Adam Blackman and David Cruz started design gallery Blackman Cruz in 1993 in Los Angeles, and it quickly became the go-to destination for exceptional antiques and contemporary design. Now a new book titled Beauty & Mischief: The Design Alchemy of Blackman Cruz and published by Cameron Books, chronicles the gallery’s history and its founders’ dramatic approach to furniture and objects.
‘We’re merchants. We’re life enhancers,’ reads the gallery’s mission statement. ‘We hope our scope is diverse enough to tickle, intrigue and stimulate people’s sense of place and history. And maybe incite a laugh. We hope our choices provide an investigation of our moment in time and give a certain relevance in this confusing scenario we all find ourselves in.’
Blackman Cruz: 30 years of exceptional design
The tome opens with a foreword by television writer, director and producer Ryan Murphy, for whom Blackman Cruz has provided ‘a crash course not just in style and décor, but in history’. Murphy admits arriving in LA in the late 1980s with a teal love seat from Ikea as his only piece of furniture, and finding in the gallery a treasure trove of discoveries and design information.
‘Their curiosity was infectious,’ he writes. ‘I vividly remember Adam patiently leading me around and answering all my questions. And there were many. David would later do the same.
‘These partners in crime have very different styles, but that is the joy of their store,’ continues Murphy. ‘In the Blackman Cruz world, everything is an exuberant mix. Their wondrous eye taught me how to furnish an interior. My first purchase was a doozy I couldn’t afford at the time, but I bought it anyway – a 1940s Italian chair upholstered in chartreuse linen.’
The duo’s eclectic approach to design led them to curate an edit that reflects their diverse experience (Blackman started out in auctions, while Cruz’s background lies in illustration and art direction), and that has served well anyone looking for the unusual and the exceptional.
A strong emphasis on playfulness and entertaining has pervaded the gallery’s offering since the start: its selection includes zoomorphic and anthropomorphic artefacts aplenty, furniture from Al Capone’s retreat, and rare creations from history’s most celebrated makers. It covers all eras (you’ll easily find the base of a Roman-era Carrara marble statue next to 1970s chrome-plated high-backed chairs) and the selection includes the raw and handmade next to sleek, modern creations –with something unexpected regularly mixed in.
‘The most indelible lesson that Blackman Cruz – both the store and the men – taught me is that authentic taste should be a combination of styles and things you love,’ Murphy points out.’ Not everything has to match. The best interiors thrive on this tension. The joy and the fun of living comes from mixing styles, obsessions, and interests.’
Murphy admits that the gallery has become part of his everyday life and has played a crucial role for him. ‘Blackman Cruz is now part of my history and the first place I visit when I furnish a home. It’s personal – my three children have grown up around objects and furniture that Adam and David seemingly curated just for me. The beauty, oddity, and specialness of these items have launched many family conversation.’
At home, his treasures from the gallery include a pair of gigantic caryatid goddesses from the 1860s, stained-glass lights in the shape of skyscrapers by Adam Kurtzman, a pair of iguana-shaped brass and enamel door handles by the Mexican designer Pepe Mendoza – and the list goes on.
‘Blackman Cruz is and always has been one of the best places not just in Los Angeles, but in the entire world,’ concludes Murphy. ‘Their passion informs and inspires anyone and everyone who is lucky enough to wander into their wonderful showroom, as I did decades ago.’
‘Beauty & Mischief: The Design Alchemy of Blackman Cruz’ is published by Cameron Books