Our quest for inspiring personalities continues in Marseille where we will be spending an afternoon with Emmanuelle Oddo and Nicolas Veidig-Favarel. Respectively heading up Piece A Part and the Double V gallery, two of the most exciting creative projects around at the moment, the couple is welcoming us to Emmanuelle’s family home. A post-war villa where memories mingle with the smell of drying paint. The renovations have just begun, but we are assured that they will not alter the soul of this sublime residence. As evidence, the period cement tiles discovered under the seagrass matting that our host had always known. Enhanced by the works of the artists they represent – or admire – the 19th-century wooden and marble furniture is embarking upon its second childhood. Just like the splendid stained-glass doors welcoming us at the entrance to the bathroom and bedroom. An unpretentious arrangement where every piece of furniture, every object, is free to reveal its potential, its history. Emmanuelle and Nicolas love each other. In all the dimensions and with all the generosity that represents. We would not have imagined them doing any other job. The one they created for themselves. Nor living anywhere else. The depth, the texture: their interior is the reflection of a life guided by instinct. One of the reasons why they are responsible separately – or jointly – for bringing to light some of the most outstanding young contemporary artists and designers. Alexandre Benjamin Navet, Caroline Denervaud, Ugo Schiavi and many others you will undoubtedly be hearing about very soon. Exciting adventures that we invite you to follow if you are not already doing so!
Emmanuelle, Nicolas: can you introduce yourselves, please?
I am the eternal dreamer, passionate and multi-faceted, stimulated by chance encounters, rough patches and the work I am doing at the time. I grew up in Marseille, worked in luxury houses in Paris, then in an art gallery in Buenos Aires. Ever since I was a child, I have found myself torn between flea markets, botanical gardens, book fairs, ruined sheep sheds and passages under sail. Amid all these influences, the eternal dilemma: “When you select you also reject.” Until one day I decided to give up choosing, and create an eclectic, nomadic and instinctive project. And Piece A Part was launched, without any clear idea of where I would touch down or what I would achieve. Except for the pleasure of an aesthetic adventure.
I am the director and co-founder of Double V: a forward-looking art gallery, firmly anchored in its region, yet open to the world, and we have been established for the past two years in the heart of the Antiquaires district of Marseille. I like football (no stereotypes), figatelli and red wine. But, above all, I love to create. I like travelling, meeting people, interacting. It’s a fundamental need: the generosity of dialogue, the sharing of experience and knowledge. I like other people, the differences, the depth, the light relief.
Where does your sensitivity to art come from?
An insatiable curiosity and a desire to explore. To meet the people who create. Art is an anti-destiny. Nowadays, the idea is to join forces with the artists we meet along the way. To grow together.
Before art, I think there is, above all, a tiny, almost visceral attraction for things that have a soul: a family home from the 1930s and all the curiosities of yesteryear to be found there; my father’s office, he was mad about old books and antiques; and my grandfather’s workshop, he was a painter and a carpenter. Free individuals, free from conventions, who shaped me, without wanting to do so intentionally. A multi-faceted sensitivity to artefacts. For me, a good object is a gateway to other worlds.
Tell us about your personal projects: Piece A Part and Double V Gallery.
Originally, Piece A Part was a curatorial project exclusively based in the contemporary art world. Then, as things unfolded, it naturally evolved towards broader horizons, touching on design, interior architecture and, ultimately, the way we live! The idea was rooted in many collaborations: with artists, architects, gallery owners and designers… and also in John Pawson’s book entitled Minimum – a gift from a friend, but also a revelation! Piece A Part shares this same quest for simplicity, this absence of excess and the inessential. A refocusing exercise more difficult than we imagine, but essential at a time when we are crumbling under overproduction that is as stupid as it is unreasonable. So the travelling exhibitions and the online gallery focus on presenting pieces in small series, made with the hands and mind, that bring us back to an awareness of the object and a temporal reality. In the same way, the Piece A Part selection includes signed designer furniture and ceramics from the 20th century: witnesses of the past that link us to history, in contrast to the soulless things that surround us.
Double V Gallery is one of the few private contemporary art galleries in the city. There are at most five or six of them, which may seem surprising for the second largest city in France, but it proves how much work remains to be done. It’s a big challenge, but it’s also what makes the adventure exciting: to become a facilitator who is recognised by all audiences, an informed collector and an enlightened amateur, a defender of the new international art scene, on the lookout for the emergence of new talents from the most promising talent pools. With the Manifesta Biennale in 2020 in mind. We present six or seven exhibitions a year, and we also work elsewhere, in France and Europe, through our participation in trade fairs. Manoela Medeiros, Alexandre Benjamin Navet, Caroline Denervaud, Ugo Schiavi and Benjamin Ottoz are among the artists we support assiduously, and Emanuelle has played an important part in discovering and promoting them.
Why did you come back to Marseille?
It was important to us to launch a project on our native soil. We are convinced of Marseille’s potential and power to attract, and we are driven by the desire to contribute to its cultural influence. To bring together different parts of the population through the perspective of creation.
And then, Marseille quickly gets back to basics. It’s a humble city, deeply authentic and full of contrasts. The region is incredibly rich and has so much to say! A lot of stakeholders and Foundations have understood this, but there is still a long way to go. We want to be part of that. On our own terms.
Where are we here?
This is the house where I grew up, an old post-war villa, which we recently started renovating. My attachment to this place and its memories was such that I’ve kept as much as possible of its original elements and the family furniture, while mixing in more contemporary materials and pieces: under the damaged seagrass matting that I had always known, I discovered extremely beautiful period cement tiles; I also kept the 19th-century wooden and marble furniture, and the stained-glass doors in the bedroom and the bathroom. Finally, I refined it as much as possible by keeping only what I thought was the soul of the house. After that, we reviewed some portfolios and gradually decorated the place with works from Piece A Part and Nicolas’ gallery. We found unique contemporary pieces from the younger generation (Alice Guittard, Ugo Schiavi, Caroline Denervaud and Alexandre Benjamin Navet), and older artists, (Gérard Traquandi, Michele Sylvander), as well as Maeght serigraphs (Aki Kuroda, Joan Miró), and even original lithographs, such the one by Jean Cocteau. Outside, mimosas, orange trees and medlar trees grow freely. I love their strength and their permanence.
In your decoration, we find pieces by artists – young and old – whom you promote through Piece A Part. How did you make your choice?
Unfortunately, it’s just not possible to bring in everything we like or that pleases us! And that’s not the aim, some pieces move us, but living with them is something else. I also think that many works, often the very radical ones, are not intended for this. But here, we have chosen works that remind us of inspiring destinies (like Aimé Maeght), collaborations and intense adventures (like Alexandre Benjamin Navet or Caroline Denervaud). I think what strikes me about these pieces is their spontaneity, the formal and chromatic balance that will help them withstand the test of time and fashion.
What are you looking to do next? Where can we expect to see you over the coming months?
Photography: Eve Campestrini – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily