HOME + DESIGN / DESIGN NOTES
By Rebecca Sherman / 04.10.18
Photography Pär Bengtsson
There's a good story behind almost everything in the art-filled Preston Hollow home of gallerist Kristy Stubbs. Take, for example, a set of Greek Klismos-style chairs, which Stubbs uses for chic candlelit dinner parties in the main living area. All six came from Dean Martin's Palm Springs dining room.
"Can you imagine the people who must have sat in them," Stubbs wonders aloud. We can - and the mind reels.
In the kitchen, a prized set of 10 ceramic place settings created by Roy Lichtenstein in 1966 has just been unboxed. The Tate Modern in London owns but one of these rare works. This many, and in such pristine condition, is an exceptional find - something Stubbs has spent more than a decade on the lookout for. Don't expect her to box them back up anytime soon, though.
"Art should be used," she says, and, despite admonitions from other collectors, she has plans for these plates. "I want to have at least one dinner party with them."
A dozen limited-edition Damien Hirst Superstition plates - not as hard to find, but still quite valuable - are displayed on shelves. They might be pressed into service as dessert plates for the Lichtenstein dinner party, Stubbs muses.
In an upstairs bedroom, a vintage tufted sofa came by way of Mad Men, where it was used on set in the fictional office of advertising executive Roger Sterling. Originally vivid turquoise, Stubbs recovered it in a neutral brown. Also from Mad Men, Stubbs acquired a dress worn by glamazon character Bobbie Barrett, who was wearing the frock when she was in a car wreck - and a compromising position - with Don Draper.
As clothing is concerned, though, nothing tops Stubbs' 1966 Souper Dress, displayed on a form in her bedroom. Made from paper Campbell's soupcan labels, these dresses were fashioned by the Campbell Soup Company as an advertising gimmick and obtained for $1 and two soup-can labels. Today, the dress is a Pop Art icon collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is worth thousands.
In the dining room, beautifully worn leather Eames chairs came from the estate of Lupe Murchison - the oilfortune grande dame, philanthropist, and sister-in-law of founding Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr. These chairs once resided in the owner's box at Texas Stadium. Meanwhile, in the living room, the sofa and chairs are from the offices of the late former Dallas Mayor Starke Taylor, circa 1970s.
"I like the histories and the experiences behind things," Stubbs says. "I have stories in my head about every piece I own."
After living in a 1940s-era house in Greenway Parks for 18 years, Stubbs decided to go modern. The minute she walked into the two-story spec house built in 2015 by Wernerfield Architects and Maas Modern, she knew it was perfect.
"It was my dream house," she says. "I could picture all of my art in there."
To rethink some of the finishes and help place furnishings and art, Stubbs called on a longtime client, interior designer Jeffrey Swiggart. It was a natural match, as the two have worked together since 2000, with Stubbs helping source major art (Damien Hirst, Agnes Martin, Roy Lichtenstein) for Swiggart's international roster of clients.
"My style is designed to highlight the art by simplifying interior finishes and editing furniture, and then unifying it all with a neutral palette and clean lines," says Swiggart, who is adept at building rooms around an art collection.
Case in point: He gently talked Stubbs out of using a busy Hermès print to recover a sofa in the living room but gave her the green light on covering the powder bath and an upstairs bedroom in heavily patterned Damien Hirst wallpapers.
"Kristy is not your typical client - and she's not your typical art collector," Swiggart says. "She likes to take risks, and the house is a reflection of her personality. She's fun and unpredictable."
Trailblazing With the Young Brits
Like her namesake gallery, Stubbs' personal collection focuses on works by the original young British artists - or YBAs - and the new generation in London that has succeeded them. Call her a trailblazer.
When Stubbs opened her gallery in the early 1990s, she was one of the first to buy and promote Damien Hirst. She was an early supporter of video and conceptual artist Jeremy Deller, who went on to win the Turner Prize in 2004; she gave taxidermy artist Polly Morgan her first U.S. exhibition; and she was the first to represent José-María Cano and Wolfe von Lenkiewicz in the United States.
British artist Jonathan Yeo painted a portrait of Stubbs' friend, the actor Jude Law, which hangs in the entryway. It's one of her favorites.
"There's a magnetism about their works," says Stubbs of the YBAs. "They continue to break ground in everything they do."
One of the pieces closest to Stubbs' heart is by London artist Paul Fryer - and, like everything else, this piece comes with a good story. The sculpture Nox Intempestaanchors the living room and consists of a Word War II air-raid horn that plays a scratchy, hauntingly beautiful recording of Fryer singing "Everyone's Gone to the Moon." Stubbs discovered Fryer in 2005 on a rainy night in east London. She was lost and trying to find another artist's studio.
"He was wearing a white lab coat and looked like a mad scientist," Stubbs remembers.
Fryer then escorted her downstairs into what felt like a time machine - a space filled with radios, transformers, and electricity sparking everywhere. "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" floated out of the air-raid siren, and bolts of electricity crackled from a lightning machine he had built.
"I realized I had stumbled onto something no one had seen before," she says. "I bought his work on the spot."
That night, when Stubbs returned to her room at Claridge's, her body was so full of electricity she blew the circuits the minute she touched the bedside lamp.
"They upgraded me to a suite," she says, laughing.
Ever the visionary, Stubbs has bequeathed Nox Intempesta to the Nasher Sculpture Center in honor of her late sister - a decision she made many years ago after she'd hosted the museum's founder Ray Nasher for dinner.
"We were all heading into the dining room, but Ray was just standing there, transfixed, for about 15 minutes, listening to it," she remembers. "If I had any doubts that it might be worthy of the Nasher, that put it to rest."