Phyllis and Kenneth: The Langsdorf Collection

Selkirk is proud to offer the artistic collection of Phyllis and Kenneth Langsdorf. Our October 1st auction, The Langsdorf Collection, highlights a variety of arts which the couple has curated throughout their years as enthusiasts of contemporary glass, paintings, photography, ceramics, wood and more. A vital force to the St. Louis community, the Langsdorfs have long been intertwined in the worlds of fashion, commerce, law, education, art, philanthropic work, and community projects.


St. Louis couple Phyllis and Kenneth Langsdorf

Pictured: Phyllis and Kenneth Langsdorf

Selkirk was very interested in uncovering the inspiration behind the couple’s passions.

“My mother and her brother had the [Richelle] Gallery from 1960 to 1968,” Ken said when speaking about his own introduction into the world of art. He explained how his mother’s gallery influenced his taste even long after its closure. His attraction to abstract contemporary art was directly shaped by what he experienced in the gallery when he was younger.  “Occasionally, [some] of the works that [were] sold in my mother’s gallery now come up for auction. We have purchased several paintings that were originally sold by my mother.” Ken noted these pieces as his favorite acquisitions to date.

Similarly, Phyllis recounted the influences of her own background. Moving to St. Louis from Texas after being recruited by department store retailer J. Arthur Baer of Stix, Baer & Fuller (the very same who employed STL artist Ernest Trova), Phyllis continued a path similar to that of her family. Recalling her mother’s excellent taste, Phyllis explained, “She was also a buyer in fashion,” which heavily guided the direction of Phyllis’ career and aesthetic. “My father was in the fur business, so I’ve always been around fashion itself.”

While they both come from families of the arts, their current collection from which the auction derives was started jointly at the beginning of their marriage. Ken’s time in Vietnam piqued his interest in East Asian monochrome porcelain, jumpstarting their first venture as collaborative collectors. “[He] started with a piece of blue and white porcelain and I started with a teapot that someone gave me,” Phyllis said. “When we got married, we started looking at art, paintings, and prints together. Then we ventured into porcelains and that’s what comprised our major collection, up until 2008.”

As inspiring, impactful and long-active St. Louis community members, their family's civic work spanning decades – even generations – has uplifted the city they proudly call home. “I felt a need to continue the fine Langsdorf tradition of service which my ancestors started here back in the 19th century,” Ken responded when asked about his dedication to the community. Both sides of Ken’s family have been supportive of the St. Louis community since they settled in the area, with Ken following in their footsteps by pursuing law and civic service.

Having an elegant and refreshingly succinct disposition, Phyllis sits on major boards throughout the region focusing not only on community and family, but also art, education, and fashion utilizing her experience and expertise to further empower organizations of this nature. “I also have a need and desire to give back to this community,” Phyllis said. “So, when Ken and I got married, [knowing] that his family was very involved, I got involved at the same time.”

Phyllis is a current member of the board for the National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis, an organization which celebrated its 125th anniversary earlier this year. She also serves on the board of the St. Louis Fashion Fund, an organization focused on the revitalization of St. Louis' garment district, supporting local and emerging designers while promoting fashion, education and outreach. The SLFF is hosting an amazing event, October 11th and 12th, welcoming fashion designer and author Diane Von Furstenberg. “[DVF] will speak at Washington University, where there will be a two-day trunk show at the Contemporary Art Museum.” Phyllis elaborated, “She is a fashion icon, very much involved in philanthropic work. Her purpose is to come here and talk and meet with students and young designers.”

Having an appreciation for the past and the ability to stay in the present, the Langsdorfs' legacy will undoubtedly continue to affect the artistic culture of St. Louis and its residents. The beauty and style of the couple and their spirit is emblematically expressed throughout the personality of their collection, which will always remain bright, energetic, and timeless.


Edited by Bryan Laughlin

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