BY LOUIS POSTEL FOR ASPIRE MAGAZINE
Inside The House of Heydenryk, Master Framers (pronounced Hi-den-rike, ed.)
Louis Postel: Tell me about some of the people coming through these doors?
Dave Mandel: Here on the West side, or back when we were on the East side?
DM: Like one day when I was at the front desk back on 76th on the Upper East Side — just a kid out of school — Katherine Hepburn came in. She asked me if I could give her Henri Heydenryk’s home address. He had just retired to his home in Connecticut and she said she wanted to tell him personally how much working with him on framing her watercolors meant to her. I forgot all about it, just thinking it was one of those kind gestures no one actually follows through on. But one morning, Mr. Heydenryk [pronounced Hi-den-rike, Ed] was looking out his window and there she was standing in the garden.
LP: What about Lauren Bacall?
DM: She said, “If I were a frame, there’s no place I’d rather hang than on the wall at the House of Heydenryk.” Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, actresses known for a great sense of style were clients. Jackie Kennedy at the White House.
LP: What about artists?
DM: Salvador Dali, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Leger, all of Picasso’s post-war exhibits. They all liked working with Henri Jr. Many other artists followed, along with the leading interior designers, Sister Parish and Albert Hadley. We just finished a frame for the artist Damien Hirst.
LP: What was Dali looking for in frames?
DM: Dali was very particular, very conscious about how he wanted his work framed. While some dealers just hand a piece over and say, “you know what I like,” Dali knew a lot about frame history, especially about 17th century baroque frames, but he also liked the new designs and finishes Henri Jr. was coming up with. Occasionally, Dali would purchase a period frame and ask us to adjust it to the exact size he wanted — change the finish and proportions.
LP: Let’s put it another way: Who didn’t you work with.
DM: Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Though we eventually framed a Rothko and stretched a Pollock canvas, abstract expressionists mainly thought of the entire wall was the frame. Even now, when we do frame his work, it’s very simple, usually in neutrals, black or white. You don’t want a frame that’s too ornate, that would somehow compete. In fact, all frames need to take that supporting role, while the painting is the star. One way to notice a bad framing job is that there is a mismatch.
LP: Speaking of mismatch, do you really need The House of Heydenryk to do a minimalist black frame?
DM: Indeed, at forty feet a frame looks opaque and you won’t notice difference, but closer up you notice the grain and the finish. When you see these options in person, there’s no obvious solution.
LP: Are you a Heydenryk yourself?
DM: No. Actually, I’m the second non-family member to become president of the firm since it was founded in Amsterdam in 1845. I grew up in New York, studied at the school of Visual Arts here with Keith Haring, Jean-Michael Basquiat and others of that generation.
LP: Can I assume they get knocked off routinely?
DM: Sure, whether intentionally or not. Even in museums, where you can see so many paintings in frames we design, you can also see frames that are either direct copies, or highly influenced by what we do. It’s a kind of flattery, I guess.
LP: How has the business itself changed?
DM: In some ways not at all.We continue to have excellent craftsmen and finishers. Take gilding. There are different gold leafing techniques — oil gilding and water gilding — but it all has to be done by hand. There’s a luminosity to it that you can get with a machine.
LP: So what’s different?
DM: Years ago, many of the artisans were classically trained. They could reproduce and restore, but they also had backgrounds in the history of architecture, fine arts and drawing. Though I can’t generalize, there’s a tendency now to be more oriented towards manual skills and pure craftsmanship. We had a great carver here for many years. His father was also a great carver. Now his son is a doctor.
LP: Tell me about Henry, Jr.
DM: He was the great grandson of the founder, but at first he didn’t want to go in the business. He was working for Remington Rand (1925-1955, Ed) as a punch card salesman and liked it. Finally, the family prevailed upon him to open a branch in the U.S., which he did in the 30’s — but on his own terms. His designs such as the weathered chestnut frames revolutionized the business.
Righty or lefty?
Favorite local restaurant?
Cucharamama in Hoboken
Best music to eat by?
Miles & Mozart
Prefer intimate dinners or large gatherings?
Intimate all the way
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
Leonardo da Vinci, Dorothy Parker & Groucho Marx.
Traditionalist or modernist at heart?
Both. I respect and am inspired by tradition, but I also try to learn and create for the present and the future.
Either the High Renaissance or the 20th Century from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Bow ties or neckties?
Neckties, but not too tight.