Published: November 24, 2020
Surprise was palpable this past August when Salon Art + Design, produced by Sanford L. Smith + Associates, announced that it would not take place this November. It was not for lack of effort. The fair worked diligently with New York City, State and its eight-time venue, the Park Avenue Armory, with the aim of producing a safe and healthy event. In the end, its organizers concluded that conditions were not right for an event of its scale to take place in New York City this year. Thinking outside of the glamorous box, however, why not instead produce a luxurious print magazine, which it has: Salon, The Intersection of Art & Design. Executive director Jill Bokor sat down with Antiques and The Arts Weekly to see how the annual event is successfully turning the page in the time of Covid-19.
Congratulations on producing what is sure to become a highly sought collector’s item. What is its target audience?
Thanks for the congratulations; we’re very happy with the publication we’ve produced. Everyone who attends or is interested in Salon would be likely to enjoy the magazine. That includes collectors, designers and enthusiasts of collectible design who are on the cusp of entering the market. Interestingly, more people will actually see the publication than come to the fair itself.
Who is your media partner and what does it bring to the project?
Cultureshock Media in London has been a fantastic publishing partner. They produce magazines for Sotheby’s, The Tate and the V&A, so they bring a world of experience to the project. With editors, art directors and a production team in place, they were easily able to help us translate the fair experience into a lively magazine.
Didn’t you cut your teeth in the editorial and publishing industries before pivoting to fairs?
Yes. I’ve been in publishing since the 1980s, having published Art + Auction in its heyday along with its sister publication I.D. Magazine. Following that, I’ve worked on many art, architecture and design publications for a number of companies. I only switched gears when print started having trouble and new models for content had to be created.
Is there discussion in the magazine of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the world of design?
Ben Genocchio has written a piece about the future of collecting design, which very much speaks to the pandemic. Caroline Roux wrote an article about commissioning design. It’s a hot topic because during the pandemic people look to new ways of working with galleries that may not require their presence in one.
Who are some of the top curators, collectors and designers featured with essays?
We have a great cross section of profiles, including Nathalie de Gunzburg, chairman of Dia, who is also the chair of our opening night preview. A noted collector, she gives an intimate portrayal of what collecting and living with art means to her. For a different perspective, we’ve also interviewed three top interior designers. Robert Stilin and Julie Hillman based here in New York, and Charles Zana based in Paris, though his projects are highly international. All of them have made important design purchases for their projects over the years at Salon. We also feature Beth de Woody, who is probably the best-known collector of design here in New York, Glen Adamson noted critic and curator and Wendy Goodman, design editor of New York Magazine and columnist for “Design Hunting.” Each of them has spoken candidly and given great notes and thoughts for collectors and design aficionados.
Magazines are great, but there’s really no substitute for seeing works in a gallery setting. How does the Salon project address this beyond the printed page?
Rather than a virtual fair we decided to combine digital gallery visits by making the magazine interactive. By clicking on a QR code, the reader can be taken into the gallery and/ or see a clip about the gallery’s program.
Booth talks are another compelling feature of the physical shows, especially because they are interactive. How does the magazine translate these forums?
That’s a great question. In essence, the magazine itself takes on topics that might have served as live programming had we been able to hold the fair.
Will the Salon fair return to its physical in-person incarnation once things return to normal? And, if so, do you see a role for a print edition when the world returns to a brighter place?
We already have our dates for 2021 – November 11-15. It’s our hope and expectation that a year from now things will return to a semblance of normalcy, particularly if there’s a vaccine and it’s been made widely available throughout the world. That being said, if the magazine catches fire, we’ll produce a second one in the spring and possibly even next fall. It certainly wouldn’t be incompatible to have a print program along with the live fair. For sheer lack of space, there were some great ideas that couldn’t make it into the magazine, so we have lots of thoughts already for future issues.
It’s a generally accepted notion that dealers find it hard to do well or break even with the cost that comes associated with exhibiting at the armory. This must have been a welcome alternative for them.
Well, I don’t know if it’s welcome, exactly. But one of the first things we decided was to keep the page rates low thereby encouraging participation. By the time we’d decided to do the magazine in August, we knew that much of our constituency was experiencing tough sledding, so we wanted to give them a vehicle at a very low cost. But I will say that over the years many dealers have reported amazing results at Salon and do, in fact, make a profit there.
Any other special plans for what will be the fair’s 10th anniversary in 2021?
We’ve already filled most of our sponsorships and partnerships for next year, which enhances the fair experience. For the floor of the fair itself, our goal is to have the very best line-up of dealers in the world who, I hope, will celebrate our ten years and a return to life as we knew it.
[Editor’s note: To order a copy of the magazine, Salon, The Intersection of Art & Design, go to https://www.thesalonny.com. The digital version is also up on the Salon’s website.]
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