Author: TheArtDetective'sMuse

A constantly unfolding and evolving adventure...

Milan in the time of Coronavirus: Tuesday 26th February: “la cultura è vita” Beppe Sala Mayor of Milan

Cialde & Capsule, Gambara, Milano

I ventured out today, first time since Sunday. I took a stroll down to Gambara to GP’s shop. He sells coffee capsules and vinyl discs. There were people about, but very little traffic. We had a coffee, chatted and listened to a few tunes: the Cranberries and Thin Lizzy and Lucio Battisti, Fabrizio De Andre and Enzo Jannacci. One customer came in and jokingly said to GP, ‘You’re not wearing a mask!’

The press is still on full throttle but it’s not all plague and misery here, people are having a laugh. Things like this video  I CONSIGLI DI NONNA sul CORONAVIRUS (Grandma’s advice on Coronavirus) are good for a chuckle – the quintessential Italian grandmother (tough as nails, down to earth) gives 10 pieces of advice on how to avoid the Coronavirus. Advice number 3: hugging and kissing should be replaced by winking at each other! Meanwhile, the usual form of greeting and saying goodbye – hugging and kissing – HAS been replaced, to some degree anyway, with blowing kisses, or jokingly sticking a foot out, or something silly like that.

And what about dating apps? Are people still using them? I’m not. And I wonder what type of effect this Coronavirus will have on the global birth rate this coming November / December? I remember after 9/11, in New York, it was as if Manhattan had been sprayed with a magic love potion. Love for your fellow human being filled the air, everyone wanted to help everyone else, strangers hugged each other on the street and everyone was full of love, spurred on by an instinct to keep the human race alive, I guess. I’m sure the number of babies born the following June must have been way higher than usual for the New York area. Who knows? Maybe a study has been done on it. Here, people are reaching out to each other via whatsapp and FB, (even guys I met via Tinder just reach out to say hello), but it’s very different vibe to anything I’ve ever experienced before.

Lucio Battisti and Fabrizio De Andre

I pretty much avoided most social media on the subject today, except for the Mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala’s speech on his instagram profile. He opens by saying that he has been asked to talk about being Mayor during the Coronavirus. He answers by giving a run down of his day: he’d visited two day care centres for the disabled, spoke to Prime Minister Conte on the telephone, asking him to come and visit us in Milan, he’d also spoken to the Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Roberto Gualtieri asking for more help, and to the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini regarding the possibility of reopening cultural institutions because, as he said, “culture is life”.  He’s right, culture is life in Milan: musuems, art galleries and cultural institutions are part of the fabric of this great city. I don’t know though, I think we still need to be patient.


Vinyl disc Enzo Jannacci

Milan in the time of Coronavirus: Tuesday 25th February: ‘Siamo al delirio più assoluto’ Andrea Scanzi

Update from Piazza Bande Nere: On Sunday I wrote to the Art Detective, “Yes, it is a bit disconcerting I have to say. All my lessons have been cancelled for the entire week. The Duomo has been closed to tourists, public transport is still running but I’m not using it along with everyone else I know, and I had a ticket for the theatre for tomorrow but the programme has been cancelled. As I say, it’s a little bit worrying!” That was Sunday, on Monday I was close to dialing the 1500 number to book a “tampone” or “test”. I had to use my ashma inhaler, the first time in a long time and I also had a slight cough. ‘N,’ I said to my flatmate, ‘last week I had to use my inhaler’. ‘You don’t have it,’ she answered. Thank God for that. I don’t, but the hype and drama here are overwhelming, anxiety causing and unavoidable. The press is having a field day. Streets and supermarket shelves are empty, kids have been packed off to the coast and whole families are taking to the hills Decameron style. There’s regional mandatory decrees stating that, among other things, bars, cafes and clubs must stay shut from 18:30 to 06:00 (although from what I read on the International Women of Milan fb group, some are staying open around the Navigli area), but if you were thinking of an aperitivo – you may need to think again. As for restaurants, I believe they are open, but who is going to them?

