Leonard Fox Rare Books (at 790 Madison Avenue) is presenting a charming exhibition of the works of Gerda Wegener. Wegener was Danish artist who moved to Paris in 1912, where she became quiet famous for her work as well as for her personal life. As Leonard Fox puts it, everyone loves a good story, especially collectors. Wegener’s husband, Einar was a transsexual, who had surgery in 1931 to become a woman. Einar, who became known as Lili, often modeled for his wife. According to the book, “The Danish Girl” written by David Ebershoff (published in 2001), it was Gerda who initially asked Einar to dress up as a woman so that she could complete one of her works on time. Einar, dressed both as a man and a woman, finds his way into her work over and over again. For example “Woman with a Devil” clearly depicts Einar off to the side, his face in profile, while “Au Café” is him as Lili sitting in the center. Wegener’s work captures the beauty, frivolity, and sexuality of the 1920’s. My favorite is the “Scene de Carnaval” a breathtaking account of a Carnaval ball. Also great are the series of books with Wegener’s erotic illustrations. The smaller works, priced at around $1750, are very affordable. But it is the larger oils and watercolors that are showstoppers. While serious collectors have always been familiar with Wegener’s work, and her incredible story, many are now discovering her due to this terrific exhibition. Next year even more people will know Gerda Wegener’s name as Nicole Kidman and Gwenyth Paltrow will be co-starring in a film, of the same title as the book, based on her life, with Kidman playing the role of Einar. Due to popular demand the show has been extended for another two weeks and the gallery will remain open on Saturdays through its run, after which it will go back to its Monday-Friday schedule.
Just up the block, at 27 East 67th Street, the elegant and cozy bi- level gallery of Friedman and Vallois is the perfect setting for an exhibition of Jacques- Emile Ruhlmann’s furniture. The gallery, owned by Barry Freidman and Bob and Cheska Vallois, of Paris, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. They have decided to honor this occasion by presenting work from one of the greatest French Art Deco designers. Ruhlmann’s beautiful interiors for “L’Hôtel du Collectionneur”, at the 1925 Paris Exposition were heart stopping. While the United States did not participate in this exhibition they had the good sense to send museum official and government representatives to go and see it and in turn purchased some of the art seen there, including work by Ruhlmann which was bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Therefore it is fitting that the dealers would present Ruhlmann on their anniversary as, from the beginning of their careers they have been promoters of his work, and he bridges the gap between Paris and New York. This small yet dazzling exhibition features over twenty pieces of furniture, some small and some large. The piece de résistance is an incredible sideboard with compartments made of macassar ebony and chromed bronze that was designed for the Maharajah of Indore in 1932. This massive piece is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The exhibition will continue through January 5, 2010.
While Primavera Gallery is no longer on Madison Avenue (they have moved to 210 11th Avenue at 25th Street, 8th floor, in Chelsea), they once were and all of their clients still reminisce about the days when they had a Madison Avenue storefront full of beautiful jewelry. The gallery’s current exhibition is titled Art Deco Revisited. And as one patron asked, “why are you revisiting it?”, the answer, according to gallery owner Audrey Friedman, is simple: “we were motivated to put together this exhibition not only because Art Deco has been an important focus of our gallery for the past 40 years, but also because there is so little coming onto the market now, and with the recent focus on contemporary design, we feel that young collectors, who do not have a great deal of opportunity to see fine Art Deco pieces, may be overlooking this great design period.” I couldn’t agree more. The show, on through February 28, 2010 features an incredible selection of furniture, glass, ceramics, metalwork, sculpture and works on paper that showcase various aspects of the Art Deco movement, as well as a few selected examples of later pieces that were influenced by Art Deco. My favorite piece in the exhibition is a Paul Iribe dresser and mirror (ca. 1923) designed for his then-love interest Coco Chanel. Iribe, a renowned illustrator was also a talented furniture designer and incorporated into this gorgeous macassar ebony dresser gilt bronze handles of small flowers, a motif often found in his drawings.