Bauhaus turns 100

The life at the Weimar Bauhaus: members of the Bauhaus and guests, around 1922 Photographic paper (with silver halide salts in gelatin) Print: 11.1 x 8.4 cm © Bauhaus-Archive Berlin

The life at the Weimar Bauhaus: members of the Bauhaus and guests, around 1922 Photographic paper (with silver halide salts in gelatin) Print: 11.1 x 8.4 cm © Bauhaus-Archive Berlin

While the ripples of the Bauhaus school reached far and wide after its closing in 1933 - to places such as the renowned Black Mountain College in California, Harvard Graduate School of Design, the White City in Tel Aviv and the International Style of Architecture, the Bauhaus school in its original form was in fact a very short-lived entity. Started in 1919 under the directorship of Walter Gropius it was closed in 1933, a mere 14 years later by the newly appointed National Socialist party in Germany.

Typography by  Herbert Bayer  above the entrance to the workshop block of the Bauhaus, Dessau, 2005

Typography by Herbert Bayer above the entrance to the workshop block of the Bauhaus, Dessau, 2005

The Bauhaus came out of the energy of Germany post World War I and was influenced in it creation by individuals such as the 19th century William Morris and the absence of distinction between form and function. Beginning life as a means of reuniting creativity and manufacturing, it fashioned itself into a kind of craftsmen’s guild, with echoes of the Renaissance guild system of the 15th century.

William Morris in his 50s.

William Morris in his 50s.

A 20th century reinvention, focusing on the importance of functionality over every other consideration, as a primary starting place.

Whilst most closely associated with architecture and product design it covered a whole spectrum of applied subjects some better known in their legacy than others - pottery, metalwork, photography, fine art, graphic design to name but a few.

Coffee and Tea set design by Marianne Brandt

Coffee and Tea set design by Marianne Brandt

Walter Gropius, a trained architect, founded the Bauhaus school in Weimar in response to the industrialisation of the time and became the school’s first director. In the same year, 1919, Marcel Breuer joined as one of the first and one of the youngest students.

Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius

The Bauhaus held three homes in its lifetime. The first building was in Weimar, followed by a move to Dessau in 1923 with Gropius designing the studio building and dormitories.

Bauhaus Studio building, Dessau. Photographs are courtesy of the  Bauhaus Dessau Foundation  and are by  Yvonne Tenschert

Bauhaus Studio building, Dessau. Photographs are courtesy of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and are by Yvonne Tenschert

It was in this same year that Lászlö Moholy-Nagy began teaching. The final moved was to an abandoned telephone factory in Berlin in 1932, under pressure from the Nazi party.

my most extreme work… the least artistic, the most logical, the least ‘cozy’ and the most mechanical.
— Marcel Breuer talking about his Wassily Chair/ B3

Marcel Breuer returned to the Bauhaus in 1925 and designed an early version of the bent metal Club chair (model B3). It was a revolutionary take on a classic club chair which the artist himself described as “my most extreme work… the least artistic, the most logical, the least ‘cozy’ and the most mechanical.” It met all the requirements of the school’s design philosophy - easily mass produced, lightweight and easily moved.

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As the art historian Seamus Payne notes, Breuer’s was “the first ever chair to feature a bent-steel frame…it marked the beginning of a new era in modern furniture with a design that maintains a progressive look even today.”

In 1930 van der Rohe took over as the then (though no one would have have known this) last Director of the Bauhaus and in the same year he designed the Villa Tugendhat in the Czech Republic, and with it defined the Functionalist style.

Villa Tugendhat © Alexandra Timpau

Villa Tugendhat © Alexandra Timpau

Villa Tugendhat © Alexandra Timpau

Villa Tugendhat © Alexandra Timpau

Villa Tugendhat © Alexandra Timpau

Villa Tugendhat © Alexandra Timpau

Look at your writing table, this shabby writing table. Do you like it? I would throw it out the window. That is what we at the Bauhaus want to do. We want to have good objects so that we do not have to throw them out of the window.
— Mies van der Rohe arguing with Alfred Rosenberg about the Nazi' closing of The Bauhaus

On the morning of 11 April 1933, Mies van der Rohe arrived at the Bauhaus to find the building cordoned off by police and surrounded by crowds.

“Stop!’ he shouted at the officers.

“What’s the idea? This is my school! It belongs to me!”

“Not any more” said an officer.

The next day Mies went to see Alfred Rosenberg, the conservative minister of culture.

“The Bauhaus has a certain idea,” said Mies, “but this idea has nothing to do with politics. Look at your writing table, this shabby writing table. Do you like it? I would throw it out the window. That is what we at the Bauhaus want to do. We want to have good objects so that we do not have to throw them out of the window.” Rosenberg was an architect himself. “Then we will understand each other,” said Mies.

“What do you expect me to do?” asked Rosenberg. “The Bauhaus is supported by forces fighting our forces.”

“For any cultural effort,” replied Mies, “one needs peace, and I would like to know whether we will have that peace.” The Bauhaus remained shut.

Photo credit: Werner Blaser 

Photo credit: Werner Blaser 

His final effort was that of a man who believed deeply in his school and the work that they were doing. Every other day he went to the Gestapo headquarters to attempt to talk to the man in charge. after three months of this, on July 21, with the bauhaus on the brink of bankruptcy he got his audience and was told by the Gestapo that they would allow the re-opening of the Bauhaus if the curriculum was changed to meet “the demands of the new State” and if two of its leftwing teachers, Ludwig Hilberseimer and the painter Vasili Kandinsky were replaced. Mies gathered his colleagues, opened Champagne and closed the school himself.

Wassily Kandinsky: Bilder einer Ausstellung (Pictures at an Exhibition), Stage design for scene XVI: The great gate of Kiev, ca. 1930, Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, University of Cologne

Wassily Kandinsky: Bilder einer Ausstellung (Pictures at an Exhibition), Stage design for scene XVI: The great gate of Kiev, ca. 1930, Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, University of Cologne

POST BAUHAUS YEARS…

László Moholy-Nagy

László Moholy-Nagy

László Moholy-Nagy moves to the Netherlands initially before moving to London in 1935 living in the Isokon Building with Walter Gropius for 10 months. He eventually moved to Chicago to become director of the New Bauhaus in 1937 and later open the School of Design.

Isokon Building, Lawn Road Flats, Hampstead, London, NW3

Isokon Building, Lawn Road Flats, Hampstead, London, NW3

Walter Gropius managed to escape Germany in 1934 with the help of English architect Maxwell Fry. He went to Italy under the pretext of making a propaganda film and from there, he escaped to London. He then moved to the US, becoming Chairman of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and founded The Architects’ Collaborative in 1946.

In 1936 Marcel Breuer also moves to London, designing Sea Lane House in West Sussex and starting work with Jack Pritchard on Isokon furniture designs.

Sea Lane house, West Sussex - exterior

Sea Lane house, West Sussex - exterior

Sea Lane House, West Sussex - interior

Sea Lane House, West Sussex - interior

In 1939 Mies van der Rohe had started designing the IIT Campus in Chicago, though not completed until 1958. He spent the rest of his 31 years here, with his last project seeing him return to Berlin for the Berlin National Gallery, opened in 1968.

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Musical Heritage Treasures Herald Spring

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Eliská and her team were excited by a number of emails popping into our inbox over the last couple of weeks. 

George Michael had a different taste in buying art which was so exciting at the time and still now, he was interested in the ‘emerging artists’ of his time
— Eliská

Christie’s have announced two notable sales in the past few weeks which Eliska and her team are incredibly excited about.

It’s important to me that I should be free to express myself...
— George Michael

The George Michael Collection begins on 8 March (notably also International Women’s Day!) with the online auction and culminates with the London Evening Auction on March 14th, the proceeds of which will go towards furthering the philanthropic work that was so important to him during his lifetime.

Damien Hirst,  The Incomplete Truth, 2006.

