Monday, 31 March 2008

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Well, let me tell you about Stacey

There are loos near our stands at Portobello with a notice stating, PRIVATE STALLHOLDERS ONLY. Simple and straightforward. I hate people who find it necessary to use public conveniences; it shows a lack of conviction. As I am not the attendant, any and all enquires go unheeded. Rude? No, just the lesser of two evils.
For example: when once confronted by an obnoxious New York dealer (whom I haven't seen in ages and I can only assume has rotted away by now)
"Do you have a key to the bathroom?"
"What d' you care if I use the bathroom?"
I don't. Just as I don't care if you piss yourself. Makes absolutely no difference to me.

So today, this youngish American woman (who can only be politely described as living proof that there is someone for everyone) chose to ignore the sign and slipped into the ladies. Unknowingly, she had managed to lock herself in. I know, because I could hear her politely rapping on the door for help. I did nothing, except snicker. After about ten minutes her lumpen husband came to see what was taking so long.
"Stacey, you alright in there?"
"I can't open the door"
As I was engrossed in my Elle Decor and listening to my paused ipod, he cleverly decided to look elsewhere for help.

Upon exiting her confinement, Stacey thought she would like to take a picture. Stacey thought wrong.
Without looking up or removing my earphones (after all I could hear everything), I let them know
I don't allow photographs.

I learned two things today. One, Stacey's husband was not as stupid as he looked. And two, Stacey never watched the Twilight Zone growing up, otherwise she would have known that the innocuous looking door might actually be a portal to Hell.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Who are you?

Just to be clear. This is not about bashing either the architect or the couple, or the magazine, for that matter. It is an observation of something that use to be random, but is now occurring with far greater frequency, to the point of almost being acceptable. It's not.

The spread on the Venezuelan house in April's Elle Decor illustrated everything that is wrong with contemporary interior design and possibly, today's culture.

First and foremost there was no connection between the decor and the architecture, and, I suspect, its inhabitants. Every bit of the furniture could have been purchased from any design store anywhere in the world. The interiors could have been anywhere and belonged to anyone. That is not a house, that is an hotel.

While the couple's choices appear to be informed, they do not appear to be heartfelt. How can they be? How does that house reflect the where, the who, and the why? It doesn't and it can't. The house screams for some Nakashima and some Latin American art. Instead of all that Panton, Saarinen, and Linge Roset they should have looked at contemporary and vintage Latin American designs. Then, and only then, would the Scandinavian pieces have made sense. Within the larger and more relevant context of where and who, they would have served as exclamation points rather than big question marks asking why?

Wanting and having something is not always enough. There really needs to be a deeper connection between us and our possessions, otherwise it's all just Disneyland.

Here is the link to the spread -

BTW : Coffee + Schnauzer + Laptop = No pictures and a new Dog Rug

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Reading between the lines, or, somethings are just better left unsaid

Another email gem regarding Portobello.
Some misguided soul sent this missive:

Hi; my name is Kristian and I'm living in
Son, not far from Oslo, Norway.
I visited you in your interesting shop saturday 15.03.08, during my easter holiday in London. I bought a stuffed carp (fish), and in addition to that, I among other things looked at a graywhite roedeer scull in the bottom of your staircase priced to 30 pounds. This scull was whole and not on a wooden piece. It seemed to have been found at forest ground, not from a hunted animal. I would very much like to have this one, and is it possible to send it for me, please? I will ofcourse pay the porto in addition to the price.

To say I was in two minds would be putting it mildly. I opted to be nice. The italics are what I wanted to say, but omitted.

Dear Kristian -
As we don't sell rubbish, I am afraid to say you have the wrong dealer. We specialise in rare and unusual examples of Victorian natural history. That I am sure you would not appreciate or buy, as it is all a little more than £30. I am afraid I am unfamiliar with the dealer you visited. Who is obviously too cheap to advertise in the Portobello guide. I can only assume it is the one with the random assortment of crap masquerading as taxidermy near, or in, the Admiral Vernon.
Best of luck. and please do not bother me again.

