AT CHRISTIE’S PARIS on 23 January, 2014
“Madame Elsa Schiaparelli was incomparable. There is no equivalent to be found. Her imagination knew no bounds.”
“She would have transformed you in less time than it takes to tell – and saved you. She was a bouquet of spells. She was a
constellation of the stars, a fireworks display. Watch out! Or be hypnotized.”
YVES SAINT LAURENT
Today there’s an article in El País about a new book by journalist Victor Fernandez called Querido Salvador, Querido Lorquito (Elba). It’s about the letters between Dalí and Lorca. Forty or so survive. Apparently Gala destroyed some in jealous fits.
“Tú eres una borrasca cristiana y necesitas de mi paganismo (…) yo iré a buscarte para hacerte una cura de mar. Será invierno y encenderemos lumbre. Las pobres bestias estarán ateridas. Tú te acordarás que eres inventor de cosas maravillosas y viviremos juntos con una máquina de retratar (…)”. Salvador Dalí
In the green morning
I wanted to be a heart.
And in the ripe evening
I wanted to be a nightingale.
turn the colour of love.)
In the vivid morning
I wanted to be myself.
And at the evening’s end
I wanted to be my voice.
turn the colour of love.
The television adventure returns for round two. After being granted a reprieve I wanted to be helpful (that’s sort of a chronic disease for me), so I thought I’d offer up my friend’s house to be on the show. It’s a multi (many-many-multi) million euro home and she’s exceptionally charming and talented, so really, she’s the one who should’ve been on television in the first place. The producers saw the pictures and loved it. My friend said yes to them. Suddenly I get a call today and I’m getting roped in to be on the program with her showing the house because I speak better French… And for some absurd reason I said yes.
So in the event you pick up French Channel 5, you may have the misfortune to see me, and even worse, hear me, in July. Before then, have a glimpse at her rather glorious home, and in the event you want to be my neighbour, and one-up me by living in a house that’s double the size of mine, and have a heated indoor pool (apart from the outdoor one), and have between 10 and 20 million euro to spend on a house (I’m not giving the exact price because it seems crass), drop me a line and I’ll help you arrange it
I’ve been through so many auction catalogue pages this weekend, when I close my eyes I’m still seeing red stoneware. There are a couple of good Bottger pieces going up for auction at Bonham’s in London in June, so fortunately that doesn’t clash with any of the sales I’m organizing. One of the pieces is quite nice (as far as these things go):
The estimate is 40,000 to 60,000 GBP (US$60,000 to 91,000). I think it’ll lean towards the high end of the estimate (if not more). One of the Bottger items I’m researching is also extraordinarily early and rare, so I’m hoping it reaches a good price level when it goes up for sale later this year. One could always do with a nice cash injection.
Our friend who’s divorcing is arriving from Britain tonight with his two daughters in tow. I’m not sure how long they’re staying, but I think they all need a break. I’ve never particularly liked children- which makes it unusual that children seem drawn to me. The two arrivals are girls. One is nearly five and the other nearly three. I guess the house seems a bit like an adventure to children. The dogs, the woods, the stream. At night they can hear frogs and owls. I’ve told them that the girls need to learn how to swim during this trip. Our pool is right outside the living areas, we can’t have children who don’t know how to swim here. When Mike’s niece and nephew were little, I used to have the energy to play games with them. Jenga and trivial pursuit etc. Now one works at the International Criminal Court in the Hague and the other is at university in Britain. Time goes by so quickly.
The more houses we look at in France, the more I love these tiles. It’s an easy way to make a big statement. They can really transform a bland space into something very special. Unfortunately I wasn’t brave enough to use them here in larger rooms, but we have them in some of the bathrooms. Next house I’ll go for something more dramatic somewhere. I’ve been trying to get a client to put them in her kitchen, but she’s not yet convinced. They’re heavy and thick and made of cement. The pattern isn’t the result of glazing but of different colours of clay. There are printed versions that are cheaper and also have a similar effect. Modern designs are also available.
