In New Bond Street, Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill sit on a park bench chatting in conversation. Across Piccadilly, in elegant rooms in Bennett Street in St James, surrounded by London clubs, men sit in metal chairs in groups of two and three, laughing and smiling, with twinkles in their eyes, dice and a harmonium in their mouths, obviously enjoying life. What tales are they telling each other as this cast of playful characters laugh and joke together?
Roosevelt and Churchill are the sculpture ‘Allies’ by the American-British singer, songwriter, playwright and artist Lawrence Holofcener, erected in 1995 to commemorate 50 years since the end of the 2nd World War. Perhaps his links with the theatre contribute to the informality of the statues which engage tourists who often squeeze on the bench alongside them.
Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz, whose animated characters are on show in Bennett Street was a rebel, describing his occupation as a ‘storyteller’. Sadly, rebels die young. James Dean died at 24, Marilyn Monroe at 36, and Juan Muñoz was 48 when he died in 2001.
Juan was a rebel from an early age, being expelled from school, and in the 1990’s broke the rules of sculpture by developing them as narratives. What you see is a moment frozen in time, but you expect the characters to suddenly come to life and continue with what they are doing. When he was awarded Spain’s major Premio Nacional de Bellas Artes, in 2000, he responded: “I think I’ll buy a watch.”
A decade after a major exhibition at Tate Modern, Muñoz’ narrative sculptures have been in conversation with each other at Per Skarstedt’s Gallery in Mayfair, three new elegant ground floor rooms designed by the architect Thomas Croft whose ancestor established Croft Port in 1588 and who is also an art collector, commenting in Wallpaper that ‘occasionally, gallerists have offered to pay me in artworks, but I’m sad to say that with Per I’m off the price list, He doesn’t have a painting cheap enough.’
It is now reported that the architect-art collector whose modern art collection featured in Christie’s recent auction in London under the description of ‘The Eye of the Architect’ was the Austrian architect Harry Gluck who lived in a small apartment surrounded by beautiful works by Picasso, Leger, Morandi and others.