Fairs Switzerland

Design galleries dress to impress in swish new space

Design Miami Basel’s move to the heart of the Messeplatz starts to pay off as collectors arrive in force

A “Conoid” table by George Nakashima at Sebastian + Barquet (G15)

The move to the new exhibition hall on the Messeplatz, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, seems to have reignited the creative instincts of galleries exhibiting at Design Miami Basel (until 16 June), where several stands inside Hall 1 Süd are dressed as interior environments. “The new space and location has stimulated the show’s evolution,” says Craig Robins, the co-owner of Design Miami (in partnership with MCH Group). “Gallerists are seeing it as an opportunity to step up a level, with more elaborate expressions of how design can be showcased… and they’re realising the economic benefits of doing so.”

The Parisian gallery Jousse Entreprise (G14) has recreated an interior by the late French designer Pierre Paulin, while the stand of the Berlin- and Stockholm-based Jacksons (G37) resembles a clinic, to suit Alvar Aalto’s furniture, some of which was designed for a sanatorium. A photo mural of the 1960s studio of the Japanese-American designer George Nakashima is the backdrop for the stand of Sebastian + Barquet (G15), New York. European collectors snapped up two “Conoid” tables by Nakashima and “several smaller Nakashima pieces” (prices undisclosed). Meanwhile, back-lit screens suggest a domestic scene at Galerie Pascal Cuisinier (G31) from Paris.

Prouvé’s maison

“Fairs need this kind of creative input from galleries to shake them up, and we’re finding the payback is enormous, both economically and in terms of respect,” says Loic Le Gaillard, a partner at Carpenters Workshop Gallery (G17), which is sharing a stand with Steinitz, a Parisian gallery specialising in historic rarities. The booth emulates the home of a gentleman collector.

Judging by early sales made on Monday, during the fair’s preview, these initiatives appear to have paid off. Galerie Patrick Seguin (G07) sold Jean Prouvé’s prefabricated structure La Maison des Jours Meilleures, 1956, to a European collector for an undisclosed sum within the first 15 minutes. Jousse sold a set of three seats with a sofa (€140,000) and two lights from Pierre Paulin’s “Elysée” collection as well as a “Declive” chaise longue (€320,000; edition of three). First-time participant Galerie Pascal Cuisinier sold a unique ceramic-top table by Mado Jolain, priced at around €40,000, to a European collector and a rare pair of rattan “Soleil” armchairs, dating to 1956, by Janine Abraham and Dirk Jan Rol for €45,000 within the first hour of the preview. A US collector later bought Pierre Guariche’s “G1” wall sconce and “G1PL” ceiling light, both dating to 1951.

“It was crazy,” Le Gaillard says. “Within hours, we sold three Ingrid Donat bronze ‘Galuchat’ commodes [€95,000 each; edition of eight], two Robert Stadler ‘Irregular Bomb’ sofas [€38,000 each; edition of eight] and a ‘Fragile Future’ chandelier by Studio Drift [€82,000; edition of eight].” He says the gallery also sold the entire edition of Studio Job’s 2013 “Black Cat” bronze sculptures with illuminated eyes (around €22,000 each). Steinitz’s director, Benjamin Steinitz, took reservations for two 17th-century pieces, including a bronze dragon head by De Vries, and three 19th-century works, including a chandelier made by the Chiurazzi Foundry (prices undisclosed). “Collectors reacted strongly to the quality of the pieces,” he says.

Around 4,300 people attended the preview (a 27% increase on 2012), including the actor Leonardo DiCaprio and the collectors Laurence Graff, Dasha Zhukova and her partner Roman Abramovich, Jonathan Zebina, Benedikt Taschen and Norman Braman. The hip-hop musician Kanye West was also an early visitor.

Historic pieces

With 48 galleries (up 20% on last year) passing the fair’s proposal-based selection process, there is a strong showing of museum-quality historic pieces. Galerie Jacques Lacoste (G05) is showing a stone bas-relief, support and console by Alberto Giacometti (for an interior decorated by Jean-Michel Frank), which was unsold as we went to press. The gallery’s early sales include a pair of Jean Royère “Trefle” armchairs (around €100,000) and a 1953 ceramic-top table by George Jouve and Janette Laverrière. Other returning 20th-century specialists include Galerie Downtown-François Laffanour (G16), which sold a Jean Royère “Polar Bear” sofa for €400,000 and two Charlotte Perriand tables, Doron (€120,000) and an untitled low table (€100,000). Galerie Eric Philippe (G06) has sold 70% of its display of 1940s to 1960s Danish, Italian and American furniture.

Several dealers championing the mid-century period include Milan’s Nilufar Gallery (G12), which sold a unique 1950 Gio Ponti wall cabinet for €54,000 and a late 1950s Ponti bookcase/cocktail cabinet for €34,000, and Galerie Kreo (G21) from Paris, which sold nine Gino Sarfatti lights (various 1950s models made by Arteluce) at prices ranging from €5,000 to more than €70,000.

An indication of the fair’s strength is the number of new pieces presented for the first time. Paris’s Galerie BSL-Béatrice Saint-Laurent (G19) sold two unique lighting sculptures by Ayala Serfaty (€13,000 each), a throne (€24,000) from Faye Toogood’s new “Caged Elements” collection and a new set of ten tables with Pinolite (a rare hard-stone) surfaces from Taher Chemirik’s “Interior Treasures” collection for €75,000. Southern Guild (G36), a contemporary design platform from South Africa, made its fair debut with multiple sales, including Porky Hefer and Audrey Esca’s hanging leather chair ($17,000; edition of two).

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