We are first struck by the impressive building. We pass through the enormous front door, to the lift with a fold-up seat that comes...
Augustin David is a passionate collector and an auctioneer, and he made his family apartment become a gallery. His gallery. The extension of his profession as an antique dealer, accessible only online. It’s a personal setting he designed with his partner, where the pieces he loves are enhanced in their daily uses, also revealing the whole of their know-hows and the personalities of the artists who made them. It is a sensitive and smart approach full of sincerity. Being interested in Augustin’s decoration is also getting to know him. Himself and his fascination for ceramics and potters. This fascination started when he was young, together with his parents, also aesthetes. Giving a freedom of tone is a family concern. Hugo and Gustave, his sons, become every day more aware about it. For his part, the historian keeps refining his judgement, years after years. Today, he simply wants to build a sweet and welcoming home, where senses and spirit of everybody can be stimulated and have a rest. Colours, materials and textures combinations: nothing has been left to chance. Get ready. The effect is great.
The layout is first of all the way we use a place. It reflects a whole of tastes which defines a warming space where everything is made to welcome the life we live.
Augustin, who are you?
I am an antique dealer, an art historian and, from time to time, a curator. I also have an online gallery, galerie Stimmung, which is specialised in crafts and design. I work on creators and on their creations; I am interested in their non-conformist and subversive lives and in the forms that come from it. I think the beautiful objects are always good objects which light up the people who use them, since these works are guided by a position the artist confides to us. I only believe in a story which gets the signs of time by calling anything it wants, without filter: the political, social, aesthetics and especially ethics.
Who decorated the place?
It’s something my partner and I have been doing since we moved in together, 10 years ago. Given what fascinates me, I am often the one who suggests things for the house. This said, I know a home is not only made of objects and its soul results from everybody.
Your apartment is also your gallery. How do differentiate these two parts of your life?
The apartment is the space I use to put the works into perspective and sometimes to meet collectors and connoisseurs. But the real showcase of the gallery, its own place, is the website. I chose this way of presenting the works since I wanted to be autonomous and free, and the pieces we live with are pieces which share the spirit and meaning of the gallery… but they are not for sale!
How would you define your style in terms of furniture?
The layout is first of all the way we use a place. It reflects a whole of tastes which defines a warming space where everything is made to welcome the life we live. I think in our home we have no established programme but the simple will to build a sweet and welcoming home where senses and spirit can both be stimulated and have a rest. I think that when you are an antique dealer – or passionate by something -, you intuitively look for astonishment, the surprise set off by a form, a material, and a career. It’s the perfect opportunity to “modify the unknown to find new”, as Rimbaud used to say, with the tremendous wish of finding a present meaning to the past echoes. Even if it means using a chair or cutlery or hanging things on the wall, let’s make sure they are good and stimulates our senses.
What was your education in terms of furniture and decoration?
I grew up in a bourgeois environment where the historical styles of the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries were the expression of a so-called “good taste”. Luckily, beyond this position, my mother used to take us to museums but also to flea markets and to Emmaüs, and I liked this sensation that something could happen from this excess… My parents mainly passed down this freedom of tone and enhanced our desires for new horizons and our transversal eyes. These entrance doors to other fields gave me the intuition that art is maybe more about ethics than about aesthetics. Art can be a formal tool – even if it means being sterile at its worst – but it’s rather by living art that you can have a new eye on the world. Today, I think surrounding yourself with good things is like using their aura. It’s like loving the close presence of a book which carried and accompanied you.
When did your passion for ceramics and potters start?
