Nine years ago, a chance meeting led to what today can only be called a prolific friendship; designer Eric Brown walked into Hampton III Gallery and simply asked owner Sandy Rupp if she could locate a work by artist William Halsey. Since then, the two have installed dozens of collections of fine art in homes of discerning clients across the domestic United States and Canada.
Good Eyes // Eric Brown and Sandy Rupp (above) are a design dream team, working together to select fine art for domestic and international clients. Their most recent endeavor involved decorating a 38th floor penthouse suite in Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel; (below) Brown’s permanent collection includes Emil Holzhauer, while he selects such grand pieces by Brian Rutenberg (above) for clients’ homes.
The designer and gallerist share a passion for assemblage and have become a known asset for creating astonishing private collections, often featuring Southern artists.
“Eric incorporates art as a design element, but more so he understands that art must be explored on its own,” says Rupp. “He’s doing what I’d never seen a designer do before: educate clients in the visual arts. We all utilize a different viewfinder, and Eric finds that door to bring his clients in to these very fine paintings. For their homes, it creates a layer upon a layer.”
Brown’s design studio in Greenville’s West End is often brimming with world-class art; most recently a compendium took up residence awaiting its new home, the penthouse of the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. The collection, curated by Brown and Rupp, included eight paintings with works from William Halsey, Wolf Kahn, Brian Rutenberg, Lee Hall, Edward Rice, and Robert Petersen. Some of the paintings were enormous in response to the scale and views of a 38th floor residence.
“One significant painting can hold an entire room,” says Brown. “It’s hard to verbalize visual language because it enters into the realm of emotion. Art is one of the most important elements of a home—how art can truly affect your private spaces.”
A well-assembled collection holds a thread, be it color, composition, subject matter, or the feeling the work conveys as a whole. Brown believes it is imperative to take into account a client’s habitual paths and movement through the home; he likens the process of planning an installation to designing a good garden. “The impact you get when you experience one work of art and you turn the corner and experience another is what makes, in part, an artful home.”
A collection is far from complete once its pieces have been garnered; Brown calls upon Ed House (of Frame Designs) to construct finished-corner frames, often in gilt, to specification. The goal is a cohesive sequence between the work and its casing, attaining a level of appropriateness because, according to Brown, good art deserves a good frame.
Works selected by Brown and Rupp are frequently borrowed by museums for exhibition, which doesn’t surprise them. Brown believes that most buyers fail to understand they can own work from artists that museums are collecting, as well. “It’s not only entirely possible to own fine art, but really a turnkey process when we’re involved,” says Brown. “Sandy has taught me exactly what I’m trying to teach others, which is you don’t have to go far to get exceptional guidance.”
Eric Brown Design, 101 Augusta St, Greenville. (864) 233-4442, ericbrowndesign.com; Hampton III Gallery, 3110 Wade Hampton Blvd #10, Taylors, (864) 268-2771, hamptoniiigallery.com; Frame Designs by Ed House, 1322 E Washington St, Greenville. (864) 242-2255, framedesignsedhouse.com