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]


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… []
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”

Doris Duke Cartier Necklace Mounting

Platinum and baguette diamond necklace mounting by Cartier, c. 1937, sold for $53, 775 by the Doris Duke Foundation at Christie’s in 2004

I was absolutely certain I’d written about this, but I guess I’ve just been thinking about this wild Cartier necklace mounting, minus most of the diamonds, which the Doris Duke estate sold for $54,000 for 18 years. It was truly a standout in the auction of Duke’s jewelry.

The preposterously scaled necklace was purchased by Duke’s boyfriend, a couple of years before they got married. She raided the necklace over the years, and remounted 79 of the diamonds in other pieces, leaving a gorgeous, platinum husk.

Doris Duke’s Zombie Cartier Diamond Necklace, reconstituted with period-correct diamonds and offered at Christie’s Geneve in May 2017 for CHF 3-5 million, image via alaintruong

A jewelry aficionado with an absurdly advanced appreciation of historical accuracy, and possessed of a conceptual sophistication rivaled only by their access to money, apparently spent years assembling period-correct cushion and Old European-cut stones to reconstitute Doris Duke’s Depression-era diamond fringe necklace. This zombie necklace was offered for sale at Christie’s in 2017, with an estimate of CHF 3-5 million. It did not sell, at least publicly.

Out of respect for the time and effort required to assemble them, I don’t want the diamonds to be released back into the wild; put them in a little bag. But definitely take them out, and let the necklace be restored to its perfect, skeletal state. It’s what Doris would have wanted.

Tejo Remy X Balenciaga

Katja Meirovsky, Uniform Clothing, image via Stefan Rollof via Erin L. Thompson

via Prof. Erin Thompson comes the story of Katja Meirovsky, who in 1940 wore a red dress to her Berlin art school which she made by cutting the swastika off a stolen nazi flag. She became part of the Red Orchestra, the largest civilian resistance movement against Hitler. The group and its members are the subject of an exhibition at the German Resistance Memorial Center by artist Stefan Roloff, which Thompson reviewed at Hyperallergic.

Tejo Remy Re-Bench made from Balenciaga deadstock fabric at the London store, Nov. 2022, via

In other problematic textile repurposing news, Droog designer Tejo Remy, who has always made custom Rag Chairs from the client’s bags of old clothes, has collaborated with Demna. Remy made Re-Benches out of deadstock and offcut fabric for Balenciaga, which were installed this month in ten boutiques worldwide. After two weeks on display, they went up for sale online. Artnet says the drop on the 22nd was a surprise, and sold out immediately. But there was time to put out press releases to the hypesphere. Balenciagattention was then promptly devoured by the rightwing vortex of shit, when online q-trolls fed the latest ad campaign through the p3do conspiracy outrage machine in the stupidest way possible. The company responded by loudly suing itself and its creative team.

None of which is the point here. The point is that Demna, too, is recycling. Remy made a Rag Chair last September at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs as a performance. He used linen panels left over from the exhibition, « Luxes », the hometown version of « Dix mille ans de luxe », with the Musée programmed for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2019, sponsored by the Confédération Européenne du Lin et du Chanvre, the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp.

August 2022: Gap before the stormfront, image: @owen_lang

The video recap very much does not look like a performance, but it does work as a how-to for making your own Rag furniture. Whether you use the leftover scenery from your pandemic-era exhibitions or your bags of damning fits by suddenly outré designers, you can tell your own story! Or maybe you have a lead on those giant bins of cancelled Yeezy x Gap joints you can turn into at least ten of the dankest Rag Chairs ever.

Tasty Chandigarh Bookcase

Lot 270, Toomey & Co. design auction, 13 dec 2022

Where has this Pierre Jeanneret teak and steel and glass bookcase been all my life? The Central State Library, you say? Can you loot three more to match?

Suddenly I’m rethinking my moral objections to the emptying of Chandigarh for the aesthetic enrichment of the bourgeoisie of the west. [oh wait, I already rethought it.]

[A couple of obsessed hours later update: there is another. A similar bookcase was sold at Christie’s in Paris in November 2021. It had the same estimate, was in what looks to be less attractive condition–and sold for EUR225,000.

