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Gulfography: Snapshots from the Middle East

Gulfography art

Dubai may be the land of futuristic towers and the world’s largest mall, but you wouldn’t know that from the  images on Gulfography.com, a new website dedicated to emerging photographers—many of them women—from the Middle East’s gulf region. The founders, filmmaker Shammi Samano and UAW native Asma Al Kendi, are currently planning on taking photos offline for the first time, at a gallery in San Francisco. Exhibits in the Middle East and Europe—and, they hope, a book collection—are also still to come.

Brooke Porter is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Roudha Al Shamsi

Upcoming SFJAZZ Center Sparks Restaurant Openings

SFJAZZ Center

Attention San Francsico foodies: a wave of new restaurants is hitting Hayes Valley in time for the opening of the neighborhood’s $60 million SFJAZZ Center (pictured), slated for January 2013. Dobbs Ferry is a new bistro that marries West Coast cuisine with old school, small-town New York style. (Owners Scott Broccoli and Danny Sterling hail from Dobbs Ferry, New York and the restaurant pays homage to their East Coast roots).

Schulzies bread pudding

Thai classics are served up at Lers Ros, which has a robust menu featuring unexpected dishes, like garlic frog and chicken entrails with basil. Classic cocktails and seasonal-inspired small plates are the rage at Two Sisters Bar and Books. For the area’s best bread pudding, Schulzies (pictured), an outpost of the Venice location, is a must: the bread bar offers 108 different flavors of the dessert. 


Photos courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates and Schulzies 

Crowdsourcing: What to Do When You're Near the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul


View Hagia Sophia in a larger map

The sixth-century Hagia Sophia (a basilica turned mosque turned museum) retains its jaw-dropping 180-foot dome. We asked true travel pros what to do nearby. Want to share your expertise? Join our community on Facebook at facebook.com/travelandleisure and at Twitter @TravlandLeisure.

“The most authentic Ottoman cuisine can be found at Matbah (6 Caferiye Sk.; $$), where you can eat on a terrace and look out to Topkapi Palace.” —Mine Demiroren, via Facebook

“Have a rooftop drink at Seven Hills Hotel ($$) for views of boats in the Bosporus and close-ups of Hagia Sophia.” —@mrbaileynyc

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Touring Vancouver's Chinatown

Vancouver Chinatown

With galleries and boutiques leading the way, a historic downtown Vancouver neighborhood is coming into its own. Here, where to see and be seen.

Rennie Collection at Wing Sang: Culture mavens seek out works by risk-taking artists such as Mona Hatoum and Richard Jackson at this opium factory turned gallery. 51 E. Pender St.

Peking Lounge: The museum-like showroom peddles a carefully curated mix of contemporary furniture and Chinese antiques (vintage armoires and chairs; Tang dynasty clay ladies). 83 E. Pender St.

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Atlantic City: The World's (New) Favorite...Arts Destination?

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Superstorm Sandy and her little sister Athena recently wreaked havoc across the northeast, including on the bay-facing boardwalk of Atlantic City, but that hasn't deterred the East Coast's Las Vegas from unveiling its latest initiative, ARTLANTIC, a five-year multi-phase public art project that is overtaking large, abandoned lots of leased land along the boardwalk and converting them into open green spaces and impressive public art installations.

Presided over by San Francisco- and New York-based curator Lance Fung, in collaboration with the Atlantic City Alliance and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the first $3 million phase of the project, ARTLANTIC: wonder, was unveiled last Saturday, giving visitors to the beachside city something to explore beyond slot machines and nightclubs.

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Top Five New Museum Openings

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Spectacular art and design share the spotlight at these new additions to the culture map.

Philadelphia: Barnes Foundation
With its stunning new campus downtown, the Barnes—known for shaking up the way art is understood with its provocative arrangements of Renoirs and Matisses next to metal hinges and hooks—is helping visitors see Philly’s impressive arts scene in a new light.

Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum
A thorough renovation and expansion shows off the Stedelijk’s singular modern and postwar art as well as its renowned design collection. A highlight: Gerrit Rietveld’s 1926 Harrenstein Bedroom, as perfectly balanced as a Mondrian painting.

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4+1 Good Reasons to Visit Latin America

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November 21 through 25, a.k.a. Thankgsiving Weekend 2012, is a good time to be in Latin America. It's warm, your weird aunt probably won't be there, and you don't have to eat bone-dry turkey leftovers for days. It is also when Festival 4+1 takes place.

The 4+1 film fest is held simultaneously in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Madrid, which is where the good people of Fundación Mapfre, the event's organizers, are based.

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Artist Yayoi Kusama's Three New Ventures

Yayoi Kusama bag

Three reasons we’ll be seeing spots, courtesy of 83-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

• New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art hosted Kusama’s first U.S. show in 15 years. Open July 12-September 30—following stops in Madrid, Paris, and London—it presented work from her six-decade career, including immersive mirrored rooms that appeared to go on forever.

• Recently released in English, Kusama’s autobiography, Infinity Net (University of Chicago Press), recounts her colorful life, from hanging out with Donald Judd and Andy Warhol in 1960’s New York to her years in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital, where she still lives today.

• The Princess of Polka Dots has collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a new line of ready-to-wear looks and accessories—which means we’re still seeing her splashy creations long after the Whitney retrospective closed in September.

Photo courtesy Louis Vuitton

Four Standouts on the Fall 2012 Arts Calendar

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With so many options on this season’s arts calendar, how’s a traveler to choose? Here are four standouts.

Opera: Milan’s fabled Teatro alla Scala devotes most of this season to titans Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, both of whom celebrate their bicentennials in 2013. Wagner’s Lohengrin kicks off the party in a new production starring tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who looks and sounds like a Wagnerian god. Dec. 7–27.

Theater: Jessica Chastain, known for her Oscar-nominated turn in The Help, comes to Broadway in the title role of The Heiress, adapted from Henry James’s Washington Square. David Strathairn, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, and director Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife) round out the pedigreed production. Opens Nov. 1.

Art: “Impressionism and Fashion,” a groundbreaking exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris, will consider the relationship between Manet, Degas, Caillebotte, and other painters and the then-emerging fashion industry, pairing Impressionist masterpieces with rarely exhibited finery of 19th-century Parisians. Sept. 25–Jan. 20.

Dance: American Ballet Theatre star David Hallberg is also a premier danseur at Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. It’s an intriguing partnership: the Russian company is legendary for its bravura style, while Hallberg is a paragon of classical restraint. See the results of the cross-pollination this season, when Hallberg dances signature roles in Swan Lake and Jewels. Sept.–Dec.

Photo by iStockphoto

Having Language Trouble Overseas? Find a German

Language Troubles Overseas

We Americans often feel insecure when we can't speak other languages when we travel overseas. Granted, maybe not insecure enough to actually learn another language—but smiling, nodding, and frequently yelling "Merci!" is a good start, right?

The good news: It turns out we may not be the world's biggest linguistic laggards. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey of Europeans, the British ranked as the worst at speaking another tongue when traveling. Only 11 percent of those surveyed could speak another language fluently, while 22 percent of them couldn't speak even one word in another language. Plus, a whopping 74 percent of Britons expected people overseas to be able to speak English.

So what about those stats that say that half of all Europeans are fluent in another language, compared to the 18 percent of Americans? That holds true in Italy and France, where 51 and 50 percent, respectively, can speak fluently in another language, according to the survey. The Germans, meanwhile, blow the curve, boasting 70 percent who are fluent in another language (and only 1 percent is clueless in another tongue).

In defense of the Brits (and ourselves), we could say that the other Europeans are just making it too easy for us to be linguistically lazy, at least in the Eurozone. It's a good bet, after all, that the second language all those Germans, French and Italians speak is English.

Photo © Chad Ehlers/ Alamy

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