Have you heard the one about the doctor's wife and the Norwegian tourist? It's a hoot....

Now playing: Kirsty MacColl - Here Comes That Man Again
via FoxyTunes

Royere retro

Image from the instillation.

The Sonnabend Gallery is holding the first major retrospective of the work of Jean Royere (1902-1981). The exhibition is curated by two of the leading authorities on 20th Century design, Patrick Seguin and Jacques Lacoste.The schematic design of the exhibition has been entrusted to the noted architect and designer India Mahdavi, who says unlike the more austere designs of his contemporaries, Royere brought great humor to his work. We wanted to celebrate this fun, playful, eclectic spirit.

Liane lamp, 1958

Jean Royere - French Legation, Helsinki

Serpentin ceiling lamp, 1954

Tour Eiffel table, ca.1950

Ours Polaire sofa, 1952

Hotel Saint-Georgesa, Beyrouth, 1950

All Royere pieces from Galerie Patrick Seguin

Now playing: Breaks Co-Op - Duet
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 24 March 2008

Speak of me as I am...

Carved boxwood gueridon by Andrea Brustolon, c. 1690–99.

Pair of Italian stands in the 18th Century taste.

A magnificent pair of Baroque style North Italian parcel-gilt, walnut and ebonised Blackamoor torcheres on stands, each formed as a standing and stooped figure with mother-of-pearl eyes and teeth, holding one hand up to support a large scallop shell upon a tasselled cushion that rests on the back of his head and shoulders, each figure in contra-pose wearing a flowing native costume tied at the waist with a sash, standing with the weight on one foot upon a rock on a shaped and stepped plinth carved at the four canted corners with acanthus bearing bearded masks below scrolls issuing foliate and floral swags on a stepped base. North Italian, date circa 1860.

Venetian glass Blackamoor, mid Century Murano.
These are the type, by Salviati, that Francis Elkins favoured.

Italian gilt and painted wood blackamoors.

Pedestal in the 18th Century Venetian taste, c. 1900-1910.
My least favourite type as they are too Byzantine and better suited to the English taste, which tends to be more Arab-centric.

Blackamoors were not merely the lawn jockeys of their day. They were created to exalt rather than to demean. By the mid to late seventeenth century Venetian sculptors began carving likenesses of these handsome figures out of wood. The major exponent (see top image) was Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732), who studied under his father Jacopo before being apprenticed in Venice under Filippo Parodi and from about 1684 worked for many of the major Venetian families. Brustolon carved some magnificent Baroque sculptural furniture including a vase stand that incorporated Africans, classical river gods, Charon, Cerberus and the Hydra, now at the Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice.

Now playing: Crosby, Stills & Nash - Our House
via FoxyTunes

Something fishy this way comes

Normally I loathe fish cases. They lack romance. This, our latest natural history acquisition, is somehow different. An early example, circa 1870, of Cornish taxidermy. It has a charm that the better (and much later) examples so often lack.

Now playing: Barnes & Barnes - Fish Heads
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, 22 March 2008


Friday, 21 March 2008

Serge Roche

Serge Roche, Sculpture

Around 1930, somewhat against the trend of his era, Serge Roche embraced the baroque. His knowledge of the rococo decors and mirror rooms of baroque Europe helped to make him an instant success. First with an exhibition of frames and mirrors at Georges Petit's gallery in Paris, then with an array of furnitures at Elsie de Wolfe's gallery in New York. His successes eventually took him to the London gallery of Syrie Maugham where he showed an expanded range of sculpted and mirrored works.

Mirror fireplace from the rue Las Cases
Only one other was created, for Mrs C. Suydam Cutting, New York

Chandelier, painted metal and glass, circa 1937

He designed and produced furnitures, objects and decors that would hold their own for more than thirty years with a select clientele ranging from the likes of the couturier Chanel to Prince Ali Khan. Created from stucco and mirrors, his consoles, obelisks, fireplaces and decorative objects re-invented the baroque for the 20th century.

