Asian Handbags

Zetterquist Gallery, New York

How did a pre-15th-century Asian ceramics dealer become involved with women's handbags? "It all started the day I attended a Sotheby's auction," says New York- based Eric Zetterquist. "I was amazed by what people were bidding for: vintage Chanel clutches and Hermès Kelly bags. I felt that they should be getting much more for what they were paying. So, over the course of the next year, I began acquiring objects during my buying trips to Asia and started production." Auspicious beginnings indeed to a very unique and sophisticated line of one-of-a-kind handbags, briefcases, and clutches. Among Zetterquist's creations is a burgundy alligator purse topped with a Ming bronze tiger paperweight (top right, $8,000); a round shoulder-strap model in brown lizard with a Han Dynasty bronze mirror front ($7,800); and a smooth black calfskin tote (bottom right, $7,200), affixed with a jadeite ax blade (from 2,500-1,500 B.C.). "I think every good work of art has a very strong, inherent sense of geometry and history. I design all of my handbags with this in mind. No one part of the bag should detract or compete with any other part of the decorative object." By appointment only. Zetterquist Gallery, 120 East 64th Street; 212-751-0650.