Leslie Keno, a leading authority on American furniture best known for his appraisals on the PBS television series “Antiques Roadshow,” shared his infectious enthusiasm for his subject and the glow of his television fame with a large audience in the Architecture Building auditorium on April 5.
Keno was the final speaker in the A. Alfred Taubman Lecture Series that began in September 2010. He is a personal friend of Lawrence Tech’s leading benefactor, having once worked with him at Sotheby’s in New York City. Taubman was in the audience for Keno’s lecture.
Keno’s topic was “Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture,” which is also the title of the book that he co-authored with his twin brother Leigh and Joan Barzilay Freund.
He explained that his love for antiques began while he and his twin brother were growing up in the rural New York town of Mohawk. Together they unearthed 19th century artifacts from long-abandoned homesteads and then started to buy and sell antiques as teenagers.
Keno related how he decided to attend Williams College in Massachusetts after seeing the early American antique furniture in the office of admissions. He became well versed in the work of America’s best furniture makers, and his childhood hobby developed into a passion for finding the best examples of early American craftsmanship and artistry.
Keno joined Sotheby’s as a cataloguer in 1980, was appointed director of the American Furniture and Decorative Arts Department in 1983, and is now a senior vice president. He has been directly responsible for numerous record-breaking sales of Americana, and he told the audience how he landed some of his biggest auction sales.
The Keno brothers gained fame for their expertise and theatrical flair as furniture appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow.” They have also hosted the public television series “Find!” and the internet show “Collect This!” on MSN’s Tech & Gadgets guide site.
In 2005, both were awarded the National Humanities Medal, and in 2008 they joined First Lady Laura Bush on a tour of the White House that was televised on the History Channel.