? That’s what’s on offer at the new Reseen: A Transformation of Visualisation project at the MADE space above Alexanderplatz (and just a few floors beneath the Sleek offices). In keeping with the space’s ethic of recombinant creativity – mash-up, in other words – it launches with an event on the evening of Thursday August 30 which brings together NYC-based photographer Jonathan Mannion with seven Berlin-based artists – Amine Bendriouich, Christian Awe, Conny Dreher, Ebon Heath, Good Wives and Warriors, Lukas Feireiss and Noelle.

The artists will recreate and reinterpret a selection of Mannion’s iconic photographs using their own ideas and inspirations, based on Mannion’s own personal input, anecdotes and stories behind each photograph. Through this dialogue, both sides will work together, venturing on a journey of art and storytelling.

But don’t worry if you’re busy – the exhibition opens to the public on Friday, August 3 from 4-10pm, and runs from  September 4-22, Tuesdays to Saturdays at the same times.

Check the trailer below for more inspiration:

Watch out for Stine Riis

Stine Riis, winner of the H&M Design Award 2012

28 year-old designer Stine Riis is the winner of H&M’s first fashion design contest. The Dane’s collection “Decadence & Decay” convinced the jury (including designer Christopher Kane and British journalist Hilary Alexander) with its clear cuts and interesting combinations of luxurious fabrics.

Starting this upcoming fall, 15 of her designs will be on sale at H&M, and along with a monetary prize of 50,000 Euro, Riis is a promising newcomer off to a good start. Sleek caught up with Stine in Berlin.

Sleek: What did you do before you studied fashion in London?
Stine Riis: I took a two-year course in design technology. It mixed the business side with technology and fashion. It’s good if you want to start your own business as you get an idea of running a fashion label. We learnt all the computer and PR skills we needed but after the degree I noticed that I really love to use my creative side so I decided to focus on that. That’s why I moved to London.

Did you like London?
I enjoyed London a lot. I still miss it. I came back to Copenhagen because my boyfriend still lives there and when you want to start your own brand it is easier to be at home. It’s cheaper to rent a studio there and I get support from my family. That’s really something you need when you work so many hours. I’d like to move back to London one day, but I think right now I’m trying to focus on Denmark and then I’ll see what happens.

When did you realize that fashion design was what you wanted to do?
At a very young age. From the age of three my mom let me decide on what to wear so that I wouldn’t put up a fight every morning. I watched a lot of fashion movies, bought magazines and always drew clothes. 

What was the process behind the collection that won the H&M award?
It was my graduate collection. I was thinking a lot about me as a new designer, coming into this industry and how I want to portray myself. I was looking at two artists: Robert Morris and Donald Judd. They focused on the materials they used. It should be an object for the viewer and not for the artist. So I tried to take that idea and put it into my collection by using good quality fabrics for example. It was really important that it was wearable and not just a crazy idea. I was looking at different materials that change over time like metals that go rusty. That’s where my color inspiration came from. But also I wanted to design something that could last more than just one season because I prefer to wear my clothes for years. I tried to do some sort of classic design but in a more modern way. I am always looking at men’s wear and tailoring. 

Would you want to do men’s wear?
At the beginning I thought I would design men’s wear. I applied at Central St. Martins but didn’t get in. I used a year to re-do my portfolio and realized that the female body is so much more interesting to work with. As a designer it’s good to have an idea how it feels to wear the clothes you design. It’s just so much easier to design that way. A lot of my garments are unisex. My jackets could easily be worn by men as well.

You use a lot of different fabrics…
I’m constantly collecting fabrics. I found some in Copenhagen and some in London. I would go to fabric stores once a week. It’s a constant development. When you are starting up you can’t just order from Italy because the quantities are too small. I just go around and look. Often I get my ideas from the fabrics, colours, combinations of colours and textures. Looking for fabrics is an ongoing inspiration trip.

Stine Riis, winner of the H&M Design Award 2012

Your designs combine the futuristic and the traditional. How do you do about doing that?
I always have something old and new in my inspiration. For the new collection I’m looking at John Chamberlain the artist. He did sculptures of old automobiles. They look like they stand still but are in motion. Then I’m looking at issues of Vogue Paris from the 1930s for jackets. It’s how I choose my inspirations. I’ve collected my own small library and folders of images.

