Interview with Pascal Cuisinier – A look through the french design of the 50’s

BRABBU is sharing with you today a special interview with Pascal Cuisinier, responsible of the french Galerie Pascal Cuisinier, which will be exhibiting in Design Miami / Basel.

Galerie Pascal Cuisinier is specialized in the french furniture design of the ’50s and will exhibit at Design Miami / Basel a monographic show of a French lighting designer and producer of the 50s, Jacques Biny. Pascal Cuisinier (picture below) shared with us his vision from the french design and what we can expect at Design Miami / Basel.

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1. What feedback have you from visitors to your gallery who come into contact with best French designers of the 50s?

Initially, my visitors have a kind of “aesthetic shock” which is the first level of access to a work (work of art or design, it’s pretty much the same), then it is a sort of surprise due to not knowing the creators they discover. After that they learn to recognize the value by understanding how innovative those people were in their time. Finally, it is crucial to make them aware of the level of scarcity of the pieces, the production in France was very low at this time and there are only very few copies of each piece. It is slightly paradoxical because the prices are not at the same level as such rarity. For those accustomed to the international market, they have difficulty in understanding why we demand only € 20,000 for a piece which exists only in five copies worldwide.

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Photo from Galerie Pascal Cuisinier – Images Courtesy Galerie Pascal Cuisinier

2. Are there any brands that still perpetuate or are really influenced by the French designers of this era?

This question is very difficult because on one hand I don’t want to give the impression of a person that could be a specialist in everything, and contemporary design in particular. On the other hand, everything which is innovative or revolutionary during a certain time is so, not because of changes of form, but for the reason of paradigm shifts. If a modern brand remade things in the style of the fifties (and it exists, of course) it would be very behind the times and it would only seek to follow fashion, they would not be innovative in the same way as creators of the time, but outmoded! In the fifties in France the best creators of their time tried to design pieces of a very high level of quality, innovation or modernity, but for the largest audience possible. Today, it is mass design that matches the contemporary consumption patterns and it is therefore rather low range. It seems to me that what is considered very contemporary today is more likely to be design of industrial research, not easily accessible to the general public, or the invention of new functions rather than drawing new items. Today, to put it simpler, an innovative agency no longer draws a mobile phone but invents the concept of a smartphone!

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Photo from Galerie Pascal Cuisinier – Images Courtesy Galerie Pascal Cuisinier

3. In your opinion, what was the main difference between the French designers and those from other countries during the 1950s?

I think the difference is centred around two concepts, first the very small-scale production, because we must not forget that for centuries in France we had a great tradition of decorative arts and crafts of high quality production. So, the transition to mass production was difficult and the French struggled to accept it as quality production. In this case, the industries were only really developed only in the 60s and 70s.
Innovative pieces from the 50s are therefore very rare now because few were produced. Finally, stylistically French design of the 50s was guided also by the great tradition of French decorative arts of the past, transmitted by large schools that educated designers.
In addition, they have a perfect sense of proportion, elegance of design, a relation between aesthetics and functionality, which is, without any doubt, unique in the world. The pieces from this period are simple, elegant, without free gesture and without much arrogance. We can say that they are among the most beautiful in the world.

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Photo from Galerie Pascal Cuisinier – Images Courtesy Galerie Pascal Cuisinier

4. Can you share with us where these designers drew their inspiration from?

I think the French designers of the 50s drew inspiration from the French tradition that they learned at the National School of Decorative Arts, but also undoubtedly from international architectural movements of the time. They were inevitably seduced by the lifestyles and the elegant simplicity of the traditional Japanese house together with the American international architecture of Johnson, Neutra or Mies Van der Rohe. But they were also functionalist and influenced by Le Corbusier, not ignoring the architecture of northern Europe and its handling of interior spaces in relation to the outdoors in the lives of people. It seems to me that they have attempted a summary of what was more contemporary in their time, although for example, with lighting it seems that they come out of nowhere and nobody had seen this before.

5. You will exhibit at Design Miami/Basel. What can we look forward to on your booth there ?

I hope this will be a good surprise because for the first time at an international exhibition we will be presenting a monographic show of a French lighting designer and producer of the 50s, Jacques Biny. We may feel like we know his works, but to see more than thirty different models including the rarest, reunited at the same time – this is a premiere. I hope this will be the beginning of true international recognition for this major creator whose works are full of elegance. It is important to value his technical expertise for the benefit of other creators when editing and creating their lightings. Besides, I prepared a show with lighting effects, – unprecedented for a design fair of this scale. I hope this will work out as I expect it to!

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Jacques Biny Lighting Design – Images Courtesy Galerie Pascal Cuisinier

6. Why Design Miami/Basel ? What does this event have to offer for you as the owner of a gallery and for any design lover?

In my opinion, Design Miami / Basel is the most prestigious design fair in the world. Their selection is draconian and they are extremely demanding about the quality of their exhibitors. This gives a high-level result and every gallery keeps their best pieces for this occasion. It allows the visitors to see a collection of historical pieces worth being exhibited in the best design museums of the world together in one place. Also, for me it is an opportunity to raise awareness of these French designers that I promote to the world’s most important collectors as well as museums, and show them pieces that will be in much higher demand in a few years!

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Jacques Biny Lighting Design – Images Courtesy Galerie Pascal Cuisinier

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Pascal Cuisinier has a knowledge of the french design of the 50’s that is worth sharing. If you’re going to attend Design Miami / Basel, make sure to visit the Galerie Pascal Cuisinier exhibition.

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