Traditional design techniques are “alive and well” in Paris exhibition

Old and new blurred together in this exhibition at Paris‘ GSL Gallery, which celebrated contemporary creatives who observe design traditions of the past.

Le Salon de Septembre was the inaugural exhibition to be held at GSL Gallery, a factory-turned-arts space in Paris’ Patin neighbourhood run by creative collective The Guild of Saint Luke.

Guided by the motto “Remastering The Past”, the collective thought it fitting for the show to highlight the fact that traditional design techniques are “very much alive and well”.

Le Salon de Septembre exhibition at GSL Gallery, Paris
The exhibition showcases contemporary designers who observe design traditions of the past

“These techniques are being adopted by young avant-garde artists and designers around the world to create new forms that can also be read in the context of decorative art history,” the collective’s founder, John Whelan, told Dezeen.

“This is a subjective opinion but I think that artworks and design pieces that reference the past are drawing upon our roots, the very foundation and life force of our culture – works that attempt to break free from the past can often look ‘deracinated’ and meaningless despite their valiant effort to create a new language.”

Le Salon de Septembre exhibition at GSL Gallery, Paris
Pieces include this stainless steel daybed by Olivia Bossy

A mix of established and emerging creatives contributed pieces to the exhibition, which was curated by Whelan and interior architect Edgar Jayet.

On the gallery’s ground floor, an ebonised blackwood and stainless steel daybed by Australian designer Olivia Bossy sat beside a lustrous aluminium lamp from designer Max Copolov.

This drew on the work style of Weiner Werkstätte – a modernist Austrian design studio established in 1903 by painter Koloman Moser, the architect Josef Hoffmann and patron Fritz Waerndorfer.

Le Salon de Septembre exhibition at GSL Gallery, Paris
A glass vitrine contains a curule-style stool by Edgar Jayet and a 19th-century bento box

A glass vitrine in the same room contained an ornate bento box from 19th-century Japan and a raw aluminium stool by co-curator Jayet.

This offered a reinterpretation of the curule seat, used in Ancient Rome by powerful magistrates.

Upstairs on the gallery’s mezzanine, a chair by Seoul-based designer Kim Byungsub was on display.

While its seat was made from hairline-finish steel, its backrest featured najeonchilgi: a historic Korean handicraft technique in which mother-of-pearl motifs are inlaid into lacquered surfaces.

Le Salon de Septembre exhibition at GSL Gallery, Paris
The gallery’s mezzanine featured this najeonchilgi chair by Kim Byungsub

Other items on this level included a walnut-veneer lounger by London-based artist EJR Barnes, designed to emulate “turn-of-the-century European grandeur”.

There was also a blackened ash, steel, and felt-laminate suspension light by London-based designer Joe Armitage, which took its cues from a floor lamp created in 1952 by his grandfather, architect Edward Armitage.

Le Salon de Septembre exhibition at GSL Gallery, Paris
Nearby is a walnut-veneer lounger by EJR Barnes

An array of paintings, prints and reliefs served as a backdrop to the pieces in the gallery. These nodded to the exhibition design of the 1903 edition of Salon d’Automne, an art show that takes place in Paris every year.

“My co-curator Edgar Jayet and I were particularly interested by the avant-garde spirit of the original Salon d’Automne, which was controversial in its day, showing the Fauvists, Cubists and Futurists, as well as Charlotte Perriand and Le Corbusier in design,” explained Whelan.

“Archival images of the original exhibition in 1903 heavily influenced our scenography, with an ebonised oak vitrine and shelf above which artworks are hung in a ramshackle, fin-de-siecle style.”

Le Salon de Septembre exhibition at GSL Gallery, Paris
This suspension light by Joe Armitage also comes as part of the exhibition

Like Salon d’Automne, Le Salon de Septembre will now become an annual event at GSL Gallery.

“We hope to provide an annual snapshot of the zeitgeist in art and design, showing artists and designers that explore heritage as a means of contemporary inspiration,” concluded Whelan.

Prior to opening GSL Gallery at the beginning of 2023, The Guild of Saint Luke specialised in reviving historic interiors and designing new ones.

Previous projects include Nolinski, an art deco-style eatery in the French capital, and Maison Francois, a chic brasserie in London that riffs on Ricardo Bofill’s architecture.

The photography is by Celia Spenard-Ko

Le Salon de Septembre took place at 27 Rue Jacques Cottin, Pantin, Paris, from 15 September to 6 October. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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