Bi-Coastal artist Agnieszka Pilat offers patrons a unique, thought provoking viewpoint on the world of technology, machines and automation as it relates to the future of humanity at her current exhibition, Renaissance 2.0.. Her works are currently on display at chic San Francisco restaurant Foreign Cinema’s large private area, which doubles an art gallery, called Modernism West.
“Foreign Cinema and Modernism West partnered to create a unique, elegant place with top-quality food, amazing service, and the best contemporary art,” says Pilat. “This is not a coffee shop selling paper cup drinks to-go with local starving artists painting portraits on demand.”
Foreign Cinema is a truly special culinary destination that brings together the best of both film, art and culinary worlds. It’s known for it’s globally-inspired Northern California cuisine and its ability to effortlessly combine delicious food, wine and cocktails, film and art in to one special dining destination.
A self proclaimed technology romantic, Pilat sees machines as becoming more and more modern day celebrities. Beings that actual hold power and wield influence in our society. That said, in her work she uses playful shades of pastel, and baby pinks and blues to highlight the embryonic stages of these machines and their technology.
“Innovation is a wonderful result of that youthful playfulness and humanity benefits from it tremendously,” explains Pilat, who recently completed an artist residency at Boston Dynamics. “The works on display at Modernism West / Foreign Cinema pay tribute to Silicon Valley’s innovative spirit by being innovative in the realm of art by embedding augmented reality and taking what are still images into a conceptual realm of machines in action.”
The twelve canvases featured in her first exhibition at Modernism West are painted in oil on linen, taking inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, with a focus on the Renaissance. In her interpretation, human subjects are replaced with robots.
No one describes their art better than the artist him or herself, and so, we sat down with artist Agnieszka Pilat to discuss her exhibition, its inspiration, meaning and more — including her favorite spots to eat. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell me a little bit about the inspiration for this show, the meaning behind it and your favorite pieces.
The majority of work in the exhibition at Foreign Cinema focuses on the Renaissance, with images derived from Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco. We are living in a unique and exciting time. There’s an important connection between the Renaissance and the present moment, especially evident in Silicon Valley.
Just as innovation changed the world during the Renaissance, innovators in technology are changing the world today. In tribute to this and referencing the language of software iteration, I named the exhibit Renaissance 2.0.
Perhaps the most iconic piece in the collection is ‘Vitruvian Man’. The painting references a famous da Vinci drawing but the human figure is replaced with a robot, Atlas (I encountered Atlas at Boston Dynamics’ HQ in Massachusetts).
By giving a robot a center stage, a prestige of fine art (oil painting was traditionally destined to represent aristocracy) I am announcing the new power class: technology.
Talk about the connection between tech and your work. Why is tech so interesting to you and such a driving source of inspiration for your work?
I am a technology romantic and I see machines as humanity’s children. It’s a familial relationship, so neither is inherently superior — let alone an existential threat to the other. That said, I understand the anxiety-driven by the fear of automation and tech: technology and machines are more and more today’s celebrities, perhaps even the aristocracy of the 21st century. They hold the power in society.
It’s unnerving for many that young and inexperienced elites have such a global impact on the world. I use bright hot pink, baby blue, and shades of pastel to indicate the youth of these new technologies. I dress them up silly, as young children might dress up… These new, powerful machines, new technologies are young and immature, they are like small children — innocent and benevolent, who think they know a lot but who understand little.
How did you get connected to Foreign Cinema? Why did you choose it to host your show?
I was invited to produce a show at Foreign Cinema, by my dealer, Martin Muller, the director of Modernism Inc. Foreign Cinema is a very cool restaurant, famously known for playing cult movies on the dining room’s wall. In addition to their huge space, the restaurant also has a large private area, which doubles an art gallery — Modernism West.
Both the menu and the art are carefully curated, it’s expensive to eat and buy art there, but totally worth the experience. The space is often rented for corporate events — it’s a nice combination of formal and chic, and because Renaissance 2.0 praises technology, the show raises lots of interest among Silicon Valley businesses.
Favorite things on the menu at Foreign Cinema?
I am partial to their vegetarian food, although I know from my dinner coma options there that oysters are excellent.
For me I always go for the truffle risotto. The pile of truffle slices on top of the risotto is so decadent that every time I have it I almost feel guilty! To even it out with a light starter, Martin’s arugula salad — because it’s named after my dealer, Martin Muller who always feeds his not-so-starving artists at Foreign Cinema.
In a sense, Foreign Cinema is like My Chow in New York — also famously known as an artist hangout (Keith Herring ate there all the time).
The menu changes seasonally of course, in a tradition of great California locally sourced products. For desert — a chocolate soufflé… oh là là!
When you dine at Foreign Cinema — don’t forget to look for what movie is on the menu that night!
What are some of your favorite restaurants to dine at?
I love innovation — not only in technology but also in food and I am a vegetarian so that limits some choices for me. With that in mind, in San Francisco, I love The Bird Song in Soma. It’s a tasting-only menu (which I generally am not a fan of) and I adore everything about that place. The decor is super bright and modern, with tall ceilings with an open kitchen in the center of the restaurant — so every table has a full view of the chef. The number of staff is staggering without being overwhelming though. Wonderful service. Now the food… it’s Californian but so innovative and delightfully surprising, I would much rather describe it as from the future!
For breakfast and lunch — if I am in San Francisco, I almost exclusively eat at Shack15: a private club/ co-working space on the top floor of the Ferry Building. My art studio is in New York, but sometimes I need space to finish some work in the Bay Area – Shack15 serves as my home away from home. The founder, Jorn Lyssegen, hosts me at the club when I need space.
Lots of Bay Area entrepreneurs made it their office so at lunch it is always a lively place, avocado toast comes often together with a pitch to a VC and with the dreams of becoming the next Bay Area unicorn. As you can imagine, lots of coffee is being served, and obligatory, silicon valley style kombucha and chia yogurt!
Now, in New York, where I spend half of my time, I’d say Tamarind in Tribeca is my favorite dinner place: wonderful Indian food, including awesome drinks. Lot’s of vegetarian options – I always love Indian food because of that. Their outdoor dining also rocks – very early during the pandemic, Tamarind build a series of private, outdoor eating cabins, they are the cutest invention and an incarnation of #nytough for they were serving food in the snow and in freezing temperatures.
Also in New York, Nobu, downtown — I often have dinners there with my patrons and collectors. Elegant, it is in the basement – so that gives it a clubby atmosphere, so it also works as a place to grab a drink. It’s Asian fusion – their menu has fantastic options for both carnivores and vegetarians, and it’s very light and flavorful. It’s dark – great for a 1st date if you’re shy!