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Salon 1998

Alexandria, USA

March 1998

Hosted by Patrick Kirwin & Ulrike Vaerst

In March, 1998 the international gathering was held in Alexandria (nearby Washington) U.S.A. Salon 98 was organized by Patrick Kirwin and Ulrike Vaerst, who both took over the plan during the closing dinner in Holland.

Alexandria is a colonial town with a rich history. It is glued to Washington, the Paris of America. The Salon was held in the Art League School, the place where Kirwin and Vaerst teach.


The number of visitors was about 110. Again many nationalities were present. About 55 Europeans went to America, some countries with even more participants as in Utrecht. Nine British, eight Swedish, three Belgians, about nine from France. All together a very convincing delegation. Also new nationalities showed up, like Brazilians, Italians and Canadians. The program itself was completely arranged in the tradition of the Utrecht Salon 97. The reception and opening-dinner on Friday, demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, closing-dinner on Sunday-evening.

Concept of Marketing                                                                 

Interesting part was that most of them presented themselves on a very modern way. Besides of a perfect port-folio and packages with samples they all got their site on Internet fully equipped with E-mail. From this we may conclude that the consumer may obtain a new interior (painted) by a perfect sales-concept. One could describe as selling a theme. Normally the various disciplines within the craft are hard to explain to a consumer, let alone to sell it. In all these different presentations the techniques and craft SPECIALITIES have a big part in the total, still they emphasize the complete concept for interiors and furniture through a certain general style. They integrate all disciplines, furniture and ornaments. This is very clever, for, this way there will be variety in the concept and the decorative artist will have more space to execute the many techniques.

The Meals of Festivities

 Kirwin and Vaerst did their own demonstration opening dinner. An immense piece of canvas was revealed which was painted together with students. The central topic of the painting: Table of  Nations. It was a trompe l'oeil of a dining-room with a view on the next room. The dining-table is set with the French cuisine (lobster and fish from Bretagne, Quimiac, where the gathering was held in 1996) and the Dutch food from 1997 and some typical American additions. Also there are a lot of symbolic things entwined in the painting. A perfect piece of craftsmanship. Very interesting perspectives besides of the use of many exquisite techniques. The typical Kirwin/Vaerst coloring and forms are utmost charming and distinctively present. The painting is very much alive and kicking, besides of the fact that is a trompe l'oeil still-life. A new item was the Life Achievement Award. Presented by Robert Woodland to honor two grandmasters: Tom Valentine and Don Gray from Great-Britain.

A little bit of Art                                                                                   

The participating members were then treated with two lectures complete with slides. The first was William Cochran, who worked five years on a bridge in Fredericksburg decorating the whole. The complete town was involved on this project to obtain a better unity amongst the population. All the techniques from the decorative arts were used. And with a virtuosity and perfection never seen before. Even an amamorphos picture has been woven into the painted bricks. For more details visit his special web-site:

 After this another highlight followed. An Italian woman-painter Lucretia did a small lecture. She painted with the help of a very special technique. Through silk-screen and multiple brush retouching she tromped/tricked complete floors with painted carpets and marquetry. Not just one, but a vast amount of them. Very impressive. Not only that , but also on walls and textiles. And all that with a incredible speed. Again, the commercial feel.


All kind of great talents demonstrated for a full two days. This time the Swedish delegation put on a impressive show. The realistic and natural looking imitations were astounding. Most of them are teachers or a have a business of their own. The British again were the experts on classical an orthodox decorating. Robert Woodland this time did a linnen-fold oak imitation, a traditional English way of panel-decorating. Don Gray surprised everyone with a mahogany imitation done on an opelesque base (light reflecting paint). The New Yorker Pierre Finkelstein presented his new second book, a very complete, not-to-be-missed standard book. Also present was the French school Ipedec with their teachers. Incredible quality and first rate. The French were an eye-opener to many. Unbelievable oak, mahogany and trompe l'Oeil combined. Robert Woodland worked together with the French monsieur Pierre, the director of the school, on oak and sienna marble. On this level Europe and America taught each other a lot. New trends and fashion styles in the interior design world was another topic.

 And also the theatre called sales. Anyhow, all participants discussed crossover, regardless where they were from. This is a very interesting part of every Salon also. Besides of the demonstrations of various decorators from all over the world who will share their specialty and more so how it is done. Many new faces and fresh, new ideas. Most of the participants came very well prepared to the U.S.A. The French were in great numbers, some of them from the Ipedec school from Paris. Mr. Pascal Amblard did a sunny display of a country landscape. Exact and swiftly painted with flair in two days. The working area was different of course as in Holland, but all in all very cozy and suitable for this event All the paint and materials were provided. Demonstrations were done in two study-rooms of the school. One corridor was used as an exhibition space where new sensational sample and study material was to be seen besides of numerous port-folios.


A perfect piece of Pietra-Dura (marble inlay) on a side table done by the American Jeanne White tempted many eyes. The American interested visitors form the crafts movement were evidently surprised by Salon phenomenon and the European solid works. They tend to look upon the old world with a jealous eye. Organizer Ulrike Vaerst states that commercial decorative art in America is mostly based on European models. The interaction between new and old participants was classical friendly with an open view. Direct without feeling of competition they communicated to each other bluntly about techniques, new developments and achieved victories. Once more it proofed that the Salon is of great use, without any boundaries and irrelevant thresholds.

In the evenings during dinners and pub meetings people of all nationalities philosophized. Almost without any lingual problems. The decorative art in 1998 is very much evolving. On this level Europe and America taught each other a lot. Top decorative artists from America (Nicola Vigini, Patrick Kirwin, Evan Wilson, Patrick Cunningham, Pierre Finkelstein) discussed with an open mind about their goals and commercial trade. Not every decorative artist present on this salon is in such a privileged position. It has a lot to do with the regional culture and habits and smaller commissions.

We spoke about how to participate with new trends and fashion in the interior world. But also about the theatre called sales. Patrick Kirwin and Ulrike Vaerst have on this particular field many years of experience towards clients.


On Sunday evening there was the closing dinner. The evening was hosted by Patrick Kirwin and Ulrike Vaerst with the Swedish delegation completely in their particular Swedish country costume. They did a short, comical speech and both handed over the traditional map with all the addresses to the Swedish delegation. Sweden will be hosting Salon 1999. This time the organization will be done by Mats Carlsson and Lotta Olsson form the Palm Group. They did a video presentation of Norrkoping. After that Benny the Viking did his traditional drinking song. This complete Salon group was bonding more than previous times. They are getting to know each other better. Don Gray was the man who asked all of us to join the circle-dance. From that point off the real atmosphere came to surface. 

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