(L): Male Figure. Circa 1880; Rapa Nui, Ile de Paques. Courtesy of Galerie Flak. Photo: D. Voirin. (R): Nacho Carbonell, “Luciferase XXXV”, 2012. Courtesy of Galerie BSL.
The 20th edition of Paris Art + Design (PAD)has not been phased by Paris’ leap into spring, with the weather’s overcast skies, intermittent rains and occasional bits of hail. Instead, the long white tent structure erected in the midst of Les Jardins Des Tuileries has added a new bit of architecture to the already eye-popping landscape that includes the famous French Carousel and Les Champs-Elysées in the distance. But what’s inside is what truly matters. After going through heavily monitored security checks, attendees are treated to a precious list of galleries, collectors and artists exhibiting a heady mix of art and design.
A common thread among the exhibitors is that no one uses the word “furniture” or “architecture.” Not that they are dirty words, but to use either would suggest that the curated objects on display are not one of a kind or rendered sur mesure. In sharp contrast to other high profile events of the same ilk, PAD has struck a fascinating chord, hosting galleries that exhibit both indigenous art and contemporary design pieces, items rather rarely seen rubbing elbows in the same environment. Case in point:
Galerie Flak, helmed by Julien Flak, is exhibiting well-appointed West African masks and sculptures, Native American kachina dolls, and very rare Inuit masks excavated from Alaska. Many of these artifacts are so aged that they must remain protected behind security glass cases. The Inuit collection consists of a constellation of artifacts that include a tribal mask and small delicate pieces rendered from sea lion ivory, on display adjacent to African sculptures from Nigeria and New Guinea.
(L): Masque Yup’ik, Eskimo. 19th Century. Yukon, Alaska; (R): Obamba Mask. Early 20th Century. Gabon, Africa. Courtesy of Galerie Flak; Photo: D. Voirin.
What unites them? “Ritual and spirituality,” explains Flak. “You find here with the African fétiches and the kachina dolls a sense of ritual. But we also have the Eskimo mask. It’s a rapidly disappearing culture as are these two others. And people wouldn’t realize that, just like the African and Native American pieces here, the Eskimo pieces also tell a ritual story.”
Galerie BSL also seems to thrive on the idea of making worlds collide. The gallery’s exhibition space is dense with functional pieces for the home. But not so fast. These objects can fit under the umbrella of lamps, chairs, tables and armoires, but they aren’t your typical run of the mill pieces. A collection of lamps quickly turns heads. Inspired by sea creatures and made from silicone, sand, cork and plaster, they are the fascinating creation of Spanish designer Nacho Carbonell.
Nacho Carbonell (L): “Luciferase XIX”, 2016. ; (R): “Luciferase XL”, 2016. Courtesy of Galerie BSL.
Titled Luciferase (the Latin word for the photon-producing enzyme present in luminous plants and animals), this lamp collection, made exclusively by the artist for Galerie BSL, resembles the sort of production design pieces one might expect to see in the sci-fi thriller Prometheus. With their tough, coral-like exterior and an interior that looks like the flora and fauna of the deep sea, the lamps dimly illuminate through a film of organic material.
Nothing here remotely appears factory-made. As if plucked from the ocean and plugged in to your wall socket, its as if the Luciferase objects light the room through some incredible combination of nature and science fiction.