Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Everyone Who Was Everyone

The handsome new volume, Café Society, chronicles and displays many a ‘ball of the century’, and the lavish costume parties, couture, horse races, yachts, villas, resorts, art, architecture and surrealist gardens that set trends for the 20th century and beyond.

Through lavish photos by masters such as Cecil Beaton, Horst, and Richard Avedon, we leap inside the glittering world of Lady Diana Cooper, Lady Cunard, Ali Khan, Cole Porter, Violet de Trefusis, Fulco de Verdura, Edith Sitwell, Noel Coward, Mona Bismarck, Alexis de Rede, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe) Diana Vreeland, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Charles de Bestegui, and sparkling names too fabulous and rich and fragrant to mention.

“In its brilliance, its creative vitality, its eccentricity, its desire to shock, and its untroubled affinity with money, café society created a posthumous image of itself as a golden age, a paradise lost, in which nothing had more point than the pointless, nothing was more profound than the superficial, and elegance and an inimitable art de vivre took precedence over everything, for the pleasure of a few and the happiness of all.” — Thierry Coudert, author of ‘Café Society’

Jeweled and scented members of café society were the trend setters, artistic patrons, and idolized celebrities of the early twentieth century.

As an unofficial club (most of them knew each other) of socialites, aristocracy, and artists, they lived large and thought nothing of traveling the world to attend the most over-the-top, extravagant parties and happenings.

Café society was defined by who was invited to these exclusive events and who was not – an exclusivity that extended beyond matters of rank or birth.

Members of this avidly followed social circle set trends and offered confirmation of what was chic in fashion, the arts, travel destinations.

They were the original style arbiters, whose patronage determined which artists, designers, and musicians were in vogue.

‘Cafe Society’—with paintings and private photos from the scrapbook of the Baron de Cabrol, includes images of interiors by Jean-Michel Frank, fashions by Cristobal Balenciaga and Elsa Schiaparelli, jewels by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, and offers an exclusive look into the world these handsome men and beautiful women inhabited.

For added spice, gossipy chapters include juicy and mordant tidbits (mere rumors, quite often) about their glamorous personal lives. These histories of this international set illustrate how café society capriciously decided who would be included (beauty would get you everywhere) , and how they influenced society, as well as the art, ballet, theater, literature, and architecture worlds they encouraged.

The author: Paris-based Thierry Coudert co-authored the exhibition catalog for Cartier 1899–1949 at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2007. A close friend of café society ringleader Alexis de Redé and a collector of Art Deco furniture and decorative pieces, Coudert has an extensive personal archive of period publications and ephemera on café society.

CAFÉ SOCIETY: Socialites, Patrons, and Artists in Paris 1920 to 1960

Thierry Coudert, 320 pages, 250 illustrations and photographs.
Flammarion, distributed by Rizzoli New York.

All images used with express permission of the publisher.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Glorious Gardens of Guy Hervais

Famed French photographer Guy Hervais has traveled the world capturing images of the most beautiful private gardens.

Let’s unlock the garden gate and enter the splendor of these gardens.

Come with me for an exclusive visit and a chat with Guy, and meet this lovely and very private soul who is a world-renowned expert on the aesthetics and ephemeral beauty of gardens.

I have a wonderful and totally exclusive story and photos for you today!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve introduced the great photographer, Guy Hervais, to my dear and faithful readers.

We’ve seen the stupendously beautiful photographs he took of the new Hyderabad, India, hotel, Falaknuma Palace (one of the great new palace hotels). And we recently saw an edited portfolio of his spectacular interiors photographs, including private images he took recently in India for the legendary Maharajah of Jodhpur, a dear friend. In case you missed these, check and view recent posts on Falaknuma Palace here, and Guy’s Greatest Photos, here.

Now we are encountering the most passionate aspect of Guy’s work—his focus on gardens of the world, as well as his private garden design.

These are some of the most striking, original, and perfect garden images you will ever see.

They are so vivid you can smell the lavender and lemons, feel the fresh air brushing your cheek, and hear birds chirping in the trees. You will sense the first dawn light, and the tender last rays of sunset.

The splendor of these gardens and their particular character and style are captured by an obsessed photographer, He is also knowledgeable about horticulture and garden design.

He will get up in the middle of the night to capture the first light flickering over a garden.  Hervais will follow a garden’s progress over years. He understands gardens, loves them, and lets his intelligence and imagination loose on the beauty and glory of these landscapes.

I love gardens that are unique. Unique means exceptional. Exceptional for gardens always means personal.
A garden could be the most simple or the most sophisticated, small or huge, but it should be a personal, private vision.
What is important is its ‘anima‘, its soul, its character, its grandeur of vision, its essence.
It might come from its creator, a hired gardener, the landscape designer, or the owner
When all are united, to bring together design, horticulture, style, originality, beauty, it’s a masterpiece.
—photographer Guy Hervais

I recently had a cozy chat with Guy. He’s enthusiastic, passionate, witty, lovely, and a genius photographer.