Does being Danish go into your work as well? And if so, how? 
I definitely have a Scandinavian aesthetic.  It’s quite minimalist and always concerned with quality. But then living in London for three years has influenced me too. I remember when I thought how everything is so fake, ugly and dirty there. After a while I learnt to love it and now I love to mix the two. I find the contrast between the really polished and clean with the more gritty interesting. At the beginning I didn’t get the London aesthetic…why do people want to look so ugly? Then you learn to love it and now I think Danish people all look the same and all dress the same. I miss London’s versatility.

How did your participation with the H&M competition come about?
They emailed asking me if I want to participate in the first UK round. They were at my graduate show but at that point I had no idea about the award.

What would you have done if that hadn’t happened? 
I would have applied for jobs. I always wanted to start my own fashion label but I think that winning the award gave me the courage to just jump into it straight away. Meeting Christopher Kane and Hilary Alexander and them telling me that what I’m doing is quite good meant a lot and gave me the confidence to try and pursue a career of my own.

Interview by Grashina Gabelmann


Henrik Vibskov by Henrik Vibskov

The Mint Institute, Henrik Vibskov, AW09 collection, Copenhagen

You can’t pigeonhole a Renaissance man like the Dane Henrik Vibskov. He isn’t just a fashion designer but also a musician, stage designer and artist too. With collections like the AW 2009 “Human Laundry Service”, which saw Amish hat-wearing models powering human-sized hamster wheels, the designer takes clothes out of their utilitarian context and into the avant-garde. This book is the first comprehensive documentation of his decade-long career written and edited by Viskov himself, and offers the reader a front-row view into the inner workings of his brilliant mind. Its uniqueness becomes immediately apparent with a handwritten introduction letter, a short story based on Vibskov’s “universe” and a portrait. Its strength is its insightfulness, which is established through use of sketchbook images, moodboards and scanned emails.

The chapters aren’t chronologically ordered but divided instead in colours to explore Vibskov’s exceptional projects such as AW 2008’s “The Mint Institute”, which included an inflatable mint structure, mint drinks and mint clothes. Texts describing his projects are mostly written by Vibskov, and similarly offer an idea of his everyday life. This monograph successfully articulates Vibskov’s rejection of the fashion mainstream, providing a glimpse of how he manages to turn his fantastical ideas into equally fantastical reality. 

Available from Gestalten

Text by Grashina Gabelmann  

Wael Shawky at KW

Wael Shawky, "Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File", video, 2010. 31 minutes, still image, courtesy the artist

Winner of the Schering Foundation Art Award 2011, Wael Shawky’s first institutional survey at Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art is a great opportunity to get acquainted with the prolific young artist’s body of work.

The main hall at KW has been filled with 150 tons of sand for the installation surrounding the new video work, El Araba El Madfuna, named after a town built on the ancient Egyptian city of Abydos, home to the Osirion and Pharaohnic temple of Seti. In the deep of the night, muffled hammering and throbbing is heard all across the town, whose residents illegally burrow in the excavations under the moonlight, looking for archaeological finds. Driven entirely by financial needs and often without much knowledge of ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs, sorcerers are often counselled to predict where valuable founds can be made. The film is enacted by children, who, following the auguries of a prophet, discover a hole in the ground where they start digging. Shawky interweaves the town’s tale with a short story by Twentieth Century author Mohamed Mustagab; a surreal narrative about a holy man on his deathbed, his last words eagerly anticipated by the townsmen.

Shawky’s poetic video works are based on historic events, often told through perspectives relating to an Arab voice and staged with child actors, digital animation and marionettes. His epic trilogy Cabaret Crusades (on view in part here, and at dOCUMENTA 13) re-enacts the siege of Jerusalem in 1099 and the subsequent shifts in power in the region. Shawky interweaves myths, facts and fiction in his renderings, using elaborate music, text, costumes and clay puppets – all hand made by the artist and on view on the second floor at KW – to call forth a questioning of ossified views of history and expose belief-systems at the heart of contemporary historiography. With the current political unrest in the Middle East, a rethinking of the region’s past may be as relevant as never before.

