Simms' city: Wine, diamonds and Frieze Masters

Our diarist Freya Simms offers her fortnightly previews of her favourite London haunts…

HSBC – The Rock and the Vine

HSBC rocked the vine, or house, in sensational style at the Philip Mould & Co gallery when Margaret Willis (Executive Vice President of Personal Wealth) took to the floor chairing a fiery debate on investing in alternative assets: wine or diamonds.

The bank had cherry picked 100 private clients to treat to an exclusive evening of wine tasting, art and jewellery appreciation in the impressive surroundings of the Dover Street Gallery to spark conversations around investments of passion. 

Speakers Johnny Goedhuis (Goedhuis & Co Fine Wine Merchants) and Matthew Girling (CEO and jewellery specialist, Bonhams auctioneers) were excellent sparring partners and regaled guests with fascinating facts and fiction surrounding these precious assets. 

The wines served were delicious including a lovely white from the Loire by wine maker Jacky Blot, but it was at the tasting table that the vine really came into its own from a 2009 Premier Cru Puligny Montrachet and a 1996 Lynches Bages to deliciously treacly 2001 Sauternes. 

There were plenty of impressive jewels to try on from a large diamond solitaire ring to a twinkling tiara and some serious works of art including a self-portrait of Van Dyke discovered by art sleuth Philip Mould.

The icing on the cake was the going home present – HSBC had worked with luxury stationers Smythson to produce a limited edition black leather and red silk lined HSBC 2013 diary!

Freya Simms enjoys the diamonds and the wine

Freya Simms enjoys the diamonds and the wine

Deep in the Lilac Green

A couple of nights later and a few paces away in Cork St, Browse & Darby gallery hosted a preview of work by contemporary artist, Nicholas Rena (b.1963). With tough competition to contend with such as openings at Frieze Masters, Sotheby’s and Haunch of Venison, it was a testament to the work that the crowds were spilling out onto the road.

The exhibition runs until 2 November and is quite a departure for the gallery.  Nicholas Rena creates monumental, imposing vessels, with thick walls and definite flat rims. They are meticulously finished in vibrant colours, press moulded in clay, which Rena describes as ‘precise and sensual’.

Twenty works are ordered formally over the three floors of the gallery and proceed from deep greens through rich reds and purples to the top floor of bright yellows and lilacs. The title of the show, a line from a Leonard Cohen song, suggests a ritualised and romantic set of encounters, as do the titles of the works themselves, which are taken from the T. S. Eliot poem, Ash Wednesday

Prices range from £5,000 - £15,000.

Nicholas Rena's work

Nicholas Rena’s work

Kohatu + Petros

The other day, when going to a meeting at the Atlas Gallery, I was distracted by a real treasure trove for jewellery addicts like myself - a boutique in Marylebone, Chiltern Street called Kohatu + Petros.

The shop specialises in contemporary jewellery and is run by the design duo Joanna Salmond and Varney Polydor. They use a wide range of gloriously coloured semi-precious gemstones with many of the pieces hand strung and unique, so you won’t come across anyone else with them, cramping your style. I did a little early Christmas shopping!

An example of some of the beautiful pieces at Kohatu + Petros

An example of some of the beautiful pieces at Kohatu + Petros

Frieze Masters

Having enjoyed working on the planning of this project with the Artful crew, and more significantly Matthew Slotover and Victoria Siddall of Frieze, I was more than intrigued to see what the addition of Frieze Masters would bring to the October art party that is Frieze. 

It was held in a tent a good 10-15 minute stomp from the main fair, across the park in the dwindling autumn sunshine, which was a welcome change in itself.

There had been much talk in the press about the juxtaposition of old and new and promoting cross-collecting so at first sight I was a little underwhelmed by the conservative approach to the layout and display.

However, once I had a proper look, I was impressed by the standard of some of the pieces the galleries had held back. They ranged from a homage to Giacometti on Thomas Gibson’s stand to the wonderful medieval carved stone beasts Sam Fogg exhibited.

The stand out dealer for me at the event - who I believe challenged the order and excelled at demonstrating how Old Masters and the decorative arts can thrive alongside contemporary art, were Masterpiece London exhibitors – Bacarelli Botticelli. They had a stunning selection of carved wood and polychromed terracotta pieces from Renaissance Italy. Each sumptuous piece was displayed on a white packing crate stencilled with the word ANGEL or MOTHER & CHILD.

Playful and effective and a just a little bit Thomas Crown Affair.

Carved Renaissance pieces at Frieze Masters from Bacarelli Botticelli

Carved Renaissance pieces at Frieze Masters from Bacarelli Botticelli

Anya Hindmarch at the Walbrook

“Handbags at dawn”, giggled a lawyer and fellow member of the prestigious Walbrook club as she approached Narda (member and my business partner) and I (wannabe member) over a glass of grapefruit juice at a breakfast event.

Luxury legend Anya Hindmarch had been invited to share her experience of running an SME as well as her thoughts around luxury retail.

The event was full to the rafters and was certainly an inspiring way to start to the day. Introduced by PR guru Lord Chadlington, who I have met under his other guise as chairman of LAPADA, Anya was under strict instructions to be no longer than 8 mins - I could have happily listened to her for longer.

Anya Hindmarch is a true entrepreneur who jettisoned any academic route in favour of starting her business at 18. She knew from an early age what she wanted to specialise in and even spent time in Florence learning her trade. She made some interesting points about what constitutes real luxury - a debate we are often involved in here at Muse - settling on the bespoke and unique she highlighted Hermes as a brand trying to reconcile the huge demand for their goods while remaining true to its heritage.

The Walbrook Club

The Walbrook Club

 

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