Perhaps few people in Italy are familiar with Strand Book Store, one of New York City’s most famous and beloved bookstores, located near the quaint Union Square. One of the bookstore’s hallmarks are its tote bags with the highly recognizable and iconic red logo, and it is Strand’s book tote bags that are the subject of Bottega Veneta‘s latest collaboration.
Strand’s canvas tote is a classic, extremely functional and simple, it also represents a status that I would call proletarian, but with all the limitations.
The Italian fashion house has revisited this symbol of the Big Apple and the Strand by making three upscale renditions of the New York bookstore tote, using the finest leather and, of course, putting the bookstore’s logo on full display.
Bottega Veneta’s new creative director Matthieu Blazy, in addition to being a frequent visitor to Strand on his trips to New York City, to push the collaboration even further commissioned The New Yorker to produce five cartoons – the New Yorker‘s cartoons are among America’s most famous – created by illustrator and cartoonist Jeremy Nguyen, celebrating the unexpected partnership.
UNIQLO will launch the new UTt-shirt collection in collaboration with KAWS, along with an art book published by Phaidon, on September 7th in UNIQLO stores worldwide. This collaboration aims to celebrate the artist’s iconic characters – COMPANION and BFF – printed on unisex t-shirts and sweatshirts for both adults and children. Additionally, there will be a series of limited-edition gifts for those who purchase the art book and the collection. In short, this collection is designed for fans of KAWS’ work, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, and he expressed his excitement about this project, saying, «I am delighted to exclusively launch my new Phaidon Contemporary Artist Series book with my long-time partner, Uniqlo.»
In total, there will be five pieces in this collaboration, including three t-shirts and two sweatshirts, available in both white and black. These pieces are as simple as they are charming, catering to those who appreciate the distinctive aesthetics that characterize the works of this New York-based artist, who has built a successful career through the irreverence and humor of his characters. In essence, this is one of the many collaborations that add a touch of creativity to UNIQLO’s classic t-shirts.
You can find all the information about the launch and giveaways on the UNIQLO website.
The influence of artificial intelligence in the art world is often discussed, a topic that takes a vacillating and controversial stance in many cases. Like us, many others are wondering what the presence of AI in the artistic field entails. Whether it affects human creativity in a negative way or whether it can have the power to become a true medium. This time it is the Villa Reale in Monza that is hosting an exhibition that poses these questions. The genAI project, conceived by Francesco Stranieri and curated by Vittoria Mascellaro, opened on 1 September with an exhibition entitled ‘The Rights from Future Generations – A perspective on (A)rt and (I)nnovation‘, which will remain open until the end of the month.
The project compares works created without the support of AI with works created thanks to Artificial Intelligence. The intention is to explore and discuss the ethical questions surrounding the use of this medium. The focus is particularly on the effects that AI is having on the new generations of artists and thus on the future of contemporary art. In this sense, the first part of the exhibition is dedicated to the newest generations. In fact, a committee of experts has selected the works of young artists from higher education institutions, creating a dialogue with more established artists, who are exhibited in the second part of the path.
Francesco D’Isa, Roberto Fassone and Andrea Meregalli are the protagonists of this second section. Looking at the works, it is clear how AI is an integral part of their artistic research, but it is necessary to delve deeper to understand its use. Through the analysis of the works on display and their creative process, it emerges how AI becomes a real medium without replacing creativity and genius.
In the case of Francesco D’Isa, the focus is on error. His artistic production makes use of Midjourney and/or Stable Diffusion, two text-to-image software. In the series presented in Monza – entitled ‘Errori‘ – D’Isa emphasises the margin of error of a medium that is not yet fully honed and chooses to make this very aspect the protagonist. “The works are the result of mistaken prompts, i.e. constructed in such a way as to give rise to unforeseen, unexpected images, in distant areas of the latent space of the AI.” – says Francesco – “For many people, these bugs are, in fact, mistakes. But proving that the human creative act is fundamentally a choice and in it resides the only necessary condition of making art, here are the mistakes that become the final result.”
