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New York Times November 9, 2012

A Museum in the Making at the Park Avenue Armory

November 9, 2012

New York Times November 9, 2012

This is the first year for the Salon, organized jointly by Sanford L. Smith & Associates and the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, Paris, an association of dealers in historical design (or what used to be called “antiques”). Thirty-one Syndicat dealers are included in this show of 53 exhibitors, many appearing in New York for the first time.

One of the most impressive inclusions is De Jonckheere Gallery, an old masters dealer from Geneva (until recently Paris) whose darkened booth includes spotlighted works like “The Harvest” (1621), by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, which is similar in its composition and observation of the seasons to “The Harvesters” (1565), by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, at the Metropolitan Museum. Also at De Jonckheere is a small panel by Lucas Cranach the Elder, “Portrait of the Elector of Saxony, Frederick III, Known as Frederick the Wise,” signed in 1532 with a serpent rather than Cranach’s name, and an extraordinary little painting on copper by Jan van Kessel (Breughel the Younger’s nephew) from 1659 that was made for a cabinet of curiosities and depicts insects, flowers and shells against a white ground.

Eighteenth-century decorative arts are well represented by Kraemer, a Parisian family firm founded in 1875, after the Franco-Prussian War. A 1766 cabinet designed by Martin Carlin with Japanese lacquer and an ebony veneer is similar to one on exhibit at the Louvre. (This one also comes with an intriguing provenance, since it was seized during the French Revolution from the daughter of Paris de Montmartel, a rich banker who, among other things, helped finance the African slave trade and was Madame de Pompadour’s godfather.)

Another museum-worthy work, this time from the modern period, is the 1920 portfolio of “Proun” (a Russian acronym for “project for the affirmation of the new,”) prints by the Russian artist El Lissitzky at Galerie Gmurzynska in Zurich. Lissitsky’s spare black, white and red prints — dedicated to the Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich — look like a fusion of abstract painting and architectural schematics. (In a 2010 exhibition Gmurzynska paired Russian Suprematists with work by the contemporary architect Zaha Hadid.)

A cache of important postwar Japanese ceramics is at the New York dealer Joan B. Mirviss Ltd. Taking their cues from European sculptors like Brancusi, Giacometti, Picasso and Matisse, the triumvirate of Kyoto masters from the Sodeisha movement — Suzuki Osamu, Yagi Kazuo and Yamada Hikaru — are represented by works that eschew functionality (although the artists also made vessels and tea-ceremony items to support themselves). According to Ms. Mirviss, women dominate the current generation of Japanese ceramic art, and she is showing work by several of them, including the painstakingly constructed ceramic sculptures of Kishi Eiko.

After art historians became enamored with Italian art from the 1950s and ’60s, collectors moved in, and work by the Italians is on view throughout the Salon — particularly those by the Argentinian-born Lucio Fontana. Exhibiting together, Galerie Robilant + Voena and M. F. Toninelli Art Moderne have put together a fine selection of works by Giorgio Morandi and Alberto Burri — but particularly Fontana, Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi, whose “Nero” (1968), a sculptural black canvas stretched and painted with ciré glaze, looks like a molded plastic object or the contours of an automobile.

Another recent postwar favorite, Yayoi Kusama, who had a retrospective at the Whitney Museum over the summer, has three works at Vivian Horan, including a later version of her “Infinity Nets” (2006) paintings and a chair festooned with protuberances, “Pollen” (1984). Meanwhile the Galerie Downtown of Paris has postwar furniture, all from the same house and designed by Charlotte Perriand, as well as a rare kangaroo chair by Jean Prouvé.

Impressionist and Modern paintings are at Galerie Boulakia and Connaught Brown; “100 Years of Abstraction” at James Goodman and Pop Art at Galerie Pascal Lansberg; Latin American art at Cernuda Arte; ancient works at Galerie Christian Deydier and Phoenix; and ethnographic art at Galerie Bernard Dulon, Entwistle and Galerie Alain de Monbrison.

Rearranged in some other setting the work here would create a nice small museum. But here you have art dealers on hand, most of whom are happy to provide a short art history lesson on everything from Flemish old masters to postwar Japanese ceramics.

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