Published: November 20, 2018
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
NEW YORK CITY – We saw glimmers of it throughout the Twentieth Century when furniture artists rejected the paired down proportions of modernism and went big – really big – with awe-inspiring results. Artists like Jack Rogers Hopkins would designate function to architecture, releasing his forms into the infinite. It mirrored the abstraction going on at the same time: now, anything was possible. As this writer walked through the Salon of Art and Design, which returned to the Park Avenue Armory for its 7th edition November 8-12, it was hard to dismiss the feeling that we have arrived, again, to the age of imagination. The field has been utterly released from form through modern build technology to explore what a chair, a chandelier or a cabinet, can be.
From 56 galleries, the Salon’s international offerings did not subscribe to democratic design, though we believe the Eameses would still be impressed with the show’s survey, which touched on antiquity before spotlighting some historic masters – like Koloman Moser and Frank Lloyd Wright – before making off with the vibrant contemporary scene. A word that was floated to this writer on the show floor was “artiture,” short for Art Furniture, which, thankfully, has not yet made headway into any reputable dictionary. The high-profile design fair is an absolute magnet for blue-chip design, works of cast bronze and exotic builds that, while expensive to buy, were expensive to make.
The fair invited just around 12,000 people through its doors in 2018, signaling an increase in attendance over last year. Jill Bokor, the executive director of the fair, attributes this to the fact that the Salon has a unique footprint in the New York City fair calendar. “There’s nothing that presents design with the punctuation of art like we do,” she said.
This year’s fair presented a 60/40 split between international and domestic dealers. While Bokor is committed to supporting domestic design, she added, “I like the European dealers because they bring things that American buyers maybe have never seen. But we are always trying to get the balance exactly right.”
This year’s fair skewed slightly more contemporary than in year’s past, but that did not mean that historical design was left behind.
New York City’s Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts mounted a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition that surveyed a number of forms from numerous commissions by the famed American architect. “It took us a few years to bring this collection together,” Goldberg said as he looked onto his booth, which included a gate from the 1952 Benjamin Adelman house in Phoenix, Ariz.; a chair from the Usonian Exhibition House at the Guggenheim Foundation, circa 1953; a pair of exterior lights from the Francis W. Little house in Wayzata, Minn., circa 1912; and from Little’s first Wright commission in Peoria, Ill., a carpet. “The rug is probably the most significant thing in the booth, there aren’t many left,” said Lisa Rotmil, gallery associate and researcher. “The rug has a lot of everything you think about with Wright. The stretching out and elongation… and his signature squares. His whole design ethos is on display: to have everything make sense in its context, the symbiotic relationship. There are maybe ten textiles left.”
A fanciful display of Italian glass was on exhibit at Glass Past, New York City, who made their debut at the fair this year. The display ran from the 1920s into the midcentury, providing a visual evolution of Italian style. A Soffiato pitcher, glasses and tray service from Vittorio Zecchin, model 203, was made in the Venini studio circa 1921-25. “Earlier glass is very light and traditional,” said Sara Blumberg, gallery co-owner. The forms were rooted in the revival styles that held weight at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Moving forward, Blumberg pointed to the evolving style of Tomaso Buzzi, whose work brought the exhibition into the 1930s-40s. Buzzi’s forms began to deviate away from classical styles into both a paired down modern aesthetic as well as an exploration into excess decorations.
Works from important Twentieth Century American furniture artists were on display with Philadelphia-based Wexler Gallery. Among them was a 1980 laminated cherry dining set with 12 chairs from Wendell Castle. It was flanked by “Lynx Table,” a 1999 cast bronze work from Judy Kensley McKie. On top of the Castle table were three bowls from Roberto Lugo, contemporary graffiti ceramicist.
The other half of the Philadelphia design spectrum included Moderne Gallery, which focused on works from George Nakashima, David Ebner and John Eric Byers. Both Ebner and Byers were Wendell Castle students, some of the only to lead successful careers in their craft. Gallery owner Robert Aibel speculated that this may have been because Castle perhaps did not place an emphasis on listening to clients. “He never had to,” Aibel said. An exceptional chip-carved and ebonized coffee table from Byers was on exhibit in the booth, surrounded by large enamel works from Paul Hultberg.
Contemporary multidisciplinary artist Misha Kahn was on show at Friedman Benda’s exhibition, which brought together contemporary interpretations of designs by Italian legend Ettore Sottsass. Kahn’s works included a 2018 artwork titled “And it was malignant and had spread to every known surface (still life with peaches),” which had been fashioned from pine, walnut, glass, drywall, canvas, pink insulation foam, steel, birch plywood, oil and acrylic paint. The artist also had two notable furniture pieces, including a table titled “Heavy Hearted” made of Unakite and bronze as well as “Slurp, Snap, Arm Akimbo,” a bronze cast chair that was made in an edition of eight with four artist proofs. Carole Hochman, director, said the gallery “sold several works and found amazing support for young designers Misha Kahn and Jonathan Trayte.”
A collection of ceramics from French artist Roger Capron graced the back walls of New York City’s Lost City Arts. Gallery owner James Elkind and gallery director Martin Greenstein were on hand with the collection, which also included a rare Viking chair from Oluf Lund and bronze sculptures from Harry Bertoia.
Looking ahead to the 2019 show, Jill Bokor hopes to add a few more international galleries from outside Europe to create a more expansive exhibition of design coming from all corners of the world, Asia and Australia among them.
For additional information, www.thesalonny.com or 212-777-5218.
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