A Look Back – 1986 and Metropolitan Home

So much has changed in the 25 years since Modernism: A Century of Style & Design first opened.  Check out this excerpt from Jesse Kornbluth’s (now the brains behind http://www.headbutler.com) coverage of the very first Modernism Fair for Metropolitan Home (may it rest in peace).

From Metropolitan Home’s M•E•T•R•O Collecting column, November 1986.

“Sanford Smith was working at his family’s funeral home and taking home $150 every six-day week when he decided to spend one Sunday doing something different.  He gathered some Coca-Cola trays and movie star posters, set absurdly low prices on them, and took them to a New York flea market.  Soon he had $50 and the makings of a pretty good tan.

“That was 21 years ago.  Today, Smith is virtually the dean of antique show promoters.  From his family’s East Village funeral home, he organizes New York’s Fall Antiques Show at the Pier and its prestigious Armory Antiques Show, but his biggest show yet is called “Modernism: A Century of Style and Design,” to be held November 20 to 23 at the 67th Street Armory.  Smith predicts Modernism (Arts & Crafts Movement, De Stijl, Vienna Secession and the Bauhaus) will be the next hot collecting trend…

“…Smith’s kaleidoscopic exhibit includes 5,000 objects, from photographs to furniture, tracing the influence of technology, materials, and manufacturing, on modern style.  ‘This show begins with the revivalist movements of the late 19th century, goes through the English Arts and Crafts movement to Michael Thonet making bentwood furniture on one of the first assembly lines,’ he explains.  ‘Then, in this century, we see the taste for abstraction entering the sensibility and, finally, the blend of industrial design and new materials: plastic, rubber, plywood and tubular steel.’

“Smith advises collectors to watch for machine-made furniture from the 1920s to the 1940s–pieces by Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen; plus Paul Frankl’s skyscraper bookcase and Mies Van der Rohe’s leather chairs.

“A Close second: almost anything from turn-of-the-century Vienna.  ‘Everyone’s discovered it,’ says Smith, whose sale includes chairs by Hoffman and Moser, a wooden stool by Wagner, as well as the Wiener Werkstätte enameled copper tea set.

“Finally, Smith predicts Herman Miller’s furniture from the 1950s will be snapped up.  ‘It’s comfortable, stylish–and it has a designer’s name on it.’

“Overall, expect a big range of prices, from $20 for a deco pin to $500,000 for Frank Lloyd Wright furniture…

“…Of course, Smith’s contribution goes beyond ringleading. ‘I put the “Modernism” logo under the directional reduction lens of my Canon copier,’ Smith reports, ‘and the copier stretched the type.’ The new typeface looks perfectly Modernist–but it could also be called Smith Bold.”

–By: Jesse Kornbluth

Metropolitan Home, 1986


About Sanford L. Smith & Associates

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