Written by Shea Keats
Gerardus Widdershoven is a professional “collector.” Since 1974, his prestigious New York City gallery, Maison Gerard, has boasted the best in twentieth-century French Art Deco and contemporary design, including work by Jacques Adnet, Line Vautrin, Mario Dal Fabbro, Hervé van der Straeten, and Marc Bankowsky. When Gerard is not searching the world for important pieces of historical and contemporary design for his gallery, he spends time with his own personal collections, most notably his whimsical 1960s Italian Toucan Lamps by Old Timer Ferrari. These lamps were made by the Verona-based design company in a series of three colors—green, red, and yellow—with interchangeable orange, yellow, and white beaks and feet. I sat down to talk with Gerard about his collections.
SK: How did you begin collecting?
GW: It’s kind of an interesting story. My parents collected antiques and I remember going with them to flea markets and auctions. When I was twelve or thirteen, I bought a Bakelite box, and began collecting early on without really knowing what I was collecting. Bakelite was inexpensive in those days and I looked forward to buying those boxes with my pocket money. When I became a dealer, I always had to resell what I found, but I was able to keep the inexpensive Bakelite pieces. Later on I would look at plastic things.
SK: How many objects do you have in your personal collection?
GW: I have over five hundred objects in my collection. I’ve been collecting for fifty years. I’ve been more and less serious throughout the years, but have always been collecting.
SK: Tell me more about the Toucans!
GW: They’re pretty rare, a luxury thing, not something a lot of people bought, except for a children’s room or as an unusual thing. Not that many of them were made. All I know about them is the marking on the bottom: “Old Timer Ferrari Designed Verona.” That’s the design studio, but I’ve never been able to find a designer—no name associated with any of the literature I’ve read over the years. It’s Italian design. Interesting thing, all made of parts—feet, body, beak, all can be taken apart and rearranged. The green one is the hardest to find—I only have two!
SK: What sparked your initial interest in these delightful pieces?
GW: Growing up in high school there was this girl . . . She was from a good family and didn’t live so far from me. She had a Toucan Lamp in her bedroom. I always thought it was a special object. A little design shop uptown I found a few years later had these little Italian lamps for sale, but they were expensive, so I never got one. Then, in the mid-seventies, ten years after they were new, I saw one in a little flea market in Brussels—less than one hundred dollars—loved it, and had it next to my bed for many years. A few years later I found another, and then another. I bought every one I found over the past thirty years.
SK: What a great story! Do you plan to keep collecting the lamps?
GW: Yes, I think so!
Interview edited for length and content.