One of the most poetic and powerful expressions of Flower Power can be found in Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Much more than a stylish undertaking, Ikebana is really a philosophy/art hybrid: the discipline of arranging cut flowers, branches, leaves and grass to form a three-dimensional work of art that reflects the arranger’s spiritual understanding of the world. There is most definitely a meditative quality to this art form. Seasoned designers realize not only the importance of silence, but also the importance of space, which is not meant to be filled, but created and preserved through the arrangements. This ties into other principles of Ikebana including minimalism, shape and line, form, humanity, aesthetics, and balance.
Below: image via Contacto Japon

In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects. This remarkably high development of floral art in Japan can be attributed to the Japanese love of nature. In principle, ikebana aims not at bringing a finite piece of nature into the house, but rather at suggesting the whole of nature, by creating a link between the indoors and the outdoors.
Below: images via Stichting Kunstboek

This art form casts a whole new light on the use of floral containers as they are chosen to complement the concept and lines of the arrangement. Virtually any vessel can be turned into an ikebana container with the help of a kenzan (a flower frog) to hold the flowers in place. 
Below: images via Kinfolk

For many of its practitioners, Ikebana is a lifelong lesson, a way to achieve a little inner stillness in which to work towards a richer spiritual understanding of the world, just like the Zen monks do through their meditation techniques. A classic Ikebana text lists the ten virtues of an Ikebana master, powerful indeed:

Do not discriminate
Develop a peaceful mind
Develop a selfless mind
Develop a graceful mind
Make friends without words
Seek a closeness to the Divine
Learn about plants
Gain respect
Be aware of scents all the time
Dismiss any harmful thoughts

Foul Play


Marcel Proust was right: nothing can trigger a powerful, emotional memory quicker than a scent. Signature floral perfumes have left indelible impressions on many gentleman suitors throughout the ages. The lily-of-the-valley, Christian Dior's lucky flower, is forever associated with this couture house. More recent floral scents include Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf, Flora by Gucci and Daisy by Marc Jacobs. But not all flowers are team players. In order to attract specific insects, which in turn will act as potential pollinators, some blooms emit an altogether foul smell. Here are a few examples of flowers you really don't want to include in your tabletop arrangement:

Titan Arum
Its nickname, Corpse Flower, says it all: this massive bloom is quite dramatic, but smells like a rotting corpse in order to attract insects that prefer to lay their eggs in dead things. For added effect, the inside of the bloom is the color of red meat. The only good news is that the flower's bloom doesn't last very long, only about 24 to 48 hours, and this only happens once every four to six years. 
(Image via the Botanical Garden at Berkeley)

Rafflesia Arnoldii
One of the three national flowers in Indonesia, this one shares the same nickname with Titan Arum. It is also the largest individual flowers in the world as it weighs in around 10 kg and usually has a diameter of about three feet. Also noteworthy is that Rafflesia Arnoldii flower is parasitic, and has no roots, leaves or stems.
(Image via World of Flowering Plants)

Hydnora Africana
Possibly the least charming of the bunch is Hydnora Africana, a fleshy parasitic plant native to southern Africa that emits the smell of feces to attract dung beetles, its pollinators of choice. This bizarre-looking plant, often mistaken for a fungus, grows almost entirely underground except for its bloom.
(Image via Gardening Know How)

Dracunculus Vulgaris
The beauty award among the carrion flowers goes to Dracunculus Vulgaris for its spectacular purple color palette. There are widespread erotic connotations resulting from its shape, explaining the nickname Viagra Lily.
(Image via Youtube)

Lysichiton Americanus
AKA American Skunk Cabbage is a perennial herb native to California, whose repulsive smell sticks around long after the blooms have dried. Not to worry: Lysichiton Americanus has not been invited to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show :)
(Image via Bodnant Garden Centre)


Tiptoe Through the Tulips


September 1, 2017, will see the release of the movie Tulip Fever, written by Tom Stoppard and starring Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan and Christophe Waltz, a historical drama set in the Netherlands in the 17th century, during the period of the tulip mania.
Tulip mania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble – centuries before the dot-com bubble of the 1990's or the US housing market collapse in 2008.

