The Cary Collection: The Dandy Edit

Thomas Cary of The Cary Collection, NYC, Nov 2012

As a photographer I have to rely on my instincts to guide me in split seconds.  Sometimes I don't even know consciously what I'm looking at.  And upon editing I can finally see what was actually there, what my eye found interesting.  In the case of The Cary Collection you see documented here, the hour or two I spent went by in a flash, and I felt like I barely had a chance to look.  So much to take in!  But now we can look as along as we please, and if you could blow up these photos to full size you would get lost in the details.

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Mr. Cary tells me he was a "passionate and precocious" collector from an early age, and attributes his interest in aesthetic things to his late father, who was an avid art collector, and served on the board of The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, where Mr. Cary grew up.  His mother, as well, was a collector of classic English furniture and antiques.  He remembers their lavish cocktail and dinner parties:  "My parents had a fabulous coterie of colourful friends whom I strived to emulate both sartorially as well as how graciously they lived in their glamourous surroundings"

While growing up he became enamored of old Brooks Brother's catalogues and Esquire Magazines, and equally influenced by mod TV shows of the day like The Avengers and The Persuaders.  Young Thomas fashioned his bedroom after John Steed's London bachelor flat, and even considered attending butler school in London to become a private butler in a UK estate household, because he "loved the regal concept".  However,  it seems the dreams of an exciting life as a butler were short-lived…but can you imagine?

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I knew partly what to expect, because of articles and great photographs already made by Unabashedly Prep, Fine Young Gentleman, etc. over the last few years.  Still…it was quite an experience to be in the space surrounded with bright saturated wonderful things, but hardly being able to move.  I actually got a light in there, not sure how (?!?).  And then the stories!  I'm a big fan of anecdotes, and Mr. Cary did not disappoint;  he had the history and provenance for all pieces available at an instant, I assume without effort.   He is as delightfully eccentric as his collection.   If you know The Dandy Portraits, you will know this is the real reason I went.

There was no way he was going to miss the opportunity presented by a chance encounter with Sir Sean Connery on the streets of Manhattan.

Cary custom mats and frames most of his artwork to give it his own look.

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Thomas Cary has a collection that seems to know no end.  But it is saved from being "hoarding" by being such an incredible wonderland of pinpointed Americana.  It is the America of New England WASP culture and symbolism, sailing, thoroughbreds, Newport estates, Ivy League insignias, prime 20th century New York City nightlife and social diary, bachelor pad cocktail culture, 21 Club artifacts, lawn jockey lamps, all awash in go-to-hell preppy colors.   Mr. Cary has a point of view, a color palette, and it evokes a time and place, creating a powerful nostalgia.

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For Mr. Cary, the collection is obviously an obsession (and perhaps his own work of art?), but the collection is also his business.  He sells by appointment, and at select retailers, such as Bergdorf Goodman.  The Cary Collection now encompasses 15,000 rare books, 700 works of art, and 1,200 pieces of vintage objects, many of which are now accessible on their just launched global website:

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