Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop

Stories by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop

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    A Visit With the Komodo Dragons

    In 1910, Lt. van Steyn van Hensbroek of the Dutch colonial administration in Indonesia set out in search of the mysterious “land crocodiles” he had heard about.
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    Singapore: Portraits of the Prime Minister

    The vibrant watercolor shows a gaming table with three playing cards, each depicting a different portrait of the same man. Small figures kneel at the corners pleading, “Papa, can you help me not be frightened?” and “Papa, don’t you know I have no choice?”
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    Made for China

    With Western markets sagging, luxury firms are tailoring products to the Middle Kingdom.
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    Asia's Rising Pop Star Does a Guest Turn on 'Glee'

    As any would-be American Idol knows, taking on a song by Whitney Houston or Celine Dion can be the kiss of death. The songs are so demanding that contestants often find themselves in the judges’ firing line for attempting one. So when 15-time Grammy Award–winning producer David Foster says the 18-year-old Filipino singer Charice reminds him of a young Dion, the industry takes note. Foster knows what he’s talking about: he produced the French Canadian Dion’s debut English album, Unison. “Charice reminds me of when I saw Celine 20 years ago,” he says. “In my opinion, she will put the whole of Asia on the map as a huge global superstar.”
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    Chinese Artists to Reimagine Top Luxury Brands

    Painstakingly sewing shards of broken pottery recovered from ancient archeological digs, Li Xiaofeng creates “porcelain clothing” few would ever wear. Until now. Some of these works caught the attention of John Storey, the worldwide director of public relations for Lacoste, when he saw them displayed last November at the hip Beijing hotel The Opposite House. Storey recognized a great marketing opportunity, and commissioned the up-and-coming Chinese artist to create two iconic artworks.
  • East Transforms West in Chinese Opera

    "The Legend of the White Snake" is one of the most famous Chinese tales. The story of a young scholar bewitched by a beautiful woman who is really a powerful white-snake demon has given rise to countless Chinese opera productions, films, and TV series. It is now also a Western-style opera performed in English that is set to tour China.
  • Remaking Hollywood Hits for Asian Audiences

    Five years ago, Hong Kong film director and producer Peter Chan got an intriguing call from Warner Brothers: would he be interested in remaking The Bridges of Madison County with Chow Yun-Fat reprising Clint Eastwood’s role and Chinese actress Gong Li stepping in for Meryl Streep? Chan thought transposing the action to China would work, but he couldn’t spend the time on development, so nothing happened.
  • A Conversation With the Director of Carnegie Hall

    Since becoming executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall five years ago, Sir Clive Gillinson has transformed one of the world’s top performance venues into a center for cross-cultural and interdisciplinary exchange. He has also created new educational programs, including a fellowship that offers public-school students access to high-level music education. He spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop in Singapore, where he was attending Live! Singapore, a new international trade event for the performing-arts industry.
  • Chinese Art Collectors Revive the Classical Market

    During the mid-2000s, Chinese contemporary art rose to world attention, with political pop and cynical realist works by artists like Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang regularly breaking records at auction. In 2008 Zeng Fanzhi's Mask Series 1996 No. 6 sold for $9.66 million at Christie's, setting a world record for a contemporary Chinese artist, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York ran a major retrospective of Cai Guo-Qiang's gunpowder works. But when the global economy shut down, China's art market faltered along with so many others. Now it's back, this time powered in large part by Chinese buyers. And unlike their Western counterparts, they are eschewing contemporary works in favor of 20th-century Chinese masters and classical ink paintings.Last year the most expensive Chinese painting sold at auction was a rare scroll by 16th-century Ming-dynasty artist Wu Bin. Bought by Liu Yiqian, a private collector from Shanghai who paid $24.8 million, Eighteen Arhats was the seventh-most...
  • Graffiti Art—In Singapore?

    Like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat before him, graffiti artist Daze made the move from spray-painting walls in New York to exhibiting canvases in art galleries around the world: Tokyo, Zurich, Miami, even Iowa City, Iowa. But his latest exhibition is opening in a really unexpected location: Singapore. Spray-painting is still a rare sight there, where it's still mostly associated with acts of vandalism punishable by up to three years in jail or eight strokes of the cane. Only recently a publicity stunt by the postal service involving a masked man spray-painting six mailboxes backfired when scandalized Singaporeans called the police. But a couple of weeks ago, Daze completed a commissioned giant canvas standing in front of a public outdoor amphitheater, all under the watchful—if not puzzled—glare of security guards. The piece (a woman's eye swimming in a sea of colorful words) is now installed in a shopping center, protected by a rope.Singapore hardly rivals New York or London...
  • Shopping: Where No Women Dare to Tread

