Abandoned Spaces, Street Galleries, and Art Collectives: Where to Get a Creative Boost in Belgrade

1. Ciglana

We spent few weeks in Belgrade in 2018 and truly every person we met (after hearing what we were up to with [place] makes) said “have you been to Ciglana yet?” They were right—we loved it. Grab a drink, explore the installations, studios, and art, and then stay for a party at Kvaka 22.

We’re bummed we weren’t in town for the Dev9t festival and certainly plan to be back for it one day.


Nina Ivanovic

Nina Ivanovic

2. u10 Art Space

Stop by U10 art space - an independent art gallery that supports young contemporary artists. U10 is run by Lidija Delić, Nina Ivanović, Sava Knežević, Isidora Krstić, Iva Kuzmanović, Nemanja Nikolić and Marija Šević.

  • We visited the space and interviewed Nina to learn more about the gallery and to understand what it’s like to be a young creative in Belgrade. We learned that many young artists are conflicted between building the creative scene in the city and leaving for other, more established urban art havens where they can more easily promote their work.


3. cetinjska street 15 (zaoket + polet)

Want a guaranteed fun night out? Walk into Cetinjska Street 15, stroll past the car wash and grab a drink outside one of the hip bars, clubs and cafes. This once abandoned car lot turned cultural hub, Cetinjska, has it all. Whether it’s a  film screening, concerts, or club, this area has it all.

  • We sat outside with Zaoket owners, Ojkic and Radojkovic, learning about how they have built community around music, parties and places to gather.

  • We spent another evening surrounded by arty- and academic- types at a gallery-meets-bar that inspires conversation, Polet.


Iva Cukic, Ministry of Space

Iva Cukic, Ministry of Space

4. Street gallery / (anything the ministry of space is behind)

Visit the open air “Street Gallery” . The gallery started as an illegal show in 2010 by Ministry of Space, a collective that monitors and defends the use of public spaces and urban development in Belgrade and other Serbian cities. The Street Gallery then formally opened in 2012, and eventually became a 24/7 gallery of art with a new exhibit every two weeks. The exhibits focus on socially-charged, often provocative works of art on a narrow alley between Nušićeva Street and Trg Nikole Pašića Square.

  • We met with Iva Cukic, one of the members of Ministry of Space who was behind the negotiation and multi-year execution of this concept. She shared with us the story of opening The Street Gallery and the many other  urban interventions, exhibitions, and publications that confront issues of urban development.


5. museum macrua

During the summer months, head a bit out of the city to the private art collection, Museum Macura, set in a beautiful space on top of a cliff overlooking the Danube. The space alone is reason for the visit and the impressive collection of contemporary art in both the museum space and warehouse a few km away.

  • We were there for opening day last season - it was festive. Someone stood on a chair to read poetry, others sat outside taking in the view enjoying a fish stew prepared for all who came, and most of us piled back into cars to explore a warehouse with more of the private collection down the road.


6. just go for a walk. You’ll find work by artez and others

… and finally, simply walk around and you’ll find inspired street art, from amazing artists such as Artez, photographed to the right next to one of his murals. We interviewed him as he was painting a commissioned piece and later stumbled on his work  all over the world (really - we found a large piece on an island in Croatia!)

Best Spots for a Spontaneous Evening in NYC

Our favorite way to experience a night out in a city is to pick a neighborhood and be open to where the evening takes you.

Some of the most memorable nights are not fully planned, but allow flexibility. In a place like New York City, this can also make things quite expensive if you don’t pay attention. But, despite the rising cost of cultural events in NYC, there are still a number of spots to have a carefree spontaneous evening.

Here are some of our favorites:

Barbés

  • This legendary Park Slope establishment hosts some of the most talented Jazz, Funk, Afro-Carribean, and Eastern European musicians in the city. If you feel like it’s time to get out of your musical rut and explore a different genre, come here.  No need to purchase tickets in advance. Just put $10 in the bucket once you enter the back room and enjoy the musical adventure.

Sonny’s

  • This Red Hook bar hosts the best bluegrass jam sessions in the city. Every night, people flock from far and wide to see musicians of all ages play sing-along bluegrass tunes. No ticket needed, just grab a cheap beer and find a seat where you can. It’s no longer the secret neighborhood spot it used to be, but it’s still a gem.

Mercury Lounge

  • Located close to other small music spots in Manhattan like Piano’s, Rockwood Music Hall, and Bower Electric, this is my favorite for the lot. Mercury Lounge hosts some of the best up and coming bands around the country. Tickets are usually $10-$15, and it’s the best place in the city to find a music group right before they hit the “big time”

Union Hall

  • Union Hall curates some of the best comedy nights in the city. The former stomping of renowned comic Mike Birbiglia, this venue puts on affordable, amazing lineups that will be sure to keep you laughing through the night.

Pete’s Candy Shop

  • The volume of art events happening at Pete’s Candy Shop is staggering. They host about 3-4 artists in their small, but charming back room every night. Whether it’s an open mic, comedy showcase, or a singer-songwriter, all of the events here are free, intimate, and don’t require advanced purchase.

What are your favorite spots that we’re missing from the list? What are your favorite spontaneous spots for a night out in your city?

Creative Pulse: Oakland

[Oakland] Makes

Place Makescreative pulse
Creative Pulse: Japan
Place Makescreative pulse
Creative Pulse: Budapest
 

[BUDAPEST] MAKES: LAYERED BEAUTY AND RESTLESS AMBITION

 
 

A walk along the Danube shows off the beauty of Budapest and will capture your attention immediately, but the creative pulse will inspire and stick with you for a long time. Beyond the architectural delights lies a hungry, emerging creative scene. The rise of nationalism and media censorship threatens to stifle this artistic growth, but the younger generation isn't moving away or giving up on the scene they have worked so hard to create. Welcoming and entrepreneurial, those connected to the scene are eager to show off all that Budapest has to offer. These designers, musicians, brewers and entrepreneurs are making waves.

WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE CREATIVE ENERGY YOURSELF...

