Category Archives: Design

“Gloria Swanson’s Mansion” Is Ready for It’s Close-Up

Prepare to be dazzled.

Some of the articles describing Gloria Crest, a spectacular estate a few miles from New York City, identify it as “Gloria Swanson’s Mansion”. Depending on which rumour the author cites, Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of future President John F. Kennedy, either gave Swanson the property or installed her there in the 1920s, when she was his mistress.

It’s well documented that Swanson had an affair with the elder Kennedy that began in the mid-1920s and lasted into the early 1930s, but the rest of the story is almost certainly untrue. Property ownership is easy to trace, but no one is particularly interested in debunking the myth. As the old newspaper adage put it, “the story is too good to check out”.

Gloria Crest is in the news these days because it’s for sale at a greatly reduced price. Don’t call your mortgage broker quite yet, though. The sale price is $9,999,999.*

What makes that a bargain is that Gloria Crest was previously on the market with an asking price of almost $40 million.

Gloria Crest

Gloria Crest

Here’s what Forbes had to say about the estate:

“Gloria Crest is a 24,000-square-foot mansion on one of Englewood, New Jersey’s historic streets. It was built in 1926 for Stefan and Edith Poniatowski (Stefan is said to be a descendant of a former King of Poland) but their fortunes soon crumbled when the stock market crashed in 1929. …and they soon had to auction their house along with most of their belongings in order to move to a condo in New York City. The home has had numerous owners over the years, and comes with the unconfirmed but oft-repeated rumor that it was occupied by film star Gloria Swanson while she was involved with Ambassador Joseph Kennedy…..

“Its most recent sale history had it on the market for $39 million back in 2013…then nearly going to foreclosure a little while later, then almost finding a foreign buyer for $20 million. Throughout all this Gloria Crest is still standing, as an eight-bedroom, 14-bathroom home on five lake-front acres, with its original Mediterranean style design intact now asking $9.99 million for the entire estate. While New Jersey does have some of the highest property taxes in the country, this is still a good deal.”

For those interested in purchasing Gloria Crest, here’s the listing.

For those interested in Gloria Swanson, here’s the last scene from Sunset Boulevard:


* I think the owners were afraid that people would be scared off if the property was listed at an even $10,000,000, so they lowered the asking price to attract bargain hunters. Clever sellers!

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More about That Incredible Wallpaper at the V&A

Here’s a bit more by and about Fallen Fruit, aka David Allen Burns and Austin Young, who created the fantastic wallpaper for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate” exhibition, which runs through 20 October 2019. The artists drew their inspiration from images in the V&A’s massive collection of prints.

Detail from "Fruits from the Garden and the Field"

Detail from “Fruits from the Garden and the Field”

Here’s a video from the artists:


And here’s a PDF containing 321 pages about Fallen Fruits’ larger, long-range goals,  notes on the V&A show, and lots of amateur collages.

Captivating Prints from the V&A

The image above is a detail from “Fruits from the Garden and Field (Rainbow)”, by David Burns and Austin Young.  It was commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum to celebrate the museum’s current exhibition, “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate”. The V&A’s shop is offering gorgeous, limited edition prints of some of the work.

From the exhibition notes:

“For over 175 years preceding the museum’s inception, the grounds of the V&A were filled with fruit trees as part of a historic nursery that supplied gardens across the country. Artists David Burns and Austin Young (Fallen Fruit) have foraged depictions of British fruit from the V&A collection, bringing this rich heritage back to the site once more. The artists invite us to experience the city as a fruitful place, presenting fruit as a catalyst to re-imagine the city as generous and productive and to explore the meaning of community through creating and sharing new and abundant resources.”

Here’s a compressed version of the full print. Enbiggen it as large as you can to get a hint of the amazing detail of the original work.

As I write this, the V&A site says that only six prints from the limited edition of 100 are still available.

It’s big, and it’s not cheap. The actual print is 60 by 20 inches. The price is £350 ($427), and shipping is another £30 ($37).* It comes unframed, and given its size, getting it framed will probably cost about as much as a small car.

