Greg Nacozy on Mark Isaacson
and Collecting 1950s Design
The present lot was a gift from David Gieseman, one of Mark’s best friends. They met in NYC while David was working for Alan Moss at Moss Antiques and shared similar interests in art and design. They bonded because they both had similar tastes (though Mark’s was a bit more eclectic).
David moved to Paris in 1977 and became an interior designer, living and working there until 2011. David worked with Juliet Man Ray and Man Ray’s estate and also with Mara Cremniter and François Laffanour, of Galerie Downtown, which opened in 1982. Mark followed David to Paris a few months after he moved there in 1977 to visit for a few weeks. He ended up staying for three years.
To support himself in Paris, Mark did what he had done since he was a kid; he went to the flea markets and found things to sell to the dealers with shops and stands. Mark always had an amazing eye and loved to shop. Les Puces (the fleas) at Porte de Clignancourt would become his mecca, going out early in the morning and finding things to bring back and sell to the dealers in town. He would repeat this everyday, sometimes two or three times a day.
Mark said that Mara and François were the only dealers who would buy any of that “fifties shit” from him. And they would only buy the French designers, never any of that “Italian shit!”. That’s how he ended up coming back to the states with two containers full of European pieces from the fifties. He opened Fifty/50 on Thompson Street in SoHo in 1981. Mark had his first Italian glass exhibition that year. Two years later, in 1983, he went into partnership with Mark McDonald and Ralph Cutler and they opened the gallery at 793 Broadway between 10th and 11th Streets.
Fifty/50 was there for ten years, from 1983 to 1993. Ralph passed away from AIDS in 1989. Mark McDonald was ready for a change and he and Mark dissolved their partnership. Mark passed away from AIDS in 1993, leaving behind a collection and legacy that shows his monumental influence in shaping the market for art and design and collectors' tastes for decades to come.