It's no exaggeration to say that the grand Villa L'Imperiale fulfills every fantasy of a lavish French manor.
Built in 1980 and totally renovated, this magnificent villa has almost three and one-half acres of landscaped gardens with sweeping views of the countryside. Located in Mougins, a snap five miles north of Cannes, it is totally removed in spirit and sensibility from the chaos of the French Riviera port. Mougins, which has preserved some of its medieval walls, is serene and quiet yet boasts some great restaurants where chefs like Alain Ducaisse got his start. No wonder Picasso spent the last 12 years of his life here.
The villa is perched on a hilltop within a gated community in what is widely considered the most desirable and prestigious residential area of Mougins. Along with seven bedrooms, new kitchen, gym, and guest quarters, the property also has an attractive screening room. The large pool, pool-house, and outdoor dining area fit in seamlessly in the manicured gardens.
Admittedly, the French owner, who is selling because of relocation, is a Napoleon "fanatic." In a private Napoleon museum next to the wine cellar, he displays original and authenticated helmets, swords, rifles, and documents as well as many paintings from the Napoleonic era. Details at estatenetfrance.com.
Gallery: Villa L'Imperiale in Mougins
Is it all about money or art? The answer is probably both but if you're in the Art 101 category, you can catapult up to PhD level at The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
TEFAF is the most sophisticated, highly vetted, and elegant art fair anywhere. All true, but it is also a place where the minute the doors swing open to VIP guests, there's a stampede to the jewelry booths where for the most part glitz not glamour dominates.
Collectors, museum curators often accompanied by their trustees, and general connoisseurs attend to browse, to see and be seen, and to bring home treasures. This year, some 73,000 visitors attended. Most are Dutch, followed by Germans and Belgians, English, French, Italians, Americans and an impressively growing numbers of Russians and Chinese. Among a handful of Arab sheiks, most prominent this year was Sheikh Saud al-Thani, the art-hungry collector who is a cousin of the ruling Emir of Qatar. He surely arrived on one of the 154 private jets that landed on the tarmac of the tiny Maastricht-Aachen airport.
At the blue chip opening one of the first pieces to be snapped up was by a Russian collector: a billowing tapestry made of beaten red and gold bottle tops by the Ganaian artist El Anatsui. The price was $965,532. You can see his aesthetically beautiful "Earth and Heaven" sculpture installed in the African art galleries at the Met. In another gallery in the modern section, a well-heeled collector bought Spanish artist Joan Miro's sculpture, "Oiseau Lunaire," or moon bird, a wooden surreal, bird-like figure for $5 million. A bronze version of a moon bird by Miro is in the Nasher Sculptural Center in Dallas. That same day, March 18, Russian TV didn't waste a minute filming at the booth of Van Gelder Indian Jewelry which showcased some fabulous South Sea pearls and antique jewelry.
Tickets to the private first day are distributed to dealers who then invite their most important clients. The next day, all are welcome at a tab of €50 or about $75.
Now if you don't fit into the curator or collector category, what would draw you to TEFAF? Without a doubt, it is a remarkable learning experience for anyone who loves art. As Michelin says, it's worth the voyage, merely to see some 5,000 years of impeccable art, exquisitely presented. It could be that some TEFAF director handed down guidelines to the presenting dealers insisting that they treat every inquiry with respect. You won't find any condescending brush offs here.
One item that drew large crowds was a fragment of an Egyptian water clock depicting Alexander the Great from about 332 BC at Belgium's Harmakhis Galerie. Old Dutch masters, especially a portrait by Rembrandt, "Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo" from 1658 and Renoir's "Woman Picking Flowers," depicting Camille Monet in a field of flowers also gained a lot of attention. A major attraction was a Helmut Newton solo exhibition of 40 photos from London's Hamiltons Gallery. Other standouts were Joana Vasconselos sensual feminine crocheted canvases at Haunch of Venison, Secessionist furniture at Kolomon Moser, beautiful Chinese textiles from Jacqueline Simcox in London. Only a BMW art car designed by Jeff Koons looked as if it had driven in by mistake.
