Cultural gifts: stocking fillers and fantasy fare for arty types
From the realistic (books, video games, DVDs) to the less so (Rothko Painting No 1, Bond’s Aston Martin), ‘Irish Times’ writers reveal what’s on their Santa lists
Tow Path (2001) by TP Flanagan, included in SB Kennedy’s TP Flanagan: Painter of Light and Landscape
Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916. The First Day of the Battle of the Somme
Beyond: Two Souls
Lon Chaney snr in The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Vladimir Horowitz Live at Carnegie Hall
Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge in Alpha Papa
How Theatre Works, a Adam Dant lithograph
What would you like in your stocking? I have been lusting after a set of Irish artist John Gerrard’s Bone Cutlery for years. They’d fit nicely and be perfect for eating the turkey with, although they are definitely on the wrong side of extravagant. Silver plated, and cast from real bones, they’re very, very tasty. From $450 (€330) at artwareeditions.com.
You have €20 to spend on a Kris Kindle gift – what would you buy? I’d give a copy of Kelly Grovier’s 100 Works of Art that Will Define Our Age (Thames and Hudson, £21.95 on Amazon). It has gorgeous pictures, and Grovier writes well and often irreverently. He cuts through a great deal of the noise and distractions of the recent decades in art. You won’t agree with them all, but there are some real gems.
If money was no object, what would you like to receive? You could give me Francis Bacon’s Lucien Freud portrait, which sold at auction recently for $142 million. I’d re-sell it, fund the Arts Council for a couple of years, buy a horse, and still have some over for one of the delicious Paul Winstanley Art School paintings that are at Kerlin Gallery until January 7th).
In your stocking? Beyond: Two Souls, the Playstation 3 game by Quantic Dream, which is a sort of follow-up to the fantastic Heavy Rain. Ellen Page stars as the main protagonist.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? The Adventures in Feministory Innovators Mug Set is just over the €20 mark on Bitch magazine’s online store (bitchmagazine.org). CJ Walker, Ada Lovelace, Juliette Gordon Low and Anna Julie Cooper all feature on these cool illustrated mugs.
If money was no object? The 1990 Madonna Blonde Ambition tour jacket. I love tour bomber jackets and this one is the holy grail. They vary wildly in price at auction, and also on eBay, where one is currently for sale for $999.
In your stocking? Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916. The First Day of the Battle of the Somme. The “comic book journalist” has gone into a new realm with this, a book that folds out into a single piece, 24ft-wide, wordless pen and ink drawing of soldiers leaving the trenches.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? Kevin Barry’s Dark Lies the Island, because he writes short stories that will satisfy any reader. If there’s a tenner left over, then a Spotify or Deezer account for a month. It changes how you listen to music. Again.
If money was no object? A March trip to New Zealand to see Bruce Springsteen play in Auckland. And since I’d be going all that way, you might as well throw in a couple of the Australian shows en route.
In your stocking? Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. A just-published memoir in the form of letters from Stibbe, then 20 and working as a nanny, to her sister. Her charges were the sons of the editor of the London Literary Review, Mary-Kay Wilmers, and film director Stephen Frears. Funny, perceptive, and full of literary gossip from 1980s London.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? A DVD of John Huston’s classic adaptation of James Joyce’s perfect short story, The Dead. Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann give unforgettable performances. It’s a beautiful, bitter-sweet seasonal film that is so lyrical and beguiling it’s like a dream. And it’s only €12 in the IFI shop.
If money was no object? Last year I fantasised about receiving a Howard Hodgkin painting. This year, it’s a Rothko. One of his sublime, meditative paintings sold for $75 million at Sotheby’s last year. At least I can sometimes gaze at them in art galleries.
In your stocking? Steve McCurry’s Untold. The brilliant American photojournalist showing the best of his photos and telling the stories behind the images.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? A subscription to Stack (stackmagazines.com), which curates the best independent magazines worldwide to deliver a different title to you every month. It’s a lucky dip, but the Stack team appear to have impeccable taste.
