Category Archives: Interviews

Italian Views: Tuscan Villa Bramasole Tour With Author Frances Mayes

A tour of the countryside villa Bramasole in Cortona, Italy, with author Frances Mayes. Chef Silvia gives a cooking lesson using local ingredients, and a jeweller talks about Tuscany’s goldsmithing tradition.

Interview: “Time’s Witness” Author Rosemary Hill

In the 1740s the Scots were invading England and the wearing of tartan was banned. By the 1850s, Queen Victoria had built her Gothic fantasy in Aberdeenshire and tartan was everywhere. What happened in between?

In the second episode of her series on Romantic history, Rosemary Hill talks to Colin Kidd about the myths and traditions of Scottish history created in the 19th century, and the central role of Walter Scott in forging his country’s identity.

In the first episode of a new four-part series looking at the way history was transformed in the Romantic period, Rosemary Hill is joined by Tom Stammers to consider how an argument over the ‘improvement’ of Salisbury Cathedral in 1789 launched a new attitude to the past and its artefacts. Those sentiments were echoed in revolutionary France, where antiquarians risked the guillotine to preserve the monuments of the Ancien Régime.

Shakespeare & Company: ‘The Sinner And The Saint’ Author Kevin Birmingham

Profiles: Swiss Artist Builds His Own Habitat

“If you’re a painter, you need a canvas. If you’re a sculptor, you need marble or plaster. And if you build a house, you need a piece of land.” Welcome to the wonderful world of Not Vital. The Swiss multi-faceted artist shows us his sculpture park, foundation, and castle in this video.

We meet Not Vital in his studio in Sent, the town in Switzerland where he grew up and one of the places where he still lives. Building places to live have been with him since childhood: “My first work was more related to trying to build a house or a habitat. The first one was when I was only three years old in 1951. There was so much snow that my brother and I built a tunnel,” he says and continues: “I think that it was the first time I realised that I like to build my own habitat.

Even though it was much more comfortable to live in the house, I spent the day in the tunnel. I remember the light, the smell of the snow. I just felt great.” Through the years, Vital has led a nomadic life, seeking and building homes in various cities around the globe: Paris, New York, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro. He has bought an island made of Marble in Patagonia, called NotOna.

In Niger, he has built a house whose only purpose is to watch the sunset. He calls these hybrids of sculpture and architecture ‘Scarch’: “It opened up a whole new world for me, which became very important. I’m calling that ‘Scarch’ because it’s a kind of sculpture and architecture. Because I’m not an architect, I didn’t want to be an architect or study architecture because I would probably have gone in a different direction.” Buying pieces of land worldwide is essential for his artistic practice.

He explains: “If you’re a painter, you need a canvas. If you’re a sculptor, you need marble or plaster. And if you build a house, you need a piece of land. That’s kind of all related.” ‘Scarch’ is not the only thing Vital makes. He also creates sculptures in silver, makes humorous wordplays with antlers and paints portraits: “I want to show the way I see. I don’t want to change anything.”

The portraits he started painting in 2008. Often they depict the people surrounding him. Other times, it is significant artists such as a young Rembrandt and Nina Simone. “When I paint, I think about a lot of Rothko. The colours. How to put two colours together. But of course, this is figurative,” Vital reflects and continues: “Actually, they have everything in it. They have eyes and noses.

And that’s great by painting that whatever you put in the canvas stays in the canvas. Even though you paint it over, it’s still there.” Not Vital does not differ between the many different artforms he works with: “Art is one. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 15th century or if it’s now. It’s all related.” Not Vital (b. 1948) is a Swiss artist who works in diverse media across installations, paintings, drawings and sculptures, typically integrating architecture. Vital divides his time between the U.S., Niger, Italy, China and Switzerland, and his art is centred on personal impressions and experiences from around the world. This somewhat anthropological approach is also reflected in how his career is structured into sections, e.g. glass blowers in Murano or paper artists in Bhutan. Vital’s work has been featured in the 49th Venice Biennale in Italy (2001), and he has held significant exhibitions at prominent venues such as the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in Germany (2005), The Arts Club of Chicago in the U.S. (2006), Ullens Center For Contemporary Art in Beijing, China (2011), the Museo d’arte di Mendrisio in Switzerland (2014-15) and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2021).