    Some luxury brands have always catered exclusively to either men or women—think Dunhill, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Brioni for men or Jimmy Choo and Christian Lacroix for the ladies. But most are happy to promote their stores as emporiums for both sexes. Yet just as some educators believe that single-sex classrooms are better for learning, some luxury brands are finding that single-sex boutiques boost the bottom line. While it's not exactly a man's world on Main Street, luxury brands are increasingly offering greater exclusivity in men-only shops.The trend took off two years ago, when the Hankyu department store opened in Osaka, Japan, with its entire 16,000 square meters of floor space devoted to masculine products from shoes to cigars. Soon after, Louis Vuitton opened its first men-only store inside Hankyu, replete with leather furniture, pure wool carpet, and a goatskin rug. Around the same time, the British fashion queen Vivienne Westwood, who can spot a forward-looking trend...
  • Bespoke Tailors for a One-of-a-Kind Wardrobe

    For the ultimate in exclusive shopping, men are increasingly turning to bespoke couturiers for custom-fit suits, shirts, ties, and shoes. A sampling of our favorites: ...
  • Publishers Look to China for the Next Bestseller

    When penguin paid $100,000 for the worldwide rights to the English translation of Jiang Rong's bestseller Wolf Totem in 2005, it set a record as China's most expensive overseas book deal. The tale of a Beijing student sent to work as a shepherd in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution went on to bag the first Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. It has officially sold more than 2 million copies in China—and many more bootlegged ones—making it the country's second biggest seller after Mao Zedong's Little Red Book. Internationally, the novel is China's best performing translated fiction. But even worldwide sales "in the six figures," according to Penguin, are relatively modest compared with international bestsellers like Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, which has sold more than 10 million copies to date.In recent years, China has increasingly flaunted its soft power, winning notice for its bold contemporary art and epic films featuring flying swordsmen. But when it comes to...
  • Hollywood Discovers Korea's Talented Actors

    In the late 1990s a Korean wave washed over Asia. From TV soap operas and movies to pop music, the region couldn't get enough of Korean culture and its good-looking stars. But the wave never quite reached the American entertainment industry. At most, Hollywood embraced the remake of several Korean films—including The Lake Houseand, more recently, The Uninvited.Lately, however, ethnic Korean actors have started to gain traction in American film and TV. Kim Yunjin and Daniel Dae Kim broke through when they were cast in Lost in 2004, followed by Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy and James Kyson Lee in Heroes. This year Korean-American heartthrob Daniel Henney appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as the villainous Agent Zero, and now stars on the new CBS medical drama Three Rivers. Lee Byung-hun took on the role of Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And John Cho, who played Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, is currently starring as an FBI agent in ABC's drama FlashForward.Next up: Jeong Ji...
  • Auction Houses Look to Asian Collectors

    The contemporary-art market is not much more robust in Asia than it is anywhere else. But in other genres, Asian buyers are showing some surprising muscle, snatching up pieces that Western buyers have shunned and creating a lone bright spot in an otherwise bleak market. Collectors from mainland China continue to bid aggressively on imperial artworks and porcelains viewed as heirlooms that must be repatriated. At Sotheby's New York auction last month, Asian buyers took all but one of the top 10 lots; at Christie's, 14 of the top 20 went to Asians. An Asian buyer spent $362,500 on a 12th- or 11th-century B.C. bronze food vessel, which Christie's had estimated at $20,000 to $30,000, while a rare imperial zitan stand and cover, also estimated at $20,000 to $30,000, went for $1.42 million.Asian buyers are proving to have deep pockets in new auction categories: those associated with a high-end lifestyle. Asian oenophiles, demonstrating an educated palate and an appetite for rare wines,...
  • Yachting Goes Green

    As a sport, yachting may be all about harnessing the power of the wind, but for most superyachts, that's where ecofriendliness ends. Typically, these 45-meter-plus boats guzzle huge amounts of fuel while their owners host lavish parties that require high-powered amenities like air conditioning and fancy sound systems. But the green agenda has begun to reach even these behemoths of the sea, with marine architects and designers seeking ever more innovative ways to apply conservation technologies to their vessels.When Luciano Benetton's 50-meter Tribù launched in 2007, it became the first private yacht to win the Green Star designation from the Italian classification society RINA. In order to earn the certificate, usually associated with cruise liners and oil tankers, the yacht had to meet a complex list of requirements, including special equipment for treating waste water and rubbish and the elimination of other emissions. (It didn't have to forsake its Jacuzzi, gym, or luxurious...
  • Making Chinese Films for the Chinese

