Form & Fancy
The demand for contemporary designs has been soaring of late, says Zesty Meyers, a cofounder of R & Company, the Manhattan gallery that represents Wiseman and the Haas Brothers. “The design market has been blowing up,” he says. “The last 10 years have seen insane growth in 20th- and 21st-century furniture.” Auction results support his assertion. In 2009, Marc Newson’s 1985 landmark piece Lockheed Lounge, a chaise-shaped structure clad in the type of riveted aluminum that covers an airplane’s fuselage and wings, sold for £1.1 million ($1.8 million) at Phillips de Pury London. Mouton de Pierre—a circa 1979 sculpture by the late François-Xavier Lalanne comprising 10 sheep made of painted epoxy stone and patinated bronze—fetched $7.5 million at a 2011 auction of 20th-century art and design at Christie’s New York.
Aside from a feel for the fanciful, the earlier-mentioned artists and designers share another trait: They are technical masters. Wiseman makes his own bronze and porcelain on-site at his Los Angeles studio. The Haas twins trained under their father, a carpenter and stone-carver from Texas; now they employ him. At her studio in downtown Los Angeles, located next to a foundry, Taslitz uses the lost-wax method to cast her bronze sculptures. Le Gall is essentially self-taught. Van der Straeten had some formal schooling but learned mostly by wrestling with the problems the furniture designs posed to him. He opened his furniture workshop in 1999 and visits it weekly. “It’s very satisfying,” he says of owning his own shop. “It allows me to change whatever I want, to improve my design, and to discover something new. It’s like having a sports car: I can change gears very quickly.”
Though running a workshop and managing employees can be taxing, Van der Straeten finds it well worth the effort. “One of my luxuries is I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and I can make it right,” he says. “I work only on pieces that make me happy in terms of their quality and creativity. They’re not just collectible decorative items. I hope they’re more than that, and I hope people can feel that when they see the pieces.”
Jean de Merry (Hubert le Gall), 212.715.0646, www.jeandemerry.com; Ralph Pucci International Showrooms (Hervé Van der Straeten), 212.633.0452, www.ralphpucci.net; R & Company (David Wiseman, the Haas Brothers), 212.343.7979, www.r-and-company.com; Kathy Taslitz, 847.835.1861, www.kathytaslitz.com