Objects of desire: Pavilion Art & Design

It is Frieze Week, as it is come to be known, and London is at the centre if an art-frenzy. There is so much going on that the sheer volume is exhausting, and it is impossible to keep up. It is also becoming increasingly tough to shine in such an art-packed annual schedule. The art world – its collectors, aficionados, hangers on here for the parties alone – have descended on the capital city, and artists and galleries want to be seen, be heard, be bought.

The London incarnation of the Pavilion Art and Design, established eight years ago as a spin off of its long-standing Parisian sister, has set itself apart by offering more than contemporary art. Here, beneath the elegant pavilion constructed in Berkeley Square, the thick tree trucks of the square extending dramatically within the structure, 20th-century art and design sits happily alongside carefully selected contemporary pieces of art, design and jewellery, as well as tribal and Oceanic art.

The space is limited to 62 galleries only – tiny compared to Frieze Fair and admittedly much more pleasant to manoeuvre. This year saw 45 returning galleries and 17 newcomers with 28 design specialists.

There is plenty to see here. At the entrance Carpenters Workshop Gallery presents Windy Chair 1 by Yinka Shonibare inspired by the artist’s work Nelson’s Ship in a Battle. It is a vibrant sculpture as well as a functional seat expressing his dual nationality by the movement of fabric – the colours are inspired by his Nigerian background – caught in wind.

Jewellery by Artists at Louisa Guinness Gallery also sees artists involved in design. Here a selection of work includes a debut project with Jason Martin as well as works by Annie Morris, Anish Kapoor, Claude Lalanne,Tim Noble, and Sue Webster.

Elsewhere, Japanese artists Toru Kaneko’s Slim at Katie Jones UK sees his characteristic meticulously detailed relief work, and delicate treatment of the surface of metal, applied to two slim copper vases. Whilst Jeremy Wintrebert’s Clouds gives Murano glass a contemporary perspective, and architect Georges Mohasseb at Lebanon’s SMO gallery reveals his craftsmanship with Marguerite des Sables, a brushed brass coffee table made of 241 daisies with welded stems and hand hammered hearts.

PAD London has evolved through the years to increasingly offer this mixed-genre collecting. Ultimately what sets Berkeley Square apart is that it presents very much a niche, you could say continental sensibility, a far cry from the more global one offered by the larger fairs  here this week.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK 

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Pavilion Art and Design London 2013 in picture

Pavilion Art and Design doesn’t discriminate among genres. This is the premise for the annual event – that sophisticated taste will like to see contemporary art and photography displayed alongside modern design, decorative arts as well as tribal art and sculpture. The result is an exhibition hall that is a pleasure to navigate for the observer and collector.

The annual fair, founded in 1996 by Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot in Paris, is housed in an elegant pavilion constructed for a week in London’s Berkley Square. This year the fair attracted more than 60 international dealers. Their exhibits included work by Mira Schendel, Richard Avedon, Egon Schiele and Joan Miró united here with exquisite pieces by Gió Ponti.

For many of us, the main draw of the fair is the contemporary designers. This year’s highlights included work by Rick Owens at Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Hélène Binet at Gabrielle Ammann Gallery, and in particular Ranya Sarakbi at newcomer Beirut gallery Smogallery.

For future exhibitions visit Pavilion Art and Design.

Read our previous reports on PAD here.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshopwww.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

Frieze Art 2010: Erotic vs voyeuristic

In a recent television documentary The Genius of British Art (Channel 4) the novelist Howard Jacobsen reminded us of the beauty of eroticism in British art. In the same week Frieze Art in London’s Regents Park highlighted another aspect of sexuality: Voyeurism.

The difference appears crucial. Where eroticism involves at least two persons, voyeurism is a one-way relation. Where the erotic in art communicates sexuality as something to be enjoyed, to be cherished, and to be developed, the voyeuristic art reduces sex into a commodity. Where the erotic enhances our appreciation of sexuality, voyeurism reduces it to a mechanical act. Where the erotic addresses both sexes and all forms of sexuality, voyeurism is predominantly directed at men. In one sex and sexuality is celebrated – in the other reduced to a gasp.

Eroticism in art is infinite in its manifestation. Perhaps the most poignant is Portrait of Hélène Fourment (1630) by the Italian master Rubens of his young second wife. Here the fur-wrap, with its beautifully painted filaments, caresses every pore of her skin, her smiling eyes provocatively looking back at the painter – and at us.

Or in the French painter Pierre Bonnard’s numerous nudes of his wife where he captures her bathing, drying, and looking in the mirror. And in British artist David Hockney’s 1960s swimming pool paintings, where the blue water almost embraces his partner.

Or take the image of the nude woman on a bed. In Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) her look penetrates through to your secret thoughts. In another master, Diego Velazquez’s The Toilet of Venus (1651), inspired by Titian, the subject faces away, not even prepared to look at us through the mirror.

Edouard Manet scandalized 1863 Paris with his subject’s insolent look in Olympia. Francisco Goya’s The Maya Nude (La Maja Desnuda) of 1862, painting a real person in the nude for the first time in Spain reflects, to quote the French academic and author Jean-Marie Le Clézio, an unattainable look.

