The First Asian Artist to Show at the Paris Biennale
“All butterflies were once caterpillars. I became known as ‘The Butterfly Man’ after my first shows in 2007 in Basil and Moscow. The butterfly has always meant a lot to me. As a child when I saw my first butterfly I asked, ‘What are these flying colours?’ In my eyes butterflies are always flying colours. A dream is never entirely fictional; there are always elements of reality. My pieces incorporate real butterfly wings. I bring them back to life. The average lifespan of a butterfly is only two to four weeks. A lifespan of 83 days was recorded for a Chestnut Tiger butterfly. It flew from Japan to Hong Kong. It travelled for most of its life to the unknown.”
“Titanium reflects the technology of our times. It is not easy to tame; it’s a very stubborn metal. It took me eight years to master it. Titanium is magical; you must not force things to happen to it. You must let it guide you through the process. An unsung hero, titanium is multifaceted. My pieces are full of emotions to provide the possibilities of transcendence. The pursuit of beauty is endless. Think about classical music: it is abstract, formless, yet it surrounds us and connects to our emotions. My art is about beauty, love, courage, colour, transformation. It is beautiful being human – and vulnerable too. Live in the garden of joy. Embrace every fleeting moment. Take a different path home; you will find an unsung beauty. I have dreams of dancing in love and light.”
It’s all change on and off Baggot Street in Ballsbridge, south Dublin. The Unicorn and l’Écrivain restaurants are history. Larry Murphy’s watering hole has closed although Searson’s and The Waterloo continue to serve thirsty customers. Wilton Place, where Baggot Street meets the canal, is being transformed. Wilton Park House and the other office blocks are demolished, waiting to be replaced by architects Henry John Lyons’ on trend glazed office led mixed use scheme which will include LinkedIn’s European headquarters.
Wilton Park House was the home of the Industrial Development Agency. Architects Tyndall Hogan Hurley’s block was, perhaps, an acquired taste, an unforgiving sort of beauty, but it had an impressive fortress-like appearance with its granite walls and horizontal bands of irregular spaced windows interspersed with stainless steel panels. Those windows held significance: the higher the grade of IDA manager, the more windows they could claim for their office. Not every commercial building can boast of status denoting fenestration. Hierarchy continued with the tea trolley: plain biscuits on the first to fifth floors; chocolate coated biscuits for senior management on the top floor. The ground floor staff restaurant serving subsidised meals was a place for everyone to gain their “IDA stone”.
Pembroke Road is a continuation of Baggot Street to the south of the canal. Little has changed along this stretch of grand Georgian terraces and villas. Architectural details only have been updated. Dublin based architect John O’Connell points out, “The patent reveals of the sash windows were painted white in Victorian times to reflect light.” Pembroke Hall on Pembroke Road is a tall two bay three storey over basement mid terrace townhouse. It has that wall to window ratio so pleasing to the eye that Dublin does best. And of course a grand doorcase with fanlight. An internal fanlight extends natural light through the entrance hall and up the staircase.
The house has been sensitively restored and converted to accommodate 12 bedrooms for holiday lets. Contemporary furnishings include steel framed desks designed by Patrick McKenna of Wabi Sabi and headboards designed by Helle Moyna of Nordic Elements. There’s more change to the southeast of Pembroke Hall. The Berkeley Hotel (famous for its late 20th century tapestries) and Jury’s Inn (infamous for its all-nighter Coffee Dock) have been replaced by new luxury apartment blocks called Lansdowne Place.
“We acquired the house in 2017. It had been in use as a guesthouse previously but it was closed for some years after the economic difficulties of 2008. We refurbished the house extensively over six to eight months, keeping faith with its history and historic features. Our online reviews are nine plus and we are delighted and thankful for that.”
“We believe Pembroke Hall is very special. We want to provide guests with a very comfortable experience when they, stay based on three elements: a good night’s sleep in a super comfy king or super king sized bed; excellent WiFi; and a super shower. We decided not to do food because our location is minutes away from fantastic eateries that provide wonderful food all day. We are just a 15 to 20 minute walk from the city centre.”
“Our location is wonderful. The Aviva Stadium is moments away and is the home of Irish rugby and soccer. On 13 November 2021 Ireland won against the All Blacks at the stadium – our third victory against this world winning team! There are an array of local eateries, parks and transport facilities on our doorstep. You can walk to the city centre for shopping, Trinity College, Dublin Castle, government buildings and Dublin’s wonderful art galleries. Not forgetting the Guinness Storehouse too. We hope this gives you a feel and flavour for Pembroke Hall.”
Seasons come and seasons go. The Black Douglas has gone; The Black Pig’s still here. It’s the place of quirky decorations (horizontal Christmas trees) and quirkier houses (a late 17th century chapel masquerading as a 19th century gothic cottage orné on High Street) and even quirkier house names (Comarques, home of composer John Ireland from 1936 to 1939, and Winkle Cottage) and super quirky architectural details (shell decorated fanlights and doorstep windows). But there’s only one place to be on a wintry Friday night in East Kent’s most fashionable resort: the private view of The Green and Found, England’s only gift shop abutting a Grade I brick garden wall built by Henry VIII.
It’s a vibrant microcosm of an historic walled city. Killer Queen Anne townhouses among thriller Tudor jetties and gables with all the cosiness of a cathedral precinct. It’s more like the Town of London than Tower of London. We’re here for an exclusive afterhours private view of the Crown Jewels or as our beefeater guide calls them “the most valuable objects on the planet”. Our favourite pieces are Queen Victoria’s Diamond Crown and the Grand Punch Bowl.
The crown was designed to be worn by Queen Victoria on top of her widow’s cap. So tiny, it’s more of a crownlet. It incorporates 1,187 brilliant-cut and rose-cut diamonds in an openwork silver frame. Queen Victoria first wore this crown for the opening of Parliament in 1871. The punchbowl is full throttle George IV bling. A silver gilt wine cistern, it can hold the equivalent of 144 bottles of wine. One way to get the party going! In between rods and coronets, there are more orbs than an episode of Most Haunted.
The social merry-go-round never stops. The after party is at The Reveller on the edge of the Thames (where guests more than live up to its name). The after after party is at Dirty Martini in the City. And the after after after party is at Annabel P’s, the new Annabel’s. Like Barack Obama, we’re always trying to push a little more optimism.
It was one of the first conversions of a country house to a hotel in Ireland. The Quinn family threw open the doors of Ballymascanlon House to the public almost seven decades ago and continue to run this successful establishment. It’s hidden in a 53 hectare estate to the north of the smart east coast town of Dundalk. In the 1860s, the Dublin born architect Patrick James Byrne gave the Georgian mansion a Tudor Gothic makeover. There are modern extensions but the main house is full of period charm, indoors and out, and to the rear, historic rubblestone outbuildings embellish three sides of an unbruised lawn.
It’s 5pm on a Wednesday evening and the Veuve Cliquot is flowing along with canapés that set a whole new standard for finger food. And that’s even before the rum punch and margarita cocktails reception gets going. We’re in Townhouse Eight event space which has a wraparound terrace illuminated by the full moon of St Pancras’ clock and the fireworks display of King’s Cross’ cranes.
Our host is Elli Jafari, Managing Director of The Standard, London. That’s her métier (profession) and that’s her métier (talent). The glamorous Iranian-American tells us, “Our London hotel has many layers, some naughty, some sweet!” The phallic sculpture rescued from an Italian vintage fair welcoming guests to the top floor private dining room certainly falls into the former category. There’s lashings of the latter too.
“We’re pleased to announce two new hotels: The Standard, Ibiza and The Standard, Hua Hin. Our Ibiza hotel will have a sexy bar with amazing music. The 67 bedroom hotel is in the famous and historic Old Town and you’ll be able to hire one or more of our many private villas too. It’s very rare to be able to rent a private villa in the Old Town. Our resort is next to the marina so all the super yachts will be there for your arrival!”
“The Standard, Hua Hin resort with its accompanying private beach villas is Thailand’s answer to the Maldives. The resort will include a 171 bedroom hotel along with 28 villas creating a poolside vibe reminiscent of The Standard, Miami. We have more signed deals in Europe: Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon and Milan. Each destination is eclectic and individual – each of our hotels is completely unique. Our Dublin hotel, due to open in 2025, like all our hotels will have various restaurants. Something for everyone! We want to embrace Dublin culture and all the energy the vibrant city offers.” It’s not so much about creating a new standard of living as a new standard of staying. And eating. And partying. And being.