The lot essay says Jeanneret’s “crenelated shelves of the Central Library display case recall the undulating glass panels and alternating railings of the interior architecture he had designed.” Hmm. Here is a photo of the cases installed in the library.

Interior views of the Central State Library, Sector 17, Chandigarh, India by Pierre Jeanneret, photo: Jeet Molhothra, via CCA

Lot 270: Bibliothèque from the Central State Library, Chandigarh, est. $30-50,000 [UPDATE: sold for just $30,700!] [toomey]
Previously, very much related, in that they’re Chandigarh pieces I want: Chandigarh Find

Hilton Aluminum Cookware

At one point in the 1910s, before he was married, my great-grandfather Wilford “Bill” Hilton sold aluminum cookware door-to-door in southern Utah. That’s according to an undated note my great-grandmother Vera Snow wrote to accompany these drippy aluminum blobs. In the 1920s, when my grandmother Lora Hilton was a little girl, the note continued, she accidentally melted some of these leftover aluminum pots on the stove.

The resulting dripped and pooled forms were interesting enough for my great-grandmother, and then my grandmother, to save in a drawer for a hundred years. I’ve had them on the bookshelf for a couple of years now, trying to think of what to do with them. Mostly, I just look at them and think about these people who kept these things. Sometimes I think about trying to photograph them better.

Obviously, if asked, I would install gargantuan replicas of them on the plaza of the Seagram Building. I’m not naive.

Previously, related; Vera’s Rocks

Brigham Morris Young, son of one Mormon prophet and son-in-law of another, dressed as his operatic alter ego, Madam Pattirini, for a concert at the Sugar House Ward, Salt Lake City, c. 1901

With news that at least two of the five victims of the Colorado Springs terrorist attack on Club Q were trans, and that the shooter, apprehended by patrons of the gay club he attacked, is a member of the LDS Church, it’s important to note the impact of the Church’s own positions and rhetoric in stoking anti-LGBTQ hatred and violence among its members, and as part of an increasingly extremist network of right-wing religio-political groups around the world.

Whatever progress and enlightenment it has achieved, the LDS Church and its constituent communities are far too often a source of bigotry and pain and an unsafe space for queer members. And the Church’s treatment of trans members is even worse.

When one Church leader–a cousin, fwiw–quotes another calling for “musket fire” in defense of the Church’s anti-LGBTQ policies, and when racist, misogynistic, and homophobic harassment by extremist members goes unchecked, even unmentioned, the Church should recognize the impact this has: and that includes stoking the murderous violence that one member unleashed last weekend on his queer neighbors. It’s not as if the guy had to be a zealot hanging on every word; in this case, he apparently was not, but was raised up in it. And then he found more hate to reinforce and build on what he’d absorbed.

The point is, the organization that should be fostering love is seeding bigotry and lending credence to active agents of violence against LGBTQ people.

Vera’s Rocks

My great-grandmother Vera Hilton collected rocks. She lived near Topaz Mountain in central Utah, a site that gave the WWII Japanese-American detention camp its name, and would pick up rocks she found interesting. She had a rock tumbler. In the 1970s, when she was in her 80s, Vera went to Europe, to see one of her children then stationed in Germany with the US military, and she picked up rocks from places she visited.

When my grandmother, Vera’s oldest daughter, died last year, I took this collection, a 50+ year-old shirt cardboard with rocks taped to it from her house. It was in a plastic bag, but stored flat. I had no idea what to do with it, except to keep it.

For a year, I’ve had it undisturbed, waiting, as I tried to figure out how to stabilize and restore it. I took it out yesterday for the first time. Some rocks need re-placing. Some need placing. Some may have no place. There’s all the tape, of course, and the stains from it, which call for attention. I’ve researched conservation and cellophane tape, but now that I’ve sat with it, I’m not comfortable with just ditching or replacing the tape. Vera taped these rocks to a piece of cardboard and wrote captions for them. When that tape gave out, she put more tape on. Including a double-sided tape strip on the card underneath it, the rock from Dachau appears to have been taped three times.

