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Salon Art+Design Brings Home and Art Closer Together

Aug 20, 2023


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Art Review

With tapestries and jewelry on display at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, the fair makes you question the boundaries of art-versus-design.

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By Martha Schwendener

Salon Art + Design is more international this year, gaining back exhibitors from abroad who were reluctant or unable to travel during the pandemic. But home is still the focus of this annual fair at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan: not just art and design objects displayed in isolation, but imagining how they live together, how they inhabit a room and how you — or a daydreaming you — could cozy up with your furniture, tapestries, jewelry and curios.

The objects on view here span millenniums — from around 5,000 B.C.E. to the present — as well as vast cultures and continents. Fifty-two exhibitors and 11 special installations (mostly in the hallway outside the cavernous drill hall) skew more heavily toward design than earlier years, but the fair makes you question the boundaries of art-versus-design. Why not wear your art? Why not sit on it? Here are some highlights of the fair, which previews Thursday, and runs Friday to Monday.

Tapestries are everywhere here. Generally woven and hung on the wall like a painting, some of the examples here were designed by painters and others by artists dedicated to fiber and textile arts. One of the standouts is a tapestry by Vasily Kandinsky at Boccara (Booth D10), created after a painting made during the early 1940s and fabricated in 1944. The composition is reminiscent of other late, playful works by Kandinsky that were recently on view in the revelatory Guggenheim show of his work. Boccara is also showing three deeply colored tapestries designed by the Ukraine-born modern master Sonia Delaunay. Wexler (Booth B3) has a tapestry by Jan Yoors, a Belgian-American artist who wove the tapestries (or, to be more accurate, his two wives helped execute his designs; a recent New York Magazine feature about the artist's home in Greenwich Village told the tale of his unconventional life and art).

At Magen H (Booth A12), a beautiful creamy beige tapestry — or "carpet sculpture" — from 1977 by Nicole Noailles Lascaux was made by shaving the wool to create a textured relief. Meanwhile, at Friedman Benda (Booth B1), Misha Kahn's playful, humorous tapestry has curving forms that consciously mimic pasta — the work's title is "Spaghettification: Tested by Throwing Against Wall" (2020). These are displayed alongside some noteworthy ceramic "Portraits" by the Nigerian artist Ebitenyefa Baralaye, which highlight or celebrate Black facial features — including those of people close to him, like his father.

If you want to explore minerals displayed like sculpture, you can do so at Wilensky in a hallway gallery outside the main cluster of fair booths. However, if you want to see jewelry designed by artists — the subject of a recent New York auction — head to the London dealer Didier at the southern end of the hallway. Didier is showing jewelry designed for family, lovers, or friends by Picasso, Niki de Saint Phalle, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Alberto Giacometti, Wifredo Lam and Meret Oppenheim. As this art historical roster suggests, the jewelry slants toward the surrealistic. A good example is a giant gold puffer fish necklace designed by Max Ernst that could be worn around the neck.

You can find much fine furniture here, but some of the items that caught my attention were somewhat odder. Right inside the fair, Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts (Booth D1) has discovered a huge stained-glass window designed and fabricated by Nicola D’Ascenzo in the late 1920s for a Horn & Hardart restaurant — actually an automat in downtown Philadelphia. Unlike stained-glass windows in a church — or the more sculptural efforts of contemporaries like Louis Comfort Tiffany or John La Farge — D’Ascenzo's window includes clear panes you can see through and emphasizes, in a modern way, its flatness. At R & Company (Booth D23) at the end of the drill hall, Serban Ionescu has created an architectural folly he calls "Tower For an Hour." The tall green steel structure, fabricated in his Red Hook, Brooklyn, workshop, recalls everything from antique stove chimneys to 1980s furniture by the Memphis Group. It also borrows Jean Prouvé's idea of the "Demountable House": a small dwelling designed for people displaced after World War II, which could be easily assembled, or "demounted" and moved.

I am reluctant to highlight ancient and so-called ethnographic artifacts, given the battles that rage around the ownership and the repatriation of objects to their countries of origin. The art dealers in this fair are obviously keyed into these debates and happily (obligingly?) discussed these issue with me. At Phoenix Ancient Art (Booth B9), Hicham Aboutaam, whose father founded the gallery in 1968, has set up a dazzling display of busts that highlight a range of faces from around the world, including Greek, Etruscan, South Arabian (Yemeni), Cypriot and African sculptural heads. It also creates the argument that diversity was just as much a hot topic in the ancient world as it is today. Phoenix is also showing a small, luminous marble Cycladic fertility figure from around 2,500 B.C.E., with her arms crossed over her pregnant belly. Pace African and Oceanic Art (Booth B5) is also showing a collection of heads — masks, technically — from a variety of cultures. At Ariadne (Booth C1), an ancient Greek terra-cotta Aphrodite from the 3rd or 2nd century B.C.E., formerly owned by the Antikenmuseum Basel, assumes a bashful stance, known as the "Venus pudica" pose. Who wouldn't feel a bit exposed, standing just off Park Avenue, greeting visitors to the fair?

Salon Art + Design

Through Monday, Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, Manhattan;


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