In the wake of a year that forced us to become acquainted with our interiors more intimately than ever before, an exhibition that sees domestic space as a rarefied tableau could be a risky, if not alienating, proposition. Yet Galerie Philia’s new show of collectible design, co-curated with the Italian architect and designer Pietro Franceschini and bringing together more than 70 works by 40 international designers, makes a strong case that our homes can indeed be a creative canvas.
Spread across two expansive floors in a residence at the historic Art Deco Walker Tower in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, the exhibition—on view through May 15—features works from established talents like Rick Owens and Nina Edwards alongside pieces from more experimental and emerging talents like Rooms and Studio Noon. These designs—culled from the gallery’s locations in New York, Singapore, and Geneva—are presented in traditional living and dining room configurations, bedrooms and offices, as well as in interstitial spaces like shower stalls and hallways.
Galerie Philia’s minimalist inclinations are teased out by Franceschini into a richly detailed mise-en-scene that elegantly sweats the small stuff: finishes, joinery, fastenings, and even orientation, with new works rotated in and out throughout the duration of the show.
Some of the furnishings were custom made for the exhibition, like French designer Cedric Breisacher’s black oak dining table, hewn in two so that it could fit into a New York–sized elevator. The shape-shifting nature of time and light is an ever-present theme in the rooms at Walker Tower—a resin console by Austria’s Laurids Gallée, for example, deepens from lime to emerald depending on how the light hits it at different times of day.
“Our goal is to show that minimal doesn’t necessarily mean reductive,” says Franceschini, whose interior and furniture design practice, PF | Studio, was launched in 2020. His own brass arch console and lambswool-and-ash Bling Bling chairs are featured in the exhibition.
But it was Galerie Philia’s previous group show, staged in Barjac Castle in the French countryside last fall, that served as the catalyst for Franceschini’s interest in curating. There again, context played an important role in both the legibility of the various works on display as well as the audience’s approach to them, understanding them simultaneously as art and functional objects and, often, as something in between.
The Walker Tower exhibition similarly leverages its unique setting to create a tension that enthralls the viewer: We understand that the work seems best viewed at a remove while at the same time feeling the need to touch it all.
Franceschini, for his part, admits a personal preference for the upstairs corridor, draped in white, bookended as it is by two Willem Van Hooff flattened vessels that thwart our perception of two- and three-dimensional objects. It’s an area usually reserved for “connection,” as he puts it, where the works on view elaborate on the latent potential of a space otherwise taken for granted. It’s a perspective on how we live with what we love—and a creative approach we all could use right about now.
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