DDS: Guy, how did you get started photographing gardens?
GH: I have had the chance to visit many unique, world renowned, completely hidden or unknown gardens, to produce stories for magazines such as French Vogue, House & Garden international editions and travel publications.

With time, it became so natural to me, that I decided to pay homage to these discoveries, creating Garden-Secret, my studio dedicated to bespoke books for owners to offer to their friends.

Starting with photography, I manage the art direction from the layout to the end of the printing. My goal is to create the most beautiful books, as unique as their owners.

DDS: Tell us about your own garden in Provence.
AT Le Pavillon de Galon, my residence and studio, we have created several gardens, all inspired by the incredible surrounding landscape.

The main garden, ‘Le Jardin à la Française’, was originally an abandoned prairie and now fronts the house.

Within its closed walls, 80m by 40m, we decided to design an historical modern garden with a blue and green color palette and balanced planting using very sophisticated shapes and natural essences from the wild mountain behind us.

We love to sit on our terrace in the afternoon and admire it and wonder at our divinities, a series of trees that are over 300 years old.

I have planted a young orchard (we have now about 80 different fruit varietals). There is a spiral planted with olive trees.

We created an avenue of alternating pines and brooms, called ‘Les Champs Elysées’.

This is Provence, so naturally we have a fig orchard and our wine, a Côte du Luberon called Hocus Pocus (produced on a tiny scale with only 1000 bottles per year).

DDS: Tell us about the gardens of the eco architect Geoffrey Bawa, in Sri Lanka.
GH: For years now, I have traveled regularly to India and Sri Lanka to get inspiration related to nature and spirituality.

When there, I meet extraordinary artists, architects and very original characters. Among them, I’m passionate about the works of Sir Geoffrey Bawa, one of my very dearest masters. He always finds the perfect relationship between the vegetal and architecture world (where the outside is inside and the inside is outside).

Perfection. True enlightenment.

DDS: I adore the sculptural garden in Menerbes. It was created by an American woman, very private and is a vision of simply green grass, sculpted box, lavender, and limestone. It is so peaceful.
I adore the sculptural gardens created by an inspired American lady, built on the cliffs and rocks of the beautiful Ménerbes village, once the artists Picasso’s, Dora Maar's, and Nicolas de Stael’s prefered places on earth.

Here you feel how style is mastered.

A strong, beautiful and humble dedication to Beauty and Life.

“I spend a lot of time cultivating my own garden. I used to say that my only ‘dictator’ is my garden.”—Guy Hervais

DDS: You travel the world, Paris, Jodhpur, Rome, Milan, London.
GH: My garden is my absolute priority. Nothing can really wait. I have a vision and I’m obsessed.

Here I work with some help, shaping, pruning, digging. I’m very much aware ‘gardening’ doesn’t simply mean a spade, a rake, a mower.

It is soul and it gives back at every moment: new energy, new creation, new thought, strength, inspiration.

It’s important for me and my work.

It gives new vision and insight.

DDS: You have a focused and very elegant plant palette.
GH: I adore all natural plants (not hybridized or artificial). All colors, all shapes (except spiky or sharply formed plants). Everything depends on where the garden is located, if it’s open or closed to the landscape, in which region, the soil, its orientation.

All these details are extremely important; they seem endlessly complicated but at the same time they are so simple and are breathtaking in their simplicity.

When creating some garden designs for my clients and friends, I keep reassuring them to give a strong structure to my creation. The ‘bones’, the form and the structure are like the architecture of the garden.

All the rest follows naturally and gets more impressive over time as it grows. Time is the natural key for seeing a garden grow in harmony.

I have for many years particularly admired a very ‘baroque’ tree, named ‘Sophora Japonica’, and an old variety of almond trees named ‘Princess’, which I have just planted. I am enjoying watching them grow.

DDS: Current work?
GH: For one year, I’ve been working for an extraordinary American lady, photographing her gardens in every season, near St Remy de Provence. We are creating a book.

At the moment, I’m working on layouts and then the printing will start, undertaken by excellent craftsmen.

Another book, an art object in a large format, I’m working on, in several volumes. It is about a site from prehistory to the present owners, following the great moments, which have all happened there.

DDS: Projects?
GH: Photography for a 1,000 year-old chateau, inside and outside for its new owners (Provence). Consulting for two palazzo gardens (Venice). Consulting for the beaches on the Lido island (Venice). Photography and work on Moghul gardens (India and Iran).

DDS: Sources of inspiration for your gardens?
GH: Some masters in no particular order: Louise de Vilmorin, Rabindranath Tagore, Goethe, Cézanne, Giuseppe Penone, Le Nôtre, J.H.Fabre, Andy Goldsworthy, Russell Page, Derek Jarman, William Blake, Pierre Lieuthaghi, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Satyajit Ray, Jean Renoir.