Mind you, it’s fine dining time for the “sciacalli” which literally means “jackals” or more appropriately “fraudsters” who are knocking on peoples doors pretending to give free tests and then robbing peoples’ homes! And IF you can find a face mask on sale, be prepared to spend an unholy amount of money. As for “l’Amuchina” a disinfectant hand gel – I don’t think my great Grandmother’s diamond ring would even buy me a small bottle right now – although I could have bought the same bottle for 1 euro last Wednesday. That will give you an idea about the general state of mind right now in Milan. I’m trying not to buy into it, probably like many others, but it’s difficult. The best piece of common sense I’ve heard to date comes from the writer and journalist Andrea Scanzi on a 15 minute video he posted on his FB page. He’s speaking in Italian obviously but if you understand Italian, it’s worth listening to. Saying that, I was meant to meet J in Pagano earlier today but he whatsapped to say he couldn’t make it because he was going to bed with a sore throat and a bottle of whiskey. While I’m a bit worried about him and suggested lemon, ginger and hot water instead of whiskey, I have to admit I felt relieved I didn’t have to go out. I know, it’s ridiculous. Or is it? I don’t know.

On a lighter, brighter note, and not because of the Coronavirus, I actually went to shul (synagogue) last Saturday morning, the first time since Jan 2018. There’s a strong Middle Eastern Jewish community here in Milan, something I didn’t know until recently. I’m of the Ashkenazi brand myself but really, there’s not much difference between us. One thing I noticed however, was that during the service when the community news was read out about an upcoming marriage, a birth and a graduation, there were ululations from the women upstairs – first time I’d heard that in a synagogue! Also, there was no “Adon Alom” the prayer usually sung at the end of the service and the only prayer I remember the first few words of. Not to be, but I think I’ll learn how to ululate. After the service there was a lavish Kiddish (after service nosh-up) for the married couple to be, with traditional Persian food and lots and lots of cakes and chocolates. There may have been a bar, but I didn’t see it – too busy stuffing myself with a meat, barley and cinnamon dish called Ash.

Later that evening I went to Ittolittos for dinner and to celebrate a friend’s birthday over a good burger and beer. And the Wednesday before, I was actually at Govinda the Hari Krishna restaurant for my friend I’s birthday who’s vegan. It was surprisingly good. This week’s culinary delights won’t be so eclectic and neither will there be any aperitivos – I love going for an aperitivo –  but now that I think of it, when I was leaving Govinda they offered me a free vegetarian cook book – so I may try a few new recipes while I’ve got a bit of time on my hands – if I can find a few green leaves and or an odd potatoe in the supermarket.

Yes, it feels like I’ve got time on my hands, like I’m on a retreat at home. When I wake up there’s none of the usual morning traffic and I don’t have to take the metro to work. Instead, I make a cuppa, roll out my yoga mat, do a bit of stretching, make another cuppa, catch up on translation practice, read for the sheer enjoyment of it (I picked up Breakfast at Tiffany’s last week – first time I’ve ever read it), make dinner. It’s all a bit too quiet though, a bit too surreal. Let’s see what the rest of the week brings.

Gluten Free in Italy

Gluten free pizza napolitana a Be Bop restaurant, Milan

Pizza, pasta, panettone. Some of the delicious joys of Italy, but not for you. Instead, you’re relegated to the fruit and veg stands, the fish, meat and cheese counters. Not such a bad thing really, but while everyone else relishes mouthfuls of spaghetti carbonara, pizza Napoletana and pistachio cream filled croissants, you hang your head like the kid who didn’t get theirs.

Chin up! There are alternatives for us gluten freers that will bring smiles to our faces and indulgent pleasures to our taste buds, without the thumping headaches and itchy rashes. Here are a few of my personal favourites and a few just to have in the cupboard:

Pasta di mandorla  (Almond  paste  biscuits)Pasta di mandorla

If you want to do as the majority of Italians do, and have a quick coffee at your local bar on the way to work, but you can’t stand the temptation as you watch everyone else dunking sugar dusted brioche into their cappuccinos, then this one’s for you. Pasta di mandorla is a paste made out of ground almonds, egg whites, sugar, almond essence and lemon zest. It’s a classic Sicilian recipe which can be found throughout Italy. The paste is made into soft, chewy biscuits that come in different flavours and shapes.