And arguably the most sensuous of all nudes is Bonnard’s post coital 1899 Femme assoupie sur un lit or L’Indolente languid and La Sieste(1990) of his future wife Marthe. This is erotic art at its best.

Yet the line between eroticism and voyeurism is not always clear. Paul Gauguin, for instance, was inspired by pornographic photographs he bought in Port Said. Some of the paintings of Georg Grosz, Egon Schiele or more recently Jeff Koons, and many of the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe and Helmut Newton, to name a few, border on pornography. Additionally, it is difficult to ignore the apparent paedophilia of some of 20th century Polish-French artist Balthus’ paintings of young girls. So where is the line between one and the other?

Fast-forward to the present day, Frieze showed us an awful amount of sex, and little eroticism. There was an enormous amount of sex and elusions to the female sexual organ – I counted three women masturbating. Two women pose in a photograph behind a cake shaped like a giant penis, women enter clear water for no other reason than to titillate.

There is arguably paedophilia with a perfectly executed painting of a pubertal girl blindfolded on her knees, helpless. A man with an erection reading a book – probably pornography. Yes there is tenderness in a series of photographs of a lesbian couple, one of the few instances of love. Yet mostly the art at Frieze was sex without emotion.

A few miles away in London’s Berkley Square, Pavilion Art and Design exhibited the erotic drawings of Viennese painter Gustov Klimt (1862-1918) – yes and there were women masturbating. Yet unlike the work at Frieze, the viewer isn’t asked to observe through a peephole – the artist is there in the drawing, unseen but seen.

That is what separates the erotic from commodified soft porn. And there is eroticism galore in Picasso’s work where the painter and his model ask the viewer to share in their sexual excitement. Even the blatant sexuality of Egon Schiele’s drawings and paintings asks us to share.

What perhaps separates eroticism and voyeurism – over and above the issue of communication between the viewer and the viewed – is the intrinsic artistic value of the piece. This is a quality that cannot be commodified. Though clearly in the world we live in, where art is above all expressed as a medium of value, it requires a Herculean effort for the viewer to rise above the dollar sign and evaluate the work outside the marketplace.

Guest blogger Mohsen Shahmanesh

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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PAD London: Objects of desire

London turned into a giant art fair in October as representatives from galleries from around the world descended on the capital city to take part in the now highly established Frieze Art Fair and Pavilion of Art & Design London – both offering art for sale and attracting international buyers and collectors as well as art and design enthusiasts.

Joris Laarman Branch Bookshelf in bronze, 2010

The two affairs that run simultaneously from 13 – 17 October, though, couldn’t be more contrasting. Frieze is a racy affair that has at its core a giant pavilion constructed in the middle of Regents Park offering a vast selection of contemporary works of art by an international set of galleries. It is large, loud – almost chaotic – and feels current, attracting not just those who can afford to buy but also people from all walks of life.

Fernando & Humberto Campana, Sushi IV Chair, 2003 ©Perimeter Editions, Paris

PAD London is an altogether more serene experience. In its third year, the art and design fair has grown to include 50 of the world’s most elite galleries. Plus its location – a tent constructed amongst the sculptural trees of Berkley Square in the heart of exclusive Mayfair – limits its size and to a degree its customers.

Taking 1860 as its starting point, paintings by Pablo Picasso,  Egon Schiele, some brilliant work by German expressionist George Groz, were on exhibit alongside those by Bridget Riley, Richard Prince and more avant-garde artists including the controversial Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein with his rather haunting work that is a visual critic of war, and outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei who’s 2004 China Bench (pictured bellow). Both were exhibited on New York gallery Friedman Benda‘s visually rich stand.

Ai Weiwei, China Bench, 2004 ©Freidman Benda, New York

This gathering sat alongside mid 20th century European classic of Gio Ponti and co to Dutch designer Joris Laarman and his exquisite Branch Bookshelf that managed to be both organic and highly technical (pictured above and also on exhibit by Friedman Benda), and New York designer Karim Rashid’s bright Blobulous Chair (pictured bellow). Jewelery design ranged from vintage Cartier to sculptural pieces by artist Anish Kapoor. There was even a selection of unusual tribal art on show.

Karim Rashid, Blobulous Chair Chromo, 2008-2010 ©Edizioni Galleria Colombari, Milan

There was also an exhibit by graduate designers from London’s prestigious Royal College of Art. Curator Janice Blackburn and the college’s director of architecture Nigel Coats selected 20 pieces from the 2010 graduate show with 15 percent of the profits generated from the sale going towards the RCA Student Fine Art Award Fund.

Royal College of Art's 2010 graduate show at Pavilion of Art & Design London

PAD London is a chic and exclusive affair – the 50 galleries taking part are from the elite of the art and design world. It was conceived by two Frenchmen Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot who spotted a gap in the market and filled it with the kind of work – and the mix – that no one else caters for.

This may be a purely commercial affair, but much like Frieze it is a chance to see a varied selection of creative work gathered, rather conveniently, under one roof.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©