Art or Bust. October 2015.

Dear Rowley,

The annual Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park is better value for monkey business than London Zoo. It is held in vast marquees that stretch for miles with every conceivable hot contemporary art gallery in attendance showing their best work. I was invited by my friend Simon – ‘that’s interesting, Simon’ – who knows his oats so I was covered. All I had to do was look pretty and name drop Wilhelm de Koenig every so often and I was home and dry.

You know one of my favourite hobbies is taking the piss out of the fashion industry. Well let me tell you, the fashion pack are amateurs compared to the art set. We had Japanese in vomit yellow leggings and fake fur muffs. We had a fella in a dress, Nylon fright wig and tennis ball tits topped off with a tatty fur coat that looked like Grizabella from Cats. We had gays for days in black dresses and hobnail boots with comedy wedge haircuts. As I said to Simon, Purdey was years ago love, get over it.

As for the beards, it was like an S&M convention in San Francisco circa 1972. Now I am gently bearded I felt quite at home. All I was missing was the lumberjack shirt and roll-up tobaccy and I’d have passed for an artiste. So what did Frieze have for our delegation? A big inflatable cat, three cacti in little pots on a plinth, lots of penis substitute sculptures, foliage and brown pottery. When you’d actually picked yourself up of the floor from laughing your ass off, it was actually quite an education.

The contemporary art market is a swindle. Rich people inflate the prices of artistes with no discernible talent and then keep playing swapsie with other galleries and collectors. I wouldn’t give 90% of it house room. I much prefer a frilly Boldini or a Boudain seascape. Mind you, the catering was beautiful. We went for the Spanish tapas with lashings of Cava. When I’d had my fill of chorizo and Padron peppers, we headed over to Frieze Masters. Frieze Masters is for the big boys with beards.

I haven’t seen so many masterpieces under one roof other than in national galleries such as The Prado, National Gallery, The Met or The Louvre. We were served African sculptures with phalluses like totem poles. We had ancient Inuit beads, tiny Titians, Picasso by the score and Grecian urns. My bucket list was rather long by the time we got to the bar. Best in show for me was actually at Frieze rather than Masters: an Edmund de Waal ceramic composition so stark and serene you could weep.

Needless to say, we were knackered after a day at Frieze so headed back to Bloomsbury Towers for hot toddies in bed and movies before heading over to Primrose Hill for an arty party. The arty party was put on by a collector and a gallery who supplemented her collection with many more contemporary pieces. I did comment that the drawing room was over-hung but that’s the curse of the collector apparently.

I had a high old time pretending I knew what I was talking about while chucking back Chablis like it was Badoit. There was a running buffet downstairs in a kitchen the size of my entire flat: poached pink salmon, yummy salsas, new potatoes slathered in butter and gorgeous green beans. I kept on popping into the garden for a fag before heading back to discuss the indigenous profundities of what appeared to be a merkin on a sideboard that turned out to be ‘art’.

Not that I have anything but respect for the art crowd. They have created their codes and their standards and multi millions of pounds rest on their taste. As I said, I’d prefer a Sassoferato Madonna to one of Tracey Emin’s pitiful daubs but each to their own. ‘That’s interesting, Simon’ and I are going to Christie’s South Ken for the print sale this afternoon then off for a late lunch somewhere cheap and cheerful. We can’t live entirely for pleasure, after all.

So what else is new on the Rialto? The Henry Poole & Co new Archive Room is as handsome as the founding father of Savile Row deserves. I am working on installing the ledgers before we get cracking on the ephemera and papers. It has been a long time coming but I couldn’t be more proud of Poole’s for investing in the Archive Room and in me.

Work begins on Project Sparkle for Thames & Hudson in early November. I have my gorgeous, talented photographer Luke Carby on the books and I cannot wait to get stuck in. Turnbull & Asser is not yet signed-off and we’ll be lucky to get it out before Christmas at this rate which is a shame considering Pete and I were all done bar the shouting at the end of September.

There are a couple more book projects on the table for early 2016 to keep me honest and the launch of the Henry Poole Archive Room in early December. All this and heaven too…