At home, galleries have a multitude of ways to define their identities, to signal their agendas. They pick their neighborhood and design the layout of their space. Tall front desk or short front desk? Opaque or clear windows? Guestbook or no guestbook? A front buzzer? (Peter Schjeldahl once devoted a large section of an article solely to the doors at Mary Boone’s SoHo gallery.)
At art fairs, they have fewer options. They can wrap the walls of their booth with art (as Boone and L&M did this year at Art Basel), they can lay down carpeting (like Rosenfeld and Nolan) or–if they are feeling particularly adventurous–they can build a maze of walls, as UNTITLED did. Ultimately, though, they are left with an anonymous rectangular space and some white walls. How does one stand out?
With a table and chairs.
With the exception of a few brave dealers who opted to stand throughout the fair, a table and a few chairs are essential for conducting business. The days are long, and sometimes a deal is best discussed sitting down. In the slide show above, Gallerist takes a look at some of the most elegant, creative and impressive seating arrangements at this year’s Art Basel.
Peter Freeman and Galerie Nelson-Freeman, New York/Paris
The partner galleries went with a classic wood Donald Judd table, and bravely used it for a light dinner and drinks during the vernissage.
Photos by Andrew Russeth
Balice Hertling, Paris
Belgian architect Bernard Dubois and la Ville Rayee designed this gorgeous set of tables for the Parisian gallery's booth. It also offered visitors a taste of the gallerists' home base: "This furniture is actually a smaller version of what they have designed for our offices in Paris!" dealer Daniele Balice told us via e-mail. The project is called "Grandi Bianchi (Hommage to Andrea Branzi)."
Artist Jorge Pardo designed this table, which the gallery used for business while at the same time offering it for sale. We asked for the price near the end of the VIP preview and were told that it had already been sold.
Overduin & Kite, Los Angeles
Perhaps Gallerist's favorite table at the fair, Marc Camille Chaimowicz's pale mint-colored piece looked unlike any other example at Basel. Another table in pale pink was further back in the booth, propped at an angle, as if it was sinking into the floor.
Mary Boone, New York
One of the larger arrangements at the fair, Boone's configuration offered plush, luxurious seating, the better to view a huge canvas by Will Cotton.
Loretta Howard Gallery/Nyehaus, New York
These Chelsea outfits brought a bit of conceptual flair to their shared booth. Offering work related to the artists that surrounded the storied 1970s bar Max's Kansas City, it used a table designed in the style of those once found there.
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
An understated and spare glass table, bedecked with a single, whimsical green Yayoi Kusama sculpture. The arrangement is something of a trademark of the gallery, and is also visible on its website.
David Nolan Gallery, New York
Clean and classic, with just a bit of quirky personality, this table personifies the Nolan program, and was made by an acquaintance of the gallery. Stellar carpeting too.
Two thumbs up. This square seating arrangement provided storage space down below and comfortable cushions for fair-goers to watch a video by Ragnar Kjartansson.
Galerie Mai 36, Zurich
Mai 36 also went the Donald Judd route, using two small tables by the artist and four film-director-style chairs for a supremely minimal presence on the floor.
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
Bonus points for a nice, fresh flower arrangement.