Autumn, lambswool and corduroy

The season for dressing in proper cosy-wear is finally upon us. Autumn is here. More or less. There is hardly anything I enjoy more than to open my wardrobe and get all the corduroy trousers and lambswool sweaters out. To be able to wear the garments of autumn, thick high quality fabrics in bright colours, is as wonderful as enjoying a really good vintage Bordeaux. At least to me. For some reason it is as if the world becomes more alive, the weather becomes almost tactile. You can almost drink the air, taste the wind. Magnificent feelings.

Someone asked me the other day where one buys the best corduroy and sweaters. He also asked about tweed jackets, though that is a different kettle of fish entirely. That’s a topic for another day. But when it comes to proper cords and lambswool, nowhere is as good as Cordings of Piccadilly in London. imageI have searched for other brands all over the world, but no one can compete. In my opinion. When other, however great, brands try making cords they seem to misunderstand what a corduroy trouser is. What the fabric is all about. You simply can’t make a regular trouser, choose a nice looking corduroy fabric and apply the same idea you use for a regular trouser. The result is always a hybrid of weird fashion mixed with classic style but none of the two makes any sense put together. A bit like these Levi’s 511 made in a rather garish corduroy quality…

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You need a certain width in a cord trouser, but not too much. If too much is used, they will look like an old mans trousers on a young mans body. If you happen to be a young man, that is. That is a look no one wants. Absolutely not the designer, and least of all you. You need an exact balance between width over thigh and calf, a proper cord trouser needs to be comfortable (that is, after all, the whole point of the garment), and the fall of the fabric that is decided by the weight of the cloth. That perfectly balanced effect you can get either by going to your tailor and have a pair made, or you can buy them at Cordings. In my view, the latter is to prefer. It will save you some money, better used for your next bespoke suit.

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The range of colours to choose from is great too. There are all the bright yellow, red, pink, puce etc. that I love. But there are also the more discreet moss green, brown and so on. If one happens to prefer slightly more discreet nuances. A wonderful detail that makes the trouser sit perfectly on your hip is the extra strengthened waist lining plus the adjustable waist band, corrected with two buttons on each side on the outside as seen above. Details that has taken decades to perfect, and which we as customers can now enjoy.

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After a post like this, I guess I should write about just Cordings too. Their range of jackets, shirts, ties, socks and cuff links are worthy of their own blog post. But that’s for another day. And I forgot about their lambswool sweaters that are the best in the world, too. Well, well… Now, go hunting for a proper pair of cords gentlemen!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bespoke, British Fashion, Gents Fashion, London, Uncategorized, Vintage, Young generation

…writing, art at home…

I am forever lost in the world of Art. In so many ways. And I love it. Just like Dante’s alter ego in The Divine Comedy’s opening lines of Purgatory, I find myself lost. He found himself lost among the tall, dark trees, lost in his middle age. I, on the other hand, find myself lost among paintings, ink sketches, water colours, reference books, auction house catalogues, antiques, artist biographies. It is a fantastic way of being lost, since the feeling makes me search and explore. I want to learn more, see more, find more. Ponder on what art and beauty gives us. On what it means. Revel in being adrift on the sea of fine arts.

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A small part of the reference library in my study. I can’t function without these books.

Having spent a fair amount of time writing a two-part article on art for a recently started magazine, I got thinking on what kind of art I surround myself with. What am I looking at when I’m at home? When walking through a corridor, walking out of the bedroom, sitting at my desk? What am I dreaming of acquiring to hang on my walls? To someone like myself even, who spends his life in the fine arts, it can easily become just a fascination. The hunt for another object or more knowledge on art becomes a way of life. It is easy to forget what’s around you.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

When working, I don’t have any big paintings hanging around me. Just the books on the shelves in the study. They supply me with over 100,000 pictures if needed. Whichever period of art, whichever architectural movement, I can find something on most topics among all the books. But as a reminder of previous periods in life, I have two small postcards stuck to the window-frame. One of Paris, by van Gogh, and one of Amsterdam painted by Monet. The postcard over London, what feels like my second home town, has disappeared in a recent move.

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At times the personal has to come before professional pride. Also for an antiques dealer and art historian.

