Friday, July 13, 2012

George Glazer

By Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch

“As you may or may not know, what I’m mainly known for … is globes,” said George Glazer in what was possibly the best understatement we’ve heard as we stood in delighted silence taking in his “Harry Potter” living space filled with what is probably the world’s most extensive collection of American globes as well as a stuffed hornbill and much else besides. And he then he apologized for the dust, which we also loved but he didn’t seem to believe us and continued what had obviously been a massive clear out in honor of our visit. “Stop dusting,” we instructed him. A very serious and passionate collector, he was once a corporate lawyer (“I need to defend myself from allegations of hoarding”) and he was tremendous fun to talk to.

In this age of Google Maps and GPS and Google Earth, why are people still so drawn to these objects, these globes?

Well, there are a lot of different reasons but as you just said, it is an object, so even if something is on a computer you’re still looking at it on a screen and it’s reduced to two dimensions. There’s something embedded in our DNA that we relate to it—we don’t know why. It’s built into our system.
Custom shelves specially designed to fit globes, conceived by Palm Beach interior designer Torrey Semlow, along a living room wall.  They are painted Chinese red with gilt edges to make the globes stand out.  The yellow cast-stone gargoyle, upper left, is a fragment from a lamp post at Coney Island.
In the foreground, a coffee table made of a brass porthole window, purchased in the 1990s from Irvington House Thrift Shop on the Upper East Side.
George's amazing collection of table globes.  In the top shelf, fair left and right, are a very rare pair late 18th Century English globes with continuous American provenance.  They come with the original receipt documenting that John Francis (1763-1796) purchased them new in Philadelphia.  They were deaccessioned by descendants of John Brown and Thomas Willing Francis, and purchased at Keno Auctions in January 2011.
Needlepoint covered George I wingchair with cabriole legs, formerly in the Collection of Forsyth Wickes, purchased at auction from Grogan & Company.
A bronze Tiffany-stamped gueridon in the classical taste was purchased at the 26th Street flea market in NYC in the early 1990s.  The wheel peering out is from a 19th Century British mahogany wheelbarrow, a presentation piece for an opening ceremony in the construction of a railway, symbolic of the removal of the first shovel of dirt and came from Yew Tree House Antiques, Wendy Show in the 1990s.
I’ve never seen anyone walk past a globe and not want to touch it.

Yes … it’s deeply embedded. We’re used to civilization, that’s two or three thousand years ago but if you go back a lot further that, there really wasn’t that much there but there were the planets and there was the sun. We haven’t evolved that much. They had a greater importance at one point and it’s still with us.

What do your customers say to you about why they want to buy a globe?

They don’t necessarily say these things. It’s usually somebody who is interested in collecting and cartography but more commonly it’s somebody who just wants to buy a gift. Usually there is an angle to it like the person likes to travel. Some people are interested in geography and the antiquated place names. You really have to go back to the 16th and 17th century to see odd shaped landmasses although it is still possible even in the early 18th century to see California as an island.
George being interviewed in his needlepoint wing chair in the living room.  Light streams from Second Avenue through wooden Venetian blinds selected by interior designer Charles Krewson.  The paintings of Aqua and Terra are by Augustus V. Tack, deaccessioned by the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. at a Christie's sale.
In the lower foreground is a late 17th Century tapestry-covered stool with oak twist-turned legs; it was purchased at a house sale run by the House of Weltz, in Greenwich, Connecticut in the 1980s, when George was still a lawyer. On top of the stool is The Huff Tellurian, an astronomical demonstration device made at the turn of the century by Black and Decker.
A corner of the living room.  In the center, an Art Deco hand painted globe fixture by Terra Lux (one of three such in the apartment) sits on an 18th Century Italian torchère lamp from Litchfield County Auctions.
On the main wall of the living room, an Art Deco oil painting of the constellations is above carnival signs "Magnificent" and "Marvellous."  The signs are from The Richard and Marion Herman Collection of Collections, sold by Dawson's Auction House, 2001.
A cut-out view of Ghent, Belgium, another flea market find, on a mahogany easel from Freeman's Auction House.
In the foreground, a 12-inch terrestrial table globe by John Newton, 1787. For sale on Glazer's website here.
Next to the Newton globe is a late 19th Century terrestrial table globe by Boston maker Gilman Joslin.  Repatriated to America with a from a dealer in Germany through eBay.
Set of three watercolor paintings of Venetian gondolas from a ceremony for a regatta in May 1775. Each picture depicts a bissona, an ancient type of Venetian ceremonial boat, decorated with allegorical and fanciful carvings and rowed by eight costumed oarsmen.  Purchased from Swann Auction Galleries, and now in custom gold-leaf frames by APF Master Framers.
What are the earliest globes?

