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.
Dinner was amazing yesterday. The club/restaurant was overflowing with people. It’s funny because you drive down the streets of Sotogrande and never see a soul. There’s the occasional jogger or Filipino maid walking to the gates, but not much else. I had tuna tataki (again) as a starter, and then the rib eye, which was wonderful. Then an Irish coffee. Then we had a night-cap at the neighbour’s house which lasted ’til 3am (Mike came home about 2 hours earlier- lightweight!). I think I drank half a bottle of brandy. It was Orleans Borbón and went down like velvet. A friend stayed over here afterwards as to not drive home drunk. I hope the people from last night weren’t horribly bored by me. I talked much too much about antique yixing ceramics (which I’m currently researching). I discovered somewhere in adolescence that people in society generally prefer lighthearted, meaningless conversation and that seeming intellectual is uncool- so I learnt to disguise it well. Sometimes I forget and it bubbles up to the surface. Isn’t it absurd that playing dumb and pretty makes someone more popular than discussing things one actually knows about?
I don’t have a hangover, but I think I might still be feeling a slight buzz. Sometimes I wonder if my body is just going to shut down one night, give up. Sorry, Sir, you’ve done enough. I can’t take it anymore. Then again, Winston Churchill lived until he was 90 and he always had a cigar in his mouth and a whiskey in his hand. Three of my grandparents are still alive and one died in his mid-eighties, so I guess genetically speaking I might do just fine. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? A lifetime of drinking and smoking and good food? My epitaph could be He never did what they said was good for him.
Some renters arrived this morning at the Laing house next door. They’re listening to some very questionable music of the rap variety. Maybe it’s hip-hop, I’m not sure which is which, but I find the sound unpleasant. There’s something aggressive about it. I’ve never understood the appeal. Isn’t the world sufficiently dire? Do people really need to go around saying ho and bitch and talking about violence- there’s not even a melody to soften the blow. Fortunately I can only hear it from my bathroom. Mike was right about how to place the house on the plot, we can’t hear any noise at all in any of the living-areas, bedrooms or garden. The weather is glorious and the garden looks fantastic. I think I’m not going to do anything of any importance at all today.
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.
A stunning rendition of Nube Gris
Cousins arrived last night. We ate, we drank- ’til late. I got a stunning pair of 19th century plates with our family crest on them. I also got a hardback copy of Les Ligneaux. Our mutual cousin, the baroness’, fictionalized account of the family’s last summer at Migneaux before the death of her grand-mother (my great-great grandmother). The house once belonged to Marie Louise O’Murphy (mistress of Louis XV)- it was later bought by our family. Now it’s been turned into apartments. I’m going to hang the plates in the dining room.
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.
As these things go on the internet, first someone says something here or there then you click, click again, then again and suddenly you see something magnificent. The magnificence I speak of happens to be a discrete château (are you surprised?). The perfect balance of elegance. It’s called Château St. Jacques Calon in St. Emilion (near Bordeaux) and happens to be a B&B (do click on the link, the house is stunning). The owner worked for the Ritz, so you can probably rest assured he knows what he’s doing. Whenever I’ve stayed at the Ritz, I’ve felt the compulsion to take a souvenir. Hopefully, I won’t get reported after writing this.
(By the way, if you’re ever in Madrid, do stop in at the Ritz for dinner at Goya or afternoon tea. It’s not as expensive as people imagine and it’s an experience you won’t forget.)
Anyway, back to the main topic. The owner of the château in question also happens to be on wordpress as My French Heaven. His name is Stephan and he puts together a very interesting combination of posts on culture & food. Posts in French are generally followed by translations, so don’t be scared off! And if you’re going to France or are interested in wine, Bordeaux is the region to visit. There may be a lot of hype around Spanish wine at the moment, but as I often remind my Spanish friends, if one constantly wants to taste the overpowering flavour of oak, they should buy a barrel and lick it.
Looking like this and sounding like this seems rather greedy. I saw him on France3 today and found him rather smart too. Oh well… Note to self: never be in the vicinity of Mr. Vassili.
This is going into the Sabine Medina online shop too. I-LOVE-IT! The tortoise-shell lacquer is stunning.
“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.
I don’t listen to this sort of music… but the guy sounds interesting:
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!
Because everyone needs a break from the news, campaigns and politics- I’m introducing Cultural Fridays. Because of my work and interests, my everyday (non-Pink Agendist) life is entirely culture-related. I get to peek backstage at the goings on of the arts world, so I’ll share my voyeurism with you from now on, every Friday.
On this first post, I’d like to talk about the joy of seeing new artwork. Most universities/colleges/art-schools do regular exhibitions showing the work of students. Many of these students are exceptional. You can generally buy these early works for very low prices, which in my experience has been an excellent long-term investment.
One of the people I saw a few years back and who I’m pretty certain it’s just a matter of time before she hits the big-time is Inmaculada Naranjo. This was the painting that hooked me:
It’s big, about 130cm x 90 cm. I think the broken hourglass is pure genius, so are the sunken feet being engulfed by the sands of time. If I remember correctly, the price was around $600. Her technique was already amazing then, now it’s out of this world. Here’s her more recent work:
The Cruz-Herrera Museum is new and quite spectacular. It’s in a small town called La Linea de la Concepción where José Cruz-Herrera was born. The Museum is an effort by his family to preserve his legacy and promote new artists with an entirely free service where they can advertise and show their work. Cruz-Herrera was one of the the Andalusian greats of the 20th century. His paintings sell for significant amounts of money, so the family’s efforts aren’t about self-promotion or self-interest. His orientalist paintings done while he lived in Morocco sell for the most money, but I find his early work particularly interesting. If you remember those paintings tourists used to buy on the street in Spain from the 50′s to the 70′s of a woman with a guitar or flamenco dancers they were derivative of Cruz-Herrera’s work.
Most people who aren’t into music don’t know what a Zarzuela is. It’s like an Opera, but with spoken scenes as well, often comedic. They were incredibly popular in Spain and Latin America in the 19th century. In Spain popularity diminished because of the civil war. Zarzuelas often had political themes and were used to criticize the government. Dictatorships don’t like criticism.
Classical singers aren’t in vogue as they were during the days of the Three Tenors, but if you like them, you should have a listen to Rolando Villazón. He’s not as well known as Placido Domingo, but even Plácido recognizes how amazing he is. A few years back Plácido was part of the creation of Rolando’s cd called Gitanos. Here he is singing one of my favourites: Por El Humo Se Sabe Dónde Está El Fuego
Coming up next Cultural Friday: The Marquis of Villafuerte’s Hotel-Museum on the Canary Islands, Spanish Islands off the coast of Africa. I had the opportunity to supply them with some of the items in their permanent collection and I’ll give you a peek at them.