There are two kinds of artists, the ones who construct an object rationally and develop it systematically, and the others who have a sudden inspiration – I am more for those with inspiration.

Josef Hoffmann

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.

Josef Hoffmann 1870–1956

Josef Hoffmann was first exposed to architecture as a child in his hometown of Brtnice in the Czech Republic. He would later enroll in the Architecture Department at Brünn’s Höhere Staatsgewerbeschule and apply to Vienna’s Akademie der bildenden Kunste in 1892. Upon acceptance, Hoffmann moved to Vienna to attend school under the tutelage of Otto Wagner. In 1895, he received the Rome Prize for his final project and was granted a fellowship, traveling to Italy to study and sketch. Returning to Vienna, Hoffmann was one of the founding members of the Vienna Secession and in 1899, began a long teaching career at Vienna’s Kunstegewerbeschule. Traveling to England in 1900, Hoffmann met Charles Rennie Mackintosh and visited the workshops of the C.R. Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft. This meeting would have a profound influence on the Wiener Werkstätte, founded in 1903, which Hoffmann was the director of until 1932. Hoffmann designed numerous exhibitions for the Secession, and in 1904 he completed one of his most important commissions, the Pukersdorf Sanatorium. A year later, after officially leaving the Secession, Hoffmann would complete what would be called the pinnacle of his architecture career, the Palais Stoclet. A tireless designer, Hoffmann created over 5,000 drawings through his lifetime and completed over 500 commissions. He died in 1956 at the age of 85.

Auction Results Josef Hoffmann