There’s the simple ‘pizzicotti’Pasta di mandorla biscuits balls that have been ‘pinched’ before being put into the oven, cherry topped rounds, pine nut covered balls and many more. The variety is endless. If your local bar has one type, they’ll no doubt have three or four types. I’m particularly partial to the ones at the Dolce Capriccio Bar and Pasticceria on the corner of Via Bramante and Piazza Lega Lomarda here in Milan. BTW, where you have your morning coffee is called a bar in Italy, not as us anglo folk say, a café.

La farinata di ceci  (Chickpea  flat  bread)La farinata di ceci at Pizzeria dell'Angelo, Milano

Lunchtime. You’re starving. What are your options? A “panino” (a bread role sandwich), a “piadina” (like a soft tortilla sandwich), a slice of “focaccia” (oven baked bread topped with salt and fresh rosemary) or a slice of pizza? In short, none. But wait, there is a quick carby alternative for gluten freers on the go. It’s called “La farinata di ceci”. Made from chickpea flour, water, salt and extra virgin olive oil, the recipe comes from both Tuscany and Liguria and goes by different names depending where you are: “faine” or “faina” in Liguria, “cecina” or “torta di ceci” in Tuscany. While the Tuscans tend to keep it classic, the Ligurians add rosemary or even peas. When I’m at home, I nip across the road to get my farinata at Pizzeria Dell’Angelo on Via Belfiore. You’ll find it in about one out of every three bakeries (usually on display beside the focaccia and pizza) or in some local pizzerias.

Panella made from farinata di ceci.I’ve also found it in the form of Panella, a Sicilian version, which is smaller pieces of the same dough fried. Leave it to the Sicilians to rev it up a notch. Either way, it will keep you full for much longer than a sandwich will, not to mention all that chickpea goodness. The only downside is, it disappears from about mid June to mid September.


Traditional pizzoccheri is not 100% gluten free. Roughly speaking, it’s made with 80% buckwheat flour (buckwheat is a seed, not a grain) and 20% wheat flour, so if you’re super intolerant or celiac, beware, although 100% gluten free pizzoccheri is also sometimes available. This hearty dish hales from the alpine region of Valtellina, and more specifically from the little town of Teglio where it is considered a national heritage and where you will find the Accademia del pizzocchero di Teglio, an entire institution dedicated to keeping the original recipe alive.

Made of tagliatelle like strips of mostly buckwheat pasta, potatoes, savoy cabbage, butter and cheese, it’s Italy’s rich cousin to Ireland’s colcannon, with its layers of textures and flavours. You won’t find it easily outside of Lombardy, although it’s not uncommon in Milanese restaurants and I’ve also seen it served at an aperitivo buffet. But if you’re looking for the real McCoy head north. One restaurant I would highly recommend is Crotto Valtellina about an hour and a half’s drive from the centre of Milan.

Gluten free pizzas

For my liking, not enough pizzerias are serving gluten free pizzas. Take the hugely popular Neapolitan Sorbillo Pizzeria, with branches in Naples, Milan, Rome and one soon to open in New York, yet only the one in Naples offers gluten free pizza. This is a good indication of the general state of affairs. If you’re like me and can tolerate the odd slice now and again, but not really, you’ll succumb, hoping you won’t have to pick up a tube of 1% Hydrocortisone cream the next day. It’s just not good enough! Let’s hope this changes soon.

Be Bop restaurant Milan, gluten free pizza menu

But although we can’t pick and choose, some restaurants do serve gluten free pizzas. I had one in Quinto on the coast of Liguria in August. I thought I was walking into a fish restaurant, but they also had pizza and gluten free at that. In Milan there’s the brilliant Be Bop Pizzeria and Restaurant close to the very trendy Navigli district. I absolutely love this place, with it’s great choice of gluten free pizzas, (see photo above, everything on the menu is gluten free as is the beer and bread basket contents), great atmosphere and friendly and professional service. I’ve also been told that Cook Window do a good selection of gluten free pizzas, but this one I haven’t tried yet, creature of habit that I am.  I’m positive these aren’t the only ones though, it’s just a matter of striking lucky as I did in Quinto or doing a bit of research on the internet.