When I was young, I used to go with my mother to flea markets, and I started collecting ceramics. Then, I took to this material and became convinced it forms an essential perspective to understand the sense of art in general. Ceramics are ancient and highly symbolical: it links men to earth. By the way, in the three great monotheist religions that exist in the Western world, God has shaped man with clay. Ceramics feed an uncertain zone, a space of lack of differentiation which gathers oral traditions and designed forms, a religion to a rebellious spirit. It’s also a zone for what is unclear between minor and major arts and the stand of going beyond the divides that limit the institutionalised art in the West! My passion for potters logically results from it. It is great to read again the history of the world, from Japan to Burgundy, from the Neolithic to nowadays, through such a rich medium! During the strange period we are living, these ways traced by so diverse people, at times very diverse as well, are a godsend for those who want to read the signs of time. Some say Diogenes said this: “With one pot, a wise man owns the universe”.
What is the meaning of the word “Stimmung”?
In German, the “stimmung” is the atmosphere or the mood. It’s the aura of a place or of a person. Sometimes it is the spirit of the times. The Stimmung is also a concept used by Heidegger and then by Agamben to shape the possibility of an ontology, of a being that would go beyond the division between subject and object, such as Aristotle took it into account for the whole Western thought. With the gallery Stimmung, I wanted to create a space where the intuition between works of art and our present would appear. We need to seize these moments.
Who is the artist you currently like the most?
I’m interested in so many people! It’s tough to answer this question. I’m always looking for making new people known, people who personify a certain idea of the relation between art and daily life and show the forgotten meaning of our daily actions. My last work in the gallery was on the great personality of Robert Picault, a friend of Picasso who defended the commensality: the art of sharing a meal. Deeply attached to the mix of art and life, dear to the avant-gardists of the XXth century, Picault worked for the promotion of an art oriented towards the everyday nature, since he was sure the human and the common are the basis of a happy life. He’s an exceptional man who, in France, personified a spirit taken somewhere else by revered people who enjoy worldwide renown such as Yanagi in Japan and Stif Lindberg in Sweden. Far from the commonplaces which make the distinction between art and crafts, hand and thought, Picault deserves to be rediscovered, and his pieces, simply and essentially beautiful, passes his thought on.
In your home, is everything for sale?
No, and I am happy it’s not! It would be a little scary, wouldn’t it? The family is emotionally attached to some pieces. The gallery is more an extension of our way of life than the opposite!
Do you like changing your furniture according to the season?
No. I know that the fashion codes now interfere in the world of decoration, but I more surely believe in a softer evolution. Each of us evolves in his interests, in what he transmits about what surrounds him, but it doesn’t seem very reasonable to keep changing objects. I don’t think this permanent replacement is good – neither is the opposition to change! I think the best way to highlight the beauty of things is to use them.
What is the piece of your craziest dreams?
I love so many things! However, I don’t necessarily need to own them, well I try not to aim at that. But I’ll still play along and answer: I’d be happy if my children could see a painting of Gauguin in the living room, and why not Cheval Blanc! Otherwise, I’d be happy with a drawing by Alfred Kubin…
What’s the piece you like the most in your home?
It’s hard to tell. Maybe a vase by Jean Carriès, the leader of a real renewal of pottery in France, born at the end of the XIXth century in a local and very French region, but with a Japanese influence. His ideal carries on still today thanks to some imaginative artists.
Can you recommend us some secret places where we could bargain-hunt furniture?
The good places are not often secret! Among the ones I would recommend, there are the flea markets and the websites which are not in the least underground. The auctions are full of treasures as well. That being said, if I might add something, in my view, bargain-hunting and doing it well is not about paying less for an object that would have cost much more. It’s more looking at what most of the bargain-hunters don’t look at – or at least not yet. It’s opening your eyes, listening and going autonomously by trusting yourself. Anyone can be amazed by something exceptional, but our eye can be shrewder… It’s not just about seeing the extraordinary in the extraordinary. We must understand the value in what’s natural, familiar, simple, and forgotten. Isn’t there anything rarer than seeing something precious in the ordinary?
Would you recommend us a good restaurant in Paris or elsewhere?
Nodaïwa, a Japanese restaurant in Palais-Royal, an expert when it comes to grilled eel.
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily