An art form itself: the history of frames

by leslierankowfinearts

Last week, Brad shared the wonderful and very American story of his grandfather’s entrepreneurship and ultimate ownership of Julius Lowy & Co.  Today, he will speak about a passion for collecting frames as an art form in and of itself and the art and craftsmanship that is involved in the carving and gilding of these beautiful objects.

HOW DO YOU PURCHASE ANTIQUE FRAMES? WHAT ARE THE SOURCES? ARE THERE MANY COLLECTORS IN THIS AREA OR IS IT LIMITED TO FRAMERS THEMSELVES?

In order to inventory and sell the number of antique frames that we do, we have to buy aggressively. Fortunately, there aren’t many other companies actively trying to amass frames the way that we do. There are European auctions of only frames which we use as resources. There are also “pickers”,  people who make a living of combing estate sales in rural parts of the country and occasionally come up with quality frames. When they do, we’re known as one of the only buyers for this type of merchandise, so many of them are resources as well. We also get random calls from people who work at museums, auction houses, etc., that will come up with our name when looking to sell a good antique frame.

WHO ARE YOUR CLIENTS? I ASSUME IT IS NOT LIMITED TO THE PRIVATE COLLECTOR AND GALLERY DOMAIN BUT ALSO INCLUDES MUSEUMS AND OTHER PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. DO THE REQUIREMENTS OF PRIVATE COLLECTORS DIFFER SUBSTANTIALLY FROM THOSE  OF THE GALLERY OR INSTITUTIONAL CLIENT?

Obviously we work with important private collectors and galleries. We also work frequently with museums such as The Metropolitan Museum, The Chrysler Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Art and many others. The question of their needs is an interesting one but, in my experience, we have individuals who require many choices and images before making a decision as well as individuals who basically leave it up to us, with little input. By the same token, we have institutional clients who take a lot of time, as well as institutional clients who decide very quickly. The only real consistent difference is that museums tend to have committees which involve many opinions before decisions can be made, but even these committees can be characteristically fast or slow-moving.

HOW DO YOU FIND CRAFTSMEN TO CONTINUE THIS ART FORM? IS IT AS DIFFICULT AS I WOULD ASSUME? DO YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF APPRENTICESHIP SYSTEM?

This is something that has become harder and harder as my career goes along, but one thing about being in a place like New York City is that you can find people who are interested in everything. I’ve been lucky enough so far to continually find younger people interested in learning the many crafts it takes to construct quality historical picture frames, and conserve paintings. In our art conservation department, we do train interns who usually go on to be hired by us or by other conservation companies.

IN OUR NEXT DISCUSSION, BRAD SPEAKS OF STYLE AND TASTE, AREAS IN WHICH I CERTAINLY AM FASCINATED NOT ONLY IN TERMS OF THE ART ITSELF BUT ALSO IN HISTORY IN GENERAL.  BRAD, THANK YOU.

I LOOK FORWARD TO OUR CONTINUED DIALOGUE.