From 14 November 2017, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is giving carte blanche to the designer and scenographer Constance Guisset for a retrospective of ten years of creation. CONSTANCE GUISSET DESIGN, ACTIO ! invites us to explore the creative universe of an artist who in only a few years has become one of the major figures of French design. Constance Guisset is known for the eclectic and poetic nature of her creations and the fields she explores are indeed wide-ranging: design, scenographies for exhibitions and the performing arts, architecture, installations and videos. Her work transforms our perceptions, creates illusions and awakens emotions.
Constance Guisset is proposing an immersive experience divided into two sections, the first focusing on her scenographic creations, the second on her design work. Deployed over a surface area of more than 1,000 square metres in several galleries of the museum’s permanent collection, it takes us through her flagship creations to her most recent works, revealing her creative process. Actio! emphasises both the magical aspect of her creations and the willpower and creative mobility required to conceive objects and give them a real existence. It also evokes the theatrical and cinematic dimension of the scenographer’s work.
Each room is entitled by a verb denoting action and evoking the life, uses and intentions of her objects and installations. This lexicon broadens her objects’ horizons and incites us to look further than merely their functions and uses. These room titles are accompanied by manifestos revealing the designer’s intentions in her work. The exhibition also features collaborations with artists working in a variety of other disciplines.
Constance Guisset was born in 1976. After studying at the ESSEC and Sciences Po in Paris, she decided to devote herself to creation and enrolled at ENSCI-Les Ateliers, graduating in 2007. In 2008 she was awarded the Grand Prix du Design de la Ville de Paris, the Prix du Public at the Design Parade festival at Villa Noailles and received two project grants from VIA. In 2010 she was elected “Designer of the Year” at the Salon Maison & Objets and won the Audi Talents Award. In 2009 she founded Constance Guisset Studio, whose team of designers and architects specialises in design, interior architecture and scenography. The studio creates light, lively, ergonomic objects for numerous French and foreign furniture publishers. The Vertigo lamp (2010), commissioned by Petite Friture, was one of Constance Guisset’s first and most emblematic creations. The studio also works with major brands and publishers such as Moustache, Molteni&C, LaCividina, Tectona, ZaoZuo, Matière Grise, Nature & Découvertes, Nodus, LaCie–Seagate and Louis Vuitton Malletier.
Since 2009 Constance Guisset has created scenographies for the performing arts, notably Angelin Preljocaj’s ballets Le Funambule, Les Nuits and La Fresque, Laurent Garnier’s concert at the Salle Pleyel and Wang Ramirez’s choreography Everyness. She also conceives exhibition designs, principally for Les Arts Décoratifs, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. From 2012 to 2014 Constance Guisset developed an innovative interior design concept for the Suite Novotel hotel chain, a subsidiary of the Accor group. Since 2012, she has had several solo exhibitions, notably at La Chapelle des Calvairiennes–Centre d’Art Contemporain du Pays de Mayenne (2012). An exhibition cycle began in 2016 at the Château de Courcelles at Montigny-les-Metz and has continued at the Mudac (Musée de Design et d’Arts appliqués contemporains) in Lausanne (2016-2017) at the invitation of Chantal Prod’hom, and at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier (2017) at the invitation of Florence Hudowicz.
Constance Guisset is also a writer and illustrator. Her first book for children, Brouillards, will be published in November 2017 by Albin Michel Jeunesse.
Running parallel to Constance Guisset’s increasing recognition worldwide has been her close relationship with Les Arts Décoratifs. The museum showed her first projects when she was still a student, commissioned her first scenographies and is now paying tribute to her work with this retrospective.
The first part of the exhibition, focusing on scenography, is set in the Middle Ages galleries, where Constance Guisset has used innovative procedures to highlight emblematic works in the museum’s medieval collection. In doing so, she has created a dialogue between her own creations and the museum’s collections, “conversations” in the literal sense between ancient and contemporary objects and also acoustic installations interpreting works. These interventions become objects in their own right and also act as signage elements, indicating the path to follow and works to contemplate. This comparison between historic pieces and Constance Guisset’s designs is achieved by her reuse of installations previously experimented with and re-adapted in situ.
The second part of the exhibition, focusing on Constance Guisset’s design work, features all the objects published over the last ten years and numerous creations never previously shown. It begins by questioning the purpose and interpretation of objects and the limits of design. Is design a question of creating sensations, of drawing forms, leaving one’s mark on a place or living in a space? This second section begins with two successive rooms directly questioning the object’s uses and status. The following room, focusing on her work process, leads into a long corridor evoking the mental process and inspirations preceding creation. Next, six thematic rooms feature objects illustrating a particular theme: turning, taking flight, freezing, etc. The final room focuses on her decors for the performing arts. The importance of words, central to the exhibition, is emphasised throughout by the graphic designer Agnès Dahan.
Artists and curators were invited to participate in the exhibition to explore new areas of creation and stress the constant necessity of collaboration, open-mindedness, curiosity and sharing so vital to the designer’s profession. The exhibition features a writing project undertaken with the writer Adrien Goetz and the curators Frédéric Dassas (Musée du Louvre) and Denis Bruna (Musée des Arts Décoratifs), and also two works co-created with the artist Marc Couturier and the designer Antoine Fritsch. The musicians at Studio MbC were invited to provide musical interpretations of the themes explored in several rooms. The artist Laurent Derobert proposes his mathematical interpretation of the “Ravir” (Delight) room, and the tapestry weaver Sarah Grass was invited to rework one of the designer’s first pieces.
This exhibition’s synthesis of Constance Guisset’s experimental and formal research shows the manifold and multi-disciplinary nature of her work and provides a unique insight into her reflection on the object, the prime focus of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs since its founding.