Collage art work by heather phillipson poet and artist ending all parties white bear
Poetry installation by Robert Montgomery the people you love become ghosts inside you

Robert Montgomery, ‘Ghost in the Machine’

For this month’s Poetry Muse Rhiannon Williams looks at four genre-bending artists in whose work art and poetry fuse in intriguing ways.

The arts often intersect – visual albums released by musicians, the use of dance in performance art, and of course text in conceptual art; beautiful melt-in-the-mouth words splashed across walls and canvases all over the world. Whether as a source of inspiration or in pride of place as a focus of artworks themselves, poetry is seen in the output of many an artist. But when is poetry a work of art, and when is art poetry? Or what is the difference between the two? Arguably the aesthetic experience of a piece of art mirrors that of a poem – each have form, composition, and are interpreted by a viewer or reader who brings their own experiences and history to the canvas or page, usually with strong emotions induced.

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Carlos Motta

The work of Spanish artist Carlos Motta – who had a performance piece on at Frieze this month – elucidates how the boundaries between word and image can blur. A word can be an image, while also referring through the system of language back to the image that it is, as well as being a representation of something completely different. For example, in Motta’s ‘We Who Feel Differently’ the words themselves are the art, drawing attention to their linguistic meaning through their physical size and shape and colour upon the wall, while also possessing the extra-linguistic meaning associated with what feeling ‘differently’ might entail, and who this enigmatic ‘we’ might be. In this way it is at once a work of art, and a poem, the strength of the words exemplified in a single short sentence.

We Who Feel Differently art work fusing poetry by Carlos Motta

Carlos Motta, We Who Feel Differently

Robert Montgomery

Looking at it from the opposite perspective poetry is also frequently performed as art, for example Robert Montgomery’s (husband of poet Greta Bellamacina) epic ‘Ghost in the machine’ installation, erected upon an esplanade for National Poetry Day in Britain. The words ‘The people you love / become ghosts inside / of you and like this / you keep them alive’ when written as page poetry are powerful enough. But the emotional response to these words is all over again when encountered on a foggy evening, glowing with melancholia against a rough sea-sky.

Read Next: Designer Bill Bensley on creating new luxury worlds

Heather Phillipson

Collage art work by heather phillipson poet and artist ending all parties white bear

Heather Phillipson,
ENDING ALL PARTIES / EXCEPT THE PARTY / WHERE U MEET YOUR OWN BRAIN. Installation view at The Drawing Room, London, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.
Photographer: Dan Weill

Heather Phillipson is a poet who is also an artist. She has had solo exhibitions in places such as the Schirn Frankfurt and the Istanbul Biennial while at the same time being a British Next Generation poet. She describes how her ‘videos and sculptural installations behave as places, musical scores, poems and nervous systems’ demonstrating how ambiguous the definitions of each of these things are, and how arbitrarily language burdens us with meanings. In the same vein as Motta, her 2017 commission uses the power of poetry in conjunction with art to create the piece ENDING ALL PARTIES / EXCEPT THE PARTY / WHERE U MEET YOUR OWN BRAIN.

Seth Price


Seth Price is someone who works with words, code, skin, clothes, walls, metal – anything he can sink his teeth into. His art and poetry dismantles not only established routines and preconceptions, but also the clockwork of feelings. Based in New York, Price is generally considered under the label of ‘artist’ however there is an argument for the titles web developer, architect, essayist, musician, and poet – if titles such as these are particularly relevant by this point. His books of poetry subvert every expectation of what constitutes ‘poetry’ as they resemble artists’ books more than poetry books, and journal entries more than poems, playing with language in the same way that his art does. As part of his show ‘Wrok Fmaily Friedns’ an essay that he wrote entitled ‘Dispersion‘ is displayed amidst a jumble of knots, the scrambling of letters and image and physicality reflecting the disordered reality upon which a system of language tries to impose order. The essay talks about how the endless oscillation between defining something as ‘art’ or ‘not-art’ is ultimately fruitless, while in itself treading the water between each of these categories in the most clever, engaging manner. Ludwig Wittgenstein famously wrote that ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world’ but through Seth’s work we come to see how the limits of language may be overcome – by art.

Bisexual Litigator artwork by Seth Price showing the fusion of poetry and art

Seth Price, Bisexual Litigator 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York.

Reading time: 4 min
Architect and designer Bill Bensley has designed over 200 luxury hotels across the world
Architect and designer Bill Bensley has designed over 200 luxury hotels across the world

Bangkok-based designer, Bill Bensley is renowned for his original approach to luxury

Bill Bensley is the go-to designer for one-of-a-kind luxury hotels. The Bangkok-based architect has masterminded over 200 properties in 30-plus countries, including the world’s first edible golf course at Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts, the art-deco inspired boutique The Siam and The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle buried in the depths of the Thai jungle. Digital Editor Millie Walton speaks to Bensley about escapism, sustainability and fly fishing for trout on the Mongolian border.

