I had forgotten how redolent of Vanessa Bell’s paintings and personality the interiors of Charleston are, including the bedroom on the ground floor where she died on 7 April 1961 under a portrait of Julian from whose death she never wholly recovered:-
I started the day by going to see an exhibition of photographs of the Windrush generation by Jim Grover in the Oxo Gallery. He lives in Clapham and has won the trust of the local community which has enabled him to document the lives of the original settlers from the Caribbean, who came every year between 1948 when the SS Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury and 1962, the year of the Commonwealth Immigration Act. What it shows is the way their lives were built round the local church, family and community – and dominos and dancing. His photographs convey dignity and pride.
We had a meeting this morning with the Luxury Club of the French Chamber of Commerce – representatives of the ways in which Mayfair, and Bond Street in particular, represent so many of the world’s leading luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Hermes, who dominate the local economy. Ever since we started developing Burlington Gardens a key question has been how far we connect with, or distance ourselves from, the local retail community. I’ve always been in favour of establishing close connections, partly because so many fine art and contemporary dealers are local and partly because I think it is in the Royal Academy’s interest to be able to attract cultural tourists (not to mention High Net Worth Individuals) in a way that in the past it may not have done. Some time ago, we commissioned a report on Culture and Commerce: the Royal Academy and Mayfair from Charles Landry, the writer and urban theorist; and I am looking forward to reading Please Do Not Touch And Other Things You Couldn’t Do at Moss, the Design Store That Changed Design, the recent book by Murray Moss, who gave advice to us on our shops.
We had an event last night to celebrate and thank all those people who have bought seats in the Lecture Theatre: a wonderful piece of collective philanthropy in which one person has bought seats in honour of a group of red collars; another in honour of Angelica Kauffman. People bought seats for their spouse or in memory of someone or just for themselves and came to sit in their seats for the first time in order to admire their handiwork and hear the differents strands of the story which has led finally to the completion of the building.
Since there was no possibility of my getting a view of Meghan, I concentrated my attention on the garden façade of Buckingham Palace. I always find the internal courtyard a bit dour, as designed by Edward Blore, but the garden façade is presumably still Nash in his most magnificent style – spending money like water on the most opulent visual effects, as if it was a Palace for a Tsar, with ornamental sculpture to match:-
One of the great pleasures of the last few weeks has been seeing the Lovelace Courtyard come together in the backyard between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, which David Chipperfield describes as a ‘demilitarised zone’, a bit of green in the heart of London, somewhere for staff to sit out and, as of last night, for the students to play pingpong. It was designed by Peter Wirtz, the son of Jacques Wirtz who designed the gardens at Alnwick Castle:-