The art of Tibetan rugs

February 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

A rare Tibetan leopard spots rug from the Piccus Collection

A rare Tibetan leopard spots rug from the Piccus Collection

Q & A | ROBERT PICCUS

Before they returned to San Francisco in 2000, Pacific Heights residents Robert and Alice Piccus lived in Hong Kong for three decades. Both were inveterate travelers and knowledgeable collectors who had the interest and proximity to seek out Vietnamese ceramics, Southeast Asian sculpture and Tibetan silver, among other treasures. They also built an important collection of traditional Chinese furniture.

In the mid-1980s they became interested in Tibetan rugs, which were beginning to appear in Hong Kong. During the next decade they assembled a notable collection of almost 200 Tibetan rugs, now celebrated in a lavish new book, Sacred & Secular: The Piccus Collection of Tibetan Rugs, published by Serindia Publications in Chicago.

How did you begin your collection? Alice and I had the good fortune to live in Hong Kong from 1968 to 2000, a 32-year period that saw Hong Kong grow from a relatively sleepy colonial backwater to its present status as the dynamic business, financial and art-collecting center of Asia.

The Asian art that surrounded us in Hong Kong and that we found during our extensive travels throughout the region led us to collect in a number of areas. During the 1970s and early 1980s we collected early Chinese rugs made for use in temples in the Tibetan religious and cultural areas of western China and Mongolia. But the Tibetan rugs available then were never of interest to us, and we assumed that would always be the case.

So what changed? Westerners were not able to visit Tibet until the mid-1980s, but some Hong Kong Chinese dealers did, and so did certain Tibetans living in Nepal. Some of the leading Katmandu dealers were accumulating huge piles of rugs. The condition of these seemingly never-washed rugs was horrible. It was clear that Tibetans did not put much care into their rugs, which in the absence of furniture and fixed accommodations were functional objects on which to sit, sleep and give some protection from the cold. The mid-1980s became a dynamic time for collecting Tibetan art, including the previously ignored rugs. We were concentrating on putting together our collection of classical Chinese furniture while continuing our interest in Chinese rugs and Tibetan silver and manuscript covers. We were aware of developments in Tibet, and we began to pay attention to the Tibetan rug market.
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Right place, right time

November 4, 2012 § 3 Comments

Nathan Oliveira | Chas (1963)

REVIEW | JEROME TARSHIS

Partly because it is exhibited in a gallery made up of several small rooms, partly because of the preferences that inform the collection of Charles and Glenna Campbell, visiting the show titled “Treasures” — now on view at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery — is almost eerily reminiscent of visiting Charlie’s gallery.

In 1947, when Charlie brought his love of jazz up from Los Angeles and opened a frame shop near the school now known as the San Francisco Art Institute, he was in the right place at the right time. Abstract Expressionism was being born, soon to be followed by the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Both styles featured an informal, spontaneous handling of paint, and the artists saw an obvious likeness between their way of working and the improvisation within defined limits that was typical of jazz.
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Inside the Getty mansion

November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Getty

Photographs by Lisa Romerein from Ann Getty Interior Style

DESIGN | DIANE DORRANS SAEKS

Twenty years ago, interior designer Ann Getty began a large-scale redecoration of the Pacific Heights residence where she lives with her husband, Gordon, a composer. It was built in 1906 to a classic design by architect Willis Polk and offers an entry hall with collections as opulent as any London museum. The Gettys, generous philanthropists, often entertain an international retinue of cultural and political figures.

At auctions in New York and London, Ann Getty acquired furniture from the great English country houses, including Badminton House and Ditchley Park. Unable to collect French antiques — she says the Getty Museum was in an acquisition phase, and even her budget was not large enough to bid against the family museum — she gathered George II gilded chairs, dramatic Anglo-Indian beds inlaid with mother-of-pearl and porcelain and ormolu objets.

“I love the heft and boldness of English antiques,” says Getty, who is also a champion of art education.

In Paris she scooped up vivid 18th-century silk brocades for pillows. From the estate of dancer Rudolf Nureyev she acquired velvet patchwork textiles, which she made into dramatic curtains.

The renovation, plus the addition of a new wing when the Gettys acquired the house next door, took place over a decade.

 

 

“This is the ornate look I love for myself, but I don’t impose it on my clients,” she says. “My work is not all over-the-top design. For clients, I want rooms that reflect their style.”

Even among this grandeur, there are quiet corners for an afternoon tête-à-tête overlooking the Palace of Fine Arts.

Her gracious rooms, with tufted sofas and chairs covered in plum-colored velvets and golden silks, are at once exotic, dazzling and comfortable. Party guests can often be found sprawled on silken sofas, and friends curl up to sip Champagne on chairs covered with luscious Venetian hand-woven silk velvets.

A quartet of Canaletto paintings hovers above a gilded console table in the music room, a theatrical stage for family celebrations. A Sèvres porcelain table commissioned by Napoleon (its pair is installed in Buckingham Palace) stands in a corner. Gilded benches and tables from Spencer House, plus a silk-upholstered glass chair with the look of carved crystal, all demonstrate Getty’s original eye.

