Culture Clash

A well-known figure within contemporary Indian art, Rekha Rodwittiya rose to prominence internationally through the Eighties and Nineties with her forceful, vibrantly colored and idiosyncratic depictions of female forms and rituals.


The product of a liberal, middle class, highly educated cross-cultural household – her father was a Parsi and her mother a Roman Catholic from South India – since the 1970s Rodwittiya has forged her own distinctive artistic language. This too is a radical mingling: of Mughal painting from Persia and India, of folk art from the Indian subcontinent and of western traditions absorbed from books, travels and her time as a student at London’s Royal College of Art in the early 1980s. The vital thread, however, linking her work, is its celebration of female strength, even in vulnerability.


This autumn a new show of her work opens at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai. Sixty this year, Rodwittiya’s most recent works incorporate autobiographical photographs and printed images with watercolor and acrylic paint. For some pictures, Rodwittiya reconceives an image from earlier in her career, building up an interior hinterland of elusive symbols and photographic images within the original bounding line. As such, they take her back to her formative years, at the renowned Faculty of Fine Arts at Baroda University.


A solitary child, home-schooled until the age of seven, painting and drawing had offered a potent release for her vivid imagination. At art school, however, under the inspiring teacher KG Subramanyan, Rodwittiya was encouraged to experiment across media, including photography. She remembers: “I would wander around Baroda taking photographs of street life.” She was fortunate to be part of a great movement of proudly self-confident experimentation and renewal of figurative painting in India.


Rodwittiya rejects the term “feminist artist” but she is, she agrees, undoubtedly both a feminist and an artist. As she puts it, “I live and breathe as a feminist so therefore that is the prism through which I perceive everything around me, and so therefore it would patina my art as well.”


Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging, an exhibition of new works by Rekha Rodwittiya, runs from October 31, 2018 at the Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai


Your address: The St. Regis Mumbai

Rekha Rodwittiya 3_V2


Rekha Rodwittiya (photo courtesy of the artist and Sakshi Gallery)

A Little Place I Know


An enchanting mosque in Cairo by Philip Hewat-Jaboor


Aqsunqur Mosque, Bab el-Wazir Street, Tabbana Quarter, Cairo

There’s something profoundly enchanting about Egypt. The light and the landscape are so extraordinary, with the Nile snaking through the country, and this belt of lush green landscape, which then stops abruptly. You can literally stand with one foot in the green and the other in the desert. The Egyptians are hugely welcoming – an absolute pleasure to spend time with. I’ve been going there for 35 years and I spend two to three months there every year. I especially love Cairo. It has wonderful architecture: Pharaonic, Islamic, 19th-century, and now, with new Egyptian museum, 21st century. In the old Islamic quarter there’s a little mosque, the Aqsunqur, or Blue Mosque, which isn’t particularly well known or visited, and is a little hard to find. Parts of it were built in the 1340s, others in the mid-17th century, and there are walls completely covered in marble, precious stones and blue tiles brought from Damascus – a wonderful combination of materials, with a courtyard grown over with palm trees. It’s all incredibly beautiful, with the most magical atmosphere. I really find it very moving.

Philip Hewat-Jaboor is an art advisor and the chairman of Masterpiece art fairs (June 26 – July 3, 2019;

Your address: The St. Regis Cairo


An historic jazz club in New York by Reggie Nadelson


206 West 118th Street, New York
In the early 1940s, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie got together and invented bebop. They did it at Minton’s Playhouse, a shabby club on 118th Street in Harlem. Bebop was brand new; it was modern jazz: difficult to play, impossible to dance to. The music eventually moved to 52nd Street and Greenwich Village, to clubs where the audience sat in reverent silence trying to work it all out. Miles Davis, Ray Brown and Max Roach joined in, and bebop blew everyone away. As jazz moved away, the great Harlem clubs and ballrooms shut down. Then, in the 21st century, the neighborhood made a comeback. Great restaurants opened all over Harlem, and so did Minton’s Playhouse. A spiffy room with photos of Dizzy and Charlie on the walls, Minton’s showcases some of the best jazz around, and shares its premises with The Cecil Steakhouse, which serves great steaks and terrific drinks.

