Gerard Widdershoven, Founder of Maison Gerard, Remembered
Gerardus A. Widdershoven of New York and Bridgehampton, New York, founder of Maison Gerard, died on Sunday, June 14 at a hospice in the hamlet of Quiogue, New York, after a valiant battle with cancer.
Born in the Netherlands in 1951, Gerard arrived in New York in 1973 and began his long and illustrious career as one of the great ‘antiquaries’ of Art Deco soon after in 1974. He created a welcoming environment at Maison Gerard with the finest objects, furniture, paintings and other accessories from this luxurious period at his eponymous shop on East 10th Street in New York City. Gerard welcomed collectors from all over the world who knew they would find top quality pieces within. His impressive clientele included John Lennon and Yoko Ono and many other luminaries from the entertainment world. In addition, museum curators would seek out rarities at Maison Gerard to add to their collections. These included Walter Chrysler, Jr. whose collection eventually was gifted to the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia and the Utsunomiya Museum of Art in Japan.
Maison Gerard was one of the very few antique dealers who consistently mounted exhibitions so that clients could continue to expand their knowledge of the period as Gerard unearthed important rarities on his buying trips through Europe. It was one of the first galleries to highlight the works of Rene Buthaud, Jean-Michel Frank, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Jacques Adnet, Line Vautrin and Jules Bouy long before others recognized their importance and contributions to design of the period. In addition, Maison Gerard mounted specialized exhibitions, often to complement the gallery’s exhibitions at the important antique shows held at the Park Avenue Armory throughout the year including Modernism, The Winter Antiques Show (where they were one of the very first 20th century dealers invited to exhibit), TEFAF and The Haughton International fairs. Receiving a coveted invitation to one of the gallery’s soirées always promised a night full of great champagne and lively conversations with other collectors, dealers, museum curators and auction house specialists.
Maison Gerard was instrumental in publishing several reference books on the work of Jules Leleu and Maison Leleu, a long overlooked design firm whose importance spanned from Art Deco into the 1960’s. Gerard’s discoveries of entire households of Leleu designs as well as original drawings helped to inform the public about the important contributions Leleu made to the history of 20th century design. As tastes changed over the years, Maison Gerard expanded beyond Art Deco and Art Moderne into contemporary design from the early years of the 21st century. Without abandoning its commitment to his core collections, the gallery continued to introduce new collectors to the works of Achille Salvagni, Ayala Serfaty, Georgis & Mirgorodsky, Hervé van der Straeten, and Niamh Barry among many others.
Gerard was destined to become a great gallerist. At the early age of 13 he began to accumulate French – and only French – Bakelite, with one exception: the Bakelite Radio Nurse designed by Isamu Noguchi in 1937. He continued to add to this collection throughout his life and this passion opened many doors to new areas.
In 1998 Gerard welcomed Benoist F. Drut as a partner at Maison Gerard. It was important to Gerard that Maison Gerard continue to thrive after his retirement (which did not occur until 12 years later, in 2010). Today the gallery continues its mission to present the finest design, expertise and scholarship of the 20th and 21st centuries to collectors worldwide.
Gerard and his partner of 32 years, abstract painter Nicholas Howey, were married in the Netherlands in 2005, long before same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. Their mutual love and early appreciation for Italian-American artist Salvatore Scarpitta was influential in broadening the understanding of this important mid-century artist.
As the AIDS epidemic swept through the arts community in the 1980s, Gerard was fortunate to find his way to Dr. Lawrence Hitzeman, then affiliated with St. Vincent’s Hospital Medical Center, allowing Gerard to become one of the disease’s early survivors. The doctor saved his life and gave Gerard the gift of over 25 years of life to enchant his friends and enrich the broader arts community.
In addition to his husband, Nicholas Howey, Gerard is survived by his brother, Jan, his sisters, Annette, Hanneke and Tilly as well as many much-loved nieces and nephews. A gentleman of the highest order, he leaves behind a legacy of kindness, honesty, knowledge and integrity.
Due to the coronavirus, funeral services will be held privately. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gerard’s memory to The Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, New York, madoo.org.