Art Contemplating Design

First Published October 2016 


Photo still from Christie’s video

In a recent video produced by Christie’s, (click on photo above to watch this 3 minute video) the globally appreciated Chinese contemporary artist Wang Jianwei contemplates and questions the meaning and role of art.

His project above, entitled Distance, is a tower constructed from 407 abandoned cabinets.  He says, “It represents a utopia. We are turning art into a tool.”   This artwork strikes me as a political and social statement about our level of consciousness as a global society when it comes to collecting design in our lives. What does it say about a society that produces, consumes and discards furniture at such a high rate that one artist can find so many ‘abandoned’ cabinets?  What progress can be made and how can we change our relationship with the the objects in our life that will result in meaningful relationships and consequently less waste?

Investing in narratives that resonate with us on an instinctual level is where we start.


The Global Design Theme of the week is traditional craft.

Below, are some photos from the upcoming  MoCA Tuscan ‘Meeting the Clouds Half Way‘ exhibition created by the architecture firm of Aranda\Lasch and  Terrol Dew Johnson, a Tohono O’odham  (Native Americans living primarily in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico) basket weaver.

Using indigenous materials and traditional basket weaving techniques such as the coil this exhibition seeks to find parallels in the worlds of architecture and weaving and to create relevant contemporary design that utilizes traditional craft in an authentic way.

Mr. Dew Johnson referred to baskets as ‘essentially  something that holds conversation’, in an article by Ariela Gittlen for Artsy. These baskets aren’t functional in the traditional sense but successfully explore the complexities of interacting with design. This quote is a wonderful insight into the social and cultural value of functional creativity. It gives us a peak into the idea of phenomenology which addresses the meaning things have in our experience, notably, the significance of objects as they are experienced in our ‘life world.’

On a surface level they are quite beautiful and pleasing. Acknowledging them as a social practice bringing together groups of people and ultimately the witness and result of their work together supports the poetic idea of them their ultimate function being that of “holding conversations”.




Photos courtesy of MoCA Tuscan and Artsy.



Diego Giacometti Collection at Artcurial

First published September 2016


Pair of tabourets … a la souris, circa 1960.

A 20 Year Friendship with Diego Giacometti: Brollo Collection

14 September 2016 at Artcurial Paris

This collection is the reflection of a friendship – a shared passion for Italian culture, language, values and a love for raw material, says Frederic Brollo speaking of his parents relationship with Diego Giacometti. He says, “When my parents bought their first work by Diego in 1968, they were in love with the artists work, of course, but they were also moved by a special affection for Diego as an individual whom they knew so well.  Frederic, who inherited and added to the collection was enchanted by his plaster mock-ups as a teenager and received many of them as gifts from the designer. They are included in this sale as well.

The prices on these objects, many well north of 100,000 Euros reflect the well recognized value of Giacometti’s work. What grabbed our attention this time was learning that these pieces are being seen for the first time and where for example many of these pieces my look familiar they are in fact individual commissions. Giacometti made tables with different animals and in different sizes to the clients request.  This stands in sharp contrast to contemporary limited edition collectible design.

This pair of chairs for example (above) was first conceived with leather seats. However, the lucky Brollo’s already had two pairs of chairs from the designer and requested that he place granite one the seats of this pair instead so they could be used as little elegant tables for guests to place their coup de champagne! We admire this type of relationship between the designer and the collector… almost a collaboration. It is a unique expression of creativity. Merging of two minds if you will. Supporting creativity that touches you is the sign of a true collector!

Hope you enjoy these highlights and if you are in Paris this exhibition is well worth the visit!


Detail of tabouret above


Greek table with bird perched on one brace. Plaster models in the background.


This is a preparatory sketch of the current exhibition by Hubert Le Gall.


