Report from London: the Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD) Prospers
PAD, the Paris Pavilion of Art and Design, organized its first satellite show in a tent in central London’s Mayfair district in 2007 as a fringe event piggybacking on the global collector drawing power of Frieze. It still cohabits with the expanding universe of Frieze events early in October, but over the past decade it has progressively carved out its own space and identity as a « cabinet de curiosités » of twentieth and twenty-first century design and decorative arts, more intimate and manageable than Frieze’s sprawling pop-up colony a few miles away.
Judging by buyer interest at this year’s fair, which ran October 3 – 9, It’s a formula that seems to work. Scandinavian design dealer Andrew Duncanson, of the Stockholm gallery Modernity, reported a sellout of his whole stand on the opening day. Several others said they sold more at PAD London than any other show in the year. “London is one of the few places in the world where one finds real collectors,” said Paul Viguier of Galerie James, a young (founded 2011) Paris-based specialist in Brazilian modern.
A focus on usability is one of PAD’s strengths, things for home living rather than public spaces or art vault lock-ups. Viguier’s stand for example highlighted furniture by the Portuguese-Brazilian Joaquim Tenreiro, including a sparely elegant 1947 rosewood rocker-lounger chair and a striking 1960 jacaranda dining table with a buttercup yellow underpainted glass top that sold for €70,000 (or just under $77,000.)
Galerie Le Beau, founded in Brussels two years ago, was one of several dealers showing Scandinavian modern, notably on Le Beau’s stand 1950s Danish furniture in leather, steel and wood by Poul Kjaerholm.
Eye-catching contemporary art furniture included a 2006 Studio Job “Perished” cabinet decorated with a marquetry inlay of skeletal fish, beasts and fowl, on the stand of Peter Petrou and an exquisite “Dreamcatcher” hanging screen by the young English artist Rowan Mersh shown by Gallery Fumi. Strung together from thousands of sliced and polished Turritella seashells, the £72,000 (just under $79,000 in dollars) piece won Mersh the PAD London prize for best contemporary design.
Location also helps. PAD’s Berkeley Square site is a year-round haunt of the super-rich, at the heart of the West End luxury shopping district; and the square’s limited urban acreage tautly frames PAD’s ambitions with a rigor that Frieze’s spacious Regent’s Park location, for better or worse, lacks.
Still, competition requires art fairs to grow or wither and PAD London is no exception. Though nowhere near the galactic spread of the Frieze/Frieze Masters/Frieze Sculpture complex with its more than 160 galleries, PAD London hosted 66 exhibitors this year, up from 62 last year and 58 five years ago.
There are risks to this in terms of focus and expertise. Some new faces — the Munich luxury craft jeweler Hemmerle, for example, or the London fine art dealer Richard Greene showing French impressionists – brought top-quality variety but seemed somehow out on limbs of their own.
Top-name modern art, meanwhile, was strikingly present. Lucio Fontana was multiply represented, alongside other Arte Povera practitioners such as Castellani and Boetti. De Jonckheere, best known as an old master dealer, sold two large figurative paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto for undisclosed prices . Other big-ticket names scattered around the stands included Keith Haring, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Juan Miró, Salvador Dali, Picasso and Dubuffet, with sales reported at prices ranging into the millions.
Contemporary art shows typically don’t need to concern themselves with provenance and authenticity. Questions can be referred back to the creator. Modern art is another matter. In a market environment of intense collector demand and limited supply, fraud and forgery are recognized problems, making stringent vetting a key reputational factor.