Video: Collectors Collect – Patrick Parrish’s Mid-Century Obsession
Watchonista’s next installment of our ongoing Collectors Collect video series focuses on mid-century gallerist Patrick Parrish, who says: “I find that anyone who is interested in design is also interested in watches.” And as an avid watch collector himself, he’s opened an in-the-know timepiece speakeasy in his TriBeCa exhibition space to continue the conversation.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and educated in South Florida, Patrick Parrish originally envisioned a career as a photographer and photography educator. A stint in graduate school in Chicago, however, not only set him on the path of curating and selling examples of mid-century and mid-century-inspired design, but also on the path of watch collecting.
So, with a photographer’s eye toward curation, he began working as a “picker” in the design industry. A kind of romantic nomad’s existence, pickers travel around the country and glean notable decor and design pieces from smaller stores, estate sales, private collections, flea markets, and even yard sales and selling them to larger boutiques specializing in selling the genre of design behind those pieces.
The Store is the Scene
“Being a picker, you have freedom,” he says. “But the lifestyle can be pretty hand-to-mouth.” Often Parrish sold his finds to established dealers in Manhattan, and when he saw the revenues possible from a traditional retail sales location, “We thought, well, this might help pay part of the rent better.”
Opening his first boutique in Chelsea during the early days of the new century, Parrish is now at his third location in Manhattan: The Patrick Parrish Gallery at 50 Lispenard Street in the fashionable TriBeCa neighborhood. The high-ceiling upstairs area of the gallery hosts six to eight art shows a year, and Parrish prides himself on offering first-time Manhattan exposure to up-and-coming artists.
When Team Watchonista filmed there, he was featuring the first New York solo show for Rotterdam-based artist and industrial designer Bertjan Pot, who explores the elements of masks and lighting in his work.
Downstairs is a dynamic, changing space that is part mid-century showroom, part exhibition and object storage that shows off Parrish’s eye in terms of decor. Between the downstairs area and the gallery’s website, you will see examples of vintage design – like a Gaetano Sciolari lamp or a selection of brass and wood objects by Carl Auböck – curated alongside contemporary pieces, like RO/LU plywood seating and outsider folk art objects.
And with everything there is to look at, you might not notice that behind the opaque rear wall of the downstairs gallery lies a sun-filled spot Parrish calls the “secret watch shop.”
Ssssh, It’s a Secret
Open by appointment only, #secretwatchshop is an outgrowth of Parrish’s timepiece fandom, which also began in earnest during his graduate school days in Chicago. The name came from early discussions with his family when his young son said, “Daddy, it sounds like we’re going to open up a secret watch store!”
He is not the first person we’ve met who has experienced the Accutron Astronaut watch as a gateway drug, but that is where it started for Parrish: “Just so futuristic, the whole ‘no crown’ design...I finally picked one up at Brimfield [a legendary mega-flea market/antique show event in Massachusetts] in the late 1990s/early 2000s.” The Accutron purchase led to his collecting more space-related watches, then timepieces associated with flight, racing, and diving, with a focus on GMT complications.
If you want a look behind the wall of the #secretwatchshop to cap off a visit viewing the extraordinary art and design objects on display, then we encourage you to contact the gallery directly. And, as far as we know, there is no official password.
(Photography & video by Watchonista)