In this, Part III of Centenary Series: My Leonard Joel we visit the home of early and mid-century design enthusiasts and collectors, Richard Barassi and Brendan Davies.
Can you remember your first visit to Leonard Joel?
Richard: When I first started visiting Leonard Joel, I went along to simply admire what was there. I’ve been a fan of op-shopping for as long as I can remember and this was a continuation of that for me – with a fantastic array of array of art, lighting and furniture.
Do you consider yourself a collector or do you simply buy what you like when you see it?
Brendan: I wouldn’t think of myself as a collector. But, really when you wander around the house and see that you have 75 lamps, you do ask yourself the question, “what kind of person needs 75 lamps? So, I suppose I must be a collector!”
‘…My favourite era to collect in is really specific; it’s late 60s to early 70s. I like the context of what was happening in the world at the time. In the late 60s there was a lot of political upheaval and at the same time, people were making all these beautiful, fluid objects – I mean there was lots of hope for the future (and) I like that futuristic, organic plastic. I mean there was an oil crisis in the early 70s and all of a sudden the cost of plastics went up a lot. So after that period, everything changed and I like that small gap there, particularly Italian – the Italians sort of did it better, always.’
Richard: You often get asked when you’re out, or looking around Leonard Joel, ‘what are you looking for?’ And I always say, ‘I’m looking for something I don’t need!’
What do you enjoy about buying at auction? Is it the element of discovery, or the excitement of not knowing whether or not you’ll secure the winning bid?
I think one of my most favourite finds at Leonard Joel, is these Florence Broadhurst prints. Going there and being able to see all this stuff in one go; it may not be stuff that I like but, I’m glad it’s actually there to be seen and I can appreciate it for what it is.
Buying at auction, especially when it’s a specialist auction, you get to see stuff that you never normally see – pieces that would normally, for example be in another person’s home or a gallery or a museum.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve bought at Leonard Joel or a piece that you wish you’d won, but lost at auction?
Richard: One of the pieces I missed at Leonard Joel – which I still think about and I sort of wish I’d still won – was this beautiful 1980s rug with geometric patterns on it. I think it was American. Anyway, I did this really lacklustre bid…
Brendan: Richard has this really subtle bidding style…
Richard: I don’t think anyone noticed!
Brendan: I love coming to the viewings. Even if I’ve looked online beforehand and I haven’t seen anything I want I’ll still come along as you never know how you’re going to react to a colour or a texture. It’s also a great way to unwind and its sociable. We’ll often see people we know there. And you know, pieces will show up there too – you’ve just got to be patient.