    A revolutionary runs through the busy streets of Hong Kong, pulling a rickshaw carrying Sun Yat-sen. He keeps glancing anxiously over his shoulder, on the lookout for assassins who plan to kill the future leader of the 1911 revolution. The 15-second scene, for the upcoming film Bodyguards and Assassins, is being shot not on location but on an elaborate set built on the outskirts of Shanghai. As big as 10 football fields, this full-scale replica of a section of the former British colony took a year to build, cost $5 million—a fifth of the film's budget—and includes the façades of about 200 shops and a near-exact copy of Pottinger (Stone Slab) Street.It also symbolizes a massive investment in the future of Chinese cinema. Grand historical sets—evoking everything from the Forbidden City to battles waged by various emperors—are a staple of Chinese epics. But in the past, most of those films were shot with international money for an international audience. Bodyguards and Assassins...
  • China's Me-Generation Artists Turn Inward

    Until recently, the way Chinese artists got famous was to talk politics. The generation that grew up during the Cultural Revolution and the difficult years that followed was highly politicized and gained global recognition for its tongue-in-cheek images of Mao Zedong and Tiananmen Square, often rendered in eye-popping color. Wang Guangyi's kitschy communist-style propaganda posters incorporated iconic consumer logos, such as Coca-Cola and Porsche, and Yue Minjun mocked the fast-changing world with his paintings of large-mouthed men grinning relentlessly.Though still hot, those new-wave artists are giving way to a very different group: the "me-first" generation, whose members talk about each other and themselves. Born in the 1980s under China's one-child policy, they were still children during Tiananmen and are much less interested in politics and far more concerned with individuality. Unlike their elders, who use art to criticize the growing commercialism and inequality of post-Mao...
  • Business Travel Dumps the Frills

    Forget expense account meals and junkets. Companies just want their business travelers to get the job done.
  • For Hotels, Breakfast is the Most Important Meal

    Even guests who never eat breakfast when they're home have trouble resisting a well-appointed breakfast buffet on the road. A recent survey of business and leisure travelers in Asia by Le Méridien hotel group showed that 60 percent of leisure travelers and 40 percent of business ones eat more than usual when traveling, and more than 80 percent favor the buffet breakfast. However, only 38 percent of travelers said they were extremely or very satisfied with what hotels are offering.Some hotels are trying to differentiate themselves by offering new takes on the breakfast classics. The St. Regis Bali offers guests Wagyu beef tenderloin and fried egg as an upmarket alternative to the traditional bacon and eggs, while the Cascade Café at ANA InterContinental Tokyo will start offering in July new breakfast items with a "Japanese" flavor, such as a buckwheat burger with deep-fried foie gras in tonkatsu sauce.Le Méridien has partnered with Jean-Georges Vongerichten to create a few Signature...
  • New Pared-Down Luxury Watches Capture the Moment

    The luxury-watch industry has gotten the message: pare it down. Small, slim, unadorned timepieces capture the mood of the moment. In his very first watch collection, Ralph Lauren has unveiled a series of delicate classic watches that exude luxury without bling; the Stirrup Collection features an equestrian silhouette, with Roman numerals and a "railroad track" minute marker. The crown bears either an embossed "RL" or a discreet diamond ($12,000 in rose gold). "The trend in design is understated, pure, classic simplicity and a return to roots," says Wei Koh, editor of the international watch journal Revolution Magazine. "Already legions of fans are reembracing Rolex, which is the industry's best value proposition from the perspective of performance and classic design."Many watch brands are digging into their pasts to capitalize on this new period of elegant restraint. The slender Sotirio Bulgari watch, which celebrates the company's 125-year history, has a case that opens like an old...
  • Developers Gamble Big on New Casino Resorts

    Gambling is out. Few have the stomach anymore to risk their assets on the stock market, real estate or even a work of art, let alone the blackjack table. Casinos from Las Vegas to Macau are suffering as tourists tighten their belts and corporations under scrutiny choose less glitzy locations to hold events. Yet amid the gloom and doom, a handful of gaming operators are going all in, opening enticing new properties—like the dazzling M Hotel in Las Vegas—and investing in the future of entertainment.That future includes much more than just gambling. Las Vegas Sands plans to gain a foothold in the Eastern U.S. this May with a resort in the unlikely city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While the company has scaled back plans for the $743 million complex, eliminating the construction of a hotel and mall, it will still debut with 3,000 state-of-the-art slot machines and a variety of entertainment and dining options—including, they say, a steakhouse by a celebrity chef who so far remains...
  • Luxury Train Journeys Are The Way to Go

    In this age of harrowing airport check-ins and unpredictable flights, some travelers are returning to a slower, more comfortable and far more romantic way to see the world: by luxury train. The grande dame of such trains, the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, sparked a resurgence in luxury rail travel in the 1980s, carrying passengers between Paris and Venice in wood-paneled cars replete with polished brass and dining cars decked out with starched white linen, French silver and heavy crystal. Since then, the destinations have expanded to include cities like Istanbul, Budapest and Warsaw.Over the years, other railways have sought to emulate the opulent comfort of the Orient Express. South Africa's Blue Train transports passengers between Pretoria and Cape Town in high style (www. bluetrain.co.za), the elegant Royal Scotsman weaves among Scotland's lochs and highlands (royal scotsman.com) and Russia's first private train, the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, takes passengers from...
  • Luggage: Stylish Ways to Pack it All In

