The Frieze Art Fair, which opened on Thursday 16th, might be the headline-grabber in the cultural media this week but Design Art London’s second incarnation, though a smaller, quieter affair, is certainly deserving of column inches in its own right. In Berkeley rather than Hanover Square (more space means more exhibitors) there’s a sense that one year on the show has found its feet. Frieze feels like the giant trade show that it is, but Design Art London feels more like a private stroll through the world’s finest design galleries.

Qiao Xiaodao

Click here to see Van der Straeten’s favourite pieces.
This year we charged Parisian designer and gallerist Hervé Van der Straeten to walk us through the tent and choose his edit of favourite pieces, the idea being to see the fair through the eyes of someone at the heart of the design gallery sphere. He gave an insight not just into the designs that he likes but also into the way he looks and speaks about design.
He sketched rough shapes of the products that caught his eye and then explained how they made him feel. Despite the fact he clearly knows about the history of design and the importance of context, it’s not his starting point for appreciating products and furniture, as it is for so many. Rather he responded to the designs in the immediate present, noting its form first in a basic sketch, which he then used as a trigger to explain why it had caught his eye and his emotional reaction to it.
More than half of the 32 galleries came from Paris, a fact Van der Straeten attributes not just to the good taste of the French, but because of the growing interest in local, traditional craftsmanship. ‘There’s a culture in Paris of wanting to know where things came from and how things are made,’ he explains, ‘and I think this is the reason for the numerous design galleries. The more people are interested, the more people want to collect and the more there’s a market for galleries to source and sell to collectors.’
Quizzed over whether the current economic situation might affect this trend he shows little concern: ‘The products we’re selling aren’t just extravagant, expensive pieces, designed for the sake of it. The things we make and sell have an integrity of creativity and function. In my opinion this means there will always be someone who understands the products, wants to collect them and has enough money to do so. I think the recession will have more of an effect on design that is tailored for a specific market with money, not integrity, as the end goal.’