Mirror, 1930 - 1939

Plaster objects

A highly important mirror.
One of only two known examples, the other being in a private collection. Syrie Maugham purchased this looking glass from Serge Roche and placed it above the mirrored fireplace in the drawing room of Robin Wilson's apartment in London which she decorated in 1936. In the 1970s, Roche reacquired the mirror.

In addition to his own surrealist and neo-baroque works, Roche collaborated with Jean Michel Frank, Gilbert Poillerat, and the famous Sevres factory. His famous magic mirror was used by Jean Cocteau in his film La Belle et la Bette (1948), which ironically was to mark the end of the vogue of the neo-baroque movement.

La Belle et la Bete

Now playing: Tears for Fears - Mad World
via FoxyTunes

The rhinoceros in the room

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. His influence has been wide-ranging and he is generally regarded as one of the 20th century's most important philosophers.

Wittgenstein was Derek Jarman's last film before he lost his sight.

Now playing: Supertramp - The Logical Song
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Almost there, NW3

Soon, very soon indeed.

Now playing: Lizz Wright - A Taste of Honey
via FoxyTunes

Almost there, W1

Soon, very soon.

Now playing: Alison Limerick - Gettin' It Right
via FoxyTunes

Salute to Salto

Axel Salto for Royal Copenhagen

Axel Salto (1889-1961) is counted among the masters of Danish design. The principles for his work often went against the functionalist egalitarian aesthetics of both his contemporaries and his successors. Salto's decorative ceramics were sculptural, often several feet high, or served no purpose other than to be beautiful. Salto's approach was to "create in accordance with nature, rather than to copy its exterior."

Glazed stoneware

Salto's best known works are grouped into three categories: budding, sprouting, and fluted. The names refer to the form of the pieces, which range from the angular horn shapes to low, rotund vases. Salto's work was unique for its time because of his uninhibited and passionate approach to developing and manipulating new shapes and glazes. This energy went against the prevailing trend which was to create in the spare functional style of Japanese and Chinese ceramics.

Cast stoneware with solfatara glaze

He won a number of awards, including a silver medal for work he did at Bing & Grondahl at the 1925 Paris World Exhibition, the 1937 Paris World Exhibition Grand Prix and the 1951 Milan Triennial Grand Prix.

Oxblood glaze

Now playing: The Beauty Room - Visions of Joy
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Kitschy, kitschy, cool?

Uh, NO.
Nine out of ten times kitsch is simply the last refuge of the dull, desperate to appear interesting.

This is in direct opposition to Peter Ward's Kitsck in sync, which asserts that kitsch is the style-setter's anti-style. In my experience this has only ever been true with a few individuals who were either artists, or, people who viewed themselves as living works of art.

Chinese Girl, by Vladimir Tretchikoff

Vladimir Tretchikoff refused to allow his Chinese Girl to adorn the cover of Ward's book. His work, he maintained, was symbolic realism. And rightly so. After all, Tretchikoff could not be held responsible for his audience's rather limited frame of reference. Instead, Ward chose the work of the French artistic team of Pierre et Gilles for the cover as they cited Tretchikoff as an influence. Which, quite frankly, I do not see.

Pierre et Gilles, Medusa

Neither, Chinese Girl nor Medusa is particularly kitsch. What really separates and further defines the two works is their availability. The work of Pierre et Gilles is produced in the same manner as any fine art photograph and is therefore far less accessible. Tretchikoff' s work on the other hand, as everyone knows, was readily available as inexpensive mass produced reproductions. This, incidentally, made him the most commercially successful artist after Picasso, but gained him none of the aclaim.

Unfortunately many contemporary designers have also opted to travel down this mass produced route for their highly derivative products. Two in particular immediately spring to mind. Time alone will tell. Given the slew of offerings of their goods on ebay, we shan't need to wait long.

