Thursday, April 7, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LIV

Action on Third Ave. October 20, 1965. People fitting other people's tastes into their lives ... Taking the odd ends of others and trying to make them a part of them.
Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

I was getting used to my Yorkville apartment on the Upper East Side, but I was still hoping to find a gem of an affordable apartment like my gorgeous pre-Paris one facing onto Gramercy Park.
A typical Yorkville apartment building on the Upper East Side.
This apartment in Gramercy Park is almost IDENTICAL to mine.
One day, walking home up Third Avenue I looked into the window of an auction house and saw a mirrored dressing table that could easily have been used as a desk. It had all the glamour of a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movie and was a prime example of that period.

I went to the auction, but having never attended one I was unsure how the whole system worked. The bidding started at $100 but nobody placed a bid and it kept going lower and lower until it stopped at $20. Still, there were no bids so they moved on.

Ginger Rogers at her mirrored dressing table!
I learned it would be in the following auction again and I made sure to attend that one — now that I understood how an auction worked. I was excited at the prospect of getting a rare piece of beautiful Moderne furniture at a ridiculously inexpensive price.

The auction started and eventually this gem was moved into place. The bidding again started at $100 but unlike previously, people began waving their hands and frantically bidding against each other until bidding stopped at $3500! I didn't have a chance to clear my throat!

That was how I learned that the first auction had buyers that could not have cared less for Art Deco or Moderne items. However, the word had gotten out and every dealer in town who specialized in early 20th Century modern pieces was there bidding to get this wonderful item (which guaranteed at least a 100% markup!)

I was crestfallen but fascinated that it was possible to buy an authentic piece of decorative history for a low, low price — if the timing was right. And there would be other auctions!
The desk very much resembled this one!
Years later after I'd moved back to Los Angeles, I noticed that an auction house on Wilshire Blvd. had listed a "modern" desk and checking it out I saw that it was again: a moderne desk with streamlined rounded corners and narrow horizontal "speed stripes" in a paler wood. I attended the auction and this time I made a bid, the only one to do so, and got the desk for $45.00! (I smiled that the cost of delivery was $50.00.)

Back to 1965, I was introduced to Tomie de Paola by Barré Dennen.
Tomie de Paola in 1965.
Tomie de Paola, today.
Tomie was an artist and later became a very celebrated children's book illustrator. He invited me to his loft for a birthday party for Tom Lacy, another artist who was well known as a character actor.

Tom had known Andy Warhol in college and though he was in no way a member of Warhol's Factory set, he'd remained friendly with him. I was impressed with Tom's intelligence and vast knowledge of Twentieth Century design and social history.

He lived in a wonderful apartment in the Village which was not large but was full of fascinating objects and artworks beautifully cared for and organized.
Tom Lacy on October 2, 1965.
Tom Lacy as Fray Felipe in The Mark of Zorro, 1974.
Another painter was David Bryson, who lived in a loft on Canal Street. David's loft was furnished with furniture repurposed from old factories and strangely enough, the simplicity of their design gave them a very modern and super elegant look.

Just towards the end of the 20th century was there any exploitation of what has been described as Industrial Chic; and David had achieved it almost a half century before anyone.
Contact Bob here.
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