The day that I walked in to Guinevere to find Dean’s dark and mysterious room of plaster breasts, legs, bums and tums, I was instantly mesmerised. The limbs are spread throughout the room, clutching banisters and breasts, kicking balls (metaphorically) and tiptoeing down stairs, they filled my face with a smile from ear to ear. The 60-piece plaster set from the workshop of renowned Parisian sculptor Max Le Verrier has been nestled amongst stunning Neo-Classical Mirrors, luxurious bone veneered Regency style daybeds and glistening gilded 8ft fluted Torcheres from southern Spain, creating a feel of eclecticism but in a sophisticated and somehow controlled manner. With the rich aubergine coloured walls, the pale plaster is all the more eye catching, and when a knobbly knee protrudes from the wall you almost believe there is a Centurion behind it breaking free from the past.
As one of the leading pioneers of the Art Deco movement in the mid 1920’s, Max Le Verrier won a gold award for his work at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art in Paris 1925. The predominantly Greco-Roman inspired casts were used by Max Le Verrier to create some of his most beautiful sculptures.
When I first saw the limb covered walls, it reminded me of photographer Marc Lagrange’s sculptor workshop scenes in Tongeren, Belgium. The magnificent form in the centre blew me away, but then the clutter of moulds and mannequins on the wall meant you could look at it for hours and continue to find new amusements hidden in a dark corner. From the floor to the ceiling there is something beautiful everywhere you look, and ensuring no surface is left bare, whether that is the dust-covered floor or the old easel hanging from the banister, I found it quite inspiring.
Having always been fond of the more eclectic taste, this is something I would happily take home, creating drama in a sort of peacefully chaotic way.
The Parma antiques fair is always an interesting experience. It’s a melting pot where antique dealers from all over Europe set up stands in noisy multilingual confusion, as international professional buyers try to make sense of it all and find a treasure.
The fair doesn’t officially open until day 3, by which time all the buyers have left. Confusing? That’s the Parma fair.
The size of the fair is astounding, as is the diversity of merchandise (antiques would only cover half of it) including: old master paintings, garden furniture, oriental porcelain, slot machines, baker’s racks, watches, jewellery, fur coats, stuffed animals and supposedly Roman statues – all treated with the same irreverence amongst the shouting and gesticulating.
After 8 hours of trawling the aisles, asking prices with a scattergun approach because you should never assume that something is going to be too expensive, I decide to call it a day and make my way back to town. In all the years of going to the Parma fair, I have never taken the time to visit the famous Duomo with it’s cupola painted by Corregio, mainly because I’m too tired and I put it off till next time. So I decided that tired or not, today was the day – and I was completely bowled over.
The relatively plain Romanesque entrance is guarded by two massive Byzantine marble lions sculpted in 1281, and the interior is one of the best examples of 16th fresco painting that I have seen (perhaps excluding the Sistine). The nave and side chapels are completely covered in beautifully depicted biblical stories, although you have to put 2 euros in the slot to turn the lights on! When I got to the famous cupola, or dome, painted by Corregio in the late 1520’s,
I stared in awe for 20 minutes (4 x 2 euros for the lights).
It was famously stated by Titian, who was the most celebrated artist in the world at the time, that such was the technical ingenuity of this work of art, that the cupola filled with gold would be a fair price to the artist for such a feat – he wasn’t wrong.
Still dazed and blinking from the splendor I had just witnessed, I decided to pop into the relatively modest Santuary of Santa Maria della Steccata, which I must have walked past more that a hundred times over the years, casually appreciating it’s baroque architecture alongside all the other wonderful buildings. A relatively small church, the interior is covered by flamboyant baroque magnificence, with the fresco paintings by the famous Pamigianino (the little one from Parma) amongst others.
That will teach me not to be casual about Italian churches.
Parties have a strange effect on people; the pre party nerves can be a killer.
For the Chelsea Design Quarter Summer Street party we had pre ordered the champagne and popped the first cork bang on the dot of 6. Marc stood patiently waiting for the first throng of eager visitors, the street was starting to get a buzz about it and the weather for once, when you have plan, was ice meltingly glorious.
During the quiet before the storm, I went on a little wonder to see what everyone else was doing. Many shops seemed to be doing the same, patiently waiting for invited parties and people in the know to arrive, some showrooms, Villaverde springs to mind, had gone all out with photographers and an outdoor set where you could get you photo taken,
all very luxe. There was a good atmosphere throughout and actually the Kings Road closures for once was of benefit, with quitter roads, it seemed almost like we had been cordoned off just for this event. How special.
The theme was the Queen, and her 90 years. The men on stilts, as always, were a sight, literally head and shoulders above the rest of the entertainment. Marc had a great time with them as can be seen. A magician and a brass band also joined the party.
