I’m stopped in my tracks as my eyes met this bench and I am marveled, dazzled and mesmerized by its beauty. Claude Lalanne’s ‘Les Grandes Berces’ bench designed in 2000 recently fetched $425,000 at Christie’s New York yet, Art for investment wasn’t on my mind in this rush. This was more like the first experience one has when attracted to another – of curiosity and the desire to get closer. I wanted to learn more about the piece, but I was momentarily whisked away on an inner journey of memory and child-like play. I think it’s the oversized scale of Claude’s gingko leaves that captured my attention. It reminds me of an Art Nouveau railing I never saw and somehow morphed itself into a bench on it’s own.
My encounter with Claude’s bench brought back happy memories of a client meeting and presentation at an Aesthetic period brownstone in New York. At this meeting I was presenting fabrics - one with the motif of a ginkgo leaf and another with a fan. At the time, I was drawn to these fabrics for their beauty and for a color scheme that would work well for my clients. These were popular motifs during the Aesthetic period and thus even more perfect for an Aesthetic period-loving client. I recall the client opting for a jacquard of fans over the gingko, yet the first fans were leaves after all and there’s an obvious relationship between their shapes. I was so captured by this memory, I went so far as to see if I could track down these fabrics again. Sadly, fabrics are often discontinued and thus I’m unable to share them with you. Claude’s bench sent me on a lengthy trip of exploration, thought and imagination. I envisioned myself as a sprite being carried away on a leaf into the depths of time consuming research on the internet and in books.
If possible, one should always see something in person. The internet is overflowing with resources, yet if you’re in the market for furniture, fabrics, or Art, try to see it first-hand. On a trip to a gallery, your favorite home furnishing store and/or Art fair you will find things pulling you in that you didn’t expect. For example, when I go to the Design & Decoration Building in New York, my eye may catch something that I might have missed altogether if I had stuck only with an internet search. Texture, color and scale cannot be captured on a computer screen. It’s always worth the cab fare to see it in person before ordering - particularly if it’s at a steep price. I can imagine not everyone has the luxury of time and may need to delegate that work to a trusted person. When I was teaching, I advised my interior design students to take a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and spend time in the furniture wings. It’s important to know what quality looks like. I’ve scanned through many images of Claude Lalanne’s work and I would love to see more in person. I’m still attached to the one I saw at Christie’s. The other piece of Claude’s that caught my attention was the ‘Hosta’ Chair designed in 1972. It realized $221,000. When Francis-Xavier and Claude Lalanne co-created, they got their start in the 60’s when their organic form was in contract to the ruling abstract. They worked together until his death in 2008. I’m drawn to her work as it speaks of vegetation in contrast to her husband which is more animal-themed. Ben Brown, a gallerist who represents Claude Lalanne in London, said once that “they live in an artistic world that is full of living organisms.”
I could imagine ‘Les Grandes Berces’ in a foyer or large entry hall. Foyers, landings and connecting spaces are often overlooked. The foyer is akin to a calling card. It’s where your guests are first greeted. This bench would work well in a second floor landing, a music room, a winter garden and/or a conservatory. It’s a piece to pause at. I can imagine many a kiss stolen or two on a bench. All because of a bench the quality of one’s life is instantly enhanced. The ‘Hosta’ Chair would be perfectly paired at the boudoir table, whilst fixing one’s make-up and hair (assuming one doesn’t take too long as it’s sans cushion). It would work well at a writing desk, close to a bedside table, and in the living room or library as an accent piece. Owning a Lalanne would put one in good company of their living collectors; Peter Marino, and Reed and Delphine Krakoff.
Researching Pinterest and the internet at large, one will be swept away in a plethora of gingko leaves. Yet a lot of it is just imagery, and I was led down many interesting places that eventually turned to dead ends. I can offer some other sources of nature-themed works of Art for your home. I stumbled upon a business card of an Artist which reminded me of one of my favorite Art Fairs in New York last year - the Art on Paper show. One of my favorite artists there was Rebecca Jewell at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery. She is skilled in creating exquisite works of Art. For now, the price point of her work is quite attainable. Her work displays beauty, integrity and depth. I would certainly snatch one of Jewell’s Art works. Look at all of her Art. She’s not only skilled, she also enlightens us on how birds are perceived in other cultures. Her Art uses photo-plate, ink, etching press, and ethically-sourced feathers. I’m particularly drawn to her ‘Deer After Audubon’, 2013; and ‘Quills and Ink Wells’ an edition of 8.
If you’re in the market for a nature themed fire screen look no further than John Lyle’s ‘Leaf’ Fire Screen in polished bronze at $13,000. I spoke with Bill Lenio of John Lyle Design and discussed how so many fireplaces featured in many shelter magazines are without any ornamentation. Fire screens can be not only beautiful, but practical as well. One of the reasons I’ve admired the Decorative Arts for most of my life is where practicality meets Art. If you have a fireplace, don’t forget to dress it.
For bright and cheerful fabrics you may want to look at the renowned Marimekko Finnish fabrics. If you like a softer palette, you might prefer the English charm of hand-block fabrics from Bennison Fabrics, such as Montecito Original on Oyster. The ‘Happy Garden’ print from Quadrille fabrics offers a taste of nature in an array of color ranges.
Sourcing, nature, benches and more, I conclude with an outing from our homes and offices to Central Park. We can take solace from the work day by walking through the park and enjoying a brief respite on a park bench. We can Adopt-A-Bench through the Central Park Conservancy. In our everyday hectic lives it’s important to pause, to watch the world go by and sit with nature.
Books to Inspire and Sources:
John Dewey’s Art as Experience
Arthur Shimamura’s book Experiencing Art In the Brain of the Beholder
For more information:
Rebecca Hossack Gallery http://www.rebeccahossack.com/
John Lyle Design www.johnlyledesign.com
Marimekko Fabrics www.marimekko.com
Bennison Fabrics www.bennisonfabrics.com
Quadrille Fabrics www.quadrillefabrics.com