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Remo Ruffini, courtesy of Moncler.
Photo by Steve Benisty.
New World Development’s #LoveWithoutBorders “Mask-to-Go” Dispenser photo by New World Development.
José Parlá in the studio, photo by © James Chororos.
Whitewall's Summer 2020 Impact issue cover featuring Artist Relief.
Photo by Jeffrey Gurwin, courtesy of The James Beard Foundation.
Elizabeth Schwaiger, "Blue Tide," 2019, courtesy of the artist.
Bisa Butler's "I Am Not Your Negro," part of the "Art Is for Everyone" series; courtesy of the artist and Claire Oliver Gallery.
Photo by Mangue Banzima.
Aurora James, photo by Steve Benisty.
"The Battle is Joined", a sculpture by 2019 Pew Fellow Karyn Oliver, installed in Vernon Park, Philadelphia, 2017, the work was presented as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s "Monument Lab", photo by Mike Reali.
Courtesy of COS.
Fragile Future, courtesy of Studio Drift.
Photo by Mangue Banzima.
Lifestyle

2020: The Conversations That Moved Us

By Whitewall

December 30, 2020

This year has been unlike anything we expected when the clock struck midnight on December 31, closing out 2019. Marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a reawakened social justice movement, and a divisive U.S. presidential election, 2020 has been full of shock, surprise, stress, loss, grief, and unprecedented change.

The worlds Whitewall looks at—of art, fashion, design, and luxury—are very different today. And so, too, is our coverage. We wanted to say goodbye to this year by reflecting on the conversations that moved us. Whether they helped certain realities sink in, provided a different perspective, shared the prospect of hope, or proposed the possibility of innovation and opportunity, these are the stories we’re bringing with us into the new year.

Open Gallery

Photo by Steve Benisty.

This interview with Osamu Kobayashi in early March made the realities of the soon to be named COVID-19 pandemic truly sink in. The Brooklyn-based artist, who was in the middle of a residence in Italy, said, “I’ve considered going back home to New York, however, I worry that the situation there could get worse than here. During the day the bells of various churches ring at odd intervals. I understand they signal the death of a church member. The bells have been ringing with more regularity the past few days.”

Open Gallery

Remo Ruffini, courtesy of Moncler.

Later in March, we moderated a conversation between Moncler’s Remo Ruffini and villa eugenie’s Etienne Russo for our forthcoming summer 2020 Impact Issue cover story. While the conversation looked back on past collaborations, it also looked ahead at the future of fashion, already greatly impacted by the pandemic. Ruffini, speaking from Italy, was clearly shaken by already overflowing hospitals in his home country. He revealed over Zoom his plans with Moncler to fund a new hospital in Milan.

Open Gallery

New World Development’s #LoveWithoutBorders “Mask-to-Go” Dispenser photo by New World Development.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw an array of brands lend their talents and proceeds to help fight COVID-19. An outpouring of resources to make PPE and other necessities for health care workers came from fashion, spirits, and hotel brands, as well as individual designers and artists.

Open Gallery

José Parlá in the studio, photo by © James Chororos.

In April, as cities, states, and countries went under lock down, we spoke with artists to hear about how they were doing while at home. José Parlá told us about the harrowing scenes he saw at the hospital across the way and how it inspired him to keep making work as a way to offer prayers and inspiration to others.

Open Gallery

Whitewall's Summer 2020 Impact issue cover featuring Artist Relief.

Seven organizations joined together as Artist Relief to raised funds for artists and gig workers who were financially impacted by the pandemic. Initially intended to be a one-time initiative, it expanded to two sessions that spanned nearly the entire year. The initiative supplied $5,000 grants to 100 artists each week. It welcomed a diverse pool of applicants: creators of all disciplines from all 50 states that have been living and working in the U.S. for at least two years and are over 21 years old are encouraged to apply online.

Open Gallery

Photo by Jeffrey Gurwin, courtesy of The James Beard Foundation.

We heard from Clare Reichenbach, the CEO of James Beard Foundation about the severe impact the food and beverage industry experienced within the first few months of the pandemic. She shared tips on how to help save the restaurant industry. 

Open Gallery

Elizabeth Schwaiger, "Blue Tide," 2019, courtesy of the artist.

Checking in with artist Elizabeth Schwaiger, we appreciated her perspective of hope when she said, “What inspires me is the possibility that I was wrong — that the early days of a better nation are these dark days of isolation and reflection and death — that we have a chance to make it to the other side with a clearer view and the will to make sweeping fundamental changes to ourselves and our society.”

Open Gallery

Photo by Mangue Banzima.

After social justice protests erupted across the U.S. and globally in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, artist Mangue Banzima offered his intimate experience of the movement as a father, as a Black man, and as a photographer on the ground.

Open Gallery

Bisa Butler's "I Am Not Your Negro," part of the "Art Is for Everyone" series; courtesy of the artist and Claire Oliver Gallery.

In response to the anti-racist movement, artists, makers, designers, and brands came together with limited-edition products, projects, campaigns, and more to amplify Black voices and raise funds for the fight for equality.

Open Gallery

Aurora James, photo by Steve Benisty.

In the wake of protests against police brutality in the U.S. sparking a global outcry for racial justice, Aurora James launched the 15 Percent Pledge—an initiative urging brands and corporations to dedicate 15 percent of its shelf space to Black-owned businesses, as Black people in the U.S. make up nearly 15 percent of the population.

Open Gallery

"The Battle is Joined", a sculpture by 2019 Pew Fellow Karyn Oliver, installed in Vernon Park, Philadelphia, 2017, the work was presented as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s "Monument Lab", photo by Mike Reali.

In our Summer 2020 issue, we spoke with Karyn Olivier about what it means to make a monument at a time when the U.S. is grappling with its dark history. While our conversation with Olivier took place in February, her work and the questions she asks are wildly pertinent in this moment. She told us about the memorial she’s making for Dinah, a once-enslaved woman credited with saving the historic landmark Stenton House in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. The words that will be inscribed on that memorial are a great place to start in this moment. One is from Alice Walker: “Healing begins where the wound was made.” The other is from Lorraine Hansberry: “Never be afraid to sit a while and think.”

Open Gallery

Courtesy of COS.


With the impact of 2020 settling in, we found more and more of the conversations we had look at the future with purpose, new perspective, and hope. Designers like Kerby Jean-Raymond were bucking the norms and constraints of a fashion industry in dire need of change; while brands like COS were committing to real sustainability.

Open Gallery

Fragile Future, courtesy of Studio Drift.

The designers and artists we spoke to for the fifth annual Lexus Art Series: Art & Innovation Talks by Whitewall with Design Miami/ were a fitting way to round out the end of the year. From emerging talents to seasoned veterans, their reflections on creativity in our new digital era and post-pandemic world are keeping us all inspired for what’s next in 2021.

Year in Review

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