Artists are picky people. The objects they live with — furniture, artifacts, ceramics, works by other artists — are usually carefully chosen, and they look it. They highlight an artist’s personal or aesthetic connections (or both), and clarify the nourishment objects can give us. Two exhibitions in two downtown galleries, a few blocks apart, make this point in a fruitful reciprocity.
For “A Specific Eye,” Suzanne Demisch and Stephane Danant invited four artists or artist-couples, an artist’s estate and two dealers to choose some cherished artifacts, mementos and occasional works of art to display at the gallery, mostly on tables from its examples of French postwar design. (Three participants brought their own furniture, too — remember, I said artists are picky.) The exhibition exudes stylish domesticity and suggests a cabinet of wonders. It’s like being in the homes of people with intriguing taste. You want to look around.
The groupings cross several cultures, starting with Americana, in a lively exhibition of mostly 19th-century paintings, objects and Gothic Revival furniture from the estate of the photographer Saul Leiter, followed by a more homogeneous sight: a row of six distinctive sculptural heads and busts from the dealer Frank Maresca. The artist Ugo Rondinone presents his collection of 17 pint-size scholars’ rocks from China and Japan atop a stainless steel table from 1968 by the French designer Maria Pergay (still working at 88); they resemble a diminutive limestone forest on a high plateau.
In a living-room-like arrangement of furniture — including another Pergay table — the sculptor Huma Bhabha and the painter Jason Fox have clustered choice travel souvenirs and personal keepsakes that take us from ancient Rome to Karachi, Pakistan, where Ms. Bhabha was born, to Southeast Asia. The photographer François Halard trains his camera on the layered displays of artifacts and photographs in his home in Arles and places four of these images in close quarters with African sculptures and delicate ceramic bowls, one from East Persia dating to around 1000 AD. The least familiar material may be that of the dealer Jason Jacques: gleaming vases by the polymath artist Galileo Chini, and the luxurious enameled boxes of the metalsmith Alfred Daguet. These Art Nouveau objects have an appropriate setting in a large 19th-century glass-front bookcase provided by Mr. Jacques.
The artists Robert Gober and Donald Moffett have orchestrated the most complex, suggestive and close-packed display at Demisch Danant on a thick-topped oak refectory table, as well as the floor and adjacent walls. Photographs and ephemera, art and artifacts (including some Native American stone tools) form an intricate rebus, a double self-portrait and an American history lesson rolled into one, with a thrift-store portrait of Abraham Lincoln (signed A.L.S.) flanked, as if by sconces, by two ropelike knots of yellow ceramic by Ms. Liddell.