Pierre Durand, a financier and director of Adair Capital, also “moonlights” as owner of The Chinese Porcelain Company, a gallery on Park Avenue. His 5th Avenue home was one of the most exquisite we have visited and the pictures, we hope, are an absolute treat for NYSD readers. He himself is, and we don’t want to gush, a gentleman, Old World-by-way-of-the-New World for he was born in Lima, Peru of French and Italian parents. He has impeccable manners but is neither stiff nor formal and impeccable taste that is neither stuffy nor predictable—perhaps we are gushing … although we did, at one point inelegantly shriek “What a life you’ve made for yourself!!” as we discovered that not only does he have this apartment but that he also has an apartment in Paris and a modern house in the hills of Los Angeles.
We tried to hunt you down on the internet but there’s nothing! There is a painter of the same name who was born in 1913, so we didn’t think that could be you ...
There is a famous professional rider of the same name … it’s quite a common name.
Oh yes, the showjumper – we were wondering about that too. So maybe you should tell us about yourself ...
Let me tell you about me. I wasn’t born in New York, I was born in South America, in Peru. I have a French father and an Italian mother. I grew up there until I was 17 and then came here, to Cornell for my undergraduate, and then two years at business school in Columbia. I got my first job at Chase.
On the walls hang a group of 17th, 18th and 19th century drawings including examples by Coypel, Piazzeta, Battoni and Lecomte du Nouy. The bench on the right is Genoese 18th Century made for the Royal Family. The chinoiserie painted pottery figure on the table is one of a pair, Italian early 19th century.
Art books are stacked atop a French Louis XVI mahogany table from the late 18th century.
A view into the dining room from the main entrance hall. The lantern is early 19th century Russian. Spanish and Italian 18th century drawings are displayed on the left wall.
In the dining room, a Louis XVI mahogany tea table is French late 18th century. On the table is a group of French Directoire, Empire and Charles X mother-of-pearl and ormolu objects.
In the dining room, the table is set with 18th century English silver and Venetian glass ware.
The plates are by Stone, Coquerel et Le Gros and are French early 19th century. The hunting centerpiece in biscuit is Sèvres, mid 19th century.
The top shelves of the bookcase are filled with 17th and 18th century Chinese blue and white porcelain. The other shelves are lined with 18th and 19th century leather bound books and an eclectic group of Venetian glass, Chinese and French porcelain objects. The polychrome carved relief is Spanish 17th century and was formerly with Duveen Brothers. The pair of drawings of Swiss waterfalls is by Claude-Louis Chatelet, French late 18th century.
A detail of a polychrome carved relief, Spanish 17th century, formerly from Duveen Brothers.
One of a pair of drawings of Swiss waterfalls by Claude-Louis Chatelet, French late 18th century. On a Louis XVI mahogany tea table, French late 18th century is a group of French Directoire, Empire and Charles X, mother-of-pearl and ormolu objects. A drawing of a mother and child by Paul Huet, French 19th century
On one of the dining room shelves, a group of 18th century Chinese porcelain, including two botanical saucers decorated after prints by Sybilla Merrien
A group of Roman pottery and iridescent glass, 2nd century.
On a dining room shelf, a group of Southern Italian pottery figures, 4th century B.C.
A view from the dining room into the entrance hallway. Perch atop the Genoese 18th Century bench made for the royal family,is an academic nude attributed to Meltzer, 20th century. Above the bench, Italian and French 18th and 19th century drawings.
How long were you a banker?
The last firm I worked for on Wall Street was in 1996. I started my own firm in 2000, called Adair Capital.
And the gallery, when did you start that?
I was thinking about that this morning ... it must have been about 25 years ago. I started it with my partner, Khalil Rizk, he was both my business partner and my boyfriend. He passed away ten years ago.
Was that something that you ever envisaged doing in your life, running an art gallery?
How has it changed things for you?
Er ... I was always interested in decorative arts but it’s been a learning curve, a learning experience. It’s a very personal business. Over the years it has evolved a little bit into my taste.
In the entrance, a Piedmontese painted and gilt console, Italian late 18th century. Standing atop the console is a biscuit group on an ormolu mounted gilt base by Dihl and Gherard, French late 18th century and a pair of ormolu candlesticks by Galle, French early 19th century. On the wall a red chalk drawing, French late 18th century and a sketch by Jean Lugardon, Swiss 19th century.
On the Genoese 18th Century bench made for the royal family, an academic nude attributed to Meltzer, 20th century. Above is a drawing by Pompeo Battoni, Italian 18th century.
In Pierre’s bedroom: A portrait of the daughter of Jean Baptiste Isabey by Bouchet, early 19th century. The French armchair is from the 1940s.
On the left a Prie Dieu by Jacob, French 18th century and a photograph by Sylvana Khouri. A pair of Swedish mirrors attributed to Precht, 18th century. A group of 18th and 19th century drawings, including Tissot, Deveria and Redoute. On the right a Prie Dieu by Jacob, French 18th century, and a photograph by Sylvana Khouri. On the left a small Louis XVI mahogany commode, French 18th century.
A pair of Swedish mirrors attributed to Precht, 18th century. A group of 18th and 19th century drawings, including Tissot, Deveria and Redoute.
One of a pair of Swedish mirrors attributed to Precht, 18th century. On the left a Prie Dieu by Jacob, French 18th century and a photograph by Sylvana Khouri. A small Louis XVI mahogany commode, French 18th century.
What are you looking for?
The gallery is looking for quality and some scholarship behind it—those are the two themes. But it is very hard to tell … I mean I’m very interested in French late 18th century and early 19th century art and decorative art. I’m very interested in Chinese export ceramics. And that’s how we started out but over the years we have moved a little bit more to the twentieth century because we’re following the taste of what people want.
Oh you’re also doing that … [Note to readers: this column is not overly fond of mid-century modern…]
Well, we’re doing a little bit of that but we’re trying to be complementary to the 18th century. A lot of the inspiration for the 20th century design came from the 18th century. We’re not doing the 1970s because that’s not complementary to what we do.
A Prie Dieu by Jacob, French 18th century and a photograph by Sylvana Khouri. A small Louis XVI mahogany commode, French 18th century.
A neoclassical style lamp stands a small Louis XVI mahogany commode, French 18th century.
A French armchair from the 1940s is covered in a tiger print silk fabric. The chinoiserie black lacquer Queen Anne gueridon is English 18th century.
An eclectic group of objects including a Derby blackamoor figure emblematic of Africa, a Peruvian colonial candlestick in the shape of a young boy and an Italian giltwood figure of a Turk are clustered atop the black lacquer chinoiserie table in the bedroom.
Pierre’s tie and belt collection.
A group of 18th and 19th century drawings and paintings, including works by Redoute and Winterhalter. The Louis XVI mahogany screen is French 18th century.
A group of 18th and 19th century drawings by Deveria Prudhon and Carmontelle. On the armchair is a drawing by Michael Leonard.
A watercolor of a branch of prunes by Redoute, French early 19th century. Arranged atop a small karelian birch table with an inset hardstone top made for the Romanoff family group of 17th, 18th, and 19th century bronzes. A small karelian birch table with an inset hardstone top made for the Romanoff family, Russian early 19th century.
A group of 18th and 19th century drawings by Wille, Deveria Prudhon and Carmontelle. Hanging over the mantle is an English 18th century mirror with Chinese reverse paintings.
Over the mantle hangs an English 18th century mirror with Chinese reverse paintings. The pair of candelabra in biscuit and ormolu is French Empire. On the far wall is a drawing of Christ by Deveria and a design for a Secessionist poster.
So why are you so hard to find out about?
I don’t know! I’ve never Googled myself.
You must be the last person left on the planet who hasn’t Googled themselves! Do you think we live in a world of relentless self-promotion?
If anything, the people who work with me complain that we are “under-publicized.” With me, I really do my financial business and I’ve always felt that promoting this part of my life could hurt my financial business.
Do you really?
Some people might think ‘he’s not really a financial person, he’s a serious arts person.’
