Venice Biennale, Day 3 (last day)

It was our second day doing the Biennale, day 1 we came in late and didn’t go see the shows. Going to the Giardini the first full day and the Arsenale the second day was totally the way to go. It was just pure luck on our end. This piece was on the walkway into the show. It pretty much says it all about the show. As Fred noted, I look through the world with this lens and have my entire life.

The Center of the Arsenale has pretty much the same artists as the day before so seeing them installed here with different work opens your eyes to each artist in a much larger way. Happy to see huge Zanele Muholi’s large photos throughout the show.

The Ed Atkins install takes about 1/2 of one area. It is quite amazing. There are videos highlighting crash course dummies, him constantly crying, sandwiches being assembled and disassembled highlighting corporate advertising. Opera costumes take over the space on racks. He depicts a pseudo-historic world of eternal ruin. Incredible.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby reflecting her experience of a Nigerian woman who at age 12 was part of the Nigerian diaspora and now lives and works in LA.

Teresa Margolles whose work reflects the tragedies of violence in Mexico. This is a dusty window with partial old posters of women people are looking for.

Jill Mulleady’s paintings of every day life depict different lives from those living on the edge to others who are ungovernable.

Nicole Eisenman’s sculptures. A new medium for her.

Neil Beloufa created video interviews with young soldiers from countries around the globe. You sat in these structures and heard their stories. I watched one from a Syrian soldier who left the countries Syrian Army and now worked for the New Syrian Army as a rocket launcher. He talks about how bad these people are yet how he has pride in his job. The leaders asked him to fire on protestors who they said were something they weren’t. These people were his family members. It as if the army’s of these places are enterprise companies paying people to work for them. Not sure how this ever changes. Extremely upsetting.

Zhanna Kadyrova works with ceramics and tiles. Here she created an entire outdoor market from flowers to vegetables to fruit. This is the meat section encouraging public interaction with the belief that the role of art is should be a commodity.

What is different at the Arsenale is the countries different pavilions bleed into each other through one building vs separate buildings. We liked this. The highlights here were the Family Album from Kosovo. During the war (1998-99) there were some photos taken of very young children that became synonymous with this war and in turn became part of the global media. The artist, Alban Muja, tracked down some of these children, now adults, to tell their stories and the impact those photos (that were out of their own control) and the war had on them.

Island Weather from the Philippines, from curator Tessa Maria T. Guazon and exhibitor Mark O. Justiniani. These photos were endless. If you took off your shoes you could walk over multiple photos surrounded by metal enclosures showing that we are all connected and that weather there has to do with decisions we make globally.

Ghana put together a mixture of artists highlighting Freedom. This is from Lynette Yiadom-Boakye called the Mighty-Mighty Lines.

Each piece from the artist El Anatsui was also part of the Ghana installation. All of these works are done in bottle caps and copper wire.

The architecture of these buildings are really beautiful.

The Indian pavilion, called A Time for Future Of Caring, was put together like Ghana with a variety of artists. Shakuntala Kulkarni made these iron and wood outfits showing that women live with an overwhelming sense of threat. That risk and the violation of their bodies is becoming an increasing concern.

She then took photos of herself in these pieces in regular surroundings. Really powerful.

We walked around to find the Lithuanian Pavilion which was a solo show in a totally different area. It was extremely quiet in this part of Venice, a true treat.

The install is incredible. This is what the artist wrote.

Here is the installation. You walk up the stairs and see the beach below.

That was the last of our art for the day. We had some pizza which was ok not great. We went to see a local glass artist but randomly we were able to check out the entire gallery yet nobody was there. The works are beautiful. We hope to get one shipped back to the states after connecting. Massimo Micheluzzi.

And then, we went back to our hotel, took a shower (the heat was really something), got on a boat, went to the airport, flew back to Paris and landed at 10pm. This is one of the many things I love about Paris in June. It is still light out at 10pm.

Venice Biennale, Day 2

The first Biennale began in April of 1895 with almost 200,000 visitors. There are two main areas and then a bunch of outlying installations. The title this year is May You Live In Interesting Times focusing on artists who challenge existing times and habits.

We began the first day at the Giardini where I believe there are 29 countries participating. Each artist is represented by their country and shown inside a building set inside the gardens. The Belgian Pavilion was one of the first and definitely one of my favorites. The artists are duo Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. Folkloric figures of white people, some electronic, behind bars representing a society stuck in the past. It is called Mondo Cane.

The Central pavilion is filled with artists from around the globe who were chosen to be there. Nicole Eisenman, Morning Studio. I am a huge fan of her work.

Zhanna Kadyrova, called Second Hand from the Ukraine. She used second hand tiles from Venice to create clothing as the Ukraine has a long history of ceramic tile production. A process intended to erase all traces of the Soviet past.

