Paris Dispatch / September 2021
Anna Sansom gives a whirlwind summary tour of the wide range of new collectible design on view this autumn.
EARLY SEPTEMBER IN France is known as “la rentrée”, when people return to work and children to school after the summer break. It’s when galleries reopen with new exhibitions and Paris Design Week reignites the platforms for design. We report on the highlights of Paris Design Week, the launch of the fair GURU and two gallery shows that merit attention.
Paris Design Week
“Desirable development” was the catch-all theme for Paris Design Week (9th-18th September), which coincided with the interiors fair Maison & Objet. While lacking large-scale public installations, the eclectic event featured countless exhibitions showcasing established and emerging names, brands and makers across the French capital.
A focus on sustainable materials was a common theme of many exhibits. For instance, in Corto Moltedo’s accessories store adjacent to the Palais Royal garden near the Louvre were new amply-shaped armchairs in natural materials by French designer Isabelle Stanislas. The centrepiece was the throne-like ‘Gatsby’ (2021), with soft, cream textile cushions by Aissa Dione on a white solid base made by French craftspeople.
Nearby in Galerie V within Galerie Vivienne was Victoria Magniant’s stained ash furniture, such as the ‘Naibu’ table and ‘Kumo’ day-bed in forest green and bordeaux hues. The pieces are a response to the “remote-working revolution” which has redefined our relationship to furniture at home.
Several studios unveiled new furniture collections in rented spaces. In Balice Hertling’s new art gallery in the Arts et Métiers district was Studio Razavi’s ‘Alborz Collection’ that deftly combines contrasting materials and geometrical forms – such as a bookcase with rounded-edge glass shelves sliced by a phallic marble cone.
The works by Iranian architect Alireza Razavi’s studio were displayed on LED-delineated plinths to emphasise the design language.
Across town at the Place des Vosges, interior designer Pierre Gonalons was presenting his new furniture collection in the stunning Hôtel de Sully’s Orangerie.
Exemplifying Gonalons’s aptitude for mixing things up, it includes upholstered armchairs with brass bases and duck egg green leather sofas with velvet backs, all underscored by voluptuous forms and sumptuous fabrics.
And over on Île St Louis near the restored Notre-Dame, Maison Parisienne juxtaposed Pierre Renart’s latest furniture collection, ‘Fusion’, in ribbons of walnut, with Julien Vermeulen’s beautiful goose feather ‘Totem’ sculptures.
Not to be missed was Espace Commines in the Marais where a group show brought together over a dozen young designers engaged in experimenting and upcycling. Highly conceptual was Célestine Peuchot’s ‘Inert Domestic System’ (2021) reflecting upon production lines slowing down during the pandemic.
Peuchot’s collection of six objects, each made from a blue ceramic cylinder, neon tubes and acrylic and aluminium elements, gives the impression of the parts being revitalised after a period on standby.
Also on view were ingenious objects by Grégory Granados made from assembling fragmented elements including small plants in terrarium jars, and Raffaella Loï ‘Pinces’ collection (2021) of consoles and bookcases made from upcycled slabs of marble.
Nearby in Galerie Joseph there was design from Brazil, Mexico, Slovenia and Cameroon. Standouts were Jader Almeida’s ‘Twist Round Coffee Table’ with hollowed centre, made from American walnut on a marble base; Pierre-Christophe Gam’s ‘Njoya’ collection made from raffia palm by craftsmen in west Cameroon, and Larissa Batista’s Cubism-inspired, upholstered ‘Domo’ chair with a rounded, mounded seat.
Meanwhile, We Do Not Work Alone (founded by Louise Grislain, Anna Klossowski and Charlotte Morel) – at the intersection of art and design – launched new limited-edition functional objects created by artists. Elvire Bonduelle’s range of cushions with a veneer pattern and Benoît Maire’s perforated metal chair, ‘Chaise du Soir’ (2021), in blue, poppy and lemon are the latest offerings.
‘Lukas Cober: Shapes’ at Galerie Gosserez
The first solo show on Lukas Cober at Galerie Gosserez features curvy furniture from the young German designer’s two collections. While ‘Kuro’, is made from wood, the second, ‘New Wave’, is made from fibreglass. As the title suggests, the unifying thread is the attention to shapes.
Born in Aachen, Germany, in 1989, Cober studied at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design before working as an assistant to Valentin Loellmann for eight years. Feeling the urge to develop his own practice, he established his studio three years ago. His first pieces were made from walnut, such as the ‘Kuro Nude Bookshelf’, loosely resembling a ladder with circles on the sides increasing in size from top to bottom, and ‘Kuro Nude Console’ with a flame-blackened surface.
Then he began working with fibreglass. “The inspiration came from surfing, which I’m passionate about, and fibreglass is the material used to reinforce surfboards,” Cober says. “I always had the idea of developing furniture with this material.”
