Thursday, July 2, 2009

When Two Minds Meet

Mmm, we hear the name Goldfinger and we are inexplicably led to one of 007’s arch enemies, who had a bit of a penchant for gold. However dig a little deeper and we come across another man of the name Goldfinger who had a penchant for architecture. Erno Goldfinger was a Hungarian born architect and furniture designer who worked primarily in England and who was a key member of the Modern Movement.

His style which was very austere and severe and almost brutal at times ended up being an integral part of modernist architecture in England during the 1920’s and 1930’s. His buildings and designs contrasted dramatically with the surroundings in which they were located in. In the setting of old London and other areas his designs stood alone and thus demanded to be looked at and studied for their own merits and then as to how they related to their surroundings. Even right through to the late 1960’s Goldfinger was there, and England is dotted to testaments of his legacy, like the Trellick Tower in London, one of the landmark attempts of high-rise residential living.

The façade of the Georgian mansion he updated for Helena Rubinstein’s new London salon on Grafton Street in 1925. was a triumph of modernist design. The salon was located in chic Mayfair. Goldfinger's original design included Madame’s name illuminated in lights, repeated four times down the side of the building, which Madame vetoed as she thought it bad taste. Goldfinger resented Rubinstein as being overbearing- an adjective often used to describe himself, however in retrospect, he could see how interesting she was. Stubbornly, Goldfinger forced through the starkly modern design which was to the taste of neither Madame or of her customers, nor indeed of the builders who tried to add decorative touches to Goldfinger's drawings in the belief that he must have accidentally forgotten them. Although he struggled even to be paid for the project, Goldfinger succeeded in building 'the first modern shop in London' with a fully glazed façade which is today's standard treatment.
I don’t have a photo of the salon’s exterior however it would have been similar to the below.

The interior of the beauty salon was designed in a minimal way, with chrome and glass fittings faintly reminiscent of hospital interiors.

Sadly destroyed during World War II, Madame’s London Salon was redone in a totally different style. As usual Madame, had a knack for sourcing hitherto unknown talent and paving the way for their success.

Savoir Faire From All Angles

Growing up in Australia in the mid 1970’s one could not help but notice the amount of artwork that proliferated schools. Schools were invariably the recipients of prints of art works by famous artists that took pride of place in classrooms, usually above the blackboard. One Australian artist who had this unlikely honour, not only in schools but other public spaces was Sir Sidney Nolan. Nolan was one of Australia’s premier artists, with his most famous works being the highly stylised series based on the Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly, created in 1946-1947. These are instantly recognisable for the depiction of Kelly and his famous iron mask and body armour, as a black silhouetted figure.

Fast forward to 2003, where Sydney furniture designer, Johnny Charmaki, has used this series of paintings as inspiration to design a chair! This is art evolving and changing as how art should. Take something or an image that we are all familiar with and turn it into something else, while maintaining the original focus of the original work. Look at paintings and chair individually and that is what they are painting and chair, however put both together, and we have an evolving piece of work that spans 60 years. The parts of the chair carefully relate to Nolan’s paintings and Kelly’s gun battle scenes. For example there are three holes in the seat that relate to bullet holes in Kelly’s armour. The arms represent guns ready to fire.
True to the savoir faire style, I will have one please!

Royal Savoir Faire

Princess Alice of Battenberg, later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and mother in law of the Queen, although having a troubled life, possessed true savoir faire, and did basically what she pleased later in life. Not particularly fashionable, at one stage committed to a sanatorium for schizophrenia, turning to religion and becoming a nun, her life shaped her into a person who was completely herself.

For all the wealth and privilege she was born into, she developed a true sense of self and ended up devoting her life to helping others, on somewhat reduced circumstances. During the Second World War in Greece, she worked for the Red Cross organization, helped organize soup kitchens for the starving populace and flew to Sweden to bring back medical supplies on the pretext of visiting her sister, Louise who was married to the Crown Prince. She organised two shelters for orphaned and stray children, and a nursing circuit for poor neighborhoods, and founded a nursing order of Greek Orthodox nuns, the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. Because of her actions, she was a puzzling enigma to her family with her mother the Marchioness of Milford Haven once saying, "What can you say of a nun who smokes like a chimney and plays canasta?"

When she died she left no possessions, having given everything away. Before she died she had expressed her wish to be buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (near to her aunt Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, a Russian Orthodox saint). When her daughter, Princess George of Hanover, complained that it would be too far away for them to visit her grave, Princess Andrew jested, "Nonsense, there's a perfectly good bus service!" Her wish was finally realized on 3 August 1988 when her remains were transferred to her final resting place in a crypt below the church.

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