Below: from Carlton Hobbs, a tulip-form silver pokal by Simon Lang and marked with the Hebrew letters Aleph Shin Aleph, Nuremberg, circa 1660.

It's not hard to understand how this much-loved flower, introduced in the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire, became such an overnight success. It was different from every other flower known to Europe at that time, with a saturated intense petal color that no other plant had, and quickly became a status symbol for the affluent Dutch traders.

Below, from Arader Galleries: Tulipa Suaveolons, Plate 111, 1802-1816, hand-colored stipple engraving by botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

Tulips quickly became a coveted luxury item, and many varieties were cultivated. Among the more curious and rare was the Bizarden or Bizarre Tulip, which had yellow or white streaks of color over a purple or red petal. It is now known that this effect is due to the bulbs being infected with a type of tulip-specific mosaic virus, known as the Tulip breaking virus, so called because it "breaks" the one petal color into two or more.

Below left: from Haynes Fine Art,  Spring by Cecil Kennedy, British 1905 – 1997, Oil on canvas, signed lower right.
Below right: from Lang Antiques, enameled tulip brooch rendered in rich 18 karat yellow gold and green emeralds.

To this day, the Netherlands remains synonymous with the tulip, as is evident in the 1950's hit Tulips from Amsterdam and the ever-growing popularity of the Keukenhof gardens, the world’s largest flower garden (80-acres) and a horticultural essay in superlatives, which attracts more than 700,000 visitors each year. Every year, Keukenhof showcases over seven million tulips – as well as hyacinths and daffodils - ablaze with pink, red, purple, yellow, lavender and orange. Enjoy!

Below, Keukenhof image via Baby Apple


Frozen in time


The semi-annual fashion shows by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten have never really been a run-of-the-mill affair. From an impromptu street performance in an obscure Paris quartier to a candlelit sit-down dinner for hundreds, memorable is an inadequate word to describe his fashion happenings.

But for his spring 2017 ready-to-wear show, he knocked the stylish socks off even the most jaded fashionistas, and that's not an easy feat. He asked Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto to reprise his Iced Flowers show: intricate flower bouquets were frozen in ice and served as columns along the runway, the perfect complement for a series of floral-print garments. It was a memorable mash-up moment of quiet drama and outrageous beauty – flower power at its best! (photos via

A rose is a rose is a rose (Gertrude Stein, 1913)


While many of us link roses with romance and love, this wasn't always so. In fact, this gorgeous bloom was associated with one of the bloodiest conflicts of 15th century England. The Wars of the Roses were a series of wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster (associated with a red rose), and the House of York (whose symbol was a white rose). This 30-year feud finally ended with the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.
Below, from Carlton Hobbs:
A fine floral painted KPM circular porcelain plaque signed KRÜGER FECIT 1819. Berlin, 1819.

Nowadays, long-stemmed red roses are practically synonymous with Valentine’s Day. This tradition of giving Valentine’s Day flowers dates back to the late 17th century, during the reign of King Charles II of Sweden. During a trip to Persia, King Charles II was exposed to a new art—the language of flowers, the ability to communicate using flowers without uttering any words at all. The fad boomed throughout Europe, with lists of flowers and their meanings widely distributed. The red rose translated of course to deep love.
Below, from Butchoff Antiques:
A five-fold screen in the early romantic manner. French, circa 1880.

The rose took on this meaning because of its affiliation with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Greek mythology, it is said that rose bushes grew from the ground through Aphrodite’s tears and the blood of her lover, Adonis. The Romans, who turned Aphrodite into their goddess Venus, kept the rose as her symbol of love and beauty. So when Valentine’s Day became the mainstream holiday we know today, the rose was an obvious choice for the most fitting gift.
Below, from Philadelphia Print Shop West:
Rosa Ferox and Rosa Indica, from Roses: or Monograph of the Genus Rosa. London, 1805. Engraved and hand colored by H.C. Andrews.

