Art with a message but lacking aesthetics has fallen into the realm of cliché. How many times must we re-see party-city colors applied to sheets of papier-mâché draped over metal-grid structures, all begging the viewer to interpret the childhood eco-related trauma of the artist? In the vast sea of Instagram "creators" and recent beaux-arts graduates, it's increasingly challenging to associate one's personality with any contemporary artist. It seems that anything labeled as "original" or "different" is anything but original or different—a cacophony of players, all striving to enter exclusive private-equity-bound art galleries. I'm discussing this rant in an article dedicated to an art show because there are occasional moments when an unusual synergy emerges between the fashion-forward, jet-set "cool" crowd and genuine elevated beauty.
Chloé Perrin, who previously worked with Perrotin and Carpenter's Workshop Gallery, is now on her own, curating exhibitions and collaborating with highly specialized artists skilled in various artisanal techniques. One afternoon, while enjoying high-quality matcha and dorayaki cake with Chloé, we discussed how the term "decorative arts" has become a taboo phrase that nobody dares utter anymore. Yet, why are decorative arts considered so taboo? Why does it immediately conjure up old-fashioned, passé visions of art, where expression was stifled by the church, and creativity was considered the devil's work? Moreover, artists who create decorative arts today seem to be pigeonholed into a world not considered artistic at all, but rather associated with arts and crafts.
Chloé is bringing sexy authenticity back to this art genre. At her recent show, "Claudio Massini - le charme de la raison" at the FORMA space in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, the vibes were reminiscent of New York in the early 2000s—stealth wealth and creative types mingling, and everyone genuinely impressed by the artwork. Claudio Massini was à l'honneur, an artist Chloé met in Venice a few years ago. Although relatively unknown outside of Italy, Claudio's work is simply and unapologetically gorgeous. Layers and layers of meticulously carved oil paint create relief and depth of color, featuring an unexpected palette of bright pastels, dark stained wood tones, burgundy reds, and occasional gold dust spattering. How can anyone with taste not be drawn to these pieces?
In a brilliant collaborative effort, Chloé simultaneously commissioned a collection of hand-blown glass by UK-based artist Miranda Keyes. Delicate long-stemmed glasses flow into wild-pearl-shaped bases with flower cups, enhancing Claudio's vision. Baroque Italian church steeples stand alongside Byzantine glass and slender bronze-worn blue-legged high-chairs adorned with 16th-century Italian architectural scenes. Another positive note is that these pieces were priced to sell, bridging the gap that restricts so many artists (and fashion designers) from reaching their target audience. In cities where inflation has a strong hold, and residents are accustomed to overpaying for everything, how can the upper middle class afford to integrate overtly design/art-oriented pieces when they're priced over 50k? Local European audiences have been largely excluded from accessing contemporary pieces due to exceedingly high prices, resulting in these artworks primarily existing in high-rise apartments in Miami or Dubai. Collectors seem to collect for speculative reasons, rather than being truly attached to the artwork, despite their claims. How many Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons pieces truly speak to one's soul?
I took a moment to discuss with Chloé her show, and her future intentions as a curator and supporter of the arts.
Chloé, tell us about how you met Claudio, in what circumstances?
I discovered Massini's work about six years ago in a small bookstore in Venice, near Campo Sant'Angelo. Upon opening his yellow book, I wasn't sure which era or technique I was encountering. Was it Chinoiseries from 18th-century France, or 1920s Art Deco lacquer? I was immediately intrigued. Then I noticed that his whimsical subjects could only be contemporary, and I realized the artist was alive and living near Venice. So, I searched for him and found him. Years later, he told me that he trusted me to exhibit his work. This meant the world to me.
How did you first meet Miranda Keyes, and can you please share details about the collaborative effort to create the glasses that complement Claudio's artworks?
I first came across Miranda Keyes on Instagram when one of her funky glasses caught my attention. Since I had recently moved to the UK, I decided to reach out to her and arrange a visit to her charming studio. Its minimal white walls, uneven shelves, and super delicate glassworks reminded me of something Tim Burton might have imagined.
Following several months of lovely correspondence, Miranda Keyes agreed to create ten unique pieces inspired by Claudio Massini's paintings featured in the exhibition. I was particularly pleased to include a talented young woman proficient in a traditionally male-dominated craft, such as glassblowing, in the exhibition. This choice also aligned with the Venetian theme I was exploring.
Where do you see yourself going in the future with decorative arts?
I have a background in contemporary art and collectible design; however, my interest lies primarily in decorative arts. To clarify, I am particularly intrigued by paintings and sculptures that advocate a revival of formal beauty and showcase cutting-edge technical work. This inclination leads me to seek out one-of-a-kind pieces that stand apart from prevailing trends and exude a certain poetic quality. For me, the quest for poetry within art is a constant. I know this may not resonate with everyone, but it is what I yearn for in my time.
What do you feel about the art scene in Paris right now?
The art scene in Paris seems quite exciting at the moment, with numerous exhibitions every week, major galleries opening here instead of other cities, and big art fairs that are attracting an increasing number of international clients. It's great for Paris! It's almost a little overwhelming! I hope it remains authentic and quintessentially French as it continues to grow and attract more foreign investment.
Do you think the art world of the future will give more thought to art that is not only narrative-driven but also purely aesthetic?
Well that's what I strive for ! And yes I feel like there is a growing aspiration for greater poetry and technique.. I like to believe that, much like many other aspects of life, art operates in cycles. It appears that we have shattered most barriers and challenged every conceivable rule. Thus, it may be timely for a resurgence of formal beauty, infused with a contemporary flair, capable of transporting the audience to an enchanting realm, beyond reality.
Claudio Massini, le charme de la raison, is from September 7th to September 23rd, 2023, at the FORMA gallery, 127 rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris, France. To learn more, please visit Chloé's website with exhibition information, here.
Written by James V. Thomas