Cultured Magazine

Summer 2013

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DESIGN DIALOGUE Through his thoughtful biannual gallery exhibitions, Pascal Cuisinier educates as he deals. BY LINDA O'KEEFFE "I don't think of myself as a dealer," says Pascal Cuisinier sitting in the 6th arrondissement gallery he opened just over a year ago on a Parisian street known for its throng of avant garde antique shops. "My mindset isn't particularly commercial." The premise for his latest space is very succinct. Here he'll exhibit the work of several designers who were born during the 1920s, many of whom socialized and collaborated together. They all produced lighting and furniture for French companies during the 1950s and subsequently received various degrees of notoriety for their interior design or architecture projects. Aside from Pierre Paulin and Pierre Guariche, most are relatively undiscovered, but Cuisinier's ultimate goal is not to solely focus on drumming up sales. "I want to prove they were the best because that fact will be evident in years to come," he says. Cuisinier also doesn't see himself as a collector, and unlike a lot of his contemporaries his chosen profession doesn't stem from an acquisitive nature. It stems from his love of study and research. "What's true of modern art is true of the objects I show," he says. "You can't appreciate either from a purely emotional standpoint. Historical context and the creator's intention are all important, which is why I devote so much time to verifying provenance." His scholarly approach is evident in the Dirk Jan Rol and Janine Abraham monograph he's in the midst of writing and in the catalogues he publishes for each of the gallery's biannual exhibits. Guariche and Paulin, along with the group's lesser-known designers—Alain Richard, Joseph André Motte, Geneviéve Dangles and André Monopoix, as well as Rol and Abraham—were more conceptual than their Scandinavian, American and Italian counterparts. The paucity of postwar materials pushed them to experiment with plastics, veneers and lacquers, and they aimed to bring functional ease, technical innovation and monetary value to the mass market. However, due to small production runs and limited editions, it's rare when 74 CULTURED their pieces surface. From the beginning their collective attitude towards shape, volume and form resonated for Cuisinier, a trained architect, as did their impulse to equate beauty with simplicity. "I refer to them as the first French designers because they didn't pick up the stylistic threads of their predecessors, the cabinetmakers from the 1930s and '40s who founded their own ateliers," he says. "Their process was intellectual and their collaborations with talented manufacturers like Pierre Guariche were significant. They established the precedent designers still follow today." As someone who has no art whatsoever in his Parisian apartment, Cuisinier prefers to theorize about a painting rather than own or live with it. "I wouldn't think of hanging a canvas or photograph to decorate a room or to create a selling milieu for my furniture," he says. "Art and design are two separate species." He's aware of dealers who use the two words interchangeably and who are strict about preserving mid-century objects in original condition, but he's not one of them. "I'm not conflicted about reupholstering, replacing deteriorated foam and revarnishing if necessary. If we were talking about a hand-embroidered, 18th-century chaise, things would be different, but the original material on these pieces was industrial—and besides, prolonging a chair or sofa's lifespan and usage is a testament to its iconic design." Cuisinier plans to show a selection of Guariche's lighting including an exceptional yellowand-coral-red version of the G23 where a pair of counterweighted arms qualifies as a feat of engineering. "I consider him to be a genius," says Cuisinier. "He never made a lamp where the eye is likely to come in contact with the bulb which is extremely difficult to achieve." Furniture will include Motte's woven rattan Tripod chair; Paulin's 118 hybrid sofa coffee table; Richard's elm-and-lacquer wardrobe and chest of drawers, which are both new to market and a sought-after pair of rattan Soleil armchairs designed in 1958 by Rol and Abraham. Tripod chair, 1949, by Joseph André Motte.

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