Did you know that there are symbolic meanings associated with other rose colors as well? Yellow roses send a message of appreciation and platonic love without the romantic subtext of other colors. Shades of lavender roses suggest an air of regal majesty and splendor. Dark pink roses are symbolic of gratitude and appreciation, and are a traditional way to say thanks. Light pink roses are associated with gentleness and admiration, and can also be used as an expression of sympathy. 
Below, from Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge Inc.:
German Porcelain Trompe L'oeil Rose Tea Service, 19th Century. 

Also known as the bridal rose, the white rose is a traditional wedding flower. In this sense, white represents unity, virtue, and the pureness of a new love. White roses are also associated with honor and reverence, which makes them a fitting memorial for a departed loved one. Finally, orange roses – being a mixture of yellow and red - were seen as a bridge between friendship symbolized by yellow roses and love represented by red roses.
Below, from Haynes Fine Art:
Shades of Spring by Marcel Dyf
Oil on canvas, signed lower right. French 1899-1985.

Imitation of Life


The name of the cult romantic Douglas Sirk drama from the late fifties, seemed the perfect title for this blogpost, exploring the grey area where exquisite craftsmanship and fine art meet, in an effort to duplicate and eternalize nature's finest creations.

While the House of Fabergé may be most famous for its renowned jeweled eggs - delightful creations that have come to symbolize the wealth and power of the Russian Romanov dynasty, its most loyal customer – it is in fact a slightly lesser known Fabergé flower study that has recently become one of the most expensive items ever to be appraised by the Antiques Roadshow, at a whopping £1 million ($1.27 million). In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fabergé created delicate replicas of pansies, lilies of the valley, violets and other flowers that were often destined for glass display cabinets in the royal palaces of London and Moscow. Most are only a few inches high, crafted in gold, pearls and diamonds, and jade and so carefully made that you can see the veining in the leaves, the real fuzz used to augment an intricately crafted dandelion puff and the delicate strands of moss. The simple jars in which they were placed were fashioned from rock crystal in order to look like they were filled with water.

The work of New Jersey artist Vladimir Kanevsky is somewhat reminiscent of the Fabergé tradition, though his medium of choice is metal and clay, painted with painstaking detail. Kanevsky cites 18th-century European botanical prints as the inspiration behind his creations: lush hollyhocks, lilies of the valley, wild daisies and white hydrangeas (complete with insect bites and bent stems), you'd swear they were the real thing. Kanevsky's art has brought him worldwide fame resulting in a collaboration with historic porcelain manufacturer Meissen which yielded a limited edition of “eternal flowers” for the 300 year old company.

In the words of Egyptian Greek poet Constantine Peter Cavafy:
Give me artificial flowers - porcelain and metal glories - neither fading nor decaying, forms unaging. Flowers of the splendid gardens of another place, where Forms and Styles and Knowledge dwell. I love flowers made of glass or gold, true Art's true gifts, their painted hues more beautiful than nature's, worked in nacre and enamel, with perfect leaves and branches.

Q & A with Geoffrey De Sousa

As one of San Francisco's most sought after interior designers, Geoffrey De Sousa knows a thing or two about finding just the right piece to bring a room's past and present to life. Over the past twenty years designing for prominent names across the Bay Area, his projects have celebrated the cohabbitating of the antique and modern to create interiors that speak to the history of the client or space. 

In his second year as Chair of the Fall Art & Antiques Show's Designers Circle, an exclusive group of some of the most prominent interior designers and architects in the field who are dedicated supporters of the Show, Geoffrey sat down with us to reflect on his feelings about the Show and its FLOWER POWER! theme as a designer, a collector, and a child of the Summer of Love

As Designers Circle Chair, what do you love most about The San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show?

What’s not to love? The convergence of art, antiques, talented design professionals, and amazing lectures, as a charity benefiting the education of today’s youth and tomorrow’s potential collectors!

The 2017 Show theme is FLOWER POWER: Floral Imagery in Art, Antiques & Design. What does the theme mean to you?

I’m a child of the 1960’s and 70’s, so to me, San Francisco and Flower Power are synonymous with freedom of expression. From the beginning of time artisans and craftspeople have used floral motifs to imbue symbolism and meaning, and show their love and appreciation for mother nature and how it still inspires us today.

