October 17, 2013 7:25 pm

PAD London – report

This user-friendly fair joyfully mixes decorative arts and design with fine art
Thomas Lemut armchair from Fumi

Thomas Lemut armchair from Fumi

If visitors to the Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD), which takes place in a Mayfair marquee during Frieze week, are in any doubt as to what to do with their high design purchases when they get them home, Timothy Jeffries has the answer. Jeffries, the director of photography specialists Hamiltons Gallery, has kitted out his booth at the fair as a Belgravia sitting room – all velvety brown walls and classy Irving Penn photographs. But then, with a nod to more decadent tastes, he has furnished a dimly lit back room with black brick walls and Araki imagery of complicated bondage techniques, where trussed-up women gazed balefully down onto a black leather Mies van der Rohe daybed. A large-scale Richard Avedon is hung at the perfect height to allow contemplation of 1990s supermodel Stephanie Seymour’s carefully topiaried pubic hair.

The booth’s design is more sad than erotic, suggesting a world in which sex is more likely a transaction than a pleasure. And it isn’t representative of a fair whose annual mission is joyfully to mix 20th-century and contemporary decorative arts and design with fine art in a “do try this at home” kind of way (assuming your home is an airy apartment in the 7th arrondissement, or a duplex on the Upper East Side).

Dealers love the London edition of PAD, a Parisian product that’s now onto its seventh year in the UK. With just 60 galleries, largely of European and US origin (though this year SMOGallery from Beirut joined in), it attracts the high rollers who are in town for Frieze Week.

If Frieze Masters is about connoisseurship and Frieze London about the highly competitive collecting of the contemporary art world, PAD is about comfort and shopping, and the booths are organised accordingly. At Stockholm gallery, Modernity, a pair of Alvar Aalto gleaming black Paimio chairs sit on a stunning rug by Marta Maas Fjetterstrom (an underrated designer of the 1920s and 1930s, though this carpet was posthumously made in the 1950s).

At the Downtown, from Paris, a serious sofa and chairs by Jean Royère, created for a Paris apartment in the 1960s, are shown off against a cream rug, while a stunning Royère lighting arrangement (“Liane”), of seven white shades on meandering black stalks, creeps up an adjoining wall.

London art dealer Robin Katz, a tub-thumper for 1960s and 1970s British artists including Bridget Riley and neglected talents such as Bob Law (“I feel quite patriotic about bringing this work back to people’s attention,” Katz said), has furnished his stall with a Nakashima coffee table and a “school of Rietveld” chair. “The furniture’s not for sale,” he said. “I just like being an interior decorator for a week.”

The New York gallery Van de Weghe adjusted its set economically too, showing a suite of recent Ross Bleckner paintings at around $100,000. The same gallery is showing Picasso’s “Nue Allongée” (1968) on its Frieze Masters stand at $8m.

The PAD formula certainly works. On the opening night alone, sales were ridiculously brisk. Fumi was relieved of a Rowan Mersh shell sculpture and a jesmonite table by Studio Portable within minutes. A brilliant green table by Marc Newson (at €300,000) was snapped up from Galerie Kreo, Paris’s most sophisticated design gallery, along with vintage Gio Ponti mirrors and work by the Campana Brothers. A sleek, masculine carbon fibre shelving piece by Pierre Charpin was under consideration by several buyers. “This really is a commercial fair,” said Clemence Krentowski, the elegant Alaia-clad co-director of Kreo. “The user is at the centre of all this work. Sure, it’s nice if there’s a story behind the piece, but this,” she pointed to the Charpin, “is still a shelf. Otherwise, we’d be at Frieze.”

Not that useability is always the goal. An unlikely new arrival at the fair is the Paris-based Jean-Christophe Charbonnier, specialist in 17th- to 19th-century Japanese armour. Glossy helmets in iron and lacquer sell for £24,000-£60,000 and are proving to have crossover appeal with design-oriented buyers seduced by their sculptural form and exquisite execution.

Next spring, PAD will make its first foray to Los Angeles, and Gregory Gatseralia of SMOGallery has already signed up. “I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m waiting for Brad Pitt to come along and buy something.” If LA is anything like London, the chances are reasonably high.

PAD London runs to Sunday, pad-fairs.com

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