For years now, we've read about internet entrepreneurs, young Wall Street tycoons, and the like who have set out to become serious art collectors, and the high prices that this art (usually Contemporary) commands just proves what a hot market it is. But what about decorative arts collectors? How many young or middle-aged people do you know who collect porcelain, silver, or antique furniture? I'm not really talking about someone who dabbles in a few objects here and there. I mean those people who have a serious and abiding passion for a particular field of collecting.
I think this is one reason why I so admire the late Philip Shutze, the dean of Atlanta architecture. Shutze's architecture, rooted in the Beaux Arts tradition, has an elegance that is both classic and erudite. But did you know that he was also a passionate collector of 18th and 19th century decorative arts? Shutze had a marvelous collection that ranged from Meissen porcelain to Chinese Export. In fact, he purchased many of his pieces from Northeast dealers who also supplied Henry Francis du Pont with much of his collection.
What struck me was not just the breadth of his collection, but the way in which he displayed it. Living in a small apartment on Peachtree St. in Atlanta, Shutze's home was chock full of antiques, objects and books. The man actually lived with and used these precious objects. One look at the photographs and you can tell that this was someone who was a passionate and curious collector. It's evident that an interesting person lived there- someone you might like to know.
Shutze once wrote "It may well be that another generation will see collecting, as we have known it, by the individual come to a grinding halt." Shutze believed this might be due to economic reasons, but I believe it also has to do with the fact that collecting decorative arts is just not sexy. But Shutze did go on to say that "it is the duty of the present generation to preserve what we have of value for the level of taste has sunk to an unprecedented state and our production is blue denim and ersatz." To think that this was written in 1973-74! Now, I'm not going give up my dark blue denim nor some of the pastiche that I have in my home, but Mr. Shutze has inspired me to become a serious collector too. But before I pull my money from under my mattress, I think I'll do my homework first!
A view of Shutze's Dining Room.
The other end of his Dining Room with his "Mandarin" and "Fitzhugh" Chinese Export porcelain displayed on a sideboard.
The living room with a Shutze "tablescape".
Shutze's kitchen and his collection of blue and white Chinese Export which he used on a daily basis.
Image at top: Philip Shutze