Wright auction house’s West Town warehouse has long been a destination for admirers of midcentury modern design. Iconic objects and furniture from Eames, Nakashima, Perriand, and Prouvé fill the auction floor. But founder Richard Wright is perhaps best known for creating the market for artist and designer Harry Bertoia, whose monumental metal sculptures make peculiar ambient sounds.
Late last year, Wright opened the doors of a new exhibition space in New York—an ambitious counterpart to a brisk auction business in Chicago. The New York venue begins the year with a fan favorite.
“Harry Bertoia Sculpture: 15 Years at Wright” features select works chosen by Wright alongside pieces from private collections. The Bertoia exhibition starts the 2014 season off as a celebration of the artist’s work and an opportunity for Bertoia collectors to see an exhibition with new work not previously available to the public.
As the East Coast outpost is gaining recognition and audiences, founder Richard Wright reflected on the Chicago DNA of his business. “Chicago has been very good to us,” Wright wrote in an email. “If I started my business in New York, it certainly would’ve grown differently. For one, there’s obviously a space issue there. But in Chicago, we own a 60,000-square-foot warehouse and exhibition space which allows us to show a certain scale of works and a quantity of works other auction houses can’t.”
Located in the historic Parke-Bernet building on 980 Madison and with neighbors like the blue-chip Gagosian gallery, Wright will host exhibitions and events that bring design and art together. Director Brent Lewis, a former Christie’s vice president, heads the New York program. “Part of our goal is to show art and design in juxtaposition with each other.” Lewis sees Wright as an unusual hybrid in the gallery scene, “a new destination to see relevant works of design, furniture, objects and art together.” In a field of established exhibition spaces and galleries in New York, Wright is counting on its affiliation with an auction house to differentiate itself. “It’s really a space that will have a lot of different facets—stay tuned,” Lewis says.
And what about that other city? “Wright is always going to be headquartered in Chicago,” promises Richard Wright. “It’s our home base.” As for future expansion plans, “the wonderful thing about this world is that it’s not short on beautiful things. There’s more than enough to go around.” (Matthew Keeshin)