If you’ve ever lusted after a Louis Vuitton handbag while walking down Manhattan’s 57th Street, eyed a pair of Chanel pumps in Tokyo’s Ginza, or feasted your eyes on a Dior dress in a store window on Paris’s Avenue Montaigne, you probably have Peter Marino to thank. Among his many projects, Marino is responsible for devising the physical look for many of the world’s most exclusive luxury brands. His decadent, glowing glass-and-steel fashion towers often seem straight out of Blade Runner. There’s no doubt that his “starchitecture” has a halo effect on the goods inside.
But at his magnificent estate in tony Southampton, New York, you won’t find anything under glass. Here, bleached-oak bookcases, together with flocks of Lalanne sheep, make for a decidedly traditional—and definitely glamorous—affair. At center stage are hundreds of pieces of porcelain by Théodore Deck, a 19th-century French ceramist, piled on tables and lined up row after row in the main floor’s enfilade of rooms.
Marino has always had a knack for going big. His passion for and knowledge of art and design—from motorcycles to modern masters—is virtually infinite. Witness the Bass museum retrospective four years ago in Miami and the exhibition hall he has built in Southampton to one day house his collections. Deck porcelain, which he has been amassing for decades, is the subject of a new monograph, out October 16 from Phaidon, on which he collaborated with curator Etienne Tornier. And as to be expected, the book is not just a mere tome: It’s a lust-worthy object personally overseen by Marino that is a testament to enduring craft. He was introduced to this obsession by a friend, Alice Stern. “The French porcelain vampire bit my neck, and there was no getting away from it,” Marino jokes as we stroll through his famous azalea garden.
But why Deck? As they say, it’s all in the glaze, specifically a shade of translucent turquoise that the artisan devised via a proprietary technique, which came to be known as Deck Blue. “They used new chemicals and invented processes,” Marino explains. “In those days, they were crushing lapis lazuli to make a glaze. They weren’t going to Pro Paint to buy a tube of color.” More than just being known for one hue or style, the Deck studio produced a range of varied and eclectic work, employing craftsmen and such well-known artists as Jean-Jacques Henner, Emmanuel Benner, and Charles Kreutzberger.
One look around Marino’s house reveals Deck’s amazing range, with styles that show the influence of everything from Japonism to Turkish Iznik pottery and Chinese export porcelain. “No one can place it when they see it,” Marino says. “They think Deck’s work is original, but it is actually the French interpretation. At the time, European society was opening up to all these new foreign influences, then adapting and Frenchifying them. Like all great art, this porcelain completely defined the culture in which it was produced. When you look at it, you go, ‘I understand everything.’”
This story originally appeared in the October 2019 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition of Museumvillage.