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Sol Golden Sato + The Bomb Factory Art Foundation Chelsea London

Tales from Lost Souls

“I’ve been here before but I had to come back to see these paintings.” Pointing to a double portrait of a couple half emerged in water, fashion artist Mary Martin London continues, “This picture is like being born again, like being baptised and emerging out of the water.” The artist Sol (short for Solomon) Golden Sato explains, “When I was a child I went to about four or five churches to get baptised. I loved the whole thing. So when I saw the photograph of this couple coming from church I was listening to Kanye West’s Sunday Service and he’s got a song called Water and it just got me thinking.”

Sol paints from photographs but rather than simply reproducing them on canvas, he combines several to form one complete picture telling a new story. He says, “I’m inspired by interesting journalism… stories from tenements in Harlem and the Deep South. I play around with history in my paintings. I enjoy reading Toni Morrison and Edna O’Brien.” The artist creates domestic scenes with universal messages. Originally from Malawi, Sol has spent the last six years painting in London. He’s self taught.

The artist came to the public’s attention when he painted a vast mural on the blank street front of King’s Road Fire Station. His latest community art project was a 38 metre long tarpaulin canvas laid out on a street in Portobello. “The idea was to bring joy to the community,” Sol comments. “Leyland sponsored the paint and I guided local children to use their hands and feet as brushes to create a large painting.”

His exhibition Tales from Lost Souls is in the South Gallery of The Bomb Factory Art Foundation on Lots Road, Chelsea. Sol’s studio is upstairs off the galleried courtyard to the rear of the gallery. “The Art Foundation originated in a former ammunition building in Archway, west London, “ says Sol. “It is all about artists and was founded by multimedia artist Pallas Citroen. Chelsea has of course a long heritage of design so it’s great to be based here. There are galleries, furniture warehouses and design shops the whole way along Lots Road.”

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Architects Architecture Art Country Houses Design Fashion People

Chatsworth + Edensor Derbyshire

The Gilded Age

Everything about Chatsworth, one of England’s most famous grand houses, is on an industrial scale. Roundly: 14,000 hectares; 62 farms; three villages; 130 rooms; 17 staircases; 1,250 works of art; 12,000 books in the Library and Ante Library; and 700 staff. And one very large farmshop (think King’s Road Partridges takes flight to the Peak District). Little wonder the current Duke and Duchess, well past retirement age, have decided to step back from overseeing the whole venture. Like his mother the late Debo (the last of the legendary Mitford sisters), Peregrine “Stoker” Cavendish along with his wife Amanda are moving from The Very Big House to The Old Vicarage in one of the estate villages, the picturesque Edensor. Debo lived in one half of the subdivided dwelling. Inskip Gee Architects are reuniting the two parts of The Old Vicarage. “It is a house with service buildings that survives from the old town and predates the alteration of Edensor by the 6th Duke and Paxton,” the architects explain. “The transformation of the house as an Italianate villa in 1838 is representative of the recasting of Edensor in various picturesque styles as a model village within Chatsworth Park, carried out in 1837 to 1840.”

The 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire haven’t been averse to some dramatic interventions during their tenure. In 2010 they held a three day ‘Attic Sale’ of 1,422 lots including 34 belonging to Debo. For example, Lot 223: “A gilt-bronze mounted Meissen porcelain timepiece Louis XVI, provenance Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (acquired in the 1960s), estimate £4,000 to £6,000.” There aren’t any actual attics at Chatsworth (it is flat and low mono-pitch roofed) but there are plenty of far flung wings and outbuildings which stored surplus trinkets and larger items. In fact enough architectural salvage to fit out the interior of a decent sized country house. “There simply wasn’t enough room,” the Duke notes. “We were never going to be moving to a bigger house!” More random was Lot 1412: “Six magnums of 1982 Dom Pérignon, estimate £1,250 to £1,800.” Lots 1419 to 1422 were vintage vehicles and parts.

Historian James Miller wrote the introduction to Sotheby’s sale catalogue: “Alliteration can be a dangerous thing: it can either overstate or oversimplify, but in the description of Chatsworth as the ‘Palace of the Peaks’ it does neither. Chatsworth is a palace: a huge, magnificent house, empowered in its own lushness. The phrase also encapsulates its position among the other Cavendish possessions, past and present. It is the peak amongst these that have included Burlington House in Piccadilly, Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, Chiswick in Middlesex, Hardwick in Derbyshire, Holker Hall in Cumbria, Lismore Castle in County Waterford, Londesborough in the East Riding and Devonshire House in London.”

