Façade by Ettore Sottsass, 1985. Image courtesy of Galerie Yves Gastou
He had found his place. After buying the gallery and most of its stock from the dealer, Gastou set about imaging how to make the space his own. Immediately, amid the historic corridors, Gastou resolved to work with one of the most aggressively modern designers of the day, Ettore Sottsass—one of the founders of Italy’s Memphis Group—to redesign the façade and interiors.
Sketches of façade by Sottsass Associati, courtesy of Galerie Yves Gastou
After a quick meeting in Milan, Sottsass was on board: “After 30 minutes, he said ‘Ok, I will do it,’” Gastou recalled in an interview for his 2011 monograph. “He was excited by the fact that it was close to the École des Beaux-Arts, and his crew, Sottsass Associati, was excited. When he arrived at the rue Bonaparte, he stood in front of the gallery and straightaway declared, ‘Paris is a photographic city, and photography is beautiful in black and white.’” With that inspiration in mind, Sottsass created a design made of terrazzo, the so-called “marble of the poor,” made from fragments of marble mixed with cement. Gastou was thrilled with the wink to Venetian palazzos, but it took some convincing to get others to agree, as building inspectors compared the speckled, glittering black-and-white surface of the gallery to a butcher shop or funeral parlor.
The poster for Galerie Yves Gastou's inaugural exhibition in 1985, featuring the work of Ettore Sottsass. Image courtesy of Galerie Yves Gastou
At the time Sottsass was injecting a bit of whimsy into a world of design previously obsessed with the crisp lines and limited color palette of modernism. Gastou fully embraced this exuberant stance on design, and inaugurated his new space with an exhibition of Sottsass’s work. Since then, the Paris gallery has been home to what Gastou calls “antiques from the future,” contemporary designs sure to last the test of time, and which can hold their own in conversation with historical pieces.
At this week’s edition of PAD Paris, Galerie Yves Gastou turns up the element of surprise by recreating its famous façade within the fair, enlisting designers Maurizio Galante and Tal Lancman for the booth’s design and complementing the structure with a selection of works that echo Sottsass’s use of materials in different ways. Emmanuel Babled’s undulating carrara marble table and vases embrace the finer side of the stone, while a sculpture by Gerard Kuijpers in mazy black marble delights in subverting its heft; Marco Zanuso’s midcentury armchairs recall its subtle variations in gray. Like those famous gallery walls, Gastou’s PAD presentation is a study in black and white that’s anything but expected.