Pair of Photophores, circa 1976


One of a pair of tabourets, circa 1960


Detail of tabouret above


One of a pair of Lion-head Fauteuils

Dimore at the Delacroix for Paris DDays 2016

First published June 2016


Entrance to Musée Eugene Delacroix

 Dimore Studio’s latest installation for DesignDays2106, which took place this past week in Paris, is particularly provocative in the context of the current trend of curators to create shows based on ‘Big Art History’.  Big Art History, part of the Big History Project, is an idea invented by David Christian and supported by Bill Gates – which promotes exhibitions and learning opportunities that span large periods of time and often include numerous media categories for example art, design and fashion all in one show that spans 500 years – in an effort to aggregate history. It’s the big data approach that is influencing these ambitious projects.


progetto NON FINITO – Pouf 042 (above and below)

As you can see from these photos, the exhibition entitled Conversations entre Couleurs, explores the correlation between the paintings of one of France’s most celebrated romantic painters, Eugène Delacroix  and the contemporary work of Emiliano Salci e Britt Moran of Dimore Studio.

While small in scale, and a conversation between just two parties the dialogue that ensues across 200 years between paintings and furniture gives the viewer visual access to the past in a way that is fresh and exciting. It’s perhaps opening up the idea of drawing macro conclusions about the success of certain color patterns. The idea of culling this type of information (conclusions?) from of our material culture past is quite fascinating.


progetto NON FINITO – Pouf 042 (detail)

Here are a number of images from the exhibition that explore similar colors used in these two different mediums.


progetto PALMADOR – Deconstruction Table


progetto PALMADOR – Big One Table


progetto PALMADOR – Penta table (above and below)



progetto PALMADOR – Totem screen

 Drawing connections over time is a beautiful and rich exercise that seems to create the possibility of bringing history alive and  into focus in a way that is very relevant to our lives today.


Some other photos of Dimore Studio’s work the illuminate their masterful and carefully edited use of color and texture:





This is what the Seine looked like this morning … no boats passing through Paris at this point.



Here’s hoping for a little sunshine! Bon weekend!

Contemporary Living with Collectible Design

First published July 2016

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Fernando Santangelo, interior designer for Bette Midler and for the Chateau Marmont curates the upcoming Contemporary Living Sale at Sotheby’ NY on 28 July.

He states: “I thought it would be in a way like working with gouaches or writing poetry … in which you sort of create a group of works or images to mean something beyond the actual objects themselves.”

In this statement he touches on a fundamental aspect of collecting material culture – the idea of creating a narrative through composition. We all collect design in one way or another. And what makes this ‘material culture’ collectible is the meaning we give it.

Very often it starts with an instinctual aesthetic experience, which compels us to explore other attributes … sometimes it’s about form and craftsmanship, sometimes it’s about supporting and aligning ourselves with the intention of the designer, it might be about associating ourselves with former owners of the same object, or a philosophy represented by the object.

There are many characteristics to every object. By combining objects we can create more elaborate and personal ideas and expression  … and our choices reflect our own characteristics!

For examples Santangelo seeks “the best of a period, concept, philosophy” … to create an eclectic interior.  Some ideas he mentions he is drawn to creating with interiors are expressed in the following images:

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There is a “musical” element to this ensemble he suggests. Do you experience this? Consider how the movement expressed in each object that tends to compel your eye to move from one object to the next creating a sense of movement.

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Dynamism and secrets are the themes he points out in this composition. With these two words the idea of a genie (suggested by the movement or ‘dynamism’ of the print) rising from chest of the silver flasks seems quiet obvious, tangible and magical.

Click on any of the photos above to watch a video of Fernando Santangelo speaking about this project.

Joris Laarman Lab

First published July 2016

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“The red line that runs through all of my work [is that] everything I do has to have a functional reason for why it looks the way it does,” says Joris Laarmen. Combining functionalism, which is often associated with soberness and ornament, which is often seen as superfluous to create a functional heater is surprising and ingenious. Large surfaces best radiate heat and this design exploits the complexity (many surfaces) of the rococo style to create a high-functioning heater.