He continues, “These houses have all been centres of the family’s activities as builders and collectors over nearly 500 years, but at Chatsworth we now see its fullest flowering, incorporating elements of all these other family collections. Replacing Hardwick in the late 17th century, Chatsworth has been the principal family seat for the last 300 years and in the last 100 has been the repository of works of art emanating from their other houses. This has meant that over the years every nook and cranny of this ‘Palace of the Peaks’ has been filled.”

And finishes, “The past year has been spent carefully sifting through these items, retaining some of those objects which illuminate family history and selecting what has become the content of this sale. In assessing the objects, comparing them to similar items remaining in the collection, and through reference to the large number of inventories that have been kept on the various properties, it has been possible at times to identify who commissioned them and for which of the family houses, as well as finding out when they moved to Chatsworth.”

The £65 million proceeds of the sale funded cleaning the stone walls to reveal their original warm buff and regilding the glazing bars of the windows on the two principal floors of the south front (architect William Talman) and west front (architect probably Thomas Archer aided by the 1st Duke) in 25 carat gold leaf. “The house was built to show off,” affirms the Duke. The glass panes are bevelled and the internal windowsills are made of marble. There is one single pane window on the east front contrasting with the multipaned sash windows everywhere else. About one third of the house is open to the public. The private rooms are on the south and west fronts. The gardens closest to these rooms are closed to the public. This has the dual benefit of providing privacy for the Cavendish family and keeping the elevations clutter free of tourists.

One of the highlights of the tour is the Chapel. “This space is practically unchanged since the 1st Duke in 1700,” states Stoker. Except for one addition. St Bartholomew Exquisite Pain, 2008, is a life size sculpture cast in gold plated silver in an edition of three by Damien Hirst. The artist says, “I like the confusion you get between science and religion… that’s where belief lies and art as well.” St Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus and was meant to have been flayed alive and martyred. In this sculpture he stands shinily resplendent, holding his detached skin draped over his right arm and blades as a symbol of his sainthood in his left hand. Historical depictions of St Bartholomew showed anatomical detail combining art and science and this artwork remains true to that tradition. It is the standout piece in the current display of contemporary art at Chatsworth and is aptly placed.

There are a few subtractions to the Chapel. The 19th century furniture and fittings went in the Attic Sale. Lot 920: “The Victorian furniture for the Chapel at Chatsworth circa 1870. Comprising an oak altar rail in three sections in the form of a three bar gate with uprights surmounted by trefoil motifs, together with a larger pair of pine Prie Dieu, a further smaller confirming pair of Prie Dieu, an oak rail and an ok and upholstered kneeling stool.” Lot 921: “A Victorian patinated bronze surmount in the form of a processional cross. Late 19th century. £300 to £500.”

The Duke and Duchess are avid art collectors, favouring 21st century pieces. Amanda explains, “We recently collaborated with Michael Craig-Martin on a new dinner service. We love music, and Michael was also inspired by the violin door in the State Music Room. The dinner service was made together with Royal Crown Derby. Around the table are chairs made by Joseph Walsh. He makes furniture full of curves – they are sculptures as well as seats.”

“The Duke and I commissioned Joseph Walsh to also make the Enignum Bed in 2014,” continues the Duchess. “It is usually in one of our guest bedrooms, but we have moved the bed into the Sabine Room so that everyone can see it. The bed is made of thin layers of ash wood, which are twisted into shape using steam. The spiralling forms are six metres tall and soar upwards in this space that was painted by James Thornhill in 1701.” There are also rather a lot of artworks in the interiors by Edward de Waal.

Art runs in the family veins. Stoker’s niece the model Stella Tennant who died two years ago aged 50, once said, “When you look at modern British art it resonates with you. It speaks to you in a very British way. I studied sculpture at Winchester.” In 2010, the model posed in haute couture along with her grandmother Debo for Vogue with Chatsworth as the backdrop to the photoshoot. “It was always incredibly exciting, going to Chatsworth,” Stella remarked. Stella’s sister Issy is a gilder, having studied at City and Guilds of London Art School. Another relative of creative bent was the acclaimed author and architectural historian Mark Girouard who died recently. His Great Aunt Evelyn married the 9th Duke of Devonshire and after she was widowed he spent part of his childhood with her in Edensor.

Mark Girouard included Chatsworth in his 1979 book Historic Houses of Britain. Like all his published work, it is beautifully written combining art, architectural, political and social history with insightful anecdotes. On Chatsworth, “By the time of the 1st Duke, the towers and huge windows that his ancestress Bess had built at Hardwick had gone completely out of fashion. Pediments, pillars and rich carving derived from the palaces of Italy and France had replaced them as the sign of greatness. Symmetry was still the rule of the day and had been carried to its furthest limits. It was now expected that inside a great house all the doors would be aligned, and outside the grandeur of the house itself was extended by avenues and sheets of water stretching into the far distance.”

