Art Review | ‘Modernism + Art20′ A One-Stop Eyeful of Mediums

Which is better: a mediocre work of art or an outstanding design object? This question buzzes about Modernism + Art20, the new two-in-one art and design fair at the Park Avenue Armory through Monday. An answer never emerges, possibly because there really isn’t one, and therein lies some of the fun of this hybrid show.

As the title suggests, this event combines Modernism, the venerable design fair that has convened annually at the armory since 1985, with Art20, a fair of 20th-century art also held there since its inception in 2002. Their union reflects another contraction brought on by the changed economic climate.

This may be to our advantage. “Art Meets Design” is the tag line, and though art and design have had met regularly in all kinds of fairs for years now, they do so with a particular clarity here. For the most part, stands devoted to painting and sculpture alternate with others dominated by furniture and decorative objects. Although the resulting mashup includes some extremely vapid or simply inappropriate offerings (bad contemporary realism and vintage clothing, for example), this arrangement definitely staves off the monotony that can afflict any fair.


Although postwar modern is in the majority, Art Deco holds sway at Moderne’s stand, exemplified by a 1930 cabinet in burl elm with chunky ivory mountings by Louis Neiss. Leroux has an appealing pair of small cabinets, also Deco, partly covered in parchment. Brian Kish has a lavish stained oak and leather credenza from 1934 by Pier Luigi Colli. At J. Lohmann a tea set by Werner Gothein has the lines and mottled burnt orange glaze of postwar design though it is from 1927. Martin Cohen, a first-time participant, backs up a bit more with a marvelous display of chairs by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Lockwood de Forest and Herter Brothers.

Modernism + Art20 is at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street, on Friday from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.; and Monday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $20 a day or $30 for a two-day pass; (212) 777-5218 or

27 greene st, new york ny 10013 tel/fax 212.925.7850 by appointment

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