In one of our guest bathrooms they look like this:
In related news I recently found an interesting fellow designer on wordpress. You should have a look at his work. His name is Orlando Soria. I love his sort of very American approach to design. Everything looks very sleek and new. I’m used to dealing with art and antiques and clients who more or less want their homes worked around things they already own. Except, obviously, for that project I’ve been posting about recently. The one I’m still not entirely comfortable with, precisely because I’m not used to this style. He’s also quite good looking, but I swear that didn’t influence my opinion.
I’m still working on organizing the sale of two Yixing teapots and a Bottger coffee-pot. This involves quite a lot of research, which fortunately, I enjoy. The majority of the Yixing pieces I’ve looked at are (loosely speaking) in the 4k to 10k range, but some sell for an absolute fortune, as the one sold by Bonhams in the link. Interestingly the value isn’t necessarily connected to the beauty of the object. If I’d seen the teapot pictured right in a shop, I would probably not have given it a second glance. That’s an interesting reminder that one can never know enough. In fact, when the three pots were first brought to me, I was thoroughly unimpressed. They seemed good quality, but nothing special or extraordinary to my untrained eye. I withheld my opinion, as one should when one doesn’t know, and hit the books. As hitting the books wasn’t enough I’ve enlisted the assistance of some very helpful specialists in London. The most exhilarating part of this sort of work, is that you never know what’s going to be around the corner. In the back of every dealer’s mind is the notion that the next item could be the one. I don’t think the pieces we’ve got will make a fortune, but I have the impression they’ll do alright.
I’m also working on identifying the author of a bronze sculpture. The signature is illegible, but the date is very clear: 1927. It’s quite attractive and reminds me of the work of Maillol. Particularly the very evenly round shape of the breasts. Unfortunately I’m confident it’s not a Maillol… but it may have been by an assistant/student etc.
These images are from a project called In My Skin about young people under 25 in the UK who are challenging their body image. I am looking at those who have had or are considering having cosmetic surgery in order to become more acceptable to themselves and achieve their ideal of being ‘beautiful’. Social consensus in Western society today is particularly focussed on physical beauty and achieving and maintaining the “perfect” face and body. Intertwined with this I am also documenting body dysmorphia as young people try and conform to this social expectation resulting in eating disorders and body transformation. Lastly I am documenting transgenderism and the struggle young people have to live within a body they were born into but have no affiliation with.
We tested everything in the guest wing for my cousin’s arrival on Wednesday. Wouldn’t you know… the water heater wasn’t working and something was wrong with the central heating. Now we’re scrambling to get everything fixed in time. I also have an appointment with the dentist on Monday, something I avoid like the plague- but I have a crown that’s loose.
I’m a bit exhausted by work. Mentally and physically. It’s very hard to keep everything in order in my head and still drink the amount I drink. I found someone who makes some rather beautiful tapestries from antique saris. We’re going to have one mounted on wood to hang over the sofa in the house I’m working on.
I’m also working on a Yixing tea-pot. It belongs to the same person who brought me the Böttger coffee pot that I mentioned a little while back. Both will probably be going to auction in London. It’s also worth quite a bit for such a little thing.
Yesterday we put the big mirror up in the larger living room. If you look at it from one sofa it reflects the big painting. From the other it reflects the pool- quite nice. I think we might keep it after all. I know when I say ‘I just want to see how it looks in the house’, Mike thinks I do it as a ploy to bring more stuff into the house (which he thinks is already over-furnished)- but it genuinely wasn’t- at least not consciously. I’ll put some pictures up later. We’re going out to lunch at a friend’s place. An apartment in the marina. Yesterday we were discussing communal living again. Our friend who was going to come live here for a while last year, but then didn’t because their place didn’t get rented, might be coming if they get renters this year. I’m feeling positive about it. There are parts of the house we never use. Some I honestly only see once or twice a year and even then it’s just to clean. What’s the point of all this empty space when it could be helpful to someone?
It arrived. When I bought it I’d just seen pictures and hadn’t looked closely at the design. As I sat in front of it yesterday (looking at the carving rather than at myself), the penny dropped. It’s a French ‘marriage mirror’. Something given to a bride on the day of her wedding. There’s a symbolic message in the pediment. Can you guess what it is? It’s quite romantic- I’m tempted to keep it!