A framed script in the Rutland Arms Hotel in nearby Bakewell is a reminder that there is so much more to the Chatsworth estate. “Sir Joseph Paxton, 1803 to 1865: The Duke of Devonshire was impressed with Paxton’s gardening abilities and appointed him head gardener at Chatsworth House in 1826. He designed gardens, fountains, the Lily House and the ‘Great Conservatory’. Visiting London he discovered that plans for the housing of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park were being examined and rejected. Within days he submitted his own design based on Chatsworth’s Lily House. It was chosen for its cheapness, simplicity and easy erection.” Sir Joseph also designed the glasshouse at the Devonshires’ holiday home in County Waterford, Lismore Castle. Restoration has just completed on the glasshouse: it wasn’t cheap, simple or of easy erection.

Perhaps the best place to appreciate the family history, certainly the most tranquil, is the Cavendish plot at the top of the graveyard of St Peter’s Church in Edensor. Debo’s grave is there of course. And Kick’s. She was John F Kennedy’s sister. Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington, to give Kick her full married name, died in a plane crash in 1948 aged 28. She had outlived her husband, the heir apparent to the 10th Duke of Devonshire, who was killed in World War I four years earlier. The present Duke’s son, William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington, has not assumed the title Marquess of Hartington unlike all previous heirs apparent. The Earl and Countess have moved into Chatsworth.

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Hidden City Café + London Street Derry

Urban Legend

High above the River Foyle, London Street stretches from Bishop’s Gate Hotel to the 17th century St Columb’s Cathedral, the oldest building within Derry’s city walls. It’s an intimate historic enclave close to those famous city walls. “The walls are still there, wide enough to drive a car along,” Ian Nairn observed in Nairn’s Towns, 1967. London Street is a little bit Galway, a little bit Dublin, and a lot Derry. Hidden City Café is another of its delights. At the corner of Bishop Street Within and London Street, a Roy Lichtenstein cartoon style poster on the street corner entices passers-by, “Maybe it’s the food! Maybe it’s the conversation! Maybe it’s the coffee! Maybe it’s the experience! Maybe it’s the music! Maybe it’s the… Shhhhhh! It’s a secret! Don’t tell anyone!” Or maybe it’s the Magic Mushrooms: toasted sourdough, seasonal mushrooms caramelised in balsamic, thyme, black truffle and truffle infused porcini oil. A gourmet high.

On the fuchsia pink dragon wallpaper in the bathroom hangs a framed 1692 prayer found in Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore. Centuries later, it still resonates. Here are the highlights: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember, what peace there may be in silence… Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans… Be yourself… Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself… You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

Café owners Justyn and Bronagh McNicholl confirm, “We’re following our passion in creating an ethical environment, dishing up delicious flavoursome food, drinks and welcomes, all to the soundtrack of some stonking good music.” There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the wide ranging menu. The McNicholls support local producers like Ann Marie’s Vegan Cakery, Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Donegal Prime Fish and Rough Brothers Beer. Live music and drag acts on Friday and Saturday evenings bolster the bohemian vibe of Hidden City Café.

A sign outside the cathedral explains, “This street was first recorded as London Street in 1811, most likely celebrating the role of the London Companies in building the Plantation City. The red brick building to the left of the cathedral gates is the former Cathedral Primary School of 1893 which was designed by John Guy Ferguson in a Flemish Gothic style with a corner circular stair tower. Opposite it on London Street is the Church of Ireland Diocese Office, built in 1838 as a Presbyterian Meeting House. The terrace of 19th century houses behind you is also notable.” Bishop Street Within leads down the hill to The Diamond, continuing as Shipquay Street which terminates at the Foyle Embankment. Halfway down Shipquay Street is the Craft Village, a cute 1990s insert development of neo Georgian shops and cafés below townhouses in the air. Like all Irish villages, it has at least one thatched cottage; this one contains a coffee shop and art gallery. London Street and its environs live up to the catchphrase ‘LegenDerry’.

