Keeping It Surreal

Daniel Roseberry at Maison Schiaparelli, overlooking the Place Vendôme

 Daniel Roseberry at Maison Schiaparelli, overlooking the Place Vendôme

Daniel Roseberry, the artistic director of Schiaparelli, has long been fascinated by Elsa Schiaparelli’s collaborations with the leading lights of Surrealism. After establishing her venerable fashion house in the 1930s, Schiaparelli became one of the first couturiers to collaborate with artists, working with Salvador Dalí and Man Ray, among others.

“I’m always so nostalgic for that period,” Roseberry says. “I think of those collaborations as ones that were happening between people who were creating culture around them, and who found themselves in real relationships. I often wonder if they had any idea that their work would be romanticized and fetishized for generations after. Even if it was transactional in some way, those creative partnerships feel so deeply natural compared to most of what we observe today.”

Marcel Vertès, Schiaparelli, 21 Place Vendôme, 1953, on display in the salon of Maison Schiaparelli

 Marcel Vertès, Schiaparelli, 21 Place Vendôme, 1953, on display in the salon of Maison Schiaparelli
Photo Credit: Christophe Coënon; Matthieu Salavaing; © Archives Snark; ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images; courtesy of Schiaparelli; courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.

Texas-born Roseberry has been reinterpreting Schiaparelli’s historic vision through his dramatic collections since taking the reins of the house in 2019. This March, the Surrealism and Its Legacy sale at Sotheby’s Paris brings together works by artists associated with the movement, including René Magritte, Francis Picabia, Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, and works from those influenced by it—such as Lucio Fontana and Alexander Calder.

The sale reflects a period of renewed interest in Surrealism, with recent auctions and international exhibitions including last year’s Venice Biennale adopting it as a central theme. For Roseberry, the enduring appeal of the Surrealists is obvious. “Generations and times shift and change, but the urges of the subconscious feel timeless and truly inescapable. They were able to tap into this and exploit it,” he says.

Elsa Schiaparelli with Salvador Dalí, 1949

 Elsa Schiaparelli with Salvador Dalí, 1949

Elsa Schiaparelli was born into a family of intellectuals and aristocrats in 1890 in Rome, and her encounter with the Surrealists was utterly fortuitous. Sailing on an ocean liner in 1916 to North America with her husband, she met Gabrièle Buffet-Picabia, first wife of the Dada artist Francis Picabia. Buffet-Picabia introduced her to New York’s avant-garde art scene via Société Anonyme, an arts organization founded in the city by the painter and collector Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. Returning to Paris in 1922, Schiaparelli made her foray into fashion, encouraged by a new acquaintance: preeminent designer Paul Poiret. Her first success was the now-renowned trompe-l’œil bow jumper, a design hand-knitted by Armenian women in Paris. Schiaparelli then went on to set up business in a garret on Rue de la Paix and, in 1935, moved to a boutique in the prestigious Place Vendôme. Her connections with artists became central to the brand’s success.

It is her work with Dalí that stands out most. “From my point of view, it is the most striking and influential [collaboration] in the history of the house of Schiaparelli,” says Marie-Sophie Carron de La Carrière, head curator of the fashion and textile collections after 1800 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, which hosted the exhibition Shocking! Les mondes surréalistes d’Elsa Schiaparelli (July 2022–January 2023). Among other pieces, Schiaparelli and Dalí worked together on the Shoe Hat, 1937–38, absurdly fashioned from an upside-down black shoe, and the Lobster dress, 1937, for which Dalí designed a crustacean to appear on a white organdy dress, which was interpreted into a fabric print by silk designer Sache.

After returning to Paris from the US after the Second World War, Schiaparelli commissioned the Catalan artist to design the crystal bottle for her new fragrance, Le Roy Soleil, in homage to the “Sun King”, Louis XIV. The resulting bottle comprised a golden sun painted with swallows above a gold and blue sea.

Schiaparelli’s Shoe Hat, 1937–38;

 Schiaparelli’s Shoe Hat, 1937–38;

Other memorable creations include two pairs of spiral spectacles that Man Ray made for Schiaparelli in 1936. Jean Cocteau, the Surrealism polymath, brought his passion for optical illusion  and metamorphosis to Schiaparelli’s collections in 1937 and 1938. Designs include a linen evening jacket featuring a woman in profile, her hair rendered in gold thread, shimmering down the right arm with two hands encircling the waist. On a silk jersey coat, Cocteau designed two facing profiles to form the shape of a vase, filled with a bouquet of pink taffeta flowers. Surrealist artist Leonor Fini designed the bottle for Schiaparelli’s fragrance Shocking, inspired by the hourglass torso of Hollywood film star Mae West, one of Schiaparelli’s clients. Artist Meret Oppenheim traded Schiaparelli a design for a piece of jewelry: a brass bracelet covered in animal fur that Schiaparelli included in her Fall/Winter 1936 collection.