gluten-free pasta, pasta senza glutine

Gluten free at the supermarket

Getting used to a gluten free diet is challenging, especially mentally. How often have I eaten a sandwich, slice of cake, chocolate biscuit, literally feeling my skin prickle before I even put it in my mouth, and yet I ate it anyway. The mind is like a kid who gets fixated on having to have something, then when they know they can have it, they don’t want it anymore. You have to train it, firmly, but with compassion. This is where supermarket gluten free products can really help. Italian supermarkets like Esselunga and Auchan have an excellent choice of gluten free products including flours, pastas, breads, savory and sweet biscuits and even piadinas – those soft flat breads I mentioned earlier.  The key words to look out for are “senza glutine”. So if you must have a chocolate digestive, have one by Schaer, the German, gluten free brand. They’re just as yummy and equally as naughty. I personally rate Garofalo the best for gluten free pasta. And my favourite “gallette” (crackers) are 100% made out of buckwheat by Fiorentini.

Fiorentini Bio Gallette Grano Saraceno




Translating Danda Santini

Io Donna, Corriere della Sera, Danda Santini

Saturday mornings: one of my weekend pleasures is to go to the local bar and sit down with a cappuccino, an almond biscuit and Danda Santini.

Santini is editor-in-chief of iO Donna, the weekly magazine that comes with the Saturday edition of Corriere della Sera newspaper. I flick through the glossy fashion ads until she appears. And there she is, in her pearl earrings and white shirt, smiling against a yellow backdrop. It’s like seeing an old friend. There’s something so very reassuring about her. And it’s not just because of the way she looks, it’s because of her voice, which rings through her words. She’s familiar but not clawing, opinionated but not demanding, and a little quirky. She talks about personal experiences: how she feels about being mother of the bride, current events like the surprise appearance of JLo during Milan Fashion Week and introduces the themes of special editions, like the one last Saturday on health and wellbeing. As I read her Italian words, their English counterparts respond in my mind and I’m filled with a mix of relief and amusement. Yes, I understand the language, yes, I understand what she’s saying. But most of all, I hear Danda Santini.

About three weeks ago, I decided to make a habit of translating her iO Donna introductions as a way of practising my translation skills. As easy as it is to hear her, translating her is quite another experience, at least to translate her well and capture her voice.Io Donna, Danda Santini, Corriere delle Sera

Here I give you the first paragraph of Over the Top, the piece Santini wrote for the Saturday 13th October edition, translated into English. (Yes, her heading is in English. English idioms are popular in Italy but that’s a discussion for another day). Having spent most of Sunday working on it (the whole piece…), at 08:00 this morning I was on Skype with my fellow translator and interpreter, Elisabetta Serratore, rejigging it a little bit more. Translating is hard! Finding a pitch perfect English equivalent while staying as close to the Italian text as possible is a challenge, akin, I would say, to finding the Holy Grail. Don’t judge before trying it for yourself!

Over the top by Danda Santini (Original Italian version)

Il tassello più vispo dell’offensiva mondiale sulla diversity? Gli “over” (lasciamolo così, inclusivo e un po’ indefinito, per non fare torto a nessuno), che non ci stanno a subire lo scacco dell’età e si smarcano a sorpresa. Con il movimento contro la discriminazione sulla base dell’età e iniziative e corsi per trasformare i passaggi cruciali della vita ribattezzandoli in modo creativo: così si rassicura e si solletica il desiderio di eternità della prima generazione cresciuta con il benessere e senza guerre. Quella generazione conta, è numerosa, è abbiente e spesso pure potente. Vuoi non compiacerla?

Over the top by Danda Santini (English Translation)

Who’s nailing the global offensive on diversity? The “overs” (let’s just say it like that, inclusive and a little vague so as not to offend anyone) who aren’t prepared to let age hold them back and who surprisingly out smart it with the movement against age discrimination and initiatives and courses for transforming momentous life phases, creatively renaming them. This is how the first generation, who grew up with good health and without war, is reassured and enticed by eternal youth. That generation counts, it’s numerous, it’s affluent and often powerful too. So why wouldn’t you want to please them?


La Terra Inquieta (The Restless Earth) at La Triennale di Milano is an exhibition about refugees and migrants.

