It’s hard to imagine a more efficient blending of culture and commerce than the art fair. Filling sprawling convention centers and warehouses with the works of both old masters and young upstarts, the best fairs feel like great museums—ones where every item is for sale. At the most prestigious gatherings, like Art Basel in Switzerland (June) and TEFAF in Maastricht, the Netherlands (March), hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art changes hands overnight.
Patrick Perrin, an impeccably tailored 51-year-old Parisian, seems an unlikely art fair impresario. A fourth-generation Right Bank gallerist, he lives in the same St.-Germain-des-Prés house he grew up in with his father, Jacques Perrin, a well-known specialist in 18th-century French furniture (Patrick himself has written six books on the subject). The family gallery, Galerie Perrin, on Place Beauvau, has provided pieces for the Louvre and Versailles and is the kind of space where it would seem crass to even mention money. Perrin admits he is in many ways a throwback. “When grocery shopping, I need one butcher for veal, another for lamb, and then I buy bread somewhere else,” he says. But, he concedes, “today, most people want to shop in supermarkets, and art fairs are like supermarkets. You can go to one place and pick up everything you want.”
In 1997, Perrin, along with his business partner, Stéphane Custot, established his own fair, the Pavillon des Arts et du Design (nicknamed PAD). Created to give Paris gallerists a chance to show their wares in a single location, the fair has become known for its impressive mix of modern art, furniture and design. In 2007, PAD opened an outpost in London timed to coincide with Frieze, that city’s reigning contemporary fair. Frieze, with its white walls and spare furniture, found a kind of alter ego in PAD, where each booth is designed like a living room that just happens to be filled with paintings by Miró and furniture by Jean Prouvé. “There’s a quirkiness wedded to the quality of the works on exhibit and an old-world feel to the event,” says London-based art collector Kenny Schachter, adding that it’s an antidote to the homogeneity of many contemporary fairs.
Now, in a sign of new life in the art fair world, Frieze is coming to New York in May. But guess who’s beating Frieze to Manhattan? On November 10, Perrin will unveil the Pavilion of Art & Design New York, a five-day event featuring works from 1890 to the present. The 1890 cutoff, established in deference to an antiques show held in the Armory, doesn’t faze Perrin, who is looking to display the great works of the last 100 years. In addition to Miró, there will be paintings by Picasso, Léger, Bacon, Warhol and Freud, some with seven- or eight-figure prices. There will also be major pieces of furniture from Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand, as well as smaller-scale works in metal and glass priced from $2,000 to $20,000. “You can still do a very good collection of design for very little money,” says Perrin, adding that design helps the event by “bringing in a young, trendy crowd.”
Perrin, who interned at Christie’s in New York when he was just 18, has wanted to bring PAD to the Armory for years but was stymied by competitors with long-term leases. (Even his friend Cecilia Sarkozy Attias, he says, couldn’t get him a meeting with Armory brass.) Then, last December, he was asked to fly to New York for a meeting; the Armory needed to fill the slot vacated by the shuttered “Modernism Show.” “We announced the New York PAD in January, and two weeks later it was full,” says Perrin, who has signed up 53 galleries, including several from Manhattan, like L&M Arts (offerings include paintings by Picasso and Lucio Fontana) and Barry Friedman (standout furniture designers include Charles Rennie MacKintosh and Wendell Castle).
Each gallery makes a significant investment, paying Perrin’s company thousands of dollars for the space, and thousands more to construct and decorate their temporary salons. A committee of experts appointed by Perrin and Custot vets every item in every booth, and Perrin himself will walk the fair before it opens and critique everything. If a booth isn’t up to snuff, that gallery may not be invited back. Another committee, which includes hotelier André Balazs, MoMA design curator Paola Antonelli, designer Tory Burch and collectors Aby Rosen and Adam Lindeman, will award best-of-show prizes.
Perrin says he has heard from dozens of galleries that want in, but it’s not easy to get a space at PAD. “We look not just for quality objects but for galleries that display real taste,” he says, “whose spirit is in every piece they show.”
PAD New York
Dates: November 10–14
Details: The inaugural show will be at the Park Avenue Armory, 530 W. 25th St. For more information, go to padny.net.
The Short List
When the Pavilion of Art & Design debuts at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in November, there will be more than 1,600 items from 53 international galleries for sale. Here, four extraordinary objects to look for.
Charlotte Perriand’s Shadow Chair: Made out of molded plywood, this iconic design was created in 1955 and comes to PAD from Paris’s Galerie Downtown. $164,400; galeriedowntown.com.
Egon Schiele’s Seated Nude with Violet Stockings: This well-known 1910 watercolor comes from London’s Richard Nagy, which just ran an exhibit of the Austrian’s work. $5 million; richardnagy.com.
Elizabeth Fritsch Vase: The Welsh potter hand-made this clay vase and finished it with a modernist tessellated pattern. It comes courtesy of London’s Adrian Sassoon. $47,000; adriansassoon.com.
Andy Warhol’s Mao: Capitalism meets Communism in this unusually lush (for Warhol) portrait of Mao, from New York’s Stellan Holm Gallery. $1.5 million; stellanholm.com.