Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, from Gary Oldman

I think it’s safe to say I’m most grateful this Thanksgiving for Gary Oldman. ;) Have a wonderful holiday, kiddos.

Thanks to my friend Scott for sending this video to me.

November 28, 2013 / Gary Oldman / LEAVE A COMMENT / 6

To Follow

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Sotheby’s and Christie’s Instagram accounts (top and bottom, respectively) are absolute treasure troves. Why it never occurred to me to check to see if the famed auction houses even had Instagram accounts is a mystery; I guess I thought they were too, um, fancy (?) to be slumming it on social media. It’s a sign of the times that you can follow both live auctions and go behind-the-scenes in the exclusive art world from the palm of your hand.

These are the perfect accounts to follow as I settle in to the long Thanksgiving weekend; I’m nearing the end of “Le Divorce,” the denouement of which will be an art auction at Drouot, and once I finish that book I’ll move on to “Sotheby’s: The Inside Story.” I’m thankful for many things this year (and always), but an uninterrupted stretch of reading time is at the top of my list. And canned cranberry sauce. And these pens (<3<3<3).

Any good Instagram account recommendations?

November 27, 2013 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 14

Reading Nook

Today is one of those days (I think it’s the overcast weather) where I’d love nothing more than to stay home, curl up with a blanket and a good book, and lose track of the time. If it were in a room like this it would be even better, but I’m not too picky.

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Sketch / Chair / Blanket / Rug / Side Chair / Stool / Lamp / Socks / Candle

Sue first turned me on to those wishbone chairs, and now I want to incorporate them into every room.

November 26, 2013 / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT / 16

Paris Flood

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My friend Vanessa sent me this picture, by photographer Henri Manuel, of Parisians during a 1920s flood being, shall we say, delightfully industrious. If this isn’t the most French way to handle a flood I don’t know what would be, aside from maybe fashioning a canoe from a large baguette. Mon dieu.

November 25, 2013 / art / photo / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 10

Friday Five

After an embarrassingly long hiatus from this series (oh my god, seriously? February?) my consumerism is making a comeback. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

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1. Photograph of Monet / 2. Linen “Merci” tee / 3. Rug / 4. “Le Divorce” / 5. Settee

Not that we have any wall space left to spare at this point, but I’m really in love with this old photographs of Monet at Giverny. I love his hat and suit coat; he must’ve looked so formal, sitting at his easel. I know it’s one of the most obvious statements to make about photography, but I find it so incredible that records like that exist from the past. Do you think he knew that in 100 years we would be able to hang a photograph of him (not even a print of his work, just the man behind it) in our homes? How trippy is that? I think he’d say “Merci.” And in case you want to, you can say in style thanks to that J.Crew tee.

I am having a fight with this rug. I’ve had my eye on it for a while for the living room, but it was on backorder until the end of December when Home Decorators was having a 20% off + free shipping sale. I should have just ordered it to take advantage of the promotion, but the prospect of me exercising a modicum of patience, let alone enough to last me two months, seemed impossible. So I passed. But now it’s back in stock, and I still love it. It’s vintage-y and neutral while also possessing two very necessary qualities: 1. Fitz’s hair won’t stand out like a sore thumb, and 2. the pile isn’t too plush to freak Jamal out (dude hates flokati or any pile greater than a flatweave). What do I do? Wait for it to go on sale again? That’s the smart answer, right? And that settee, while it pairs perfectly with the rug, is just a pipe-dream; it’s adorable but seriously impractical. Do you see the brocade fabric wrapped around the back??

With all the books I buy/read (those are two very distinct categories) I would be broke were it not for the Amazon marketplace. I picked up a copy of “Le Divorce” for 99¢ earlier this week, and it arrived in pristine new condition. Somehow I missed the movie adaptation with Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts from 2003, but Emma referenced it in a comment last week and it sparked my interest (thanks, Emma!). Since I’m a purist, I want to read the book before seeing the movie. I’m already halfway through it and I’m loving it so far (despite the really negative reviews it got on Amazon). If you amortize the cost of a book over the time it takes you to read it, new books are sometimes an extravagance (a necessary indulgence, though, and I promise I’m not complaining).

What are you up to this weekend? Sunday is our annual Friendsgiving (we’re having a Greek potluck this year!) and in between prepping the house for company and trying not to eat all the hummus Jamal makes, I’m hoping to get (what else) some writing done. Have a good one, kiddos!

November 22, 2013 / art / photo / Friday Five / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT / 11

Mini Koons

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In all of my advanced Christmas shopping, I’ve been very deliberate and careful not to splurge on things for myself. It’s an easy trap to fall into: the more shopping you do, the more you see, the more you want for yourself. But I’ve been good this year! Restrained! Frugal! It’s a Christmas miracle.

