Large-Scale Sculptures By Ghanaian Artist Paa Joe On View At High Museum Of Art This Spring

This spring, the High Museum of Art will present “Paa Joe: Gates of No Return” (Feb. 29–May 31, 2020), an exhibition organized by the American Folk Art Museum featuring a series of seven large-scale, painted wood architectural sculptures representing Gold Coast fortresses, which served as way stations for millions of Africans sold into slavery and sent to the Americas and the Caribbean between the 16th and 19th centuries.

The sculptures were created by Ghanaian artist and master craftsman Joseph Tetteh Ashong (b. 1947), also known as Paa Joe, who is the most celebrated fantasy coffin maker of his generation. Recalling his figurative coffins—or abeduu adekai (“proverb boxes”)—these architectural models allude to the lives of the dead in their forms and motifs. Though not actual coffins, the sculptures in the exhibition refer to the fortress sites as embodying vessels of death. Once enslaved people were forced through these “Gates of No Return,” they started an irreversible and perilous journey during which many perished and those who survived suffered the spiritual death of permanent displacement and dehumanization.

Paa Joe was 15 years old when he began a 12-year apprenticeship in 1962 with his mother’s cousin Kane Kwei (1922–1992), who is known to be the first to popularize the use of figurative coffins for burial. Still active, Paa Joe is based in the greater Accra region and has been building coffins since the 1970s, gaining recognition as being the most celebrated living artist of Ghana in the genre. In 2018, the Detroit Institute of Arts honored him with the 2018 African Arts Recognition Award, which underlines his contributions to contemporary culture. Paa Joe has received international recognition in exhibitions since the 1980s, including the 1989 seminal “Magicians of the Earth” at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and other presentations at the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Brooklyn Museum, among others. In 2016, he was the subject of a documentary film, “Paa Joe & The Lion” (Benjamin Wigley, ARTDOCS Ltd). Some of his coffins from American collections were featured in the 2018 exhibition “Shapes of the Ancestors: Bodies, Animals, Art, and Ghanaian Fantasy Coffins” at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Joseph Tetteh Ashong AKA Paa Joe (b. 1947), “Cape Coast” part of the “Paa Joe: Gates of No Return” Exhibition (Feb. 29–May 31, 2020), The High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Photo courtesy of The High Museum of Art.

The seven imposing sculptures selected for the exhibition are among a group of 13 models that were commissioned from Paa Joe in 2004 and 2005 by the late artist, collector and art dealer Claude Simard. The generous scale and high contrast of these sculptures evoke the style of Paa Joe’s fantasy coffins. The artist created this body of work after several visits to each of the Gold Coast sites, which include the Christiansborg Castle in Accra and Fort Gross–Friedrichsburg in Princes Town.

Paa Joe (1947, Ghana); [Fort] Gross-Friedrichsburg – Princestown. 1683 Brandenburg, 1717-24 Ahanta, 1724 Neths, 1872 Britain; 2004–2005 and 2017; Accra, Ghana; emele wood and enamel; 40 x 100 x 70 in.; courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo © Paa Joe, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

In addition to the seven sculptures on view, the exhibition features archival documents and recordings that provide context for the artist’s creative process and give points of entry into the history of these charged historical sites, including photographs and short films by award-winning filmmaker Benjamin Wigley and art historian Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, curator of Ghana’s 58th pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Paa Joe (1947, Ghana); Fort St. Anthony – Axim. 1515 Portugal, 1642 Netherlands, 1872 Britain; 2004–2005 and 2017; Accra, Ghana; emele wood and enamel; 48 1/2 x 100 x 84 1/2 in.; courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo © Paa Joe, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

As the first venue for this critically acclaimed exhibition in the American South, the High will also present programs and information that connect Paa Joe’s haunting sculptures with the region’s history of slavery. 

In a sculptural language informed by his many years of making fantasy coffins, Paa Joe has made it possible for our audiences to encounter places whose histories may not be as well-known as they should be,” said Katherine Jentleson, the High’s Merrie and Dan Boone curator of folk and self-taught art. “Standing before his replicas is an experience that will be an emotional one for our audiences, especially as we strive to connect these places with the historic sites related to the transatlantic slave trade that surround us in the southeastern United States.”