Francis Alÿs

Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River by Francis Alÿs (2008)

“Do you like the show?” I asked a fellow visitor in Italian as we were nearing the end. “I do,” he replied, “what I like most, is its sense of equilibrio.

Adrian Paci 

Centro di Permanenza Temporanea by Adrian Paci (2007)

I knew exactly what he meant. Equilibrio is the word that came to my mind too. In English it can be translated as equilibrium, balance, poise, composure or stasis. With regards to this show it refers to all of the above.

Liu Xiaodong

Things aren’t as bad as they could be by Liu Xiaodong (2017)

The name of the show is borrowed from the collection of poems by the Martinican writer and philosopher Édouard Glissant. It’s a fitting name, which may sound strange given the sense of equilibrio I just mentioned, but somehow both aspects are present.

Thomas Hirschhorn

Beyond Ruins by Thomas Hirschhorn (2016)

Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and promoted by La Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and La Triennale di Milano, La Terra Inquieta (The Restless Earth) brings together 65 artists (although it doesn’t seem that many) from 40 countries.

Andra Ursuta

Commerce Exterieur Mondial Sentimental by Andra Ursuta (2012)

Gioni’s excellent curatorial direction, the integrity of the works, the storytellers whether they are the artists themselves, many of whom have been refugees or migrants, or the people and experiences they portray together with the absence of the mass media all contribute to make this a five star exhibition.

Abounaddara Films

The Witness by Abounaddara Films

The show highlights many aspects rarely seen via the mass media. The Witness recorded by Abounaddara Films, an anonymous film making company from Damascus, is a series of interviews with different people. In one interview a woman speaks about how she goes to afternoon prayers wearing trousers which is forbidden under the “Islamic State”. Her friends can’t believe it – ‘a girl all by herself facing the “Islamic State”. Talk about a state!’ she says, ‘it’s more like a gang that takes advantage of people’s fear and feels more and more powerful.’ You can see the entire interview here.

Yasmine Kabir

My Migrant Soul by Yasmine Kabir (2001)

The harsh reality of poverty, the devastation of war, cruelty and upheaval – it’s all here but none of it impacted me in the same way as it does via the mass media. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, the need to judge or take a stance but I left with a more empathetic understanding of the migrant and refugee experience than I have honestly ever felt before.

Isaac Julien

Western Union: small boats by Isaac Julien (2007)

Filmed in Palermo, Sicily, Western Union: small boats by Isaac Julien, is, as he explains,  ‘a meditation on Visconti’s The Leopard but set in modern days. We know the story about Visconti, it’s about the decline of the aristocratic classes and, in this moment in time in Sicily, it’s really about, the new émigrés, new people from Africa, coming into Europe.’

Isaac Julien

Western Union: small boats by Isaac Julien (2007)

It’s incredibly beautiful and thought provoking.

Isaac Julien

Western Union: small boats by Isaac Julien (2007)

What came to my mind was the unnerving juxtaposition of beauty and evil. For example, we see people at the beach swimming in a crystal blue sea only a stone’s through away from dead bodies covered in foil lying on the shore.

Bouchra Khalili

The Mapping Journey Project by Bouchra Khalili (2008 – 2011)

Not surprisingly, means of travel – especially small boats – figure throughout the show. I found Bouchra Khalili’s The Mapping Journey Project particularly informative. She represents eight different illegal journeys made by immigrants coming from north Africa or Africa to France. Each one recounts their journey while tracing it over a map. You can sit, watch and listen to each journey. In Mapping Journey #1 a man describes travelling in a small boat, ‘You can’t even imagine the huge waves and the fear’ he says.

Adel Abdessemed

Hope by Adel Abdessemed (2011 – 2012)

Hope by Adel Abdessemed is a wooden boat filled with cast resin sculptures of stuffed black garbage bags. He found the boat on the Florida Keys. As described on the wall panel it’s, “a likely castoff of migrants arriving from Cuba,” while the black sacks, “offer a blunt metaphor for how the boat’s presumed passengers are regarded by much of society.”  ‘Hope,’ says the artist, is the only negative thing in the world.

