Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kenzo Auctions Art Collection

by Lauren Stewart-Ebert

Last week’s auction of Japanese designer Kenzo Takada’s personal collection of art and artifacts at the Paris Drouot auction house was a resounding success. The auction netted a total of $2.63 million, selling over 75% of the pieces on the block. The wide range of prices (from $850 to $150,000) kept the auction accessible and the diversity of his eclectic collection attracted huge crowds of buyers from all over the world.

Amongst his stunning assemblage was furniture, statuary, and laquerware from around the globe including China, Japan, France and Belgium.

Living in Paris since the early 1960’s, the retired fashion icon developed a keen sense of style. His home was a tasteful mix of Asian and European elements.

A French Louis XV armchair sits next to a Japanese rice paper sliding door.
Bamboo flooring and neutral colors reminiscent of a Zen garden are complimented perfectly by a pair of French Louis XVI meridiennes and Italian Chiavari chairs.

A beautiful eighth century pure gold goddess statue from Thailand drew the highest bids. Originally estimated at $80,000 to $100,000, it sold for $150,000.

Kenzo’s reason for offering up his remarkable collection at auction was a desire to simplify, “After 20 years in this house, I wanted to turn the page and live lighter. For parties, it was great, but sometimes when I’m here alone, it’s far too big”.

He is moving from his spacious 12,000 square foot mansion in the Bastille area of Paris to a 2,700 square foot apartment on the Left Bank.
Chinese funereal statues from 5th century BC, valued at $20,000 to $60,000.

Chinese horse statues from the 6th century, valued at $14,000 each.
One piece which, surprisingly, did not sell was a large Chinese Han era wooden horse from the 2nd century B.C., estimated at $100,000 to $140,000.

Kenzo has said his new apartment, in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood, will have a markedly European feel. The influence of living in France for the past 45 years is significant, “I discovered Japan only after I had moved to Paris. Now I’m going to rediscover Paris.”

We have no doubts that the mix will be nothing short of a masterpiece…
Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 05:15:00 PM
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Vacation Destinations: Paris

Paris Museum Crawl Part 2: Musée d’Orsay
By Leslie Fray

Strolling along the banks of the Seine in the heart of Paris… what to do? Ahh, so many choices…. Sooner or later your going to run into what used to be the Orsay railway station, what is now known as the Orsay Museum. This superb museum is a must-see for all fans of the Impressionist period, featuring a collection of artwork dating from 1848 to 1914.

There are also several exhibitions going on this summer that seem quite interesting: Running through July 19th, is an exhibit called “See Italy and Die. Photography and Painting in 19th Century Italy.” Quite an intense name for an exhibition, no?
The invention of photography in 1839 introduced a whole new side to the art world that artists such as Carlo Naya and the Alinari Brothers, artists who took up photography right around the boom of tourism in Italy, had never seen before. The exhibition follows the evolution of Rome’s history through the medium of photographs, prints, paintings, and sculptures. From the creation of the Daguerrotype, the earliest type of photograph, to the paintings of the Risorgimiento (Rebirth) ,all the way to the excavations of Pompei, this exhibition is a treat for the eye!
Here is an albumen print by Gioacchino Altobelli called Rome, moonlight on the Forum (c. 1865). The albumen printing method was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative.
Here is another Albumen print by Wilhelm von Gloeden, Cain
Here is an oil on canvas by Friederich Nerly, Venice, Moonlight on the Piazza San Marco :
Another exhibition that you can catch this summer is called “The Italy of Architects, from layout to invention”. In hopes of awakening their artistic senses and inspiring their creative spirits, many artists fled to Italy to study the beauty of Italian architecture. This exhibition, also running through July 19th, presents drawings and paintings, architectural designs, like the the model of the Paris Opera, [like what?] and restoration pieces like interior of ancient basilica by Jacques Ignace Hittorff.
Temple T in Selinonte, restored elevation of the main facade, Jacques Ignace Hittorff
Pitti Palace, Florence, Henri Paul Nénot
The exhibition that I am most excited about, however, is called “Italian Models: Hérbert and the Peasants of Latium”. This exhibition features the savagely exquisite nature that artist Ernest Hérbert captured in his paintings of Italian women peasants. Instead of portraying Italian peasant life with a sentimentality that comments on the primitive ways of the people, Hérbert creates a magical and seductive depiction of these women and their way of life. Here are a few examples of this exquisite collection of work:
Rosa Nera at the Fountain

Portrait of Crescenza
Of course, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit through the Orsay’s vast permanent collection where one can easily get lost amidst all the paintings, sculptures, photographs, objets d’art and more.
You may favor the Monets….
Un coin

Londres, le Parlement. Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard

Van Gogh…

La guingette à Montmartre

L’église d’Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet
Or perhaps the Renoirs….
Danse à la campagne

Le Garçon au Chat
Or sculptures may be your preference….
Angles, Joachim- Jeune Femme aux Pavots

Vincenzo, Gemito-Acquaiolo

In any case, the Musee d’Orsay has something for everyone. Allow yourself at least several hours, for once inside….
Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 06:46:00 PM
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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Golden Ratio Revisited

By Leslie Fray
I was chatting with my Dad over dinner the other night and, not surprisingly, our conversation drifted to the subject of antiques (as it often does at our house). I began inquiring about the antiques “obsession” – the mad desire people have to fill their homes with antiques and more antiques; this passion that has passed on from generation to generation. This led to a discussion about the inherent beauty of well crafted antiques and how they simply lend a sense of aesthetics to the spaces around them.

