Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Queen Mums

Moon over the William Goadby Loew house on East 93rd Street. 9:00 PM.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016. A sunny day, yesterday in New York with temperatures in the low 60s turning into the chilly mid-50s by mid-evening.

Last night in New York. At the Chinese Porcelain Company at 232 East 59th Street, Pierre Durand, Louis Bofferding and Erin Mandley hosted an opening reception for photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo to celebrate the publication of her book featuring the gallery artist Carmen Almon, “In Bloom; Creating and Living with Flowers.”

Click to order "In Bloom."
The evening drew a crowd, including Sibilla Clark, Robert Couturier, Jack Drexel, Bruce Addison, Bill Bernhard, Susan Gutfreund, Margo Langenberg, Geoffrey Bradfield, Jim Joseph, Evelyn Mandy, Alex Papachristidis and Scott Nelson, Elizabeth Pyne, Kathy and Bill Rayner, Martha Stewart, Annabelle and Alberto Mariaca, Kathryn Schiavone, Robert Rufino, Louise Grunwald, Bryan Sawyer, Pauline Kelly, Cathy Greaham, Christie and Jules  Brown, Stephen Aronson, Ann Nitze, Francis Palmer, and many more.

Both photographer and artist are new names to me but I’m behind on the matter because I was told before the reception that all of the Almon pieces (on view last night) have been sold. I also learned that the New York Times did a piece on her three years ago.

Ms. Almon was born in Guatemala, daughter of a US diplomat, and grew up in Washington, D.C. and now lives in the south of France in Bordeaux with husband Thierry Job who is also a sculptor.
She is a botanical artist. The first time I saw her work, I thought (albeit briefly) that it was the real thing. It is so beautiful that it looks too delicate to touch without leaving a mark on the blossom. She told the Times that she “builds” a tree, or “grows” a plant.  “Each one has its own system to live, grow and seduce .... I think about the will of a plant to live, its fight towards the sun, each leaf positions itself like a small solar panel. Along with its struggle against gravity, and its own demise.”

She uses copper sheeting, brass tubing, steel wire and enamel paint to create her art. Unlike the traditional means of artistic expression of flowers such as paint and canvas she is unique in her choice of medium. Her art is to capture the fragility of a moment in time. Often it’s the moment of the plant’s encounter with insects. It is this singular originality combined with profound artistic vision makes her work so avidly sought by collectors both here in the United States, and in Europe.
Almon works in her ateliers in Bordeaux and in the Lot where her country garden inspires her. Sheet copper, brass tubing, cuticle scissors, a soldering gun and oil go into creating her personal interpretation of her memory of a particular plant, flower, branch or bud.

They are reminders, in a way, of the beautiful illustrated botanical books of the 17th and 18th century that Almon often refers to for inspiration – Linneaeus, Ehret and Redouté who was a favorite artist of Marie Antoinette and Empress Josephine. Each piece takes a long time to complete, so there are only a few obtainable every year. Not surprisingly.
Edie was a lady. Several NYSD readers expressed their interest in Mrs. Goetz’ butler who had come from the Royal Household staff in London, comparing her to the Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. “She’s very much like the Queen,” he said when I asked how he liked working for her, “not the Queen, but the Queen Mum.”  And how so, I inquired: “Her staff comes first, before everything and everyone else,” he explained.

To someone like myself, who has never had “staff” in any household of mine, I required some further clarification. "The Queen Mum was most concerned that everyone working for her was happy in their job and well taken care of. Not everyone in the Royal Family treated the staff as thoughtfully as the the Queen Mother."

I did know that the members of the Royal Household staff, the men – referred to as footmen, not butler – loved to tell stories about what it was like to work for her. It sounded as if they were really her friends, running her houses, seriously devoted to caring for her and her needs, as well as jesting and having a cocktail with her.
Edie Goetz visiting Picasso in his studio.
There’s a famous story among former staffers of the Royal Household of the time she sent one of the footmen to fetch the jewels she would be wearing to a function that night.

The Goetzes' private secretary Sonja Gilbert admiring Après le Repas by Pierre Bonnard (which sold at Christie's in November 1998 for $8 million) in the dining room on Delfern Drive in Holmby Hills.
When he got off the lift at her floor where she was waiting, the footman was bedecked in Her Majesty’s tiara, necklace, earrings, brooch, etc., whereupon the Queen on seeing him said: “Give me those, those are for the real queen!”

Edie Goetz did not have that particular sense of humor, nor could I imagine her having referred to any man who worked for her (and or any man anywhere) as a “queen.” But I do know she was very proud of her staff’s abilities and talents as well as their devotion her and her guests, and she prided herself on her ability to judge. People did come and go over time, although many worked for her for years, especially as she got older and was not as active socially as when her husband was alive.

She had grown up with servants, once her father became the mogul that he was. However, whatever she learned to achieve such status with them, came later in her life from observing women she admired.
Edith, Louis B. Mayer, Margaret Mayer, Irene Mayer Selznick, and Mabel Walker Willebrandt after lunching at the White House on February 3, 1927.
Running her house was her business, and she approached it very seriously. Those on her staff knew what their responsibilities were because she made it clear in the beginning and took time to train people to get used to ways and her style.

The business of running a house and managing a staff begins with knowing what you need and what you expect. This is serious matter that most of us will never encounter, although we also know many who will and do. Their success in managing their staffs begins with them.
Edie with her beloved staff members.
Steve Candland of Angela Mortimer US, the London-based search and recruitment firm (servicing New York, Greenwich, San Francisco, Palm Beach, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Geneva) recently sent us a memo on the subject for our readers who are in that position of needing staff to assist them either privately or in business:

As we enter the Fall season, it is a good time to take stock of your personal, private, domestic and business staff members. Key questions and reviews include:

• Grading their performance by most important responsibilities.
• Conducting a performance review.
• How and where do they spend their time?
• What would I like more of and less of?
• Are Employment Contracts and Confidentiality Agreements in place?
• Am I taking proper precautions in protecting privacy and assets?
• Is their compensation aligned to my expectations and market rate?
• If I could change a few things, what would they be?
• Am I spending too much time managing my staff? Or are they managing me?

The time is now to make adjustments to ensure the year is completed with the best services possible. It’s much harder to change staff in the holiday season. Whether you have one staff person or a dozen, the goal is to realize a more comfortable and pleasant lifestyle. 

Contact DPC here.