  • Drink a beer at a ruin pub

  • See a film at one of the best arthouse cinemas

  • Take a soak at a bathhouse

  • Pop in and linger at a cafe

 

GET TO KNOW SOME OF THE PEOPLE & SPACES SHAPING BUDAPEST'S SCENE:

Creative Pulse: Wellington
 

[WELLINGTON] MAKES: SPIRITED COLLABORATION AND CLOSE-KNIT EXPERIMENTATION

 
 

Close-knit, relaxed, and a little bit kookie, Wellingtonians are constantly fueled by fantastic coffee and inspired by the nature surrounding this quaint city. You might be surprised that in a city of only half a million you will simply never run out of cultural experiences ranging from museums, to music venues to self-organized events and salons. Maybe it’s something in the water (or the wind) but Kiwis describe the arts scene here as both supportive and inviting.

 

Prague's Creative Boom of the 90s

Photography was always a part of life and a family tradition for Alena Kotzmannova. Taking pictures was a hobby her parents and grandparents also enjoyed, transforming their apartment bathroom into a dark room of her childhood home in the 80s. But for Alena, traditional photography was just the start. She tells us, “I wanted to study photography, but I didn’t want to study at the film academy because it was limited to classical studies.” Alena was more interested in pushing the boundaries. She tells us she wanted to, “cross the boundaries between photography, video, and experimentation with new technologies.” Today, she explains that this is common but when she was in school programs that crossed disciplines didn’t exist—she had to carve her own path.

Education was not the only area in which Alena was at the cutting edge of the arts in Prague. As a young creative in the 80s and 90s, Alena was part of an important moment in the history of Czech arts scene. She tells us she felt fortunate to be, “part of a major boom of a creativity after the revolution.”

She tells us:

“After the revolution everything was new—nothing was established. We all worked together to build the atmosphere. There were lots and lots of art openings - every day. It was a very important time. You could suddenly see some work of artists who didn’t exhibit during communist time but now you were seeing these secrets and surprising works that until that time were hidden. It was a really special atmosphere and it’s hard to compare to today. Then, there was such a focus and a common expression.

There was this special mixture of “old Prague” which wasn’t renovated and it was kind of empty so I remember I was going across old town square at 5am and it was completely empty and I went from school to home because I developed photos throughout the night, and you could stay there all night and you just had a key (which is impossible now) and Prague was still the Prague you know from the old photos but the atmosphere was changed and enthusiastic.”

Alena’s 20+ year career has taken her all around the world exploring thematic questions such as place, identity, and memory. On her website, she explains one of her most recent collections The Wing Just Leaving The Desert, stating, “the most important quality of our memory is the subjective ability to forget, meaning to determine what is important and what is not. This regeneration of memory allows us to reorganize lived and stored experience and thus to see things anew and differently, from a different perspective.”

For Alena, the memory of Prague in the 90s is nostalgic, her memories full of passion and excitement for the creative energy of that moment in time. She describes the city today as having become “a very touristic place” but asserts that there are still some “hidden surprises that can appear in special situations.”

One of these places is in Prague 4, “down by the river.” This area has served as inspiration for one of her installations entitled, 193 Meters Above Sea Level. As a landlocked country, Czech Republic relies on the imagination of the sea, rather than the sea itself. She explains that, “I think that people who have the sea just as imagination, they have the ability to imagine more about it than people who live right on the edge of the land and sea.”

Purchase a beautiful book of Alena’s photographs here


Curation and Inspiration: Meet Museum Director, Alfred Weidinger

Neatly dressed, wearing his signature mustard yellow specs, Alfred sipped his cappuccino and quickly put us at ease with his disposition. He was both professorial and unassuming as he described his experience as Director of the MdbK Leipzig Museum of Fine Art. What quickly became evident was this: Leipzig is not only the location of this museum but also, its history and character are his inspiration.

When Dr. Alfred Weidinger became the Director in 2017, he was tasked with the challenge of infusing the museum with a dose of innovation to make the space a destination. What has emerged from this challenge is a story of experiential design punctuated by historical references, “pushing” tastes, and creating a space of art the represents Leipzig.

…and Leipzig has a fascinating story. Some of what Leipzig is best known for:

  • Trade Fairs: Leipzig known as the “gateway to the West” during GDR (East German) days

  • Johann Sebastian Bach’s home until his death in 1750

  • A major publishing city before WWII (often called “buch-stadt” i.e. book city)

  • An art genre: New Leipzig School in painting

  • Gose style beer

It’s no wonder the city’s history is Alfred’s main source of inspiration. He says, “every day I open a new page in a history book. Every day since I arrived is a new page.”His approach to the museum experience is both elevated and very human. His priorities also reflect this approach. He’s invited Tomas Saraceno to do an installation, visits local artist studios (often 3-4 in week), and is frequently the first person from a museum to knocked on their door. He aims to push the tastes of local Leipzig patrons while also creating a space where they feel free and comfortable.

Alfred Weidinger

Art: Andy Warhol
Leipzig Museum Atrium

What are your first impressions of Leipzig?

It’s a really young city and a lot of people have a sense of doing great things to move forward, not backwards. There’s huge power and huge potential.

This is a special city. Today, it's the fastest growing city in Germany. Leipzig was always a very independent city in terms of it’s thinking. It hosted a major a trade fair during the GDR, a place where people from both sides would gather. But even thousands of years before, in the middle ages, Leipzig was an important intersection point for trade. It's always been at the intersection.

Even today Leipzig conserves this feeling: Leipzig is always a little bit different.

How do you think about this mentality when you’re planning for the future of the museum?

The museum is a really great space and we need to give this space to the people. We are in a wonderful building, a great construction, and amazing architecture so I especially want to push the young artists and encourage them to think in large dimensions.

We have six terraces and halls that are 16 meters high! This space brings a lot of possibilities and potential. I know we’ll have the opportunity to show really influential artists—who are used to dealing with the scale. But I also want to give the young ones the chance to deal with the space. We're not New York and we're not London where you have to exhibit only the highest level. Here you can let the museum also be a laboratory.

I also want to share contemporary art. It's interesting, the artists in the GDR had knowledge of what's happening in the Western part of the world, but only from books. Everything was in black and white on a page.

Leipzig Museum

“The museum is a really great space and we need to give this space to the people.”

How do you balance being a museum of the city while also trying to push tastes as you mention with contemporary art?

