Realising that I had not seen much work by Farshid Moussavi, a recently elected RA, I called in at the shop she has designed for Victoria Beckham in Dover Street. The doorman looked rightly suspicious as he rolled back the door for me, but it has an intriguing use of a grand sculptural staircase stretching up to the first floor and down to the basement, like the one that Koolhaas did for Prada in New York, together with an angular cross geometry which is extended into the seating. The crossover between fashion and art gallery moves one step closer, not least with a Damien Hirst displayed alongside the clothes.
I walked out into the courtyard of the RA at lunch-time and witnessed the full glory of its invasion by metallic triffids designed and installed by Conrad Shawcross. It’s the prelude to this year’s Summer Exhibition:-
Just north of Fordcombe on the road to Penshurst there is an old sign advertising the sale of eggs and herbs. One turns off into a farmyard which is magnificently bucolic, disordered in a way which is now rare. We didn’t buy any herbs, but I did take the liberty of photographing it:-
Over the years we have many times passed Middle Farm just near Charleston on the A272. This year we stopped to stock up. It has grown into a vast capitalist enterprise with every possible variety of food and plant and, most impressively, beer, cider, perry and gin, from specialist suppliers throughout the country, not just Harveys, the local brewers:-
The last session we were able to attend at Charleston was a discussion on the history of bohemianism, based on Vic Gatrell’s recent book, The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London’s Gokden Age. But the use of the term for eighteenth-century Covent Garden felt wrong. As Gatrell himself admitted, the term derives from the nineteenth century romanticisation of the life of the artist, first used in France in Henri Murger’s Scènes de la Vie Bohème (1845) and, in England, in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1848). What Gatrell is writing about is conventional low life which was a matter of necessity, not choice. Fiona McCarthy argued the case for Byron and William Morris being regarded as bohemians. Possibly. Both espoused a version of an alternative lifestyle. Most convincing was Antony Penrose describing the extraordinarily hedonistic life of his father in the south of France alongside Picasso, Man Ray and his mother, Lee Miller.
Silver spoon bohemianism
A very varied diet at Charleston today. Sofka Zinovieff and Selina Hastings talked about their upper-class relations – Selina’s father who was the Earl of Hastings and worked in Mexico with Diego Rivera and Sofka’s grandfather, The Mad Boy, who was the lover of Lord Berners. Juliet Stevenson read poetry by Emily Dickinson as orchestrated by Bill Nicholson. A session on ‘The Language of Fashion’ was organised by Justine Picardie. We ended with Benjamin Britten’s Phantasy Quartet followed by a balletic performance inspired by The Waves.
In the intervals, I walked up the track to see the Downs:-
Before setting off to Charleston for the day we wandered round the garden where we are staying enjoying the sudden sense of early summer in the Sussex countryside:-