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Murakami In Versailles

From cultural heritage to stylish contemporary art.

When Marc Jacobs, creative director for Louis Vuitton, collaborated with the art world’s celebrated painter and sculptor, Takashi Murakami, the result was a hive’s worth of buzz. Murakami transformed the company’s LV logo into a multi-color riot of cartoon-eye designs on a white sterile background. Needless to say, the artist suddenly found himself fashion’s latest it-boy in Paris. The rest is fashion retail history.  Not unlike Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami picks up low culture and tweaks it for the “high-art” market. The end products are often innovative and forward-moving design concepts.

It took ten years before the French government honored him with another major exhibition, the last ones at the Fundacion Cartier and the Emmanuel Perrotin gallery. In the fall 2010, the most discussed art exhibit had to be the “Murakami in Versailles.”
When the artist was asked what Versailles conjured for him, Takashi Murakami was quoted as saying, “For us (the Japanese) the Palace is both a symbol of Western history and a dream world with its own aesthetics.” In effect the artist creates tension between two cultures: the high and low, the superficial and the profound.

Versailles belonged to a particular moment in French history and was conceived by the French monarchy as the solution to its political problems. It was meant as a symbol of the glory of the French monarchial system. It was fitting and right that the Palace of Louis XIV should reveal its inexhaustible novelty and not become another relic of a worn past. To Murakami, the Palace itself is a site of such decorative elements that it is three-dimensional in nature. In a sense, the Japanese artist gave the chateau a breath of new life.
It’s in the Hall of Mirrors where Louis the King was painted by artist Le Brun in an epic narrative of the glories of monarchy. The King is depicted in a tableau leading the French crossing of the Rhine River in 1672. Dressed like a Roman god with hair streaming, he holds a thunderbolt projectile sitting in a silver chariot pushed by Hercules. In contrast, Murakami’s sculpture, “Flower Matango,” which graces the fabled room, depicts in fiber glass, acrylic and iron  a character which appears in a film done by the makers of Godzilla. It’s painted in an explosion of garish pop colors.

The whole audacity of the sculptural piece looks stunning in the Hall of Mirrors, a confectionary of unabashedly glorified Louis XIV’s reign. The effect is both dissonant and harmonious as Murakami’s artwork is set against a European tradition of perspective and abandons subject in favor of color. The artist’s initial goal was indeed to weave his personal Japanese identity into the fabric of Versailles creating a new chemical reaction for the viewers.

Louis XIV believed in the principle of an open palace. He wrote in his memoirs, “ If there is anything singular about French monarchy, it is the free and easy access which subjects have to their prince.” These days the Chateau de Versailles and its gardens constitute the most breathtaking cultural heritages of France. And indeed one of its patrimonial missions is to enhance it and to keep it available to the public. And by introducing a rich and varied artistic program, the chateau is brought back to life. Murakami declared that from a technical standpoint, he was locked in a battle with one of the world’s most difficult installation sites.


  • by JING RAMOS photo courtesy of Galerie EMMANUEL Perrotin


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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise


Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard


With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant

Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.

Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.

Visit Da-In restaurant today!

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