Monthly Archives: May 2017

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

A 1982 painting by Jean Michel Basquiat will be shown to the public for the first time in more than 30 years, after being sold to a Japanese billionaire for $110.5 million, a record for the artist. Yusaku Maezawa, a 41 year-old fashion tycoon, said he acquired the painting for a museum being built in his home town of Chiba in Japan. But initially he plans to promote it by lending the painting to institutions and exhibitions throughout the world.

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‘When I saw it for the first time, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art,’ said Mr Maezawa. ‘I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21 year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.’

Basquiat’s depiction of a colourful skull forged from slick oil and spray-paint, and painted in graffiti style, joined a club of only ten other works to have sold for over $100 million dollars. It is now the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. There were gasps from the audience at Sotheby’s Post War & Contemporary Auction as at least 4 people placed their bids on the phones. In the 10-ten minute bidding war in New York the price shot quickly past the $60 million for which it had been guaranteed to sell.

‘At that moment, Jean Michel Basquiat entered the pantheon of artists whose work has commanded prices over $100 million, including Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon and Warhol,’ said Gregoire Billault, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York. The piece, which went to auction named ‘Untitled,’ was virtually unknown before it was unveiled at Sotheby’s.

It had remained in the same private collection since it was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000. Mr Maezawa, founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation and an e-commerce entrepreneur, announced his purchase with a post on his Instagram account. Last year, he set the previous record for a Basquiat, paying $57.3 million for a painting of a horned devil. The African American artist was born in Brooklyn, New York, and died of a drug overdose in 1998. Last year, Basquiat became the highest grossing American artist at auction generating $171.5 million from 80 works, according to Artprice.

In 1981, Francesca Thyssen, the free-spirited daughter of Fiona, who happened to be a friend of mine, was constantly making waves in London’s hedonistic sub culture of rock groups and young painters, arrived at my office in Wellington Court, Knightsbridge, with Jean Michel Basquiat, who at the time epitomised the youth culture of the 1980s.

If I could have guessed when I met him what a tremendous presence he would become on the art scene before departing from it at the age 27, I would certainly have become a very wealthy art collector. Instead, today in minor consolation, to remind me of a lost opportunity Quartet has for many years published his biography, which is still selling well.

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For those who are intrigued by this young prodigy our book will perhaps give them an insight as to why his paintings are reaching unparalleled heights at auction.

MY WOMAN OF THE WEEK

If I don’t write in my blog, or think about the gentler sex from time to time I feel bereft, as if something is missing in my life.

Some feminists, and others, will naturally accuse me of being addicted to what they might call an unhealthy disposition towards women, but they are wrong. I consider women as God’s more creative side in his moulding of the human body, especially in an aesthetic sense, so this week, my choice falls on a new discovery, at least as far as I’m concerned.

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The lady in question is Kimberley Garner, an English swimwear designer, television personality, actress and socialite best known for her role in the reality TV series Made in Chelsea.

Educated at St George’s School, Ascot, where in the sixth form she took courses in Art, Politics, Photography and Religion, Garner is the daughter of a property developer, Russell Garner and his wife, Geraldine, of Kensington.

After leaving school in London and the Lee Strasburg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood, Kimberly became a property developer on her own account and was reported in 2012 to be a regular worshipper at Holy Trinity, Brompton.

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She first came to public attention as a regular cast member of the BAFTA award-winning show Made In Chelsea which she joined in March 2012 and left in November, the same year.

In May 2013 Garner launched a swimwear collection. She has gone on to release a further two collections to date. Garner is a director of Kimberley London Ltd, the company which sells her collections.
With her father, she’s also a director of Young London Events Ltd.

In 2017, she took the female lead in the Hollywood action movie, Sweetheart.

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From all accounts, one can see that Kimberley is a clever woman with great ambitions in a variety of spheres. Apart from a stunning body, at the age 27 she has still far to go. Her future is rosy and we are bound to see a lot of her in years to come. Currently she is at the Cannes Festival, looking a sheer delight

Let us therefore applaud her achievements to date and look forward to greater accomplishments in the future. She is certainly blessed by the Almighty who must look favourably on his creation.

The Majestic Narwhal

As the owner of a narwhal long tusk, I was fascinated to read that the mystery of why the narwhal has a long tusk may have been solved after one was filmed using it to catch cod. The elusive Arctic whale has been described as the ‘unicorn of the sea’ because of its spiral tusk which can grow up to nine feet long in adult males. To me it is a beautiful object, a powerful memento of a great whale that roams the Arctic waters and can easily be classed as an art object.

