CHRISTIE’S and ‘THE ART OF DESIGN’ with SIBYL COLEFAX & JOHN FOWLER




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The summer season at Christie’s South Kensington has now started, the most noteworthy landmark being, and you will all agree of course,
the feature of A-Gent of Style in the prestigious auction house’s June newsletter, which you can view in full here (shameless self-promotion).



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Additionally, following a very successful collaboration last July, Christie’s invited Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, interior decorating and antiques, Brook Street, Mayfair, to contribute to another innovative sale on 4 June that celebrates the best of interior design and decoration with an international reach and universal appeal.

A-Gent of Style is delighted to be collaborating with the two renowned houses on the feature of this sale, and he had the privilege to be given a preview guided tour of the exhibition on Thursday evening ahead of the opening to the public on Saturday.


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The Art of Design sale combines a carefully curated selection of 60 lots which exhibit the quality, elegance and world-class reputation of the Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler name alongside a collection formed over the course of a lifetime by the late Melbourne-born interior designer Lex Aitken and his partner, the esteemed fashion illustrator and designer Alfredo Bouret Gonzalez.


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Taken from their Sydney home and private collection (Aitken died last spring at the age of 83 in Sydney and Gonzalez now lives in Vancouver, having sold the Sydney home), this home contents sale will appeal to both first-time collectors and aficionados of design who will be attracted by the good taste synonymous with each contributor. The auction will include furniture, ceramics, pictures, lighting and decorative objects, forming 220 odd lots, with estimates from £300 to £80,000. The sale is led by two fine portraits, the first by Jacques-Emile Blanche (French, 1861-1942), entitled ‘Jeune fille à la fenêtre’, a charming full length oil (estimate £15,000-25,000) and a striking depiction of Mrs Moody, three-quarter length, in a white dress, holding a dog in her lap, in a landscape by British master George Romney (1734- 1802) with an estimate of £50,000-80,000 (shown here). The Romney can be seen hanging above the sofa in the Sydney home of Mr. Aitken and Mr. Gonzalez.


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Lex Aitken’s international career is reflected in the diversity of countries represented among the objects in this sale. Yet the influence of London is evident throughout as it was where he built his reputation in the 1960s as Lex Aitken Antiques, his eponymous business on the capital’s road of designers, Pimlico Road. Aitken’s integrity and flair endeared him to clients – including luminaries such as Lucien Freud, who shared his contagious enthusiasm for works of art, furniture and design.

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 In a career that spanned almost two decades which brought him worldwide recognition, fashion illustrator Alfredo Bouret Gonzalez, Lex Aitken’s long-term partner, shared his taste and connoisseurship honed in Paris where he sketched for the great couture houses, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, capturing effortlessly with his dazzling impressions and animated lines the golden age of haute couture, and was granted unique access to the reclusive genius Balenciaga. Gonzalez moved to London where he established his boutique, ‘Mexicana’, importing peasant shirts and other Mexican wear to a delighted London audience, which included HRH Diana, Princess of Wales and Valentino.

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A-Gent of Style was fortunate to be given a guided tour of the exhibition with Charlotte Young, the sales’ specialist at Christie’s, and Ronan Sulich, Christie’s Sydney representative. A-Gent of Style shamefully knew very little about aesthetes Aitken and Gonzalez and could hardly find any information online (where else these days?!) about their incredible careers and lives except a fascinating YouTube video on Gonzalez’ s life and career (which you can view at the end of this article). So it was with great appreciation and enjoyment that Sulich, who flew in to help with the curation (he knew Aitken and Gonzalez well, and had been to their storied house on several occasions over the years) delighted us both with stories and anecdotes that brought to life the glamourous life of parties, dinners and travels the international ‘A-gay’ couple had experienced together, surrounding themselves with eclectic collectable objets over the decades. Both Aitken and Gonzalez were generous supporters of the arts and after they retired to Aitken’s native Australia, settling in Sydney, they contributed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the RMIT University and the Powerhouse Museum, Melbourne.

The exterior and an interior from the Sydney home of Lex Aitken and Alfredo Gonzalez

The exterior from the Sydney home of Lex Aitken and Alfredo Gonzalez



The Sydney home of Mr. Aitken and Mr. Gonzalez:


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Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler antiques:


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The Art of Design exhibition at Christie’s, South Kensington:

Viewing is opened until Tuesday 3 June 5pm with a late viewing this evening until 7.30pm. The auction will take place at 10 am on Wednesday 4 June.

You can view the full catalogue here.


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Some of A-Gent of Style‘s favourite picks from the sale:

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The Alfredo Bouret Gonzalez retrospective:






A-Gent of Style would like to thank Charlotte Young, the sales’ specialist at Christie’s, Ronan Sulich, Christie’s Sydney representative, and Trudi Ballard at Sibyl Colefax & Fowler for their assistance and support.


