Art in The Week That Was

A selection of creative current affairs and events which have hit the headlines…


– An Art and Technology graduate from MIT’s Media Lab has managed to bottle the scent of a human being.  The artist – Ani Liu – blends together elements of architecture, synthetic biology and augmented reality to explore the social and psychological concepts emerging from these 2 disciplines, creating multi-sensory experiences.  Combining her research on our sense of smell and its connection to memory, Liu decided to examine how synthetic biology could transport a person back to a particular event.  Her project ‘Human Perfume’ was thus born.

By mixing volatile cells taken from clothing, and mixing them with a solvent, Liu made a bottled memory of her 6 test subjects – her husband, parents, 2 scientists and herself.  When confronting her husband with his particular scent, however, he didn’t recognise it to be himself, saying it instead smelled like his brother.

Liu’s work on the senses continues.

Ani Liu – MIT research graduate – an artist who uses synthetic biology, architecture and augmented reality to examine the links between sense of smell and memory.


– A rallying cry of protest came from members of the archaeological community this week, when a group of Canadian scientists published a research paper condemning certain DNA collection practices.  Dr Jessica Bardill – Concordia University Researcher and lead author on the paper – suggested that the reason there are so many human remains to take samples and data from, is because of dubious collection practices of remains in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Dr Jessica Bardill – Concordia University, Canada – lead author of the paper on paleogenomic DNA collection ethics from

The paper states that:-

‘To minimise harms in the future, we recommend that ancestral remains be regarded not as “artefacts” but as human relatives who deserve respect in research…’.

Speaking mainly about the conflicts which have arisen between anthropologists and indigenous peoples on this very issue in recent years, the paper aims to provide a set of guiding key questions that researchers must explore before testing human remains.

Previously, the legislation entitled NAGPRA – The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act – made it a statutory requirement that scientists consult with culturally or geographically affiliated tribes before carrying out excavations.  This new research paper has tried to make the ethics surrounding such archaeology more clear.

– On another note, archaeologists at Pompeii, Italy, have managed to take a plaster cast of a horse which perished during the devastating volcanic eruption in 79AD.  Discovered just outside the city walls in the locality of Civita Giuliana, the horse’s figure was found within an ancient stable, complete with the remains of a trough.  Using the same plaster cast technique for preserving the cavity imprints of figures identified at the site, scientists have managed to capture the horse’s last pose.

The cast of the first horse found at Pompeii, Italy. Using liquid plaster poured into the cavity created by the lava-covered figure, scientists can recreate a victim’s last pose.

Even though the horse only stood around 5 feet tall (to its withers), experts at the site say that this would have been considered tall in the 1st Century AD.  Accidental grave goods found with the figure include an expensive-looking iron and bronze harness, leading archaeologists to believe that the horse was considered of value.

Fascinatingly, next to the horse a later human grave was discovered along with kitchen utensils, showing that the site continued to be inhabited even after the cataclysmic eruption of Vesuvius.  This is surprising considering the devastation that the natural disaster wrought, as detailed by contemporary writer – and disaster victim – Pliny the Younger, in his letters to Emperor Trajan.


– One of the most architecturally impressive universities in the UK (and one of our Editor-in-Chief’s alma matae) – Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey – has been named one of the Top 30 further education institutions.  The Complete University Guide 2019 has named the university number 28 on its list (in general), and within the top 10 for 3 of its subjects – Creative Writing, Geology and Marketing.  Famed for its architectural beauty – the main building (‘Founders’) is modelled on a French chateau; its coveted and comprehensive collection of valuable artworks, some of which are displayed in its Picture Gallery, and the Rococo décor within the Chapel (reliefs by Ceccardo Fuciginia, for example), the university attracts a plethora of international as well as domestic students.

The ‘Founders’ Building, Royal Holloway College (University of London). This iconic version of a French chateau has appeared in many a film set, such as Howard’s End and more recently in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Professor Paul Layzell (Principal) states:-

‘Royal Holloway is privileged to be home to some of the world’s leading authorities in science, the arts, management, economics and law.  I am delighted that our strength in these areas has been recognised by having 3 subject areas in the top 10 in the UK.’.

The stunning interior of Royal Holloway College Chapel.

The college has also been brought into the spotlight recently with the celebration of 100 years since the protests of the politically-ardent Suffragettes.  Emily Wilding-Davison – who threw herself under King George V’s horse, ‘Anmer’ at the 1913 Epsom Derby, and consequently died from the injuries caused by her heroic act, is commemorated by a dedicated administration building at the college, opened in September 2017.

Creative Events:-

A number of creative festivities have occurred in recent weeks, capturing the headlines.  Here we take a look at the cream of the crop…

– The Met Gala in New York produced its usual collection of individualistic ball dresses.  The annual gala sets out to raise funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, and attracts many an A-lister.  Each year a costume theme must be adhered to, with ever-more dramatic designs gracing the Red Carpet.  This year’s theme was ‘Heavenly Bodies’, which caused many designers to create attire featuring crucifixes (Rihanna’s even featured a Bishop’s mitre).  Members of the Catholic Church have reportedly been shocked to see one of the Christian Church’s symbols appropriated so flagrantly, but the Met Ball guests have been unapologetic.

Previously used by stars to shock and self-publicise – a la Madonna in her ‘Like A Prayer’ music video – the crucifix has been used by fashion designers in modern times to coax public debate over its use as a fashion accessory.

Art Today particularly appreciated Zendaya’s architectural ‘Joan of Arc’ tribute costume and Ariana Grande’s Sistine-Chapel-themed ball gown.

Zendaya in her Met Gala 2018 ‘Heavenly Bodies’ costume, based on historical Christian figure, Joan of Arc.

– During Cannes Film Festival 2018, A-Listers again walked the Red Carpet in some inspirational fashion.  Some of the most dramatic looks were sported by Indian actress and model Deepika Padukone; 1994 Miss World Winner and actress  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan; and Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o (who recently starred in ’12 Days a Slave’).

Deepika Padukone steps out on Day 2 at Cannes Film Festival 2018.  Her hot pink, sculptural Ashi Studio gown proved a dramatic hit at the Chopard party.

Actress Salma Hayek called on film producers to finally cut the pay gap between male and female actors in the film industry.  She stated:-

‘Time’s up!  You had a good run but it is time now to be generous with the actresses…’.

Hayek (now Hayek-Pinault) took to the Red Carpet in a protest against the industry pay gap with 81 other actresses last Saturday.

Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001 Space Odyssey’ has been particularly celebrated at Cannes this year, which marks 50 years since the film was created.  The celebrations have included a first-ever showing of a previously-unrestored, 70mm print of the film, presented by groundbreaking director, Christopher Nolan.  Members of the Kubrick family also attended.

At the 71st Cannes Film Festival, Google were named the Cannes Lions 2018 Creative Marketer of the Year, and brothers Piyush and Prasoon Pandey were honoured with the Lion of St Mark Award for outstanding contribution to creative industry.  The coveted Palme d’Or winner is yet to be announced.  18 films are competing.

Themed hats and loud fashion are the order of the day for Skip and Mary at the Kentucky Derby this year.

– At the Kentucky Derby this month exaggerated costume drama also loomed large in the form of the annual hat contest.  Much like Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot, this sporting event has been somewhat overtaken by themed and ostentatious millinery.  The 144th running at Churchill Downs (Louisville, Kentucky) also saw brightly-coloured, patterned suits for the gents.  Jockey Mike Smith rode ‘Justify’ to victory in the main event.

Eurovision 2018 – hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, this year – saw Israel’s entry ‘Toy’ performed by Netta seize the coveted trophy.  The song contest saw the usual array of whacky drama with events such as a protester storming the stage, sexual metaphors in Scandinavian entry ‘Scandilove’, and Armenian entry – drag queen Kamil’s – OTT costume choice.  See the highlights in the clip below…


Celebrity Chef James Martin’s Hampshire mansion is allegedly up for sale – and the agent’s marketing pack details a superlative interior.  With Ralph Lauren wallpaper, Farrow & Ball décor and an unabashed palette, the 7-bedroom home in Hampshire, England, should be beset with offers.  That is, if potential buyers can work out how much to offer!  The house is said to be so valuable that Martin has not set a specific sale price on it.  The chef who currently hosts ‘Saturday Morning with James Martin’ in the top-floor, stainless steel and black, hi-tech kitchen, refused to accommodate the idea of nailing down an exact figure.

The hallway inside celebrity chef James Martin’s luxury residence in Hampshire, England. The confident décor (see pink, glass panther sculpture) continues throughout the 7-bedroom, no-expense-spared, mansion.


– Finally, uber luxury goods giant LVMH is reportedly intending to back fashion search engine, Lyst. The corporate giant behind brands such as Fendi and Dior is now making a £multi-million fund injection into Lyst’s capital fundraiser, to be announced this week.  Experts believe this to be a clear sign that LVMH are looking to buy out the smaller, UK firm.  Lyst, allegedly, will be looking for a £50million to £100million investment injection in the near future.


[Credits:  Feature Image – Rihanna’s response to Met Gala 2018’s theme ‘Heavenly Bodies’ (by Damon Winter, New York Times); National Geographic; BBC News; [email protected]; Royal Holloway; Vogue;; Arthur Mola/Invasion/AP; Lyvans Boolaky/imageSPACE/SilverHub/REX/Shutterstock; Neil Smith (BBC News);; Getty Images;;; USA Today,; Press Office;;; Lovemoney; Sky News]




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