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“Buried Treasure”

I have seen exactly one hour of “reality” TV in my time, the first episode of the Paris Hilton-Nicole Richie abomination many years ago. Last week I doubled my pleasure by watching the back-to-back debut hours of “Buried Treasure” on Fox, starring the Keno twins, Leigh and Leslie (one works for Sotheby’s, the other for himself; one is gay, the other is straight; one looks like Pinocchio, the other looks like Rumpelstiltskin).

Perhaps you have heard of the popular gambling game, ubiquitous in roadside bars, called Keno? Well, this TV Keno game promises not only riches, but, as the Keno brothers frequently point out on the show, “we just saved someone’s life!” How? By turning the junk in the attic to gold, or at least “its auction estimate,” “what it would be worth in a retail setting,” or “its value for insurance purposes,” tricks they have somewhat imported from their former masters at “The Antiques Roadshow.”

Give the boys credit though, the first two hours of “Buried Treasure” did feature cash offers on the spot. In one segment, Leigh and Leslie haul a slobby comics collector, with a stunning Eastern European girlfriend, to the gallery of a major comics expert (“we sold Nicholas Cage his collection”), where the sales staff actually offer the guy $50 grand for his Superman cell.

The fellow breaks out in a cold sweat as the offer goes up in thousand dollar increments (but “we won’t pay $60,000,” threaten the experts), because he perhaps loves his one piece of any value more than anything. Then, his babe gives him a big smooch and tells him to hold onto it. No sale! Like everything else on “Buried Treasure,” it is totally staged, but effective.

Staging works best when the brothers knock on the door of a preppy Long Island vintner and his wife, who claim to own a $1.5 million 17th-century Maggini violin. The Kenos kayo the kouple by bringing along not only a violin player, but a violinist who plays the suspect instrument and then plays a Stradivarius, while the couple sits on the lawn already counting their money. You can hear the difference between the two instruments easily, as the couples’ violin is a $300 imitation of what they thought they had!

The violin segment showcases what might be called the Ryan Trecartin element of the show, knockabout, quick-cut video of the boys examining various objects through microscopes, lasers, woodchippers, chainsaws and other machines whipping by too swifty to identify. They especially go nuts over a houseful of junk owned by some Edie Beale-wannabe on the North Shore, only this time the Kenos leave Grey Gardens with some actual loot.

Most poignant (and least formulaic) is a visit to a couple in Westminster, Texas. She’s a cosmetologist, he’s a chubby massage therapist and they are loaded up with not only children, but a master bedroom filled with dead granny’s junk. The Kino boys vow to raise the dough to buy the kiddos new pairs of shoes (they actually crow about it!), but chubbo is too attached to the real Audubon “Birds of America” prints in the cold fingers of Granny’s ghost.

Who you gonna call? My old Yale classmate Graham Arader, a bibliophile whooped up by the Kinos as the prince of prints. Once again, cash is king, taxes and appearance fees are not discussed and the twins are off to save (or humiliate) another greedy innocent.

Can’t wait for their first “De Kooning” and a visit from Jerry Saltz!

“Buried Treasure” WIN AT KENO! by Charlie Finch. Take a gander at “Buried Treasure” on Fox, the new antiques roadshow starring Leigh and Leslie Keno.

Antiques Roadshow Appraisers the Keno Brothers

Twin Appraisers Grew Up in the Antiques World

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Robin Platzer / FilmMagic / Getty Images

The iconic PBS series “Antiques Roadshow” has two celebrity appraisers who are recognizable icons in the antique world: twins Leigh and Leslie Keno. The Keno brothers, born in 1957 in upstate New York, grew up surrounded by antiques. Their parents were antique dealers, and both developed a passion for their wares early on—so much so that they considered themselves antique dealers at 12, keeping meticulous accounts of their purchases.

Their enthusiasm for items of a certain age has led to greater public awareness and a renewed interest in antique furniture and objects, especially from the American colonial period.

Leigh Keno: American Furniture

Leigh Keno is founder and president of Keno Auctions and a partner with his brother in Keno Art Advisory. The brothers teamed up to form Keno Brothers Fine Automobile Auctions; Leigh Keno has had an interest in classic cars as well as antiques from his youth, and they have now brought their expertise in art and antiques to fine cars.

He has consulted with many private collectors about their artifacts, paintings, and furniture collections and has worked with many leading museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, Winterthur Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Leigh Keno earned a degree in art history from Hamilton College. Early on in his career, he was a visiting scholar at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. He worked at William Doyle Galleries in New York as director of the American furniture department before going on to Christie’s, where he was a senior specialist in American furniture.

He has helped build some of the finest collections of American furniture and decorative arts in the country for private collectors and public institutions.

Leslie Keno: Early American Style

Before Leslie Keno joined his brother at Keno Art Advisory and most recently at Keno Brothers Fine Automobile Auctions, he was a senior vice president and director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Sotheby’s in New York. He graduated from Williams College with a degree in American art. His intensive study of early American furniture from the Charles M. Davenport collection led to a catalog and exhibition of the collection at the Williams College Museum of Art.

At Sotheby’s, he was responsible for many successful single-owner sales of American furniture and decorative arts. He achieved record-breaking sales of American furniture, bringing international attention and public awareness to these pieces.

Television Repertoire

“Antiques Roadshow” is not the only show on which they have appeared as experts. From 2003 to 2004 they hosted the PBS show “Find” and also hosted the internet show “Collect This! With the Keno Brothers” on MSN. Most recently the two collaborated on Fox.

Published Repertoire

The Kenos have written a book on antiques together, called “Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture.” The two have also collaborated on magazine design articles and monthly features for the magazines House Beautiful and This Old House.

The Keno Bros. Collection

A love of antiques and an understanding of modern design combine to form the sensibility they bring to their Keno Bros. Collection of furniture, which they developed with the high-end manufacturer Theodore Alexander. This is an assortment of more than 40 pieces based on the furniture of the past, ranging from the 18th century to midcentury modern.

Their collection is not just a replication of antiques—they have taken elements from these earlier periods and interpreted them for modern times.

They have used a wide variety of materials in their furniture, including striped ebony, maple, marble, brass, blond sycamore, mahogany, and olive ash burl. Pieces include chests, bookshelves, and tables.

These stars of 'Antiques Roadshow' have had a passion for old stuff since their early antique collection childhood in upstate New York. ]]>