The quality of the gilding is outstanding. It has a few points of missing decoration. Fortunately, very easy to repair (circled in red below) and I can do it myself. Having things this size and this delicate transported makes my stomach turn. Literally. I sometimes get so anxious I throw-up during the process (sorry for the visual). So taking it to a restorer would be unnecessary turmoil and I’m pretty good at moulding plaster on wire. Yesterday I did the wire and first layers of plaster. Today I’ll continue building up the plaster and when it’s dry I’ll sand it, apply clay and gild it. It ends up being much more stable (and secure) than carving and attaching wood. We’ll hang it once I’m finished with the restoration, meanwhile, here we are in the entrance hall.
Exhibition of Northern European painting of the 19th and 20th centuries.
From 9 December 2012 to 5 May 2013, the Groninger Museum will present the exhibition entitled Nordic Art 1880 – 1920. This exhibition is a tribute to the peoples and cultures of the Nordic countries, and provides an overview of 19th and 20th-century North European painting. The splendid landscapes, portraits and scenes from everyday rural life display both the similarities and the differences between the Nordic countries. The exhibition focuses on the time when movements such as Realism, Naturalism and more divergent styles such as Symbolism and upcoming Modernism existed side by side.
This is going into the Sabine Medina online shop too. I-LOVE-IT! The tortoise-shell lacquer is stunning.
Sorry comments have gone unanswered lately… There’s a general strike today but I honestly cannot afford to participate- besides, I work from home so I doubt my working will be noticed
It’s been a rather busy few days. I was asked to start/manage an online shop for Sabine Medina Interior Design. It’s slightly different to what I normally do as she wants a very specific style (more rustic than me) and the focus is more on the style than the rarity. I suppose I’d call it decorative antiques. Popular 19th century chairs rather than signed 18th century Louis XV chairs. She also wants items that are priced within reach of the average person. I like the idea and Sabine is an amazing designer. She’s done things like the clubhouse at Valderrama Golf-Course and hotels and some really stunning homes. It’ll take very little time out of my week as it blends into my regular work and I admire her work so I’ve accepted the challenge. I’ve contacted a few people and I’ve started trying to put the whole thing together. You can see it here. In the next few days I’ll be adding tableware because she particularly likes my table settings and asked me to include a section of flatware/crystal/porcelain similar to what I use at home. I have a passion for old Christofle, so I’ll be including a good few sets by them. They’ve got the largest and heaviest cutlery on the market and the older sets are absolutely amazing in detail and quality.
I’ve also been asked for a polychrome secretaire in light colours for a study. So I’m hunting. It’s a rather plain study, so it really needs something showy.
They want something like this, but that has a pull-out desk fitting.
There's little in taking or giving, There's little in water or wine; This living, this living, this living Was never a project of mine. Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is The gain of the one at the top, For art is a form of catharsis, And love is a permanent flop, And work is the province of cattle, And rest's for a clam in a shell, So I'm thinking of throwing the battle --- Would you kindly direct me to hell?
Selling, calculating, buying- this whole working affair is rather annoying. As soon as you sell a collection, you have to start all over again. A bit like Sisyphus. If I didn’t have to make money, it might be more enjoyable. I find the pressure irritating. There’s a magnificent piece of furniture somewhere in Spain that happens to be (inconveniently) many hours away from me. It’s a mid 19th century copy of a piece made for a king of France. It could even be called emblematic of that Royal house. I could probably make a hefty profit on it- but I’m not sure I have the energy- or enough money to take this sort of risk at the moment. At the same time I’m haunted by purchases I didn’t make- and I hope this doesn’t become one of them. I’ll sleep on it- every day for a week.
I was called in to see a painting yesterday. I rarely do consultant work any more, but this one caught my eye, so I agreed. The owners know nothing about it. First analysis is that it’s Flemish and early 17th century. The similarity of the faces of the two central figures leads me to believe they’re related, perhaps brothers (perhaps Saint Médard & St. Gildard?). I’ll have to do some more research in that regard. It’s definitely a studio painting. Faces, jewelry and details are beautifully done. Some of the background is terribly flat. The crucifix and altar prickets look amateurish; So certainly more than one artist worked on it. It’s huge, 2 metres by 1.6 metres.
