Just when 20th-century design rarities are the hen’s teeth of the art world, along comes Brian and Anna Haughton’s International Art + Design Fair, 1900-2006. The fifth version debuts Oct. 5-11, 2006, at the storied Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue, packed with design icons and surprising discoveries as well as outlandish objets d’art.
Tooling the floor during the setup was Paris designer Jacques Grange, who has lent his considerable talents to both the homes and the museum of couturier Yves St. Laurent.
Grange’s eye for the exceptional is unparalleled. His picks? Well, he zeroed in on two ceramics sheltered within the stand of Galerie du Post Impressionisme, and they make the paintings look, shall we say, paltry. Maurice Vlaminck’s 1906 signed plate in lapis blue abstract swirls is a triumph, as is a Paul Gauguin rough pottery vessel painted with Breton figures and ducks rendered with brief and assured lines. The Gauguin qualifies as both drawing, painting and ceramic in one.
Next up, a Serge Roche ten-pointed mirror from 1935 at the booth of Alexandre Biaggi of Paris is the height of chunky chic, as are the Jacques Adnet bookcases made of black wrought iron and edged in bamboo at the Nilufar Gallery from Milan. Adnet pieces have climbed steeply in price and the bookcases cost $60,000. The Roche mirror is $125,000.
Paris dealer Pierre Passepon of Galerie du Passage sports a Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne table centerpiece of bronze lily pads, priced at $65,000. Any sticker shock at the price is likely to disappear within a year’s time, as Reed Krakoff, president of Coach leather goods, is sponsoring a show and book devoted to Lalanne this November at Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea, which is certain to elevate Lalanne prices even more. Passebon also features at his stand a Garouste & Bonetti cupboard of beaten iron with pistachio green ceramic door fronts, priced at $60,000. The sum is reasonable compared to Ingrid Donat’s contemporary bronze furniture.
Belgian dealer Philippe Denys wins hands down for the show-stopping stand. "His esthetic is pure," says Grange. By that the designer means there is not a single jarring note, not one cliché or marginal example. In fact, Deny’s offerings would look right at home in such demanding interiors as those of architect Lee Mindel.
Certain to be scooped up pronto at Denys is a Jules Wabbes 1950 rosewood table of utter simplicity, with legs like stripped-down saw horses. On the table, Denys has placed with perfection Tapio Wirkala silver and glass as well as Toneneo Munua’s restrained pottery. The glass is comb cut, meaning each individual line is made by a wheel. Elsewhere in the booth are Wirkala’s beech-leaf-shaped platters crafted from multiple layers of plywood. They’re exactingly made, with each piece the thinnest sliver of wood, a method that no one has reproduced in decades.
This time round, there are loads of French dealers and stylish French furnishings. Galerie Yves Gastou, which frequently caters to Karl Lagerfeld and Bernard Arnault, has taken the largest stand. Suzanne Demish, who opened her shop Demish Danant in Chelsea last year, collared a range of period and new Maria Pergay objects for her stand. Pergay made accessories in silver for Dior, Hermes, Christofle and more, while Pierre Cardin snapped up her stainless steel furniture. Somehow, the newer Pergay pieces look clinical compared to her work from the 1960s. A pair of table lamps with bases of silvered antlers are a must for the most discriminating tastemakers.
Ceramics are on a high this time around, reflecting the sudden emergence of this specialty in its rightful place on center stage. The Manhattan gallery Antik is spotlighting an Eva Hild sculpture on a large table in the center of its booth. Highly organic in shape but with shell-like edges, the ceramic could be perfectly paired with a Brice Marden painting. Antik also has Axel Salto’s Mask of Aktaeon, with blue glazed tears dripping down his cheeks, for $85,000. It’s extremely powerful and only one of five ever produced.
Finally, there’s modern i headed up by Miami private dealer Eeva Musacchia (yes, that’s a small "i" and two "e’s"), who is a Finn. She’s touting contemporary Finnish ceramics and they have a somewhat sauvage look that’s in sync with these troubled times. So, Kristina Riska’s vessels bear heavily punctured surfaces of stoneware with copper oxide while Kati Tuominen Nittlyla’s stoneware bowls resemble rusted copper. Both potters work at Arabia kilns and their works have already been purchased by museums throughout Scandinavia. With prices beginning at only $8,000, their vessels rate as a must buy and make other examples elsewhere on the floor seem appallingly pedestrian.
With scarcity now severely marking the cream of 20th-century design, the very best pieces at this fair are bound to be plucked up early. Wise buyers head to the Armory fast and hoover up only the top items.
The Gothic Cher
Speaking of over-the-top-taste, it seems that the celebrity songstress Cher, best known in style circles for her luridly revealing Bob Mackie ensembles, also has a penchant for Gothic Revival furnishings. When Sotheby’s hammered down her household effects in Beverly Hills on Oct. 3-4, 2006, including her black Bentley and scuffed Versace boots, bidders fought for the decorative-arts lots bearing the name of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852), the Victorian designer best known for his work at the Houses of Parliament in London.
Pugin’s Scarisbrick Hall Bed, ca. 1865, sold for $84,000. A Gothic Revival gilt and polychrome-decorated frame, ca. 1840, designed by Pugin for the de Lisle family's chapel at Grace Dieu, jumped to $18,000 against a presale estimate of $5,000-$7,000. The painting in the frame, a rendering of St. Filomena in a red cape, is a later addition.Tidbits
Sometimes, the very names of art-world figures who share the spotlight in making charitable donations can be especially revealing. Spotted at the newly re-opened Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris was a trio of masterpiece rooms by Albert Rateau for Jeanne Lanvin, captioned with these benefactor names of note: Louise MacBain (bathroom), A. Alfred and Judith Taubman (bedroom) and Robert and Veronique Pittman (boudoir). One guess as to who got there first.
CHIPPENDALE writes on art and fashion from New York.