Jill Mulleady, Swiss artist paintings.

Mexican artist, Teresa Margolles, a concrete wall that stood outside her school in Juarez, one of the highest murder areas in Mexico. She refuses to show violence but the aftermath of unresolved tragedies.

Guari Gill, an Indian photographer taking photos of people on the margins of India in Rajasthan. Gill commissioned artists to make paper mache masks representing real people enacting regular every day life in their neighborhood.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby from Nigeria who works in Los Angeles portrays domestic interiors and life of her and her family.

The Brazilian pavilion was pretty amazing with a movie of dancers reminiscent of West Side Story.

Above is an inside outside plane in the Polish Pavilion by Roman Stanczak.

Lots of art, lots of sweating and really interesting work. Most of the pavilions had video which is hard to capture for the blog but really great to see.

Balagan and Clown Bar

One of the founders I had the pleasure of backing has returned home to Paris. We got together for lunch at Balagan. I wondered out loud if Balagan was somehow related to Palomar in London. In fact it is. There is definitely an explosion of Israeli restaurants across the globe starting with Machne-Yahuda in Jerusalem. It has been a diaspora across New York City, London and Paris.

We had a smorgasbourg of plates to share. You honestly can’t go wrong with anything there. The tahini, bread and eggplant dish is a mainstay for the table. This salmon was one of my favorite dishes.

And then of course we walked heading directly to my favorite store. I love a store where I know I can walk in and then walk out with a few purchases every time.

Dinner was at the Clown Bar. This place has been on all of the lists and we finally made our way there. There are clowns on the ceiling and the bar. I would gather the clowns were here way before the restaurant. Natural wines at this spot too with an extremely creative modern menu. Not for the faint of heart as Veal Brain with Ponzu sauce is one of the dishes. We started with sardines (boquerones) marinated in a sweet savory olive oil and then covered with sauteed algae. This was incredible. Not exactly sure what was in the olive oil but the flavor seeped through the entire dish. The bread on the side was key for sopping up every single drop.

Not to get too crazy we went with the burrata, beet roots, apricot and basil. The basil was probably just picked. The entire dish just screamed “summer”. I am absolutely making this one at home in the months to come.

We had a raw fish dish that didn’t rock my boat but the Duck and Fois Gras Pie with dates and lemon is a must. Decadent is an understatement. Pieces of duck sitting next to creamy foie gras baked in a flaky crust with a whipped date and lemon mixture, almost like sorbet on the side. It is so over the top. Certainly not something I can eat often but what a serious treat.

We went with the cheese and salad for dessert before walking home. We constantly check how many steps we walk here. Our book would be called Paris in 10,000 steps. Last night we almost walked 8000 steps home and thank god. My feet were pounding but at least I worked a bit of that dinner off! Wow.

Venice Biennale, Day 1

We have always wanted to go to the Venice Biennale. It happens every two years. The last time we were in Venice was 2007. Not much has changed but being here in cooler months is highly suggested. It is just hitting 80 but the humidity is a killer.

Someone suggested we take an architectural boat trip one day and so we did. We went for two hours with a guide when we arrived since we only had a few hours before dinner. Essentially a short history class. The years of 1300 and 1400 were peak. The city has not really changed must since then even though we all believe that it is just getting worse with climate change.

What has changed is the population and tourism. Only 53,000 people live between Venice and the outlying islands. That is down from 150,000 fifteen years ago. The city does take a beating from the 20m people who visit here annually. The canals are really shallow which is why the flat boats. It is a walking city which is why the low bridges. Boats are still handmade.

The food is nothing to write home about. We are hoping to be pleasantly surprised somewhere in the days to come. This was the lobster spaghetti from last night at Ristorante da Ivo.

We walked home prepping for the big art day ahead.

Women over 50

We are living longer. The concept of working all your life at one job and then retiring at 65 is becoming a thing of the past. Knowing that you could live to be 100 changes the landscape of ones career. Wouldn’t you want to take off ten years to raise your kids if you could? Wouldn’t you want the ability to have several different careers if you could? Wouldn’t you want to make sure you see more of the world if you could?

The Washington Post posted an incredible article called Changing Channels. Written by 8 journalists about 8 women who followed their personal quests that had been put on a back-burner after 50. Most women get overlooked and perceived to have less value in the work world at this stage of the game. Reality is this is when these women are worth more than anyone realizes. It is an article worth reading. Just made me smile.

Madonna turned 60 this year. She is the ultimate bad ass who has reinvented herself several times from pop icon to philanthropist to mother. The article in the NYTimes is absolutely worth the read. Once again, at 60, she is putting out music her own way. She was an inspiration from the beginning of her career and still is.

