Published: October 22, 2002
A Glimpse of Collecting’s Next Wave at the International Art + Design Show
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — It is hard not to be seduced by the International Art + Design Fair, Brian and Anna Haughton’s revamped entry at the Seventh Regiment Armory from September 27 to October 2. Though officially dedicated to the Twentieth Century and beyond, the 40-dealer show is an aesthete’s paradise, transcending time and place with objects that begged to be loved for their beauty alone.
The key to the show is in the title itself. Neither an art show nor a design fair in any ordinary sense, the small exposition presents vetted works by creative souls working in every tactile medium. More than one exhibitor noted that his or her mission was to open visitors’ eyes to the surpassing excellence of the exhibitor’s specialty, whether it be glass, textiles or furniture. The International Art + Design Fair succeeds on behalf of all, showcasing design as art while revealing art as an exercise in fine design.
The message was nowhere clearer than at the Jane Kahan Gallery of New York, where brilliant and monumental Aubusson tapestries woven after paintings by Fernand Leger of 1953 kept company with a Picasso linocut of 1962 and a Picasso vase of 1950. In the arts, as in every other endeavor, the Twentieth Century was about innovation, the booth seemed to say. “Quality attracts quality,” said Kahan, noting that the show had attracted an audience perfectly attuned its offerings.
That visitors were appreciative was hardly surprising. When the show debuted in 1999 as the International 20th Century Arts Fair, it had no sponsor. This year, the glamorous preview party on Thursday, September 26, benefited the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. Explained Anna Haughton, “MoMA was very interested from the beginning, but the first show opened on Thanksgiving weekend, not a date that the museum felt it could work with.” This year, some of New York’s most vigorous champions of the arts, among them Agnes Gund and Ronald S. Lauder, joined 500 others for the fundraiser, which generated $250,000.
Cancelled last year after the National Guard reclaimed the Armory after September 11, the International Art + Design Fair has been reborn, with not only a new name but some new exhibitors. Some high-profile specialists in the field of Twentieth Century design, dealers such as Barry Friedman, Ltd, and Garth Clark Gallery, have dropped out. Others, such as the English Arts and Crafts furniture specialist John Alexander, and Joan Mirviss and Michael Goedhuis, trailblazers in the area of contemporary Asian art, have come on board, subtly changing the complexion and direction of the fair.
To the extent that the London-based show organizers are divisible, Anna is thought of as the keen business mind while even she credits her husband Brian with the always impeccable look of the Haughton fairs. Though smaller than it should have been, the International Art + Design Fair set up comfortably around a large sculpture garden furnished with upholstered, cube seating. Rising above a Japanese-style arrangement of grass and river rocks was “David and Goliath,” a life-sized Art Deco bronze by Ivar Johnsson. The $85,000 sculpture, offered for sale by Swedish dealers Paul Jackson and Bo Knuttson, was first exhibited in the Swedish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition of 1925.
“All the planets came together this weekend,” said Anna Haughton, who described set up as easy, even though move-in, which began on Monday morning, was one day shorter than usual. An hour before opening, curator Derek Ostergard was still putting the final touches on “Repositories of Excellence: The Museum at Orrefors and Kosta,” the dramatic loan show of 28 pieces of Swedish glass, strongly lit and presented in a midnight-black enclosure. One of the earliest pieces was a green glass vessel, more frilly than modern, of 1917.
“I might not look twice at it if I passed it in a flea market, but its hugely significant. It helped trigger the art glass revival in Sweden,” said Ostergard. As a bonus, some of loaned pieces could be purchased on the floor in other stands. Ingeborg Lunden “Apple Vase” by Orrefors, for instance, was featured by both Antik and Dansk Mobelkunst.
Art, of course, is not deaf to economic and political trends. The world got smaller in the Twentieth Century, and taste more universal. One striking feature of the International Art + Design Fair is its major emphasis on French and Scandinavian design, and relatively minor attention to American decor. In “The Half-Life of Must-Haves” (The New York Times, September 26), William Hamilton declared that French 1940s design was “sailing toward the horizon.”
International Fair exhibitors beg to differ. As specialist Janet Calderwood of Calderwood Gallery in Philadelphia explained, “In our view, French Art Deco has become a classic design choice, one of the perennials that doesn’t go out of style. Enough time has passed for us to see it in perspective, to see where it came from and what it influenced. Demand doesn’t diminish because the material has been scattered worldwide and supply is limited.” Calderwood divided its long booth into halves, one side devoted to the earlier, classically inspired material; the other to skyscraper modern designs. Highlights included a Jean Michel Frank coffee table, 1929, with original leather top; a Giacometti floor lamp from 1936; and a group of three Ruhlman pieces.
“Our main trade is with interior designers and architects, as well as collectors around the world. Pieces from the 20s 30s and 40s that are very streamlined and architectural can mix with anything,” said Gilberto Oliveros of Karl Kemp & Associates, offering further insight into who and what drives the market. At the Haughtons’ more traditional International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show in October, Kemp showed Nineteenth Century Biedermeier and Austrian Empire pieces, plus contemporaneous works from Central Europe. Like many dealers, Oliveros said that the dismal financial markets had forced him to adjust his sales expectations. Nevertheless, his firm had a good show and met a few new clients.
