Conceptual artist Guillaume Levy-Lambert launches the next phase of decoding Roy Lichtenstein’s Desk Calendar

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin5/10/2022 10:9 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
Conceptual artist Guillaume Levy-Lambert launches the next phase of decoding Roy Lichtenstein’s Desk Calendar
Sign up below if you’d like to be part of his global art project involving cosmic siblings born on 21 May 1962
Font Resizer
Share to WhatsappShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInMore Share
Scroll to top
Follow us on Facebook and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

As a leading figure in the new art movement of the 60s, American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein disrupted the traditional art world with his comic book-inspired stylings that featured thick outlines, bold colours and Ben-Day dots, as if created by photographic reproduction.

Often tongue-in-cheek, his work defined the premise of pop art through parody using advertising imagery to portray consumerism, homemaking, love and war. Some of his more famous works include Crying Girl and Kiss. Critics of the time challenged its originality, calling his work vulgar and empty. But for one particular Frenchman who currently resides in Singapore, a Lichtenstein work has quite literally changed his life.

This artwork, called Desk Calendar, was one of Lichtenstein’s lesser known pieces created in 1962 and was sold off to Italian Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo — co-founder of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) — for only US$400. Over time, the piece made its way back to MOCA where it currently resides.

Unlike most of Lichtenstein’s colourful bold pieces, Desk Calendar was very far off his typical oeuvre, showcasing a monochromatic image of an organiser (or Filofax) with personal information such as pencilled-in appointments, a phone number and an encircled date. Till today, no one can explain why the artist chose to create something so off-kilter and cryptic, but for a certain Guillaume Levy-Lambert, who chanced upon the painting in 1999, the dates have significant meaning to him.

See also: WWF-Singapore’s AR-mazing Tiger Trail raises awareness of declining tiger population

“May 21, 1962 in the Desk Calendar is the date I was born, and Oct 26, which was circled, is the birth date of my partner whom I just started seeing for only a month,” he shares. “What are the odds that my favourite artist created a painting with dates that represent not one, but two of our birth dates? It felt like winning the lottery. It’s eerie and bizarre, but one thing I’m now fully aware of is there’s magic, divine magic at play.”

Was it pure coincidence, serendipity, or a sign from God? Levy-Lambert was determined to find answers and launched a full-on investigation to uncover how he and Desk Calendar are inextricably linked. He even interviewed the daughter of the painting’s first buyer, Maria Giuseppe Panza, Lichtenstein’s widow Dorothy Herzka, and her thespian stepson Mitchell Lichtenstein. Incidentally, Herzka's birthdate also falls on Oct 26. But it still doesnt explain why Lichtenstein circled the date, as the two only met in 1964, two years after he painted Desk Calendar! Levy-Lambert can confirm this because he also interviewed Letty Eisenhauer, Lichtenstein's mistress who was with him in the spring of 1962.

Unfortunately, no one has been able decode the mystery that enshrouds the details in the artwork except to say that it’s the only work “with overt personal references”. Levy-Lambert truly believes that Lichtenstein created the Desk Calendar for him and his partner which has crystallised their union as soul mates for the past 23 years and counting. As a science-based, fact-driven person, his black-and-white view of the universe evolved from strictly Cartesian and Darwinist to one encompassing a fascinating spiritual dimension — which also sparked a return to his Jewish faith two years after this chance encounter. In fact, he was even toying with the idea of becoming a rabbi!

A graduate of HEC Paris (M.Sc. 1982), Levy-Lambert is a serial reinventor — his first career was in financial services with BNP Paribas Asset Management (1984–1997), where he held increasingly senior assignments in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. He then joined the advertising industry, as Asia Pacific regional chairman for Publicis (1997–2007).

See also: Artists interpret Valentino’s One Stud handbag through their surrealist paintings

As a long-time arts buff, Levy-Lambert found himself drawn to art as an artist rather than just a collector. With Desk Calendar constantly on his mind, he felt it was time to hang up his tie and leave the corporate world to pursue life as a conceptual artist and spread art’s unique transformative power. In 2014, he opened Art Porters Gallery in the sleepy Spottiswoode district to showcase promising artists from around the region.

One of his first projects as a conceptual artist was a short film called Evidence — a five-minute edit of more than 30 hours of video calls he made with museum-goers who called the phone number [+1] 212 288 4820 listed in the Desk Calendar — an American line that Levy-Lambert acquired in 2011, formerly owned by legendary art dealer Leo Castelli. Evidence was screened at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco from November 2016 to June 2017. Levy-Lambert has also held a TedX talk on the subject called Documenting Divine Providence.

During the production of Evidence, Levy-Lambert observed a deep longing for personal connection coming from several of the callers. One of them is a participant from Texas — affectionately known as his cosmic twin — who shares not only the same birth date but also many uncanny similarities in their personal lives. This synchronicity sparked the idea of further deepening relationships connected to Desk Calendar through searching for more cosmic siblings.

“I realised my lifelong mission to uncover the calendar story became an artistic one not so much to learn about myself but more about solidifying human connections beyond my own relationships. During a gym workout while running on the treadmill, I did a rough estimate in my head that there would be about 300,000 people born on the same day as me. In 2017, I began placing ads on Facebook and managed to find 30 cosmic siblings from all over the world. We had a Facebook Live event to celebrate our 58th birthday in 2020,” he details.

As Levy-Lambert turns 60 this year, he wants to organise a joint celebration with his cosmic siblings (wherever they are) as part of a global art project, to not only bring together brand-new sexagenarians, but also embark on the next phase of his calendar story. Using Zoom’s translation feature, this special event — held on May 21 for all those born on May21, 1962—is one set to become a unifying art piece that transcends language, geography or socio-economic status.

“I’ll be presenting the story of the Desk Calendar and hope to hear their reactions, theories and experiences. In addition to learning more about our shared humanity, I’m hoping to contribute to an awakening — to get people to pay more attention to the clues that the universe sends to each of us to light our path,” he explains.

Believing that everything is connected, Levy-Lambert’s global quest to search for his cosmic siblings doesn’t just stop at this birthday celebration. What he hopes to do artistically is to transform these connections into Instagram portraitures, a podcast series and a documentary to be released at the next birthday celebration.

For more lifestyle, arts and fashion trends, click here for Options Section

Perhaps this forging of unlikely communities will help him crack his own Da Vinci Code of divine providence and unravel more layers and threads that surround Desk Calendar. Whatever the case may be, we think Lichtenstein will be proud.

To participate in the Cosmic Siblings online event on May 21, visit https://linktr.ee/cosmicsiblings

PHOTOS: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

×
Loading next article...
The Edge Singapore
Download The Edge Singapore App
Google playApple store play
Keep updated
Follow our social media
Subscribe to The Edge Singapore
Get credible investing ideas from our in-depth stock analysis, interviews with key executives, corporate movements coverage and their impact on the market.
© 2022 The Edge Publishing Pte Ltd. All rights reserved.