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November 8, 2012

Alain Elkann's Diary

By Spear's

How the novelist and cultural ambassador spent his summer

How the novelist and cultural ambassador spent his summer
IN THE OUTSKIRTS of Biella, a small city in Piemonte in Italy renowned for its textiles industry (Loro Piana, Zegna), I went over the summer to visit Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the most famous artists of the Arte Povera group that included Mario Merz and Alighiero Boetti.

Michelangelo and I are working together on a long interview-book that will have the flavour of a conversation. It should be published in the winter just before his retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in April. The life of an artist and his work and friends are like a long chain of unpredictable events.

My family has chosen St Tropez to all be together for a few days. Besides all the evident reasons to like or dislike a place, I am personally very touched by the market in Place des Lices, better known for petanque players. In a little town where in every building in the centre you can find a boutique of Fendi or Dior or Ralph Lauren or Bottega Veneta or Prada, twice a week there is a market where you can buy underwear, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, sausages, antiques of little value, handbags, blue jeans… like in any other market in any other little provincial town of the South of France.

Read more: St Tropez is still fashionable after all this time

The atmosphere of the market is lively, real, indifferent to the Mercedes, the Bentleys, the Mini Mokes and the Ferraris that try to find a space in the open-air parking next door, separated from the market by a very old fashioned merry-go-round. It is reassuring: many things can change, but not the spirit of a French town in the South.
IN TEL AVIV at night you must eat at Kantina, a restaurant with a very pleasant terrace if you want to feel like you’re in certain clubs in London or at the Brasserie Lipp in Paris. The other night I had dinner with Daniella Luxembourg and Amalia Dayan of the Luxembourg & Dayan gallery in London and New York, the movie director Amos Gitai and Ermanno Tedeschi, an art gallerist from Turin who just opened a new gallery in Tel Aviv. In the crowd there was also a minister and an important agent of the Mossad.

When I go to Jerusalem, I stay at the American Colony Hotel. I really like it because of its unique atmosphere, its large rooms with their high ceilings and pasha style, and its courtyard, where one can have breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In a very literary café in the Old Jewish Town I had lunch with the Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld and we spoke more about literature than political events. Then I visited the newly restored Israel Museum with James S Snyder, for fifteen years its director. It has a splendid Contemporary art collection: they were the first to buy a Damien Hirst work. They have at the moment a very interesting show (until 27 October), Beuys and Kantor — a German and a Polish artist never shown in Israel in their lifetimes.

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The movie producer Arnon Milchan has a sort of James Bond compound facing the sea near Caesarea, with 8,000 trees in his garden. He is a close friend of Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres; he is in constant touch with both and wishes they had no quarrels.
PARIS IS BEAUTIFUL in the last week of August. The Hotel Montalembert is empty and it is easy to find a table at the Café de Flore. Alber Elbaz just came back from his Tuscan holidays and invited me for dinner in a very good Japanese restaurant next to the Avenue Montaigne. It was his first day of work and he was very excited about the new Lanvin collection.
IN VENICE THE weather was splendid in the last days of August after the Biennale of Architecture opened in the Giardini and the Arsenale. David Chipperfield is the curator and the title this year is ‘Common Ground’. Norman Foster has a large room dedicated to his work, where I met Jean Nouvel, Patrick Seguin, Vittorio Gregotti…

Read more on Venice

Before going to the Biennale I needed a stop at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, unique with its Tintoretto masterpiece. At the Cini Foundation there was a fantastic exhibit of Carlo Scarpa Murano glass objects from the early Thirties. David Landau organised it and there were people from all over the world; Jacob Rothschild was visiting the exhibit with his grandson and some friends.

Everyone has lunch at the terrace of the Hotel Monaco. François Pinault had lunch with Jean-Jacques Aillagon. Johnny Pigozzi had lunch with an Asian friend. Giovanni Volpi and Marina Cicogna (both with pale blue shirts) had lunch with a friend. Harry’s Bar is as usual very crowded, but Arrigo Cipriani eats by himself at a little round table and drinks non-alcoholic beer.

Venice in the very last days of August and the beginning of September is the place to be.

Read Spear’s diaries from Elizabeth Hurley, Conrad Black and others

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