L.A. Mod. 2008 Blog

Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. All photos, unless otherwise noted, by and copyright Peter Knego 2008. Note, please click on image for larger version.

Off The Wall Antiques Website

Friday, May 2, 2008:

A silver lining in my unexpected return home from the DISCOVERY was the opportunity to see the L.A. Modernism Show at the Santa Monica Civic and the screening of “SS UNITED STATES: Lady In Waiting” at the QUEEN MARY.

L.A. Modernism is an annual event that takes place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium with Midcentury and Deco exhibitors from across California and the U.S. In the past, I have gone purely as a spectator and aficionado of period furniture and art. In recent months, however, I have been fortunate to team up with Dennis Boses, the proprietor of Off The Wall Antiques on Melrose Avenue (email: weirdstuff@earthlink.net/phone # 323-930-1185) and the Modernism Show. Dennis has taken a keen interest in my Alang story and many of the larger items I have been able to salvage from ships on the beach.

As this year’s theme was “Design In Motion”, he asked me to write an article for the program and suggested that a short video would be an excellent tool in showing the shipbreaking process to passers by, so I went to work and delivered two four minute videos entitled “Broken!” and “Salvaged!”. “Broken!” is comprised of footage of various ships at Alang and “Salvaged!” contains excerpts of my 2005 interview with the late Emanuele Luzzati at his museum in Genoa with cuts to his artworks from STELLA SOLARIS and Incres’ VICTORIA.

Mayfair Lounge glass screen aboard the former EMPRESS OF CANADA.

Incres Line’s MV VICTORIA’s Roman Restaurant, designed by Pulitzer, featuring Luzzati’s Colonna Traiana ceramic. Peter Knego collection.

Sun Lines brochure image depicting “Chariots” painting on board STELLA SOLARIS. Peter Knego collection.

In the meantime, Dennis committed to displaying the wall of glass, mahogany and nickel from EMPRESS OF CANADA’s Mayfair Room, Luzzati’s Colonna Traiana and Heraldic ceramics from VICTORIA and Luzzati’s masterpiece, the silver leaf painting “Chariots” from STELLA SOLARIS. Although I had great faith in Dennis, I kept my expectations low as I have learned from past experiences (with certain galleries and auction houses) that even with the best intentions, things do not always turn out as expected.

Program of perfection.

So, on Friday, May 2, as Michael Masino and I approached the Civic, I braced myself. Within minutes, I was overwhelmed, gobsmackered, as my British friends would say. First of all, the program cover, in glorious technicolor, featured a lovely detail of two of “Chariots” panels (in a photo taken by Dennis’ wife, Lisa). Inside, my article was presented in a balanced, symmetrical layout with well-selected and reproduced images. Even the text was the way I had submitted it, as I was able to confirm later.

Mahogany, etched glass and nickel screen from SS EMPRESS OF CANADA’s Mayfair Room.

Another view of the EMPRESS screen, showing its exquisite composition.

Detail of an etching from the EMPRESS glass.

Right before my eyes, at the entrance to the lobby, was the colossal Mayfair Lounge screen from the EMPRESS OF CANADA, restored in its arced, 18 foot splendor. Fully joined, it was self-supporting, with every other pane magnificently etched with a stylized bit of Canadian flora. The mahogany had been polished for the first time since its removal from the ship, having been rescued from the purgatory of my garage, where it has spent the past three years sitting upside down, gathering dust. Sadly, frustratingly, it was not eyed with any interest by Carnival or even Canadian Pacific, the entities that I had hoped would rescue it for the mere price of getting it out of India.

SS STATENDAM glass panels, recently restored to their old glory. Image courtesy of X21 Modern.

Not a quick learner, I repeated the same mistake with the beautifully etched glass panels from SS STATENDAM’s indoor pool by D. Ten Hoedt. Fortunately, these oversi
zed treasures, unwanted by Holland America Line and the Rotterdam Maritime Museum, have found a home in Switzerland. I remain hugely grateful to John Conaty of San Francisco-based X21 Modern (an L.A. Modernism exhibitor) for cleaning them up and getting them sold. Were the panels not just sold, they would also have been part of the Modernism show.

Norman Belgeddes model of an ocean liner from the film, “The Great Broadcast of 1938”.

Aluminum piano from SS ROTTERDAM’s Queen’s Lounge.

On top of the EMPRESS screen sat a Norman Belgeddes model of an ocean liner (resembling a twin funneled KALAKALA) used in the W.C. Fields film, “The Great Broadcast of 1938.” Nearby, there was an aluminum piano from the Queen’s Room of the SS ROTTERDAM. Originally painted green, it has been stripped down to its basic aluminum and polished by Dennis Boses’ artisans.