LUX: All of your hotels are remarkably unique. What’s your process when creating a concept?
Bill Bensley: Well thank you. Very kind of you to say so. While I don’t have a set process for generating good ideas I do listen very carefully to what an environmentally sensitive piece of wilderness tells me. An ear to the ground, or an understanding of how a natural environment works is key. When building in a new region, I also listen to and understand with great interest the idiosyncrasies of the culture presented. I never force my style anywhere.

Inspired bedroom designed by architect Bill Bensley in Cambodia with textured walls and low lighting

The Shinta Mani Angkor hotel in Cambodia’s temple city, Siem Reap

LUX: Do you have a favourite hotel that you’ve designed?
Bill Bensley: Hands down it is the Shinta Mani Angkor in Siem Reap as we have used the hotel as a vehicle to help thousands of less fortunate Cambodians from housing to free dentistry, to water wells and water purification, to schooling of hospitality, starting small businesses and distributing little known agricultural crops for villagers to grow and reproduce…. and besides that it is a damn good value for money with wonderful staff that cannot do enough to make your stay comfortable and memorable. Last year it hit #1 in the world on Trip Advisor!

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Tall ceilinged lounge area in the JW Marriott Emerald Bay hotel on Phu Quoc island

JW Marriott Emerald Bay

LUX: We recently stayed at your newest hotel, JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay. It was like being in another world. Is escapism something you try to achieve with your designs?
Bill Bensley: Escapism, in the purely positive sense, is a great goal. I also think that in the building of a new hotel it is important to teach guests something new. Something they never knew. Something to take home other than sunburn.

LUX: The JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay has been a huge Instagram success (especially the shell pool!). Did you consider the influence of social media when designing the hotel?
Bill Bensley: My brain does not work that well yet! But I do think that if a multi-storied guest tower is part of the picture, as with Lamarck University, then I strive to make that landscape graphic visually.

LUX: What excites you the most about your work?
Bill Bensley: The fact that folks pay me to play. I have never worked a day in my life. I am excited about the publics response to my out of the box, crazy / sane approach to designing new hotel properties.

aquamarine sea and white sands of Phu Quoc island luxury resort JW Marriott Emerald Bay

Bill Bensley’s latest luxury resort, the JW Marriott Emerald Bay on Phu Quoc island off the coast of Vietnam

LUX: How do you think the luxury hospitality industry has evolved in recent years?
Bill Bensley: It is more and more sophisticated, and specialised. Soon we will be designing hotels that appeal to specifically to the jovial lesbians, 23-29 years of age, with rescued three legged dogs that love indoor snow boarding. Hot trend!

Read next: Inside the workshop of the world’s most luxurious artisanal glassware company

LUX: You’ve designed hotels in many interesting and remote locations around the world. How do you celebrate local culture whilst creating something new and unique?
Bill Bensley: To do so one requires a deep understanding of that culture. I am an avid reader. I love to visit places of worship which is usually the paramount of culture in most societies.

Luxury safari tent at night with wooden deck and outdoor bath tub in Cambodian forest

Shinta Mani Wild luxury camp in Cambodia

LUX: Is sustainability important to you?
Bill Bensley: Sustainability is paramount. I hate green-washers. Before my life as a resort architect and an interior designer I was trained as a landscape architect. About 6 years ago I purchased the logging rights to 1400 acres of Cambodian forest, with no intention of becoming a lumberjack. By way of Shinta Mani Wild Bensley Collection, a 15 tent very high end, low impact high yield product, we have created a wilderness sanctuary that will remain wild for at least the length of my 99 year lease. At 1800 USD per night per couple my wilderness experience promises more adventure than most can handle, unlimited spa services, foraging, and a deep understanding of the wilderness that is Cambodia.Our National Geographic Lodge experience is about regenerating a small part of our disappearing fragile natural environment.

Colourful interior design of luxury safari tent in the Cambodian jungle

Inside one of the tents at the Shinta Mani Wild camp, Cambodia

LUX: What are you working on now?
Bill Bensley: Bags of projects. The new Shinta Mani Bensley Collection hotels in Siem Reap and the Cardamom National Park in Cambodia are keeping me hopping right now, but that aside we are soon to open the Rosewood in Luang Prabang, the Capella in Keliki near Ubud, Bali, the Ritz Carlton in both Hainan, China and Phu Quoc, Vietnam, and a fabulous MGallery hotel in Sapa, North Vietnam and a St Regis on the gorgeous Cham Island just off of Hoi An in Vietnam, another Four Seasons (I have designed 12) in the Chinese Himalayas, and a Banyan Tree in Goa, India, a zillion GBP residence in Mayfair, new Oberoi hotels in the Maldives, Kathmandu and Bhardia (West Nepal), an Indigo in Jakarta, shall I go on? I can….for days.

LUX: Where do you go to escape?
Bill Bensley: I just returned today to my home of 30 years: Bangkok. My Thai partner and travel a great deal. We have visited 92 countries and counting. Just visited Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Morocco. Warsaw, surprisingly was the highlight of the trip. Every year we escape for 2-3 weeks to the Mongolian Russian border to fly fish for trout and taimen. This past summer was great…. 48 in one day. Biggest trout? 44”.

