Say the word ‘bohemian’ and it conjures visions of Paris’ Montmartre in the late 1800s. Imagine impoverished artists carousing over absinthe, momentarily distracted by the flash of a courtesan’s fishnets, before stumbling back to their draughty garret to scribble away at their latest masterpiece.
Such is the bohemian legend cultivated by novels and films such as Vanity Fair and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! But who are the bohemians of today, and how do they live?
This is the question posed by photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna’s book Haute Bohemians, and according to him, modern Bohemia is still flourishing, albeit in grander settings than one might expect.
No longer starving hedonists, these so-called haute bohemians are fine artists, collectors, editors, antiques dealers, garden designers and couturiers. They reside in textbook bohemian settings – Paris, Ibiza, Tangier – as well as less predictable locales including Montauk, Berlin, Antwerp, and San Rafael in Argentina.
Eschewing garrets, they’ve opted for medieval castles, Cotswold mansions, clifftop villas and high-ceilinged European apartments.
Flores-Vianna’s subjects are diverse: artists Alessandro Twombly and Alexander Vethers, editor Min Hogg, collectors Christopher Gibbs and Peter Hinwood and art restorer Guilleaume Féau. Each of their houses are different in design, energy, taste and scale. So is it possible to put a finger on a communal bohemian spirit?
What seems significant in modern Bohemia is that every component of a home has significance to its owner. It goes without saying that no bohemian would hire an interior designer to ensure the result is au courant.
Rooms are the culmination of lives spent travelling, working, reading and learning. Paintings have origin stories; faded frescos sit behind modern art; prints and lampshades sit slightly ajar; curtains clash with cushions. More is usually more.
And haute bohemians waste no time worrying about perfection. ‘Probably there are mistakes,’ shrugs Osanna Visconti di Modrone, ‘but I hate houses with no mistakes. They are cold.’
Their world views might have changed over the years, but to this the 19th century Montmartre bohemian would surely raise their glass in agreement.
Miguel Flores-Vianna’s ‘Haute Bohemians’ is out now, published via Vendome Press