I can see that you’d hate to be called a dilettante.
[I am] a financial investor.
A view of the hallway and the powder room, lined with 18th, 19th, and 20th century drawings and paintings.
The powder room: A group of 18th and 19th century drawings of the Middle East by European artists.
A Venetian 18th century giltwood mirror and a drawing of the Bosphorous.
What is exciting about business – apart from the money?
For many years, when I was on Wall Street I had a specialty. I traded bonds, traded currencies, traded stocks, always looking at one thing. What my business allows me to do right now is really to look at the whole universe. We invest in hedge funds but we don’t have any specialty in terms of a strategy. We get to work with very talented people.
What makes for a talented investor?
In my mind, somebody who can make money. And somebody who understands the nature of the risk he is taking. It could come from different angles but once you’ve discovered that somebody has something special that allows them to make money with a controlled amount of risk, then that person is talented.
What does money mean to you?
Phew … what does money mean to me? I really think of money, well obviously a certain amount of money, as what return you can get on your money and how much risk you have to take to get that return.
The entrance to the guest room, lined with 18th, 19th, and 20th century drawings. On the far wall is a George IV whatnot with a group of French green opaline vessels.
A group of drawings of birds by Nicolas Robert, French 17th century.
On the far end a painting by Carl Holsoe.
An Italian early 19th century painting of a putto hangs above the Directoire desk. A pair of Venini candlesticks, in the form of blackamoors, is flanked by a pair of early 19th century French mahogany armchairs. The roundels are prints after Angelica Kauffman. Under the desk a Japanese 19th century lacquer chest. Pierre’s lively dog, Chestnut, poses for the camera.
A George IV whatnot is filled with a group of French green opaline vessels. Hanging above is a Nederlandish painting, 17th century.
In the guest bathroom, a small mirrored commode and a pair of gouaches by Eugene Berman, designs for costumes for the ballet ‘Giselle’.
How do you like be characterized as the villain of the piece? You are part of the world that has been so derided. Did you deal in any of those exotic financial instruments?
I think a lot of the criticism is well-founded. We have certain rules. If we don’t understand what they’re doing, we don’t invest.
How did you get along with the culture of Wall Street, that whole competitive, macho culture?
Um .. I sort of did what I was supposed to do. I paid my dues. I think I was relatively successful from a monetary point of view, but it’s an issue of ‘how long can you do it for?’ You get up one day and think, ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’
Does everyone come to that point?
No, I think some people can do it their whole lives. I got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore.
A view of the living room from the entrance hall.
A view of the living room, with a pair of Louis XVI painted armchairs.
A portrait of Eugene Isabey by Bouchet hangs above a Dutch 18th century commode attributed to Matthias Horrix. On the main wall a painting of exotic birds is by Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Dutch 17th century. On either side are portraits by George Romney and Francis Cotes, English 18th century. On the left a mahogany and ormolu mounted gueridon, stamped Roentgen, French 18th century.
Against the left wall stands an 18th century Roman giltwood-and-marble top console. Above hangs a painting of a Roman capriccio by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 18th century. To the right is a landscape by Lacroix de Marseille.
On the left is a Georgian mahogany commode topped with Venetian 20th century glass by Yoishi Ohira, a Yuan dynasty gilt bronze sculpture and an 18th century Chinese turquoise vase with French 18th century ormolu mounts.
A painting of Mother and child by George Romney, English 18th century.
A pair of Chinese 19th century cane-and-black lacquer stools is used as living room coffee table. Facing the stools is a detail of a pair of Georgian library armchairs, English 18th century.
An Empire silver gilt wine and vinegar container. On the wall a portrait of Captain Roddam by Francis Cotes, English 18th century and a bozzetto by Giacinto Diana, Neapolitan 18th century.
In the foreground an armchair from a set of four, stamped Sene. It is painted white and blue and covered in yellow ground Aubusson tapestry, French 18th century.
