Florence Guillier Bernard on the Charms of Paris | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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Florence Guillier Bernard on the Charms of Paris

Florence Guillier Bernard, founder of Maison Parisienne
(© Thierry Depagne)

Florence Guillier Bernard, a true Parisienne, loves her city tenderly as is evident from the loving care with which she shares the best way to enjoy it. Founder of the design gallery Maison Parisienne, she is going to present a wide selection of works from her gallery at the upcoming edition of the design fair, PAD Paris (April 3-7), in the categories of Contemporary design, glass/ ceramic, and sculptures.

In an interview with Blouin Artinfo, Bernard shares the details of her gallery’s participation in PAD Paris, the trends in the world of Contemporary design today, some tips on building a design collection, and of course, the best kept secrets of the city she so clearly loves.

Could you share the highlights of your participation at the upcoming edition of PAD Paris? What are you most excited about the upcoming edition of PAD Paris?

This year we will also be presenting a range of medium-challenging French artists, who astonish through their ability to stretch materials in surpassing ways. We are proud to have been working with accomplished artists such as Simone Pheulpin (textile artist), Gerald Vatrin (glass artist), Herve Wahlen (metal sculptor) and Pierre Renart (designer and cabinet-maker). Our selection is very wide in terms of artists and materials used, sometimes somewhat surprising in its variety, and will always only represent the finest and most unique “exceptions” of French craftsmanship.

I am very excited to discover some of the newest trends and latest research in art and design. Presentation at the PAD is key, many galleries put in tremendous effort and often hire scenographers to put their most exquisite works forward. I am amazed by the sheer variety of different techniques and uses of materials I thought I knew so much about. I rediscovered some of them with a different light by working with some of the galleries here. It was very inspiring.

What makes Paris one of the most important design hubs in the world? And what role do design galleries such as yours have to play in making it a hub?

The city is today one of the world’s leading business and cultural centers. Just its architecture alone has countless stories to tell. Paris is a city in perpetual motion, its potential for design inspiration is limitless. Paris seems to keep on reinventing itself, while lending technological progress an aesthete’s eye for perfection.

People are attracted to the vast quantity of cultural centers, museums, galleries, and most of all, the high-quality exhibitions and collections they present. They create the most inviting collector’s paths for curious art lovers.

What are the most important trends in the world of Contemporary design today?

We are in this moment where we are trying to become more tactile, we actually want to have more touch. It’s a general consensus of people wanting to understand the making and the craft of something, as the design industry strives to be more sustainable, and consumers start favoring objects that are made to last, rather than disposable.

Could you name some Contemporary designers, glass/ ceramic artists whose work you love to follow, and why?

I love the mesmerizing and intricate cotton-fabricated works of Simone Pheulpin, whose work often gets confused with ceramics. The artist Gerald Vatrin for his ability to transform the surfaces of his glass-blown sculptures into diverse fabric-feeling textures and create tunnels by which viewers can look through. The French and Vietnamese artist Kim KototamaLune, who spins glass in thin air to create foamy and glistening structures that look like they are just about to burst open.

If you were not a gallerist, where would you go in Paris to buy the best pieces of Contemporary design?

The Galerie Gosserez, in the Marais district of Paris! I tend to adore their selection of artists, the precious materials they use and the friendliness and connoisseurship of its staff. I go there often and have worked with them on several occasions.

Can you share some basic principles a young design collector must follow to start building a great collection of Contemporary design?

Go for handmade design, artists and designer who convey their obsession and passion for their craft. Search for works that reflect who you are, as they will enrich your daily life while also adding visual interest to your space. Seek for reliable sources when purchasing a work.

Do you have a favorite design fair? If yes, which one is it and why?

One of my favorite design fairs is the COLLECT art & design fair in London, at the Saatchi Gallery. I am always dazzled by the quality and the diversity of the craftsmanship that is showcased there. The visitors to the fair range from serious to casual collectors, art students to reputed museum curators.

Are there some exotic design centers in the world that you are interested in, that followers of Contemporary design must be aware of?

The V&A and the new Design Museum in London, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York are some of my favorites. Either for the architecture or the prestige and richness of their collections.

How long have you lived in Paris and what do you love best about it?