Wael Shawky
Al Araba Al Madfuna
Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award 2011
August 26 until October 21, 2012


Robert Longo

Robert Longo. Photo © Belaid Le Mharchi

“To me this building looks like a city bank, you know, in the suburbs,” say the American artist Robert Longo of Berlin’s Capitain Petzel gallery, where his new exhibition “Stand” is being shown. “Or a BMW car dealership. I kept on thinking how the outside is the inside. You can’t avoid the outside, you know?”

You certainly can’t – at least or not since Longo got hold of it: by masking the gallery’s entire façade in an enormous black & white American flag he successfully managed to transform a once-bright and airy space into a darkened cocoon – the perfect setting for the dark drawings inside.

“Stand” is one of Capitain Petzel’s largest exhibitions to date, though Longo appeared calm and relaxed amid the preparation for what is also his first solo show in Berlin. It’s an ambition he’s held for years (Longo splits his time between Brooklyn and Charlottenburg, and is married to the the German actress Barbara Sukowa). “Berlin is just so relaxing compared to New York” he says, leaning back in his chair. “I come here and I wake up, pick up a paper, get a coffee, go to the Bio Markt and then I sit on my balcony.”

Rather than organic food and coffee, the themes of power, authority, and US politics have been central to his work since the Eighties when he produced a series of black-dyed American flags. That series was itself 10 years after his seminal “Men in Cities” work, which presented large-scale charcoal and graphite drawings of businessmen in contorted movement.

Even though his work often focuses relentlessly on American iconography, Berlin nevertheless played a formative role in how oeuvre, and that’s perhaps most visible in his drawing series, ”Peep Show of American Pornography” (also included in “Stand”), where Longo draws from his experiences of the Berlin peep shows of the 1980’s. “I remember the first time I came to Berlin, and I went to these porno places where you go look through the windows”. Those furtive memories fed into the 25 drawings of his “American Porno” series which includes realist documentary imagery of McDonalds, the Ku Klux Klan, Monster Trucks, Michael Jackson impersonators and Kim Kardashian.

It’s dissonant, provocative stuff, but that’s the point. “I’m not interested in collage, I’m not interested in pastiche, I am interested in collision,” he says, confident in knowledge that “Stand” would never see the light of day in his home country.

“No way,” he says. “It either wouldn’t be shown or it would be seen as preaching to the choir”. AB

Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf

Cathleen Naundorf, My Little Darling - Dior. Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

The painter has a brush, the sculptor a chisel, and the writer a pen. In the case of Cathleen Naundorf, the tool is a large-format Deadorff or Plaubel camera, both unusual instruments in the current practice of fashion photography, with which she creates some of the most striking images of couture – many so impressive as to appear like classical murals, or found images from a former and more glamourous era. Naundorf herself was born in 1968 in Weißenfels an der Saale in in Northern Germany (coincidentally the same hometown as Horst P. Horst), studied photography in Munich, and began her career as a backstage photographer for Paris shows in the mid-to-late Nineties. Since then she’s developed a unique technique of using the characteristic quirks of Polaroid – once again, an anachronistic technology, though hardly without its own warmth and charm – playing with shadow and light and developing a visual language entirely her own. This book represents a collection of six years of work with some of the world’s most celebrated haute couture designers, and includes exquisite pieces by Chanel, Dior, Gaultier, Lacroix, Elie Saab and Valentino, all framed in Naundorf’s unique vernacular. 

Available from Prestel 

Text by Ga-Young Park


Happy Days with Beckett

Robert Wilson in Krapp's Last Tape. Photo © Lucie Jansch

Nobel-prize laureate Samuel Beckett is being honored from the 23-27th August with Happy Days, the world’s first annual Beckett festival. Appropriately the festival will take place in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where Beckett lived and studied. 

The international, multi-disciplinary festival will, of course, present work of Beckett including world and UK premieres of his major and lesser known works, Beckett’s influences including music and comedy, work influenced by Beckett including Irish, UK and international writers, directors, actors, visual artists, musicians and comedians along with a range of events reflecting his favourite sports.

Happy Days founder and artistic director Sean Kelly has announced that works by Antony Gormley and Joseph Kosuth will also be on view: Gormley’s work, specially commissioned by Happy Days, will appear in a future Australian Aboriginal-Irish co-production of Waiting for Godot. A stainless steel Tree for Waiting for Godot, weathered outdoors in Ireland for 60 days, will be used for the stage production. Joseph Kosuth’s ‘Texts for Nothing – Enniskillen’ Samuel Beckett, in play, is a neon installation depicting two of Beckett’s writings. The work displays the parallel relationship to meaning both Beckett and Kosuth have.

