Paris exhibitions (Jan 2012)

Thierry Mouillé's "Brass Space, Pavillon 1" at Espace culturel Louis Vuitton


If I have to choose three cities that offer the most inspiring, original and diverse art/ design/ photography exhibitions, they would be Berlin, Paris and Tokyo (in no particular order), followed by either London or New York. London is not on my top three because I feel that art in London has become too commercial and conversative. Museums and galleries have gone for the big names, hosting big blockbuster shows to lure people in ( think Tate Modern). There is nothing wrong with these retrospectives but it seems that they have opted for safer options. Although galleries like Saatchi, Hayward and White Cube offer alternatives and support emerging artists, the overall scene is just not as exciting as the other three cities.

Exhibitions in Paris, seems to get better and more interesting esp. when it comes to contemporary art and photography. I am always discovering new galleries and small quirky museums that are off tourists’ radar… it is so much more fun than shopping. Due to the limited time, I had to plan my time carefully beforehand and even pre-booked online ( since it was the last day) for the two exhibitions at Grand Palais: “Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso… The Stein family” and “Of toys and men“.

Sometimes I try to stay away from the big blockbuster shows unless I really like the artists ( since it’s almost impossible to get to the art work when the rooms are crowded), but I was curious to see Stein family’s huge collection of master pieces. I was glad that I had pre-booked the tickets because even ticket holders had to wait about 15 mins before being let in!

As expected, the show was packed but it was definitely worth it. It is hard to believe that a family could have owned such a huge and amazing collection by so many famous names. With Picasso, I have always preferred his blue period than his later work and so the exhibition’s collection made me quite happy. What also took my interest was the house that they once lived, known as Villa Stein/ Villa Garches, built by Le Corbusier in 1927. I would love to visit the villa if I have a chance in the future.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Palais, the exhibition on toys was quieter but tremendously interesting too, with an excellent curation. The show exhibited a thousand toys from Antiquity to the present day, (which reminded me of Victoria & Alberts childhood museum in Bethnal Green) and it explored how our society changed over the years reflected through the evolution of toys. There were interesting questions being asked: i.e. ‘Should children play with war toys?’, but the highlight came at the very end when the ending of ‘Citizen Kane‘ was being shown on top of a pile of burnt toys… what a cool way to end the exhibition! Like in the film, it seems that no matter how old we are, our childhood memories affect us a lot more than we consciously know/want to admit!

One of my trip’s surprises was the exhibition “Anicroches – Variations, Choral et Fugue” at Louis Vuitton‘s Espace Culturel ( until 19 Feb), which explores the relationship between sound and sight. While the Chinese tourists and fashionistas flock into the store next door, the entrance to l’espace is a lot more discreet and understated. After a long wait in the lobby, we were led into a pitch-black “sensory-deprivation” lift which brought us to the top floor. Installations by different artists enable visitors to explore and experiment, making the whole experience interactive and fun. The free exhibition catalogues include a cute paper one with lots of illustrations and a hardback A4 booklet with info on the artists and photos of the installations ( this puts other museums in shame when they charge for low quality staple binded catalogues!). If you haven’t been to this espace/ exhibition, I highly recommend it, and to top it up, there is also a wondeful 360 degree view of Paris and all free of charge!

Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton – 60, rue de Bassano, 75008


Stéphane Vigny's "Sans Titre"


Christina Kubisch's "Cercles magnétiques"

Photography is one of my interests and I think photography is valued more highly in Paris than anywhere in the world. One of my favourite photographic galleries is Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Marais, which regularly shows excellent photographic exhibitions. There are several exhibitions showing at the moment: Eloge de Vertige: photographys from the Itau collection, Brazil , Youssef Nabil, Dominique Issermann, Götz Göppert, William Ropp (all until 25th March). The highlight is Itau’s collection of Brazilian experimental photography spanning over 60 years’ time, featuring names such as Geraldo de Barros, Claudia Andujar and Miguel Rio Branco.

Youssef Nabil‘s distinctive work is also very interesting with many self-portraits about death, portraits of models inspired by old Egyptian classic films as well as close-ups of Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Tracey Emin and even David Lynch!

