From the time of Adam, human beings have accepted as axiomatic the notion that the price of knowledge is contentment. That the accrual of information and experience leads us, sooner or later, to dismiss the familiar, the tried, such that places, objects and situations that once rewarded us with pleasures both intellectual and sensory end by dulling our senses and our thoughts. This ennui, when it takes hold, can be fatal to the spirit, though the uninformed, who closely associate it with connoisseurship, affect an air of knowing cynicism meant to suggest a depth of understanding they lack. How often have we all overheard sneering dismissals (accompanied by subtly rolled eyes) of a tie as last year’s style, a painter as too commercial, or a travel destination as too “touristy”? But disdain will not substitute for knowledge; nor will knowledge of its formula compensate for the loss of joy to be had from sipping a 1996 Pauillac.
A jaded palate is not the badge of connoisseurship. Quite the opposite. A genuine understanding and appreciation of life’s indulgences carries with it an abiding curiosity, an imaginative vigor that discovers and rediscovers unrealized nuances in fine objects and experiences each time they’re encountered.
This energetic philosophy drives our selection of people, places and things each June in Robb Report’s annual “Best of the Best” issue. Our staff of editors and contributors, ever wary of slipping into that insidious “been there, done that” mindset, have turned fresh eyes and open minds to the industries with which we deal. While we sacrifice many hours (not to mention brain cells) in quest of the strange and new, we’re not afraid to acknowledge that the tried and true may indeed, from year to year, remain the best. And so readers will recognize some of the names contained in the pages that follow. At the same time, we hope that we’ve succeeded in introducing our readership to at least a few new faces. In fact, many of those will be found in our “Undiscovered Bests” on page 242. Here we’ve assembled an eccentric assortment of luxuries, ranging from Europe’s most exclusive art sale to an obscure yet heart-arresting 550-hp supercar.
Throughout this issue, the only qualification for inclusion is quality, pure and simple. The arbiters of this elusive commodity have been the legions of experts with whom we deal, our readers in many cases, and most especially, the roster of distinguished journalists and editors whose names and accomplishments follow. I would like to offer them all my very personal thanks.