I have to think about everything and everyone because we need to take care of the people who are living here—their needs, and what they want to see. But on the other hand, I have to teach them something, to attract them, and to push them a little bit (even if it doesn't always feels so nice). I have people who say "I don't like this. This is not art." It takes a while, but my aim is tolerance. It might seem like a low level, but if you get tolerance for contemporary art, you won.

I love that, taking pieces of inspiration from history and tying them into the museum. is there a particular place in Leipzig where you find inspiration?

I really do get inspiration from the history of the city. Just a few weeks ago someone told me in the GDR time there was a cinema in the train station—a 24 hour cinema. You just walked in and saw a movie for free. Isn't that great! This got me thinking about the space here [in the atrium]. I want to make 24 hour art spaces within this part of the museum.

And talking to people. I talk to and visit studios every week. Three to four artists every week. And this is very interesting because I get to see all mediums, genders, and ages. On Tuesday, I visited an artist in the countryside who is 88 years old. The stories he shared with me are so interesting and provide so much inspiration.

We have to take care of these people because in history, they were almost forgotten. In 1989 everyone felt this common sense: we are a new country this is great with lots of potential. Artists in this time worked for a few years really intensely. They made lots of works because they felt so powerful, but it took a turn and was a really sad time. Very few artists were able to swim on the top of the wave, most crashed down. When I visit with older artists, sometimes I am often first person from a museum in these 30 years who has knocked on the door.

How do you think about your role in this?

letter from artist in Leipzig

I try to do something for them. When you walk into the lobby by the front desk, there are four paintings on the wall. The painter is a 87 year old Jewish man, so he was completely forgotten. He lived here, and it was not an easy life here in Leipzig. He left the city after the fall of the wall because he felt there were more opportunities elsewhere. But no one was took care of them.

When I met him, we had a really nice talk. He was so grateful for the visit that he decided to give the museum one of his paintings as a gift. Later, he wrote me a letter that said, ‘I really like what you're doing and it's better to stand on two legs so I'll send you another one (painting).’ He sent me four and asked the people of Leipzig choose which to keep. For a while we had an iPad where visitors would vote to decide. There were thousands of participants!

For you personally, How did you find yourself at this museum in particular?

My career in art started in my childhood. I great up on Lake Attersee, a small lake near Salzburg where Gustav Klimt spent almost 16 years in the summer and then studied art history and archaeology in Salzburg. Later, I went to The Albertina in Vienna and focused on the work of Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt. I worked for more than 20 years in Vienna, but when this position opened here at MdbK I thought, let’s give it a try!

Leipzig and Vienna are linked. Here in Leipzig, we have an important painter: Max Klinger, but he is also a key figure for Austrian art. Klinger believed in the idea of a "Gesamtkunstwerk" (total work of art), adopted from Richard Wagner (also from Leipzig). He transformed the idea of the “total work of art” into art itself. This was new to the Viennese, and they appreciated this ideology: everything as art. As a result, Klinger was invited often to show his work and today, many important works from Klinger are owned by Austrian Institutions and only on loan here in Leipzig.


ART AT LEIPZIG MUSEUM

If you find yourself in Leipzig, walk into the atrium and up through the museum and think about more than the art you see: consider the history, the city, and the space as you explore. The space itself is quite magical and there is no ignoring the architecture. Designed by Hufnagel / Putz / Rafaelian, the museum boasts six massive atriums and unique interiors.

Stay in the know: Be sure take a look at Dr. Weidinger own body of work as photographer and art historian, found also on his personal website.

Dr. Alfred Weidinger on Instagram & Twitter

MdbK Museum on Instagram & Twitter

 

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Ivan & the Parazol on Communication, Hard Work and a Bit of Magic

"We aren’t trying to sound like anything else in particular. When people hear me they know I'm not British or American, but that's okay. I'm from here—from Budapest."

Budapest-based exciting and honest rock band, Ivan & the Parazol has a sound that energizes crowds throughout Europe When we ask them about what makes the band both fun and successful they describe a mix of open communication, hard-work, and little magic.

Communication: A close knit group, the four-part band says they are successful because they alway face issues face on…“we figured that you’re going to have problems (probably a lot of problems) either musically or personally. But if you are man enough to talk about something and put it on the table you’ll find a solution. That’s the secret. Just talk about the problems...talk a lot.” The past year has had a new set of challenges for Ivan & the Parazol with a band member having to step aside from the band. They describe the first shows without him as incredibly tough, even “traumatic.” But they have been able to use the emotion as fuel for their creative process - which in turn has meant sold out shows and an upcoming record. This new album was recorded East-West Studios and marks a milestone for their sound. “It should have been a really sad record because we just lost our bass player, but it’s a relief record. It’s ‘Exotic Post-Traumatic’.”

Hard Work: Ivan & The Parazol describes bands from Budapest as have a common work ethic. “The bands from here know how to work hard…know how to stuff you shit in a car to travel hours to a shitty festival. We learn how to work and to achieve great things. I’m not saying that other bands from more established countries aren’t working hard, but it’s different.”The Rock & Roll scene in Budapest is close-knit. “We all know each other, are friends, and a little competitive in a good way.” Can Budapest be the heart of the touring music in Europe? Ivan & The Parazol certainly hopes so. "Bands who play in Budapest, leave thinking this place is amazing (which it is). So, we hope Budapest will become an exciting add-on to all big tours!"

Magic: Even the first time they jammed together, they say, “it was magic. We were writing songs in 5 minutes. The last song of the first record was made after one or two months of us knowing each other - magic did happen. The sound chose us, not the other way around.” And it continues to work this way. In New York City? Go experience the magic ourself! Ivan & The Parazol will be in New York Wednesday October 3th - get your tickets here.



 
ivan & the parazol band
Takuya Isagawa & Japan's new fashion label: mister it.

“Do you know the Japanese concept, Iki? There’s no translation, and it’s very hard to explain. But it’s a part of our culture and style.”

Here’s what we learned. Iki is to be cool, but understated. A small detail. Human, subtle, but surprising. “It’s not a big oh wow, but it’s a small approving head nod.” When you realize it, it’s really special.

iki.JPG

"Women often hold a baby over the arm, so this detail is placed so that the baby’s eye will catch the mark. It's Iki."