Damien Hirst, The Incomplete Truth, 2006.

Whilst the catalogue is yet to be published, some highlights that have been released to whet our appetites include Bridget Riley’s Songbird, 1982 and Damien Hirst’s The Incomplete Truth, 2006.

Bridget Riley,  Songbird, 1982

Bridget Riley, Songbird, 1982

The catalogue itself promises to be a collectors piece, a two volume publication which would be a handsome edition to any coffee table and a collector’s item itself, we are sure, in years to come.

The George Michael Collection, whilst on view at Christie’s, New York (this exhibition ended on 11 February)

The George Michael Collection, whilst on view at Christie’s, New York (this exhibition ended on 11 February)

Christie’s Rockefeller Centre, New York

Christie’s Rockefeller Centre, New York

On 20 June as Spring gives way to Summer, David Gilmour will put up for auction more than 120 guitars from his personal collection. This impressive grouping is hosted in New York and will include, as a highlight THE BLACK STRAT.

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‘Many of the guitars in this sale are guitars that have given me a tune’
— David Gilmour

Gilmour’s 1969 Black Fender Stratocaster, known simply as THE BLACK STRAT was purchased by the Pink Floyd musician in 1970 at Manny’s and has been the instrument most easily identifiable to the artist. For the well discerned ear it is this guitar that was used on masterpieces such as The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973 and The Wall, 1979, including Gilmour’s famed solo on Comfortably Numb.

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Make life an art - rather than art from life
— David Gilmour

Eliská readily admits her obsession with beautiful guitar riffs and we are all hoping to pop down to Christie’s King Street to see for ourselves, for perhaps the last time, these beautiful objects, whilst on their exhibition tour, before they part into the hands of some very lucky collectors and fans, worldwide.

The Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House

Despite the misleading title, this exhibition is actually focused on the dispersed treasures from Horace Walpole’s extraordinary and eclectic collection that have been found, and are now displayed in the spaces where Walpole cherished them.

Portrait of Horace Walpole by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1757

Portrait of Horace Walpole by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1757

The youngest son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Walpole (1717-1797) bought a small property in Twickenham in 1749 and spent the next forty years rebuilding, extending and elaborating it into a towered and turreted Gothic revival fantasy folly straight out of a fairy story.

The Gallery

The Gallery

Walpole created the house as a backdrop and setting for his huge collection of artworks and antiquities, which included such treasures as Cardinal Wolsey’s red silk hat and a lock of Mary Tudor’s hair. The clock which Henry VIII gave to Anne Boleyn on their wedding day ticks mournfully and death also haunts the blue and white ceramic Chinese goldfish bowl in which his cat Selima drowned, as elegised by his friend Thomas Gray.

Cardinal Wolsey’s hat, in red silk and felt

Cardinal Wolsey’s hat, in red silk and felt

Walpole’s collection was dispersed in a huge auction 24-day in 1842, but his meticulous cataloguing of the contents of the house in 1874 and 1884 meant that the almost 200 items which have been lent for this exhibition, from 49 different lenders, can be placed in their original settings.

Roman marble eagle from the baths of Caracalla

Roman marble eagle from the baths of Caracalla

Stunning pieces such as the marble eagle from the Baths of Caracalla, one of Walpole’s favourite objects, give a flavour of how the house would have looked to the many fashionable visitors who admired (or disparaged) it in its heyday, but these objects and artworks also highlight the empty spaces, every inch of which were filled with art and historical curios under Walpole’s curatorship.

The Tribune at Strawberry Hill House, Watercolour by John Carter

The Tribune at Strawberry Hill House, Watercolour by John Carter

The Tribune as it is today

The Tribune as it is today

This tiny fraction of the original collection nevertheless gives us some insight into the mind of one of Britain’s greatest antiquarians. A keen connoisseur of painting, Horace Walpole was also the first historian of British Art as well as the inventor of the Gothic novel, of which his The Castle of Otranto is generally considered to be the first example.

The portrait of Lord Carey, attributed to Geereats, which inspired the portrait which came alive and stepped out of its frame in The Castle of Otranto.

The portrait of Lord Carey, attributed to Geereats, which inspired the portrait which came alive and stepped out of its frame in The Castle of Otranto.

The Ladies Waldegrave (Horace Walpole’s nieces), Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1781

The Ladies Waldegrave (Horace Walpole’s nieces), Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1781

But this was a man with a mischievous streak and a sense of humour: he even wore the extraordinary lacy cravat carved in limewood by Grinling Gibbons to entertain visitors, together with a pair of gloves owned by James I, and much of both the original collection and these fews items here to represent it reflect the whimsical and the unusual, with items cherished for their poignant and anecdotal back stories, still available to us from Walpole’s own catalogues.

Cravat, carved in limewood by Grinling Gibbons

Cravat, carved in limewood by Grinling Gibbons

The Limoges cow horn detailing the conversation of St Hubert and Dr Dee’s obsidian magic mirror are not great works of art but this space was made for objects such as these.

Limoges Hunting horn depicting the conversion of St. Hubert in the forest.

Limoges Hunting horn depicting the conversion of St. Hubert in the forest.

Walpole left no children, legitimate or otherwise, and kept a sensuous painting of a shepherd boy by Peter Lely in his bedroom, leading to much speculation that he was gay, although he need not have kept this hidden in the Age of Enlightenment.

The Shepherd Boy, Peter Lely

The Shepherd Boy, Peter Lely

Despite the many bare spaces, and even bare walls, Strawberry Hill House with these borrowed objects back within its walls gives a glorious insight into the the origins of Gothic and the broad spectrum of interests of an 18th century collector and intellectual.


The curators are still hunting for further lost treasures, and you can follow their their efforts - and possibly even help - on the blog at: https://www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk/strawberry-hill-treasure-hunt/

THE STORY OF THE RED CROSS PEARLS

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This pearl necklace is one of more than 100 items created with the donations of 3,597 single pearls by “women of the empire” to benefit the Red Cross immediately after WW1. Aristocrats gave family heirlooms. At least one “ordinary” family gave a single pearl to represent a dead soldier. Firms such as Garrard and Tiffany made them into necklaces, scarf pins and rings.

In February 1918, when the First World War was still being bitterly fought, prominent society member Lady Northcliffe conceived an idea to help raise funds for the British Red Cross. Using her husband’s newspapers, The Times and the Daily Mail, she ran a campaign to collect enough pearls to create a necklace, intending to raffle the piece to raise money. The campaign captured the public’s imagination. Over the next nine months nearly 4,000 pearls poured in from around the world. Pearls were donated in tribute to lost brothers, husbands and sons, and groups of women came together to contribute one pearl on behalf of their communities. Those donated ranged from priceless heirlooms –one had survived the sinking of the Titanic – to imperfect yet treasured trinkets.

The Red Cross Pearl Appeal came to completion at the same time as the Armistice in 1918. The auction of the 41 necklaces made of donated pearls at Christie’s was one of the first post-war acts of remembrance.

Committee members for the pearl-sale scheme included royalty and duchessery, a cache of Curzons, the odd Sassoon, the Dowager Marchioness of Londonderry, various Vicountesses, and a lot of Ladies including one called Tree. Patronesses included Lady Inchiquin, The Countess of Rocksavage, the Countess of Sandwich, The Lady Bertha Dawkins, and the Duchess of Buccleuch.

The armistice changed the situation for the Red Cross Pearl appeal as well as the women who had given to it.  In the changed circumstances it was important to keep the public interested in the fate of the pearls if they were to make as much money as possible for wounded soldiers returning from the war.  On 25 November 1918, Princess Victoria and Lady Northcliffe sent out a letter to local and national papers explaining that the Red Cross’ need for funds was as great as ever.

The pearls now became part of one of the first post-war acts of remembrance when they were on display for three days at Christie’s King Street salerooms. There was a private viewing on 16 December where many of the visitors were women wearing their own magnificent pearls. But even they looked wistfully at some of the Red Cross Necklaces.

