Featured on Halstead: Hidden Secrets of a Furniture Dealer

Good Design Shop on Halstead Property

Recently, I contributed a piece to Halstead Property’s fantastic Tumblr Blog. We discussed unsung Italian design leaders, advice for buying and collecting vintage furniture, and trends in the modernism market.

What made you become a modernism dealer?

I started out as an Americana dealer in upstate New York. When I relocated
to NYC I became a modernism dealer. I fell in love with Italy. I learned Italian and specialized in Italian Design. The market for Italian Design was slow in developing. It was thought to be the poor stepsister to French Design. Then in 2005, a glass and oak table by Carlo Mollino sold at auction for almost 4,000,000 dollars. At the time, only the big names, Gio Ponti, Carlo Scarpa, Gino Sarfatti, and Ettore Sottsass were well known. As the market has developed our awareness of makers has sophisticated.

Read the entire article on the Halstead Property Tumblr.

 

John Vesey: Style and Scandal

Modern Magazine
DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT
Fall 2011

John Vesey: Style and Scandal
By CYNTHIA A. DRAYTON

“A STATUS ITEM IN MANY of the best dressed rooms these days is at least one piece of furniture by John Vesey” wrote the newspaper fashion columnist Eugenia Sheppard in May 1968. Owned by tastemakers ranging from Nelson Rockefeller to the Duchess of Windsor, Vesey’s chairs, sofas, tables, desks, and lamps, mostly crafted. of metal, displayed clean lines and faultless proportions and were prominently featured in design publications and newspapers throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Today Vesey’s furniture is a cynosure among collectors of mid-twentieth-century design. As Gail Garlick of Good Design in Manhattan says, “Although Vesey designed his pieces to work well with antiques I think they are just as successful in contemporacy interiors.” Garlick, who rediscovered Vesey’s furniture, has a selection of it ranging from aluminum and glass tables to aluminum benches and aluminum and leather chairs.

The designer was born John Vesey Colclough Jr. in Norfolk, Massachusetts, in 1924. Intending to become a museum curator, he attended Harvard University for a time but left to join the Merchant Marine. By 1948 he had dropped his last name and had become an antiques dealer specializing in eighteenth-century French furniture and fine art in New York. Seven years later he consigned the contents of his shop to Parke-Bernet Galleries for sale at auction. Vesey then began to design his own furniture. According to several newspaper articles he first sketched his designs, which were then produced to his exacting standards by Beacon Artisans, a custom manufacturer in the Bronx.

Rita Reif exclaimed in the New York Times in 1958 that “steel is putty in John Vesey’s hands.” His chairs are a case in point. Describing one that he based on the Campeche, or Cuban planter’s, chair, Reif reported that “Vesey translated the rosewood frame of the original into aluminum and the cane upholstery into aluminum fencing.” Called the “Maximilian” chair by the designer, a pair with leather upholstery is available at Good Design. Reif added, “Mr. Vesey excels in adaptations of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century designs.” His other chairs based on historical designs included a reproduction of a Napoleonic campaign chair in steel and leather and an aluminum rocker inspired by a nineteenthcentury bentwood Thonet piece.

Garlick points out that “with his Harvard education in curatorial studies, Vesey was a natural to become a great designer of American modern furniture.” He was able to draw on his knowledge of art history and select key styles from ancient Rome to the French monarchy to the Napoleonic Empire to imperial Austria to create his classical furniture.

In addition to chairs, Vesey’s catalogues presented a variety of coffee tables in plate glass with polished aluminum and brass trim or with just polished aluminum, a console table in plate glass with polished aluminum and brass trim, dining tables in plate glass or marble with polished chrome steel and brass, and occasional tables in polished steel with ornamental glass tops. Bases were available with several options to choose from, including saw horses or double t-bars. Besides the lounge chair in polished aluminum and leather or just aluminum, the “Maximilian” line also extended to a sofa or a bench in different lengths and widths as well as a table in polished aluminum and aluminum mesh with an inset top that could be ordered in glass, marb,le, or wood. Vesey also designed a hurricane lamp as a form of outdoor lighting. Another piece was a folding bench in aluminum based on the sella curulis, a Roman magistrate’s cross-legged stool.

In a 1969 article on horn furniture, Vesey stated, “I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet to make antler furniture in aluminum. I want to copy this 1800 antler chair in metal. It would be a real kooky chair for a far-out apartment.” Whether he actually ever produced horn furniture in metal is not known, however.

One of Vesey’s most coveted pieces during the late 1950s and ’60s was a desk made of steel with giltbronze trim and a leather top and fitted with three false drawers and three true drawers lined in suede. The left-hand drawer was fitted as a safe with a combination lock. Based on Gilles Joubert’s red lacquer bureau plat for Louis XV, now in the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vesey reinterpreted Joubert’s rococo form in the bold, straight lines and geometrical form popular during the reign of Louis XVI. Sheppard wrote that the desk took six months to produce and that the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes bought it on sight. Count Rodolfo Crespi, an international editor for Vogue, and the American socialite Countess Sunny von Bulow also each purchased one. Vesey featured the desk in “a coffee with a client” vignette when he was one of five men-about-town invited to design table settings at New York retailer B. Altman and Company. (The others were the theater critic Rex Reed, the jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, the fashion designer Bill Blass, and John Nicholson, the owner of Cafe Nicholson.) Garlick is always on the hunt for one of these remarkably beautiful and versatile desks.

