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by Brook S. Mason
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Fair organizer Sanford Smith’s "Modernism: A Century of Style and Design" first opened at the Park Avenue Armory in the fall of 1986. Back then, it was a pioneer and spawned shows of "modernism" -- 20th-century decorative arts -- across the country, and even internationally. Now, it’s joined at the hip to Art20, another of Smith’s dec arts fairs. Both opened this weekend.

"Modernism" and the Brooklyn Museum of Art team up to hand out annual Modernism Awards, which amount to a Who’s Who in the design world. Some notes on the winners:

Barbara Jakobson, who was cited as "distinguished collector," sold some of her art and design collection at Christie’s in 2005, but hasn’t stopped (now she favors contemporary work by Tom Sachs and Rachel Whiteread, among others). Georg Jensen took home the "Design and Commerce Award." And Jason Miller, whose Lego-like vessels are craved by the under-40 set, receives the "Brooklyn Museum/Modernism Young Designer Award."

Danish silver by Jensen is prolific at the fair, with examples featured at Drucker Antiques, Alastair Crawford and Didier Antiques. Both Jacksons, of Stockholm and Berlin, as well as Geoffrey Diner of Washington, D.C., carry outstanding design. Jacksons is sporting a monumental Tapio Wirkkala 1950 airplane-veneer sculpture echoing the late Finnish designer’s signature tableware. The show runs Nov. 12-15, 2010.

Dominick Dunne at auction
The late Vanity Fair scribe Dominick Dunne, who entranced readers by chronicling a slew of court cases along with his own grand globe-trotting life, was an English pottery collector, no less. "Staffordshire jugs were his passion and he had at least 50 of them," says Walter Ritchie of Stair Auctioneers. That Hudson, N.Y., firm will hammer down Dunne’s particular brand of tea-cozy taste on Nov. 20, 2010. The presale total estimate is $77,000-$129,000.

The auction includes predominantly 19th-century furniture from the writer’s Manhattan apartment and country house in Hadlyme, Conn. Estimates are low, with a pair of federal style mahogany hall tables pegged at $200. Upholstered pieces are covered in chintz, natch. Dunne’s 1994 Jaguar XJS, which he dubbed "Audrey" to honor the starlet Audrey Hepburn, is expected to fetch $4,000-$8,000. It has 41,500 miles on it.

Windy City textile news
The entire field of textile collecting just got a huge boost with the Art Institute of Chicago appointment of Daniel Walker to head two curatorial departments. Walker, now the Chair and "Christa C. Mayer Thurman Curator of Textiles" as well as the "Pritzker Chair and Curator of Asian Art," is expected to play a huge role in the expansion of both departments. He had been director of the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.

At present, Walker is collaborating on a catalogue of the Oriental carpets in the collection of Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Museum. The Art Institute’s textile collection numbers over 14,000 examples, from 300 BC on, and its contemporary fiber art holdings are exceptional. In 1960, the AIC only had four contemporary works in the field; former curator Christa C. Mayer Thurman added close to 400 more examples.

The AIC just reopened its textile galleries with two exhibitions. On view are "June Wayne’s Narrative Tapestries" by the California artist who is known more as a lithographer, as well as "Contemporary Fiber Art: A Selection from the Permanent Collection." Especially appealing in this latter show is a work by Lenore Tawney, The Bride Has Entered (1982), in painted cotton with gold leaf and linen thread, which presages a number of art installations. Tawney studied under Alexander Archipenko at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

More expansion of the AIC textile galleries is also in the works.

"For too long, textiles had been perceived as the poor cousin in the art world," says Walker. "But now the entire area is gaining visibility." Certain to spur collecting is the growing scarcity of Asian material and Greek and Roman antiquities, he says. Attractive price points in comparison to those for fine art should also fuel growth of the field.

Dutch Treat
For those who missed the Dutch design Studio Job blazing a trail by focusing on ordinary domestic objects and furnishings from pails to wardrobes blown up into Pop Art-like proportions while utilizing luxe materials like gilt bronze and ivory, Rizzoli has the perfect answer. Their just released The Book of Job by Studio Job documents the efforts of the Einhoven Academy-educated design duo Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel. Bound to swell up their reputation are essays by Alessandro Mendini, Nadja Swarovski, Murray Moss and fashion designers Viktor & Rolf.

Their 2007 "Robber Baron" series that included massive wardrobes in polished bronze with crater-like holes matched by millionaire prices were featured at Design Miami and today signify the high-rolling pre-Lehman Brothers days. However, their work still has credence in the marketplace. For example, Poured (2008), a monumental jug in polished and patinated bronze, just sold at the Pavilions des Arts + Design in London.

The book is lavish just like their marquetry. Copies are signed and the edition is 3,000. Cost is $150.

Lalanne candle chic
Designer candles have long sashayed their way through the fashion world but now with Maison Gerard Ltd. launching a limited edition, gilt-bronze candleholder designed by Claude Lalanne, they’ve gotten a whole lot pricier. Sporting the Lalanne visual vocabulary of twisting tendrils and butterflies, their new bronze creation in an edition of 100 costs a rather spellbinding $4,800. But then, the candle has a custom honeysuckle scent created by Quintessence with Madame Lalanne. They’re available early next month. "Claude Lalanne’s whimsical flora and fauna themed sculpture was a natural addition," says Gerard Widdershoven.

New design and art galleries
The latest entrant to the spate of art-and-design galleries in Tribeca is Rebecca Heidenburg, daughter of private dealer Lillian Heidenberg, partnering with Adam Taki. Their RH Gallery (at 137 Duane Street) boasts a stable of international artists. Plying the fashion and design worlds is Stockholm designer Fredrik Färg. His felt chairs, which he dubs RE:cover Chair, sport felt backs, in some cases molded ruffs. They’re right in sync with the sustainable crowd as they feature both found/scrounged object and recycled material. To achieve the undulating chairs backs, Färg bakes the fabric. "Heating the felt in the oven sets the form," says Färg.

Further afield in Montclair -- New Jersey’s answer to Connecticut’s Greenwich -- is Gallery Loupe, an exceedingly sophisticated dealership dedicated to contemporary artist jewelry. The gallery is showcasing the first solo exhibition of Thomas Gentille in over a decade with "Thomas Gentille: Twenty-First Century," featuring 60 new works. It runs until November 20.

Gentille is a major figure in that niche category and highly regarded in Europe. The Pinakothek der Moderne and Schmuckmuseum, both in Germany, and the Victoria and Albert Museum have long included his work in their permanent collections. Metropolitan alone owns six of his distinctive brooches.

What sets this jeweler apart is new techniques like marbleizing, achieved by crackled eggshell on matchbox sized brooches, and unusual materials like slivers of ivory piano keys. For Gentille, "the story is the materials." His artistry is astonishing considering the scale. No wonder they’re so labor intensive. Each one is more painting or sculpture, with some de Stijl in terms of geometry and palette. Others seem more Fred Sandback.

"Each piece takes six months or longer to make," says Gentile, whose studio is on the Upper East Side. Also featured are Gentille etchings and aquatints. Among his collectors is New York publicist Susan Grant Lewin -- who has yet to decide on the rightful institution to win her 500-piece artist jewelry collection.

SOFA Fair sales
Telling of the jittery economy, the 17th-annual SOFA Fair partnered up with another fair on the floor of Navy Pier in Chicago, the joint affair closing its three-day run this past Sunday. The 13-year-old Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art, which once partnered with Art Chicago, joined up the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair spotlighting contemporary ceramics, glass and wood. While Intuit helped fill the fair floor, the mix was highly uneven, with some Intuit dealers hawking paintings at $450 each alongside established galleries like Chicago’s Carl Hammer Gallery and Ricco Maresca from New York.

Another new addition was Cowans + Clark+ DelVecchio, a modern and contemporary ceramic art auction. That’s the joint effort of the Cincinnati-based auction house Cowans with Garth Clark and Mark DelVecchio, former West 57th Street gallery stalwarts and now Santa Fe dealers. They hammered down 84 lots on the fair floor on Saturday. That auction, containing some major Peter Voulkos as well as Lucie Rie examples, was estimated at $700,000-$980,000 and led to a certain consternation on the part of dealers when it reined in only $500,000, with 33 lots unsold.

Design is now more prevalent than ever at SOFA in spite of the slowing down of that specialty. First time dealer Galerie Suppan from Vienna featured furniture by Austrian designer Philipp Aduatz. Among his work, exhibited for the first time in the U.S., is Dormeuse (2010). Polymer composite seating in an undulating form pocked by holes, it has a ‘60s vibe, and was $26,000. Suppan racked up sales of three Aduatz furnishings as well as a commission for a suite.

Brisk sales of Lino Tagliapietra blown glass took place at Schantz Galleries of Stockbridge. Then private dealer Donna Schneier of Palm Beach scored over 20 sales in secondary market material including a major Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova cast glass sculpture. "Long time collectors are still adding to their holdings despite the economy," says Schneier.

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