In the early 1990s, so the story goes, Susan Weber—bypassed for a director position at her alma mater Cooper-Hewitt—set out to establish her own school, slapping down a cool $20 million, and the Bard Graduate Center was born. In only a few years, a New York Times profile declared she’d joined the ranks of pioneering women in the arts (Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney for the Whitney Museum; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller for the Museum of Modern Art), and rightly so. Not only did she found the school, Weber made a successful case for decorative art as a topic of scholarly study.
Weber, who received a Ph.D. from London’s Royal College of Art, remains director of the Bard school, and though her speciality is in British decorative arts and design of the 18th and 19th centuries, her personal interests are as broad as the school’s course offerings—from Swedish wooden toys to Chinese cloisonné.
Following the recent sale of her Upper East Side townhouse, Weber is setting up shop at this week’s Collective Design
fair, mounting a special installation
of 20th-century furniture and design from her own collection for the first time. Highlights include a Ruhlmann settee
and writing table
, and sales‚ projected at around $3 million—will go toward Bard’s scholarship fund. Weber is co-curating the exhibition, titled “Decades of Design,” with the help of Benoist F. Drut, co-owner of Maison Gerard
, and it all takes shape inside a living room designed by architect David Mann.
In advance of the design fair, we asked Weber to point to the top nine works that have caught her eye.