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Charles Darwin thought that it was used to attract mates. A study in 2014 claimed that it was a sensory organ and that its thousands of nerve endings were used to measure the water’s salinity to help it navigate and find food. Other theories include it being an ice pick, a weapon used to compete for a mate and a tool for sonar.

Although the tusk is likely to have multiple purposes, footage from Canada shows definitely that one function is as a fishing tool. A drone filmed a narwhal using quick taps of its tusk to stun Arctic cod, rendering them easier to capture and eat.

The drone was used by scientists investigating narwhal behaviour in Tremblay Sound Nunavut, Canada. Less is known about narwhals than other whales because they live only in the Arctic and observing them is tricky.

WWF, the conservation charity conducting the research with Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the footage was also significant because it showed the area was a narwhal feeding ground that needed to be protected.

The narwhal is classified as near-threated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only about 80,000 are left.

The loss of Arctic ice through global warming is exposing narwhals to greater risk of attack by killer whales which are venturing north into the territory, according to Rod Downie, WWF’s head of polar programmes. He said that narwhals were also threated by industrial developments including increased risk of being hit by a ship as melting ice allowed more routes to open, and noise disturbance from seismic surveys by the oil industry.

‘Narwhals are one of the most magical creatures but they are one of the species that are most vulnerable to climate change. We are witnessing a rapid loss of sea ice in their Arctic home. That’s why we are working with our partners to track narwhal movements so that we can identity critical habitats that need to be protected.’

Many scientists believe that the Arctic will be almost free of sea ice by 2040. What a disaster that would be. My narwhal tusk is so majestic that the mere thought of the extinction of the narwhal would grieve me no end. We must therefore do everything we can to protect it.

WE MET PERHAPS IN THE IN BETWEEN?

I’m delighted that Bella Pollen’s new volume of autobiography Meet Me in the Inbetween is garnering such good reviews.

In January 1982, Arabella Pollen, daughter of Sotheby’s then vice-chairman, Peregrine Pollen, became part of the Namara Group. Arabella’s project was to launch a fashion company under her own name, with my financial backing and the full resources of Namara at her disposal. Though Arabella possessed no formal qualifications in dressmaking or design, I could see she had ability and drive. She combined beauty with energy and her elegance and poise were enhanced by her piercing blue eyes. She was, moreover, being helped in her adventure by one of the rising stars at Vogue magazine, Sophie Hicks – today a well-known architect. I was very taken with Arabella, and although fashion was not an area on which I had set my sights, I was carried away by her aura. It was overwhelmingly seductive. She was every man’s dream: youthful, zestful and self-assured. There was also that indefinable quality about her that made a man wish to protect her and gave him the impression that she needed him when it was in fact not the case; nevertheless the sensation was gratifying.

She took over my old office at Wellington Court and the process of promoting Arabella started in earnest. I was determined to make her a household name. The strategy was to establish Arabella as the fashion designer for the young – the new generation of hopefuls who formed the nucleus of a trendy society with their boundless ambition and natural savoir-faire. Arabella’s beau, Patrick Benson, was referred to by Tatler as her chief button-sewer, whereas he was in fact a multi-talented artist whose many sketches provided her with inspiration. Sandra Marr, Viscountess Weir’s daughter, was listed in the team as head mannequin, and the indefatigable Sophie Hicks was chief adviser. In due course, a young lady with a lisp, Kathryn Ireland, was appointed special publicity person cum personal assistant.

Katherine was a great operator and a real go-getter. At one point, however, I felt that her influence on Arabella sometimes veered from the positive to the reckless, diverting Arabella towards more recreational pursuits. No doubt I was being over-protective, worried that, because of her youth, she might be led seriously off course. Following through from those early days, Katherine has since moved on to become the hottest property in Hollywood, running her own interior-design company that caters mainly for the stars.
Arabella’s rise to prominence happened in no time at all. Among her clients she was soon counting Princess Diana, a fashion icon of her day, and a large majority of the Sloane Rangers who graced the London social scene in that époque.
When I asked her to contribute her memories of that period for inclusion in my volume of autobiography, Fulfilment & Betrayal, she supplied the following which well captures our special time together:

Growing a Business

By Arabella Pollen

When Naim called me out of the blue one day to ask whether I would write something for his memoir, my initial reaction was panic. I have almost zero recall of my twelve-year stint in the fashion business, maybe because it was a long time ago, or maybe it’s the onset of premature Alzheimer’s. Either way, only the barest threads of memory remain: the up-all-nights and the seven days a week, the brilliance and dedication of my studio workforce. OK, so there was that two-year commute to Paris – Fashion Aid, of course, and the craziness of the Studio 54 shows – but almost all the rest of it, the people, the parties, the excitement, tears, triumphs and disappointments, have merged into one great kaleidoscopic blur stored somewhere deep inside my head. Not Naim, though. Naim Attallah is not a person you forget.

