The Miami Years
The historic Helen Mar Apartment Hotel at 2421 Lake Pancoast Drive was designed by Robert E. Collins in 1936. Situated on Lake Pancoast in Miami Beach, the Art Deco building housed eighty-six apartments overlooking the lush, Helen-Mar Gardens and boasted “luxurious living” with “complete hotel service”. The following decades brought major changes to the area, and the once splendid building fell into neglect and disrepair. In 1987, following a resurgence of interest in local preservation, the building was purchased by Broadway producer and Miami native, Michael Harvey. Using a combination of his own funds and grants from the city, Harvey began a complete restoration of the building, stripping decades of paint and remedying bad repairs, rousing the Helen Mar back to her brilliant glory.
It is fitting that Mark McDonald—champion of all things vintage and beautiful—would choose the Helen Mar as his Miami home. Outfitted in an array of Mid-century and Art Deco designs, the stylish apartment featured thoughtfully preserved molding and finishes, meticulous tilework and cabinetry, all brought to life by a flood of South-Florida sunlight. Graphic works by Cuban and South American artists adorned the walls and inviting furniture designs by Modern masters like Charles and Ray Eames, Edward Wormley and Alvar Aalto furnished each room. True to his curating roots, McDonald effortlessly incorporated early Art Deco works by the likes of Jules Buoy, Walter Dorwin Teague and Warren McArthur into the brilliant interior, crafting a glamourous and exciting space, reflective of the Magic City itself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Born in Lebanon, Ohio in 1904, Russel Wright transformed the American home with his designed objects. Wright briefly studied at Princeton Law from 1922-1924; however, after becoming enamored with the Broadway plays of New York, he soon left law school to work in the design office of Norman Bel Geddes. It was though the theater scene that Wright met his wife, Mary Einstein Wright whose business acumen would shape Russel’s creations. In 1937, Wright designed the iconic American Modern dinnerware. The ceramic line came in a variety of soft pastels and earth tones with biomorphic shapes influenced by the surrealist Jean Arp. Thanks to the savvy marketing of Mary Wright, American Modern was a commercial success that was so popular that it frequently sold out in stores. George Nelson attributed the designs of Wright as responsible for the American “shift towards the modern in the 1930s.” Wright’s mantra was “good design is for everyone” and in 1949 he created a new dishwasher-safe line. In 1950, the Wrights published their Guide to Easier Living, which laid out how to entertain guests in a suburban home. He began to experiment with the new medium of plastic, and his Flair line of melamine dishes was released in 1959. In 1965, he retired from designing and moved from New York to his summer home in Manitoga. Wright passed away in 1976. The Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design in New York honored Russel Wright with a retrospective of his objects in 2001. His work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, New York, among many others.
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