When Kelly Met Gursky
Walls on wheels create surprising juxtapositions of blue-chip art at a Gluckman Mayner loft in New York
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Designing museums dedicated to Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O'Keeffe—along with dozens of commercial galleries—Richard Gluckman has developed strong views on the relationship of art to interiors, artists to architects. "No artist," he says definitively, "wants to conform to any architect's idea of what to do."
But what's a design without ideas?
Gluckman is on his feet in the perfectly composed living area of a glamorous New York pied-à-terre that Gluckman Mayner Architects designed for a collector couple. The blue-chip contemporary art on the walls is astonishing, but the show is still clearly his. "This is really cool," he says, pressing a shiny button at the edge of what looks like a sidewall; it's actually a partition 9 feet high and nearly 18 feet long. With a metallic thwack, out pops a nickel-plated latch, which he grasps. At his urging, the partition is suddenly in forward motion.
Gliding along, he leaves behind the living area's big aubergine silk-covered Christian Liaigre sofa, svelte dark brown leather-covered Edward Wormley barrel chairs, and rectangular wool rug, which fades from gray to bone. On he rolls, passing a large, typically all-white Robert Ryman painting on the opposite wall. Then, just as suddenly, his journey ends between the kitchen island and the dining table, nearly 39 feet down the tracks.
With this one grand gesture, the 3,700-square-foot layout has been radically transformed. And since several of the principal partitions in the loft move, Gluckman admits that not even he was fully prepared for all the possible arrangements that the owners have figured out. "They can do whatever they like," he says—referring, perhaps, to their means as much as their experimental spirit.
For now, the owners have hung a Thomas Ruff photograph on one side of the partition that Gluckman just moved and an Ellsworth Kelly painting on the other. Past the Ryman, there's a colorful abstract painting by Gerhard Richter in the dining area and, on its end wall, a jumbo Andreas Gursky photo of the Rhine. Beyond the dining area, in the master bedroom, a John Chamberlain sculpture of reclaimed car parts is mounted on the wall. '
In addition to the masterpieces on view, the museumlike mood owes much to Gluckman's own aesthetic, given all he's done to define contemporary art spaces around the world. The Ryman hangs against a backdrop of hand-troweled gray plaster, recalling Gluckman Mayner's work for New York's Mary Boone Gallery and Whitney Museum of American Art. Raw artist's canvas sheathes two of the sliding partitions. Looking around, he says, "I hope you notice there's only one white wall."
The loft building itself, previously a near-windowless refrigerated warehouse, supplied a chance for Gluckman to juxtapose "rich" materials with existing "poor" ones. Low-voltage halogen track lights—similar to those at the Museum of Modern Art—are rich; bare white bulbs in the bathroom are poor. He calls original concrete columns and new polycarbonate doors both poor. But the guest bathroom's tub surround and the panels that close off that tub when the apartment is in party mode are rich: back-painted glass in an unexpected hot pink. The gray terrazzo floors throughout seem somehow rich and poor at once. Formulated to look like industrial concrete, they resemble the material he once used in a Gianni Versace boutique.
Of course, an architect's "poor" is rarely cheap, as illustrated by the perfectly (and expensively) crafted aluminum window surrounds, radiator covers, and Donald Judd–inspired shelves. Gluckman spray-painted the developers' white-framed windows silver to match. In the master bedroom, one of those windows is partially obscured when a sort of vertical drawer, hidden in a sidewall across from the bed, pulls out to reveal a flat-screen TV. (As elsewhere in the apartment, Gluckman Mayner designed everything in the bedroom, right down to the blackened-steel headboard, reconstituted poplar paneling, pillows, and duvet cover.)
Meanwhile, at the loft's windowless center, a larger flat screen hangs above the kitchen sink. But who needs views when you have the outsize artwork on the walls and the walls themselves rolling this way and that? There's also the adjacent dining area's washboard tabletop. Not warped exactly, it's split bamboo. In Gluckman's estimation, the ripples are "not enough to tip over a wineglass." They are, however, enough to challenge his legendary reputation for restraint.