Catherine L. Futter. Photo by Mark McDonald, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Catherine Futter named to new leadership position at KC museum

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – During opening week for two special exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the museum has announced that Catherine L. Futter – responsible for both exhibitions – has been promoted to the Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts.

The new title reflects a greatly expanded role for Futter as she heads a newly created division overseeing three existing departments: Arts of the Ancient World, European Paintings and Sculpture, and Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts, which includes American Decorative Arts.

In addition to her new role as head of a large curatorial division, Futter is currently steering the museum’s wider discussion of a cultural district, a conversation that involves concepts for 10, 20 to 30 years from now in Kansas City’s Midtown/Plaza area. She is the curator for the original exhibition Jump In! Architecture Workshop and responsible for the Nelson-Atkins presentation of Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity. Also, she is co-curator of A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America, which opens March 28.

Futter is a graduate of Duke University, where she concentrated in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, with a focus on Italian Renaissance paintings. She earned her doctorate from Yale University and developed a specialization in American and European decorative arts from 1850 to the present. In 2002, she joined the Nelson-Atkins as Curator of Decorative Arts. She curated a major international loan traveling exhibition, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at World’s Fairs, 1851-1939, that opened at the Nelson-Atkins in 2012.

She has been critical in bringing contemporary artists into the Nelson-Atkins programs with celebrated and innovative exhibitions such as Resting Places Living Things: Designs by Michael Cross; Forever, an installation by Clare Twomey; The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains of World’s Fairs by Ives Maes; and Presence & Absence: New Works by Tom Price.

In more recent years, her title expanded to include Architecture and Design, as her projects stretched to include stewardship of the museum’s cultural district initiative. Futter also is a member of the museum’s Strategic Leadership Group, and she was a Fellow in 2014 with the Center for Curatorial Leadership.

Lot 408 – Pablo Picasso ‘Service Visage Noir’ Madoura charger. Roland Auctions NY image

Upscale decorative arts offered by Roland Auctions NY, March 7

NEW YORK – On March 7 Roland Auctions NY presents its Magnificent March Auction featuring over 600 lots of fine and decorative arts selected from choice estates throughout New York City including the contents of a five-story townhouse at 339 E. 87th St. and a collection from 150 E. 59th St.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide absentee and Internet live bidding.

Roland’s reputation for discovering and reintroducing significant works of fine art is further earned as bidders vie for paintings, prints, and other media not available in the marketplace for decades. This month’s estate pieces span European old master works through modern vanguards and contemporary emerging artists. Sought after artists include A. Parton, W. DeForest, Erte, C. Timner, P.Picasso, among many more.

In addition to 20th century modern art, mid-century design is strongly represented at Roland Auctions NY this month. Standouts include Muller Freres art glass, Tiffany Studios “Grapevine” and “Venetian” desk set articles, and furniture by Ico Parisi, Herman Miller, Milo Baughman and others.

Already generating excitement is a group of vintage Pablo Picasso Madoura ceramic chargers and platters with designs dating to the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In tandem with this auction’s exposition of modernism are dozens of traditional 18th and 19th century American, French, Italian and English tables, chairs, desks and commodes. Among these fine period pieces are Georgian, Queen Anne, Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Louis Philippe specimens. A featured lot in this category is a white marble tabletop with exquisite inset micromosaic, signed Luchini, depicting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Also of note is a pair of 17th-18th century carved and gilt wood sculptural angel candelabras.

A star of this auction is an early 20th Century Tiffany & Co. tall-case [grandfather] clock with an eight-day movement and tubular bell chimes in a monumental transitional style case with glazed waist.

Grand tour marble and bronze sculptures are sure to capture the attention the connoisseur with works signed by: H. Muller, H. Ple, J. Cortot, and G. Roth.

A cornucopia of international vintage and modern silver comprises a notable section of Saturday’s offerings with all manner of flatware and serving articles. Makers include Georg Jensen, Allan Adler, Wallace & Sons, Tiffany & Co. Makers, Hans Hansen and Carl Steyl.

Estate jewelry in gold and silver settings is also available at every bidding level. These vintage and modern items include diamond, coral, pearl, amber, jade, agate and other precious and semi-precious stones in a wide variety of styles.

Fresh-to-market Asian and Chinese art is represented by objects accomplished in silver, bronze, enamel, jade, hardstone and ceramics. Featured among these objects is a pair of nearly life-size 18th century Chinese cloisonné rams on exotic wood bases.