Admission to see the jewels was free on 17 and 18 December to make sure that the pearls could be seen by as many people as possible. By 10am on the opening day crowds were eagerly waiting outside the doors of Christie’s. The Queen newspaper wrote: “The thoroughfare was literally besieged: people who had never been in a crowd before waited and jostled with more or less good humour.”  Within the first hour, 300 people inspected the pearls and throughout the rest of the day the crowd was never less than three deep around the showcases. The pearls were simply displayed in sombre, oblong black boxes. Prospective buyers asked saleroom officials to take out the necklaces so that they could examine them. Schoolgirls back for the Christmas holidays admired the “young” necklaces made of smaller pearls. However, nearly everyone was speculating about how much money Lot No. 101 the finest pearl necklace, with the Norbury diamond clasp, would make.  One lady said:

“Whatever it fetches will not matter to the buyer (…) It will be historic as the jewels of Marie Antoinette; it will be an heirloom more famed than the Hope diamond. Other pearls come for the sea. These pearls came from human hearts and human tenderness and gratitude will run up their purchase price.”

The first day was busy, the second day was even more crowded. Soon after 10 in the morning the queue became so long that it wound around the outer room and stretched down the stairs across Christie’s reception hall and out into the street. The crowds continued all day long. On the final day the numbers were greater than ever and included people of every rank in life. Serviceman, home on leave, and their wives regarded the collection as one of the sights of the town.

On the day of the Pearl Necklace Auction itself, another important event was taking place in London. At 1pm on Thursday 19 December 1918, Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig and his generals arrived in London for a victory parade. Escorted by a fleet of aeroplanes, they had travelled from Dover by special train to Charing Cross Station where they were greeted by the past and present prime ministers, Asquith and Lloyd George. They then travelled through the capital to lunch with the king and queen at Buckingham Palace. Thousands of people lined the route and, as the carriages passed, those standing on balconies showered flowers on the victors.

The clamour had hardly died down before some member of the patriotic crowd rushed off to Christie’s for the Red Cross Auction.  It was only a short walk from Haig’s parade to Christie’s in King Street. As supporter of the Red Cross gathered in the auction house’s impressive red-walled saleroom beneath historic portraits and paintings, there were many more women present than at most sales.  Many members of the Red Cross committee were there, hoping that all their hard work would now pay off.

When the auction began at 1.30pm the atmosphere at Christie’s was highly charged as the auctioneer, William Burn Anderson, entered the Chippendale rostrum. Antique ivory-headed hammer in his hand, he addressed the crowded room explaining that previous Red Cross sales had been held under the clouds of a terrible war, while the present sale was taking place after the great and glorious victory of the Allies. The cessation of hostilities did not mean that the Red Cross “work was finished – far from it.” They still needed money to tend to the wounded, and he appealed to his audience to keep that thought in their minds as they bid for the pearls. He added that those who bought the jewels would receive “something which is not only of intrinsic value, but also of considerable historic interest for the Red Cross Pearls have become historic.”

When the first lot, a brilliant pave ring, was put up, Mr Anderson read a letter which he had received that morning from the entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Francis Trippel. Offering £1,000 for the first four lots, he wrote that if they fell to him they should be put up for auction again, as he only wished to give, not to buy. His letter gave advice to other bidders: “Give till your sides ache, so that the financial success of the sale may be worthy of the Red Cross, the most deserving and the most humane of war charities.”

Before the forty-one pearl necklaces were auctioned there was the sale of other pearl jewellery, including earrings, pearl pins, brooches and rings. But the real excitement at the December 1918 sale began when the pearl necklaces were auctioned. At 3.30pm there was a flutter of anticipation as Lot 95, the first of the strings was brought out and shown to the audience. It sold for £2,200. The tension increased and there was a sense of drama as the lights went up and Mr Anderson introduced “the necklace of necklaces”, Lot 101, the most perfect pearls with the Norbury diamond clasp. The first bid was £20,000 then, with his encouraging smile, the auctioneer looked for nods around the room. Bids rose in steps of £500 until the necklace sold to the jeweller, Mr Carrington Smith for £22,000.

Sadly this merriment belied a tragic reality. With aviation then in its infancy and crashes common, well over 20 trainees lost their lives at Beaulieu during the war and 19 of them were buried in the churchyard at East Boldre. Alice Shrubb’s gift of a pearl commemorated all their brief but spirited lives.

Thanks to dedicated provincial women like her, the pearl appeal spread across the whole country. In the counties it was headed by the high sheriffs’ wives, and in the cities by women like Birmingham’s lady mayoress Mrs Brooks, who announced in the local newspaper that she was ‘at home’ at the Council House to receive pearls.

Those given ranged in value from one worth just a few shillings, sent from a country vicarage, to a pearl of great price from a stately home.

Plenty came with accompanying messages. The feelings of many bereaved mothers were summed up by Edith Fielden of Twickenham, whose 19-year-old son Granville was killed at the Battle of Ypres in April 1915. ‘It is not a perfect pearl, but it is the only one I have,’ she wrote. ‘I send it in memory of a pearl beyond all price already given, my only son.’

There were hundreds more messages ‘in memory of my beloved son’, and the fact that many of the fallen were fresh-faced youths just out of school was emphasised in one gift from ‘a mother and sister in memory of two boys’.

By October 1918, the appeal had garnered nearly 4,000 pearls, enough to make not one but 41 necklaces. As it had begun when Britain was threatened with defeat, Lady Northcliffe and her committee thought it fitting it should end as the country was on the point of victory.

The British Red Cross is reviving its Pearls For Life Appeal to help support people in crisis throughout the world, to mark 100 years since the original campaign changed lives in the wake of World War I.

The charity is calling on people across the UK to show their support for the appeal by donating an item of jewellery, to be auctioned by Christie’s. To find out more, or to give to the appeal, email: pearls@redcross.org.uk.

Donations will go towards the British Red Cross’s life-saving work around the world. 

Its projects include helping women who’ve lost their husbands in conflict gain the skills to support their families, establishing rest centres, providing social support and first aid, and working with the emergency services to help people when tragedy strikes.

In those last weeks, it was decided every necklace should have a clasp to hold the pearls together. Nearly 50 rubies were donated for this. A Mrs Hewitt sent one in memory of her husband, Rifleman F. J. Hewitt, with the message: ‘More precious than rubies to his wife.’

Five came from Frances Parker, sister of Lord Kitchener. He was Secretary of State for War until the fateful day in 1916 when he, his staff and 643 sailors on HMS Hampshire were drowned after its holing by a German mine off the Orkneys.

The rubies were accompanied by three pearls, ‘one for Ferby, one for little Marion and one from little Pet Evie’, all the names of family pets.

As this suggested, the Kitchener family were devoted to animals. The Field Marshal himself was fond of the gun dogs he named Aim, Fire, Bang, Miss and Damn, and his family were determined the tender side of the heroic figure should be remembered.

Once the pearls had been made up into necklaces, Lady Northcliffe’s committee faced the problem of what to do with them. One option was to offer them as prizes in a national raffle.

This would be egalitarian and lucrative, raising large amounts of money for the Red Cross at a time when it was sorely needed. But attempts to get a special exemption to the prevailing anti-gambling laws through Parliament were blocked by a powerful lobby supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Eventually, it was decided an auction of the pearls should be held at Christie’s on December 19, little more than a month after the signing of the Armistice. The preview was one of the first post-war acts of remembrance, attracting crowds which queued out into the street.

Behind each exhibit was an emotive tale, and none more so than the three pearls donated by a Lilian Kekewich of East Grinstead, Sussex. Each stood for one of the sons she had lost in the war.

