September 28, 2012 9:14 pm

Rise of the mixed economy

PAD’s mix of art and design is luring crossover collectors
‘Under the Stars’ (1994) by William N. Copley

‘Under the Stars’ (1994) by William N. Copley

A London-based collector who is a regular at the Pavilion of Art+Design (PAD) fair, held annually in London’s Berkeley Square, is describing how, in his home, contemporary art dovetails with his design pieces. “I have a bench by Thomas Heatherwick [the UK designer who created the Olympic cauldron] which is offset by a number of Hirsts, a contemporary master. If you have beautiful art, why not have beautiful furniture and architecture to show it off?” PAD, with its sections devoted to design, decorative arts and tribal art, has always encouraged buyers to mix and match across different genres and periods.

Crossover collecting is nothing new. In the 1910s, US industrialist Henry Clay Frick scooped up Renaissance bronzes and Impressionist masterpieces while Lord Jacob Rothschild of the eponymous banking dynasty has shown design pieces by Brazil’s Campana brothers at Waddesdon Manor, the family estate in Buckinghamshire (the baron is also keen on Alberto Giacometti and 17th-century Venetian painting).

Art and design of the 20th and 21st centuries seem like natural bedfellows, with collecting in both sectors slowly gaining momentum. Since the financial meltdown of 2008, the market for contemporary design has simmered rather than boiled but classic modern design is a different story. Eileen Gray’s stock rose dramatically, for example, with the €22m sale of her 1920s “dragon” armchair at Christie’s auction of the Yves Saint Laurent collection in early 2009.

“Contemporary design is very cheap compared to contemporary art, especially the top-end works. You can get an amazing design work for between £50,000 and £100,000,” says the UK collector, who declines to be named. There have been high points though; the original 1985 “Lockheed Lounge LC1” chaise longue by Marc Newson became the first design work by a living artist to sell at auction for more than £1m (£1,105,250) at Phillips de Pury in London in April 2009. At Phillips de Pury’s New York sale in June, a set of four sheep in bronze by François-Xavier Lalanne fetched $746,500 (estimate $350,000-$500,000), making trade specialists bleat with delight.

But prices generally are not stratospheric. Thierry Gillier, founder of the Zadig & Voltaire fashion chain, concurs that contemporary design is more affordable. Last year at PAD he bought a 1960s piece by Dan Flavin, later acquiring a large lamp by the Bouroullec brothers from Galerie Kreo in Paris. “The lamp was a lot less expensive,” he quips, adding, “I collect design when it’s a piece of art.” His collection also includes works by high-profile artists such as Christopher Wool, Wade Guyton and Franz West.

‘Force décuplée’ (1995) by Arman

‘Force décuplée’ (1995) by Arman

The aesthetic cross-currents between art and design also underpin the collection of Murray Moss and Franklin Getchell, due for auction at Phillips de Pury New York on October 16. Moss opened a small gallery in SoHo, Manhattan, in 1994, specialising in industrial design; his eclectic tastes are apparent in the tantalising range of works that will go on show in a pre-sale exhibition (October 6-15), encompassing contemporary and modern designers such as Hella Jongerius and Gio Ponti and big-name painters such as George Condo.

At PAD this year, several dealers are also setting up intriguing art and design juxtapositions, including New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery. Its stand promises to be an arresting aesthetic mélange, dotted with important works by practitioners such as the late French artist Arman (“Force décuplée”, 1995), US surrealist painter William Copley (“Under the Stars”, 1994) and Swiss designer Mattia Bonetti (“Oval Meander” coffee table, 2011). Prices range from $10,000 to $325,000.

Nine Paris galleries out of 22 design dealers in total dominate the pack at PAD, with a combination of modern art and contemporary design at Galerie Diane de Polignac. The gallery plans to interweave a series of brass sculpture-lamps by Guy de Rougement (“Leda”, €8,000, and “Pop”, €6,000) with works by modern art titans such as Willem de Kooning – a 1977 oil on newspaper – and Robert Rauschenberg (“Scattergram”, 1979).

‘La Poupée (Figure with Trees)’ (1937) by Hans Bellmer

‘La Poupée (Figure with Trees)’ (1937) by Hans Bellmer

But are there enough collectors active in the market to sustain this two-pronged art-design approach? “We have a very strong client base in Europe, indeed London is the gateway to the European market for us,” says Marc Benda of New York’s Friedman Benda gallery, which is also combining art and design, showing Hans Bellmer’s vintage silver print “La Poupée (Figure with Trees)”, 1937, ($35,000) and Ettore Sottsass’s pear wood “Cabinet No 70”, 2006, ($125,000) in Berkeley Square.

Another PAD participant, Shanghai-based dealer and design specialist Pearl Lam, adds that most of her clients are art collectors from Europe, the US and Asia. Tellingly, a spokeswoman for the London-based dealership Adrian Sassoon says: “We participate in a number of fairs annually but, in the UK, PAD is the fair where we meet the most interior designers.”

New this year, and already looming large over the landscape, is Frieze Masters in Regent’s Park, sister fair to the established contemporary art sibling Frieze Art Fair – now renamed Frieze London – which launched in 2003. The organisers of Frieze Masters aim to present “a unique contemporary perspective on historical art”, with more than 90 dealers showing works made before 2000. Its director, Victoria Siddall, told The Art Newspaper: “It’s just art at Frieze Masters, no antiques, furniture or jewellery.”

The Sladmore gallery in London is one that has defected to Frieze Masters from PAD. “We decided to do the Masters show over PAD because it is a serious ‘art’ show, whereas PAD is great but more of a design fair,” says Gerry Farrell, director of Sladmore Contemporary. “We wanted to show Rembrandt Bugatti, our most important sculptor, at a top-end art fair.”

Patrick Perrin, co-founder of PAD, argues that his fair brand is strong nonetheless. “The sixth edition of PAD London epitomises the perfect balance between modern art and design, with an equal amount of exhibitors in both fields,” he says, adding that modern art was introduced in 2009 “to match the successful template of our Paris fair”, now in its 16th edition. He adds that, “The refined blend of modern art, design, decorative arts and tribal art defines our unique signature.”

With 60 exhibitors, including 17 returning modern and contemporary art dealers such as Lefèvre Fine Art of London and New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash, the picture looks fairly healthy in the context of today’s crowded fair landscape. It’s no mean feat to attract 10 galleries in the same sector for the first time, including Manhattan heavyweights Paul Kasmin Gallery and Skarstedt Gallery.

Significantly, the modern and contemporary art dealer Christophe Van de Weghe is participating in both PAD and Frieze Masters. “By doing both fairs I will be able to show more works of art,” he says. A 1985 painting by Gerhard Richter, priced at $5.2m, and a 1985 work at $3.9m by Jean-Michel Basquiat, will be among the star pieces on his PAD stand.

But for some PAD is about more than just prices. As Bethanie Brady, director of Paul Kasmin Gallery, puts it: “The strange thing about PAD is that it does attract the collector that, indeed, buys principally for pleasure.”

Pavilion of Art+Design, October 10-14, www.pad-fairs.com

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