“I was always more drawn to the warmth that wood pieces have,” notes Donzella sitting upon a midcentury armchair at his TriBeCa gallery. “It was about a year ago I suddenly realized my metal footprint had grown quite tremendously. I didn’t realize this evolution was happening until I took a step back.”
On Thursday, the gallerist will showcase his serendipitous study in metal furniture, lighting and art with “Heavy Metals,” a 45-piece exhibition at 17 White Street that explores works from sleek Viennese Werkstätte Hagenauer designs of the Twenties to pieces constructed as recently as last month.
One contemporary piece is an assemblage sculpture by New York-based artist Ghiora Aharoni, which includes antique silver cuffs the artist purchased from an auction of arts patron Paul F. Walter’s estate in September. “It’s based on ‘The Book of Genesis’ and, for me, captures the vibe of this show,” reveals Donzella.
Noting the piece’s “laboratory sensibility,” Donzella explains how his love for these technical elements of metalworking — from hammering and welding to pleating and etching —helped inspire this exhibition. The show, which runs through Dec. 21, also includes a gold-based circular “Compasso” cocktail table he sourced from the southern Milan atelier of designer Roberto Giulio Rida. “He doesn’t sell to the public and won’t give us pictures or tell what he has — you just have to go there and see what he has in that moment,” says Donzella. “It’s very exciting and made extremely well — it’s like jewelry.”
Gazing at the pieces in “Heavy Metals,” the gallerist sets down a coffee mug on a set of three Ghiró Studio nesting tables topped with hand-etched glass whose rich iridescence echo that of a raven’s feather. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac drifts coolly through the gallery’s glittering ground floor.
Donzella, dressed casually in sneakers and a T-shirt, admits his world-class offerings belie a true laid-back spirit. “I always love the idea of high/low,” he says, focusing his attention on a custom-printed wallpaper at the gallery’s towering entrance wall. The graphic brown and white photograph depicts metal columns succumbing to years of rusted neglect. The image, which Donzella selected specifically for the installation, appears in stark contrast to the collection’s refined elegance.
“I love the idea of expanding people’s expectations,” he offers. “For me, seeing this as a complete unit is like Christmas morning.”