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December 17, 2009

David Linley

By Spear's

The final printed copy of my new book has just arrived on my desk, and I can’t help but feel like a schoolboy opening my stocking on Christmas Day as I unwrap the cellophane and it creaks open in that delicious way that brand new books do.

I ARRIVE BACK to the beautiful crisp winter sunshine of London, a stark contrast to the place I have just been to — Doha, magnificent in a totally different way — rising as it does out of the water like a mirage in the desert.

I had travelled to Qatar to attend ROTA (Reach Out to Asia), which was a charity auction at the Museum of Islamic Art (designed by I M Pei). What an inspiring place — architecturally breathtaking and culturally enriching. The event followed the latest Christie’s Dubai sales season, which saw a return of confidence in the market (Ahmed Moustafa broke his own world record for a modern Arab work sold at auction) — and as these sales act as the international benchmark for the Middle Eastern market, the week commences on a positive note.

I quickly have to adjust my focus to the other side of the globe, as we are midst planning the launch of my latest book, Star Pieces, at Christie’s in the US, a celebration of furniture which I have written with my colleague Charles Cator and journalist Helen Chislett.

The final printed copy has just arrived on my desk, and I can’t help but feel like a schoolboy opening my stocking on Christmas Day as I unwrap the cellophane and it creaks open in that delicious way that brand new books do. My treasured Montblanc pen comes out and I sign 50 or so to give to those people who have helped with its creation.

MIDWEEK I AM focusing on the lecture that I will be giving on the book at the Wallace Collection in London and then the Metropolitan Museum of Art in December. I call my friend Dame Ros Savill, who runs the Wallace (one of my favourite places to visit in London), and we chat about the magnificent Cucci Cabinet, a Louis XIV piece expected to realise in the region of £4 million when it is offered by the March family on 10 December at Christie’s King Street. Boasting exquisite Florentine pietre dure plaques, it is a connoisseur’s dream and only one of three of Cucci’s cabinets known to survive.

Then on to my bicycle and I pedal over to the LINLEY shop on Pimlico Road. I adore cycling, especially round London — there aren’t many hills — although I was mad enough to cycle up Mont Ventoux a couple of years ago to compensate. It is truly invigorating to experience the vibe of the city as I weave through Piccadilly and down through Belgravia.

My father once told me if you want to experience London at its best, look up, as there is so much spectacular architecture at skyline level. Clearly this is something I have to refrain from doing as I pedal, but still admire the detailing on the cornices, pediments and façades, much of which inspire me in furniture design.
AT LINLEY, CHRISTMAS is upon us. The shop façade has been painted pillar-box red and this year we have a real Christmas tree, only appropriate when we are surrounded by so many items made of wood. I’m hoping that it doesn’t generate a sea of needles, but none the less you can’t beat the smell and texture of a real tree.

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I am chatting in the shop with the design team when my daughter Margarita comes in with my wife Serena on her way back from school, with the dogs Shaggy and Smudge, my family animals. Margarita shares my passion for secret drawers and ends up showing one to a customer — a chip off the old block, you might say!

The evenings are pretty packed — my wife and I attend a variety of wonderful events and dinners for both Christie’s and LINLEY. This week we take a table at the fundraising dinner organised by a great friend and colleague of mine, Ruth Kennedy, who is founding the Louis Dundas Centre at Great Ormond Street, the first research centre in this country for palliative care for children.

The theme is ‘Super Heroes’, in memory of her son, truly a hero, and I wear a pair of flashy trainers, to arrive amid Power Rangers and Wonder Women at one of the most glamorous yet emotionally charged evenings I have been to. Serena and I rock up in her navy blue Fiat 500 (1973!) with two rather tall friends squashed in the back to a blaze of photographers. My trainers enable me to sneak round the back.
THE WEEK ENDS with a photo shoot in my office at Christie’s, where we have gathered some of the highlights of the forthcoming Old Masters sale, including the most wonderful Raphael and Rembrandt — the former has not been offered at auction for over 150 years. It is not every day that I sit at my desk accompanied by such masterpieces — a humbling experience indeed.

David Linley is Chairman of Christie’s UK

Signed copies of Star Pieces, published by Thames & Hudson, are available from or from LINLEY, 60 Pimlico Road, London SW1 

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