Treasure trove in my own backyard

I have been meaning to pay a visit to Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Washington DC Hillwood Estate for at least five years. It is a shame I waited so long, because Hillwood is an oasis of beauty as well as a reminder of America’s heydays.

For those not familiar with Ms. Post’s history, here is her very, very abbreviated story: Born in Illinois 1887 into the hugely wealthy Post family (of Post cereal fame). Parents die and at age 27 she inherits the $20 million business. Blessed with beauty and brains she turns the business into an even more successful behemoth. Starts collecting art and never stops. Marries four times. In 1955 buys Hillwood (only one of several estates) and fills it with prized pieces from her extensive collection. In short, a formidable woman.

In my last few blogs I have mentioned the prevalence of huge, mega-sized contemporary art taking up residence in art fairs, museums, galleries and cavernous homes of the 1%. What is remarkable about Marjorie Merriweather Post’s unique collection is the predominance of diminutive objets d’art. Ms. Post was partial to the super-refined, labor-intensive, highly detailed French and Russian decorative arts, preferably with royal provenance.

Marie Antoinette's swivel chair
Tsar’s coronation crown
Marie Antoinette's swivel chair
Marie Antoinette’s swivel chair

To be honest, I would have a hard time living with such an extraordinarily large amount of priceless knickknacks and tchachkes. Every surface, cabinet, shelf and table top are crowded with competing Faberge eggs, diamond coronation crosses, tiny enamel inlaid boxes, porcelain dishes to die for and delicate glass ornaments, to name but a few. I won’t even start on the tapestries, furniture and paintings. But there is no question that Ms. Post had exquisite taste. I thank her posthumously for her generosity toward the other 99% in bequeathing her estate to the public as a museum.

Japanese garden on the estate
Japanese garden on the estate

Marjorie and I do however have one thing in common besides art: Shoes. While nosing around her private quarters, I made a wonderful discovery when I peeked into her shoe closet – dozens of pairs of the same shoe in a rainbow of colors. Apparently Ms. Post found this particular style to her liking and had them made in all colors to match her outfits. A woman after my own heart.

Hillwood (12)

Less is more

I am very pleased to be participating in the upcoming exhibition “Less is More” at the Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College in Annapolis. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 2012, the Mitchell Gallery’s modern design won a Citation of Merit from the American Institute of Architects and attracts over 10,000 visitors a year to its museum-quality  exhibits.

St. John's College, at Annapolis, Maryland, Un...

I love the fact that the whole show centers around small art works. Sometimes we just need to get away from real estate-hogging megaworks such as this piece in the Art Basel fair, which looks like a giant kindergarten paper mache attempt (below),

20130608171105-unlimited or Florentijn Hofman’s Giant Rubber Duck floating in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour which admittedly is really cute (below).

It can be very moving to take the time to look at something that can fit into the palm of your hand. Often, these smaller, labor intensive works can be just as powerful and can connect us more intimately with the artist. The Museum of Antiquities in Old Jaffa, Israel, is taking it a step further with its current exhibition featuring Nano Art works that fit on the head of a pin!

The juror for Less is More was Jack Rasmussen, curator at the American University Museum and I am very pleased he chose two of my works.

Icarus  Porcelain figure and found sconce.
Icarus Porcelain figure and found sconce.

I have been so immersed in the painting studio  lately that I love to send some of my ceramic creations out on the exhibition circuit! The show opens with a special signature cocktail and preview on May 29th and is open to the public till the end of June 2013.

Update: On opening night, my Icarus piece fell to the floor and was shattered. Quite unfortunate, but a friend rightly pointed out that I should look at it as Icarus: The Performance!!!!!