Jill Bokor On Art, Design Fairgoers and What Not to Miss at Salon

New to the Salon Art + Design fair this year are Gmurzynska and Zeit Contemporary Art, both of which are showing the best of modern and contemporary European and American art.

The Salon Art + Design fair opens at the Park Avenue Armory today (Nov. 10), marking the event’s 12th edition, which boasts fifty exhibitors and twelve special design exhibitions for a total of sixty-two booths. This year will show an expanded emphasis on art with newcomers to the fair Galerie Gmurzynska, Halcyon Gallery and Zeit Contemporary Art offering works for the first time.

A portrait of a woman with blond hair wearing black paired with teal earrings
Jill Bokor. Image Courtesy of BFA

Observer recently had a chance to catch up with Jill Bokor, Salon’s Executive Director, to hear about what makes this iteration unique.

What makes the Park Avenue Armory so good for art fairs?  

The atmosphere of the Park Avenue Armory is perfect for an event like Salon in large part because it, in itself, is a curated work of design. The leading architects of the day, Stanford White, Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Herter Brothers all had a hand in the design of this incredible building, creating a structure filled with interest and detail. When you enter through its heavy, heavy doors you are transported into a Gilded Age world, setting a wonderful tone for the showing of fine art and design.

How did the idea for the Salon entryway by Cox London come about?  

Cox London specializes in tailor-made, artistically designed lighting, furniture and artwork. It was founded in 2005 by sculpture makers Chris and Nicola Cox. In 2022, their business development manager, Maddie Lamont, visited Salon Art + Design and experienced the power of the two showcases: the entryway chandelier designed by Thomas Newman and the Brutalism display from Amy Lau Design under the Grand Staircases. They were immediately sold on applying to exhibit in both locations to maximize their first major U.S. fair exhibition.

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What are some booths that visitors should be sure not to miss at this edition of the fair? 

Visitors should visit every booth. Unlike large art fairs, Salon is small and intimate with only sixty-two installations on the floor so it is possible to see each one without feeling overwhelmed. We’re very excited to welcome some new galleries this year. Among them, Mia Karlova from The Netherlands is showcasing contemporary European design with great flair. New to us this year are Gmurzynska and Zeit Contemporary Art, both of which are showing the best of modern and contemporary European and American art. Finally, the Salon has introduced jewelry this year, and our five jewelry exhibitors whose offerings range from early 20th century works to whimsical contemporary creations are not to be missed!

This year you’ve increased the number of booths that are focused on art rather than design. Why is that?

We have always thought of the Salon’s installations as immersive, reflecting spaces where people actually live. The inclusion of art is very important. Who of us lives without something we love on his/her/their walls?

A painting of a shape with angles and curves
Ellsworth Kelly, ‘Blue I’, (1973 – 1975). Courtesy of Zeit Contemporary Art

How do you differentiate between the worlds of art and design? Many design objects are quite sculptural, and many paintings are decorative.

That is absolutely true, and happily, we don’t really have to make that distinction. If the quality is great and the materials are innovative, does it matter what we call it?

How are design fairgoers different from those seeking art? Can you tell the difference at your fair?  

There is certainly a significant crossover between art and design collectors, but one of the differences is that at Salon, a large percentage of our guests are architects and interior designers. They are usually working on several different projects at a time. We frequently see designers with different clients return throughout the fair, sometimes shopping for vintage material, another day looking at the most cutting-edge contemporary design.

This is your twelfth year as executive director of this fair. What have you learned about the job in that time? 

I have always said that Salon both predicts and reflects trends. Obviously, these things run in cycles so it’s important to be open to everything. With so many repeat visitors from year to year, it’s critical to offer the element of surprise, and we have tried very hard to do that. It’s important to consider everything, not just the exhibitors’ booths, but the entrance, the flowers… even the signature cocktails!

Jill Bokor On Art, Design Fairgoers and What Not to Miss at Salon