In ancient Greece and Rome you would find some celestial globes in stone – not terrestrial.

When you do start to get the earliest concept of the earth as sphere?

Oh, I think they knew that in those [ancient] times because of the horizon. The idea of a flat earth was more of a myth. The idea that people believed rather extensively in a flat earth was a myth that was created in the 19th century.

I wonder if the Flat Earth Society still exists.

Well once you had the Apollo missions and you saw the earth from space …
The dining area table offers a feast of globes fit for a king, surrounded by yet more floor globes.
 A set of four George II dining chairs with hoof feet, deaccessioned by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and purchased at Sotheby's in 1984, one of his first ventures into collecting English furniture.  The double chair back settee, en suite, is also in the living room.
The dining table supports numerous globes and not much else.  George has what he considers to be the most comprehensive and largest collection of globes made in America (about 1810 to present), exceeding any museum or other collection worldwide.
A Ptolemaic French armillary sphere is next to a barley-twist floor lamp, with library shelves overloaded with decorative arts and art history reference books behind them.
A stuffed Victorian hornbill, from Locati Antiques checks out an exceedingly rare German raised relief moon globe, 1899, by Dietrich Reimer.  The globe was imported by Marc Fagan antiques from the Czech Republic in the 1990s.
The dining table has six globes by James Wilson, America's first globe maker.  George also has the world's largest collection of Wilson globes. An Art Deco lighting fixture by Terra Lux, said to have been from a theatre, purchased at a New York City Coliseum Show in the 1990s.
Yet another Terra Lux lamp globe, this one purchased from Rago Arts and Auction Center, in the near foreground.   The console table in white marble, with lion monopodia was purchased at the 26th Street flea market in the 1980s.
No space is spared for globes to inhabit.
The aged turned maple legs of Wilson table globes.
Was it mainly in the 19th century that expensive globes really became status symbols?

If you go back to the 17th and 18th century in England, the merchants and the rich people and aristocrats, [for them] they were status symbols. And in the 19th century they were an aspect of the society dilettante, where the term ‘dilettante’ wasn’t the pejorative term it is now, where they were well-educated gentleman. But a lot of these globes were school globes from the 19th century where you had more of an expanded education. In some ways this room is a throwback to an 18th to mid-19th century gentleman who has a curiosity about many different things. You have the natural history specimen: the hornbill and then there’s the globes and there’s a volcano model there. It’s not decorated. There are no Frette sheets on the bed and I didn’t go to Scalamandré to get the drapes … but then neither did Alexander Von Humboldt, who was a 19th century explorer.

So what drew you to globes?

The way that I do this, whether this is being sort of defensive in my own right or not, is that I’m not trying to be Alexander Von Humboldt. I’m not trying to be an 18th century English gentleman. I just bought the stuff and it looks like that. There’s this other thing called a German Kunstkammer or wonder cabinet, so the idea of what I have done is not original to me.

