Spring has finally sprung. Admittedly there is the worrying, nagging doubt that another cold wet snap lurks like some mugger round the next corner. But heh, let's enjoy the aroma of warmth and the effulgent budding of the trees. That killer blossom moment is upon us and sap city will surge our brains into creativity and concomitant optimism.
That feeling of creativity was bubbling when the Masterpiece team met on Monday with Apollo. Oscar, the editor of Apollo is steering the Masterpiece magazine along its path. He seemed full of energy and buzz and has come up with some terrific interviews and articles which I hope will both delight and enlighten. He has a great tattoo on his finger of a cigarette. Whilst most people struggle to give up he has his passion tattooed onto his pointing finger. It is almost as if a hedonistic, directional urge is bursting out of his finger tip. Only the gestural lines of ash offer any note of reflection or hesitation.
From Tuesday through to Thursday we had our exhibitor meetings and the myriad dealers passed through the doors. The Stabilo team bustled around providing advice and encouragement. Nicola sat sagely alongside drawing a veil of calm and good sense over the proceedings whilst the pr team from gong muse whipped the exhibitors up into a frenzy of excited expectation. One of the ideas we have this year is to get our exhibitors to make micro films of their favourite objects. Not to pump up the importance of the scholarship or the value but to share the excitement and the passion. To show in a discrete way why an object or a work truly speaks to them. They will be fun to watch.. Every year the commitment to bringing a Masterpiece to Masterpiece seems to be truer and truer and so many of our dealers have put aside fabulous things for the fair. This year in every discipline the great, the newly discovered and the unusual or pioneering will be revealed and displayed. Have a look at the Masterpiece London website if you want a sneak peak.
Then on Thursday I flew to Madrid. I have an English friend who has lived in Madrid for nearly 20 years and last year with worries about her ailing parents she returned to the UK. For the last few months she has been tortured by the foul weather, worse food and depressing blandness of renewed Englishness. I told her I was in Madrid and she revealed that she had moved back. We met at Bufalino just off Gran Via. Her eyes were gleaming and I could see that every corpuscle in her being was celebrating her return. The bar was busy, Thursday night and there a throb if people. She was a few minutes late and idled away the time working my way through a goats' cheese tapas and a typically enormous Spanish vodka and tonic. Not my usual drink but enlivening after a boring flight. We were also meeting a great friend of hers who ironically was moving to England after a sojourn of twenty years in the Spanish capital. Work is very hard to find in Spain. The options and opportunities for creative people have evaporated with the economic downturn. He is called John and is an industrial designer, a sort of cross between an architect, an interior designer and a product designer. I have rarely met such a polymath. Looking quite scary at first glance with a fierce expression and a shaved head, he revealed his enthusiasms. There seemed no end to them. He makes wine of the dark deeply fruity style I adore. He makes olive oil. He adores food. His knowledge of history and design seemed boundless. The Italian bar we were in produced dish after dish of original yet simple food. Although it had an Italian edge the dishes were rooted in Spanish cuisine. Wonderful savoury tempura fried courgette sprinkled with sesame and sweet soy and amazing spinach burgers which managed to combine crunch with a hint of texture that was almost meat like, but so fresh and immediate tasting that they leapt off the plate. After hours of gassing we went our separate ways but bit before I was shown his amazingly cunningly arranged apartment which had an Edwardian dentist's chair which bizarrely I owned the doppelgänger of many years ago. A true kindred spirit.
The next day was spent with my dear friend Antonio. He has been dealing for a thousand years and lives for objects. He will buy anything from any period and is fearless about price. He revealed he had literally not eaten for a week so that he could buy a Trapani coral decorated object a few weeks previously. He is quite ancient and he has constant health grumbles but he continues to smoke enthusiastically and is constantly eager to learn and discover more. We toured the shops and found intriguing and beguiling objects. But then we stopped for lunch at Cruciero. We were lucky, a table and two stools were unoccupied. What shall we have? He was only asking me out of politeness. I could see he had already chosen. A tosta of Morcilla (black pudding with rice) chopped and deep fried. Octopus drenched in oil and paprika with boiled potato to soak up the juices. Calamari which were so light and hot they floated above the plate. Salt cod sliced wafer thin and bedecked with finely chopped spring and red onions. A feast in other words. Washed down with a fiercely cold fruity white wine that barely had a label.
Back in London I went to the Pompeii show at the British Museum. It is a wonderful portal through to understanding provincial Roman life. The focus of the show seems to be to highlight the domestic and the objects, art and fresco fragments brought so much of that to life. Also, inevitably, there is the story of the cataclysm that brought this captured bubble of life to us across the centuries. A truly astonishing moment. Whenever I go to the BM I cannot avoid a quick hello to the wonderful Hoa Hakananai, The Easter island figure, and a walk through the Enlightenment gallery which is such an elegant snap shot of the whole museum, highlighting the figures behind its establishment.
A wonderful end to the week.