Reading time: 5 min
stem forming using wooden mould in moser glass workshop
Colourful hand blown, cut glasses

A range of glasses crafted by Moser

Moser glassworks was founded in 1857 in the tiny quaint town of Karlovy Vary, just outside of Prague, and is now one of the world’s best-known luxury artisanal glassware brands. Kitty Harris travelled to the glass workshop to speak to Moser’s Art Director, Lukáš Jabůrek about inspirations, collaborations and meeting the demands of diverse luxury markets on the brand’s 160th anniversary year.
Art Director of Moser Glass holding glass object

Lukáš Jabůrek, Moser’s Art Director

Kitty Harris: What is your background? How did you start?
Lukáš Jabůrek: I studied the cutting and design of glass at a school in Nový Bor. I later worked as a glass cutter in various glass factories in France, The Netherlands and Ireland for some years. I then worked as a teacher in a glass school and later, I came to Moser as an artist, designer and technologist.

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KH: Why did you choose glass cutting? Was it a tradition within your family?
LJ: During my childhood, I always enjoyed painting and architecture, so I decided to attend art school. During my time there, I became involved in glass cutting and I found it inspiring. It is so diverse, as it can be used to make sculptures and decorations, amongst many other things.

KH: What is the best thing about your job?
LJ: Cutting! Every day is different and I always have new ideas and designs. I find the process of cutting glass here in the studio very relaxing.

KH: Where do you draw inspiration from?
LJ: From architecture, nature and life in general. I take inspiration from everything around me.

KH: How do you encourage younger generations? It is a very specialised practice and not many young people may know about it or are interested…
LJ: It is very difficult because many young people don’t know about glass cutting or necessarily want to work with it. Physically, it is very difficult work. With oven temperatures reaching 1400 degrees the manual work is exhausting. If the temperature outside is above 30 degrees we do not allow the glassblowers to work as is it too hot in the factory. As the day goes on, the ovens cool down, to 700 degrees and at this temperature we can make larger pieces of glass – though this is even more demanding work.

Man blows glass on end of long pole in the Moser glassworks factory

Glass blowing at the Moser workshop

In order to deal with this, we partner with schools and students. I search for talent and I invite students to do internships at the studio. Now they only have three or four students per year so it is very small selection to choose from. They train for three years at glass making school and many drop out. But here in the glass factory, we have two student departments and a glass school. This year we will have the very first female glassblower to work at Moser glassworks. We rely a lot on tradition, the craft being passed down generation to generation. Recently, our master glass blower, who has worked at Moser for 60 years, retired and his son is now the manager of the glassblowing workshop.

Read Next: Britain’s newest and greatest intellectual festival at Cliveden House

KH: What makes Moser special?
LJ: It is the combination and range of colours compared to all the glass factories in the world which have a large but basic colour ranges. And of course, it is a 100% handmade production, with cutting, engraving and painting all done by hand. Visitors are invited to the Moser Museum and some guided tours are available around the site, though the work rooms are closed to the public as the workers need a quiet environment to concentrate in as one wrong 1mm line of engraving can mean a piece (that has gone through 20 other hands before it arrived) is thrown away. Once a year we do an open door day where we run competitions and invite locals and families to spend the day at the factory.

Glass engraving in the Moser glassworks workshop in Prague

Glass art engravings in the Moser workshop

KH: Why is it a luxury?
LJ: Because it is a special design from the best designers. The colour range is very unique. With regards to production, we have the best cutters and engravers. We maintain very high quality, because we get rid of 70% of the glass at the first innining – these might have bubbles, dust or imperfections. One vase may take one hour, and ten vases go to the next worker in the production chain but this ten may yield only two pieces. So, you must make many pieces for selection.

A piece must be ordered 3 months in advance. Unlike fast paced production lines, seen in other luxury brands, that produce replicated items, each Moser glassworks piece is unique. If an order requires engraving, this can take much longer than three months, bearing in mind to paint one piece can take a whole month.

Read next: Geoffrey Kent on the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders

KH: How does the company stay contemporary?
LJ: We say that we collect traditional, historic and contemporary design. We keep a specific face of Moser glassworks, but we also collaborate with other designers, artists and architects. We look for new contemporary trends and styles.

KH: The 160th anniversary collection was the biggest you’ve ever made. What different inspiration went into that collection?
LJ: The inspiration for this collection was the history of Moser glassworks as a company. We selected seven periods of time from the last 160 years to represent different eras. Every part has a few pieces from these periods, including historical motifs, engraved art nouveau plant decorations and gilded African scenes.

KH: You have to cater to different luxury markets, how do they compare?
LJ: For certain countries we have special collections, for Taiwan we do a selection of hand engraved animals on colour glass vases. In terms of platinum or gold painted detail, the USA prefer Platinum whilst the EU prefers Gold; this is why Queen Elizabeth’s Splendid Collection is painted in 24kt gold paint.

