In my previous post I featured some contemporary designers who have remade a classic toy with a modern twist. Toys are accessories that bring entertainment to our lives and I love to support and follow young American designers. Other design pieces, such as a dining room table, can be the centerpiece to our homes and lives and where we find them can be the prologue to a great story.
Earlier this year, I decided a trip to Europe was well past due. With a bucket list of galleries and venues to check out, I scheduled to be in Paris during Pavilion of Art & Design (PAD) and in Milan for Salone Internazionale del Mobile. I created my own scheduled art/design tour around these events.
I’ve been hooked on visiting art fairs since 2005 when I visited the Armory Show for the first time while working as an intern for an art publication in New York. My first actual job was at a contemporary art gallery where I was your cliche Gallery Assistant: young, twenty-something, dressed in black, and art fairs were part of the business. I quickly discovered that visiting art fairs was much more enjoyable than actually working at them (shocking), especially once I gained a better understanding of the market, the gallery system and everything else they don’t teach you as an Art History major in college. Following the craze of art fairs I almost wrote my dissertation on art fairs as a business format, however after visiting the Armory Show, Frieze London, FIAC, Artissima, Art Basel in Basel, Liste, Volta, the Venice Biennial (not a fair) and TEFAF in the same year I decided there wasn’t a topic there that interested me enough to pursue the idea. It wasn’t until I actually worked for a design fair that I gained interest in design as a market somewhat related (but not really) to art. Before the job, I had basic knowledge of internationally re-known architects and some of the classic furniture designers, mostly thanks to a boyfriend in college, who later became an architect. So, I played catch up, researching contemporary designers, falling in love with different styles and periods, while mispronouncing French names and wishing I had actually learned to speak the language fluently back in college.
In my broken French my visit to Paris went something like this: museum & gallery visits, ballet lessons, cemetery peregrinations, multiple excursions to the flea market and strolling the streets of Paris in beautiful Spring weather while eating croissants, many, many croissants.
You are probably thinking visiting cemeteries is a bit morbid but we obsess and tag our favorite celebrities in our tweets while they are alive, why shouldn’t we visit those who made history in their death? Where would art and literature be without Gertrude Stein? Music, without Serge Gainsbourg? I mean Beck would be short a few albums and Jane Birkin may never have had a singing career. Oscar Wilde’s tomb is truly a monument erected in his honor, showered with red lipstick kisses from passionate visitors (despite the glass protection). I was surprised to come across Susan Sontag’s tomb in Paris. Sontag lived in NY most of her life but declared Paris as the “alternative capital to her imagination”, she lived in Paris for the academic year of 1957- 58 and believed it was the most important period of her life. I can’t blame her, some cities have that effect. I left Susan Sontag my train ticket under a rock, her tomb was looking bare.
PAD is the design fair you take your grandparents to and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just a bit formal and even though there are some contemporary galleries with fresh experimental design: the dim lighting, carpet and attending audience had me feeling like nothing should be touched. Until I came across a table by Atelier Biagetti and I took a moment to swoon while caressing the table’s top. The collection Bonjour Milan 2014 created by the design studio Atelier Biagetti was featured at PAD with Galerie Italienne. The dining table is probably one of the strongest pieces in the collection. Inspired in the patterns created by layers of sediments and aristocratic Milanese residences from the designers hometown, the table includes 5 different materials. Brass, plastic laminates, opaque copper and wood are added to ultra-white glass. Imagine building a room around this table with art works by Marlo Pascual and vintage Alvar Aalto L-leg stools.