Galerie Philia

Galerie Philia

This time our guest is Ygaël Attali from Galerie Philia, which made a big sensation at this year's Milan Design Week with its exhibition that boldly used a church space on the edge of Milan. He launched the gallery with his brother in 2015 and now has locations in Geneva, New York Singapore, and Mexico City. Their academic background in philosophy, history and archaeology sets them apart from their peers, and their philosophy is strongly reflected in the selection of works they handle and the regular exhibitions the gallery holds. Our relationship with Ygaël has continued with the introduction of Heap chair of we+.

今回のゲストは、今年のミラノデザインウィークにて、ミラノ郊外の教会を大胆に使った展示が大きな話題となったギャラリー・フィリアのイガエル・アタリ(Ygaël Attali)。2015年に兄弟でギャラリーを立ち上げ、今ではジュネーブ・ニューヨーク・シンガポール・メキシコシティと世界各地に拠点を構えている。同業者とは一線を画す、哲学・歴史学・考古学といった学問的なバックグラウンドを持ち、取り扱う作品のセレクトや展覧会にもその思想が色濃く反映される。we+とイガエルの出会いは2019年。ギャラリーでHeap Chairを取り扱ってもらえることになり、交流が続いている。

Galerie Philia
Launched in 2015, Galerie Philia is an international contemporary design and modern art gallery representing emerging and established designers and artists. The gallery is the brainchild of two brothers who share a lifetime passion for art, literature, and philosophy. Their distinct academic background sets them apart from their peers, as it sees them following a rhizomatic and transcultural approach in the way they select works. Galerie Philia has a strong international presence, with galleries in Geneva, New York, Singapore and Mexico City. In addition to their permanent spaces, the gallery organizes temporary group exhibitions and artist residencies in first-class locations around the world.

Reflecting on philosophical issues and themes through the gallery


ToshiyaFirst of all, could you tell us about the background and concept behind the establishment of the gallery and your educational background?


YgaëlGalerie Philia was founded in 2015. It was set up by me and my brother. I have a PhD in philosophy and a background in literature, philosophy and political philosophy, and the name Philia comes from the concept of Aristotle's book 'Nicomachean Ethics'. This is a Greek concept, which means friendship or love, but also love for art, which is a very interesting concept for me. I always want to connect the gallery's activities with philosophical questions and themes.


ToshiyaVery interesting. What background does your brother have?


YgaëlHe studied history and archaeology.


ToshiyaI see. That's why the works selected by Galerie Philia are always linked to philosophy and history.


YgaëlYes, but first of all, I am attracted by the aesthetics of the work. Then I ask myself about the way it was made and the reflection behind it. It is very important to me that the theme is not superficial or repetitive, but is truly the result of reflection. That's why the Galerie Philia exhibition has a theme, which is always linked to my philosophy. For example, the exhibition we did in Milan in April this year was the last in a trilogy exploring SACRED, which is about DESACRALISED.


Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir
Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir

What sets Galerie Philia apart from other


HokutoI was really surprised that the gallery was established only eight years ago. I believe Galerie Philia is gaining increasing recognition each year, and this year's exhibition in Milan was particularly remarkable among numerous exhibitions. Could you shed light on the strategic approach Gallery Philia is taking as a design gallery?


YgaëlI think the main difference between us and competing galleries is our commitment to have a philosophical theme behind everything we do. We also organize things that other design galleries don't do. For example, under the theme of Transhumances, we organized residencies in the south of France and Florence where we invited designers to create and exhibit their work with local materials. We would like to expand such projects to other areas. Last year, we also organized a design project for children called 'Design Brut' and made a documentary about it. In this project, we invited children aged 6-7 to draw design pieces and then work with a professional designer to give it a shape. This year, we did the same in Paris with older children. Of course, we sell the works as a business, but it is not just business. These projects are also about reflecting on societal questions and trying to express ideas through design.