KH: You have partnerships with some big luxury brands, including Asprey, David Linley and William & Son. Which are the most successful and why?
LJ: They are successful because it is the merging of two different worlds that still have the same traditions of quality and philosophy. We are very like-minded.

Kitty Harris: How does your design approach differ for each brand?
Lukáš Jabůrek: I look at history, for example history of Great Britain and the culture. I look at these symbols for specific inspiration.

stem forming using wooden mould in moser glassworks factory

Stem forming using a wooden mould in the Moser glassworks factory

KH: Can you draw a distinction between Moser as a product and Moser as an art?
LJ: There is a very small difference, because Moser does not carry out mass machine production. It is careful art production and every piece is unique and original. In our glass factory, every piece is really specific. The construction of every piece is unique. Whilst drink sets have more classic production, our decorative objects are made differently as artistic pieces.

KH: What’s next for Moser glassworks?
LJ: I would like to maintain exceptional standards. But, I would like to introduce fresh designs whilst keeping the history firmly in the design. We would also like to develop a presence in interior design for hotels, restaurants and resorts. For example, developing lamps and chandeliers. It is always evolving at Moser.

Reading time: 6 min
model woody harlow attends launch of Kimpton de Witt Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s reputation as a party town isn’t exactly new. It’s long been the go-to capital for a hedonistic weekend whirling in and out of the clubs and bars hidden within the city’s canal-woven core, but more recently the Dutch party scene has grown up. Luxury hotels such as The Dylan are now offering high end party packages, specially designed for the well heeled club-goer, and the opening of the US boutique chain, Kimpton de Witt’s first European hotel in Amsterdam is testament to the growing demand for a more modern kind of luxury. Charlotte Davies joins the likes of Winnie Harlow, Vanessa White and Mary Charteris for a sophisticated soirée at the city’s newest boutique residence.

Known for its design-centric hotels, it’s unsurprising that Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants chose to launch it’s first European outpost in Amsterdam, but whilst other trendy boutiques have been opening their doors along the leafy streets of the Jordaan  neighbourhood or the well-trodden canal ring, Kimpton De Witt is conveniently located in the city centre district, just a stone’s throw away from the central station positioning it as the perfect weekend stop-over. Indeed many of this evening’s glamorous guests have flown in just for the night.

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We join supermodel Winnie Harlow, DJ Chelsea Leyland and singer Vanessa White at a luggage tag making workshop with Heaps and Stacks in the hotel’s industrial-chic bar and restaurant, whilst DJ and singer Mary Charteris’s cheekbones are painted with glitter by make-up artists Shine Shack. Other guests nod along to the atmospheric beats mixed by Amsterdam-based DJ Emanuelle Vos, sipping gin cocktails, and nibbling on lobster rolls in sultry corners.

Reading time: 1 min
Penguins in Antartica against backdrop of ice glacier
The great migration of wildebeest through Tanzania and kenya is one of the nature's most extraodinary wonders

The Great Migration, Tanzania & Kenya

Geoffrey Kent is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent, one of the world’s most respected luxury travel companies. In his first column for LUX, Mr. Kent marvels at nature’s most extraordinary wonders.

From Africa at its rawest to Japan at its most genteel, experiencing these natural phenomena will remind even the most jaded traveller of what a privilege travel is and our place in the world. I have always believed that in nature we are completely unified with all of life…

Sakura, Japan

No season’s arrival is more celebrated than that of spring. People rejoice in shaking off winter’s grip and greeting the season of new life. In Japan, one million cherry trees blossom. Known as sakura, it starts in the south and moves northwards, following a wave of warm weather. Clouds of pink appear as daytime temperatures reach 17 degrees Celsius. As they have been doing for centuries, locals picnic under these trees – a custom known as hanami. In the modern capital Tokyo, people flock to Ueno Park. In the ancient Kyoto, the Philosopher’s Path is an inviting place to relax and reflect on the wonder of nature.

Nature's blossom in spring in Japan

Sakura, Japan

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In my experience the most rewarding, but often over-looked way to experience Japan – from its timeless mountain villages to its delicate cuisine, distinctive architecture and graceful gardens – is to approach it from the sea. A small expedition yacht provides just the right balance between luxurious on-board amenities and access to remote villages, places that the big cruise ships simply can’t reach. This access illuminates Japan’s history and culture, arts and architecture, gardens and nature, as well as its culinary traditions, with experiences that reveal the country through a local lens.

Each day brings unexpected delights. During one visit to beautiful Kenroku-en Gardens, we were invited into a teahouse to savour delicious ‘fragrant peach’ ice cream.

The Great Migration, Tanzania & Kenya

Every year more than a 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 Burchell’s zebra and a smattering of trailing Thomson’s gazelle make a 1,900km odyssey between Tanzania’s Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Instinct and the smell of rain spurs the herds forward with two things in mind: food and water. They are following the rains in search of fresh grass. Along the way, many migrating animals fall prey to waiting predators including lion, leopard, cheetah, crocodile and hyena.

