Mother of Pearl! The Salon: Art + Design Is Not Your Average Fair

It's all about achingly beautiful objects and well-dressed people.

Mathias Bengtsson, Growth Chair, Galerie Maria Wettergren.

There was a lot to see at Thursday evening’s vernissage for The Salon: Art + Design at the Park Avenue Armory. Among them, achingly beautiful objects and well-dressed people testing the limits of how many sliders they could jam onto a cocktail napkin without appearing gauche. But there was also something that you don’t always find at a design fair: art, and people staunchly situated within the art world. Among the attendees, we spotted Adam Lindemann and RoseLee Goldberg, and exhibitors included Salon 94 and Friedman Benda.

While the art world has often denounced design as less-than in the past, it seems even the puritans are coming around. It helps that, in its third year, Salon is not the average design fair—its mission is to blur the lines of high art and design by presenting a showcase of objects that truly function as both. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all luxury, right?

Kang Myung Sun, From the Glitter 2014-13 (2014) Gallery Seomi

Kang Myung Sun, From the Glitter 2014-13 (2014)
Gallery Seomi

Parts of the fare are standard, but some are truly unconventional. At the Priveekoliektie Contemporary Art and Design booth, several electronic portraits of birds are completely still until you approach them, at which point they begin to slowly move in correspondence with your motions. “That’s amazingly creepy,” I told the dealer, who didn’t seem to realize that this was a high compliment. “We do everything. We blur the lines [of art and design] with everything we do,” responded the dealer, who asked to remain unnamed. At the same booth, a glass-top table supported by glowing letters spelling out the word “Bang” was also for sale. Slightly less avant garde, sure, but still refreshingly tongue-in-cheek.

But the hit of the evening was across the way at Gallery Seomi, where a couch made entirely of mother of pearl was available for sitting on. Easily the nicest thing my behind has ever touched, it is on sale for just $80,000, a seemingly paltry number when you consider the cost of a mother of pearl necklace in comparison to the physical enormity of the couch.

It’s a joy to encounter exquisite objects that provide a use beyond mental provocation, especially when it means you can actually feel comfortable touching (nay, sitting on) them. It’s enough to make you wonder if perhaps design has so often been eschewed by the “high art” crowd for fear that everyone might just get a little too comfortable.

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