Like the other donors, Mrs Kekewich could at least comfort herself that her gift was not in vain. The sale raised £94,044 overall — £5 million at today’s values. To put this achievement into perspective, it cost £9,585 (£500,000 today) to run all the Red Cross convalescent homes in France and Belgium from October 1918 to December 1919.

As for the pearls themselves, many of their 21st-century owners may not know the poignant history of the strands they wear.

The jewels of Suzanne Belperron

The Art Deco jewellery designer Suzanne Belperron was celebrated for her avant-garde brilliance, yet her glittering success was tinged with tragedy.

In 1948 a discreet advertisement appeared in Vogue magazine publicising the partnership of Jean Herz and Suzanne Belperron. The announcement, which simply stated the firm’s name and address in the 9th arrondissement in Paris, was illustrated with what appeared to be a silver paper chain, but on closer examination revealed itself to be a magnificent chain-link diamond bracelet.

This seemingly understated approach was absolutely in keeping with the firm’s identity, one that had been formed in the Art Deco era by Jean’s father, the successful Parisian stone dealer Bernard Herz, and the maverick jewellery designer Suzanne Belperron (1900-1983). Together they created some of the most avant-garde jewellery of the 20th century.

Today, Suzanne Belperron’s name is associated with a daring mastery of design. Her bold, angular shapes and her use of modern materials were coveted for their exclusivity; Diana Vreeland, Daisy Fellowes and Wallis Simpson were all clients. To be a Belperron woman was to be a sophisticated player in high society.

Belperron had a strong sensibility, taking inspiration from where she pleased: Congolese tribal jewellery, Brutalist architecture and Japanese sakura  (cherry blossom) were all translated into provocatively cutting-edge designs. As Christie’s Head of Jewellery in the Americas Daphne Lingon explains, ‘If you think of when these pieces were made in the 1930s and ’40s, they transcend the time period in which they were created, revealing a confident, bold and brave visionary.’


So distinctive was her work that Belperron never felt the need to sign it, stating, ‘My style is my signature’. This presents something of a challenge when it comes to attribution, and goes some way to explaining why the designer’s name was all but forgotten by the time of her death in 1983.

It was certainly the problem faced by Lingon when she first saw the Belperron Diamond ‘Tube’ bracelet. ‘I was immediately impressed by the scale and design,’ she explains, ‘which led me to believe that it had been made by an important French jeweller.’

But without a signature, the specialist knew it would be virtually impossible to prove her suspicions. ‘Unlike paintings,’ she explains, ‘provenance is rarely recorded with jewellery.’

It was while leafing through a book about the designer that she came across the advertisement in which the bracelet was featured — ‘a moment of pure joy after all these years’. That advert, which appeared in 1948, marked the end of a traumatic period in Belperron’s life.

In 1942, the Nazis had arrested Herz and Belperron in German-occupied Paris, and while the designer was released, Herz, who was Jewish, was sent to Drancy internment camp. Before their arrest, Herz had signed the company over to the designer for safekeeping. Over the next few months Belperron fought to have Herz released, but he was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.

After the war Herz’s son Jean, who had been a PoW, returned to Paris, whereupon Belperron transferred the company back to Bernard’s rightful heir. As a token of his gratitude, Jean Herz made Belperron a partner. ‘So this strikingly beautiful bracelet marked a rebirth,’ says Lingon, ‘and the beginning of a successful relationship that continued for many years.’


Beyond its provenance, what makes the bracelet exceptional, the specialist explains, is that in spite of its substantial size it is easy to wear. ‘Since it is composed of wide alternating links of 18-carat white gold and pavé diamonds, you’d expect it to be cumbersome, but it is actually the opposite’.

The partnership of Herz and Belperron lasted until 1974, when the designer retired. Always an intensely private individual, Belperron disappeared into obscurity. It was not until the late 1980s, when her jewellery began appearing for sale, that interest in her work was reignited.


Beyond its provenance, what makes the bracelet exceptional, the specialist explains, is that in spite of its substantial size it is easy to wear. ‘Since it is composed of wide alternating links of 18-carat white gold and pavé diamonds, you’d expect it to be cumbersome, but it is actually the opposite’.

The partnership of Herz and Belperron lasted until 1974, when the designer retired. Always an intensely private individual, Belperron disappeared into obscurity. It was not until the late 1980s, when her jewellery began appearing for sale, that interest in her work was reignited.

Russia, Royalty and the Romanov's at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Through war, alliance and dynastic marriage the relationships between Britain and Russia and their royal families are explored from Peter the Great's visit to London in 1698 through to Nicholas II via an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace’s . Portraits, sculpture, photographs, archival documents and miniature masterpieces by Fabergé illustrate historic events and family meetings between the rulers of the two nations. 

Many of the rich and varied works of art on display are unique – some commissioned as grand diplomatic gifts, others as intimate personal mementos between the royal family and the Romanovs, and they bring to life the shared patronage of artists and craftsmen from both countries.

The earliest links between Great Britain and Russia were formed in the mid-sixteenth century through trade. These links developed into political and military alliances, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15). In the nineteenth century, dynastic marriage and family ties dominated relations between the two countries. Works of art of all kinds – from grand diplomatic gifts to intimate, and personal, mementos – have richly documented the relationship. Beginning with the visit of Peter the Great in 1698, the first Russian ruler to set foot on English soil, they mark significant moments of contact between Great Britain and Russia. These works of art are exhibited together for the first time and tell the story of the complex interconnection between two great countries and their rulers over more than three hundred years.

Ashurbanipal at the British Museum

A new major exhibition opening in November 2018 at The British Museum is about one of history’s greatest forgotten kings – Ashurbanipal.

This exhibition tells the story of Ashurbanipal through the British Museum’s unparalleled collection of Assyrian treasures and rare loans. Ashurbanipal’s world is brought to life through displays that evoke the splendour of his palace, with its spectacular sculptures, sumptuous furnishings and exotic gardens. Also on display is the workings of Ashurbanipal’s great library, the first in the world to be created with the ambition of housing all knowledge under one roof.

Relief of Ashurbanipal hunting on horseback. Nineveh, Assyria, 645–635 BC.

Relief of Ashurbanipal hunting on horseback. Nineveh, Assyria, 645–635 BC.

Despite being one of Assyria’s greatest kings, Ashurbanipal wasn’t destined for the throne, as he was a younger son of the king.

When his eldest brother and the heir to the throne died, his father Esarhaddon passed over the next eldest son Shamash-shum-ukin, and made Ashurbanipal crown prince instead. This was a bold (and perhaps a slightly foolish) move. Esarhaddon’s own father had been brutally murdered by his sons after he put their younger sibling (i.e. Esarhaddon) on the throne!

Shamash-shum-ukin, would have been pretty annoyed about the decision to bypass him. As a consolation, Esarhaddon made Shamash-shum-ukin king of Babylon. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, not quite. At this time, Babylon was part of the Assyrian empire so he would essentially have to answer to his younger brother! Tensions would later explode into all-out war.

Ashurbanipal was king of the Neo-Assyrian empire. At the time of his reign (669–c. 631 BC) it was the largest empire in the world, stretching from Cyprus in the west to Iran in the east, and at one point it even included Egypt. Its capital Nineveh (in modern-day Iraq) was the world’s largest city. This is at a time when the Greek city-states (like Athens and Sparta) were still in their infancy and Rome was just a small settlement.

Ashurbanipal wasn’t modest about being the king of the Assyrian empire – he called himself ‘king of the world’! Quite a claim, but given the size of the empire, it wasn’t far from the truth.

When Ashurbanipal was appointed crown prince, he started his training to be king. He learnt royal etiquette, important military skills and was instructed in scholarship. He shadowed his father in court where he could learn the way of Assyrian kingship.

Relief depicting Ashurbanipal hunting a lion. 645 – 635 BC.

Relief depicting Ashurbanipal hunting a lion. 645 – 635 BC.

He also worked as a spymaster for his father, gathering information from agents across the empire and compiling intelligence reports. This helped to develop Ashurbanipal’s knowledge of the empire – and learn who his potential enemies were.