Reggie Nadelson is the author of At Balthazar: The New York Brasserie at the Center of the World

Your address: The St. Regis New York


An off-the-beaten-track Florentine restaurant by Filippo Ricci


Osteria delle Tre Panche, Via A. Pacinotti 32/R, Florence
When people ask me for a restaurant recommendation, I always suggest Osteria delle Tre Panche. We’ve been going there since it opened, and we probably still go at least twice a week, because whenever friends visit, they want to go too. It’s tiny – and not in typical restaurant territory. Just one room, for 20 people max, all sitting on benches (or panche) and a really small kitchen. But it’s a tremendous dining experience. The Osteria specializes in truffles – they have one of the best white truffle sauces in Italy. But in my opinion it’s all about the cheesecake, arguably the best in the world. It’s so good that people FedEx it to the US. Nowadays two young guys, Andrea and Vieri Bista, run the restaurant. They’re both chefs, but they alternate daily – one guy cooks, the other waits the tables. They’re so good, we’ve taken them around the world with us – Shanghai, Moscow, Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas, all over. We like to host dinner parties wherever we go, and we love to bring this Italian flavor. We have countless Michelin-starred restaurants in Florence, but for me, this is still the best.

Filippo Ricci is creative director of Florence-based luxury tailoring house Stefano Ricci (

Your address: The St. Regis Florence


A poster museum in Shanghai by Timothy Parent


Propaganda Poster Art Centre, Room B-OC, 868 Huashan Rd, Shanghai
I came across Shanghai’s Propaganda Poster Art Center through a friend who suggested it as somewhere to take visitors looking for a bit of culture. Shanghai is more of a city for living than sightseeing – that’s more Beijing’s thing. So, very few people know about this museum, which is pretty tucked away, in the basement of an old residential complex. But that’s kind of the cool thing about it. You feel you’ve really discovered something. It’s a visual representation of China’s ideology from the 1950s to the 1980s – mostly posters, but with some comics – and it’s fascinating to see how the country changed during those decades. It’s like a unique window into China’s recent history. There are a lot of posters about economic growth, sport, film and the other big theme, crushing the West. There are also interesting themes about the Chinese working with “suppressed groups” and how they aligned themselves with certain African and Asian countries. And some are very futuristic. It’s pretty enlightening, for sure. You could easily spend half a day there if it’s the kind of thing you’re interested in.

Timothy Parent is the founder of the and a contributor to The Business of Fashion

Your address: The St. Regis Shanghai Jingan

The Earrings

Earrings – the bigger, danglier and more ornate the better – have been stealing the show on catwalks since the beginning of the year, when Flamenco-style tassels filled the glossies’ fashion pages. This season, if earrings don’t tickle the shoulder, they’re considered understated. Versace’s key-shaped earrings look like they could unlock a castle gate, Zadig & Voltaire’s chandeliers hang down to chest level, while Toga’s grapes are the chunkiest bunches you’d wish on your poor ears. It’s a refreshing change from the restrained minimalism that has kept ladies’ ears prim and proper for so long. Granted, what we see on the catwalk is not always what makes its way into daily life, but jewelers around the world have clearly taken note. Global jewelry brand David Morris, for example, has created a series of stunning couture pieces, combining red spinels, opals, pink pearls, and emeralds. A stand-out set (pictured) offsets Paraiba tourmaline, pink sapphire and round white diamond brilliants on 18ct white gold. Sitting just above the shoulder, they’re far from excessive – in the current climate – but by no means modest.

