An iconic group of modernist furniture made in the 1930s by Gane’s of Bristol was saved for Bristol in July 2011 by the Gane Trust, through the prompt action of its chairman, Ken Stradling. The former Managing Director of the Bristol Guild, he spotted the pieces were coming up to auction in Nottingham with a week to go, and realised their huge significance. The phones were jammed solid with excited collectors, so he sent a representative who outbid all the phone bidders to bring the pieces home to Bristol at a staggering £21,000 – seizing a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What made these three pieces so special? Mr. Stradling had realised that the simple-looking desk had actually been designed by an internationally famous Modernist architect, Marcel Breuer, a leading figure at the pioneering Bauhaus art school between the Wars. What’s more, this very one had figured in all the major publicity shots in the 1930s, when this Bristol firm was a leading modern design business, run by the eccentric enthusiast, Crofton Gane. Equally exciting was a small nondescript looking black bookcase, which was actually the missing end to Crofton Gane’s very own desk. Mr Stradling had already acquired the desk for his own collection of modern art and design – the desk from which much of Crofton Gane’s avant garde furniture business was organised, at Downs Park West in Clifton. Modern design enthusiasts will have already have learnt about the connection with Breuer from the 2011 exhibition Breuer in Bristol at the Bristol Architecture Centre.

Now the pieces have been redelivered to Bristol, the desk has been reunited, and they are on show after restoration with a neat little table and several other Gane pieces at the Stradling Collection in Park Row. The Collection has been built up over 60 years since Mr Stradling’s arrival at the Guild in 1949 and contains a wealth of cutting edge design, decorative art and craft pieces from the Festival of Britain to today. It is open to anyone by appointment : telephone 0117 926 5548.

Picture: Kevin White, Chairman of the Design and Industries Association discusses the piece with Ken Stradling.

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