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One year when I was on safari with Richard Burton, I was getting him a drink at the bar in the mess tent when I heard a roar and a lot of screaming and turned to see two lions bringing down a buffalo in our campfire. I quickly upended the table, sending the crystal and china flying, and gathered the guests behind it as a barricade. What an amazing spectacle it was to watch! The next day Richard Burton wanted to know if we could do it again. He thought I’d set the whole thing up – nature is full of surprises!

During the Migration, sightings of predators taking down prey are common. Visit Tanzania between January and early March to see thousands of wildebeest being born each day. Then from June through September, vast herds are on the move through Kenya.

The Monarch Butterfly Migration, Mexico

The migration of the Monarch butterflies is one of the most astonishing of all natural wonders. Every autumn, tens of millions of Monarchs travel from the eastern USA and Canada to Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains – their winter hibernation grounds. It’s an epic journey for these creatures in distance and – most intriguingly – they do it without ever having been there before. A butterfly that departs from Canada will never return. Nor will its progeny for the next two generations. It is the third generation that sets off once more from Canada for the same twelve mountains… 5,500 kilometres away. An amazing natural mystery.

The March of the Penguins, Antarctica

For those dreaming of genuine adventure, Antarctica is nature’s last frontier. This pristine landscape of mountains and glaciers remains largely untouched by civilization and wildlife abounds.

One of the most inspiring is the Emperor Penguin colony in Atka Bay along the Weddell Sea coast of Antarctica. The penguins breed on the sea-ice in bitterly cold conditions. Once an egg is laid, the female leaves the colony, giving the egg to her partner, who carefully puts it on top of his feet and covers it with a skin fold to keep the egg warm – even when the temperature drops below −35°C.

The mother will return in July when the chick is ready to hatch. They are very small, weighing only about 150–200g (adult penguins weigh 22-30kg at this time of year). They have a thin layer of down and are not yet able to regulate their own body temperature, so it is up to the parents to keep the chicks warm.

Wonder of nature: Penguins marching through Antarctica

The March of the Penguins, Antarctica

By September, the chicks have grown a thick cover of down and are developing quite rapidly. Growing requires a lot of energy so they are always hungry. It now takes both parents to go out and gather food for the youngsters. At night, the little ones left in the colony form huddles to keep warm.

In December – when we visit the colony – the chicks are nearly as big as their parents. Small black patches appear on their flippers. They are beginning to grow real feathers and they start shedding their down.

Warmer temperatures cause the ice to break up, bringing open water closer to the nesting site. The chicks are now old enough to swim and fish, and we watch enthralled as they begin to take to the ocean themselves.

Reading time: 4 min
Cliveden House landscape at sunset
Cliveden House at sunset, the setting for the new literary festival

Cliveden House has played host to some of the most famous names in literature

This weekend, Cliveden house hotel just outside London will reverberate to the musings and debates generated by the world’s newest literary party.

Speakers and panel moderators read like a who’s who of modern historical, literary and political writing: Simon Schama, Robert Harris, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Anne Applebaum, Robert Service, Lady Antonia Fraser, Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Daisy Goodwin

But the Cliveden Literary Festival is not really a parvenu to the world of literature: it is more the regniting of a remarkable and long history of a house that was first made famous by the Profumo sex scandal, which brought down a British government in the 1960s.

The festival is the brainchild of Natalie Livingstone, a Cambridge-educated bestselling author (and former Condé Nast writer), who, along with her husband Ian, owns the lease on the house. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai talks to Livingstone about why she’s doing it.

Black and white headshot of Nathalie Livingstone author and founder of Cliveden Literary Festival

Nathalie Livingstone

LUX: Why did you decide to start the Cliveden Literary Festival?
Natalie Livingstone: The literary festival originated from the research from my book (The Mistresses of Cliveden) when I was finding about all these incredible women in Cliveden’s history. I had expected in the course of my research to find lots of great figures from British history, from Queen Victoria to Winston Churchill. But what I hadn’t expected was to find so many literary giants. It was incredible. Right from its inception in 1666, Cliveden has been a magnet and a muse for really great writers, from Alexander Pope, to Jonathan Swift, to Tennyson. Anyone who was anyone from the global literati was a guest at Cliveden. George Bernard Shaw, J M Barrie, Rudyard Kipling – the list goes on. So the literary festival is about reviving that tradition and evoking the spirit of these incredible writers and hopefully writing a new chapter in the history of the house.

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LUX: Was it a challenge to get a critical mass of authors to take part?
Natalie Livingstone: No, amazingly. I think it is a testament to the allure and seductive quality of Cliveden. Absolutely no one said no! It was my dream list and every single person on the list said yes.

LUX: You studied history and not literature. Are you a historian? Are you a writer?
Natalie Livingstone: I don’t really think I’m either. I studied history and I am passionate about history. I would love to consider myself a writer, but I don’t really think you are ever a true writer until you’ve written more than two books. So, neither at the moment, but I hope one day I will be.

Stately Home gardens at Cliveden House, location of Cliveden Literary festival

The grounds of Cliveden House

LUX: Eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century society revolved around authors to a large extent. Now with the rise of social media, everyone is writing something, even if it is twenty words on Twitter. Do authors have the same influence as before?
Natalie Livingstone: I think the written word is always going to have huge amounts of influence. Where that written word is published and whether it is 140 characters on Twitter to a tome written by Niall Ferguson, I think writing is still incredibly influential. I suppose that is part of a wider discussion on books, internet and magazines. But I believe the written world is still as influential as ever.

Author black and white headshot of Ian McEwan

Author Ian McEwan, a speaker at this year’s festival

LUX: The literary salon used to be the centre of polite and influential society. However nowadays, everyone is clustered around contemporary art, when artists used to be seen more as outsiders. Artists are now very rich, collected and celebrated. Do you think authors have been pushed to one side by art?
Natalie Livingstone: No, I think it is all part of the wonderful mix of the arts. I don’t think authors are incredibly lucky and respected and still have huge fan bases.

LUX: What excites you most about the festival?
Natalie Livingstone: Everything! The whole concept of the festival and the idea of being able to restore Cliveden as this literary salon, as well as the incredible collection of names. It is everything from beginning to end that is beyond exciting. So many of my dream dinner party guests are talking at the festival, so for me personally it is like having my dream dinner party realised.

Read next: Lucian Freud’s etchings at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

LUX: What makes it different to something like Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts?
Natalie Livingstone: It is much smaller and is more of an intimate experience. You have a real opportunity to mix with the writers. There is a drinks reception on the Saturday night, where people will be able to meet their favourite writers. Of course, there are these incredibly historic surroundings. The idea of having these wonderfully exciting writers speak in the Great Hall of Cliveden is magical.

Image of grand drawing room with waiter at cliveden house stately home near london

The Great Hall at Cliveden House

LUX: For you personally, is there a genre of books that is particularly interesting and why?
Natalie Livingstone: I love historical biography, because I could never get bored of dissecting people.

Author headshot of Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks, another speaker at the festival

LUX: Do you have any favourite authors?
Natalie Livingstone: Every single person who is speaking at my festival is one of my favourite authors!

LUX: You are very diplomatic. If you could choose to hold a literary festival anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Natalie Livingstone: Cliveden! It has the history and the allure, it has the grandeur and space. It has the authenticity and it completely lends itself to a literary festival, which is why I have chosen it.

LUX: Do you and your husband have any other plans for Cliveden?
Natalie Livingstone: We really want to do the right thing by Cliveden. We have so much love, respect and passion for Cliveden and we care about it so much as a project – we just want to do the very best for it. We want to have the very best restaurant and bar, the very best literary festival. It is all about honouring that legacy and continuing it in the most respectful way possible.

LUX: What book would you take to Mars and why?
Natalie Livingstone: ‘Citizens’ by Simon Schama, because that ignited my passion for history.

Reading time: 5 min
Lucian Freud painting of Susanna Chancellor and his dog, Pluto on display in Berlin
Lucian Freud etching of naked woman reclining on a bed

Lucian Freud: Girl Sitting, 1987. Courtesy of the Lucian Freud Archive/ Bridgeman Images UBS Art Collection

Whilst Lucian Freud is best remembered as a painter for his fleshy, bulging portraits, his etchings are perhaps even more striking examples of his intensive analytical observation and pursuit to capture the transient moments of life. The works record the folds, textures and irregularities of the skin, along with the moods and expressions of his subjects


Lucian Freud painting of Susanna Chancellor and his dog, Pluto on display in Berlin

Lucian Freud: Double Portrait, 1988-90. Courtesy of the Lucian Freud Archive/ Bridgeman Images UBS Art Collection

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For the first time, over fifty of the British artist’s etchings are on display in his birth place of Berlin at Martin-Gropius-Bau along with one watercolour and two paintings on loan from the UBS Art Collection including “Double Portrait” which depicts his dog, Pluto and one of his favourite models Susanna Chancellor. Many of the etchings are exceptionally large, such as the sleeping image of Sue Tilley, a model that Freud found particularly fascinating. In the piece, the model appears to be floating, naked despite the fullness of her body. Freud, as in so much of his work, manages to simultaneously encapsulate physicality in voyeuristic detail whilst also conveying a powerful sense of energy and emotion.

Lucian Freud etching of large woman sleeping

Lucian Freud: Large Sue, (Benefits supervisor sleeping), 1955 Courtesy of the Lucian Freud Archive/ Bridgeman Images UBS Art Collection

Millie Walton

Lucian Freud: Closer” runs until 22nd October 2017 at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

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A landscape scene of summer in the Swiss alps
Summer in the swiss alps, green mountains

Panorama of summertime in St. Mortiz

A short blast in a vintage Ferrari from the crowds of the Côte d’Azur, the two most prestigious villages in the Alps offer glamour, sunshine, fine dining and more than enough space. Darius Sanai would go nowhere else in summer

Walking through the grand dining room of Le Restaurant at the Badrutt’s Palace, I felt two dozen pairs of eyes glance up at me. Our table, a good one, was a little beyond the centre of the room, meaning a decent double catwalk’s length stretched between the landing at the bottom of the staircase leading from the lobby hall, to the sanctuary of the table. The glances – Badrutt’s Palace clientèle is far too well brought up to stare – varied between the mildly interested and the appraising. The Palace has a claim to be the grandest legacy hotel of the Alps, the epitome of old money in St Moritz, the resort which personifies Europe’s inherited and regenerated wealth. Its regular guests wanted to know who was joining them.