As part of his military training, the young crown prince was taught to drive chariots, ride cavalry horses, and develop skills such as archery. He also learnt how to hunt lions. In Assyria lion hunting was a royal ‘sport’. Although this perhaps seems cruel to modern eyes, killing lions represented the king’s ability to protect his nation against all that was wild and dangerous in the world.

Ashurbanipal commissioned a series of reliefs – a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material – to cover the walls of his palace which showed him hunting, and even strangling lions with his bare hands. These works are some of the most famous examples of Assyrian art.

Ashurbanipal was popular among his subjects but ruthless in dealing with enemies. He was said to have put a dog chain through the jaw of a defeated king and made him live in a dog kennel. That’s pretty brutal, even by the standards of the ancient world.

Ashurbanipal inherited a war with Egypt (and other neighbouring regions), which he went to work dealing with, destroying his enemies and growing the empire even further.

When the state of Elam tried to rise up against Assyria, Ashurbanipal crushed them. He claimed to have killed the Elamite king and his son with his own sword (in reality, he was not at the battle, but at home in the safety of his palace). The Elamite king’s head was brought back to the palace in Nineveh where it was hung from a tree in the garden as a decoration.

Ashurbanipal spent a lot of effort dealing with Elam’s troublesome rulers, who plotted against Assyria. The exasperated Ashurbanipal decided to crush Elam once and for all. He robbed the palaces and temples and ordered that the royal tombs be opened and the bones of kings taken. Those who survived were brought back to Assyria in chains as slaves.

Crushing enemies was not confined to external threats – he also destroyed his own brother. As we’ve already seen, Ashurbanipal’s brother Shamash-shum-ukin had been created king of Babylon. Fed up of answering to Ashurbanipal, his brother conspired against him, creating a coalition with other outlying peoples in the empire and taking contested cities in the name of Babylon.

When Ashurbanipal discovered the plot, he laid siege to Babylon for two years! There were horrific stories of people eating their own children to survive starvation. In the end Ashurbanipal’s brother died in his burning palace to escape capture and his co-conspirators were killed.

While he wasn’t crushing enemies and killing lions, perhaps incongruously Ashurbanipal enjoyed scholarly pursuits. He could read and write, which was unusual for a king. He loved to boast about his scholarly abilities, and he even represented himself in his palace reliefs with a stylus (used for writing) in his belt, along with his sword.

Ashurbanipal developed the first systematically collected and catalogued library in the world. He wanted a copy of every book worth having and sent his minions across the empire to gather all the knowledge in the world. Assyrian books were mostly written on clay tablets, not on paper, in a script called cuneiform, which used little wedges to make up symbols. In total he gathered hundreds of thousands of these tablets, around 30,000 of which are now in the British Museum.

Ashurbanipal proved himself worthy of protecting his people through displays of strength, such as hunting lions. Like many rulers of the ancient world, he liked to boast about his victories in battle and brutally crushed his enemies. However, this vast and diverse empire was controlled through more than just brute force. Ashurbanipal used his skills as a scholar, diplomat and strategist to become one of Assyria’s greatest rulers.

Despite his long and successful reign, Ashurbanipal’s death is shrouded in mystery. Shortly afterwards, the Assyrian empire fell and the great city of Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC, its ruins lost to history until the 1840s. Their rediscovery has allowed us to piece together a portrait of the powerful and complex ruler that was Ashurbanipal.

Relief depicting the Assyrian capture of Babylon. 638 – 625BC

Relief depicting the Assyrian capture of Babylon. 638 – 625BC

Stele depicting Ashurbanipal (right) and his brother Shamash-shum-ukin (left). 668 – 655 BC.

Stele depicting Ashurbanipal (right) and his brother Shamash-shum-ukin (left). 668 – 655 BC.

Relief depicting Ashurbanipal hunting a lion. 645 – 635 BC.

Relief depicting Ashurbanipal hunting a lion. 645 – 635 BC.

Detail of a relief showing the Assyrian siege of an Elamite fort. 645 – 635 BC.

Detail of a relief showing the Assyrian siege of an Elamite fort. 645 – 635 BC.

Fragment of a clay tablet, which tells the story of the flood from the Epic of Gilgamesh. 7th century BC.

Fragment of a clay tablet, which tells the story of the flood from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
7th century BC.

Fragment of a clay tablet, which tells the story of the flood from the Epic of Gilgamesh. 7th century BC.

Fragment of a clay tablet, which tells the story of the flood from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
7th century BC.

Some of the tablets from the library of Ashurbanipal at the museum.

Some of the tablets from the library of Ashurbanipal at the museum.

Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863),  Death of Sardanapalus . Oil on canvas, 1827.

Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), Death of Sardanapalus. Oil on canvas, 1827.

Illustration of Assyrian palaces from  The Monuments of Nineveh  by Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1853.

Illustration of Assyrian palaces from The Monuments of Nineveh by Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1853.

Klimt / Schiele an exhibition of works on paper at The Royal Academy

This week, the Royal Academy London opened Kilmt/ Schiele. This centennial commemoration exhibition compares the artists through an extraordinary selection of works on paper from The Albertina Museum, Vienna.

Klimt / Schiele: Drawings is a unique opportunity to see extraordinary drawings produced by both artists, considered to be some of the 20th century’s most important works on paper. Among them are Klimt’s sketches for his seminal Beethoven Frieze, and unflinching self-portraits by Schiele, which due to their delicacy will not see the light of day again for many years. In around 100 portraits, allegories, landscapes and erotic nudes, prepare to encounter these two icons of early Modernism at their most raw and revealing.

1918 was a seismic year in Vienna. As the Austro-Hungarian Empire crumbled, an intense period of creative vitality drew to an end with the deaths of two of its foremost artists. One was the preeminent and strikingly modern painter of fin-de-siècle Vienna, Gustav Klimt; the other the young, scandalous and prodigiously talented Egon Schiele. Both revelled in the immediacy of drawing, an ideal medium for exploring new ideas of modernity, subjectivity and the erotic.

Egon Schiele drew Gustav Klimt many times in life, but also in death. Three drawings exist of Klimt in the morgue, his handsome face deformed by a massive stroke at the age of 55. Not many months later, Schiele himself was carried off by Spanish flu in the space of three devastating days. He was 28. Both men died in Vienna in the year 1918.

Death steals like a cold breath through the Royal Academy’s centennial commemoration of their art. It is there in the gaunt faces of Klimt’s old women and his syphilitic femme fatales. It is there in the emaciated bodies of Schiele’s teenage prostitutes, prematurely aged, and in the bony fingers that clutch at the bare ribs of his female nudes. It is the look of an era, of a society cursed by decadence and poverty, hunger, disease and war. But it is also art nouveau in late-stage mutation, an aesthetic of nervous whiplash lines and extraordinarily adroit drawings where a whole human being may be summarised in a few incisive curves.

Standing Female Nude (Study for the Three Gorgons, ‘Beethoven Frieze’), 1901

Standing Female Nude (Study for the Three Gorgons, ‘Beethoven Frieze’), 1901

Gustav Klimt, Study for Friederike Maria Beer, 1915-16

Gustav Klimt, Study for Friederike Maria Beer, 1915-16

Egon Schiele, The Cellist, 1910

Egon Schiele, The Cellist, 1910

Egon Schiele, Nude Self Portrait, Squatting, 1916

Egon Schiele, Nude Self Portrait, Squatting, 1916

Egon Schiele, Seated Female Nude, Elbows resting on Right Knee, 1914

Egon Schiele, Seated Female Nude, Elbows resting on Right Knee, 1914

Gustav Klimt, Two Studies of a Standing Nude (Study for the Oil Sketch for Medicine). 1897-98

Gustav Klimt, Two Studies of a Standing Nude (Study for the Oil Sketch for Medicine). 1897-98

The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World: British Museum

Rooms 42 and 43 of the British Museum have been transformed to house a world class gallery collection of art and artefacts that represent the Islamic world- The Albukhary Foundation Gallery.