Takuya Isagawa designs are really special. We met at his studio, in a building filled with creative-types, to learn about his journey to launch his fashion label mister it.

Takuya’s story as a designer began as a young boy in Osaka.

As is often the case for a younger sibling, admiration for his older brother and a subsequent introduction to the world of sneakers quickly grew into a deep passion for fashion. “When I was six years old, I tried to dress like my brother. At first I just wore cool sneakers and a cap. But it wasn’t long before I wanted to make something myself.” 

As soon as he made the decision to be a designer, he had a singular drive: to study in Paris and to work for his favorite designer, Maison Martin Margiela.

He did just that.

Takuya finished his fashion studies in Paris and won first prize for his final collection. Even so, he was worried because he did not think he was proficient enough at French to land the dream job.

But he didn’t let that stop him.

He enlisted a friend to help him prepare for the interview. “I memorized the presentation in perfect French” and he landed the job he’d always wanted at Maison Martin Margiela. And a dream it was! Takuya told us that the team at Maison Martin Margiela felt like family, and always welcomed him even though he admits, “I still couldn’t speak French well." 

When he eventually left the job to launch his label, he wanted to show his gratitude to his teammates. Collection 00 from mister it. was not for the public, but rather was designed for ten specific people - a gift to his former colleagues. Each piece was thoughtfully crafted specifically for each person. The four images below feature examples from this collection. Takuya describes these as (1) an outfit to highlight one of his friend's tattoos, (2) an integrated eyeglass chain for a forgetful friend, (3) an ironic McDonalds joke, and (4) pants that make walking impossible. He explains the pants saying, "when I was working at Maison Martin Margiela, I was running all the time. But for the launch of my brand, I designed pants for myself as a symbol. I wanted to stand still so I could simply watch and be grateful."

 
 
designer clothing

Takuya's inspiration always come from those right next to him, from the people he knows. He describes, “the importance of this work is for more than just beauty. My idea is to make things for real people. The brand’s concept is this simple.” The pieces combine of functionality with design and put the person wearing them at the center. He intends to make pieces that will be cherished. "My hope is that these clothes can last for a very long time. If people take care of them, they can last almost forever. These are things you keep wearing and even pass down through your family."

You can find mister it. products in multiple locations in Japan! His pieces are available at EDITION, n id a deux, VISIT FOR and ocaille

Please take a peek at their website, misterit.jp - we guarantee that Takuya Isagawa and his label, mister it., will soon be well known names in the fashion world.


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Salvation through Street Art: a conversation with Judith de Leeuw
Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

Two years ago, Dutch artist Judith de Leeuw spotted a street corner in Amsterdam that captured her attention. The location was perfect. It was the wall of Boulangerie Le Mortier, at the corner of Vijzelgracht and Fokke Simonszstraat, right in Amsterdam’s Central district. She created a solemn portrait of a Amy Winehouse.

The wall was covered in ugly graffiti, and the owner of the building was more than happy for Judith to paint over it with a new creation. This wall was the perfect opportunity to express herself in a public space, right in the center of the city she loves.

This new creation changed her life.

Over beers at a little cafe in central Amsterdam, we spoke with Judith about the inspiration for this mural, how it transformed her career, and why she thinks art saved her life.

Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

When did start making art?

I’ve been drawing portraits since I was four years old. I still have a portrait I drew of my father when I was five years old. As I got older, I started doodling in class. I’d always get poor scores on my Biology tests because the teacher didn’t like my drawings. To be honest, no one really liked my drawings back then.

How did you start doing graffiti?

Around 13 years old I became a pretty big problem child. I was smoking too much weed and at one point I just stopped going to school. I became more and more rebellious until I found graffiti. I found a paint shop around the corner called HENXS, which I still visit every week. I was so nervous at first, because I thought graffiti was something associated with criminals and aggressive behavior. I was so nervous when I walked in that my hands were shaking. In the end I chose a color that doesn’t work well at all. I chose pink and painted arrows everywhere. That was terrible and pretty shameful but oh well, you’ve got to start somewhere!

street art - judith image high res

I then found a group of friends through graffiti. All we did together was drawing, painting, and graffiti. When I look back on it, I think it saved my life. If I didn’t find graffiti I think I would have done something else that would have taken me down a bad path.

How did you go from painting arrows to creating amazing pieces all over the world?

I started studying art education and began to combine my love of portraits and graffiti. For the first time I tried making portraits with spray cans. At first it was really bad. When people see my work now they say, “how do you do that?” but they don’t know that it’s taken years of practice to get here. The past few years, I’ve been using spray cans pretty much every day and every night.

Then I did the Amy Winehouse painting. At that point in my life, I was just doing it for myself. At that time, I was just a very shy start-up. Then that portrait changed everything. It was the biggest moment of my life to have people appreciate my art for the first time.

What was the inspiration for it?

I watched the documentary on Amy Winehouse, and was listening to her music a lot. Even though she had died a few years prior, she kept coming up again and again in conversations I had. I realized that most pictures of her were when she was smiling, before she got addicted to drugs. I wanted to leave a portrait of Amy as she really was. But it was also to express my own state of mind. It was a number of things that all came together at this one focal point. It’s the first true creation from my heart and soul.

It’s crazy because I didn’t expect anyone to like it. When I finished it I thought I had messed it up, so didn’t even take a picture of it! The piece becoming famous is really weird, because I was just making something for myself.

Photo provided by Judith

Photo provided by Judith

What’s the latest project your excited about?

Last week I had the opportunity to do a mural at Rotterdam’s Central Station. It’s really insane! I had been dreaming about doing a huge building in such a prized location. It’s weird when you dream of something for years and years and then are standing there and doing it in reality!

What’s the street art scene like in Amsterdam?

It’s pretty complicated. It’s difficult to get a wall in Amsterdam for a piece, because all of the houses are protected monuments. Mostly you have to do stuff semi-illegally, or wait years until you can get a wall in Amsterdam. As for now, Rotterdam is a much easier place to create a public art piece. When I think of street art and innovation I think of Amsterdam as the rich whining person and Rotterdam as the young playful one, throwing candy everywhere. But my best friends are here in Amsterdam, my colleagues, my best friends. A lot of my colleagues are older but I can instantly talk to them and there has never been a problem of them accepting me. I get along with them really well. That’s how you know when you belong somewhere I guess. If it wasn’t for people helping me along the way, I’m not sure it would have happened.