Royal watchers will be pleased to bid upon a black patent leather handbag from the estate of Wallace Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Celebrity memorabilia enthusiasts will take notice of a chic evening sweater owned by Gloria Swanson.

Roland Auctions NY continues its walk-in valuation day on Thursday, March 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. William and Robert Roland invite customers to stop in for a free evaluation from one of their appraisers.

 

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Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni, courtesy Piasa Paris

Il mercato dell’arte in Italia: Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni

PARIGI – Tra i maestri italiani della ceramica un nome di rilievo è quello di Marcello Fantoni, nato a Firenze nel 1915 e scomparso nel 2011.

La sua carriera è iniziata molto presto: a soli 12 anni Fantoni iniziò a frequentare i corsi del ceramista Carlo Guerrini all’Istituto d’Arte di Porta Romana di Firenze. Parallelamente prese lezioni di scultura da Libero Andreotti e Bruno Innocenti e di disegno da Gianni Vagnetti. Questa formazione multidisciplinare trova riscontro nella sua produzione: Fantoni riuscì, infatti, a combinare la semplicità della ceramica tradizionale italiana con la ricerca artistica contemporanea internazionale e a conferire agli oggetti quotidiani un’espressività scultorea. Influenzato dal primitivismo così come dall’arte moderna e dal Cubismo, Fantoni fu capace di unire la plasticità della scultura e il cromatismo della pittura, l’attenzione alla linea così come ai volumi. Dal punto di vista tecnico, Fantoni utilizzava un materiale arcaico come l’argilla nella convinzione che questa disponesse di un potenziale espressivo non ancora svelato, e dipingeva tutti gli oggetti a mano, rendendoli così unici.

Tale singolarità degli oggetti ha fatto sì che il suo lavoro riscuotesse subito grande successo tra i collezionisti. Nel 1936, infatti, Fantoni aprì la sua la manifattura Ceramiche Fantoni dopo un periodo trascorso come direttore artistico di una fabbrica di Perugia. Già in occasione della mostra dell’Artigianato di Firenze, nel 1937, la sua produzione si affermò come una delle tendenze più attuali e riportò un grande successo anche dal punto di vista commerciale. Nel 1970 Fantoni fondò all’interno del suo studio a Firenze la Scuola Internazionale d’Arte Ceramica attraverso la quale diffuse i suoi insegnamenti.

Oggi i suoi pezzi all’asta vengono venduti per cifre tra i 500 e i 15.000 euro, ma sono molto rari sul mercato e c’è molta richiesta per acquistare i pezzi più importanti. Un po’ più spesso compaiono sul mercato americano. Molti dei suoi oggetti sono conservati in collezioni sia private che museali, per esempio al Metropolitan di New York, al Boston Museum of Fine Arts, al Victoria & Albert Museum di Londra e nei musei d’arte moderna di Tokyo e Kyoto. In Italia il suo lavoro può essere ammirato al Museo delle Ceramiche di Faenza, al Museo del Bargello e al Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi di Firenze.

La casa d’aste francese Piasa dedica ora a Fantoni un’asta monografica che si terrà a Parigi il 15 aprile. “È la prima volta che una raccolta importante di sue opere viene mostrata a Parigi”, ha detto Frédéric Chambre, specialista di design della casa d’aste. “Nonostante la presenza delle sue opere in numerosi musei e collezioni, Fantoni non ha ancora avuto una retrospettiva importante in un’istituzione. Il suo mercato è ancora molto elitario e non c’è molta disponibilità sul mercato. Speriamo di dare più luce e visibilità a questo importante creatore e che questa asta monografica porti a Fantoni l’attenzione che merita”.

In vendita ci saranno un centinaio di oggetti tra vasi, lampade, tavoli e sculture con stime da 800 a 12.000 euro. Tra i lotti più importanti ci sono due sculture in ceramica smaltata caratterizzate da volumi molto particolari con stime tra 4.000 e 6.000 euro (lotti 7 e 36) e un tavolo del 1970 stimato 8.000-12.000 euro (lotto 38). Ma ci saranno anche lotti interessanti a prezzi molto accessibili, per esempio tre piccoli vasi degli anni 60 di colore bianco latte stimati 800-1.200 euro (lotto 3) e due vasi con gocce bianche e colorate da 600-900 euro ciascuno (lotto 24 e 25).

