An Artful Siamese Dodger
Little Mister Michael, my seal-point Siamese boy cat, is as determined as he is artistic-autistic (to all who’ve ever met the breed, transported almost certainly from another galaxy or dimension or at least from Mars, you understand).
A lover of catch—he can fetch and retrieve longer than any Labrador I know—he is both a dreamer and napper who, if denied his objective, can become ruthlessly single-minded, even mercenary. Although he can’t do math (or as some pretentious British Shorthairs annoying call the subject, maths), he seems intuitively to appreciate that squishy toys do not grown on cat-scratching trees and that wet food is distributed only in reward-sized dollops. He can, in short, be as greedy, venal and brilliantly stupid as any bailed out banker.
All this is to say that after the sale of Alberto Giacometti’s Le Chat for $20,802,500 in May (a highlight of the Mrs. Sidney F. Brody sale at Christie’s), there was no stopping him. “Skinny? Sneaky? That’s my great-grandpa!” Little Mister cried, suddenly realizing (Eureka! in the cat box) there might be money in art or copyright infringement, or at the very least some smoked salmon canapes. (A photo of Le Chat from the Christie’s sale is shown under Little Mister’s portrait by Avedon. He asks that the resemblance be noted, and affidavits signed.)
Perhaps I left a catalog open, or perhaps his older and wiser sister, Miss Petty Lamb, called it to his attention. (Petty Lamb is, as many of you undoubtedly know, a blue-point Siamese whose day job is Empress of Siam and Queen of the Dominions—a.k.a. Burma, and who sidelines as the proprietress of a thriving West Hollywood-based interior design firm, Miss P. Lamb & Associates, member of the AD 100.) What matters is Little Mister disappeared for almost one solid week last June, and only now, through my credit card receipts, extensive communications with various fraud departments, email exchanges between Little Mister and Miss Petty (as well as with her ambassadorial personnel in the United Kingdom), several extended “discussions” with detective inspectors (Jane Tennison not among them), and Skyped conversations with Anna and Brian Haughton (kindly not pressing charges), have I discovered his whereabouts and pieced together his actions. He was—to be sure—at Art Antiques London.
Running from June 10-16 and organized by British fair impresarios and ground-breakers Anna and Brian Haughton (for emphasis: kindly not pressing charges), Art Antiques London was launched this year; incorporated the Haughton’s’ twentysomething-year-old International Ceramic Fair and Seminar; was held in a bespoke tent opposite the Royal Albert Hall; and served as a platform for dealers of furniture, paintings, jewelry, clocks, textiles, silver, ceramics, rare books, modern and contemporary objet d’art, and antique cat toys—or so Little Mister thought.
Now, how a cat managed to book a ticket—let alone on Swiss and in First Class—I do not know. I do, however, know I’m contesting the charges. That notwithstanding, here is his text from the plane to Petty L.:
“Lots of dairy on Swiss. Milkie milk and choco-lat. Cheese please! Swiss miss! Got a private cabin with sliding doors. Streamlined, modern, even BowWowHaus. No dogs! No dogs! Smells like progress. Time for catnap then more food. What IS caviar? MeeeYOWLLLL!!!”
I guess switching planes in Zurich was worth it. But eventually the boy made it to London. At least according to my bill from the iconic Dorchester Hotel. Despite a penchant for modernism, like many autokats Petty is a classicist at heart, and hence likes Art Deco. She is also a peruser of the glossy travel magazines that consistently rank the Dorchester the most comfy and lap-like luxe home-away-from-home in the world. All this to say I’m pretty sure she’s responsible for this first stop (and bill). Plus she knows Little Mister loves Chinoiserie, as his emailed photos of the carpets in the hallways to the guest rooms make clear. He emailed her this jazzy slide show:
Did you note the Chinese lion on the rug? Little Mister mistook it for a dog, a scary one, a hungry one with magical powers. That explains his first freak out, which in turn explains his near miss with the Mayfair constabulary. Clever puss, he managed to be “unavailable” for questioning by disappearing into Hyde Park.
Imagine a seven-pound cat perambulating past the Lanesborough (where, he later told Petty, he saw the most well-groomed Persian cats he’d seen—evah!), grateful to avoid the too wet Serpentine Lake, his aim never wavering from the Art Antiques London tent located just past the spot where once stood the iron and glass Crystal Palace, that wonder of mid 19th-century engineering.
I’m only grateful the cat lacks a sense of time as we humans know it, because he fortunately arrived several days after the fair’s inaugural charity gala benefiting the trailblazing Bush Theater. Little Mister and sis are known to stare uninterruptedly at repeated viewings of the 1988 film “Dangerous Liaisons” (literally for days), and I fear that had he actually met play and screenwriter Christopher Hampton, who was at the gala, well … the mind reels.
(Above is Little Mister’s latest impersonation of Valmont. He senses your jealousy. Note the Prelle fabric, based on an 18th century original.)
Regrettably, Little Mister was present for British food historian Ivan Day’s spirited discussion of jellies (exact title: “Transparent Delights—The Extraordinary History of Modified Desserts in Georgian England”). A brilliant raconteur, Mr. Day could read the now-hard-to-find Yellow Pages and tell good tale; in the food world, he has groupies (honest). The problem lay in the examples Mr. Day brought from his home in northern England, gelled edibles with suggestive shapes that elicited purrs from Little Mister that several London matrons mistook for … something else entirely.
Security was called, a mystified Little Mister escorted out, and scandal avoided. “Fine,” read a text to his sister, “All this table talk reminds me I missed b-fast!”
And so, gentle reader, began the cat’s fair progress. Ruled by his appetites, he focused on the art of the table, on tools to be used for sustenance, for libation, in his case, for milk. First, Little Mister realized, he needed a table. Not too big, not too small. For him, a 26-inch-high occasional table designed by Charles Edward Horton and made by James Lamb of Manchester (c. 1887, pictured), which he found at Paul Reeves’ stand, fit the (my) bill.
Petty L., later admiring its curves, went so far as to conjecture that the sinuous forms anticipated Art Nouveau (no dog can say Petty doesn’t know her stuff). She then attempted to console me, saying, “At least the stunning E.W. Godwin occasional table pictured on Mr. Reeves’ page in the fair catalog was already sold to the L.A. County Museum of Art, or Mike would have set you back six figures.”
Cold comfort. Little Mister’s next stop was Brian Haughton’s very own stand, where he found “the perfect milk jug” (actually a very rare Meissen Coffee Pot and Cover, a baluster form with scrolled “Tau” rococo handle and spout). “Look at the insects!” Little Mister is caught saying by the security cameras, salivating (literally) over the gloriously depicted butterfly, enormous grasshopper and elephant hawk moth caterpillar. Sale number two (upwards of
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