Wish You Were Here by Geoffrey Bradfield

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Geoffrey Bradfield reports on mogul manoeuvres


In the words of the late great Malcolm Forbes, “Everybody has to be somebody to somebody to be anybody.” From an early age, I have been intrigued with the habits of tycoons, an interest that remains undiminished with the passing years. Decidedly on the periphery of these extravagant lifestyles, I guess I would feature somewhere between a somebody and an anybody in the scope of things.

With a staggering economic explosion in India, Brits longingly eye the bounty of their lost colony. My Thanksgiving surfeit at the Taj in Mumbai included an introduction to Ken Livingstone, Lord Mayor of London, there to promote ties between the two cities. Further evidence was the presence of HRH Prince Michael of Kent attending a multi-million dollar wedding at the ultra-luxurious Lake Palace in Udaipur, where I spied him doing a rather impressive couple of laps in the pool the next morning.

More shockwaves from the East: Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Walid bin Talal and his $300 million purchase of an Airbus A380, the first private purchase of the new superjumbo. I guess there’s no concern about rising fuel prices. Meanwhile, competitor Boeing’s former CEO Alan Mulally raised eyebrows, earning $28 million for four months of work at Ford Motor Company, despite its staggering $12.8 billion losses. Can these sums be real?

Talking Art to Art, it has been an amazing season, if one excludes the three people who were victims of Doris Salcedo’s installation at the Tate Modern in London, falling into the 548 foot crack. A Christie’s sale featured ever-boyish Hugh Grant and newly married Elizabeth Hurley sitting in a secluded box while he offloaded Andy Warhol’s 1963 Liz for $21 million. Not a bad return on his $3.5 million investment in 2001. The scene was very déjà vu of the First Wives Club, with an animated Sarah Jessica Parker perched in the second row-where was Maggie Smith urging her to raise her paddle [“Jackie O has one just like it”]? A neon attendee was Marc Jacobs, one of my favorite designers, with his electric blue hair. His avant garde collection of paintings at his Paris apartment, according to W, is astounding. And he is just beginning.

Let’s not leave out the South American artists who continue to break records. A standout sale for $1.1 million was a Rufino Tamayo lost masterpiece, picked up off a rubbish heap on the corner of Broadway and West 72nd Street by Elizabeth Gibson, a passer-by who happened to like its colors. A “Rags to Riches” tale if ever there were one.

In a year of brilliant records, Bacon and Koons led Sotheby’s $315.9-million sale of Contemporary Art. Auction houses cannot complain while we are all left speechless.

My associate Roric Tobin and I were guests on the caviar deck of the 228-foot Seafair. Also on board this extravagant show of confidence in the art and antiques field were Tommy Hilfiger and Wall Street titan Steve Schwarzman. Pros David and Lee Ann Lester’s new concept of a floating palace, the world’s first fine art mega yacht, has exhibitors including the likes of Berry-Hill and Martin de Louvre, and makes its way to tony ports of call up and down the eastern seaboard and Florida peninsula.

The artist Rachel Hovnanian, who has embraced the narcissus and made it eternal, had a tremendous response to her new show at the Jason McCoy Gallery. Hovnanian is a serious talent to watch.

Prior to the auction exhibition for Post Modern and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, Pedro Girao and Carlos Sauza hosted a dazzling book signing party for a suntanned Valentino. The $7,000 tome is a far cry from the standard coffee-table book, and, as continually reported, his party at the Temple of Venus in Rome was the event of the year. Looking back on the year that was, this certainly faced stiff competition. How could one overlook the extravaganza hosted by Nicola Bulgari, marking the opening of the renovated Ancient Sculpture Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had a lucky draw sitting beside enigmatic Amy Fine Collins and across from Lee Radizwell and Prince d’Arenberg. Ultra-glamorous Gina Lollabrigida made a rare New York appearance-they don’t make gals like that anymore.

I was the delighted guest of Manolo Blahnik at another unforgettable Met party, the Costume Institute gala, complete with a towering cage filled with live peacocks. Amidst the celebrity-studded crowd, I ran into Tina, an old South African chum, now Lady Green, with her husband Sir Philip (touted to be the richest man in England), and the iconic Kate Moss, in New York to launch their new fashion fusion.

I was fortunate enough to make the guestlist of Dominican playboy Emilio Jimenez’s decadent shooting party at Ventosilla, the palace of Don Jaime Patino Mitjans, Conde del Arco outside Toledo, Spain. With the exception of bullfighting sensation David Luguillano, I believe I was the only member of the party sans title. These European elites entertain on a sumptuous scale rarely seen in America. Ironically, the Spanish Conde was shod in American Stubbs & Wootton.

The indomitable Peggy Siegal held a screening for Tom Cruise’s new feature, Lions for Lambs, followed by a dinner at the Bon Appétit Supper Club. Cruise delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. This fellow appears to know exactly what he is doing.

Though the ever-weakening dollar has buoyed the New York real estate market with foreign buyers in record numbers, it is no longer fashionable. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen now refuses to be paid in dollars and hip-hop icon Jay-Z is now seen holding wads of Euros in his new video. Poor Benjamin.

With a huge sigh of relief, Giuseppi Cipriani reopened at the Sherry-Netherland. Hassan Elgharry and Sergio Bacca always manage to fill the front tables with the most beautiful girls. Amidst this plethora of models, I was able to catch up with the exquisite Tori Burch. Her line continues to soar, with her signature ballet slippers on the feet of fashionable females the world over.

Am off to Gloucestershire for Christmas (a tradition for more than 30 years) and Casa de Campo for New Year. As Malcolm Forbes once said, “By the time we’ve made it, we’ve had it.” Exhausted after this whirlwind fall, I concur.

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