CATOR SPARKS INTERVIEWS JUSTIN GIUNTA IN HIS MANHATTAN HOME
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TREVOR TONDRO
We all know the baroque and bling-ridden pieces that have shot Justin Giunta into
accessories stardom and created copycats galore. But this Renaissance man has a
lot more under his sleeve than baubles, bangles and a devil may care attitude.
His home is an exotic landscape of his own massive paintings and jewelry scattered
about but also full of eccentric finds he has picked up on his travels around the world.
Recently I sat Justin down (which is harder than you can imagine) and dug deeper into
the id of Mr. Giunta. Learning more about the man, his love of art and his obsession with four-horned goats.
Cator: I know jewelry wasn’t aways what you had in mind for a career. You are an artist at heart right?
Justin: Yes. I went to school at Pratt in 1997 on a full scholarship for art.
Then I gave that up and headed to Carnegie Mellon on another scholarship citing
a lack of stimulation! I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts and a Minor
in Critical Theory. For my senior year I headed across the pond to the Gerrit
Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam where I studied Textile Design and Painting.
Why Textile Design in Amsterdam?
A large part of my work at Carnegie Mellon was melding painting with fashion
and making my artwork into clothing. So I went over to learn more about patternmaking
and textile design while also honing in on my love of Dutch still life painting.
And when you graduated?
I came back to New York City and couldn’t get a job to save my life! Everyone thought
I would get bored too quickly. They were right! I started making t-shirts and chandeliers
to get by. I was just a boy from Pittsburgh with a suitcase and a dream…
Well when you’re from Pittsburgh you have to do something.
Ha ha. Yes, Mame said it best.
Your apartment is steeped in old world charm. Tin ceilings, brick fireplace, and
great hardwood floors. Do you know the history of the building?
Well I do now that someone posted a photocopy of the history of this building in my hallway.
Thanks Landlord. It was George Gershwin’s office. Built in 1840 in what was then
Tin Pan Alley. Now it’s the Flower District as well as the knock off jewelry district.
I now have the honor of seeing my previous seasons work recreated in plastic in
the wholesale shop three doors down from my house.
Tell us about your artwork? These massive floral
The florals are a marriage of Dutch baroque made with contemporary art materials including
office supplies such as white out, carbon paper, Sharpies, highlighters and other things of questionable
I notice lots of portraits. Friends?
Yes, sometimes when I am in the mood its fun. I have friends over all the time and since
I can never sit still it’s fun to do while catching up. It’s always a challenge but people are usually
up for it. One skill I have developed is to draw anything inanimate but to do a portrait with someone
staring at you is sometimes an uphill battle.
Do you have a gallery now?
For four years I showed once a year at a gallery in Paris and Pennsylvania. But I don’t have a
gallery now. At the moment my focus is on jewelry but my passion is painting. I need a
gallery since I have too many pieces in my house! I do sell a fair amount by word of mouth
and from what people see in my home and studio. Any takers?
How did you get into the chandeliers?
A moment of divine inspiration! Also I have a serious love of opulence and decadence.
The construction light cages struck a chord for me and enhancing them with old chandelier crystals
or Swarovski pieces is like looking backwards into art history and paralleling it to being part
of modern art. Recently I have been commissioned to do one offs one for Lauren Santo Domingo
and for Kelly Wearstler.
What’s up with the lampshades in the fireplace?
They stem from another moment of making nothing into
something. While working as a painter doing some faux finishing in a condo at the Dakota
I ended up rummaging through the trash and found a six foot tall Chanel box and a pile of
old lampshades. While the decision was hard I took home the shades and left the Chanel
box for the next dumpster diver. The different shapes sizes and textiles make an excellent
floor light that oscillates between cabaret lighting and a landing strip.
And tell us a bit about the German hunting lodge theme on your wall of stag horns and taxidermied animals?
All gifts from friends and family! I’m an Aries and a goat in the Chinese zodiac so I have
always had an affinity towards an animal with built in defenses. Hence my love of the horn.
So people see an old skull or dead animal and think of you? Charming.
I have become ‘the bone collector’. I get arm bones from Egypt, jaws from God knows where and antlers
from my brother. All I want is a full set from a four-horned goat. I saw one on a recent trip to a ranch in
Texas and have been dreaming of mounting one on my wall ever since.
My godfather shot the birds so they are family mementos.
Also my friend Stefan painted the one skull referencing an old Austrian tradition where
graves would be dug up as a town grew and needed more space so they would save the
skulls and paint laurels and the persons name on them.
I notice you don’t have a TV. What do you do to unwind?
What’s unwind?! I rarely sleep. But when I do have time on my own I like to paint.
I also take classes at Parsons for etching. I loved Albert Durer’s and Goya’s etchings so I
thought, why not me? I always enjoy learning.
What is on Justin’s iPod at the moment?
My musical tastes are as diverse as Mos Def to Patsy Cline with The Kills in between.
You’re home is such a den of warmth and coziness every time I stop by. As much as people see you
out at social and fashion functions are you more of a homebody?
Absolutely. My home is my bunker. I entertain at home as much as possible.
And by the way what is that scent that is always
wafting through the air? Besides cigarettes!
The now cancelled Diptyque Cyprus that I adore. It smells like pot without even lighting up.
But I guess it’s cheaper to go to Italy and smell it for free than buy all those candles...
And you are quite the cook. How did that come about?
It’s a part of who I am. A tradition passed on from my Mama. My brothers and I are all very competent
in the kitchen. The love of food is from our Italian heritage but my mother’s knowledge of cooking really
instilled it in us.