Wealth and Taste

On the Euston Rd in London, there used to be a furniture shop for the clinically insane.

It was for rich people. I would quite often take a long-cut to go past it… stare in the window, somewhere between being agog, and pissing self with laughter. It was the sort of place that had sofas with arms made out of golden lions, and glass-topped coffee-tables who’s “body” was a 3/4 sized naked female form cast in brass. It was this sort of thing:


I’d never seen anything like it – because… back then… the early 90s, there WAS nothing like it. It was “luxury” pushed to off-the-dial tasteless. On acid. Saddam Hussein Chic.

Recently though, I’ve been noticing it more and more though… and have this theory (now) that it actually represents a point on a continuum… and there’s a correlated trend-line… wealth-inequality.

One of the poshest streets in Wellington NZ is Oriental Parade… which circles round the sea-front… it has “the view”. You can still see here and there, the way it was… the crumbling colonial grandeur-lite (most people who moved to NZ from the EU, did so to get away from the class-system)…


… in the 80s, 90s… bigger blocks started creeping in – quite vanilla… but in the last 10 years, whole swathes are taken up with massive “dwellings” that push ostentation just a bit too far…

… the greco-roman columns so despised by the proto-fascist Ayn Rand are a dead giveaway. I went to a party in one of these places once, and the entrance bit where the lift was was all draped in crushed velvet and “things” on plinths… you know… this sort of thing:

Fashion for people who’re desperately pretending to be something that they’re not.

You see a streamlined version of this in “luxury” yachts or planes… eg:



Begin’ your pardon sir, but doesn’t all this still “smell of the shop”?

The reason I’m going on about this is that I was in a caf t’other day, and there was this NZ House and Garden magazine… with the same, stylistic bent… this sort of thing.


It’s not beautiful… it’s fucking grotesque… and its historical lineage is the fucking grotesque – Hapsburg era Europe and beyond… like glided religion on bad acid…


Which is fantastic as an historical artifact… but an expression of taste? Jesus. FWIW, the worst I’ve ever seen is St Peters in Rome… which goes beyond grotesque into something quite cthulhonic… from the torture scenes on the massive bronze doors, to the cork-screw pillars at its heart. It’s fucking horrible. Impressive, but horrible… but then, so is its history, and everything it stands for.

So if you line all these things up in one long gradient… it seems to me that it correlates very closely to wealth inequality… with 60s hipsterism and Scandinavian design at one end and Baroque religious decor and the Burj Al Arab at the other.

Why it should work like this I don’t know… but I suspect it’s because designers… the people who make the stuff, are designing for a class that they don’t actually live in. They can tune into the vibe… justify it to themselves etc… but really, the whole thing is to make people who have a shit-load of money, make themselves feel special… which they would appear to be doing via some sort of secret-language of unseen price-tags.

So apparently the unpaid taxes of the super-rich, currently residing in tax-haven bank-accounts comes to about $21 Trillion. That’s a lot. That’s enough to go to war over. That’s enough for us all to pick up our pitch-forks and fucking invade the places in question. The Cayman Islands can’t be that hard to beat can it?

Trouble is that when you’d broken down the doors, stormed the corporate palaces… what would you find?

Fresh air. Ones and zeros in computer chips… backed up by… nothing.

Which ought to look familiar by now

1 Comment » for Wealth and Taste
  1. dominic says:

    I briefly has a labouring job when they where building one of those fancy apartments on oriental parade. I was there for 6 weeks, When it rained huge pools of water formed on the floors. Yes, the building had a roof already. All the old hands said “this isn’t right”, but the management just brought in the wet vaccum cleaners and told us to ‘suck it up’.