Israeli-born, London-based furniture superstar Ron Arad, whose curvaceous steel chairs, dubbed "Bodyguards,” have been fetching $500,000 in this country, is now playing practically everywhere. London dealer Timothy Taylor has taken on representing Arad and has just recruited him to design their stand for the Frieze Art Fair in October 2008. On the drawing board is a booth consisting of clusters of interlocking planes. No indication yet of what material the designer will use. But with Yoshii Gallery selling its entire Tadao Ando-designed stand down to the flooring at Design Miami Basel this summer for a cool $1 million, perhaps Taylor and Arad can replicate that kind of hefty purchase.
Expect huge prices for the new Arad chairs on view with Taylor at Frieze. His brand new "Bodyguards” are tagged at €420,000, or $649,000. Other designs are even more expensive. They go on view for a single day only, a strategy that just may spur split-second purchasing. Next spring, Taylor debuts his first solo show of Arad.
Fueling the Arad megaprices is an upcoming show at several top museums. The Centre Pompidou in Paris launches an Arad exhibition on Nov. 19, 2008, which later travels to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Antler art via gasoline alley
Postmodernist Sherrie Levine launched what can be called the millennium craze for deer and stag antlers with her cast bronze animal skulls and antler sets that sell for $150,000 a pop. Now, Massachusetts artist Gordon Chandler is edging the trend towards folk art while paying homage to the nation’s gas-guzzling penchant. He fashions deer heads and quilt-like tapestries out of petrol tanks.
Already, the contemporary art collecting clan is hunting and gathering such fare. "Collectors of Chandler’s work include real estate developer Steve Ross, chairman and CEO of Related, as well as Mass MOCA trustees," says Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, Mass. "The appeal is partly found object and part innovative sculpture," she says. The works can be had for as little as $5,000.
Contemporary design at auction
Another sign that contemporary design is now a full-fledged category in the auction houses: Christie’s New York is putting works by Ron Arad, Forrest Myers and Ettore Sottsass, all three in Chelsea dealer Barry Friedman’s formidable stable, plus designs by Zaha Hadid and Maarten Baas on the block in the firm’s first-ever design sale, scheduled for Sept. 8, 2008. Estimates run from $200,000-$300,000 for Arad’s 1995 curvy, stainless steel sofa to $6,000-$8,000 for a Harush Shlomo hammered aluminum chair from 2006 that was featured in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign. The sale of only 30 lots is estimated at $1.2 million-$1.7 million.
Brideshead Revisited, yet again
That quintessential English country house Castle Howard has now been immortalized in full celluloid splendor by Miramax. The ancestral home of the Howard family, designed Sir John Vanbrugh as well as Nicholas Hawksmoor beginning in 1619, the vast pile of a house located in Yorkshire, England, plays a starring role in the feature film Brideshead Revisited out this week.
Like both the Evelyn Waugh novel and the 1981 television miniseries, the feature film is an epic tale of nostalgia and romance laced heavily with Catholic guilt, all set in that grand country house. Castle Howard is shown complete with sculpture galleries, Renaissance paintings and fabulous gardens dotted with Baroque-styled fountains. Even Miramax producer Kevin Loader has said, "One of the reasons we went there was this fountain."
The setting and the costumes may just help the antiques and vintage-clothing trade. Star Emma Thompson wears Fortuny-like stenciled velvet togs and Deco jewelry.
Don’t miss the scenes of the towering Great Hall with domed ceilings, the chapel, or the quintessential English garden architectural gem, the Temple of the Four Winds.
Thomas Hope, Regency designer
Just when "Hollywood Regency” style -- the pastel-colored furniture favored by Hollywood designers in the 1930s -- is having its day, the very father of real Regency design -- produced during the rule of British Prince of Wales, 1911-1820 -- is now feted at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan. On view there is "Thomas Hope: Regency Designer,” which first opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. For 19th-century fans and more, the show is must.
