Housed in a 30,00-Square-foot showroom on the 18th Street in Manhattan, at the intersection of art, fashion, and design, Ralph Pucci International is a collection of furniture and art that meet the Pucci standards for “wow”: uniqueness, quality, timelessness. (He also has showrooms in Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale.) Ralph Pucci began collaborating with designers and artists to expand the sculptural possibilities of mannequins in his original business (including creating a likeness of model Christy Turlington in a yoga pose) and has progressed to entire art environments, mixing limited- edition handmade furniture with paintings, photographs, fiber art, and sculpture- installations Pucci claims rival any Art Basel Miami exhibit. His recent book, The Wall, Documents the ever-changing entry wall in his New York showroom, a focal point for the latest mix of work.
Pucci has collaborated with artists and designers such as Stephen Sprouse, Anna Sui, Andree Outman, Chris Lehrecke and Kenny Scharf, and has an international stable of established and up- and-coming talent. One avid collector, also in the furniture business. Described Pucci as having done designers what Larry Gagosain did for artists. I phoned Pucci at his Manhattan showroom, currently featuring a site-specific art installation by David Storey that Pucci describes as a “whole little landscape.”
ARTILLERY: the book The Warhol Economy describes the mix of art, fashion and design as the real business of New York. How does that idea fit your mission?
RALPH PUCCI: I started out in the mannequin business, and I’m still in the mannequin business. I’ve met fashion designers, all the top retailers in the world, so I have a very strong fashion connection. Through the furniture world, I started with Andree Putman, and I continue to represent people like Vladimir Kagan and Jens Risom. I have a lot of interest, but how many times can you do a furniture show? So we started to bring in sculptors. You have to engage your clients in order not to become predictable. After sculptors, unique rug designers like Dana Barnes, She’s truly one of the names to look out for in the future she is incredible, and I think in time her work will be well received and very collected. I also represent Denyse Schmitt, a quilt artist. Pucci showing quilts in unexpected, almost a shock, but she has a minimal approach to quilts. So im looking at people who really think differently/ There are no rules- the rules are to make the best product possible.
A: You’re looking for the hand of the artist?
RP: The hand of the artist, the soul, something we can grab onto and say, “Wow. I get this.” It Hits you in the stomach, and you get it, and down the road you’re, really proud of it. There’s a lot of design out now that’s throwaway, some of it at inexpensive prices. I like a long lasting “wow”
A: you’ve called yourself an explorer.
RP: I always have my eyes open for new talent. I’m not really running around because it’s tough to run two businesses. We have lots of openings; I meet lots of people. We have a big showroom in New York, so people are always coming up. And im always on the lookout for new talent.
A: I see your latest book, The Wall, is priced reasonably so young talent can actually afford it.
RP: The future is the kids. I’ve been showing young talent for about 30 years. In the early days most people would go to Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf’s to buy clothing to dress mannequins. We always found the young designer that was around New York at the time- Angel Estrada, Isbel Toledo, Anna Sui- we looked for and wanted the best, young people who had something to say. I’m doing the same thing with furniture and art. With the book being $30, kids can get a hold of it, they can feel comfortable coming to my openings and saying, I have something to show you. That’s how we keep it fresh.
A: What does it mean to have an “eye”? How does it operate?
RP: You know what it is? It’s keeping your eyes and ears open. It’s looking at every magazine whether it’s a fashion magazine, a design magazine, an art magazine. You have to be a sponge. I guess I’m a sponge. I’m always listening to music, always looking at documentaries- always trying to see what’s next. What’s next under the Pucci umbrella? Im not looking for trendy or tricky; I’m looking for quality and timelessness. If its not going to look good five years from now, im not interested
A: What do you collect yourself?
RP: Everything I do at work. If someone does a show for me, I like to buy a piece to bring home. This glassblower that we used from Venice Beach, Lianne Gold, did a tremendous exhibit. It looks like the pieces are from the 30’s or 40’s but they’re new. I always support my designers by putting one or two pieces in my house. Of course, I live with it at work, So I live with it 27/7.
By Robyn Perry