LUXPOP!: You are known for your expert eye for 18th- and 19th- century porcelain and ceramics. Is Piero Fornasetti a departure for you or a natural progression in collecting?
Paul Vandekar: His work is modern, yet often references subjects such as tromp l'oeil and historical cues such as the neoclassical that I was already so familiar with. Yet with his flair, whimsy and creativeness, Fornasetti re-imagined these subjects and made them come alive — transforming my house and my collections
LP!: Tell us about these incredible Fornasetti dinner plates. They are quite surreal and sensuous.
PV: Fornasetti was prolific, making many thousands of different pieces.
His Adam and Eve is modern yet references back to two of the world's most ancient characters. They are iconic Fornasetti, capturing his magic. I think Patrick Mauriès, the authority on the artist who wrote in Fornasetti: Designer of Dreams said it best: "The idea of dividing up the bodies of Adam and Eve into twelve dinner plates is surely one that no one but Fornasetti would conceive. Each plate has its attractions, but like a jigsaw puzzle they only reveal their meaning when seen together."
LP!: How did you come to own and authenticate them?
PV: I had an opportunity to acquire a number of Piero Fornasetti pieces when the owner offered me examples from her collection including these two sets. Fornasetti did not make his own porcelain and much of the earlier porcelain objects came from German manufacturers. Having handled so many examples, how these makers marked their pieces allows me to accurately date the plates.
LP!: Why are these plates important and why should a collector or design enthusiast consider acquiring them?
PV: Mid-century design has come to dominate so much today but Fornasetti's creations, while part of that movement, bring a color, joy and playfulness that is not always associated with this period and, in fact, transcends the period, attracting collectors and designers who appreciate style.
LP!: How did Fornasetti gain prominence in this country?
PV: Fornasetti's work first came to the attention of the American public through the Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design Today exhibition that ran from 1950-1954. This collaborative project was led by The Chicago Institute of Art and the Brooklyn Museum exhibiting the work of 150 Italian artisans, including Fornasetti. It toured twelve cities in the U.S. and at the close of the exhibition, many of Fornasetti's pieces were snapped up by The Chicago Institute of Art and the Brooklyn Museum for their permanent collections. The latter still has a significant collection of Fornasetti's work today.
I think it's also interesting to note that along with Gio Ponti, Fornasetti designed the interiors of the famous ocean liner the SS Andrea Doria. Some of his famous collectors include the Boston chef Lydia Shire, the socialite Claire Creatore and the young poet J. Mae Barizo.
LP!: How did you get into the antiques business?
PV: I'm a fourth-generation dealer so I have been in the business all my life. I opened a branch of our London firm in Los Angeles in 1978 at the age of twenty-five and then opened on 57th Street in New York City four years later. I have always dealt with what I consider the most imaginative examples of the different and varied makers from the 17th to the 19th century and now the 20th. I love strong dramatic shapes and I love bright colors and that's why I have sold to the leading collectors across the world. I see the Fornasetti collection as a wonderful addition to the oeuvre of makers that I own and represent.