This week I share favourite things: Antiques and Modern works of Art with James Mackie, Senior Director and Deputy Head of the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at Sotheby’s in London. Mackie met my wife when they were porters at Bonham’s (fresh from University) and he has become a close friend of mine and Godfather to our son. His knowledge of classical and modern art never ceases to amaze me.
“I started my career as a print specialist and I still enjoy and have a huge appreciation for the medium, so each year I endeavour to buy an edition print by a contemporary British artist. I’ve gathered a small but respectable collection that includes Grayson Perry, Peter Doig, Mark Wallinger and Alex Massouras. The latter is perhaps the least known of these artists but one of my favourite’s, I’m very drawn to his exquisitely rendered etchings and their poetic subject matter. I realize that some of the artists I especially enjoy are those whose work reinterprets or references art of past centuries. It’s certainly true of the British Artist Mark Wallinger’s screenprint Ghost.
I’ve always admired George Stubbs’ masterpiece Whistlejacket that hangs in the National Gallery and years ago I was obsessed by an exhibition of X-rays of Renaissance paintings, so perhaps for these reasons I was immediately drawn to Ghost. I met Mark Wallinger recently at lunch at Sotheby’s and it was fascinating to hear him talk about what inspires him in the creation of his sculptures and this print.
This is an early 1950’s Pongo vase which translates as pouch in Swedish. To me it is the perfect example of post war Scandinavian modernism. I found it in a great shop called Modernity in Stockholm and it led me to begin to look at the aesthetic of the mid-century more generally, which is now so in vogue. I love its organic shape and, the perfect scale and glazing. It is by the Swedish ceramicist Stig Lindberg who was a creative force in the world of Scandinavian design in the 1950s and 60s. I’ve got a few pieces by him now and a small group of ceramics by one or two of his contemporaries.
This is an editioned piece by the contemporary sculptor Zadok Ben-David. I went to visit the studio in West Hampstead when Sotheby’s mounted an exhibition of his monumental works in the Botanic Gardens in Signapore. This is the mini me version but I love its delicacy and intricacy which is also interesting next to some of the etchings I have.
I bought this 1950’s French lamp from the Battersea Decorative Antiques Fair with a great Spanish friend of mine. The lamp brings a pop of red to the sitting room. There is a theory that red, even a small dash of it, has a galvanising effect on a painting and perhaps it’s true of interiors too.
This is my homage to Derbyshire, where my Mother’s family have farmed for many generations. My Grandparent’s house and the countryside around was my favorite place to be when we were younger and it’s a place that my family have great affection for. Over the years Will has continued to fuel my interest in taxidermy. When I found this Edwardian owl in an antique shop near the family homestead, with the label of a Derby taxidermist, I bought it because of its local associations. It evokes a memory of watching the majestic flight of these owls over the fields of my grandparent’s farm at dusk. The early 19th century lead insurance plaque (proof to the fire brigade that you had insurance against fire) came from one of the barns there.
I found this Regency kingwood veneer chair by pure chance. I was looking for furniture when I was doing up a flat years ago and scouring the salerooms. At the time, work at Sotheby’s had taken me to Chatsworth House and I realized that a chair in a sale coming up at Bonham’s was identical to a set of furniture that was in the library there. I did some research and found this watercolour by William Henry Hunt of the sixth Duke of Devonshire’s brand spanking new update of the Saloon at Devonshire House in London circa 1820 which showed a larger set of these chairs than survives at Chatsworth.
My hypothesis is that this chair was one of the original set which was split after the sale of Devonshire house in the 1920s, with some going to Chatsworth and the rest being dispersed elsewhere. Whatever the case, it has real charm with its faded gilding and slightly tired kingwood veneer. I had it reupholstered recently in Michael Smith’s Jasper Lemon crescent silk. Additionally, the richness of the decoration of the chair makes a great juxtaposition with the clean lines of the 1960’s Danish sideboard by Poule Hundevad beside it.