If money was no object? A record shop where you didn’t have to worry about making the rent or paying bills. The recent decision by Tim Derbyshire of London’s On the Beat to put his shop and stock on sale via eBay set me thinking that this might be a fanciful retirement plan. It’s probably better than a pension.
In your stocking? The movie schedule on TV at Christmas is usually reassuringly familiar, allowing you to have a quiet sniffle during It’s a Wonderful Life and laugh at Elf, which has become a seasonal classic. Not this year, however, because (bah humbug) pay-to-see, cotton-headed ninnymuggins Sky Movies has snapped up the hilarious, never-fails-to-raise-a-laugh Will Ferrell comedy. I won’t be seeing it this year unless someone pops a DVD of it into my stocking.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? Colm O’Regan’s tea towels printed in flowery script with things Irish mammies say (a spin-off from his hilarious Irish Mammies books), my favourites being “Don’t be using the good scissors for that” and “The biscuits are for the visitors” (€7 from irishmammies.ie). Also one of Grand Grand Design’s mugs (€12, Science Gallery shop, Dublin) emblazoned with “Good Girl Yourself” or “Thanks a Million” – although giving a co-worker the one with “Gobshite” on it might make for a testy new year.
If money was no object? Inspired by the excellent Eileen Gray: Architect, Designer, Painter exhibition at Imma (until January 19th), I’d love to get a present of one of her rugs, preferably the €2,500 “Roquebrune” (eileengray.co.uk). It’s a beautiful blue and grey wool rug from this visionary designer, which could have been designed yesterday rather than 80 years ago – not that any mammy would ever allow it to be walked on, obviously.
In your stocking? Given his life was generally more interesting than his novels, I want to read Norman Mailer: A Double Life, the sprawling new biography by J Michael Lennon, as well as Mind of an Outlaw, a new anthology of Mailer’s essays: his non-fiction was always provocative. Bob Stanley is a knowledgeable music writer as well as a member of indie veterans St Etienne, so his history of pop, Yeah Yeah Yeah, sounds promising. And despite its eye-catching title, Punk 45: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young – the new Soul Jazz Records compilation of 1970s US punk seems like a reassuringly nostalgic seasonal soundtrack.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? A very funny film and (possibly) an uncompromising portrayal of the radio industry: surely anyone would be chuffed with a copy of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
If money was no object? Having missed the V&A’s David Bowie retrospective when it was in London, I’d love tickets to see it at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago next year – and flights there as well. It would also give me the chance to see the city’s architecture, plus the site of the mighty Chess Records.
In your stocking? Before sound came, Lon Chaney snr – the so-called Man of a Thousand Faces – was the undisputed master of horror, and his most lavish film remains Rupert Julian’s 1925 production of The Phantom of the Opera. The set is still one of the most extravagant ever erected. The tinting and Technicolor techniques were groundbreaking. To this point, alas, DVD releases have been patchy. But the British Film Institute now rectifies that situation with a lavish three-disc package adorned with all the bangs and most of the whistles.
The print has been restored and is accompanied by Carl Davis’s definitive score. The creepy, rarely seen “man-with-a-lantern” sequence has been dragged from the vaults, as have sections of a 1929 sound reissue. Best of all, Kevin Brownlow’s excellent 2000 documentary forms part of this indecently delicious package. A fine way to spread grimness about the holiday season. Available at filmstore.bfi.org.uk.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? A few years ago, at the Cannes Film Festival, I found myself squinting curiously at Kenneth Turan. The veteran film critic of the Los Angeles Times was behaving immaculately. But there was something unusual about his attire. What was such a distinguished fellow doing in an Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt? When I accosted him, he revealed that the shirt, in fact, referenced “Ozu” – that’s to say Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu – in the style of Mr Osbourne’s logo. It transpires there is a whole range employing the same delightful gag. Pedro Almodóvar blends in with Aerosmith. Lars Von Trier gets the Van Halen badge. Brian De Palma is associated with Def Leppard. Alejandro Jodorowsky meets Judas Priest. If your friend is a fan of metal, high-brow cinema and slightly self-satisfied snark then he will thank you forever. The full range is available at cinefile.jumpseller.com.
