In the late 1990s, glass-blowing performance artists Zesty Meyers and Evan Snyderman took their hobby of collecting antiquarian design books to the next level. Going through their collection, they made a list of designers from around the world who were lesser known than stars like Alvar Aalto. They decided to jump on a plane. “Without really having a store we would fly to these countries,” recalls Meyers. “The first container we shipped back to America from Scandinavia was the size of an 18-wheeler. We didn’t have anywhere to put it,” he adds.
Meyers and Snyderman eventually found a home for their treasure trove. Leaving their performance art careers behind them, they founded R 20th Century Gallery in 1997 and moved into their TriBeCa space in 2000. With a focus on design and craft, the gallery has since become a mainstay on New York’s design scene, showing historical and contemporary designers such as Poul Kjærholm, Wendell Castle, Greta Magnusson Grossman, and Joaquim Tenreiro, who has a new solo exhibition that opened this week at the gallery.
“While in art school, we learned that presentation is everything,” says Meyers. “That is a huge benefit to showing something in a design gallery—the idea of how we display, present the angles, the lighting, everything that could possibly go into a show.” Their booth at The Salon: Art + Design, which opens to the public on November 14 at the Park Avenue Armory, will showcase an overview of what the gallery offers in a display that is redolent of a “jewelry box,” as Meyers described it.
“There will be a lot of objects from mostly contemporary designers like the Haas Brothers and Jeff Zimmerman, and for vintage there’s going to be some Italian lighting,” said Meyers. “One is a Gae Aulenti lamp that’s really incredible, it’s a cylinder that has these holes cut out of it with a milky white glass globe on the top.”
Meyers is passionate to share the gallery’s discoveries. “I like to bring things that tell people why they should come here besides to look at what’s popular,” he said. “I grew up with [design] without knowing what it was. Now I live a dream.”