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?

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”

Flower Paintings

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France-based artist Thomas Darnell‘s work took my breath away the first time I stumbled upon it. His photorealist paintings of flowers are so sumptuous and beautiful they are disarming in their detail; blink a few times, those aren’t photographs. Born and raised near Austin, Texas, he quit his job and moved to Paris in 1993, and eventually to the south of France in 1994, chasing the light that so inspired the Impressionists to flock to the provinces. He “felt that if I didn’t do it then, I would regret it for the rest of my life.” A man after my own heart.

He also paints landscapes and abstracts, including a series focusing on smoke and air.

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“Recently, Darnell has been exploring new concepts and reinterpreting past themes,” including, “psychological and philosophical theories of perception and reality, ideas on form and formlessness.” Sir, you had me at “peonies.”

All images copyright Thomas Darnell.

Feeling Light

Do you ever get stuck on a particular interior? I’ve had this image pinned for well over a year, and I never tire of it. It’s the light and bright living room of this gorgeous home in Spain, and I keep coming back to it over and over again. Everything about it is perfect (well, except maybe those tacky glass palm trees in the foreground).

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Is it the giant, beautiful canvas above the equally beautiful linen sofa? The plants? The mini gallery wall? I think it’s all that natural light streaming in, mostly. But all of the textures (and there are tons, from the dabs of paint on the canvas, to the thistly jute rug under foot) and the layout of the room keep pulling me in.

Here’s how to get the look:

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Sofa / Lamp / Coffee Table / Painting / Framed Pictures 1, 2, 3, 4 / Plants / Blanket

Please Be Seated

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If we filed last Friday’s Paris-tidbit under “Weird Things I Never Knew,” then this week’s should be filed under, “Things I Kind of Suspected”: Georges restaurant in the Centre Pompidou (the ugliest building in the universe) has been accused of seating more attractive people at the front of the room, and hiding more, um, unattractive diners in the back. The restaurant has an open layout, and is visible to museum patrons. A former hostess has spilled the beans of the owners’ preferred seating arrangements in the French paper Le Canard Enchainé this week (which, it should be noted, is a satirical publication; however, when asked about the allegations, the restaurant would neither “confirm or deny” the rumors).

“‘There are beautiful people, you put them here. There are not-beautiful people, you put them there – it’s really not that complicated,'” the former hostess quoted [owner Gilbert Costes] as saying.

But what about prospective diners who made phone reservations? Fear not, the owners had a plan for that, too!

The staff were taught to look for certain “linguistic clues” which might give away whether the voice on the other end of the phone belonged to one of the “beautiful people” or not. According to the former worker, the staff would usually tell callers they would “do their best” to find them a table, then decide if they were “fully-booked” or not, after taking a look at the would-be diners when they arrived.

This is the most absurd thing I’ve read in a while. Though again, I sort of suspected this might be in practice in certain places, especially in Paris, where there is no shortage of outside dining and the tables always seem to be filled with pretty people. I’m tempted, on my next trip back (WHEN WILL THAT BE?) to test this theory and ask for a table for two. Though maybe I don’t want to know.

Thanks to Audrey for sending this story to me!

Assume the Position

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These illustrations by artist Patrick Kearns cracked me up. How do you read? I’m a mix between figure 8, The Thinker (if you count reading on the subway/bus) and figure 5, Mr(s). Lonely (when I’m on the couch). Mostly though, I’m laying down on my side in bed, playing a game called “How Many Pages Can You Read Before You Fall Asleep?” My record is 10.

Fun fact from my current read, “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark”:

Christie’s and Sotheby’s share 80 percent of the world auction market in high-value art, and an almost absolute monopoly on works selling for over $1 million. In 2006, 810 works of art –all art, not just contemporary art– were auctioned for more than $1 million; of these, 801 were sold at one or other of the two auction houses.

How’s your read (position) going?

A Breath of Canned Air

My dad had a collection of Le Parfait canning jars, the glass ones with tight gasket snap-closures, on a rack in his kitchen. They held things like popcorn kernels, spices, coffee, sugar, pasta. He liked that they were sleek and attractive and added a cohesive visual look to otherwise boring food storage. His favorite part, though? That the jars were all made in France and sealed for shipment, meaning that, theoretically, there was French air trapped inside. For a Francophile like him, that was magical, something to be revered. Whenever he bought a new one, he’d unsnap it and take a deep breath in. It was one of those wonderful quirks of his that fill my heart to bursting whenever I think about it.

So when I came across these Canned Air tins on Etsy via Freshome, my dad was the first person I thought of. For the low price of $9.99, you too can have a can of air taken from Paris! (Or London, or Singapore, or New York!)

 

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Whether or not I believe there is really Parisian air in there, I am just dying from the cuteness of the label alone. “20% from the Louvre”! “May contain traces of liberté, égalité and fraternité”! Come on. I may have to buy one just because I know my dad would have. If there were ever a gift more perfectly made for him, I haven’t found it yet.

Dreamboat Annie

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I first started blogging back in February of 2011, and honestly, it was lonely. No one tells you that, that it will be like writing into outer space for a few months before you start building relationships with other bloggers, and it can feel pretty bleak at first. So in May of 2011, when I saw an incoming link to my blog from a post at a then-unknown-to-me blog called Insideology, titled “Why Design Bloggers Love the Parsons Table” featuring my desk in my last apartment, I was so relieved and happy (I even felt a little famous!). Little did I know that our first comment interaction would end up being the beginning of, dare I be so cheesy, a beautiful friendship. Also, it’s amazing that we have documentation of the exact moment we became friends! Annie and I have spent the last two and a half years emailing incessantly, gossiping like girlfriends at a sleepover. She’s even sent me a gold fish candle in the mail, in case you had doubts about the seriousness of our relationship or her overall fabulousness.

Through Annie, I got to meet basically everyone else I know from blogging. Lauren, Sam, Nina, Theresa, Sue, Aga, Chi, and then everyone else that I’ve met through those connections. Annie was the main key link to all of it. I’ve even met Lauren and Sam in person! But not Annie. Not until this past weekend, when we met up in New York, and spent the day walking and talking and drinking and eating and, for my part, generally swooning over how perfect both she and Richard, her husband, are.

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We of course visited Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop in the West Village, walked the whole High Line end to end, had a delicious and filling brunch, drank big pints of beer in the beer garden underneath The Standard Hotel, and the whole day went way too quickly. Seeing her for the first time, as she snuck up behind me out front of the restaurant where we ate brunch, was surreal and magical and normal all at the same time. Here she was, this person I knew so well, finally! After all this time! It was overwhelming but also sort of like I’d just seen her the week before and we were catching up for brunch as if we’d done it a million times before. And while I’d worried on the drive up that we’d have painfully awkward lapses in conversation, or that, as I’d suspected all along, I wouldn’t be cool enough for her and Richard, the whole day was perfect. The weather was an unseasonably warm 70 and sunny with not a cloud in the sky, and there wasn’t a single awkward silence to be found. We all laughed like old friends, only two of us happened to have amazing British accents that are just so dreamy. (And honestly, I’m no where near cool enough to rub elbows with Annie and Richard, but they must have still been jet-lagged, because they didn’t seem to notice.)

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She left me with two Aero bars and a Cadbury caramel bar that I devoured in roughly 14 hours, as well as the warmest, fuzziest feeling ever. I can’t wait to see them again. Over brunch, Richard said, “I’m benefitting quite a lot from this ‘blogging’ thing.” And I wanted to be all, DUDE ME TOO!!, but I cooly nodded in agreement. Because, dude. Me too.