Tangier Snailmobiles

A snail soup wagon of Halazon Tanger, photographed for World of Interiors by Roland Beaufre

OK maybe Hamish Bowles is not going to ruin World of Interiors yet/after all. Marie-France Boyer waxes poetic about the absolutely dripping Mercedes snailmobiles of Tangier, beautifully captured in Roland Beaufre’s photos. Mr. Mohamed Ayoub dreamed for years of such swag worthy of the snail soup he serves at night along the beachfront. Then he got his team together, and now there are three.

So while we’re all now plotting our trips to Tangier, Hamish is in a Condé boardroom getting grilled by Anna about how many Acrylic snail objets by Jonathan Adler he moved last month.

“If you purchase something, we may earn a commission.”

Helical Vehicles [worldofinteriors]

Plates Of The Society of The Cincinnati

Feb. 7, 2024, Lot 608, Society of the Cincinnati set of 12 plates, selling at the Potomack Company

Never imagined I’d be running a conceptual art and dishware blog, but here we are.

The Society of the Cincinnati is a hereditary organization founded in 1783 by Henry Knox so the officers of the American Revolution—and their descendants—could keep in touch. Around 5,500 men in the US and France were deemed eligible to join, and 2,150 joined within the first year. There are 13 affiliated societies in the US, plus one in France. George Washington was invited to be the first president.

Washington disapproved of the hereditary and primogeniture aspect of the Society, and so that section was stricken from the group’s founding articles. It was put back in after Washington’s death in 1799. [Alexander Hamilton was the second president.] Each eligible officer may be represented by one male living descendant at a time.

The Society of the Cincinnati has a giant palazzo on Massachusetts Avenue in Dupont Circle in DC. In 1960, this set of plates handpainted with the crest of the Society was produced by Delano Studios of Setauket, LI, a small porcelain painter which also made such dishes as the commemorative plate for Eisenhower’s 1953 Inauguration, and the Sayville Yacht Club’s 1967 Nationals.

They are now for sale, from the estate of Mrs Mary Lee Bowman of McLean, who passed away in late 2022. Bowman was a renowned hostess and supporter of the Virginia steeplechase, and a seven-time golf champion at the Chevy Chase Club, which inaugurated an annual women’s tournament, the Bowman Cup, in her honor.

In 1960 she married A. Smith Bowman, and moved to his family’s 7,240-acre farm, Sunset Hills, where his family operated what was long Virginia’s only legal whiskey distillery. The farm is now the city of Reston. Bowman was a descendant of Col. Abraham Bowman, who fought in the American Revolution. So maybe the plates were not Society of the Cincinnati swag, but were made as a wedding gift from/to a Society member. Mrs. Bowman is survived by several loving relatives, including her nephew Robert E. Lee, V.

Lot 608: Set of 12 Society of the Cincinnati Porcelain Plates, est. $150-250 (sold for $750) [potomackcompany.com]
previously, related: George Washington’s Lace
Thank You For Your Silver Service, Donald Judd X Puiforcat
Danh Vo: Shop the Look

Art Carny, Part 2: Birch, Please

When we last saw Luna Luna, the 1987 art amusement park recently reopened in Los Angeles after spending the last 37 years in a bunch of shipping containers in fields in Vienna and Texas, one thing seemed clear: Drake did not spend $100 million to buy it from its previous owners, the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation.

But the $100 million price is sort of unfair, a cheat, a third-round shorthand that was meant to get repeated in the same breath as Luna Luna and Drake. When the NYT first half-reported on Live Nation’s project, introduced to them by the Mugrabis, of bringing Luna Luna to Drake, the figure was floated as the “overall investment” that was “approaching $100 million.” What if it was the Mugrabis who tracked down Luna Luna at the Birch Foundation’s ranchette, made a deal for it, and flipped it, Yves Bouvier-to-Ryobolovlev-style, for a nice profit?

The Birch Foundation’s 990 filings with the IRS show that they sold the Luna Luna assets in 2022 for $15 million, $1.8 million below the “market value” carried on their balance sheet. So they actually lost money on their collection of Basquiats, Harings, and their Hockney, Dali, and Lichtenstein pavilions, at least on paper. Not-for-profit indeed. But they did still get $15 million in cash, right? Where’d that go?

