“CELEBRITY HOARDER”: TESSA KENNEDY & CHRISTIE’S



 
Third time lucky. In the last few weeks, A-Gent of Style is delighted to have collaborated with Christie’s on another of their ‘Interiors’ sales (some of you might remember the Michael Inchbald sale and two weeks ago Les Trois Garçons‘).
On saturday morning, Charlotte Young, Christie’s Specialist responsible for today’s collection on the blog, gave A-Gent a preview and private tour of a new exhibition at Christie’s South Kensington celebrating the impressive and eclectic treasure trove of objets amassed by legendary interior designer Tessa Kennedy. The 128 lots will go under the hammer tomorrow Tuesday 18 March at 10 a.m with a low estimate of £153,400 and the most expensive item being the pair of brass mounted mahogany pedestal cabinets belonging to her close friend ballet icon Rudolf Nureyev going for £8000-12,000 (lot 40).

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Tessa Kennedy is an international award-winning interior designer who for the last 50 years has discreetly created interiors with a sense of grandeur and a hint of theatre for an impressive list of elite clients. These include Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, George Harrison, Sam Spiegel, Michael Winner, Pierce Brosnan,
the Saudi Royal family and HM King Hussein of Jordan, as well as significant commercial commissions for De Beers and world-renowned hotels such as Claridges and The Berkeley. She is perhaps best known by the public for designing
the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz which was re-instated in 2001 and for which she was awarded Designer of the Year. In acknowledgment of her work she was made a Fellow of the International Interior Design Association.

Kennedy is the first to admit that interior design was not a career she would have imagined herself pursuing as a young debutante in 1957, despite an artistic ability and an early love of Brighton Pavilion. It was a time when women were not expected to have careers and due to her considerably privileged background as the daughter of Geoffrey Kennedy and Daska Ivanovic, niece to the shipping magnate
Vane Ivanovic, Tessa was expected to marry well and bring up a family, so she was sent to finishing school in Switzerland.


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Swept off her feet at the first party of the season at the Spanish Embassy in 1957 when she met Dominick Elwes, son of the Royal Portrait Painter Simon Elwes, the two hit the world headlines when her father made her a Ward of Court, preventing them from marrying in the UK. They eloped to Cuba where events took a somewhat surreal turn when their stay was curtailed by the onset of the Cuban Revolution in 1958 but not before they were wined and dined by some of America’s most notorious gangsters and had struck up friendships with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ernest Hemingway in Havana as they sat around the gambling tables.

Kennedy’s road to interior design was laid by Dominick on their return to London in the early 1960s when he nonchalantly offered her assistance to the emerging and highly successful David Mlinaric after he was forced to turn down a commission from the young couple’s friend Jimmy Goldsmith on the basis that he had too many other projects. Tessa completed the job with vigour, despite having three young children at home and quickly established a reputation for creating luxurious schemes where practicality and the comfort of her clients were always a consideration. Her first accolade was the winning of a competition to design Grovesnor House Hotel while still with Mlinaric in 1968, which gave her the boost she needed to establish her own studio Tessa Kennedy Design with her Mlinaric colleague Michael Sumner. Together they went on to win many other commissions including the design for the Equestrian Club in Riyadh, which resulted in Kennedy being the first woman to work for her own company in Saudi Arabia.


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Naturally the design principles she applies in her work are evident in her own homes. Many of her sumptuous interiors have been featured by House & Garden, World of Interiors, Vogue and Tatler. What these articles and the collection offered here capture is how much of her remarkable life is reflected in the pieces that act as catalysts for anecdotes about amusing or poignant events with her friends and the process of collecting as a whole.

A selection of the lots were inherited from her grandmother Milica Popovic, whose brother was Dusan Popovic one of the founders of Yugoslavia. She married twice, first to Kennedy’s grandfather Dr. Ivan Rikard Ivanović also a politician and then to the shipping tycoon Božidar ‘Božo’ Banac. Her apartment in Monte Carlo was a hub for social gatherings where Princess Grace and other members of the social elite gathered to watch the Grand Prix from her balcony. But how many other people can say that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lent them their private jet in order to fly home from Monaco with their grandmother’s ormolu wall trophies (lot 1) as they were too large to carry on a commercial plane? Or that Marlon Brando gifted them a painting (lot 58) after an extended stay at their Surrey residence while he was filming? Of course these connections are perfectly natural when you are as well-connected as Kennedy and your second husband is the Hollywood film producer Elliot Kastner. Many a summer holiday was spent on set with him and Kennedy’s five children, where cast and crew became a close-knit family. They had such a good time on the set of Missouri Breaks in the mid-1970s that Marlon Brando gave Kennedy his jacket (lot 121) as a memento. But what is so enjoyable about these stories is although modestly told there is an underlying pride in the glamorous connections that time has not diminished.


