Great collectors have always been able to combine old and new in exotic ways. It's certainly the strength and glory of the stately English home. Now, Mallett, the venerable English dealer in antique furniture and glass, has recently broken new ground with an exhibition that dazzled the eye and challenged even the most erudite esthete.
To unveil its newly renovated Great Room at Bourbon House, Mallett brought together rare late-19th-century antique crystal furniture with the dynamic and robust work of the contemporary glass sculptor Danny Lane. Born in America, Lane began building his career in London over 20 years ago. This work is collected by everyone from the Corning Glass Museum to Elton John and Madonna. Lane is an expert at shish-kebabbing or, to use the technical term, post-tensioning stacks of broken-edged and polished sheets of glass to create tables, chairs, mirrors and sculptures. He's a master of sandblasting and etching as well, able to exploit his versatility to combine drawing, craft and industry.
Visiting the exhibition at Bourbon House, one passed through intimate rooms decorated in 18th-century eclecticism before reaching the Great Room, itself astounding in its massive height and double-cubed proportions. Here, Mallett and Lane had worked their magic.
Lane's stacked glass tables, made of broken, shattered and highly polished glass, transformed the room into a pool of intense emerald-green. The contrast between old and avant-garde was accentuated by the sparkle of shimmering Baccarat crystal. A pair of Osler throne chairs, made for a maharaja and his consort, are an eclectic vision in rich crimson silk velvet, gold decoration and finely cut crystal.
Across the rear wall sweeps Lane's massive Circular Mirror. For this astonishing work, the artist collaged together sculpted glass plates that were etched and sandblasted and affixed by heavy-duty steel nuts and bolts to a background mirror. One of London's leading chefs, Gary Rhodes, acquired the piece for a new restaurant he's opening in Edinburgh.
Another highlight was Split Wall, a wavering stack of jagged-edged plate glass that's remarkably smooth to the touch. The classic Etruscan Chair is a seminal work made of float glass with legs of forged, sandblasted and polished stainless steel. The kicker is that Lane "went there" and capped it off with stiletto heel tipped feet. It was no surprise to discover that it was made at the height of the 1980s.
Lane's Chandelier consists of strung pieces of shattered glass with steel spheres that dangle like daggers. It's an aggressive work, quite threatening to walk under. Yet the frightening effect is softened by the romantic silhouette the chandelier casts on the
ceiling. The piece was delivered just hours before the exhibition opened, typical for Lane whose creativity feeds off the adrenaline rush of fast-approaching deadlines. Commissioned by Mallett, it unfortunately wasn't photographed for the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.
PENELOPE UTTERLEE observes the art scene from London.