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by Brook S. Mason
The artist with the most homes, studios and incubation sites preserved worldwide? Donald Judd (1928-1994) wins hands down with a total of 16 living and working spaces preserved by the Judd Foundation in New York and Marfa, Texas.

Now the Judd Foundation has just garnered another feather in its cap by winning unanimous support for its plan to restore the artist’s 19th-century home and studio in Manhattan’s SoHo district from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. That five-story cast iron building, located at 101 Spring Street, is one of the 16 Judd sites, which comprise more than 126,000 square feet in all. The other properties are the artist’s homes and studios in Marfa, plus three ranches in the nearby Chinati mountain range.

For the record, the 16 properties include: 101 Spring Street, the Architecture Studio, The Bank, Cobb House, Whyte Building, Architecture Building, Architecture Office, Ranch Building, Ranch Office, La Mansana de Chinati/The Block, Print Building, Art Studio, Casa Morales, Casa Perez and Las Casas.

The ever-prescient Judd purchased the SoHo building in 1968 for a rock-bottom price and it’s now considered the birthplace of his conceptual take on "permanent installation." Restoration of that house -- which includes a rare mural by painter David Novros -- is expected to take three years. Unfortunately, the building is closed in the meantime.

Will this latest preservation effort of Judd’s legacy nudge up his prices at auction? Bet on it.

That Judd property is one of the founding sites of Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios, a consortium of 30 of America’s most significant artists’ spaces that are open to the public. For the entire HAHS listing, click here

A visit with Carlton Hobbs
Scoot back to 2007 and the talk of the Brit antiques world was all about malign accusations that one of its best dealers, Carlton Hobbs, was selling fakes. What a difference 24 months makes.

Hobbs has recast himself totally by participating in vetted fairs, with the Olympia International Art and Antiques Fair in London coming up in June, and by putting together a spellbinding and flawless exhibition for his gallery on East 93rd Street off Madison Avenue. Dubbed "On Tops," it features 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century table tops in Italian pietra dure (hard stones like lapis and carnelian), with some examples making the recent Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition devoted to that specialty look almost minor league, plus Roman mosaics, intricate marquetry and more.

With its spectacular examples, no one should miss this show. What’s more, the gallery itself is worth a look -- it’s a former Vanderbilt mansion with 51 rooms and Hobbs has restored it to a level of grandeur rarely surpassed in this town. Carlton Hobbs is at 60 East 93rd Street in Manhattan.

Crazy for ceramics
Not to be missed is L’Arc en Seine, the Paris gallery with an Upper East Side branch just steps away from the Metropolitan Museum. There, at 15 East 82nd Street, L’Arc New York gallery director Frederic Fieux has cleverly engaged Brussels ceramics and glass dealer Pierre Marie Giraud to showcase five artists, each working in Europe and each with a contemporary art sensibility. There’s not a speck of cozy craft here.

Fieux designed the installation in the grand Beaux Arts townhouse and it’s pitch perfect, surprisingly spare and minimalist.

Particularly appealing is the brilliant peacock blue porcelain of Kimura Yoshiro, which contrasts dramatically with the work of the Japanese artist Ritsue Mishima, who lives in Venice and designs monumental colorless glass vessels. Highly abstract but biomorphic, Mishima’s creations appear akin to Axel Salto ceramics, and all are powerful statements.

Works by each artist in the show have already sold, signaling an ongoing taste for contemporary ceramics and glass.

"Our clients are overwhelmingly collectors of design and contemporary art, from Mark Rothko to Takashi Murakami," says Giraud, who will be participating in Design Miami/Basel in June. It’s only a matter of time before a first rate American museum rightfully pounces on some of this work.

Contemporary and vintage at Steuben
Recently, the versatile artist Kiki Smith extended her long experiments in glass to a partnership with Steuben, and collectors are zeroing in on her vessels despite the steep prices.

Take, for instance, her Tattoo Vase engraved with flora and fauna. While tagged at $65,000 each, only one is left from the edition of four.

Also on view at Steuben’s Madison Avenue premises are over 400 antique pieces designed by Steuben co-founder Frederick Carder (1863-1963) and dating from 1903-33. Carder studied with Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose stained glass windows and lamps routinely strike $1-million-plus at auction.

Check out Carder’s vessels from the early part of the 20th century. They’ve got an opalescent Tiffany glass kind of glow. The best ones are either a glimmering gold or turquoise. With a Carder 1920 compote for sale for only $4,500, the prices are a fraction of those for vintage Tiffany.

With auction houses already featuring specialty sales of such luxury brands as Lalique and Georg Jensen, Steuben is bound to be the next up on the block. Based in upstate Corning, Steuben since its founding in 1903 has always destroyed all seconds. So no need to worry about lesser quality. Steuben can be found at 667 Madison Avenue.

Period ballet costumes
The collecting of textiles, from period ballet costumes to 20th-century couture, has just received another shot in the arm. The Centre National du Costume de Scène et de la Scénographie (CNCS) in Moulins in France, which is the only institution worldwide dedicated to the preservation of theater, opera and ballet costumes as well as sets, is planning a permanent installation of such togs donned by the legendary Rudolf Nureyev.

Right now, that museum is featuring "Rudolf Noureyev, 1938-1993" (the French spelling of his name), May 9-Sept. 11, 2009, with over 40 of his costumes as well as archival photographs. Some of the costumes, like the heavily beaded ensemble for Swan Lake, make today’s fashion frippery look so minor.

Nureyev’s own costumes garner considerable interest from collectors. Back in 1995, Christie’s New York hammered down Nureyev’s costume for the 1960 ballet Giselle, which was performed at Covent Garden, for a lofty $51,750. The estimate was a mere $3,000-$5,000.

Another sign of the growing interest of this genre: in only a brief three years, this museum has snared an impressive 175,000 visitors. Plus, already under its aegis are 9,000 theater, opera and ballet costumes as well as sets from the three founding institutions of the Centre -- the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Comédie Française and the Paris Opera. For more info, see

Chiara Rapaccini design
Painter, sculptor, author and film collaborator Chiara Rapaccini is hardly a household name in this country. But in her native Italy, she’s turned out over 40 children’s books while creating fanciful furniture and sculptures and design objects. She’s just garnered her first U.S. exhibition, though she’s racked up shows throughout Europe and Japan as well.

The Italian Cultural Institute is featuring her work in "Rapple-Rap-Design," May 15-29, 2009. She’s mastered a lively sense of line and form with some of her chairs a spirited take on folk art. "I like to inject humor in daily life," says Chiara Rapaccini, whose designs are in sheet metal and wood. The Italian Cultural Institute is located at 686 Park Avenue.

BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times and other publications.