The Gallerist Whose Home Is His Showroom
Just behind the façade of his quiet brownstone on West 22nd Street, gallerist and decorative arts expert Renaud Vuaillat sells beautiful contemporary furniture. And unlike most of the other galleries in Chelsea, this space also functions as its gallerist’s home.
Vuaillat’s Twenty First Gallery is gaining acclaim among in-the-know New Yorkers seeking unique pieces from an international roster of artists. Often fabricated to buyers’ specifications, many of the works are one-of-a-kind. Recently, Vuaillat showed the first US exhibition of French designer Emmanuel Babled. Featuring Murano glass and Carrera marble, crafted with state-of-art technology, the tables, lamps, vases, and other objets revealed how fine those lines are between art, design, furniture, and functionality.
Vuaillat caught us up on the decorative arts community in New York, his decision to run the gallery from his home, and his favorite spots in the city.
Describe your path to founding Twenty First Gallery and how it differs from traditional gallery spaces.
I am from Paris and I started at the Flea Market in Clignancourt during the ’90s. I switched to contemporary decorative arts about 10 years ago before moving to NY. I always wanted the gallery to look and feel like a real home, where people could imagine pieces within their own environment. I used to work from my loft on 29th Street and this is where I started to work and live at the same place. This new townhouse space makes it ideal for presentations and exhibitions. Upcoming shows will be even more focused on the home style. I am working with Hubert le Gall to create pieces specifically for the room on the parlor floor and outdoor pieces for the garden.
What do you think is unique about the decorative arts & design community in New York?
I feel like it’s a small community or a club where all know each other, which is nice. At the same time we have clients from all over the world, and this creates a dynamic energy. It also feels pretty new to me. I remember that when I arrived in New York ten years ago, very few clients were buying design, so I feel there is a lot to create, to inform, and to show. It is a very exciting time.
What are some of your favorite spots in the city, in Chelsea and elsewhere?
I like living (and working) in Chelsea; it is a very diverse neighborhood and the proximity to the water brings fresh air. Being surrounded by the best galleries in the world makes me feel very privileged. It is like being in a constant museum tour, times one hundred! The new Whitney is my favorite museum in the city.
Chelsea has also developed an interesting architecture and brought a whole realm of people and restaurants. I like having business lunches at Cookshop. Printed Matter just moved on 11th Avenue, so it’s still around. I also like the 192books bookstore, which specializes in art. Chelsea Piers is best gym in NY, which is right by the river. Also, a new sandwich place opened on 9th Avenue called Milk and Hops. Not only do they have the best sandwiches, they also have a selection of delicious beers from all over the world.
What’s your advice for people just beginning to collect in the decorative arts?
I would really invite young collectors to follow their instincts, to believe in their taste and buy what they like. People should not be afraid of mixing periods. Also to be curious and patient. If they are in a rush, it is a good idea to hire a competent adviser. It takes time to learn about furniture and objects.