Arranged atop the the console is a piece of Venetian glass, 19th century, as well as a 20th century vessel by Yoishi Ohira, a French faience cabbage and inkwell, 18th century, Chinese Famille Verte covered jar, circa 1700. The small painting is by Martin Drolling, French early 19th century. On the wall is a portrait of Captain Roddam by Francis Cotes, English 18th century.
A view of the living room showing the portrait of Eugene Isabey by Bouchet, French early 19th century over a Dutch 18th century commode attributed to Matthias Horrix. On the commode is a group of French 18th century terracotta sculptures and a small vase by Yoishi Ohira.
A group of French terracotta sculptures, 18th century as well as a Spanish 17th century gilt-and- polychrome relief and a small vessel by Yoishi Ohira.
More views of Pierre’s impressive living room.
In the foreground is a 19th century Continental tabouret and Brussels cabbage-form faience tureen from Ditchley Park, 18th century. The marine battle scene in the corner is by John Cleveley, English 18th century. Over the living room mantle is an English mirror attributed to John Linnell, with inset Chinese reverse paintings. Standing below are Chinese early 18th century porcelain and cloisonne figures.
A collage by Robert Motherwell sits on a Georgian chair attributed to Thomas Chippendale. A Japanese lacquer box in front, 19th century.
A pair of Ming dynasty terracotta tiles, a cloisonné blue enamel vase, Chinese 18th century are displayed upon a Georgian tripod table.
On the south wall of the living room stands a Roman giltwood-and-marble top console. Above hangs a painting of a Roman capriccio by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 18th century. To the right is a landscape by Lacroix de Marseille, French 18th century, and to the left is a painting of the Cascades at Tivoli by Jan Franz van Bloemen, Flemish, late 17th century.
A pair of French faience sauce tureens, 18th century, stand atop the console. The drawing is a self-portrait attributed to Anselm Fuerbach, mid-19th century. Nearby, a group of Venetian glass from the 1930s and a Chinese blue-and-white, Wanli period vase mounted as a lamp, 17th century. The small sculpture is by Nabil Nahas.
Are you a worrier?
I am a worrier but people that know me say it doesn’t show. But I think about [my business] all the time. It’s always with me.
Are you alone now?
No, I have a boyfriend and we have been together for the last five years. He actually lives and works in Boston so he comes here on weekends. It’s kind of perfect arrangement.
What sort of connection do you still have with Europe and Peru?
I still have some of my family in Lima. In France, I just have an apartment in Paris, a block away the Elysee. I love going there. I love Paris.
Chesnut stands near unusual mahogany-and-ormolu mounted gueridon, stamped Roentgen, French 18th century.
The group of Chinese figures are 18th century porcelain and the faience figure of a camel is French.
Clockwise from above: Looking straight at the Georgian mantle and English mirror attributed to John Linnell, with inset Chinese reverse paintings; A pair of French latticino vases, 19th century and a Georgian cut crystal candlestick stand atop lacquer coffee table; Two blanc de chine figures of Guan Yin, Chinese late 17th century and a group of Peruvian colonial silver, 18th century.
Hanging above the living room mantle is an English mirror attributed to John Linnell, with inset Chinese reverse paintings. Standing atop the mantle Chinese early 18th century porcelain and cloisonné figures. On the far wall is a marine battle scene by John Cleveley, English 18th century.
The French faience figure of Louis VX, 18th century, is a bust after the 18th century original by Ron Wynne. The piggy bank is by Harry Allen.
A small portrait, French 18th century, bohemian glass beaker with lavender and a small tureen, 19th century. Chinese export silver mug, 19th century.
Did you see the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris? Do you like going to the movies?
I did—I liked it! If Woody Allen had been 35 years younger he would have played the main character. Owen Wilson was a perfect Woody Allen. I love movies. I see everything. I didn’t see the second Hangover but I saw the first one.
[We laugh] We can’t imagine you liking The Hangover! You’re so refined!
I thought it was the funniest thing I’d seen in my life, just fantastic.
I have to go back to the question of what money means to you. I meant it more philosophically.
Philosophically money means comfort. Being able to be comfortable … to be able to be a little bit protected from the world.
• Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge
• Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch