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10 must-see highlights from PAD Paris Design + Art 2023

An ebullient PAD Paris returned to the French capital this week for its 25th anniversary, emphatically asserting its place at the forefront of the world’s contemporary and modern design fairs. Outside, the Jardin des Tuileries basked in what felt like the first day of summer; inside, the fair exuded a similarly elevated atmosphere – busier and buzzier than many recent fairs, with a relaxed trade crowd of interior designers, press and collectors.

Reflecting on the milestone, PAD president Patrick Perrin said: “For 25 years, we have accompanied and supported young galleries and offered them the opportunity to present at a renowned fair. We have travelled hundreds of kilometres of galleries, welcomed several hundred thousand visitors [and] represented the best of contemporary and historical design.”

Greeting visitors at the entrance was Above the Sun, only Sky, a large-scale installation by Diane de Kergal from Galerie Gosserez – the ethereal yet boldly scaled work a fitting scene-setter for the mix of galleries beyond. Part ice-cool expo, part febrile bazaar, PAD unfolded like the petals of a rare orchid: the vivid cobalt of a cabinet crafted from oil drums by Hamed Ouattara at Foreign Agent; fringed scarlet furniture from Pondicherry at India’s Aequo gallery; Brazilian modernism at Mass Modern Gallery; the spectral translucence of Objects with Narratives (pictured at top); the unimpeachably sexy Giorgio Montani sofas at Galerie Portuondo – all perfectly glued together with Serge Gainsbourg purring from the turntable at the sublimely louche-luxe Willy Rizzo gallery. Among the 71 exhibitors, 21 of them showing at PAD Paris for the first time, here are 10 galleries that particularly stood out:

1. Foreign Agent (Switzerland)

Foreign Agent at PAD Paris presented Beauty In The Eye of The Beholder by British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori
Foreign Agent, at PAD Paris for the first time, presented “Beauty In The Eye of The Beholder” by British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori

Much kudos goes to the brilliantly-named Foreign Agent for bringing a booth that stood out from any other at PAD this year. The Swiss gallery works predominantly with artists and designers from Africa and the diaspora; and founder Olivier Chow tells Effect: “With PAD being the premier fair for collectible design, it was important for us to be there. For the first time, there is a booth in PAD Paris dedicated to African talent, and it is time this talent gets the recognition it deserves.”

Foreign Agent also presented Hamed Ouattara’s “Bolibana” collection, handmade from recycled oil barrels. Pictured:
“Jimena Sougri” by Hamed Ouattara

Particularly eye-catching was Beauty In The Eye of The Beholder – a collection from British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori. Seemingly crafted from individual oil cans, the works are actually cast from a single piece of fibreglass. Also impressive was Hamed Ouattara’s Bolibana collection, handmade from recycled oil barrels “according to Burkinabé blacksmith tradition,” says Chow, “yet totally novel and futuristic in their design – incredibly powerful and sculptural as well as functional.”

In a booth packed with exceptional pieces, other stand-outs are Jomo Tariku’s Nyala chair (which featured in the Black Panther movie), Didier Viodé’s paintings – deceptively minimal yet rich in storytelling, texture and colour; and the Déséquilibre harmonieux wall sculpture by Congolese-Romanian artist Maliza Kiasuwa. Is Paris ready for Foreign Agent? We hope so. It’s definitely a gallery to watch.

2. Willy Rizzo (France, Switzerland)

The Willy Rizzo booth at PAD Paris 2023
The Willy Rizzo booth at PAD Paris 2023

With Je t’aime… moi non plus purring out of the 1960s space-age music centre, and a photo wall of La Dolce Vita-era high-living icons, Willy Rizzo was an irresistible draw.

Cecilia and Camilla explain that the French-Italian Willy Rizzo was a photographer in the 1940s – subjects include Fellini, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe – who went on to became a designer in the 1960s. Fabulously glam furniture includes the brass Love Lamp – “made for flirting,” says Cecilia, who explains how the designer used to put flowers inside them to create une certaine ambience; and the fabulous, “super-iconic” Backgammon Table – equal parts chutzpah and elegance. Square tubular brass and bronze wall shelves, coffee tables with built-in bars and ashtrays – the Willy Rizzo gallery is a wonderland of how life should be.

3. Aequo (India)

India’s Aequo gallery at PAD Paris in 2023 presented the "Ajanta Daybed" in teak and rice straw by Valériane Lazard
India’s Aequo gallery at PAD Paris in 2023 presented the “Ajanta Daybed” in teak and rice straw by Valériane Lazard

There was a definite buzz at the booth of India’s Aequo gallery, making their international fair debut, and the gallery’s Greg Foster, Tarini Jindal Handa and Sejal Jain were the recipients of much attention. “PAD is important for us because we want Aequo to introduce an international audience to the most sophisticated Indian craftsmanship, to give global importance to our country’s artisanal heritage,” the gallery tell Effect. “We thought carefully about where best to tell these stories and kept coming back to Paris. There’s a strong French connection with our Mumbai gallery through our programme of designers and makers, many of whom are French born. PAD is a gorgeous environment and a prestigious place to be.”