A carved wooden painted American folk art figure plaque rests with a jug of wine on the floor, removed from its usual place on the George II settee during our interview. 
Vintage Persian area rugs overlap each other on the floor.
Blue paint for the closet selected by Palm Beach interior designer, Torrey Semlow.  On the right side is a needlepoint bell pull, originally made for a servant's bell in a big Victorian house. A mid 19th Century large Italian floor globe -- Globo Terrestre Fisico & Politico -- purchased at Christie's, and now for sale on his website. Until it sells, it decorates the foyer at the edge of the living room.
View from the foyer with light blasting through the kitchen door from Second Avenue.
A double model of a spiral staircase, possibly produced by Maitland Smith in the 1990s, greets visitors in the foyer.  The figure of the man up front is a 19th Century French painted metal candlestick -- the candle goes in his open top hat. Another view of the spiral staircase.  Glazer collects miniature staircases, following in the footsteps of Bill Blass and Carter Burden (each had a notable Sotheby's sale) and the Eugene and Clare Thaw collection of staircases at the Cooper Hewitt.   The miniature mahogany model of a door, apparently to nowhere, was purchased recently at Capo Auction in Queens.
View from the kitchen to the foyer.   The low marble table with paw feet, in the regency taste, was from an estate in Jackson Heights.
Pagoda roofed miniature staircase model, purchased from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago.  The glass display case, one of two in the apartment, is filled with rare pocket globes.
A marble winged ram figure, one of two supports for an 18th Century Italian console table, after a design by Francesco Antonio Franzoni, purchased at Christie's.  Other examples are in the Vatican Library and The Getty Center, Los Angeles.  A carved wooden knight stands guard to protect the miniature staircase model next door.
But in this day and age it’s very original.

Well, it’s unusual because most people have gone modern. For some reason I love these globes. I like decorative arts. I like objects probably better than art, although I am an art dealer.

There’s an extraordinary delicacy to them, the lines, the script, the way they balance and turn.

To me everybody should want a globe because it has everything in it. They’re also scientific instruments.

Do men mainly buy them?

Well that’s always been an aspect of them, merchants had them. And in terms of collecting … is it more of a guy thing? Yeah. Men tend to be more of the collectors … people do buy them for women as gifts but  … I mean I don’t know a lot of guys who collect quilts.
Whimsical paintings on the original metal cabinets of the 1950s kitchen.
The top of the refrigerator would be wasted space without the plastic raised relief moon globe, c. 1969, British hour glass made of an old bobbin, and wine bottle in the shape of a globe and a bit of 1960s Italian export kitsch. Collection of kitsch for the kitchen -- humorous flat-back "half a cup of coffee" cups hang on the wall.
A Joan Miró parody doodle over sunnyside eggs on the kitchen cabinets.
A flat file for print storage found a happy if not unlikely home in the kitchen too.  The surrealistic painting with floating teeth, toothbrush, and eyes was done by George's father, Howard Glazer, when he was in dental school. On top of the microwave is a carved wooden mushroom -- also from Doyle New York -- the sale of Quawksnest, a house decorated by Bunny Williams in the Hamptons.  A King Tut mask hangs above a miniature horse stall model.  A rare folk art 19th Century hand-painted American globe, resembles a pumpkin; hence at home in the kitchen.
Spice Guy Glazer's favorites -- crushed red pepper and chopped onion -- purchased every May in large quantity at the Third Avenue Street Fair.
A large model of an oil well, from Noel Barrett Auctions, turned out to be a handy display place for George's endless collection of wooden gavels, which he started when he was a lawyer, efficiently occupying what otherwise would have been an open spot by the kitchen window. On a pedestal in the kitchen, a recent purchase from the Estate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., at Doyle New York, is this lead bust of an eagle with an iron spur in its mouth. It matches the crest of Fairbank's bookplate. 
Mexican pictures of birds made of real feathers, inherited from George's grandmother, Pauline Lager, now dolled up in custom APF frames.
How do you live in this place?

Well, not easily. It was sort of a mad scramble to clear a lot of the space out. [The corridor outside the apartment was piled with stuff] I’ve certainly been accused by a lot of people of being a hoarder. I do watch the show. Did you see the one with the pumpkin seeds? She was a food hoarder and there was this gelatinous mass that had once been a pumpkin and when they tried to take it away, she said, “Oh but what about keeping the seeds?”

