MY CULTURAL LIFE ALICE BLACK
An arbiter of taste tells us what they’re reading, watching and more
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’