Designart by Alexis Ryngaert Design - 23 February 2017
Brussels-based gallery Victor Hunt has earned a reputation as a trailblazer for contemporary design. And rightly so. Its founder, Alexis Ryngaert, likes to say that he was “a kid” when he decided to start promoting the work of young designers and to share his passion for uncompromising, unique, high quality design. Today, amateurs of “designart” from all around the world are captivated by the collections which he curates with such care and passion. Alexis is also the owner of The Game, a design store in the centre of Brussels which aims to make original items accessible to a wider public.
You said you came upon design rather by chance. Would you tell us the story of this encounter?
I found industrial design as it was in the 80s and 90s interesting, but I wasn’t passionate about it. In 2007, I started travelling after my studies, and I had the opportunity to meet designers who were the same age as me. They were breaking boundaries, and developing a real artistic dimension in their projects. I was completely bowled over. And it was at just the right moment. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I started by buying up a few objects, which I sold on. Little by little, I become a go-between for the designers who had made such an impression on me. I spoke a lot with these designers about their most significant challenges. Few of them were able to develop relationships on an equal footing with gallery owners. What’s more, many galleries present highly finished work, but when young designers are starting out, they don’t often have the means to produce five pieces each of which might cost three to five thousand Euros. I was able to provide those resources. Gradually, it occurred to me to finance the production of limited edition pieces, alongside Maarten de Ceulaer. In Anderlecht, we produced work which was sold through an international network. I made my way into this little world in a very organic and natural way. Then, we developed - we learnt from our competitors and designers, and we taught ourselves how to do things differently.
Which designers were your greatest inspiration?
It all started with a Kwangho Lee exhibition which I saw in Japan. I was fascinated by the need to transform raw materials to arrive at unexpected results. I found the work thrilling. And then, there was a whole series of encounters. Maarten Baas and Julien Carretero, in particular, stand out. I loved their work - it galvanized me. For me, that gut feeling is what’s most important. It’s the emotion you’re looking for, beyond an aesthetic appreciation. I’m attracted by poetry; beauty’s just a small part of it.
You speak about “designart” - what does that mean, exactly?
It’s a sort of grey area. There aren’t any paintings or sculptures at my gallery. It’s close, sure, but what we present is design. Our priority remains developing projects and transforming materials.
The designers you work with come from a wide range of backgrounds.
That’s true. I’m currently working with a dozen designers, two of whom are Belgian. What interests me is talent and quality. There are many designers with those attributes in Belgium. With them, it’s all about team work. We start projects from scratch and, together, we improve the product, find the best artisans and remain present throughout all the stages in the life of the work, until it finds its place in New York, the Middle East, or elsewhere. We run a production centre in Malinnes where designers can work. Our job is to take on all the most burdensome aspects of production. In that way, designers have time to devote themselves fully to creative work. Production is sped up and we can deliver to clients more quickly. We have also built up an impressive set of industry contacts, which allows us to be very efficient.
Do you contact designers?
Yes. I need to be able to offer them something. My choices are based on instinct, but they tend towards people who need my help to raise their profile and develop. It also has to be at the right stage in their career: they should have talent, but not much recognition yet. So we help them showcase their work to the world, and introduce them to clients who are able to afford their work. There are many sensitive parameters to take into account. Sometimes, I know that I’m not going to make very much out of a project, but I take it on anyway. When I love the project, it’s not a bad investment.
Alongside your work as a gallery owner, you have opened The Game, a design store in the centre of Brussels. What inspired you to do this?
Because there are amateurs of contemporary design who do not have the means to purchase the pieces on display in the gallery. And I was frustrated that certain work couldn’t easily be found in Brussels. And because I want to share my love of design. Like in fashion and architecture, there is a person behind every design object. I find it interesting to find out who that person is. When you visit the shop, you will be told the story of this chair or that bowl. For me, it is also a way of supporting the work of designers who aren’t in the gallery, and promoting Belgian talent such as Marina Bautier or Chevalier Masson.
By Estelle Toscanucci
Victor Hunt Designart dealer
Rue E. Claus 51
Thursday to Saturday, 12 noon to 6 pm
Boulevard Anspach, 123
+ 32 (0) 2 503 44 18
Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm
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