That was in 2007.

The evolution of the Joris Laarman lab was well presented at Design Miami Basel this June. The ornamental element is still in play within some incredibly challenging 3D printed sleek/minimal fully functional forms.

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in-situ shot of the Joris Laarmen exhibition at Friedman Benda Gallery’s stand at Design Miami Basel, 2016.

Above: The form on the left is a 3D printed screen (there were mesmerizing videos behind it showing the process). To the right is a 3D printed metal bench.

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Microstructures Gradients Chair (Dual Cell), 2014

Thermoplastic polyurethane (flexible 3D printed material)

70 x 77 x 72 cm (27.56 x 30.31 x 28.35 inches)

The first chair in the microstructures series was called the Soft Gradient Chair and elaborates on the use of polyurethane in furniture design, but now in the digital age. It was designed and 3D printed in thermoplastic polyurethane. Using generative design tools and new material research, they basically created foam that is engineered on a cellular level to address specific functional needs for different areas in the object.




IMG_5111View from above

The solid cells in the design create structural strength and rigidity, while the more open cells create softness and comfort, all within one printing technique.

The Soft Gradient Chair is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.


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Rendering of the bridge project that will take place during two months in 2017

Parallel to these small-scale domestic designs, Laarman has been commissioned to build a 3D printed steel pedestrian footbridge with MX3D over a canal in Amsterdam to open for public use in 2017.  MX3D is an R&D company working to develop cost-effective robotic 3D printing technology. The company has invented a 3D printing tool in the form of a six-axis industrial robot with an advanced welding machine that can 3D print metals and resin in mid-air, without the need for support structures. The tool adds small amounts of molten metal at a time, enabling it to print extremely intricate metal shapes.

The retrospective of Laarman’s work which debuted at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, will arrive at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in March 2017 and is scheduled to travel to points the US after that.


Kossi Aguessy

First published August 2016


Jord Armchair in Carrara marble

Born in Togo, raised in the New York, studied in London and worked in Paris, a self proclaimed artist with an engineering and architecture degree, Kossi Aguessy now lives and works in London and Toulouse.

His influence is global.  We are attracted to his perspective and attitude toward creation.  He says, “I am not a designer but a describer. I’m not a creator but a messenger – a bridge, a piece of a puzzle called evolution that started before me and shall continue long after.”

Damn chair

Damn Chair

Aguessy’s design aesthetic is inspired by antique cultures, and informed by contemporary technology.  He says, “The first question I ask myself at the very beginning of the design process is if this novelty is needed and what will be the human and environmental impact of it.  If the answer happens to be negative, I will not complete the process.”

Through his own studio – Aguessy Industry, established in 2004 – he charges himself, in Gandhi’s words, to “be the change you wish to see”. (source Design Indiaba:

Indeed his beliefs and methods have lead to very successful projects and collaborations leading to his inclusion last year in Vitra’s “Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design” exhibition. His work has also included projects for brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Cartier.

useless tool chair

Useless Tool Chair in Stainless Steel, Carbon and Nextel (Model acquired by the MoMA)

He recently began work with Galerie Vallois in Paris who will represent him at Art Paris Art Fair in Spring 2017 where he will present his Useless Chair (above), which is already in the collection of MoMA.


L147 Table Lamp in Stainless Steel, Aluminum and Glass

Infinity Chair

Infinity Armchair in Aluminum


Damn Chair in Laser Cut Aluminum (Model acquired by the Museum of Art and Design)

jord oak centre george pompidou museum

Jord Armchair in Oak

Themes and Thoughts about Collecting Design

First published October 2016

What are some of the characteristics that make a great collector?

Access – cultural and monetary, sustained interest, superior ‘taste’, patronage, and desire for self expression through objects are few that come to mind.

As design has been formalized into a market category since the turn of the century it has gained a much wider audience as we start to internalize and adopt the idea of living with design.

