Revival of the Fittest

Originally published in 

Located at the ever-shifting intersection of design, fine art, and craft, R 20th Century has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a small vintage boutique in Brooklyn over a decade ago. Since then, the gallery has cast aside the kitsch, moved to Manhattan, and gained an international reputation for its well-appointed exhibitions and expansive catalog, representing designers from decades past and present. Furniture and decorative pieces from a handpicked stable of oft-overlooked or obscure creative visionaries like Greta Magnusson Grossman, Wendell Castle, and Sergio Rogrigues are all on display, and founders Zesty Meyers and Evan Snyderman work with the sensibilities of uptown museum curators. Keen to share the stories behind their collections with everyone who enters their Tribeca showroom, they also produce lush, well-researched publications to accompany their installations. R 20th Century has become a destination for design diehards from around the world.

What’s your background?
Zesty Meyers: We used to have a group called the B Team and did installation and performance art using glass. The goal was to bridge the gap between craft and fine art, and craft and performance.
What is the design aesthetic of New York?
ZM: New York has everything. What style isn’t represented in some apartment, some clique, or some form in this city? It’s endless.
Evan Snyderman: People here have eclectic tastes. I think they pay more attention to the provenance and history of things. New York is a vacuum for design, in a way. No matter where we go in the world, I’d say more than half of our sales end up back in New York.
How has the market changed since you opened your store?
ES: The collectible design market is still very much a new industry. It’s really only been the past ten years that anyone’s paid attention in any significant way, and in the past five years it’s been introduced to the broader pub-lic and come to a much more mature place. It’s still developing as we speak, and that’s what keeps us excited.
How do you define “good design”?
ES: My own interpretation is something that looks good and feels good. Something you want to have and something you want to live with.
ZM: I look for the “beautifully imperfect”: Things that are made by hand have more soul, more passion, more heart, more warmth.
Which new designers are you representing?
ES: David Wiseman is one of our young artists. He’s in his late twenties, is based in Los Angeles, and we’ve been representing him for about a year. His career is exploding, and we haven’t even done a solo exhibition with him yet.
What makes a good customer?
ZM: The clients who want to learn generally have something to teach us as well. It becomes an exchange. It’s why we want to be involved in the arts and why the customers want to collect something that’s been designed.
What do you like the best about your job?
ES: I love what I do. I get to travel, to explore, to work with my aesthetic skills, to feel challenged. It’s very fulfilling.
ZM: I live my dream.
What’s next for R 20th Century?
ZM: The goal is to take our designers and artists and present them globally at institutions and other galleries and in publications.
ES: It’s an organic growth and it always has been.

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