You seemed surprised, Lady Bird. The "Artist Series" of Baldwin could be spoken in the same breath as any of the high end builders if we go back a couple of decades or so. Leonard Bernstein, Dave Brubeck, and Jorge Bolet were all Baldwin artists and there were many others at that time (although Bernstein's professed favorite piano was BÃ¶sendorfer - he owned both pianos in his Manhattan apartment and they were auctioned off at his death).
Are they only mostly for show and to attract attention or to people actually own them and have them at home?
Are they the piano equivalent of concept cars?
Thank you for starting this thread, malkin. The answer is yes... and no.
Art Grands have been around and were popular as marketing devices, as symbols of status for the wealthy, and as beautiful pieces of art for institutions and businesses since, and before, there was a modern piano. Royalty, wealthy patrons, and sometimes institutions would commission pianos to be built (or forte pianos - or harpsichords, for that matter). When doing so, it made sense to custom design a cabinet as well. That way they could have something that nobody else had.
Manufactures quickly found that building a "one of a kind" or a "limited edition" art grand that was unusual or wild could garner attention in a flagship showroom or in the news. This also paid off because eventually someone would pay the premium that the instrument demanded as well (or they wouldn't and the manufacturer just did not publicize that fact).
For instance, the BÃ¶sendorfer Lounge at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando is centered around a modern art grand BÃ¶sendorfer Imperial, designed by Hans HÃ¶llein, an Austrian architect. There were a very small number of these Imperials made, so this business is set up around the piano. It is refreshing that this is in the USA, and in Orlando, of all places:
Here is a rare Steinway called "The Centennial" that has been referred to as the first modern piano. I think it would be fair to call this an art grand:
You can also hear this piano by clicking here.
Art grands fell everywhere between these to extremes in style of design. I am looking forward to hearing others share their thoughts and perspectives.