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DESIGN TOP TEN 2011

by Brook S. Mason
 
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1) Elizabeth Taylor gems. One by one, Andy Warhol’s pop icons have inspired bidding fevers all their own. In two weeks of auctions at Christie’s New York, Dec. 3-17, 2011, Liz Taylor’s jewelry and fashion togs -- 1,778 lots -- toted up a hefty $156.8 million, with 26 items going for over $1 million and six for over $5 million, making the trove the priciest jewelry and fashion sales.

Estimates were doused and Asians bid up a storm. A 33.19-carat diamond, sold for $8.8m, reportedly went to Koren hotel titan David Pang.

2) Bergdorf Goodman. How to understand the mystique of antiques in the millennium age? Look no further than the holiday windows of Bergdorf Goodman. Both the women’s and the men’s store windows at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street are crammed with antiques. The theme is “Carnival of Animals” and period artist’s models to marine antiques are included.

3) Alexander McQueen. “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, celebrating the extraordinary artistry of the late London-based designer, from his edgy Savile Row tailoring to his extravagant runway presentations,  was trail-blazing, provocative and mesmerizing.

A staggering 661,509 visitors thronged the museum throughout the summer despite waits that sometimes stretched for three hours, making “Savage Beauty” the eighth most popular exhibition in the Met’s 141-year history -- putting Lee right up there with Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and Pablo Picasso.

4) The Pavilion of Art & Design New York. Fair organizer Patrick Perrin proved there is room for a major design fair as his PAD show, held Nov. 11-14, 2011, at the Park Avenue Armory attracted crowds with strong buying across the board. Perfectly positioned during Sotheby’s and Christie’s round of evening sales, the 54-dealer fair sported Paris Biennale regulars like L’Arc en Seine.

5) Crystal Bridges. After five years of planning, Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton opened her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark, on Nov. 11, 2011. Devoted solely to American art, Crystal Bridges boasts more than 1,000 works, from the Colonial era right up to the present moment, including a massive Roxy Paine sculpture.

The 201,000-square-foot museum is designed by Boston architect Moshe Safdie and consists of nine pavilions surrounding two ponds. Admission is free. With Walton herself spotted at the Miami art fairs mingling quietly with the crowds and buying contemporary work, she seems bound to keep her museum in the news.

6) Masterpiece Fair. Aiming to replicate the success of The European Fine Art Fair held every March in Maastricht, Holland, the second annual Masterpiece opened in June at London’s Royal Chelsea Hospital. The third edition, set for June 28- July 4, 2012, already promises to be larger, with a total of 165 dealers slated to participate, with an impressive waiting list of 150 more.

7) The Highline. Ornamental grasses have never looked so splendid as they do on the Highline, perched two stories above street level snaking through Chelsea. James Corner, the New York-based landscape architect responsible for the design, is soon to lend his considerable skills to London’s Olympic Park. He’s creating a hedge labyrinth, event lawn and outdoor theater along a tree-lined promenade.

8) Daphne Guinness. The stellar FIT Museum show “Daphne Guinness,” dedicated to the celebrity fashion muse, model and designer, pulled out all the stops in terms of sartorial drama. Her collection of Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaia and Chanel as well as her own designs hit all the high spots, as did the Steven Klein photographs of her, especially those under water.  

9. Asia Week. The week of Asian-art-centric events in March 2011 got shot in the arm this year with the Asia Week, now in its third year. Although the auctions have long been a stable of Asia Week, the closure of Brian and Anna Haughton’s International Asian Art Fair left a gap. A clutch of 16 dealers staged special exhibitions and the week grew from strength to strength and this past year, a total five auction houses plus 17 museums and 32 dealers participated.

10. Duncan Phyfe. Everyone knows English 18th century cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale but now the Neo-Classical master Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) is being feted. The Metropolitan Museum of Art just debuted “Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York,” while Hirschl & Adler Galleries installed “The Worlds of Duncan Phyfe: The Arts of New York, 1800-1847”. These exhibitions are bound to turn up yet more furniture from Phyfe Grecian sofas, lyre back chairs and gilt winged creatures as table bases.


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