イガエルそうですね、競合ギャラリーとの大きな違いは、すべての活動の背景に哲学的なテーマを持とうとしていることではないでしょうか。また、他のデザインギャラリーがやっていないことにも取り組んでいて、例えば「移牧(Transhumances)」のテーマのもと、南フランスやフィレンツェにデザイナーを招いて、その土地の素材で作品を作り展覧会を行うレジデンシーを企画しました。これはぜひ他の場所でも実施したいと思っています。さらに昨年は「デザイン・ブルート(Design Brut)」という子どもたちのためのデザイン企画を開催し、ドキュメンタリーを制作しました。6〜7歳くらいの子どもたちにデザイン画を描いてもらい、それをプロのデザイナーとカタチにするというものです。今年は子どもの対象年齢を少し上げて、パリで開催しました。もちろんビジネスとして作品の販売は行いますが、ビジネスだけではないのです。これらの企画を通して社会が抱える問題を考察し、デザインを通してアイデアを表現しようと試みているのです。

Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir
Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir

ToshiyaI see. Much like design, I believe art also reflects philosophy. However, it seems you prioritize functional design and contemporary design over art. What is the reason for this choice?


HokutoWhat do you consider to be the difference between art and design?


YgaëlWhen we talk about design pieces, people generally think of items with functionality. However, sculptural and culturally infused designs, while functional, also possess sculptural aesthetics and significance, placing them in the realm between sculpture and design. What we deal with fundamentally are thoughtfully crafted functional pieces. They have a distinct aesthetic, are sculptural in nature, and exist in the intermediate space between design and art. The initial question of 'Why is Gallery Philia in the world of design?' is quite intriguing. The space between art and design is fascinating, as when we plan exhibitions, we always strive to practice design within an architectural context. For instance, this year's Milan Design Week took place in a church, in Florence at a palace, and in New York at an iconic building. Each time, we seek out highly distinctive architectural structures and their surroundings. Context is essential in creating spatial art, and it is an integral part of our exhibitions. For me, design embodies Eros—the impulse to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty—which is something beyond fine art.


Three design trends important to Ygaël


ToshiyaOn the other hand, as a gallery it is also important to understand design trends, what do you think are the current trends and how do you keep up with them?


YgaëlThere are always multiple trends that either confict or complement each other at any time. If I had to pick the three most important trends for me, one would be 'organic design'.

It involves using natural materials, expressing their unicity, embracing irregularities, and sometimes disrupting the beauty of unblemished things of things. It is also heavily influenced by the Japanese culture of wabi-sabi. The second trend is 'minimal design', which already existed in the 1960s or even earlier, but has become a very important trend in the contemporary design scene. And the third one is 'digital design'. Many designers are now working on futuristic designs expressed digitally. The surrealistic creations they create using programming languages are very blurred between reality and unreality, and I like that a lot - I'm very interested in people creating surreal worlds in 3D and implementing their designs in them, and I think it's an innovative trend. This trend is accompanied by a lot of questions, such as how we perceive meta-universe and what is the difference between reality and virtual reality. If we are already living in virtual reality, then it is our reality.


HokutoWhat are the key factors in selecting the works to be represented in the gallery?



YgaëlThe first focus is aesthetics. Whether it is aesthetically appealing and evokes interest. Then materiality is also important. When looking for new talents, I am always looking for designers and artists who work with materials in a very particular way. I like people who master one material and express a sense of unity and specificity. This also requires craftsmanship that allows them to express the full depth of the material. The most important thing for me is the sense conveyed by the work. For example, when I first saw the we+ Heap chair, I was very intrigued. The materials and the way they are used, the sculptural form and the theme that it was inspired by falling snow - a structure found in nature - were also very interesting. The chair fulfilled three criteria: aesthetics, materiality and the sense. With these criteria, we are looking for new designers and artists.