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Architects Architecture Art Design Luxury People Restaurants

Jules Aimé Lavirotte + Hôtel Elysées Céramic Paris

Favoured Façadism

The 7th and 8th Arrondisements of Paris are made all the richer thanks to the architecture of Jules Aimé Lavirotte. His decorative Art Nouveau buildings are the perfect antidote to the restraint of Baron Haussmann’s. There’s no doubting who designed Hotel Elysées Céramic on Avenue de Wagram, one of the broad streets radiating out from the Arc de Triomphe. Among the glazed ceramic sculptures and tiles are two nameplates: “J Lavrirotte Architecte 1904” and “Alaphilippe Sculpteur”. Prize winning architect Jules Aimé Lavirotte (1864 to 1929) hailed from Lyon where he studied under Antoine Georges Louvier at the École des Beaux-Arts. He would later study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where his tutor was Paul Blondel. Fellow alumnus and prize winner Camille Alaphilippe (1874 to 1934) was the pupil of Jean-Paul Laurens and Louis-Ernest Barrias in the Paris École. The courtyard elevations of the hotel are plain planes in contrast to the frenetic frivolity of the façade. The building is constructed of reinforced concrete. It started life as a maison meublée, an establishment with rented furnished rooms, before becoming a hotel. Jules Aimé Lavirotte, along with Hector Guimard and Henri Sauvage, is now recognised as one of the major figures of Art Nouveau architecture in Paris.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Southbank Show + Africa Fashion Week London

Back Stage Front Stage Centre Stage

London’s glossiest posse gathered at Southbank for a Saturday evening fashion show on the Riverside Terrace along the Thames. It was the catwalk of the summer. But first there was a round of turmeric iced lattés, the boisson du jour before the hard work began. Makeup artist Karen Messam explained, “It’s going to be a graphic bold story. We’re highlighting bold, glossy lips.” Karen was assisted by fellow mistress of maquillage Jade Almojera.

Organiser Anna-Maria Benedict summarised the evening, “The main show brought drama, rain, couture and elaborate accessories. Prestigious designers Kalikas Armour, Sista by Eyoro, Elfreda Dali, Adebayo Jones, Mary Martin London and Soboye showcased glamour, command of design and tailoring which all meant Southbank had never been so well dressed!”

“We continued Africa Fashion Week London’s dedication to promoting and uplifting design graduates of colour,” Anna-Maria acknowledged. “We opened the show with three mini collections from the Universities of Northampton and West London. Themes of protest were evident in both universities’ collections. Black Lives Matter and awareness of misogynoir – the unique discrimination faced by black women – featured in powerful graphic prints.”

Sierra Leonean-Lebanese model Yasmin Jamaal commanded the catwalk, rocked the runway, walked the wave of cheers, stormed the storm parading in Mary’s Gold Coast Dress. Multitalented Yasmin has launched an Afro-Middle East plant based food company, Jamaal Cuisine. She recently was invited to cook for a high society private dinner. When Yasmin arrived the hostess confessed, “I didn’t expect the model off the website to turn up!” Yasmin had to explain, “I’m the model and also your chef for the evening!” The admiring crowd included lots of well known faces from the arts world like the principal actor from the 2022 film Django, Vivienne Rochester, and Eric’s mum in the Netflix series Sex Education, Doreen Blackstock.

Star of the fashion show was… Mary Martin London. Earlier in the day she beamed, “John Fairbrother Dolls have just made The Mary Martin London Dress! I’m wearing my epic Union Jack Dress! Or rather the miniature me is wearing it!” Now there’s a tribute. Mary showed dresses from her previous award winning collections as well as new ones such as The Eccentric Peacock Dress and The Grace Jones Dress. “Grace is such an inspiration,” she recorded. Mary is of course famous for designing dresses for singers and musicians like Heather Small. “If there aren’t high vibrations forget it!” she exclaimed. Thanks to DJ Biggy C there were plenty of high vibrations. The tune maker let it be known, “That’s me playing now!”

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Architects Architecture Art Design People

United States Embassy Nine Elms London + American Whiskey

Bourbon Nights

On a gloriously sunny evening we head to the United States Embassy where the great and the very good are gathering to celebrate the removal of UK tariffs on American whiskeys. Kathy Yao, Agricultural Attaché at the US Embassy, welcomes us all to the party. Joe Pennington, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, reminds everyone, “The US has no stronger or closer friend than the UK. Transatlantic zero to zero tariff trade is flowing again! It’s time to enjoy some Manhattans and Whiskey Sours!”

Chris Swonger, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, confirms, “This evening is a celebration of the strengthening of the US and UK Governments’ special relationship. Toasts not tariffs!” Next, Tom Sallis, Director of Global Partnerships at the Scottish Whisky Association, also welcomes the return of tariff-free trade for whiskies on both sides of the Atlantic. There are 17 American whiskeys to sample from Golden Moon to Wild Turkey accompanied by canapés galore: asparagus and cheddar; mushroom and parmesan; salmon, mint, ginger and coriander; and tuna and soy sauce.

