In October last year I received an email out of the blue from our close friend Adrian Sassoon. He’d had a mad idea, he said. Could he do an installation at Parham in the Spring, a display of beautiful decorative works of art, to be started and finished while the House was still closed? Might it be fun to animate this, photographing it in place and making a carefully crafted film – all intended to be viewed online? Last year he and his team worked with the Swedish furniture dealers Modernity to create a display in a huge 18th century house in London’s Cavendish Square, called “House of Modernity”. This proved as popular with virtual visitors as with actual visitors. An exhibition at Parham in 2021 could be the same, perhaps called “House of History”?
We know the quality of everything Adrian does. His is the leading gallery in the UK for international contemporary decorative works of art. Adrian has a superb eye and his breadth of knowledge is exceptional. His team are very talented themselves, experts in their field. His artists are working at the top of their game, and their creations are exquisite. We had no hesitation – what fun it would be to do something unusual, and introduce into this old house modern works to sit in an historic setting! It would be a fine experiment.
So, for two sunny weeks last month Parham welcomed visitors of a different sort. Adrian and his team set up, with infinite care and attention to detail, a display which they moved about as the light moved, from room to room, from cabinet to floor, from window sill to table top. They created beautiful still lives with over a hundred modern decorative pieces. Glass, metal, ceramic, silver and porcelain sat happily with the mellow wood, soft textures and muted colours of Parham; interestingly, the harmony between them was obvious and immediate, and the new and the old sang together. It was a privilege to witness, mesmeric and moving.
The artists whose works blossomed here for that short time are part of a long continuum with their (often anonymous) fellows in the past, who also worked with their inspiration and the genius of their hands to create solid objects at which to marvel, whose beauty takes the breath away. Now, as then, the pieces take a long time to create and, not being made by machines, they tell of the patience and supreme skill of their human creators. It was a joy to see the old and the new come together. This was another “moment” for Parham, another interesting page in its history. We all loved the “mad” experiment and, just as importantly, we felt strongly that the House and the Ancestors definitely approved.