The Pad art fair, now in its seventh edition, is redefining its offering. The fair in Berkeley Square (until 20 October) artfully mixes 20th-century design with paintings and photographs, tribal art and—new to the fair this year—antiquities and Japanese Edo-period armour. But the place of Modern art, after the advent of Frieze Masters, feels unresolved.
Patrick Perrin, the president of the Pad fairs, is happy for his event, which still has design at its core (its name is an acronym of the Pavilion of Art and Design), to be a selection of the best, rather than anything more specific.
Pad’s declining number of 20th-century art galleries has further fragmented the fair. This year, seven defected to the Frieze Masters tent, which has gradually encroached on Pad’s turf after it opened last year. This gives Pad a much more European feel (only three of the 60 exhibitors are from the US and nearly half are from France).
The fair’s little-bit-of-everything approach suits its clientele, which is split fairly evenly between interior designers and private buyers, and this year’s event has a particularly domestic feel. “People are buying things for their homes. It’s like a very exclusive department store of beautiful objects,” says Isaac Pineus, the co-director of Stockholm’s 20th-century design gallery Modernity (B5). His gallery was selling well at the fair, he said. A set of four stained pine, zig-zag chairs (priced at £60,000) designed in the late 1950s by Gerrit Rietveld, which came from the estate of Han Schroeder—one of the first female architects in the Netherlands—went to an overseas buyer.
Other galleries have created a domestic environment in their booths. The directors of Hamiltons photography gallery (B10) have recreated a formal sitting room, complete with a fireplace, as well as an adjoining “den”, through which visitors can take a peek at Richard Avedon’s 1992 photograph of the model Stephanie Seymour (Hamiltons won the fair’s best booth award earlier this week).
Most of the 20th-century design dealers sold best early on, underlining the gap in the market for a dedicated fair in London. The Paris design stalwart Galerie Downtown François Laffanour (B2) sold a late 1940s sofa and armchair (priced at €250,000) by Jean Royère. A unique 1950s lamp piece by the designer was yet to be sold yesterday, but at €600,000, it was not a decision to be taken lightly, conceded the gallery’s owner, François Laffanour.
Meanwhile, contemporary design was also selling. Beatrice Saint-Laurent, the owner of Galerie BSL (A15), said she sold a 2013 brass screen (€140,000) by Taher Chemirik to a private London buyer within the first half-hour of the fair’s VIP opening on Tuesday. At Priveekollektie (A10), one of the fair’s most contemporary participants, digital works by Dominic Harris were popular, according to the gallery’s co-founder Irving van Dijk. Harris’s Deep Blue Interactive Aquarium, 2012, priced at €95,000, went to a private collector.
Dealers outside the fair’s traditional 20th-century design remit also sold pieces. At Galerie Jean-Christophe Charbonnier (C1), Valérie Charbonnier was pleased to have sold some Japanese Edo-period armour, including a full set of armour from the 19th century (priced around €50,000), which went to a private French buyer; it was the collector’s first Japanese acquisition. The antiquities dealer David Ghezelbash (C14), who is new to the fair, made one of the highest reported sales so far: a private French collector bought an Etruscan head from the sixth century BC, priced at £265,000.
The 20th-century art dealers at Pad seem to be having the toughest time, as Frieze Masters has become the fair of choice for such works. Galerie Gmurzynska, which is at both fairs (Pad, B18; FM, B7), could only confirm one sale at Pad yesterday—Scott Campbell’s Lonely, 2013, for around €25,000—while at Frieze Masters, the gallery was selling works by Wilfredo Lam for between €50,000 and €1.5m.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Collectors find a richer mix of art and design in Berkeley Square'