TEFAF, first organized in 1975, invites 260 dealers from 16 countries all of whom undergo tremendous scrutiny to assure the quality, condition, and authenticity of their objects. About 100 dealers apparently are on a waiting list hoping to make it another year. Think of it as an art melting pot presented in an aura of gentility. It's the most promising, sophisticated, and enjoyable fair for specialists and the general public.
Readers in every issue since 1993 are challenged to identify a secret international location. Each page is a puzzle ranging from desolate deserts and scintillating cities to architectural icons and undersea wonders shot from a glass-bottom boat.
There are no dead giveaways.
The clues are there for those with good visual memories who have been around the world more than once. And for those who haven't, you can still test your travel savvy.
One invitation to figure out where a photo of an earth and stone structure was shot begins like this: "You are looking into a spiral pit, one of a series dug into the ground by a pre-Christian civilization." Another begins: "You are standing in a former watchtower...surveying a town that has looked this way for five hundred years."
You won't have to wait a month to get the answers as in the travel magazine's "Where are you?" page as they are listed in the back of the book ($65).
A medieval stone castle in Bar sur Loup combines the best of both world's: an impressive historic structure with stunning gardens and the glam life of Nice and Cannes nearby. A snap 35 minutes from the Nice International Airport and you're in the postcard perfect 18th century village of Bar sur Loup, known as the "town of orange trees." The current owner of this castle must sell as he is moving to Hong Kong. Just five years ago, he found the property in terrible shape, fell in love with it, and painstakingly restored virtually every centimeter. All five bedroom suites, several living rooms with working fireplaces, a study, and hobby room are all in pristine condition. The owner even reclaimed materials from other French chateaux to be sure that no "foreign" or inappropriate materials interfered with the building's integrity. Most appealing, in particular, are the pool and pool house. Add to that a wine cellar, caretaker's cottage and parking for ten cars. The original castle dates back to the early 18th century but its gardens surrounded by olive and fruit trees, rose bushes, and jasmine appear to be much older. The price is €5,900,000. Details at estatenetfrance.com.
When 1stdibs.com went from click to brick, it was an overnight success, far beyond what was expected. Until the opening of its new home 1stdibs.com was only online. It was the luxury marketplace site for antique and vintage design from the United States, Canada, France, and England. In other words, a treasure trove of jewelry, lighting, furniture, antiquities and especially design classics that you could buy online. Now 1stdibs has expanded to bricks and mortar. Some 53 dealers occupy a huge 1stdibs space on the 10th floor of the New York Design Center in Midtown Manhattan on Lexington Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets. With the expansion from virtuality to reality, the new 1stdibs@NYDC is a big hit with designers as well as the general public. The Design Center, which in the past was to-the-trade, decorators only, is now open to the general public even on Saturday.
Before you climb the museum stairs to see "Vienna 1900: Style and Identity" head for the Neue Museum's Cafe Sabarsky, a dead ringer for an old-world Viennese cafe. With its Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos inspired decor, this cafe is a best bet for great coffee and strudels as well as catching the vibe of the exhibition's, turn-of-the-century Vienna. The museum's 1914 building, an Upper East Side landmark, is steps away from Central Park at 1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th Street. (The museum's name means "new gallery.")
The PULSE New York fair has it all --- sculpture, photography, mixed-media, painting. The layout this year with 63 booths is much more manageable territory at the Metropolitan Pavilion than at the other fairs dominating Manhattan this week. In fact, PULSE is the one fair not to miss. It is friendly, not at all imposing, a nice mix of hedge-fund deep pockets and young people, some even changing babies on cardboard arty currogated stools. Most important though is that the works are fresh and new. There's lots to buy at a wide range of prices and people on opening day were not hesitating to add to their collections.
You probably won't ever have the chance to see another jewelry exhibition like "Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels." The Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum on Fifth Avenue in New York City is the dramatic home until June 5 of some 350 dazzling high-art jewelry. Billed as the most comprehensive exhibition ever organized of Van Cleef & Arpels' masterworks, it covers some 100 years of the company creations -- not just jewels, but timepieces, extraordinary cigarette cases and evening bags.