Multicolored x-ray portraits of a skull wearing a crown. A child in a skullcap lost on a tune that we can only guess. An update Jacqueline with flowers – wearing an adidas tracksuit and a gold Rolex – of which Picasso would be proud. Michael Davis’ Villa Jumeirah art collection is like a cabinet of curiosities – it’s eclectic, eye-catching, and seemingly unrelated.
“When I moved to the Middle East over nine years ago, I left all my artwork and furniture in the United States, and after I arrived I slowly started acquiring things that were important to me because they spoke to a person, place or time that was relevant to my life here, ”said the CEO of NMC Healthcare The National.
“I like to collect evocative, interesting, sentimental and conversational things. I lead a busy and stressful life so it is important that when I am at home I need to be totally comfortable.
Her memoir to acclaimed interior designer Kate Instone, founder of Blush International – a business through which she decorated Madonna, Sting, and Seal homes – and creative behind Davis’s four-bedroom villa, was simple. “I said, ‘I have a lot of things and I want to enjoy them.’ And I’m very happy with what she and her team have done; I feel privileged to be able to enjoy my works as part of my everyday life.
The living area of the 8,000 square foot home is where most of Davis’ artwork is located, a deliberate move, he says, due to his love for entertainment. “My bedroom is a beautiful sanctuary, but the living room is definitely the liveliest part of the villa, and it’s where my guests gather.
When friends call in, Davis says he always “lands” on his favorite piece of furniture: an old leather pub chair.
“It’s an old chair that I bought from a friend who was leaving Abu Dhabi. I loved the worn patina and the story it told, and I could imagine that many late night pub conversations contributed to the worn leather. It’s my favorite place to sit and relax.
Instone punctuated the rest of the seating area with burnt orange silk velvet cushions and Hermès throws. The centerpiece of the walnut and wrought iron dining table is a brightly colored 1930s Alexander Calder mobile, framed by white Loro Piana curtains. The TV corner sofa is enlivened by a merino wool Pendleton blanket made in the United States, “a nod to Michael’s heritage,” says Instone. The living room also features an original 1950s drinks cart and shelves filled with art objects Davis has collected over the years.
A peek inside the bedroom reveals a more streamlined aesthetic. “Michael wanted a very luxurious master bedroom,” says Instone. “He wanted to use opulent textures and colors, so we picked rich, deep turquoises and paired them with raw burnt orange silks and bronze details. The colors are united in an antique Persian rug.
Instone says Davis’s eclectic art pieces personify sheer opulence because “it’s a collection with real meaning. It empowers the collector who bought art because he loves it and moves him, rather than giving the pleasure of keeping his art to a consultant or a designer.
She cites the example of Davis’ favorite play which “attracted her because it turned into controversy.” This is a painting based on Leonardo da Vinci The last supper, except that he represents the “apostles of [Emirati] generation of artist Rashed Al Mansoori, ”notes Instone.
The pastel pink canvas is filled with pop icons including Madonna, Lady Diana, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Tupac and Prince, prominent figures from the Arab world including 1940s Egyptian movie star Asmahan and singer Jaber Jassim, as well as – somewhat oddly – Joan of Arc and JonBenet Ramsey.
“The piece is called Heavier than the sky, and this is the one I get the most questions about, ”Davis says. “It portrays certain people who marked the artist’s youth, many of whom were also pop icons to me, even though I am much older than the artist.”
Davis’ other favorite is an original Ross Muir. “My dear friend ‘Jenny from Dundee’ introduced me to the Scottish artist by giving me two beautiful prints. I liked them so much that I bought an original from Maddox Gallery in London.
Davis believes that this is also the coin that could finance his retirement; he is someone who buys art both for investment and for pleasure. “A good example of the latter is a surrealist style painting that I picked up from a gallery in Amsterdam. It’s by a Dutch artist and it’s a portrait of a woman with a fish inexplicably resting on her head. It’s absolutely absurd, but I love it and it wasn’t very expensive.
Davis also believes in art which should always reflect its owner. Case in point: even though he owns one of the 1,000 BearBrick dolls produced in 2008 for Karl Lagerfeld – a collector’s item that has grown in popularity since the death of the creator of Chanel – he says: “I love this piece, but I have a feeling she will eventually go back to the person who sold it to me. She’s a very special person in my life now and I feel like it’s more of her than of me.
One piece Davis is unlikely to part with is a cartoonish self-portrait that takes pride of place alongside a similar setting of Princess Diana. “I bought the piece Diana from a Dutch pop artist, and then I asked him to do a matching piece of me. It’s a little complacent, I know, but my friends know it comes with a wink and a nod.
Another whimsical acquisition comes from an artist in New Orleans – an original watercolor of a mosquito. “We joke that the mosquito is the state bird of Louisiana because it is so prevalent due to the humid climate. This watercolor was used as a template for the street art that was done around the city of New Orleans, and I love it because it’s cheeky and reminds me of home, ”Davis explains. .
That’s not to say Davis’s art collector doesn’t have a serious side, though. A lithograph by American artist Thomas McKnight depicts a favorite Greek island, while beside the dining table hangs a pair of powerful photographs by artist Bobby Sager: one depicting a fighting boy from Rwanda who has first killed aged 7 and two girls from a war-torn Afghan village.
“I love things that are provocative and meaningful to me, whether it’s associated with a person, a place I’ve traveled, or a concept or cause that’s important,” Davis says. “The works that I have are not all expensive. – and nothing I have is super expensive and everything I own would be affordable for someone who can afford to collect – but everything I have is priceless to me because each piece tells a story. “
Update: November 21, 2021, 5:51 am