HIGHLIGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS FROM THE UK’S LEADING ‘DESIGN ART’ EVENT
For ten years, PAD London has been a landmark event for the heart of Mayfair, unravelling its aesthetic of a Cabinet of Curiosities in Berkeley Square and bringing out the most beautiful and fascinating design collectibles from galleries worldwide. For ten years, PAD has been actively promoting cross-collecting and it has bolstered Mayfair’s transformation into a leading destination for both art and design. Originating in France, PAD first launched in 2007 and it became the first London fair to bring art and design together under one roof. It is deeply rooted in the tradition of French Decorative Arts and it constantly pursues the exhibition of one-off creations that walk the thin line between function and art.
Sixty-six international galleries are showcasing their plethora of artfully designed works this year, with fourteen of these being newcomers, and fifty-two returning exhibitors. Investec Private Banking joined as a first-time Banking Sponsor to PAD’s VIP Programme, alongside the fair’s Champagne Sponsor Ruinart and PAD Prize supporter Moët Hennessy. PAD once again exceeds expectations with its panorama of art and design, as the undisputed and highly acclaimed treasure trove of works spanning thousands of years – from ancient artefacts all the way up to the newest creations in contemporary design.
Of the exquisitely selected galleries and collectors exhibiting this year at PAD, we were able to identify some memorable highlights – deliveries of such extraordinary pieces that they not only stopped us in our tracks, but also earned our full attention as we spent considerable amounts of time simply taking it all in. After all, a beautiful object of art or design – or in this case, ‘design art’ – will instantly stir one’s emotions. Awe, heart-twisting adoration and sheer wonder come to mind when describing these feelings, as we discovered stunning creations scattered across Berkeley Square’s pavilions.
From the numerous works of 20th century design and decorative arts present at PAD London this year, a definitive spotlight should fall of DUMONTEIL, a gallery from Paris, France that makes a habit of collecting superb and unique works of ‘design art’. For over 25 years, Pierre M. Dumonteil has been a major player in the discovery and rediscovery of the previous century’s greatest figurative artists, focusing on the recurring animal theme in particular, as well as the Colonial trend and the Human Figure. The gallery’s PAD stand held a deeply feral ensemble of animal representations, from grandiose yet beautifully savage wall art to exceptional pieces of furniture that reconnect humanity with the animal kingdom. From Jean-Marie Fiori’s Rome bronze table to Eric Pillot’s exotic birds and Helmut Koller’s majestic felines, Dumonteil Gallery offered a rich display of nature’s raw beauty captured in wood, metal or pigments on canvas.
The Contemporary Design category brought out its brightest and greatest for this year’s edition of PAD London. There was no holding back for established brands such as Galerie Kreo, which is currently recognised as one of the most influential contemporary design galleries worldwide. Kreo produces, represents and exhibits original pieces by some of the greatest contemporary designers, including Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, Jasper Morrison and Marc Newson, to name but a few. Their works are included in prestigious museums across the globe, as well as private collections.
David Gill Gallery was in full effect as well, showcasing a new collection of ‘design art’ – the core of the gallery’s own philosophy. With a dark and individually-hand-painted panel backdrop to assist in the ‘chiaroscuro’ contrast with its superb collectibles, David Gill Gallery displayed a full palette of autumnal tones, across multiple surfaces and with elaborate details that further establish the brand as a lead collector of art & design hybrid masterpieces. An absolute headliner for this year’s stand is Michele Oka Doner’s beautiful work, including his ‘Radiant’ table and the ‘Burning Bush’ lighting series.
Perhaps our absolute favourite as far as highlights of Contemporary Design at PAD London are concerned, Gallery FUMI put on an impressive show to say the least. Established in Shoreditch in 2008 by Sam Pratt and Valerio Capo, the gallery has built a strong reputation for applying humour and humanity to deliver original design solutions, as well as for building enduring and creative relationships with their clients and artists. With a focus on promoting the value of craftsmanship while embracing the sometimes frightening concept of ‘change’, FUMI fully delivered at PAD this year, with artful renditions of design – from unconventional side tables, plush gorgeous seating and sumptuous lighting prototypes with never-before-seen shapes, to jaw-dropping artworks (including a massive wall panel that was carefully handcrafted from sliced seashells). Hosting works from emerging art and design prodigies such as Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert, Tuomas Markunpoika, Rowan Mersh and Alex Hull, to name but a few, Gallery FUMI promises to further expand its advances in this part of the design industry and to continue to promote the enchanting merger between art and design.
