Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A touch of Paris

Table 1 at Michael's (left to right): Jim Damiani, Richard Ayitey Appiah, Brooke Kremer Millington, Elizabeth "Bissie Miller, Paul Kahn, Catherine Russell, Dennis McNally, Susana Millman, Phil Coturri, Arden Kremer, Anthony Millington, and Pamela Kawi. The group was celebrating Mr. McNally's ASCAP Writing Award 2015 for his book "On Highway 61: Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom."
Wednesday, November 18, 2015.  Sunny and colder in New York yesterday with temps in the low 50s and into the mid-40s at night.

Today on the NYSD we have a “Dispatch from Paris” by Joan Schenkar, an American author and biographer who lives in Paris and was there last Friday.

NYSD readers may recall the wonderful “Letter from Paris” from Joan that we reprinted several months ago, about a visit to the Cimitiere de Passy. Because of her eye for detail and sense of atmosphere demonstrated in that “Letter,” I asked Joan if she would write something about the experience of being there and its effect on the people and the life there.

Letter from Paris, with a view of the Paris that the world has long had of Paris before last Friday — tomorrow, Thursday, November 19th, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style goes on view at the Met at the Anna Wintour Costume Institute.
This is a remarkable show of one woman’s portfolio of fashion. There will be 60 ready-to-wear and couture ensembles of her by designers from Armani, Balmain, Blass, Bohan, Valentino, Cavalli, Galliano, Madame Gres, Dior, as well as her own label, and others. A legitimate icon of our age, Jacqueline de Ribes as anyone who is interested knows, is one of the greatest fashionable women of the 20th century.

De Ribes has a profile and countenance almost literary, combined with a slender almost undulating elegance in her physical presence, that she adds a sense of “royalty” to her air, although she is not “royal.” It’s all in the drama, our drama. I’m sure the visitors will not be disappointed. De Ribes never disappointed.
The ensembles on view at the Met are primarily from de Ribes's personal archive, dating from 1962 to the present.
Yesterday I had lunch at Michael’s with Juan Pablo Molyneux, the international interior designer who has offices here and in Paris, and works all around the world with clients. Juan Pablo, along with Vitalie Taittinger (Ambassador of Champagne Taittinger), is being honored tonight by the French Heritage Society at a Gala Dinner Dance at the Pierre.

I met Juan-Pablo and his wife Pilar in 2007 in Paris. I think; although I may have met the couple first here in New York. The occasion in Paris was a dinner for the American Friends of Versailles at the Molyneux’ 17th century l’hotel particulier in the Marais. It is an amazing house to see, and no doubt to live in. When the Molyneux acquired it, it was a near ruin. With Juan-Pablo’s magic touch, it was turned into an exquisite home.
The front door of Juan Pablo's 17th century l’hotel particulier in the Marais when we visited in 2007.
Guests meeting and greeting in the garden of the Molyneux residence.
Roses after the rain in the Molyneux garden.
Dinner in the Molyneux library.
Another view of the library.
Guests dining in the Chinese lacquer hall.
Dinner in La Salle de Chasse.
The living room.
Juan-Pablo is known as a classicist among the men and women of his profession. He is Chilean by birth although he was sent to boarding school in Europe as a boy and his source of self seems to bear out that time and place in his life. He’s multi-lingual – English, French, Spanish, Russian (that I know of) – which gives him a deeper access to his international clientele’s needs and dreams.

When our lunch was arranged by someone in the French Heritage Society, I was also sent a video of a chateau that the Molyneux have acquired and restore in Champagne. (Juan-Pablo pronounces it Cham-pahn-ya and Michael McCarty who is French educated in matters of libation, and speaks French comfortably, calls it Cham-pain.) The two had a brief conversation about vintages yesterday.
DPC and Juan Pablo Molyneaux at Michael's.
Audrey Gruss, Teran Davis, and Michelle King Robson at a neighboring table.
I had no idea when I put the video on just before leaving the house to go to lunch. It’s only about six and half minutes. It is about the chateau acquired a few years ago and now a respite and a haven for Juan-Pablo and Pilar. It’s very brief, and a heavenly contrast to many things of the moment. It reminds that somewhere in the human psyche is the ability to create serenity for the self and those around us.

I being a “dog person” was very impressed and touched by the dogs. When I mentioned them to Juan-Pablo at lunch, he told me they were rescued from a shelter. He had intended to adopt one but ... he also told me that they sleep on the bed with him and Pilar, and sometimes they have to move to make room for their spaces. We laughed of course. What a pleasure to make room for a loved one.
The story here (at lunch) is the chateau and that great long barn-like structure that sits close to it. It is a good example of the objectives of the French Heritage Society as well. Preservation through restoration.

When they bought the property, the house was in great need of renovation. Juan-Pablo was attracted to it for its aged-ness. But there were rooms where the once beautiful paneling was so deteriorated that he was told by the specialists that it wasn’t possible to restore. The decay in some places of the wood had gone too far. So Juan-Pablo, undeterred, got the bright idea of covering the entire paneling with a very fine velvet. That way keeping what attracted him in the first place. In the video it is impossible to perceive. But as Juan-Pablo said, when you run your palm along it, you feel  it. And he smiled.
Detail of the paneling covered in white velvet.
The barn-like building next to the chateau was originally a stable. In the years before the Molyneux acquired the property, it had been a dormitory for a school, so it had been broken up into rooms. Juan-Pablo had that construction removed and keeping some of rooms, opened the space up as an atelier.

His idea was to create a kind of school, what in this country we would call a trade school. A Master Class. He was inspired because in his travels for his work in France he saw very young people working for decorative arts suppliers who were – simply for employment – were developing a craft, an artisanship. At one supplier, he saw a 17 year old, working at a “job” whose work was already superior.
The attic of the house. The structure reminded him of 17th century Piranesi prints of prisons. He found some and had them blown up and covered the inside of the roof to enhance the sense of the scene.
His thought was to create a space where those working in the field, young people, could attend a master class for a few months to enhance their talents as well as participate in the market place. The classicist is having a renaissance. Something already in the wind in ways deplorable for all of us, but on the other side of it, maybe for something beautiful, in the greater sense of the word. Juan-Pablo thinks along those lines. That is obviously his heritage. And the French Heritage also.
The designer with his creation of an ancient attic.
 

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