Ambassadors of design that flirts with works of art, they are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their gallery which has turned protégés into stars. By Eric Jansen
Don’t try to pronounce their surname, everyone gave up years ago. They are just known as the Kreo, the name they gave to their gallery in 1999… an essential address for lovers of sharp, intellectual, and some may say elitist design. Kreo, the diminutive of Krzentowski, “also means creation in Esperanto...” This passionate duo don’t miss out on a trick. Visionaries, they founded in 1992 an agency with the aim to connect designers and industry, working on their ideas together. At the time this was how Martin Szekely was working with Perrier, while Marc Newson and the Bouroullecs were doing the same with Ricard... However at the time, these were names unknown to the general public whereas today they are stars! Seven years later Didier and Clémence opened their first gallery in rue Louise-Weiss next to their friend Emmanuel Perrotin. Interest in contemporary art was growing and they were to take advantage of this, rapidly positioning themselves in perfect osmosis with what was hottest at the time. Specializing in a limited edition production of “uncompromising and remarkable designer pieces”, their creations attained a near art-work status... Collectors keenly snapped up their numbered works which, as an additional incentive, also went so well with the Christopher Wool and Murakami paintings they exhibited alongside. Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec were rapidly joined by other designers such as Jasper Morrison, Pierre Charpin and Konstantin Grcic. Soon they were twenty or so expressing their creativity entirely without constraint. “We are talking more about creators than designers” says Clémence, who however goes on to add “I will always recognise a difference between a sculpture and a chair. We never lose sight of the function of the piece.”
In 2008 their success allowed them to settle into a beautiful space in rue Dauphine. Here they could highlight their atypical pieces, too original or too expensive for large furniture retailers to produce. At the same time they were also exhibiting at the major global fairs: Art Basel, Miami Design, Tefaf Maastricht, Tefaf New York, PAD London, and of course the FIAC... Over the years Kreo became a reference, with some renowned clients sharing their admiration with the press and thus amplifying the phenomenon. If François Pinault, Karl Lagerfeld or Azzedine Alaïa were to push open the door of their gallery, it is most certainly not because they have got the wrong address. In 2014, a second gallery was opened in London where “we have many international customers.” They were recently joined by the artistic director of Vuitton Homme, Virgil Abloh, a somewhat surprising and “highly fashionable” choice it may initially appear. However they go on to explain. “A trained architect, he has designed a collection of 25 concrete and steel pieces, and these shall be kept”. It would be rash to question their judgment. After all, so far they have never got it wrong.