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Mar. 25, 2008 

Armory Show Week in Manhattan has its own design component, dubbed Design Miami / New York Galleries, Mar. 25-27, 2008. The event isn’t a fair -- rather, it’s a coordinated presentation of design shows at 11 New York galleries that typically exhibit at the Design Miami fairs.

Participating galleries include Antik (104 Franklin), with a show of 20th-century Scandanavian stoneware; DeLorenzo 1950 (440 Lafayette) with "Metal & Wood," a survey of American woodworkers George Nakashima, Phillip Lloyd Powell and Wharton Esherick alongside work by French metal designers Yonel Lebovici and Serge Mouille; and Johnson Trading (490 Greenwich Street), which presents "Mario Dal Fabbro, 1913-1990: A Retrospective."

Other dealers include Cristina Grajales (10 Greene Street), Demisch Danant (542 West 22nd), Donzella 20th Century (17 White), Galerie Patrick Seguin (@ Sonnabend, 536 West 22nd), Magen H. (80 East 11th), Moss (150 Greene), R 20th Century (82 Franklin) and Sebastian + Barquet (544 West 24th).

The Museum of Arts & Design unveils its new $90-million, 54,000-square-foot facility on Columbus Circle, designed by Seattle architect Brad Cloepfil, in September 2008 with "Second Life: Remixing the Ordinary," an exhibition featuring works by 40 artists from 17 countries, all of who take ordinary objects -- dare we say "junk"? -- and use them to make works of art and design.

The show features Ai Weiwei’s famous series of Neolithic Chinese vases repainted in contemporary colors, a necklace of pistol triggers made by Boris Bally as part of a Pittsburgh "gun buy-back" program, and Sonya Clark’s 11-foot-tall portrait of the 19th-century African American millionaire Madame C.J. Walker -- she made hair products and cosmetics for black women -- constructed entirely of black hair combs. Other artists in the show include El Anatsui, Xu Bing, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Ingo Maurer, Cornelia Parker, Do-Ho Suh and Fred Wilson. The exhibition is organized by MAD curators David McFadden and Lowery Sims.

In 2007, the Indianapolis Museum of Art lured design curator R. Craig Miller away from the Denver Art Museum to give a major boost to the IMA’s design programming. Six months later, the museum has announced a slew of new design acquisitions as well as plans for an IMA Design Center, opening in November 2008, featuring classic and contemporary textiles, furniture, tableware and toys available for sale.

Most importantly, for 2009 the IMA is organizing "European Design since 1985: Shaping the New Century," Mar. 8-May 31, 2009, a selection of 250 works by 118 designers from 14 countries, in the first critical overview of European design during the last 20 years. Organized by Miller, the show identifies two major movements in contemporary European design: Modernism (industrial design), which manifested itself in three trends, called Geometric Minimal, Biomorphic and Neo-Pop; and Postmodernism (decorative design), which in the ‘80s continued as Decorative and Expressive design, and in the ‘90s as Conceptual, Neo-Dada/Surreal and Neo-Decorative design.

The show is co-organized with the Denver Art Museum, in conjunction with Kingston University, London.

The boom market in 20th-century design has brought entire modernist houses to the auction block, with two notable examples coming up at the spring auctions in May. Christie’s New York  is selling Richard Neutra’s 3,200-square-foot Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, a glass, steel and stone structure designed by Neutra in 1949 as a desert getaway for Philadelphia department-store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. (who was also the client for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater a decade earlier). The house is estimated to sell for $15 million-$25 million, and is included in Christie’s big evening sale of postwar and contemporary art on May 13, 2008. The home was purchased for $1.9 million in 1993 by Brent and Beth Edwards Harris, who spent another $5 million on a five-year-long restoration. The couple is divorcing.

The second house to hit the block in May is Louis Kahn’s Esherick House in Philadelphia, which is being sold by the Wright auction house in Chicago at its design sale on May 18, 2008. The two-story, 2,500-square-foot, one-bedroom structure, located in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, carries a pre-sale estimate of $2 million-$3 million. It has a monolithic exterior of beige concrete and stylish vertical windows framed in natural wood, and includes a custom kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick, one of his last remaining intact interiors. It was completed in 1961. The house is being sold by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Gallagher, who bought it in 1981. For the sale, Wright has published a deluxe catalogue with photographs by Todd Eberle.

Previous auction sales of modernist architecture have included Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House outside of Chicago, which sold for $7.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2003, Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #21 in Hollywood that sold for just over $3 million in 2006, and Jean Prouvé’s 1951 Maison Tropicale, which sold for almost $5 million at Christie’s.

Speaking of architecture, it has become routine for museums with new buildings to mount exhibitions of designs by their own architects, and the New Museum is no different. "SANAA: Works 1998-2008," Mar. 28-June 15, 2008, presents everything from housewares to museum facilities from the studio of architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, who designed the New Museum’s $50 million, 60,000-square-foot structure on the Bowery.

Projects on view include the Christian Dior Building Omotesando in Tokyo (2001-2003), the Vitrashop Factory Hall in Basel (2006-), the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa (1998-2004) and the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio (2001-2006).  The show includes examples of domestic architecture as well as the nascent Louvre-Lens, a satellite museum under way in northern France that is due to be completed in 2010. The exhibition goes up in the museum’s lobby gallery and Marcia Tucker Hall.

For March, Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris is exhibiting an electric chair -- New York-based Chilean artist Iván Navarro’s Black Electric Chair (2006), a sinuous version of a Marcel Breuer Wassily Chair made of black-light neon. According to the gallery, the work, which is part of the artist’s "Antifurniture" exhibition, "may be interpreted as a denunciation of the death penalty in the U.S."

Navarro is celebrated for objects and installations using neon lights and mirrors to explore the threshold between design and sculpture, and "Antifurniture" includes Navarro’s remarkable multiple, Assembly Line (2007), an ordinary black metal toolbox that has been altered with a fluorescent light and mirrors to create the illusion of a bottomless dark tunnel when the box is opened.

Produced in an edition of 15, the work is published by Karen LaGatta Editions in New York. The price is $12,000. For details, contact

Jewelry by artists, anyone? Then get thee to the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for "Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection," Mar. 14-July 6, 2008. The show features an incredible 300 objects by more than 115 artists from 21 countries assembled over 40 years by Drutt, a Philadelphia dealer and author.

The Renwick has also organized a symposium, "A Grand Passion: Global Perspectives on Contemporary Art Jewelry," Apr. 12, 2008, with presentations by Drutt as well as artists Robert Baines, Claus Bury, Robin Kranitzky and Kim Overstreet.

The show is organized by Cindi Strauss, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, where it first appeared. Subsequent stops include the Mint Museum in Charlotte, Aug. 16, 2008-Jan. 4, 2009, and the Tacoma Museum, June 27-Sept. 13, 2009.

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