A New York apartment designed to house a brilliant collection of artworks, to be admired in privileged intimacy
By Beba Marsano - Photos Gianni Franchellucci
The setting is New York as it is portrayed in a sophisticated comedy, in a neighbourhood near one of Manhattan’s famous private gardens: Gramercy Park, at the southernmost end of Lexington Avenue. “A Victorian gentleman who refused to die”, is how it was described by the writer and journalist Charlotte Devree in The New York Times. A green space measuring just over a hectare in size, for the exclusive use of the residents who, as if they were in a club, have to pay an admission fee to enjoy all its beauty. Names such as John Steinbeck, Karl Lagerfeld and Julia Roberts have strolled in the shade of those trees; a privilege now also granted to Kenneth Alpert, owner of KA Design, an interior design studio founded together with Andrew Petronio. Indeed, it is in this very zone that the professional designed his home, transforming an old building that originally housed the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers. The apartment, with its strong personality and spacious interior (over 570 square meters of floor space and ceilings almost four metres high), vaunts a palette dominated by shades of grey, the quintessential metropolitan colour. Masculine and reflective, it caresses the walls, the open kitchen corner and almost all the accessories, from the chairs to the rugs, and even certain artworks ( Man with Brief
case by Jonathan Borofsky). “Collecting contemporary art is my innermost passion. I’ve chosen a neutral showcase so that each individual piece can shine out”, states Alpert. Against a deliberately uniform background, paintings and sculptures therefore stage authentic coup de théâtre, in explosions of light, colour and movement with a captivating decorative effect. A perfect example is the application of a Girl
with a Pearl Earring to a window in the sitting room, a tribute to Jan Vermeer by Valery Koshlyakov. The artist, who is one of the most interesting figures on the Russian scene right now, pursues the utopia of beauty through universal figures and the use of poor or waste materials. In this case, packing tape acquires an unexpected fineness when kissed by the sun. The triptych of mirrors ranging from red to orange by the starchitect Jean Nouvel and entitled Miroir A has an equally powerful visual impact. Situated in the dining area, above the console table, it captures portions of the outside world through the tall windows, allowing glimpses of the urban landscape to permeate the house and, depending on the time, also reflects images of daily intimacy, transfiguring them. Next to it is The Bride (injection), a photorealistic work by Bradley Hart in the technique that made him famous: injections of pigment into bubble wrap. With the touch of a true connoisseur, Alpert has arranged his personal collection all over his home, designed as a scenic open space in the living area, to which the masterpieces add rhythm and charisma. On the kitchen wall is a brass by Roy Lichtenstein, while the bathroom features a white marble piece by Helaine Blumenfeld, the favourite pupil of the French-naturalised Russian artist Ossip Zadkine. One of Jeff Koons’ iconic dogs decorates the table in the entrance hallway, establishing a dialogue with the miniature sculpture by Arman, one of the giants of Nouveau Réalisme and
a master of “creative destruction”. A piece by Rob Wynne overlooks the bathtub, while the guest bathroom is home to the Hands series by Daniel Arsham. Other famous hands appear in the master bedroom: one − on the Ralph Lauren Home table used in place of a bedside cabinet − bears the signature of Auguste Rodin (a genius who freely and audaciously sought the truth concealed within the human body); others still play a leading role in the Stones Against Diamonds painting by Isaac Julien. Design makes a stealthy entry onto the scene, in a collection of sophisticated elements with soft shapes, including a drinks table with Swarovski crystal top by Gary Hutton, a Michael Berman sofa and Christian Liaigre armchairs. Here and there, we see exquisite little curios – particularly lamps and side tables – discovered at Parisian flea markets. These are places that Kenneth adores (“They’re my amusement park”, he says ironically), fascinating treasure chests of precious finds.