PaperCity Magazine

December 2016 - Dallas

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68 I 'm lost in the moment: Where is Horst P. Horst when you need him? In 1969, the photographer famously captured Pauline de Rothschild inside her Paris apartment for Vogue, looking out from a secret jib door in a room wrapped in Chinoiserie paper. This could be Betty Gertz. Twenty-one years ago when Gertz moved her shop East & Orient from its longtime location on Henderson Avenue to the Dallas Design District, Slocum Street was a desolate landscape of empty warehouses peppered with antiques stores. As longtime showroom director John Bray remembers, an 18-wheeler full of rarified furnishings and objects pulled up to the forlorn 18,000-square-foot building and began unloading — 11 more truckloads of treasures followed throughout the night. Because the building had no facade, workers hastily hammered together a plywood wall. Over time, Gertz turned the bleak space into a magical emporium reminiscent of the ornate antiques shops in Asia and Europe she frequented while traveling with her husband, oilman Bud Gertz. A massive exterior wall, now obscured in fig ivy, leads from the street to an interior courtyard lush with vines and potted ornamental orange trees; it's hard to imagine this beautiful space had once been the loading dock. D aylight is fading quickly on this late afternoon in November, and a light rain has puddled in the courtyard and sagged the orange trees' withering branches. For a minute, I think about the former tangled, abandoned foliage at Grey Gardens before Jacqueline Onassis intervened, and wonder what will become of this wonderful place once it's sold. To the right, there's a small window looking into Gertz's private office, glowing with lamplight. The carved front door is locked, and the heavy iron knocker slams against the wood like an ancient anvil as I raise and drop it. I'm led inside by Liane H. LaBarba (a Gertz family friend and temporary employee), and past the monumental Chinese cloisonné cisterns and Blanc de Chine figures and lavishly appointed rooms full of antique English, French, Italian, Russian and Asian antiques — all more reminiscent of a chateau in France or a villa in Italy than a store in Dallas. LaBarba has been hired by Gertz to help prepare the showroom's inventory for auction on December 10, and a small army of Heritage Auctions employees has been tagging and cataloging more than a thousand pieces for the past two months since Gertz stunningly announced the closure of the business she founded in 1979. I've been asked to wait for Gertz in the library, a rich claret-hued room redolent of musty old leather. The walls are ensconced in leather "books by the meter," which Bray explains were custom made in England in the 1980s for the former Henderson Avenue location, and later installed in this room. As we talk, a wedge of light gleams from behind a book- covered panel in the wall, and within the widening illumination, a wisp of a woman emerges. It's Gertz, dressed in a tailored black pantsuit and gold necklace, coming out of her office, which is hidden behind one wall of faux books. She stands in the doorway looking out, and cheerfully says hello. "My friend in Hong Kong had an office with a hidden door, and I was enchanted by that, so I wanted one, too," Gertz tells me as we go inside. "The only difference is my friend could escape without anyone knowing, into his office, but everyone knows where mine is." Gertz's private domain is filled with favorite pieces, including a rare pair of mounted antique narwhal tusks, a tiny antique carved ivory elephant, a 19th-century Korean tiger scroll, and a William and Mary chest with hidden drawers and compartments, which she uses for her personal filing. Her desk chair is 19th-century, painted Louis XV style, purchased decades ago from LESSONS BREATHING BY REBECCA SHERMAN PHOTOGRAPHY SHAYNA FONTANA INSIDE A HIDDEN ROOM OF ANTIQUARIAN BETTY GERTZ' LEGENDARY STORE, EAST & ORIENT, ON THE EVE OF ITS DISMANTLING FOR AUCTION Betty Gertz' office, hidden behind a wall of faux books.

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