Freedom through art

Olimpia Zagnoli in Milan
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Feminist illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli shares a world where women can be and do anything they want.

There’s one woman on the NYC subway system that every rider knows because she always stands out from the crowd—supremely confident, her hair is a dazzling orange afro, her lips the reddest red, and behind her shockingly yellow round glasses, the New York skyline swims in her eyes. She’s not a passenger but rather a ubiquitous poster, created by world-renowned illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli.

Olimpia Zagnoli Repubblicaselfie
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Despite the swirling organic forms bursting with colour in Zagnoli’s work, the Italian artist is not in the game just to make pretty pictures—she’s hoping to radically change the representation of women, and thereby set them free.

We met the prolific Olimpia Zagnoli in her Milan studio and followed her through the grey city streets on a Mercedes-Benz bike to learn how she sparks her own inspiration to make a difference.

Collage with artwork by Olimpia Zagnoli

Short Trip with Anja Groeschel

Anja Groeschel: smiling
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A trip through Berlin with the founder of the Art Lovers Club.

In a time where the definition of “luxury” has expanded to include unique experiences and adventures, a private members-only club for women who love art and culture really hits the mark. Berlin’s Art Lovers Club, founded in 2010, operates according to the enticing motto “We can do things that money can’t buy”. Through the salience of the concept and the work of the fantastic team behind it, the club was able to expand to Munich in 2015, and more cities are planned for the coming year.

Besides studio visits and speeches, the ALC also offers access to high-end events all around the globe and introduces companies to the exciting and radical possibility of uniting art and business. The bedrock of the organization is Anja Groeschel, a communication expert who also studied art history. With her own blood, sweat and tears, she created a living cosmos which not only revolves around art, but also around promoting shared experiences through the club’s environment and those of its affiliated institutions. Building this cosmos requires a lot of time and energy, so at the end of each year, Anja Groeschel leaves Berlin for a few days to reflect on the past twelve months in peace and quiet. Before she took off, we asked her to recap the past year’s events. Here she shares her reflections on 2016 and goals for 2017 with us.

You’ve made significant achievements and are one of the most important digital founders in Germany. What does a typical day in your life look like?

I drink a lot of green tea in the mornings and I use this time to read all the important global news as well as my emails. Then I usually go for a long walk with my dog and organise my daily schedule before I go to the office. At lunchtime I like to go for another walk and call my friends and family. I prefer to schedule my meetings for the morning or late afternoon. Most nights I attend social events.

What highlights did you experience in 2016?

My biggest highlight was a trip through Israel with my sister. I completely fell in love with the country and it inspired me a lot. Media coverage gives you an idea of current events in other countries, but it hardly ever conveys the cultural and historical context that would be necessary to really comprehend events. I think in order to understand events occurring in another country, a personal exchange with people who live there is required.

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What personal goals have you set yourself for 2017?

2017 will be a lot calmer. It’s important for me to spend more time with my family and friends, to travel more and finally start writing. 2016 really made me change my priorities, and I started to act upon this realisation by making sure to be less involved in certain aspects of the club’s operations.

Thank you very much and happy New Year!

Sharing my city: Amsterdam with Lizzy van der Ligt

car2go: Lizzie van der Ligt in an apartment in Amsterdam.
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What does it feel like to go on holiday and not just live in someone else’s apartment, but to immerse yourself in someone else’s life?

What was travel like before the advent of platforms on which private individuals can rent out their apartment by the day or week or that enable you to discover an unknown city for yourself using car2go? For some people, those times are now little more than a vague memory. It’s just so fantastic to make your own fried egg in the morning in a city that was unknown to you until yesterday, to browse someone else’s well-assorted bookshelves and, in most cases, to be supplied first-hand with insider tips – following the motto: “immerse yourself in another life”.

Digitalisation and the opportunities offered by the “sharing economy”, in which you don’t need to own something to use it, are opening the door to new ways of living, travelling and working. People are not just sharing car2go vehicles, using Facebook to stay in touch with friends in faraway places and following their latest music discoveries on Spotify. These technologies are causing people’s own networks to grow exponentially. Often, all it takes is an email to get in touch with friends of friends on the other side of the world.

