It is the type of late summer day for which New York is well-known: hazy, sweaty, damp. Anthony Sperduti and Andy Spade, the founders and creative directors of Partners & Spade, are dressed in well-cut shirts that have rumpled slightly from their morning activity as curators and creators. We meet at the Bowery Bar and settle into a trio of wicker chairs at one corner of the patio. Waris Ahluwalia, the jewelry designer and Wes Anderson favorite, has been holding court in the opposite corner of the space, and friendly waves are exchanged. "This is our de facto office," Spade explains. Behind us and framed by an iron fence stretches a tangle of greenery which Sperduti explains is "the oldest non-sectarian cemetery in the city." They still bury people there, he says. The grass is lovely.
Spade and Sperduti met in the early 1990s when they worked together at an advertising agency and established their namesake storefront and studio in 2008. Partners & Spade is a high-ceilinged space on Great Jones Street, with white-painted brick walls that provide a clean canvas for the objects that dangle, perch hang and otherwise occupy the room. On weekends, the store is open to the public as a shop-cum-gallery. On other days it functions as a creative laboratory for films, books, clothes and various unclassifiables.
The productivity of the outfit brings to mind several metaphors: a Dickensian blacking factory, field mouse breeding habits, a U.S. mint. There seem to be a million projects in motion at all times: a line of books centered on Sperduti and Spade's found photography and produced in collaboration with HarperCollins, a ping-pong tournament featuring such competitors as Terry Richardson, the Avant Garde Preschool which occurs every Sunday at the store— wherein an artist or architect shares his craft with 20 toddlers— and many more.
As Sperduti and Spade detail their present and future escapades, a Bowery Bar waiter appears with a tray of tangerine-colored drinks. "From the gentleman in the corner," the waiter explains. Waris, sitting fifteen feet away, grins in our direction. The waiter sets the drinks upon the table with a handwritten note.
"Thank you, Waris," Sperduti calls over. "What is this?" asks Spade, lifting his drink. "The Waris," Waris says. We drink, and it is delicious.
Back at the storefront, Sperduti takes me on a tour. There are hand-painted axes by Best Made and a lush green terrarium built by garden designer Lindsey Taylor and
contained inside a glass box. "The terrarium is completely self-sustaining," Sperduti tells me. We pause for a moment to take in the tableau of rolling moss, ferns and a single pale-green orchid. There's a rumor floating that Brad Pitt is interested in acquiring a similar piece.
We move on to a set of decorated arrows (not poison-tipped, Sperduti clarifies) and a doorknob shaped like an egg by the designer Ted Muehling. Custom-made bongs by Mark Borthwick line more than one shelf and Sperduti notes that "there was a joint in that display, but someone came in and smoked it." A drawer slides open to reveal threeASFOUR silk dog leashes. A person could spend hours poking around the store, uncovering the provenance and use of each well-chosen component.
A ten-foot long table in the back of the space functions as a worktable for Sperduti, Spade, and whoever else has popped in to collaborate on a given day. "It's very communal," Spade explains. "We all work here and it's always cluttered with books, DVDs, laptops and half-eaten sandwiches." Directly overlooking the table is a neon fixed-gear bicycle by the artist Benedict Radcliffe. Mounted on the wall, the bike functions as a refreshing alternative to the traditional moose head.
Images from Sperduti and Spade's found photo collections are also displayed along the walls, and a group of Star Wars puppets dangles menacingly from the ceiling. The puppets are impressionistic—Princess Leia strongly resembles the actor Elliott Gould—and this seems to be the root of Sperduti's attraction to it. "You can tell by Chewbacca's face that he's in despair about how furry he is," Sperduti points out. This seems to be true.
When I ask the duo what's next for Partners & Spade, they exchange a meaningful look. To pose the question, it turns out, is to invite a landslide of announcements that are individually intriguing and mind-boggling in the aggregate. "We're having a group show!" Spade begins, reeling off a few of the participants: "Tim Barber, Gordon Hull, Michael Schmelling, ceramics by Victoria Morris, cakes by Will Cotton—he'll make those in the store—guerilla bake sales by Treat Street..." Spade pauses for breath. I take the opportunity to ask him for the name of the show. "The name? No name," Spade replies.
"No theme," Sperduti adds. They nod in agreement. "We like things to be organic."