Mark McDonald

The Founder of Mid-century Design

Mark McDonald has always been at the epicenter of the world that is mid-century design, to a large extent, it is a world he created. For over forty years, Mark has pioneered whole fields of collecting, providing the scholarship and creating the market for mid-century furniture, studio jewelry, ceramics and Italian glass.

Fifty/50 store front; Ralph Cutler, Mark Isaacson and Mark McDonald

In 1983, Mark opened Fifty/50 with partners Mark Isaacson and Ralph Cutler. This groundbreaking gallery defined collectors’ taste. At the time, modern works were still largely overlooked; Mark and his partners collected and presented the rarest and most interesting pieces, often working with the makers themselves, to create compelling exhibitions accompanied by catalogs documenting the work. 

Fifty/50 opened its doors with an exhibition of Eames design; Mark McDonald and Ray Eames

In the 1990s, Mark opened Gansevoort Gallery, where he continued to curate collections and exhibitions of lasting impact. Over the years, he established relationships with artists and their estates becoming the go to authority on the designs of Art Smith, Ilonka Karasz and Leza McVey, among others. His enthusiasm for the material extended beyond the gallery floor to the back room where lucky visitors got to flip through Mark’s impressive design reference library and discuss the importance of works with him. 

Art Smith with his Spiral necklace design; Mark hosted an exhibition on Art Smith at Gansevoort Gallery. His support of the artist extended to the Brooklyn Museum to which Mark donated several Smith pieces for their collection.

A connoisseur and wealth of knowledge, Mark became a resource for prominent collections across the globe—private and public alike. He inspired a generation of collectors and dealers introducing designers and their production to an audience that continues to grow. In 2002, Mark closed Gansevoort and established 330 gallery in Hudson, New York. Now, semi-retired, Marks splits his time between New York and Florida. He still collects, curates, supports, and shepherds the scholarship of mid-century design.

William N. Frederick

Born in 1921 in Sycamore, Illinois, accomplished Chicago silversmith William Nicholas Frederick grew up on a 255-acre farm and attended local schools. Rather than work in the family business, Frederick earned a bachelor's degree at the Gallagher School of Business in Kankakee, Illinois and worked briefly for the Chicago & Burlington Railroad before joining the United States Navy during World War II. Frederick achieved the rank of ensign in 1946 and moved to Boston to finish his officer's training at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering. Following the war, Frederick returned to Sycamore to work for the Turner Corporation as an industrial designer.

During this time, Frederick took a drawing class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he went on to earn a bachelor's and master's of fine arts in the 1950s. One of Frederick's instructors in metalworking at the Art Institute was Daniel H. Pedersen, who had long been part of Chicago's Kalo Shop, a preeminent American Arts & Crafts silver and jewelry studio. In 1958, Frederick trained further at Rochester Institute of Technology with Hans Christensen, a Danish silversmith who had worked previously for Georg Jensen. At his first workshop, Frederick used a metalworking stump from his family farm followed by one from the Kalo Shop, after its closing in 1970. Frederick initially bought his tools from the Dixon Company, but he later acquired others from Daniel Pedersen, the Kalo Shop, and Renard Koehnemann. After starting on Chicago's South Side in Hyde Park, Frederick moved his workshop to Old Town on the North Side, where he worked for several decades until his passing in 2012.

Frederick's style reflects the Arts & Crafts influence of the Kalo Shop, Danish silver design, and Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Consequently, works by Frederick display an artful blend of traditional, hand-hammered techniques and sleek, modernist finishing, but they seldom appear overly polished or perfected. Rather than removing the human element, Frederick favored letting traces of his craftsmanship show in completed examples. Among Frederick's many commissions were ecclesiastical items, including chalices, tabernacles, menorahs, and pendants. He also produced a range of distinctive, secular forms, like chandeliers, candelabra, vases, coffee and tea services, and mugs. Some of these were made for notable clients, such as McDonald's, First Bank of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago Heart Association, and American College of Surgeons.

Auction Results William N. Frederick