Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chateau de Gourdon

For those of you that follow me on Facebook and Twitter you know that I am in Paris checking out the design sales/fairs... the most important being the collection of French billionaire Laurent Nego: Chateau de Gourdon at Christie's. I have been to the exhibition twice and plan to go once more before the sale next week. It is encyclopedic to say the least with many rare and oft unique pieces by Pierre Legrain, Eileen Gray, Ruhlmann, Jean Dunand, Rene Herbst.... you get the picture. The quality and volume are astounding and while I pride myself on offering you a balanced mix of art history, market analysis and a dash of snark I leave you with "design porn" from the exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo. If you are in paris this weekend you must go. Longer post to follow after the sale.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Animal: Musée des Arts Décoratifs

I awoke this morning to look at some old "furniture friends" at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. After winding through the menagerie of renaissance through art deco masterworks I stumbled upon their latest theme exhibition celebrating how man has utilized the animal in form or as material across a wide range of disciplines. Here are some highlights that made me the best sense of course.

This polo shirt by designed by the Campana brothers for Lacoste in 2009 was quite wild. Not as wild as one of their stuffed animal chairs but playful nonetheless. It is literally alligator logos stitched together which gives the appearance of a rather pop culture play on would have to have it lined for sake of function, lest what is meant to be private becomes public.

Now I know giraffes are sweet and majestic with those long bashful eyelashes... but this giraffe fur coat from the Guy Laroche Fall/Winter 1965-66 is sublime. The graphic pattern of the hide is a happy marriage with the mod fashion period.

This imposing display dedicated to birds is fronted by an amazing peacock gate by wrought iron master Jean Perot.

I was completely unfamiliar with French designer Bernard Rancillac or his "Elephant Chair" of 1967. The wall decals by Studio Job and Adrien Gardere are inspired as is the stretched "Whippet Bench" by Radi Designers of 1998.

Oh La La La Lalanne! I have waxed poetic about the Lalannes in the past and it was great at long last to be confronted by their "Rhinoceros Desk" of 1966. One never gets past the scale of these pieces.

Now if you have been following this blog you know my deep love for the works of Armand Albert Rateau. While cast in bronze the delicate deer give it a lightness and almost surreal quality. One of my absolute faves!

A vignette dedicated to animals as symbols of power. Not sure how I feel about Niki de Saint-Phalle's "Pouf Serpent Noir" in such close proximity to Abbot Suger's famous eagle vase or the gothic revival lectern... oh well.

This display of 17th and 18th century furniture feet juxtaposed with "hoof" inspired modern shoes was beyond clever and made me take pause. Well played.

This 19th century Chinese kingfisher feather work headdress was amazing and vibrant. I have never seen one in such good repair and embellished to this degree. Since they are not entirely blue one wonders how many poor little kingfishers were needed to complete this piece.

Now I have long been aware of the shagreen covered geometric lamps and boxes created by Clement Rousseau but I have never seen a clock. Who knew this form existed but I am so glad it does.

Very skillful use of contrasting shagreen tints to further heighten the faceted surface.

I leave you with this image. Only the Musée des Arts Décoratifs would have an 18th century woven silk coat for a pet monkey. The only thing that I can imagine is that it clearly did not get much use. This is merely a sampling, you must see the show before it closes at the end of November 2011.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Paris by day, Paris by night...

View from the white room of the Maison Blanche Restaurant, 15 Avenue Montagne

Just a quick note this time. After a few weeks of frantic advising I am in Paris for two weeks for some much needed R&R and to take-in the 20th century design sales. I will naturally keep you updated with my discoveries. More to come...


Eiffel tower from the roof of the Grand Palais Photo: guigui

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Antiques & Art At the Armory"

Last night I attended the the opening reception for "The Antiques & Art at the Armory" show. The Winter Antiques Show it is not, but I was quite impressed with the array of goods and dealers. As you enter you are confronted by the whimsical and infinitely stylish vignettes created by Newel Gallery.

