What's not to love about giant glittering cartoon pandas? One of the first things visitors to the Pavilion of Art & Design London will see on walking into this years fair is a series of huge (possibly life-sized) paintings by American artist Robert Pruitt, on show at Luxembourg & Dayan's booth. Depicting humans disguised as pandas (Pruitt's chosen alter ego), the paintings are displayed in a setting richly decorated with ornate Chinoiserie wallpaper amongst works and artifacts from various periods of Chinese history. They are immediately lovable and set an upbeat tone for perusing the rest of the fair.
Now in its sixth year, the Pavilion of Art & Design London (PAD) is doing fantastically well. With 60 leading galleries from Europe, the US and Asia participating (including 18 new participants) the curation is sophisticated, and the works on show are of a superior calibre - Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Gérard Schneider, and Fernand Leger being just a few of the artists represented.
In a week that will see much of London overdose on art, with Frieze and its multitude of satellite shows, parties and pop-ups, PAD offers a refreshing mix, with a concentrated focus this year on design galleries and jewelry commissions for the more curious and adventurous collector. The boutique marquee in Berkeley Square (studded as ever with its trees) is filled with inspiring examples and new commissions from an international delegation.
Contemporary furniture is particularly strong. Champion of that scene, perhaps, is Will Shannon, who was the winner of the all-new PAD London Prize (supported by Moet Hennessy) for his 'Luna Table' made from newspapers and concrete, and the 'Kiln House', a silver model depicting the fictional workplace of an inner city potter.
Elsewhere on the furniture front, David Gill's booth offers visitors a chance to see the latest works from Gaetano Pesce (a brilliantly playful waterscape table) and Zaha Hadid (her Liquid Glacier series) as well as the Crush collection from Fredrikson Stallard. Pearl Lam, meanwhile, has commissioned new pieces from French designer Andre Dubreuil.
Another PAD veteran, Gallery Cristina Grajales (New York), is showcasing the ever-more-popular work of Sebastian Errazuriz, Christophe Come, Sam Baron, John Paul Philippe, and Jorge Lizarazo for Hechizoo. Paris based Hervé Van Der Straeten, exhibiting a powerful collection of highly polished geometric forms, is another highlight. For those who have not yet come across the amazingly hypnotic digital butterflies by Dominic Harris, on show at Priveekollektie, would do well to make a special trip just with them in mind.
While glittering pandas and digital butterflies might not necessarily be the best evidence of it, one phrase frequently used by visitors and exhibitors alike when describing this year's show has been 'grown up'. PAD seems to have reached maturity, and with that has come a palpably more relaxed atmosphere than in previous years. Combined with an ever more confident marketplace, we can finally all take a step back and truly enjoy the work. Which is a relief, because if we can't do that, what's the point?