While Ann Getty can design entirely practical rooms for young families, the rooms in her own home glow with baroque splendor. Blossoms, birds and butterflies painted on pale blue Chinese silk panels glimmer on the walls of a bedroom.

“Designing is a minor art, but such a pretty one,” says Getty as she glances around her living room. “I love to create interiors that please the eye. Beauty can be so uplifting.”

Diane Dorrans Saeks is the author of Ann Getty Interior Style, published by Rizzoli.

The accidental dealer

October 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

Photograph of Charles Campbell by Matt Gonzalez

By PETER STEINHART

Charles Campbell stands in his small Potrero Hill living room looking up at a painting. It has been in the house for years, one of dozens he believed in, bought or traded for, and held onto. The walls around him are clamorous with paintings, most of them by artists who became famous partly through Charlie’s efforts. There are Diebenkorns, Oliveiras, Wonners, Weekses and Thiebauds. Each one has deep personal associations. They’re all old friends, guests at his party.

This one he has just moved from another wall and been installed over the fireplace, where he can have a long last conversation with it. For it is about to leave. He has just sold it to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur for close to $2 million dollars. Charlie stands before it like a father before a son he is about to send off into the world: appraisingly but proud.

A San Francisco art dealer for six decades, Charlie asks me not to divulge the name of the painting, its price or its buyer. Discretion is an essential condition of dealing with wealth. But right now Charlie is clearly bragging. He poses, bird-like, hawk-nosed, chin up, gray sweat pants all but falling off his rail-thin hips, and it is a posture of triumph as if to say: “I wasn’t given a lot of advantages, but how do you like me now, world?” And then, his gaze shuffles behind his thick eyeglasses, his chin lowers and something softens in him and you see he is sad at parting with an old friend.

Charlie doesn’t look much like a gallery man. He doesn’t seem to calculate your social standing or your net worth as you walk in his door. He hasn’t got a day of academic training, has never taken a college art history course. No ascot, no fancy suit, no monocle. If you entered his gallery, he would not stand over your shoulder lecturing about the artist or the painting or how the painting’s value is expected to grow. “I always felt, look, I’ll put up what I think is the best stuff and you come and look at it and make your own decision,” he told interviewer Joan Bossart. It’s up to the people who come into his gallery to decide what the paintings are about.

There is a common man quality to him. His close friend Wayne Thiebaud calls him “the accidental dealer.” Unlike most of his gallery competitors, he backed into the business, with no preconceived idea of the nobility of art or its patrons. And one gets the impression that he did it not for beauty or wealth or social standing, but because he has always taken pleasure in sharing the enjoyment he gets out of life.

— excerpted from The Accidental Dealer by Peter Steinhart, copyright 2011.

‘O, what a delightful little picture’

December 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Blackberries | Raphaelle Peale | de Young Museum, San Francisco

Many of the finest treasures in San Francisco’s de Young Museum, including this small still life, came from the Rockefeller Collection of American Art, donated by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III. A passage on page 17 of the Rockefeller catalog describes the unusual grading system they used to buy works of art.

“The Rockefellers … used a gradually developed classification system to rank candidates for purchase — A, B, C, D, X and O. The last two categories were evolved to deal with surprises, the `X’ label was for rare works of extraordinary attractiveness by little-known artists, the `O’ rank was given to exquisite, small-scale works that, no matter what the artist’s fame, generated sufficient pleasure to prompt exclamation, `O, what a delightful little picture!'”

The catalog notes that works from the last two classifications are crucial in giving the Rockefeller collection its personal, idiosyncratic flavor — what one scholar called its “note of individual taste and connoisseurship, and a love of the arts for their own sake, independent of fame or price.”

Collecting local art

October 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

John and Pat Martin have filled the walls of their home with local art.

John and Pat Martin have filled the walls of their home with local art.

BY ELAINE GUTSCH

With a collection that includes works from more than 30 local artists, Pat and John Martin are deeply connected to the Sonoma County art world. Every room of their Petaluma home contains artwork that spans genres, styles and mediums, reflecting a pursuit of beauty and meaning unique to the couple’s history together.

From roots in his mother’s art-filled home in Grass Valley, through 35 years in Berkeley, a career as CFO of two Marin hospitals, and his eventual settling in Sonoma County, John’s love of art has grown to include his own pursuits as a painter in oil and acrylic. Pat, a massage therapist and Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, is an equally devoted art lover. To fuel their passion for art, the two regularly take workshops, read voraciously from their massive art book collection and frequent museums and galleries in the Bay Area and New York.

When they married and started collecting art together 15 years ago, the pair discovered their harmonious artistic instincts. Their visits to galleries or artists’ studios would more often than not follow a pattern: They would individually walk around, quietly viewing and absorbing the artwork, then reconvene to discover that they were eyeing the exact same one or two pieces. Neither one views their purchases as investments; rather, the artwork is brought home to bring enjoyment and inspiration to their surroundings every day.

