Art: Rio

2 03 2017


From the lens of the French Rio-based photographer Elsa Leydier.

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Summer sounds

24 12 2016

I missed the fourth album by Brazilian singer Ceu when it first came out in July, but thanks to a fashion magazine’s ” best of 2016″ list (see below) I discovered it just in time to crown “Tropix” the album of ( my) Summer, with its winning formula – evident in the single above – of glacial bossa nova vocals, electronic tropical rhythms and just enough surprises to keep it out of the pleasant coffee table music that MPB can sometime slump into.

Arthur Verocai

14 12 2016

The dreamy sounds of Brazilian cult favourite Arthur Verocai, whose self-titled 1972 MPB has just been re-issued.

Brazil, beach

25 08 2016


Photography by David Alan Harvey.

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BRAZIL. Rio de Janeiro. 2011.[lF][lF]Contact email: New York : Paris : London : Tokyo : Contact phones: New York : +1 212 929 6000 Paris: + 33 1 53 42 50 00 London: + 44 20 7490 1771 Tokyo: + 81 3 3219 0771 Image URL:

The Rio Olympics

25 08 2016

And so, the Olympics have come to an end. As someone who has such passionate memories of Rio, I was excited, and scared, as the games approached. Zika, water pollution, a bike path swept out to sea, a virtual coup, a deep recession: what else could go wrong for Rio?

But in the event the games were neither a disaster, nor – from my perspective – a triumph. The opening and closing ceremonies struck me as a little bland – in this least bland of cities. Of course, they were implemented on a much tighter budget than at other recent Olympics but with the incredible richness and breadth of Brazilian culture, it all seemed a bit anaemic. A bit obvious. I have to say that I was disappointed. Giselle Budchen walking to the “Girl from Ipanema” – really?

So what had I expected? I had visions of Carmen Miranda and the legend of Iracema, great black leaders like the Zumbi of Palmares, the Salvador Muslim slave revolts and Chico Rei, the slave who became a quasi-African king.  What of capoeira and candomble? The great national myths – the revolutions of Tiradentes, the teeth puller, and the rebels of the sertao badlands in the Northeast? I had imagined riotously costumed interpetations of the Amazonian folklore of the jungle peoples: the bumba meu boi, boto dolphin spirits, the minhacao and mula sem cabeca, as well as tributes to the literature of Machado de Assis, the Theatre of the Oppressed. This had been a great opportunity to recast Brazil  in its own imagination as a multiracial, but black, country,  a “new” Brazil. I had prayed for Caetano Veloso to kick off proceedings, spotlit on a stool singing his progressive anthem  “Tropicalia”…. but perhaps that was always naive. These things don’t necessarily “sell” to a worldwide audience. After all, Caetano was there but it was barely noted in the world media. Perhaps what they really needed was Jennifer Lopez?

The games themselves were engaging. The Brits made it rain gold and silver, China and Australia sank and bickered over the swimming and the Chinese team provided a great charmer in Fu Yuanhui and a love-to-hate villain in Sun Yang. Singapore scored a gold, and Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps secured their legacies. And then, in a final pleasing touch, the Brazilians faced their football nemesis, Germany, and finally triumphed at Maracana.

But now that it is over, was it worth it? Guanabana Bay didn’t get cleaned up. The promised new subway lines opened – just in time – but the fighting in the favelas goes on and the Rio taxpayers are left to foot a hefty bill. For a city that is used to throwing such amazing parties, this had all felt a little…forgettable.The fact that the highlight of the closing ceremony was Tokyo’s presentation for 2020 said it all.

Elke Maravilha: a marvellous life

25 08 2016


Halfway through the Olympics came the news that a Rio icon had passed away. Elke Maravilha was a model and actress, famous for her flamboyance. Blonde and beautiful, she had a huge appetite for life, a magnetic smile and a mile-wide wild streak that had endeared her to generations of Brazilians.

Born Elke Giorgierena Grunnupp Evremides, (you can see why she used a stage name) she had emigrated to Brazil as a child from Leningrad. She came from an academic mixed Russian and German family, and grew up speaking nine European languages before breaking into showbiz as a ditzy blonde appearing on TV talent shows and the catwalk.


It was her work as a fashion model that led her to form a friendship with Zuzu Angel, the pre-eminent Brazilian fashion designer of the 70s and an unlikely rebel, who used her high profile as a constant thorn in the side of the military dictatorship after her activist son had been kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the regime. Elke was also arrested, after tearing down “wanted” posters offering a reward for his capture. She was held in an infamous prison and torture centre for five days and eventually stripped of her Brazilian citizenship, forcing her to fall back on her German passport.

Still, her show business career went on, often appearing on the television show of the hugely popular surrealist TV comic Chacrinha. She also landed a part as a brothel madam in a TV series that became her signature role. In addition to her huge gay following she was now crowned the godmother of Rio’s sex workers.


Elke married eight times, most recently to a man thirty years younger, and lived in a pink mansion in Copacabana near the beach, continuing her wild ways until she passed away aged 71, a shock-blonde rebel to the very end.

Life is beautiful

21 08 2016

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Olafur Eliasson’s installation at the Versailles palace, Mariko Mori’s Olympic installation in the Mangaratiba forest in Rio de Janeiro, unknown, the Kunsthaus in Bregenz in Austria, the beautiful 1951 Chapelle du Rosair a Vence by Matisse and a Casa Brutus fashion shoot in the concert hall in Tokyo’s Ueno Park.