Our guide relates, “The ground floor reading room is a homage to the Council library which used to be here. It’s stocked with vintage sourced books from the Fifties to the Eighties. It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek!” ‘Chaos’ and ‘Order’ bookcases are cheek-by-jowl; so are ‘Politics’ and ‘Tragedy’. “We have drag races in the bar on Sundays. There’s always a unique shop in Standard Hotels where you can purchase weird and wonderful goods sourced from all over the world.” Snatch Game Brooches by Lou Taylor and Trip Wild Mint and Camomile Oil are two quirky gifts on display in the London shop.
We’re on the 10th floor now. “Decimo is our Michelin starred Hispanic Mexican restaurant. Alexander McQueen held their afterparty here. The theatre of the kitchen is on full display. There’s definitely a bit of an LA party feel to this hotel.” That’s true for sure: there’s nothing standard about our evening. “You must finish the night in Double Standard, our New York style bar for highflyers. It’s famous for Aperol spritz slushes!”
Apart from its namesake hotel, Castlebellingham used to be well known for being halfway between Dundalk (to the north) and Drogheda (to the south) along the old Belfast to Dublin road. The opening of the M1 motorway dramatically changed its character from sleepy to busy. The castle isn’t the only building of interest in the village – far from it. Smallwares Ltd, a company making clothes hangers since 1936, occupies a large industrial complex adjoining a tall three storey Victorian house, all faced in brownish brick.
This building, or rather group of buildings, started life in the 1870s as Castlebellingham Brewery. On the outskirts of the village lies The Crescent, an enigmatic ruin, made more enigmatic by its name and lack of visible curves. Castlebellingham Tidy Towns have helpfully placed a placard on the perimeter stone wall: “The Crescent was a beautiful house owned by the Brewery. It was leased to Charles J Thornhill, who was Managing Director of the Brewery at the turn of the last century [19th]. Charles married Helen Mary Eager in 1905 at Killencoole Church.
When the Brewery closed down in 1923, the Thornhills moved to Belfast where Charles was employed in its sister brewery. In the late Thirties, The Crescent House was converted into six large flats and leased out to local people. Some of the earlier residents were: Karl Roche and his family; Garda Jim Cleary, his wife and nieces; Sinclair and Kit Brophy; James and Nellie Lynch and their daughter Kathleen; Jack and May Marley and their family John, Jim, Bernadette and Brendan; Paddy and Mary Faulkner and their family; Peter and Kathleen Sands and their family; Bobby and Susan Hosie and their family; Joe and Grace McIntyre; Vin and Ann Byrne and their family; Tommy and Delia Daly and their family.
Mrs Marley remembers the beautiful avenue leading up to the house. The rent was six shillings and six pence a week, a sum that never increased in all the years she lived there. In 1938 they even had running water and light, the reason being the Button Factory, which occupied part of the Brewery, was powered by the same generator that also powered The Crescent. For this privilege, they put a shilling into a meter which was collected weekly from each flat by Mr McMullen who ran the Button Factory. The only problem was that the generator was switched off at the weekends which left the flats without light or water. Mrs Marley remembers that when they had no electricity or water, they would sit around the fire telling stories, a very popular pastime in those days.”
Seabird is the penthouse level restaurant of The Hoxton Hotel isn’t in Hoxton, east London; it’s in Southwark, south London. The hotel is located in a bit of a no woman’s land but none the worse for it. There’s still an element of grittiness and character marking this stretch of Blackfriars Road. The Prince William Henry pub opposite advertises “two darts boards” and a “backyard private room”. Interesting. Blackfriars Food Market offers “Korean, Kofte Hut, Semoorg, Japanese, Thai, Falafel”. We’ll soon discover that when it comes to Seabird, safari hued staff uniforms and rattan furniture lend a Mediterranean mood matched by the seafood focused menu with such highlights as ginger infused prawn croquetas carabinero in olive oil. Appetising.