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The biggest influence on Kennedy’s collection was the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev whom she met at a party at the Royal Palace in Monte Carlo in the 1960s whilst visiting her grandmother and with whom she shared a close friendship with until his death in 1993. Their joint interest in rich textiles and opulent costume, ecclesiastical and gothic tastes is perhaps most obvious in the design of her bedroom.
The Aubusson hangings were among several lots purchased from the Nureyev collection which Christie’s sold in two parts (New York and London) in 1995. She has fond memories of collecting Nureyev from the stage door at the Royal Opera House after his performances and driving him past all the antique shops she had been to that week, having selected items she knew he would like to see as they drove past. The half-tester bed (lot 79) also reveals how the right piece is often worth the wait. She first spotted it in the window of an antique shop in Islington where she was distraught to find it had already been sold but a year later it was back in the window as the buyer had moved to a smaller property. This time it had been promised to Filmways Pictures to dress the set of The Eye of the Devil (1966) but Kennedy could not let it go. She bought it immediately and rented it to the film company instead.




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Some of you might already be slightly familiar with the sale as it has garnered a lot of attention lately in the press, notably in the ‘Curtain Call’ article of House & Garden April edition which features for the final time Kennedy’s Knightsbridge lavish and theatrical apartment with its opulent dining room’s crimson silk velvet walls.
But whilst this title is fitting for the apartment it seems that Kennedy herself is not quite ready to hang up her hat.

A-Gent of Style was particularly taken by the decadent Renzo Mongiardino-esque silk voile-tented hallway and also the nook-cum-dining room wrapped in Claremont’s sublime, multifarious print Coccini. Here is the fabulous shoot with all the items in the sale in situ:


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And below is what A-Gent of Style saw as he went around the exhibition and discovered some of the treasures that made Tessa Kennedy’s glamourous and romantic life already so full (if these objects could speak!). Given the provenance and stories behind most objets, it wouldn’t be surprising if the lots went for much higher than their estimates. A-Gent can also testify that most of the objets are in good condition and have not lost the lustre of Kennedy’s glitzy, Hollywood-meets-royalty, jet-set style.

A-Gent of Style also had the great privilege to meet the charming decorator herself who delighted him with a few anecdotes (a few years ago, Tessa’s children wanted her to sign up for ‘Celebrity hoarders’, a Channel 4 series with regular people) and talked about the difference between a cut velvet and a gaufrage, as you do at 11.30 a.m on a Saturday (the headboard of her storied Gothic bed below is made out of cut velvet and is not gaufraged, a small but exacting detail A-Gent of Style would like to share with those of you who might lose sleep for not knowing).

You can view the full catalogue of the sale here. Happy biding!



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A-Gent of Style would like to thank Christie’s and especially Charlotte Young,
this sale’s specialist, for all their help and support.

 – Photos by Christie’s, House & Garden, A-Gent of Style and Tessa Kennedy
(new follower on A-Gent of Style‘s Instagram!) –




AFFORDABLE ART FAIR SPRING 2014





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The Battersea Park Affordable Art Fair is back and is now open until Sunday inclusive! March sees the return of London’s friendliest art fair, welcoming art lovers, art connoisseurs and art novices alike to discover affordable art by thousands of artists under one roof. The 117 participating galleries come from all over the UK and abroad, bringing their choicest selections for you to browse, buy, and enjoy.

Everything is for sale between £40 and £4,000, with paintings, original artist-made prints, sculpture and photography all on show. Whether you are looking for artwork that is traditional or contemporary, humorous or edgy, by a famous name or an undiscovered talent, there is something for everyone!


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 Affordable Art Fair

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BLOOMING LOU-BOOT-YLICIOUS



 

Photographer and artist Peter Lipmann continues the theme of the masterpieces of world art in a new series of works for Christian Louboutin.


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After their collaboration in 2011 on a baroque and biblical theme,
this spring/summer 2014 lookbook uses as inspiration beautiful and famous still-life painting by geniuses of impressionistic Old Masters. The David LaChapelle-esque campaign recreates and mimics these chefs d’oeuvre by capturing images which juxtapose the brand’s dazzling shoes – and their distinctive red soles –  and accessories with floral scenery. It cleverly arranges the collection by playfully displaying or camouflaging Louboutin’s whimsical shoes and handbags nestled between bouquets and floral arrangements. The exquisite campaign not only emphasises the collection’s warm spring tones or saturated colours but also the fine craftsmanship that can indeed make an object feel like a work of art.


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– Photos by Peter Lipmann –




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