Published: October 26, 2004
Brian Haughton cannot suppress his enthusiasm for the eye-popping, up-to-the minute creations that make the International Art + Design Fair 1900-2004 the stimulating catchall that it is.
Sweeping through the aisles of the Seventh Regiment Armory, where the show that he organizes with his wife Anna opened for a week on October 7, the specialist in Eighteenth Century English and Continental porcelain stopped to admire, unabashedly and unapologetically, a five-part silver candle holder that – heaven forbid – was weeks, not centuries, old.
The centerpiece was by Dutch silversmith Wouter van Baalen, one of several contemporary artists who travel to New York to participate in the International Art + Design Fair. In his small-scale sterling sculptures, Van Baalen, whose Studio Eligius is in Schoonhoven, near Gouda, manipulates the reflective qualities of silver – its ability to appear liquid and solid at once – along with the mesmerizing movement suggested by light on gleaming surfaces. The interlocking candlesticks were part of Van Balaan’s “Sinus” series. As the artist explained, sinus is Latin for “curve” or “fold,” an apt description of the ingenious way the candlesticks fit together.
The exuberant mingling of inspired design, whether it be new or not so new, is what makes the International Art + Design Fair so rewarding. Although the exhibitors were largely the same as last year, their dedication to entertaining and enlightening the public means that the floor is filled with new discoveries each round.
Perhaps the most remarkable new talent was Motoko Maio of Japan. The 56-year-old Tokyo native is recognized in the current issue of Kateigaho, the Japanese arts and culture magazine, as a leading exponent of the folding screen, for centuries the Japanese equivalent of Western oil painting. Maio, who was represented by innovative Melbourne, Australia, dealer Lesley Kehoe at the Haughton fair, is unsurpassed in her wholly contemporary exploration of traditional Japanese technique and imagery. Kehoe devoted most of her stand to Maio, who looks at the art form from every angle.
Lesley Kehoe was one of 47 dealers from the United States, Europe and Australia to present furniture, ceramics, tapestries, textiles, photographs, paintings, sculpture and jewelry in the dramatic, newly updated Haughton setting. The organizers’ signature installation – gray carpet underfoot with a suspended ceiling of swagged, white muslin – was enlivened with soft columns of pleated vermillion and lime fabric at the show’s entrance and in the café at back.
At the center of the floor was a glass garden created by the major British talent Neil Wilkin, known as the UK’s Dale Chihuly. Organized by Wilkin’s dealer, Adrian Sassoon of London, the thicket sprouted globular flowers like crystal balls on resilient metal stems. Dew drops, $890 each, flattered cat tails, from $1,100. The piece de resistance was a fountain, $22,000.
Adrian Sassoon also promoted Kate Malone, another British artist with a public track record. Malone’s voluptuously oversized fruits and flowers with their luscious honey glazes are an homage to the south of France, where she sometimes works. In February, Brighton Children’s Library near the historic Brighton Pavilion in England will open a “A Wall of 1,000 Stories,” a large-scale installation commissioned from the artist.
The garden theme continued at Berengo Fine Arts of Murano, Italy. As assistant Hans van Enckevort explained, gallery owner Luigi Berengo pairs European artists with Venetian glass masters to create sculptures such as “Bamboo,” a glass grove designed by Pino Castagna and composed of 280 blown pieces.
While multiple personalities are normally considered disorderly, contradiction is part of the International Art + Design Fair’s charm. If contemporary and non-Western design provides the spice, classic French design of the 1920s through 1940s is the main course.
With their blue-chip, good taste displays, the Classic Moderns – exhibitors like Calderwood, Primavera, Historical Design and Maison Gerard – are the backbone of the International Art + Design Fair. Highlighting Calderwood Gallery’s stand was a $135,000 Dominique Gaveau grand piano made for the “Ambassade Francaise” showhouse at the 1925 Paris Expo.
“It’s the French Steinway, though they would cringe to hear it described so,” Philadelphia dealer Janet Calderwood said of the Brazilian rosewood and gray maple instrument anchoring a corner of her stand. Nearby sat a Ruhlmann armchair, $44,000, the only execution of the design known.
Sleek and pale, a Jacques Adnet commode, $135,000, of circa 1935 complemented a room-sized Art Deco rug, $75,000, at Galerie Boccara of Paris.
Primavera Gallery of New York featured a Jules Leleu amboyna wood, ivory and glass vanity that made its first appearance at the 1923 Salon des Artistes Decorateurs.
“It’s the most monumental piece of silver-mounted furniture I’ve seen,” said Michael James of The Silver Fund, fingering a $450,000 meuble d’appui dripping with sinuous Art Nouveau figures. Made by Jansen of Paris, the circa 1905 cabinet belonged to Jay Gould and, later, the Kimbells of Forth Worth before Sotheby’s sold it in 1983.
A French accent could also be detected at Suzanne Demisch, New York, where imaginative 1960s brushed stainless-steel furniture by Maria Pergay resembled giant Calder brooches.
The Sixties has a less elegant, more woody side, as well. It appeared at R 20th Century of New York, which featured hunky roundabout chairs by Jose Zanine of Brazil. At Magen H Gallery XX Century Design, what was once a sizable tree had become a compact, all-in-one bar complete with stools and cabinet.
A minimum of rules and a maximum of space (several exhibitors took more than one booth) produced intriguing, if unexpected, results. Forum Gallery of New York, for instance, devoted an entire stand to the captivating shadow boxes of Charles Matton. Well-known in Europe, Matton creates the equivalent of dolls’ houses for sophisticated adults who love wandering among gilt-edged European hotels and private libraries.
Inclusion being a significant theme of this open-minded expo, Douglas Dawson of Chicago paired early Twentieth Century earthenware Mbari House figures, $34,000, by the Ibo Culture of Nigeria, with ceremonial spears, rabbit-shaped wooden bowls from Zambia and Zulu women’s hats.
“Three artists, in particular, who interest me – Josef Albers, Ad Reinhardt and Agnes Martin -have important ties to textiles,” Tuttle wrote in his accompanying catalog essay. A similar theme was expounded upon by William Siegal Galleries of Santa Fe, N.M., which mounted Sumatran women’s scarves whose bold hues and simple, block forms paralleled Albers’ famous color studies.
Perhaps the most noteworthy display of all belonged to the Sladmore Gallery of London, which honored Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916), brother of car designer Ettore Bugatti. Cast by Hebrand Foundry in Paris, these animalier bronzes by the Italian-born artist are illustrated in Rembrandt Bugatti: Life in Sculpture, the new artist’s monograph by gallery owner Edward Horswell. Following the fair’s close, the Bugatti show continues at James Graham & Sons in New York through November 12. Prices ranged from $100,000 to more than $500,000. “Hamadryas Baboon,” a 17-inch bronze of 1910 whose flattened planes echo Picasso’s Cubist experiments, was in the neighborhood of $750,000.
A gala preview party on October 7 benefited the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, organizers of this year’s loan exhibition, “Furnishing Fashion: Material Connections in Twentieth Century Design.”
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