Rosanna Ranieri – Antiques dealer
The list of football club managers known to love art and antiques is not a long one but it does feature Claudio Ranieri, former manager of Spanish and Italian clubs, Leicester City in its Premier League-winning 2016 season and, before this, Chelsea.
Indeed, when Claudio let slip in a media interview while at Chelsea that he loved Modigliani and Cézanne, Chelsea supporters were said to have complained there were too many foreigners in the squad already.
Claudio’s passion for art galleries and antiques shops is shared with his wife Rosanna. She has “always been interested in art and antiques”, Rosanna tells ATG, but Claudio’s arrival in London to manage Chelsea in September 2000 coincided with a spike in her appreciation of 18th century furnishings, pictures and Meissen figurines.
Since launching a dealership in Rome in 2000, selling 20th century antiques and vintage, Rosanna has based herself in the Eternal City, dispatching Claudio to go shopping in London for objects during his stint at Chelsea.
The Ranieris’ property portfolio includes a house in London. “Each of my houses has a different decorative theme,” she says. “My house in Rome has a lot of Biedermeier and 19th century objects. Another house will be decorated in a more indiscriminate way.”
How does Rome compare with London in terms of buying? “London has much more variety, because its history and residents are so multi-cultural,” Rosanna says. “Whatever the street, you’re likely to find something quite interesting.”
Interview by Philip Hebard, ATG
Richard E Grant – Actor
Richard E Grant may not be a Londoner by birth – born in Swaziland, the actor lives in Surrey – but he loves to sample what London’s antiques streets have to offer.
That’s because Grant, who burst into our consciousness 30 years ago with the cult movie Withnail and I, is a self-confessed ‘maximalist’. This means every room in the Georgian rectory home he shares with wife Joan is “jam packed to the gunnels with furniture, rugs, memorabilia, mirrors, Pelham Puppets, masks, textiles, paintings, photographs, plants – you name it”.
Ever since he moved to London in 1982, Grant has frequented Portobello and Golborne Road markets. For him, the collecting bug has been a “lifelong passion, an absolute addiction and enormously pleasurable. ‘The hunt’ is everything”.
Hunting can include “just looking” in the Royal Academy, Sir John Soane’s Museum and the National Portrait Gallery or being tempted at Frieze London (October 5-8) and by dealers in Mayfair “where there’s such a variety of things to dazzle the eye and fleece your pockets”.
Grant rues the closure of some London antique shops, so enjoys visiting Lillie Road, Kensington Church Street and Alfies Antique Market in Marylebone all the more.
High-end fairs, such as Masterpiece London, are “out of my price league,” says Grant, who likes to avoid “dealers in suits and ties offering you glasses of alcohol”.
All in all, London’s antiques scene is “still fabulous”, he says. Often abroad working – when ATG catches up with him, Grant is in a Chicago production of My Fair Lady, playing Professor Henry Higgins – the actor likes nothing better than returning home. “After all my travels around the world, nothing compares to London,” he says.
Prosper & Martine Assouline – Publishers and designers
In the age of e-books and Amazon, the home library was ripe for reinvention. This is what French interior design and publishing power couple Prosper and Martine Assouline have done, conceiving what they call the ‘cultural lounge’, after visitors to their Piccadilly bookshop, Maison Assouline, asked for designs similar to the store’s interior.
Here, bookshelves and big armchairs are surrounded by antiques, tribal masks and sculptures, which are all for sale.
The cultural lounge is one of the couple’s many calling cards. Publishing lifestyle books since 1994 (more than 1500 tomes so far), Prosper and Martine split their time between New York and Paris, but enjoy the London antiques scene.
The Olympia fair is a favourite haunt, with the interest being “not in traditional furniture but more pieces as objects”. They regularly visit Portobello Road and Church Street, though Prosper regrets what he sees is the overwhelming rush to stock 1960s vintage.
Dare we ask which city would win an antiques face-off, London or Paris? The couple say London is “the cosmopolitan capital of the Western world“ but that Paris flea markets “continue to be our Mecca”.
Despite this, London “still has its own DNA”, the couple believes. In other words, vive la différence.