“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (William Morris)
In the seemingly eternal argument over whether or not something functional can also truly be called ‘art’, a spectacular corner of 20th century American furniture design is currently on a winning streak.
Furniture holds the wonderful honor of being something we all know and use. When we choose furniture for our homes, it becomes an expression of ourselves – our taste and our spirit. In this way, the furniture that surrounds your daily life creates the backdrop to your world; explaining who you are and what you hold dear in a silent but recognizable language. And, if you’re in a position to choose, why not also choose your furniture for its beauty? After all, if you’re already investing in great art for your walls, it’s only fitting that the furniture it gazes down on should make for a worthy sparring partner in terms of rarity, signature, provenance and value. Beautiful, storied furniture is a way to surround yourself with meaning in every moment, and add rare individuality to your days.
Many great 20th-century American designers pushed the boundary between design and art, especially for furniture. But, in contrast to the mass-produced mid-century furniture of those such as Knoll and Herman Miller, there were also extraordinary American designers of the same period focused on vivid new forms and exquisite craftsmanship that obsessed the tastemakers and movie stars of the day. These uniquely memorable examples of American furniture are more than functional. They are a living history of American excellence, skill and imagination. They are never-to-be-repeated moments of bold brilliance. They add unexpected, conversation-starting touches to modern rooms, serve as prized investments and are to be passed down as historically important heirlooms. And, during this peculiar time in our history, it feels even more important to be able to hold onto something beautiful and timeless; a comfortable mooring in unsettling times. In a world dominated by mass production and fast turnover, treasuring something that endures is a defiant act of love.
The pre-eminent authority in this particular field is Evan Lobel. Evan has spent the last twenty years promoting important 20th century designers whose originality and exceptional craftsmanship and materials transformed their works into art and, at Lobel Modern in New York, it can be hard to tell what belongs in a home and what should be in a gallery. An hour with Evan and you understand the true importance of the pieces given to us by these artists of functional magnificence. Lobel feels like the custodian; the place to turn when you want to invest in something that will live with you, not only carrying its own unique story but also, in turn, witnessing and elevating yours.
Lobel vibrates with unabashed love for his work. He generously offers a new way of looking at furniture with more than pure aesthetics as validation. When sharing the stories behind the work, his vast background knowledge and his clear admiration for the designers themselves, Lobel shines with the wide-eyed delight of someone who sees so much more than ‘just’ a piece of furniture. (And he really knows his stuff. He’s currently, quite literally, writing the book on it.) Within these powerful, iconic designs – the shape of a table leg, the curve of a lamp - Lobel is the joyful ringmaster, celebrating the splendor of these craftsmen who initiated some of the stylistic journeys that led furniture to where we are today and what we instinctively know to be good taste.
Evan holds the keys to some of the finest pieces still in existence by a roll-call of illustrious designers such as Karl Springer, Philip and Kelvin LaVerne and Vladimir Kagan. Even if you don’t know the names, their work – the classics shapes and materials - feels fundamentally familiar to the eye. You will have seen them without knowing it in films and photography where the design brief was obviously ‘classically cool, wildly chic and glamorously unforgettable, all wrapped up in one sofa, please.’ The common thread that binds them within Lobel’s eclectic selections is their meticulous craft and originality. Here you are buying the work of artists.
Since its inception, Lobel Modern has proudly featured the works of Philip and Kelvin LaVerne. The team of father and son artists, each extremely talented in their own right, combined their efforts to create unique and functional art pieces in bronze and pewter from the 1960's through the 1980's. Their resolute passion to create something utterly new lends a sense of exciting alchemy to LaVerne work. Some of their pieces were even buried in special soil and chemicals in order to achieve the particularly aged patinas – and each is a unique masterpiece to be celebrated and displayed.
For over a decade Karl Springer has also been a focus of Lobel Modern. In 2003, Architectural Digest named Evan Lobel as the "New York dealer who has been instrumental in putting Springer back on the map." For many, Springer’s named is synonymous with the resurgence of interest in exotic materials, including the current interest in the rawhide, ‘shagreen’. It was Springer’s obsession with quality, combined with the use of exotic luxurious materials, that makes the pieces truly exceptional. Springer himself once said, “Quality. That is what is most important to me. The integrity of surfaces, the elements of restraint - these make luxury more piquant. Everything depends in the end on uncompromising workmanship and rigid control, all in the pursuit of quality. As for me, I allow nothing to represent me that is not my best effort.” This is furniture that provides the clear definition of luxury.
Vladimir Kagan was also the hot ticket amongst the celebrity clientele, naming Marilyn Monroe and Gary Cooper amongst his fans. His curved, mid-century modern style, inspired by everything from nature to the Bauhaus, emphasizes comfort and functionality. Kagan became famous for furniture with curving lines in sculpted wood that are simultaneously avante garde and wildly sexy.
Beyond the individual beauty of each designer’s work, Lobel’s hand adds an alchemy of its own – combining pieces in unexpected and powerful edits that bring an additional level of eclectic charm to the visual theatre. Perhaps you know just what you need, or perhaps the idea of incredible American furniture has just reached your radar. Whatever you might need, Evan Lobel will take you on a wonderful journey of experience.