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 […]

Chicago Art Expo 2013

The rooftop at the James Hotel New York became some sort of checkpoint for Chicagoans and New Yorkers last Friday. The former had just flown in for the Frieze Art Fair 2013 on Randall’s Island whereas the latter stopped by to check the competition. In the world of modern and contemporary art, two major artistic […]

"Pippa" chair. Courtesy of Hermès.

“Luxe pauvre” (transl. impoverished luxury) has nothing to do with deprivation—on the contrary it refers to a most heightened form of an opulent aesthetic, one that, ironically, precedes minimalism by several decades. Jean-Michel Frank (1895-1941), the French aristocrat who found in design an outlet for his introvert nature, is still considered the master of this […]

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 […]

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 […]

Konstantinos Maleas. Attika, 1923. Collection of the Greek Parliament, Athens.

Empty storefronts and bankrupt businesses indicate the depths of the financial crisis in Greece.  Art sales that take place on Athenian sidewalks make the crisis even more palpable at least to those with a knowledge and sense of history. Parting with a beloved work of art, especially one from the promising period of the 1920s […]

Vogue cover with Belperron brooch, 1934. Courtesy of Vogue.

Suzanne Belperron (1900-1983) is known today as the jewelry designer who never signed her creations and who deliberately burned her personal papers and photographs–or at least, this is the myth created around her name. This version of history has been defeated with the monographic work on Belperron by French jewelry expert Sylvie Raulet. Belperron’s powerful […]

Axel Salto ceramic vase for Royal Copenhagen.

Today, for each luxury house, the public can recall both the name of its brand and that of its celebrity designer. Think of Raf Simmons for Dior Couture (fashion), Paloma Picasso for Tiffany’s (jewelry design), or Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès (perfume). This was not the case at the beginning of the 20th century. A time […]