Maison Européenne de la Photographie – 5/7 rue de Fourcy, 75004 ( Free entry on Wednesdays 5-8 pm)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to another of my favourite, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in the 14th district to see the exhibition on ‘Mathematics‘ ( perhaps another trip is needed!), but I was glad that I saw the stunning ‘Goudemalion. Jean-Paul Goude une rétrospective‘ at Musée des Arts Décoratifs .

To be continued…



Maison et objet (Jan 2012)

It was a last minute decision to go to Maison et objet in Paris (one of the largest trade shows in the world) because I am not very fond of attending trade shows. I have visited the show as well as Ambiente in Frankfurt a few years ago, but I didn’t enjoy the experiences very much. I often find it mentally and physically exhausting, and it’s no fun to be surrounded by aggressive buyers from all over the world!

The best way to save time and energy is to plan ahead and prioritise; however, no matter how well the strategy is, getting lost and losing track is still unavoidable! I came for the last 2 days of the show and managed to spend 5 hours in only three of the halls on the first day! But since they were my priority, I was able to wander at a more ‘leisurely’ pace on the second day.

The odd thing about these shows is that sometimes you feel like you are in a gigantic department store/ shopping mall (US size) and yet you cannot buy anything for yourself. With so many brands exhibiting there, a lot of money and time is spent on booth display in order to stand out in the crowd.

Here are some creative and beautiful displays (including ‘camouflaged’ female models performing in front of large wall of marbles):

While there are many different halls and themes, I concentrated mainly on the design and home accessories sections and saw many interesting products and names that I have never come across before. Unexpectedly, I placed an order for the first time at a trade show because the supplier have what I have been looking, so I guess my trip has paid off after all…


Click here to see more photos on my Facebook page…






Clams & linguine alle vongole

Unlike most people, I am not a huge fan of pasta and I don’t particularly like pasta with tomato-based sauces. My favourite pasta dish is linguine alle vongole, which is simple, easy and quick to cook but taste delicious.

Since I embarked on a ‘meatless’ home diet last year, I have been experimenting on many vegetarian dishes ( esp. recipes from ‘Plenty’ by Yotam Ottolenghi). As much as I want to become a vegetarian, I find it hard to quit seafood because like Rick Stein, I just love it too much!

I never understand why seafood is not appreciated as much here in England, it is an island afterall, so we should be getting affordable and fresh seafood at all times! Yet in reality, most of the catches from the U.K. are exported (for higher profits) to other countries and with higher demands, so we are left with limited choices and average quality seafood in supermarkets.

Apart from fishmongers (usually quite pricey), local markets are also good places to buy fresh and affordable seafood. Although I find Borough market quite overpriced and touristy ( try going there in on Thursdays/ Fridays), my mouth watered when I saw fresh clams at one of the fish stalls there as they reminded me of linguine alle vongole, a dish that I haven’t made for quite a while.

The ingredients for it are simple: clams, linguine, olive oil, chilli, garlic (lots of it), white wine and fresh parsley. The most important thing is not to overcook it and to clean the clams properly, i.e. scrubbing them first before soaking them in salted water for about an hour or more. I have had this dish in an upmarket Italian restaurant in Mayfair where sand was among the ingredients, not exactly a pleasant experience!

The next day, with the leftover (uncooked) clams, I made a sake-steamed clams, along with the teriyaki salmon that I marinated overnight… yum…

Nobody needs to be a Masterchef to enjoy some comforting home cooking!


‘Building the revolution’ exhibition & House on the embankment

Visiting the exhibition, ‘Building the revolution: Soviet art and architecture 1915-1935‘ at the Royal Academy of Art turned out to be quite an emotional experience especially when I saw photographs of where I used to live in Moscow. It brought back many memories but not all good ones.

Due to certain circumstances, I spent one year living in Moscow (the modern one) and it turned out to be the lowest point of my life. Perhaps if I had wanted to live there, I could have had a better time, but that wasn’t the case. Walking around the exhibition and seeing beautiful photographs of Soviet architecture taken by Richard Pare, I felt slightly gutted that I never fully explored the city when I lived there.