If money was no object? Well, it might be nice to get one’s hands on the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. Given that any ordinary Aston Martin costs an abundance of arms and legs, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Bond version went for $4.1 million. Steven Spielberg paid $60,000 for one of the “Rosebud” sledges from Citizen Kane back in 1982. It seems unlikely he’d part with it for anything less than 10 times that amount now. The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz were, after all, last sold for $666,000. But there is something delicious about getting hold of a movie prop that actually stood as a physical manifestation of human greed. Just a few weeks ago, one the original titular birds from John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon – despite being slightly damaged – sold for an eye-watering $4 million (about the same as Bond’s car). That and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange please.
In your stocking? Sony’s new megaset of Vladimir Horowitz live at Carnegie Hall. It includes recordings – 41 CDs of piano playing plus a DVD – made for both the Columbia and RCA labels, as well as previously unreleased recordings made for the great virtuoso’s own use.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? A stylus that anyone with a smartphone or table can use, on the basis that there are people who still write as well as type, who still want to carry on writing, and who haven’t yet tumbled to the options that are open to them.
If money was no object? One of those promised passenger flights into suborbital space. Just to see what weightlessness really feels like, even if only briefly. Where’s my ticket? Are we there yet?
In your stocking? To celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, the National Theatre in London released a handsome and witty series of illustrations, limited edition prints and posters, from How Theatre Works (a sublime lithograph by Adam Dant, which I want like nothing else) to the more affordable and handy summaries of the body count (and method of dispatch) in most Shakespeare tragedies, Everybody Dies (about £10). I’d settle for the Titus Andronicus hit list on a gift card for maximum grisly value: 14 gruesome executions for under £3. nationaltheatre.org.uk
And for a Kris Kindle gift? Nothing pacifies a noisy situation – or settles a heated argument – quite like the kind-hearted gesture of handing somebody a card that tells them to shut up. The small-caps “Stop talking” card, letterpressed by New York’s Set Editions, is only $8, so I’d throw in the Mercy card set too (“I am in a bad mood and taking it out on you”, “I am right. You are wrong”). Such sentiments are not easy to express. The postage is. seteditions.com
If money was no object? The brilliantly eccentric sculptor Ra Paulette has spent 25 years carving cathedral-like spaces in the sandstone caves of New Mexico. Like a cross between an inverted Gaudí’s Sagrada Família and a spruced-up version of the spaceship in Ridley Scott’s Alien, this subterranean refuge is currently available at a reduced price of $995,000. I would be wiling to time-share. vimeo.com/61652628
In your stocking? SB Kennedy’s TP Flanagan: Painter of Light and Landscape (Lund Humphries £40). Terry Flanagan was one of the very best painters of the Irish landscape, and easily the best watercolour painter of his generation. He died suddenly in 2011. Kennedy’s thorough, generously illustrated book is an essential tribute to and summary of his life’s work. As an artist, Flanagan was especially at home with the watery light of Co Fermanagh, Lissadell and other demesnes, and many aspects of Co Donegal. It is sad now to see that the foreword was written by his good friend, Seamus Heaney.
And for a Kris Kindle gift? Pony, published by Occasional Press, is a collaboration between artist David Lilburn and poet Tony Curtis with the Connemara pony at its heart. The informality of their style, visually and verbally, is perfectly suited to their subject, and the book is a wonderfully relaxed ramble through the wild west of Ireland. Along the way, the pony comes to symbolise something elemental and precious: freedom of imagination. There’s a limited-edition hardback with a print for €65, and a fairly limited paperback edition of just 320 copies, which is a steal at €18. Both are available from Brid O’Malley at Ballynahinch Castle, Recess, Connemara, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If money was no object? Membership at Imma brings many benefits, including invitations to openings, exclusive events and a 10 per cent discount in the shop, cafe and, perhaps most importantly, on the extremely popular Imma Limited Edition prints by an impressive line-up of contemporary artists, Irish and international. An individual membership usually costs €50 annually. At the moment, for €80 you get membership plus a Patrick Scott print, or for €40 you get membership plus the fine publication accompanying the Eileen Gray exhibition. imma.ie.