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Looking through a new window, Paris


January 31st 2022


It is a day in Paris when the weather can’t make up its mind; January is like this. We have moved into a new part of Paris and the view out the window is an internal courtyard with buttery walls of a Hôtel Particulier on Île Saint-Louis. The creamy light yellow tawny stones sing in a voice like a mezzo soprano from an opera of Mozart. It is the seventeenth century after all and I am grateful to have what we like to call a radical agency now hiding behind the luxurious proportions of 1648. More than a century before the Revolution I find myself saying as if the currents of French history are emblazoned in my thinking. Things are pre or post Revolutions; pre or post 1968. Art comes with a context and its place and time of birth are as important as our own.

As the winter is upon us, and this move was both unexpected and swift, I am grateful for whatever help the angels provided in my landing here with pale grey blue beams overhead. As someone who is sensitive to a fault, spaces and architectural detail catch me up in their cacophony of voices and tones. The disruption of moving I will leave to another time. The nooks and crannies of these beams stretching East to West across one long volume of space that has been in this period divided by a wall or two along the way has a way of assuaging the discomfort of being in a place that temporarily feels like it belongs to someone else entirely. The library has arrived in part and the second half this week.


Before the cartons were unpacked I discovered a flower shop on the island, and needed the mix of parrot tulips and purple tulips and so on to fill an otherwise grey moment. In a period of intense disruption coupled with daily indications of this or that colleague or client succumbing to covid still, one tries to be judicious in all things. Not too much fuss, not too much emotion, but a steady pace in it all. Ha, we try again, ha. The artists in their studios are busy making new works; the galleries we work with are doing new projects and exhibitions. It is a time of single minded attention to detail and content. A lively bit of news is that the orchid, Pavlova II appears to be getting ready to bloom after a very long period of not flowering at all. So in the midst of this chapter where a vast garden is now over a decade gone. A small private garden redolent with box hedges, big shrubs, lavender and roses is on the ground floor below my windows. Wood pigeons roost and joust with each other on the zinc roofs and gutters. It is like being in a country house in the city you could well imagine.

Before the evening settles I wanted to tell you that sometimes it is the very smallest things that can give the biggest pleasure, like watching this small orchid with its even smaller buds slowly slowly try to come into flower. She is settled now in a square shaped glass vase that was an engagement gift from a dear friend Dr. Jeanne Kassler back in 1997. She was alive then and came to my wedding with her husband and twins. Jeanne and I knew each other at The New York Times, she was in the medical department and a friend of a friend. She was a brilliant diagnostician, medical journalist and wrote the first book on Aids before anyone knew what it was in the 70’s. I am caught lumping this all together with where we have been now with covid, and the politicisation of everything. Pavlova II reminds me that we take our history and the content it has created with us, wherever we are in the world; here a transparent glass square with an orchid soon to bloom captures in my mind’s eye a lifetime of young serious work we did in New York at that time. It also reminds me that we are the lucky ones all of us here and now, still getting ready to bloom again after years of wide green leaves and awkward roots falling over the edge of the vase.

January is a moment for reflection, hibernation, Bach Partitas and cups of tea. We are the lucky ones. We are all in our studios preparing our very best works so stay tuned, there is much more coming in this new year.