Which, there is a rock from Dachau. What is going on with these rocks? There’s a row that looks like they went through the tumbler; a few geologically oriented samples, including three epidotes from various locales and a pencil eraser-size ruby crystal from the Filers, who ran a Mineral of the Month Club for science teachers out of Yucaipa, California. Then there are the rocks from Europe: Stockholm, Paris, Rome (Colosseum), Rothenburg, Nuremburg, and Dachau.

I think the epidote tag goes with this rock? I think the tag is just inadvertently stuck to the dimebag, which is torn and has a different label, “prism,” on the other side.

Based on tape residue and size, I think I re-placed the loose rocks correctly on this grid, but maybe not? There are some rocks that don’t seem to correspond to anything; do they go somewhere? Is there a hint of what they are that might hint at where they’re from, and where they go? Does this tell you, a geologist or mineral collector, or a student of souvenir practices, anything? HMU!

I’ve come to not expect deep meaning to result from saving or restoring this assemblage, but I’m nonetheless intrigued by what it is, and how it came together. I met my great-grandmother several times as a child. Having this thing she made, that she worked on for several years, apparently, and that my grandmother kept intact for decades, is an interesting experience precisely because it is so unprecious. We have quilts she stitched by hand which embody a similar amount of her time and attention, and yet this is the antithesis of an heirloom. For the moment, at least, I’m going to keep it around.

Signed, J(ohn) F(olwell)

a mahogany chest-on-chest from philadelphia, with original brass hardware, intricate carved ornament on top, and a solid provenance, being sold at sotheby's
Chest on Chest, c 1770, attributed to Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Folwell, for sale at Sotheby’s

I love the idea that some furniture is “important.” This chest-on-chest has descended through some Philadelphia/New Jersey families since it was originally ordered sometime before the Revolutionary War, and those family connections are important, but not right here, not right now. The finish is old and excellent; the hardware is original; the elaborately carved cartouche is intact, and it’s all similar to similarly important pieces in important collections, but that is not really important right now, right here, either.

But because of all this, this chest was attributed to the most prominent Philadelphia cabinetmaker of the time, Thomas Affleck, one of the few guys in town known to have his own copy of Thomas Chippendale’s gentleman furniture pattern book.

gorgeously carved initials JF, hidden inside a circa 1770 chest-on-chest from Philadelphia being sold at Sotheby's
JF, likely John Folwell, initials carved into the top of the bottom of an important Philadelphia chest-on-chest formerly attributed to Thomas Affleck, to be sold at Sotheby’s this week.

But then when this thing came in, and came apart, this giant, gorgeous, script monogram JF was found carved in the top of the lower chest, invisible to anyone except the movers, or the maker. And so now this important chest-on-chest is attributed to John Folwell, another Philadelphia cabinetmaker, and its similarity should prompt a re-examination of the attribution of some of the other important furniture out there. I would like more things to have been elaborately and secretly inscribed by their makers, please.

Jan 21, 2021, Lot 34: The Important Stratton-Carpenter-Wheeler Family Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Chest-on-Chest, cabinetwork attributed to John Folwell (w. 1762-1780); carving attributed to James Reynolds (w. 1766-1794), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1770, est. $50-100,000 [update: sold for $69k. nice.] [sothebys]

Previously, related attributed 18th century carved scripts: Paul Revere (attr.) Time Capsule Plaque, silver, engraved text

On Ethical Luxury

Tom Ford has introduced a wristwatch made of ocean plastic. The following are excerpts from the Departures Magazine marketing email for the watch which, at $995, somehow manages to seem simultaneously expensive and cheap:

The Impact of Ethical Luxury
“In my opinion, ethical luxury is the greatest luxury of all,” says iconic designer and creative director Tom Ford…When you purchase an Ocean Plastic Timepiece, you permanently remove the equivalent of 35 bottles of plastic waste from the ocean.

The Tom Ford Ocean Plastic Timepiece is made from 100-percent ocean plastic collected in seas, along coastlines, and in uncontrolled landfills. Its material contains neither virgin plastics nor non-ocean-bound plastics, and is traceable to its collection source. The ocean plastic granules used in its production have been transported in a carbon-neutral manner, and have been compounded in a solar-powered Swiss facility. Additionally, all packaging is recyclable.

