Like A-gent of Style, some of you might admire (and get easily entertained) by larger-than-life characters from the world of publishing and fashion such as Diana Vreeland and Anna Winter – and documentaries about their respective career such as The Eye has to Travel and The September Issue (the newly released The First Monday in May has proven to be a very entertaining). Not many people however would have heard of another charismatic and influential editor belonging to that executive and glamourous club.
Fleur Cowles was a renowned publisher, journalist, author, artist, patron and fashionista who also maintained a position as a doyenne of both New York and London society for the better part of a century. Created in 1950, her magazine Flair was renowned for its striking design and lavish production as for its editorial content. Despite strong circulation, the colossal costs for special features, such as embossed cover cut-outs and unfolding pages that revealed hidden pictures as well as original artwork produced by the celebrated illustrator René Gruau, caused the magazine to run for only a year. To this day, Flair remains a much respected publication and copies are still highly sought after almost 70 years after the last issue went to press.
Tomorrow Christie’s South Kensington will present the collection of Fleur Cowles who died in 2009.
The eclectic collection to be offered at Christie’s South Kensington offers a rare glimpse into the private world Cowles created. She and her last husband, Thomas Montague-Meyer, together occupied two adjoining ‘sets’ at one of London’s most renowned addresses – Albany, Piccadilly – for more than 50 years. Her striking interiors remained unchanged during these decades and the auction will capture the magic of a time-capsule broken open for the first time.
The collection illustrates not only the amazing interiors Cowles created in her secluded London home, but also the amazing life the bigger-than-life aesthete lived; the auction includes everything from her 1950’s Dior hats and designs for famed Flair magazine, to her prized collection of naïf art, furniture, sculpture and works of art, as well as some of her own paintings and photographs dedicated from many of her famous friends, such as Vivien Leigh, Lady Bird Johnson and the Duchess of Windsor – she counted amongst her circle General Eisenhower, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cary Grant, HSH Princess Grace of Monaco and the Reagans to name but a few.
Now, wouldn’t a biopic about Madame Cowles’s life be just the ticket? And imagine what her Instagram account would be like!
– The sets currently on view at South Kensington designed by Cave Interiors, Joanna Wood Interior Design and Maddux Creative –
Here is A-Gent of Style‘s selection from the collection
You can view the full catalogue here
– All images by Christie’s –
Now that the Indian summer London has been graced with in the last few weeks is officially over and that the whirlwind of events brought by the London Design Festival and Fashion week have come to an end, there is yet another event not to be missed, starting today, before PAD and Frieze Masters enthrall the design and art communities next week.
Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler have once again come up trumps with yet another fascinating collaboration, this time ceramics, one of A-Gent of Style‘s favourite decorative objets. The iconic English design firm in association with Adrian Sassoon is pleased to present a selling exhibition of Hitomi Hosono’s latest work at their legendary Brook Street showroom from today until Tuesday 27th October 2015. The famous 18th century Mayfair townhouse and its elegant interiors provide the perfect setting for Hitomi’s magical and intricately carved ceramics comprising over 30 works inspired by the renowned Colefax and Fowler classic fabric collections.
The Japanese-born, London-based artist is spearheading a new generation of ceramicists, appealing to collectors who value the art form as much as sculpture and fine art. It takes Hosono approximately three months to develop a new design and mould. Some of the smaller pieces take a month or so to make and then another three months to dry before firing whilst the larger works can take up to six months to dry before being ready to fire. Despite this painstaking process, the artist manages to achieve intricate and delicate results which somehow have something of the past as well as looking rather futuristic.
Hitomi first studied ceramics at the renowned Kanazawa College of Art, later attending Danmarks Designskole in Denmark, before taking her MA in ceramics and glass at the Royal College of Art. The recipient of many awards, her work is in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Victoria and Albert and the British Museum.
“I enjoyed time spent in the Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler townhouse” said the artist. “The sumptuous interiors populated by an incredibly diverse collection of antiques and works of art were fascinating. I found myself drawn particularly towards objects with a history of trade and the Far East. In this magnificent English house a sense of cross-cultural spirit has flourished.”
“One Colefax and Fowler fabric pattern which caught my eye featured beautiful roses and pansies, which appeared to be moving as if blown by a gentle summer breeze. The softness and delicacy of rose petals is something that I wish to communicate in my own work and has led me to explore new forms and ways of aligning sweeping porcelain petal elements along a curve, emanating from multiple dense centres.”
“Hitomi’s work represents all I admire in contemporary ceramics” says Philip Hooper, design director for Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. “The craftsmanship, patience, vision and technical skill involved in creating these fragile pieces is almost beyond comprehension. I am thrilled that she has found so much inspiration in 39 Brook Street and that it has been a catalyst in helping her to create many new pieces that will be on show for the first time.”
Brook Street: An Artist’s Eye
7th October – 27th October 2015
Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, 39 Brook Street, London W1K 4JE
Monday – Friday 9.30am-5.30pm
– Images courtesy of Adrian Sassoon –
A-Gent of Style has written on the blog a couple of special features about his love affair for Gabriella Crespi, extolling the talents of the famous Milanese designer, artist and sculptress.
In two weeks’ time, a rare and seminal event will take place in Paris for any collector and admirer of Gabriella Crespi. French auction house PIASA is offering the auction GABRIELLA CRESPI, Timeless with a selection of the most important pieces created by the designer, artist, socialite & fashion muse who has left an indelible mark on 20th century Italian design with her inimitable taste Italian high-end design.
– Auction –
November 26, 2014 – 6pm
PIASA, 118 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris
– Viewing –
November 21, from 10am to 7pm November 22, from 11am to 7pm November 24, from 11am to 7pm November 25, from 10am to 7pm November 26, from 10am to 1pm
You can view the full catalogue here
All of Crespi’s designs place as much importance on aesthetics as on functionality, or even multi-functionality: coffee-tables are raised in height, bookcases are transformed into partitions, chairs turn into beds. A fine example is provided by her ingenious, twin-opening Mr-Mme commode (€20,000-30,000). Other sale highlights include a bamboo and brass Fungo lamp from her Rising Sun series (est. €5,000-7,000), and her 1976 Tavolo Scultura coffee table (est. €20,000-30,000).
She was born in 1922 and grew up in Tuscany, near Florence, before studying architecture at the Politecnico in Milan, where she discovered Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. She married into one of Italy’s wealthiest families, who owned the Corriere della Sera and a textiles empire. From Rome and Milan she hired the finest craftsmen to produce her designs. Most of her works were produced in limited editions and have been rare and highly sought-after since the 1970s – and are all the more so today. Her designs are rare and were mostly the result of special commissions. Several leading personalities were passionately enthusiastic about her work, including Elizabeth Arden, Thomas Hoving (former head of New York’s Metropolitan Museum), Greek shipping magnate Georges Livanos, Princess Grace, Gunther Sachs and the Shah of Iran.
Gabriella Crespi has always conveyed an art de vivre in tune with her times, full of freedom and pioneering ‘bohemian-chic’: a mix of 1970s aspiration and Italian tradition.
Although her style goes perfectly with materials like wood, bamboo, mirror and plexiglas, Gabriella Crespi’s most characteristic designs are in metal – notably brass. The convertible, three-part dining-table, from her celebrated Yang Yin series designed in 1979, is a perfect blend of brass and lacquered wood (est. €20,000-30,000).
Other sale highlights include a bamboo and brass Fungo lamp from her Rising Sun series (est. €5,000-7,000), and her 1976 Tavolo Scultura coffee table (est. €20,000-30,000). Crespi also designed a collection of sculpted animals in the purest tradition of de luxe Italian metalwork, embellished with eggs made from Murano glass or, in the case of her elegant, hand-chased silver plated Ostrich, with a veritable ostrich egg (est. €2,500-3,000).
At the height of her fame, Crespi had two showrooms, one on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone, and the second one in the former Palazzo Cenci in Rome, where her furniture was set off against spectacular frescoes of Umbrian landscapes. But, in 1987, she decided to close her company and devote herself to spirituality: she would continue to spend several months each year in the most remote regions of India into her eighties. Back in Italy Gabriella Crespi remains a respected fount of inspiration, and Milan paid tribute to her with the exhibition Il Segno e lo Spirito at the Palazzo Reale in 2011: a journey through the languages of contemporary expression via Gabriella Crespi’s work and artistic output.
To mark the Gabriella Crespi sale, PIASA will be publishing Timeless – a monograph of her work by Anne Bony, authoress of numerous books on Design, retracing the career of the Italian Designer and, over and beyond her career, outlining her inspiration, spirit and style. Books published alongside major themed sales by PIASA Editions will offer a powerful record of 20th and 21st century creativity.