This seemed obvious to me, so I steered my questions into a different direction. If people love antiques so much because they are “beautiful”, why then are some spaces considered more beautiful than others – even if they’re both filled with antiques? How is beauty defined? Why is it that people find one piece more beautiful than another? What is it that sets them apart?

“It’s Phi,” my Dad replied. My blank stare then prompted, “You know, the Golden Ratio”. I had no idea what he was talking about. So, after still more awkward silence, my Dad began to explain. He said it was a sort of golden rule that defined what the proportions of any given object (including antiques) should be in order for them to be the most aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. Of course, this conversation turned into a very lengthy one-sided lecture, but it finally offered an explanation to something that had puzzled me for years. This prompted me to do some research. Here’s what I learned:

The “Golden Ratio” is a mathematical formula devised by Euclid, a Greek mathematician (also know humbly as “The Father of Geometry”). Since math is not and never will be my forte, I’ll spare you the numeric details about the definition of Phi and let you discover them for yourselves on the internet. The important thing to know is that the Golden Ratio, or rather the “Divine Proportion” is a universal way of defining the perfect proportions of any object, whether it is something in nature or man-made. And it is, in fact, thanks to the Golden Ratio that certain objects are more aesthetically pleasing than others.

The Great Pyramid of Giza built around 2560 BC is one of the earliest examples of the use of the Golden Ratio.

Studies of the ratio first began in ancient Greece through Pythagoras’ concept of dividing lines into extreme and mean ratios in the geometry of pentagons and pentagrams. Although there is no factual evidence documenting the first utilization of the ratio, it began appearing more frequently in Greek architecture in buildings such as the Parthenon in the Acropolis in the form of the “Golden Rectangle”.

Swiss architect Le Corbusier applied the Golden Ratio to his creations as well. He came up with a scale for architecture proportions known as the Modulor.


This system, based on Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, was an attempt to improve the appearance and function of architecture based on the discoveries of the mathematical proportions of the human body. Below are some examples of Corbusier’s designs.

The Golden Ratio exists within the painting world as well! Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, a drawing that has been referenced throughout history, reflects the correlations between the ideal human body proportions and geometry that roman architect Vitruvius described in Book III of his treatise “De Architectura”.

“Vitruvian Man”

Da Vinci’s other works such as his illustrations in the “De Divina Proportione” and the Mona Lisa incorporate the Golden Ratio as well.

Illustration from “De Divine Proportione”

An illustration of the golden rectangles in the Mona Lisa
Architecture and painting, however, are just the beginning. The Golden Ratio is present in book design and music as well as Mother Nature herself. Adolf Zeising, a German philosopher and mathematician in the 19th century, discovered the appearance of the Golden Ratio in the arrangements of branches along the stems of plants and veins in leaves. When we look at something as common as a flower or a pineapple, we look at it and find it aesthetically pleasing (at least I do) and that is quite probably because of the Golden Ratio! It is at work in many of the things we see every day.
This is perhaps why, then, we are drawn to certain pieces of furniture while others not so much, why certain spaces feel better than others, why we are moved by some paintings and left indifferent by others. The Golden Ratio provides us with a sense of harmony and balance, two qualities that are often the main determinants in the aesthetics of an object. Now this is not to say that the Golden Ratio is the only factor that determines the beauty of an antique or anything else for that matter, but it is almost always present in anything that has been historically considered “perfect”.
Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 07:36:00 PM
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Vacation Destinations: Paris

Paris Museum Crawl Part 1: Le Louvre

First stop, the Louvre! With over 35,000 works of art from eight departments displayed in over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space, the Louvre is Paris’ largest museum and one could literally spend weeks in there…
Right now you can catch a fascinating exhibition entitled “The Gates of Heaven. Visions of the World in Ancient Egypt”, running through June 29.
The Egyptian term “gates of heaven” refers to the doors of a sacred shrine holding the statue of god. The Egyptians believed if the doors were opened the divine world would be transported into the human one! They also believed that certain places acted as replicas of these shrines and so were adorned with their own set of doors representing the “gates of heaven”, and thereby offering a transition between physical and mental realities.
The exhibition, containing about 350 artifacts spanning three millennia, from the Old Kingdom to the Roman Period, seeks to place everyday objects in their social, religious and artistic context. It focuses on four of these realities: the ordered Universe, the Beyond, the tomb chapel, and the temple forecourt. A fascinating glimpse at philosophy, which is far removed from rational, Western thinking…

The Universe as Divine Sanctuary

The Celestial Underworld, or Mysterious Beyond
Coming and Going: The Tomb Chapel
At the Gates of Heaven: Temple Forecourt
Another exhibition that will be taking place this summer is called, “Early Altar pieces (12th- early 15th century) – A presentation of Sacred Art”. This exhibition features the evolution of altarpieces from the 12th century on. It focuses on retables and their relationship with altars. Originating around the same time period, the retable, also known as a “reredo”, was hung behind the church altars taking on the form of a screen framing a picture, a carved or sculptured work in wood or stone, or of a mosaic.

13th Century Retable

Of course, a trip to the Louvre would not be complete without seeing some of the permanent works of art that have earned the Louvre its reputation as one of premiere museums of our time:

For example, Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”:

Or Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”:

Here is a Roman marble sculpture of the head of Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, that was acquired by the Louvre in 2002:

Or you may wander through the collection of Egyptian antiquities…. here is a fragment of a temple wall, depicting an offering scene, portrayed between the signs for earth and sky:

And finally, don’t miss I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, beautifully and dramatically situated in the museum courtyard… magnifique!

Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 05:29:00 PM
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