COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Josef Hoffmann. Toiletry Set, Wiener Werkstätte, 1905. Courtesy of Dorotheum.

The seven-part toiletry set (offered at auction at DOROTHEUM Vienna on May 13, 2013) seems to encapsulate all of Vienna’s essence at the beginning of the twentieth century: Viennese culture and Viennese luxury. The set was designed in 1905 for Paul Wittgenstein, famous concert pianist, son of Austrian industrialist Karl Wittgenstein and brother of renowned […]

Pierre Sterlé. Bracelet, 1950s. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

If the world of high jewelry had a scent, this would be Jicky by Guerlain. Jicky, permeator of dreams and private moments, exudes old world elegance and simplicity just like finely set precious stones do. It is modern and evolving, evocative of new technology and seeker of excitement in new materials and techniques. As all […]

An illustration to the Ramayana Mewar, circa 1710. Courtesy of Bonhams.

As Asia Week New York just kicked off, fervor for the numerous works exhibited at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams is rising. Auctions are scheduled for the upcoming week. A collaboration among auction houses, independent dealers and major cultural institutions, such as Asia Society, Japan Society, Rubin Museum of Art etc., Asia Week aims at celebrating and […]

Rotende de Cartier. Courtesy of Cartier.

Granulation, an advanced technique of working with gold, involves the careful manufacture, sorting and soldering of a dizzying number of miniscule grains of gold on to an object’s surface. (Oxford Dictionary of Art) Most people associate granulation with Etruscan jewelry even though the technique is known to have been applied by Mesopotamians and Greeks as […]

Jean Fouquet. Bracelet, 1927. Courtesy of Hancocks.

Art Fairs are the millennials of art patronage. They proliferate rapidly, embrace life, art and technology in their 2.0 versions, and have no time to spare. Nurtured in times of privilege, they are overly specialized and exclusive, trendsetters in a post-modern culture that fosters breadth of knowledge rather than depth. In a calendar year, art […]

Bulgari, Serpent Tuboga, 1975. Courtesy of Bulgari.

The problem with good art is that it makes bad art look worse. Good design makes bad design implode by lack of ideas. Great execution brings out the clumsiness in everything else. Contemporary Bulgari designs pale by comparison to their early slithering predecessors. The latter are part of a small-scale curated exhibit at Bulgari’s flagship […]

Golden necklaces, 2012. Courtesy of Zolotas.

The story of the oldest luxury firm in Greece, Zolotas, resonates with me because the founding family came from my hometown in Central Greece, which the family’s two sons, Lambros and Efthimios, left for Athens. By the end of the 19th century, the Greek capital had made considerable strides in refinement and cosmopolitanism. While destined […]

Biosymbol, golden cuff with rubies. Courtesy of Lalaounis.

Gold and precious stones have always fascinated man. Classifiers of power, prestige, and status, gold and gems have increased their value when an artist crafts beautiful objects with them. This is what Greek jeweler Ilias Lalaounis (1920- ) has been doing since he entered the family business in the 1940s. His eponymous company was formed […]

Daniel Brush. Bowl with golden butterflies. © Thomaï Serdari.

Luxury is the opposite of anarchy. If anarchy defies organization, luxury welcomes it. If anarchy rejects stratification, luxury aspires to it. Anarchy objects to commitment, luxury stems from it. And while absence of luxury does not lead to anarchy, anarchy is prohibitive to luxury. In an art system that is highly organized and somewhat predictable, […]