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Artnet Design

by Brook S. Mason
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Remember Miami’s Design District, that vast swath of abandoned buildings far from downtown, with its special concentration of upscale (and not so upscale) design emporiums? It had been beefed up by the annual presence of the Design Miami Basel fair, but last year that event moved over onto the island to set up just footfalls away from Art Basel Miami Beach.

Fast forward in practically a nanosecondo, and local real estate mogul Craig Robins, whose art collection numbers well over 2,000 items, has lured Hermès to set up shop in the Design District. That perennial favorite of Jackie O, the Comtesse de Ribes, Givenchy and countless other style mavens is leaving its spot in the swish Floridian Bal Harbour shopping center.

The luxury brand, which dates back to 1837, is erecting a freestanding 10,000-square-foot, two-story emporium smack dab in the DD. That makes it the second largest store stateside, right after chic Madison Ave.

“Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue, home to Cartier, Chanel and even a tidy Hermès outpost, is challenged by steep rentals, not to mention the presence of Brooks Brothers, a classic name but pedestrian togs, and Ralph Lauren, the Yank take on the pretentious country house look,” said one fashion world insider. Note that spot-on insightful nip.

Source: the suavely dressed, mega cool PR baron Paul Wilmot during breakfast the other day at BLT on Central Park South. Hermès would not comment.

Pickers Café pop-up
Though the fashion pop-ups littering the city practically verge on a snore, NOLITA private dealer Paul Gerben along with Williamsburg metal sculptor Paul Whittle have created an alluring one-shot shop in SoHo. Perched at the corner of Kenmare and Elizabeth Streets, their Pickers Café touts a trove of period objets and art, too.

Offerings include Whittle’s own Entropy (2011), a captivating C Print on Plexi, priced at $8,500. An iron butter and milk churner, ca. 1940, glistening with rust and akin to a raunchy David Smith sculpture, is pegged at a mere $650. A model toy Ford Fairlane turquoise convertible, ca. 1950, can be had for a mere $150.

While not yet household names, Gerben and Whittle have already racked up considerable sales and even a custom art photo for Donna Karan and portraits for both Tommy Hilfiger and actor Robert de Niro.

“No food, great taste is what drives my picking,” says Gerben, who trolls Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont, yet describes himself as basically an East Coast hunter and gatherer.

Pop into this temp gallery slot, which closes Nov. 30, 2011. It's the Pickers Café, 19 Kenmare Street, New York 10012 (917) 318-8283.

New Friedman show
An art fair mania strike of brilliance -- that might just define the latest venture of Rick Friedman, the Art Hamptons fair emperor with outposts in Los Angeles and Houston. His Art Palm Springs debuts Feb. 17-19, 2012, in the hometown of the late Ambassador Walter Annenberg and assorted Rat Pack members.

Palm Springs is a prescient choice for Friedman, as a ton of Modernism design and art aficionados now settle there. “I’ll rein in 70 dealers,” said Friedman, looking like the cat who ate the canary. Could he be the next David Lester? Move over, gang, it's Rick's place now. 

Brit invasion
The Brits are out in full force on the Upper East Side, or so it can seem. London’s Trinity House gallery is definitely on the ascendant, opening a roost opposite Wildenstein & Co. on East 64th Street last Wednesday evening. Another English presence in New York is Ray Waterhouse, with a London dealership, an art advisory service, a SoHo gallery (at 104 Greene Street) and a space on East 72nd.

Ray is a superstar in sales, with revenues of $40 mil last year, according to reports. The question is, what's next? Who's going to be first in Chelsea?

Meanwhile Florentine Fabrizio Moretti, who has three galleries situated in London, Firenze and New York, paired up with Westchester private dealer Andrew Butterfield for their third exhibition to offer Old Masters sculpture. On hand at Moretti’s East 80th Street gallery are splendid works by Luca della Robbia (1399-1482) and other Italian fare.

Swanking around the space was mega-collector Jon Landau, whose home just north of Manhattan is filled to the brim with choice Old Masters. Landau had worked for Bruce Springsteen. Will collecting wonders never cease? After all, Trinity featured a tiny a cappella choir to woo the great and the greedy and just plain good.

BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times and other publications.