Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Margo Grant Walsh

My article on modern silver collector Margo Grant Walsh appears in the August/September 2008 issue of American Craft, which is out now. An excerpt is below. If you are in Houston you can see a large selection from her collection until 10 August at the Museum of Fine Arts: Check out some of the other contents of the magazine at:

Margo Grant Walsh spent decades in a career designing sleek corporate interiors in executive positions at Skidmore Owings and Merrill and Gensler, two of the biggest and most prestigious global architecture firms. Visitors to the New York apartment of this distinguished interior architect might expect to find furniture by Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe, but instead of the shine of chrome and glass they will discover the warm glow of hammered copper and the cool gleam of hand-made silver. All around, on shelves, in bookcases and on tabletops is the magnificent clutter of one of the most important collections, anywhere, of silver and metalwork from the late 19th century to the present. The emphasis in her d├ęcor is on comfort rather than cachet and Margo Grant Walsh herself and her splendid collection provide the latter in abundance. . . . In a recent conversation Grant Walsh discussed how her collection began, how it evolved and where it is going. Her guiding principles have always been design, form and function, not surprising for an interior architect: "I collect for design and everything I have you can use: I don't collect anything that could be called table sculpture." . . .
Margo Grant Walsh:

Muffineer by Charles Robert Ashbee, 1905:

Coffee, Chocolate and Tea Service by Charles Boyton, 1947:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pietre Dure at the Metropolitan Museum

RUSH to the Metropolitan Museum as soon as possible to see "Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe." Actually you have until September 21st to see this spectacular exhibition, but time flies and the next thing you know this once-in-our-lifetime assemblage will be dispersed. The show includes examples of hardstone carving and inlay from the early Renaissance to the neo-classical, from massive, wildly ornamented cabinets to exquisitely delicate and refined miniatures. Pietre dure craftsmanship has never dissapeared but the curators have, perhaps wisely, left out the mid- to late-nineteenth century when, as I wrote elsewhere about certain examples in the Gilbert Collection, technique exceeded taste. As much as I love all things nineteenth-century some of the pictorial hardstone inlays circa 1890 are pretty atrocious. Unfortunately it is that type of thing that turns off some people who, even more unfortunately, are inherently lacking in discernment . . . like James Gardner, an alleged art critic for the reactionary New York Sun newspaper who opened his review of the pietre dure exhibition with the statement that "there is nothing quite like those two little words, 'decorative arts,' to send all but the most committed museumgoers heading for the exit . . . any attempt to entice viewers with largely anonymous heirlooms from the ancien regime is probably a fool's errand. To date, the Metropolitan Museum has had only one notable popular success in this regard, the gorgeous two-part tapestry show that occupied its galleries this past autumn." I guess he didn't see the Herter Brothers exhibition and hasn't heard of the Wrightsman galleries, etc. Although his review is favorable he inexplicably calls the exhibition "oddly charming" as if it was a show of tiny, tacky bibelots rather than a collection of many of the greatest masterpieces of design and craftsmanship of all time and place.

The fabulous tabletops shown below depict allegories of air and water, made in 1761 in the Grand Ducal Workshops in Florence. Okay, so they are more elegant than imposing but, believe me, this show does not lack for imposing, authentic masterpieces.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Carlton Hobbs

Carlton Hobbs always had the most magnificent booth at the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show (in October at the 7th Regiment Armory). He hasn't shown there in a number of years but he now exhibits all year-round in his own townhouse in Carnegie Hill: In 1999 at the Armory he showed this outrageous Venetian mirror, 71 x 70 inches, circa 1720. I scanned it from the catalogue of the show, which is now going in the garbage along with a ton of other stuff that I decided I can live without--I had to save this image though.