“It is incredibly appealing to know that you are not only wearing a high-quality product, but that by simply owning the product you are also taking direct action to improve the planet.”

I was going to post a photo of Ford modeling the watch, but who even cares at this point. It is a giant black watch with TOM FORD and OCEAN PLASTIC written on the face.

Chandigarh Find

Pierre Jeanneret, Office Armchair PJ-SI-28-B, India, designed c. 1955
Teak, plasticized string, nylon, aluminum, image:

I love Pierre Jeanneret’s furniture for Chandigarh, and I hate the Chandigarh Furniture Industrial Complex. I am relieved that these objects that once were abandoned for scrap are now preserved, but I hate that the cultural context is being stripped away, and that for their value and significance to be recognized, they must be removed and fed through the luxury design machinery of the West. I love seeing this furniture aging and bearing its history, and I hate seeing it stripped and restored and altered into just one more must-have for some instagram junkie to stuff into their Axel Vervoordt McMonastery.

Pierre Jeanneret & Le Corbusier, “Boomerang” Table LC/PJ-TAT-14-A, India, designed c. 1963
Teak, image:

I love this stuff, and hate that I want it, but I’ve managed to deal because it’s not like there’s any OG Chandigarh furniture left anyway. Well, Patrick Parrish just kicked the leg off my precariously balanced chair. He is currently showing a collection of pristine, original condition Jeanneret furniture from Chandigarh which has been held for twelve years, and it is utterly exquisite. Everyone who’s ever stripped and dipped a teak armchair and tossed out a horsehair cushion should immediately feel waves of remorse for their design crimes.

Now I love this furniture, and I hate that you haven’t yet sent me $1.26 million so I can buy all 66 pieces for my McMonastery.

I am linking to Patrick’s Pierre Jeanneret Online Viewing Room because it is perfect. The show is IRL until Dec. 31st. There is a book forthcoming. []
Amie Siegel’s Provenance was beautiful and devastating, but has also done nothing to stem the tide, or change the dynamic. []

Swedish Plate Money

Swedish 8 daler coin (sic), a 14.5kg plate of copper, stamped, for sale at Bukowski’s

In the 17th century Sweden had the copper, and needed the silver, and its imperial war-making activities were constantly beholden to the exchange rate, and their monetary policy was in turn at the mercy of commodity prices for the metal their coins were made from.

In the middle of all this, someone had the idea to turn the plates of raw copper into actual coins by stamping them. This 14.5kg 8 daler plate is the second largest denomination. A 10 daler plate weighed in at 19.7kg.

Almost all these plate coins were melted down the second copper prices warranted, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that some examples were found in shipwrecks. About 50 of these bad boys exist, with 6–10 in private collections, which is why this coin is expected to trade at a 199,950 euro premium to the current value of the copper itself.

Oh wait, no, 6–10 examples from 1659, one of the 13 years 8 daler plate money was issued, are in private collections. I’ll let you connoisseurs sort out the price and rarity; I’ll stick to the oddity.

Holy smokes, they’re as big as a baking sheet.

8-daler coin on what I guess is the Swedish version of Antiques Roadshow, via @myntsidan

Also, this 1660 8-daler sold for just EUR2430 in 2017, so maybe rarity by year is really important? Except the plate above is also from 1660, and sold for like EUR175,000 in 2016. These things don’t work as money, and they don’t work as speculative instruments, either.

Lot 105 Plate Money 8 daler SM 1659 (Karl X Gustav), Avesta. est SEK2-2.2M, around EUR200,000 []
related: 8-daler plate money c. 1658 []

Poiret Boro

Lot 312: Paul Poiret dress for Denise Poire, c. 1911. Image: Augusta Auctions

Maybe it’s the fragility or the resilience or both, but I find the mends on this 100+year-old, embroidered, blue linen dress that Paul Poiret made for his wife and muse Denise to be very moving.

The upcoming auction at Augusta features several lots of Poiret from the family, which were originally sold at Drouot in 2005. The provenance is topped only by the combination of couture and boro.

Oct. 24, 2018 Lot 312:PAUL POIRET FOR DENISE P. EMBROIDERED DAY DRESS, c. 1911, est $1200-1500 [augusta-auction]