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Masters Of His Universe

Departures Magazine March 2009

Masters of His UniverseMasters of His Universe


Dealer Ralph Pucci (in gray suit) photographed at his New York gallery with, from left, 92-year-old design icon Jens Risom in his 'A' chair; Ruben Toledo with one of his free-form mannequins; Paul Mathieu on his Havana sofa; David Weeks with his Hanging Mobile light; and chris Lehrecke on one of his signature pedestals

Back in 1976, at the age of 22, Ralph Pucci joined his family's New York business, repairing mannequins for Lord & Taylor and other shops. Within a decade he was turning the industry on its (plastic) ear by commissioning artists such as Ruben Toledo and, later, Maira Kalman and kenny Scharf to create quirky sculptural models.

After working with French design doyenne Andree Putman on a series of mannequins, Pucci started showing her furniture. He also began selling new editions of classic pieces by masters Pierre Chareau, Eileen Gray, and Jean-Michel Frank that were produced by Putman's Paris showroom, Ecart. Impeccable in his timing, Pucci emerged as an influential dealer in the burgeoning field of modern and contemporary design, nurturing young unknowns into stars and dusting off the careers of legends like Vladimir Kagan and Jens Risom.

These days Pucci's two-level loft gallery in New York's Chelsea neighborhood is a prime stop for major decorators and collectors. Reflecting eclectic tastes that are more classic modern than cutting-edge, the pieces Pucci champions are always refined and exquisitely crafted - from Paul Mathieu's sinuous luxe furniture to Chris Lehrecke's organic-sculptural wooden stools to hand-forged retro-modern lamps by David Weeks. 'I'm not looking for anything trendy', says Pucci.

'I like timeless pieces that show the hand of the artist. The only formula is following my gut.' In May Pucci will launch a re-editition of vintage designs by Kagan, and Glitterati is releasing a new book chronicling 15 years of the visionary exhibitions that have made Pucci one of today's leading tastemakers.

Raul Barreneche