In my previous post I featured several contemporary designers who have remade some classic games with a modern twist in Endless Summer. I love supporting and following young American designers who are designing with a sophisticated aesthetic. In a search to learn more on historic French design on a trip to Paris I came across a spectacular dining table of contemporary Italian design, inspired in architecture Of course while you are traveling, the road ahead is most uncertain so here is a short story on how I got there.
Earlier this year, I decided a trip to Europe was well past due. With a bucket list of galleries and venues to check out, I scheduled to be in Paris during Pavilion of Art & Design (PAD) and in Milan for Salone Internazionale del Mobile. I created my own scheduled art/design tour around these events.
The Back Story
I’ve been hooked on visiting art fairs since 2005 when I visited the Armory Show for the first time while working as an intern for an art publication in New York. My first actual job was at a contemporary art gallery where I was your cliché Gallery Assistant: young, twenty-something, dressed in black, and art fairs were part of the business. I quickly discovered that visiting art fairs was much more enjoyable than actually working at them (shocking), especially once I gained a better understanding of the market, the gallery system and everything else they don’t teach you as an Art History major in college.
During my Masters and following the craze of art fairs I almost wrote my dissertation on art fairs as a business format, however after visiting the Armory Show, Frieze London, FIAC, Artissima, Art Basel in Basel, Liste, Volta, the Venice Biennial (not a fair) and TEFAF in the same year I decided there wasn’t a topic there that interested me enough to pursue the idea. It wasn’t until I actually worked for a design fair that I gained interest in design as a market somewhat related (but not really) to art. Before the job, I had basic knowledge of internationally re-known architects and some of the classic furniture designers, mostly thanks to a boyfriend in college, who later became an architect. So, I played catch up, researching contemporary designers, falling in love with different styles and periods, while mispronouncing French names and wishing I had actually learned to speak the language fluently back in college.
How It Went
In my broken French my visit to Paris went something like this: museum & gallery visits, ballet lessons, cemetery peregrinations, multiple excursions to the flea market and strolling the streets of Paris in beautiful Spring weather while eating croissants… many, many croissants.
Tribute to the Dead: Père Lachaise & Montparnasse Cemetery
You are probably thinking visiting cemeteries is a bit morbid but we obsess and tag our favorite celebrities in our tweets while they are alive, why shouldn’t we visit those who made history in their death? Where would art and literature be without Gertrude Stein? Music, without Serge Gainsbourg? I mean Beck would be short a few albums and Jane Birkin may never have had a singing career. Oscar Wilde’s tomb is truly a monument erected in his honor, showered with red lipstick kisses from passionate visitors (despite the glass protection). I was surprised to come across Susan Sontag’s tomb in Paris. Sontag lived in NY most of her life but declared Paris as the “alternative capital to her imagination”, she lived in Paris for the academic year of 1957- 58 and believed it was the most important period of her life. I can’t blame her, some cities have that effect. I think understanding how artists and designers lived and died in a city makes for understanding where their creativity came from. Visiting someone’s home is also extremely personal but I’ll leave my post on Le Corbusier’s studio apartment here for you to read later.
is the design fair you take your grandparents to and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just a bit formal and even though there are some contemporary galleries with fresh experimental design: the dim lighting, carpet and attending audience had me feeling like nothing should be touched and I believe design unlike art should be touched, sat on, stood on, and enjoyed in every functional way. I was being really good in keeping my hands to myself until I came across a table by Atelier Biagetti and I took a moment to swoon while caressing the table’s top. The collection Bonjour Milan 2014 created by the design studio Atelier Biagetti was featured at PAD at Galerie Italienne. The dining table is probably the strongest piece in the collection. Inspired in the patterns created by layers of sediments in aristocratic residences in Milan, the designers hometown, the table includes 5 different materials. Brass, plastic laminates, opaque copper and wood are added to ultra-white glass. Imagine building a room around this table with art works by Marlo Pascual and vintage Alvar Aalto L-leg stools. The table is a statement piece to say the least.
Looking back to look forward
I started my trip to Paris to learn more about classic French design and fell in love with a contemporary table that was inspired by Italian architecture, it happens right? In design as well as in art, I the key is to always look back in order to look forward. Whether you are appreciating young designers inspired by historic architecture or those redesigning classic games, as a collector, it’s just as important for you to understand history to value where the inspiration comes from as much as for the maker to create something with intention.
Want to learn more about where I went to see great historic French design? Check out my post on Rue de Seine in Paris.