    Nothing conveys the message of luxury travel quite like a matching set of fine designer luggage. Associated with Old World travel style, beautiful leather trunk cases have been making a strong comeback. The first flat trunks were designed by Louis Vuitton in the late 19th century specifically to accommodate rail passengers. Bulkier trunks with iron hoops were popular for stagecoach travel, but the stackable flat trunks proved more practical for railway carriages. Soon, other trunkmakers began copying Louis Vuitton's successful design, pushing the company to launch in 1896 its now iconic monogrammed canvas with the graphic symbols of quatrefoils and flowers. Today, Louis Vuitton trunks are still popular and available in a variety of designs, from the monogrammed canvas Alzer to the canvas Damier, which comes in stylish azure and a new, darker graphite (from $2,700; louisvuitton.com).Faubourg Express suitcases, created by Globe-Trotter for the fashion house Hermès, also have a...
  • Finally, Great Places For Satisfying a Sweet Tooth

    The most common criticism leveled at restaurants in Asia is that they offer a disappointing selection of desserts. But things are changing. In the past two years a number of dedicated dessert bars have opened in major cities around the region. In Hong Kong, the small Sift Dessert Bar (46 Graham Street) attracts a regular following for its confections, which include a sinfully rich concoction made of alternating layers of Valrhona chocolate sour-cream cake, jivara crémeux and praline crunch, and topped with a chocolate ganache. Patrons can linger over their dessert with a glass or two of wine—a concept that is also catching on in Singapore, with the recent opening of the 2am Dessert Bar (2amdessertbar.com). Though a tad overpriced, 2am suggests bold pairings such as sticky toffee pudding with a light and sweet Zagara Moscato d'Asti, and tiramisu with a rich Soul Growers Shiraz. For those who prefer sweets with a hot drink, Singapore's Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie (canele.com.sg)...
  • Dining: Asian Restaurants Get the Star Treatment

    With many Asian foodies developing a taste for truffles and foie gras in recent years—as well as the means to indulge in them— fine-dining establishments have been popping up like wild mushrooms throughout the region. From Shanghai to Singapore, gourmets have been partaking of the finest European cuisines, while wealthy businessmen entertaining clients have spent thousands of dollars on the best wines in the world.I have lived in Singapore for eight years, and I can't remember a time when the region has had better dining options. Though many of Asia's restaurateurs are now starting to feel the pinch of the economic crisis, they can still take pride in the knowledge that 2008 has proved to be a memorable year for the region and its cuisines. There's reason to think it will continue, if on a smaller scale, through next year, too. The good news for diners is that reservations are pretty easy to come by.Tokyo solidified its reputation as a gastronomic capital this year after its...
  • Luxurious Trunks Display Timepieces in Style

    Watch collectors can showcase prized possessions in equally luxurious temples. Crafted by Pinel & Pinel, the Piaget Collector's Trunk houses 51 timepieces. Made from leather-covered poplar wood and brass, it comes with remote-controlled interior lighting, an integrated watch winder and a travel case. The bespoke trunk—which takes three months to complete—can be personalized with 20 different colors and a custom-engraved nameplate (price upon request; www.piaget.com/mini sites/malle). Available in various coverings including the LV monogram, Louis Vuitton's trunk can house 16 watches and features a "secret" compartment for documents ($33,000; louisvuitton.com). At the end of the month, Smythson of Bond Street will introduce a black pigskin-leather watch cabinet with a Mondrianesque interior, a not-so-secret storage space and additional room for cuff links, tie pins or pens ($6,670; smythson.com).
  • Recline, Then Rev It Up At Singapore's Supperclub

    A 21st-century twist on the ancient Roman practice of reclining to eat, Supperclub has just opened a branch of its restaurant-cum-club in Singapore.Setting: A dimly lit bar overlooks the legendary Raffles Hotel through red-tinted windows, contrasting sharply with the modern, all-white dining space, decked out with tables set in raised mattresses and large comfy cushions.Concept: The three-hour five-course meal starts at about 8:30. There is only one service each night and no options (though the menu changes weekly and the server will check for allergies or food dislikes). During dinner, performance artists take to the central dance floor, often inviting diners to join in. Afterward, the DJs turn up the volume so clubbers can dance the night away.Food: The contemporary European fare includes dishes like smoked salmon salad with a champagne sauce and tuna with risotto, though some are given an Asian kick; a delicious mushroom soup is prepared with ginger and lemongrass. The witty...

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