Immediately eye-catching was a red fringed leather chair (above, in introduction) by Pondicherry-based Cédric Courtin. Then there’s the beautiful Ajanta Daybed in teak and rice straw by Valériane Lazard, with wood carving from Bangalore and straw weaving from Karnataka. Local artisans were brought into the gallery to create it, “bridging the gap between makers and designers,” says Sejal Jain, who also points out a wonderful console by Wendy Andreue, created with the same technique as India’s ubiquitous Tiffin lunch boxes.

A booth stand-out is the Pila metal screen made of bidri – “a little-known silver inlay technique from Bidar,” says Sejal. “They’ve been made by the master craftsman MA Rauf and designed by Florence Louisy, with the silver lines in the form of illustrations by Boris Brucher.” The piece, two years in the making, involves a 17th-century southern Indian technique where pure silver is beaten into cast metal. The gallery tells us they’re “masterpieces of contemporary design and collaboration – really exemplary of the pieces we want to create and commission in the future.”

4. Avant-Scène (France)

Avant-Scène at Pad Paris 2023
Avant-Scène at Pad Paris 2023

Avant-Scène, established by Elisabeth Delacarte back in 1986, is something of an interior designers’ favourite, with a poetic, highly decorative inventory of sculptural furniture, ceramics, jewellery and lighting.

Notable exhibits this year include a stunning wall light by Mark Brazier Jones, a mirror from Franck Evennou – which Elisabeth says “will remain a classic decorative piece” – and a pair of Magnifixou armchairs from Hubert le Gall with bouclé fabric embroidered by François Lesage, elegant and quirky in equal measure.

5. Galerie BSL (France)

Galerie BSL exhibited the "Gandhara Carapace"by Lebanese artist Nada Debs with Studio Lél at PAD Paris 2023
Galerie BSL exhibited the “Gandhara Carapace” by Lebanese artist Nada Debs with Studio Lél at PAD Paris 2023

Galerie BSL have been showing at PAD Paris since 2011, and gallery founder Béatrice Saint-Laurent tells Effect it’s the richness of dialogue the fair fosters between works, arts and disciplines and the diversity of offerings that explains their loyalty to the fair.

Béatrice describes the gallery’s presentation this year as “dynamic and colourful, inspired by the blossoming and return of life in nature in spring.” This year, BSL are showing Gandhara Carapace – an extraordinary marquetry piece by Nada Debs and Studio Lél, which Béatrice describes as “a functional work of art merging a contemporary design and the pietra dura centuries-old art.”

The solid stone table features minimal lines entirely covered with an inlay of amazonite, onyx and marble, with a polygonal ‘Carapace’ pattern that repeats over the entire surface.

Nada Debs and Studio Lél used marquetry with coloured stone from the mountains of Pakistan

Lebanese artist Nada Debs tells Effect how the work, made in collaboration with Meher Asad, artistic director of the Lél collective, came about: “I visited Peshawar in Pakistan, and got really inspired by ‘Truck Art’ [where trucks are decorated in vividly coloured artworks]. Pakistan is known for the beautifully coloured stones they have in the mountains, which are on the border with Afghanistan. I often work with marginal craft communities, and this was created together with Afghan artisan refugees working in Pakistan.”

Béatrice adds that the Carapace table is a signature of Nada Debs, who is dedicated to combining ancient fine crafts with contemporary design. 

6. Mass Modern Design (Netherlands)

Mass Modern Design presented a magnificent Jorge Zalszupin bookcase in Brazilian rosewood from 1959 at PAD Paris 2023
Mass Modern Design presented a magnificent Jorge Zalszupin bookcase in Brazilian rosewood from 1959 at PAD Paris 2023

It was impossible to walk past the booth of Netherlands gallery Mass Modern Design without being seduced by a magnificent Jorge Zalszupin bookcase in Brazilian rosewood from 1959. Gallery founder Etienne Feijns tells us: “We always sell what is close to our heart. For this fair, we wanted to bring a unique selection of furniture that no other gallery is presenting, and Brazilian and Italian design have a close connection. That’s why we decided to combine furniture from the best Brazilian designers with lights from the best Italian designers.”

These lights include a 2058 chandelier by Gino Sarfatti, which Etienne describes as “extremely rare and beautiful.” From his personal collection, he says “I never wanted to sell it unless it had a good stage. PAD fits that requirement for me.”