A nod to Jean Cocteau’s evening dress for Fall 2021 Couture

 A nod to Jean Cocteau’s evening dress for Fall 2021 Couture

Schiaparelli held these collaborations close to her heart. “Working with artists like Bébé Bérard, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Vertès, Van Dongen; and with photographers like Hoyningen-Huene, Horst, Cecil Beaton and Man Ray gave one a sense of exhilaration,” she wrote in her autobiography, Shocking Life. “One felt supported and understood beyond the crude and boring reality of merely making a dress to sell.” They helped her to become one of the most important designers of the 20th century, rivaling contemporaries such as Coco Chanel.

Salvador Dalí, Dream of Venus, 1939

 Salvador Dalí, Dream of Venus, 1939

Today, the Surrealists’ influence is carried forward by Roseberry through his own designs for the house, which closed in 1954 and was relaunched in 2012 by Diego Della Valle, the founder of Italian luxury group Tod’s. Roseberry had not worked in a couture atelier before, joining from upmarket fashion brand Thom Browne, but his eye for tailoring and experimentation has made him a perfect fit, and he has resurrected iconic Schiaparelli motifs in bold new ways. Pink silk roses, a nod to Cocteau’s evening dress, cover the billowing arms of a black mini dress from his Fall 2021 Couture collection. For Spring 2022 Couture, he presented a “cage” dress exquisitely crafted from gold leaf and vintage gemstones, which resembles more of a giant brooch than a garment.

To keep the founder’s intentions alive in a new century, Roseberry has “learned to stay loose”. “When you look at Elsa’s process, it feels free and unburdened, and spontaneous,” he says. “It’s like the shower principle: that the best ideas come to you when you’re not thinking about them, or when you’re in the shower. I think her work has this free-wheeling intelligence that feels so ahead of its time. It wasn’t just about beauty, or of the ‘line’ of a dress. It was about a concept, an idea, a notion of reality. She would take this notion and bend it to her will.”

Roseberry’s love of Surrealism extends to his own art collection, too. He has “just bought a small painting by the Belgian surrealist Marcel Delmotte”, who drew from a range of sources, including the Italian Mannerists to contemporaries such as Giorgio de Chirico for his dreamlike works. “French Surrealism in the 1950s has something I love. I am repeatedly drawn to French and Italian art from the 1920s and the 1930s, such as Gaston Lachaise [known for his exaggerated bronze nudes], and I’d love to one day own an important piece of American art from the 1950s or 1960s, like a giant Helen Frankenthaler.”

Like Schiaparelli, Roseberry is eager to collaborate with artists of his time: “I love Katie Stout”—the artist and furniture designer who pushes the boundaries of functionality, and often references organic matter and female figures. “The photographer Nadia Lee Cohen, and my friends—the sculptor F Taylor Colantonio, and the writer and playwright Jeremy O Harris [his Slave Play made waves on Broadway in 2021],” he adds. “I would love to make a short film with Janicza Bravo [her work includes the movies Lemon and Zola]. Tilda Swinton would make an amazing Elsa Schiaparelli one day in a film, and I’d love to be involved in that.”

In the meantime, Roseberry’s eyes are firmly focused on his work with Schiaparelli and, just like the house’s imaginative founder, “creating things that people might remember, and that might last more than a moment”.

Schiaparelli coat designed in collaboration with Cocteau

 Schiaparelli coat designed in collaboration with Cocteau

Thought And Feeling

Axel Vervoordt is a man with many hats: art and antiques dealer, interior designer, initiator of groundbreaking exhibitions and an impresario of musical, artistic and architectural experiences. Central to all this activity is his long marriage to his wife, May. Their evolving interests have been the guiding thread in their esteemed family business. Whether in their private home, the 12th-century Kasteel van ‘s-Gravenwezel, outside Antwerp, or in their impressive business headquarters, Kanaal—a restored late-19th-century distillery and malting complex on the nearby Albert Canal—their shared aesthetic and philosophical values are expressed in every atmospheric interior and the juxtaposition of carefully selected artworks. It is appropriate, therefore, that as Axel and May celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this spring, they have created a book about their collecting.

Axel and May Vervoordt in their home near Antwerp

 Axel and May Vervoordt in their home near Antwerp

What has interested them above all on this journey has been a dialogue between traditions—the exchange between east and west—which is reflected throughout their home and in their exhibition-making. It is also expressed in this new book, which celebrates artworks from contrasting traditions to emphasize continuities of thought and feeling. For Axel, his touchstones include works by Kazuo Shiraga and the numinous Fontana sculpture Concetto Spaziale, Natura, 1959–60. May has a favorite painting—Urbino, 1978, by Belgian artist Jef Verheyen, known for his exploration of light, color and geometry. She also loves the Japanese Head of a Lohan, or Buddhist monk on the edge of enlightenment, in their library: “Every time I see them, I learn something new.”

This interest in Asian art can be traced to their friendship with Dr Jos Macken, a neurologist who was a great friend of Verheyen and a passionate collector of eastern art. Through Macken, Axel became interested in eastern philosophy, especially the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: the wisdom of imperfection. Axel explains that his mother instilled in him a feeling for “the beauty of simplicity—she liked very humble things”.

A collection of figurines in the library

 A collection of figurines in the library

Axel and May had visited Japan before they married and, from their late twenties, traveled through Thailand, China and Japan, developing a passionate understanding of Zen philosophy, ceramics, sculpture and calligraphy. Furthermore, Axel eagerly discovered the East Asian idea of the “void”—a potent emptiness; a latent creative energy beyond human comprehension.

Through Verheyen, the couple discovered the broad network of European artists connected to the Zero movement in Germany, including the Argentine-Italian Lucio Fontana and the German Günther Uecker, who were exploring similar ideas. Axel remarks: “After the terrible destruction of the Second World War, the idea of starting again from nothing was very appealing.”

The “Oriental Salon” at Kasteel van ‘s-Gravenwezel, with a 17th-century Japanese folding screen by Tan’yu Kano (left) and Fusta i Marró Forodat by Antoni Tàpies, 1972 (right)

 The “Oriental Salon” at Kasteel van ‘s-Gravenwezel, with a 17th-century Japanese folding screen by Tan’yu Kano (left) and Fusta i Marró Forodat by Antoni Tàpies, 1972 (right)

These ideas were all percolating in the Vervoordts from the beginning of their relationship. They met when they were very young. May reports that Axel, then aged 21, “was a young antiques dealer,” while her interests, as a student of graphic design aged 18 or 19, “were more contemporary.” One of Axel’s early purchases—an oil painting by René Magritte of his famous motif, La Mémoire, 1948—suggests that he was always looking for a sense of “timelessness, the universal”. In addition, what was evident in their shared preferences was that, “the things we loved and bought, they had a sense of silence. They were never aggressive,” says May.

Axel Vervoordt seized upon dealing as a means of exploring his own interests in art. What he bought was always something that he and May loved: “I had to feel it in my breast,” he says.

The loft in the outer buildings of the castle. An Artempo disc by Axel Vervoordt hangs above painted works by Gutai artist Sadaharu Horio. Signal by Takis, 1958, is on the table.

 The loft in the outer buildings of the castle. An Artempo disc by Axel Vervoordt hangs above painted works by Gutai artist Sadaharu Horio. Signal by Takis, 1958, is on the table.

In 2005, Axel discovered the Gutai artists in Japan. Alongside Fontana, Shiraga in particular is an essential reference for them both. May comments: “You feel strength in this art, but with that, a meditative feeling. You see the movement in a Shiraga painting, but recognize the stillness that came before.”

Both agree that they will never stop collecting. May refers to one of her favorite works, a six-fold Japanese screen from the 17th century, decorated with round stepping stones, black and white, with the motto: “By this way, bring you luck.” Collecting has become a series of steps, May explains. “There is an evolution. You continue to look and to buy.”

Kazuo Shiraga, Suiju, 1985

 Kazuo Shiraga, Suiju, 1985

Photos: © Mari Luz Vidal for Openhouse; © Laziz Hamani; courtesy of Axel and May Vervoordt.

Living Walls’ Benefits Extend Beyond Their Beauty

A vertical garden can be a status art piece indoors and out.

Originally appeared on sothebysrealty.com

Vertical gardens, which transform plain walls into lush landscapes, are being employed as signature architectural features in interior and exterior spaces.

“Luxury clients, especially, perceive them as a differentiator, a status art piece,” says Irina Kim Sang, managing partner of Miami Vertical Garden.

Denise Eichmann, a senior project manager for Ambius, a global interior-landscaping company, says living, or green, walls are popular partly because “plants on a vertical space don’t take up any square footage,” and “sitting next to a living wall can feel like you’re being shaded by a canopy of trees.”

Living wall by Sempergreen.

Inside, living walls open up small spaces and connect rooms in open-plan homes. With few options for outdoor art available, green walls fill the void, even during winters in cold climates. “Living walls have been popular in Europe for 40 years,” Kim Sang says, adding that interest in the United States has room to grow. “They are also popular in Asia. Hong Kong is a top buyer.”

HOW THEY WORK

The gardens, which require sophisticated irrigation and illumination systems, are planted into walls in modular trays or pockets or in hydroponic setups with saturated sponges. They are usually $90 to $250 per square foot and can include thousands of plants.

“A true vertical garden that has a continuous root zone behaves like a regular garden,” says Oscar Warmerdam, president of Virginia-based Sempergreen. “We often prune them two times a year because the plants will grow two to four feet off the wall.”

