MY CULTURAL LIFE: NICOLE FARHI

An arbiter of taste tells us what they're reading, watching and more

Nicole Farhi artist
Nicole Farhi

Known for the 1980s label for which she received an honorary CBE for contributions to British fashion, Farhi turned away from clothing in 2012 to pursue sculpting. Now she’s celebrating her largest solo exhibition,‘Nicole Farhi: Folds’, at London’s Beaux Arts gallery until 2 March. It showcases her exploration of the human form, focusing on the soft curves of the female body. ‘I wanted to show how expressive, beautiful and unexpected they can be,’ she says. ‘We need to look at ourselves a new.’ (nicolefarhisculpture.com; beauxartslondon.uk).

Opera singer Maria Callas photo
Still from Maria by Callas documentary
Still from Maria by Callas documentary

My favourite sound is the voice of soprano Maria Callas. For many years I worked to her soundtrack; it helped me concentrate. To anyone who wants to make their life in the arts, I recommend the documentary Maria by Callas. It shows the dedication you need to achieve a perfect line of clarity.

The record that makes me feel instantly happy is anything by Charles Trenet. His voice is so jolly; he was my parents’ favourite.

I’m currently listening to Martha Argerich’s recording of the Tchaikovsky Trio for piano, violin and cello. It’s thrilling.

The Mars Room book by Rachel Kushner
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The book that has influenced me most is Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. I find everything he says about art and its meaning in people’s lives to be wise and true. I can quote from it.

I’ve just read Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room. Her frank portrayal of women caught up in the Californian penal system is completely heartbreaking.

The best film I’ve seen recently is Pietrangeli’s Hungry for Love. Four prostitutes start a restaurant in Italy as a cover for their real work. But their new venture is such a success they discover they prefer it.

I love the quote by WH Auden: ‘Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.’ So true! I try to start work at the same time every day, and never miss a day. Always have.

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Rodin Museum, Paris
Rodin Museum, ParisGetty Images

My favourite gallery is the Rodin Museum in Paris. It’s important to any sculptor. And so is the city’s Picasso Museum.

The last exhibition I went to see was ‘Gainsborough’s Family Portrait’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It was dazzling – much more informal and intimate than any other Gainsborough show.

Portrait painting of Mary and Margaret Gainsborough, the artist's daughters, 1760-1, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Mary and Margaret Gainsborough, the artist’s daughters, 1760-1, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Mary and Margaret Gainsborough, the artist's daughters, 1760-1, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The most recent play I’ve seen is by my husband David Hare. It’s called I’m Not Running, about why the Labour Party never has a female leader. The cast is immaculate. If I won the lottery I’d bid for Giacometti’s sculpture Woman With Her Throat Cut. It was the first piece I saw, aged 15. It made me realise that sculpture has a power no other art has.

The next place I’m travelling to is Egypt. I’m most looking forward to the oasis at Siwa.

Siwa oasis, Egypt
Siwa oasis, Egypt
Siwa oasis, Egypt

If I had a free day in London I’d like to turn Hampstead’s Everyman back into a repertory cinema and watch old movies.

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2019

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