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Furnishing Answers

January 25, 1998|KATHY BRYANT

What makes a decorative arts collector collect? What drives someone to search for a rare 1815 English Regency chair? Why would someone spend $3 million for an American Queen Anne kneehole desk circa 1780?

Questions such as these will be answered during the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Decorative Arts Council's lecture series, "Patrons and Collectors," which begins Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.

"This is a new series," says Martin Chapman, curator of European decorative arts at LACMA. "We wanted to have people come and speak who have some oomph to them."

The series will begin with the duchess of Devonshire introducing Simon Seligman, who is the education manager of Chatsworth House, which is the duchess' home and one of the great country houses in England.

"She's one of the famous Mitford sisters," Chapman says. "Like Nancy, the novelist and biographer, and Jessica, the investigative journalist, she possesses the wit and character singular to her family."

Popularly known as the Palace of the Peak, the Palladian mansion in the Peak District of Derbyshire was built in the 17th century for the first duke of Devonshire. An earlier house that stood on the site was designed by the first duke's ancestress and was occasionally visited by Mary Queen of Scots. The house contains an excellent collection of old masters, sculpture, tapestries, furniture and objets d'art. It is open to the public.

The lecture series, which features both great American and English collections, will continue on Feb. 18 with Jay E. Cantor, president of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., speaking on "Henry Francis Dupont at Winterthur: A Connoisseur among Collectors." Winterthur, in Delaware, is a leading collection of American decorative arts; Cantor, who recently wrote a book on it, will talk about its formation.

Other speakers will include Rosalind Savill, director of London's Wallace Collection, speaking in April; Victoria Kastner, researcher at the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, discussing the collections of William Randolph Hearst; Wendell Garrett, senior vice president of Sotheby's, on the collecting of Americana by the Rockefellers, Fords and Vanderbilts; and Joseph Friedman, senior director of Sotheby's, talking about the collections in London's town mansions.

Lectures are free to members of the museum's Decorative Arts Council; $15 for guests. Reservations are required. Sotheby's sponsors the series. For more information, call (213) 857-6528.

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