The Hainaut region of Belgium is better known for its abandoned mines and factories than its sparkling new design galleries - and is probably the last place you would expect to find a state-of-the-art exhibition on celebrated French designer Pierre Charpin. But there it is, a colourful review of 20 years of the designer's work, set against the great industrial space of the Grand-Hornu, a remarkable 19th century neoclassic coal mining complex partially transformed into a contemporary art museum.
This is the second time Charpin, a trained artist specialising in furniture and product design, has exhibited at the Grand-Hornu. His simple, bright designs - part of his brand of 'conceptual and poetic minimalism' - are particularly well suited to the vast space. The show focuses on works created between 1990 and 2010, with about 50 products for brands such as Alessi, Ligne Roset, Tectona, and Venini; art galleries including Design Gallery Milano and Galerie Kreo; as well as sketches and animations.
Paris-based Charpin, a visiting professor at Lausanne's ECAL since 2006, is known for his sculptural, monochromatic designs that manage to retain a soft, playful side despite their minimalism. Highlights at the Grand-Hornu include a fluorescent green stand for Gallery Milano, a rainbow-striped 'Girontodo' cabinet for Zanotta, a white ceramic and metal egg-shaped 'Lenti' lamp for Oggetti and a cantilevered 'Stump' marble side table for Ligne Roset.
Charpin, who has designed the exhibition himself, aims to show these pieces as an ensemble, a sort of giant art installation, rather than a more traditional chronological journey. At the Grand-Hornu, he plays on juxtapositions and layouts to create small displays and mock domestic landscapes, including the opening Wunderkammern, a living room set created especially for the space.