BENEFITS OF LIVING WALLS

Living walls offer many benefits beyond their beauty: They increase oxygen, create natural humidity, reduce particle pollution, save energy, and buffer noise. Studies have shown that a connection with nature reduces eye strain, fatigue, and stress.

“Living walls are dynamic. They have motion and rhythm,” says Jack Mascharka, senior designer for John Mini Distinctive Landscapes in Congers, N.Y. “If you can create that effect, the wall will always deliver delight.”

WHAT’S NEW IN ART, ARCHITECTURE, AND DESIGN

Published in RESIDE Magazine.

Floral paintings are making a contemporary comeback, farmhouses are getting modern face-lifts, and rooms are offering design “experiences.” Here are the latest trends in art, architecture, and design.

ART

A new generation of artists is breathing life into a centuries-old subject: florals. The works, which range from traditional botanicals to avant-garde abstractions and edgy photographic images, are intimate portraits of nature in all its glorious phases. Stockholm-based photographer Carl Kleiner often employs flowers in his works, creating undulating images with stems and petals in impossibly whimsical positions. Belfast painter Ted Pim has been creating oil-on-canvas rose bouquets for the past 15 years. The works, which sell for US$3,000 to US$22,000, are brutally brooding and literally dripping with subtle significance.

“Roses are a symbol of love but also can be incredibly dark,” he says. “I grew up listening to Tarot readings my friend’s grandmother did, and I learned that the rose is a symbol of balance. It expresses promise, new beginnings and hope. Its thorns represent defense, physicality, loss, and thoughtlessness. I use these themes in my work to create beautiful pieces of art.”

Inspired by 18th-century works of Dutch painter Rachel Ruysch, Pim deliberately flaws “perfect floral scenes, with every inch analyzed and overanalyzed for imperfections” by dripping a mixture of etching ink and white spirits over the work at the end to emphasize the unpredictability and fragility of life. “It’s a thrill to pour the mixture over the oils, trying to balance the elements of destruction and creation,” he says. “A lot of people would ask if the flowers I paint are dying or coming to life. I like that they have to make up their own minds.”

Belfast-based artist Ted Pim paints striking oil-on-canvas rose bouquets
Belfast-based artist Ted Pim paints striking oil-on-canvas rose bouquets.

 

ARCHITECTURE

The so-called modern farmhouse is one of the latest manifestations of the quest to create a classical, comfortable residence that is suitable for casual, contemporary life

The hybrid houses, which are, on the outside, spare and Shaker simple, feature opulent, open-plan interiors and are sited to exploit the sun and the natural breezes.

“Modern farmhouses combine traditional forms with the clarity, simplicity, and openness of Mid-Century Modern architecture,” says architect Matthew Griffith, a principal of in situ studio in Raleigh, N.C. “Farmhouses were not meant to be decorative—they were practical, and they were beautiful, quiet places.”

The wood-sided structures, which typically have durable metal roofs, take design cues from vernacular farmhouses, yet look more austerely elegant than agrarian.

A modern farmhouse from North Carolina-based in situ
A modern farmhouse from North Carolina-based in situ

 

“The interior spaces are not always one room,” Griffith says, noting that in one in situ studio project, a stairway serves as an architectural connector.

He says that the form, which blends indoor and outdoor spaces, has become so popular that “it’s a movement—developers of spec properties are using the term ‘modern farmhouse’ to describe them. Five years ago, when we designed our first one at a client’s behest, it was a novelty.”

DESIGN

The rooms we live in should not simply be seen but also appeal to the emotions. That’s the credo of experiential design, whose spaces stimulate the five senses.

Becky Shea, whose eponymous design firm is based in New York City and Los Angeles, sees such design as “holistic therapy” that creates “a subconscious calm.”

In her interiors, she evokes memories with, among other cues, materials, meditative ambient sound, living walls, and a signature scent diffused through the HVAC system.

Becky Shea used old flooring that meant something to her clients to create built-ins in a breakfast room
Becky Shea used old flooring that meant something to her clients to create built-ins in a breakfast room.

 

In one project where her clients were renovating the family home, she used its old flooring to create built-in cabinetry for the breakfast room. “Now, every day, they are reminded of the memories that were created on the floors,” she says.

For another home, she designed an oversize custom rug that matched the material of the client’s favorite sweater. “She told us how much she loves the experience of waking up and wiggling her toes in the plush alpaca boucle before starting her day,” Shea says.

Digging deeply into the client’s psyche is key to the process. “If conventional design is like dating, experiential design is more like being married with two kids and a pet,” she says. “We get to know every detail about our clients from what kind of deodorant they use to where they vacationed as children.” Shea says she knows the design is successful “when clients tell us they’ve never felt more ‘at home.’”