A new exhibit at LSU Museum combines the pop art of Hunt Slonem with centuries-old antiques.
“Contrasting pieces in a room, such as Antebellum antiques and pop art prints, can achieve a number of different things aesthetically, but most importantly, I find it truly allows someone to express their own personality through their home,” says M.S. Rau Antiques CEO Bill Rau. “And this exhibition really does give us a glimpse into one of the most fascinating artistic personalities today — Hunt Slonem.”
Known for his bird, bunny and butterfly paintings, which are collected by celebrities like Sharon Stone, Kate Hudson and Julianne Moore, Slonem studied at both Vanderbilt and Tulane before moving to New York City in 1973. Much of his work is inspired by exotic locales like Hawaii and Nicaragua, both places he spent time while growing up, but Louisiana’s own tropical setting speaks to him as well.
Slonem owns two Louisiana plantation homes, and it’s these restoration and design projects that are the focus of a new exhibit at the LSU Museum in Baton Rouge’s Shaw Center. “Antebellum Pop!” is a recreation of Slonem’s plantation aesthetic, pairing his work with $2 million in antiques and decor from M.S. Rau, located on Royal Street in the New Orleans French Quarter.
M.S. Rau has contributed pieces like a circa 1840 American Rococo Revival étagère from Rosedown Plantation, one of the grandest Antebellum homes in Louisiana, a crystal and doré bronze 24-light chandelier by Baccarat dating to 1880 and a circa 1820 English mahogany pedestal dining table that can seat up to 32 people.
“Antebellum Pop is just one iteration of a trend we have seen recently develop in interior design,” explains Rau. “Whether that means mixing time periods, or just mixing styles or textures, we’re seeing a more eclectic approach than ever before.”
M.S. Rau has loaned and donated works to museums in the past, but never on this scale.
“The idea was to discuss what I’ve been doing for the last 14 years, which is renovating two plantation houses in Louisiana, combining bright colors on the walls and the bright colors in my work with antebellum furniture, changing the fabrics on the furniture and pumping new life and my sensibilities into these 1830s plantation houses,” Slonem says.
He upholstered many of his own pieces of furniture to complement the pieces from M.S. Rau, as images from his paintings are now available on fabric, wallpaper and carpet from Groundworks by Lee Jofa. And Interior Designer Ellen Kennon even created special paint colors like “Antebellum Violet” and “Lakeside Napoleon” for the exhibit.
“The colors used in my houses were used in those days, but now perhaps with my exaggerated point of view,” Slonem adds. “And the repetition is of the time, the way in my work I repeat birds, butterflies, bunnies.”
Slonem’s plantations include Albania, built in 1830 in Jeanerette on the Bayou Teche, and Lakeside in Point Coupee Parish. Albania was built by Charles Grevemberg and purchased by Isaac Delgado after the turn of the 20th century. He used the sugar money from the crops grown on the land to build what was then called the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, now the New Orleans Museum of Art. The land for Lakeside was given to the Marquis de Lafayette by Thomas Jefferson. Both plantations function as private homes, with Lakeside still under renovation, so the best way to experience the interior world of Hunt Slonem is to take a walk through “Antebellum Pop!”
“Playful and fun and rare antiques don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” says Rau. “Fresh, contemporary pieces like Hunt’s work can breathe new life into an antique and make them feel all the more dynamic. Every piece has a story, whether it’s one of our rare Rococo Revival étagères or one of Hunt’s fascinating prints. When you bring the two together, you achieve an engaging dialogue between the old and the new.”
Antebellum Pop! is on display through August 5 at the LSU Museum.
Photos courtesy of Interior Designer Ellen Kennon. See more from the exhibit opening here.