FROM Joel Chen
A life in objects, with LA antique dealer Joel Chen Los Angeles is full of people buying and selling furniture and decorative arts. But one of the most respected - and incurable - is Joel Chen. Chen first opened a store trading in Chinese antiques on Melrose Place over 40 years ago, and now owns three spaces totaling around 65,000 square feet on Highland Avenue. JF Chen contains a huge and eclectic collection of carefully chosen and carefully staged chairs, tables, sofas, armoires, sculptures and odd artifacts encompassing painted Italian, English Regency and midcentury modern. In Chen’s words he has “dabbled in 30s, 40s, 50s and all the way to the 80s,” becoming along the way a leading collector of Memphis designer Ettore Sottsass. Now Chen is thinning his collection by a tiny amount. Later this month over 300 of his prize pieces will go on sale at Christie’s auction house . Among the objects to go on the auction block: a Sam Maloof rocking chair, an 18th century Chinese blue and white ‘Lotus’ vase, a Carlo Mollino chair, a desk lamp by Greta Magnusson Grossman and two vases by Sottsass. While Chen says he is very flattered by Christie’s interest, this validation comes as no surprise to his longtime followers, who include interior designers, museum curators and individuals, from the late Gene Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor through to Moby, Justin Timberlake, Adele, Robin Williams, Ellen deGeneres and Kanye West. West, by the way, is a fan of 40s and 50s French furniture such as the designer Jean Royère. DnA talks to Chen about a life in antiques -- launched by a perceived racial slight -- and hears from his daughter Bianca about growing up with a design connoisseur father who created a beautiful bedroom but “all I wanted was to put up my Depeche Mode posters on my walls and he would not let me.” They also share how they are adapting to a industry now dominated by the internet -- where you can find everything online and buy something in three seconds, but the thrill of the hunt is gone, and today’s shopper “no longer needs to go anywhere.” Inside JF Chen’s showroom on Highland Avenue. Photo by Frances Anderton.
Design Gifts Filled with Significance What ascribes meaning to an object? We asked several people are in the business of making and selling “meaningful objects.” Jeremy Levine, Joel Chen, Lorca Cohen, Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan and Oliver Furth all give their takes on what makes an object meaningful. And if you're still looking for that special something to give someone, especially someone who loves good design, we also have some specific recommendations. First off, in the realm of books, who better to ask than Lee Kaplan? He is the co-owner of Arcana Books on the Arts , a beautiful store designed by Johnston Marklee in Culver City where you can find amazing and sometimes obscure books about fashion, architecture, music and photography. We asked Lee to single out one meaningful book currently in the store. His pick might surprise you: Human Zoos , a riveting look at Western man's exploitation of non-Western men, from freak shows to circuses. The trailer for "The Unfinished Swan" video game One of the huge sellers this year will of course be video games, many of them very violent, if brilliantly created. But some game designers are trying to create another kind of alternative universe, explains Brent Gordon, video game enthusiast who once served as fanboy host for Sony’s Playstation network. He recommends two video games: "The Unfinished Swan" by Giant Sparrow , and "Journey" by That Game Company . The Rolex 1977 GMT And where would Hannukah or Christmas be these days without a cartload of pods and pads arriving in the house? But this year men in particular might be yearning for gadget with deeper meaning, as we learned from the debonair Cory Lashever, who recommends a vintage Rolex 1977 GMT. Or, if you're in LA, perhaps you'll discover something old or new at Lashever's pop-up Storefront Bazaar , in downtown’s Arts District. Vintage chairs at Storefront Bazaar Linens for sale at Storefront Bazaar Vintage furniture dealer Lorca Cohen (holding glass) at the opening of Storefront Bazaar Lashever is co-presenter of Storefront Bazaar, which is selling vintage and handmade goods, including chairs collected by Lorca Cohen (above) through January 15 at 821 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles. Kids woodworking on the Side Street bus, which brings art programs to students And finally, we return to Jeremy Levine, architect and chair of Side Street Projects , which represents another kind of meaningful gift that won’t add to the clutter at home: a donation to a nonprofit. Side Street is one of many non-profits looking for financial or in-kind donations that are committed to bringing the arts and design into children’s lives. Top image: Opening night at Storefront Bazaar
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