We met in 1980. I was nineteen and a year out of school. I had spent the first six months of that year working odd jobs in advertising and the latter part of it holed up in a crumbling mill in France with a Super 8 movie camera, earnestly attempting to write, shoot and direct a satire on the business. This high-falutin project left me profoundly broke and I was eventually forced to return to London, engage with the real world and look around for a way to make ends meet. Having crashed through my A-levels with a spectacular mix of bad behaviour and complacency, the only asset I had of any real value was a cupboard full of textiles which I’d collected over the years and – for reasons that still escape me – I decided to make clothes out of them. This resulted in a small collection, mostly constructed from stiff and itchy Hebridean tweeds, which somehow caught the attention of an editor at Vogue magazine, and before very much time had passed I found myself sitting in the air-conditioned offices of Namara in Poland Street, clutching a portfolio between my knees. ‘If he likes you,’ the Vogue editor had said, ‘he’ll be back.’

Quite what I was expecting in a publisher who might be interested in starting a fashion business with me, I can’t say. Certainly Naim Attallah was not it. First of all, he was extraordinary looking: tall, broad, enormous hands, odd-shaped ears. He was a Palestinian ‘Mr Potato Head’, but with a charming face and rather beautiful eyes that folded into multiple creases when he smiled. There was his voice: versatile in its range, capable of soaring and dipping through several octaves whenever he became excited. There was his manner: utterly disarming, every gesture expansive. On top of all there, there were his clothes: flamboyant, foreign, yet, conversely, impeccably English. Something bright flashed as he seized my hand. A piece of jewellery, a silk tie? I don’t know. There was just so much detail to take in. All I remember is that he gripped my arm, launched forth with great enthusiasm on a variety of seemingly unconnected topics, flipped through my portfolio, and the deal was done.

Later that day, I walked slowly out of the Notting Hill tube station and blinked disbelievingly into the afternoon light. I had a job. More than a job, I was about to have my own business. I assumed he was mad, certifiably insane. But what I came to understand was that Naim didn’t believe in business plans or spreadsheets. He believed in people, and once he put his faith in you, it was absolute.

Some of us are dreamers, some are thinkers. Naim is a doer, a nurturer of talent and ideas. Together we put down roots and grew a business. God knows, neither of us knew what we were doing, but we muddled through. It was a lot of fun. We had more than our share of success and I loved how proud that made him.

Random things stick in my mind from those days, like Naim’s zeal for cats, not the kittycat variety but animal skins, oil paintings and two enormous white and gold china tigers – maybe kept at Namara, maybe perched on a white rug at his house in Mayfair. I remember the window of our Knightsbridge offices shattering when the Hyde Park bomb exploded. I recently found a gold egg on a chain he gave me from Asprey, which I wore for a while, then temporarily mislaid. I remember the other girls downstairs, bluestocking and studious, working for some mysterious outfit called The Women’s Press.
Naim and I would have lunch together. These were three-course affairs, cooked by someone pretty with a cordon-bleu diploma and served with great style. We talked about everything – his myriad of ventures – film, theatre, art. We talked about Palestine, women, publishing, food, love. He was endearing, passionate, funny, enthusiastic, and just a little bit mad. There wasn’t a soul who knew him who didn’t imitate his delighted shriek of a greeting when you walked into a room. We all took to answering phones ‘in the style of Naim’. I think he probably knew. I suspect he kind of liked it. He was happiest being the sun around which lots of interesting people revolved.

