I wasn’t ready for our third Luncheon. I’d barely digested the last, generous issue when the latest beauty turned up on Shrove Tuesday. Luncheon, if you haven’t got around to it, is a cultured conversation about art, photography, literature and other many nice things arranged around culinary props and served in the manner of courses in a formal luncheon. Its ambition, erudition and design execution put it some way in front of most competitors, but the magazine's elegant and delicately warped vintage aesthetic puts it at the top table for us.
Number 3 arrives this time in two covers, both monochrome. You can choose between a vintage portrait of Christian Dior at home (Château de la Colle Noir) by the late Tony Armstrong Jones or a contemporary image shot by Jack Davison in the same setting. Although it’s carrying an extra 20 pages it’s largely the same fare on the menu. It could be argued that, as a 21st century cultural magazine, Luncheon doesn’t bring anything new to the table. At a glance some of this material may look over-familiar to those with cultish tastes. John Minton’s short life and oeuvre are now regularly raked over since a major biography in 1991 while the Elizabeth David revival seems to have been with us for so long now (Minton and David are of course linked). Irving Penn too is a perennial pop-up. But one can never have enough Minton and it happens to be the anniversary of his death. I doubt the artist will get a magazine homage that’s as nicely weighted as this, while David’s reputation as a culinary trailblazer is still building. It also happens to be Penn’s centennial, and Luncheon editor-in-chief Thomas Persson extracts plenty of insightful observation about the photographer and his enduring imagery from people who actually knew him, including the powers behind the inevitable print and exhibition extravaganzas of the year.
'... Luncheon carries off this sort of thing superbly and with quiet innovation ... Beneath the seeming glamour of it all, too, is a true curatorial zeal.'
But mainly it doesn’t matter because Luncheon carries off this sort of thing superbly and with quiet innovation. Jack Davison’s classical but playful portraiture is truly at home here. Beneath the seeming glamour of it all, too, is a true curatorial zeal. I enjoyed Francis Van Litsenborgh’s portrait of the Café de Flore, the legendary Parisian institution leading a fight against pointless modernisation. I’m even more ashamed to admit I’ve never visited CdF. There’s just enough depth to the articles and plenty of fresh angles. Charlie Porter’s short interview with the ICA director-designate Stefan Kalmár could be read between courses, but should linger with anyone with an opinion about the function of public galleries. Kalmár eschews rarified language or liberal arts/service economy speak about ‘engagement’ in favour of informed straight talk about current failures in cultural outreach. Absorbing too is the roundup of sophisticated New York townhouse dwellers profiled in the early pages, curious semi-known or twilight entities and socialites who work and entertain from home. Some of the namedropping is a tad difficult to digest and a handful of references are awkward (‘the Pink Martini’), but I like the idea and the approach.
So yes, Luncheon continues in considerable style. The editors are extremely well-connected and it would easy to think that’s the reason this all looks so effortless, but substance isn’t a given. Luncheon’s selection from an impressive canon of cultural personalities demonstrates knowledge, awareness and – most importantly for me – impeccable taste.