People arrived in waves, but always quite big waves, old faces and new faces in equal measure, which is always a treat. Drinks were flowing and nibbles were nibbled (and not only by the Guinevere staff), overall a very enjoyable event.
My week starts Sunday afternoon as I catch the train to Manchester in readiness for a Monday morning start. I had previously been to the shop on many occasions when staying with Marc and Heather. I have always been drawn to the wonderful items they have and so jumped at the opportunity to work there.
Day one was a quick introduction to everyone and then helping Natasha on a stock take.
Day two was a visit to the pop up shop in Jermyn Street and lunch in China Town with Marc. I started to feel more relaxed with everyone. The working atmosphere is very easy going and everyone is friendly.
Whilst at the pop up Marc ran through some antique terminology with Masie and I was asked to read descriptions. It’s all new to me and I made a few interesting mistakes:
Tocheres I pronounced ‘torturers’, candelabra became ‘candle a bra’, Rococo was ‘Morocco”, gilded to ‘glided’ and baroque said as ‘barrow key’.
Another days work involved going to the warehouse, where I managed to get lost at a roundabout for an hour until I was found! Working with Raffy and Julian our job was to unwrap and check for damage on 12 glass light fittings delivered from India, and then to wrap them up again! Although the job was long with over 300 pieces to do (which took one day and a half!), the time there was brilliant as we were told enthralling stories by Raffy of his time in Poland and France and marveled at the massive mountain of wrapping paper. It was all so well wrapped that you could have dropped each item from the top of a twenty-story building.
Overall, my working week as an intern was fantastic and to anyone who reads this I recommend you come to the shop and admire the brilliant items it has on show.
I got to PAD at 12.15 in Berkeley Square, conscious of course that I wanted to squeeze lunch in-between the two fairs. I met my friend Geoff at the door and we decided that the best way to navigate this fair efficiently was to walk around the outside then do the alleys longways.
The first stand pictured was Chahan. Custom furniture in whites and greys and fantastic texture. A very cool and modern look. Chahan and Richard are longstanding friends and I have always admired their work.
Visiting the stand of Gallerie ALB, Antoine Broccardo, I came across this wonderful pair of shoes, carved wood to look like feet. I also snapped the stand because I loved the eclectic mix that had a warm and comforting feel. I love the screen on the back wall, reminiscent of the Japanese paper screens we have. Almost next door was Gallerie Rapin which had a wonderful pair of brass chests of drawers. Très Chic.
And then came the inimitable Pinto stand. I love the considered and very up to date mix of elements. The pieces look casually placed, but you know its anything but. Top drawer.
My stomach was soon calling for a lunch stop, so we left Pad and decided to walk through Marylebone. Geoff suggested 28-50 Marylebone Lane, a restaurant he knew well. I had a delicious Sea Bream Ceviche washed down with a glass of White Douro. Excellent food and good wine reasonably priced. Recommended.
We then carried on foot to Frieze masters. Much further than we thought as we went first to the other Frieze. All in all, a 25 to 30 min march.
Frieze Masters is a serious affair. Right at the entrance is Dickinson Fine Art with their highlight offering of Magritte's L'Empire des Lumieres. My nephew Max is working there, didn't manage to catch a glimpse of him this time though.
I felt there was less Fine Art there than before. I am however continually attracted to antiquities, and there were many dealers in this field. I have always wanted a greek or roman torso in my front hall. Of particular note was a Pompeiian Bronze centre table on the stand of Phoenix Ancient Art. A one off.
The Weiss gallery had, as always, a particularly fine display of early portraits, but of particular interest was this late 17th Century portrait of an Italian Jesuit missionary in China by Michaelina Wautier. Definitely my favourite of the fair.
The more I continued through the fair the more modern it became and so less my style. I got a black cab home and I snoozed. My phone told me I had walked 7 kilometres that afternoon…
Valentine’s Day. Sunday 14th February.
A Cautionary Tale.
Once upon a time there were three brothers: Tom, Dick and Harry.
They were nice boys, well brought up and each quietly excellent, in his way.
Tom worked hard in the city and earned a lot of money. Most of the time he was stressed. He drove a top of the range Audi and, if he’d lost a little weight, could have been considered quite handsome. He had a lovely girlfriend who also worked hard in the city and earned a great deal of money. She was permanently exhausted and survived on coffee.
Dick was the best looking of the bunch, his career had never really scaled the heights, but he was ever hopeful & rather charming. He dressed well and he and his wife made enough money to take regular weekends to Ibiza & Formentera. Sometimes they asked if they were a bit old for partying but as they didn’t have kids yet, why not? She had a fabulous wardrobe of boho chic kaftans and he spent a lot of time on his abs.