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Our video with stylist and blogger Lizzy van der Ligt describes this way of life and the wide-ranging opportunities that arise from networking and the sharing of information and things. What would it be like if we were one day able not just to book a private apartment for a city trip, but to totally immerse ourselves in another life for a day? Sharing my city: Amsterdam.

car2go: Lizzie van der Ligt next to a smart in Amsterdam.
Backstage AMG: A glimpse behind the scenes, into the dynamic heart of the AMG brand.

Behind the scenes: Backstage AMG.

We glimpse behind the scenes into the dynamic heart of AMG – and discover something truly sensational.

Affalterbach: Home of the AMG spirit.

What has become of tranquil Affalterbach? From small, mighty racing specialists AMG has evolved into the high-performance brand of the Mercedes-Benz universe. From its beginnings in a meadow on the outskirts of the rural community of Affalterbach to the state-of-the-art headquarters of today. Over the past five decades Mercedes-AMG has evolved impressively. A multitude of office buildings and factories have been added to the first workshop hall.

 

The current architecture has been awarded prizes for energy-efficient construction. A natural-gas-powered fuel cell supplies the new logistics center not only with 100 kilowatts of electricity but also with heating and air condition: up to 40 kilowatts are fed into the public grid; on top of that, the fuel cell generates oxygen-reduced air that is diverted into the tyre warehouse. But even the energy produced on the engine test benches doesn’t fizzle away unused but is instead utilised to provide electricity and heating.

From small, mighty racing specialists AMG has evolved into the high-performance brand of the Mercedes-Benz universe.

The right mix: AMG doesn’t burn rubber.

Legions of test cars and prototype vehicles are in use at the AMG headquarters around the clock over the whole year. Millions of test kilometres are travelled around the globe, on racing and test tracks, on public roads. One of the most important wearing parts of this intense development work is round, black and is used every time in quadruplicate: tyres. The logistics and storage of roughly 5,500 high-grip aggressive sport varieties is a challenging task.

To prevent a fire in the tyre warehouse, the oxygen ratio in the air is reduced to around 15 percent – no chance for an accidental fire. Even wanton arson would be difficult here, because any lighter needs at least 16 percent oxygen to be able to ignite. In contrast to the general atmosphere at AMG, the atmosphere in the AMG tyre warehouse is cool: the tyres are stored below 15 degrees Celsius to save energy.

Future needs history.

For a company that comes from racing, it is rather unusual to cultivate its own past with sound judgement: because anyone who strikes a fast pace seldom looks in the rear-view mirror. The documents and stories of the early years of Mercedes-AMG might have been lost – had it not been for the strong identification of some employees from the very beginning. They didn’t just put the remnants of days gone by in the cabinet all the way in the back. Over decades, partly outside of working hours, a vivid and impressive collection of documents, photographs, parts and even classic cars arose.

 

Under the guidance of Michael Clauss, who has been with AMG for 37 years, just as long as AMG has been in Affalterbach, the archive has become a fabulous treasure from which the brand constantly draws its identity.

Hospitality, Swabian style.

For many AMG fans, picking up a new Mercedes-AMG vehicle in Affalterbach is a veritable obligation primarily on account of the factory tour: “One Man – one Engine”. Every mechanic bestows a plaque with his signature upon completion of the engine mounting. In many cases it’s possible for customers on their tour of the engine factory to meet the mechanic who was responsible for the assembly of their engine. A very personal, distinctive experience that brings the AMG team and their customers even closer together.

For many AMG fans, picking up a new Mercedes-AMG vehicle in Affalterbach is a veritable obligation primarily on account of the factory tour.

Right next to the customer lounge is the delivery hall. Dark walls, bright floor, a magical lighting scenario. Here the customer now has plenty of time for their first moments with their new AMG.

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A shoot for the Classic Magazine in the flair of the 1970s featuring the celebrities W 114/W 115 and W 123.