What are your dreams for the future?

I accomplished one of my dream one week ago at the Rotterdam Central Station!. It would be amazing to paint something in the center of Amsterdam. I mean a really big mural. I want it to be in the center. I really want that. Maybe I should do it, just like I did with the Amy Winehouse portrait.

Keep an eye out for Judith and her stunning portraits. She has a number of international plans on the agenda, so who knows - she just may be in your city! You can find her work on her site here: www.jdlstreetart.com and on Instagram.


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How to Grow, Specifically
 

Today's urban nomads want to feel at home wherever they are in the world. Ideally that includes connecting to hi-speed wifi in Bali, having the perfect pour-over in Barcelona, and the ideal co-working space in Berlin. In many ways, experiencing these comforts around the world is a beautiful thing. But when it's met with the overused formula of hipster-washing spaces (slap on some Helvetia font, crisp white decorations, and the latest food trend...avocado toast anyone), it's just not all that creative. 

There's no greater insult to creativity than the word generic. The same goes for the growth and development of creative places. And it's a trap we're falling for.

Our cities look more and more like each other and our organizations aim to feel more Google-y. We think we've cracked the code on creativity, but in reality we're more afraid of failure than ever. Today's strategies for fueling creative culture lack what makes something authentic: specificity.

When something is specific, it won't suit all tastes. And that's okay. Striving for authenticity and a celebration of what makes a place unique is daring to be creative. When you generalize culture, identity, and history, creativity is often killed along the way (among many other things). When an organization or city is growing rapidly, one of the most common fears we hear, is of losing the atmosphere that attracted them in the first place and the elements that inspire them to create.

But growth is inevitable in our favorite spots. So the question remains: how can we strategically grow while maintaining an authentic creative pulse? 

Is it possible to provide a formula for a creative place, a framework for creativity, or a template to grow creatively without becoming too generic? Can organizations, cities and services both scale and evolve while maintaining specificity? 

Yes. But it is in the process of discovery where a framework is possible, not in the implementation or output. It's about finding the specific pulse, discovering what makes a place unique, and growing with those core values in mind. It's about taking the time to first understand the nuance of the place, organization, and people, and evolving from that base.

In 2018, Place Makes visited 10 cities to get to know their creative pulse. We talked to local artists, shop owners, musicians, and organizations to learn about what makes their places unique, and why they love them. We learned that some things are quite universal: the prevalence of third spaces, affordable housing, and a group of passionate people, but the differences, the "creative essentials" for each place are culturally distinct.

Identifying creative essentials is a bit like getting to know a friend by talking to his or her dearest friends (you know, the friends who let you grow and change, but know you at your core? The ones who have seen you through all the weird phases, and helped you not only be comfortable with who you are, but also damn proud of it). Find the people who are passionate with the the place or company, and start listening. 

Here are our favorite questions to help identify an organization or city's creative essentials:

  • Where do you feel inspired?

  • How do you collaborate? What does collaboration look like here?

  • Where do you create?

  • Where do you share your work? Are there enough opportunities to share?

  • Where do you feel most at home here?

 

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How to Take a Creative Retreat in Your Own Backyard

1. Self-impose constraints

Most creatives we talk to purposely work with a set of constraints. These constraints might be time, materials, budget, a word limit, color palette, or musical scale. Create prompts and limitations at the start. Dream big, but take bite-sized steps.

2. Get bored

We live in a business culture that often promotes “appearing busy” over actual productivity. The best ideas don’t come in a crowded meeting room, sitting in front of a computer, or staring at a smartphone. Create purposeful time and space for boredom during the week. During your morning commute scribble in a notebook rather than scroll through the phone. Deny yourself easy entertainment after dinner (yes, this means Netflix), and take twenty minutes to go for a walk around the block. You’ll be surprised at what ideas come forward once you rid your mind of distractions and screens.

3. Prepare the materials

When inspiration strikes, you don’t want to be without the right tools. Simple things like large sheets of paper, sticky notes, and your favorite pen are a good place to start, but we recommend introducing a few unusual materials - you never know what they might inspire (think: found objects or an instrument you don’t yet know how to play). Over time, you’ll discover your own favorites.


4. Don’t ask for feedback…yet

Contrary to what you might have been told - rapid feedback may hold you back (at the beginning). During the first stages of creative ideation, resist the urge to immediately ask for input. Be patient with yourself, and don’t worry about editing. Improvise. Allow yourself to draw strange hypotheses that might not make sense at first. Free-write and let the stream of consciousness flow. After the ideas have had time to simmer, then you can edit and ask for feedback.


5. Find retreat

A creative retreat doesn’t necessarily mean going to cabin in the woods, becoming a hermit, or renouncing technology (although it definitely can!). Make your own daily or weekly rituals. While we like to think of famous ideators and artists as having inconsistent or zany schedules, most are very disciplined at making time and space on a daily basis to create. Start by giving yourself 30 minutes on the weekend, and build up to daily habits. You’ll be amazed at the results.


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Meet Hungary's Pop Idols: Margaret Island
 

Four years ago when Kristóf (bass) and Bálint (guitar) heard Viki sing for the first time, they fell in love with her voice. Soon after, the three founded Margret Island.  Today the band of six is one of Hungary's most famous pop-acts, selling out Budapest's largest venues. We met Kristóf and Bálint at Csendes Bar in Budapest to learn more about the Hungarian language, the music scene in Budapest, and their creative process.

 
Photo by Peter Hencz

Photo by Peter Hencz

We've noticed that some bands in Budapest choose to sing in English. How did you decide to use the Hungarian language?

"It's interesting because our first two songs were in English but we felt the need to relate to Hungarian people more. In Hungary, people don't speak English as well and even if they understand the words, it doesn't affect you as emotionally as it could. Our first Hungarian lyrics were written by Janos Brody, a legend in Hungary in the 60s and 70s. He is a real songwriting master. He created the pop and beat music in Hungarian language and we had the pleasure to work with him.

Margaret Island Water

We Jumped In!