イガエルまず、美的感覚は大切にしています。美的な魅力に溢れ、興味が喚起されるか否か。そして物質性も重要です。新しいアーティストを探すときはいつも、独特なやり方で素材を扱うデザイナーやアーティストに注目しています。一つの素材を使いこなし、統一感や特殊性を表現できる人が好きですね。それには、素材の奥深さを余すところなく表現できるような職人技が必要でもあります。そして私にとってもっとも大切なのが、作品から伝わってくる思想です。例えばwe+のHeap chairを初めて見たとき、とても興味を惹かれました。素材とその使われ方、彫刻的なフォルム、そして降り積もる雪、つまり自然の中に見られる構造からインスピレーションを得たという思想もとても興味深かった。この椅子は「美的感覚」「物質性」「思想」という3つの基準を満たしていました。そんな基準を持って、新しいデザイナーやアーティストを発掘しています。

ToshiyaWhen you think about those three criteria, are there any differences depending on the origin of the designer or artist or where they live, for example, in Asia, Europe or the US?


YgaëlWhen I go to another place, I am interested in the cultural peculiarities of that place. For example, since we have established a branch in Mexico, we have had exhibitions in Mexico and the Dominican Republic with Latin American designers, and I was very inspired by the presence of traditional craftsmanship there. The same is true when I visit other countries. I want to know their cultural backgrounds and historical relationships. Of course, I don't want to bind designers and artists to their origins, and if their work is not related to tradition, that's fine, but the connection with the cultural background is very suggestive.


Photo: Masayuki Hayashi
Photo: Masayuki Hayashi

Promoting talents that are not yet known to the public


ToshiyaHow do you find new talent?


YgaëlI think I found your studio in Milan or on Instagram, and then I went to Tokyo to meet you. There are many ways to find talent: exhibitions, Instagram, through friends. When we started the gallery, we found a lot of designers who had finished their graduation work at university. We also went to universities and small design fairs for students. One of the particularities of the gallery is that we like to promote designers who are not yet totally known. There are a lot of designers for whom Philia is their first gallery, and I like to see them evolve. The gallery can orient them in the right direction or help them to become professionals.


HokutoIs that stance still the same now that the gallery has become more renowned?


YgaëlIt’s not changing. But in any case, I choose the works based on the three criteria I mentioned earlier. Because I believe that the work will still be as good in 30 years. But at the moment, I limit the work with new designers because I want to concentrate on promoting the designers I'm currently working with. Still, if I meet a really young and interesting talent, I would love to work with them.


Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir
Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir

Japan is home to many talents and sources of inspiration


ToshiyaYou are a frequent visitor to Japan. I suppose that you feel the market for contemporary design in Japan is not that big, although there are a few design galleries. Why do you think that is? And how do you feel about Japanese design?


YgaëlThis is a significant question. When I went to Tokyo, I was surprised to find shops selling 1950s mid-century furniture and Dutch design furniture, but not many contemporary design galleries. This is because when you look at the international contemporary design scene, there are so many designers who are inspired by Japan. For example, Laura Pasquino, Jérôme Pereira and many other artists are influenced by Japanese aesthetics. Japan is one of the most inspiring countries in this aspect. There are so many things and techniques that inspire Western contemporary designers. On the other hand, there are lots of fascinating designers and talented ceramic artists in Japan, but they are not famous worldwide. Of course, prominent ceramic artists are well-known in Europe and the US, but many are not so well-known outside Japan. However, I believe that Japanese contemporary design has the potential to grow and become a leading country in the world. There is a lot of talent and inspiration, a certain perfectionism and a unique aesthetic. I am a big fan of Japanese culture and literature, ‘In Praise of Shadows’ is one of the books that has inspired me most in my artistic creation. I also like Daisetsu Suzuki and Basho, and there are many great films. Japan is a country with many inspirational poets and writers and a very rich culture, and I think the same thing happens in design. Talking about Japanese designers, we work with Okurayama Studio, and I really like their specific stone and the way they handle it. They and we+ are making interesting things in Japan - the Heap Chair is lovely, and the latest collection, Refoam, is great. I appreciate the fact that it is made from waste material, which is not only environmentally friendly but also an excellent design piece. Many pieces made from eco-friendly materials are often aesthetically uninspiring, but Refoam is different.

