Worthy of an emperor’s tomb, this monumental obelisk of dark green jade is a quintessentially Ciancimino object. It was always Jean-Claude’s special skill to magic up amazing things, the like of which were rarely seen elsewhere. How he did it time and time again, and year after year, remains a source of wonder, and even when he swerved into Art Deco for solid commercial reasons, his heart remained with the exotic, the rare, the unknown. He embodied, I would say, a certain ‘Zen’ frame of mind; tea-ceremony wares meant more to him than palace porcelain, and a zippy Tantric diagram more than a smooth and elegant miniature. He noticed things that for others were invisible, and was as responsive to the hand of Nature as to the hand of Man. His way of seeing things put him way ahead of most of the rest of us, and one reason that he is held in such affection by so many people – apart from his endlessly entertaining presence – is because of the way he shared his enthusiasms and insights. He changed the taste of a generation, expanded our vision beyond the conventional, and gave form to the excitements of an exciting time.
And so I am grateful to Jean-Claude’s family – Sylvia, Pablo and Georgia – for allowing me to include his magnificent jade boulder in this exhibition. The idea for Every Object Tells a Story was originally Jean-Claude’s, and our collaboration in 2012 for the first exhibition of this kind at his Pimlico gallery was for me, and I think also for him, a very happy time.