Interview with Beatrice Saint-Laurent, Galerie BSL Paris – July 2014
On the eve of PAD Paris, I met with Beatrice Saint-Laurent in her exquisitely designed space in one of the city’s most chic design fairs set in the Tuileries Gardens. BSL’s own gallery space in the Marais district nearby is so striking, it is hired out for Fashion Week. Galerie BSL was established in 2010 and is the invention of Béatrice Saint-Laurent. The gallery exhibits pieces by key global designers including Djim Berger, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, Charles Kalpakian, Ayala Serfaty, and Faye Toogood. Galerie BSL is one of very few trendsetters and is watched closely by the European design scene. Her taste, at the vanguard of style for luxury dwelling, is a powerful influence for interior designers.
PML: How did you start your business? Did you train in design?
BSL: My father was an architect and my mother and entrepreneur who invested in art. When I was young they went to the Venice Biennale every two years and I suppose I learned by osmosis from an early age. In fact my studies were in linguistics and political sciences, and I learned a lot from that too!
PML: So how did you make the transition to the art world?
BSL: I got a job as an editor at the Ministry of Culture here in Paris, writing on the visual arts. I have always had a talent for writing. This finally led me to the Ministry of Foreign affairs where I was a speech writer. In between this I worked at a communications agency specialised in the arts, again using my writing skills and developing my visual eye.
PML: Who are your clients and what sort of people attend PAD?
BSL: They range from art collectors to interior designers and architects. The designers may bring in their individual clients too. We also work with art consultants who are looking for special pieces to complement a collection for someone’s home.
PML: The concept of the design fair is a fairly new one. PAD for instance, bridges the gap between an art fair and a furniture exhibition and an interior design show. It seems unusual in that new objects and utilitarian objects are displayed alongside, say, a key piece from an antiques market.
BSL: Most people don’t live in showrooms, they mix contemporary pieces with, say, inherited family pieces, and expensive things with objects or works they just like. The PAD reflects this reality by offering a mix of fine art, sculpture, modern and contemporary design. I myself chose to present on my booth very different works regarding materials and styles – all pieces unique or in limited edition, being exclusive to Galerie BSL. Studio Cogitech pieces are very avant-garde, made out lacquered fibreglass and carbon fibber. Djim Berger’s stools are in porcelain, while resembling some intriguing mineral close to coral or sponge. Taher Chemirik’s works are entirely hand-made out of brass and very rare hard stones usually used in Haute Joaillerie and Haute Horlogerie. I like to fuse all these works on my booth, to institute a dialogue between avant-garde pieces and some belonging more to the tradition of the Decorative Arts.
PML: Has PAD been successful for you so far and what has been the response from your collectors?
BSL: Yes indeed, we have found however that many clients are inspired by items and have ordered versions with modifications because of the need to fit a certain space, colour scheme or their own taste. This is a challenge but we are able to accommodate their needs. In the luxury market we find clients have very specific requirements and you have to adapt. They may be coming on their own behalf or they may be working on a specific design for a client.
PML: What are the trends emerging this year in luxury interior design?
BSL: Brass has made a huge come back, as well as copper and stone.
PML: Can you give me a fascinating fact about the luxury world?
BSL: Beyond this or that material, or this or that stylistic line, luxury remains defined by what is unique or very rare, of an utmost quality, craftsmanship. It is something that lasts and defies time. Something you cherish and feel like you need to hand down to your children.
Pandora Mather-Lees, Director, IORMA Luxury