Maison Gerard at 35
March 12, 2009 | Dealers, decorators, and clients came out in full force last night to raise a glass in celebration of Maison Gerard's thirty-fifth anniversary. Packed into the gallery's East 10th Street showroom, well-wishers got an intimate look at the firm's fine selection of art deco furniture—a marble-topped rosewood and burl cabinet by Louis Süe and André Mare, a macassar-ebony extension table taking up nearly the entire back room, and an exquisite burled elm vanity by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, among other treasures. Several stunning pieces by the relatively obscure designer from Nancy, Jules Cayette, were flown in and unpacked just hours before the gathering.
Founder Gerard Widdershoven and co-owner Benoist F. Drut spoke with the Magazine ANTIQUES about their history as pioneering dealers in French art deco. Widdershoven recalled that thirty-five years ago, "the neighborhood was filled with antiques importers who brought in pieces by the container load. Their fine 18th- and 19th- century accessories came wrapped in straw and the crates were art deco cabinets! That gives you some idea of what those dealers thought of my inventory." Since that time, art deco has become one of the most consistently popular and highly prized areas of antiques collecting, a fact most recently confirmed by the astounding prices achieved by art deco pieces in last month's Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé auction.
As early champions of the designer Jules Leleu, Maison Gerard has cultivated an unrivaled expertise in this area. Over the years Widdershoven and Drut worked closely with Françoise Sirieux, a Leleu employee who maintained and catalogued the Leleu archive after the firm closed. The dealers were also the first invited to view a Parisian apartment designed by Leleu in the 1960s. "When we first stepped in no one had been in the apartment for 15 years," explains Drut. "There was a quarter-inch thick layer of dust on everything. When you ran a finger across a tabletop the red lacquer suddenly popped!" Maison Gerard went on to purchase the entire contents of the apartment, and in 2000 the gallery hosted the first exhibition of the postwar work of Leleu and his children André and Paule.
Widdershoven and Drut continue to seek out unique pieces of exceptional quality, and as a result, the gallery is accented with select works of contemporary art and design-from a Dagobert Peche-inspired bronze and rock crystal chandelier by Hervé Van der Straeten to large stoneware vessels with vermiculated patterns by the Danish ceramist Per Weiss. The work of these and other international artists creates an unexpected counterpoint to the elegant art deco pieces that are the cornerstone of Maison Gerard's success.