This is your second year as the Designer Circle Chair. What do you think brings designers back to the Fall Art & Antiques Show each year?

There are many reasons this show continues to be such a draw to collectors and design professionals. Within the last 15-20 years, the internet has truly changed how we shop for art and antiques. Brick and mortar shops have disappeared. We now have unlimited access to items worldwide! To be able to come to a show and actually see, touch, and feel the best of the best is such a pleasure! There’s nothing like it.

A new patron level, the Artisans Circle, was added to the Show this year. Where did you get the idea and what do you hope it will bring to the Show?

During the last 2 years I have been constantly asked by others in our community, “How can I be involved with the Fall Art & Antiques Show?” For many years our only option was the Designers Circle. As an interior designer my day is filled with creating and restoring beautiful spaces, none of which could ever be accomplished without the masters of craft that we collaborate with every day. The Artisans Circle hopes to include the best of the best and be a perfect combination of artist and artisans coming together to promote our field while supporting such a worthy cause.

As a designer, what do you look for when you walk the Show? What advice do you give your clients when they attend?

Well, my first stop is the designer vignettes at the entrance of the show! Bravo to Suzanne Tucker for bringing these back! I usually walk the show a minimum of 3 times…once for items to be included in interior design projects we are currently working on, next with clients to see what treasures we’ve found. And then, for me! I always find wonderful new additions for my own home.

What and how do you collect?

I’m an avid photography collector; in addition, I’ve recently started collecting 20th-century modern silver. I’m also always on the lookout for that perfect mid-century piece for my home in Palm Springs.

How do you incorporate art and antiques into your designs?

I tend to use antiques to provide a sense of history to a space, something that speaks to the inhabitants family and their heritage. I’m always mixing antiques with modern pieces, and in contemporary spaces with contemporary art.


To view a list of the 2017 Designers Circle members, please visit our Designers Circle and Artisans Circle members here. Stay tuned for upcoming Q&A's with other prominent voices from the art, antiques, and design world leading up to the big Show!


From Watteau to Warhol


The theme of the 36th edition of the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show is FLOWER POWER: Floral Imagery in Art, Antiques & Design. Our inspiration springs from the beauty and romance of blooms and blossoms, and their iconography throughout the ages. Floral imagery has long been part of a rich visual symbolism in art - textiles, furniture, paintings, works on paper, jewelry, ceramics, objets d’art have involved flowers and botanicals on some level, be it mythological, religious or romantic. In fact, there are traces of association of flowers with humans going as far back as the Paleolithic age: a high concentration of flower pollen near grave sites is indicative of the role of flowers in ancient burial rituals.

For painters of the Gothic, Early Renaissance and High Renaissance eras, flowers were part of a rich visual symbolism. Bouquet by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1603) features a mix of tulips (symbolizing wealth, prosperity, commerce, trade), irises (representing Spring, regeneration, replenishment) and lilies (representing purity and virginity) among others. Vase of Flowers with Pocket Watch by Willem van Aelst (1656) offers us a visual metaphor, hinting at the delicate and fleeting nature of time, timelessness and things that are time-intensive - such as painting these captivating still lifes.

Floral design elements in the Baroque and later Rococo periods focus on S-curve lines, embellished scrolls, and large amounts of ornamentation, with the Rococo style designs featuring lighter, happier, more playful colors and forms. Fragonard (left) and Watteau excelled in this playful celebration of romance and youth, which was highly popular in the decorative arts as well.

The Victorian Pre-Raphaelites captured classic notions of beauty romantically. Flowers laden with symbolism figure prominently in much of their work. The orange blossom pinned to John Everett Millais's The Bridesmaid's chest is a symbol of her chastity. In Dante Gabriel Rosetti's Ophelia, the flowers shown floating on the river were chosen to correspond with Shakespeare's description of Ophelia's garland. They also reflect the Victorian interest in the "language of flowers", according to which each flower carries a symbolic meaning. The prominent red poppy—not mentioned by Shakespeare's description of the scene—represents sleep and death.

20th-century Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh is perhaps most famous for the exuberant depiction of his iconic sunflowers, while his peer Claude Monet's garden in Giverny provided him with inspiration for literally hundreds of paintings, including the Water Lilies series.

