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
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.