The British Museum’s Islamic collection comprises a broad and diverse spectrum of the material culture produced from the seventh century to the present day in the Islamic world, a series of regions stretching from West Africa to Southeast Asia. From archaeological material to contemporary art, from the paintings and vessels made for royal patrons to the evocative objects of daily life, this new Gallery brings together the stories of interconnected worlds across time and geography.

Showcasing the Museum’s diverse and world-class collection of Islamic objects, this beautiful new gallery explores the cultural significance, breadth and impact of the Islamic world. On display are stunning works of art alongside objects of everyday life, including musical instruments, games, ceramics and traditional dress.

These objects represent an area stretching from West Africa to Southeast Asia, from the 7th century to the present day. Together they celebrate the peoples of the Islamic world and explore the ideas, technologies and interactions that shaped their culture.

The Albukhary Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Malaysia with an international presence. For the past forty years, it has been promoting goodwill through education and cultural heritage. The Foundation’s many initiatives have been guided by the values of compassion, tolerance, and coexistence with the objective of helping to shape a more equitable and tolerant world, In improving the lives of less privileged communities, the Foundation has spearheaded extensive humanitarian projects, widening educational opportunities, as well as promoting scholarship amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Star tiles made of painted stonepaste with an opaque glaze. Iran, probably Kashan, AD 1266-67

Star tiles made of painted stonepaste with an opaque glaze. Iran, probably Kashan, AD 1266-67

The Albukhary Foundation’s key role on the cultural front is reflected in its establishment of, and ceaseless support for, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. An esteemed cultural institution in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the museum is now the largest in Asia Pacific dedicated to the arts, culture and heritage of the Islamic world.

Success in Malaysia has spurred the Foundation to expand its remit further. Besides its unwavering commitment to the areas of education, social welfare and religion, the intent to bridge further understanding between cultures and faiths also makes up much of the Albukhary Foundation’s international activity. This initiative continues in the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World.

Gilded and enamelled glass lamp, Egypt or Syria, 1330-1345

Gilded and enamelled glass lamp, Egypt or Syria, 1330-1345

Astrolabe, made of brass inlaid with silver and copper.  Probably southeast Turkey northern Iraq or Syria AD 1240/1

Astrolabe, made of brass inlaid with silver and copper. Probably southeast Turkey northern Iraq or Syria AD 1240/1

The Hamzanama, Elias and Prince Nur ad-Dahr, ink and opaque watercolour on cloth, Mughal style, India, 1564-1579

The Hamzanama, Elias and Prince Nur ad-Dahr, ink and opaque watercolour on cloth, Mughal style, India, 1564-1579

Uzbek woman’s ikat coat made of cotton and silk. Uzbekistan, 1870s-1920s

Uzbek woman’s ikat coat made of cotton and silk. Uzbekistan, 1870s-1920s

Ottoman dynasty Iznik basin pade of painted and glazed stonepaste. Isnik, Turkey, 1545-1550

Ottoman dynasty Iznik basin pade of painted and glazed stonepaste. Isnik, Turkey, 1545-1550

Early kufic script inscribed on marble. Egypt, AD 967

Early kufic script inscribed on marble. Egypt, AD 967

Sudanese Iyre made of wood, skin, glass, cowrie shells, metal and animal gut. Sudan, late 1800s

Sudanese Iyre made of wood, skin, glass, cowrie shells, metal and animal gut. Sudan, late 1800s

Frank Avray Wilson: Whitford Fine Art, 19 October – 16 November 2018

We were very pleased to be invited to the Whitford Gallery for the opening of their Exhibition Frank Avray Wilson, Expressionist Paintings 1953-1963

Frank Avray Wilson at work, London 1954

Frank Avray Wilson at work, London 1954

Born in Mauritius in 1914 of Anglo-Irish and French parents, Frank Avray Wilson spent his early childhood on the Indian Ocean island before attending Brighton College and St John’s College, Cambridge. He marvelled at the natural beauty of the island’s flora, fauna and minerals, and first became enamoured of the fundamental vitality of a painted image whilst studying cell structure through a microscope. His philosophical interests went far beyond the pre-war tendency to find art in science, seeking and insisting on a transcendentalism to counter the atheist or materialist credo of the post-war existential age.

Talisman 1954.jpg

Although superficially abstract, Avray Wilson’s compositions were always informed by the visual stimuli of his life both in Mauritius and in the lab at Cambridge: the broken planes of mineral and molecular structures, the cellular ensembles of a leaf and the vibrancy of the tropical island are all reflected in his strong thickly-laden impastos of Blue Constellation c1954 or Blue Conjugation 1954.

Blue Constellation c1954

Blue Constellation c1954

Avray Wilson always worked in a limited colour range, but particularly striking in this exhibition were his works in a range of sea blues and teals.

Conjugation 1954

Conjugation 1954

In his books and his paintings, Avray Wilson tried to demonstrate how being human is intrinsically tied to an aesthetic sensibility.  He believed profoundly that artistic activity is a necessary part of being fully human.

Nucleating 1959

Nucleating 1959

Having written, painted, exhibited and worked in stained glass throughout the 50s and 60s Avray Wilson was sufficiently traumatised by the death of his only son from leukaemia in 1967 to not only stop creating but to withdraw from the art world for over two decades.

Reactive Event 1960

Reactive Event 1960

Meeting Point 1963

Meeting Point 1963

Consequently, Avray Wilson’s work in the present offers a time capsule, a frozen view of one of Britain’s first and most dynamic abstract expressionist painters whose work invites the viewer to engage with an important period in British Art History in isolation from modern developments in the genre.

Myth Form 1959

Myth Form 1959

Building of the week: The Pole House, Australia

Perched high above the Southern Ocean on Australia’s famous Great Ocean Road, the Pole House by F2 Architecture is a great example of the power of architecture, made possible by the spectacular location combined with the unique experience that a work of architecture can bring to such a unique expanse of coastline.

The house sits atop a concrete platform supported by a 13m high pylon built into the steep hillside. Accessible only by a narrow concrete bridge, the visitor is delivered to an entrance which is recessed into the metal clad walls that face the hillside.

As soon as you step on to the bridge you know you are in for something special. Once inside, a curved timber clad wall directs the visitor to the living area with its spectacular 180 degree view of the Southern Ocean.

Full height glass walls can be slid back to open the living area to the panoramic ocean view, sun and sea breeze. Frameless glass balustrades at the perimeter of the elevated platform provide safety and wind protection without obstructing the view. A fireplace is suspended from the ceiling in the corner of the living area to provide warmth and ambience on cold winter days or in the evening.

n contrast to the scale of the landscape, the house is very modest in proportion, the ideal weekender. More akin to a luxurious suite than family accommodation it contains a spacious living and dining area, bedroom and bathroom in an open plan arrangement. The kitchen, bed, robe and storage are built into the flanking walls to maximise the sense of space and provide flexibility. The bathroom is concealed in a timber clad drum which is centrally located to provide separation between the bedroom and living areas. The drum is not full height to allow the pyramidal roof form to float above the living areas.

The deceptively simple square plan of this house underpins the dramatic experience it delivers. The two walls facing the hillside are solid providing complete privacy and a sense of detachment from the land, the only connection being the narrow entry bridge. The two walls facing the ocean are glass. The result is a living area perched high above the landscape, referencing only the vastness of the ocean, the horizon and the distant land forms.

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and The Avant Garde at Barbican, London

Featuring the biggest names in Modern Art, a new exhibition at the Barbican-  Modern Couples explores creative relationships, across painting, sculpture, photography, design and literature.

