Magnificent Obsession

I went to an author talk last week (the event that prevented me from attending the Boxcar Reading), that’s worthy of a write-up in “The Talk of the Town.” To explain how I ended up at the Sean Kelly Galley on West 29th in the wilds of West Chelsea (the roar of the West Side Highway and the twinkling lights of Jersey just visible, audible), I need to go back about fifteen years. When I was in graduate school, I worked as an editor on a journal that brought law students and graduate students together. Our weekly meetings were a highlight of my life then and I made several friends with whom I’m still in touch.

One friend, a law student, was coming off one of those high-powered banking jobs. He had done his two years and needed an advanced degree to secure the next promotion. But banking wasn’t really his interest. And he certainly didn’t want to get an M.B.A. His goal was to learn about finance so that, one day, he could start a publishing house dedicated to promoting contemporary art.

I still reel back a bit at the ambition and the incredible sense of orderliness to the plan: so much deferred gratification, such a clear sense of the process.

All that work and care has come to pass. Gregory R. Miller & Co. is now a publisher and last week I went to an author talk and booksigning in honor of one of Greg’s books: Michael Sheridan’s The Furniture of Poul Kjoerholm: Catalogue Raisonné.

If Greg’s journey to publish the book is a tale of dedication and resolve, so, too, is that of Michael Sheridan’s coming to write it. Sheridan, an architect, had on a formal and spiffy suit. He has a high-domed head and a confident air. He spoke, without notes, to a group of twenty or so enthusiasts of Danish modern furniture--and that is one of the lovely and amazing things about Manhattan, that we can gather such a group, that such a group exists. He described his admiration for Kjoerholm (you can see some samples here) and how he came to organize an exhibit in Denmark and then to write this book and organize the exhibits (at two Manhattan galleries) of his work.

Coming to the event from the outside, it was charming, amazing, daffy, and a little inspiring to hear Sheridan pronounce with great confidence that he has no doubt that 100 years from now people will still be manufacturing some of Kjoerholm’s pieces, that they will still be collecting, talking about, and learning from his designs.

As for the furniture itself. Well, it’s beautiful and very plain Danish modern furniture. I love it, but it doesn’t keep me in the gallery for long.

It was great to see Greg--whom I hadn’t seen since my wedding in 1999--and to meet his sister-in-law and her daughter. While Greg hosted the gathering, the three of us wandered the gallery together, talking about Fordham (where I teach, where the sister went to law school), Webkinz (those stuffed animals with websites that Greg’s niece and my daughter like), and furniture.

The book is truly beautiful. And, I’m told, it’s a first: Greg and Sheridan have given the design world the kind of complete treatment of an important artist that the fine art world has long had. I admit--as you can hear--that I am far from understanding what I think of all of this, but I always admire passion, dedication, hard work, and the efforts to fulfill a dream. And there is something even more touching about seeing that first hand when the dream--whether to make the furniture, write about it, or publish the book-- is something far out of my ken.