3D printing, vintage, up-cycling and traditional craft and human experience are five large themes leading the way in the 21st century design industry. They all suggest a generation with a growing awareness of the impact creating objects has on our environment and suggest perhaps the importance of aligning our personal environments with the larger themes impacting the world.

Commissioning and acquiring design that contributes to themes and naratives we believe in creates ultimate luxury.

This week we share some recent exhibitions and collections that inspire us to think about the impact each of our acquisitions has on the world around us and also propose glorious objects that align with some global goals for the a better world.



Scraps | Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum. This exhibition explores uses for textile waste. Furniture production is confronting the same issues. In Paris we found a young company that is part of the solution.  Maximum Paris partners with manufacturers who provide their waste material – excess dye  and left over raw materials for example. Maximum then designs products to incorporate these materials thereby eliminating waste through up-cycling. Her are three currently available projects.




This perhaps doesn’t qualify as collectible design the way we have recently come to know it. But I would argue that this furniture has a very important place in the evolution of design and material culture. It is responding to a global issue.

If you’re looking for more exclusive design with an equally powerful message, Physical, a collection presented last spring in Milan by Kiki and Joost and presented by Nilufar at PAD London this week is an exciting project.


 “We wanted to make physical things with our hands, with materials that you can touch and experience,” says Kiki. “We see how babies experience physics by playing with water and other things, and we were very inspired by this. It brings you back to the most important things in life,” she smiles. As reported in the Telegraph


Joost van Bleiswijk’s Meccano-inspired constructions with every single component handmade.


In Paris, preserving craft a major initiative for one of the most influential galleries: In 2015  Carpenters Workshop Gallery, opened Carpenters Workshop | Roissy, a 8,000 m2 space dedicated to artistic research and development, bringing together the elite of artisans, an homage to the heritage to French ‘Arts Décoratifs’. Vincenzo de Cotiis’ Pop Nouveau is the gallery’s present exhibition that is part of this project,  explores two themes: a rebellion against stereotypes and the liberation from mechanized forms using salvaged and reclaimed materials.


Side Table


Large Hanging Wall Cabinet


Coffee Table

These are just a few of the projects and themes that design is tackling. Every couple of weeks we’ll present a company or designer whose works is forging links between our strong global themes and our individual instincts for aesthetic expression.  Is it collectible? Let’s discuss as we go!

Have a great weekend!




Quality and Understanding vs the Superstar Phenomenon

First Published March 2016

This past year we have been questioning the title ‘collectible design’. It seams to have come to stand for a very small, high-end part of the design market.

What we believe in and want to share and encourage is the understanding of the objects we invite into our lives. Objects tell stories about our values, aesthetic and aspirations.  These inanimate objects are incredibly social if we ‘listen’ to them.  They all speak of a time, a place, a point of view, an intention, and consequently represent certain values, goals and aesthetics. Engaging with them is a investment in ourselves. It is an investment in our collective material culture. It matters – because it is a statement, whether we are conscious of it or not, about what we stand for and believe to be important.

While we are still digesting Dr. Clare Andrew’s TEFAF Art Market Report for 2015, that was just released with the opening of this annual fair, we have noted that a main trend coming out of this report and from some of the companies analyzing it, such as Vastari, is what the report calls the ‘superstar phenomenon’.  This is the idea that certain artists/designers who have reached a superstar level status now guide the market. The public follows the name and the money, feeling safe buying a big name for a big ticket price. Likewise, this places museums and auction houses in a less risky position because they know that the big names/brands attract the most attention and will sell very well.  Vastari goes on to question whether, ” this strategy, both with auction houses and museums, is actually mitigating risk or just avoiding the more difficult job of education?” In our own talks with several auction house specialists recently we have been learning that indeed a few big names are driving the sales, which has lead to several cases where important objects have been overshadowed by this ‘superstar phenomenon’.

Educating ourselves about quality is the fun part! Discovering the skills and techniques used to create a work along  the stories that accompany great design is endlessly fascinating. This is what makes it a worthwhile endeavor!