A lift zaps us up from ground zero to level 14. Not quite skyscraping then but it turns out this height is perfect for taking in a horizontal pendulum view from upstream Thames to downtown Southwark. Bang in the middle of the view to the north stands One Blackfriars designed by Simpson Haugh, a bulging glass erection full of bankers who have trousered a few bonuses in their time. Revealing. To the southeast can be seen architect genius Trevor Morriss’ Music Box apartments and college. Rogers Stirk Harbour’s Neo Bankside wrapping around the 1740s Hopton’s Almshouses are to the east. Satisfying
He continues, “This multilayered building picks up from one of our earliest and best known projects, Oxo Tower just round the corner on the Thames. Oxo also provides a very varied and integrated mix of uses including affordable cooperative apartments, independent shops, designer maker studios, a gallery plus the emblematic Harvey Nichols Oxo Tower brasserie and restaurant at roof level, still going strong after 25 years of operation.” Illuminating.
Where Southwark lacks a tight urban grid – this isn’t New York – it does now have at least one tight architectural grid. The Hoxton exhibits strong elevations with a downtown warehouse appeal enhanced by buff and dark brown facing brick. The street experience is more permeable with larger windows lighting ground and mezzanine floor restaurants, bars and conference rooms. Distracting.
There’s an emphasis on long term adaptability of the architecture: Alex Lifschutz once more, “The present hotel rooms could be converted into offices or vice versa and all the floorplates could be reconfigured as apartments. Likewise, the rooftop restaurant could be altered to become penthouse flats…” No woman is an island. When a woman is tired of (high) London living, at street level there’s always a game of darts to play or a bag of falafel to grab. Tempting.
A late 19th century terrace of houses, long a hotel, has been reinvigorated and given a not so much High Victorian interior as High Celtic. Exuberance is the word. Lunch in the canted bay window is framed on three sides by the best view in County Down, overlooking the incoming storm brewing on Carlingford Lough. Yacht sails shudder, rocks are sprayed and seagulls flap around, while wild garlic mushrooms are served in the first floor restaurant of The Whistledown Hotel come hail or high water. To the rear of the hotel is Warrenpoint Park complete with its freshly restored bandstand, good for sheltering from the rain.
Warrenpoint is blessed with an abundance of Victorian houses, especially along the esplanade. Castle House, close to an inland side of Warrenpoint Park, stands out as being older. It’s a Georgian five bedroomed three storeys over exposed basement corner house marking the junction of St Peter’s Street and Great George’s Street South. The first floor paired Gothic windows are particularly distinctive: with fenestration like this curtains would be a crime. The ground floor margin paned sitting room windows, the middle portion taller than its outer equivalents, is equally interesting, reflecting a triptych of the streetscape. Even a spider’s web of telephone wires can’t diminish the charming appearance of Castle House.
It’s not the most likely place to come across a 1960s architectural masterpiece. But then rugged County Donegal, ever by the sea, is full of surprises. A few kilometres north of the lively town of Buncrana, on a wild and windy and windswept road, a Celtic corniche eventually leading to Dunree Head, stands Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in the otherwise little known townland of Desertegney. Indeed, on an especially inclement day the white architecture merges with the swirling white clouds and almost disappears.
Our Lady of the Sea is by name and nature nautical. The long low main building with its western bell end shape and high porthole like windows is reminiscent of a boat come ashore. This was the architect’s direct response to the site which overlooks Lough Swilly on a clear day. The modernist minimalist bell tower linked to the church by a glazed vestibule is a daring concept of geometry, a clever combination of solid and void, a religious lighthouse. Liam McCormick was a great yachtsman.
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, County Donegal, 2014, states, “Church architecture did not evolve again until well after World War II, when a response was required to reflect the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965) with its renewed emphasis on the collective experience of the faithful. Nowhere in Ireland was this achieved more successfully than in Donegal by Liam McCormick whose church designs broke completely with earlier conservative models. While his buildings make reference to the past in their use of familiar vernacular forms and textures, they also respond to place and the Donegal landscape. In several cases the sites were selected by the architect and the manipulation of both the building and it is a precious part of their impact that is sometimes overlooked.”
