MY CUL­TURAL LIFE ALICE BLACK

An ar­biter of taste tells us what they’re read­ing, watch­ing and more

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Af­ter nearly ten years throw­ing her en­ergy into Lon­don’s De­sign Mu­seum, Alice Black (right) has now been ap­pointed co-di­rec­tor along­side Deyan Sud­jic OBE. Black’s early bank­ing ca­reer in New York, fol­lowed by a stint at Lon­don’s Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum, matched with a strong eye for de­sign, sets her in great stead for the role. Be­fore his death in late 2017, she worked with fashion de­signer Azze­dine Alaïa on a ret­ro­spec­tive of his work ( 1) which opens next month (‘Azze­dine Alaïa: The Cou­turier’, 10 May – 7 Oc­to­ber; de­sign­mu­seum.org). My all-time favourite piece of mu­sic has to be The Lady is a Tramp sung by Ella Fitzger­ald ( 2). It makes me feel in­stantly happy. I love the tune, the ir­rev­er­ence, the hu­mour, and her telling it like it is. I’m lis­ten­ing to con­cer­tos by Chopin and Verdi’s La Travi­ata. Classical mu­sic helps me to switch off from my sur­round­ings when I write. I also have a slight pen­chant for 1980s hip-hop stars, like Grand­mas­ter Flash. And disco al­ways makes me smile. The book that has most in­flu­enced me?

Les Trois Mous­que­taires by Alexan­dre Du­mas showed me the power of a good story. Mar­cel Proust’s À La Recherche du Temps Perdu was also a key in­flu­ence. For years, I dreamt of be­ing its high so­ci­ety belle, la Duchesse de Guer­mantes. At the mo­ment I’m read­ing Wolf Hall ( 4) by Hi­lary Man­tel. I lis­tened to her episodes of The Reith Lec­tures on BBC Ra­dio 4, only half think­ing I would be in­ter­ested in Tu­dor Eng­land, but she’s a bril­liant sto­ry­teller. My favourite film be­trays my French roots… the 1945 Les En­fants du Par­adis, star­ring Ar­letty and Jean-louis Bar­rault, by Mar­cel Carné. It has such a clever plot.

The pod­casts I of­ten tune into in­clude BBC Ra­dio 4’s Desert Is­land Discs and the real-life in­ves­ti­ga­tion se­ries S-town. I’m also in stitches lis­ten­ing to the hi­lar­i­ous My Dad Wrote a Porno. I laugh out loud as I lis­ten to it! I think that my favourite paint­ing is Christ of St John of the Cross by Sal­vador Dalí. It made a huge im­pres­sion on me when I first saw it on dis­play dur­ing the Na­tional Gallery’s ‘ See­ing Sal­va­tion’ exhibition in 2000. I was so de­lighted to come across it again re­cently at the Royal Academy of Arts’s ‘Dalí/duchamp’ exhibition. It was like bump­ing into an old friend that you haven’t seen for a long time, but whom you love dearly. If I won the lottery, the piece of art I’d buy would have to be Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Er­mine ( 3). I’d have to win big, Euromil­lions-style! I col­lect shoes… Don’t ask me how many. There’s a French say­ing: ‘when you love, you don’t count’. My for­mula for a fun night is din­ner with my best girl­friends in a for­eign city. Once a year, three of us spend the week­end dis­cov­er­ing a new des­ti­na­tion. The next place I’m trav­el­ling to is Is­tan­bul ( 5), to take part in a con­fer­ence on mu­se­ums and tech­nol­ogy. I can­not wait to see the Blue Mosque, Aya So­fya, the Top­kapı Palace, Is­tan­bul Mu­seum of Modern Art, the banks of the Bospho­rus… I might over­dose on cul­ture.

‘I am look­ing forward to see­ing Azze­dine Alaïa’s most spec­tac­u­lar dresses on dis­play at the De­sign Mu­seum’

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