Friday, June 29, 2012

Baden-Baden, Amsterdam, and Maastricht

Much-needed pedicures for tired feet after six hours of heavenly torture at TEFAF.
by Darren Henault

We all get opportunities which sound great but at the moment they’re offered we think; I’ve got too much work, I’m too busy, I can’t manage it with the kids. Although I am guilty of this myself, last September I decided that for the next twelve months anytime someone invited me somewhere spectacular or something interesting came across my desk, I was going to jump. Lately, I’ve been jumping and with glee.

I’ve not regretted my decision for one minute. The last opportunity that presented itself was a trip to Maastricht for the European Fine Arts and Antiques Fair organized by 1st Dibs’ Michael Bruno and Stacey McLaughlin. Every designer or dealer I’ve ever spoken to told me that there is no other antiques or art fair that compares, so I was didn’t hesitate to sign up. But then I discovered that my beloved New York City Ballet (where I am a member of the New Combinations Fund that sponsors new ballets, and whose annual luncheon I co-chair) was going to be performing in Baden-Baden, Germany two days before I was supposed to arrive in Amsterdam. So I thought, why not tack that on as well?

Baden-Baden. This tiny spa town dates back to Roman times and is famed for its hot springs. Everyone from Hadrian and Caracalla to Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and Dostoyevsky were regulars, at different times of course. Could you imagine the dinner conversation had they all been there together?
Dancers Troy Schumacher and Ashley Laracey at an outdoor cafe in Baden-Baden.
My first day there I wandered around with Troy Schumacher, Ashley Laracey and Jared Angle, all dancers from the ballet. The entire town is basically designed to be one long stroll and so we enjoyed a lovely walk along the river’s edge that was dotted with outdoor cafes.

The mostly 18th-century buildings are beautiful although some are no longer used for their original intention. One example is the gorgeous terraced Trinkhalle or “pump room,” originally where one would go to “take the waters.” We discovered a big sign stating that the pumps were out of order and the terrace was given over to a flea market, emphasis on flea.
Jared Angle, Ashley Laracey, and Troy Schumacher.
Trinkets at the Market.
I was told that this little town has more millionaires (and billionaires) per capita than any other town in Europe. One example of the riches comes from a contemporary Russian oligarch named Ivanov who has placed his entire Faberge collection, which is immense, in the Faberge Museum he just opened. Here was one of the best collections of treasures in the world in the foothills of the Black Forest.
Clockwise from top left: The Faberge Museum; Gold Kiwi; Tsar Nicholas II Prize for Horse Racing; Brooch from Faberge collection.
Round Desk Clock and Topaz Bowl from The Faberge collection.
To me, the best part about Baden-Baden is the “Cultural Mile,” a street that bisects town and is home to the Trinkhalle, the Kurhaus (casino), Baroque Theater, The Museum of 19th Century Art and Technology, the Lichtentaler Allee, the State Art Gallery, the Frieder Burda Museum, the Baden-Baden Museum and my new favorite, the Festspielhaus, where the New York City Ballet performed. It’s more a cultural mecca than a cultural mile.
Baroque Theater.
Lichtentaler Allee.
Frieder Burda Museum.
Baden-Baden Museum.
Staatliche Kunsthalle.
The Festspielhaus is an old train station that serves as the ticket center to the enormous new theater behind it. It is larger than the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. The NYCB office in New York arranged for my front row center tickets for which I was sublimely grateful.

I arrived uncharacteristically late and did not understand why everyone was staring at me as I walked to the choicest seats in the house: I later learned that seats are assigned by how much you donate to the ballet annually. My my.
The Festspielhaus.
The performances were spectacular: two Balanchine pieces and a Jerome Robbins. There was one of the longest curtain calls I have ever experienced. I was so proud watching the dancers; I felt a little glory by association. Afterwards, I hosted a dinner for a dozen of the dancers in a local restaurant that had the most delicious food and red wine.