The Teapot

Tea, we’re reliably informed, is the new wine. Sommeliers in fine dining establishments are serving cold-brewed tea in wineglasses and at two Michelin-starred New York restaurant Atera you can enjoy a “tea progression” comprising six different teas matched to an 18-course tasting menu. But this isn’t tea as we know it. Following the “craft” blueprint laid out by wine, beer and coffee, tea producers (and drinkers) are now paying much closer attention to the origin, terroir, harvesting and manufacturing techniques of their chosen brew. The humble teabag favored by most tea-drinkers might be quick and convenient, but it’s relatively insipid in terms of taste. Loose-leaf tea, meanwhile, offers a vastly superior depth and variety of flavor. And the health benefits aren’t bad either, with certain teas said to aid relaxation, allergies, aging, digestion, energy and weight loss. The other result of all this renewed interest in tea is that aficionados are now investing in beautiful teapots, like this one from iconic Danish design house, Kähler, and taking a Zen-like pleasure in the ritual of making a pot of tea.

The Wild Bouquet

“This country is in the midst of a floral revolution,” writes Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Deborah Needleman in The New York Times. “Flower arrangements have become wilder and stranger, incorporating all manner of seasonal flora plucked from the woods, the garden, the roadside and the vegetable patch.” And it’s not just in the US. Across the pond, it emerged that Prince Harry had foraged his wedding bouquet’s astilbes and sweet peas himself – a move that was not just touching but surprisingly on point. “Brides are moving away from bright, formal, ball-like bouquets in favor of wilder, more organic-looking styles,” says Hannah Antmann of Saint Floral, a floral design studio based a few miles from Windsor, where the royal wedding took place. “They want their flowers to look ethereal and whimsical, and they want them to look like they’ve been handpicked from local fields.” In this bouquet (pictured) Antmann has incorporated flowers in antique tones of powder blush, soft apricot and dusty pinks, while the foliage includes pistachio, preserved eucalyptus, foraged sycamore, dog rose and ivy vines.


Bamboo might well be the most versatile material on the planet. Today it is used in construction (its tensile strength is greater than that of mild steel), plywoods, plastics, biofuel, medicine, 3D-printing and even juice. Not only is it strong, lightweight, and even tasty, it’s also eco-friendly. Bamboo is the world’s fastest-growing plant – some species grow more than three feet per day. It flourishes in marginal land, requires little water, and can be harvested without killing the plant. On top of this, it converts up to four times more CO2 into oxygen than normal trees. Which is why bamboo silks, bamboo rayons and now Tencel (a sustainable cellulosic fiber also made from bamboo) are making their way onto the runways of fashion brands and into our homes. IKEA is committed to using the material in more of its products, while designers at The Conran Shop have been experimenting with bamboo for years. The brand’s exclusive kilim rugs (pictured), for example, are made from a blend of 80 per cent bamboo and 20 per cent cotton, giving them the luxurious feel of silk but enough durability to endure steady footfall.

The Scarf

The foulard has become this year’s must-have accessory. These printed silk scarves have come and gone over the years, but never before have so many women (and men) looked to them to add a pop of a color or a dash of glamour to their ensemble. But instead of the traditional knotted-under-the-chin style, today’s fashion cognoscenti are using them as belts, bows and bag straps, tying them imaginatively around their necks, waists and wrists. They really come into their own when you’re on vacation, evoking as they do the golden age of travel. In those days, silk “souvenir scarfs” were part of the vacation uniform, and if you didn’t leave wearing one; you’d almost certainly come home in one. Nowadays, leaving with one is de rigueur, ideally one by Hermès. The French fashion house’s scarves are timeless and quintessentially chic: whether it’s the classic equine-inspired designs of old, or this season’s more contemporary “Sea, Surf and Fun” prints (pictured) by Brazilian artist Filipe Jardim – guaranteed to give even the most understated of outfits a luxury lift.