While trying to figure out the details of Luna Luna’s history between its hype launch in 1987 by André Heller, and it’s re-emergence with Live Nation & Drake, two sidebar stories kept jumping into view: the first is Heller’s near miss with forgery charges. Heller tried to turn a minor Basquiat drawing into a major “Basquiat Artwork” by collaging the artist’s little sketches for his Luna Luna monkey butt ferris wheel onto a crude Africanist frame. He sold the work, then scrambled to buy it back when the heat was on, and then tried to blow off the whole thing as a “prank.”

The second, is the giant WTF that is the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, and how did they end up with an agreement in 1990 to buy Luna Luna from Heller in the first place? We could ask André Heller, but I think the answer to the first question is also the answer to the second: the Birch Foundation is a giant pile of money and vast tracts of land under the complete and unaccountable control of one or two people who use it for what they want.

Continue reading “Art Carny, Part 2: Birch, Please”

Happy Public Domain Day To All Who Celebrate

Maybe it’ll take more than a few hours for Mickey Mouse to make a meaningful mark on the public domain. In the mean time, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University Law School has an extensive list of texts, art, films, music, and recordings that entered the public domain today.

Top on my list, at least, is Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. And it’s interesting that both W.E.B. DuBois’ uplifting international romance Dark Princess and Claude McKay’s gritty street novel Home to Harlem are listed together; DuBois hated McKay’s book.

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is probably the most significant non-rodent-related film to be freed this year. And for music composition, it’s probably Mack the Knife, originally published as part of Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (which is also now public domain.)

There are many, many more works in various copyright registries, most unknown, or underknown, and ready for rediscovery. Life starts at 95.

January 1, 2024 is Public Domain Day: Works from 1928 are open to all, as are sound recordings from 1923! [law.duke.edu]
Previously, related: The Greg Gatsby, 2021

The Musician Yohji Yamamoto

Last week I answered Marco Braunschweiler’s question about Yohji Yamamoto’s car, which is a Nissan Cedric from the mid-1980s. It features in this extremely content-free short film made in 2014 for Nowness by Matthew Donaldson. Other hype-related media outlets explain that Yamamoto acquired the car around 2013. The most notable thing about the whole thing is the music.

the cover of Yohji Yamamoto’s 1997 album, Handful Empty Mood, via discogs

It turns out to be from Yohji Yamamoto’s first second solo album, HEM Handful Empty Mood, released in 1997. The designer wrote and performed vocals on all eleven tracks with a one-and-done group called Scum Riders, which consists of several members of the boomer Japanese rock band Moonriders—including Keiichi Suzuki, also credited as HEM’s producer—and Yukihiro Takahashi, the drummer for Yellow Magic Orchestra [Ryuuichi Sakamoto RIP].

The album was released on Consipio, Takahashi’s label, which also released the music from Yohji’s fashion shows in the 1990s, both mixes selected by the designer, and commissioned works [Here is one of Michael Nyman’s tracks from the 1993 show. Here is Bridge, a 35-minute piano recording by Ryuuichi Sakamoto for Yohji’s 1995 collection.]

But Handful Empty Mood was not Yamamoto’s first foray into musicmaking. He produced and did vocals on one track of a 1994 concept album?—is it spoken word over guitar? I can’t tell—titled, Your Pain Shall Be Your Music, which also featured tracks by Wim Wenders and John Cale [above, the only track I’ve found so far online].

Yamamoto’s first known musical project, La Pensée, was a collab with Takahashi for the 1987 Collections. The designer is credited with “theme & concept,” while Takahashi did all the music and arrangements. It starts out with pensive piano, and proceeds to a kind of synth & percussion pomo oompah band. I bought my first Yohji piece in 1987, and honestly, I don’t get what they were thinking here.

Cover of Yohji Yamamoto Band, c. 1990, photo/text tabloid, via Tenderbooks

In 1991, Takahashi produced Well, I Gotta Go, (Saa, Ikanakya), where Yamamoto played guitar and sang twangy Japanese country-style music. It’s the closest thing I can find so far to the designer’s lost tapes project: Yohji Yamamoto Band. Yohji Yamamoto Band was an ensemble led—and dressed—by Yamamoto that performed Japanese “conceptual folk-rock” in the early 1990s. The only documentation is a promotional tabloid/pamphlet, a copy of which is at UK rare book dealer Tenderbooks.

Consipio went offline in 2009. The most recent music I can find from Yamamoto is this 37-second clip from a 2012 visit to Y-3 in New York. And I guess the thing I come away with is that sometimes noodling around on the guitar, or jam banding with your buds, or just driving around in your car, can be a vital part of your creative process, even if it is sort of pointless in itself.

