Photograph by Robert Levin

Shop Talk

Benoist Drut of Maison Gerard

As told to Sarah Horne Grose
September 27, 2017

The New York City-based Collective dealer on finding inspiration in the woods, talking to furniture, and how to know when to buy  

I started collecting very early in life, like at age ten or twelve. I was born near Giverny, in France, very close to where Monet lived. Our village isn’t that far from Paris, but it’s a world away, maybe 350 people, the sort of place where you know everyone. It’s like the little French village you might imagine in a movie. My mother never bought a new piece of furniture, and I was the one going with her to the antiques stores or auctions.

I had many collections. One of my first purchases at auction was a little metal car, a dinky vintage toy. It was in the original box. That was a prized possession for many years. When I was 15 years old, I knew everything about 18th century royal furniture, I would read books on the furniture of Versailles and the various royal castles. When I become obsessed with a period I truly become obsessed.

Maison Gerard Gallery. Photo Credit Robert Levin
Maison Gerard store and gallery. Photograph by Robert Levin

At home, I can spend hours moving furniture and objects from here to there. It’s satisfying. I live in New York but every weekend I go to my house in the country, in Sullivan County, which is where Dirty Dancing was filmed. You can be my best friend but if you invite me to something on a Saturday, I will pass. The house is in the middle of the woods, it’s kind of magic. I will be there with my books, blasting opera or something like Cat Power. I get a lot of inspiration from doing that.

When I was 15 years old, I knew everything about 18th century royal furniture. I would read books on the furniture of Versailles and the various royal castles.

Winter Antiques Show Booth. Photo Credit Robert Levin
Maison Gerard’s booth at the Winter Antiques Show. Photograph by Robert Levin

Whenever I start working with an artist, it’s because I have a lust for a piece. If I don’t like something I won’t bid on it. And I like a mix. I was born in France and I have lived in America longer than I ever lived in France, so I feel like a mutt. That’s also how I collect. I might have 18th century doors, 1940s furniture, and then contemporary pieces. I think they talk to each other.

I have been to Marrakech recently on a few buying trips. I usually like to be against the latest design trend and to just buy what I have a passion for. The only rule I follow is to follow my instinct. On one of my last trips there I purchased some beautiful carved pieces of wood that are a part of a wedding saddle. When the bride would be on top of the camel, there were four sticks of wood to hold her on top. I didn’t know anything about this woodwork but after four or five days of seeing them here and there I was obsessed. I bought like 20.