A golden tomb

Katy Evans-Bush is also repulsed by the Trump Mausoleum.

The world had 18 months to get used to Donald Trump, before the shock of the election result; it turns out what we weren’t ready for was his apartment. Just days after winning, the president-elect and his would-be British middleman, Nigel Farage, stood beaming together in Trump’s private elevator – a lift so gold, so garish, so glaring, that it could have come with an epilepsy warning. The internet shielded its eyes and began to get the picture.

Oh yes – let me find that.

Image result for trump farage


It’s not just the bling – it goes way beyond that. It begins with Trump Tower itself, the squared-off monolith that’s like a steel and plate-glass alter ego. Out of the lift, you go through two gigantic – and one suspects totally bomb-proof – golden doors. The interior is furnished in what have been referred to as “warm neutrals”: gold, more gold – on the furniture, the ceilings, the fittings, the window frames – cream, rose, and, er, gold. There are pillars. There are curved arches, vaults in the lowish ceilings, faux rococo ceiling paintings, elaborate ceiling mouldings surrounding outsized cut-glass chandeliers, and claustrophobically thick carpets underneath. Not a surface is plain. There’s plenty of marble. There are also ornate carvings, over-the-top chairs, glass-and-onyx-topped tables with curling sweet dishes holding ordinary wrapped chocolates, statuettes of cherubs and lovers – all gold. The soft furnishings all look the same and all blend into the background, making the gold even more noticeable.

It’s nightmarish; it’s actively unpleasant. It might as well be bank statements. Gold can be beautiful in small doses. Globbed onto everything like so much ranch dressing onto iceberg lettuce? Not beautiful.

A quick look at dictator’s boudoirs – both online and in Peter York’s seminal book, Dictators’ Homes (now sadly out of print, but surely due a reissue?) – yields the surprising fact that very few dictators can keep up with Donald Trump for sheer bling.  Few of them can even keep up with him in ugliness, and those that manage both boil down to only a small handful.  Except for his own private gold elevator, barrelling from the Berghof straight up through the mountain itself to his lodge at the top, even Hitler went for a more ascetic, folkloric style. Mussolini had the real thing – an Italian Renaissance villa. And Tito lived the American suburban dream.  In his introduction, York cites “Outsider entrepreneurs”, including oligarchs, plutocrats and others in this category.

I’ve been inside quite a few rich people’s houses, and they don’t look anything like Trump Bordello. Some have struck me as way too much about expense and decorators and not nearly enough about fun and pleasure and color, but that’s the opposite of Trump’s fever dream of life inside Fort Knox.

Donald Trump’s penthouse is, on a smaller scale, even more gold than Versailles. But it is jarring and crowded; the eye has nowhere to rest, it looks too uncomfortable even to sit and have a talk. The style is in a battle to the death with the building’s plate glass and square construction, its oppressive, hulking ceilings, its lack of scale – it feels like a place to pretend to be alive in. As the Irish poet Mark Granier put it: “a golden tomb.”

By contrast, the homes of former US presidents like Reagan and GW Bush are simply very comfortable, easy on the eye, large, well-appointed homes, recognisably in the vernacular style of the American ranch house. They are authentically themselves, their houses (even professionally decorated) grow out of their roots, and, aside from some nice linens and so on, they utterly lack what York calls “the Wow factor”.

Exactly. There are antiques around, and it’s safe to assume they’re very pricey, but they don’t scream it at you. You don’t look around nervously for the Palace Guards coming to drag you away.

Our current class of dictators, oligarchs, sports stars, and alt-right radio hosts don’t give a toss about these kinds of refinements. It’s just BLING BLING BLING. The Trump apartment is not intended to be comfortable. Badly proportioned, stuffed wall-to-wall with ugly things (including the walls) and nothing restful or interesting to look at. No master artist sat in a workshop, being paid well to make something delightful for this place. Aping something like the form but not the function of the idea of Bourbon style, Trump’s apartment is actually more like an anti-Versailles. It’s the difference between patronage as power and power as power. It’s the triumph of a kind of deadness which shows itself in every other thing Trump does; its glitziness is exactly as barren as Damien Hirst’s diamante encrusted skulls, or paintings made out of real butterflies.

That is what it is. It’s dead. It’s heaps and piles and globs of yellow metal, and it’s dead.

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