In 1965 Bill Cunningham, writing for the Chicago Tribune, described Vesey as “the leader in opulent modern glass, steel, and leather furniture of exceedingly fine taste.”

Newspaper articles consistently emphasized the popularity of Vesey’s furniture among the trendsetters of the period. Besides those already mentioned, his well-heeled clients also included the French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, Andy Warhol’s muse Jane Holzer, Hotel Carlyle owner Mrs. Peter Sharpe, Bobby Kennedy, and Anne McDonnell Ford.

In December 1971 John Vesey’s fame and fortune came to a lurid end when he was arrested, convicted, and then sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting and seriously injuring a seventeen-year-old high school boy he had picked up at New York City’s Port Authority. After completing his sentence, Vesey moved to Rhinebeck, New York, where he reputedly bought and sold antiques privately, and where he died in 1992.

But infamy never dampened enthusiasm for Vesey’s work, In March, for instance, Wright in Chicago offered his nine-foot-Iong black leather and aluminum chesterfield sofa with a presale estimate of $7,000 to $9,000, It sold for $68,500.

Roaming By Design

Great Design at Good Design

May 24th, 2010 by Saxon Henry

Roaming by Design

Gail Garlick crossed my radar several years ago when she opened Good Design, a beautiful space on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in which she curates quality exhibitions of furnishings she offers for sale. I was curious as to how she came to develop such a finely honed eye and she was kind enough to share her story with RBD readers. Currently on view at Good Design are furnishings by Antoine Schapira, which runs through June 11. Scroll down for a bit more information about Schapira after you’ve enjoyed Garlick’s journey to design:

My foray into the world of design began in 1975 in Upstate New York’s Columbia County, which was a far cry from the Columbia County of today. When I moved there to start my family, I knew I was going to the country, but the change of pace was jarring given that I had been raised in New York City by parents who collected art and enjoyed keeping up with the cultural offerings that flourish in Manhattan—a stimulating life that I had enjoyed immensely.

At that time, the county was mostly populated by local country folk, though that’s not to say I didn’t meet Ellsworth Kelly, a neighbor, in the Spencertown country store. He regaled me about my black lab, Morris, who had come by to see his dogs one day and had gotten so excited he peed on Ellsworth’s foot! I also knew that George Rickey was working in another village nearby, but by and large it was a sleepy little county in upstate New York.

After spending a year or so cooking, gardening, tending a horse, and renovating my Greek Revival home, I realized I was bored. It was then I struck up a friendship with a woman who, like myself, was a young mother. She and her husband were antiques dealers. Her name was Jane Dunn, and she and I enjoyed many play-dates with our young daughters. It was during that time that I was exposed to the world of antiques. Jane and Michael were true intellectuals; they had an ever-growing library and a passion for all things historical. It was Jane who gave me my first glimpse into connoisseurship.

Columbia County in the late 70’s had a terrific group of young Americana dealers who would later become some of the finest dealers in the country. The list included Grace and Elliott Snyder, Jane and Michael Dunn, Corey Daniels, John and Jackie Sideli, Robert Wilkins and Suzanne Courcier. Lucy Vine Clerk, mother of Ed Clerk—the famous Shaker dealer—was just down the street from the Sidelis in Malden Bridge. Bob Herron, a local auctioneer, lived and held wonderful auctions packed with American antiques in Austerlitz—near Bob and Suzanne.

I made friends with these very sophisticated people first, and soon I was living the life of a dealer. In those days I sold baskets, hooked rugs, painted furniture and shaker finds from the unheated addition of my home in Spencertown. I participated in flea markets for Russell Carrell and the Columbia County Historical Society in Kinderhook. I eventually set up at the Danbury Shows, which Jackie produced, where my booth neighbor was often Norma Keno, mother of Leigh and Leslie, who were collecting even then.

When I opened Good Design it was with an eye to bringing incredible talent together under one roof—sometimes combining the furniture of a group of talented designers whose creations support a theme and sometimes featuring the furnishings of one designer in particular whose creations shine in collective fashion. At the moment, I have the first U.S. solo show of Antoine Schapira’s works on view. He is not your run-of the-mill studio maker but a trained ébéniste from the elite École Boulle in Paris, and his interpretation of studio furniture is both elegant and high styled.

In her review of his New York debut at last fall’s Modernism + Art 20 show at the Park Avenue Armory, Roberta Smith of The New York Times called him, “an imaginative, stupendously skilled maker of exquisitely considered and finished wood furniture.” One of the pieces shown here illustrates how he works from a clay maquette, creating original forms using vintage Brazilian rosewood veneer and gilding. He also created one of these pieces by making his own veneer from resin and twigs, then wrapping the entire piece in industrial steel cable.

