Cultured Magazine

Spring 2014

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56 CULTURED PORTRAIT BY PERRY HAGOPIAN Powers Combined The progressive-thinking Collective Design Fair grows into its second year. BY JULIA COOKE Two years ago, Steven Learner walked out of a New York design fair and thought, "If this is the best we can do, I have got to do something about it," he says. While the city hosted art fairs and antique shows, there wasn't much of a public platform for 20th and 21st century design. Yet the raw materials were plentiful. "I was traveling to London and Basel and Miami to buy furniture for my clients," he says, "and oftentimes I would be buying from New York galleries to ship to New York clients." So the New York-based architect, designer and founder of Collective Design Fair called friends and colleagues: collector Beth DeWoody, R & Company's Evan Snyderman and Zesty Meyers, Cristina Grajales of the eponymous gallery and Caroline Baumann, director of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum—to name a few. All were in agreement. If Learner got the ball rolling, he had their support. Launching its second installment in May, Collective takes its name from its group-impelled genesis and ethos, "which rests on two key tenets," says Learner. First, inclusivity: to juxtapose emerg- ing designers and vendors with heritage brands and respected names, and to be a place where international curators, collectors, dealers, designers and design-savvy New Yorkers could connect. Second, as a corollary: a sense of discovery. The fair's open-floor plan, designed by Learner's studio, empha- sizes both of these principles. "You'll see a contemporary piece in the foreground and a vintage piece in the background, and maybe you'll make a connection, how these pieces tie together visually or materially," Learner says. "Or maybe not, but it's there. That weaving together is key, rather than the ghettoization of galleries [by age or style]." Its second iteration has a new home at Moynihan Station in Manhattan's historic, Beaux-Arts James A. Farley Post Office Building and boasts galleries from Mexico City, Stockholm and, of course, New York. Educational programming has also been boosted, includ- ing "Collective Conversations," which eschew presentations and slides and places design leaders at informal talks around a "family table." In an ever-expanding market that seems to effervescently grow in all directions at once, Collective puts firm emphasis on coopera- tion and porosity. "Overall, in our culture, we see a blurring of the lines between art, design, fashion, graphics, web design and more, everyone becoming fluent in all those languages," says Learner. This fresh model for a design fair caters to a new breed of clients: edu- cated, curious collectors who aren't just buying "based on a shop- ping list or a Top 10," says Learner. "Art and design are not just luxury products anymore—collectors are passionate." "Overall, in our culture, we see a blurring of the lines between art, design, fashion, graphics, web design and more, everyone becoming fluent in all those languages." —Steven Learner

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