SOFA, or rather the fourth annual International Exposition of Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art, has set up shop at Park Avenue's Seventh Regiment Armory. In terms of cutting-edge decorative arts, this is the fair to hit. No less than textile designer Jack Lenor Larson called this event "the dominant contemporary decorative arts exposition in the world."
What are the trends? Well, exuberance is the brand of choice and millennium minimalism is barely in evidence. There are no boundaries when it comes to every aspect of the decorative arts, and prices are skyrocketing in this area.
Simply consider the glass on view at SOFA -- virtually every avant-garde glass artist is represented on the floor. Heller Gallery is touting New Yorker Karen LeMonte, whose cast-glass figure in a gown complete with bustle costs $60,000. She crafted this peculiar creature in the Czech Republic, the global capital for glass.
Galerie Na Janskem Vrsku is showing major Czech artists like Vaclav Cigler and Ilija Bilek. You could say that glass is really today's bronze, in terms of both price and importance. The Seattle gallery Riley Hawk is showing Venetian glass master Lino Tagliopietra. His latest forms are attenuated ovoids with spiraling stripes of chartreuse, burnt sienna and all manner of yellow. A single vessel is priced at $39,000, while a set of 11 vessels is a staggering $350,000.
But SOFA isn't just about the latest creations. There's ethnography at Douglas Dawson and period textiles at Gail Martin. She is featuring a 15th-century Turkish chain mail shirt for only $7,500. It's slightly rusted. Also on her stand is a Peter Collingwood tapestry. This British weaver received a retrospective at the Washington, D.C., Textile Museum last year and his tapestry on display here -- in subtle celadon and beige -- is highly restful. Commissioned by Shell Oil two decades ago, the tapestry is $30,000. That's a relative bargain compared to some of the glass. Martin also an Indonesian lawan in lime and red silk that is akin to a Rothko, along with contemporary fiber art by Polly Barton and others.
While Leo Kaplan Modern is sporting the latest furniture from the hands of Wendell Castle and the like, somehow yesteryear's furniture seems more appealing. So head to Gallery Moderne of Philadelphia. George Nakashima is center stage here. There's one of his 1951 lounge chairs in black walnut with its original cotton and seagrass webbing for $27,500. It's the perfect look for a Richard Neutra residence.
For ceramics, Franklin Parrasch has got a set of Betty Woodman's jovial pitchers drenched in color. They are priced at $35,000.
In all, SOFA is like taking a survey course in contemporary crafts. All the high points and some in between are here.
SOFA New York 2001, May 30-June 4, 2001, at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021. 1 (800) 563-7632.
BROOK S. MASON writes on the fine and decorative arts.