Sotheby's third 'Stone' series centres on Italy, mixing old with new

A marble bust and one of Julien Drach's photography at the 'Stone III' auction in London.
A marble bust and one of Julien Drach's photography at the 'Stone III' auction in London.   -   Copyright  AP
By Euronews  with AP

New and old have come together for the third edition of Sotheby's 'Stone' series in London, with a combination of works of art and objects made of, or incorporating, marbles, hardstones, and micromosaics.

Marble and hard stone artworks are dotted about the gallery, some of them hundreds of years old, and lining the walls are modern photographs of Italy, where many of the 'Stone III' pieces originated.

The pictures capture scenes of Rome and were taken by Parisian photographer Julien Drach. When Drach started the 'ROMA' project in 2018, he had no idea that a pandemic would stop his work.

Not only did the travel restrictions disrupt his photography, but almost exactly a year ago, the Parisian photographer caught the virus and was seriously ill.

"I've been very affected by the pandemic in a personal way, not only as a photographer but as a human being too because I've been sick. I've been in the hospital in Paris. So to be here now, I'm just really happy to be here," Drach said.

"My life was a disaster because of the pandemic. But as a photographer, what can I say? We couldn't travel. And it was not only as a photographer, everybody was in difficult situations. People lost people, friends, relatives, family."

Drach suffered two brain strokes as a result of contracting COVID-19 and spent three weeks in hospital. Surviving has given him a new perspective on life.

"It changed everything. It's not only about working, but it's also about everything to be really honest because you change after what I got through. People can get worse, of course. I've been lucky. So when you're lucky, you try to enjoy everything and to really appreciate every moment," he went on.

Showcasing the eternal city

His work in the 'ROMA' series spans from 2018 to 2021. Drach visited the Italian capital 10 times in the last four years and believes he notices something new on each trip.

"I like details in a way that sometimes something very abstract can be very poetic. It's really, really small details of, for example, a wall and the one we have behind us, some people are walking through and they don't see it at all. And I like the way there is a mix of modernity with the electric cable, for example, and at the same time, the antiques in the middle," he explained.

His photographs, shown side by side with artworks that are on sale in the 'Stone III' online auction this month, capture the successive architectural and aesthetic layers that have made up the city down through the centuries. 

The artworks include antique Italian marbles and Pietra Dura panels. For Sotheby's, combining the two made sense.

there are...wonderful opportunities to look closer, look closely to works of art and into our objects

"So the way that Julien works is he walks around Rome, and he really looks for interesting details where contemporary life crosses with layers of the urban fabric of Rome, which have thousands of years. And so he comes across small fragments in walls or just beautiful churches that have wonderful surfaces," revealed João Magalhães, Senior Specialist of European Furniture at Sotheby's.

"And that eye for detail in our exhibition, there are also wonderful opportunities to look closer, look closely to works of art and into our objects."

It is hoped the third 'Stone' exhibition will build on the success of its two predecessors.

"The last two editions of the Stone sale showed a very global audience for this market. It has been traditionally more European and American, but now it's really getting to all corners of the world. It's a niche of the market in the decorative arts that's particularly strong, with many collectors focusing on collecting these types of objects," Magalhães added.

The 'ROMA' exhibition is Drach's first UK show. Bidding for the 'Stone III' sale closes on Wednesday evening and can be followed online.