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde showcases the creative output of over 40 artist couples active in the first half of the 20th century. Drawing on loans from private and public collections worldwide, this major interdisciplinary show features the work of painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, designers, writers, musicians and performers, shown alongside personal photographs, love letters, gifts and rare archival material. Among the highlights are legendary duos such as: Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp; Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin; Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso; Lee Miller and Man Ray; Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko; Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; as well as pairings such as Emilie Flöge and Gustav Klimt, Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí, Romaine Brooks and Natalie Clifford-Barney and Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt, Claude Cahun and Marcelle Moore,  Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, and Nancy Cunard and Henry Crowder, Maria Martins and Marcel Duchamp.

The exhibition seeks to define and explore the relationship between art, society and politics. By focusing on intimate relationships in all their forms – obsessional, conventional, mythic, platonic, fleeting, life-long – it also reveals the way in which creative individuals came together, transgressing the constraints of their time, reshaping art, redefining gender stereotypes and forging news ways of living and loving. Importantly, the exhibition also challenges the idea that the history of art was a singular line of solitary, predominantly male geniuses.

A great example is Cahun’s and Moore’s lifelong relationship. They were already lovers before Cahun’s father married Moore’s mother, making them stepsisters. They created art collaboratively from the 1920s onwards, most strikingly in the form of photos of Cahun, an ambiguously gendered, compelling and strange iconic figure. The couple resisted convention even to the point of death, arranging to be buried together under a headstone marked with two stars of David. Cahun was Jewish but unreligious while Moore wasn’t Jewish at all. It was the Fifties and the gesture was of solidarity with those oppressed by the Nazis in the last two decades. 

The show’s catalogue talks of desire linked to revolution. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were married for 30 years. They were unfaithful to each other, but the Communist ideal they shared and the aim that stemmed from it to create art not for a cultured elite but for the people, is the important factor. They were ideological collaborators.  

Another fascinating insight is found in the display of Nancy Cunard and Henry Crowder’s relationship. Cunard inherited a fortune from her father Sir Bache Cunard, an heir to the Cunard Line shipping businesses. Crowder was a jazz pianist. He was African-American and with his moral support, as well as active engagement as musician and writer, Cunard used culture to fight racism and colonialism. Their affair lasted seven years. After Crowder’s death in 1955 Cunard wrote that it was really him that inspired her sense of art’s purpose. Her own death 10 years later, was terrible: ravaged by alcoholism, weighing only four stone, mad and desolate, she died in the Hôpital Cochin, in Paris, which featured in the essay How the Poor Die by  George Orwell . In the 1920s and 1930s, though, she was a magnificent cultural leader and class warrior. Poet, collector and publisher, she launched the career of Samuel Beckett by bringing out his first book of poetry, Whoroscope. Crowder set the type and designed the cover. Cunard encouraged him to put poetry by black writers to music. In 1934 she published her influential book, Negro Anthology, documenting black culture.

Modern Couples really makes a case for itself with its representation of Cunard’s and Crowder’s joint story, by showing how each was a very great artist indeed in the sense we’re now getting used to, where many things can count as art.

PAD London 2018 Highlights

PAD London, the city’s leading art and design fair, displays an impressive selection of 68 galleries from 12 countries showcasing masterpieces across design, art, antiquities, tribal art and collectible jewellery. PAD London 2018 is unique combination of midcentury, antique and contemporary pieces are displayed revealing new talent and presenting the most recent projects of established talent offering a unique portfolio of creativity and craftsmanship. See our selection of some of the amazing items of design and art on display across the fair.

Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2018 highlights

There is a heightened sense of expectation as Frieze Art London opens its marquees to collectors and guests to reveal contemporary artworks designed both to challenge and inspire. Based in London’s gracious and spacious Regent’s Park the fair takes place from 4th to the 7th of October and features over 160 of the world’s leading galleries.

Highlights are below:

Drawing inspiration from the history of art and music, the talented artist Idris Khan investigates memory, creativity and the layering of experience in his works. The London based Victoria Miro Gallery represents the artists latest works "The Existence of Beauty, 2018", "Falling into the depth of the ground, 2018" and "Nothing to Believe, 2018" at their Frieze London stand this year.

The British artist Rana Begum loves to play with colors, light and perspectives. Her latest works are represented by Kate MacGarry Gallery London at this year's Frieze London and are outstanding pieces, you shouldn't miss, when strolling through the fair

Then our standout booth was at Timothy Taylor, London- with a solo presentation from Brooklyn based painter Eddie Martinez. The oil paints on linen are a wonderful play of vivd contrasts and aggressive combinations. His peculiar dynamic explodes traditional ideas of what a still-life can be where traditional opulence is cut with the grime of urban life.

At the same time, Frieze Masters sees over 130 specialist dealers displaying quality artworks whose timespan stretches from the ancient through to Old Masters as well as late 20th Century Art. Perfectly framing and then linking the two exhibitions is Regent’s Park itself; visitors can stroll and linger on a beautiful 20 minute walk  through the park, passing Frieze's sculpture park while absorbing the natural wonder of this year’s spectacular autumn colors.

One of the appeals of Frieze Masters is the way it forces wildly different eras to coexist;Artemisia Gentileschi Giorgio Morandi Steven Parrino and Dutch still lifes all have to share the same big tent. 

Gagosian, devoted its booth to Man Ray bringing a miniature museum exhibition to Frieze Masters. Small sculptures made from odds and ends—twine, metronomes, chessboards, springs, baguettes painted blue—are joined by photographs, paintings, and assemblages. A 1966 collage, entitled Demagogue, looks shockingly fresh, combining images of a parrot, a smiling blonde woman, and a silver wheel rim. A mixed-media work finds Man Ray mounting a toilet seat atop a photograph of an egg, and in Anal Sunrise (1956), he puts an anatomical spin on the landscape tradition. Not everything here is a masterpiece, certainly, but the pieces combine to form a picture of an artist who wasn’t afraid to follow his quirkiest inclinations.

Madrid based gallery Galería Elvira González set two giants of American Minimalism together, with a focus on their work in wood. Carl Andre’s Pyramus and Thisbe (1990), composed of 20 blocks of Western red cedar, is installed on either side of one of the booth’s walls. It jibes nicely with a four-part series of wall-mounted Donald Judd sculptures from the 1980s and ’90s, made of unadorned Douglas fir plywood.

Dig deep and you’ll come across Delacroix drawings and a terrific Lucas Cranach the Elder Mocking of Christ.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings at The Royal Academy

From The Shard in London to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the buildings of Renzo Piano have enriched cities across the globe. The Royal Academy’s new exhibition highlights the vision and invention behind Piano’s pioneering work, showing how architecture can touch the human spirit.

United by a characteristic sense of lightness, and an interplay between tradition and invention, function and context, Piano’s buildings soar in the public imagination as they do in our skylines. Counting the New York Times Building and the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa among his creations, he has cemented his place as one of the greatest architects of our times.

This illuminating exhibition follows Piano’s career, from the influence of his Genoese heritage and his rise to acclaim alongside friend and collaborator Richard Rogers, to current projects still in the making. Focusing on 16 key buildings, it explores how the Renzo Piano Building Workshop designs buildings “piece by piece”, making deft use of form, material and engineering to achieve a precise and yet poetic elegance.

On exhibit are rarely seen drawings, models, photography, signature full-scale maquettes and a new film by Thomas Riedelsheimer that show how inspiring architecture is made. At the heart of the exhibition is an imagined ‘Island’, a specially designed sculptural installation which brings together nearly 100 of Piano’s projects.

Designed and curated in close collaboration with Piano himself, this is the first exhibition in London to put the spotlight on Piano in 30 years.

Victoria and Albert Museum - Dundee

The £80m V&A Museum Of Design Dundee on the banks of the Tay, housed in a dazzling building inspired by cliffs on the east coast of Scotland has opened this September and is now the V&A’s first outpost in Scotland.

The building, designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, is unquestionably a new landmark for the city, similar in wow factor to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, northern Spain, designed by Frank Gehry.