And this is where the initial love that comes through beauty turns to something more sustaining.  The story of the objects connects with the story of your life.  This connection gives us the confidence to follow our instincts rather than the trends.

Next time you’re in Paris we would love to take you to see inspiring new design, in galleries, ateliers, markets or museums. What interests you? Let us know and we’ll tailor visits for you.

Have a great weekend!


These are some photos from the design section at TEFAF this year. This fair has an independent committee that evaluates every single object that is presented at the fair for authenticity. It has such a strong global reputation for a reason! These objects are good studies of quality and grace.


Cathedral table by Pierre Paulin (Paris 1927-2009 Montpellier)Aluminum and glass


Lamp, Jean-Michel Frank (1895-1941), Cross-shaped entirely covered with mica
Stamped and numbered, Circa 1930


Lustre Aomitsu #494 , Hervé Van Der Straeten, 2015, Anodized blue aluminium
Hauteur: 160 cm – cage : Ø 102.5 x H. 104 cm

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Pair of Deck Chairs, Hans Wegner (Made by cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen), 1958,  Oak, halyard, steel and canvas
73-91 x 187 x 62 cm (adjustable in height)

The Ultimate Desk Chair by Pierre Jeanneret

First Published 6 May 2016



 Office Chair, ca. 1959- 60, teak and recovered in leather

Recently we had the chance to learn about Patrick Seguin’s passion for Pierre Jeannerat, Jean Prouvé and Jean Royere at his Paris Gallery. This week we would like share the work of Pierre Jeanneret – specifically his chair designs for the Chandigarh India project in the 1950s.

 Shortly after India gained independence in the lat 1940s, the Prime Minister Nehru of Chandigarh hired Pierre Jeanneret and his cousin Le Corbusier to build the capital city, which would become the administrative capital of the province Punjab.

The Galerie documents that, “The sole instruction given by Nehru was to be « expressive, experimental and to not let themselves be hindered by tradition ». Chandigarh originated in a unique urbanistic global approach, and would be, as Nehru wished, a symbol of modernity.”


Office chair, circa 1959-60 recovered in black hide

While the two men started the project together in the early 1950s, Le Corbusier soon left to take on other projects while Jeanneret stayed for 15 years to complete the project as chief architect and urban designer.  He simultaneously created a furniture style used in the Senate and office buildings that is evidenced in the chairs in this post.

The design feels very relevant in today’s interiors. They have strong clean and efficient form that is influenced by and simultaneously breaks away from history. The use of teak, a local Indian wood acknowledged the environment for which the designs were conceived. These chairs symbolized modernity and forward thinking. They are powerful, elegant and understated.


Office chair, circa 1955-56, re-caned

The gallery has documented Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier’s work on the Chandigarh project in this publication.

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Judges Chairs,  circa 1955


Advocate chair, circa 1955-56

The upholstery can be customized. All of the chairs are authenticated and in their structures are all original.

Photo courtesy of Galerie Patrick Seguin

France’s unique and thrilling Hôtel Drouot

First Published 21 April 2016

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Drouot has always held an allure for collectors, amateurs and tourists alike and we also know it can also feel rather daunting. This week we explain what exactly ‘Hôtel’ Drouot is and how this operation works. Next time you’ll be ready!

First thing to know is that The Hôtel Drouot itself isn’t an auction house. It’s a building that looks and feels like an American mall with florescent lighting and a central escalator connecting several floors, which opened in 1852 and today hosts about 75 small, private Paris-based auction houses, each with its own auctioneer.

There are 16 salerooms and outside of each one is a screen telling you which auction house is offering what sale is inside. It also list all of the specialists that worked on the sale. There are over 200 independent specialists that assist the auction houses to identify and authenticate every single object offered for sale.

About 1,300 sales take place in the Hôtel per year and on average about 500 objects sold per day – 6 days a week. Hotel Drouot is open Monday – Saturday.