Both of these articles added to the thoughts I am having about what comes next? I have had at least 10 careers. I hope to live to be 100 so I have plenty left in me. I will continue to invest and be involved in the growth of companies but in what way? Is there a new way, is there something else out there that I could do that would be exciting? I don’t have to shift anything but it is something sitting in the back of my head.

I love that Madonna said at the end of the article. She said “Stop thinking, just live your life and don’t be influenced by society trying to make you feel some type of way about your age or what it is you’re supposed to be doing.” “We are a marginalized group, women. And just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you stop fighting against it or defying it or refusing to be pigeonholed or put in a box or labeled or told you can and can’t do things.”

I have led my life living outside of the box. I am not sure I could have done it any other way. It has worked for me. Reading about these 8 women who have stepped outside their comfort box after 50 made my day and makes me believe that women in the generations to come will follow suit. Be true to yourself and based on data if you could live to be 100, the world is seriously your oyster.

A few weeks in Paris

The unexpected treat in Paris is how many people are here that we know. We actually went for dinner in the 11th and bumped into a variety of people who we are seeing later in the week and others who were just randomly there. The world is small.

Our first night here we had dinner at Yard with a friend from London who scheduled a few meetings around us. Always a treat seeing him. He is a serious wine person so the natural only wine menu was not the best spot for him. The place is absolutely adorable with a wine bar next door. Large black paned windows that open to the street in intimate surroundings. The ultimate bistro. The food isn’t something to write home about but the vibe is wonderful. Grilled hake with mushrooms, tomatoes and a little vinaigrette.

Next day we got up and saw the semi-finals at the French Open. This is our second time going. A very well run event. We saw Federer vs Nadal. Nadal owns this court. He took Federer out in 3 sets.

We had drinks with Jessica’s friend who lives here before having dinner at La Condesa. The space is quaint with only 24 seats and a kitchen that fits barely 4. The young chef 32 year old chef, Indra Carrillo, won a Michelin star for his spot in 2019. His creative menu spans from his background starting with Mexico to London, Denmark, India, Italy Spain and France. The dishes sang Mexican meets Asian yet fully French. And the sommelier, she is incredibly knowledgable.

We opted for the wine pairing. Half-glasses. There were 3 starters. A corn chip topped with whipped goat cheese. Tasted a bit like a light Frito. A nice beginning that paired Mexico with France.

Zucchini tempura with chili flakes in a tiny forest.

This was served with the top on the cup. You take the top off and scrape into the cup small crunchy bits of Parmesan into a cucumber soup. A cool cream of cucumber soup with a dollop of cucumber sorbet that cools the soup. There is also a pickled cucumber slice that brings in a completely different flavor profile. I am not sure I have ever had a better palette cleanser. Brilliant dish.

Simple roasted radishes served in a thin green vegetable soup.

There were so many flavors happening in this dish from many countries but insanely subtle. Delicately wrapped agnolotti stuffed with veal served over a sauteed spinach. They pour a light chicken broth over this that has been infused with curry. It is really out of this world.

Grilled white fish with an elderflower brown butter sitting on top of a puree of white asparagus whipped with Parmesean and two thin slices of grilled asparagus on top. Simple and perfectly executed.

Pork so perfectly cooked that you don’t even need a knife to cut through it. Paired with a rich Israeli couscous made with a rich veal broth and a small piece of artichoke.

Dessert was as good as the main courses. Sweet strawberries served in a whipped yogurt and tiny pieces of melt in your mouth meringue. All of this is topped with roasted red pepper flakes that has this smoky flavoring. Wow.

Chocolate cream and ginger cream served with a ginger and sesame biscuit. We licked the plate.

Last but definitely not least the come out with a small jewel box. Inside reveals a mushroom that is essentially Paris Brest, a classic French dessert.

Every country came to the meal with France being the back drop. The menu is price-fixed. During the week you can choose from 3 to 4 courses but on the weekends it is 6 courses. We went on Friday and if there was an option we would have chosen less but I am so glad we didn’t have a choice.

We walked home raving about the meal. So nice to be back in Paris.

Women of the Public Theater

The Public Theater is a New York gem. Countless plays have been produced there with young unknown playwrights who have then gone on to take their shows to Broadway.

I went to the annual fundraising event this year for the first time. It was an absolutely beautiful night. You would have thought that someone dialed it in. The event takes play in Central Park dining al fresco as the sun sets next to the Delacorte Theater. After dinner, there is a show.

This year the show was dedicated to Women of the Public. Someone is paying attention. The show highlighted the female playwrights of yesteryear and today who are part of the Public. There wasn’t a male on stage.

It is great to finally see women being acknowledge for all we do. My biggest fear is that the excitement, the accolades, the acknowledgement, the power and the applause will die down. We lost a generation of women who thought that the generation before them had done enough but it wasn’t enough. Will it ever be enough? Men and women should be on equal footing at every turn from the arts to business. We are far from that.

