I am hosting lunch in the Sotheby’s boardroom with Melanie Clore (chairman of Sotheby’s Europe) and Robin Woodhead (chairman of Sotheby’s International), my great supporters. It was through Melanie that I started curating shows of upcoming designers at Sotheby’s back in 1997. Some of the “young” designers and craftspeople we showcased in those early years included Edmund de Waal, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby (straight out of the RCA), Ron Arad and Martino Gamper. It’s very exciting to see my instincts have proved accurate. Tord and Emma were also unknowns when I first showed their work.
Tord has lent me bowls, salad servers in the shape of hands (which everyone wants to take home), vases, platters and plates for the table. At my request he has also made beautiful cut-out paper butterflies and flowers, which are used as name cards. The butterflies co-ordinate perfectly with those on the walls by Damien Hirst. I love “dressing” tables; it adds to the pleasure of a meal and this looks so fresh and different. Perhaps I should consider a career change.
Leafy Ashton, chef for the private boardrooms, has prepared a delicious lunch – salmon marinated in pomegranate molasses, followed by pistachio and saffron kulfi. It’s definitely a hit.
The guests are an interesting and lively mix of clients and friends, many of whom haven’t met before. The eclectic group includes Dr Paul Thompson, rector of the RCA, glamorous jeweller Solange Azagury-Partridge, director of the Design Museum Deyan Sudjic and civil-rights barrister Helena Kennedy. We certainly aren’t in danger of dull conversation or awkward silences.
The remainder of the day is action packed. I have many visitors to show round, including my neighbour Suzie Temple and her daughter Jessie, now assistant curator of fig-2 at the ICA. The original project, fig-1, was started in 2000 by Mark Francis, then an independent curator and now a director of Gagosian. He came up with the ingenious (whacky to some) idea of a series of spontaneous, ever-changing week-long exhibitions and events. Artists included Richard Hamilton, Howard Hodgkin and Bridget Riley, as well as milliner Philip Treacy, architects and photographers – none of whom were given any time to prepare.
Fifteen years on and fig-2 has launched in the old ICA workshop. I missed last week’s opening so make a quick dash on my way home to see week two (of 50), an installation that includes a 16mm film by Charles Avery. Each week’s exhibition is spontaneous; starting on Monday is a surrealist film about memory by Japanese artist Hiraki Sawa. The week after… who knows?
I make one last stop at Themes & Variations on Westbourne Grove. Liliane Fawcett is one of my favourite decorative-arts dealers and a real pro – honest, reliable, knowledgeable and extremely nice. I am attracted by two Mark Brazier-Jones tables in the window; with my increasing respect for handmade work, how could I not like a pair of bronze tables with amethyst and Venetian-glass tops? I am also fascinated by a large 1970s mosaic wall panel.
The piece reminds me of the Toots Zynsky show I am eagerly anticipating in November. She is a glass artist who works with fused glass (filet de verre). I have always loved her work and bitterly regret not purchasing a piece from her dealer in Paris a long time ago, thinking it too expensive. Now her prices, of course, are much higher. In the words of a wise friend, “If you snooze you lose”. And I did both!
Originally posted on the FT – How to Spend It website