Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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It seems only fitting that design gallery Atelier Courbet, with its assiduously arranged compendium of global craftsmanship spanning centuries and continents, has made its home in a 19th-century former carriage showroom in New York's NoLita neighborhood. The gallery mixes treasures by heritage brands like Puiforcat and Nymphenburg with, say, a leather wrapped bicycle designed by Pharrell Williams for Domeau & Pérès or an indigo-dyed tent by Aboubakar Fofana. For founder Melanie Courbet, it represents a philosophical approach to design and collecting. "I wanted the gallery to be about anchored values, not ephemeral trends of the market," explains Courbet. "Every piece I present here is worthy of acquisition. You look at a piece of Saint-Louis crystal, for example—it holds its value through the centuries." Prior to launching Atelier Courbet in 2013, the Paris-raised Angelino was an independent curator and art advisor, producing art shows for showrooms like Minotti, Cappellini and Jean de Merry in Los Angeles. But she never flirted with the idea of opening an art gallery. "Art galleries can be a bit like Wall Street—they are often motivated more by the investment perspective and social status than the actual experience of collecting," Courbet says, "I didn't want that to be my experience. I needed something tangible." So, Courbet embarked on several impactful projects, namely helping her friend, Brazilian artist Alécia de Menezes Seidler, open Love & Art Children's Foundation, benefitting underprivileged or cancer-stricken children. "We started with a small children's museum in L.A., and within a year we were collaborating with Christie's and had an exhibition at the Louvre," Courbet remembers, during which time they raised enough money to build a school. It proved to be a pivotal juncture in her life. "I had two options—either art consulting with clients I used to work with, or go to Sierra Leone and help develop an eco-village that brought together several international organizations." She chose the latter. After her time in Africa, Courbet was exposed to makers whose stories and craft inspired her to create and curate a place that celebrated the meaningfully tangible. "I moved to Manhattan in 2011 and gave up 80 percent of my belongings. I only kept what I really loved, and that became my philosophy: have less but only have what you truly relate to." It was this impulse that shaped her approach at Atelier Courbet. "There is a global trend in wanting to connect to provenance and physicality, bringing the craftsman forward." The craftsman's gallerist, as she could be called, found her passion in the luxuriously functional, and not in design for the sake of design. Courbet celebrates the Japanese concept of Minimalism, she says, "for getting down to the essentials in life." 206 CULTURED © ATELIER COURBET ARTS & CRAFTS How Melanie Courbet left the art world to become a spokeswoman for global craftsmanship. BY MIEKE TEN HAVE Works by Anna Karlin, Sabine de Gunzburg, Beatrix Ost and Thierry Dreyfus at Atelier Courbet, founded by Melanie Courbet, above.

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