We’re thrilled to have journalist, art lover, writer and Rise Art insider Fiona McKenzie Johnston as this week’s guest curator. With an M.A. in History of Art, and years of experience working and writing internationally for renowned Conde Nast publications, she’s acquired a wealth of knowledge spanning the genres of fashion, film, interior design and beyond. Get a sneak-peek at her beautiful home with its steadily growing art collection, see her top Rise Art picks below, and discover more about her passion for Russian art, keeping up with the latest exhibitions, literature and travel.
Tell us about you & what you do
I’m a journalist, consultant and mother of two. I write about a range of subjects - including film, fashion, art, design, interiors, beauty and general luxury lifestyle - for publications such as Tatler and Vogue Russia.
Is art & design important to you and why?
Absolutely. I knew that I wanted to study History of Art from the age of about 10 or 11, which is when it started being taught at school and I was introduced to Hogarth and The Rake’s Progress. I’m interested in beauty and the evolution of aesthetics; why something looks like it does; the human element in art and design; and the stories about people that are told. It correlates with what I do.
Do you collect art or anything else? If so what do you collect, and when and how did you start?
My husband and I sort of collect art - insofar as we have run out of wall space. It’s grown up very organically. We’ve got pieces by family members (including my sister, and one of my husband’s cousins who was a Glasgow Girl), as well as friends, including Alice Peto, Catherine Cazalet, Miranda Donovan and Francesca Lowe. I’ve been given the occasional amazing fashion photograph, and then from time to time I will buy either photography, or the odd Russian piece - I can’t afford what I’d necessarily like! There are other things that have multiplied in the house - such as the Portmeirion storage jars. We go to the north coast of Wales quite often, and I buy another every time we go.
Where's your favourite place to travel to?
I love travelling both in India - where I have spent quite a considerable amount of time, both when I first left school, and again when I was lucky enough to work on the launch of Vogue in India - and North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt and Algeria where I spent my honeymoon which was incredible. The M’zab Valley, which so inspired Le Corbusier, is particularly memorable – mostly because I spent all our money there on a rug and as none of the ATMs in the country connected to the outside world, we couldn’t access any more cash and our standard of living promptly dropped… I also love the Yorkshire Dales, the north coast of Wales, and the north coast of Cornwall. There’s something magical about the light in all of those places.
What do you surround yourself with at work or at home?
Flowers, pattern and print, and images. My desk at work was always covered in a multitude of postcards of art that I love, and now that I work at home those postcards are all stuck up on a giant pin board in my kitchen.
How do you work art & creativity into your daily life?
I’m fortunate, insofar as going to exhibitions and art and design fairs is part of my job - I go because I need to know what’s happening, and I never know when it’s going to become relevant. The same goes for seeing films and going to the theatre - I interview a lot of actors, and I need to see what they’ve been in. I drop into exhibitions whenever I have a spare 15 minutes somewhere between meetings - whether it’s at a museum, a commercial gallery or Christie’s or Sotheby’s. And I write, every day.
What's your favourite quote?
‘Beauty, though, will save the world’ – Dosteovsky
Fiona’s Top 5 Rise Art Picks
I have spent a lot of time in North Africa and this is immediately evocative of the area - the light, the dust …
I wrote my Masters dissertation on Utopian ideals, and I find the ideals of housing particularly fascinating, perhaps especially because we live in an ex-local authority block, complete with pavements in the sky.
This is very powerful. My generation is the last with a direct link to the Second World War - I heard first hand accounts from my grandparents that made it seem very real, that my children won’t hear. This brings it closer. While there’s beauty in the depiction of this destruction, it’s no bad thing to be reminded of the destruction itself.
This is fun and something I know that my children would really appreciate - especially as my daughter’s middle name is Rainbow. I’d hang it in the kitchen or on the staircase.
January Curator's Picks | Browse the Collection
Head Curator Rebecca Gordon brings in the new year with her top picks for January, featuring bright and beautiful must-have works from our finest emerging and established artists.