Galerie de L’Epoque is a gallery within a gallery; or fragments anyway of a fictional, but fully furnished, post-war Parisian gallery, conjured up in London’s Stephen Friedman gallery. As Stephen Friedman’s director of sales, Oscar Humphries, says this is a Paris about to be outflanked, commercially and creatively, by New York, even if it doesn’t see the outflanking coming. But, for now, or then, it is the high modern moment, Paris is in its pomp and this gallery offers the art essentials of any modernist European dream home.
There are two Picassos, an early one, and a later one; a loose, looming portrait, set above an imposing Indian walnut, glass and aluminium desk by Maxime Old which becomes our imagined gallerist. There is a Calder mobile, a Jean Arp objet, a (fine) Kandinsky and a Klee, a couple of Kurt Schwitter collages, a Juan Gris and a lovely pair of Giorgio Morandis. A collection assembled by Friedman and all for sale.
Stephen Friedman and Humphries have worked with French Interior designer Emilie Bonaventure to create this fantasy gallery (which comes with its own signage). And Bonaventure has avoided the obvious Prouvé/Perriand design pieces - and not just because of over-exposure and dwindling supply but because they were kitting out schools and other public institutions in the 1950s rather than smart Parisian galleries. Instead she has assembled pieces from lesser known French designers such as Alain Richard, Jacques Dumond and Rene-Jean Caillette. There is a lovely credenza by Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq. She has also used period wallpaper and paint palettes.
But this is more than the fantasy set of a not-yet-made, art-rather-than-ads Mad Men cash in. The collection stretches forward in time to include post mid-century pieces including a 1969 wave sculpture by Jiro Takamatsu and Isa Genzken’s marvellous 2000 upright box, Hanne. Friedman’s current stable of artists are also featured, including a salon hang of Juan Araujo’s take on works that once hung similarly in Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro in Sao Paulo. For Humphries this is a show about how Modernism stretches forwards and backwards in time, from Morandi to Mamma Andersson’s Huggermugger of 2013; and the art of juxtaposition and collage, of connections made.