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Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni, courtesy Piasa Paris

Art Market Italy: Marcello Fantoni’s ceramics

Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni, courtesy Piasa Paris

Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni, courtesy Piasa Paris

PARIS –Among the masters of Italian ceramics an important name is that of Marcello Fantoni, born in Florence in 1915 and died in 2011.

His career began early. Just 12 years old, Fantoni began attending classes taught by ceramist Carlo Guerrini at the Art Institute of Porta Romana in Florence. Fantoni also took sculpture lessons from Libero Andreotti and Bruno Innocenti and drawing lessons from Gianni Vagnetti. This multidisciplinary training is reflected by his production: Fantoni, in fact, succeeded in combining the simplicity of Italian traditional ceramic with the trends of the international contemporary art research, and in giving to everyday objects the expressiveness of sculpture. Influenced by Primitivism as well as by Modern Art and Cubism, Fantoni was able to combine the plasticity of sculpture and the chromatism of painting. He focused his attention both on the lines and on the volumes. From a technical point of view, Fantoni used an archaic material like clay in the belief that it provided an untapped expressive potential. He painted all objects by hand, making them unique.

The singularity of the objects made these works immediately successful among collectors. In 1936 Fantoni opened his studio called Ceramiche Fantoni after a period spent as the artistic director of a factory in Perugia. Already on the occasion of the Florence Arts & Crafts exhibition, in 1937, his production established itself as one of the latest trends and brought him huge commercial success. Later on, in 1970, Fantoni founded in his studio in Florence a school, the International School of Ceramic Art, through which he spread his teachings and influence.

Today Fantoni’s pieces are sold at auction for prices from €500 to €15,000, but they have been scarce on the market and there is a high demand for the most important pieces. They appear on the U.S. market a little more often now. Many of his objects are kept in private collections and museums including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the museums of modern art in Tokyo and Kyoto. In Italy, his work can be seen at the Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, at the Bargello Museum and at the Prints and Drawings Cabinet of the Uffizi in Florence.

French auction house Piasa is devoting to Fantoni a monographic auction, which is taking place in Paris on April 15. “This is the first time that an important esemble of Fantoni’s works is shown in Paris,” Piasa design specialist Frédéric Chambre said. “Despite his presence in numerous museums and collections, Fantoni did not take advantage of an important retrospective in one of these institution. His market is still very elitist and there are not so many pieces available on the market. We do hope to shed a new light and give more visibility to this important creator and that this monographic auction gives Fantoni the place he deserves.”

The sale will include about 100 objects like vases, lamps, tables and sculptures with estimates ranging from €800 to €12,000. Among the most important lots there are two sculptures in glazed ceramic, estimated between €4,000 and €6,000 (lots 7 and 36) and a table from 1970 estimated at €8,000-12,000 (lot 38). But there will also be lots at affordable prices like, for example, three small vessels from the 1960s in a romantic milky white color estimated at €800-1,200 (lot 3), and two large white vases with color drips estimated at €600-900 each (Lot 24 and 25).

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What would a Stevens Auction sale be without a gorgeous walnut Victorian half tester bed? This one in the March 7 auction is full-size and heavily carved. Stevens Auction Co. image

Stevens Auction to sell famed Ala. dealers’ collection March 7

ABERDEEN, Miss. – The living estate of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hudson of Birmingham, Ala. – a couple who was renowned nationwide for having operated as Hudson’s Antiques & Auctions for over 33 in the building next to their mansion-style home – will headline an auction planned for March 7 at Stevens Auction Co.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide absentee and Internet live bidding.

The Hudsons’ home and adjacent business was in Limestone County, Alabama – between Athens and Decatur. Their auctions were huge productions, and they became larger than life figures, conducting sales in a facility alongside their palatial Greek Revival residence. Only now, after having retired and moved to a smaller home, have they decided to sell their massive collection.

Offered will be hundreds of rare items, such as antique furniture by names such as Wooton, Mallard and Schott; old clocks, including a magnificent grandfather calendar clock made by the Herschede Clock Co.; many handmade Persian rugs; original works of art; hand-painted porcelain; early lamps and lighting; brilliant cut glass; cloisonné; sterling silver; china and more.

Also in the auction will be hand-selected items from a prominent estate in Vicksburg, Miss., full of beautiful Victorian furniture and other Americana pieces. The action will kick off on Friday, March 6, at 5 p.m. Central time, with a session dedicated mainly to rare coins and Confederate money, plus books, silver and other items. Friday’s session will be live only; no Internet bidding.

