Border crossing: the boundaries between art and design have been blurred at Lever House

Border crossing: the boundaries between art and design have been blurred at Lever House

It’s hard to find any breathing room during the frenzy of Frieze in New York, but Salon 94 and Maccarone galleries, along with the newly minted Salon 94 Design, have created a moment of reprieve with a mammoth exhibition of design and art set on the second floor of the iconic Lever House. Entitled ‘Midtown’, the show brings together sculpture, vessels, paintings, furniture and tapestries from over 40 artists, all elegantly framed by wraparound windows that boast views of both Park Avenue and the building’s inner courtyard.

Set amidst such swanky, storied environs, the exhibition’s cross-section of contemporary creativity hits an even more poignant note. A cast foam recliner by Urs Fischer is juxtaposed by a table by Isamu Noguchi, while Gaetano Pesce’s epoxy resin and dacron cloud lamp sits on the floor. In another part of the sprawling space, complex, woven sculptures by Korean artist Kwangho Lee and gestural paintings by Alex Hubbard invoke equal appreciation.

Installation view of ‘Midtown’. Courtesy of Salon 94

Together, the exhibition collectively poses the ever-evolving question of how to define art and what contributes to a piece’s value – a debate made all the more given that the Lever House is also permanently home to numerous investment, real estate and brokerage firms, including its owner, Aby Rosen’s company RFR.

Aside from the Ghost Dog at Salon 94 Bowery last month, this exhibition marks the first official showing of Salon 94 Design – the gallery’s recently launched design-art enterprise headed up by dealer Paul Johnson, who previously operated his own space. Under Johnson’s direction, specimens by longtime collaborator Max Lamb from over the last decade also make an impressive appearance. 

‘Putting contemporary designers in the same arena as contemporary artists was the basis of the merger between myself and Jeanne,’ explains Johnson. ‘Not that we want to define design as art at all – rather the opposite, as we want it to be appreciated as exceptional design works. To be able to do it in such a landmark location was just something that made it all the more special for our big first collaboration. The space defined the show.’

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