A PARISIAN LEGEND ON PLASTER BUSTS, HOOF LOUNGE CHAIRS, AND THE ART OF JE NE SAIS QUOIS

February 13, 2019

It may be hard to envision, stepping into Galerie Blanchetti, Jean Francois Blanchetti’s modernist mecca decked out in globular glass lamps and amoebic tables, but Blanchetti was raised on a steady diet of Baroque mirrors and claw-footed tables. “My family was too traditional to buy design, and we were living exclusively in Louis furniture,” Blanchetti explains. In fact, one of Blanchetti’s first purchases as a youth was a classical bust of the 18th Century French writer François-René de Chateaubriand. Netted for ten dollars, the sculpture now resides in a nearby museum. While Blanchetti’s signature style may not yet have been established, his eye clearly was. It took only discovering his stylistic sweet spot—modernism—to propel his side hobby into a full-fledged career.

These days, Galerie Blanchetti is a haven for design enthusiasts who appreciate a less-than-clinical approach to modernism. Blanchetti fills his gallery with modernist finds that integrate an element of elegance or unexpected whimsy—a cocktail table with a brass base that looks like prickly pear brambles, for instance, or marble guéridons that mimic lily pads hoisted on conical pedestals. In other words: visitors can expect anything but Mid-Century Modern warmed-over. Given his unique eye for design, we recently hosted a rapid fire session with Blanchetti to ask him more about what influences his buying, his budding bespoke collection, the trends he’s loving, and how we can all obtain a bit of that Parisian je ne sais quois.

Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the antiques business?
I started the antique business by accident in 1992, when I joined New York dealer Juan Portelo in a partnership in our first gallery Quai Voltaire in Paris. Previously, I had a formation of “commissaire priseur” (an auctioneer).

What influences your buying?
In order to be in the market, I think we have to be a very selective and adapt permanently to fast-moving trends. Although I am aware that names and references are important to buyers and collectors, I also sometimes buy instinctively and buy anonymous pieces whose line or proportion speak for themselves.

Being in Paris, how would you describe the current Parisian aesthetic?
Paris has influenced the taste in art and fashion for a long time, but now the stream has reversed and “New York taste” in turn inspires the Parisians. But, that said, we keep a je ne sais quoi of old French taste based on our own cultural references.

Are there any makers working currently that you’re currently loving?
We love fluid hand-blown glass right now; Suzanne Rippe’s beautiful wood blocs decorated with mosaics; and Marc Lepilleur mysterious glass creations.

What materials are you particularly feeling for the upcoming year ahead?
Travertine, rattan, wicker, alabaster… Each of these materials has its own flavour, but they all evoke the miracle of nature.

Beyond material, is there a particular item, shape, or color that you’re currently in pursuit of?
Right now, shapes love to be as simple as possible. Line and proportion have taken over ornaments. A successful piece is often one that can harmoniously merge two opposite (yet complementary) materials: warm or cold, smooth or rough etc. We’re also favoring the a collection of objects with strong decorative impact, like a wall of mirrors, or a set of ceiling fixtures.

Tell us about your bespoke collection.
Our bespoke collection (Artic tables, Nubes floor lamps, Hoof lounge chairs…) is so discreet—even confidential—that most items are not even published. So please inquire and join the club.

Are there items in your permanent or personal collection that you can’t part with?
Sometimes items come close to perfection for the place you choose to put them, but if the place changes, the objects can go and get on with their own lives. I think items are a bit like money; good servants but bad masters. So the answer is: I would be able to part with most of them, sometimes with regrets, but c’est la vie.

What’s among the most special finds you’ve ever come across?
In my youth I bought for 50 Frs ($10) a plaster bust of Chateaubriand—It’s now in a French museum.

How has antiques buying changed in Paris in the past 20 years?
The demand concentrates more on trend and fashion. “Obscure design trends” are left to the very few who dare to explore them.

How do you see customers’ design tastes evolving as we head into a new decade in the next year?
The question: I wish I know how to answer! Customers want to be amused or surprised by unseen, fresh, exciting pieces. Be predictable, be conventional and you are out.