So far, excellent! I sized up the “A list” crowd. Opening night tickets cost $90.00 with all proceeds going to the LACMA Decorative Arts and Design Council. Hair, make up, haute couture, and (dare I say) botulinum injections, galore! With my best clothes still lost in the indifferent clutches of British Airways, I felt like a bit of jet lagged flotsam in very glamorous sea.

For the price of admission, there was unfetterd access to well-stocked bars, top notch hors d’oeuvres, and the dulcet sounds of Combolux, who play at the Academy Awards’ Governor’s Ball.

Emanuele Luzzati’s Colonna Traiana from MV VICTORIA’s Roman Restaurant.

Inside the auditorium, in the midst of the exhibition, Luzzati’s fifteen foot Colonna Traiana ceramic relief towered over Combolux as they performed their sultry, jazzy set.

Wonderful display on back of Colonna Traiana with images from Alang and old brochures as well as video monitors, a chair from EUGENIO C (Zoncada), VICTORIA (Pulitzer), and SHOTA RUSTAVELI (after Korbing).

On the back side of the column, Dennis had erected photos of Italian flagships, interiors by Zoncada and Pulitzer, and ships being broken at Alang. A blue Zoncada chair from EUGENIO C, a red Pulitzer chair from VICTORIA, and an eye-catching chair after Korbing from SHOTA RUSTAVELI were staggered into the display, which was set between two video screens perpetually broadcasting “Broken!” and “Salvaged!” Even more satisfying than seeing all of these ideas come to fruition, was watching the small crowd of people actually digest the videos and images.

A man in a captain’s uniform was circulating. Of course, it was Dennis, the eternal master of ceremonies. I thanked him for doing all the things he promised, but had to ask, “Where is ‘Chariots’”?

Double Luzzati header at the Santa Monica Civic.

“Chariots” in full splendor. Photo and copyright Michael Masino 2008.

Blogger with the “Captain of Modernism”, Dennis Boses. Photo and copyright Michael Masino 2008.

Detail from “Chariots”.

He pointed around the corner, backstage. So, I grabbed a glass of wine, Michael, a canape, and ambled onwards.

The glorious panels were mounted with the left two sections perpindicular to the right four. I lose my breath whenever I see “Chariots”, certainly the most important artwork I’ve rescued from Alang. Its scale, the layers of media, the drama of the battle, the glow of the gold, the terror and fury in the warriors’ faces, the translucence of the sun in tow by Helios, all rendered with Luzzati’s magic touch. One cannot but fall in love with the painting and the artistry of the man who created it.

Remember Me At Heraldic Square. Photo and copyright Michael Masino 2008.

And, as promised, next to “Chariots” was the Heraldic ceramic ensemble from VICTORIA’s lobby. It was not treated well in India, but Dennis and Lisa took great care in restoring it to its former glory. Lovely coats of arms from the Roman Empire and ancient Europe grace the composition, which includes the Lion of Venice, the Swedish crowns, a menorah, a Cretan bull, the Lion Rampant, a Fleur de Lis, and much more.

Finally, after all the work and expense, these things had an appreciative audience.

Piano from RMS CARONIA.

ike and I stayed for a while, consumed hors d’oeuvres, and took some photos. A piano and bench from CARONIA was set up by the Colonna and some nice vintage liner posters, including one of the STATENDAM III, were on display. A not so impressive TITANIC model lingered in one corner and a handsome bronze NDL paperweight sat nonchalantly on a burled wooden desk.

An evening on the QUEEN MARY.

Saturday, May 3, 2008:

I returned the following morning to see it all again, this time without the glitterati, hors d’oeuvres and wine. From Santa Monica, it was off to the QUEEN MARY and the premiere of “SS United States: Lady In Waiting”.

Susan Gibbs, granddaughter of SS UNITED STATES’ designer, William Francis Gibbs, addresses “Lady In Waiting” audience.

The screening was packed and got a huge reaction from the sympathetic crowd. I found a seat next to my dear friend and mentor, Daniel Crosswell, who was in New York to greet the ship on her maiden arrival in 1952. Congratulations to producer, Mark B. Perry, director Robert Radler, and the fortunate people who were able to participate in the film.

Sunday, May 4, 2008:

The next morning, I returned to Santa Monica with my friend and frequent fellow voyager, Christopher Kyte, to see the exhibit again. Closing day, it would be the last time I would see the Heraldic ceramics, which were soon sold to a private collector. Not so easy come, not so easy go…

All in all, a wonderful and satisfying, if unexpected, weekend at home.

Special thanks: Dennis and Lisa Boses, Christopher Kyte, Michael Masino

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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