House proud: a colourful retrospective celebrates 20 years of Pierre Charpin's designs

Living room set in The Pierre Charpin exhibition.
The Pierre Charpin exhibition opens with a Wuderkammern living room set, allowing visitors to see the designer’s work in an imaginary domestic context
(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

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.

View of a Living room in a Exihibition.

The show is set in the former hayloft of the 19th century coal mining complex of the Grand-Hornu, in the Belgian province of Hainaut

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Charpin’s 2008 ‘Parabole’ floor light, designer’s Lignes, Comètes and Nuages drawings.

Charpin’s 2008 ‘Parabole’ floor light for Galerie Kreo is surrounded by the designer’s Lignes, Comètes and Nuages drawings

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

The vase man.

The show also includes photographs, such as the 1990 black-and-white L’homme vase, (The Vase-Man)

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Red coloured Floor in Exihibition.

Charpin’s 2010 red ‘Mobidec’ poufs for Ligne Roset are scattered throughout the space

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Green walls hide Charpin’s 2008

Green walls hide Charpin’s 2008 ‘UFO’ shelf for Galerie Kreo, which hangs in the middle of the small black room

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

View of a sketch table in a Exihibition.

Table display of Charpin’s sketches

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Umpire Chair in a Exihibition.

Umpire chair, by Pierre Charpin, for Tectona, 2006

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Table in a Cage.

Pierre Charpin designed the exhibition himself, arranging his pieces in little tableaux rather than a chronological display

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Cabinet by Pierre Charpin In a Exihibition.

‘Girotondo’ cabinet, by Pierre Charpin, for Zanotta, 2002

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

A special Lamp made for a Exihibition.

A lamp made especially for the exhibition hangs above a display of Charpin’s ceramics and glassware

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

'Slice' Sofa in Exihibition

‘Slice’ sofa, by Pierre Charpin, for Galerie Kreo, 2008

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

View of a Animation.

Le Bal des Formes Noires animation, 2009-2011

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Table, by Pierre Charpin

‘All’Aperto’ table, by Pierre Charpin, for Galerie Kreo, 2008

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Wooden Basket bowl by Pierre Charpin.

‘Baskettino’ bowl, by Pierre Charpin, for Édition Montina, 2002

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Shelving unit, by Pierre Charpin.

‘Séquence’ shelving unit, by Pierre Charpin, for Galerie Kreo, 2008

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Lamp, by Pierre Charpin.

‘Oggetti Lenti’ lamp, by Pierre Charpin, for Design Gallery Milano, 2008

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Bowl, by Pierre Charpin

‘PCH01’ bowl, by Pierre Charpin, for Alessi, 2007

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Vase, by Pierre Charpin.

‘Oggetti Lenti’ vase, by Pierre Charpin, for Design Gallery Milano, 2008

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Green stand, by Pierre Charpin.

Green stand, by Pierre Charpin, for Design Gallery Milano, 2002

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Stackable chair in White colour

‘Prima’ stackable chair, prototype, by Pierre Charpin, 1993

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)

Ceram X’ boxes, by Pierre Charpin.

‘Ceram X’ boxes, by Pierre Charpin, for Édition Craft, 2003-2005

(Image credit: Pierre Charpin)


Grand Hornu
82, rue Sainte-Louise
7301 Hornu


Léa Teuscher is a Sub-Editor at Wallpaper*. A former travel writer and production editor, she joined the magazine over a decade ago, and has been sprucing up copy and attempting to write clever headlines ever since. Having spent her childhood hopping between continents and cultures, she’s a fan of all things travel, art and architecture. She has written three Wallpaper* City Guides on Geneva, Strasbourg and Basel.