After showcasing some new works by Felicity Aylieff at David Linley’s newly refurbished showroom for the London Design Festival, Adrian Sassoon exhibited a splendid collection at PAD London this year. Known for its focus on innovative and luxurious objects of purely decorative arts, Adrian Sassoon Gallery makes a habit of collecting and presenting glass art that cannot be copied in any way. Forever dedicated to its rigorous selection of contemporary masterpieces, the gallery represents some of the world’s most highly skilled and classically-trained artists, including Junko Mori and Hitomi Hosomo.
Junko Mori art, Adrian Sassoon Gallery (Photo Credit: Junko Mori / Adrian Sassoon Gallery)
The principal feature of PAD London, however, was the breakfast talk hosted by Caroline Roux – a deeply insightful conversation with an impressive panel: Tania Fares, Co-Chair of the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Trust; Sam Pratt, Director of Gallery FUMI; Tony Chambers, Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper* magazine; and Tom Dixon, designer extraordinaire and creative director for Tom Dixon Studio. The conversation focused on ‘Design and Desirability: Design as a Collector’s Item’, bringing into focus the precise nature of ‘design art’, the very foundation of PAD Fairs, and its role in the landscape of collectors.
As Tony Chambers explained, we are most likely past the stage where we are in need of functions fulfilled. The most comfortable chairs have been designed. The best cars are currently being driven. The hot water pours gently out of an exquisitely designed tea kettle. So ‘function has been resolved, and now we are perhaps looking to create a story, a narrative behind the object,’ said the Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper*.
PAD started from the very concept of ‘design art’, building upon a principle of showcasing beautiful objects that partially (if not fully) absolve themselves of function. It is a trend that has been gently growing from several decades and has now blown up into a well-established current – the one of a kind, the unique, the one-off, the bespoke and the collectible designs are masterpieces of a world that only recently has earned its own museum.
According to Tom Dixon, on the other hand, we’re now experiencing a sort of post-industrial revolution, where we still seek out the sheer beauty of things, rather than focusing on the narrative, the story behind it. This would be the other side of the ‘bespoke’ trend, basically, where the visual generates human emotions that ultimately translate into pricey purchases.
But whether it is the tale behind the object, or its beauty alone that drives people to attend events like PAD London and increase their private collections that sit on the border between art and design, all four members of the panel agreed that we are now facing a new era. Mass production is a necessity, but bespoke design always takes centre stage – only now it is done in more private environments, away from prying eyes and even away from the Internet.
On that note, Tony Chambers conveyed the concerns of pretty much every emerging designer in this day and age – most of them are faced with the challenge of designing something that cannot be found on Google. More and more established designers express frustration at the variety of laws that do not protect their works but, in some cases, even favour the ‘replicas’. Some designers may find themselves flattered by the flurry of copies emerging around their original products, and others may stumble while trying to secure the value of their brand. However, they all observe that the future looks very interesting, despite its copyright infringement challenges.
Important conclusions were reached at the end of this breakfast talk. First, it was agreed that the financial crash of 2008 played a crucial part in reshaping people’s purchase policies – the silver lining of this crisis being that we are now more interested in high quality design and production, and we are more careful with what we spend our money on. Let’s face it, we were compulsively buying pretty much anything before 2008 came along and restructured our wallets and bank accounts. Now we desire quality, and we are ready to pay for the long life of the objects we buy. And on this matter, we are on the same page as the designers themselves, who are now more focused on creating objects that will hold the same soaring values in the 23rd century as the 18th century items are so precious today.
And speaking of the past, it was also agreed that, if done right, combining contemporary designs with 18th century objects can become the ‘Holy Grail’ of interiors. It is a powerful trend that we’ve seen grow over the past decade, and is now reaching a certain level of mastery. However, the line between this ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘kitsch’ is still very fine, and easy to scramble. ‘Not everyone can do it,’ added Tony Chambers.
And last, but certainly not least, as far as the Internet is concerned, the panel outlined the importance of putting one’s work out there. The value of content marketing is undeniable, as social media is now the most powerful tool used by designers to educated their audience worldwide in beautiful design. Our technological advances have taken us to the point where, if you’re not actively online and communicating with your audience, you will soon cease to exist. Which is why design icons like Philippe Starck are expanding their social media channels, while household names like Tom Dixon are so on top of their content marketing, that they are further expanding their business and conquering new territories with more ease than ever before.
PAD London 2016 has been a masterful display of not only beautifully crafted ‘design art’ masterpieces, but also a professionally designed foray into what binds art and design so well together, what makes them tick and function as a stand-alone industry that moves billions of dollars every year. We’re already looking forward to next year’s fair edition, but until then we will continue to follow the evolution of all its exhibitors and their artists.