Maison Gerard’s magnificent stand recreated an Art Deco interior from Nice, France. An arched entrance was built to accommodate a large, electrically lit iron and glass architectural fragment dating to circa 1928-1930, $38,000. The dealers were pleased with results, having sold a pair of large armchairs and a round, two-tier coffee table by Christian Krass of Lyon, France, priced $26,000 and $12,800, and a pair of tall back side chairs by Jean Pascaud, circa 1935, $8,500.
Jacques de Vos Gallery of Paris sold furniture by Sornay and bronzes by Jean Lambert Rucki. Jourdan, a New York dealer in classically inspired French furniture of the 1930s through 1950s, sold a desk and chair by Alfred Porteneuve, circa 1940, for around $47,000. A French 1950s low table by Andre Borderie sold in the region of $30,000 at Miquel Saco Gallery of New York. London dealer Michael Playford of Two Zero C Applied Arts said that he had “huge interest and excellent sales,” having parted with a pair of armchairs by La Maison Desny, 1930s, $35,000; a 1930s cabinet by Andree Sornay, $35,000; and pair of armchairs by DIM, priced $20,000; and many vases and pieces of lighting. Rita Bucheit, the show’s only specialist in Vienna Secession material, sold a set of six Fledermaus armchairs designed by Josef Hoffman; an Otto Wagner oval desk made by Thonet; and a Josef Hoffman brass table lamp signed JH Wiener Werkstaette.
If French Art Deco is all about intoxicated, nocturnal glamour, Scandinavian modern is its sober-minded, daylight alter ego. Several dealers on the floor put together outstanding presentations of Swedish and Danish furniture and decor characterized by soft, warm colors and rounded shapes. Antik covered its walls with room-sized handwoven pile carpets in subtle, natural palettes by Marta Maas-Fjetterstorm, completed between 1929 and 1942. The New York City dealers sold one rug, “Black Garden,” as well as a handsome “functionalist” sofa and two side chairs of darkened birch and leather designed by Axel Einar Hjorth for AB Nordiska Kompaniet, Sweden, circa 1930.
Jacksons of Stockholm sold a large carpet by Else Gullberg, Swedish, 1940s, plus many ceramics. Bo Knuttson Art and Antiques, also of Sweden, parted with a commode by Carl Bergsten (1875-1935), $65,000. Dansk Mobelkunst sold a vase by Tapio Wirkala for $40,000; a Paul Hennings chandelier, and a Fritz Hennings leather armchair.
For Georg Jensen silver specialist Michael James, co-founder and managing director of The Silver Fund, sales consisted of jewelry in the $1,500 to $2,000 range. “We were disappointed not to have sold any significant hollowware at this fair,” said James. “Two years ago we did an enormous amount of business in serving pieces and hollowware at this same show.”
Little in the International Art + Design Fair can be called quaint, except perhaps for the English and Scottish Arts and Crafts furniture shown by Philadelphia dealer John Alexander. Warm and homey, like brown ale and clotted cream, these easy-to-live-with pieces by the Hampshire School, the Cotswold School, Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, and the Birmingham Guild of Craft mix well with both antique and modern bodycopy. Alexander sold an easy chair designed by Stanley W. Davies and executed by Brian Braithwiate, circa 1931; and a dining table of 1982 by Alan Peters.
Many are accustomed to thinking of Cora Ginsburg Ltd as the ultimate destination for Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century European and American costume and textiles. Under the direction of Titti Halle, this up to the moment gallery is also introducing collectors to Twentieth Century art textiles. “I want people to think of fabric as art, which it is,” said Halle, whose walls were brightened by stretcher-mounted swatches of colorful fabrics, most by well known artists. One wall was devoted to 1950s designs by Picasso, Leger, Miro and Klee. At $325 and up, this is art that everyone can afford.
Halle’s mentor Cora Ginsburg could not be present. If she had been, she might have frowned on two tapestry murals made for Atlantic Richfield in the 1960s. The oversized, acid-hued Op Art panels were designed by Herbert Bayer and manufactured by Vsoke. A perfect expression of its time in mint condition, “New York, New York,” 1969, sold during the run of the show.
Tai Gallery/Textile Arts combined mounted panels of “prestige” cloth by the Kuba Shoowa people of the Congo, $3,200 to $4,500, with contemporary Japanese bamboo baskets, $3,500 to $9,900. The Santa Fe, N.M., dealers sold a number of baskets, including three on opening night. The dealers were also pleased with the warm reception given to Japanese master Sugita Jozan, who demonstrated his art throughout the fair.
Long known as a dealer in antique Japanese prints, Joan B. Mirviss has become a leading dealer in contemporary Japanese ceramics, with a steady clientele among major American museums and private buyers who come from either from backgrounds in traditional Japanese art or in contemporary craft. Having spent two months in Japan this summer calling on artists in their studios, Mirviss picked a variety of works by leading talents to display in her striking cinnabar, charcoal and straw-colored booth.
“It’s been a very good show. I’ve sold over 30 pieces, half of them to new customers,” said Mirviss. On hold for a major East Coast institution was a large, slip-decorated earthenware jar, $16,000, circa 1970, by Mori Togaku. The New York dealer also sold porcelain sculptures by Fukami Sueharu, who decorates his coolly elegant nonutilitarian pieces with a pale, celadonlike glaze.
One senses that 2002 was a turning point, both for the International Art + Design Fair and for the market, as well. Increasingly, “antiques” seem old hat, replaced in collectors’ affections by objects that are not so much old or new, just beautiful.
After the International Fine Art and Antiques Dealers Show in October, the Haughtons return to the Seventh Regiment Armory with the Asian Art Fair in March and the Fine Art Fair in May.
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