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Last Meal on Death Row, the new art exhibit at Stephen Webster Beverly Hills, presents photos that take the menu items of infamous death-row prisoners’ last meals and stages them in the style of 17th-century still-life paintings. The works, shown in the British jeweler’s second-floor No Regrets lounge and art space, are by renowned artist and longtime friend Mat Collishaw.
One photo shows the Coke and Cheese Doodles requested by serial killer Velma Barfield, the first female criminal executed in the U.S. after the 1976 return of capital punishment. Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann declined a meal, asking for a bottle of dry red wine from an Israeli winery called Carmel. One of the more decadent works shows the feast of lobster tail, shrimp, clams and garlic bread brought for 350-pound Florida murderer Allen Lee Davis.
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“I thought maybe if I restaged these images in the style of 17th-century Dutch still-life vanitas paintings, then you’re going to start looking at them slightly differently,” Collishaw told The Hollywood Reporter at the exhibit’s opening night part on Nov. 7. “Even a cheeseburger in desaturated colors with a soft muted light coming from one side, you start to think about the issues you reflect on when you are looking at a vanitas painting: the brevity of life and the meaningless accumulation of wealth. So these photographs of last meals are like surrogate momentos of the prisoners who were executed.”
In conjunction with the exhibition opening, Webster hosted a weekend of “Last Supper” events, including a panel discussion at Soho House with major British contemporary artist Tracey Emin and celebrity chef Mark Hix. The latter – described by Emin as “Britain’s #1 favorite cuddly, lovely, friendly chef” — prepared a lavish dinner, dubbed “Last Meal,” on Nov. 9 at the Rodeo store. Guests for the meal of lobster, caviar, and truffles included actresses Rosamund Pike and Virginia Madsen, and collectors Kay Saatchi and Homeira Goldstein.
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The meal was capped with the chef’s signature absinthe jelly covered with gold leaf and raspberries, a brutal concoction invented at dinners in London with this same group of artists. Recently, Hix has taken to forming the treat in a brain-shaped mold he discovered. Hix gained some infamy himself in England when he served a special at his Hix Oyster & Fish House in London called “Keith Floyd’s Last Lunch” soon after the British TV chef died of a heart attack after eating at the restaurant.
When asked about visiting Los Angeles, Emin explained how she learned not to swim in hotel pools of LA. “I was staying at the Mondrian – I used to swim – even in that little pool. I’d get up in the morning and I’d swim like 150 lengths of that pool. And I remember once I dived in and there were all these rap guys and people pulling away their handbags and stuff and they were all like ‘Jeez, what does she think she is doing!’ And I was like the hated person at the Mondrian.”
Last Meal on Death Row runs through Dec. 7 at Stephen Webster Beverly Hills (202 N. Rodeo Drive.)
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