Paa Joe (1947, Ghana); Cape Coast Castle – Cape Coast. 1653 Sweden, 1665 Britain; 2004–2005 and 2017; Accra, Ghana; emele wood and enamel; 45 x 133 x 88 in.; American Folk Art Museum, gift in memory of Claude Simard, 2018.13.1. Photo © Paa Joe, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
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Musical Explorers Family Concerts on Saturday, January 18 at Carnegie Hall Introduce Children to Music From Around the World

Interactive Performances Showcase Cumbia, Armenian Folk, and Hip-Hop

New York City Public School Students in Grades K–2 Learn About Different Cultures in the Classroom through Musical Explorers

Plus, More than 150,000 Students Across the US Participate in Musical Explorers Through Newly Launched Free Digital Platform

On Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., three vibrant New York City-based musical groups will perform in Zankel Hall as part of the Musical Explorers Family Concert, an interactive experience celebrating music from around the world. The performance features cumbia with Gregorio Uribe, Armenian folk with Zulal, and hip-hop with Soul Science Lab. Free pre-concert activities are offered one hour prior to each performance, preparing parents and children to sing and dance along with the artists.

Colombian singer, songwriter, and accordionist Gregorio Uribe has forged a unique place in the music scene of both the US and Latin America. Founder and leader of the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, a 16-piece orchestra that blends cumbia and other Colombian rhythms with powerful big band arrangements, he released the album Cumbia Universal featuring eight-time Grammy winner Rubén Blades. Uribe’s next project is an album with a smaller ensemble that highlights his songwriting and his signature instrument, the accordion. His music has also been showcased in documentaries and TV series, including FX’s Mayans M.C. and CBS’s MacGyver.

Zulal, which means “clear water,” is an Armenian a cappella trio that features Teni Apelian, Yeraz Markarian, and Anaïs Tekerian. The trio rearranges and re-imagines traditional Armenian folk melodies for stage and recordings. Performing since 2002, Zulal has performed at venues such as The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to performing and arranging, Zulal also creates soundtracks for film and theater, and offers educational workshops for young audiences.

Soul Science Lab is the multimedia duo of artist, educator, and creative director Chen Lo and multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator Asanté Amin. The group’s work draws on the full lineage of black American music, from West African roots to contemporary hip-hop. Between them, they have shared the stage with The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, KRS-One, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Raheem DeVaughn, Wynton Marsalis, and dead prez, and have performed on major stages, including Lincoln Center, BAM, and the Apollo Theater. Together, they created the groundbreaking production Soundtrack ’63, combining music and visuals to explore the black experience in the US from slavery to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

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And We Are Off!: November Retail Sales Kick Off Holiday Season With 2.1 Percent Growth Over Last Year and More Spending to Come

Thanksgiving weekend draws nearly 190 million shoppers, spending up 16 percent

Retail sales in November, and especially around the Thanksgiving/Black Friday period are some of the most important sales data in all of retail. And this year’s numbers are even more important than ever before.

Per the analysts at the National Retail Federation, retail sales in November increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over October and were up 2.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year, marking the first half of the holiday season with billions of dollars in shopping left to be done. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

November showed modest growth on the surface, but you have to remember that the late timing of Thanksgiving delayed the beginning of the busiest portion of the holiday season and pushed Cyber Monday’s billions of dollars of retail sales into December,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “These numbers are more about the calendar than consumer confidence. Consumer spending has been solid, and there’s still a lot of spending to be done. With strong employment and higher wages, we’re on track for a strong holiday season.”

Kleinhenz noted that the year-over-year comparison was challenging because November 2018 was up an unusually strong 4.7 percent over the year before. But December 2018 was down 0.2 percent from the year before, making it likely that next month could show a strong comparison.

In addition, many consumers began their shopping early this year, with some starting before November. NRF surveys showed that 39 percent planned to begin by Halloween, and that consumers on average had completed 52 percent of their shopping as of the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

“Whether they’re looking for something unique on Main Street, making a trip to the mall or clicking from the couch, this is when holiday shoppers shift into high gear.” – NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay

NRF’s forecast predicts that holiday retail sales during November and December will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent for a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion.