Harry was generally regarded as the nicest of the bunch, quiet and unassuming he was secretly rather clever. He’d been dating a girl he really liked for quite a while and she really liked him. They both separately wondered if the other could be the one. Neither wanted to tempt fate by saying so.
As St Valentine’s day approached the three brother’s began to think.
Tom thought about Paris, or maybe Rome? Deciding both were far too predictable he settled on Istanbul instead, until he realized there was no way his girlfriend could take a few days off. She was working every hour at the moment and about to clinch a massive deal.
In the end he brought her a spiralizer, she’d said she wanted one recently and was worried about how much take-out food they ate.
He proudly presented it on Valentine’s day morning. If only we were overlooking The Bosphorus, he thought.
“Hmm, that’s nice” she said, “how useful”.
Like a man who turns up at a smart party in a rented tux, he knew he had failed.
What she’d been hoping for was actually a weekend away, anywhere, as long as she could catch up on her sleep and have massages. It didn’t have to be a magical kingdom, just somewhere with no client meetings.
Dick couldn’t buy lingerie, he’d done that for Christmas, and as his credit card was a bit maxed out, jewelery was out of the question. The wicked florist said she couldn’t guarantee a delivery of flowers before 10am on a Sunday, so he went all the way to the market in a distant part of the kingdom and brought the biggest bunch of red roses he could carry. Worried he hadn’t spent enough he picked up a bottle of scent too, not her usual one, as that would have been too obvious, but something new. An hour in a department store sniffing testers just about finished him off & by the time he got back to the flat, he and the flowers had rather lost their sparkle.
He proudly presented it all on Valentine’s Day morning. By now the flowers had even less sparkle. He smiled hopefully, If he’d had a magic wand he would have waved it.
“Red roses, what a lovely surprise”, she said and not a bit like the diamond tassle earrings I wanted, she thought. And he doesn’t even know which scent I wear!
Like a man who puts all his money on red as the wheel spins to black he knew he had failed.
Now Harry and the girl he really liked had both left things to the last minute, but neither seem worried and oddly enough neither was free to spend Sunday with the other.
Guinevere, a beautiful emporium on the Kings Road, famed for it’s selection of loveliness opened at 10am on Saturdays. Only five minutes walk from the tube station, Harry had enjoyed a coffee and avocado on toasted rye at a nearby deli before he walked through the doors about half past.
He looked at the array of things, all unique, before selecting a gorgeous Murano ruby glass casket , he considered a pretty shagreen photo frame but decided that could wait. If everything went as he hoped this weekend they were going to need to frame a photo to commemorate a special day.
The girl he really liked spent the morning at the gym and as she knew that Guinevere, the beautiful emporium on the Kings Road, famed for it’s selection of loveliness wasn’t stuffy, like some places, she walked through the door in her gym gear with a post work-out glow just after after 12. She looked at the array of things, all gorgeous, before selecting an Art Deco silver mounted decanter (50671). She considered a cut crystal ice bucket but decided that could wait. If everything went as she hoped this weekend they were going to need something to put Champagne in when they announced a special day.
Harry and the girl he really liked didn’t wait until Valentine’s day morning to exchange their gifts.
Imagine their surprise and delight as they exchanged their smart packages wrapped in Guinevere boxes and ribbon that very evening! Sometime love can’t wait and it’s reassuring to know that the one you think you love has excellent taste.
Much later, sat at her dressing table, the ruby red casket taking pride of place, she looked up and in the mirrors reflection saw Harry at the end of the bed, he had poured drinks from the Art Deco decanter.
“Perfect” she smiled and he smiled back. He was the one.
Like a man who buys his Valentine a gift at Guinevere, he knew he hadn’t failed.
Guinevere is open from 10 until 5.30 Saturday 13th February.
Gift wrapping free of charge.
Fairytale ending up to you.
We decided that we would make a quick hop to Brussels on the day of the preview for Eurantica.
This is a large antiques fair that is staged once a year and was previously held in Brussels in one of the beautiful halls of the Heysel exhibition park. This is conveniently located in Brussels itself and you can get there on the underground. This year they have moved to a new hall in between Brussels and Antwerp.
We took the first train out on Eurostar, the 6.50 am which gets us to Brussels around 10 am. At least we are in the city centre and its 10 minutes ride to the Sablons where many of the antique shops are situated. The train is late and so we don’t start looking around really till near on 11 am.
We have arranged to meet some friends for lunch at the Trosieme Act, a restaurant in the area where I have never failed to have a good meal. It is approaching 1pm and we have so far seen nothing of interest. Just before getting to lunch we come across Tom Desmet’s new shop. Tom has beautiful sculptures and works of art and impeccable taste. He has just moved into a large house which he is turning into a beautiful gallery. I took this picture of the front entrance hall.