Mona Hatoum (1998)

Map by Mona Hatoum (1998)

The precarious nature of life is another strong theme throughout the show. In Mona Hatoum’s Map transparent glass marbles are laid out on the floor as a world map . They’re not stuck to the floor, they’re just placed on the floor, “revealing the planet’s territorial divisions as both dangerous and fragile,” as described on the information panel. While I was there one guy accidently trod on the bottom of South America which rolled away haphazardly. Perhaps the lack of protection is not altogether accidental hammering home the point, I think, that anything can happen to anyone at any given moment in time so in this respect we’re all in the proverbial same boat but I think this is exactly what gives the show that sense of equilibrio which I mentioned earlier.

The show runs until the 20th August 2017 and really worth a visit in you’re in Milan.

M16 Assault Rifles for Sale to Promote One Day of Peace

Lion in the Sand by Peter Doig

Lion in the Sand by Peter Doig, Oil on M-16, 2014

“Sold out'” said the sign at the ticket office when I eventually made it to Frieze this year. Frieze Art Fair is the most important UK international art fair of the year. It takes place every October in Regent’s Park where the art world glitterati gather over copious glasses of champagne and talk each other into buying outrageously expensive works of art.

In conjunction with the fair there are a million and one other events staged throughout London. Galleries host private views, collectors host parties, people championing causes host silent art auctions and Christie’s and Sotheby’s contemporary art sales keep the art market buoyant with dazzling prices and juicy gossip.

It Don't Mean A Thing If It 'Aint Got That Pin by Harland Miller

It Don’t Mean A Thing If It ‘Aint Got That Pin by Harland Miller, Engraved decommissioned Colt M16 Assault Rifle

I was looking forward to it. What could be more entertaining than an afternoon of glamour, bubbly, crazy contemporary art and crazy contemporary people? If I hadn’t been so lazy about buying a ticket beforehand I wouldn’t have missed it but then again, I wouldn’t have gone to the most thought provoking exhibition of the entire week.

It was 4.30 pm. With no chance of getting into Frieze I hopped on the Bakerloo line to Charing Cross and legged it across Trafalgar Square where, tucked away in the relatively calm surroundings of the ICA was the exhibition “M16“. I had about about an hour before it closed.

Curated by Jake Chapman “M16” was organised to raise awareness of Peace One Day, a non-profit organisation founded by actor turned film maker Jeremy Gilley who basically created the first internationally recognised day of cease fire and non violence. His is an incredibly inspiring story.

Bad Gold by Yinka Shonibare

Bad Gold by Yinka Shonibare, Gold paint and batik fabric on decommissioned Colt M16 Assault Rifle, 2014

During a period of soul searching in the summer of 1998 Gilley realised that an official day of world peace didn’t exist (there was one actually – every 3rd Tuesday of September – but nobody knew about it and those who did know ignored it) so he decided to create one himself and make a film about his endeavour. A tad idealistic you may think, but three years later, on the 7th September 2001, at the United Nations General Assembly Kofi Annan announced the 21st September as the fixed date for Peace Day: the official day of cease fire and non violence. By the 21st September 2012 over 470 million people in 198 different countries were aware of Peace Day. The aim is to reach 3 billion by 2016.

Gilley’s film The Day After Peace documents his story from the initial idea to Peace Day being honoured by life saving initiatives taking place on the 21st September annually across the globe. For example, on the 21st September 2007 a cease fire in southern and eastern Afghanistan allowed 10,000 vaccinators to enter these usually inaccessible areas without being harmed or taken hostage and vaccinate 1.4 million children against polio. More recently the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has teamed up with Gilley to establish a peace campaign including humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region of Africa. From a madcap idea to millions of lives being saved and millions more seeing the benefits of literally just one day of peace per year. The entire documentary can be viewed on youtube or by clicking here. It’s the most uplifting documentary I’ve ever seen.

Embroidered Gun by Kim Jones

Embroidered Gun by Louis Vuitton designer Kim Jones, decommissioned Colt M16 assault rifle, fabric, metallic ribbon and metallic string, 2014

For “M16” fifteen famous artists were asked to transform decommissioned (which means they’ve been used) M16 assault rifles into works of art. Artists include Peter Doig (his painting The Heart of the Sun sold for £4,562,500 at Christies’ art sale two days earlier), Mark Quinn (“Thaw of the Kokolik River” sold for £122,500 in the same sale) and Sam Taylor-Johnson who, rather than recrafting a rifle, framed an article from the Ham and High newspaper about how her house in Primrose Hill was raided by armed police having been alerted by passers-by who had seen, through her studio window, the rifle on the table. There’s also a rifle signed by Kate Moss.

