Art lovers are rarely disappointed when they visit Paris for cultural inspiration. And when two like minds meet, sparks fly. Elizabeth Chase and Susan Boullier are both cultural addicts who met in Paris and decidedly joined forces to create ARTECASE. Their favorite pastime is now their livelihood: scouring art houses, auction houses and antique markets in search of that one, special object for your home or collection. The ARTECASE co-founders shared with INSPIRELLE how they find their treasures and where we need to start looking.
Searching for fabulous pieces of collectible design in Paris must be like choosing your favorite bonbon in a candy factory! Is this not the best city in the world to find art treasures?
Yes, we think so! The decorative arts industry is such a strong force in the cultural fabric of this country. It receives deep respect and inspires international understanding of l’art de vivre. It is this appreciation, understanding and joy that we seek to share through objects we find for our clients.
Did your love of design bring each of you to Paris? And how did you team up together?
In fact, we both moved to Paris at different times. We met socially about five years ago and shortly thereafter took on a project sourcing mirrors and tables for an American client together. It worked well leading to other projects for clients and we were very inspired to make it a business!
Tell us about the business you created called ARTECASE.
Our business is a collectible design sourcing service. We work with individuals and interior designers. Our clients are looking for specific items, types of items or groups of items (chairs, chimneys, lighting, etc…). We search and then organize our findings to share with the clients either via photos/email or by taking them around Paris with us to view the items we have found.
Our focus is on 20th century and contemporary design. We source a fair amount of antiques as well. We find architectural elements, lighting, chairs, tables, mirrors and other functional pieces for our clients in the U.S. and in France. Mixing styles is always exciting!
Earlier this year, we found some beautiful Napoleon III espagnolettes, cremones and door handles for a client in the US. We also source a fair amount of 20th century lighting (industrial, mid-century, from the 1970s and contemporary) for clients in France and abroad. Center tables are another type of object that we source quite often.
Where do you find your unique pieces?
We source pieces from galleries, auctions from time to time, and antique markets. There are so many markets in Paris: the tried and true – Les Puces de Saint Ouen and Porte de Vanves and many other smaller ones. Several important markets come through the city throughout the year. We acquire from private collections sometimes. As our relationships grow we find ourselves with access to more and more interesting objects and private spaces.
How do you work with a client to find the decorative pieces they desire?
We begin with a consultation with the client, either by Skype, email or a meeting in person to determine their goals and discuss all of the practical matters. We like to know what styles and periods the client likes or help them define these preferences and, if possible we like to have photographs of the rooms where the new objects will be placed. Then we get to work!
When we find a selection of pieces corresponding to the client’s wishes, we send images, historical information, measurements and reupholstering information to the client. The client pays for his selection directly to the vendor – we advocate transparency! We also help with shipping quotes to ensure the special find reaches its final destination.
Tell us about one or two of your most recent remarkable finds?
We found an authentic Oscar Niemeyer Alta chair and tabouret for a client of famed LA-based interior designer Windsor Smith. That was an exciting break for us! We sourced amazing industrial lights for a big loft in Manhattan. We are working with another well-known American interior designer now, for what is turning out to be a great experience and wonderful opportunity.
What are the benefits of collecting fine and decorative art?
Thank you for asking this question! When you buy collectible design you are buying items whose designs stay relevant over time and therefore carry a value beyond their function. Learning about and seeking items with these lasting characteristics (i.e. that are made well, that share a vision about the world, that are innovative and beautiful) is a way of participating in a cultural dialogue. This is an enriching (and we believe fundamentally important) way to experience the world.
Most of our clients currently are looking for pieces that express their interest in design and reflect their aesthetic in an authentic way. We use our 20 years of experience to guide them towards pieces that transcend styles and contribute to the unique story of each client.
The objects we live with are personal reflections of our attitudes and values – just like clothing and cars. And just like these other items the value of the best designs increase over time. These are objects that can last and therefore become heirlooms.
Can someone still enjoy art in Paris if their budget is modest?
Paris is a wonderful place to explore art and design for any budget. There are art and antique markets almost every weekend around the city. 59 Rivoli (that’s the name and the address) is a fun place to explore and buy art from students and international artists. It used to be a squat; and now it’s an artist residency. It’s a fun experience and you can find some beautiful art at great prices. There are several museums in Paris which offer free entry to their permanent collections every day, all year round. Among them are the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais which focuses on the history of Paris (€5 discretionary donation for entry), and the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the 16th. And on the first Sunday of every month, many of the Paris museums offer free entry.
How do you teach art appreciation to children? Do your children like going to museums?
Susan encouraged her children from an early age to look at and develop an interest in art and design. She organized simple treasure hunts for them in museums, visited exhibitions on their many travels, showed them local art and design, and discussed and listened to their ideas to encourage them to form their own opinions on what they saw. Best advice I can give is that making the experience FUN is key and deeply enriching. I learned from them too!
Elizabeth’s children (4 and 5 years old) have come along on several sourcing adventures and are growing up with a mom who collects and examines design all the time so whether they like it or not it is part of how they experience the world! They like to touch and engage with art and design so we participate in ateliers at the fairs and museums such as the Centre Georges Pompidou.
Paris is a city of museums. Which expositions should INSPIRELLE readers visit this fall?
The Musée des Arts Decoratifs on rue de Rivoli is one of the best value-for-money museums in Paris. The permanent collection is enormous, varied and beautifully maintained. There are also several temporary exhibitions per year. Currently there are two exhibitions showing: Korea Now! Craft, Design, Mode et Graphisme en Corée (Craft, Design, Fashion and Graphic Design in Korea) which runs through to January 3, 2016, and the XIV-XXI century Glass exhibition, Tresors de Sable et de Feu (Treasures of Sand and Fire), which is on until November 15th. Well worth a visit, and one of our favorite museums in Paris!
The Musée Nissim de Camondo by Parc Monceau is wonderful and truly inspiring. The house and collection belonged to Moise de Camondo, a reputed French banker during the Belle Epoque. It’s one of the most beautiful and sumptuous early 20th century private homes in Paris with a fabulous collection of fine and decorative art.
Also, exhibitions which are free and very interesting are the viewings of the Design Sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses or Artcurial. This is an often overlooked and really wonderful way to see great design up close. Sometimes you can even sit in the chairs so it can be more thrilling than a museum in that way!
Here are just a few of the upcoming sales we have our eyes on:
Christie’s Sale of Design Lighting, Online Only Sale: October 20 – November 29, 2015
Sotheby’s sales of 20th Century Design and Les Lelanne Exhibition: November 19 – 23, 2015. Sale Date: November 24, 2015
Artcurial Design Masterpieces Exhibition: October 22- 26, 2015. Sale Date: October 27, 2015.
As treasure hunters, you must know this city so well. Would you map out a special day for an INSPIRELLE reader in search of a Parisian cultural experience?
-Early start at Les Puces de Saint Ouen flea markets– Metro Garibaldi. (Fri, Sat, Sun).
-Lunch at Le Saut de Loup, Musée des Arts Decoratifs,
-Visit to the permanent collection at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs.
-Walk over to Rue de Seine design galleries (6th arrondisement)
-Taxi to Musée d’Orsay and walk across the bridge to the beautiful Tuileries gardens and Le Meurice for tea/drinks.
Do you think there are still a lot of hidden treasures out there gathering dust in someone’s closet or forgotten in someone’s attic?
Yes, most certainly! That is the excitement of the hunt.