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2014 Award of Distinction Recipients

Gallery Owners, Cham­pi­ons of Studio Furni­ture and Makers

The Furni­ture Society proudly bestowed its coveted 2014 Award of Distinc­tion upon Warren and Bebe Johnson. Their award was presented at a luncheon cere­mony on June 21, 2014 during the Furni­ture Society’s confer­ence in Port Towsend, WA.

Bebe & Warren Johnson

Notes from Andrew Glasgow, past Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Furni­ture Society and the Amer­i­can Craft Council, about this year’s honorees:

The dynamic duo being recog­nized with this year’s Furni­ture Society Award of Distinc­tion is the imitable Bebe Pritam Johnson and Warren Eames Johnson. I think it is safe to say that without Bebe and Warren it is unlikely that there would be a Furni­ture Society as we know it. I know I would have never been on the radar without Bebe’s encour­age­ment. I owe her a great deal.

Most of us know Bebe and Warren as the thought­ful, careful, and inten­tional owners of Pritam & Eames, the nation’s premier gallery for Studio Furni­ture. One wonders, however, what brought them to this point.

Warren and Bebe both studied philos­o­phy early in their acad­e­mic career. After receiv­ing her Master’s degree in Commu­ni­ca­tions from Boston Univer­sity, Bebe would begin her real-world career and become Direc­tor, Asian Program Oper­a­tions at the Council on Inter­na­tional Educa­tional Exchange in New York. Warren studied law and received a LLB from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois, and pursued grad­u­ate econom­ics at MIT. His career took a turn, however, when the John­sons moved to New York, and he ended up study­ing film at Colum­bia Univer­sity where he received an MFA. Warren co-authored a book on film produc­tion, taught film at various insti­tu­tions includ­ing Colum­bia, and was cameraman/​editor on a number of inter­na­tion­ally based docu­men­taries. After an inter­est­ing and success­ful decade, Warren and Bebe decided it was time for a change.

So, follow­ing the likes of De Kooning, Pollack and Larsen, they decamped to East Hampton, a bit before the glit­terati of the 80s and 90s and, in another turn of career, carved out a life dedi­cated to craft: educat­ing and offer­ing to the public a retail oppor­tu­nity, a public that sought them out in an historic old laundry build­ing in East Hampton that became Pritam & Eames. For the last 33 years, Pritam & Eames has existed, both power­fully and quietly, out in Long Island for a very appreciative public.

Bebe and Warren were not satis­fied with just selling the best studio furni­ture, they were also ambi­tious to contribute to the growing body of liter­a­ture about this deco­ra­tive arts field. This ambi­tion led to conver­sa­tions with makers and other intel­li­gent aficiona­dos that resulted in the publi­ca­tion of their book, Speak­ing of Furni­ture: Conver­sa­tions with 14 Amer­i­can Masters [The Artist Book Foun­da­tion, 2013].

Person­ally, I can’t imagine anyone more deserv­ing of the Award of Distinc­tion than Bebe Pritam Johnson and Warren Eames Johnson. They built and crafted a busi­ness that has sustained them, given a boost to grate­ful makers, and played an impor­tant part in build­ing the dialogue that under­pins today’s studio furniture movement.