Art Deco in Oakland
By Matthew S. Bajko
With the opening this weekend of his new store on Grand Avenue, Art Deco Collection.com, Richard Fishman blends e-commerce with a more traditional retail ambiance. After four years of doing business over the Internet, Fishman decided to open a brick-and-mortor base. “Having an art deco store in Oakland is an especially good fit. So many of the neighborhoods and homes were built in the 1920’s,” said Fishman, who lives in the deco-era Bellevue-Staten landmark apartment building on Bellevue Avenue, constructed in 1928. “Piedmont, Montclair, Crocker Highland and the Grand Lake all have a ‘20’s point of view.” Many of Oakland’s most famous structures are examples of art deco architecture, including the Paramount Theater and I. Magnin Building on Broadway, and the Oakland Floral Depot on Telegraph Avenue. Art deco thrived from 1925 to 1948 and impacted not only home design, but fashion, dance, automobiles and film. Artists and designers took the floral patters dominant in Victorian style and slowly eliminated the curve, eventually emphasizing straight lines, said Fishman. “It becomes more streamlined and more modern,” said Fishman. “There are five different movements in art deco. In Germany you had the Bauhaus, which was very austere and had a streamlined design direction. It isn’t like the voluptuousness and elegance of French art deco.” Other influences on the style included cubism and modernism with American art deco differing slightly from its European counterpart. Over the last 16 years, Fishman has developed his expertise in the field of art deco collecting. A member of the Art Deco Society of California, Fishman has received an Art Deco Preservation Award from group for his work. Traveling throughout Europe to find his pieces, Fishman attends antique fairs each year and searches out new shops and collectors of art deco pieces. His store’s furniture lighting, ceramics and cocktail accessories come from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Germany and the Czech Republic. “All of it is restored like new but original,” he said. With a set of 1930’s sofa chairs priced at $2800, the store is not for the casual buyer. But Fishman said his prices are comparable to those of new furniture. And he guarantees the merchandise is authentic. “After working with this merchandise you do develop a sense of touch and feel,” he said of determining if a piece is genuine art deco. “I use a lot of my contacts to get a second opinion.” His love of the design goes beyond adding a touch of art deco glamour to a living room. Taking on the persona of “Mr. Rick,”Fishman also hosts the social group Mr. Rick’s Martini Club, which presents supper club swing dances throughout the year, and performs in The Martini Brothers Swing Band. Most of the dinner-dances are held at the Lake Merritt Hotel. “It’s (the hotel) from the 1920’s and they just restored it to its art deco grandeur,” said Laurie Gordon, who me Fishman through the Art Deco Society and helps organize the swing dances.