FRANKFURT AM MAIN.- Art, we know it, is and should be different from design. It can dialogue with design, play with design, but its purpose is different: design is for our homes, art is for our souls. Or it at least this is what we used to think we could believe. This schematic set of conception evidently was to be twisted: art is in our homes, and design comforts our bodies the very bodies our soul contains.
It is sobering and exciting to find a conversation between an artist and a designer that confirms this belief however old-fashioned it may appear nowadays. Such is the one between Pierre Paulin and Christoph von Weyhe.
Pierre Paulin was firmly a designer, of the kind that never attempted to be recognized as other than what he was that is somebody who was conceiving iconic pieces of furniture, and entire interiors such as the one of the musée du Louvre or of the private apartments of the President of the French Republic at the Elysée palace. He was one of the most famous and respected designers of his time: his work was exhibited all over the world, and it was widely acknowledged both for its embrace of changing times and for the comfort of the designs. Pieces such as the Alpha Sofa, the Table Cathédrale, the Tapis-siège (an example of which is in the collections of the Musée National dArt Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou), are icons both of modernist design and of what was to become international style: contrary to Swedish modernism, which Paulin studied, or to the Italian Memphis Group, there are no limited geographical roots to Paulins designs. It was completely of its time which it came to embody, especially the 1970s and the early 1980s but it belongs today both to the history and to the present of design of homes.
Christoph von Weyhe is firmly a painter. For the last sixty years, after studying etching at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, he has undertaken to expand the possibilities of painting as a medium, and of the canvas as an open space. Since the late 1980s, he has been exclusively depicting the harbor of Hamburg, the last sight given to him as he was leaving the city to go to Paris where he was becoming an artist some thirty years earlier. This undertaking has made his art the very stuff of memory, while manifesting in painting itself an outstanding process of technical reinvention: from the energy of the gouaches, which he always makes in the harbor itself, on the ground, still today, and in one evening, to the paintings on canvas, which are made by adding fine, fine lines to the canvas itself. This fine lines these marks are also an excavation of all the canvases that lie underneath this very canvas: all the canvases Weyhe has ever painted and all the canvases that have ever been painting on. And all the paint that has ever been placed on all those canvases.
Pierre Paulin and Christoph von Weyhe were friends, and admired each other. Both of their works were presented in solo exhibitions at Galerie Azzedine Alaïa, Paris: in 2007 for the designer, and 2016 for the painter. Having the privilege of looking at their work together, one gets to see the very difference between painting and design, especially when engaging with a painter whose art is so clearly embedded within the craft of making, and with a designer who expanded his work beyond the limitations of style. With them we get to see Design and Painting as such - together.