From some angles it looks like the prow of a ship about to enter the water. Kuma has talked about wanting to create a “living room for the city” with a building resembling a Scottish cliff face.

There are 300 exhibits in free-to-enter galleries telling the story of Scotland’s design heritage.

At the museum’s centre is the 13.5-metre-long oak panelled room, which Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street tea rooms in Glasgow in 1907. The panels were salvaged in the 1970s and have largely been in storage since then.

Other objects include original Beano artworks from the Dundee publisher DC Thomson and a 15th-century Book of Hours.

The Turner prize-nominated artist Ciara Phillips has been commissioned to make a work in response to the collections. It would be seen by visitors as they reached the top floor of the museum, before entering the galleries.

Also included is a recreation of a tea room by Charles Rennie Mackintosh which was revealed on the architect’s 150th birthday.

Mackintosh designed Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms in 1907, which included an elaborate 13.5-metre long Oak Room. Considered one of the Scottish designer’s key projects, it shaped his ideas for the Glasgow School Art Library which was completed in 1909.

The Oak Room was saved by the Glasgow Museums when the building was demolished in 1971 and put into storage. It will now be painstakingly reconstructed inside the Kengo Kuma-designed museum when it opens to the public in September.

Building Of The Week: The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM), Marseille

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations designed by the Algerian-born French architect Rudy Ricciotti is the flagship project of Marseille’s on-going architectural and cultural renaissance. The museum is located on Marseille’s seafront next to a seventeenth century stronghold, Fort St Jean. Built upon the Greek and Roman vestiges of the antique city-state, the Fort is charged with history and includes a chapel which dates back the twelfth century.


Rudy Riciotti’s classic monolithic design is built around a perfect square; each side of the building is 72 metres. An inner square of 52 metres per side forms the heart of the museum and comprises the exhibition and conference halls. The inner structure, which is composed of steel and glass, has been covered with a delicate ornamental skin of filigreed concrete. The same innovative material has been used to create 308 tree-shaped pillars that stand at over 8 metres high and form the vertical structure of the building. This patterned concrete skin opens the building to natural light and views of the sea allowing the marine atmosphere to pervade entirely the inside of the building. Furthermore, the lace veil of concrete on the outside of the building creates intricate shadow patterns that can be seen as “a projection of the bumpy and irregular sea bed” comments Ricciotti. He goes on to say his Museum is, “open to the sea, to draw a horizon where the two shores of the Mediterranean can meet”.

The Museum is organised on three levels with an array of exhibitions, an auditorium and a bookstore. The rooftop is a particular feature and is set to become an iconic venue for the city with beautiful panoramic views of the sea and harbour. At night a lighting scheme designed by Yann Kersalé creates a magical atmosphere with shades of blue and turquoise.

The top floor roof decking, which spans a width of 24 metres covering an area of 1600m², is made from heat-treated American ash, supplied by Bingaman and Son Lumber Company in Pennsylvania, USA. The top deck sits along the pedestrian route running through the Museum and across Marseille’s historic seafront, so with a constant flow of pedestrians a heavy duty decking solution was essential. “We asked the general contractor to come up with a decking solution that could withstand an average load of 250 kg/m²” explains Tilman Reichert, the project architect. Eric Durand from Roofmart, the contractor in charge of supplying the heat-treated ash decking comments, “The architect was looking for solutions that would avoid him specifying tropical hardwoods; initially he wanted to try heat-treated pine but was not happy with the results of the initial trials. The quality of the heat-treated ash we were delivered was first class. When the architect saw the samples he was won over both by the aesthetic appeal of ash with its characteristic grain but also its dimensional stability and long lengths (20 x140).”

The thermal modification process uses a high temperature in a controlled environment permanently altering the wood’s chemical and physical properties. This limits the ability of the wood to absorb moisture, so products are more dimensionally stable and less prone to cup, warp and twist with changes in humidity. The thermal modification process also removes the nutrients in wood that would otherwise provide a food source for insects and wood-destroying fungi. This increase in dimensional stability and decay resistance significantly extends the service life and reduces maintenance needs of the decking. Given its marine environment, the deck is highly exposed to weathering from the sun, rain and sea spray so will be monitored to assess its performance over time. Tilman Reichert the project architect comments: “We believe that ash with its long wood fibre will offer greater resistance to wear than pinewood”.

he decking is laid on a traditional system of boarding joists to allow the insulation membrane directly under the wooden decking to be well ventilated. The boards were nailed not screwed which is visually more pleasing.

AHEC European Director David Venables says, “The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is a superb example of the use of newer technologies of hardwood durability enhancement. There’s a developing market for thermally modified hardwoods in Europe and this project publically showcases their potential. By processing wood produced from America’s well-managed hardwood forests, thermally modified hardwood provides a quality, environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to imported tropical hardwood species.”

The weight of the 24 metre wide rooftop terrace contributes to stabilising the concrete pergola above it through a clever system of stainless steel cables. The vast veil surrounding the terrace is made up with the same intricate filigreed concrete that covers the sides of the building. It rests on 15 metre wide concrete cantilever beams that sit on top of the main vertical pillars of the building. On the outside of the building the cantilever beams carry the weight of the external ramps that lead up to the terrace through long stainless steel braces that span the whole height of the building. Stainless steel cables have also been fixed from the wooden deck to the cantilever beams which overhang above the terrace by 4 metres to stabilise the whole canopy structure above the terrace.

The roof terrace offers visitors an inclined walkway made up of 115 metres of bridges travelling out from the roof of the building and crossing the harbour basin. This links the Museum to Fort Saint-Jean which hosts the main restaurant managed by local cooking celebrity Gérald Passedat. In time the fort will house a further 15,000 m2 of museum exhibition space. Furthermore the open public spaces around the Fort have been redesigned to showcase a unique botanical collection of Mediterranean plants along a landscaped promenade. Another footbridge leads visitors to le Panier, the oldest and most traditional neighbourhood in Marseille with endearing narrow streets and steep steps.

Magister Canova at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia, Venice

From 16 June to 22 November 2018, the Scuola Grande della Misericordia in Venice hosts Magister Canova (Possagno, 1757 - Venice, 1822), the first major multimedia exhibition to be devoted to the greatest sculptor of Neoclassicism, created with a scientific committee with a high international profile and the collaboration of the Fondazione Canova Gypsotheca and Museo Antonio Canova di Possagno. An interweaving of music, words and images with the extraordinary participation of Fabrizio Plessi, the voice of actor Adriano Giannini and music by cellist Giovanni Sollima.

Moving from the micro to the macro, Magister Canova accompanies the public on a journey of discovery of an inimitable human and artistic itinerary.

The exhibition route of Magister Canova winds its way through environments of major perceptive impact, scenographic reconstructions, deceptive views. Technology - at the disposal of art - offers visitors an unprecedented experience, where details, episodes, intervals of the broadest scope, are showcased and highlighted, to enable them to grasp the meaning of one of the most exciting creative processes in the history of European sculpture.

Accompanying the visit, an emotional tale recounted by Adriano Giannini’s voice and Giovanni Sollima’s cello. The exhibition moves from the micro to the macro, from Cupid and Psyche’s butterfly to the giant Hercules’s frenzy and Lichas’ terror, from the study of the anatomical drawings from the Biblioteca dell’Istituto Superiore di Sanità to the representation of the revolutionary process of creation defined by Canova. The narration continues from the great myths, the heroes carved in white marble, to the multi-colour temperas on dark backgrounds devoted to dance, to conclude with an environment completely devoted to one of the great Canova masterpieces, Paolina Borghese, portrayed by Canova as Venus Victrix.

On Scuola Grande della Misericordia’s ground floor, a site-specific installation by Fabrizio Plessi, an ideal journey in the mind of Antonio Canova, introduces the visit to an exhibition where show and detailed study, emotion and knowledge, blend together perfectly.