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Marc Chagall (1887-1985) Lithograph

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Flowers low table,  with colored silkscreen on paper after Andy Warhol, Edition SundayB Morning.

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Pair of Jacques-Emil Ruhlmann (1879-1933) ash wood bergères, model ‘Bas Ducharme’, circa 1927.


Who can go? Just like all auction houses Drouot is open to the public and anyone can attend and participate in an auction.

What is for sale? Everything. From box lots that can contain vases, incomplete sets of Limoges dishware, fur coats, silvered trinkets, pin boxes, etc … with estimates of 10-20 euros to the most important/valued furniture and art in the world. France, having been the wealthiest country in the world during the reign of Louis XIV until the 19th century accumulated a lot of riches and cultural objects that are still uncovered in homes to this day. The quantity and quality of objects is unique to France and consequently the treasure hunt is alive and doing very well here at Drouot!

You can certainly feel the energy of the hunt! We were recently there before opening hours for a private view and the moment the doors opened to the public at 11am the escalators were packed. And people were on a mission! Don’t get in their way. Everyone seemed to have done previous research and knew what they were there to see. Some people pulled suitcases behind them anticipating leaving with treasures. Others carried flashlights to use when they pull out drawers to examine construction, and still others examined silver stamps. One thing for sure – the objects for sale are sold as is – authenticity is a matter of wording, which can be tricky for the unseasoned browser. We noticed that many people were saying good morning to each other tipping us off that they are regulars and mainly dealers.


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French black lacquered wood and silvered cast iron standing cabinet.

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Art Deco Glass and Silvered Metal Tray


How it works:

  • There are about 7/8 sales in Drouot every day.
  • Each sale comes and goes over two days. The first day is an exhibition of all the sale lots from 11am-6pm. The second day the smaller items are available to touch and examine from 11am to 12noon. During this time the larger items are moved to the edges of the room and an auction stand is placed in the room, chairs are slowly set up for the public who will bid on the items.
  • All auctions start at 2pm.
  • All sales are finished by 6pm and the next sale begins it’s set up at 7pm/8pm until about 10pm.

Whew! It’s very impressive! The energy is palpable. Drouot says that almost 5,000 people come through each day.


Unlike Christie’s and Sotheby’s there are no set bidding increments so you need to really pay attention!

  • Just like all the other auction houses there are buyer premiums to pay … 25% at the moment. There is often an expert fee to add on and there is always a 5% state fee to pay. It’s always important to keep in mind these fees when considering your top bid. You’ll need to add about 30% to the hammer price.
  • For property under 1000 Euros you can pay cash – just like in the shops.
  • The winning bidder pays on the spot and walks out with the smaller items purchased. (Hence the people pulling suitcases!)
  • If an item is too big to carry out there is a desk on the ground floor where you can arrange shipping. There is next day shipping in Paris and shipping is available worldwide.


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Set of four Tulip Chairs by Aero Saarinen (1910 – 1961) Edited by Knoll International


Some extra info:

  • Drouot produces a weekly magazine listing all of their sales plus many other sales around France including Christie’s/Sotheby’s to small regional auctions. It comes out every Friday.
  • There is a free monthly magazine as well (in French, Chinese and English) that highlights the important sale highlights and results as well as interviews, museum highlights and trend reports.
  • DrouotLive is for the online sales. All wine sales are on line and many other sales as well. You need to check on the website.
  • Catalogues are produced for the important sales. Sales without catalogues
  • Each first Saturday of the month a decorator is invited to create rooms using objects on view. It’s a project that takes place during opening hours. The idea is inspire people by putting the objects in context as a way to help highlight their value.

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Rosewood commode by Kurt Ostervig (1912-1986) Edited by KP Mobler

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Four gilt cast iron chairs by Rene Prou (1889- 1947)

Bon weekend!

All photos from catalogues for upcoming sales at Drouot.