The Saturday session, starting at 10 a.m. Central time, will feature live bidding, via LiveAuctioneers.com. The offerings that day will span many categories. Lots will include a 140-piece set of blue and white Wedgwood china; a monumental, palace-size Persian rug with Sarouk design in pink, blue and navy, 24 feet 2 inches by 11 feet 11 ½ inches; and several antique German porcelain dolls, signed, in original dresses.

In addition to the Herschede grandfather clock, other fine clocks will include a heavily carved American Victorian oak wall clock with north wind face, a Victorian marble clock set with Egyptian Sphinx on bronze cups with claw feet and urn, and a cast-iron figural clock, probably Ansonia. Also selling will be a matched pair of opposing Federal argand lamps, signed Messenger.

Furniture highlights include a walnut Victorian cylinder-roll Wooton desk, signed and stenciled with swing-out doors; and a rosewood rococo marble-top base étagère, signed N. (Nicholas) Schott, the famed Philadelphia cabinetmaker, crafted circa 1865, stenciled and in the original finish, 91 inches tall.

Other furniture will include a French or Italian slant-front desk with hidden compartments, circa 1790-1820; a fine mahogany 19th century bookcase with pierce-carved gallery, attributed to Mallard; and a beautiful 19th century porcelain Meissen mirror with applied roses and figurals, with a cut beveled and scalloped original mirror, impressive at 4 feet tall by 4 feet 4 inches wide.

It seems Stevens Auction manages to feature at least one, usually more than one, monumental bed or bedroom suite in its auctions, and this one will be no exception. Offered will be a walnut Victorian half tester bed, heavily carved and full size; and a walnut Victorian two-piece bedroom set with ladies’ heads, in the great original finish, with bed and dresser both 7 feet 8 inches tall.

The art category will be highlighted by a large oil on canvas depiction of a Roman scene, circa 1900-1920, measuring 6 feet 1 inch by 10 feet.

To request a full color brochure or for details, call 662-369-2200, or send an email request to stevensauction@bellsouth.net.

 

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Leonard Nimoy (Spock) at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Image by Beth Madison. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In Memoriam: actor Leonard Nimoy, 83

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Leonard Nimoy, the actor known and loved by generations of Star Trek fans as the pointy-eared, purely logical science officer Mr. Spock, has died.

Nimoy died Friday of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at his Los Angeles home, with family at his side, said his son, Adam Nimoy. He was 83.

Although Nimoy followed his 1966-69 Star Trek run with a notable career as both an actor and director, in the public’s mind he would always be Spock. His half-human, half-Vulcan character was the calm counterpoint to William Shatner’s often-emotional Captain James Kirk on one of TV and film’s most revered cult series.

“He affected the lives of many,” Adam Nimoy said. “He was also a great guy and my best friend.”

Asked if his father chafed at his fans’ close identification of him with his character, Adam Nimoy said, “Not in the least. He loved Spock.”

His death drew immediate reaction on Earth and in space.

“I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent and his capacity to love,” Shatner said.

“Live Long and Prosper, Mr. (hash)Spock!” tweeted Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, aboard the International Space Station.

Nimoy displayed ambivalence to the famous role in the titles of his two autobiographies: I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995).

After Star Trek ended, the actor immediately joined the hit adventure series Mission Impossible as Paris, the mission team’s master of disguises.

From 1976 to 1982, he hosted the syndicated TV series In Search of … , which attempted to probe such mysteries as the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart.

He played Israeli leader Golda Meir’s husband opposite Ingrid Bergman in the TV drama A Woman Called Golda and Vincent van Gogh in Vincent, a one-man stage show on the life of the troubled painter. He continued to work well into his 70s, playing gazillionaire genius William Bell in the Fox series Fringe.

He also directed several films, including the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby and appeared in such plays as A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tim Roof, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, My Fair Lady and Equus. He also published books of poems, children’s stories and his own photographs.

But he could never really escape the role that took him overnight from bit-part actor status to TV star, and in a 1995 interview he sought to analyze the popularity of Spock, the green-blooded space traveler who aspired to live a life based on pure logic.

People identified with Spock because they “recognize in themselves this wish that they could be logical and avoid the pain of anger and confrontation,” Nimoy concluded.

“How many times have we come away from an argument wishing we had said and done something different?” he asked.