The Razor

According to Forbes, barbering is America’s fastest-growing profession. Much like bricklaying, it isn’t threatened by the internet – in other words, you can’t get your hair cut online. So while stores around the world battle against e-commerce, landlords are welcoming barbers with open arms. Which is convenient, given men’s newfound penchant for taking care of themselves. The global market for male grooming is expected to be worth $60.7bn by 2020, with 80 per cent of products bought in stores. Many of the new wave of barbershops are taking their cues from the likes of Truefitt & Hill – established in 1805 – where gentlemen go for traditional cutthroat shaves, facials, manicures, shoe-shines and now their toiletries. It’s here that normally stoic fellows can be found gushing over the smell of a pomade as it’s massaged into their scalps. They’ll be informed that the pomade, hair tonic and bergamot beard oil are the shop’s own brand, and they will leave with a bag full of cosmetics – and possibly a straight razor. This is modern grooming, and you get no points for looking or smelling anything but your very best.

Tribal Art

Any regular visitor to the world’s leading contemporary art fairs will have noticed an increase in the amount of tribal art on display, specifically African tribal art. Unsurprisingly, this surge has corresponded with a rise in the price of high-end lots sold at the world’s big auction houses. In 2014, a very rare Senufo female statue carved by 19th-century Ivory Coast artist Master of Sinasso sold for $12m at Sotheby’s New York. Prior to that, the record was held by a Ngil mask of the West African Fang culture, which fetched $7.5m in Paris in 2006. “Tribal art has been in the same conversation as Cubism, Picasso, Braque and Modigliani for years now, so it’s no surprise people are buying bits for their art collections,” says Bryan Reeves, owner of Tribal Gathering London, which provided the mask pictured – made by a Malawian tribe, the Chewa. Regardless of your budget, there are certain qualities to look out for if you’re tempted to invest: age and rarity are important; pieces have to be made for traditional tribal use, not for commercial sale; and they also need to have great form, patina and expression.

It’s a Wonderful Life

A conversation with Jon Batiste is like drinking a tall glass of liquid optimism. Even on an oppressively humid afternoon in New York, the dapper 31-year-old still manages to exude a joyful enthusiasm. His outlook reminds me of the famous Louis Armstrong song What a Wonderful World. It’s extremely refreshing.


Batiste’s effervescent brand of charm – quick-witted yet cynicism-free – will be familiar to viewers of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, for which Batiste has been bandleader since 2015, and also to St. Regis guests (he has played live at a number of St. Regis events, including the fifth anniversary of The St. Regis Deer Valley and the grand opening of The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort). A jazz prodigy and graduate of New York’s prestigious Juilliard School for the performing arts, Batiste is as comfortable behind the piano as he is bantering on air with Colbert or goofing around in the sketches. His gift for improvisation, both comedic and musical, has made him a star. (His résumé also includes a position as artistic director-at-large at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and acting roles in the HBO series Treme and two Spike Lee films, Red Hook Summer and Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.)


He first became friends with Colbert after twice appearing as a guest on The Colbert Report, which finished in 2014, the year before its host succeeded David Letterman on The Late Show. “Stephen is a genius,” says Batiste. “He can talk to people about politics on the highest level, but he’s also a thespian with a theatre background, who understands comedy and improv. After The Colbert Report ended he gave me a call and said he had a new show — and the rest is history.”


Did Batiste have much comedy experience before The Late Show? “Not really,” he says. “I’d had roles that were semi-comedic in Spike Lee films, but that was about it. As a kid I was always the second-fiddle class clown. I was quiet but I’d always have a friend who was really rambunctious, and who would get into trouble. I would always be the one who got away with it. So with comedy I was open to experimenting. I really loved the idea of trying something and failing, because that’s how you learn.” True, though most of us don’t learn the ropes in front of an audience of millions on national television. Batiste picks things up fast.


After three years, The Late Show has become, he says, “like my cool day job, where I get to hang out with famous people.” Famous people such as Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder, with whom he duetted on the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration, giving a poignant rendition of the African-American National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. “He was a joy to perform with, an endless source of inspiration and light,” Batiste says of Wonder. “When I make music I try to create a lot of different emotions, but joy is one of the primary emotions I try to tap into: for myself and for other people. I feel we’re kindred spirits in that way.”


