There’s nothing like frenzied hammering hours before the opening of your art fair to calm the nerves
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE frenzied hammering hours before the opening of your art fair to calm the nerves. Two years ago, none of the booths were built in time for the bright pink Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD) in Berkeley Square to open during Frieze Week in October. The company we hired had put up the marquee but seemed at a loss as to how to set up the booths. Some incredible Portuguese workers saved the day.
Then last year, in the final two hours we completely lost power as the workers had forgotten to make the connection between the fuel tanks. As everyone packs up the moment the fair is over, the trucks and movers were blocking the whole of Berkeley Square, but without lights no one could do anything. I decided to take matters into my own hands and found someone who could shed light on the matter.
MANY YEARS AGO I never liked London. I was studying at Christie’s, my English was not great and the food was so bad (good food is of major importance to me), but it has changed incredibly. Now I am here up to four times a month, not only because I am organising the fair but also because I love it. Through the fair and my contacts in London it has become a wonderful place socially and as a result a much nicer place to work. I think it’s taking the place of NYC as the centre of the world.
Every time I visit I tour four or five gunsmiths to see if there is something new (I love Holland and Holland and Purdey), but I don’t really need anything because I already have about five of everything.
DURING AN EARLIER edition of PAD, I was browsing the design shops on the King’s Road with Marc-Antoine Patissier from the Paris gallery HP Studio when I got a call from the main office saying an armchair had been stolen overnight from Belgian dealer Anne Autegarden’s booth. I thought it was a joke and hung up — because, really, how does someone steal a large armchair from a secure fair in the middle of Mayfair? But the piece had indeed been stolen.
No one could understand how this had been possible as the security guard said there was no record of it being signed out in the book (which we are very strict about) and the fair had not reopened since closing the night before, when the chair was still present. At the time I thought it might be a bad practical joke — sometimes the dealers do this to each other, moving pieces around from each other’s stands to give them a scare — but it’s always OK in the end as the items are somewhere in the fair.
That afternoon I was at lunch at the fair restaurant and the main office rang again, saying there was someone at the entrance with the armchair. I came to the entrance to find a scruffy surfer-looking young man with the armchair. The security was ready to rough him up a bit but I wanted him to explain. He apologised profusely, saying he had a long night with lots of drinking and was walking home when he passed by Berkeley Square and saw a door open in the marquee, so he jumped the fence. He woke up with a quite a big headache the next morning only to see the armchair in his room. He was incredibly apologetic for what he had done.
EVEN THOUGH I am currently redecorating my Paris flat (at the same time as organising fairs in Paris, NYC and London), I still enjoyed a rather eventful summer. I went on a fantastic shooting trip to Scotland with Moët Hennessy president Christophe Navarre. We travelled by private jet and when we arrived there was a line of black Range Rovers waiting for us.
In addition to Christophe, the shooting group was an excellent crowd — France’s former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and former European commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy were among the guests. When we arrived at the castle we were greeted by a man in traditional Scottish dress playing the bagpipes, and all the butlers and maids were lined up to welcome us (it was a very 19th-century impression). In addition to shooting there was a whisky tasting, where stuffed lamb belly was served, which is apparently very traditional but in no way would I ever eat it — I find it absolutely disgusting!
IN 2010, BEFORE the fair was even over, all 52 exhibitors rushed to sign up and secure their place at PAD London 2011; we have never received deposits so fast. As result, we knew we would be facing more construction and organisational challenges to allocate enough space for every returning exhibitor plus ten new participants. Space issues weren’t completely solved despite negotiations with Westminster Council, so we’ve had to be much more stringent in our selection process to come to 60 exhibitors in total. This hasn’t been easy and has been disappointing for some keen participants. On the good side, however, this means that PAD London 2011 is going to be the ultimate edition of the fair. This year we have achieved the perfect balance between fine art and design, with exhibitors coming from abroad and the UK. We have fantastic new galleries such as Dansk Møbelkunst, Eykyn Maclean and Luxembourg and Dayan. These galleries will bring exquisite pieces never seen in this country before. The show must go on!
Photograph by Donfeatures, courtesy PAD London