The whole Carolina Courtland thing had me thinking last night. K mentioned the buddy aspect of the whole thing. A clique getting together to impose their unique vision as if it’s the only acceptable behaviour. I’ll admit I lost my patience with someone at one point… I may or may not (I did) have called someone a self-important fool (or something like that). The comment that set me off:
“I can’t speak to Africa. I don’t live there and I never plan on going there.”
I had mentioned there’s a rape epidemic in Africa. There are also record numbers of street children in North America. A worldwide crisis that’s devastating various parts of Europe- and there’s a posse of fools getting together to indulge in mob mentality to defend the evidently fragile ego of a fellow blogger ‘who happens to be’ part of their circle jerk of self/mutual promotion. Mental masturbation? They spend so much time telling each other they’re brilliant and handing each other photoshopped blog awards that when anything calls the illusion into question it all comes crashing down. Mediocrity exposed. Offence must be taken. If it weren’t they’d be obliged to confront reality. Very selective offence at that. Make fun of an online dating profile? Outrageous! Dismiss the fact that in South Africa alone a woman is raped every 17 seconds? Perfectly acceptable. Am I being harsh? Certainly not. Just a member of Amnesty International since I was 18. I get that awful magazine once a month. I guess they send it to make sure we all know the horrors out there and don’t consider quitting. Fortunately, at least it gives me enough perspective to comprehend that my rapidly greying hair or what someone on the other side of the world said about me on the internet is rather unimportant.
I keep thinking back to the You Are Not Special speech. It should be taught in schools. Recited at least once a week. I guess we can blame the internet. A certain degree of anonymity allows people to indulge in such fantasies. Some people use blogging as an adult version of Second Life. In this second life people don’t age like the rest of human beings, they’re permanently über-fabulous. The reality of banal lower/middle-management jobs is masked and there’s no need to confront one’s real problems or those that are happening in the world. Have a blog award, you’re sooo special! You have a few hundred followers? That must mean you’re talented. Your opinions can stand on that alone. Never mind logic, history or accuracy. Questioning? Debate? Dissent? Oh, no you don’t. Get your needle away from my giant soap bubble immediately! Freshly Pressed? That must mean genius. Next stop, surely an editorial for The Guardian.
On a tangent, I leave you with Derren Brown’s experiment on deindividuation theory. Its methodology is flawed, but still, it’s interesting and makes a point.
“Maison Mantin was commissioned by Louis Mantin, a wealthy man from Moulins, who wanted to showcase his art and antiques collection. It was designed by a noted local architect, René-Justin Moreau (April 28, 1858 – September 18, 1924), in collaboration with his father, Jean-Bélizaire Moreau (1828–1899), also an architect, and built in 1893.
Mantin bequeathed the mansion to the town of Moulins in his will, written before his death in 1905. The will stated that the house be kept intact, so as to show to visitors in 100 years “a specimen of a bourgeois home of the nineteenth century”.
Consequently, the house was kept shuttered for over a century, with all its original contents, and fell into disrepair. After extensive restoration, it was opened as a museum, and a showcase for the eclectic taste of its former owner.”
The architecture is deliciously hideous. The interiors, however, house a superb collection. All four parts of the documentary are available here. It’s in German (spoken slowly and clearly), but just seeing the images is worthwhile. They show some interesting befores and afters and the house through time. Spain also has a strain of delicious monstrosities. They come in the form of Casas de Indianos. ‘Indianos’ were Spaniards who emigrated to Latin America and then returned to Spain after becoming wealthy.
A while back I saw one such monstrosity that I fell in love with. It’s known as the Palace of O Corgo (aka Pazo de Adai). It was built by General Tella during the dictatorship in a mishmash of absurd styles and happened to be owned by a fellow art/antiques dealer who also used the house as a showroom. It’s still on the market and for a very reasonable price considering the size and materials. Nothing but the best for the general. Granite pillars, parquet de Versailles, carved wood decoration on the ceilings… Unfortunately (as I constantly whine about), Mike insists that even the house we’re in now is too big for us, so not much of a chance of getting him to agree to one of these. Plus, he hates the architecture.
