Hamish Bowles needs little introduction. Especially if you read this blog. Most of you are now familiar with A-Gent of Style’s fascination (understand obsession/crush on his persona and also homes) with Vogue‘s international editor at large, also ultimate modern dandy, tastemaker and style arbiter (you can see my past features on Bowles here).
The World of Interiors is spoiling us once again with the November issue which this time reveals the new and magnificent Manhattan apartment of Monsieur Bowles, not only a treat but also an assault on the eyes, courtesy of Studio Peregalli, makers extraordinaire of history-imbued interiors (the book of their work evocatively titled “The Invention of the Past” is a must by the way).
Bowles The Dapper entrusted the Milan-based design and architecture firm composed of Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini, for their notorious, uncanny skills to capture the historical styles and sensibility, beauty and romance of past eras. In these visually intense interiors, the classicist duo have mixed the British, French and Russian styles treasured by their discerning client, that are evocative somehow of Marcel Proust, Madeleine Castaing and also a bit of Henry James and Luchino Visconti for good measure.
The beauty and magic of using makers and dreamers of interiors such as Peregalli with the impecccable taste and wonderfully eclectic antiques and objets of a globe-trotting acquisitor such as Bowles, is that this project already looks and feel centuries old, timeless and timeworn. And already a favourite of your A-Gent of Style. You wouldn’t believe at first glimpse that a huge overhaul had been needed – until you read the article penned by Bowles himself – when you see this grand, stately home. The result is quite staggering: great proportions, double-height windows, custom-dyed fabrics, ravishing chintzes such as the Lee Jofa and of course the soon-to-be iconic antique lilac print that envelops the master bedroom (for those who are not in the know, lilac is Bowles’s favourite colour; his Instagram account is ‘hamishinlilac’), bespoke joinery, wood-panelling, boiseries, pediments, Palladian arches, paintings and artefacts, and of course illusional tricks such as trompe-l-oeil, typical of Renzo Mongiardino, legendary decorator who took Peregalli and Sartori Rimini as his protégés (see my special features on the Italian master of visual trickery here).
Thanks to superb artistry and craftmanship, the duo, who would “strive for the atmosphere of a Vermeer painting”, have created layered, textured, patterned mises-en-scène with an intoxicating sense of theatricality (names like Tony Duquette and Oliver Messel come to mind) that capture the essence of the jet-setter and also the ‘Englishman in New York’ who has stayed true to some beloved English decorating traditions and sensibilities such as the seemingly mismatched, cluttered, piled-on but also cosy, bold and studied look, fearless of any trends, types and conventions.
In Bowles (and Peregalli) We Trust.
– Imagery from The World of Interiors –
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of A-Gent of Style‘s favourite picks from the sale:
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 –
By now, some of you, loyal A-Gentees, will know how much deference and slight adoration A-Gent of Style feels toward Hamish Bowles – the uninitiated ones can find out for themselves here, here and here. A-Gent of Style was this close last week to meeting Vogue’s fabulous International Editor-at-Large at the heartfelt David Collins tribute and had just about mustered the courage to introduce himself…
until Mario Testino walked past him and trumped him. Le grand sigh.
But, A-Gent of Style found great solace and comfort the day after by coming across Vogue’s latest Original Shorts film featuring the English dandy Editrix himself
and ‘Girls’ rising star Lena Dunham.
In an atmospheric video called ‘Cover Girl’ posted by Vogue.com, the red-lipstick, silk pyjama-clad “Girls” star is portrayed as practising sexy poses in front of the mirror in preparation for the photo shoot of the Vogue’s February cover the following day.
Lena Dunham is a woman of many talents but modelling is not one of them. Consequently, she seeks the help of Monsieur Bowles on how to pose and pout.
The dapper fashionista sporting a tuxedo comes to the gauche comedian’s rescue and takes her through fifty years of iconic images showing legendary poses by models ranging from Kate Moss (“romantic, dreamy, ethereal”), Cindy Crawford (“crazy, athletic Amazon”), Veruschka (“hieroglyphs”) and Twiggy (“pigeon-toed, goofy”), which the pair dutifully perform to the soundtrack of a Jazz Age track
in the Rita Konig-esque Manhattan apartment decorated with a floral and lattice-shaped antique wallpaper by Second Hand Rose, a leopard print carpet by
ABC Carpet & Home and D.Porthault bucolic bed linen.
The result has great panache, style and fun. I hope you agree!
The final shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz features the 27-year-old star trussed up in everything from Prada, Alexander McQueen, Céline and
Dolce & Gabbana, who chooses one particular wide-eyed expression to emulate for her cover photo. You will know by now who she Chanel-led.
– Photos and video by Vogue –