There are parties and there’s the not so laboured or conservative but very liberal London launch of Luxury Living an equidistant plumped up embossed cushion’s throw from Harrods and Harvey Nics and Hyde Park and Harriet Walk and heaven. It’s the local shop for One Hyde Park. Being Knightsbridge that means a treasure filled palazzo. Limos stretching, (thick pile country pile) scarlet carpet calling, ropes a riposte to the common people segretating, champers flowing, rich doors opening, (the world’s your) oysters on tap. What’s not to adore? You know you’ve landed when even the bidet is solid gold. The World of Interiors and their partner are here. It’s our first party where there are nearly as many bodyguards as guests. Nope, that’s not a fake Van Dyck. Yon butterfly thing, yep it’s a Damo Hirst. The old and new masters are courtesy of Milanese galleristJerome Zodo. “I’m opening my first gallery in London,” he tells Lavender’s Blue, “on Dering Street off the top of New Bond Street.” Luxury Living is lined wall to wall with models and that’s just the waiters and marble busts. Founder Alberto Vignatelli enthuses, “We are delighted to open our new store in an area of London synonymous with luxury living. London’s concentration of wealth and power and international audiences with impeccable taste in interiors makes it the perfect city to start Luxury Living’s next chapter.” It’s really not a dog’s life but if Rover is a discerning fan of Top Gear, the Bentley pet bed is a must at £3,960 a puppop. Luxury Living proves Italians really are more stylish.
It’s a private view, so private it’s Lavender’s Blue* and Wolfe touring the two floors which have been transformed by museum lighting and, of course, art. “You don’t have to go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa!” exclaims the 48 year old British artist. The French surroundings are immediately rather apt. “Some paintings are so iconic they seem unapproachable. But think of how artists like Duchamp and Warhol reinterpreted famous historic art.”
This Mona Lisa for the 21st century – although it will later transpire that time is not of the essence in the House of the Nobleman exhibition – is a recognisably intimate version of its predecessor. Same scale, same pose, same serenity, different detail. On closer inspection the painting is actually a medley of motifs found across Leonardo da Vinci’s oeuvre. The trees to the left are from his Annunciation; the trees to the right, The Virgin and St Anne; the shoulder ribbons from La Belle Ferronnière, and so on. He condenses Leonardo’s artistic output into a single enigma. It’s conceptual without being conceptualist.
Wolfe reveals he chose the Renaissance as a platform for experimentation because it was an age when artists attempted to root the making of art in a mathematical and aesthetically programmable formula. He renders his pencil and oil studies with a careful craftsmanship that seeks to replicate the original conditions and painting practices of Renaissance artists. It’s an exploration of the possibility of algebraic multiplication in reverse, drilling down an aesthetic object to its essential numbers. And onwards, to its prime number. Wolfe presents a Wittgensteinesque proposition that an artwork requires no further description to be in and of itself.
“These works represent a nonlinear flattening of history,” he relates. “They’re inspired by centuries of art… Botticelli, Michelangelo, Bruegel, Stubbs, Riley, Hirst. Why not Rupert Bear too? Inspiration doesn’t always have to be highbrow art or even art! On the surface, Wolfe transfixes and seduces us with his rare technical ability. Dig deeper beyond his respectful grasp of iconography. Yes, he succeeds in reviving the algebra of art, liberating it from the confines of history to a newness of meaning. In this way, Wolfe’s latest works question the notions of resolution and finish while maintaining the utmost respect for his forebears.