Fair  November 2, 2021  Jeremy Howell

Discussing Salon Art + Design with the Fair's Executive Director

Provided by Salon Art + Design

Fissure Chandelier ©Charles Burnand 2021

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Salon Art + Design, one of the most unique fairs in the country. After being forced to cancel the 2020 edition due to COVID-19, the fair is back in 2021 to showcase breathtaking fine art and incredible design. Art & Object's editor-in-chief spoke to the fair's executive director, Jill Bokor, about the history of Salon Art + Design, the upcoming edition, and the future of art fairs in a post-pandemic world.

Jeremy Howell: Congratulations on the tenth anniversary of Salon Art + Design. In what ways has the fair evolved and remained the same over the last decade?

Jill Bokor: Thanks for the congratulations. We’re particularly excited because as recently as August we weren’t sure we would be able to hold a Salon this year. So not only is it our tenth anniversary, but it’s live!  

The most important way we’ve stayed the same (or gotten better) is in the excellence of our participating galleries. From the beginning, we sought galleries who were at the forefront of their fields and that remains true today. The fair, in its early years, had a lot of French galleries and one of our goals was to make it more international. Most years, we have exhibitors from thirteen countries; this year it’s eleven. Further, ten years ago, there was more vintage furniture and design. Over time, there is a greater focus on contemporary work. Finally, due to COVID and the travel ban having been lifted so late, we have fewer international exhibitors than in the past and, of course, we hope that by next year we’ll have a lot of our old friends back in the fair.

Provided by Salon Art + Design

Linda Boronkay Veiled Chaise ©Charles Burnand 2021

JH: Your fair is unique in that it showcases art and design from a range of time periods. How do you think about curating Salon Art + Design? Are there any exhibitors or programs at this year's edition that you are particularly excited about?

JB: That’s a great question. Of course, curating a show where things are for sale is quite different from curating an exhibition. Still, we work very hard to bring the best of art and collectible design to the fair. Every year we seek out material that we’ve never had before, largely sticking to twentieth and twenty-first century art and design. We have a great core of dealers who’ve been with us for many years mostly specializing in furniture, ceramics, and lighting. A few years ago, I walked through the fair and noticed that we didn’t have any glass galleries; now we have two great galleries one of whom sells midcentury and the other contemporary glass.

This year, we’re adding Japanese art and design also with two new galleries. One specializes in extraordinary and largely unseen contemporary Japanese metalwork and the other in traditional Asian art and design. We’ve also added a tribal art gallery, which is a whole new genre/aesthetic for us so that’s a new area for collectors to explore. The other part of curating the fair goes to seeing that two like booths aren’t next to each other. So you might see a contemporary ceramics booth next to a gallery dealing in 1970’s French furniture. It gives people a reason to look at every booth.

In the outer rooms of the Armory we hold our special exhibitions and they’re very varied. Studio Greytak from Montana will debut its collection of design work utilizing minerals, many of them millions of years old, in a very Montana-esque setting. Each year we have a special jewelry exhibition and this year’s is by Didier of London, a world-renowned gallery for artists, architects, and designer jewelry. Also previewing her new line of home design is the Brazilian jewelry designer Silvia Furmanovich. In this new collection, she has kept her special sensibility for high jewelry turning it into functional design. She has created a Brazilian rainforest setting in which to showcase these dazzling pieces.

Provided by Salon Art + Design

Pierre Bonnefille - BibliotheÌque Rhizome Cuprite ©Charles Burnand 2021

JH: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, fairs have experimented with many changes to keep things safe, enjoyable, and profitable. As we begin to come out of the pandemic, what recent changes to art fairs do you think are going to stick around?

JB: The first thing to say about that is that people are overjoyed to go to events in person. After twenty months of looking at art online, collectors are eager to sit in a chair they may be contemplating buying or feeling the texture of a ceramic in their hands. Of course here in New York, vaccinations will be mandatory and I believe that will be true for a long time. And maybe a little less hugging…

JH: What are your thoughts on the rise of 3D virtually rendered "walkthrough" fairs?

JB: Twenty months ago, the virtual showrooms were a great idea. They gave us a way of staying in touch with what was happening in the design world. But over so much time, there was a growing fatigue for looking at things virtually. I think it remains easier to look at art than design; if you’re buying a couch or a dining table, you really want the tactile experience. It’s human nature to want what we can’t have and now people are doubly excited to come and have the actual, rather than virtual experience.

JH: What has been the response by galleries and collectors to returning to a physical fair?

JB: Both dealers and collectors are just thrilled to be coming back. Many of these galleries haven’t done a fair in two years, so this is their first opportunity to exhibit in a public arena. They are all putting their best foot forward with the material they are bringing.  And, equally important, they’re excited to engage with collectors and create a dialog about their experiences during COVID and making plans for a future that includes personal contact.

Provided by Salon Art + Design

Andre Arbus. Gilt wood armchair with adjustable back, turned stretchers, and original caning on the seat, back and arms. The head rest with swan head details on either side. Raised on low square bronze feet. French, c. 1950. Liz O'Brien.

JH: Last year, in lieu of a physical fair, you published a magazine called Salon – The Intersection of Art + Design. You have decided to do another edition of the magazine for the 2021 fair. What are the challenges to capturing your fairs in print? What are your plans for the publication going forward?

JB: We decided to create a magazine exactly because there was a growing fatigue about virtual fairs. And it seemed that with people staying home all the time, they would be happy to have a beautiful publication to enjoy. The pivot wasn’t too hard for us as a lot of us had worked at art and design magazines before coming to Salon. When I moved from print to Salon, I felt that creating a fair was like bringing a magazine to life. Magazines are about pace and excitement, long pieces are juxtaposed to short takes. One page does not look exactly like the next, and you want to vary the material. All these things are true of creating a fair. The goal is to keep the reader/viewer intrigued from beginning to end.

The first [magazine] was really about what would have been exhibited at the fair had it been held in 2020. The new one has turned into an edition that previews the 2021 fair, speaks about related subjects like color and materiality, and reports on the state of the market for collectible design.  We’ve put it out two weeks before the fair and hope it will generate even more excitement. I’d love to make it an annual publication.

JH: As in previous years, the 2021 fair will be held in the Park Avenue Armory. What is special about that venue and why do you keep coming back?

JB: The demand for the Park Avenue Armory always has been and always will be great. While it has some drawbacks, the location and elegance are eagerly sought by dealers and unsurpassed by any other venue in the city. Further, many of our collectors can walk there from their homes. It’s one of the wealthiest zip codes in America. Its size means that we will always remain a relatively small and intimate fair. With 35,000 square feet, you can’t host hundreds of dealers. We love the size because each one of the dealer’s booths will always be seen.

JH: Having been around art fairs so much, what do you think makes for a great exhibitor booth?

JB: One of the qualifications for our dealers is that they create an immersive environment in which to show their work. If a booth makes a potential client think of his home, s/he is much likelier to buy. Of course, the combination of design and fine art is the ultimate way for people to imagine this piece or that painting in their home. You don’t buy a great piece of art and look at it from an Ikea chair. Equally, collectors who curate the furniture in their homes are not likely to be looking at blank walls.

Provided by Salon Art + Design

Jupiter - Studio Greytak

JH: Looking out at the next ten years, where do you see art fairs and specifically Salon Art + Design going?

JB: Overall, I think our model works for us. All the things we’ve talked about—holding Salon in the Armory, having varied material, encouraging immersive booths have resulted in our success. The change will always be in the exhibitors and the material they bring. I certainly aspire to have more continents represented—to increase our footprint in Asia and to have art from Australia and New Zealand. I hope that we'll be both classic and edgy. Perhaps an area in which we might want to increase is with technology—to have more 3D printed design and whatever new technologies are being embraced by designers. We are looking to further the brand. In 2023 we plan to hold a Salon for jewelry.

JH: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about the upcoming fair?

JB: Salon is always a labor of love for our amazing team. This year, they have essentially done in four months what they normally have nine months to accomplish. The result is the kind of event our participants and attendees expect from us. I think the public will be dazzled and I expect to see a lot of smiles as people walk through the very heavy doors of the Armory.

Editor's Note: Portions of this interview were edited for clarity
About the Author

Jeremy Howell

Jeremy Howell is the Co-Creator and Editor-In-Chief of Art & Object.

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