Except, well, for one tiny transgression. When we went to the museum a few weekends ago to hit up the treasure trove that is their gift shop, Jamal and I both spotted this mini Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog ornament amongst the Christmas decorations. We looked at each other and nodded and it was decided: new tree ornament! At the Christie’s auction last week, a Jeff Koons’ Orange Balloon Dog sold for $58.4M. Ours was $9.50. When you look at it that way, we basically got it for free.

PS. Is it Christmas yet?

November 21, 2013 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 13

A Little Attic in Paris

I graduated from 100 Level French classes last night, and am officially a 201 Level étudiante. To celebrate, our class (most of the six of us have been together since I joined in 103 last December, and a few of them even started 101 together) had champagne, cheese, baguette, chocolate, and played a French version of the “A is for, B is for,” game, using cities and names, en Français. I won one round, besting Romy with “Ubud,” a town in Bali, and then lost to Rachel, our flawless teacher, when I couldn’t think of  another man’s name that started with “K.”

French class is the best money I’ve ever spent.

We’re all continuing onto 201, including Rachel, who is really excited to introduce us to the subjunctive tense. Having to memorize another tense seems impossible, given that my head is still swimming with the difference between le futur and le futur proche, and le passé compose and imparfait. And the present. And the conditional. Being the nerd that I am, though, I am thrilled at the challenge. Also, we get new textbooks since we are now “intermediate,” and who doesn’t love new books?

I came home last night obviously a little buzzed off champagne and French vocab, and then had to write a feature article for France Property Magazine. By the time I went to bed around midnight, I was so saturated with French-y things I might as well have been in Paris. Clearly I still had Paris on the brain this morning, so when I found this apartment for rent in Saint-Germaine, on Rue Saint-Sulpice, I knew I had to share.

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Maybe it’s my own specific romantic notion, but I’ve always wanted an attic apartment in Paris to hole myself up in and write furiously all day and night, stopping only to make the long trek six flights down, darting quickly across the street to my local patisserie for my daily baguette, pulling my collar up as I step outside to fend off the morning fog. A sur-le-toit view of Paris through the windows, original wood beams criss-crossing the eaved ceiling. You know, just like in “Midnight in Paris.”

Gil: I’m pushing for a little attic in Paris with a skylight.
Carol: Ah, “La Boheme.”
Paul: All that’s missing is the tuberculosis.

I keep laughing hysterically at that, but it’s so true. What is killer about this charming attic apartment is the cost: €1400/mo. That’s only $1900! Why do I not live there?!

Do you think you could hack it in an apartment like this? This is rhetorical. The answer is obviously “oui.”

November 20, 2013 / home design / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 8

At the Museum

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I’m 90% done Christmas shopping. I know, I know, that’s insane, what’s wrong with me, aren’t you Jewish, etc etc. I got a really early head start on it this year (October) and stuck to detailed lists. We decided to give our parents a framed picture each from our engagement shoot as part of their Christmas presents, and in ordering prints I also ordered a few extras for us just to have. I ordered a 4×6 of the top photo, of us looking at my favorite Monet at the museum, for my desk, and a 5×7 of the second photo to hang in our room in the picture frame Jamal bought me in Paris for Valentine’s Day. We also used that photo for our save the date magnets, which my incredible friend and even more incredible designer Herbie made for us.

I know I’ve said this a million times already, but I love our engagement photos. Especially the ones in the museum. Inna, our photographer, captured us so perfectly that afternoon, and it still gives me goosebumps whenever I look at the photos. Not because I’m narcissistic, but because we’re surrounded by so much beautiful art. I love this museum (I’ve even done some Christmas shopping at the gift shop!), and it’s amazing that we get to go whenever we want. When we’re celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, that Monet will still be there, and we can go and sit on that bench again.

November 19, 2013 / art / photo / At the Museum / wedding / LEAVE A COMMENT / 7

My Inner French Girl

This one started with a bag. This gorgeous, plaid bag.

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 1. Sweater / 2. Pants / 3. Hat / 4. Coat / 5. Necklace / 6. Gloves / 7. Bag / 8. Lotion / 9. Lip Gloss / 10. Loafers / 11. Artforum

I wrote a lot this weekend (added another 1700 words to my current total, not that we’re counting, because apparently it’s National Novel Writing Month, where writers commit to writing 50k words in the month of November. That’s more than I’ve written in over a year, pardon me while I go ahead and feel horrible about myself) and couldn’t help but to design this outfit for my girl, my gallerina. It’s the perfect outfit for a November day, right down to the loafers (waaaant) and her copy of Artforum magazine. Did I mention book research is fun?

