Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Paris in Strathmore

As you probably know Art + Object has scored the sale of a good part of Les and Milly Paris’s collection. The chance to see the collection at their home in Strathmore, Wellington was always a terrific opportunity and one open to almost anyone who gave the couple a call. Their hospitality and personalities are of course what will be missing from the viewings but a good selection is on show at Gow Langsford to give you the flavour. 

To visit Les and Milly (and how many artists, curators and other interested people did just that is anybody's guess) was to be first welcomed into a family home. Milly’s cooking was legendary of course but so too was the wine cellar that Les was always pleased to sample. Will we ever again get to drink the quality of wine Les offered as a matter of course? Probably not. Everything changed in late 2000 when Les died unexpectedly. Milly has continued to be devoted to the collection over the years since but now she is moving to Sydney and the Paris collection experience will be lost to Wellington. 

We don’t know at this stage what will be for sale but there are some eye-watering possibilities. Tony Fomison’s Oh South Island your music remembers me that was above the fireplace in the living room, the small Milan Mrkusich corner painting that hung above the living room door, Michael Smither’s portrait Joseph with teddy bear, an outstanding collection of Peter Peryer’s work, one of those quirky but memorable Colin McCahon Caltex works and so much more. 

When we exhibited the full collection as it was then at the Dowse in 1978 it was one of the gallery’s most popular exhibitions, same too when a big selection hung at the City Gallery in 1992. But the real spoils were ours. We both got to help Les and Milly hang everything up again when it went back to Strathmore. 

Image: Jim helping to hang the last painting (a Don Driver) in June 1988 before Les and Milly Paris opened the large gallery extension to their home.