Are you a hoarder?

I think I’m a collector. I need to defend myself against allegations of hoarding. I’m trying to put together the world’s greatest collection of American globes, which I probably have already done and you’re sitting in it.

I like that they’re all dusty. It’s fabulous.

It’s sort of like this is my life and this is what I want to do and I know this place is not like anybody else’s place but I don’t care.
Near the entrance to the bedroom is an Egyptian revival mirror, c. 1920s.  Below are stacks of cabinets and shelves to house more objects including George's childhood teddy bear, Sandy. An old master watercolor of an angry wild dog, from dealer Michael Oster. A tiger growls below.
The tramp art grandfather clock, made of cigar boxes cut in a clock gear motif, is from Keno Auctions.
Near the bedroom closet, the giltwood Art Deco sconce is from the Czech Republic, imported by Marc Fagan Antiques. A still life painting of globes and shoes casually on the floor mimics the rest of the bedroom.  Another staircase model is bedside.
A corner of the bedroom, with a bedroom dresser set that belonged to George's grandparents, all the way back to the 1940s.
A flat screen television has an antique golden crown that formerly would have surmounted a huge frame housing a portrait of a person of title. The molecular chemistry model, c. 1950s, is from Skinner Auctioneers.
Two rare American 19th Century floor globes tower on the long dresser in the bedroom.
The painted plaque with sun motif was purchased from Doyle New York in the 1980s.  The mitosis models -- scientific demonstration devices turned bedroom decoration -- are from eBay.  Another miniature spiral staircase is on display.
A collection of wooden busts of British worthies, including Milton and Shakespeare, enjoy a bird's-eye view from atop a collector's cabinet in the bedroom.
A carved wood greyhound plaque is suspended from the wooden shutters in the bedroom.   The 18th Century Venetian rococo armchair  -- green lacquer with Chinoiserie decoration -- sports regal velvet selected by Charles Krewson, interior designer.
Doesn’t everybody love it?

They do … are you British? The British get it much more quickly. Some people are overwhelmed by it. But it’s really for me. This room in many ways is wonderful and it’s wildly impractical. It’s a Harry Potter room!

Do you like those books?

Oh yes!

So collecting is somehow different from acquisition, is it? It’s not just acquisition?

No, but that’s part of it I think. I don’t know … you’d have to be a psychologist or psychiatrist to really understand it. But now you can buy something online now and it comes in a box and part of the thing [that is lost] about collecting is the challenge of it. EBay and things like that sort of killed a lot of it. It makes it too easy. This is a business but for a lot of dealers it’s about winning but I am, at heart, a collector. I want to find different things in different places that have a commonality and I want to bring them together. There’s something about the personality of the collector and the relationship to objects that is stronger, more passionate and that other people lack. It is what it is.
In the bathroom hangs Draper's Self Recording Thermometer, New York, late 19th Century, but it can be purchased from the George's gallery. A Venetian giltwood mirror in the bathroom, purchased back in the days when Doyle New York had its tag sale annex.
A promotional inkwell in the form of a toilet, from a German manufacturer of bathroom fixtures, dated 1940, is on the toilet tank in the bathroom.  It is surrounded by ancient Roman style bronzes, 19th Century, purchased at Tepper Galleries.
Do you like to travel?

I do and I don’t, interestingly enough.

What don’t you like about it?

Well, I’m so sort of concentrated … this hobby, this business is sort of a blessing and a curse because it’s so time-consuming and I’m so meticulous about not missing stuff that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for travel. I’m so committed and enveloped in this—and it doesn’t stop. I can miss something and it doesn’t matter but somehow I’m trying to keep track and so if you let it go …

Well would happen if you let it go?

[Starts to laugh] Now it sounds like I’m in psychoanalysis. Nothing would happen.

Are you good at reading maps – if I’m in a car with you and I hand you the map are you going to find the way really easily?

Not particularly.