gesture to the ever-present past, he snapped them up again.
He can see them now from his desk if ever he sits there.
It’s a splendid creation of cinnamon lacquer and glass that
stands free and clear of any detritus an agitated owner might
have strewn about. Nearby, near eye level, stretches a long,
thick, cream-colored shelf bearing neat stacks of books on
art, architecture and accouterments of the good life, plus
objects collected during Marco’s travels all over the world.
That was when he worked for Wilson Associates, doing
hotels in far-flung places such as India, Pakistan, Japan,
Russia and Indonesia. His first interview was there after
graduation from the architecture school at U T Austin, and he
loved the firm so much and so immediately that he cancelled
all other appointments and said yes.
Now Marco is on his own, helping clients such as the one
on Lakeside where he and Ashley Tatum now work together.
“We have a master plan,” he explained, “to reupholster
everything when the dog grows up and stops chewing on
rugs.” He was happy to report that some renovation is about
to happen. At one point Marco rehung the art and redirected
the lights with special attention to how and when they
should be dimmed. He edited heavily and spread things out
to reveal treasures long obscured by an excess of objects. As
for the architecture, “I’ve never seen [anything] so perfectly
detailed,” he said. “It’s my favorite Frank Welch house. It has
the elegance and stateliness of Lakeside but not the formality
Marco French is committed to the classical ideal, to
symmetry, order and proportion. Every work of art “is either
classical or baroque,” said New York art dealer Sidney Janis.
“Maybe so,” Marco replied when I quoted this to him, “but it
all begins with the classical.” The conviction that everything
flows from the formal vocabulary of Greece and Rome came
from his mother, a war bride who moved from Florence to
Texas to marry a U.S. soldier she met during World War II
when he was stationed on the banks of the Arno, in the land
of Michelangelo and Brunelleschi. She took her son, Marco
Joe French (the middle name is for his American grandfather),
to Italy when he was 8, then back at 13, and again after both
high school and college graduations. He still has family there
and would love to get “the tiniest little house in Florence.”
Marco still has a house in Waxahachie, where his father
owned a cotton farm, not unlike Ashley Tatum’s grandfather
whose cotton business was in Greenville. The two of them
agree that creative people are born, not made. They both
like to see a mix of styles that represent the taste, sometimes
multifaceted, of their clients. Most importantly, they are
reliable as civilizing influences in a city that can never get
enough of that.
As for art, Ashley Tatum no longer believes, as she once
said, that everything has been done. “You have to take a step
back,” she observed. “What is art? Painting, new media,
performance. [We are] reinterpreting, mixing the media.
Reinterpretation is endless. What we need to avoid,” she
added, “is ‘historical amnesia,’ forgetting what we never took
the time to learn.” Her aim is to keep that from happening.