Now in its third year, The Salon: Art + Design fair is one of the only shows in the world to seamlessly integrate contemporary art and design in one space, celebrating instead of ignoring their proximity on the artistic spectrum. “There are lots of art fairs where design is not permitted, and several good design fairs that don’t include art,” said festival co-directors Jill Bokor and Jen Roberts. “We have never understood this particular divide.” Here, tastemakers can browse Rietveld chairs alongside Schiele sketches and Pissarro paintings near Noguchi tables.
This year fair has added 17 galleries to their line-up for a total of 55, and again partnered with online gallery and artwork database Artsy, who have invited 12 of the brightest design talents to curate and lead their own tours of the fair. We met with Manhattan-based architect and interior designer Rafael de Cárdenas for his personal take on the fair.
After a stint on Calvin Klein’s design team in the ‘90s, de Cárdenas made a career switch, studying architecture at Columbia and UCLA, and then founding his own company, Architecture at Large, in 2006. Since then he’s designed residences for European elites, pop-ups and interiors for Nike and Baccarat, even a line of Op Art-inspired slip-on shoes for Rivieras.
De Cárdenas arrived at the Armory right on time, sporting a camel coat car coat and thick frames with his friend Felix Burrichter (creative director of architecture and design magazine Pin-Up) in tow. He led us at a rapid clip through the fair, stopping at favorites he’d scouted in advance, and admiring new surprises along the way. Below, five of his (and our) favorites.
Yonel Lebovici, “Fiche Mâle” lamp, 1978
Some compare Lebovici’s “Fiche Mâle” to Claes Oldenburg’s “Giant Three-Way Plug,” though this hits a much more functional, less monumental note. For de Cárdenas it recalls the departed Soho store Think Big. “It was a classic,” he said, “they had giant crayons, giant everything. I bought a giant toothbrush I still have in my bathroom.” In his notes on the fair, de Cárdenas calls the cast-aluminum and chrome-plated steel floor lamp a “guilty pleasure… bacon cheeseburger.” We can at least confirm that the piece is supersized.
Christophe Côme, Red Sidetable, 2014
The Parisian Côme is known for bringing a sculptural eye to his tables, consoles, and screens, though his more recent injections of color have brought new dynamism to his work. This side table, with a poured glass top, iron base, and red enamel detailing, represents a departure from some of his subtler pieces rendered in gold or silver leaf. “I hate red, but I love this table,” said de Cárdenas, remarking on its perfect size and height. “It’s a great way to bring the color into a room.”
Giovanni Corvaja, Box, 2013
“This is my favorite thing at the fair,” de Cárdenas told us while a gallerist withdrew the gold piece from its glass case. “It’s like a little pillbox, and I take a lot of pills, so…” Handmade by Italian designer Giovanni Corvaja, the box is an exercise in patience and studied minutiae: the artist hand-drilled over 6,000 holes into the vessel, and threaded through more than 50,000 gold wires, soldering them in the interior in a delicate Fibonacci sequence, and curling them on the exterior for a texture that hums with energy. Corvaja topped the box with sapphire blue enamel, capping off more than six months of labor.
Jean Dunand, Vase, ca 1925
De Cárdenas immediately moved toward the most delicate vase at a table full of Jean Dunand pieces. The Swiss-born artist is considered the finest lacquerer of the Art Deco period, and this vessel testifies to the skill and patience required of the craft. Dunand hand-hammered the vessel from a single metal sheet, then meticulously applied tiny eggshells pieces in a feathery, dissolving arrow motif. Delorenzo gallery director Adriana Friedman mentioned that Dunand liked to apply around 40 coats of lacquer to his pieces, using brushes made of scuba divers’ hair (more brittle than most, it was his preferred texture), during a full moon (to avoid any warping).
Mattia Bonetti, Chair ‘Congo’, 2014
The Swiss-born Bonetti, whom de Cárdenas calls “one of the most versatile designers working today,” was inspired by art imitating nature while producing his most recent collection, and his bronze and leather “Congo” chair brings some of the jungle into the living room, with accents of bone, rope, leaves, and berries adorning the crown and legs of the piece. Collect them all.