In the years immediately after Star Trek left television, Nimoy tried to shun the role, but he eventually came to embrace it, lampooning himself on such TV shows as Futurama, Duckman and The Simpsons and in commercials.

He became Spock after Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was impressed by his work in guest appearances on the TV shows The Lieutenant and Dr. Kildare.

The space adventure set in the 23rd century had an unimpressive debut on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, and it struggled during its three seasons to find an audience other than teenage boys. It seemed headed for oblivion after it was canceled in 1969, but its dedicated legion of fans, who called themselves Trekkies, kept its memory alive with conventions and fan clubs and constant demands that the cast be reassembled for a movie or another TV show.

Trekkies were particularly fond of Spock, often greeting one another with the Vulcan salute and the Vulcan motto, “Live Long and Prosper,” both of which Nimoy was credited with bringing to the character. He pointed out, however, that the hand gesture was actually derived from one used by rabbis during Hebraic benedictions.

When the cast finally was reassembled for Star Trek – The Motion Picture, in 1979, the film was a huge hit and five sequels followed. Nimoy appeared in all of them and directed two. He also guest starred as an older version of himself in some of the episodes of the show’s spinoff TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“Of course the role changed my career – or rather, gave me one,” he once said. “It made me wealthy by most standards and opened up vast opportunities. It also affected me personally, socially, psychologically, emotionally. … What started out as a welcome job to a hungry actor has become a constant and ongoing influence in my thinking and lifestyle.”

In 2009, he was back in a new big-screen version of Star Trek, this time playing an older Spock who meets his younger self, played by Zachary Quinto. Critic Roger Ebert called the older Spock “the most human character in the film.”

Upon the movie’s debut, Nimoy told The Associated Press that in his late 70s he was probably closer than ever to being as comfortable with himself as the logical Spock always appeared to be.

“I know where I’m going, and I know where I’ve been,” he said. He reprised the role in the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness.

Born in Boston to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Nimoy was raised in an Italian section of the city where, although he counted many Italian-Americans as his friends, he said he also felt the sting of anti-Semitism growing up.

At age 17 he was cast in a local production of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing as the son in a Jewish family.

“This role, the young man surrounded by a hostile and repressive environment, so touched a responsive chord that I decided to make a career of acting,” he said later.

He won a drama scholarship to Boston College but eventually dropped out, moved to California and took acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Soon he had lost his “Boston dead-end” accent, hired an agent and began getting small roles in TV series and movies. He played a baseball player in Rhubarb and an Indian in Old Overland Trail.

After service in the Army, he returned to Hollywood, working as taxi driver, vacuum cleaner salesman, movie theater usher and other jobs while looking for acting roles.

In 1954 he married Sandra Zober, a fellow student at the Pasadena Playhouse, and they had two children, Julie and Adam. The couple divorced, and in 1988 he married Susan Bay, a film production executive.

Besides his wife, son and daughter, Nimoy is survived by his stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck. Services will be private, Adam Nimoy said.

AP Television writer Frazier Moore in New York and AP Aerospace writer Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida, contributed to this report. This story contains biographical material compiled by late AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

The signature of Philip and Kelvin LaVerne is usually easy to spot. Here it appears within the decorative scheme on a ‘Chan’ occasional table. Courtesy Wright Auctions

Philip and Kelvin Laverne: Bright ideas in heavy metal

NEW YORK – Philip Laverne (1908-1988) and his son Kelvin (b. 1936) sought to create pieces that were both functional furniture and expressions of fine art. Their approach, their designs, their techniques were unique and thus their works remain instantly recognizable. Supported by wooden frames, the tables and cabinets were clad in bronze, brass, and pewter, which had been cast, carved, etched, incised and patinated. The strong metal forms become showstoppers in an interior, and collectors scroll through auction catalogs to find the best.

Major surfaces are often covered by low-relief figural scenes inspired by archaeological or art historical sources. Many designs are drawn from Chinese art, while others reflect ancient Greek friezes or even Egyptian wall paintings. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling was also a theme that appealed to the LaVernes. Another group of furniture from their workshop is more simply ornamented with repeated geometric patterns. Full-bodied sculptural figures were at times used as dramatic table supports. Some designs were issued as a series, others seem one-of-a-kind. Surprises turn up all the time.