Hope (1769-1831), a member of a successful merchant banking family, was born to enormous wealth, on equal footing with the Rothschild and Barings empires. With that kind of money, Hope was the ultimate patron and collector. Perhaps more importantly, his activity presaged the way that today’s interior designers, architects and domestic divas work to immortalize themselves.
Hope turned out endless books trumpeting his own sense of home style. In 1807, he published Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, which contained line drawings of his interiors and furnishings. He also popularized ethnic dress, took the Grand Tour to a new extreme (his personal sojourn was a staggering ten-year-long jaunt) and trimmed up furniture in novel ways. His decorative vocabulary was plucked from Egypt, Pompeii and Classical Greece.
Along the way, Hope was also a trailblazer in the private museum world. Like Sir John Soane, Hope opened his home to the public. In between, he was a novelist, decorator, patron, collector and scholar. Yet strangely, Hope has long been overlooked. Though this exhibition is a tad small, it should go a long way to correcting that omission.
Don’t miss Hope’s gilded settee in beech, embellished with bronze, its ends banked by seated lions. Dating from 1802, the settee is still chic. Silver gilt, vases, portraits and Hope’s own watercolors complete the show.
New features at the new MAD
While preservationists and architectural historians from Yale School of Architecture dean Robert A. M. Stern on down may have deplored the Museum of Arts and Design overhaul of E.D. Stone’s white Moorish palazzo on Columbus Circle, it turns out that the refurbished building is rather pioneering.
Brad Cloepfil and his firm, Allied Works Architecture, have cloaked the building (or shrouded it, depending on your point of view) in a glazed terracotta tile, a suitably appropriate medium for a museum featuring ceramics. He has also lightened up the building considerably by cutting into its exterior façade, and tripled the interior space to 54,000 square feet, adding a tenth floor and restoring the basement auditorium.
Of Stone’s "lollypop building," Cloepfil, who also designed the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum and the Seattle Art Museum expansion, and is presently fine-tuning his scheme for the new Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, says, "It was very successful as a large Playboy Mansion," referring to its former incarnation as headquarters to the frequently married A&P heir Huntington Hartford, who originally erected it as his eponymous museum. Unfortunately, after Hartford’s ill-fated museum closed, the building fell into disuse (though it was rented out as a TV set for shows including Law and Order).
Cloepfil’s new MAD facility is officially named the Jerome and Simona Chazen Building, in a nod to those benefactors. Jerome, the founding partner of the fashion brand Liz Claiborne, donated a hefty $12 million to MAD and was instrumental in raising $84 million for its new home (his name also graces another art-world institution, the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin Madison). In addition to his holdings in contemporary decorative arts and design, Chazen also has a five-star collection of Pop art.
When MAD opens on Sept. 27, 2008, it will boast a restaurant on the top floor (the views up Central Park West are divine), the first contemporary jewelry gallery in a museum nationwide and working studios for craft artists. MAD just might become the to-go-to-destination while elevating the entire field of contemporary decorative arts. One thing is certain: the artist’s workshops will make the artistic process integral to the museum experience -- and that just may spark a trend.
Move Over, MoMA Design Store
Finally, another player on the museum scene is spotlighting and selling cutting-edge design via carefully curated presentations. The huge Indianapolis Museum of Art (it’s got a 152-acre campus!) debuts its IMA Design Center, featuring furniture as well as sustainable design products, this coming November. It’s the brainchild of IMA director Maxwell L. Anderson and R. Craig Miller, the IMA’s curator of design arts.
Miller has given the new retail space bamboo and stone flooring and a remarkably spare esthetic. "I want to capture the sense of the Knoll and Herman Miller showrooms in the 1940s and "50," says Miller. In heading up this new venture, Miller aims to create new relationships with manufacturers as well as serve as a resource for interior designers and architects. Shoppers can expect wares from Ron Arad, Jurgen Bey, Hella Jongerius, Jasper Morrison, Philippe Starck and many others.
BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times, the New York Sun and other publications.