In the classic E.M. Forster novel A Room with a View, the central protagonist finds herself overwhelmed by the richness of color and light that defines one’s experience of Italy: “It was pleasant to wake up in Florence,” Forster writes, “to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles… with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows… to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.” From the age of the Grand Tour to the present day, collectors from around the world have similarly embraced the sensorial and artistic splendors of Italy and the Continent. Infused with history, luminosity, and tremendous beauty, The Art of Collecting continues in this storied tradition.
Few places within the United States evince the same radiant allure of the Continent as California.
Los Angeles in particular is, like Fellini’s Rome, situated at the very heart of popular culture and cinematic glamour—the embodiment of America’s own la dolce vita. Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the country’s foremost tastemakers have solidified the city and its enclaves as a destination for connoisseurship and style. Harnessing the sophistication of European fine and decorative art, they continue to present the best of Old World style within a modern, American setting. At celebrated historic residences such as William Randolph Hearst’s Italian-influenced Beverly House, choice collections of period furniture, textiles, and fine art came together in an impressive display of taste and scholarship. As so few of these estates survive, it is a rare pleasure to encounter today a similarly vibrant and considered assemblage of fine and decorative art in a private home. Indeed, the works presented here represent an intellectual and visual feat of modern collecting.
Following the model of California’s most important estates, works within The Art of Collecting were presented within a striking mise en scène: an impressive residence of Italianate design, surrounded by manicured gardens, open-air loggias, and European stonework. Inside, however, was the true essence of the home: the collector’s elegant assemblage of fine and decorative art. Featuring works of Italian, French, English, and Northern European design, it was a remarkable achievement in unifying beauty with everyday life. Whether in wood, stone, gilt, or damask, these works of decorative art are at once individually arresting and effortlessly harmonious. Neither unrestrained nor austere, the collection is a lesson in the power of placement to arouse visual delight and inspire the mind. Here are the “objects of a passion,” as the philosopher Jean Baudrillard so astutely described collecting, “… where the everyday prose of the object-world modulates into poetry.”
In the tradition of great European collections, the works within The Art of Collecting encourage the eye to move freely from object to object, room to room, in a stirring intermingling of color and luminosity. Rich hues of red and orange—accentuated by crystal and gilt—play upon California’s golden light, while the coolness of marble and stone is juxtaposed against silk upholstery, carved mahogany, and bright Majolica pottery. Blending history, craftsmanship, and a thoroughly Continental sensibility, the assemblage as a whole is reflective of its collector’s artistic vision and keen connoisseurial eye. The Art of Collecting presents a Tuscan villa for the modern age—the tangible mark of an unrivaled passion for fine and decorative art.