In the background: The Eye of History by Marc Quinn, Mixed Media and paper collage on pigment print, 2014. In the foreground: Saint Just - DE - DR. -MEESE - PARSIFAL - HOT - HUMPTY - ZARDOZ - EGG - DUMPTY - BEN - IF - LOLITA - GUN DE LARGE IN ERZLAND (GUN DE NONNINEI) by Jonathan Meese, Acrylic, acrylic modelling past and mixed media on decommissioned Colt M16 Assault Rifle. 2014

In the background: The Eye of History by Marc Quinn, Mixed Media and paper collage on pigment print, 2014. In the foreground: Saint Just – DE – DR. -MEESE – PARSIFAL – HOT – HUMPTY – ZARDOZ – EGG – DUMPTY – BEN – IF – LOLITA – GUN DE LARGE IN ERZLAND (GUN DE NONNINEI) by Jonathan Meese, Acrylic, acrylic modelling paste and mixed media on decommissioned Colt M16 Assault Rifle. 2014

“M16” is the sister project to “AKA Peace” an exhibition also curated by Chapman for the same cause in 2012 but using AK-47s. As he explains in this video ‘the AK-47 is emblematic of a more illegitimate side of violence, the fundamentalist or terroristic side because it’s associated with more, I suppose, revolutionary or radicalised armies like non-nation state armies,’ while the M16 symbolises violence ‘funded by states and countries which are somehow seen as legitimate. The M16 is the predominant American weapon which, we wanted to make some kind of gesture towards the idea of thinking that M16s represent perhaps the idea of exporting democracy from the West via the super power of America and its associate allies with Britain, so that we were trying to somehow equalise the implication that it’s not only the illegitimacy of the AK-47, it’s the legitimacy of the M16 which also causes violence.’

BBW by Douglas Gordon

BBW by Douglas Gordon, Decommissioned Colt M16 Assault Rifle and taxidermy wolf

The ‘AKA Peace’ rifles made nearly £500,000 at auction in 2012. I believe the M16s will be auctioned at Bonhams on the 28th January 2015. I hope the auction goes well although pulling off the same(ish) good thing twice rarely reaps the same rewards which is a pity in this instance.

M16 by Jake and Dinos Chapman

M16 by Jake and Dinos Chapman, Fibreglass, bayonet and decommissioned Colt M16 Assault Rifle on plinth

All the Fun of the Fair at The Affordable Art Fair, Battersea

Living the Dream by Rosa Nussbaum

Living the Dream by Rosa Nussbaum, Steal, perspex, MDF, paint, fluorescent lighting £4,980 part of the Recent Graduate’s Exhibition.

“If it’s going to make you happy for the next 20 years”, I overheard someone say as I wandered around the Affordable Art Fair Battersea yesterday. I can imagine what the other person was thinking, “will I, won’t I, will I, won’t I?” After all, art isn’t a necessity like paying your electricity bill and you can actually find some fairly OK canvases/posters that come in pretty cheap. Then again, buying a work of art that a) makes you feel something, b) reflects and reaffirms to you something about yourself and c) makes you feel proud to show it off to others, is a completely different experience compared with simply filling a wall space and once you make your first heart felt purchase, you’ll never go back to conveyer belt art again – it’s just as simple as that, no matter how small or big your budget is.

I know, “budget” is the operative word and collecting art is often viewed as an expensive luxury but it honestly doesn’t have to be. As I always say, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ and the Affordable Art Fair: Contemporary Art from £100 – £5,000 is definitely one way.

Comprised of over 100 gallery stands, it’s geared towards art lovers who don’t have an oligarch’s budget but who do have a strong appreciation for contemporary art and who genuinely enjoy the overall experience of purchasing it and living with it.

Of course making your first purchase can be daunting (it gets easier…) but my advice to the woman I overheard would be: if you have the budget and get the feeling – go for it.