"There's a festival called Fishing on Orfű festival, and there was a stage in the lake! The festival is in the middle of June, so we were sweating and at the end of the gig we jumped in...it was so refreshing! We didn't have any other clothes, so we walked around wet for the rest of the day."

The Hungarian language is very difficult to sing. The way you pronounce the words is hard and it's tricky to find the fit. There are some bands that use Hungarian language in a really intense and nice way. I wouldn't even be able to translate those lyrics, because it's so complex and beautiful."

Can you tell us about the music scene in Budapest?

"Budapest is really lucky with so many concerts and clubs, the musical life here is really rich. You have concerts every day and with all these festivals, there are a lot of opportunities. We also have a big open-air venue called Budapest Park, the capacity is 10,000 and it's in the city. The space is special for all bands because they can hold their own headliner concert and it's totally different than playing at the festival because here it's just for your own. It's like a club concert at a festival stage. We've played there three times and it’s been amazing!"

“We had a pop-up show last summer on Liberty Bridge. People were picnicking and having fun on the bridge and we just started playing. Its was a really great moment!"

Do you get nervous before a show with that large of an audience?

"Absolutely! We have these little methods to transform ourselves into the stage shape. Here's what we do. First, we have to bounce up and down ten times and then we jump and we raise our hands and we just count to three and shout 'ENERGY' into the air. That's when we know it's time to begin!"

What is your process for coming up with a new song?

"Four years ago when Kristóf (bass) and Bálint (guitar) heard Viki sing for the first time, they fell in love with her voice. Soon after, the three founded Margaret Island.  Today the band of six are one of Hungary's most famous pop-acts, selling out Budapest's largest venues. We met Kristóf and Bálint at Csendes Bar in Budapest to hear their story!"

What's up next for Margaret Island?

Their next album will release this fall, and we expect a new sound for the band and a theme to believe in yourself.  Listen to their latest single, Hóvirág (i.e. snowdrop) - music video below and available where ever you listen to music!


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One Man's Quest to Bring Craft Beer to Budapest

On a crisp evening in March, we stumbled upon Hopaholic, a craft beer bar in District 7. While sitting down at the bar, we ordered two IPAs by Brew Your Mind. As we took our first sips, the man next to us leaned over asked what we thought.

We told him the truth. They were incredible.

Without so much as cracking a smile he replied saying, "That's good." Turns out this was his bar, and the beer was a collaboration he did with the guys of Brew Your Mind. He turned back around and resumed chatting with his friends, and we finished enjoying our drinks. Before we left he introduced himself as Gergely Kővári, and we set up a time to meet at his bottle shop down the road to hear the full story.

Gergely Kővári, owner of Hopaholic + Csak a Jo Sor

Gergely Kővári, owner of Hopaholic + Csak a Jo Sor

At 9:30 p.m. the following evening we headed to Csak a Jo Sor to chat with Gergely as he closed for the evening. When Csak a Jo Sor opened seven years ago, it was the first craft beer shop in Hungary. Today, it continues to be the focal point of the beer community, and is a meeting point for brewers looking to create and collaborate. Just like Gergely’s other establishment, Hopaholic, beer bottles lined the walls of the shop. We soon learned they were only a fraction of his collection of 2,000+ unique bottles—each drank by him, each attached to a different memory. Over the next hour, we heard about some of these memories, the story behind his two establishments, and about beer culture in Hungary.

On the beer scene in Hungary

While Germans and Czechs have storied beer traditions, Gergeley tells us that Hungarian beer making originated more out of necessity than craftsmanship. He says, “There is no specific Hungarian type of beer. In the ancient past Hungarian people were nomads so it was simply much easier than to make beer than wine.”

Hungary is now much more known for wine than beer, and before Gergeley came on the scene there weren’t many choices for a brew. He asserts, ”Five years ago there was nothing. You could drink a lager, or maybe a hefeweizen.” Gergeley saw the lack of consumer choice, and turned his passion for beer into a business that is liberating taste buds and inspiring brewers across the country.

How It All Started

When asked about how Csak a Jo Sor started, Gergeley says, “I started small to see what would happen. The customers just started to come in and it grew naturally. It was the right place at the right time. I just saw that there was no business like this and that we needed it. If not me, someone else would have done it.”

Budapest Beer Bar

After seeing the success of the bottle shop, Gergeley opened the craft beer bar Hopaholic. “It was the first craft beer bar in Hungary”, he proudly says. Hopaholic has grown since those early days, and now you can choose from a rotating list of carefully selected 10 Hungarian draughts and over 200 varieties of bottles. Just a quick Google search for “craft beer in Budapest” quickly demonstrates how much this place means to beer lovers in the city.

To Gergeley, these places aren’t just business ventures. They are his life’s passion. He says, “I don't go out a lot outside of these shops. But, I am inspired at my places. I get a lot of ideas here because people come in and ask me about beers and brewing. I live my whole life here.”

The Future

Even though Gergeley has made a significant impact on the Budapest beer scene, the overall Hungarian beer market is dominated by the major brands. He says, “Craft beer only accounts for 2-3% of beer in Hungary, and most of it is here in Budapest.”

Despite these challenges, he’s determined to keep providing consumer choice and variety. He says, “The craft beer scene will keep growing but we need to find more customers. We have to grow its popularity.” Judging by his passion and two fine establishments, we certainly wouldn’t bet against him. On your next trip to Budapest, try some of his beers and we know you’ll feel the same.

When in Budapest, check out his two establishments, Hopaholic and Csak a Jo Sor. We especially recommend anything by Brew Your Mind, but try a few and decide for yourself!

Welcome to Daijiro's Monochromatic World
Daijiro Smiling

My university professor once described creative power as the ability to comfortably hold two opposing ideas at the same time. By this definition, contemporary artist, Daijiro Hama, has supernatural creative power. Throughout our conversation, every point he made had a counterpoint. He explains, “there's always something good and there's always something bad. That is actually the reason why I started painting monochrome."

Painting in only two colors is liberating for Daijiro. Before he began painting in just black and white he tells us, “color started to feel like too much information. With color I started to think instead of paint. I wanted to be more pure or natural.” Self-reflection and conveying his most true self is an important part of Daijiro’s work. As he describes, his art helps him, “see the truth.”

Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro was born in Japan, but he never felt like he fit in. ”I always felt really uncomfortable in Japan, always kind of doubting the Japanese system or some general Japanese mindset,” he explains. So, when he turned 20, he left for Canada to try the vintage fashion business - a line of work he thought would be inspiring, creative and really fun.

IMG-2234.jpg

He quickly found that discovering vintage goods did not fulfill his creative drive, and spent his afternoons drawing and painting in cafes - so much so that other regulars started to notice his work. Daijiro credits the people he met during this time for his artistic career. A group of friends in Toronto opened him up to the world of art. He says, “they started to take me to openings and galleries. I'm from the countryside so I didn't know about galleries or even that there are people out there who buy painting.”

outside Daijiro's Studio

Today, Daijiro lives in Kyoto. He returned to Japan six years ago, and feels comfortable here now. He is inspired by the quiet rhythm of the city (though he worries there might not be enough tension to push his work forward...remember: there is a good and a bad side of everything). He explains, “in Kyoto it’s easy to get bored in a good way. The best spot for this is Kamo River, you just go there by yourself and just don't think about anything. Just keep walking and you get an answer.” He starts every morning with a run along the river, seeking inspiration and peace in this daily routine.

To see more of Daijiro Hama’s work, visit his website: http://www.daijirohama.com and find him on Instagram


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Chicko takes on Graffiti, Interior Design and The Saigon Projects

When we asked interior designer, graffiti artist, and photographer, Nguyen Tho (artist name, Chicko), to suggest a place to meet for an interview - he proposed The Factory. We sat outside the colorful containers of this beautiful Arts Centre, drank some coffee, and continued our conversation as we walked through the exhibit inside.  

The Factory was a perfect place to meet as it represents both innovative design, in architecture and interior, as well as contemporary arts. Chicko lives in these two worlds, specifically - interior design and art.

Chicko Nguyen Portrait
 
“The Factory aims to be a dynamic destination for art, designing innovative programs illustrating the criticality of Vietnam today.”  www.factoryartscentre.com

“The Factory aims to be a dynamic destination for art, designing innovative programs illustrating the criticality of Vietnam today.” www.factoryartscentre.com

The Factory, Ho Chi Minh City

The Factory, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Chicko is part of an emerging group of young people driving the art scene forward in Saigon. His foray into the arts began in 2010, when he and his friends created a group called The Saigon Projects.

The group travels across Vietnam, painting and exploring new areas of the countryside. One of the most inspiring things about the group is how they share graffiti with local communities. He describes this process saying, “When we go to a new town, we start by explaining with what graffiti is and bring spray cans along to show them how it works. We’ll demonstrate how to sketch, and they can even try it out themselves. People love it!”

 
Photo taken by Chicko

Photo taken by Chicko

Despite travelling all over Vietnam to paint, Chicko tell us that he still finds most the most inspiration from his hometown of Saigon. This wasn’t always the case. He says, “When I was young, I didn’t really understand the culture of Saigon. But now, sometimes I wake up early, find a small local shop, and watch people as they go to work. I also love driving around at midnight, taking photos, and finding inspiration all around for my graffiti and interior design.”

This inspiration is evident in his work both with The Saigon Projects, and his daytime gig is as an interior designer. Chicko is passionate and skillful at crafting experiences for people who enter a space, whether it’s a coffee shop, restaurant, house or hotel.

Be sure to keep an eye on this emerging artist and designer, as he’s beginning to make waves the city.


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This Art Collective Makes Murals with Tape
 

We meet with Robert König, co-founder of TAPE OVER, at his Berlin-based studio and talked about the organization’s electro club origins, tape as an artistic medium, and the process of growing an international tape art crew.

 

The Origins

It’s not every day that you hear of an international business getting its start at electro-clubs. But in a city where the nightlife and creative pulse are intertwined, it isn’t crazy to think your next venture might be the result of a late-night conversation.

What started as  Lamia Michna’s idea for a class project quickly evolved into a new medium for artistic expression at clubs and festivals. In these early days at the clubs, co-founders Lamia and Rob were easy to spot in a crowd. Not only were they taping on the club walls, but also on people’s faces and bodies. Rob describes this use of tape as a type of makeup and says the duo always arrived...taped.

He paints a picture of the electro-clubs scene in Berlin, saying:

Robert König, co-founder TAPE OVER Berlin

Robert König, co-founder TAPE OVER Berlin

Partying here [in Berlin] is a creative thing. It's not just about going [to a club] to have fun, but also about the people you meet. It's about the musicians, artists, and others who use the space to express themselves and do something creative. It’s a place where you have a lot of freedom.

For us it was normal, but I notice it’s not the same feeling, atmosphere, or group of people in other cities. For example, in New York, you go out to party and then you go home. In Berlin, the club opens on Friday and closes on Monday so people have time (and yes, they're probably also on drugs). They are more open to meeting new people. It's the mindset that connects the people and the possibility.

As they become more known, the business-side of the project grew and they decided to establish TAPE OVER Berlin officially in 2011. Soon after, brands began approaching them to work on commissioned projects. Today, they work with major brands and organizations across the world (including Adidas, NIKE, Converse, Vodafone, Telekom, Hermes Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Porsche and Red Bull) taping objects, people, and spaces with their captivating geometric creations. Today, TAPE OVER consists of 10 tape artists, making them the biggest tape art crew worldwide.

Growing a business and a team

Rob attributes the growth of TAPE OVER to finding the right people to work with.

The first person to join the crew was a determined teenager, Enni, who called and asked if she could do an internship.  Rob says, “we laughed at the time because we were just some people doing art and of course we didn’t offer internships.” But when they met Enni a year later, “we thought, why not, she's half our age but let's give her a chance. We're so glad we did - she is really inspiring.”  Even though she's still the youngest in the crew, she is often the lead on projects. Rob says, “To see an 18 year old girl manage the group and do all the business communications is incredible.”

As for the others who have joined the crew, Rob explains, “it just happens on the way. It's why we like collaborating. You can see if the energy and the chemistry is right. If it is, we invite them to join. Collaborating with other people always makes work more interesting so we love to do it."  

