The Antiques Diva Does Italia!

Toma Clark Haines definitely knows la dolce vita!

We’re speaking Italian on this Travel Tuesday with some exciting news. Our ONLY choice for European lifestyle tours, The Antiques Diva, is expanding to, you guessed it, Italia; and Toma is already working her magic on the romantic language by saying, “Buongiorno Baby” to anyone wanting to come along for the Tuscan ride!

Tuscan tastemaker Susan Pennington will create and direct the tours, which will amble through the best venues in Florence, Sienna, Arezzo and Lucca (here’s a feature in Belle Inspiration). A British expat living in the heart of Tuscany, Pennington was once an antiques buyer for Harrods in London and an auction-house specialist in New York City. She’s lived in Tuscany for the past two decades, running Montestigliano, a local agriturismo business known for its sumptuous Tuscan-style luxury décor.

Word up, Diva fans; this is Toma’s sixth country, and the list of destinations for gallivanting is impressive: France, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany and, now, Italy. Where’s my passport? Did someone say the University of Bologna is calling?

P.S. We understand there is a spot of royalty in The Antiques Diva’s future. Check in at adroyt in the next week or so and we’ll fill you in!


Armed and Dangerous: The Armory Show

"Me & Me" by David Drebin at Contessa Gallery at the Armory Show.

“Me & Me” by David Drebin at Contessa Gallery.

The Armory Show hit NYC last weekend and the art-haute crowd was milling around the Piers breathing in some pretty rarified air. I made my way around the Modern show seeing the work of some of the most iconic names in art history hanging on the provisional walls. New York-based Jonathan O’Hara Gallery had a booth filled with transfer drawings by Robert Rauschenberg, and I had just about given up on my game of “looking for Julian Opie” (haven’t been to an art show in years during which I wasn’t seeing his effulgent figures incessantly stepping or swaying) when we spotted a series of his works in London town’s The Alan Cristea Gallery booth (no prancing portraits this time, but an interesting series of fashionable figures).

One of my favorite galleries was in attendance, Cleveland, Ohio-based Contessa Gallery, bringing what I have come to regard as their normal high standards to the show. Chuck Close was front and center in their booth and they had a handful of excellent Andy’s (Warhol, that is). I especially liked the Pop-maestro’s graphite on hand-made paper piece depicting kicky Halston heels. A mere $450,000.00 would have allowed you to take the #FashionFriday statement home!

Contessa brought David Drebin to the fair. He’s been getting ample buzz of late and we’re betting he’s one to watch. So agrees ARTnews and the New York Daily News (just in case our word’s not enough!). Our pick from the nearly sold-out Drebin offerings? “Me & Me.” At $3,400.00, it was a steal next to the Close portrait ($120,000.00) and a 1951 oil-on-canvas Jean Dubuffet ($450,000.00).

My take on that: get him while you can! If the crew at Contessa is as right as it has been in the past (and who can argue with Close, Dubuffet and Warhol), his prices will rise with his fame. Happy Roaming art lovers everywhere!


Blow/Hard Takes on New Meaning!

The new prototypes included in "Hands On"

I have yet to make it to Industry Gallery—the Washington, D.C., design-art space created by Craig Appelbaum—but it’s on my list of places to visit because Appelbaum has a sophisticated eye for exhibiting extraordinary talent. On view now is “Hands On,” which features a new series of concrete (yes, I said concrete, not inflatable) furniture by Dutch designer Tejo Remy—a founding designer at Droog—and René Veenhuizen, his design partner for the past decade. I’ve asked Appelbaum and the designers a few questions about the new collection in the exhibition, the first solo U.S. show for the pair; the inspiration behind the pieces; and how it feels to be so steeped in creativity. Appelbaum’s responses are here. To see what the designers had to say, visit my Examiner page. The show is on view through May 8, 2010.

RBD: When you first saw the concrete furniture, what popped into your mind?

CA: I had a couple reactions when I saw the pieces about six weeks ago in their Utrecht studio: first, these are an important addition to their oeuvre and further expand their design vocabulary, and second, they must be included in their exhibition at Industry. As “Hands On” demonstrates, Tejo and René have been extremely productive during the past decade, mining a very interesting aesthetic based on the use and re-use of humble and basic materials, but also furthering that sustainability aspect by experimenting with products such as Accoya.

RBD: How do you think artists/designers such as Tejo and René change the landscape of furniture design?

CA: The design innovations we’re seeing here go way beyond furniture. Tejo and René, and other visionary designers, change the way we view, understand, receive and value design writ at large. Their work enables us to think more expansively about the role of design and how great design improves actual functions and enriches us aesthetically. Historically, we’ve seen design innovations that have reflected a broader cultural worldview—whether the stunning efficiency of the Shakers or the opulence associated with 18th-century France. We now live in a catalogue culture that favors a homogenous response to nearly every design issue, whether in simple home products or urban planning. Tejo and René authoritatively help put that creeping homogenization to lie.

RBD: What’s it like to be continually exposed to such creative beings?

CA: On a personal level, every day with these designers provides another epiphany ranging from a new understanding about the use of a material to a philosophical outlook. One of my primary goals in opening Industry is to share design with a larger audience, in the hopes they’ll experience the some of the same joys and amazement that I experience.