Good Design is located at 1305 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. To see the Schapira exhibition, visit between 11 a.m. through 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through June 11th.

Some Rare Finds at the Modernism Fair

The New York Times
November 14, 2008
Antiques
Some Rare Finds at the Modernism Fair
By WENDY MOONAN

SOME RARE FINDS
At the Modernism Fair

“Modernism: A Century of Style and Design, 1905-2005” is not like other antiques fairs in Manhattan. It has a slightly scrappy quality, partly because dealers have only a day and a half to set up, so they cannot do lavishly decorated stands.

Now in its 23rd year, the event, which continues through Monday at the Park Avenue Armory, is a cozy affair; most of the dealers have participated for years and are loyal to the organizer, Sanford L. Smith. When Mr. Smith began the fair in the 1980s, modern furniture wasn’t nearly so trendy. Over the years dealers have grown more successful, and more serious about seeking out fresh material. Prices range from $500 to $600,000.

“The prices are fair, and no one is cutting them, but, like any show, everything is negotiable,” Mr. Smith said.

This year there are many showstoppers, including a set of six Frank Lloyd Wright leaded glass windows from his Francis Little house in Wayzata, Minn., 1912-14 (Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts); a lacy, 91-inch-tall cast-iron hall stand Christopher Dresser designed in the 1860s (John Alexander); a huge, rainbow-colored Aubusson tapestry by Vasarely, one of six, from 1970 (Peter Loughrey); a hilariously warped black “Classroom Chair” designed in 1970 by Stefan Wewerka of Germany (J. Lohmann); and a fully furnished dollhouse by Gerrit Rietveld.

But equally rewarding discoveries include a 1940s portrait of a black boy in a red Eames chair, by the Chicago painter Edna Wolff Maschgan (JMW Gallery); a Bauhaus-inspired brass watering can by the Austrian metalworker Carl Auböck (Mondo Cane); a red Tiffany stained-glass salamander lamp from 1910 (Lillian Nassau); a Cubist-like sterling Tapio Wirkkala vase from the 1960s (Greg Nanamura); a hand-painted silk Zandra Rhodes vintage coat (Katy Kane); and a ravishing watercolor of a 1920s “Night on the Town” by the Danish illustrator Gerda Wegener. (The dealer said Wegener would be the subject of a film Nicole Kidman will produce and star in next year.)

Furnishings are always a strength. The Calderwood booth is filled with furniture by the Paris design firm Dominique. Donzella Gallery has an oval dining table with a white onyx top by the Italian designer Ico Parisi. Moderne Gallery has a compact Deco desk in rosewood by Eugène Printz and a 1962 music stand that Wharton Esherick made for his son.

Liz O’Brien has a white-lacquered Grosfeld House cabinet from the 1930s and a “Dalí” standing lamp by Jean-Michel Frank. Tony Subal has a pair of fluted black cabinets with pale maple interiors from the late ’30s by Osvaldo Borsani.

For sheer drama, few pieces can compete with the “Snowflake” chandelier by Paavo Tynell at Gal’ere, or the six-panel etched, mirrored screen, 6 1/2 feet tall and 18 feet wide, at Todd Merrill. Geoffrey Diner has a Scott Burton “Café” chair in stainless steel from 1988. Two Zero C Applied Art has two fire screens: a round Bugatti model from 1900 in painted parchment and a wrought-iron example from the 1920s by the Hungarian Georges Szabo. Good Design has a folding bench in polished aluminum by John Vesey, a 1950s New York designer patronized by Cecil Beaton and the Duchess of Windsor.

Among vintage ceramics, the standouts include a classic Grueby Arts and Crafts vase by George P. Kendrick (JMW); a turquoise chameleon from the 1920s by Well Habicht of the Keramische Manufaktur Darmstadt in Germany (J. Lohmann); and some forms by Leza McVey, a onetime ceramics professor at Cranbook (Mark McDonald).

A few dealers specialize in jewelry. Sally Rosen has a vintage gold bracelet designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro; a Claude Lalanne wine grape ring; and a Max Ernst pendant. Drucker Antiques has a Wiener Werkstätte enameled brooch depicting a child. Mark McDonald has jewelry by Art Smith, a New York sculptor who made dramatic metal cuff bracelets and necklaces from the 1950s to the ’70s.

As for fine art, there is a life-size white marble duck from the 1930s by Elie Nadelman (Bernard Goldberg); a 1981 Larry Rivers painting, “Dutch Masters, White Plains” (Peter Loughrey); a Modigliani head in cast bronze from the 1950s and an Alfred Janniot gilded relief of “Eros” from 1921 (Martin du Louvre); three large panels depicting marionettes by Eugene Berman, a Russian painter and stage designer for the Metropolitan Opera in the 1950s (Liz O’Brien); a colorful blown-glass sculpture by the contemporary Czech designer Rony Plesl (Geoffrey Diner); a carved wood wall sculpture by the Brazilian Hugo Rodriguez (Lost City Arts); and “Light Ray,” a 2006 bronze visage by Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas (Island Weiss Gallery).