Sans Titre: A New Home for Paris's Contemporary Art Scene

In her private, duplex apartment opposite Notre Dame, Parisian curator Marie Madec hosts a semiannual contemporary art exhibition that embodies her antiestablishment philosophy—and encompasses every corner of her home.

Adam Robb
OF 10

"The old gallery system is not working anymore; they're giving up," insists the young Parisian curator Marie Madec. "You're either Gagosian, and making $20 million a year, or you're searching for a new way to show and sell contemporary art." To do something about it, the 25-year-old La Sorbonne graduate is staying home. Her duplex apartment along the Seine opposite Notre Dame, at 45 Quai de la Tournelle, also is inhabited by Sans Titre, her semiannual exhibition of twenty-something artists with burgeoning international reputations across the fashion, design, and art communities and a resistance to orthodox representation or classification. Madec could not be more at home among them.

Following her graduation last March, as the city where she was born and raised played host to the Paris Art + Design fair, Madec curated her residence, labeling the endeavor Sans Titre: Volume I. She gutted her living quarters down to a Brutalist concrete shell with the assistance of the young architect Maxime Bousquet, then filled the space with a fantastical portrait of feminine indulgence and domesticity. As curious collectors rang her for the front door code, Madec would entertain friends around the dinner table under the shadow of a painting by Eliza Douglas, the artist, model, and muse to Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia. The looming work depicts a woman's arm brandishing a fork in pursuit of a serpentine abstract that would not have been out of place in Madec's kitchen where a fresh bouquet from the acclaimed florist Debeaulieu was crafted to mimic a nearby still life by Amir H. Fallah, and where Ecole des Beaux Arts alumnus Romain Vicari stocked the refrigerator with biomorphic landscapes of striped resin fruits and gilded bottle nipples. As the nights wound down, Madec would retire upstairs to her bedroom, where she'd find herself surrounded by disembodied maternal gazes in portraits by the fashion illustrator and painter Cedric Rivrain, under which her own mattress lay cast in the glow of a vintage wall lamp by the late avant-garde designer Jean Royere.

The fashion world was well represented in Madec's inaugural show, and several rising fashion photographers transcend their industry in Sans Titre, Volume II: Curiosités, which opened this October in the days prior to FIAC, Paris' international contemporary art fair. "The boundaries between art and fashion and any kind of contemporary creation are very blurred nowadays," says Madec, who attributes their connection to how culture is consumed via social media. While last spring she showcased the enviable acquisitions of a hoarder with exquisite taste—Delphine Delafon's handmade and custom-tattooed handbags, a debut collection from jewelry designer Alina Abegg, a wardrobe furnished by Madec's favored vintage dealer, Les Merveilles de Babellou—the theme of her latest show is drawn from a cabinet of intellectual curiosities. (See the slideshow »)

Inspired by a 16th-century Wunderkammer, Madec has assembled a collection of contemporary artworks that draw from intrigue about humanity and the world at large. A collaborative installation by photographers and models Petra Collins and Carlotta Kohl, whose works capture the intimate and candid photos they would share via text message to comfort and connect with one another, are appropriately situated in Madec's private bathroom. "We want people to look at them, to look at us looking at ourselves, looking at ourselves as artwork," Kohl says. Meanwhile, Pierre-Ange Carlotti, the official photographer of the post-Soviet fashion collective Vetements, produced a free poster for the show, in an edition of 500. Titled "I Want To Believe," Carlotti's work reflects his contemplation of the material and immaterial worlds his lens captures. He says, "I don't know if love is not just a concept that has been invented by people that needed to justify themselves on whatever points they needed to or if it's a real feeling, that one day you can really feel and not telling your brain to make your heart feels this way. I want to believe that is possible to buy a house by the water, have a dog, and be in love in a relationship."

The emerging artist Orfeo Tagiuri built a home of his own for the second Sans Titre. Working in found objects, he salvaged six black tee shirts that he hung on wire hangers to evoke eaves, and he painted each with a vivid orange and yellow window urging the viewer to peer at what lies within. Tagiuri and Madec met by way of London photographer Indigo Lewin last March, and Madec immediately recognized the artist’s potential. She referred him to Editions l'Empyrée, a Parisian publishing house that reissues works from the public domain in collaboration with young artists. (The house celebrated its debut during the inaugural Sans Titre.) "They chose a novel that was linked to the Wunderkammer theme, Le Peau de Chagrin by Balzac," says Madec. The book is a criticism of excess of the 19th-century French bourgeoisie, and makes for an ironic objet d’art for 21st-century collectors. The book is available in both a limited unnumbered edition, and a hand-painted edition of ten.

A tongue-in-cheek sense of humor exists not just among the artworks within Madec’s apartment but outside too. This time around, Romain Vicari transformed the curator’s courtyard into an aquarium seascape that leaves viewers, who witness the piece behind the locked French doors of her living room, feeling like they’re under the sea. The work draws on themes of the Wunderkammer, evoking tokens of sea voyages that came to shape our understanding of natural history. But “really,” jokes Madec, “I just didn’t want people to go out there to smoke.”

Sans Titre, Volume II: Curiosités is open daily by appointment through December 11, 2016, at 45 Quai de la Tournelle, Paris.

Click through to explore the exhibition »