I have always been intrigued by the several art movements (like Art Deco, Bauhaus, Constructivism and Modernism) that started before the Second World War, so I was glad to see Modernist architecture by Le Corbusier and Walter Groupius, as well as drawings by Constructivism artists like Liubov Popova and El Lissitzky. The work reminded me of the outstanding ‘Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivsm‘ exhibition at Tate Modern two years. Though the highlight of the exhibition has to be the reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin‘s unrealised ‘Monument to the Third International’ by Jeremy Dixon which dominates the centre of the courtyard.

The exhibition ends on 22nd January, and even if you are not interested in it, it is worth checking out Tatlin’s Tower in the courtyard.

The famous VTsIK Residential Complex (1928-31), designed by Boris Lofan (also known as ‘House on the embankment’ or locally as the ‘Mercedes building’ because of the Mercedes logo on the roof) was where I used to reside in Moscow. The huge Constructivist style housing complex situated on a a tiny island/ swamp next to the river opposite the Kremlin was where Stalin’s top-ranking officials and scientists used to live. This complex hid a dark and mysterious history that I shall not go into now but there is plenty of  information online if you are really curious. I used to a bit sceptical of feng shui or negative energy, but my view definitely changed after having lived in this building!

Despite the dark secrets, the initial ‘all-in-one’ concept of the complex was quite ground-breaking at the time because it was the forerunner of of the luxury apartment lifestyle that we are so used to today. Apart from the luxurious interior fittings (with gas cooker, private telephone lines, central heating and hot running water), the complex had laundry services, department store, library, gym, childcare centre, post office, theatre, and bank. This was not only rare in Russia but also in Europe during that period. Nowadays, the complex still has a theatre, post office, bank, restaurant, supermarket, museum (which I have never been to) and a tennis court that I have never been able to find!

My ex residence was also featured in a documentary called ‘Lost Worlds: Stalin’s Supercity’ (I just realised that it is available to buy on Amazon for $22!), where they used it to reconstruct the horror/ events that went on inside the building during the Stalin days. The filming lasted a few days and I managed to chat to the director and historian who showed me where the ‘secret passage/ door’ used to be (now behind a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms)!

If you have seen the photos of the complex’s exterior at the exhibition or have visited the complex on a trip to Moscow, then you might be interested in seeing the interior of a modern day apartment (filled mostly with Ikea furniture):

The bathroom in the apartment was bigger than my bedroom in London and its jacuzzi could fit about 4 people (not that I have tried it in real life):

View of the courtyard in different seasons:


A different window view of Peter the Great statue in the distance:




Apart from essentials, I rarely shop for fashion items these days. As someone who used to work in fashion and a shopaholic, I accumulated so much ‘stuff’ over the years that I simply ran out of room(s) to fit them all.

Then one day, I decided to sell all my unworn and barely-used fashion items on ebay and it really changed my life. Not only did I discover the joy of selling but also the joy of consuming less.

Nowadays, I would buy my fashion essentials from Uniqlo, Muji or Cos, though occasionally would treat myself to something special… mostly during the sales period. Since I discovered F-Troupe two years ago, an independent British brand for footwear, I couldn’t resist the temptation and have bought a few pairs of shoes from them ( great bargains during the sales). I like their designs because they are quirky, playful, original with British historical and functional influences. In their A/W 2011 collection, they launched a Harris Tweed collection of shoes and boots called “Glorious 12th” that are hand woven from pure virgin wool in Scotland.



I love their website, their fun shoe boxes as well as their store that looks more like a curiosity shop near Carnaby Street! These days, it’s not easy to find fashion brands that have strong identities and are not heavily influenced by trends, and F-Troupe stands out because they are not trend-followers.

Last week, I saw these patent leather burgundy boots in their store and just fell for them, not sure how practical they are but I just couldn’t resist…

Sales are still on in store and online:

33 Marshall Street, London, W1F 7EX


Forgotten spaces & William Morris exhibitions

William Morris – Story, memory, myth @ Two Temple Place (until 29th January)

It has been many years since I went to a William Morris exhibition, so I was quite looking forward to this. I had never heard of Two Temple Place before, as it turned out this neo-Gothic mansion was not opened to the public until this exhibition. Another surprise is that it was built by the wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor (the owner of Waldorf Astoria hotels), who wanted to create a mini-Tudor mansion for himself in 1895.

