SHAY ALKALAY: The fair seems to be a market aimed solely at generating business. The galleries are showing pieces that are very much expected to be shown in a fair like this without trying to push the boundaries in surprising new directions. And if DesignArt is the second name to experimental design, no such experiments where found.
(Is this not what all fairs are about, I ask myself rather cynically.)
SA: A lot of the pieces are neither design nor art, they are merely decoration.
YAEL MER: Many of the gallerists are preserving excellent qualities from past periods that are important to the history of design, even if they are not new.
SA: As designers coming here, we see that there is lots more for us to do. Looking at the contemporary design being created around us every day, you see what you can do to add to what is being done around you. Looking at the museum quality pieces here, you see how far design has come. You also see how it has developed so little if this is what is classified as 'contemporary design'.
YM: Design art is mean to be experimental but this is just not. There are these shiny three-dimensional pieces and the old familiar modernist pieces but they cater to two mainstream tastes. This is a perfect platform where experimental design could be shown.
SA: It is interesting that the galleries, such as Gallery Creo and FAT Gallery both in Paris, Nilufar in Milan or Libby Sellers from London, that are specifically dealing with experimental design are not participating in this fair. DesignArt seems to be merely a marketing name and not representative of what is being created by the merger of these two fields.
YM: It would be so much more interesting if designers and artists were invited to collaborate together, or young designers invited, to create something different for the fair or if the gallerists focused their curated stands on singluar designers' work.
The final push for me - and I will not name galleries - was seeing traditional artworks - paintings and drawings - hanging on the walls behind the pieces of design filling the stands. These galleries are not exhibiting works that merge design and art, they are exhibiting pieces for sale at an interior design fair. On the Parisian scene the organisors of DesignArt London also host the Pavilion des Arts et du Design, which is testament to the history of the French decorative art tradition. Bringing this established concept across the Channel to London raises the question: does this fit in with the London contemporary design scene? It certainly doesn't fit in with the contemporary London art scene and I would argue, based on the comments od Yael and Shay that it doesn't fit in with the contemporary London design scene either. As a fair for interior design and the decorative arts it is very beautifully curated and staged and the works are indeed expertly and carefully chosen for their quality and their history. As a fair paying hommage to great iconic modernist pieces this fair excels itself. However, it doesn't work as a contemporary design fair that claims to bring together the worlds of art and design. Unless, of course, their intention is to reclassify design as art and if it is, then I think this raises some interesting questions about it's positioning. If this is so, it might make more sense to host the fair at another time of year and give a more experimental design art fair the opportunity to use its platform.
Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay are currently showing in London at Under the Same Roof with the OKAYstudio at the Aram Gallery http://www.thearamgallery.org/ and From Now to Eternity with Arts Co at the Biscuit Building in Shoreditch http://www.londondesignfestival.com/events/view-event.aspx?id=924. They are to show at DesignTide Tokyo : http://www.designtide.jp/08/en/index.php at the end of the month.