Visit Larry Bentley’s Harlem Apartment and Artist’s Studio

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“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.

“I love my MG Wheeler floor lamp and Walter von Nessen’s swing arm lamp. Both lamps were discarded by the Met’s Editorial Department. They had probably been there since the 1950s, ”he says. The metal sculpture between the windows was found at an auction. Bentley’s LE Smith Bittersweet collection of vases in orange crowns her bookcase by the window. “We had one in our family home when I was young, and they always remind me of home. I really like my George Nelson Bubble lamp, which I bought from Modernica in Soho along with the sofa.

Bentley found his dining table at the 36th Street flea market and spotted the dining chairs in the basement of a local Baptist church as he was donating clothing. He asked if he could buy them, and the church gave them to him instead. They were made in the 1950s by the Liberty Chair Company. The two Chinese carved wooden screens were found years ago at the 26th Street flea market.

The wall across the living room is painted orange, showcasing Bentley’s highly prized “Hoop Chair” by Ib Kofod-Larsen for Selig Furniture in Denmark. The two pieces hanging above are by Aboriginal artist Mitjili Napurrula, whose works are in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Artist James De La Vega painted Money remains rules for Bentley during a studio visit.

“The masks in the bedroom,” says Bentley, “were purchased from a dear friend, Rodney Terich Leonard, a published poet who was looking to get rid of some of the many African masks he collects.” The carved wooden shield above the bed was found in a flea market.

A self-portrait of Bentley in his home / studio / gallery.

Photographs: Courtesy of Larry Bentley

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