Landscape! Architecture! Art! The American Embassy famously moved south of the Thames in the second decade of this century. It’s a contemporary fort so naturally is protected a moat. Competition winning Philadelphian firm Kieran Timberlake designed the 12 storey glazed cube enveloped on two sides by a transparent film of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a form of plastic, to minimise solar gain. This is after all, the sunny southeast.

“Our challenge for the embassy was to encompass the values of transparency, openness and equality,” explain the architects, “drawing on the best of American architecture, engineering, technology, art and culture.” It’s the largest American embassy in Europe with 800 staff and around 1,000 daily visitors. As for that moat? Well, it’s actually a pond designed by landscape architects Olin and forms part of the site’s stormwater strategy.

A vast artwork dominates one wall of the double height atrium. ‘We The People’ is a 2017 site specific painting by Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford. The painting is made up of 32 square panels, each one nine metres square. It depicts fragments of the United States Constitution, illuminated this evening by the setting sun. Right now, we the people continue to party.

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Architecture Art Design Fashion Luxury People Restaurants

Masterpiece London Art Fair 2022 + Pol Roger

Well Seasoned

London in summer has an added layer of attraction: ‘The Season’. This is a series of high society events, many of them sporting, from tennis at Wimbledon to rowing at Henley Royal Regatta. The Chelsea Flower Show in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is for the more horticulturally inclined. Also held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is Masterpiece London Art Fair. Only established in 2010, it is a latecomer to The Season.

At this year’s Masterpiece there are 127 stands in the vast marquee with its canvas printed in the style of the original 17th century Royal Hospital building. “Masterpiece is a world class fair bringing together exceptional works encompassing all periods and cultures,” summarises Clare Jameson, Director of Potterton Books, an exhibitor at the fair. Potterton Books are international specialists in books on art, culture, design and the decorative arts. She adds, “It is a convivial meeting place for collectors and connoisseurs. We have seen a growing interest in requests for assembling book collections and personal libraries.”

The fair is more than just art. There’s the Pol Roger Champagne Preview. And yes, there are multimillion dollar Impressionist paintings for sale (La Seine à Port Marly by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at Dickinson) and contemporary collages (Stately Home by Chris Jones at Marc Straus New York) but it’s also the place to buy a vintage Ferrari (DK Engineering) or a state-of-the-art yacht (Ventura). There’s even a dinosaur skull (Triceratops Prorsus at David Aaron) on show. Offshoots of top end London restaurants – including Le Caprice which recently closed – spring up at Masterpiece.

A standout among the standout paintings is a portrait by Nelson Shanks of Diana, Princess of Wales, for sale by Philip Mould. Artist and publisher Anne Davey Orr critiques the work, “Because the brushwork is not overworked and has a fleeting quality to it, I suspect that this may have originated as a sketch or study for a larger portrait. Shanks’ technique, unlike that of his more formal portraits, has an instancy about it that conveys Diana’s fleeting, somber mood and her innate shyness.”

There’s an exhibitor at the fair called The Gallery of Everything. Masterpiece is like The Show of Everything.

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Architects Architecture Art Design Town Houses

Alcantara + The Portal Galleries and Sir John Soane’s Museum Holborn London

The Summer Show

Sir John Soane was, to put it mildly, ahead of his time. It’s 185 years since the great architect and designer died and he is still providing inspiration for the arts. The latest show at his eponymous house museum is a collaboration between Alcantara and multidisciplinary design practice Space Popular. It is a celebration and exploration of portals, both physical and virtual: guests can enter a parallel world using virtual reality headsets to interact with panels and a table covered all covered in Alcantara. Invented in Milan in 1972, Alcantara is a luxury microfibre material part polyester part polyurethane. “We are fascinated by the technical, sensory and aesthetic qualities as well as the endless possibilities offered by Alcantara material,” note Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Helberg of Space Popular, “and its potential to be the canvas and portal to our virtual experiences.” Shifts in scale, unfolding walls and playing with mirrors are just three of the Soaneian portal devices that inspired the artists.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + The Golden Nest Dress

The Eagle Soars at Your Command and Builds its Nest on High

She chooses to conceal her identity. She is strong, powerful, well defined. She is a bird of prey. She is the woman who dares to wear The Golden Nest Dress by avant garde fashion artist Mary Martin London. Sewing metal? All in a day’s work. There are undeniable historical references yet this costume is as resolutely contemporary as the brutalist backdrop of the shoot. Enigma. Mystery. Luxury. And drama. Wherever there’s Mary there’s drama!