– Photographs by Christie’s, Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler, and A-Gent of Style





20TH CENTURY DECORATIVE ART & DESIGN at CHRISTIE’S




As mentioned yesterday on the blog in the article dedicated to Phillips’ two significant sales tomorrow showcasing 19th century and 20th century important objets, today’s post will be featuring the third exhibition of an equally anticipated sale on Wednesday focusing on 20th century decorative art and design, orchestrated this time by leading international auction house, Christie’s. Never has it been more thrilling for A-Gent of Style to witness at the same in London two events celebrating some of his most cherished designers and ensembliers.


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It was shortly after meeting Tessa Kennedy last month at Christie’s, South Kensington, at the exhibition for the sale of her lifetime collection (which you can view here) that A-Gent of Style unexpectedly caught sight in a corner of the hallway of a rare Jacques Adnet desk and chair from 1950 in oak, beautiful caramel leather adorned with the designer’s trademark stitching and brass round pulls on the drawers. After some investigation, A-Gent of Style found out the Adnet ensemble would be part of a 20th Century sale scheduled for the end April, which brings us to today’s feature.


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Last Thursday late afternoon, A-Gent of Style was greeted by Jeremy Morrison, the sale’s specialist, at Christie’s King Street, who very kindly gave him a private tour of the exhibition (his team was hurriedly putting the finishing touch as he arrived) before it opened to the public the following day. Since the Michael Inchbald sale a few months ago, the space had been split in two distinct areas, both beautifully curated into elegant vignettes, one dedicated to the 20th Century Decorative Art & Design and the other to the Lalique: An Important Private Collection.


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The first sale encompasses objets from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements and also post-war and contemporary design, featuring a variety of stylish yet practical pieces suited to the collector, the interior decorator, and the private customer alike. Amongst the carefully selected works are chandeliers, mirrors, wall lights, dining tables and chairs, alongside unique eye-catching works of art including striking Art Deco figures and works in glass by some of the finest craftsmen of the 20th Century. With estimates ranging from £2,000-120,000, discerning collectors will not want to miss the opportunity to acquire quality works by the leading designers of the last 120 years. The sale is expected to realize in excess of £1,200,000 over 124 lots.

The Art Deco selection is led by one of A-Gent of Style‘s favourite furniture designers, Marc Du Plantier, whose ormolu-mounted ebonised wood and verre églomisé occasional tables, one with a mermaid motif and the other centred by a centaur, dated 1940-41, make a rare appearance (estimate £30,000-50,000). Antony Redmile’s 1970s camptastic bust, composed of shells, malachite and quartz, is of high-impact and makes a strong visual statement (estimate: £7,000-10,000). Fontana Arte’s mid 20th C rare and large circular chandelier in gilt-metal and silvered brass, with 40 lights issuing from curved candlearms rubs shoulders with Ruhlmann’s elegant dressing table, circa 1930 in mahogany and silvered metal. A-Gent of Style also spotted Lelli’s quirky and playful ceiling light, c.1954, produced by Arredoluce, in painted aluminium and brass, and last but not least, a pair of lounge chair (deceptively comfortable despite their low back. And yes, we tried them) by Leleu, circa 1960, in  silvered metal, brass and upholstery.

The exhibition is on show until 12pm this Wednesday 30 April and the auction will be at 2pm. You can view the full catalogue here.



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The concomitant sale is the single owner collection Lalique: An Important Private Collection which will also take place at Christie’s King Street on 30 April at 1pm. The calibre of this private collection bears testimony to the discerning eye of the collector and is a fitting tribute to the extraordinary vision and creativity of the master glass-maker René Lalique, who continues to enthrall an international audience nearly seven decades after his death. Distinguished from previous collections which have appeared on the market in the last decades, this collection primarily focuses on large-scale vases in rare designs and a wide spectrum of colours. In addition to the jewel-like coloured works, there are a number of exquisite hand-crafted cire perdue vases and a selection of significant display items, such as Oiseau De Feu, which features a mythical firebird and is illuminated from below (estimate: £25,000-35,000). With estimates ranging from £2,500 to £150,000, the 83 lots have a low estimate in the region of £1.5 million. Christie’s has been selling Lalique since 1971 and has offered more Lalique at auction than any other auction house internationally. In 2013, Christie’s Lalique sale in London realised over £1.3 million, the highest total ever achieved.

You can view the full catalogue here.



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A-Gent of Style would like to thank Christie’s and especially Jeremy Morrison,
the 20th C design sale’s specialist, for all their help and support.

– All photographs by A-Gent of Style and Christie’s –





“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!) –




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