Presentation is everything, for selling, image, or a person’s own self esteem. The forms of presentation for decorative and fine arts can be seen in museums, homes, auction house exhibitions, or a movie or theatre set. These items were made not only to be representative of their era, but to exhibit taste and artistic skill.
When designing a set for a Broadway show like “My Fair Lady” or the motion pictures version, requires the same need for authenticity and believability. Interior designers also use the same concept when they create a setting for a client’s home. It requires “props”, which can be new or old, to set the stage of the owner’s home. My home library and Dr. Doolittle’s Edwardian study are creative, representative environments of who we are.
My perception of “props” comes from my experiences at Newel working with window display, TV, motion picture, and theater designers. Depending on the situation, the goal is to make the scene as realistic as possible by using items in my inventory that can accomplish that objective. (It can also be a lot of fun!) When you have a deep and varied inventory of quality and styles, you have an opportunity to work with these designers to impart my biases and experience on the “look” of the set. Today, I was working on a set attempting to create an upscale Italian hotel, but being created on a set in New York. Tomorrow, it might be a commercial photographer needing a slick French 1940s chaise for a model selling perfume.
Today, more than ever, the high fashion apartments and homes featured in glossy shelter magazines are no different. Selling a life style with antique and art require their proper display; as collector or just having a sense of taste, using these objects as period items or props, underscore their visual effect.
I have to relate one experience which really brings to life the idea of using items in my inventory, as props. We supplied items for the movie “Reversal of Fortune”, which deals with the attempted murder of Sonny Von Bulow. In real life, the contents of her New York City apartment were auctioned off in the 1980s and we purchased a number of items in the sale. There were some nice decorative and period pieces that we hoped to sell and or rent. Several years later, when the movie was made, the designers came to Newel to duplicate her New York apartment, and rented actual items from her home for the sets. These were real items from a real person, now being used as props to define her character.
Using the term props would connote something quite fake and artificial. My experiences have been just the opposite, to creatively use antiques and decorative art for realistic and accurate presentation purposes. It could be real or simulated, but the goal is creating a genuine and credible effect by their use.