Glimmers of the Good Life: What the Glitterati Buy; 150 Years of Social History

Article excerpt

This promises to be an upscale week. For starters, the venerable monthly Art & Auction has been given a dazzling redesign by 1995 National Magazine Award-winning creative director Tony Arefin, plus an editorial repositioning.

"The new Art & Auction will still appeal to our core readership of serious buyers of arts and antiques," says Jill Bokor, the publisher and editorial director, "while also embracing the younger cadre of collectors - those who buy art at the $10,000 level, as well as the $100,000-plus level."

Well, yes, I guess you should know that the demographics for A&A show the average household income is $248,800, and 47 percent of its readers earned $150,000 or more in the last year. Need I go on? That said, even if you're not remotely at the $10,000 buying level, you can surely delight in one of the handsomer magazines around. Art & Auction is a work of art in itself - even its ads are gorgeous.

Another work of art in its own way is the 150th anniversary issue of Town & Country, which started out in 1846 as a weekly newspaper called the National Press, then quickly changed its name to the Home Journal, surfacing with its present title at the turn of the century. This plump October issue is filled with photographs charting the mores, rites and rituals of the well-born and wealthy through the decades. It constitutes a real social document in its own way, depicting an almost entirely white world until the past decade or so, when black and Asian people began to make their appearance in these high social reaches.

The page layouts, the photographs of elegant, stylish women from the '20s and '30s who look as if they could blend into our world, and the record of a lifestyle largely past or greatly modified merit your attention. Also, the ads, of which there is a great abundance, are something to behold - a great deal of very pricey jewelry and gold, gold, gold.

If those ads whet your fancy for gold, take a gander at the October issue of the National Geographic - "African Gold," with the cover showing an attractive young woman of the Asante people in Ghana absolutely laden with wondrously carved gold ornaments, her face sprinkled lightly with gold flakes. The inside feature "Royal Gold of the Asante Empire" shows the gold that went on public display the day King Otumfuo Opoku Ware II (of one of Ghana's largest ethnic groups) celebrated the 25th anniversary of his reign.

When you've finished being bedazzled by all that gold, turn to "China's Warriors Rise From the Earth," a detailed report by O. Louis Mazzatenta with his quite extraordinary photographs of some 8,000 members of the terra-cotta army of archers, cavalry troops, charioteers, infantrymen and horses buried some 2,200 years ago to accompany China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, to the grave near Xian in western China. …