The pink tent in Berkeley Square housing the Pavilion of Art & Design (PAD) hummed on Monday night as invited guests came out in force for the preview of the modern and decorative art fair (until 16 October) and several dealers made encouraging early sales.
Later in the week, the designer and film-maker Tom Ford visited, as did French billionaire collector François Pinault. By then, the mood was quite different. “There is a cautiousness in the air,” said Christopher Baer of Ben Brown Fine Arts, standing besides the London and Hong Kong gallery’s centrepiece, the late François-Xavier Lalanne’s bronze Singe Avisé (Très Grand), 2005-08, edition of eight, priced in the region of €1.15m.
Unsurprisingly, given the current climate, dealers had taken a cautious approach, with few of the very high-priced, one-off pieces shown in previous years.
“In the first hour, we sold Sebastian Brajkovic’s new ‘Lathe’ console [£25,000] and four editions of the Campana Brothers’ ‘Sushi’ cabinet [£65,000] to English, American and two French collectors,” said Loïc Le Gaillard, the co-director of the London-based Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Marc Benda of Friedman Benda in New York sold an Ettore Sottsass Totem to a European buyer for an undisclosed sum.
The New York art dealer Christopher van der Weghe said that he had a much better fair than last year. “I sold a Basquiat for $2.2m, as well as a Ruscha and a Calder.” But the stock market crisis had worried a lot of people, he added. “Colleagues did not do as well.”
“People are not ready to make quick decisions,” said Jacques Lacoste, the French design specialist. Richard Nagy’s elegant stand included George Grosz’s satirical ink on paper Bourgeois World, 1918, “probably his best drawing not in a museum”, priced from £300,000 to £400,000, which remained unsold. The fair had been “a bit slow”, said the London-based art dealer.
Returning after a three-year absence, London gallery David Gill sold Mattia Bonetti’s “Alu” console table (£48,000) and Fredrikson Stallard’s new asymmetrical polished mirror (£28,000). “PAD is a key fair because of its location, intimacy and quality,” Gill said.
With a new PAD fair planned this autumn in New York and a Milan debut in April 2012, it remains to be seen whether collectors will add them to their schedules. And what of Frieze Masters next year? Nagy is sceptical: “People drop in for half an hour because it’s Mayfair. It will not happen if they have to go to Camden, especially if it’s raining.”
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Caution is the word for collectors and dealers'