Nevertheless, Wow!

Stunning, isn’t it?


The V&A is also selling other prints from the same artists, in limited editions of 250. These prints are 33 by 24 inches and cost £175 ($214).


Here’s a scene from the exhibition. I don’t think the curators planned for the wallpaper to dominate the room, but with that background, who can focus on anything else?

The show runs through Sunday, 20 October 2019.


*I did a little research when I was checking the rate of exchange. The British pound trades for about $1.22 right now, and it’s been declining for the last decade.

If you’d bought the print for £350 five years ago, when the pound was at $1.68, it would have cost you $588. The rate of exchange was even worse for Americans before the 2008 economic disaster, when the pound hovered around $2.00. That £350 price would have been the equivalent of $700. Viewed that way, you could claim that you’d actually be saving $273 compared to the 2008 price, and if you repeated that statement enough times, it might actually sound believable.

Or you could wait until a few weeks after Brexit when you’ll probably be able to get the print in exchange for a couple of chocolate bars and a pair of stockings.

“Infinite Space” at ARTECHOUSE

“Infinite Space, the first major retrospective of the work of award-winning, Los-Angeles-based, Turkish-born artist Refik Anadol, invites visitors to open their senses to the endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of man and machine.”
—from the program notes

That quote got me thinking about the endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of me and my vacuum cleaner, but perhaps I was taking it too literally.

The current environment in the main room at ARTECHOUSE suffered from a long, dull opening sequence that drove many of us from the room. It was only later that the artist gave us a taste of the mesmerizing beauty that keeps us coming back to the venue:

The walls in ARTECHOUSE’s main room are 30-feet high, so the video is best viewed full screen.

The real fun at this show was in the Infinity Rooms in the side galleries, where mirrored, angled walls created a high tech funhouse effect. Seeing two people who look vaguely familiar simultaneously approaching you from a corridor on your right and from a side hall on your left, and then realizing that they’re both you, is a wonderfully disorienting experience.*

If you wanted, you could be a one-person chorus line.

Two’s company, four’s a crowd.
Look closer. There are only four people in this picture.

“Infinite Space” will run through 2 September 2019.


The Lady From Shanghai
That Scene from Orson Welles’ 1947 film noir.


*Even though those two people are considerably older and heavier than you are.

Frank Stella! Hey, Frank Stella!

At 82, National Medal of Arts recipient Frank Stella is creating some of his best work. The Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York is hosting an exhibition of some of his recent sculptures.

Here are some pictures from the exhibition, all found on the Gallery’s website:

“Frank Stella: Recent Work” opened on 25 April 2019 and will be on view until 22 June 2019.


I’d love to go, but, unfortunately, I’ve been barred for life from attending any Stella exhibitions, all because of a minor misunderstanding at an earlier show. I don’t think I did anything wrong, but they claimed I was causing a disruption.

You can judge for yourself. Here’s the Security footage of The Incident:

Beach Blanket Babylon Closing in San Francisco After a 45-Year Run

Those hats! Those huge, wonderful, silly hats, each larger than the last.

Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical review, is as much a part of the San Francisco mythos as cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and beautifully painted Victorian houses. But after 45 years and 17,216 performances, the show will close with 2019’s New Year’s Eve finale.

The ever-evolving show uses modified lyrics from popular songs to poke mildly racy fun at celebrities and politicians, many of whom, like Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in the picture below, turn up in the audience sooner or later. (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had already seen an abbreviated performance of the review in 1983.)

The show could probably have run forever, since it had become a sure-fire way for San Franciscans to entertain out-of-town visitors.

Every performance ended with the audience joining the cast in singing a rousing and joyous rendition of “San Francisco”—the real, Jeanette MacDonald “San Francisco”, from the 1936 movie of the same name.


New Year’s Eve at Beach Blanket Babylon

The Beach Blanket Babylon website has an excellent collection of pictures from the show, including one gallery dedicated exclusively to those giant hats. It also includes videos of selections from the show’s New Year’s Eve performances. Here’s the one from 2018:

(All photos found on the Web.)