WORDS: ALEXANDRA GRAIS
COVER PHOTO: ADRIAN DE GROOT
To be YOUnique?
It is an interesting question!
Each one of us is YOUnique in our own way…. But I have to admit, growing up in a Catholic boarding school in France near Geneva, where one was expected to be modest and aligned with the majority of other students, it had always been difficult for me…
Was it that I had more world experience than them? Was it because I had an extraordinary grandmother and a refined and distinguished father? Or was it because, at a very young age, I already read Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Aldous Huxley, to name a few? Or was it because I was fluent in French, English and Serbian at the age of nine? All of this probably widened my horizon and distinguished me from my fellow classmates. Natural presence nurtured by a passion of reading which widens the mind and makes conversation interesting. Also, while in boarding school, I was chosen to interpret Queen Jocasta in Jean Cocteau’s play La Machine Infernale, based on the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus.
Developing a passion for antiques early in life, I spent hours upon hours talking to the antique dealers in Old Town Geneva, and later in Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, New York City and London. I had started working for the second oldest East Coast Auction House in Washington DC, founded in 1853, and soon enough became Vice President and Director of the Decorative Arts Department and later of the Asian and Antiquities Departments for more than 30 years.
Visiting collectors, obtaining art collections for the Auction House, researching, cataloguing, and selling to collectors and antique dealers was very rewarding for my intellect and for my soul. One of the highlights was selling, during a three year period, a large collection of Asian art, 225 Chinese snuff bottles (one Chinese Mughal white jade snuff bottle of the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) brought in $25000; compared to a similar one sold through Sotheby’s for $9000) from the DuPont Family, while also entertaining them at my home after the sales in the evening. The DuPont sale also included a collection of jewelry, American 18th century furniture, a large library of 6000 books, etc.
To further satisfy my thirst for knowledge, which has actually never stopped, I started collecting antiques for myself. I would get up early in the mornings during weekends and scour all kinds of estate sales in the neighborhood. My passion translated in collecting Chinese export porcelain, Buddhist art, Persian rugs, silver from around the world, neo-classical Italian and French furniture, Pharaonic, Greek, and Coptic objects. In short, I had and still have an insatiable curiosity of the mind looking for and buying in order to beautify my home environment. This is what makes my home unique. It is truly my soul displayed in objects I fell in love with! Even here in Belgrade, I have been able to acquire fantastic objects and jewelry!
After all, for me, to be YOUnique, is all about Presence, Passion and Love!