New Books: ‘South To America’ By Imani Perry

In her new book “South to America,” author Imani Perry seeks to change how people view the American South and, thus, the country’s history as a whole. Jeffrey Brown spoke with Perry, who traveled through the southern regions of the U.S. and explored the complexities and misperceptions she found along the way.

Profiles: Frank Gehry’s ‘Playful Architecture’

At 92, famed architect Frank Gehry is not resting on his substantial laurels. The designer behind such landmarks as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, talks with “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker about his creative process, and how aerospace technology has enabled him to turn his playful ideas into reality.

Shakespeare & Company: Patrick Hastings On His James Joyce ‘Ulysses’ Guide

Shakespeare & Company: Author Aysegul Savas On Her Book ‘White On White’

A “marvelous” (Lauren Groff) and “gentle, mysterious and profound” (Marina Abramović) novel about a woman who has come undone.

A student moves to the city to research Gothic nudes, renting an apartment from a painter, Agnes, who lives in another town with her husband. One day, Agnes arrives in the city and settles into the upstairs studio.

In their meetings on the stairs, in the studio, at the corner café, the kitchen at dawn, Agnes tells stories of her youth, her family, her marriage, and ideas for her art – which is always just about to be created. As the months pass, it becomes clear that Agnes might not have a place to return to. The student is increasingly aware of Agnes’s disintegration. Her stories are frenetic; her art scattered and unfinished, white paint on a white canvas.

What emerges is the menacing sense that every life is always at the edge of disaster, no matter its seeming stability. Alongside the research into human figures, the student is learning, from a cool distance, about the narrow divide between happiness and resentment, creativity and madness, contentment and chaos.

White on White is a sharp exploration of empathy and cruelty, and the stunning discovery of what it means to be truly vulnerable, and laid bare.

Music: Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson On Mozart – ‘The First Romantic Artist’


“Mozart really belonged to the 19th century”, says Icelandic star-pianist Víkingur Ólafsson about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart “He belonged to a new area, where the artist was a free thinker. Image, if he had lived a little longer and would have had a dialogue with Ludwig van Beethoven.”

Ólafsson has no doubt that Mozart was a so-called Wunderkind. “He did have a divine gift.” But to Ólafsson another aspect of Mozart’s music is even more fascinating. According to Ólafsson Mozart wrote his best works after the age of 25, when his life was in deep crisis and the Vienna aristocracy had turned its back on him.

“The greater the music became, the less popularity he had.” To Ólafsson Mozart’s legacy must be seen in the light of the tragedy. Víkingur Ólafsson grew up in Reykjavík and started playing the piano at an early age under the tutelage of his mother, a piano teacher. He studied at the Juilliard School in New York, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees under the supervision of Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald. He also took lessons with Ann Schein.

In 2011, Ólafsson was the soloist in the opening concert of Harpa in Reykjavik, playing Edvard Grieg’s piano concerto with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Since he has developed into one of the most recognized and award-winning artists within classical and contemporary music.

In 2016, Víkingur signed an exclusive recording contract with the renowned label Deutsche Grammophon releasing four albums featuring the music of Philip Glass, Johann Sebastian Bach, Debussy & Rameau as well as Mozart & Contemporaries. Ólafsson has collaborated with many contemporary artists among them John Adams, Philipp Glass, Daniel Bjarnason and Icelandic singer Bjørk. He has also recorded the soundtrack of Darkest Hour, a film directed by Joe Wright, and released Bach Reworks, featuring six ‘remixed’ works by Johann Sebastian Bach from the likes of Ben Frost, Peter Gregson, Valgeir Sigurdsson as well as Ólafsson himself.

Víkingur Ólafsson was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in November 2021. Camera: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan Edited by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021 Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling

Shakespeare & Company: Author Philip Hoare On ‘Albert & The Whale’ (2021)

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