“It’s really great when you’re constantly affected emotionally, inspired, even cajoled on some days by a piece of art that reminds you of things you’ve done together, places you’ve known and loved,” says Pat. “Your eyes skim across a piece time and time again during the day and it really does something to your soul. It’s beautiful and meaningful on so many levels.” Each piece in their collection has a special resonance for the couple — whether it’s the bold color and freshness of a Janet Moore landscape of West County or the whimsy of a Nancy Morgan ceramic featuring fish bursting out of the pot’s surface.

The Martins enjoy watching artists develop, change and grow. They personally know most of the artists represented in their collection. As Pat and John cultivate those relationships, the artists themselves become part of the experience of the art. “We feel that when we buy a piece of art, we bring the artist into our house,” says John. The result is a home that resonates with all the creative energy of the Sonoma County art community.

Pat says she is always struck with the infinite variety of ways artists see things. “Art exposes you to different minds, great minds, allowing you to see things in fascinating new ways,” she explains. She also speaks of artists’ “hardworking hearts” as they generously share their gifts in workshops and in demonstrations at open studios, recalling in particular Micah Schwaberow’s in-depth wood-block printing demos and Mario Uribe’s tireless devotion of time and energy to the local arts community.

John believes Sonoma County is special for its support of public art. “I think that one of the things that’s important to the artist community here is the value of public art — the fact that we have public art,” he says. “The development tax creates an environment where art is more valued by the community and where the community experientially is enhanced by the art.”

Pat cites the myriad of people working hard to keep the region’s arts alive. “You take ARTrails, Sonoma County Museum, the Arts Centers in Petaluma and Sebastopol, the art walks, the local galleries, the wineries and gardens that feature art — you keep it all stirring around, ultimately it makes a big difference.”

The Martins believe it is vitally important to support local artists for the richness they provide to the community fabric, and collecting is a great way to show that support. The couple recommends taking your time when perusing studios and galleries. For example, when Pat and John embark on their annual ARTrails Open Studios tours, they don’t try to see more than five or six studios per day, allowing them plenty of time in each one.

When asked if she has any advice for novice collectors, Pat says, “Do it! There is no right or wrong; if a piece resonates with your soul, then that’s what you need to go home with — don’t leave that behind. And don’t be afraid to spend time and ask questions. You’ll learn so much and develop an even deeper connection to the artist and the art.”

Tea with the Gettys

June 23, 2003 § Leave a comment

C-NOV-HOUSE-04-2000

The original Temple of the Wings was designed by Bernard Maybeck.

GORDON AND ANN GETTY invite you to join them for tea at Temple of the Wings.

So said the invitation to my friend William Whitney, who traffics in upper-crust circles. Could I come along as his driver?

So off we went across the bridge to the Berkeley hills, to one of the great architect Bernard Maybeck’s creations, redone and outfitted to the nines – at least – by the heirs to the Getty oil fortune.

After an earlier outing to the Getty’s San Francisco double-mansion on Outer Broadway, William had scoffed that their approach to design was, “Don’t do. Overdo.”

This place was impressive. William was greeted as the Grand Pooh-bah of the Attingham Society, the group of aesthetes being received at the tea, who have toured and studied the great English country houses. William was an Attingham fellow back in the 1960s when he headed the California Historical Society. Among the alumni is the curator of the Getty Collection – yes, they have their own, responsible for the various treasures spread among their houses in the Bay Area.

C-NOV-HOUSE

Original columns support an open entry.

Temple of the Wings was designed by Maybeck at the turn of the century for a family of Berkeley eccentrics. They were dance enthusiasts, and their temple was built as something of a dance studio. It has a crescent spine of massive twin Corinthian columns and looks out over the bay directly through the Golden Gate. The family dressed in flowing robes, held dance pageants and ate peanuts, leading the neighbors to refer to their perch as Nut Hill.

The Gettys bought it in 1994 after a period of some decline. Ann Getty, just then emerging into her new role as a doyenne of design, set about collecting some exceptionally fine furnishings and artwork from the late 19th century British Arts & Crafts Movement – the perfect complement to Maybeck’s composition. Inside were excellent examples from all of the major figures, with textiles by William Morris, silver from Liberty of London and furniture by the Herter Brothers. Major paintings by Bougereau, Alma-Tadema and the Pre-Raphaelites hung on the walls. Upstairs were choice pieces from California’s Arts & Crafts elite, including, in the bathroom, a mahogany sconce by Greene & Greene.

My favorite single item was in the living room, on a side table, under a Tiffany lamp. There sat a framed family photograph. It was Grandpa: J. Paul Getty, sitting bolt upright on a severe high-backed sofa, surrounded by grandchildren, not a smile to be seen.

Someone asked whether anybody lived in the house. Oh yes, said the curator, Mrs. Getty has a sleepover here with her granddaughters every year.

MORE: “A paean to the Aesthetic Movement

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