From time to time we argued. Then he was infuriating, bombastic, stubborn, arrogant – but so, of course, was I. I was always in a hurry. I wanted Pollen Inc. to be bigger and better. I wanted success and recognition. I wanted greater financing, higher turnover, more staff. He was slower; and a lot wiser. When the time came for us to head off in different directions, I’m pretty sure I was the one who behaved badly, a touch furtively, unsure quite how to approach the matter, while Naim behaved, as usual, like a gentleman. Twenty years later I still count on Naim’s loyalty and friendship. When I wrote my first book, a truly dire spoof on the fashion business, it was Naim who, with great generosity of spirit, was the first to review it. We still have lunch from time to time. The cordon-bleu days might have gone, but the panache remains. Naim’s enthusiasm and passion for life have never faltered. I am always more pleased than I can say to see him – and I wear my gold Asprey’s egg a lot.

REMEMBERING CHRISTINA FOYLE

Those of us who have laboured in the literary trade for a long, long time should sometimes stand back and remember the places and the people who contributed so much to Grub Street’s glory. Christina Foyle must surely deserve our remembrance.

In January 1991 Publishing News reported that Christina Foyle had just finished reading Singular Encounters and found it quite diverting. Christina and I had got on remarkably well when I interviewed her for Women. She told me how she had adored her father and how much she had learned from him.

My father was really rather a gambler. He was always up to something. Once, coming back from America, he kept playing cards with some rather sharp people. First of all, he won quite a lot, about a thousand pounds a day – this was in the 1930s – and then he lost it all and a lot more besides. He told these men – they were real sharpers – that he couldn’t pay, but they accepted a cheque. Then I had to get off the boat very quickly at Southampton to stop the cheque. He used to give me all those sorts of things to do. And then there was a lot of money owing him from the Soviet Union, with all kinds of bad debts, and he sent me over there to collect them. I went to Russia, by myself, when I was twenty-one. I went all over Russia, but most of the people who owed us money had either been executed or gone to Siberia. I didn’t have much luck.

Christina was very entertaining and a good raconteur:

When I first came to Foyle’s, it was a wonderful time. There were very many great writers about: Bernard Shaw and Wells and Kipling, Conan Doyle. They all used to come into the shop, and they were charming to me. That’s why I started my luncheons, because customers used to say you’re so lucky, you meet all these great people, I wish I had your opportunities. So I said to my father, we ought to give a luncheon and let our customers come and meet these writers. So my father said, well, you’ve nothing much to do, why don’t you arrange it? That’s how our luncheons came about. But I found that, although I was so young, they never patronized me or talked down to me at all. I used to go round and call on these people, asking them to come and speak, and they always said yes. And we’ve had them from that day to this. The first lunch we gave was for Lord Darling, the famous Lord Chief Justice and Lord Alfred Douglas came, who had been involved in the Wilde affair years before; and then our most recent lunch was for Jeffrey Archer, who wasn’t born when we started them. So it’s been marvellous, and I can hardly think of a time when I’ve had any unpleasant experiences.

Christina was a woman to whom I could relate. She often invited me to a Foyle’s luncheon, usually held at Grosvenor House Hotel, and invariably seated me next to her. She was worldly and gossipy and it was enchanting to be in her company. On one occasion she told me how Colonel Gadaffi of Libya would send Foyle’s a cheque for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and ask her to choose the books for him. She loved her profession and she loved people.

The two strands were completely interlinked in her life.

OLDER FOLKS, TAKE HEED

It was always understood that as you get older the need for sleep becomes less urgent and the body adjusts itself accordingly. This assumption is now a recognised fallacy as older people, if anything, require as much hours of sleep as their younger counterparts. Company executives or busy parents, who pack the most into their days are known to boast of the little sleep they get. This may not be a sign of competence – rather, it could be because the brain is showing signs of age.

A review has found that older people need just as much sleep as the young. However, they miss out on it because the areas of the brain that regulate sleep degrade over time. The neurons and circuits we need to rest effectively break down gradually, resulting in less non-REM sleep. This is the dreamless, deep stage of sleep that allows us to wake refreshed.

It has previously been thought that adults needed less rest from middle age, because they seem less affected by losing it. But US scientists think they may simply have adjusted to compensate.

Professor Matthew Walker, whose team at the University of California, Berkeley, looked at numerous studies said: ‘There is a debate whether older adults need less sleep or rather they cannot generate the sleep they nevertheless need. The evidence seems to favour one side – older adults do not have a reduced need, but instead they have an impaired ability to generate sleep.’

We start losing sleep in our mid-thirties, but the problem becomes considerably worse from the age of forty – when people find themselves taking longer to drift off and are woken more easily; a quarter of adults report daytime sleepiness severe enough to spoil their everyday plans. Around one in ten aged 55 – 64 say they are forced to take daytime naps.

