CHARLES ZANA The Paris-based architect and designer on discoveries in New York and what Bach has in common with Ettore Sottsass What brings you to Salon Art + Design every year? First, I love the place. This huge armory on Park Avenue is a brilliant example of New York architecture – the Old England style of the beginning of the 20th century. Then, also the date, because you have the art sales in November, and last year I also had projects in New York so it was very easy for me to go to Salon to see Marc Benda and all of these brilliant dealers. It is a good mix. What do you remember most about past Salon visits? At my first we bought an Art Carpenter piece with clients at Friedman Benda. Once, it was very funny because I bought an Ettore Sottsass cabinet at a Belgian gallery at Salon. Even if a lot of the dealers are coming from Europe – if you saw the guys in Paris a week ago – they reserve something for the fair so there’ll still be a discovery. Can you describe your design philosophy? It’s classic design with a modern twist, which is, for me, the French way to design houses. And our philosophy, as architects and interior designers, is to keep the spirit of the place and the country where we are doing the project. What role does fine art play in your design work? It’s very important. I curate my own art exhibitions every two years. We also have a lot of art collectors as clients, so we style art in their house or advise when they want to buy. And when you have an art collector as a client, you have to think about the decoration in a very different way; you have to serve the art pieces and not over-decorate rooms. Your exhibition Utopia at Tornabuoni Art in Paris last year paired design pieces with artworks. What were your highlights of that project? I think it was the dialogue between Carlo Mollino – we had two chairs by him from an Italian museum – and a red painting by Lucio Fontana. This was the most challenging combination; I
(Opposite) Charles Zana. Photo: Noel Manalili
had to convince really everybody that there was a link between them. And when we installed it, the owner of the gallery and all the collectors said that they’d never seen beyond and behind the pieces like that. What is your favorite object or space in your own home? The kitchen. We work there, we cook there – for me it is really the future of the house. I also just bought a fantastic light by Sottsass, so today that’s my favorite piece. I know you have a real love of Italian designers. What is it about their work that makes them so special? I love early Sottsass, from the 1950s to the 1980s. As an architect, he was the first to move the frontier between art and design and to have brought an art feeling into his houses and interiors, with ceramics and painting. This speaks to me. And I think that even if he was very sad himself, there is a kind of happiness in his creations. I like the color and his brilliant sense of volume and proportion. Everybody wants to copy him but you always recognize Sottsass. My favorite music is Bach’s Goldberg Variations, because it’s an elementary language and it’s very simple, but there’s variation. Sottsass, for me, is the same. Are there any young designers who you would like to own work by? I love Studio Formafantasma, the Italian duo. They are very clever and were some of the first to talk about sustainability in regards to, “Can we still make furniture with wood?” Can you tell me what your next project is? Hopefully, if Covid does not delay it any further, it’s a Kimpton Hotel in Paris’s Saint-Honoré district. We’re working with the art director of Kimpton, and the design inspiration comes from the idea of a modern Paris, or, in French, Le Chic Parisienne. There’s a link to classic Paris architecture, but always with something crazy too.