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Earlier this month, Atelier Courbet opened its doors in New York. We spoke with Melanie Courbet, the woman behind the unique design space that focuses on savoir-faire. She told us about the idea behind the gallery and why she why she chose to have a new collection by Domeau & Pérès as the inaugural show.
WHITEWALL: How did the idea of launching a New York gallery?
MELANIE COURBET: I was lucky to work with inspiring and talented designers, artists, architects and fabricators for the past nine years, including Dror Benshetrit, Thom Mayne, Jean de Merry, Domeau & Pérès among others. I have learnt so much from each of them. I wanted to shift the curatorial angle to the master-craftsmanship instead of the creative design and bring the maitres-artisans to the front of the stage. I wish for our store to contribute in whatever way possible in the promotion and preservation of these crafts.
I think that this endeavor is also a response to a global environment. Our market – like our global culture – shows a shift in the consumer’s behavior. Brand equity is now often built upon emotional connections with the provenance, a sense of cultural heritage and traditions. I hope for Atelier Courbet to convey that story and to allow for our clients to find that connect with each handmade piece presented.
WW: Bringing traditional savoir-faire and contemporary together design is a really original and intriguing idea. To what extent do you think savoir-faire and contemporary design are a great pair?
MC: The ability for the craftsmen that we represent to bridge the centuries-old techniques they master with our contemporary design thinking and aesthetic is one of our top five curatorial criteria. In this intention to preserve our wealth of savoir-faire, it is important for the artisans to be able to fabricate relevant objects or furniture pieces for today’s environment.
WW: You chose to work with Domeau and Pérès to inaugurate the gallery. Why?
MC: For our grand opening we chose to unveil one of Paris’ most revered master craftsmen, Domeau & Pérès, as they had surprisingly never been shown in the US. Domeau & Pérès has long been the favorites of the Paris design, art, and fashion scenes. Over the years, DP has collaborated with countless luminaries such as Andrée Putman, Marc Newson, and Colette, and worked on special commissions for clients including Karl Lagerfeld, the Royal Monceau Hotel in Paris, and the Krug Champagne, among others. They were bestowed the title of “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” by the French President for their contribution in carrying on our cultural heritage with French’s crafts and savoir-faire.
The first collection of furniture presented at Atelier Courbet was made in collaboration with Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Martin Szekely, Eric Jourdan, and Pharrell Williams. Coming soon to New York is the latest collaboration with Marc Newson, the Bumper bed. The piece will be exhibited at Atelier Courbet, after its feature in the Philadelphia Museum of Art in November.
WW: According to you, what is savoir-faire?
MC: My intention is to share my passion and appreciation for the level of details and discipline as well as the humility carried-on by each of the craftsmen whose expert hands have passed on an object. I also wish to create a stage that helps protect these admirable professions and the cultural heritages that they represent. I would like to pay a well deserved homage to the beauty of the master-craftsmen’s work and works. And hopefully inspire younger generations to appreciate the quality and value that time, discipline and patience gives to any endeavor. I also just love beautiful and delicate objects so that was a way for me to bring my favorites together. I couldn’t wish for a better environment to work in.