Salon Art + Design Returns to New York with a More Eclectic Gaze

Annie Kurnick

Jill Bokor. Photo by BFA.

Salon Art + Design, produced by Sanford L. Smith + Associates, returns for its eighth edition at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City from November 14-18, 2019. Enhanced by blue-chip 20th century and contemporary art, the Salon presents the world’s best design in vintage, modern, and contemporary art. While Salon continues to differentiate itself from other fairs by including a highly curated mix of historic and contemporary collectible design and fine art, their 2019 event will feature 56 leading art and design galleries from 13 different countries while spotlighting the trends of collectible design.

Jill Bokor, executive director of Salon, continues the display of Salon’s excellence, expanding the range of material presented with each passing year. With the upcoming show including exhibitors from Russia, Lebanon, and South America, Bokor states, “this inherently ensures that there will be designs, objects and makers that have not been presented at Salon before.” While the top-tier fair provides a balance where quality meets diversity, Bokor explains “the success of Salon lies in the brilliance of its exhibiting galleries, the extremely international flavor of the material and an eclecticism that is highly sought by today’s collectors and tastemakers.” Here, we get an inside look with Bokor on what the fair has in store this year.

Cycladic Marble Kandila. Greek, Early Cycladic I, circa 3000-2800 BC. Courtesy of Ariadne Galleries.

This is the eighth year that Salon Art + Design will be returning to the Armory. What can we expect from the fair? With each passing year, the range of the material presented broadens and deepens. The geographic origins of the participants extend to include exhibitors from Russia, Lebanon and South America. Inherently this ensures that there will be designs, objects and makers that have not been presented at Salon before. While our timeline remains the same—from ancient cultures to the present, with a several thousand millennia gap from BC to 1900—the material shown delves deep into the 20th and 21st centuries.

What differentiates Salon Art + Design from other contemporary design and art fairs? There is a lot of talk these days about what constitutes an art fair—as opposed to a design fair. Happily, these distinctions are continually blurring and many of our exhibitors are intent on erasing those boundaries altogether. At the end of the day, that’s what distinguishes Salon from other fairs. When you see a vessel made by a 3-D printer, who’s to say what the taxonomy is? It’s utterly original, which is certainly amongst the criteria for desirability. Further to that is the overarching question of what constitutes collectible design at this particular moment. Salon tries to address these questions.

Vladimir Bogatyrev and Galina Stolbova’s Youth Festival of Peoples’ Friendship lamp. Courtesy Heritage Gallery.

The international roster of exhibitors grew from last year’s showcase. Does Salon Art + Design have plans on expanding? At the moment, we don’t have plans to replicate the fair anywhere else. I’m not a fan of franchises—they create events that are no longer unique. And with the disarray in London and the demonstrations in Paris and Hong Kong, the geopolitical world is going through a profound change. Increasingly, that affects the art market—how and where will material be offered? That being said, we have been asked to consider events from Russia to Los Angeles and it would be fun to create some boutique experiences outside of New York.

What criteria does Salon Art + Design look for in their exhibitors? Like every top fair, quality will always be the first criteria, quickly followed by diversity of offerings. Balance is important, so, for example, while we have a number of exhibitors presenting Italian design, we plan carefully to see that there aren’t five booths of all Gio Ponti. Similarly, with contemporary design, we prefer to work with galleries who represent the designer or artist, rather than showing the work as secondary market material.

Eric Grate’s Fireplace screen. Courtesy Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts.

Salon Art + Design encourages its exhibitors to create immersive environments. What have been your favorite activations to date? Bernard Goldberg’s all Frank Lloyd Wright installation last year was a great achievement and Todd Merrill’s joyful, maximalist installation was fantastic! I loved the Collectors Lounge by Charles Burnand. It was smokily dark with touches of bronze and gold, mixing vintage material along with new design, creating a most intriguing environment. This year, they will exhibit in the fair itself and I’m excited to see how they trump last year!

Can you tell us your day-to-day in preparation for next month’s fair? If we’ve done our jobs right, the last month of the fair all comes down to detail. Most im portantly that means getting the message out, so PR is probably where the most time gets spent. It’s also finalizing the details for all of our programming—the partner installations, the talks, the tours and specific booth activations. Of course, you spend the most time thinking about what you don’t know—which is what have I missed—and hoping that it all comes together seamlessly.

Faye Toogood’s Spade Chair. Courtesy of Friedman Benda.

What is inspiring you right now? Jeff Zimmerman and David Wiseman for lighting design, Joseph Walsh, Faye Toogood and Marcin Rusak for furniture, and Junko Mori for ceramics. I’m also crazy for the crystal sculptures of Joanna Manousis. Hoping to see works by all these artists at this year’s Salon!

Who are your design icons? American Arts and Crafts furniture was my first love, so Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustave Stickley probably top the list, followed by English Arts and Crafts icons Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Christopher Dresser. And even though I would describe myself as a minimalist, the excesses of Carlo Bugatti furniture delight me. How old do you have to be to be iconic? And can you be alive? If the answer to these questions is yes, I would add Johnny Swing to the list.