Although there's beginning to be a lot more chatter about contemporary art in DC, the role of one local gallery's influence in the world of historical art should not be overlooked. I'm talking about the Geoffrey Diner Gallery, which is located just north of Dupont Circle, fittingly, in a historical townhouse. Run by husband-and-wife duo Geoff and Maureen Diner, the Geoffrey Diner Gallery has become a premier source for all things beautiful not just in DC, but worldwide. "Our specialty is original Tiffany Studios lamps and glass, as well as Arts & Crafts," said Geoff, who is currently with Maureen at the annual Winter Antiques Show in New York City, which is taking place tonight through Jan. 29. They're the only DC-based gallery to be continuously invited for over two decades.
Of course, over the course of those three decades, the Diners have expanded their business, most recently dealing in paintings and fine art by artists with awe-inspiring names (*ahem* Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, just to name a few). These artworks are the real deal, and so are Geoff and Maureen.
SCOUT: Your job is pretty dreamy ("art dealer/gallery owner"). Is it as glamorous as it sounds?
MAUREEN: Yes! It is glamorous and dreamy. I've spent the last 48 hours at the Park Avenue Armory [the location of the Winter Antiques Show] drinking up all that is the heart of New York, from the union guys killing themselves to get a Tiffany chandelier properly (and carefully) set up to the art handlers and shippers who regularly move items worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, and do so with the skill of brain surgeons. In the same moment the elegant and unflappable show director strolls by saying hello with the publicists who are arranging CNN's engagement opening night…
GEOFF: Glamorous, sure, but down and dirty at the same time.
SCOUT: Obviously, discretion is key in your business. How hard is it to stay mum on some of the things you see/people you meet?
GEOFF: It's about keeping the personalities out of it and the focus on the object of desire.
SCOUT: It's a bit strange asking you right now, as you're doing business in New York for the next few days, but what's the best thing about operating your gallery in DC?
GEOFF: Its proximity to New York! *laughing*
MAUREEN: But seriously, DC is a beautiful city to live in, and we're able to live a quiet, sweet and easy family life and commute regularly to New York for business. We are parents to two boys, 11 and 13, and it's nice to have lots of sky, lovely parks and museums around. DC is a truly diverse and international city.
SCOUT: On to the juicy stuff. What's your favorite piece you own?
MAUREEN: I love our early Gustav Stickley leather-top game table. It's a muscular piece that testifies to a jubilant past, with faded glass ring stains from some decades before. I also like our Tiffany Studios floor lamp, which owns a rare blood-red band of turtleback tiles on the shade, set against a rich amber-red geometric field on a heavy carved bronze base.
GEOFF: I'm an admirer of Pop Art. I find our Alan D'Archangelo painting, "Moon Rise" very appealing.
SCOUT: Yowza. I hate my IKEA lamp so much more now... Moving on, though, so when you're dealing with such high-end art, how hard is it to sell? I feel like I'd be tempted to keep everything...
GEOFF: Sometimes we live with pieces for a few years, and there's a natural time we're ready to let them go -- almost like teenagers! (*laughing*) But no, some pieces seem to have an internal bio-clock and it's time to move on, other pieces may carry more emotional weight, it just doesn't work any longer as living dynamics shift. But we'll hang on to things until the right "home" comes along.
MAUREEN: It's true. There have been occasions when Geoff has walked from a deal because a buyer didn't appreciate the piece's unique place in the universe. We're like the Humane Society of decorative arts, ensuring a good and proper home. Of course, we have a number of pieces that we will simply never part with at any price.
SCOUT: While your house is a veritable museum, when you want to admire art that's not your own, where do you go?
MAUREEN: Homes of other art and antiquities dealers are always interesting. And we also try to get to Europe a lot, and in recent years Asia [Ed. note: the Geoffrey Diner Gallery most recently exhibited at Art Fair Asia in Hong Kong]. I find inspiration in boutique hotel lobbies, restaurants, private homes and other every day places that are often more enriching than a museum. But that's how I travel, Geoff has a more intellectual process in appreciating other art.
SCOUT: Speaking of museums, what is the last great exhibit you saw in DC?
GEOFF: I really liked the Yves Klein exhibit at the Hirshhorn. It was such a rare assemblage of his work and pretty comprehensive.
MAUREEN: The Andy Warhol exhibit at the National Gallery.
SCOUT: What are your favorite non-art-related spots around town?
MAUREEN: The bar at Nora is a convenient, warm place where we slip out to at least every couple of weeks. We've been in the neighborhood since the '80s, and the maitre d' is a good friend. We also like Kaz Sushi Bistro, Sette and Zaytinya for family outings. Geoff and I like Rasika but we're rarely organized enough to get a res. Martin's Tavern is always fun, too. There are a lot of great places.
GEOFF: We also like jazz, so we hit Bohemian Caverns or Blues Alley as much as we can.
To find out more about the Diners and their business, follow them and all the happenings in their gallery on Facebook and Twitter.
In the spirit of full disclosure, your Scoutmob editor works as a part-time gallerist at the Geoffrey Diner Gallery.