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Frame and Fortune

To Best Display Their Art, Collectors Seek The Wisdom of Solomon

September 24, 2000|A. GREY LE CUYER

You've probably never heard of Jerry Solomon's shop. He's never advertised in the 41 years he's been in business and, as he says, his "off-the-street traffic is zero." But in an inconspicuous five-story brick building on La Brea Avenue, there's magic going on.

In the deafening hive of activity above the contrapuntally quiet ground-floor showroom, artisans--reenacting processes that date back hundreds of years--hand-carve, gild, mold and finish frames of any imaginable size or shape. They do this from scratch, mixing compounds and formulas so old and rare that, in some cases, Solomon is the only one to know their ingredients. "I don't know of anyone who does what we do," he says.

In addition to major museums, fine art galleries and interior designers, Solomon has made frames for David Geffen, Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand (workers, uh, go to her house) and, for about 30 years, David Hockney, who's been known to come into the studio and paint on the frames around his pieces. Though the custom frames can run from "$250 up to $5,000 or $6,000, we routinely do $10,000 to $12,000 jobs" for serious collectors.

Not all of Solomon's customers are quite so la-di-da, particularly the one who wanted to frame a dead cat (not a stuffed cat, mind you, but a dead cat "poured right out of the bag"). Solomon turned that job down, but his shop has, between those routine half-million-dollar pieces of art, framed such oddities as Oreos, a dead bird and some sort of tribute to ostriches in a handmade ostrich-shaped frame.

Eschewing trends and fads, Solomon sagely points out his long-term philosophy: "It's not about the frame; it's about the art. If you're not aware of the frame, then it's been a good framing job."

*

Jerry Solomon, Los Angeles, (323) 851-7241.

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