After lunch we realise that in order to get to Eurantica, we have to get going straight away. The new venue is an hour by car with traffic and roadworks. We get there just before 3.30pm. It is a prestigious fair, but they really have put it in the middle of nowhere.
It takes about an hour to walk around and the stands are well presented. They have good quality items and this is a fully vetted show.
Of particular note is Yannick David’s stand. Yannick is the husband of Paula Swinnen, the Belgian bronze artist whom we represent in the UK. He is also exhibiting one of her vine tables that we showed during our exhibition with the artist last year.
Also I loved this pistol chandelier on Bie Bart’s stand. I didn’t feel it was really Guinevere though.
Our train is at 7pm so we aim to leave the show at 5. Leaving an antiques fair is hard. On the way out you meet everyone you know. So we get to the car by 5.30.
Still, we arrive at the station at 6.30 and our train gets into St Pancras at 8pm. So we get home around 9.
It’s a long day just to see an antiques fair. If they stay with this venue next year I will either fly to Antwerp or stay at home. But at least we had a nice lunch, saw some old friends and came home with some delicious chocolates.
Wednesday morning flight to Boston with BA. At least we left from Terminal 5 which is normally efficient. I was with Hannah, my daughter, who had a couple of appointments in Boston, so we combined our trips.
Anyway, we left on time. I had some wine and watched two mindless films to while away the hours. I can't even remember what they were. Hannah did give me the look about the wine as it was only 11.30 am. We also landed on time and then hit American customs….. Two hours later we exited….
We were met at the airport by our friend Nancy. Nancy lives outside of Boston in a lovely mansion filled with beautiful pieces which she collected with her late husband over the last 40 years. This is the view from the pool past the fountain up to the main house.
Thursday and Friday were spent in Boston for Hannah's appointments, but in the morning's I was able to catalogue some of Nancy's pieces, part of the reason for my trip.
Friday afternoon we left Boston in rush hour (deep sigh) and headed for Pawtucket, a small town just outside of providence, Rhode Island. We have a share in a large building there which was formally a car showroom and has a theatre on the 1st and 2nd floors. The main showroom has been divided into smaller showrooms and two of these are antique shops.
We were with our friend, Paul, who co owns the building, and had dinner that evening at Al Forno in Providence. The food and wine was delicious, even if the staff were a little too pleased with themselves!!
Saturday morning was spent in our building as there are repairs ongoing and so there were decisions to be made. I also looked at some Mid century pieces that were offered at a good price in one of the shops.
Then it was back to Boston, where I was able to catalogue some more items. This is the living room with just a little bit of malachite.
Sunday was much the same cataloguing except we had take away ribs Sunday afternoon, which were delicious, whilst Nancy watched the football (?) Then a rather sleepless flight overnight to London. I now know what they mean by red eye.
As an Olympia virgin I was not entirely sure what to expect. In my mind I saw it as a large, lavish and beautifully presented space, with the best pieces the dealers have to offer. In most respects I was completely right, but it was smaller than I expected.
Champagne on arrival was accepted willingly, as my partner in crime Roger, a previous Guinevere Stylist, and I started our journey round. Roger had a very particular way he wanted to go around the fair; apparently there is a method to these things. Unfortunately this fell on somewhat deaf ears, and I managed to convince him to be a bit more haphazard. This may or may not have had something to do with the champagne… but was most definitely to our detriment. I am pretty sure I saw the same stretch 4 times over.
There were a few pieces that caught my eye, including these amazing prints by Raoul Dufy print called ‘La Fée Électricité’.Unfortunately a bit out of my personal price range at £27,000, however it is safe to say I fell in love.
Another stand-out piece was “Mao Two Faces” by Ren St Hong on Tanya Baxters stand.
However the area in which we lingered the longest, not only because of the sheer size it took up but also because of the subject matter, was Chen Dapeng’s. A very renowned artist in China, although personally I have to say I haven’t heard of him or seen his work before, so another first. It was all very big and very bold…However, not necessarily to my taste. His grand unveiling of his homage to the Queen, immediately caused a stir and I could see on my twitter feed comparisons being made between the sculpture and Tom Hanks. In my opinion it had more of a resemblance to Mrs Doubtfire. The bust was created to commemorate the ‘gesture of reconciliation’ between Britain and China.
I was subsequently blown away by the rumours of the value of one of his pieces representing Chinese history, with Ying and Yang embodied by a sculpture of balanced male and female counterparts. The price tag doesn't bear to be mentioned.
Overall I had fun, the company was good and although not all of it was to my taste (art not company)…I guess you can’t have everything!