A discreet entrance on East 57th Street leads to the new duplex gallery of Iliad Antik, an expansive emporium of elegant design from the neoclassical, Biedermeier, and art deco eras. To coincide with the firm’s tenth anniversary last month the husband and wife team of Adam Brown and Andrea Zemel moved their antiques shop, formerly on 58th Street, to this glamorous new space with gleaming limestone floors and French-polished furniture. Soaring ceilings on the main floor and a dramatic cantilevered staircase to the lower gallery present a contemporary foil to the pieces on display.
An antiquarian and entrepreneur and a studio artist, respectively, Brown and Zemel came to the antiques trade though circuitous paths. After several years traveling abroad and a brief period in Philadelphia, they eventually came to New York City where they opened Iliad Antik. By that time this erudite pair had developed contacts throughout Eastern Europe-where they were known as “the Americans”—in their pursuit of top-notch Biedermeier pieces. Brown and Zemel, who were lenders to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s recent exhibition, Biedermeier: The Invention of Simplicity, specialize in first period Viennese Biedermeier furniture (1815-1830), and these items take center stage in the showroom. One example, a sofa attributed to Josef Danhauser, shows an unerring sense of balance as well as drama, which, Zemer notes, makes it “seem to defy gravity.”
In recent years Brown and Zemel’s inventory has expanded to include neoclassical and art deco objects, Asian art, and Hungarian and Czech impressionist and modernist painting. “We really strive to find pieces from whatever era that represent the moment when classicism meets modernism,” Brown says as he points to a recent acquisition—a 1938 parchment-covered credenza with a spectacular marquetry frieze depicting Homeric scenes. It was made by the illustrious Milanese cabinetmaker Vittorio Dassi, though it is thought that Gio Ponti may have supplied the design. “They may seem disparate at first,” Zemel says, “but all the pieces have a simplicity and elegance to them. There is a golden mean that one often finds in the objects of a culture at its apogee.”
A year after establishing their New York gallery, Brown and Zemel opened an atelier and restoration workshop in Prague. Under the Iliad Design brand, expert craftsmen there create contemporary furniture sympathetic to historical pieces that Zemel has designed to meet the specifications of their clientele.
To coincide with the expansion and anniversary, several gallery exhibitions are planned, including a retrospective of pieces from Iliad Design and the antiques that inspired them.