Richard Wright has sold many examples at his Chicago-based auction firm and even chose one for his personal collection: “LaVerne furniture is totally unique within American design, and it’s readily identifiable. The pieces pull together all kinds of disparate elements including archaeological and art historical references, which are then applied to some pretty muscular forms. Sometimes the objects are very decorative in themselves, but oftentimes the forms are architectonic and plain with heavy pattern applied to them.

“The materiality is completely essential to the work. A lot of the forms are quite modernist, but with this archaeological treatment done to them, they become very compelling. The surface feels like unearthed old metal. Fortunately for collectors, while some of the furniture is very expensive, some of it is relatively accessible. I actually live with a LaVerne coffee table at my house, and I have young kids – it’s incredibly durable,” he said.

In addition to distinctive forms and decoration, LaVerne furniture has a characteristic patina carefully cultivated through processes developed by the furniture makers. One technique involved burying the metal elements in special soil compounds to achieve the appearance of ancient artifacts. While some tables have an overall dark bronze finish, those with decorative surface patterns use the contrast of dark and light metals to make the design pop out for the viewer. Colored enamels were added to enhance figures in the more elaborate chinoiserie scenes. Because the LaVernes put so much effort into the decoration and patination of their pieces, condition is an important element in determining present value.

After experimenting in the late 1950s, the LaVernes, father and son, began to produce limited edition designs in the 1960s, some of which are much rarer than others. The cabinetmakers’ joint signature is usually clearly visible on the surface, often within the relief scenes. Well-preserved examples may retain a paper label from the team’s New York studio at 46 E. 57th St. The cabinetmakers published their own sales catalogs – The Art of Philip LaVerne – which are helpful in determining the names of styles and patterns. The workshop advertised, emphasizing the union of art and functionality, and examples entered collections around the country.

A rare free-form cocktail table sold for $17,080 last year at Palm Beach Modern auctions had a printed label for “Philip LaVerne Collection, Works of Art,” that was hand-lettered with the edition, “Odyssey #2.” The table’s top was covered with Grecian scenes inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and the supports were in the form of fluted column sections. According to the auction catalog, Herbert and Belle Lapidus purchased the table in 1967 from the New York studio. Phillip LaVerne told Mr. and Mrs. Lapidus that only one other free-form “Odyssey” table had been made and that “Odyssey #1” appropriately had gone to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

In an interview with ACN, Wade Terwilliger of Palm Beach Modern talked about the market for LaVerne: “People like the craftsmanship. There’s real artistry in the design, and the pieces are functional. You definitely want to have the original patina on them, and most of them do. Sometimes the finish gets rubbed out a little, especially if they have color applied. We often get the ‘Chan’ coffee table; the one we sold last fall was in excellent condition. We sold a pair of small end tables in January and those did particularly well.”

“At the auction house, we usually categorize things as ‘Hollywood Regency’ or ‘Traditional Modern’ – but LaVerne is completely by itself. Most of our consignments come out of New York or from Florida – it was popular down here, and we always carry LaVerne. I’ve seen big dining tables that are outstanding, also console tables and center hall tables. Pewter, brass, bronze – there are mixed metals on most of them. The pieces get noticed. Everyone recognizes quality, and there’s that artistic element that captures the viewer’s attention.”

Since the LaVernes were based in New York, examples were purchased for big city apartments and winter homes in Florida. A rare “Pharaoh” coffee table, circa 1965, sold at Sotheby’s last year for $23,750. But examples also emerge from estates around the country. Three pieces from a local collection were offered in July at a Case auction in Knoxville, Tenn., and a pair of coffee tables from a Mobile estate brought over $12,000 at Neal’s in New Orleans. On an episode of the Antiques Roadshow aired last year, furniture expert Leigh Keno examined a “Spring Festival” console in the Chan series that had turned up in Kansas City. He told the astonished woman that her husband had indeed made a good buy – his $600 investment might bring over $15,000 at auction.

Galleries featuring 20th Century Design seek out LaVerne for their clients. Fascinated by the patterned forms, some dealers have become specialists and are pursuing much-needed research on the furniture makers’ sources, techniques and production. The Cristina Grajales Gallery in New York had a cataloged exhibition of rare forms in the spring of 2008 titled “The Poetry of the Soul: Works of Philip and Kelvin LaVerne.”

Evan Lobel of Lobel Modern NYC is working with Kelvin LaVerne, now in his late 70s, to produce a comprehensive reference book and catalogue raisonne on LaVerne furniture, which should be available next year.