The contours of the ‘New Wave’ shapes contrast with their translucent flat surfaces that Cober likens to “the lines of the ocean” due to the perceptible unfolding of the material’s layers. After creating the first piece in pale green, which is the original colour of fibreglass, he started adding in pigments to make the others.
Reflecting on his evolving practice, he says: “I’m just trying to make beautiful things that I would love to have and I’m convinced of myself.”
‘Différente Mais Semblable’ at Galerie Scène Ouverte
Three years after opening her gallery above her husband’s restaurant on the Left Bank, Laurence Bonnel has moved to a new space in St-Germain-des-Prés. A few metres away are Galerie kreo, Galerie Downtown, Jousse Entreprise and Kamel Mennour. “I wanted to be in an area with more galleries,” Bonnel says about her reason for relocating.
Bonnel is also a sculptor, making elongated, bronze figures. She was driven to become a gallerist in order to have more contact with other creative people and support their work. “I found the periods in between my own exhibitions difficult to tolerate,” she admits, “so I decided to open a collectible design gallery with functional art.”
Initially, Bonnel discovered the artists with which she collaborates on Instagram although, increasingly, artists send her their portfolios. “If something catches my eye, I subscribe to their Instagram account, look at it for a few weeks and, if it continues to interest me, I contact the artist,” explains Bonnel.
The inaugural show, ‘Différente Mais Semblable’, features new pieces by ten artists, including several ceramicists. The title encapsulates how their work is different yet familial. Among the highlights are Léa Ginac’s ‘Tribu’ – glazed terracotta stools and table recalling ancient vessels – and Julien Cedolin’s ‘Piliers’ – black, rope-adorned vertical ceramics – as well as Gemma Barr’s ‘Concrete Cave’ – a chair formed from grotto-like stalactites.
The words “craft and design” used to conjure images of unspectacular handicrafts. But this month, a new craft and design fair has proved to be exceptional. Held in the Cornette de Saint Cyr auction house near the Arc de Triomphe, GURU was launched by independent specialist Graziella Semerciyan and François Epin, director of the auction house’s design department. Spread over three floors of a 19th century mansion, eight galleries were given carte blanche.
“There’s no PAD this October and this combination of craft and design corresponds to what I do,” explains Florence Guillier-Bernard, founder of Maison Parisienne, as her reason for participating. The gallery presented works by the 80-year-old French textile artist Simone Pheulpin – including ‘Terre Blanche’ (2021), a mural piece whose folds of pale fabric evoke cracked earth, €25,000 – alongside younger artists.
The essence of savoir-faire and exploration of materials typified the exhibits, such as Vincent Poujardieu’s ‘Nida’ chandelier (2021), composed of clusters of man-made honeycomb panels, at Galerie Gosserez. When illuminated “it looks like a cloud of bees”, Poujardieu opines.
“We should support new fairs and this is an opportunity to show the designers that we’ve been representing for the last ten years,” says gallery owner Marie-Bérangère Gosserez, who was also presenting Valentin Loellmann’s furniture and Valerie Jolly’s light sculptures.
Exquisite craftsmanship from various cultures was on view. At Galerie Mingei were Toshimasa Kikuchi’s mathematically conceived ‘Needles’ (2020) – suspended, elegant sculptures in urushi, silver leaf and gold leaf over cypress wood, €15,000 each. Meanwhile, creations from Mexico were shown at Xantico Gallery – a new venture by Spanish design journalist Susana Ordovás and Epin. “We want to show Mexican handicraft with a sophisticated edge,” Ordovás says. Aurelie Hoegy’s ‘Wild Fibers’ coffee table made from rattan, €54,000, and Arte Ananas’s glazed, pineapple-inspired vessels with punch bowls, €6,500-€7,500, were among the discoveries.
Also striking were French architect Marine Bonnefoy’s graceful, semi-circular console made from strips of wavy sycamore; Stefan Leo’s tables with delicate, pigmented petals on glass tops, €12,000-€19,000, at Galerie 208, and abstract basketry pieces, €900-€1,800, by L’Oseraie de l’île at Sinople.
Outside in the courtyard a presentation by Nice’s Galerie Mélissa Paul featured, among others, Agnès Debizet’s furniture recalling tree roots, Olivia Cognet’s stoneware, rounded legged stool, and Ulrikk Dufossé’s galvanised iron mobiles.
Another highlight was the curated space by Semerciyan. The array of pieces by upcoming artists ranged from Florentine and Alexandre Lamarche-Ovize’s bench in lime-hued, handmade tiles, to Xanthe Somers’s and Victor Alarçon’s brightly painted vases for Volume Ceramics.
The challenge for Epin and Semerciyan is to make GURU a regular event during Paris Design Week and build on this first edition.