We are delighted to share with you our most recent exhibition organised as part of London Craft Week 2023, showcasing new ways in which the antique and contemporary can be combined, in collaboration with the design gallery SEEDS. The fusion of the two worlds creates thought-provoking and intriguing compositions, encouraging conversations around contemporary issues such as sustainability.
Organised annually, London Craft Week celebrates creativity, creating a programme showcasing British and international talent of well-established individuals, collectives, galleries, and organisations as well as of those just starting. However, it is the stories, histories, materials, and manufacturing techniques that are applauded above all.
This year we celebrate the world of the past, present, and future. Utilizing Mayfair Gallery’s collection of luxury furniture, fine and decorative arts, in unison with the work of contemporary artists Onka Allmayer-Beck, Elodie Blanchard, and James Shaw, the display conjures a space where the antique and modern coexist in seamless harmony.
Similarities and differences become apparent, and questions are raised. With contemporary design often using materials not in existence at the time the pieces in Mayfair Gallery’s collection were made, the exhibition highlights how the two differ; yet also through careful observation of the pieces, the likeness of materials, colour, use, and locations of their creation are explored. The exhibition further considers themes of sustainability, looking into how waste can be used to make functional and collectible products, whilst simultaneously exploring antiques' positive environmental credentials.
Let us take you on a journey where the antique and contemporary are in conversation with each other and discover what they can tell us about the past, present, and future.
Onka Allmayer-Beck is a ceramic artist, illustrator, and costume designer. Her work has been displayed all around Europe in countries such as Italy, Austria, and Spain. Of a peculiar shape and vibrantly coloured, the vessels on display were made intuitively using a slab-building technique in her studio in Vienna. No two pieces are the same due to the manufacturing method employed. Despite their unusual shapes, the vessels are functional and can be used as, for example, candle holders or flower vases. However, it is up to the user to determine what function they want the pieces to take on.
Intricately crafted pair of Meissen-style Schneeballen vases are paired together with a Mini No. 269 (rain). Two different manufacturing techniques have been employed to create the pieces, however, the similarities in colour palettes and uses are apparent. Similar vases to those in Mayfair Gallery’s collection have been passed down to Onka from her great-grandmother, making this pairing an especially important and moving composition for the artist and demonstrating how antiques play a vital role in our lives.
One of Allmayer- Beck’s larger pieces, No. 256 in white, is encircling two delicate French antique ormolu mounted cut glass vases. Each one is intricately detailed, holding a bunch of tulips, and is in conversation with Onka’s piece. The round, two-level design, is reminiscent of a fence, keeping the antique vases protected for future generations to enjoy, whilst also shining bright and representing the combination of antique and modern.
Mini No. 267 is surrounded by a pair of stunning Baccarat parcel gilt turquoise glass vases and an antique Sèvres style porcelain and ormolu jardinière. Similar colour palettes have been employed on both antique pieces, despite the differing designs. Onka’s pink vessel brightly complements the antique and with the addition of white flowers completes the composition atop our stunning ormolu and hardstone mounted ebonised wood cabinet.
Beautifully designed and made, the Rococo style, ormolu mounted side table with a marble top, retailed by Parisian workshop, Deveraux acts as a support for Onka’s Mini No.264 vessel in a confetti colour palette and pattern. The shining ormolu detailing brings out the yellow and orange tones included in the design of the vessel.
Elodie Blanchard through her pieces in which material exploration takes centre stage, transforms the discarded and commonplace into eye-catching floral compositions. Blanchard has developed collections for galleries, offices, public spaces, hotels, and institutions in various cities around the US, for example, Los Angels and New York.
During our exhibition, Elodie’s hanging textile pieces from the ‘Bouquet’ series are paired together with an array of exquisite 19th century antiques. Each piece is hand-made by Elodie from repurposed scraps of textiles, plastic bags, mylar balloons, and snack packaging. The combination of materials normally ignored and forgotten about, through reshaping, and intriguing design creates collectible hanging artworks.
For this exhibition, we have paired Bouquet 23 with the gallery’s large Roman floral micromosaic by the renowned Vatican Mosaic Studio. Composed of an array of tiny, coloured stones, the mosaic depicts a charming floral bouquet, surrounded by fruits. Elodie’s pieces too are composed of a large amount of variously shaped and textured pieces, which when carefully stitched together present a fascinating floral composition.
Bouquet 5 is hanging on the opposite wall to the one displaying Eugene Claude’s large and vibrantly coloured floral still life painting from 1884. Claude and Blanchard aimed to depict flowers in simple, yet intriguing compositions, both achieving their goals with the use of various methods. The late 19th century oil on canvas, shows beautifully rendered flowers positioned in an unorganised manner, ready to be placed into the wicker basket in the background. On the other hand, Elodie’s flowers highlight the beauty of nature, but also of human’s destructing impact on the environment. However, it is not just Elodie’s work that links to Claude’s stunning painting. James Shaw’s Plastic Baroque Planter is used to display a floral composition, both the flowers and planter similar in colour to the one depicted by the French artist.
The 19th century Continental ormolu side table with a round floral porcelain top includes a central medallion of a large still life of flowers. Both the antique and contemporary floral bouquets are surrounded by a frame reminiscent of the period the pieces were created in. The floral compositions on the porcelain top are framed in a superbly crafted ormolu border, a detailing very popular in the 19th century. On the other hand, Blanchard’s floral compositions, such as Bouquet 15 are framed in a pared-down, minimalist design, reminiscent of the modernist movement, started in the early 20thcentury.
James Shaw is a designer and maker. Through his practice, he explores the material landscape, simultaneously interrogating it and the systemic and formal approaches to the way objects are created. The Plastic Baroque series from which pieces are included in the exhibition, challenge the notion of ‘waste’, showcasing how things we once considered trash, become objects of desire. Shaw’s work has been acquired by some of the world’s best museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Design Museum Ghent in Belgium.
Surrounded by a stunning pair of monumental ‘War and Peace’ candelabra by the renowned Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley, James’ Plastic Baroque Chair proposes a metaphorical and literal break with tradition. Positioned in between the two candelabra, the chair is in conversation with late 19th century design. The pair of candelabra was a key feature in the interior design of the Fox Theatre in San Francisco, opened in 1928 by William Fox, the founder of the infamous Fox Film Corporation. Positioned on either side of a grand staircase, they welcomed guests to the ‘movie palace’, just like the Plastic Baroque Chair is welcoming visitors for a moment of conversation or of silent reflection.
Another one of James’ pieces, the Plastic Baroque Grid Stool, too, when paired with an exquisite ormolu mounted Louis XV style kingwood marquetry desk by Zwiener invites you to sit down and enjoy the tactile sensations of the unusual texture. The stool, as well as all Shaw’s other pieces displayed in ‘Back to the Future’ were created with the use of a plastic extruding gun invented by the designer. The gun is filled with plastic pieces no longer needed, as well as dye creating intriguing shapes from which the designer builds a variety of functional and decorative objects. As we live in a throwaway culture, the manufacturing method employed by Shaw, highlights the importance of thinking about what happens to objects once they are no longer needed. Simultaneously, it brings to the fore the positive environmental impact of antiques. Made centuries ago, their timeless design and highest quality craftsmanship enable present, and future generations to enjoy the antique pieces in addition to the intriguing histories they carry!
Pieced together from a selection of variously coloured plastic pieces, the Plastic Baroque Mirror creates a beautiful and vibrant frame for the viewer’s reflection but also for the exhibition design in Mayfair Gallery. Parallel to it stands a superb cloisonné and gilt metal antique French toilette mirror, too coloured in a palette where blue, green, yellow, and red predominate. Made over a hundred years before James’ creation, the piece reflects the highest quality craftsmanship of the period. The Plastic Baroque Mirror too is a demonstration of the highest quality innovation, the designer responding to pressing contemporary issues such as sustainability. If you look carefully, you will spot a vibrantly coloured pair of Samson porcelain birds looking at their reflection in the antique mirror!
We invite you to come ‘Back to the Future’ to be transported to a world where the antique and contemporary unite to create harmonious and intriguing stories. Visit Mayfair Gallery to find out how the combination of pieces from our collection and SEEDS gallery can be used to create exciting, contemporary interiors!