Roberto Fassone presents ‘And we thought‘, a project exploring the concept of authorship in art, using an artificial intelligence called Ai Lai, developed by the artist himself and Sineglossa, capable of describing psychedelic experiences. During its first months of existence, it produced numerous accounts of visions under the effect of hallucinogenic mushrooms, including images of fragmented brains, friends with blue eyes, aliens in wardrobes and the invention of the rainbow. The aim is to challenge traditional conceptions of authorship in art, asking ‘can an artificial intelligence generate art, through powerful and poetic visions, or is it the human being who is the author, having designed the artificial intelligence? Or is it a collective process, of which the artist is merely the medium?“
At the end, Andrea Meregalli, an artist and architect accustomed to using mediums such as acrylics, oils and enamels, proposes a project on canvas resulting from his research with AI. His focus on new technologies has led him to experiment with artificial intelligence software from the very beginning. Starting from his sketches, photographs and drawings, Meregalli writes prompts with the aim of obtaining the most unexpected result possible, to create “works that oscillate between randomness and maniacal control.“
When one lays eyes on a painting by Bahati Simoens, one is immediately drawn into a world that defies convention. Her art is a hypnotic dance of dark shadows, soft colours and gracefully disproportionate bodies, in which each figure is perfectly connected to its surroundings. Beyond aesthetic appeal, Simoens’ work carries a profound message of inclusivity, a celebration of the black body and a challenge to the status quo. Bahati Simoens’ art is a powerful vehicle for addressing racial inequalities and her paintings also incorporate elements of activism.
Bahati Simoens was born in Munanira, Burundi, but experienced a major cultural change when her family moved to Belgium during her childhood. The move was not easy; Bahati had to deal with racial issues and the feeling of feeling out of place in her new environment. However, this experience profoundly influenced her worldview and shaped her art. Growing up in a diverse environment in Burundi, Bahati has always felt a strong connection to her African heritage. On the one hand, Belgium was a stark contrast, but on the other hand, it drove Bahati to find refuge in art, using her African roots as the main source of inspiration for her artistic work.
Through her art, Bahati Simoens embarked on a journey of self-expression and self-discovery. Her identity as a black woman has been a source of pride throughout her life even though the lack of representation in her environment has presented her with great challenges. Over time, Simoens actively sought out black role models in literature and the arts, finding inspiration in the works of Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde. Art became her voice from the moment she began to be too afraid to speak, allowing her to communicate the unexpressed thoughts and feelings she had long been brooding over.
Bahati Simoens’ art is characterised by a unique visual language, a sincere ode to the black body. The artist describes it as ‘a daydream under the midday sun, where bright light and deep shadows coexist harmoniously’. Her paintings are a celebration of diversity, capturing the essence of the human form in its myriad expressions. Simoens’ art is characterised by bold, vibrant and subdued colours. Artists such as David Hockney and Paul Gauguin, along with the colours of nature, are those that have inspired his style over time. Her choice of colours reflects her personality: a mix of introversion and strong presence in her safe spaces. Bahati believes that choosing words and colours wisely is essential and that kindness is a guiding principle.
Today, we celebrate Read A Book Day with a very interesting project and an equally unique story. Rather than focusing on reading a book, our desire is to delve into the behind-the-scenes of its construction. It’s a fascinating and meticulous process, unknown to most people. We are used to seeing a finished book, and seldom do we wonder what goes on behind it, what the process is that leads to the final product. We did this with the folks from Libri Finti Clandestini, an artistic collective that bases its work and research on the artist’s book. Through a true process of urban exploration, artists El Pacino, Aniv Delarev, and Yghor Kowalvsky seek paper materials in abandoned factories, archives, and printing laboratories, with the aim of creating books – hand-bound one by one, stamped and numbered – ranging from notebooks ready to be used and drawn in, to small print-run pop-up books. They also collaborate with other artists, exploring the fields of photography and typographic printing. After a brief preamble about the history of this collective, we will tell you how they made a book in one night and on board a train. Let’s discover it together.
What is an artist’s book?
