James Perkins’ lifelong love affair with art began when his mother took him, aged 15, to a restorer’s workshop in Cheltenham. There, watching a freshly cast bust of Apollo as it was drawn from a mould, he was hooked. Several months – and a lot of carefully scrimped pocket money later – that bust became the inaugural piece in what was to become one of the largest collections of classical plaster works in private hands.
Echoing the Grand Tourists of the 1800’s, James gathered classical plaster and architectural master pieces, along with traditional taxidermy and objects d’art of a more eccentric bent. In 2005, he acquired and restored the perfect stage for his pieces: Aynhoe Park.
The Neo-Classical interiors of this grand Palladian Oxfordshire home – the vision of the great Sir John Soane – provide the ideal backdrop to the theatrical display of art and artefacts that James has skilfully and imaginatively arranged around his home. Somewhat a homage to Soane, the collection housed at Aynhoe Park includes significant additions acquired from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Royal House of Hanover.
But James Perkins is more than the latest in a long tradition of British collectors of art and curiosities with a taste for the unusual. His time in the modern music industry, married with a talent for collecting, have refined his eye for detail and honed his madcap creative streak. Curator became creator and in 2012 James set up his studio.
Transcending everyday collecting, the James Perkins Studio crafts extraordinary works of art, tribute to the interiors of Aynhoe Park and beyond. Drawing on a finely tuned vernacular of classical references, cut through with a surreal sense of humour, the work of the studio mirrors the juxtaposition of aesthetics unique to Aynhoe Park.
Much of James Perkins work has become instantly recognisable icons of Aynhoe’s identity: a 10ft Hercules resting at the foot of the Soane stairs, an oversized pocket watch hanging from his neck and a gilded balloon on his shoulder; the notorious Aynhoe giraffe, lifted to the heavens by a cluster of glass balloons – the gravity defying star of the Orangery. Whilst the works remain on permanent exhibition at Aynhoe Park, limited editions are created of each piece, made available exclusively through A Modern Grand Tour.
In October 2012, James held an auction of a number of his own artworks, along with historical plaster collections and impressive interior details with auctioneers Christie’s (titled, appropriately, ‘A Modern Grand Tour’). The sale attracted worldwide attention, drawing high-profile buyers and intrigued artists from across the globe and raising more than £3million. Now, preparations are underway for its sequel. In October 2016, James will once again be inviting the public to discover his collection, as well as the unique creations of his studio, embarking on A Modern Grand Tour of their own, and perhaps bringing a piece of James’ journey home with them.