The weather forecast says it’s going to rain heavily on Friday. Meanwhile the sky is blue and the temperature is 20º C.
A stunning pair. 15 to 25K at Sotheby’s NY on Oct. 11th.
Personally I prefer the Venetian variety, like the one Mike’s mother gave us (below). They’re much more refined. But I like blackamoors in general.
“I’ll never know what went through my father’s mind when he found pictures of me dressed up in drag on the Internet, but I know that the phone call that came after changed my life forever. I was standing outside in the snow when he called me, spitting rage through the phone.
We’ve been approached by a production company because a film director wants to use Villa l’Africaine as a movie location. It’s great money considering we don’t have to do anything. The production company says they could bring us a lot of clients for photo shoots too… I think it would feel strange having people walking through my house; But, I suppose it’s a smart move to consider that as a business possibility.
I didn’t mention it because I was annoyed, but we received an offer last week, it was laughable. They wanted the house, the land and what is basically my life, and they asked for a discount of 933,000 euros. My life is not for sale at a discount. It’s not a discount, bargain basement life. I’ve spent over a decade perfecting this thing. I was very polite and didn’t say anything rude to the buyers about their offer. It wasn’t easy. It must be Mike’s influence. I have however spent much time considering what I would have said to them had I blown a fuse.
I’ve had fracking walls built with special recesses and lights for art. NO DISCOUNT.
Opening this year in the historic centre of Tazacorte, on the island of San Miguel de La Palma is a most amazing hotel-museum. It’s the brainchild of Luis Ignacio, the current Marquis of Villafuerte. They’ve restored and expanded a glorious home and have added outstanding pieces to an already brilliant collection of art and antiques. They even set up a restoration room on the grounds.
I was a purveyor of some of their tapestries, and I’m very honoured they used them on the hotel’s website.
Irena Korosec is a very interesting artist born in the former Yugoslavia. She now lives and paints in Québec. You can see her work here. I saw this painting a while back and LOVED IT!
And finally the gay icons you probably don’t know because they are country specific. From France there’s Barbara, who died in 1997. Along with Edith Piaf and Brel she was one of the great singers of her era. She had a magnificent talent for expressing longing and pain in her singing- something many gay men (of then, and now) relate to. I think it’s something to do with growing up sidelined, not understanding our feelings and why we have them. Here’s a magnificent rendition of Il Pleut Sur Nantes.
The next gay icon was hugely popular in the Portuguese-speaking world. His name is Ney Matogrosso and he’s known for his rare sopranino (sopranist) voice. In the 70′s he did an amazing rendition of Balada do Louco, Crazy Man’s Ballad. It became the Lusophone anthem for the LGBT community. As usual, my translations are bad, but the gist is “Why don’t unhappy people stop calling me crazy, I’m happy being who I am”. It’s the 70′s, the birth of our pride movement.
Dizem que sou louco por pensar assim
Se eu sou muito louco por eu ser feliz
Mas louco é quem me diz
E não é feliz, não é feliz
Se eles são bonitos, sou Alain Delon
Se eles são famosos, sou Napoleão
Mas louco é quem me diz
E não é feliz, não é feliz
Eu juro que é melhor
Não ser o normal
Se eu posso pensar que Deus sou eu
Se eles têm três carros, eu posso voar
Se eles rezam muito, eu já estou no ar
Mas louco é quem me diz
E não é feliz, não é feliz
Sim sou muito louco, não vou me curar
Já não sou o único que encontrou a paz
Mas louco é quem me diz
They say that I’m crazy, for thinking this way.
That I’m crazy for being happy.
(I say) Crazy are the people who say this to me,
And are not happy. Are not happy.
If they’re handsome, I’m Alain Delon.
If they’re famous, I’m Napoleon.
I swear it’s better
not to be normal
If they have three cars I can fly
If they can pray I’m already in the sky
Yes, I’m very crazy, and I will not be cured
I’m not the only one who’s found peace
Crazy are the ones who are not happy
I AM HAPPY!