One of my favourite periods of art is Early Romanticism. It’s stretching from about 1790 until the late 1830s. It was a great period for Northern European artists travelling to the southern parts of Europe. There they learnt to handle light, shades, and got the oportunity to learn from the old masters visiting museums. The water colour became a medium for professional artists as well as for amateurs. Up until now it had not been an accepted medium for professionals. This makes the late Regency period, also called Empire and Biedermeier style in interior design and pictorial arts, very interesting. It is today possible to buy high quality water colours from the years around 1800 for almost nothing. Quite incredible really, but the style isn’t very fashionable for the moment. It was up until ten years ago. And will soon be again. For sure.

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Another favourite is this little adorable cherub by Johan Gustaf Köhler, painted in Munich in 1836. He was Carl Larsson’s teacher in sketching at the Academy.

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Water colour from 1806, painted by Sophie Tersmeden, hanging in the bedroom.

So what is someone like me dreaming of? Oh, a lot of things. But a few weeks ago I found a painting I felt I could not live without. But I forgot about the auction, and I guess that was just as well. The painting didn’t sell cheap. It was a beautiful oil painting of a passage under Colosseum in Rome, painted around 1815 by the father of the Danish “Golden Age”, C. W. Eckersberg. It sold for €24,000 which meant it almost doubled the asking-price. If I’d only had the money, and remembered the auction,  the painting would be hanging in my dining room now. I know the perfect wall! But until I have the oportunity to buy that kind of art, I will carry on leafing through my books for more knowledge and constant inspiration.

The latest in a pile of inspirational reads, "Ann Getty: Interior Style"

The latest book in the huge pile of inspirational reads, “Ann Getty: Interior Style”

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Filed under Antiques, Art, Auction Houses, Culture

“Good” Contemporary vs. Classical art and sculpture?

What qualifies as ”good art”? Some would say Rembrandt. Some would say Monet. The list can go on for ever. Long and winding with male names following one after another. Della Robbia, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Poussin, Turner, Van Gogh, Larsson, Malevich, Rothko, Hockney, Hirst. You get the picture. Nicolas Poussin / Self Portrait, 1650 All these gentlemen are supposedly representing what the Western World would call ”good art”. Decided by a handfull of collectors, curators, auction house representatives and, not to forget, art historians.  The general public follow suit and consider the most expensive pieces of art sold at leading auction houses around the globe as ”good art”. Because if it isn’t good, why would someone pay $119.9 million for a painting? Point taken.

And ceartainly, ”The Scream” by Edvard Munch is a fantastic painting. All four versions of it. But one ought to question why. What is it that turn a painting into ”good art”? Is Damien Hirst’s ”The Golden Calf”, sold for $18.6 million in 2008, six and a half times less good than Munk’s ”The Scream”? I doubt it. Regardless if one finds an artist interesting or not, the question if his or her art can be called ”good” is a different cup of tea. But, sure, that depends on what one reads in to the concept of ”good art”.

Edvard Munch / The Scream / Auction at Sotheby's 2012 / Copyright Getty Images

Damien Hirst / The Golden Calf / Copyright Damien Hirst

I find it rather stupid to call certain pieces of art ”good” since, inevitably, some other pieces must then be called ”not very good”. I would rather one talked about if a piece of art stirs something inside you, touches you, makes you question the concept of art and the world around you. I can see that this sounds rather free spirited. Still, it is important that a piece of art makes you ask questions. Be it about yourself, your immediate surroundings, your friends, the world. Earlier today I saw a wonderful example of just that. Art that makes you question what we really see.

At Göteborgs Konstmuséum one of the recipients of the Sten A. Olssons Kulturstipendium 2012  made a huge impact on me. Her statues and groups of statues perfectly represents the beautiful clash between contemporary and classical art. Since I happen to know the collections at Göteborgs Konstmuséum quite well, I immediately saw a connection between some of the statues in the permanent collection and the pieces by Cajsa von Zeipel (b. 1983). The possible connection was what made me so exhilarated and excited over her work. I have no idea if the connection is deliberate or something I just imagine, but to see her orgiastic, lesbo-erotic Bedscene (2012)

Cajsa von Zeipel / Bedscene, 2012 / Photography C-H Malmgrenwith all the sexual tension, experimental lust of adolescence and all its insecurities literally ooze from the piece, and then know that on the top floor is The Water Lilly (finished 1896) by Per Hasselberg (1850-1894), which is the equivalent of von Zeipel’s work but 116 years earlier. Both represent female beauty in the way many male visitors would envision a young, beautiful girl. The femme fatale in perfect presentation, with a natural and naturalistic twist. What we want and what we see is not always comme-il-faut, but both Hasselberg and von Zeipel present the visitors with possibilities to dream, be scared, be carried away, wonder, question what we want or not want and what we dare or dare not to say. Regardless, the contrast is very effective.