Starting from the premise that a book is an object with infinite possibilities, both in terms of form and content, and is conceived as a container and disseminator of knowledge of any kind, it is almost a given that an artist would be fascinated by it and want to create one of their own. Since the last century, the artist’s book – understood as a form of artistic expression – has become widespread. Artists, especially during the avant-garde periods such as Dadaism and Surrealism, ventured into the creation of artist’s books, combining visual art and literature into a single object. Words merge with visual art. Drawings, engravings, collages, paintings, photographs engage in a dialogue with poetic text, reflections, or thoughts of the artist themselves. In contrast to mass-produced books, the artist’s book has the characteristic of being a unique piece or produced in limited editions. It is a free object that follows solely and exclusively the will of its creator. The structure and materials, such as format, layout, and typography, are experimental and challenge the conventions of traditional books.
Who produces artists’ books today?
With this question, we come to the point. In this technological age, it is increasingly rare to find entities that oversee the entire printing process from A to Z, and even rarer to find young artists fully devoted to the creation of artist’s books. In Milan, there exists a very interesting entity, both in terms of rarity and quality. This is Libri Finti Clandestini, as we previously mentioned, which is an artists’ collective established ten years ago that dedicates its entire research to this marvelous object, the book. All the while, they maintain anonymity, appearing on social media and in public strictly wearing amusing masks.
What exactly does the Libri Finti Clandestini collective do?
As you scroll through their Instagram feed and explore their website, it becomes immediately evident the meticulous care and precision that Libri Finti Clandestini invests in this project. In some photos, you can see the early 20th-century German letterpress printing machine, the Heidelberg Windmill, underscoring their strong connection to tradition rather than technology. However, in addition to keeping a manual and artisanal tradition “on the brink of extinction” alive, another fundamental aspect is sustainability. The collective initiates their process through urban explorations, actual “expeditions” inside old abandoned factories, archives, and printing laboratories, with the intention of reclaiming unused and forgotten paper sheets. On their website, in the “products” section, each item is accompanied by a description of the material. This way, the user has the opportunity to get closer to the process and thus realize the research and care that goes into each individual piece.
After a selection of material, the actual creative process begins in their workshops, one in Milan in the Isola area and the other in Saronno – in the latter ‘guests’ of 5X Letterpress, with whom a strong collaboration has been going on for several years now – where they take care of all the production phases in detail, taking from six months to a year, to finally arrive at the one-of-a-kind piece.
A crazy project: making a book in a few hours
Speaking with Libri Finti Clandestini, we were very impressed by their ‘mission’: to create a fanzine in a few hours and not in their workshop, but during a trip or in unusual places. Since January 2020, LFC has been working collectively with 5X Letterpress, Spazienne and Outis Manufacture to design and produce limited edition publishing products.
«Working on a book in one night, on a train, in an abandoned factory, with unconventional tools, exploring forgotten places in the urban landscape. This has always been the group’s mission: to produce in “crazy” situations, attempting new solutions each time and striving to achieve the best result. Trying to experiment as much as possible with regard to manufacturing and printing solutions..»
The most recent example is ‘Nightjet’, a micro-book made in just 12 hours on the Milan-Vienna night train he mission was accomplished by the three members of LFC, together with members of the collectives Spazienne, 5X Letterpress, Outis Manufacture and the artists Tanguy Bomboniera and Dr. Petronilla.
«On the night of May 25th, we boarded the Nightjet 235 train at Milan Rogoredo at 9:26 PM, headed for Vienna to participate in “Fanzineist Vienna.” We brought along paper, threads, needles, and with our iPhone along with an Epson Workforce 110 printer, we attempted a mission never before completed. The goal was to create a fanzine on a train during the 12-hour journey to Vienna! Scanning, photography, project layout, printing, binding, and trimming of the book, all accomplished on board in one night!»
The decision to produce these ‘micro’ books, LFC tell us, is a ploy that allows them to reduce production costs by focusing in this particular case more on content rather than quality. A ‘poor’ product but with a strong idea. A singular object – a small work of pocket art – entirely handmade, with elegant binding and produced in small print runs.