A new showcase for innovative design has landed in the south of France

Lucia van der Post previews the highlights of a new peripatetic exhibition of innovative design in the French Riviera’s beautiful Villa La Vigie

Villa La Vigie, location of the first Nomad exhibition
Villa La Vigie, location of the first Nomad exhibition

Today, pieces of beautifully crafted, highly innovative design have become as keenly sought after as major artworks. It is, therefore, not surprising that those who sell these rarefied objects should begin to think of equally rarefied ways in which to display them. 

India Mahdavi ceramic mosaic and brass table, price on request
India Mahdavi ceramic mosaic and brass table, price on request | Image: Gregor Braendli

Giorgio Pace, who has been described as a “cultural entrepreneur”, is an Italian curator who in his time has worked for both the Venice Biennale and the Guggenheim in New York. He and his business partner Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, an architect and co-founder of the Carwan Gallery in Beirut, have come up with an intriguing notion of how to introduce their clients to the best of contemporary design. They will find extraordinary buildings in beautiful locations to show exceptional pieces from specialist galleries around the world. 

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The project is called Nomad because each year it will take place in a different location. They’re kicking it off by taking over a historic Grimaldi house, the Villa La Vigie, a beautiful neoclassical building overlooking Monte Carlo beach where Karl Lagerfeld lived for some 10 years. Oslo, St Moritz and Los Angeles are mooted as future destinations.

Pia‑Maria Raeder beech, lacquer, brass and cement side tables and sculptures, from €22,000
Pia‑Maria Raeder beech, lacquer, brass and cement side tables and sculptures, from €22,000

Holding the exhibition at La Vigie means, says Pace, “that the experience will be intimate – each room will be like a cabinet of curiosities. We’re even using one of the bathrooms to display the work of one gallery.” Pieces exploring the intersection between architecture, design and art will be flown in from Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beirut, Milan, Zurich, Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris. Among this year’s internationally recognised designers are India Mahdavi, Nacho Carbonell and Karen Chekerdjian; artists include Jennifer Guidi, Tobias Urban and Wolfgang Gantner; while among the architects are Kersten Geers, David Van Severen and Studio Mumbai. 

Studio MVW bronze, marble, stainless-steel, mirror and pink jade JinTang installation, €123,000
Studio MVW bronze, marble, stainless-steel, mirror and pink jade JinTang installation, €123,000

Etage Projects, a gallery in Copenhagen, will be displaying a glass and steel chair (€2,500) by Fredrik Paulsen, and a collection called Corporate Marble by Soft Baroque, whose extraordinary pieces are made from cracked and battered marble. 

Fredrik Paulsen glass and steel chair, €2,500
Fredrik Paulsen glass and steel chair, €2,500

The Heritage Gallery in Moscow, founded in 2006 by art critic and collector Kristina Krasnyanskaya, will display historic Russian treasures. There’ll be a sofa (price on request) made by Nikolay Lanceray – a member of the early-20th-century Mir Iskusstva circle – for the Marble Palace in St Petersburg in the 1930s, and a white bisque lamp (price on request) made for the People’s Friendship Youth Festival by artists Vladimir Bogatyrev and Galina Stolbova in the 1950s. There are also wooden armchairs (price on request) that belonged to Georgy Zhukov, the Russian general who led the 1945 Victory Parade in Moscow at the end of the second world war.

Valérie Mannaerts steel and iroko wood room divider with cotton and silk kimono, €11,000. Ico Parisi velvet and wood armchair, €27,000 for pair
Valérie Mannaerts steel and iroko wood room divider with cotton and silk kimono, €11,000. Ico Parisi velvet and wood armchair, €27,000 for pair | Image: Left: Maxime Prananto, Maniera. Right: Daniele Iodice

Maniera in Brussels presents a striking steel and wood room divider (€11,000) hung with a dramatic kimono by Valérie Mannaerts, while one of my favourite galleries, Nilufar in Milan, has a large selection of works from the 1950s and 1960s, including a pair of blue velvet covered armchairs (€27,000) by Ico Parisi and a metal console table (about €60,000) by Xavier Lust, as well as contemporary works by designers such as Lindsey Adelman from the US (brass and blown-glass ceiling light, about €60,000). The Louise Alexander Gallery has a vast, blue abstract sculpture (€150,000) by Arik Levy, and Carwan Gallery will feature collaborations with avant-garde designers and architects like Bernard Khoury, Sigve Knutson and Vincenzo de Cotiis. 

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Parisian Galerie BSL will have some 20 works produced by a number of different artists and studios: Nacho Carbonell (a large lighting piece inspired by deep-ocean-dwelling flora and fauna and made of silicone and resin, €58,000); Studio MVW (an installation called JinTang that consists of four pieces – a screen, wall light, console and table, €123,000); Ayala Serfaty (a lighting piece called Soma made from two cloud-like clear polymer and glass rod structures, €76,000); Pia-Maria Raeder (three Sea Anemone side tables and two matching sculptures made of tens of thousands of delicate lacquered beech rods, from €22,000); and Djim Berger (a lightweight porcelain bench and four stools that double as side tables, from €1,800). To give a sense of the importance of these designers, works by both Ayala Serfaty and Nacho Carbonell can be found in the permanent collections of museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands and the 21_21 Design Sight museum in Japan.

The exhibition takes place from April 27-30 and tickets can be applied for online. Alongside the exhibition, which will be supported by Monaco’s Société des Bains de Mer, there will be a series of talks, dinners and events in both the gardens and terraces of La Vigie and private houses around Monaco. Since it is happening at the same time as Art Monte Carlo in the Grimaldi Forum, there will be a shuttle service between the Forum and La Vigie.

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