High­lights of Flair, the col­lec­tion of Fleur Cowles

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE ON SATURDAY -

On the evening of 23 Novem­ber Christie’s pre­sented for auc­tion the col­lec­tion of Fleur Cowles, the cre­ative force be­hind Flair mag­a­zine. Fleur Cowles was a renowned publisher, jour­nal­ist, au­thor, artist, pa­tron and fash­ion­ista who also main­tained a po­si­tion as a doyenne of both New York and Lon­don so­ci­ety for the bet­ter part of a cen­tury. She counted amongst her cir­cle Gen­eral Eisen­hower, the Duke and Duchess of Wind­sor, Cary Grant, HSH Princess Grace of Monaco and the Rea­gans to name but a few. The col­lec­tion at Christie’s South Kens­ing­ton of­fered a rare glimpse into the pri­vate world she cre­ated. Fleur Cowles and her last hus­band, Thomas Mon­tague-Meyer, to­gether oc­cu­pied two ad­join­ing ‘sets’ at one of Lon­don’s most renowned ad­dresses – Al­bany, Pic­cadilly – for more than 50 years. Her striking in­te­ri­ors re­mained un­changed dur­ing th­ese decades and the auc­tion cap­tured the magic of a time-cap­sule bro­ken open for the first time. The auc­tion in­cluded ev­ery­thing from her 1950’s Dior hats and de­signs for famed Flair mag­a­zine, to her prized col­lec­tion of naïf art, fur­ni­ture, sculp­ture and works of art, as well as some of her own paint­ings and pho­to­graphs ded­i­cated from many of her fa­mous friends, such as Vivien Leigh, Lady Bird John­son and the Duchess of Wind­sor. The col­lec­tion il­lus­trates not only the amaz­ing in­te­ri­ors Cowles cre­ated in her se­cluded Lon­don home, but also the colour of the amaz­ing life she lived.

Es­ti­mates ranged from just £500 up to £30,000, and a star lot of the auc­tion was a pen-and-ink draw­ing, Tau­reau, by Pablo Pi­casso (1881-1973). Fur­ther high­lights in­cluded a por­trait of Fleur Cowles by Réné Gruau (1909-2004) who pro­duced much of the orig­i­nal art­work for Flair; and paint­ings and wall pan­els by Fred­erico Pallavicini, who worked along­side her at Flair. The mag­a­zine was renowned for its striking de­sign and lav­ish pro­duc­tion as for its ed­i­to­rial con­tent, and it is for the for­mer which it is best known to­day. De­spite strong cir­cu­la­tion, the colos­sal costs for spe­cial fea­tures, such as em­bossed cover cut-outs and un­fold­ing pages that re­vealed hid­den pic­tures, caused the mag­a­zine to run for only a year. Flair re­mains a much re­spected pub­li­ca­tion and copies are still highly sought af­ter al­most 70 years af­ter the last is­sue went to press.

A few items of cloth­ing from her wardrobe

Fleur Cowles’ of­fice

A por­trait of Fleur Cowles by Réné Gruau

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