A review published in the journal Neuron states that our drive to sleep therefore appears to remain the same as we age. And while sleep deprivation causes less of a drop performance among older adults than younger ones, older people often perform considerably worse under rested conditions. As a result, the team raises concerns that lack of sleep could lead to hefty mental and physical costs. Being deprived of rest has been linked to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer.

Professor Walker added: ‘Sleep changes with ageing but it can also start to explain ageing itself. Major diseases killing us in first-world nations – from diabetes to cancer – now have strong casual links to a lack of sleep. All of those diseases significantly increase in likelihood the older we get, especially dementia.’

Whatever one thinks, rest is the key to fight disease and lack of sleep is the major factor. Therefore be prudent and organise your life accordingly…

SCENT SIGNALS

I was not surprised to read that Donald Trump has a soft spot for his own perfume, Success. The Telegraph Magazine commissioned me to write an article on scent over twenty years ago now yet it seems as relevant today as it was at the time it was written, so I reproduce it in full:

From an early age, I have had a highly developed sense of smell. This may be attributable to the simple fact of having a large nose, but whatever the reason, it has served me like an extremely sensitive barometer over the years.

As the only boy in a large family, I was weaned on female fragrances. In school holidays I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother in Nazareth, where her garden was full of scented flowers and trees of every description. It was an aromatic enclave unspoiled by exhaust fumes.

I often think of women as flowers whose fragrance varies according to age and the environment in which they grow. There are women whose native odour can be very sensual. While their own redolent freshness would seem to need no additions, a discreet dash of scent can enhance their desirability, and at the same time heighten their sense of well-being.

Those women whose bodies do not emit a natural fragrance tend to use scent as an essential part of their make-up. This can be catastrophic if it is done too liberally. How often have I come home with a headache after a night at the opera sitting in the midst of pungent perfumes, or felt the lingering ill-effects of taking a lift recently vacated by a heavily scented woman.

Beauty is proverbially in the eye of the beholder, but an unpleasant smell is usually unequivocal. Although we are invariably guided and influenced by the visible, there is no doubt that an attendant bad smell seriously compromises beauty, whereas ugliness can often be transformed by a lovely fragrance.

Animals are attracted by smell in courtship; so too with people. When I left home to come to England, I was beginning to take a serious interest in girls. My heart would pound at the briefest encounter with a pretty girl, and if her perfume was seductive my heartbeat would reach a crescendo. If the smell was not pleasing, the boredom of normality would descend suddenly and decisively, replacing all desire.

In today’s world, where the air in our cities is thick with various pollutants, and people rush around trying to earn their living, there is very little opportunity to feel fresh and relaxed. This is particularly true in summer, when the atmosphere is oppressive. In these circumstances some women use scent as a means of freshening up. This is what I regard as a serious abuse of the whole soins de beauté. The result is always displeasing; the staleness remains and resists any cover-up. There can be few things less appealing than a rank smell overlaid with scent. Conversely, there are few things more alluring than the smell of newly shampooed hair and the aroma of a woman’s body after a warm scented bath.

When I interviewed some 300 women for my book Women, the first whiff on meeting told me a great deal about my subject. An excessively perfumed woman I found neither sexy nor, usually, intellectually sophisticated. The more discreet the scent, the more interesting and charismatic the woman – or so it seemed to me.

All my entrepreneurial adventures have a common goal: love in some form or other. I have recently launched an aphrodisiac chocolate which I believe is to the palate what scent is to the olfactory senses. Four years ago I launched two scents: Avant l’Amour and Après l’Amour. The first is designed to relax the woman and at the same time to stimulate her gently. The unique blend is made up of rose, jasmine, tuberose, iris, peach, sandalwood, vetiver, clove, civet and musk. Après l’Amour is a blend of ylang-ylang, rose of Bulgaria, jasmine, iris, Florence, violet, vetiver, vanilla and myrrh. With this scent I wanted serenity to prevail.

It is very important that women should use scent judiciously, the correct amount is crucial. A little dab behind the ears prepares the ground for a tender assault on the senses, whereas the merest suggestion on the inside of the thighs is irresistibly erotic.

In love-making the importance of conducive smells cannot be exaggerated. I believe the earth-moving sensation sought by so many is reached not simply by the union of two bodies, but ultimately by the fusion of two sensual aromas.