Per Hasselberg / Näckrosen, 1896 / Photography C-H Malmgren

Also a second time does von Zeipel question our identity as visitors. This time it is the male who gets the same treatment as above. On the second floor, in one of the galleries with georgian statues and busts (now covered with white fabric by the artist) is the piece Runkballe (2012). A man with his underpants halfway down, masturbating, leaning againts a wall. Cajsa von Zeipel / Runkballe, 2012 / Photography C-H MalmgrenApart from some comic contrasts (is it deliberate or did it just happen by chance? I guess we’ll never know) with some of the 18th century statues next to it, by Johan Tobias Sergel (1740-1814), is another clever clash between the young, male identity of the 21st century and the romantic ideal in the piece Kägelspelaren (1871) by John Börjesson (1836-1910) that can be found on the same floor. John Börjesson / Kägelspelaren / Photography C-H MalmgrenFrom the beautifully toned, romantic sporting ideal to todays slightly anorectic, stressed and overly sexualized male. Is that how we are seen? Is that how we look? Is that how we are? I don’t know. But what I do know is that von Zeipel manages to gracefully overbridge and connect two completely different ideals. She manages to ask vital questions via her art. Questions about cultural identity, about belonging, about what we want and what we do. She puts questions in front of us that we can’t escape. To manage that is to manage the fine balance of creating interesting, and perhaps even ”good”, art. And that’s what it’s all about.

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January 13, 2013 · 11:37

Coffee in Gothenburg Part: 4

In my search for the perfect cup of coffee, the turn has now come to a write-up of Nöller Espressobar in Gothenburg. A small coffee bar in Italian-French style it has been located at Haga Nygata 28 since 2004, and I have been a frequent visitor since its opening. Luckily I am now working in the vicinity so I can treat myself by going there more often. I write luckily, because it is really good.

From the word go Nöller Espressobar understood the importance of high quality, good organic produce and the necessity of love and tenderness involved in the making of good coffee. I have never, during all my visits, been served a mediocre cup of coffee. And I have tried most of their range. Naturally, the espresso macchiato is my pick any day and it has always been schoolbook perfect. Regardless of which barista has been on duty. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a proof of the devotion showed to serving good coffee. Though Nöller Espressobar have extensive opening hours they haven’t pushed themselves taking on more staff than needed, which in my view is part of the quality problem running rife at bigger coffee chains like Starbucks, Nero, or the ghastly monstrosity called Espresso House that is dominating the Swedish highstreets since a few years back.

The result of the mindset and business-think of Marc Nöller, the proprietor, is great. With home made sarnies, tasty soups and the most delicious small cakes and pastries made in the little kitchen at the back a lunch or a quick bite is always a pleasure to enjoy here. Perfect froth for any cappuccino or espresso macchiato isn’t a downer, either.

The interior is worth mentioning too. It hasn’t really got a style per se, it’s more of a mix of continental European coziness. An Austro-Hungarian art noveau interior meeting French bistro style mixed with a bit of Italian coffee-bar-feel. It’s full of earthy colours like red-brown, black, and red on its own. There’s also a fair share of brushed steel, the ever-so-popular interior idea of the early noughties. Sounds strange, I know, but the warmth and the welcoming atmosphere makes it all work. The three tiny TV-screens behind the bar showing old Charlie Chaplin movies and Italian 1960s classics doesn’t make it worse. It simply has to be seen.

Since this little café is at the top of the cosy Haga district in Gothenburg with lots of shops selling vintage, antiques, antiquarian and remainder books, small hip Scandinavian clothes brands, contemporary interior design etc. it’s a must if you’re here visiting. If you live in Gothenburg and haven’t yet been; shame on you! Nöller is certainly ”worth a detour”, like a rather famous restaurant guide would write.

