Good design means that anything good will go well with other equally good things.

Jens Risom

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.

Jens Risom 1916–2016

Often credited with bringing the Scandinavian look to America, Jens Risom crafted enduring, modern furnishings throughout his lengthy career as a designer. Born in Copenhagen in 1916, Risom’s father Sven was a prominent architect. As a young man, he attended the Copenhagen School of Industrial arts and Design where he studied under the Danish masters, Ole Wanscher and Kaare Klint. After graduation, Risom cut his teeth in the design department of Sweden’s Nordiska Kompaniet, before moving to the United States in 1939. In New York City, Risom found freelance work with Dan Cooper and became acquainted with a driven young immigrant from Germany named Hans Knoll. Looking to expand his small company, Knoll asked Risom if he would be interested in designing furniture and interiors for clients around the city. Risom agreed, and in 1942, the duo published the first catalog for the Hans Knoll Company showcasing fifteen pieces from Risom’s 600 line. The inaugural collection included chairs, stools and lounges expertly crafted from spare wood with webbed seats woven from surplus parachute straps (a result of wartime material shortages). Their ingenuity paid off and the venture effectively launched the careers of both men and ushered in a new era of American design.

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Auction Results Jens Risom