“I learned on my own to frame,” says Bentley, “I especially like finding mid-century frames at the flea market. The biggest piece of art I have above the sofa is by an artist from Tulum, Mexico named Enrique Diaz.
Photo: Courtesy of Larry Bentley
I first met Larry Bentley in the late 1990s, when he was Director and Maitre D of the Members’ Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I had no idea that he was himself an artist until recently. To be fair, he didn’t know it either: he knew he could draw, but he had never tried to paint – “not even paint by numbers,” he laughed to me, after I spoke to him. asked to send photographs of downtown. One bedroom apartment in Harlem where he has lived for 20 years.
Bentley grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, where he played the violin and wanted a life in the arts. He studied architecture at Ohio State University before moving to New York City, where he lived in the East Village before Harlem.
Bentley was working at Sotheby’s as a customer service representative when the pandemic hit. “I knew I was going to be on leave,” he recalls. He decided to use his free time to learn to paint. “I was just thinking about going to Michaels and Blick Art and getting some supplies after going online and researching the best canvas and acrylic paints and brushes. I told myself that if I was wrong, no one would know because I didn’t tell anyone what I was going to do: If I’m wrong, I’ll keep trying.“He’s back at Sotheby’s now.
If his color-block abstractions have an air of the 50s, it is because he is fascinated by this era. “The inspiration for my work,” says Bentley, “comes from my love for everything mid-century modern and for the great artists of that period. “
This also extends to its decor. “Most of my furniture is from the middle of the century,” he says. “My first main purchase when I moved into the apartment was the Barcelona chair and ottoman. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted one.
Now, typically, his dining table groans under his painting supplies – as he puts it, “My dining table hasn’t seen dinner in over a year.” But he recently hosted an open studio event in his apartment, where he sold seven of his paintings. He also sells his work on consignment to Belkind Bigi in Tarrytown.