The installations tended to be more editorial than sale-friendly but it gives you a strong impression of the eclectic mix Newel has to offer. In the booth of The Silver Fund I was captivated by a rather large dinanderie vase by art deco master Jean Dunand.

Only a precious few pieces of this scale come-up at auction each season but not always with this level of decoration. At $95,000 it seems almost a steal. Over in the booth of Gallery 47 was a veritable menagerie of vintage perfume bottles and packaging. Most are a bit too frilly for my taste but I found myself drawn to two Egyptian revival scent bottles.

Again, some will fault my taste for the macabre but i think they are great (even the striking serpent bottle in the foreground). I have often thought that "modern alchemist" Douglas Little should create perfumes or room fragrances packaged in casts of bottles such as these. They truly capture the western fascination with "Old King Tut". They are quite a folly and one wonders what the fragrances were like...but I digress.

On the way out I wound through the booth of Tiffany veteran Ophir Gallery. The lamps were quite nice but I was captivated by their array of Tiffany Studios glass. They had examples of every major technique aquamarine, cypriote, floriform, cameo and agate glass.

This particular example of agate glass caught my eye. It is astounding that glass could be internally decorated and then cut to perfectly mimic stone to a heightened and other worldly effect. The show is open through the 13th and I highly recommend that you check out their compelling lecture series.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Van Cleef & Arpels: Set In Style

Yesterday I found myself between appointments deep in the heart of New York's museum mile and opted to kill time at the Van Cleef & Arpels "Set in Style" exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. I am very glad that I did for a variety of reasons. The show runs until June 5, 2011 and comprises some 350 objects, drawings and archival materials.

Carved emerald and diamond necklace, formerly in the collection of the Begum Aga Khan. Photo: Patrick Gries

The jewels were naturally a big draw. Who doesn't like to while away an hour gazing at treasures that inhabit quite a different world than the average person. The emerald necklace above was a particular favorite. I have always adored emeralds that are carved in the Indian taste rather than faceted in the Western sense. Cartier is quite well known for this and I was happy to see that Van Cleef was also in on the trend.
Jarretiere diamond and ruby bracelet formerly in the collection of Marlene Dietrich. Photo: Patrick Gries

This Art Deco stunner formerly in the collection of Marlene Dietrich was also a stand-out. Its scale and asymmetrical composition were quite unusual.

Installation at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Photo: Matt Flynn, © Smithsonian Institution

While the jewels were the focus, I was impressed with the avant garde displays executed by Jouin Manku Studio. The organic shapes of their individual glass domes and cases allowed very close proximity with the objects which I have yet to see in any previous jewelry exhibition. The studio was definitely thinking outside of the box and it showed.

Installation at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum designed by Jouin Manku Studio. Photo: Matt Flynn, © Smithsonian Institution

Installation at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum designed by Jouin Manku Studio. Photo: Faith Bowman

Manchette bracelets/necklace formerly in the collection of Daisy Fellowes. Photo: Patrick Gries

This amazing collar necklace is comprised of two bracelets that can be connected, talk about versatility. It was owned by the Singer Sewing Machine heiress Daisy Fellowes. Her taste for jewels was voracious and her Cartier "Collier Hindou" is an object of devastating beauty... but I digress.

Diamond and ruby bouquet brooch utilizing the patented "Mystery Setting". Photo: Patrick Gries

Last but not least, there was a fascinating presentation regarding the firm's patented "Mystery Setting" seen in the brooch above. For years in the auction biz I had seen a number of these sculptural pave set jewels and figured there was a configuration of small prongs to the verso. Ever the innovator, Van Cleef & Arpels devised their own uncanny solution. Essentially the stones are carved with grooves and slide into the setting much like a drawer into a chest. Truly ingenious. The video can be found here. If you find yourself with some free time I advise that you see the exhibition in person.