The exhibition focuses on ancient myths and tales that inspired and influenced Morris throughout his career. Besides his signature floral wallpaper, there are embroideries,  taperstries, prints, tiles, stained glass, and illustrations (I particularly like his fairy tales illustrations). I think the opulant setting is perfect for this exhibition, my only regret is that I forgot to bring a proper camera (though no photography is allowed at the exhibition) and so I wasn’t able to capture the exquiste architecture of the interior.

The exhibition is free of charge and will end in a few weeks, it is definitely worth seeing just for the mansion alone!

Forgotten spaces @ Somerset House (until 29th January)

At the nearby Somerset House, there is a very different but equally intriguing exhibition: Forgotten spaces. Launched earlier in the year, Forgotten spaces was a design competition aimed at regenerating neglected areas in London (very much needed). Architects, artists, designers and local groups (including Annie Lennox) were asked to take part in the project.

Apart from the imaginative proposals, the highlight of the exhibition is the space itself. Instead of displaying in the usual exhibiting space, the hidden passage underneath the courtyard known as the ‘Deadhouse’ is used. Wandering in and out of the small cells made me feel like I was in a maze and I had no idea what to expect until I reached the passage.

Apart from the winning project, (IN)Spires, I also like Fagin’s Den ( would work in an ideal world but not sure about London) and Social Behaviour ( love the unconventional idea and quirky installation). See below:

Social Behaviour by Denizen Works (Hoxton)

Armed with a drawing of a simple bee-house fantasy and list of instructions, participants are invited to construct accommodation for homeless bees in unused gaps of land between buildings and boundary walls anywhere in central London.


(IN)Spires by Alex Scott-Whitby (The City of London)

A live project creating a series of low rent creative studios for a new generation of St Jerome’s nesting within the belfries of the City of London’s Church Spires.


Fagin’s Den by Dean Walker, Geraldine Ng and Liksan Chan (St Saviour’s Dock, SE1)

Fagin’s Den, St Saviour’s Dock, dams the Thames inlet to form an amphitheatre and beach. A canopy mimics the surface of the forgotten River Neckinger. Shelter by day, cinema by night.


Although there are many creative ideas, I wonder how many of them are feasible in reality and can regenerate the areas and help the local communities? Besides, with all the fundings being cut by the government, where will the money be coming from? These are probably the key questions that we should address.

For information on the competition and entries, please click here.






Fernandez & Wells

Coincidentally, I happened to be at two different Fernandez & Wells branches within a week. I have always like their Soho branch, it’s small, casual and I particularly like the fact that it’s hidden away off the main street. Besides, apart from maybe Lisboa Patisserie on Goldborne Road, their Portuguese custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata) are probably the best I have tasted in London. The pastry is crispy, non-greasy and the custard is not too sweet.

After my friend and I visited the exhibitions at Somerset House, we decided to try their new branch, which is much bigger and has wider choices. I liked the simple decor, the airy space and laid-back atmosphere.

We shared a few tapas dishes, had some wine and followed by Portuguese custard tarts and chai ( nice to see it on the menu). We spent quite a few hours there, and since it wasn’t busy, at times, we felt like we had the place to ourselves! The staff were very friendly and helpful and so overall, it was a very pleasant experience and I definitely will be back soon.

A new day, a new year, a new beginning


How should one spend the first day of the year? While most people were either traveling or resting at home, I decided to go to a meditation session to reflect on the past year.

Part of the session included a group walking meditation, which involved all of us walking backwards in a circle and reflecting back month by month. It was interesting to recall all the events that happened over the past year in a reverse chronicle order. To my surprise, I was able to remember more than I imagined and it felt somewhat comforting.

And then there was the resolution part… I have never made New Year’s resolutions until two years ago. I don’t make unachievable resolutions, mine are more like practical plans i.e. to find a better balance between work and life in 2012. I know this is achievable, as it just requires me to be more mindful, so I am quite hopeful that I can make it happen.

Most of us who live in the major developed cities are always in action mode: thinking, analysing, doing, making, absorbing, multitasking and achieving; perhaps we need to slow down and do less sometimes. My ‘home retreat’ week has made me realise that slowing down is the best way forward. Suddenly looking at my ‘to do list’, I don’t feel stressed out anymore and I hope that I will be able to maintain this mental state throughout the year!!