It’s evident that Rob doesn’t take his job for granted. He says, “I love my job. On my ideal day, I would work on this. I hardly consider it work. Like everyone tells you, it’s about the team, about passion, and putting the time in. This has everything."

Tape Art: the medium & the process

The TAPE OVER Berlin team are pioneers in using tape for art, and they're constantly experimenting. Beyond taping walls and bodies, they are always looking for new ways to connect with other art forms. One of their favorites methods is what they call "Tape Mapping," where video mapping and tape art work together to create enchanting visuals.

Title: champagne shower type // tape art installation size: 4x2m // material: duct tape & adhesive foil // artist: LaMia & ROB // place: épernay france (www.tapeover.berlin.com)

Title: champagne shower type // tape art installation size: 4x2m // material: duct tape & adhesive foil // artist: LaMia & ROB // place: épernay france (www.tapeover.berlin.com)

Tape has unique benefits. Rob explains, “if you don't like a line, you can just take it away and try again. It's not like other methods. If you have a pencil, you have to use the rubber. If you have spray paint, it's just there. Tape makes it really easy to experiment. But it can be hard to know when to stop. Sometimes you just have to say, it's done.”

Check out their work:

To work with Tape Over Berlin, reach out via their website. And keep your eyes peeled, their work is all over the world!


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Inside Kyoto's Mysterious Modern Culture

Most Kyoto guidebooks suggest visiting the city’s stunning shrines, ancient temples, and traditional teahouses, but the advice seems to stop there. As a visitor, it is tricky to tap into modern Kyoto—a place with a rich sense of tradition, a culture of patronage, and hidden pockets of arts and music.

GoldenTemple2.JPG

Enter Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto, a travel company dedicated to providing visitors with a deeply personal experience of the city.

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

We chatted with Sara at Walden Woods Cafe, a coffee shop designed to emulate the feelings evoked from Thoreau's writing. Yes, it’s places like this - thoughtfully designed spaces and experiences - that make Kyoto, Kyoto. Sara explains, “I don’t like using the word unique to describe a city, because every city is unique. But it's the only word I can use. Kyoto is very unique, even in Japan.”

Throughout history, Kyoto has been the cultural hub (in addition to being the actual capital for over 1,000 years) of Japan. Walking through Gion, viewing manicured gardens, and visiting the beautiful shrines is truly awe inspiring. As Sara says, so much of “the charm of the city” lies in the commitment to preserve culture, heritage, and tradition.

However, it is the delicate combination of both past and present elements that Sara finds so inspiring about the city. She tells us, “Kyoto really knows how to mix modern elements and traditional elements together. That's why I love the city. They still have the old, but know how to make it relatable to people. That's really hard to do. It can easily become tacky, too modern, or too cool and lose that charm. But in Kyoto, they know how to do it in a subtle way.”

Subtle is a word often used to describe the city. Sara says, “Japanese culture is subtle, but Kyoto is particularly subtle. This includes communication here. We're not very loud. Even our design and creativity is subtle.” But she is quick to add, “but there's an edginess to Kyoto as well that's being created by the younger generation. It’s just starting to pop up.” Sara explains that due to a relatively low cost of living, “people feel like they can focus more on freedom of expression rather than what will sell commercially.”

Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

Sara describes these new modes of expression as, “Freedom. A way of expressing without conforming to the Kyoto way or Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very rule based. These artists have given themselves permission to be more themselves.” Y Gion is an example of a new space that aims to support this emerging scene. The multipurpose venue was started by Takuma Inoue to bring the creative community together. Despite the prominence of galleries and cafes, there previously weren’t places for artists to go and feel free. Thanks to people like Takuma, that’s starting to change.

There is so much to discover in Kyoto, but much of the scene remains under wraps. As an outsider, Kyoto remains mysterious, sublime, and fascinatingly unique. If you want a chance to peek into the creative side of Kyoto—a place that is growing a creative culture in a respectful, but modern way, we recommend reaching out to Sara and to book a personalized experience at Curated Kyoto. She gives a view into the side of Kyoto that just can’t be found in a guidebook.

 


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Will Phu Quoc become an Island for Art?
Sunset at The River Mouth (Dormstay Riverside Hostel), Phu Quoc

Sunset at The River Mouth (Dormstay Riverside Hostel), Phu Quoc

Will Phu Quoc, Vietnam become an island dedicated to contemporary art? Peter, owner of The River Mouth and The Phu Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art (GOCA) certainly hopes so. 

Lying on a hammock by the river, Peter tells us about his dream. He imagines that the hostel we’re sitting at will offer artist retreats and that his gallery and bar will promote both local and international talent. The ultimate vision is for others on the island to follow suit and start their own artistic spaces, making Phu Quoc a true art destination. 

Community dinners hosted at The River Mouth, Phu Quoc

Community dinners hosted at The River Mouth, Phu Quoc

He’s not far from this vision of building a creative community.

Today, a visit to The River Mouth usually includes a community dinner below twinkle lights, prepared by an amazing chef and drinks expertly crafted by Hiep (who also helps with the gallery and bar). Both Peter and Hiep are passionate about what they hope to build. The Phu Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art already attracts visitors from across the world. While we were in town, the gallery featured an impressive range of modern sculpture, mixed-media photography and paintings. Even the design of the space itself was a delight!

Unfortunately, there is an alternate path for the future of Phu Quoc. As tourism is picking up across the island, trash has become a serious issue. While some beaches are far enough off the beaten path to remain (relatively) clean, most are not so lucky. Massive resorts and hotels are lining the beachfront and dumping waste straight into the ocean. Tourism overall is on the rise, but return visits are low - something that would be necessary to compare with the likes of Naoshima Island in Japan.

We're not completely pessimistic though. After spending a few days with both Hiep and Peter, we felt inspired by their commitment to making Phu Quoc a destination for the arts. Only a quick 30 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc is well positioned to become an international cultural hub, artist haven, and art tourism destination. The question remains: can artists save a place from human filth? We sure hope so!

To stay at The River Mouth Phu Quoc (currently under renovation, but back soon)

To visit the Phu Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art (don't miss out, have an expertly crafted cocktail while you're there)

Starfish Beach, Phu Quoc

Starfish Beach, Phu Quoc


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