Welcome to Object Lessons Space

Object Lessons Space was conceived in response to what I felt, was a gap in how we approached art and art history. With media platforms focused on the contemporary artist as a creative individual and genius, the artwork as an object — its history, how it was made and for whom it was made — can often get lost in translation. Artworks also exist within networks, as artists constantly reference, refute, rebuke or glean inspiration from other artworks.

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Coffee Set with Astrological Decoration  Iran, early 19th century

Coffee Set with Astrological Decoration
Iran, early 19th century

For example, this coffee cup set from the Persian Qajar court is interesting in its imagery, as it features a harmonious blend of astrological and religious figures.

The roundels depict the Moon, Saturn, a Hindu deity, Jupiter, Mars and a young kneeling woman. Drinking from this cup, the Shah would have literally been holding the cosmos in his hands — a powerful statement for any ruler.

It also evidences how practices such as astrology and divination existed alongside other scientific and religious ideologies within the Islamic Qajar court.

Or, take this evening coat designed by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Jean Cocteau.

Cocteau provided the sketches for the jacket's design, which Schiaparelli breathed to life in this creation. Schiaparelli was active between the two World Wars, creating fantastical designs that were wearable, tangible forms of Surrealist ideals. 

Schiaparelli's work lay the foundations for couture as we recognise it today, especially in terms of fashioning the mystique and brand about the fashion house. 

Evening Coat  Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Cocteau London, 1937

Evening Coat
Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Cocteau
London, 1937

Detail of  Evening Coat  Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Cocteau London, 1937

Detail of Evening Coat
Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Cocteau
London, 1937

In response, I'll be talking to a series of guests about art as objects. I believe that we can learn a great deal from observing, unpacking and scrutinising works of art. My guests will be choosing the art object from which our conversations start, and we'll then move on towards talking about issues that embody the work, such as theories and materials. In the course of doing so, we'll bring in other objects, music, poetry, science and religion to show that creative cultures do not exist within vacuums. Everything is a linked together in a web that unravels itself as soon as we pull upon a thread, which is in this case, an object.

This space will document lengthier, pithier conversations that I hope will enrich our experience of the world around us, and our understanding of the many objects that populate our everyday lives.

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One important aspect of this website is that its content is free for all to access online, regardless of where you may be in the world. Art historical knowledge and education should not be the domain of a select or elite few.

Object Lessons Space is also an independent initiative. In order to keep us running, it would be wonderful if you could consider making a one-time donation to the platform. Your contribution goes towards helping us produce more incisive content and to reach wider audiences.