The Collection of John M. Hall

John M. Hall was an architectural photographer for publications including New York Times Magazine, Elle Decor and Architectural Digest; he saw his work as "telling the story" of what architects built and his process was to "go from the overall to the the details," with a keen eye for the subtleties of line, form, light and shadow. Hall lived with art and design that reflected his refined sensibilities: simple, livable furniture by Eames, Knoll and Aalto, the clean lines and smooth surfaces of 1930s streamlined moderne lamps, china and glassware and minimalist works on paper by Robert Mangold and Richard Serra. Tucked into a small Manhattan apartment, Hall's collection shows the ease with which iconic 20th century designs were meant to be lived with.

John M. Hall photographed his apartment in the Flatiron district for an article highlighting
his collection in the June 1999 issue of House Beautiful

Hall grew up in North Carolina and studied architecture at North Carolina State University; he was also a ballet dancer and moved to New York in the mid-1970s to study at the American Ballet Theater School. In 1977, Hall relocated to Paris and worked as a model. It was during this time that he developed an interest in black and white photography. 

Thank God I missed post-modernism. I guess I'm just a classicist at heart. 
—John M. Hall

His structural, classical style was informed by photographers such as André Kertész and Walker Evans. Hall returned to New York in 1981 and began his career as an architectural photographer, with a particular interest in private gardens, Greek Revival and Biedermeier. He approached capturing these spaces as making "something that is more than just a document, [but] something that is visually exciting." 

The same is true of Hall's personal collection, with its attention to and exuberance for designs that are "clean and clear and simple as possible," while also still captivating. After Hall's passing in 2019, significant contributions from his collection were gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and his alma mater's Gregg Museum of Art and Design; the present selection of works celebrates Hall's sophisticated and gracious eye for design.

I'm not a design historian. I'm attracted to objects because I find them interesting and, yes, beautiful. And that's where this 20th-century sensibility started for me. There's just something so right about it.

John M. Hall

An Interview with John M. Hall

An interview with Hall from the 1980s shows him on location photographing a home and sharing his philosophies on design, architecture and photography.
 


Alvar Aalto 1898–1976

Born in Kuortane, Finland, in 1898, Alvar Aalto began his formal training studying architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology. It was here that he met his future wife and collaborator, Aino Marsio who was also an architectural student in the program. The two were married in 1924. In 1929, Aalto won a competition to design a new sanatorium in Paimio for patients convalescing from tuberculosis; a total Gesamtkunstwerk, Aalto designed everything at Paimio, from the chairs to the sinks, to create a soothing and sanitary environment for the patients. In 1932, Aalto’s architectural drawings were featured in the landmark Modern Architecture: International Exhibition which was curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock and included the latest architectural innovations from around the globe. In 1935, Alvar and Aino Aalto, Nils-Gustav Hahl, and Maire Gullichsen formed the design company, Artek. In addition to a focus on practicality, the work of Artek is marked by its use of light-colored woods, organic forms, and biomorphic lines. Though, many of Aalto’s designs were imbued with playful elements like zebra prints and reindeer fur or bright pops of colored paint on the seats of his three-legged stools.

In 1936, Aalto won the Karhula-Iittala Glass Design Competition for the flowing and animated shape of his glass vase design and the following year he was invited to design the Finnish Pavilion at the World’s Fair in Paris. His organic pavilion design won him international acclaim, and it led to a large retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1938. Later in his architectural career, Aalto would take on urban planning with his designs for the city centers of Seinäjoki and Rovaniemi in Finland. Aalto passed away in 1976, but he is renowned for his objects and buildings that combined the modernist style with an outstanding and authentic Finnish aesthetic.

Auction Results Alvar Aalto