Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

More Art – Short, Sweet and NOT Boring

July 25th, 2015
Berkeley Square, London

I promise to keep this blog about Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos short and sweet after my 16 year old daughter Julia came into my office, looked at my photos, and asked why I can’t write about more exciting hobbies? Does she think I am a closet hang glider?

I promise Vasconcelos, a cross between Jeff Koons and Louise Bourgeois, does not do boring. This is the woman behind ‘The Bride’, the 2005 Venice Biennale 20′ high chandelier made  from over 25,000 tampons. Johnson & Johnson love her.


She’s the third artist (and the youngest and only female) after Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami to be given free reign at Versailles. Vasconcelos wanted to put that  infamous chandelier in Marie-Antoinette’s room but the top chiens at Versailles rejected the idea.

At least she was able to get the pink feathered helicopter approved for landing in one of the state rooms. Her 2012 Versailles show became the most visited show in France in fifty years.


So if you happen to be in London in August (I know, fat chance of that) and sent your hang glider to the dry cleaners, may I suggest you drop into Phillips on Berkeley Square and check out her exuberant show, ‘Material World’.

Vasconcelos typically takes everyday objects or materials with a feminist theme (lace, crochet, ceramics, and of course, tampons) and creates something beautiful and surprising out of them. She takes masculine subjects and feminises them, removes the sting. She blends visual delight with the conceptual.

Quite a pretty urinal, if I do say so.


Vasconcelos’s London-based agent Michael Hue Williams is pictured here with his daughter Lucca in front of the Valkyrie, ‘Material Girl’.


 She’s the real deal. If we don’t mess up she’s going the whole way. Like Jeff Koons. She’s going to be a superstar, says Hue-Williams.

She combines craft quite unashamedly, brazenly in high art. Materials are her paint.” 




Interesting fact: Vasconcelos started out as a karate expert. At one point she ran a karate-groomed, female posse of nightclub bouncers in Lisbon.

Today she has 55 people working flat out, alongside her, in her vast Lisbon studio, getting ready for upcoming shows in Korea, Rio and Rome (latter  is a group show in May with Koons and other art heavy weights).

I want to see her go to America. We have had phenomenal success all over for her, but not yet in America’, says Hue-Williams.

Julia and like-minded readers, I sincerely hope this blog didn’t put you to…


July, 2015