The Francophile Charles Dickens would still recognise the Golden Triangle of Paris. Dickens on France edited by John Edmondson in 2007, “Dickens first saw Paris in July 1844, when he and his family were travelling through France on their way to Italy. He was instantly enthralled: ‘I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world. I was not prepare for, and really could not have believed in, its perfectly distinct and separate character.’ This first, fleeting visit marked the beginning of a friendship with the city that would last for the rest of his life.”
A love of interior design is clear from the custard colour and navy trimmed reception hall to the 27 meter high seascape mural painted on gold leaf seen from the elevator behind a glass panel to the Marmara marbled bathroom filled with The Ritual of Ayurveda products. “There’s a focus on really good materials,” says Camay. There’s also a focus on individuality: domed objets d’art; Grecian urns; sculpted shirt collars; Indian feathers. In the duck egg blue reception rear reception area opening onto an intimate courtyard are bookshelves with hours of distraction. Titles include ‘American Fashion’, ‘La Lumière de Londres, ‘Putman Style’, ‘Le Style Hitchcock’. Joseph Roth springs to mind again: “… it’s so well appointed that it almost corresponds to my notion of a seventh heaven.”
In Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s short story The Camel’s Back character Perry exclaims, “Take me upstairs. If that cork sees my heart it’ll fall out from pure mortification.” Channelling your inner Perry, close your eyes and dream of the ideal Parisian hotel bedroom. And open your eyes in the fourth floor bedroom of Hôtel George Washington. As you gaze through the pair of French doors clasping Juliet balconies and a trombonist serenades you from the street below (no, not artistic licence, this is Paris), it’s clear some dreams come true. There’s an elephant in the room. Or at least one over the bed. And a herd in the Ralph Lauren wallpaper. “It’s so unique, that’s one of my favourite bedrooms,” Camay confides. “Our bedrooms are very large for Paris. They all have double beds with a bath and rain shower in the en suite bathrooms.”
“We are in the business area of the Golden Triangle of Paris,” she confirms, that iconic 8th Arrondisement. “Do you know how the Arrondisements are numbered? They are ordered like an escargot, the numbers swirling around in decreasing concentric circles. We kept the façade of Hôtel George Washington and refurbished everything else behind. At Hôtel Chateaubriand we were able to keep the original form inside. Hôtel George Washington is a Haussmann townhouse with a ‘noble’ second floor which has a balcony. Our service is very personal – our team have been with us a long time. Our clients are a very good mix of leisure and business travellers.”
The Rios also own Le Petit George a few doors up on Rue Washington. Quirky neon lettering on the awning reads “Sincère et Malicieux”. Has Tracey Emin been en ville? We have an aperitif: “Champagne is an integral part of French culture!” Camay relates, “Monsieur Rio’s inspiration for this restaurant was the same expression of luxury as the hotels, from opulent linen tablecloths to silver cutlery, bringing back attention to detail. We wanted to change part of French dining culture and bridge the gap between bistro and gastronomy: ‘bistronomy’. It’s a unique dining experience.” The all-female run establishment is a hit with lawyers and bankers midweek and well informed travellers at the weekend. “We attract a really good lunch crowd and are busy Monday to Friday. Lisa l’des Forges is Chef and Melisande Malle is Sommelier and Manager.
The décor is an essay in understated elegance in a language only the French can compose. A marble and brass bar stretches along one party wall and the kitchen to the rear is only visible through a small serving hatch. There are no pictures on the walls: we are the living art in this space. “There’s a Chef’s Table in the basement for 10 people,” leads Camay. Joseph Roth once more, “Paradise is downstairs, in a basement. But it’s so well appointed that it almost corresponds to my notion of a seventh heaven.”
She’s more to say, “With more than 70 new sculptures in mirrored beads and glass bricks, The Narcissus Theorem focuses on Le Petit Palais and its architecture. Taking up the myth of Narcissus – a man who, in love with his own image, was transformed into a flower – Othoniel engages with visitors, inviting them to self contemplation but also offering a reflection of the world around them through his work.”
Juliette’s even more to say, “This journey through myths and fairy tales begins with a rite of passage: the crossing of a river. Visitors then proceed to the garden of forbidden fruits before descending into the Grotto of Narcissus. Exploring the theory of reflections of the Mexican mathematician Aubin Arroyo, Othoniel transports us to a world between dreams and reality, opening up doors to endless fields of space and imagination.”