Art Design Fashion Luxury People Restaurants

Masterpiece London Preview 2015 + The Wallace Collection

Total Eclipse of the Art

Adam by Richard Hudson @ Leila Heller Gallery MPL15 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It was as if Elizabeth Bowen was in Masterpiece London and not The House in Paris: “Heaven – call it heaven; on the plane of potential not merely likely behaviour. Or call it art, with truth and imagination informing every word.” Now in its sixth year, Lavender’s Blue have covered the last four but as Liz B declared, “Any year of one’s life has got to be lived.” Red carpet Dysoned, #MPL2015 has arrived. The greatest show on earth is back in town. Millennia of masterpieces filling a groundscraper marquee (12,500 square metres), a pneumatic Royal Hospital Chelsea, full blown Wrenaissance, Quinlan Merry, painted canvas under printed canvas. Arts and antiques gone glamping. Something to tweet home about lolz. An upper case Seasonal fixture and celebration of unabashed luxury. Masterpiece is truly the cultural epicurean epicentre of civilisation, from now (Grayson Perry’s Map of Days at Offer Waterman) to antiquity (Head of a Young Libyan AD 200 at Valerio Turchi).

Eamonn Holmes MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Everyone’s here at the preview party, the upper aristocracy and upper meritocracy of globalisation chic to chic. Royalty with their heirs and airs, gentry with their seats and furniture, oligarchs with their bodyguards’ bodyguards, Anglo Irish with their Lords and Lourdes, nouveau riche with their Youghal to Youghal carpet, celebrities with their baggage and baggage, Londoners with their Capital and capital. And a very bubbly Eamonn Holmes. Stop people watching. Stare at the felicitous ambiguity of Geer van Velde. Wonder at the dense opaque impasto of Freud. Gaze at the transparent golden glaze of Monet. Study the descriptive precision of Zoffany. Blog about the parallel lines of Bridget Riley. Instagram a selfie beside The Socialite, Andy Warhol’s portrait of New York realtor Olga Berde Mahl shyly making her first ever public showing courtesy of Long-Sharp Gallery. Better late than never.

Tomasso Brothers Dionysius Bust MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“If you think about it the clue is in the name,” muses artist Anne Davey Orr. “Masterpiece – a creation that is considered the greatest work of a career, or any work of outstanding creativity and skill. And Masterpiece is certainly the best in its field. From the faux façades to the faux colonnades, and the exotic festoons by Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart, Masterpiece exudes a professionalism which avoids the tackiness that sometimes attaches to other art fairs. The accompanying directory of 300 high end galleries alone, contents apart, sets it in a league of its own.”

Steinway Fibonacci MPL2015 @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Newly introduced Cultural Partners such as the Wallace Collection lend added weight to #MPL2015. Every discipline in the design art market is represented. The reflection is so perfect in Edouard Lièvre’s rosewood mirror in Didier Aaron. Hot on the jewel encrusted heels of Wartski is a cool £22 million Bling Ring’s worth of rubies and diamonds at Van Cleef and Arpels. “It’s hard to find rubies over five carats,” notes PR Joan Walls. “The Vermillon earrings are 13.33 and 13.83 carats. Their pigeon blood red colour is so rare, so wonderful. They’ve pure consistency with very few inclusions. The Vermillon earrings are underscored by corollas of pear shaped marquise cut diamonds.”

Another Masterpiece first is a piano. Cue Steinway and Son’s 600,000th instrument The Fibonacci designed and handcrafted by Frank Pollaro. Random renditions of Für Elise aren’t recommended. Sipping Ruinart and devouring pea and mint canapés while chatting to Stephen Millikin is. “Fibonacci is a geometric representation of the golden ratio. It’s found in nature and art, brought together in this piano,” Stephen explains. He’s Senior Director of Global Public Relations at Steinway and Sons, based at 1155 Avenue of the Americas, New York. “The piano is made from six logs of Macassar Ebony. A Fibonacci spiral is inset in the veneer. This motif resonated with Frank Pollaro.” At £1.85 million it’s not going for a song but nor should it. The Fibonacci was four years in the making from concept to completion. Maths star piece.

