Cliff’s Edge


The celebrated L.A. interior designer discusses “CURATED: The Collection of Cliff Fong auction at Bonhams

Cliff Fong outside his L.A. home. Photo by William Abranowicz / Art + Commerce.

Many interior designers move through the world with a compelling admixture of material expertise and detachment regarding their relationship with objects. This dynamic in part explains the incredible depth and diversity of twentieth century furniture, fine art and collectable vintage included in CURATED: The Collection of Cliff Fong, the L.A.-based designer’s personal auction offered at Bonhams. Online bidding for the 150-lot sale composed of items largely from his own mid-century L.A. home is underway, and live bidding begins March 14 at 11:00 am PDT. Sold via private sale is Fong’s beloved 1982 Aston Martin V8 Series 4 in British racing green, described as “the Mustang that went to Eton.” Here, the Matt Blacke principal, co-owner of Galerie Half and owner of the recently opened Faire du Vert outdoor-focused showroom shares how letting go is a key tool for opening up new creative opportunities and experiences.

A curated moment inside Cliff Fong’s L.A. home. Photo by William Abranowicz / Art + Commerce.

Because already you have Galerie Half as a sales platform, why an auction now? Just because I had never done it before. With my showroom—or my two showrooms—any number of things could be there for a week or a month, or, heaven forbid, it stays around longer. We do have a fairly high turnover. But there’s something fun about seeing it all kind of in one space, and without sounding too grandiose, letting the world have access to it. I just thought it might be interesting to do something different, and the people at Bonhams are really wonderful.

How and why did the auction format resonate and speak to you at this point in your career? I had actually spoken to several auction houses over the years and of course, done a fair amount of business with auction houses buying or selling. But a friend of mine suggested, why don’t I have a single owner sale? Honestly it never really occurred to me before. So, I thought, you know, why not? And it is quite fun, minus the idea that there is a lot of prep work that goes into it. No worthwhile pursuit is without demand or effort, so why not focus that energy towards something interesting or different, or something a little more unusual?

Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

Is this a way for you to take stock of your collecting career in one sort of moment? I’m not one of those people who is terribly nostalgic or sentimental. It’s not that I don’t honor my past and it’s not that I don’t have some moments that I’m very connected to and very proud of. One of the issues that I always feel like I’m confronting, whether it’s creative or emotional, is the idea that there’s only so much space, and/or time or energy to devote in one area. And in order to pursue new territory, new creative work, to open myself up to new experiences or a new memories, I think it’s important to purge every once in a while. I’m one of those people who has always embraced change.

But doing something like this, I think it took me a little while to wrap my head around it. There are pieces in this collection that I’ve had for over 20 years. I’ve said before that I believe that everything in a home should have meaning, and not just suit some sort of decorative purpose or a suit of color scheme or any kind of theme. But in my own home, or rather, in my own homes now that I’ve been through a few since I’ve been working in this industry, I think sometimes things have too much meaning. Or maybe I project too much importance on some of those things. And I sort of felt like, maybe they’re standing in the way of some different experiences I could be having, or some different creative perspective that I could be exploring. That’s the primary idea.

Every single change that’s come about in my life has led me to a greater broader understanding of something, or a more interesting and dynamic creative experience, or just freed my head up for some other door that may have opened. This is the first time I’ve done a furniture and art purge. I purge clothes all the time. You could ask my friends who are the same size.

Lucky friends! So, I’m assuming this sale doesn’t mean you’ll be coming home to an empty house?I’ve already started redecorating, although it will be more fun when I’m done doing some renovations to my house.  I’ve now been living in this home for about six years, which I think is a good amount of time. Now I think I want to add a different level of finish or texture or tile or wood or, or all of the above. I haven’t quite gotten there with exactly what I’d like to do. But every day when I walk through my house I’m looking at things in a different way every day and I don’t think I could do it full of the furniture I’d been living with for 20 years. It’s kind of like trying to hum a tune when you’ve got another melody stuck in your head.

Lot 36. JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984) Armoire circa 1952. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

Please tell me about the car. That’s the thing I’m having the hardest time parting with, actually. I feel like I started collecting cars about a decade too early, meaning I don’t have the time to enjoy them. I always feel bad that something’s sitting in storage when it really needs to be driven. This was one that I drive the least, but it’s one of the cars I am in love with the most aesthetically. It represents almost a childhood fascination and it’s the first Aston Martin I’ve ever owned. It looks like an American muscle car. In fact, when it was first designed, it was not only the fastest car on the road, but they called it “the Mustang that went to Eton.” I really like beautiful pieces of design. I like tradition, heritage. Those are the things that drive my interest in most things that you see in the auction.

Much like vintage furniture, vintage cars have soul that a brand new piece isn’t necessarily going to have. That’s the distinguishing factor for me. When something in my own mind has established itself with some existing historical context, it’s fascinating to me. Things that are reflective of buying power are not intriguing to me at all.

Lot 2. FRENCH MODERN Unique Free-Form Coffee Table circa 1950. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

More news: