“Collectible design has always been a very niche segment, but its continued growth has been the driving force pushing new trends.”
UNCONVENTIONAL GALLERIES ARE a dime a dozen these days and while most have done the hard work of breaking the mould and contextualising their wares in distinct locales, few have set out to do so with as much versatility as VERSO. From a uniquely-designed home in the Hamptons and a co-retail storefront, to a farm on Uruguay’s riviera and a ski resort hotel, almost nothing is off limits for founder Amauri Aguiar. The Brazilian-born, New York-based culturemaker established his new concept company earlier this year after more than a decade working at top galleries.
His aim is to bring one-of-a-kind, limited edition and open series work to a variety of destinations while fostering a more intuitive connection between his talents and buyers. Hoping to blend disciplinary and commercial categories, where distinctions are increasingly irrelevant, the expert purveyor is also establishing a new kind of sales podium for brands such as &tradition, Karakter and Bi Yuu that share similar values. Aguiar spoke to The Design Edit contributor Adrian Madlener about the new venture; one that focuses as much on online sales as it does format-defying physical exhibitions.
TDE: Talk about your background. How did you first come to design?
Amauri Aguiar: I have a degree in industrial design but started out in advertising. Considering a career shift when moving to New York in 2007, I began working at Brazilian furniture gallery Espasso as a business consultant, and shortly after, I became a partner and then a managing director. I joined contemporary gallery MATTER in early 2016 to fill a similar role.
I’ve always had a passion for design – with craftsmanship and innovation as key factors. Collectible design has always been a very niche segment but has been the driving force pushing new trends in terms of materiality, applicability and style. Its continued growth has been a draw as well.
TDE: What was the impetus for establishing VERSO this year?
Amauri Aguiar: We learned a lot during the pandemic. The interiors market went through a boom thanks to people spending more time at home and being more attentive to how they curate their surroundings. We also understood that having a physical presence – a traditional brick-and-mortar retail location – was less important than before. We also learnt that great customer service, integrated technology and playing an integral role at all stages of sales (from quoting to delivering) were essential to success in this new reality.
VERSO was born to be a flexible, mobile, data-driven and customer-focused operation, created to respond to new market demands and opportunities. We’re interested in gallery experiences that respond to changing contexts and the particular qualities of a given location – whether that be natural surroundings, specific historical details or the visual language of a brand we’re working with.
TDE: Talk about what you seek out in the talents you represent?
Amauri Aguiar: We value authenticity – a unique approach to formal language and vision – and innovation but also the use of age-old crafts. A good example is the ‘Upside Down Chair’ by Young Projects, which was born out of a hand-in-hand collaboration with artisans from Brooklyn-based contractor Art in Construction. The aim was to combine the ancient technique of scagliola with the innovative use of concrete. The outcome is a vibrant and durable marble-like finish that undulates from a smooth refined sitting surface, to a rough geological exterior.
TDE: What was the concept behind the first exhibition mounted this autumn at the Six Square House, designed by Young Projects, in Bridgehampton, NY?
Amauri Aguiar: We invited a group of designers and brands to help us create a showroom experience within a very specific architectural environment and to make it immersive – something that would be impossible in a traditional white-wall context.
We worked with noted studio Objects of Common Interest to create two site-specific installations within the guest house’s extensive grounds. A large, insulated wall situated underneath a skylight received a large artwork by fibre artist Sagarika Sundaram. The pantry became a gem box displaying 47 unique ceramics by Brazilian talent Fernanda Pompermayer. Other exhibiting designers included Ian Love, Nick Missel, Studio Zaven and Marcus de Paula.
TDE: Talk about your partnership with Montreal-based boutique lighting brand Lambert & Fils?
Amauri Aguiar: Collaboration is central to what we do, given that VERSO was engineered to be itinerant and adaptive. We were already working with Lambert et Fils in Bridgehampton, where they installed the large-scale ‘Paravent’ light sculpture in the garden. Just a few weeks ago we started discussing the possibility of VERSO sharing the company’s Hudson and Duane showroom in Tribeca and bringing regular exhibitions into that space in a collaborative manner between both brands. I consider Eny Lee Parker to be one of the most thoughtful, expressive and talented voices working in the field today. We started talking about hosting an inaugural solo exhibition of her pieces in the space and things began moving at lightning speed.
TDE: Looking to the year ahead and even the winter season at our doorstep, what are some of the many projects you’re developing in 2023?
Amauri Aguiar: Following the opening of the joint Hudson and Duane space, we’re excited to be developing our third and fourth locations. In December, we will join the fashion house Max Mara for a week-long show at the historic Hotel Jerome in Aspen. In early 2023, we will have a seasonal show in Garzón, a coastal town in Uruguay featuring works from some of our favourite South American designers: Fernanda Pompeymayer, Rodrigo Bravo, RIES, and Wentz. Our first location in Bridgehampton continues to be open by appointment while we work on a new exhibition opening in May.
TDE: How are you planning to venture also beyond the collectible design market as a multimodal platform?
Amauri Aguiar: An initial approach is to further research material sourcing. We’re planning to develop projects with Swiss company Precious Woods – a global leader in the certified and sustainable management of tropical woods. Our intent is not only to integrate these practices within the design work that VERSO represents but to also elevate the awareness of sustainability within the discipline.