Vaulted boulevards of dreams, deep white fissures, lead to panoplies of intense colour. Galerie Chenel’s Pompeiian red, empire yellow and lavender’s blue niches fade to black in the shadows of exquisite statuary. There is no vanilla at Masterpiece. Lacroix clad Lady Henrietta Rous and Suzanne Von Pflugl rock up to Scott’s (Mount Street has decamped from Mayfair to Chelsea for the week). The conversation is fashion houses and fashionable houses. “I’m wearing my Ascot hat!” proclaims Lady Henrietta. “I tried on all the hats on King’s Road! Ossie Clarke was a good friend. I edited his diaries.” Annabel P recognises mention of Suzanne’s childhood home now lived in by her brother, Milton Manor House. “It’s perfect for weddings. At the last one Henrietta was still going strong on the dancefloor at 2am!” jokes Suzanne. “It was the vintage music!” blames Lady Henrietta.

Brun Fine Art MPL2015 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Tamarisks flying past the rainy windows were some dream,” imagined Elizabeth Bowen, “not your own, a dream you have heard described.” Carriages; horses for courses. All aboard golf buggies to vacate the Royal Hospital estate. Not so bound the Honourable Mrs Gerald Legge, Countess of Dartmouth, Comtesse de Chambrun Viscountess Lewisham, Viscountess Spencer. A Rolls Royce pulls up and Raine slides into the back seat. Blacked out windows slide up, no time for a Snapchat. And so, the chimerical layering vision that is Masterpiece London, so emblematic of a progressive spirit, is over for another year. Here’s to #MPL2016.

Lady Henrietta Rous @ MPL15 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Comme Chez Soi + Hotel Amigo Brussels

Sprouting Brussels

Hotel Amigo Brussels Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There are more painful ways to start the weekend than breakfasting on Sally Clarke’s bread rolls aboard Eurostar. Especially if it is preceded by dining at her eponymous restaurant the night before. Dinner was a set menu held in the intimate private dining room on the (to use estate agents’ speak) lower ground floor of her discreet Kensington Church Street premises. Call it Chatham House Basement. Lucien Freud animal drawings hanging on the walls are a reminder of the late great artist’s fondness for Clarke’s. She’s all about no nonsense good quality English cooking and baking:

Hotel Amigo Brussels © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Comme Chez Soi Brussels © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Saturday lunch was another pescatarian thrill but that’s where the similarity ends. A change of time zone wasn’t the only difference. Comme Chez Soi on Place Rouppe, a sedate square in lower town Brussels, has a Victor Horta influenced art nouveau dining room accommodating just 36 covers. That hasn’t stopped it gaining two Michelin stars. A family owned restaurant, chef Lionel Rigolet is the fourth generation owner. His wife Laurence explained, “Comme Chez Soi was established by my great grandfather in 1921. It moved to the current building 10 years later. We live behind the restaurant.” Comme Chez Soi celebrates classic French cuisine at its most refined:

Comme Chez Soi Dining Room © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Comme Chez Soi Dining Table © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There are greater trials than concluding the weekend at Hotel Amigo, a bread roll’s throw from Brussels’ Grand Place. It is of course the continental flagship of the Rocco Forte chain and is Olga Polizzi’s baby. Keeping it in the family, Olga is television presenter Alex Polizzi’s mother who is Sir Rocco Forte’s niece. It’s hard not to fall in love in a city that has districts called Le Chat, Poxcat and Helmet. Testing endurance, at the end of the day, it’s off to Amigo’s health suite. In the words of Bobbie Houston, co founder of Hillsong, “A mannie, a peddie and a massage cause, gentlemen, that’s what you do when you don’t know what to do.” Comme des Garçons.

Comme Chez Soi Laurence Rigolet © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

*Yep caviar costs

Luxury People

Waterloo Gardens Summer Party London + Nicholas Feuillatte

House of Lords and Ladies

After the Party © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Cucumber sandwiches, plenty of champagne, the Unconventional Crooners and a marquee in a beautiful garden setting crammed with friends from Westminster, Whitehall, Fleet Street and the world of business,” tempted the hard copy invitation. What’s not to love? Getting into the Westbourne groove has never been more fun, eating nosh between Nash at Carlton Gardens West, becoming unstuck between stucco, not talking politics with Jacqui Smith, the UK’s first female Home Secretary. “Significant canapés” warned the invite further and sure enough they were devoured with abandon beneath the watchful eyes of clubland: The Reform, Travellers, Athenaeum. Lord James Bethell knows how to throw a party. Lashings of Nicholas Feuillatte helped too. As twilight ended in the garden of the good and the great, Lady Melissa marched the glam troops down the steps to Pall Mall for afterhours fun at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The band played on.

The After Party © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley