FLAIR FOR STYLE: Christie’s South Kensington plans to auction off the late American magazine publisher Fleur Cowles’ private collection, which spans fashion items, paintings and furniture.
Cowles was the creative force behind Flair magazine, a fashion and arts publication that only existed for one year between 1950 and 1951. She was part of London and New York’s social scene, and counted such friends as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cary Grant and Princess Grace of Monaco.
The collection, which goes under the hammer on Nov. 23, offers a glimpse into Cowles’ private world and will include personal belongings from her fashionable flat at Albany in London’s Piccadilly. Fashion items include a tweed skirt suit by Chanel and hats by Christian Dior created for Flair in the Fifties.
Notable artworks include a portrait of Cowles by René Gruau, the illustrator known for his work with Christian Dior, and a pen-and-ink painting by Picasso titled”Tureau,” which is the most valuable item in the collection, estimated to sell at 20,000 pounds, or $24,377, at current exchange.
Furniture and interior items give a taste of Cowles’ colorful aesthetic and penchant for embellishment. Highlights include embroidered carpets, playful figurines by Paul Philippe from the 19th century, a Belgian sculpted gilded marble table, and porcelain chandeliers.
During the year that Cowles edited and published Flair – after convincing her husband to finance it – she published works by the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lucian Freud. The magazine had a strong circulation, but its lifespan was short due to the colossal costs of a series of special features, such as embossed covers and gatefold pages.
In 1996, she worked with Rizzoli to publish “The Best of Flair,” a compilation of the magazine’s most lively content and a look back at her life as an editor and publisher.
“Few women have lived more multiple lives than I have, as editor; as an American president’s personal representative, decorated by six governments; as a writer of 13 books and contributor to 6 others, as a painter with 51 one-man exhibitions throughout the world; patron of the arts and sciences, irrepressible traveler and more importantly, friend-gatherer,” Cowles wrote in the book.
According to Wikipedia, she represented President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the coronation of Elizabeth II.