I have been living here since I was born! I travel a lot, but always feel such a tremendous pleasure when coming home. This is why I created Maison Parisienne. I am still so fascinated with this city. Each day, there is a new surprise to discover, a new dish to celebrate and an exquisite artwork, exhibition, interior to go visit.

What do you think makes Paris a great city, drawing people to it from all walks of life, from all over the world like a magnet?

Paris is a city known for romance, luxury, arts and gastronomy. It embodies centuries of history, quiet elegance but also a bustling energy. Many visit for this unique combination that makes Parisian charm.

If an art connoisseur friend of yours is visiting Paris for the first time, what places — museums, galleries or any other — would you recommend they must definitely find time to visit?

The Centre Pompidou, for its extraordinary collection of Modern and Contemporary artworks. The Galerie Gosserez is not far and is a place to be warmly welcomed and dazzled by the unique skills of its passionate designers. I like the Marais neighbourhood for the variety of its galleries and urban arts. The Musee des Arts Decoratifs and the Louvre are also part of my favorite, must-go-to art spaces. If you are in Paris for a longer period, I would send you to smaller historical studio and apartments converted into museums, such as Musee Bourdelle, Musee Eugene Delacroix, Musee de la Vie Romantique, Cernuschi, Zadkine…

What is the best place/ best places to enjoy a performance in Paris?

The Opera Garnier or Opera Bastille, definitely! The Comedie Francaise also puts on the most exquisite theater performances.

What are your favorite places in Paris that you keep going to whenever you find time?

I love going to the Marais and Saint-Germain area. It is packed with restaurants, specialized galleries and richly ornate passages and concept stores. Place des Victories and the Palais Royal are also gems to visit in Paris.

What would you do if you had a free morning in Paris? 

I love finding a good Parisian coffee spot, sit at an outdoor terrace (if it is not too cold outside), then wander around. Visiting a flea-market and a food market (such as Marche Richard Lenoir) are fabulous activities to indulge in while in Paris.

Could you name some Parisian cafes that you like visiting again and again?

Cafe Nemours and Cafe Flore.

What are the best shopping addresses of Paris?

Le Bon Marche, where you can find just about anything. It is trendy and has an ever-changing selection that is always very fine and heteroclite.

What are the best book stores of Paris? Is there any one that you like escaping to once in a while?

The Artcurial bookstore is always packed with the best art books available in Paris. I love going to this bookstore.

Where do you like to lunch/ dine with your friends from the art world?

I love having a coffee and lunch at the Meurice Hotel by the Tuileries park, in its sumptuous Dali Restaurant.

What is the best place to get an idea of the city’s night life?

I could recommend going to the Comptoir General for a funky spot to hang out with friends.

Do you have a favorite bar to catch up with friends on a drink?

The Frenchie Wine bar and Redd near the Metro Sentier are great trendy spots to go have a drink and small bites. The Harry’s bar also invented the Bloody Mary and has some great cocktails!

What is the best place to entertain professional acquaintances over a drink?

The Meurice 228 bar and the Hotel Particulier (a hidden spot in Montmartre) are also some of my favorites, more exclusive places to have a drink in the evening.

What are the best Parisian parks to enjoy a great weather?

The Parc du Luxembourg (Parisians call it the Luco), the Parc Monceau are beautifully built and have a lovely history to them.

They are also incredibly well maintained and is a fantastic spot to bring friends visiting Paris or children.

Any particular neighborhood walks would you recommend to visitors?

1. Walk in front of the Printemps and Galerie Lafayettes, to the Rue des Martyrs, walk up to Montmartre.

2. Walk from the Place des Victoires, through the Place des Petits Peres, through the Galerie Vivienne, to the Palais Royal. Visit the Saint-Anne Japanese neighbourhood, cross the Avenue de l’Opera before reaching the Tuileries and the Louvre. Then walk by the Quais de Seine before having an ice-cream at Berthillon at Ile Saint-Louis.

What is your favourite book(s) and favourite film(s) that pay tribute to the charm of Paris most evocatively?

“Paris est une Fete,” by Ernest Hemingway. And, “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen.

A little bonus, the song “April in Paris” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8Ra5aRicos

— For details on the gallery, visit www.maisonparisienne.fr/ Instagram: @galeriemaisonparisienne

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