Later on, in the 1930's and 40's, Georgia O'Keeffe's colorful oversized depictions of flowers were seen as veiled representations of female genitalia, though she herself always resisted this interpretation. Similarly, erotica and botanica collide in Robert Mapplethorpe's sensual flower photographs from the seventies and eighties.

Andy Warhol in the sixties and Takashi Murakami in the nineties depicted the botanical world in a cartoon style and bright color palette.

21st-century artists as varied as Marlene Dumas (left) and Kiki Smith (right) continue to explore flower power in a variety of styles and media.


Private Collections Silent Art Auction to Benefit Enterprise for High School Students


Leo Bersamina, Loop VIII, 2015, courtesy of the artist (left); Eric Zener, Immersion, mixed media on panel, courtesy of Hespe Gallery (right)

Artists and art galleries from across the Bay Area have generously donated works of art for the Private Collections post-party silent art auction benefiting Enterprise for High School Students. The post-party is an annual tradition for fellow art lovers and supporters of Enterprise to enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres in celebration of Private Collections. The party are silent art auction is hosted in the beautiful Jackson Square gallery of Simon Breitbard Fine Arts.

All profits from the auction benefit Enterprise and support its mission to engage and empower San Francisco's youth to discover career opportunities and prepare for life after high school.

To view a complete list of art works available for auction, click here

Visit our website to purchase tickets to Private Collections 2017

Courtesy of the Artist: Christina Empedocles, We Fold Ourselves, 2012 mixed media on paper, framed, 10”x10”; Gallery Retail $1500, Auction Starting Bid $900

Courtesy of the Artist and Simon Breitbard Fine Arts: Diane Tate DallasKidd, Waterfall, 2016, Mixed media on linen on panel, 18”x24”; Gallery Retail $1400, Auction Starting Bid $900

Courtesy of the Artist and Sense Fine Art: Michael Kessler, Islands, II Mixed media on panel, 28”x26”; Gallery Retail $3400, Auction Starting Bid $2400


8 Renowned SF Art Collectors Open Their Homes for Private Collections 2017


The Carlevaro Collection, Private Collections 2016

This spring marks the 18th annual Private Collections home tours benefiting Enterprise for High School Students.  On April 5th, eight of San Francisco's most highly regarded art collectors will open their homes for a rare chance to experience precious works of art, the stories behind them, and the meaning they inherit in the context of a living space. 

For this year's Masterpiece Collection, Nancy and Sidney Unobskey open their Pacific Heights home for a tour of their stunning collection of paintings and sculptures from internationally-renwoned artists. Highlights include paintings by David Park, Helen Frankenthaler, Chagall, and Christopher Brown, as well as a Japanese garden brought to life with sculptures by Judith Shea, Gerard Kelly, and Peter Shelton. Other major works include those by Gwen Merrill, George Rickey, Jean Arp, Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz, George Segal, Joel Shapiro and two pre-Colombian pieces. 

Following The Unobskey Collection at 6:0 p.m., Masterpiece and Premier level ticket holders will meet in different locations around the city for private home tours of one of seven of the following collections: The Dauber and Levin Collection, The Joyner and Guiffrida Collection, The Kramlich Collection, The Mill Collection, The Reilly Collection, The Sack Collection, and The Schreyer Collection.  From confrontational contemporary to pioneering video art to Bay Area abstract expressionism, each collection offers its own extraordinary journey.

Simon Breitbard Fine Arts in Jackson Square will host a post-party celebrating  the closing of the event with a lovely evening of wine, hors d'oeuvres, and Private Collection's very first silent art auction included pieces donated by local galleries. 50% of all sales will benefit Enterprise for High School Students.  

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Photos from Private Collections 2016

The Wolfe Collection, Private Collections 2016

2016 Private Collections Honorary Chair, Jay Jeffers, admiring The Harbin Clammer Collection

The Niles Collection 2016

The Hatch Collection, Private Collections 2016

Enterprise Executive Director, Tony DiStefano, speaks at 2016 Private Collections party at Simon Breitbard Fine Arts