LONDON - Cult icon and 1960s leading man Terence Stamp has starred in some of the most enduring classics – Far From the Madding Crowd, Billy Budd and Teorema to name a few. Ahead of Sotheby’s Asia Week auctions where the actor will sell works from his exquisite collection of Chinese furniture, we asked about his varied taste and the influence of Swinging London on his collecting.
ACTOR TERENCE STAMP.
Most people are familiar with your acting career but few know about your passion for collecting art. Where did the inspiration to collect come from?
My mother claims I was born with an eye. Most newborns kick their legs rhythmically denoting an inborn rhythm. My mother told family I was checking out my footwear.
The everted flanges set to either side of impressive Huanghuali Recessed-Leg table tell us that it was used for display. Where did you place it in your home and what objects did you choose to show with it?
Francis Bacon painted a collage of me, which was hung centrally above the table. The piece grounded the viewer’s eye yet was able to lift gaze to Bacon’s work.
ACTOR TERENCE STAMP.
Your collecting taste is broad. Why did you choose to purchase in so many different areas versus focusing on a particular field?
When I moved into the Albany, Piccadilly, in 1966, one of Britain’s great interior decorators, Geoffrey Bennison, advised me to furnish the chambers in the Georgian and corresponding French period styles in which they were built. John Richardson, the Picasso expert, steered me initially to Picasso ceramics.
You have a wide-ranging collecting taste. What is it about the Chinese literati aesthetic as represented by this Qing dynasty Huanghuali side table that attracted your attention?
It made me think of Jean Shrimpton, whom I was in love with when I came upon it.
JEAN SHRIMPTON AND TERENCE STAMP.
Did the London culture of the 1960s and 1970s inspire your decision to become an art collector?
The main influence during the 1960s was cash, as they were my big earning years. I never actually purchased anything as an investment – only the furniture, objects and paintings that made me feel good to live with.
The use of a lovely, iridescent inner layer of oyster shells, pulverised and inset into layers of rich black lacquer is one of the most extravagant decorative techniques of the 17th and 18th centuries. How did this rare mother-of-pearl inlaid demi-lune table fit into your collecting criteria and what led to its acquisition?
I grabbed this table because I had never seen anything like it before. It appealed to me both as an aesthete and as a creative artist.
TERENCE STAMP AND CHRISTOPHE WALTZ IN A SCENE FROM BIG EYES DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON.
Has your profession as an actor influenced you as an art collector?
If you are a successful actor, the artists you work alongside are the cream of the crop – one of the blessings in life is being a serious student. I learned from everyone. Colleen Atwood, the famed Oscar-award-winning costume designer, gave me the suit she masterminded for me in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.
This large bamboo-style table, like most of your other pieces, is made from precious huanghuali wood. The use of such an expensive wood to imitate readily available and modestly priced bamboo was a conceit that appealed to 18th century Chinese literati. Was that part of its appeal to you too? You have mentioned that paintings by Picasso and Matisse hung on the wall above this table. What was the aesthetic result of this interesting East/West interaction?
My rooms in the Albany were perfectly proportioned yet large, and I had one long wall for which I needed a large table – and huanghuali is special, very special. The finest eyes in the business were looking out for me – David Salmon, Oliver Hoare, Nicholas Grindley – and even so it took ten years before the bamboo-style table came my way. You must be patient if your intent is love, harmony and beauty.