The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2014: "Designer Richard Mishaan's Twist on Hanging Paintings"
December 4, 2014
"Chock-a-block with paintings, the gallery wall is a look whose history stretches from 17th-century Paris salons to the hipster lofts of modern-day Brooklyn. But a fine line divides a design classic and a design cliche-- and reinvigorating the conceit can tax even the most innovative stylist. New York-based architect and designer Richard Mishaan cracked the code, however, with this maritime-themed installation in the master suite of his family's 16th-century vacation home in Cartagena, Colombia.
As with many of Mr. Mishaan's projects, it originated in a fanciful narrative. 'I like to create stories for my spaces,' he said. 'This house sits by the edge of the old walled city, near the Caribbean Sea, and during the long renovation I started to imagine it at [the home of] a noble captain...the commander of royal fleet.'
Featured in Mr. Mishaan's forthcoming monograph, 'Artfully Modern,' (The Monacelli Press), the composition-- a layered grouping of sailing scenes marked by brooding clouds and frothy seas-- is meant to evoke the traffic of ships the captain might have monitored from his window. But by breaking free of a predictable grid hanging pattern, varying scale, and (in some cases) pairing nearly identical images, Mr. Mishaan injects his gallery wall with drama and edginess. 'A grid can be a great tool when [the painting's] subject-- like Josef Albers studies or Robert Indiana numbers-- calls for it,' said Mr. Mishaan. 'But here I wanted to juxtapose the modern and rundown, letting the collection look as though it was amassed over time and hung as it fit.'
That's how Mr. Mishaan's collection typically take shape: He'll be struck by an auction or flea-market object and buy it as 'a leap of faith'-- trusting that eventually he'll find its perfect home. But, serendipitously, in the case of the Cartagena bedroom project, a New York-based artist named Jessie Henson did the collecting for him. As he recalled, 'I had an idea in my head of a wall of maritime scenes when I happened to walk into a gallery and see "Armada,"' Ms. Henson's assemblage of vintage sailing paintings.
The two struck a deal and Mr. Mishaan purchased half of the images. His selections hewed to the stormier end of the spectrum and he strove for eclecticism. 'I wanted some smaller pictures, some odd ones,' he explained. 'Jessie had hung all of the scenes along the equator of the room with the horizons lined up, but I wanted it to feel more ad hoc.'
For those who'd like to translate the concept to their own spaces, Mr. Mishaan urges a similarly lawless approach: 'My advice is: Don't fight the irregularities, embrace them. It always works better that way.'"