A Tribute by Barry X Ball

New York | 29 January 2021

I loved Hester Diamond. I met her for the first time when I went to her New York apartment with some Austrian gallerists. I accompanied them to advise on the installation of a sculpture of mine, one that Hester had recently purchased at the gallery in Salzburg. Hester’s apartment was stunning. It was large and fantastically situated on a high floor of a venerable Central Park West building, and it had sweeping views of the park and city. The entire apartment (beautifully, unconventionally decorated by Hester) was filled with a wild amalgam of 21st century and traditional furniture, Renaissance and Baroque sculpture and painting, contemporary art, and a collection of rare minerals and stones. My God, she even had a Bernini!

Barry X Ball

Hester herself was a living treasure – one of those warm, intelligent, sophisticated women who exemplify New York at its best. Although she was diminutive in stature and a bit frail, Hester was gorgeous, gracious, and very quick-witted – a delicate dynamo. I always felt greatly privileged to be invited to her large dinner parties. Hester never failed to assemble a rich cross-section of extraordinary people. And I was very proud to have my sculpture standing among her treasures.

On October 12, 2015, Hester, joined by her husband David, came to my Brooklyn studio to be photographed and digitally scanned, the first steps in the creation of my planned portrait sculpture of her. This wasn’t a commission – I simply thought that Hester would be a perfect subject. And she was, in body and spirit. How typical of her to be game for anything aesthetically adventurous.

Hester and I had a wonderful time working together that day, as is obvious from the images in the accompanying short video. The atmosphere at the studio was fantastic, with a group of talented people and advanced equipment focused on Hester. It is not often when the creative process, aesthetic goals, technological advances, and wonderful folks come together. With my art, its making is always long and arduous – a multi-year climb for every piece. There has been a lot of concerted effort put into the subsequent steps of realizing Hester’s portrait, and I’m still quite far from finishing it. But the feeling of love I experienced in 2015 – for a uniquely great person, for my collaborators, for art – will continue to lighten those steps as I push toward what I hope will be a fitting tribute to her.

I last spent time with Hester at TEFAF Maastricht in the spring of 2019, where a group of my sculptures was being presented by Fergus McCaffrey. She and I had lunch at one of the fair cafés, and of course there was champagne! Although her body was failing, Hester glowed, sharp and bright as ever. She lit up the building by her mere presence. I and all of her many friends will always be filled with love just thinking about her. New York and the world are, simply, less lovely without Hester.

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Barry X Ball