This winter in Paris, view 30 years’ worth of furniture and objects designed by Jean Nouvel

When he redesigned the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ graphic design and advertising spaces in 1998, Jean Nouvel didn’t know that nearly 20 years later, he would be invited back to the Paris museum, this time to exhibit works of his own.

Until February 12, 2017, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is hosting Jean Nouvel, Mes Meubles d’Architecte, an exhibition that highlights furniture and objects created by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect over the past 30 years. Interspersed throughout the museum, in galleries dedicated to art from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as in the galleries he penned himself, Nouvel’s pieces are functional, rigorous and firmly rooted in the era during which they were created.


Always faithful to his method of taking an elementary form and then perfecting and minimising it, Nouvel designed a number of architecturally inspired pieces, such as the Equilibrist table lamp for Artemide in 2014, and The Table au Km, displayed at the Gagosian Gallery in Paris back in 2011. The Equilibrist, slim and elegant, features two lamps that appear to seek and achieve an absolute balance. The Table au Km, made with different kinds of solid wood, boasts a pure form that seems to stretch into infinity. Both pieces – one small and delicate, the other huge and all-encompassing – present two different interpretations of Nouvel’s design method.

The Paris show also features the thick, heavy, colourful Triptyques, a mirror with three articulated panels created in 2014, as well as Nouvel’s Less and Less Less office furniture collections. The office furniture lines include couches, tables and shelves reduced to their simplest, most elementary forms, in keeping with the French architect’s signature philosophy of “zero design.” “I am not a designer but an architect who designs,” Nouvel often says. He’s certainly not alone in this respect: many other legendary architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Oscar Niemeyer and Eero Saarinen, were responsible for some of the world’s most distinctive pieces of furniture. The current Paris retrospective is particularly significant in that it allows a comprehensive look into Nouvel’s oeuvre, shining the spotlight on his earliest furniture pieces, as well as his most recent designs, thus offering visitors a timely insight into the evolution of one of the world’s foremost architects.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Performing Arts Issue #39, pages 82-84.