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Filed under Barista, Bäst Kaffe i Göteborg, Coffe Houses, Coffee, Göteborg, Good Coffee, Gothenburg, Nöller Espressobar Göteborg

”It has to happen now, or I don’t give a f**k…”

It’s early in the morning and I’m sat on the train. Just under three hours ahead of me before I reach Göteborg. Normally it’s quite a droll, but this morning I’m eavesdropping on a few retired train drivers discussing the state of the world and the development of our society. Their rural mentality might not impress me overly, but there has been a few good points. Intrestingly enough, they’ve been similar to the ones presented in the cultural section of today’s Svenska Dagbladet. I’m not yet sure what that says about Svenska Dagbladet and their reporters. Nor what it sais about me critizising the ”rural mentality” of the ex train drivers. Maybe their hands-on way of life is actually the healtier alternative.

Nevertheless, the thoughts their discussion has given rise to are on the need for instant results and immediate satisfaction in todays younger generation. A generation I’m part of, too, I might add. The generation of smart phones, Google, Facebook, Twitter and reality TV. The generation that prides itself of not having the time to read a book cover to cover, where it is cool to party ’till five in the morning and then be at the law firm or meeting a presumptive PA at six-thirty, ”tweeting” away to all ones followers  (what was once called ”friends”) in the cyber reality about how trashed and hungover one is while trying to get ones act together in a bathroom at a Starbucks. This is the generation where a long process, preparation and serious commitment is not worthwhile since it is too boring to wait for a result that might take longer than a week to get. This is a generation where platitudes like ”Oh, I’m sooo in to contemporary art and 21st century design” really means ”I looked at the picturs in the latest issue of Vanity Fair and, actually, read some of the text too!” When these are the people that will govern our countries in the future, no wonder the privatisation will continue being at the top of the agenda.

The problem is when this way of thinking amalgamates with the serious questioning of values, ideas, principles. The questioning is at the core of all serious cultural debate. Regardless if it’s seen as highbrow or not. The debate concerning the future of the Arts and humanities need a longterm analysis, a longterm plan and people comitted to being comitted. The Arts need people who are prepared to spend time reading, writing, taking in ideas new and old, cogitate, ponder, suggest. I am not as naive as suggesting the intelectual cafés’ of  1960s Paris ought to return with Sartre-like followers taking the lead, but they had a place then and something similar might have a place today. Resulting articles and papers being discussed widely ought to be part of the societies curriculum. Schools all over Europe have started giving classes in Rhetoric since it is important for the young generations to learn how to advocate a view in today’s individualistic society. That’s all good and sound. But, I wonder, how come it is important to advocate if you have no tools to analyse with and to reach a view to advocate for? Is it sound to be able to shout just for the cause of shouting? Not likely.

Since I am the one writing this, the focus is obviously the debate on the Arts. There are numerous examples I hope to be able to write about where the lack of cultural detabe have resluted in disaster for small theaters, opera companies, book publishers, buildings of importance (though not to the State) and so forth. Though for now, my question is if we are prepared to live in a ”quick fix” world where nothing, least of all the so called “intellectual” questions and thoughts, is allowed to take time and be given space. With the rife mindset of today it is as if we say; if it’s not instant success, it’s worthless. And I wonder, is that really true?

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Filed under 80-talister, Art, Contemporary Art, Culture, Instant success, Literature, Preservationist, Young generation

Does it always have to be for our own financial gain?

As a preservationist this is a question I often ask myself. When I’m driving around the Swedish countryside I see the most amazing houses. Small cottages, big mansions, dilapidated rectories. Often they stand empty and majestic in the most stunning surroundings and not a single soul seems to care. Overgrown orchards and tiredlooking flowerbeds that hasn’t been tended to for a very long time. The cheap plastic paint is falling off façades by the bucket load, and the panelling needs looking after.  It all gives the impression of being weary and forgotten. And in the midst of all this, the beauty lies. Like a budding flower, with the right amount of love and attention these houses will bloom if someone just decides to take care of them. But it is a costly business, so who will?

In general, municipalities, borough councils or the state won’t do anything as long as they can avoid the responsibility. On the other hand, why would they. It is not (always) their immediate fault that the imaginary building for this post is in such a dire state. What happened to the responsibility of the owner? But one has to remember, we can never know what the whole story behind a dilapidated building is. There might be a single owner who could not care less, but there are numerous examples with siblings or cousins having been left houses in a will and they can’t agree what to do with it, so they simply let the house stand empty. A shame, but that’s a reason as bad as any I guess.