I was thrilled to applaud the women of the theater on stage and to see One sung from Chorus Line being shown with only women on stage but let’s not forget, making sure that women are applauded as often as their male counterparts can not stop. A rising tide lifts all boats and female captains are definitely not sailing in the same waters….yet.

Wayla

There seems to be new Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese places popping up every week. Wayla is the latest and I can hardly wait to go back. The food is excellent. Home style Thai food is the speciality and the dishes had the perfect balance of spice, vinegar and heat. There is indoor and outdoor seating. We were lucky to grab a spot outside while the weather is still perfect for al fresco dining. They have a nice list of cocktails too!

We shared a variety of plates starting with their take on the green papaya salad. Thinly sliced pieces of papaya with dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, a few cherry tomatoes, purple cabbage and green beans doused in a lime vinegary dressing with just a few sliced chilis for heat. Perfect.

I’m a sucker for good chicken wings and these fit the bill. Plum sauce marinated fried chicken wings and toasted rice. The meat slid right off the bone and crisp but not too crisp.

Sliced pork belly topped with a Thai salsa of shallots, spicy peppers, scallions and yellow peppers. Take all of this and wrap it up in lettuce and take a bite.

Spicy green beans mixed with plump soft bites of tofu and slices of red pepper.

There are two branzino’s on the menu. I am not a huge fan of the deep fried so we went with the banana wrapped branzino that comes with a spicy chili dip on the side. The fish is perfectly cooked and falls off the bone. The meat is succulent.

I loved this. Rice with big chunks of fresh crab meat, ginger, eggs, and chilis. I couldn’t stop eating this.

And last but certainly not least the soft creamy mango alongside sweet coconut rice. My favorite Thai dessert.

I should have nabbed a menu to be more specific about the subtle taste of each dish. Nothing had garlic – a bonus for me. Everything had perfect balance, nothing was heavy handed. Each dish was delicious. The people next to us were diving into some other dishes that made me want to return again to try more. I hope they are able to keep the level of deliciousness up. This place is a winner.

In Search of Greatness

Planes are great places to see films that might not have crossed your path before. I watched In Search of Greatness this past week and am still thinking about it.

There are several athletes who are highlighted in this film but Wayne Gretzky and Jerry Rice are the two main voices. Everyone of these athletes success came from passion first, physical abilities second and when those two collide it is magical. It is also about thinking outside the box.

None of these athletes were in constant sports programs that catapulted them into stardom, it was a mixture of things. They not only played their sport they played other sports. They were kids at one point and allowed to be a kid. They were given the freedom to think about how to succeed in the sport they loved. None of them were tall enough, heavy enough, fast enough, or any of the data you read about to be the ultimate athlete in each sport. It generally is the outsider that become the best in their field by figuring out how to be number one with the body they were given.

This can easily be an analogy for a successful entrepreneur. The ones that don’t listen to the white noise, who play their own game, who just have a nose for what is going to work, the ones that understand that nothing is standard and are able to control their own destiny.

I might have to go back and watch the film again.

Ten Years of Brand Building

Fred and I are building physical spaces. We just love to build. One component of this project is branding. For anyone who has gone through a branding exercise, it is not just about the execution of the plan but the foundation that everything falls under.

There could be an entire study about brands built over the past from the ground up and how they actually represent the person who started them. If you spend the day walking into offices of the biggest brands from Google to Warby Parker to Tesla you don’t have to go past the lobby to get a feeling for the management, the culture and the overall vibe. Everything starts from the top.

While we were working on our brand, I couldn’t help think about how I thought about new brands a decade ago. I have spent some time over the past year really reflecting on what I have invested in and then of course what worked, what failed, what wasn’t I thinking about, what I should have thought about and what can I learn from it.

Ricks Picks was the first consumer product that I invested in. What drew me in? The packaging and the belief that pickled products were starting to stream upward. That more people, like Rick, was going to leave their corporate jobs and start companies they were passionate about. That it was the beginning of the shift to the next generation who would follow their hearts first and foremost in their work life. I saw that everyone was becoming their own personal brand and that would down stream into everything they touch including the products in their refrigerator. I am pretty sure that I got that right.

What I didn’t get right or didn’t understand is the old school business of how grocery works. How shipping glass products is expensive. How selling direct to consumer on a product that doesn’t turn as quickly as the eggs in your fridge is not like selling a bag of chips. I could go on and on but I know more about pickle production than I care to.

Having a seat at the table with many founders over the past decade has been an amazing educational opportunity. The brands that have been built over the past ten years is mind boggling. All made for a new generation of consumers. Of course, the best part of all of this, is the founders I have met and worked with. That will always be at the heart of everything.