Antoine Vignault is a creative director, designer and alchemist who draws his inspiration from history, ancient myths and legends, sacred geometry, as well as engineering sciences. He creates magnificent pieces of furniture; all produced in limited series, their excellence is strikingly undeniable. In this interview Antoine tells us about his career path, his vision of contemporary art and the philosophy of his creations which have so far been appreciated by the best experts and collectors.
– Antoine, let’s start from the very beginning. How did you start running your own studio?
– I had an opportunity to work at The Custom Furniture Department for twelve years. It was the universe that linked haute-couture with decorative arts. I worked on the projects of various designers, on the edition and on the drawings that I adapted, developed, promoted and sometimes did after-sales service. Then I decided to deepen that knowledge and to rediscover the sources of inspiration of those creators who succeeded in revealing a certain purity of all the styles that preceded them. As for me, I am passionate about archeology and history. It’s a big pleasure to spend time in the greatest classical museums like the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the British Museum, where walking through the alleys from time to time I stop and say to myself: “Wow, this object is fascinating because it could still be a magnificent detail or a contemporary jewel». The modernity of this object is incredible because the piece dates back to 5000 BC. For 7000 years this object, which was conceived as a sacred object, rare and precious for so long, has been preserved by generations of collectors because it possesses a universal code of beauty which is based on proportions, shapes etc. I have very good knowledge of decorative arts and workshops, I know where to find people who can produce a beautiful object so I try to create objects which will be appreciated not only during the next five-ten years but much longer, and by people who will continue appreciating these codes and proportions.
– What are your sources of inspiration apart from archeology?
– I am an eternally curious type of person and I do not put up barriers. I like to learn. I accumulate diversified books and knowledge: philosophy, science, astronomy, architecture, sometimes some esoteric writings … These domains, among many others, inspire and fascinate me.
– The first thing that we see on your website is the quote of Aristotle : «The purpose of Art is to embody the secret essence of things, not copying their appearance.» How is this quote related to you work?
– In fact, with my knowledge of decorative arts, history and architecture I try to use some fundamental elements t0 create new and unique pieces that would speak unconsciously to people who do not necessarily have this culture, but who still recognize the codes that are part of a collective memory. But I always do it with a very contemporary touch: whether it’s the choice of materials, association of certain shapes or certain details that would bring something totally new. I am trying to achieve this subtle balance between classic references and unusual elements. It is a balance that should never be upset and should be evolving permanently.
– What materials do you use for these creations? Where do they come from?
– I have a predilection for natural materials. In the past I used to work with synthetic materials but they fade quickly and restoration is impossible after a few years. Synthetic materials degrade but natural ones give a patina or can be restored. In any case, their evolution is positive. In several years wood could transform into bronze, leather into stone … Same thing for the metal that will change its color or become almost mineral. Such pieces are in the process of constant evolution and instead of degrading they improve.
– Apart from classic and primitive art, what do you like on contemporary art scene?
– In contemporary art I am looking for the elements that match with my own universe. It means, I love when different references are crossed, when new artists are not following the line of the previous ones but try to show new vision of the things that we all know by heart but that would finally seem completely new and astonishing. It is not the artist itself whom I like, but his work. Our society is too much preoccupied with brands. I do not care for names and never place any value in them, despite the fact that my studio is indeed a brand of its own. My focus is the object itself. I believe that today there’s a great deal of speculation on the art market, and it may erroneously value not the most distinguished pieces of art just due to the popularity of a particular author. It is not normal. I consider that the eye of aesthete is not the same as the eye of speculator. The eye of speculator will merely stay on the surface of things, when the aesthete will have deeper vision, seeing the essence of the work. He will feel its true value regardless the current fashion or time. For example, I am fascinated by the antique dealers who would find interesting objects for a few euros and then, by taking these works out of their context, sell them for a price a hundred or thousand times more expensive. For example, Madeleine Castaing, that sacred monster of decorative arts, got to buy some items for three-quarter coins at flea markets and resell them for gold’s prices. Sometimes, she would even refuse to sell the objects in order to boost their value. I find this more fascinating than going to buy manufactured pieces of some famous contemporary artists. I am not sure that in a hundred years these objects will have the same value that they have today.
– Your creations are so unique, we see all the effort invested in their production. Are there any objects that you can’t, even for a moment, think of separating yourself from?
– All parts are unique, handmade in very small quantities, but I always have a prototype that I keep for myself. This allows me not to suffer this frustration. The idea is to be able to keep the trace. I think most artists are attached to their productions because they come out of their minds and souls.
– Could you describe your standard client if such a type at all exists?
– It’s a bit difficult because I do not always know the final customer. Most of the time I go through the decorators. They know the customers. Generally my customers know what culture ought to be, some knowledge of art history, they have a very admirable quality of knowing how to mix things and put them together so that their décor is exceptionally good.
– You are fond of a lot of different things : engineering science, art etc. How do you define yourself?
– May be an alchemist of modern times. I like the idea of being able to combine things from one domain with another without necessarily being a specialist, but by having sufficient multiple skills that will allow me to come to some different and amazing solutions.
© Zhamila Tampayeva