November 18, 2013 / fashion / vanity / My Inner French Girl / LEAVE A COMMENT / 17

The Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold

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This is a record that is continuously broken as each auction season rolls around, but this week, at the Christie’s Contemporary art night auction, a 1969 Francis Bacon triptych sold for $142.4 million. We’ll get back to that in a minute, but there is an entire chapter in “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark” (I cannot recommend this book enough!) on a 2006 sale of another Francis Bacon triptych at Christie’s London that was estimated to bring in £3.5-5.5 million.

Five point five million pounds ($10.2 million) would have been a world auction record for the artist. At the Impressionist and modern art auction held at Christie’s two nights earlier, £5.5 million would have purchased two oils by Claude Monet, Péches and Oliviers et palmiers, vallée de Sasso; a Camille Pissarro, La vallée de la Seine aux Damps, jardin d’Octave Mirbeau; and a gorgeous and large Paul Cézanne, Maisons dans la venture. 

That was 2006. The final bid on that triptych was £3.5 million, and with auction house/buyer charges, it sold for £3.8 million. Francis Bacon’s work is highly coveted, because the artist died in 1992, and is largely considered one of the most important British artists ever to have lived and painted. This 2006 record was broken by another Bacon painting in 2007, Study for Portrait II, with the sale at auction of £14 million ($27.6 million) again at Christie’s London. Sotheby’s beat that Bacon record the same year, with the sale of Study from Innocent X. That painting sold for $52.7 million, almost doubling the Christie’s record and elevating Bacon to an exclusive arena in art history. In two years, the value of Bacon’s work rose from £3.8 million to $53 million.

The record for most expensive artwork ever sold changes hands/artists frequently. In 2010, it was held by a Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,  which sold for $106 million at a Christie’s auction. In 2012, this was beat by the sale of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which sold at Sotheby’s for $120 million. And then this past Tuesday, that record was shattered by Bacon’s three canvases, each six feet high, depicting friend and rival Lucien Freud sitting in a chair.

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The buyer has not been identified by Christie’s, but was bid on by dealer William Acquavella for a client. There were seven underbidders in total, and bidding lasted 10 minutes, propelling from the opening bid of $40 million to a final price $57 million more than the $85 million Christie’s had estimated the triptych would fetch.

Whether or not you would have paid that much (and I wouldn’t have. That $142 million would go so many other places first), auctions are a fascinating thing. Most, like this one at Christie’s, are invitation only, and the bidders have all been vetted in advance. Dealers come on behalf of clients, high roller collectors make appearances, museum representatives come with board approval as to how much they are allowed to spend, and there is an entire section of women in black dresses on phones bidding on behalf of international buyers.

A few things about an auction are completely transparent –the number of people bidding in the room, the hammer price, the auctioneer’s performance. Almost everything else is opaque: who is actually bidding, how estimates and reserve prices are set, which bids are real and which artificial. Does the auction house itself own the painting being shown? Has it guaranteed the price to the consignor, and thus have a financial interest in the outcome?

The auctioneer has a book in front of him on the podium noting the order of the lots to be brought up for auction, the reserve price, where expected bidders on each lot are sitting in the audience, as well as any bids left in advance by those wishing to remain anonymous. Things like where a specific painting is placed in the order of lots for auction, the pacing of the auctioneer’s bid offers, and the psychology of bidders are all delicately moving elements that make an auction the spectacle it is.

A [typical] auction has the most expensive works interspersed between Lots 12 and 45, with the feature lot between 25 and 30. If there are three or four strong lots, the feature work can come as early as Lot 10…An expensive work is followed by three or four with lower estimates. The spacing builds peaks of interest and provides reference prices to make the works between seem more reasonable.

All auctions are video recorded to protect the auction from a bidder who might regret their fast paddle-work the moment the bidding has ended. You enter into a contract to buy the work you win, though secretly, auction houses sometimes offer financing for more established clients, and can also accept payment in the form of artwork consigned for later sale.

It’s important to note that while the $142.4 million dollar hammer price is staggering, there is some doubt as to whether the Bacon triptych is actually the most expensive piece of artwork sold at auction. When accounting for inflation, the highest price ever paid at auction for a single piece of art would be the $82.5 million paid in 1990 ($147 million in today’s dollars, $3 million more than the Bacon sold for this week) for Van Gogh’s Portrait of Doctor GachetI know which one I’d rather have hanging in my living room.

Understandably, I am dying to go to an auction. There are sometimes standing-room-only admissions granted at night auctions; it’s now on my must list to see one in person.

all quotes © Don Thompson, “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark”

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November 15, 2013 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 15