“Getting pieces back that we sold twenty years ago is rewarding and a reminder that good wood endures.”
Identify what doesn’t belong:
a Sheraton secretaire, a gilded ceramic pillow, a Lingam stone, a Chippendale chest of drawers, a contemporary monoprint. There is no right answer because there is no wrong thing. All of the above are embraced by Gerald Bland, a dealer and collector who cares about provenance but is guided above all else by quality, style and form.
Carved lines branch off aloNg the walnut arm of chair.
Gerald reflected in a georgian walnut and parcel gilt mirror, c. 1740.
Like the “overnight sensation” actor who has in fact been plying his trade for decades, Gerald’s keen eye and instinct have been molded by years of looking and learning.
They are what inform his discerning yet unpretentious approach to the furniture, objects and art he acquires for his Upper East Side gallery, where his daughter Georgiana works as Gallery Director and which he shares with his sister, decorator Connie Newberry, who first turned us onto Gerald’s talents.

The gallery, a series of welcoming sunny rooms on the top floor of the Fine Arts Building arranged just haphazardly enough to feel residential, reveals treasure after treasure, from the obvious (a Grinling Gibbons limewood console) to the sly (steel tables of his own design). Gerald is a decorative arts DJ, a mixmaster of the antique and modern who makes bridging the two seamless and current. Just as he adores a fine Regency pair of benches by George Bullock, he embraces contemporary talent like Eve Kaplan, whose baroque ceramic pieces lend an exotic glamour.
Gerald’s sharp sense of proportion and finish makes him a recombinant wizard with furniture,
adding bases and tops to existing antique elements, tinkering with gilding to make it softer and more modern, lacquering a set of chairs in an unexpected color. Beyond the inventory, though, it’s his low-key manner—a charming blend of Southern heritage, muted erudition, curiosity and humor—that equip him to influence the influential, to provide the perfect missing piece for renowned decorators and to handle furnishing reconfigurations for private clients always in the midst of downsizing, upsizing and cross-sizing among their multiple residences.
A tulipwood table designed and produced by Gerald.
Sinuous curves of a rococo walnut armchair, c. 1750.
Sheraton crocodile mahogany pembroke table, c. 1780, with gilded garniture by eve kaplan.
Among the cognoscenti, Gerald has been the go-to for one-of-a-kind furnishings for years.
If he doesn’t have the right piece, he’ll find it, or adapt a different one or persuade you that something you’d never considered is in fact the exact thing you should have been looking for all along. If there is indeed such a thing as normative determinism, the theory that suggests the character of a name can be determinative of one’s professional path, he defies it, because his personality, his outlook and certainly his gallery is anything but bland. 
My father’s side of the family were collectors, though I found out once I had educated myself that what they were collecting was junk. My ancestors moved to North Carolina, to a town called Turkey Swamp, from the northern neck of Virginia in 1711 and never left. My great uncle was a tobacco auctioneer who picked up antiques as he traveled around the South. He lived with his mother, and then alone after she died, in a good-sized Victorian house across the road from my grandparents. I would go over there and ramble around through mostly big empty rooms—one with a bed in it, another with just a piano. It was all really romantic—the rooms all connected by tall double doors, buckets of loose change scattered about. Over the mantle in the kitchen were water buffalo horns from the Philippines engraved with female nudes, the only thing I got from his estate. It sparked my imagination. 

I’ve always been interested in history. I had two aunts who lived in Colonial Revival houses, furnished for the most part with reproduction colonial furniture. I remember being impressed by the furniture—an early encounter with good taste. I was six. By the time I was in high school in Wilmington, I was giving tours of the historic district, usually after a night out with friends. I spent time in the local library looking up the history of Wilmington and its early 19th century buildings that supplanted 18th century ones during the economic boom just before the Civil War. Once, I organized a keg party at Oakdale cemetery. It had great monuments and tombstones and the whole thing was atmospherically draped by live oak trees.

When I was in school I worked summers on Nantucket Island. That was both enlightening—architecturally it’s such a perfectly preserved place—and fortuitous. Through meeting someone at the restaurant where I was working, I got a job at Sotheby’s which was a bit of a fluke, the classic story of someone saying, “look me up if you come to New York.”

I’d never heard of Sotheby’s, but when I got to New York, I did look him up though it was someone else who hired me. Another person I’d met on Nantucket offered me a place to stay, and I think telling Sotheby’s that my address was 1020 Fifth Avenue may have worked in my favor. They probably thought I had great contacts with things to sell.

I worked in New York from January to June and then transferred to Sotheby’s London where I stayed for a year and a half. This was an enormous eye-opener because I was seeing major things for the first time. We were appraising the contents of grand houses such as Petworth, where we found JMW Turner sketches strewn all over the attic floor which had been his studio. Sotheby’s was a true apprenticeship. Each of us in the furniture department would be assigned an area of London and sent off with nothing but a notebook. I would take notes about what I was seeing, then once back at the office would be required to stand on top of a desk in the middle of the furniture department and describe what I had seen. There was no visual documentation—I think Polaroids were just coming in then—it was in our notes and visual recollections. It was excellent training.

For the longest time I was devoted to true antiques, particularly Early Georgian furniture. It was while handling the estate of Evangeline Bruce that I realized for the first time that I didn't have to be a pure antique dealer selling only a perfectly formed chair from 1770. It could be a piece from 1930 if it had been owned by Nancy Lancaster. Several years later, Albert Hadley asked me to handle his estate. We organized an online sale and sold all of his drawings, everything, down to the pencil cup holders. This furthered the notion that again, not everything had to be pure but appropriate to its situation.

Being liberated from selling only 18th century pieces made for a softer landing when the bottom fell out of the market in 2008. I was free to mix things up, and it all became livelier and more interesting. Mid-century modern furniture was coming into vogue, which wasn’t exactly to my taste, but I found things to like, such as pieces in the Swedish Grace style. Its classical forms were compatible with the 18th century, which was our prevailing aesthetic.

So we started trying to make the antiques we were selling more relevant to that market. By putting a bit of contemporary art over a Chippendale chest of drawers, it all became more appealing to this younger generation. And then I discovered an amazing talent in our own stable. Eve Kaplan, our gilder, was making striking ceramic pieces. Now we have a full collection of her extraordinary work—mirrors, chandeliers, tables, torchères, chenet, mobiles—along with the work of many other contemporary artists.

With the pandemic, our designer clients have become more comfortable buying items only seen online. Although many still feel the need to see in situ, so the gallery remains more than relevant. The past few years have also seen many old clients relocating. Getting pieces back for resale that we sold twenty years ago is also rewarding and a reminder that good wood endures.