The new British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, poses with his book of pictures, “Joanna Getty: The Private Portrait”.
It’s not quite the Anglo-American War of 1812, but the diplomatic set in London has just given a new speech, compliments of “Joanna Getty: The Private Portrait.”
The photograph book published by Tate Modern and commissioned by the U.S. embassy in London is full of rich subjects such as billionaire philanthropist Joanna Getty, who lives in London, and Alfred Bosch, the greatest living painter.
The book, which is currently on sale for $120 and is available in English and Spanish (or, better yet, both), is a choice for those who want to revel in seeing their favorite artists’ work up close.
In the pages of “Joanna Getty: The Private Portrait,” the poet Delia Fogg smiles as she sits in a black satin dress with porcelain beehive hair.
In the photographs, Fogg is well-dressed, beaming at the camera as she holds a book by Charles Baudelaire.
In turn, Fogg probably is smiling, because her smartly dressed husband, Jacob Feuerstein, also happens to be Baudelaire’s son-in-law. Both belong to the group of “upper crust socialites,” or “sophisticated bourgeoisie,” that have long existed here.
So this fashion-forward look, accompanied by the luxurious surroundings in which it was taken, has turned the hobby of photojournalism on its head. Now artists such as Bosch are considered an essential part of the social scenery and a luxury accessory.
Nowhere is the shift more evident than in the space between West and East Harrow, near the Chinese embassy in Mayfair.
One of the prime locations for smartening up, its gleaming brick facade is lined with young professionals and their designs in pleated dresses and gold bracelets that could have come straight from a mid-century-modern sale or some notable Russian oligarch’s guest bedroom.
The owner of the place is Nelly Spuck, a career diplomat and founder of the luxury online store Private Parties.com. On the opening day of Fashion Week in London last month, Spuck came out sporting a long golden velvet jacket and boots that are among the very best in town.
But in her September book, the best part of a glance at the smiling front pages is found inside the pages: the number of empty pages. The reason the photos of people like Getty, Fogg, and Feuerstein are going hand-in-hand with the beautiful photographs of out-of-towners such as Bosch and Baudelaire is because they represent different parts of culture — and vanity — within the same city.
“It’s not like there is one model for the international culture,” said Hamish Clark, the manager of Private Parties.com, in an interview. “It’s actually more like an entirely different approach to culture. They are all different art forms.”
“It’s very Western,” said Mary Jo Butterworth, a former model who now works in Hong Kong as a social psychologist. “These aren’t very Asian people. They are very modern and contemporary.”
The contrast between the art of the wealthy and the art of the poor is inescapable. In West Harrow, the Chinese, whose number is now increasing at an accelerating rate, must put in long hours at their luxury real estate projects in the area. In contrast, the English are known for their easy-going approach to enjoying themselves.
During a small family dinner, Butterworth and Spuck stared back and forth, eyes locked on the mirror of the big glass eye in their living room.
“Wow! Look at these,” Butterworth said. “Look at those shoes.”