Here’s a few of my top picks:  “Living the Dream” by Rosa Nussbaum, from the Recent Graduate’s Exhibition (see above). A call back to comic strip life with the reminder that we’re all living in our own dreams.

Be Careful what you wish for by Ann Kelson

Be Careful what you wish for by Ann Kelson; Bone, wood, wire; £125 part of the Recent Graduates’ Exhibition.

How long has it been since I’ve thought about making something with wishbones? In fact I did once – I painted a few with red nail varnish but didn’t take it any further than that so I was amused to see these by Ann Kelson, also part of the Recent Graduates’ Exhibition. Entitled “Be Careful What You Wish For” a broken wish bone is shown in the process of mending with the message underneath: Mend: To make usable again (something torn or worn); to repair (something broken or damaged); to heal or cure (a broken bone, a sad feeling). You can read her inspiration behind them here. In a way I wish I hadn’t read the background story, it’s much more serious than I would like it to be, but that’s life – be careful what you wish for. There’s single ones framed like the one above and also three in a frame and five in a frame. They’re all sure to go.

Chief Red Jacket by Gavin Mitchell at Northcote Gallery

Chief Red Jacket by Gavin Mitchell at Northcote Gallery; Print on museum etched paper, 98 x 80 cm £750 framed

Sorry about the awful photo, it’s the best I could do but I just love this “Chief Red Jacket’ by Gavin Mitchell at Northcote Gallery, stand H11. Andy Warhol did a series of native American indians too and I love them as well. I find it comforting to be in the presence of Chief, a person who acknowledges and reveres the greater mysteries of life. It balances out the realisation that anything can happen to anyone at anytime which is quite a daunting realisation.

Cinnamon Lumberjacks by Christopher Boffoli

Cinnamon Lumberjacks by Christopher Boffoli, edition of 30 + 2 AP, Perspex, dibond, mounted prints, 61 x 92 cm, £1,800

The sizes of men and food are swapped so that a skier skies down a 99 ice-cream and men become the size of cinnamon sticks in Christopher Boffoli‘s series. Both times I passed the Bicha Gallery, stand I11, I noticed people stopping and commenting on these works especially the “Cinnamon Lumberjacks”.

Mist by Christiaan Lieverse

Mist by Christiaan Lieverse, 140 x 120 cm, mixed media on canvas £2450

There’s some damn fine portrait artists at the moment, one of my favourites is Lita Cabellut – absolutely amazing. “Mist” by Christiaan Lieverse stood out for me at Villa del Arte Galleries, stand I14.

In a Flap by Charlotte Farmer

In a Flap by Charlotte Farmer, limited edition screen print, £460 framed.

If you’ve got a kid’s room you want to brighten up this is the artist to go for without a doubt. Other prints include ‘The Call of the Wild” and “Bananas”. Visit the Smithson gallery at stand J6.

Blue Corridor by Daan Oude Elferink

Blue Corridor by Daan Oude Elferink, Photography edition of 8, 80 x 120 cm, £4,000

As the Art Detective says, ‘A great work of art will always tell you it’s a great work of art,’ and there’s no doubt about it, “Blue Corridor” by Daan Oude Elferink is a great work of photography. There were already 7 red stickers stuck to the wall beside it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire edition of 8 has already been sold. You can check him out at Ronen Art Gallery, stand D1.

Toffs Love Dogs by Magda Archer

Toffs Love Dogs by Magda Archer, Archival Inkjet with 1 Colour screenprint Overlay with Diamond Dust and Glitter Embesllishment, Edition of 60, Framed £500

Two of my favourite stands (both were at the Moniker Art Fair as well) were Jealous at stand J4 where you can find “Toffs Love Dogs” by Magda Archer and TAG Fine Arts at stand H10 where you will find David Spillers “In Your Smile (Mutley)” and “We’re After The Same Rainbow’s End (Sylvester).” I’ve put “Mutley”on my bucket list.

In Your Smile (Mutley) by David Spiller

In Your Smile (Mutley) by David Spiller, Silkscreen print on Somerset satin 100% 400 gsm paper, edition of 75, Image size 76 x 76 cm, paper size 88 x 88 cm, framed £1,150