November’s results build on October’s increase of 0.2 percent month-over-month and a strong 4.1 percent year-over-year. As of November, the three-month moving average was up 3.3 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 4.2 percent in October.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall November sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from October and up 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during November include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 7.2 percent year-over-year and up 0.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores were up 4.3 percent year-over-year but down 0.5 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 4 percent year-over-year and up 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.4 percent year-over-year and up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were unchanged year-over-year but up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 1.2 percent year-over-year but unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.7 percent year-over-year but up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were also down 1.7 percent year-over-year and were down 1.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.9 percent year-over-year and down 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

And the good news, such as it is, continued into the proceeding Thanksgiving Day weekend. A record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 14 percent over last year’s 165.8 million, the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics said.

Americans continue to start their holiday shopping earlier in the year, and Thanksgiving is still a critical weekend for millions,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Whether they’re looking for something unique on Main Street, making a trip to the store or searching for the best deals from their mobile device, this is when shoppers shift into high gear. With the condensed holiday season, consumers are feeling the pressure to get their shopping done in time. Even those who typically wait until the last minute to purchase gifts turned out in record numbers all weekend long.

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Be My Valentine: Mandarin Oriental, Paris Launches Be My Valentine by Guerlain Room Package with Exclusive Fragrance Offer

Inspired by Valentine’s Day,Mandarin Oriental, Paris is offering a romantic accommodation package in collaboration with Guerlain. Guests booking the February 2020 Be my Valentine by Guerlain offer will take home the new La Petite Robe Noire So Frenchy limited-edition fragrance created by the perfume and cosmetics house and enjoy other romantic treats during their stay in the ‘City of Love’.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris Launches Be My Valentine by Guerlain Room Package with Exclusive Fragrance Offer

Since 1828, Guerlain has explored, innovated and perfected. In Fragrance, Skincare and Makeup. Daring creators, mythical creations, timeless know-how. Culture of Beauty as its signature. Their teams, “Explorers by nature” combine day after day luxury and sustainable development. In the Name of Beauty for our Clients, In the Name of Beauty for our Creations, In the Name of Beauty for the Planet.

On arrival, Be my Valentine by Guerlain package guests will be welcomed to their room with rose petal arrangements and other romantic treats, including sweet-tasting delights and pink champagne, and receive their bottle of La Petite Robe Noire So Frenchy. A take on timeless French chic, this eau de parfum combines sultry rose with dark notes of black cherry, patchouli and black tea. The new Rouge G lipstick in a matte soft pink, decorated with cherry blossom on both the stick and case, will be presented to guests too.

Also included in the package is a perfume consultation at Guerlain’s Vendôme boutique, a few steps away from the hotel, where guests will be warmly welcomed and have their perfume bottle engraved with their names or a message. Back at the hotel, guests can indulge in pure relaxation at The Spa, with EUR 100 credit per day.

The Be my Valentine by Guerlain package is priced from EUR 1,175 per night and includes:

  • Luxurious accommodation
  • Daily breakfast for two, in-room or at Camélia restaurant
  • A 50 ml bottle of the new La Petite Robe Noire So Frenchy eau de parfum and a Rouge G lipstick to take home
  • A personalised bottle engraving and fragrance consultation at Guerlain’s Vendôme boutique on 356 rue Saint-Honoré
  • Complimentary bottle of Louis Roederer Pink Champagne and sweet-tasting treats delivered to guests’ room upon arrival
  • Romantic room set up, including rose petal arrangements
  • A credit of EUR 100 per stay for The Spa

The package is available between February 1-29, 2020, subject to availability. Rates are based on two people sharing. For enquiries or bookings, please visit the website.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris is a celebration of Paris today and tomorrow, inspired by fashion and artistic creativity and underpinned by the brand’s legendary service. This truly Parisian five star hotel provides an oasis of tranquillity and a cocoon of luxury. The 96 chic and elegant rooms and 39 spacious suites offer guests an exceptionally stylish Parisian experience with their nod to couture and unique art pieces. Located in the very heart of the city, the hotel’s best kept secret is its inner garden providing a sanctuary from the bustling city and a peaceful dining haven. A wide range of dining options are overseen by celebrated Chef Thierry Marx, including two-Michelin starred, fine-dining restaurant, Sur Mesure, all-day dining Camélia, a Cake Shop by Mandarin Oriental, a cool cocktail bar, as well as L’Honoré serving health conscious cuisine. Finally, the Spa at Mandarin Oriental offers unique wellness and relaxation experiences, in a soothing, contemporary environment, featuring luxurious private treatment rooms, an indoor pool and a state of the art fitness centre. Mandarin Oriental, Paris is the preferred choice of discerning travellers who believe they have found the city’s best kept secret address.