This takes me back to my initial query; does caring for a house or a building always have to be for our own financial gain? It is as though if we can’t sell a house for a healthy net profit in a few years it is not worth having. If we can’t make money out of refurbishing there is no reason to invest. But what about our built national heritage? What about the importance of a specific regional architecture, or building style which is a more prudent phrase for the vernacular buildings in some parts of the European countryside. What about preserving localy important buildings like old dairies, post offices or railway stations. They might not have been used for a hundred or so years, but does that mean they are of no importance to us today? Hardly.

This is where the hardcore preservationist comes in to play. When someone is prepared to invest their own hard earned time and money in a house simply to save it from demolition or from falling down, other people shake their heads and call them ”crazy idealists” and, sometimes, less flattering names. Though, when the village post office from 1863 is saved for the future these same people stand looking on, saying how marvellous it all looks and isn’t it great some people are prepared to preserve these building for our grandchildren and future generations to come. And it certainly is. There are times when we have to be prepared to save cultural national heritages, also the built, even if we might not become millionaires on the spot. But our local region, our town or village will for sure have become much richer. That can be reason enough.

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Filed under Architecture, Architecture Matters, Byggnadsvård, Preservationist

Antiques are “green”

In times like these, when the question about how to save our environment is fast spiraling down a big, black hole and the European economy seems to be joining the ride, I’d like to share a thought on the way we consume in our homes. I’m not talking about if we buy organic food or whether we choose to take public transport rather than the car to work. I’m talking about the furniture we buy and the so called decorative items that clutter many a home today. The useless small things we buy to decorate our homes with, all the knick-knack we buy. And then one day time we come across them stored away in a box and ask ourselves “how could I buy this?!?”  We simply throw it out after having owned it for a few years. No regret what so ever. No questions asked. All forgotten and actions justified with “it was cheap…”

My question is this: if we’d spent a little more money on each object, chosen it more carefully, stuck to what we really wanted and might need building up and decorating our home, would we consume and throw out equally as much? As opposed to buying a novelty candlestick in the shape of a beer bottle at a cheap high street shop for £2.99 that won’t be with us for long, couldn’t it have been worth spending £20 on a good quality, vintage or antique candlestick at an antiques fair or flee market? I’m not talking about the up-market auction houses or the Bond Street antiques shops where a Georgian silver candlestick easily reaches the £3000 mark. Comparing these kinds of items would be pure foolishness.

For me it is all about the mindset. In this day and age we are prepared to splash out on the most idiotic and useless items, but I want to underline that it is not the items per se I disagree with, it is the “why” and “how” we buy them. Goods from high street retailers and furniture from IKEA all have their place and deserved space in a contemporary home, rest assured, but why do we then throw so much of it away when we move or when we have a need to clean out our closets? This is where I believe we contradict ourselves.

Spending a fortune, however small, on something with no second hand value and that doesn’t last for longer than a few years is a mystery to me. Sitting on a Swedish Gustavian chair from the 1780s writing this, drinking tea from a favourite queensware English regency tea cup from 1810 might sound incredibly puerile and bourgeois, and if so I do apologize, but my point is that the furniture, decorative items, porcelain and what-have-you in a home filled with antiques and vintage doesn’t cost the environment remotely as much as the form-pressed plywood hidden in flat packs that are so popular these days. And it doesn’t have to be particularly expensive either. When we disregard the knowledge and the quality of hand made furniture, antique or from a contemporary designer, we choose to go with the ones who don’t care about in which direction our environment goes. I’m not saying that we all ought to be self-sufficient and never ever consume, that would be foolish. But maybe give that plastic candlestick or that novelty mug a second thought when you grab it in a shop later this week. Do you really need it? Does it really fill a purpose in your life? We all survive loosing £2.99, but as you might remember that’s not the point. The question is why ought I to buy something I will throw away soon and replace as quickly with another worthless item. So go green by buying something you want and will keep. Antiques and vintage is a good start on the right path. Or at least I think it is.

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Filed under Antiques, Art, Auction Houses, Vintage