With a Visit From Franois Pinault and Upbeat Commerce, London's PAD Fair Proves the "Anti-Frieze"

With a Visit From Franois Pinault and Upbeat Commerce, London's PAD Fair Proves the "Anti-Frieze"

The fifth edition of the Pavilion of Art & Design London, elegantly ensconced in Berkeley Square through Sunday, is super-sophisticated and fun to roam through. The 58 international galleries with fully vetted wares are a welcome tonic to themore arduously scaled and unrelentingly contemporary Frieze Art Fairin Regents Park. But while both enterprises are up against grim global conditions, once inside their bubble-like tents, most thoughts ofdoom and gloom temporarily disappear.

"In today's market you have to make sure to offer something of great quality at a good price," said Loic Le Gaillard, partner in London's carpentersworkshopgallery. "Up to £20,000 it flies, at higher prices it becomes a bit more complicated and understandingly so." The gallery scored a big hit with Fernando and Humberto Campana's new "Sushi Buffet," specifically made for the fair in brushed stainless steel and recycled rubber flip-flops sourced from Brazilian favelas. Six of the eight multicolored buffets from the edition sold at £54,000 ($84,600) each.

Two less expensive editions by Atelier van Lieshout also found multiple buyers. "Friends," a hellish jail cell with a tiny light fixture, ghoulishly populated by a hung figure, another fellow on the toilet, and a third seated on the floor, sold at £11,000 ($17,230) apiece from an edition of eight. "Lawyer," a welded-steel desk lamp alsofrom 2011, sold to at least three buyers at £4,500 ($7,000) each from an edition of 20.

Brazilian art and objects seemed to be in strong demand as London and New York gallery Dickinson sold Helo Oiticica's "Metaesquema No. 191," a small but stunning geometric gouache on cardboard from 1958, for a sum near the $300,000 asking price. The gallery also sold Lucio Fontana's fire-engine-red slashed abstraction, "Concetto Spaziale Attese" from 1966, for a price in the region of €3 million ($4.7 million). A postcard-sized Peter Doig painting, "Untitled" from 2000, featuring a bearded figure in a red canoe, also fetched a price in the region of £65,000 ($102,000).

Given the easily navigable scale of PAD and the increasing uptick in quality, the chance of finding a gem amidst the gaggle of material is fairly high. Danny Katz, the London Old Master dealer and Modern British art collector, found one at New York's Eykyn Maclean in the guise of Henry Moore's petite, 7½-inch-ceramic "Madonna and Child" from 1943. It was originally in the collection of Kenneth Clark, the luminary art historian and museum director.

"I thought it was the best thing at the fair," said an exultant Katz when buttonholed at London's Robin Katz Fine Art, adding that he paid first-time exhibitors Eykyn Maclean about $300,000 for the work. OfPAD, the collector quipped, "this is anti-Frieze."

His son, Robin Katz, also was pleased, having made an opening-night sale of Patrick Caulfield's early and sensational oil-on-cardboard "Concrete Villa, Bruun" from 1963 to a young British collector new to the gallery for a figure somewhere in the range of the £450,000 ($705,000) asking price. The Caulfield was also voted as the best fine-art object in the fair by a special committee organized by PAD.

The stand at New York's Friedman Benda was dedicated to EttoreSottsass, and a major, glazed ceramic piece by the late Italian designer, "Totem" from 1966, sold for an undisclosed price. "It's as close to the Holy Grail as you can get," said gallery partner Marc Benda, who is working closely with the Sottsass estate. Another version of the work is currently on display in the Victoria & Albert's "Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990" exhibition.

The gallery also sold several Sottsass plates from the artist's 1964 series, "Offers to Shiva" at €35,000 ($55,000) apiece. "This fair attracts an extremely good public," added Benda, "It is very serious andsmall. There are a lot of things here that you would like to own."

Speaking of that public, François Pinault, the storied art collector and owner of Christie's was observed strolling the aisles, accompanied by one of his trusted art advisors. His appearance, according to several exhibitors who excitedly spotted him, imbued the fair with a certain gravitas.

Among the fair's other highlights that found new homes was Katsuyo Aoki's "Predictive Dream XXVII" from 2010, in cast porcelain with white glaze, at New York's Todd Merrill Studio Contemporary sold to New York collectors Brett Gorvy and Amy Gold for approximately $18,000. The elaborately crafted porcelain skull made the bejeweled ones by someone named Hirst decidedly pedestrian.

New York's Mitchell-Innes & Nash sold two large scale Roy Lichtenstein mixed-media collage works from 1990-96 for sums in the range of the $600,000 asking price. Titled "The Den" and "Red Lamps," they were part of a late, highly stylized series on modern interiors, generously scaled at about five by six feet.

Recent shaped and single color abstract works by the lesser known Italian Zero Group artist Agostino Bonalumi were selling at a red-hot pace at Galerie Vedovi of Brussels and Paris. So far, seven works sold at prices ranging from €50,000 to €115,000 ($80,000 to $180,000), according to the gallery, including "Untitled Bianco" from 2011 that sold for €73,000 ($114,000).

Though he hadn't seen much action so far at PAD, veteran London and New York dealer Bernard Jacobson sung its praises. "I did it for the trees," said Jacobson, referring to the huge, 250-year-old London Plane trees that literally stand in parts of the pavilion, as an unmovable part of the historic Berkeley Square. "It's upbeat and people are still optimistic," added the dealer as he tried a few refrains of Noël Coward's "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square."   

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