PHOTO COURTESY OF BILLY FARRELL AGENCY. GALERIE GMURZYNSKA BOOTH, DESIGNED BY KARL LAGERFELD.
A seasoned crowd of collectors and art-world insiders came to the Park Avenue Armory yesterday evening for the preview of the Pavilion of Art Design, a new art fair likely to settle comfortably in the Manhattan social calendar. The clicking of heels (it seems the platform extravaganza of Christian Louboutin and Nicholas Kirkwood is now out of favor), the golden hue of Ruinart blanc de blancs (a house dating back to 1729, cue ancien régime), and the mellifluous inflections of French and Italian provided a soothing backdrop to the wildly eclectic selection of fine art, furniture, and design exhibited by forty-nine international galleries.
Co-founded by Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot in Paris, in 1996, and expanded across the Channel to London four years ago, PAD has become celebrated for its discerning vetting committee, reflected not only in the quality of the work on display, but also in subtle curatorial manipulations. Some perspectives were intriguing, like a wide-angled panorama with a pair of turn-of-the-century chairs by Viennese designer Koloman Moser, a Fernand Léger gouache and a contemporary porcelain sculpture by Katsuyo Aoki; others seemed a touch haphazard or overly pronounced, as was the case with a Pierre Bonnard painting of his wife Marthe, reclining at a table with a wistful gaze, hung across the aisle from a Henry Moore bronze of a voluptuously recumbent woman. In any case, the eye never ceased to wander.
"Tribal art marries extremely well with contemporary art and design," said Katherine Rea, gallery manager at the London-based Entwistle, whose display of ceremonial clubs from Congo attracted this reporter's attention. Indeed it did: in the cavernous space of the Drill Hall, a hanging Calder mobile winked at a Swedish chest of drawers exhibited at the 1925 World Exhibition in Paris; a Midcentury Modern chaise lounge mingled with ever-popular Pop stalwarts Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann; and a sinister-looking reliquary head from Gabon seemed to regard a 1980s joke painting by Richard Prince with, well, a degree of ambivalence.
Coming on the heels of a major auction of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's the night before, which set records for blue-chip artists like Roy Lichtenstein (just over $43 million) and photographer Andreas Gursky (nearly $4.5 million, and the most expensive photograph ever sold), the mood was buoyant yet understated. Manhattan had a strong team of the familiar alpha-dealers like L&M Arts or Paul Kasmin, but collectors will be pleased with an array of less-familiar galleries from Rome, Geneva or Stockholm. Pausing to collect my thoughts amid the fair's sensory overload, I engaged in a casual chat with a Swiss collector of German Modern and contemporary art, in town for the week. Alas, she only had a minute. An evening sale at Sotheby's, several blocks east on the far Upper East Side, was about to start.
PAVILION OF ART & DESIGN NEW YORK IS AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY FROM NOVEMBER 11 TO 14.