After a couple of days, we got to know the Badrutt’s regulars, at their tables. The lady in the Chanel glasses, immaculate in white Dior trousers and a vintage Dior jacket, sitting and nursing her green tea and water, reading the Süddeutsche Zeitung. A ringer for Greta Garbo, she could have been one of a number of German movie stars from the sixties. The young couple with a little boy who conversed with them in French, English and Italian, seemingly at will, and who had befriended all the waiters. The jolly English family, extending from a baby via teenage girls on Instagram to a paterfamilias who looked like he had enjoyed as many bottles of First Growths as he had bought and sold enterprises. After three days, we started to feel at home.

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Badrutt’s is the hotel of St Moritz; if you want to get in to its New Year’s Eve gala dinner, you had better get in your time machine and ensure your great-great-grandmother marries a significant German count. We were there in summer, when it’s easier to book a room; in fact, the occupancy ratio was perfect, with enough people around to create a buzz, but enough space not to feel remotely crowded.

If Le Restaurant, with its etiquette and dress code, suggests the formal holiday experiences of the past, around 50m diagonally below it, cut into the rocks, is the holiday experience of today. A 25m pool, with picture windows facing the mountainsides across the valley and an extensive spa and wet area. The pool is bordered on one side by a 5m-high rock formation, which serves as diving board, waterfall and, underneath, a cave. Outside on the great lawn are swings, slides and a trampoline, all with a dramatic view.

Grand suite bedroom at the five star hotel in St. Mortiz, Badrutt's Palace

The Hans Badrutt Suite

Our rooms had the same view, albeit from a slightly higher vantage point; creams and floral curtains, subtle wood panelling and mahogany furniture suggest the tastes of the European aristocracy who form the heart of the hotel’s clientèle.

One of the most charming, and certainly the most surprising, element of the hotel is a little chalet that sits on the hillside across the road from the main building. Chesa Veglia is an ancient chalet that now belongs to the hotel, housing three restaurants, including a casual-chic rustic pizzeria, where the super-rich can eat with their hands and pretend to be normal people. We sat at a table on a first floor balcony, watching informal St Moritz in action; one of our party was invited down to make pizzas with the chefs in the open kitchen. The pizzas, Napoli-style, were picture perfect.

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Outdoor swimming pool at five star hotel in the Swiss Alps

Badrutt’s outdoor swimming pool

It would have been easy to chill out in Badrutt’s for five days, perhaps stepping outside for a little jewellery shopping, before sliding into the limo and slipping away across Europe. I get the idea a lot of people do; while it’s 1800m up in a high Alpine valley, unlike many villages in the Alps, St Mo is not exactly crawling with people who look like they clamber up rock faces for fun.

But the mountains either side of the broad, high, light Engadine valley are far too tempting for anyone with a little mountain blood in them to ignore. On the second day, we took a funicular train through a steep forest, emerging at an Art Deco-inspired hotel called Muottas Muragl. High on a ledge just above the tree line, the hotel’s restaurant terrace floated over the Engadine, with the valley’s lakes set as blue splashes against the deep meadows; and also over another valley branching out immediately below, which rose to a wall of high peaks thickly covered in snow and ice. In this surreal setting, on a warm, sunny summer’s day, we sat on the terrace, and chose from a short menu strong on local ingredients and with a dash of panache. Perhaps it was the clear mountain air which augmented the senses (although a lack of oxygen is supposed to suppress taste buds) but the beef tartar with cognac tasted more vivid, more limpid, than its famed counterpart at the Cipriani; and a ‘Pork steak gratinated with tomato and mountain cheese on red wine sauce with pappardelle and vegetables’ had clearly delineated flavours, unlike some mountain food. The Muottas Muragl terrace was as memorable as its name, and we lingered until the view started to fade in the late afternoon light, before staggering down the mountain through a forest.

Chalet style hotel the Alpina Gstaad in the summertime

The Alpina is built on a knoll just above the village of Gstaad, facing off against the Palace, on its neighbouring knoll.

Apart from St Moritz, Switzerland, the country where the world’s wealthy have stored their money and visited for sport for the past century or more, has a few mountain village destinations that are known to the high net worth A-list. Zermatt, Crans-Montana, Verbier, Wengen, Arosa; all have their bijou appeal, their private bank branches, and are witness to a parade of furs in winter. But perhaps nowhere epitomises what Henry James called “the happy few” (the reference was ironic, but is now not always used as such) as Gstaad. And if the Palace Hotel has been the embodiment of old money at play for more than a century, its new rival, The Alpina Gstaad, tries to take everything to a new high.