More André Leon Talley LL Bean Bags

I’m committed to the bit and will blog about every André Leon Talley Bean Bag that comes to auction. Including these six [!] which look like they were the ones he actually used. I may have to buy them and then flip five because honestly [update: honestly, i am not bidding on these]

21 Sept 2023 | Lot 429, Group of Six LL Bean Canvas Totes With Monogram, est. $400-600, sold for $1400+buyer’s premium [stairgalleries.com]
Previously: They Had Matching Bean Bags
ALT X LLB

Thai Commemorative Swag

Apsara loves Mitoken is a Japanese blog specializing in the many limited edition gadgets made to commemorate important occasions involving the Thai Royal Family.

image via apsara loves mitoken

For the Golden Jubilee 50th anniversary celebration of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession to the Thai throne in 1996, Leica produced a gold-plated M6 camera with matching 50mm lens in an edition of 700. The King’s crest is emblazoned on the top.

image via watchpapst.de

There were at least nine limited edition watches produced to commemorate the 60th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession to the Thai throne in 2006, including a Patek Philippe and GUIDING LIGHT THAILAND, a commemorative Swatch, issued in a limited edition of 4509. From the text inside the special commemorative cardboard box:

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited is proud to celebrate with all the kingdom the joyous and auspicious occasion of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne with a limited edition of Thai Airways International and SWATCH wrist watch uniquely made to celebrate this glorious event.

As His Majesty has always been a “guiding light” for the Thai people, symbolic guiding stars appear on the watch. The Thai numerical number “sixty” is attached to the strap, signifying the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne, and the strap is yellow as this is the color traditionally associated with Monday, the day of His Majesty’s birth.

Upon the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016, the throne passed to his son. His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun’s coronation in 2019 was commemorated by the release of a gold-plated wrist watch by the Italian fashion brand Klasse14 featuring the Royal Emblem on the face. It was available at a Klasse14 pop-up shop at the Siam Paragon Watch Expo that auspicious summer. One can easily imagine that His Majesty The King, who primarily lives in Bavaria, will be the inspiration for a great many things that convey the unique character of His Majesty’s glorious reign.

[five minutes later update: It appears my investigation of commemorative Royal Thai gold-plated Leica cameras has been incomplete. Wayne Bremser just posted a link to the 2022 release of the Leica M10-P Royal Thai limited edition digital camera and matching lens, in gold-plate and gold or green alligator. Of the edition of 30, six were given to the Royal Family, and 22 were purchased by ThaiBev, the country’s largest distiller. ThaiBev is controlled by Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the country’s second richest person (not counting His Majesty The King, obv), and is run by his son Thapana, who instigated the edition. The 22 cameras were auctioned at Christie’s in Bangkok and Singapore last fall, thus giving the elite of Thailand and the companies they control the chance to publicly demonstrate their support for 22 of His Majesty’s favorite charities. So far I have found one result, of a real estate developer paying 5x the retail price for a camera ThaiBev donated to a foundation for the blind.]

[Few Days Later Update: I was traveling and did not win the auction for four limited edition Swatches designed by and/or commemorating key moments in the life of the Thai Royal Family.]

Hey, Experts en Héraldique Français

The local château is flying a new flag, does anyone know what it is, or do I have to email the châtelaine? [Who is delightful, but I hate to bother.]

The closest match I can find for the heraldic charges is a woman whose family came to Aix-en-Provence in the 17th century as Secretary for the king, Angelique de Fagou. So happy pride, I guess.

[few days later update: utter silence. we may never know.]

greg.org on Bluesky, email

Are you on Bluesky? I am on Bluesky. If you’re there, please find me @greg.org and let’s connect.

With [gestures around at the tumultuous state of social media platforms] all this, I am working on a mailing list, which will likely become a very l0w-volume newsletter/projects update.

I will do a proper invitation soon, but if you’d like to be added to my mailing list, please email me, greg at greg dot org.

See you here and there!

They Had Matching Bean Bags

Lot 1037 from Karl Lagerfeld’s Estate Online I, Dec. 6, 2021, sold for EUR 3024

Last night, in a post-MetGala nonsense haze, I dragged myself through the eight [8!] sales Sotheby’s held in late 2021 of Karl Lagerfeld’s estate. The green LL Bean boat tote with Lagerfeld embroidered on it caught my eye.