イガエルこれはビッグクエスチョンですね。東京に行ったとき、1950年代のミッドセンチュリーの家具やオランダデザインの家具を扱うショップはあるのに、コンテンポラリーデザインのギャラリーがあまりないことに驚きました。というのも、コンテンポラリーデザインの国際的なシーンを見ると、日本にインスパイアされている人がとても多いんですよ。例えばローラ・パスキーノ(Laura Pasquino)やジェローム・ペレイラ(Jérôme Pereira)をはじめとした多くの芸術家は日本の美学に影響を受けています。日本はその点で、もっとも刺激的な国の一つだと思います。たくさんのものや技術があって、西洋のコンテンポラリーデザイナーにインスピレーションを与えています。一方で、日本には本当に魅力的なデザイナーや才能ある陶芸家がいっぱい存在しているのに、世界的には有名ではありません。もちろん著名な陶芸家はヨーロッパやアメリカでも有名ですが、多くの陶芸家は、日本以外ではそれほど知られていません。ただ、私は日本のコンテンポラリーデザインはきっとこれから大きくなり、世界のシーンをリードする国になる可能性はあると思うんです。多くの才能とインスピレーション源、ある種の完璧主義と独特の美的感覚がそこにはありますから。私は日本文化や文学の大ファンですが、『陰翳礼讃』は私の芸術的創作に最もインスピレーションを与えてくれた本の一つです。鈴木大拙や芭蕉も好きですし、すばらしい映画もいっぱいあります。日本にはインスピレーションを与えてくれる詩人や作家がたくさんいて、とても豊潤な文化を持つ国ですから、デザインにおいても同じことが起こると思います。日本のデザイナーについて言えば、私たちは大蔵山スタジオと仕事をしていますが、あの独特の伊達冠石とその扱い方が本当に好きです。彼らやwe+は、日本で面白いものを作っています。Heap Chairも素敵ですが、最新コレクションのRefoamもいいですよね。廃棄物を素材として、環境にやさしいことはもちろん、デザインピースとしても優れており私は高く評価しています。環境にやさしい素材を使った作品の多くは、美的に刺激的でないことが多いのですが、Refoamは違いますね。

Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir
Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir

Longevity and living in symbiosis with the digital world


HokutoThe market for contemporary design in Japan is still small, so we have to work harder. When the market grows, I am sure you will need a Japanese branch! By the way, how do you think contemporary design will change in the future?


YgaëlMany designers oppose the planned obsolescence of products, or making things that are designed to be replaced or discarded. It's about creating wonderful objects that will stay in the long term. The other is digitalization: with AI and the technological revolution, people will increasingly design digitally, and the digital and physical worlds will interwine and there will be an exchange between the two. Ultimately you may not even know which world you are in and that will be a major issue for the design industry. Some designers may wish to specialize only in digital work, and how organic designs can be created digitally may require a different guide. I think these issues will become very interesting in the near future.


Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir
Courtesy of Galerie Philia and Maison Mouton Noir

Exhibition planned in Japan


ToshiyaI see. By the way, how was the audience reaction to your exhibition at this year's Milan Design Week?


HokutoI was able to get in without queuing in the first half of the exhibition, but there were very long queues in the second half.


YgaëlIt was amazing - 20,000 people visited and the queue was an hour and a half long at the weekend. Although the church was on the suburbs of Milan, I think we were able to create a more special immersive experience by being away from the city centre, and many people visited and commented in a positive way. It was good to receive positive feedback.


HokutoLast year's exhibition was good, but this year's was even more wonderful. What will happen next year?


YgaëlThe trilogy based on the concept of the Sacred is over, I want to do something completely different next year. The work I exhibited over the last three years was very organic, but very sober in terms of colour.  I aim to take a completely different approach in that regard. However, I want to keep it all a surprise for the audience, so I can't share any more details about it yet."


ToshiyaI am looking forward to it. Finally, could you give us a message for readers?


YgaëlI hope that the contemporary design scene in Japan continues to grow, because Japanese culture and arts are really admired. Although it stopped during the pandemic, I have been thinking about doing an exhibition in Japan for years and would love to make it happen. For more information on Galerie Philia’s activities, please visit our website and Instagram.


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