The Alpina is built on a knoll just above the village of Gstaad, facing off against the Palace, on its neighbouring knoll. For breakfast here, we were ushered through a room combining ancient Alpine timbers and contemporary art and colour, onto a granite-lined terrace next to a flowerbed and a few metres from an outdoor pool. Beyond the pool, a lawn and more flowers, and then an uninterrupted view across a broad valley to round, forested hillsides, with rocky peaks splashed with snow beyond.

It was August when we visited the Alpina. Gstaad is one of the lower Alpine resorts, at 1000m lying roughly halfway between the high-Alpine vibe of the likes of St Moritz or Courchevel, and sea level. The sunshine was hot, tempered only by a hint of glacial cool. It wasn’t a great leap to imagine the crowds on the Côte d’Azur and people leaping off yacht diving boards, a few hours’ drive in the Ferrari, to the south. But, unlike the Med, the terrace at the Alpina was both sun-splashed and tranquil. After breakfast we walked the few metres to the pool’s sun loungers and spent the day sipping Margaritas and occasionally taking a dip, being careful not to get burned in the (semi) mountain sun. We had a few other people for company, but it all felt as private as having your own villa.

In the evening, we strolled down to the village; there were no teeming hordes here, either. Just enough people, from families to retired residents and the occasional romantic couple; just enough vibe.

Gstaad may be a gentler location, but it is still very much in the Alps; on the next day we took a cable car to Wispile, at the top of the small mountain overlooking the village. From the terrace here there is a 360-degree vista, towards high, glacial peaks to the south; across spiky, meadow-lined foot-peaks to the east and west; and to the northernmost ridge of the Alps to the north, with a glimpse of the hazy lowlands of Switzerland beyond. We walked along a series of meadows, past forests and farmsteads, through herds of curious cattle, and were ourselves herded onto a rock by an Appenzell cattle dog, until its smiling farmer owner emerged from a barn to tell us she was harmless.

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A steep, zigzag path dropped down through a forest, so dark we only had snapshots of the precipitous fall beneath us; after almost disappearing through a muddy field, the path emerged again and led us to a hotel on the edge of a little village, Lauenen, where we had a refreshing beer and called a taxi to take us back to dinner in another picture-postcard village, Schoenried. This is on a little plateau above Gstaad, and at its gourmet restaurant, Azalée, we felt we had no choice but to try the Simmental beef – acclaimed throughout the Alps, and from the valley we were in. The Azalée, with its vista across the Gstaad valley, was a gentle, spiritual place to be as summer evening turned into night.

Switzerland is the home of haute-hotellerie; nowhere has a higher concentration of five star hotels in small towns and villages. These hotels have faced a challenge as a new generation of wealthy guests arrives, brought up on the casual chic of the likes of Ian Schrager’s creations and the Soho House group. How much do they bend to cater for the new guard? In some cases, new hotels have sprung up which feel a little out of place, Greenwich Village in the Alps. In the case of the Alpina, which was created in 2012 on the site of an old hotel of the same name, the balance is exemplary. The building feels local through its extensive use of timber rescued from abandoned Alpine buildings and huts, and through the local stone on display throughout. It feels contemporary through the openness of its internal architecture, its colour, light and the museum-quality art displayed throughout, courtesy of its owners. None of that would matter if the quality of offerings didn’t stack up.

Attic room at the Alpina Gstaad, a five star hotel in the swiss alps

Chalet style interiors of one of the bedrooms at the Alpina

Sommet, the main restaurant, has a Michelin star, the highest Gault-Millau rating in the area, and a wall sculpture composed entirely of cutlery, under which we were seated. Expecting fine but rich Alpine fare, we were surprised: then executive chef Marcus Lindner’s tasting menu is 100% vegetarian, with carnivores catered to on request (Lindner has since been replaced by Martin Göschel). Redolent of the aromas of Alpine meadows, the succession of dishes proved that meat is far from essential to a signature evening: as one example, the artichoke with truffles from Perigord, sweet chestnut and brussels sprout was as savoury and protein-balanced as you could hope. It would be hard to match such an experience – in such a refreshingly light ambience – let alone to do so in the same establishment.


Interiors shot of Japanese restaurant at five star

Megu is the Alpina’s Japanese restaurant, bringing the flavours of Tokyo to the Swiss alps

Megu is a Japanese restaurant, overseen by chefs who have come over from the homeland expressly to create a slice of finest Tokyo in the Alpine hills. Toro tartare with ponzu sauce, fresh water shrimp and Oscietra caviar was a study in subtle contrasts. We developed a serious yearning for the crispy asparagus crumbed with Japanese rice crackers, chilli and lemon – more, please, every day. It’s fine dining with a slice of wit, and a thorough and reasonably priced Swiss wine list – pinot noirs from Malans, Cornalin from Valais, local white grapes from the edge of Lake Geneva, all wines you just can’t find outside Switzerland.

Megu–sleep–pool terrace–repeat. What’s not to love about August in the Alps?

Our thanks to the Switzerland Travel Centre for organising first-class transportation on Switzerland’s beautifully efficient train network:,



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