Also noteworthy is a kinetic sculpture by Christoph Bollinger: “This is exactly what MMD stands for. I saw this piece and it gave me goosebumps all over. I knew that I would buy it no matter what – and that was even before I knew it moved.”

7. Galerie Scène Ouverte (France)

Galerie Scène Ouverte at PAD Paris 2023 presented “Persephone” by KRJST Studio

Galerie Scène Ouverte founder Laurence Bonnel describes PAD as “the unmissable event for art and design in France”; and while they are exhibiting some stunning marble works by Hervé Langlais and Léa Mestres, of particularly note are two tapestries from KRJST Studio (Justine de Moriam and Erika Schillebeeckx), which set the tone for the booth.

Describing their process to Effect, Laurence says: “All their creations start with a rather precise drawing. They entrust the first part of the work to a manufacturer, then they finalise the pieces by embroidering on the tapestry the patterns with materials as diverse as natural lurex, wool, nylon paper, mohair and recycled polyester.” Laurence adds: “KRJST use colours to express what words cannot describe. They paint by weaving the threads of imaginary landscapes of a poetic, calm, yet tormented realm – the chaos where emotions are born.”

8. Galerie Gosserez (France)

Galerie Gosserez’s “Above the Sun, only Sky” sculpture by Diane de Kergal was the entrance installation at PAD Paris 2023

“PAD Paris is one of those events you don’t want to miss,” says Galerie Gosserez’s Elodie Lafaurie-Bianchi; but there’s no missing their gallery this year – their Diane de Kergal Above the Sun, only Sky sculpture has the accolade of being the entrance installation, which Elodie describes – entirely reasonably – as “a real forest of light, made of giant natural silk cocoons in which the artist-designer introduces colours and movement for the first time – an exceptional opportunity for visitors to enjoy her poetic universe and experience these moon-like lights.”

A honeycombed floor lamp in 24-carat gold by Vincent Poujardieu was among the key exhibits in the Galerie Gosserez booth at PAD Paris 2023

While the installation may be a major talking point, the booth itself is showing several stand-out pieces, including a wonderful honeycombed floor lamp in 24-carat gold by Vincent Poujardieu; a Magna Strata table by Roula Salamoun, and a steel and walnut table by Valentin Loellmann. What unites all these pieces is a sense of layers and depth; Elodie and gallery founder Marie-Bérangère Gosserez describe their show, rather wonderfully, as “several cosy, coloured universes – a beautiful way to invite visitors to project themselves and discover our collections up close.”

9. Galerie Jallu (France)

Galerie Jallu presented their "Ring Table" at PAD Paris 2023
Galerie Jallu presented their “Ring Table” at PAD Paris 2023

Galerie Jallu make their second appearance at PAD Paris this year; unlike most other exhibitors, they are a furniture-making workshop founded by artist and designer Sandra Sandra Scolnik-Jallu and cabinet-maker Yann Jallu, who make most of their distinctive, jewel-like and translucently-veneered pieces to order – usually, Sandra tells Effect, for interior designers buying custom-made pieces on behalf of their clients.

Sandra approaches their work as an artist, exploring form, colour and texture, and using rare materials such as selenite (gypsum), straw marquetry, pyrite, mica, parchment and horn; and they describe their work as part of a tradition of the luxury of French Decorative Arts.

10. Secret Gallery (France)

Secret Gallery presented a recliner in leather and brass by architect and designer Reda Amalou at PAD Paris 2023

Showing for the first time at PAD, Secret Gallery is exhibiting some spectacular pieces by architect and designer Reda Amalou. Gallery founder Natalie Elmaleh describes their debut collection: “Our intention was to create a collection interior, almost like a living room, where each piece, whether art or design, was carefully chosen. They are not ‘coordinated’ but chosen to complement each other.”

The “Lala” buffet by Reda Amalou at the Secret Gallery booth at PAD Paris 2023

Each of Amalou’s works are accomplishments of extraordinary refinement – triumphs of detail as well as overall style and elegance. Of Amalou’s Kimani recliner, Natalie says: “The tensed, curved lines of the furniture give it a lightness, almost like a floating piece. It hovers above the floor.” She adds: “The simple lines make up a subtle but complex structure and create both a sculptural and sensual element of interior.” The patterning on the Amalou’s Lalal Buffet hints at the designer’s Algerian childhood, while the cabinetry has hints of Danish mid-century; his Jaya Console is an essay in simplicity, the body a gilt cloud that hovers over delicate bronze legs.

Framing the work is some considerable wallpower by 20th century artists Le Corbusier and Erwin Bluemenfeld, and contemporary artists including Valery Koshlyakov, Yann Masseyeff and Youssef Boubekeur. 

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