European Galleries Reopen
The dust sheets are being folded away, as collectible design galleries open their shows afresh to gallery visitors.
AS LOCKDOWN is easing all over Europe, commercial galleries have been among the first institutions to open up. Some are unshuttering shows that were closed hastily in March, others are mounting new ones, including works completed during the hiatus. Either way, audiences and artists eager to meet again in three-dimensional space are finally able to, even if that means booking an appointment in advance.
Belgium opened early and quietly, and on 4th June Valerie Traan, in Antwerp, launched a trio of summer exhibitions. The gallery was created ten years ago within the home of gallery-owner Veerle Wenes, blending work and life seamlessly in a way that has become familiar to all of us over the last three months. The main show, Brussels, presents work by Dutch designer Rikkert Paauw, who draws upon the discarded trash of a city to build furniture that is uniquely expressive of place. He has a genius for location – for finding the detritus that characterises a city – but also for design, constructing his pieces with beautiful logic and an instinct for colour and texture. As the world’s perpetually mobile global citizens have been grounded, and we have all become forcibly entrenched in one locale, this deep responsiveness to place is all the more appealing.
Maniera, meanwhile, in Brussels, has extended its current show, Tangible Abstraction, until the end of the week. This is a joint project by the Brussels-based architect Bernard Dubois and the Paris-based designer Isaac Reina, a specialist in leather. The result is a collection of ten highly adaptable furniture objects of intriguing geometrical precision and sensuality, which do not insist on their function. You can use them as you see fit.
Amman Gallery in Cologne opened on 7th May, with a blaze of optimism, a show called Colours. This is inspired by a series of colour photographs taken by renowned photographer Hélène Binet, who normally works in black and white, of the Suzhou Gardens in China. She has reported that “While I was working on the Gardens of Suzhou in China, it was so humid that it felt as if the colours were in the air, and that my camera could solidify them.” Alongside are other artworks and pieces of functional design, including Alessandro Mendini’s iconic ‘Proust’ armchair from 1979 and the glossy, green ceramic ‘Flower Offering Chair’ by Indian designer Satyendra Pahkalé.
Picking up on the colour theme, launched by the exhibition Kleureyck: Van Eyck’s Colours in Design (which runs at the Design Museum Ghent until next February), is the show Carpenters Workshop Gallery have chosen to reopen their Paris gallery. A Tribute to Colour: Kaleidoscope (open by appointment) includes striking pieces by their star artists – Maarten Baas, the Campana Brothers and the Verhoeven Twins among them.
Meanwhile, their London space is dedicated to the austere beauty of Inside Out, an intriguing exhibition of work by young French designer, Martin Laforet.
Also in Paris, Scène Ouverte, currently open as usual, is offering the highly contrasting work of Nadège Mouyssinat and Jean Grisoni in a show entitled Brutalisme Céleste (until September). Grisoni’s sumptuous severity – the lovingly patinated bronze framed day bed, with American walnut tree base; the concrete lamp – may not appear to have much in common with Mouyssinat’s fantastical, mysterious creations, but both artists use exceptional craftsmanship to explore different specific fields of emotion.
Finally, for those in Milan, the early European epicentre of coronavirus, as well as Europe’s design capital, there is now the great joy that Nilufar is open once again to visitors, both in the centre of the city and at its Nilufar Depot on the outskirts.
And Officine Saffi has been able to open the show of ceramics, conceived before lockdown, The Evolution of Things, with work by Yewen Dong and Johannes Nagel, which runs until 9th September. Both artists defy expectations. Yewen uses raw clay as a pictorial medium, mixing it with oil paint. Her large wall installations change over time as the clay responds to changes in light, temperature and humidity, playing with notions of art’s permanence.
Meanwhile, Nagel’s sculptural vases seem more like riffs on making than intentional completed objects. He says, “Some of my objects look like vases, but in reality, they are an attempt to confuse people’s expectations of ceramics”. For both makers, art can survive only by evolving, by breaking through from one settled state to another, just as the whole of society must adjust now to a new, post-COVID, reality.
ammann//gallery – exhibitions open by appointment, office hours Monday – Friday (9 – 6pm).
Carpenters Workshop Gallery – open by appointment.
Nilufar – Monday (3 – 7.30pm), Tuesday – Friday (10 – 7.30pm), Saturday (10 – 7.30pm).
Officine Saffi – open by appointment Monday to Friday (10 – 1pm, 2 – 6.30pm), Saturday (11 – 6pm).
Scène Ouverte – Tuesday – Friday (2 – 7pm), Saturday (12 – 7pm).
valerie_traan gallery – currently open on Thursday, Friday, Saturday (2-6pm), or by appointment. In July and August will open on Saturday (2-6pm).