Hosni, Before You Go Would You Mind Terribly…
Naturally when I review the last twelve days of demonstrations, violence and incipient revolution in Egypt, my excitement at the prospect of positive political and social change for the Egyptian people is tempered by fears of a hardline crackdown, a power vacuum filled by extremists, the stability of the region, the ramifications to U.S. foreign policy, and the fate of the irreplaceable artifacts in Egypt’s museums. I’m also concerned that a major decorative arts opportunity might be missed.
I refer, of course, to the iconic 2006 tome Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World’s Most Colorful Despots by Peter York, with a foreword by Douglas Copeland. Mr. York managed to document 16 homes and haunts of the world’s greatest baddies, among them Messrs. Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Mussolini, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Marcos, Ceausescu, Noriega and Hussein. Their interiors declaim their tackiness while begging the question: Why do kitsch and excessive gilding adhere so readily to evil?
This is no small question, and one that not even a re-edition and update of Dictator Style could readily answer. (Now sadly out of print, it is nevertheless available on Amazon for as little as $.58 used.) What is needed is to address this decorative conundrum is more data from a fresh crop of contemporary despots, human rights abusers and office-holders-for-life. Interior design is by its nature a transient art form, and almost all of the desecrations, er decoration, found in Dictator Style have since been lost to time (a.k.a., destroyed by angry mobs).
So with that in mind, please allow this direct shout out to the Egyptian president:
“Hosni, I know you’re busy. But before you throw your suitcases on the bed and start emptying closets, safes and pollute your palace with packing crates filled with the patrimony of your country and people, take out your Flip or iPhone and start snapping pictures. Really, it’s the least you could do. Thanks.”
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