The New Benchmark, T Design Fall 2008

She’s a Pritzker-prize-winning architect who’s designed everything from museums to fire stations to ski jumps; they could sell a plastic bag for five figures if it bore Zaha Hadid’s coveted signature. (Hold that thought.) Last year the prototype of Hadid’s Aqua Table for Established & Sons fetched a dizzying $296,000 at auction, which may be chump change when Hadid presents her first full line of furniture, which will also be made by Established & Sons, next month. The collection is called Seamless, but it’s a word that could just as easily refer to the relationship between Hadid and the Phillips de Pury & Company auction house, which is not only showing and selling the limited-edition work but also commissioned it in the first place — casting itself in the role of agent as well.

The Seamless exhibition, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15 at Phillips’s Chelsea headquarters, represents the most ambitious example yet of its recent foray into this new hybrid form: events that the auction house likens to art-market coming-out parties or mini-retrospectives. Until now it has featured a mix of exclusive albeit existing work by artists like Ron Arad, Ettore Sottsass, Mario Testino and Rolf Sachs. ”This is part of a very thought-out and concerted effort to offer more services to our clients,” Alexander Payne, Phillips’s director of design, says, referring to the insatiable collectors of contemporary art and design whom the house has been cultivating for more than a decade. The Seamless collection promises to take full-scale advantage of Phillips’s massive gallery space while indulging in the fast-and-fluid curves that characterize Hadid’s buildings. A super-high-gloss chair, shelf system, cabinet, lounger and stool will each be available in editions of 8 to 12 and carry price tags that will no doubt reflect Hadid’s starchitect status. ”She’s at the forefront of her architecture career,” Payne says. ”But if one looks at her furniture output, this is really the beginning of her game.” After the sale, Established & Sons will likely work with Hadid on future projects, but Phillips will shift its focus to expanding into yet another business role: that of an agency. It plans to announce an initial roster of artists and designers early next year.


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