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|Decorative Arts Diary
by Brook S. Mason
|Decorative arts in the bastion of contemporary painting|
In the world of 20th-century fine arts, the decorative arts have long been considered a lowly stepchild. But Scott Jacobson, who heads up Leo Kaplan Modern, is fast changing that image. He's just moved from Madison Avenue to a 4,000 square foot space in the Fuller Building on 57th Street -- one of the city's leading gallery venues, housing the likes of dealers James Goodman, Nohra Haime and David Findlay.
"My holdings are the highest form of three dimensional art and the perfect accompaniment to paintings by Picasso, Lichtenstein and Noland," says Jacobson, explaining the reasoning behind his move. Make no mistake, Kaplan stocks cutting edge furniture and art glass. Right now, his show is "Richard Ford and Kreg Kallenberger: Recent Works." Ford's wood furniture is cartoonesque with wild proportions and bright colors. Yeah Baby! is a bed in purple and pearl and Mimi is a dazzling chest in a neon blue with yellow hardware. Both pieces look like they are about to lumber across the showroom. The bed costs $28,000 and the chest $15,000.
Kallenberger makes crystal prisms with interior landscapes, touched with soft colors. Ranging in price from $6,000 to $12,000, his kaleidoscopic works can be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the American Craft Museum. This show runs Apr. 8-May 1, 1999.
Top of the line Americana
Don't miss the lighthouse clock set atop a miniature bow-front chest for $185,000. The weight is inside the chest of this clock, which is crafted by Simon Willard, one of nation's most famous clock makers. According to dealer Frank Levy, this example is very rare, although 19th-century copies can be found. Levy has sold some 25 Simon Willard clocks to date -- a sign of the continuous quality that passes through this dealer's hands.
Levy also carries Staffordshire and Worcester tabletop accessories, paintings by such key artists as Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), and early samplers.
Stylish stainless steel
All examples are stripped, hand-sanded and resealed so that the surfaces are unscathed and the color a lustrous, pewter-like gray. An eight-foot-long conference table suitable for dining is $3,900, while a double pedestal desk is $2,125.
Who's the client for such sleek furnishings? "Production people," replies manager Dan Zelen. By that he means film, television and advertising professionals.
In total, Prigent carries 25 Jansen pieces. A small Louis XV style lacquered and japanned table is $5,000; an 18th-century French style commode in Windsor blue is $25,000. In addition, Prigent stocks stylish French furniture from the 1940s -- Charles Moreaux as well as Serge Roche. A pair of Roche floor lamps designed to look like fantasy palm trees cost $40,000.
At the lower end are works by James Mont, an American who worked for such gangsters as Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. Four silvered side chairs, their backs with Mont's initials in a rectilinear Cubist style are $8,000. "They are an excellent buy and sure to double in price within the next two years," says Prigent.
Bookish treasure trove
Right now, the top seller is Les Decorateurs des Années Quarante (Norma, $150.) by Bruno Foucant and Jean-Louis Gaillemin. It focuses on the unparalleled work of such noted French designers from the 1940s as Jacques Adnet, Jean Royere and Jean Charles Moreaux. Owner Cynthia Conigliaro also has many monographs, including ones on sleek French modernists Jean Michel Frank, Andre Arbus and Jean Dunand.
Picasso, master ceramicist
Considered the leading specialist in his field, Dietrich acts as a consultant to Christie's marine sales. His current holdings reflect the high quality favored by a rising number of collectors. He has a number of paintings on hand by such pivotal marine artists as James Bard, Buttersworth and Cozzens.
Especially of note is a distinctive picture of the paddle steamer New York by Antonio Jacobson. This 1888 oil is priced at $48,000. Painted with an opalescent sky, the work shows the artist's debt to James Bard (1815-1897), whose 1859 painting Victoria, priced at $165,000, is also on view.
As for antiques, Dietrich's ship models are fabulous. The leading example is a detailed rendition of the U.S.F. Constitution, completed in 1928. At 96 inches in length, it's a mammoth model with astounding details -- the interior cabins are furnished right down to miniature charts. Exhibited at the White House under FDR and at the Smithsonian, this model is priced at $100,000.
But Dietrich also stocks a range of antiques priced under $2,000 -- period silver trophies, small telescopes and navigator sets.
Right now, Halle has a magnificent piece of English crewel work dating from the early 1700s. Intricate yet bold, the design intertwines bunches of grapes worked in a three dimensional stitch, fantasy birds and exotic leaves. The extraordinary craftsmanship merits the $15,000 price tag.
Particularly appealing is the wide range of 18th-century English brocades made for the American market, which some collectors frame and hang on the wall. These textiles are only a loom-width wide, yet a skirt-length long. One piece in pale ecru with weft patterning and delicate flowers is visually sumptuous.
Priced from $500 to $2,000, the brocades would make a handsome addition to many a decorating treatment. The range of her inventory goes up to the very precious. She has a rare 16th-century Swiss tablecloth embroidered with scenes from the story of Solomon for $300,000, as well as a 1730s skirt in an Indian printed fabric with an overlay of gold at $35,000.
BROOK S. MASON writes on Old Masters and the decorative arts.
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