Maison Gerard’s Benoist F. Drut, Expert in 20th-Century Art Deco
Even though Benoist F. Drut—Managing Partner at Greenwich Village gallery Maison Gerard since the late 1990s—has an academic background rooted in the facts-based practice of law, he prefers to collect by intuition. “I never buy a piece with a particular purpose for it already in mind, I buy the piece because I love it and want to live with it,” he reflects. “We collect things we like but with an emphasis on authenticity, historic context, and expertise.” Drut and his business partner Gerardus Widdershoven—who founded Maison Gerard in 1974—are experts in 20th-century French Art Deco, particularly in the work of important designers Jules Leleu, Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, and Jean-Michel Frank. Add to that list an extensive array of contemporary and emerging talent the gallery has picked up over the last decade, including Carol Egan, Aurélien Gallet, Hervé Van der Straeten, and Jean Girel.
Driven by passion, Drut, who is originally from France and moved “on a whim” to the U.S. in his early twenties, is also deeply invested in education. He and his team have contributed to several publications and exhibitions, and helped build collections for both museums and private collectors. The dealer confesses to chatting up just about anyone when it comes to design: “You do not have to be [a collector] to get an hour on the history of Leleu from me. I will tire you out before I get tired of talking about it.”
Next week, Drut’s enthusiasm for and devotion to the decorative arts will be on display when Maison Gerard takes up temporary residence in the Skylight at Moynihan Station—now an event space in the former James A. Farley Post Office—as New York welcomes 36 galleries from both near and far for the Collective 2 Design Fair. This gallery’s second showing invites visitors to enter into their interpretation of a well-appointed modern day dwelling. “Today, people no longer live with furnishings from just one period,” notes Drut. “We will show contemporary and antique pieces of different eras and styles together, just as they might coexist in a home.” A highlight is sure to be the gallery’s custom contemporary pieces that have been specially commissioned for the occasion.
Israeli designer Ayala Serfaty presents Asina, 2014: Soma light sculpture installation composed of seven clouds, her largest ceiling installation in the U.S. to date, in addition to a new group of stools, named Shastools, upholstered in thick wool-and-silk felt and sculpted by hand. Two young silversmiths from England, Chris Knight and Kevin Gray, will also be featured. “These are pieces that I believe Louis XIV at the top of his glory would have displayed with pride in the Galerie des Glaces in Versailles,” Drut says. Architects, too, find a welcome place in the exhibition; included is a collection by William T. Georgis, David Mann, Achille Salvagni, and Miguel Cisterna.
Such a tour de force showcases the rigor, openness, and curiosity that defines Drut’s approach to his work. As he points out, “Even when you think you are completely familiar with the work of an artist or a designer there is always something new to discover.”
Maison Gerard, Collective 2, New York, Booth B5, May 8th–12th, 2014.