Image: Nick Knight
August 16 2011
Florence was always about fashion design for me, visiting the city twice a year for the past 15 years; but these days, more for my art projects, I find myself using the artisans here to make art works. Less than two hours’ drive from my studio near Milan and I am in a favourite restaurant, Gambi, before visiting a lace embroiderer who is making some pieces for me in preparation for Frieze Art Fair in London in October. Gambi raise their own cattle on their farms in the hills outside Florence for their meat – the very best cuts, simply flame-grilled – and it is one of Florence’s secrets. After a glass of Antinori’s brunello (who used to be a client in London), I am reminded why sangiovese grapes are so special.
It is about 35 degrees in the Tuscan sunshine, and I walk down the fading green banks of the Arno to the lace worker’s rustico outside town. I was invited to participate in a group show last month at Casey Kaplan’s contemporary art gallery in New York, where around 50 artists were commissioned to each produce a work. Casey has a great eye, and we became friends after meeting a few years ago. At the private view I met Matthew Brannon, a gallery artist of Casey’s whose work is very refined and which I liked straight away.
Matthew asked me to collaborate on some pieces for his show in NY and for Frieze; outside Casey’s show, down in Chelsea, we discussed how it was not so “common” for creatives to move in between disciplines (very pertinent to my situation currently) and we have started to work on some sculptural coat pieces together, which I am due to pick up tomorrow. The lace work I need is a small hand-embroidered “nurse in uniform” on a linen handkerchief, which has been beautifully made (you will need further detail on this for a correct perspective, which I will give you later in the week). But, as with much of my work, I like to use traditional artisans and techniques to produce contemporary subject matter; antique Italian linen/lace-meets-2011 conceptual felt right for this.
The light is fading, so I make my way to the car for the drive back to the studio, with just enough time to pick up a bottle of Le Difese (a Tuscan red from near the coast) from an enoteca I hadn’t noticed before, next door to a great but tiny club called Canapone that I used to eat at. It is more of a select dining space than a club; not grand, just more considered – antique fixtures, modern art and tucked away on the west bank. As I walk away, I remember to book when next here; they have a secret garden for only a few tables, lit only by candlelight in the evening, where you can have supper. No menu – you eat what is in season. My reason to return later in the week...