As his deeply depressing memoir recounts, André Leon Talley and Lagerfeld were extremely close from their first encounter in the early 1970s, when he interviewed the designer for WWD at The Plaza Hotel. Young Talley caused a scandal once in Paris when, running late for a party at Maxim’s, he threw on Lagerfeld’s dressing gown instead of going back to his hotel for the required black tie.

In December 2013, after a Chanel Rodeo in Dallas, Talley asked Lagerfeld to fund a retrospective of a Chanel photographer who’d just died. Karl said he’d think about it. Talley found himself removed from Chanel’s guest and gift lists, and the two men never communicated again.

Lot 387 from Andre Leon Talley’s estate sale at Christie’s, sold for USD 2520

Lagerfeld’s LL Bean bag caught my eye because a few months ago, an identical one was sold at Christie’s from Talley’s estate. Talley’s lot had a date, c. 2010, so pre-split. What impossibly middle class situation might have occasioned the creation of these matching tote bags for these two men? Did they have them made? LMAO, no. Can you imagine either of these men choosing these bags? Or typing in their embroidery orders on llbean.com? They were swag, or a party favor. Did the men save them, or did the bags only survive their recipients because they were forgotten immediately?

It’s now impossible to say, but that didn’t stop someone out there from paying a thousand euros and twelve hundred dollars, respectively, for these mute artifacts of weekend houseguest culture tenuously connected to these two very damaged men.

Previously: ALT X LLB

Walden, Or Afterlife Of The Wood

“I have been long inquiring whether any remenant of the house at Walden remained, feeling that it would be a choice relic of axe strokes that were literally heard round the world,” wrote Yale professor Henry Seidel Canby in 1932.

Stud sections and nails from Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, a gift of Henry Seidel Canby to the Yale Collections of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Yale’s Henry David Thoreau Collection is small but intense. Of sixteen items, seven are holographs, texts written in the author’s hand. There are pencils made by Thoreau’s father, and the label for a pencil box they might have c piome in. There are a couple of surveys the author made as part of his dreaded work. And there are two pieces of wood and two nails, which are reported to come from Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. They were donated by Professor Canby.

There are two documents in the Collection pertaining to the material history of Thoreau’s cabin: One is the 1932 provenance statement accompanying the wood and nails by Canby, a noted Thoreau fanboy and biographer [who was called the “dean of American literary critics” in his bio in The Saturday Review, which he founded and edited for 12 years.] The other is a 1949 essay/survey of the cabin’s post-Walden history which its authors, two then-students, Francis Shelden and G. Peter Shiras called the first “exact, authenticated history of the Thoreau hut.”

Continue reading “Walden, Or Afterlife Of The Wood”

The Little Apple

In 1982 John F. Kennedy, Jr. was a senior in American Studies at Brown, living off campus in a house with, among others, Christiane Amanpour. Under what circumstances would he make…this? It looks like the top of a newel post on a stairway, except it has to be carved, not just turned. And while newel posts are topped with balls, acorns, and even pineapples, I have never seen one topped with apple apples. Also it is painted and distressed. And signed on the bottom which, if it were meant for a newel post, would be invisible forever, a secret revealed only to future carpenters.

But imagine you can conjure a scenario where JFK Jr. made this. Now think of the situation in which John-John gave this little painted apple objet to legendary cabaret star Bobby Short [RIP 2005].

I mean, I don’t doubt they knew each other, such as these things go. Short was certainly friendly with Kennedy’s mother and aunt. But how? When? Why? Did he take a woodworking class at Brown, and made all his Christmas presents that year? In which case, how is this the only one? Or the only one to come to light?

The unnamed executor of Bobby Short’s estate, who didn’t put it in the 2006 Christie’s auction of Short’s belongings, but who was mentioned in the sale of this apple in 2013 as the source for its attribution to THE John Kennedy, not just SOME John Kennedy, did not elaborate.

[next morning update: maybe he won it? The writing on the bottom of the apple does not match JFK’s handwriting from his application to Brown, which someone dug out of the trash and put up for sale a few years ago.]

9 Nov 2013 Lot 1320: Attr. to John F. Kennedy, Jr., sold for $350 [liveauctioneers]
16 Feb 2006 | The Personal Property of Bobby Short [christies]

ALT X LLB

Lot 387, LL Bean canvas tote bags, c.2010, H28cm, from the Estate of Andre Leon Talley, sold for $2,520

This is the one bag I actually kind of wanted from the sale of Andre Leon Talley’s estate. And yet it felt like it was so not his style. OTOH, “includes a Christie’s dustbag,” so they made it hard to resist. But it also included a VOGUE tote bag, which made it easier. RIP.