 

Poster signed by Maurice Sendak. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and PBA Galleries.

Conn. town pursues museum honoring Maurice Sendak

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Three years after Maurice Sendak’s death, his Connecticut hometown is pursuing a museum honoring the author of Where the Wild Things Are.

The town of Ridgefield has its sights on a vacant modernist building in walking distance from the village center, a glass structure designed by acclaimed architect Philip Johnson as corporate offices for an oil exploration company that left in 2006.

A panel of local arts figures recently received endorsement from the town and Sendak’s foundation to explore the proposal. Members say they have found overwhelming support for the idea to honor a man whose influence went far beyond that of a children’s book author.

“The fact is, he loved the community, and the legacy of supporting all the arts was and is important to him and all those around him,” said Lloyd Taft, a local architect.

The 45-acre campus of the energy services company Schlumberger, including the proposed museum site, was acquired by Ridgefield in 2012 for $7 million. On Tuesday, town voters approved the sale of 10 of the acres for residential construction, returning $4.3 million to the town. The first selectman, Rudy Marconi, said the sale could help the museum proposal by giving planners flexibility on decisions regarding the rest of the property.

Sendak, who died in May 2012 at the age of 83, was born in New York City but spent the last four decades of his life in rural Ridgefield. Best known for the tale of naughty Max in Wild Things, his work included other standard volumes in children’s bedrooms such as Chicken Soup With Rice, a book about the different months in a year, and Brundibar, a folk tale about two children who need to earn enough money to buy milk for their sick mother. He also illustrated his own work, created costumes for ballets and staged operas, including the Czech opera Brundibar.

His 18th-century farmhouse is being preserved as Sendak left it.

Given the location of Sendak’s home in a wooded area, the foundation has sought a more accessible place for the public display of his artwork, manuscripts and other ephemera.

Marconi said the town knew all along it wanted to preserve the Philip Johnson building and an adjoining auditorium, and after Sendak’s death, many in the affluent town of 25,000 people on the New York line had the same idea to use it as a Sendak museum. The building has skylights over main circulation areas and despite a few roof leaks is considered to be in decent shape despite being vacant for so long.

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AP-WF-02-25-15 1945GMT

Thursday's destruction of the artifacts by jihadists in Iraq drew comparisons with the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Pictured is the smaller of the two Bamiyan buddhas before it was destroyed. Image by Phecda109, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Louvre museum condemns Iraq jihadist statue-smashing

PARIS (AFP) – Paris’s famed Louvre museum on Friday reacted in shock to the destruction of priceless artifacts by jihadists in Iraq, saying they hit at the heart of “humanity’s memory.”

A video released Thursday showed Islamic State militants smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum and an archeological site in Iraq’s second city of Mosul, drawing global condemnation.

The destruction drew comparisons with the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban, and the U.N. cultural agency has demanded an emergency Security Council meeting.

“These destructions represent a new stage in violence and horror as it is all of humanity’s memory that is targeted in a region that was the cradle of civilization, writing and history,” the Louvre said in a statement.

“These priceless collections, monuments and relics have crossed the centuries to bear witness to the history of mankind.

“Through these barbarian acts, they are attacking the raison d’etre of museums – places of dialogue, knowledge and mutual understanding.”

The Islamic State group has controlled Mosul since June last year and has destroyed several historical and cultural sites across the country, including Muslim shrines.

In the jihadists’ extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a material corruption of the early Muslim faith and amount to recognizing objects of worship other than God.

Their views are marginal however, and most clerics, even those who promote an ultra-conservative strain of Islam, argue that what were idols in the days of the Prophet Mohammed are now part of cultural heritage.

The title page of one of the books seized by U.S. authorities in the San Francisco Bay area. U.S. Immigration and Customs image

Stolen 17th century Italian books found in San Francisco area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) –Two Italian history books from the 17th century have been discovered in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be returned to their country of origin.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the books, Stirpium Historiae and Rariorm Plantarum Historia Anno 1601, were stolen from Italy’s Historical National Library of Agriculture and sold to an antiquities dealer in Italy.

Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Prince says a buyer in the San Francisco Bay Area, who was unaware the books were stolen, purchased them.

The books are among 19 stolen artifacts slated for return to the Italian government. The newspaper reports they include a 17th century cannon, fifth century Greek pottery and some items dating to 300-460 B.C. The goods were smuggled into the United States over the last several years.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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AP-WF-02-26-15 1451GMT