Mercedes-Benz Classic meets retro-style fashion.

A shoot for the Classic Magazine in the flair of the 1970s.

Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8: model in the park hotel 1970.

Flashback.

The 1970s was about shag-pile rugs, psychedelic-patterned and colored wallpaper, bright clothes and Madge the manicurist praising Palmolive. The 1970s was the era of two Mercedes-Benz model series that made record sales: the previous W 114/W 115 E-Class model series (also known as the “Stroke 8”) and the W 123. The W 123 replaced the “Stroke 8” from 1975 onwards.

Flashback.

The 1970s was about shag-pile rugs, psychedelic-patterned and colored wallpaper, bright clothes and Madge the manicurist praising Palmolive. The 1970s was the era of two Mercedes-Benz model series that made record sales: the previous W 114/W 115 E-Class model series (also known as the “Stroke 8”) and the W 123. The W 123 replaced the “Stroke 8” from 1975 onwards.

Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8: model in the park hotel 1970.

Event location, the Parkhotel 1970.

The lifestyle of the 1970s is often talked about, but very little of it can still be seen or felt. Except in the Parkhotel 1970 in the town of Michelstadt in the Odenwald mountains. Here is a hotel which has kept that authentic style of the time and which was re-opened several years ago. Prior to that, the former spa resort and holiday hotel spent almost 20 years in a deep sleep.

Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8 and W 123 in front of the park hotel 1970.
Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8 with model and stylists in front of the Parkhotel 1970.

The Byzantine golden 1970s.

Of course, looking back on this decade, not everything was golden. However the era remains in our memories as a time of economic security, hippie fashion and easy-listening music, the 1972 summer Olympic games in Munich and the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Model, Alea Kay Wiles, supported by stylists Alexander Hofmann and Gina Pieper as well as the Byzantine gold Mercedes-Benz 280 CE from 1972 brings back the atmosphere of the time.

The Byzantine golden 1970s.

Of course, looking back on this decade, not everything was golden. However the era remains in our memories as a time of economic security, hippie fashion and easy-listening music, the 1972 summer Olympic games in Munich and the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Model, Alea Kay Wiles, supported by stylists Alexander Hofmann and Gina Pieper as well as the Byzantine gold Mercedes-Benz 280 CE from 1972 brings back the atmosphere of the time.

Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8 with model and stylists in front of the Parkhotel 1970.

Good times for Mercedes-Benz.

The Mercedes-Benz brand also felt the momentum of the seventies. The luxury class sedans and the SL models allowed the brand with the three-pointed star to shine brightly; the Mercedes-Benz executive class models – today, the E-Class – ensured good financial returns. When production of the “Stroke 8” ended in 1976, almost two million vehicles from this model series had rolled off the production line. The next model series, the W 123, was to see even greater success.

Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8 and model in front of the Parkhotel 1970.
Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8: Photographer Benjamin Pichelmann at work.

First fashion, then the automobile.

Photographer Benjamin Pichelmann wasn’t at the Parkhotel 1970 for the first time. Two years ago he assisted a fashion photographer for a magazine shoot. Since then he has had the location in mind for portraying a car in this setting. Classic Magazine has now given him the opportunity to bring together retro fashion and the Mercedes-Benz classic car.

Tête-à-tête in the lobby.

In this picture everything is real and almost all is authentic. The lobby of the Parkhotel appears in its original state as at its opening and the S 123 in the background is just as it was when it left the production line. Model Alea only knows the 1970s from her parents’ stories and the fashion she is wearing is from current collections in the popular retro look.

Mercedes-Benz Stroke 8: model in the foyer with W 123 in the background.

In the pool at the end of the day.

Heated swimming pools were the top notch for leisure culture in the seventies – in the Parkhotel, too. Benjamin Pichelmann didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity for the final shots. He could have taken the photos from the edge of the pool, but the images in his head had him climbing into the water.

Retro through and through.

In the 1970s any pool user dressed in a bathing costume like this one would have been in fashion. Back then, bikinis had long since overtaken the one-piece suit in the popularity stakes and the really brave bathed topless …

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