Batiste and Wonder first met backstage at a concert in Central Park where they bonded discussing hip hop with (“a friend of mine”) before Wonder asked if he could play Batiste’s “harmoni-board”, a cross between a harmonica and a small keyboard. Next to the piano, it’s Batiste’s favorite instrument and he often carries one. Wonder deadpanned that he used to play one too but stopped because it kept clogging up with spit. “Oh, you’ve got jokes!” Batiste replied.


Born near New Orleans, in Kenner, Louisiana, Batiste belongs to a sprawling musical dynasty that stretches back at least four generations. He grew up immersed in melody and rhythm. His relatives include the arranger Harold Battiste, who worked with Sam Cooke and Sonny and Cher; and the free-jazz saxophonist Alvin Batiste, who taught “every New Orleans musician that’s come up in the last 40 years”, including Harry Connick Jr and Terence Blanchard. Batiste’s father, a professional bass player, and his uncles had a band together. Batiste himself was playing percussion in a junior band by the age of seven. He later switched to piano, aged 11, on his mother’s advice, teaching himself to transcribe music by copying video-game soundtracks. He may well be the only international jazz superstar for whom Sonic the Hedgehog was a formative influence.


He moved to New York, where he still lives, aged 17, after winning a place to study jazz and classical piano at Juilliard School, where only 6 per cent of applicants are accepted. Was it as intense as Whiplash, the movie about the young jazz prodigy pushed to the brink by his teacher at an exclusive New York music school? “That film was heavily dramatized but it did depict the kind of devoted study you need to learn how to play,” he says. “People think you just make jazz up as you go along – you just figure out what you want to play and don’t listen to anybody else. But it takes so much discipline, and so much focus, to be able to play at the highest level.”


What does live jazz have to offer a young audience? “You’ve got to experience it in the right context – and that isn’t necessarily a concert hall or even most jazz clubs today, which don’t really do the music justice. Jazz is very interactive, very immediate and all about crafting a unique experience for the audience.” For Batiste’s part, such unique experiences come in the form of “love riots” – guerrilla gigs on the streets or Subway cars with his band, Stay Human. His concerts can also be anarchic – leading his band from club to bar to restaurant, or popping up unexpectedly in the middle of the audience to begin a show from the seats, as he has done at Carnegie Hall. It’s all part of an approach he calls “social music”, which is about “bringing people together, and music without borders, and finding a way to connect people through that experience of a live performance.”


That sounds almost political. “Absolutely. One hundred per cent. In times of uncertainty, we depend on a philosophy or truth that can come off as political.” Not that he’s given to proselytizing. He prefers to let his creativity do the talking, whatever the format: music, acting, comedy – or fashion. His signature look is a bold-colored zoot suit, simple T-shirt, custom sneakers and a big hat. He designs and makes some of his stage outfits himself. He once joked on The Late Show that “clothes are the music of the body and you hear them with your eyes”, but he meant it, too. “When a performer walks out on stage you should be able to hear it before they’ve even raised their instrument or their mic,” he says.


With a new album this autumn, and a tour, he’ll soon be walking out on stages – and less conventional spaces too, no doubt – all over the world. This time it’ll be a solo record, produced by the great T Bone Burnett, with no band, “just me playing the piano and singing: no autotune, no effects, just the realness of the performance.” All of the songs are original compositions except one, a version of What a Wonderful World. And right now, there’s nobody better equipped to make us believe it.


Jon Batiste’s album, Hollywood Africans, is out September 28 (Verve Records)


Your address: The St. Regis Deer Valley; The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

Abby Ross


 © Abby Ross


Jonathan Batiste


© Peter Lueders


Josh Cheuse1


© Josh Cheuse