 Text by Grashina Gabelmann



Deface Book

John Baldessari, Stonehenge (With Two Persons) Blue, 2005. Relief print on handmade paper. 73 x 81.3 cm. Edition of 60. Signed by the artist. © John Baldessari, 2012. Image courtesy of Meyerovich Gallery, San Francisco

Some modern artists are so obsessed with the human face that they can’t stop messing with it, imposing big pink dots, scrubbing out eyes, or sawing it off altogether. Is this art’s stand against facial identity? By Amy Binding

Last year the Dutch artist Willem Popelier made news after what started out as a routine visit to his local computer store turned into something more peculiar. The 29-year-old was in the midst of a long-term project entitled “Showroom”, which involved him collecting webcam photos of strangers he discovered on public computers. Cruising in a well-known computer showcase store, Popelier stumbled across almost a hundred shots and two movies of a pair of teenage young girls striking poses, blowing kisses and mugging up for the camera, famous for 15megabytes, but unaware that their images would ever be made public, let alone exhibited as art in a gallery in a big city. 

In an act that most people would perhaps have thought twice about, Popelier downloaded the photos, took them home, and superimposed large pink circles over the girls’ faces. The new images went on to form a strand of his project entitled “Showroom Girls”, and were exhibited in Amsterdam’s Foam museum in the summer of 2011. On his website, Popelier wrote that the webcam pictures where “made by true Digital Narcissists.” The American gossip website Gawker duly asked whether this “might be the creepiest project ever.”

But what, exactly, was Popelier doing? What did he intend by his altered images, and the brutal erasure of the girls’ faces? Was the project some comment on celebrity culture in the social media age, or was it about voyeurism, exhibitionism and the supposed self-obsession of contemporary youth? 

His spotty girls are only the latest and most eyecatching examplars of what happens when artists choose to create new images from the faces of unsuspecting subjects, real or imagined, current or historical, alive or dead. “Obliterism” you could call it: the act of altering, masking or just annihilating the face of a subject within the image, and as a consequence, the identity originally attached to it. 

Popelier’s most obvious antecedent – the godfather of the face-spotting – is John Baldessari. The American conceptual artist is often labeled as the pioneer of creating new identities and personas using found imagery and anonymous, unowned works, stripping them of their previous stories, and creating an entirely new image, often with only the use of an dot placed over the face. Baldessari believed that covering the faces with a sticker “took the power away from them in someway, they became more generic.”

Baldessari’s method of applying candy-coloured dots was radically simple, and so is Scottish artist and 1996 Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon’s. He applies a process of accelerated deterioration to his work (the effective opposite of Baldessari’s approach), in a sense extracting the subject’s identity through the face, rather than masking it. The burning, scratching and ripping of iconic images of superstars gives the celebrities in question a new identity; when you look at Gordon’s image of James Dean, you’re no longer able to think of James Dean, and see instead Gordon’s own intervention in the image: the obliteration itself becomes the focus of the work.

Alex N Stewart opens his studio

Alex N Stewart works with a wide range of media. Photo ©Andrew Shields

In Old Street, East London Sleek paid a visit to a studio shared by five artists, one of whom is Alex N Stewart. This is the first time Stewart has allowed others into his creative retreat, into “a space which reflects the state of [his] mind – a permanent state of chaos” as he describes it. Over the past two years Stewart has spent most of his time here, working best at night to produce an array of work whose “practice encompasses every state of being” – including sculpture, ball-point drawings, ink on canvas, wood carving and ceramic, all demonstrating the breadth of his talent that undergoes constant nourishment.  

What’s impressive about Stewart and his multi-facetted practice is his determination to challenge himself. The start-stop, stop-start process to his work allows him to think, re-think and develop alongside it. His inspiration primarily comes from the medium he uses, often materials that can be found in a nearby warehouse, on the tube or in the street. These objects and their serendipitous nature make up the basis for “a real experience and discovery” and in turn provide the impetus for a very talented artist.

When Sleek wanted to know why barely any of his work was documented on his website Stewart candidly replied: “documentation is a pain in the arse. When you document stuff you have to title it, categorise it, say when it was made, what you want to call it, you have to decide all of these things.” Hence, as an artist, the clichéd yet inescapable truth is that his work relies purely on his passion for his practice rather than on any ulterior motive.

