A few of my friends were collecting mid century modern long before I got it. Suzanne & Jeffrey from Second Hand Rose bought and sold it way before anyone else. Friends Steven, Robert M., Bruce, Michael. DiG., Philip, and Scott would fly to Miami and Los Angles in search of the great stuff. Steven ended up a curator for the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami. I would look at their apatments and think these guys are uber cool, but I was still an acolyte of Mario Buatta.
Among them was another collector named Robert Isabell, who was criss crossing my radar. We were both event designers at the same time in New York City. He and Preston Bailey were the big boy guns, and I was the little girl gun. My mid century collector friends all knew about Robert Isabel and his burgeoning collection.
Robert passed away a few months ago. Suddenly. Age 57. Heart attack. Shock and sadness are still palpable.
Now Sotheby's is auctioning off Robert's lovely things.
Buoyed by the success of his party design business (and believe me he was uber successful), and before it became fashionable and expensive, he had acquired 1940s furniture by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand and lamps by Serge Mouille. By the mid-1990s, he was developing a passion for the more robust work of Paul Evans, Harry Bertoia, George Nakashima, Phillip Lloyd Powell and Klaus Ihlenfeld.
When he began collecting heavy, metal-encrusted furniture designed by Paul Evans — buying prodigiously from Secondhand Rose, a downtown antiques store, and bidding successfully when the collection of Shari Lewis, the ventriloquist and puppeteer, was sold at Sollo Rago Modern Auctions in Lambertville, N.J., in 1999 — it was selling for as little as $800 a piece.
The eye-catching pièce de résistance in the room was the “Nickel Couch,” a sensuous metal confection by Johnny Swing, a Vermont designer, who spent three months welding thousands of nickels onto a patinated metal frame. (The couch, Lot 52 in Sotheby’s sale, is expected to sell for $15,000 to $20,000.)
The interiors that Robert devised for his own amusement at 16 Minetta Lane — in an aesthetic he jokingly described as “Blade Runner” meets “The Jetsons” — have now been disassembled. But the objects he cherished will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York on Dec. 17 (and will be on display there in advance, beginning on Dec. 12).
To read more about Robert and the auction at Sotheby's, go to the New York Times HERE, from whence I got these photos and information. It's well worth the read to have a glimpse into the very private life of the wonderful Robert Isabell.