DDS: Favorite garden memory?
GH: Last year, some Indian classical musicians played at a private concert for the Maharajah of Jodhpur.

They later came to Provence to perform traditional morning and evening ragas, a kind of meditation/holy performance, during ‘garden open’ days. This Indian music, so beautifully and soulfully performed was pure magic. It was a sublime experience, mixed with the visions of plants, shade of the trees, the sunlight flickering, the warm air, and the whispering sound of the water running in the ancient pools.

DDS: Tell us about Garden-Secret:
GH: With Garden-Secret my private publishing company, I work with a team, all experts on gardens.

To create private books on commission. For example, several of the gardens shown here in this article, have been published privately in books, by their owners. It is a way of capturing, for all time, the ephemeral beauty of the gardens.  www.garden-secret.com


All images are by French photographer, Guy Hervais, used with express permission.

Guy Hervais and his wife, Bibi Gex run the glorious Le Pavillon de Galon, a lovely country inn in the dramatic Luberon region of Provence. Visit the gardens and stay for a weekend, a week, a month. Check on www.pavillondegalon.com and learn more about the region, exploring the region, and the local cuisine.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The God of Small Things

Designer/ trend setter Federico de Vera opens his chic and secret new gallery on 81st Street in New York City. Delicious. Come with me for a visit.

I’ve known and admired Federico de Vera for perhaps twenty years. Longer!

He opened a series of startlingly original and trend-setting design, jewelry, and glass galleries in San Francisco. Then he left us bereft when he decamped to New York six years ago. Fans like Giorgio Armani, Valentino with Giancarlo Giammetti, rock stars, authors, stylists, design editors, marketing guru Sam Shahid, Bruce Weber and Nan Bush, and all of the ultra-private global style-setters descended and became loyal clients.

I wrote about Federico de Vera’s legendary NoLita gallery at 1 Crosby Street, New York, a few months ago on THE STYLE SALONISTE.

I also showed you an exclusive look at Federico’s SoHo loft here on THE STYLE SALONISTE.

Now Federico has made a dazzling new move—opening a fabulous bijou gallery, tiny and discreet, at 81st and Madison. So chic!

Go there immediately.

"Architecture was a fine, formal training that focused and clarified what I wanted to do with my life," said de Vera. "I learned about balance and harmony, contrast and juxtaposition. In the Philippines I also gained an understanding of fine craftsmanship and a very understated, almost meditative approach. Good design and room composition are about rigorous editing, staying true to my own aesthetic, and using color with great discretion." –Federico de Vera

International arts and antiques dealer Federico de Vera is a connoisseur of color, form and dimension. His fine-tuned aesthetic sense is especially evident at his new Upper East Side store, de Vera, where eclectic Venetian sculptures, Indian diamonds, Botticelli-inspired jewels, Asian religious objects, miniscule and dainty and exquisite antiques and rarities are showcased. Call him a dream weaver.

“I wanted a simple romantic interior with a timeless aura so that each object could be savored,” said de Vera, whose jewelry selections are exclusive to his two galleries. De Vera himself can often be seen uptown or downtown, handbeading a necklace or sketching a pendant or pearl earrings.

The shop’s free-spirited decor includes tough-chic concrete floors, cerused mahogany counters, buff plaster walls, antique vitrines, and glorious boiserie walls.

One-of-a-kind objets d’art include delicate nephrite bowls, hand-woven silk textiles, a Roman pot, Orientalist Art Deco vases, and delicate old gilded statues from the Philippines and India. In the elegant mix: hand-blown Venetian glass bowls (perfect for pampered goldfish), and fragments of Balinese religious carvings.

The small jewel-like store looks like an ethnographic museum, with display cases of Indian bowls, carved mother-of-pearl spoons, Philippine mortars, pre-Hispanic Philippine gold ornaments, and fragments of ancient Japanese tools.

Oh, and be sure to ask about de Vera’s new two-volume book set, just published, on his jewelry and objects. It’s fabulously elegant and original. (I’m not exactly objective. I wrote an essay on perception for one of the volumes.)

Be sure to secure or order the boxed set. All of de Vera’s ultra-private clients are clamoring for it, and it was printed in a very limited edition, with a de Vera collage, each one of a kind, enclosed.

The God of Small Things:  In his new 81st Street/Madison Avenue store, Federico de Vera delights in arranging necklaces, vintage Venetian glass, rare books, jewelry and quirky antiques in mesmerizing compositions. In the petite light-filled gallery he displays delicate and rare antique Venetian glass, Dutch and French portraits, de Vera handcrafted jewelry, and other beautiful objects from around the world. With this new gallery brings his special luster, originally, eccentricity and grace to a gracious uptown address.

De Vera
26 East 81st Street
(at Madison)
New York City

Photo credit:
All photographs by Don Freeman, exclusively for de Vera. Used with express permission.