A Bowie Feast of Film

Labyrinth, 1986. Courtesy of Bowiefest

“I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir,” claims David Bowie, the British legend of a musician, actor, producer and painter. He is a star, that’s for sure as his filmography that spans from outlandish cult classic Labyrinth to art biopic Basquiat and gloomy teenage movie Christiane F – Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo proves.

To celebrate the year of his 65th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the seminal album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars the ICA London is hosting the first ever UK film festival dedicated to the work of David Bowie. Known for his alter egos in his music he also knew no barriers in his wide range of film characters and the festival will celebrate this along with his cinematic influence with screenings, talks and Q&As.

The opening night (31.8) kicks of with a special screening of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars followed by late-night partying to the sounds of the legend’s expansive career. To coincide with Bowiefest, Culture Now introduces Tom Wilcox in conversation with Woody Woodmansey – drummer from Bowie’s legendary band the Spiders from Mars – a talk exploring the artistic process behind the creation of Ziggy Stardust and its cultural impact.

The schedule includes Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, what Bowie calls his “most credible performance”, Nic Roeg’s sci-fi classic The Man Who Fell to Earth with a director’s Q&A, neo-gothic horror flick The Hunger and the BBC Omnibus documentary Cracked Actor, which followed Bowie on his 1974 America tour. Afterwards a conversation between the movie’s director Alan Yentob and leading UK artist Jeremy Deller will wrap up the Bowiefest.

ICA London
August 31 – September 2 2012

Text by Grashina Gabelmann


Contemporary Horses 

 Admittedly, equestrian art is an unusual subject when it comes to curating an exhibition. The Contemporary Equine Art Fair (CEAF)  is the latest collaboration between The Horsebox Gallery – a mobile art enterprise that uses, yes, a horsebox to display as well as transport its art – and The Wandsworth Museum, successfully brings a host of globally sourced artists in front of both novices and experts of the equine world.  

As a member of the former group of individuals, it was the variety of both mediums and tone of work that was greatly appreciated. Ranging from sculpture, film, photography to life-size installations, the exhibition provided diverse visual material to ponder over. 

The tongue-in-cheek photography of Julian Wolkenstein who dressed up the majestic creatures to an extreme was highly enjoyable. A combination of natural horse hair, a bundle of hair extensions, general grooming tactics and dramatic lighting produced a comical and clever result which played upon the projections and relationships we humans bestow upon our beloved animals. Nick Archer’s Rodeo series was also particularly successful in capturing the movement of his subjects, with his choice of colour and use of oil on canvas providing an almost dream-like effect.

When in discussion with those of greater equestrian disposition, it was interesting to see things from a different perspective. One visitor explained how American artist’s Elena Dorfman’s video projection, ‘Pleasure Park’, was a particular favourite thanks to its representation of the traditional racing experience in the States. When compared to those of her own in England, she provided the conclusion, (not surprisingly) that the Americans are better at ‘putting on a show’.

The Wandworth Museum, The Horsebox Gallery 
15th Aug – 2nd Sept, 2012








The New Tattoo

Page from Forever - The New Tattoo. Photos © Maxime Ballesteros

 At last, a contemporary tattoo book has emerged that isn’t stuck on Sailor Jerry and Japanese Koi. “Forever – The New Tattoo”, published by Gestalten and available from August 2012, investigates the development of the tattoo as a sub-culture to where it stands currently, as a mainstream art form. Looking at the relation between the new tattoo scene, with artists such as Thomas Hooper, Jondix, Xed LeHead, Liam Sparkes and Jonas Nyberg leading the way, the book casts light on a section of tattooing that is predominantly left untouched; the tattoo inside the realms of contemporary art and high fashion.

As well as hosting interviews with some of the world’s leading tattoo artists, “Forever – The New Tattoo” also boasts an impressive visual section, showing the obvious ties between the new tattoo scene and the art and fashion world. In addition to the photographs of art on skin, the book also presents photography by Berlin’s own Maxime Ballesteros along with other fashion and art photographers, and owner and performance artist, Jon John, from the AKA gallery and tattoo studio in Neukölln.

“Forever – The New Tattoo” is available August 2012.
Published by Gestalten