A PRIVATE VIEW OF THE GRANDE DAME

The reception, contained in four walls of dark, heavy oriental wallpaper, lends itself to a mysterious nighttime oasis in an Asian city, but the streaming daylight shows the cracks in this façade: the mud stained floors and frantic-looking staff creates an anti-climax after the splendour of the gardens which surround the Saatchi Gallery.I hope, optimistically, that the curators had not let standards slip in their pursuit for some vision of Parisian perfection.

Nope! 

My eyes adjust and my jaw drops at the sight of the exhibition’s first room. 

The romantic, gliding steps that slip into the pool of marble and cream that is the iconic Rue Cambon atelier, my first sighting in charming film Coco Avant Chanel.

I catch a glimpse of my star struck face, the exhibit assistant’s face next to it looking highly amused at the room of puffa-jacketed selfie takers and me, asking to pose with a cigarette holder as I descend down the steps (only allowed one foot, just a replica.) 

Maybe one more photo? Oh how about here! Maybe from this angle. Gorgeous!

The assistant, half laughing, half grimacing, asks me if I have the Mademoiselle Privé app, hinting at a little surprise laid out for us all. I pop off my glove entering the app.

I wait.

In a swirling blend of rich burgundies, gold, browns and creams, a portal into Coco Chanel’s lavish Paris apartment appears on my iPod screen. 

A squeal leaves my mouth. 

Can you access this outside the gallery?! 

No – take screenshots.

I salivate and moan at the visual delights on display. 

I feel a large figure approach behind me.

I totter out, attracting the evil eye of one of the shiny security guards. Oh… Before I go! No reading the book! But it’s a book about Chanel… I’m sure it’s meant to be read. No reading!

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