IN APRIL 1990, TWENTY-FIVE YEARS after Helena Rubinstein’s death, collectors and museum directors from all over the world gathered at Sotheby’s in New York for the sale of the Harry A. Franklin Family Collection of African Art. The late Mr and Mrs Franklin had been passionate collectors and included in the sale were eight pieces they had purchased in Helena’s ‘benchmark’ sale in 1966. The pride of the Franklins’ collection was ‘The Bangwa Queen’, the statue Helena had so loved, the piece she had acquired without any cash changing hands, that had fetched $29,000 in the sale following her death. It sold that day for three million, four hundred and ten thousand dollars, making it the most valuable piece of African art to have been purchased in open auction in the twentieth century. You can see ‘The Queen’ today at the Dapper Museum in Paris, where she stands proud under plexi-glass, surveying the room. A small, stocky, sturdy figure, dancing with enthusiasm and exuding awesome power in her dual role as ‘priestess and mother’ … just as Helena Rubinstein once did.
In the same year, Sotheby’s in New York sold the Brancusi sculpture ‘La Négresse Blanche’ which had been bought by Helena from the artist. It fetched $8 million. Madame always rather liked Brancusi. ‘Clever. Good with his customers,’ she used to say. So was she.
Following the death of Canadian tycoon Garfield Weston, Barretstown Castle was bequeathed to the Irish government. Today, horses still graze in the grounds and wealthy visitors dine at the castle. Now, however, it costs a lot to do so, and they are pleased to pay it. Barretstown is home to one of actor Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camps, where sick and terminally