Does this look like a Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres who’d use a 12-inch LL Bean canvas tote? photo by Jonathan Becker sold, but Tom Ford kimono didn’t, innnteresting.

The Exceptional Sale of The Arizona Spike

The Arizona Spike, presented at Promontory Point, Utah on 10 May 1869 by Arizona Territory Governor Anson Safford, for the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, being sold by the Museum of the City of New York at Christie’s on 27 January 2023, est. $300-500,000.

First of all, it seems buck wild that a spike from the Golden Spike ceremony marking the completion of the transcontinental railroad is even available for sale. Second, but really first, it is even wilder how hard the lot description for the spike rides for its urgent historical relevance right. now.

Maybe it helps that the spike, known as the Arizona Spike, is being sold in Christie’s “Exceptional Sale,” an off-season, cross-department assemblage of objets whose only obvious common thread is their uniqueness. But I’m hard-pressed to think of another auction text that makes a stronger case, not just for an object’s historical significance, but its contextualization in the current culture. It’s a text that belongs in a museum, like the spike itself.

Which, yeah, funny story. The spike is one of four [or seven, or maybe even eight, with at least one missing, this essay does have everything] made for the hastily organized 1869 ceremony, and is being sold by the Museum of the City of New York, where it was donated in 1943, by a New York descendant of Sidney Dillon, the Union Pacific executive and US Government defrauder who took the spike home from the hammering.

That defrauding’s in there, along with the delay to the ceremony when Dillon and other execs had their private rail car decoupled in Wyoming, and were held hostage by Union Pacific laborers who hadn’t been paid for five months. And the dispossession of Indian lands by the railroad grants. And the racist legislation banning immigration from China, where so many of the actual railroad workers came from. The same workers who got their due after several paragraphs detailing the preening rivalries and promotional dithering, including the Central Pacific’s Leland Stanford’s wiring his spike to the telegraph, so that his hammer blow would go out to the nation live–and then he missed:

The dignitaries soon left the scene while a Chinese crew replaced the ceremonial tie with a pine tie and common iron spikes — leading one journalist to declare, most appropriately, that in reality was not [the Union Pacific’s Dr. Thomas] Durant or Stanford, but rather it was the ‘Chinese who really laid the last tie and drove the last spike.'”

Somewhere in this Andrew J. Russell photo is Sidney Dillon, possibly holding a/this railroad spike. The Chinese laborers who actually completed the railway were somehow not included

Anyway, the lot description and the feature article related to it are truly a journey. It addresses the spike’s provenance, trying to harmonize incomplete contemporary media references–a very Arizona Spike-ish spike was reportedly displayed in a San Francisco jewelry store weeks after Dillon presumably took the spike back east with him from Promontory, Utah–with family lore–from a family which included a namesake/great-grandson who became secretary of the Smithsonian. But it also puts the historic significance of the Golden Spike (or Last Spike) ceremony and the transcontinental railroad itself into both historic and contemporary context with amazing candor and rigor. What feels like it should be the rule for museums is, for an auction house, exceptional.

UPDATE: Sold for a hammer price of $1.8 million, $2.22 million with buyer’s premium. Excellent monetization, Museum of the City of New York!

The Execptional Sale, Lot 15: A Steel Railroad Spike Clad In Gold and Silver… [christies.com]
A Point of Acceleration: The Arizona Railroad Spike and the birth of modern America [christie’s magazine]

This is Fine. Gaultier Furniture

A Jean-Paul Gaultier Ben Hur chair at the Roche Bobois store in Chevy Chase

Took the kid to get her booster at the vacated H&M flagship in the emptied out World Market mall in Chevy Chase, once the most luxurious shopping neighborhood in Washington, which is now a retail wasteland on top of a Metro station over which nimbys are nonetheless gearing up to fight redevelopment. Across the street from the basement TJ Maxx in the closed Neiman Marcus mall, and kitty corner from the worst Michael’s in the world, in the basement, below the Booeymonger’s, which is below the Mattress Warehouse, which is below three levels of no-validation parking deck, remains the Roche Bobois showroom, where this Jean-Paul Gaultier Ben Hur chair was pushed, without hope, up against the emergency exit.

Which, tbh, didn’t only feel out of place, but out of time.

Continue reading “This is Fine. Gaultier Furniture”