Now playing: Bronski Beat - Junk
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 16 March 2008

"Be original or die"


Madame Yevonde (Yevonde Philone Cumbers, 1893 - 1975) was a photographer who pioneered the use of colour in portrait photography.

In 1911, she took an apprenticeship with Lallie Charles, the leading woman portrait photographer of the day. In 1914, having only taken one actual photograph, Madame Yevonde decided to set-up her own studio. Over the years she gained quite a unique and personal style, as well as a name for herself with London society, as a premier portrait photographer. In 1921, she started exhibiting her work at The Royal Photographic Society Annual Exhibition.

Self portrait with Vivex camera, 1937

Self portrait with image of Hecate, 1940

Madame Yevonde found the early thirties very successful. She started experimenting with the newly available Vivex Colour process, invented by Dr. D. A. Spencer. At the time, few found colour in photographs to be acceptable or natural and were actively hostile towards her new work. Yevonde made it her personal mission to convert the myopic public into seeing colour again.
In 1932, Yevonde hired the Albany Gallery in London to exhibit 70 of her colour and her monochrome prints. This was the first exhibition of colour portrait work in England by any photographer and it received a glowing review in the British Journal of Photography ... Mme Yevonde has most emphatically established her place among the leading and most up-to-date exponents of photographic portraiture.

Artist with workmen in foreground
The Queen Mary

In 1933, she flung herself wholeheartedly into her colour work and over the next six years did her most creative work. She was now being sought after by members of London society, including the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who wanted more nontraditional, adventurous portraiture. She was also sought after to do big advertising jobs by companies such as Christie's, Daimler, and in 1936 she was commissioned by Fortune Magazine to shoot the Queen Mary on her maiden voyage.

Edwardian girl, advertising shot c.1938

Shelling peas, advertising shot c.1937

Study of cover of Woman & Beauty Magazine, 1937

During this time she began her theme of Goddesses and photographed members of the London elite as mythological characters including Medusa, Europa, Daphne, and Venus. Today, this is probably the work that Madame Yevonde is best known for.

Mrs Edward Mayer as Medusa

Lady Milbanke as Penthesila, Queen of the Amazons

The Hon. Mrs Bryan Guinness (Lady Diana Mosley) as Venus

In 1939, war broke out and soon after Colour Photographs Ltd., where the Vivex color process was manufactured and processed, closed. Madame Yevonde was forced to stop working in colour. To add insult to injury, this same year her estranged husband, the playwright Edgar Middleton, died. Even after the war ended, the Vivex colour process was never to become a standard again. Instead of settling with any other form of colour process, Yevonde began experimenting with black and white again and soon developed an interest in solarisation.

She continued working up until her death in 1975, just two weeks short of her 83rd birthday, but is chiefly remembered for her work of the 1930s, which did much to make colour photography accepted.

Editions of Madame Yevonde's work are available through The Yevonde Portrait Archive.

Now playing: Junior - Mama Used to Say
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Up, up, up!

Tony Duquette iron stand holding three fiberglass clam shells originally made for the Helis estate. Available from JF Chen

If I were ever to shamelessly steal an idea, this would be it.
It is one thing to have something copied for one's own house, it is an entirely different matter to commercially gain from it.

Now playing: Hercules and Love Affair - Raise Me Up
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Here's a thought

Instead of predicting, or following, the next interior trend, why not become it. Take everything that is deeply personal - culture, background, philosophy, etc. - and seek inspiration there first.
Not until those depths have been completely exhausted, should one contemplate looking further afield. I, for one, find nothing more irritating than seeing some WASP twenty-something on the Buddha trail. Don't be the interior design equivalent. Please, I beg of you.

Case in point

If this does not kill the Egg, and possibly all Danish design, nothing will. What was Fritz Hansen thinking?

Now playing: The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo - Hey DJ / I Can't Dance (To That Music You're Playing)
via FoxyTunes