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Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture

January 22, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Antique Deals

Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture

In a country of junk-filled attics, yard sales, and flea markets frequented by millions of Antiques Roadshow viewers hoping to uncover a grungy chest of drawers worth millions, the Keno twins have become the Siskel and Ebert of antiques. Dapper, witty, and in their early forties (with nearly 60 years of combined experience between them), they symbolize the union of amateur enthusiasm and acute professionalism that has made their television program a cultural phenomenon. Now, in this fascinating

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3 Responses to “Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture”
  1. Paulette Jones says:
    21 of 23 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hidden Treasures Provides Double Pleasure, June 11, 2001
    By 
    Paulette Jones (Fort Worth, TX) –

    It isn’t often that one describes a book like Hidden Treasures as a “can’t put down” type of tome, but that accurately describes the sense one gets while reading this account of how two talented men, twin brothers Leigh Keno and Leslie Keno, achieved their successes in the world of antiques and collectibles. Each twin contributes his own sense of style to an easy-to-read narrative of their humble beginnings, touching on assorted “finds” and friendships that contributed to their present day status as respected authorities in the world of antiques. From the beginning chapter by Leslie Keno, describing events which will lead to the auction sale of a wonderful and extremely rare Townsend secretary, through accounts of assorted searches, penned by Leslie and brother Leigh, to the final chapter, which describes the secretary’s fate at auction, the Brothers Keno take us all over America and parts of Europe in their searches for hidden treasures. It doesn’t take an antique collector to appreciate good writing and a fascinating subject, especially when it includes a fair number of beautiful photos. Hidden Treasures, by Leigh Keno and Leslie Keno, with Joan Barzilay Freund, is destined to become a favorite page-turner.

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  2. sci fi is me "sci fi is me" says:
    33 of 39 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Frogs, snails, and puppy dog tails, November 10, 2000
    By 
    sci fi is me “sci fi is me” (San Francisco, California United States) –

    In deliberately alternating voices, twins emerge as two clear and distinct identities as they share their passion, enthusiasm, and expertise in early American furniture: Leslie Keno, the Senior Specialist and Director of Business Development for Americana at Sotheby’s, New York, and Leigh Keno, the more sensual and sanguine, independent dealer who owns and operates Leigh Keno American Antiques in New York City. Those who pick up this book and are familiar with the Kenos by way of being “Roadshow groupies” will no doubt receive a satisfying fix. However, be prepared as the brothers turn it up a notch and go well beyond the scope of the celebrity status afforded by their regular participation in the PBS series. Through the writing of Hidden Treasures, the authors have selected an adequate medium which displays and secures for the general public their highly regarded reputation in this esoteric field. Clearly that reputation has already been well established in the world of antique collecting.

    The amusing anecdotes present chronologically, allowing readers to document and measure the area under the authors’ personal and professional learning curve that eventually adds up to their deserved position in the field as scholars and experts. So, too, are the pages lush with historical and technical information, beautifully supported by photographs in color and black and white, that this contribution (however commercially publicized and marketed) becomes a serious and useful reference for those readers with a casual interest in Americana as well as those with a more active bent. Particularly fascinating are the descriptions of what may well be routine, yet painstaking, labor intensive processes to dissect and determine the history and authenticity of the furniture before them. The Kenos are eloquent, yet unashamedly enthusiastic with each piece they appraise; their approach to each table, each armchair, each highboy is with surgical precision, yet youthful excitement.

    If there is a disturbing development revealed in Hidden Treasures, it is the definite and deepening divide between the haves and the have-nots. Indeed, the situation teeters on the ridiculous and surreal when the authors relive the moment a polo-playing businessman plunks down over half a million dollars for a card table, in part because his supermodel wife shares the same last name with the Boston cabinetmakers responsible for creating the piece. Still, perhaps because that gap is so profoundly etched, we can stand behind our soul brothers and sisters in their ability to appreciate beauty and preserve a heritage manifested in craftsmanship (as long as they don’t begrudge us the joy of a recent home furnishings purchase from Target). Unfortunate, too, is the behind-the-scenes look at Antiques Roadshow itself. It is not so much that the onscreen results and reactions are not spontaneous, for they are. The disappointment lies more in the amount of manipulation that occurs with each show’s production.

    The unexpected treasure, however, is revealed in the early pages of the book where the authors allow a glimpse into their own childhood and early love for antiques. Photographs of pages from their shared pre-teen/teen diary document not only their progress to becoming antique dealers but serves as an eerie forecast of the future. The effect is simply charming, yet powerful.

    That the Kenos are able to recapture those moments of magic found in a child’s world of discovery becomes at once a gift of retrospection, introspection, and revelation particularly for anyone in the throes of parenthood. It’s not an unfamiliar battle deciding whether to invest in a child’s latest interest-Is it a fleeting (sometimes-expensive) fancy or a potential lifelong passion? Whatever and however we respond, this is in fact a calling of parents in life: to either fan or extinguish the burgeoning flame of an interest in our children. It is this subtle component of the Kenos’ book that is surprisingly the most compelling. Although possibly written to inspire a trip to the basement or attic, wonderfully, Hidden Treasures has the charm and power to lure readers down another path that may lead to gold if they are able to recognize what truly glitters.

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  3. RJB says:
    19 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    For The Love of Old American Things, October 26, 2000
    By 
    RJB (Roseville, CA USA) –

    “Hidden Treasures” is a friend for anyone whose pulse has ever reacted to the sight of a grand piece of antique furniture. For those who have ever become breathless or teary-eyed over fruniture, it should be required reading. The most appreciated surprise of “Hidden Treasures” is how generous the Kenos are with their knowledge — reading this book is almost like being enrolled in an advanced course in American furniture complete with field trips and historic background. There’s even a textbook like glossary for quick reference to terms.

    The world of the Keno brothers is one of extreme privilege and yet, as we travel from their modest and nurturing childhood to the decisive playgrounds of the wealthy — Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and the Winter Antiques Show — we feel welcome, if not at home. That is, perhaps, the most endearing charm of these identical gentlemen — they are seemly unaffected by their palacial world — driven primarily by their passion for historic masterpieces of American furniture and a childlike enthusiasm for the hunt. The honesty and power of their passion ignites every page of their book as it does everyday of their lives. And, it is so infectious that many will be inspired to begin plotting their first five, six, seven, or eight-figure purchase of Americana.

    My only slight disappointment was with some of the writing. The masterful talent of Thatcher Freund, author of “Objects of Desire” could have been put to good use on this project. I only wish he would have been part of the team. Then, the book would have been perfect — an American Masterpiece.

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