Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
     
    Decorative Arts Diary
by Brook S. Mason
 
     
 
Richard Ford
Mimi
1999
at Leo Kaplan Modern
 
Richard Ford
Yeah, Baby!
1999
at Leo Kaplan Modern
 
Townsend Goddard School Newport secretary
ca. 1770
at Bernard and S. Dean Levy
 
Simon Willard
Lighthouse clock with bow front chest base
ca. 1825
Boston, Mass.
at Bernard and S. Dean Levy
 
Double pedastel desk
ca. 1930s-40s
at Sonrisa
 
Jansen
Lacquered and japanned table
ca. 1940s
at Malmaison
 
Jansen
Regency style commode
ca. 1940s
at Malmaison
 
Serge Roche
Art deco torchere floor lamp
(detail)
ca. 1930
at Malmaison
 
Les Decorateurs des Aneés Quarante
by Bruno Foucant
at Archivia
 
James Bard
Victoria
1859
at NorthStar Galleries
 
T. Morales
U. S. F. Constitution
ca. 1928
 
English crewel work
early 1700s
at Cora Ginsburg
 
Inside Cora Ginsburg
 
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.
Leo Kaplan Modern, 41 East 57th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022, (212) 872-1616

Top of the line Americana
The very finest Americana is found at Bernard & S. Dean Levy on the Upper East Side. Current museum-quality pieces include a very Rococo, massive Chippendale ball and claw sofa with ornate carving. From Boston and dated ca. 1760, this sofa is the only known one of its kind. Also on view is a 1770s mahogany Newport secretary with the characteristic carved shells and exceptional dovetailing. More than eight feet in height, this exceptional example of craftsmanship costs $3 million.

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.
Bernard & S. Dean Levy Inc., 24 East 84th Street, New York, N.Y.10028, (212) 628-7088

Stylish stainless steel
The hippest entrant in the decorative arts these days is stainless steel office furniture. Sonrisa, a 20-year-old Los Angeles-based shop, just opened a New York branch which is offering this handsome specialty. Dating from the 1930s through the 1950s, these pieces must be seen to be appreciated.

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.
Sonrisa Furniture, 22 West 21st Street, New York, N.Y. 10011, (212) 627- 7474

Francophile holdings
Roger Prigent of Malmaison has the nation's largest cache of furniture by the legendary Stephane Boudin, who headed up the Parisian decorating establishment of Jansen. The late Boudin, a diminutive Frenchman, decorated the homes of the very rich from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to clutches of Paleys and Guinesses. He also worked on the White House under First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Just now his furnishings are undergoing a spirited revival. Decorators who have snapped up some of the Jansen pieces include David Easton, Peter Marino and Stephen Sills.

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.
Malmaison, 253 East 74th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021, (212) 288-7569

Bookish treasure trove
What's the nation's key resource for books on the decorative arts? It's Archivia, a quaint shop packed with new, imported, rare and out-of-print books. In addition to volumes on all manner of furnishings, this sliver of a bookstore on Madison Avenue carries books on architecture, gardening and design. The holdings are so comprehensive that Archivia regularly attracts prominent museum curators, as well as auction house specialists, architects and designers. Tucked among the shelves are books on Meissen, Royal Crown Derby and Indian textiles.

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.
Archivia, 944 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021, (212) 439-9194

Picasso, master ceramicist
If you can't make it into Archivia and can't get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's current exhibition on Picasso ceramics (Mar. 3-June 6, 1999), be sure to pick up the catalogue (or order it from the artnet.com bookstore). Titled Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay and edited by Marilyn McCulley (Abrams, $60), this book is bound to become a collectible itself. The photographs and interesting text on the master's witty ceramics make it a must-have.

Nautical fare
Ship models and paintings, barometers and sextants are soaring in popularity. Sales have tripled in a scant two years for Gregg Dietrich's North Star Galleries. Thanks to the booming economy, scores of Americans are turning to yachting. Also helping is his new branch in Newport, R.I., homeport to a bevy of sailing enthusiasts.

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.
North Star Galleries, 3 East 76th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021, (212) 794-4277, by appointment.

Textile treasures
Textiles are often overlooked, yet they are fascinating documents of the past, and are often visually riveting, far more so than what passes for art works these days. Some of the most beautiful pieces travel thorough the hands of dealer Titi Halle at Cora Ginsburg -- one of a handful of distinguished period textile and costume dealers in this country. To her credit, she has sold to a score of museums from Winterthur to Williamsburg.

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.
Cora Ginsburg, 19 East 74th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021, (212) 744 1352, by appointment.


BROOK S. MASON writes on Old Masters and the decorative arts.

In the bookstore:

 
Picasso: Painter & Sculptor in Clay
edited by Marilyn McCully