I Sniffed That Console

When I became a dealer, older dealers showed us newbies the art of hands-on inspection. This investigative work uses 4 of the 5 senses.

Recently, while examining a unique cabinet by a well known Italian maker at an auction preview, I became uncomfortable. An interior bank of drawers looked fishy. I seemed to smell.. solvent or stain? What really made me uncomfortable was the underside of the top. On all fours, head inside the case, looking up, I saw…particle board, and not old particle board..but brand spanking new particle board, totally inconsistent with what should have been there. That lot sold for $20,000.00 and upon inspection was obviously doctored.

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The Cradle of Italian Design

Unique Desk by Ico Parisi by Fratelli Rizzi, Capiago Intimiano, Italy 1958

Design books and magazine articles on the development of Italian Modernism and post war construction continuously champion the vital role played by Italy’s architects and larger manufacturers. As a result, the names of Ponti, Mollino, Albini, Ulrich, Mangiarotti, Frattini, Parisi, Sottsass, Scarpa, Cassina, Gavina are all very well known. Missing from the discourse however, are the many small producers, with whom architects collaborated to create the body of work which is now called Italian Moderism.

Commenting on what he saw at the 1951 Triennale, american architect, Dorwin Teague saw Italy’s craftsmanship as its greatest resource. These fine artisans were not the mere executors of the architects’ visions. Their knowledge of traditional craft and forms played an influential and important role in shaping the very look of Italian design. Continue reading

Gio Ponti’s Parco Dei Principi

Parco Dei Principi

Design destinations are often a little disappointing. As the years go by structures are re-purposed or the inhabitants want something new. So it’s rare to see a place left just as the architect wished it to be. Gio Ponti’s Parco dei Principe Hotel in Sorrento is true to the vision of the master.
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Carlo Scarpa’s Castelvecchio Museum

Castelvecchio

On November 21st, The New York Times reported a robbery at the Castelveccchio, museum in Verona Italy. Seventeen masterpieces by Tintoretto, Mantegna and Peter Paul Rubens were taken. The incredibly amateurish robbers, after demanding the keys to the car of the single museum guard on duty, used it to make their getaway. Italy has long suffered from inadequate funds to protect it’s treasures. Often I’ve found myself alone in rooms full of priceless masterpieces wondering, “where’s the security?” The museum, itself a masterpiece, designed by Carlo Scarpa,(1906 Venice-1978), is quite frankly exquisite. Everything there, including the architecture and display are pure Scarpa.
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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.