Antique photo frames don't have the cult following of, say, antique cameras. But you don't need to be an aficionado to appreciate the style and craftsmanship on view in Art in a Frame: 100 Years of Photo Frames, 1860-1960, at the Manhattan gallery Historical Design through December 10, 2000. The exhibition mirrors the finest movements of modern design, from Gothic Revival to midcentury modern. The Arts and Crafts designer Archibald Knox, for instance, is represented by a 1902-05 Liberty & Co. frame in pewter and abalone whose lines nicely illustrate a Celtic influence. The star of the show is the one-of-a-kind 1906 frame by Art Nouveau designer Lucien Gaillard. Most any photograph would be outshone by the frame itself—its image of a few branches of an honesty plant has the grace of a Japanese print and a shimmering surface of lacquered wood, gold inlay, and mother of pearl.
For all their portability, quality photo frames are actually hard to come by. "When an estate is being sold, the photos and their frames are the last things the family wants to sell," gallery co-owner Denis Gallion says. "And this level of craftsmanship will never happen again. Kids don't want to go through years of apprenticeship—they all just want to be rock stars."
Historical Design, 306 East 61st Street, New York, NY 10021; 212-593-4528; fax 212-715-9905; www.historicaldesign.com.