Carpenters Workshop Gallery, another vision of design
How would you describe Carpenters Workshop Gallery in just a few words?
Carpenters Workshop is above all a gallery dedicated exclusively to collectible design, with a “collection design” that emphasises form, and artistic and sculptural approach, over function. Our collections have a very particular identity, what the English like to call a "flavour".
You represent about 40 contemporary designers. How do you select your artists?
The works they propose to create must respect their creative standards and must be in line with the DNA of the gallery. And it always begins with a real conversation. When we feel that an artist has potential, and when we like their approach, their thinking, their emotions, the materials they use, and so on, only then do we think about how we could work together.
The profiles are very diverse: fashion designers, from Karl Lagerfeld to Rick Owens, designers like Vincent Dubourg or Nacho Carbonell — probably the most “artist-like” and “sculptor-like” of them all — or Marteen Baas and Studio Job, who have, as they see it, a culture and training that is more aligned with “pure” design.
What have been the major milestones in your international development?
At first, we did not necessarily have the ambition to expand beyond London, where we first opened a space in Chelsea in 2006 and then in Mayfair in 2008. As far as France is concerned, I have always thought that a project in Paris would need to be carried out as part of something bold and certainly ambitious. The opportunity presented itself in 2011 when the premises of the Galerie de France became available on Rue de la Verrerie, in the Marais.
Over time, we realised that a lot of people in the United States were taking notice of what we were trying to achieve. We needed to be closer to that interest by having a physical presence there.
We were thinking of just opening an office in New York, but we visited an extraordinary space on Fifth Avenue, just a stone's throw from MoMa, where we opened our gallery in 2015. A wise decision, given the success of this establishment, that prompted us to strengthen our presence in the US market by opening a second gallery in San Francisco in 2018!
And at the same time, you have strengthened your position in Europe considerably, since you created your own production workshops in the Paris region in 2015. What does this represent to you?
Workshops are a very important part of who we are. Creating exceptional pieces requires craftspeople to produce them. In the luxury industry, craftsmen and their studios are disappearing every year because they have not been able to respond to the globalisation of the market.
Facing this situation, if we hadn't acted quickly, we would have had a multitude of creators and artists with great ideas, but without the resources needed to transform them into exceptional pieces. So we had to think about how to integrate part of our manufacturing, in order to ensure the sustainability of our company and its development.
Vertical integration seemed an obvious solution to us, and we created this ecosystem near Roissy, where we now bring together some forty artisans with a wide range of expertise. To this we have added a program where each of them mentors a young apprentice. We want to give new life to skills threatened by the retirement of craftsmen with unique know-how.
Who are your customers?
While they are all tremendously different from each other, they all share an appetite for contemporary art in general.
Some, who are very wealthy, have both the means, the space and the desire to live in exceptional environments. But, at the other end of the spectrum, our work as spotters of young talent also allows us to offer very affordable works, as our prices range between €5,000 and €500,000. When we meet true art lovers with more limited means, we can offer solutions that also allow them to satisfy their passion!
Your exhibition “Dysfunctional” at Palazzo Ca' d'Oro*, was shown in Venice, on the fringe of the Biennale of Contemporary Art. Could you tell us more?
“Dysfunctional” is an ambitious project that fits naturally into our vision of the design object as a work of art, as “functional sculpture”. We are interested in the form of the object and the emotional journey that the artist has the power to convey through their creation.
Here we are more in the language and world of art than in the world of design. And what better place to make a strong statement than Venice during the great homage that is the Biennale of Contemporary Art?
Our ambition was also to illustrate that what we consider as excellence in contemporary creation could exist in harmony with extraordinary architecture and classical pieces, from the likes of Mantegna, Titian, Bernini and so on. The contemporary artists invited to this exhibition are exceptional, precisely because they manage to combine their work in a natural and organic way with the best in classical architecture and painting.
Finally, are there any future projects you would like to share with us?
Certainly over the coming year, it looks like we are going to be very busy. Firstly, we will be publishing a book dedicated to “Dysfunctional”. The Venice project and the exhibitions of our galleries have received a very enthusiastic reception across the world of art and design. We are in talks with many artists, and I think six or seven of them will hopefully be joining our “stable”, which is very exciting.
Our goal for the coming months is therefore to capitalise on the good work done so far and to successfully integrate and work with all the new artists we rely on today.
We are also preparing ambitious exhibitions in our galleries in London, New York, San Francisco and Paris, which we would like to warmly invite your readers to visit and discover. They will certainly be very welcome!
(*) Until November 24, 2019