It was heavenly to spend the evening feting some of the most talented young people I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with and who have dedicated their lives to the arts. (And these 20 somethings can fete, and fete, and fete. We closed the place after 2, bless the owners.) A few in attendance were Jared and Tyler Angle, Megan Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, and Amar Ramasar.
Ashley Laracey, Georgina Pazcoguin, and Sterling Hyltin.
Clockwise from top left: Tyler Angle, Troy Schumacher, and Jared Angle; Amar Ramasar and Andrew Veyette; Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar; Tyler Angle and Megan Fairchild.
Too bright and early the next morning, I jumped on a plane to Amsterdam to meet the 1stDibs crowd: Barbara Israel, Christopher Knight of Maison Gerard, Ellen Hanson and Richard Peirman, Jill Dienst of Dienst & Dotter Antiques, Liv Ballard, Matthew Patrick Smyth, Stephanie Stokes and Wendy Moonan.

We all checked into the Hotel De L’Europe. This divine old building has been recently redone in contemporary style. Although I was pleased with the size and comfort of my accommodations, the decor reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s last words, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”
Hotel De L’Europe.
Our room at Hotel De L’Europe.
Wallpaper detail.
Amsterdam is so interesting. It is such a regular, planned out city. The house lots are all the same width and the grandeur of the house is determined by how many lots are connected, one, two or three. A favorite detail I loved is the gas lanterns that were incorporated into the transoms over the doors. I have never seen anything like it.

The floating herb and vegetable gardens in the canals were an ingenious solution in a city where to space is at such a premium. My one disappointment was that I did not have time to visit the Museum of Bags & Purses! As a collector of hats, I believe the quirkier a museum the better.
Amsterdam Architecture.
A door with gas lamp in its transom.
Floating herb and vegetable garden in canal.
The Protestant sobriety of it the facades however belies some very lush interiors, such as that of the Museum Van Loon, which is also a private residence. On our first night, we had a candlelight dinner there hosted Ms. Phillipa van Loon and where we were entertained with a performance by three members of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Our charming and graceful hostess shared with me that she was originally from Chicago via an American mother and happy to be surrounded by natives.
Clockwise from top left: Netherland Philharmonic Orchestra at Museum Van Loon; Guests mingling at Museum Van Loon; Interior of Museum Van Loon; Candlelit Dinner held in the dining room at the museum.
A look around the Museum Van Loon, also a private residence.
My favorite part of the evening was a visit to the former stables that have been converted into a gallery. While everyone swooned all over the art, country boy that I am, I was falling all over the architectural details of the stables: the locking mechanism on the door, the old drainage in the brick floor, and the cast iron structural column (in a barn!). More inspiration to take home to clients.
The 1stDibs people were incredibly gracious. They arranged for us to see one gallery after another. A highlight for me was the work of the ceramicist and glass sculptor Barbara Nanning. We had many wonderful stops but finally we were off to Maastricht and TEFAF.
Works by ceramicist and glass sculptor Barbara Nanning.
The fair was more remarkable than I could have imagined — I had chronic whiplash for three days from trying to absorb all the details. The entrance to the fair is a floral display like I have never seen. One wall had a 20 foot sculpture made of white roses. It was flawlessly maintained for the all the days we were there.
20-foot sculptures made of white roses at the TEFAF.
The art and the furniture were mindboggling. Carlton Hobbs told me that they save the best of the best for an entire year to display here and everyone was selling. A Rubens went for $23 million and a Henry Moore sculpture was $30 million — there was no sign here that the global economy is ailing. Standouts included porphyry vases, a German painted furniture suite, a collection of clocks, netsuke miniatures, and an entire room of Napoleon III boiserie in extraordinarily elegant displays.
Porphyry vases.
German painted furniture suite. An entire room of Napoleon III boiserie.
A collection of clocks. Netsuke miniatures.
The $30 million Henry Moore sculpture. The $23 million Rubens.
After six hours of this heavenly torture, some of us exhausted ones dragged ourselves home to our hotel that they had checked us into during the day. It is a former monastery that has been converted to a hotel. Honestly I can’t even remember the name of it (I have since learned it is called the Kruisheren hotel and is the most popular hotel in Maastricht). I swear I’m not complaining and we all were travel troopers with a great sense of humor but it was another high concept design idea and this one was better left to the monks. Although the public spaces were fabulous the rooms were yes, monastic.

A bit of light came into the picture when I randomly bumped into the ever charming Kamie Lightburn in the lobby. Although I missed her later that evening I understand that she was quite the “festive” element in the hotel bar.
Patio at the Kruisheren hotel.
The exterior of Kruisheren on our last night in Maastricht. Kamie Lightburn bids us farewell.