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L’Esprit d’Aujourd’hui

Design Miami

How Thibaut Van den bergh and his Paris gallery Kolkhoze are redefining French luxury for a new generation

Almost exactly one year ago, Marais-based gallery Kolkhoze shared a photograph of Gwyneth Paltrow on Instagram. It was the cover shot for the hot-off-the-presses March 2022 issue of Architectural Digest, depicting a smiling, Khaite-clad Paltrow in the dining room of her newly completed Roman and Williams and Brigette Romanek-designed home in Montecito, California.

If you saw the post, you couldn’t miss the immaculate, massive yet minimal white marble table that dominates the chic interior behind Paltrow. And if you clicked over to the cover story on AD’s site to watch the video of Paltrow's home tour, you couldn’t miss that around the two-minute mark she name-checks the source of the table: “a beautiful furniture gallery called Kolkhoze.”

Founded in 2016 by Thibaut Van den bergh and Thomas Erber, Kolkhoze is a relative newcomer to the collectible design market. And yet the handmade-in-France limited editions that the gallery represents have already attracted an impressive, international clientele—especially on-the-pulse interior designers and architects like Kelly Wearstler, Studio KO, Geoffrey De Sousa, and Hines Collective, to name a few.

Kolkhoze’s rapid rise to success is undoubtedly rooted in its founders' tastemaking backgrounds. Erber was lifestyle editor for Le Monde and Vogue Homme International before launching his famous, roving concept store, Le Cabinet de Curiosités. Van den bergh, meanwhile, had a thriving career in film and television, which allowed him to cultivate his lifelong interest in design and decorative arts.

Designs by Frédéric Pellenq on view at Kolkhoze in Paris. Photo © Yannick Labrousse; courtesy of Kolkhoze

Today, the duo exercise their curation and art direction skills by scouting exciting, emerging design talents and presenting their refined, extraordinarily well crafted collections of furniture, lighting, and objects at Kolkhoze.

Intrigued by Kolkhoze’s fresh perspective on 21st-century luxury and emphatically French sensibility, we sat down with Van den bergh to learn more. Read on for his thoughts on contemporary tastes, his advice to new collectors, and his experience working with Ms. Paltrow.

Left: Thibaut Van den bergh. Photo © Kolkhoze | Right: Banquette Ippico by Martin Massé, on view in Kolkhoze's current exhibition, Le Cabinet du Collectionneur. Photo © Vincent Leroux; courtesy of Kolkhoze

For those who may be new to Kolkhoze, how would you encapsulate your gallery?

Kolkhoze is a Paris-based gallery devoted to collectible design. From conceptual objects to “haute-facture” furniture, we produce and exhibit the work of artist-designers that bring value to the contemporary collectible design market. We cater mainly to architects and interior designers around the world, but we also work with private clients—some of whom ask us to propose full suites of furniture for their homes.

From the beginning, Kolkhoze's reputation has been built on a strict and clear editorial line. Contemporary creation is our focus, and we select with care each design to be edited and represented by the gallery.

Our expertise is also in the field of decorative arts—precious materials as well as high-end craftsmanship. We work closely with the finest workshops in France to produce the collections and made-to-measure pieces for interior design projects.

Bureau Ary by Emmanuelle Simon. Photo © Damien de Medeiros; courtesy of Kolkhoze

How did you and Thomas meet and decide to work together?

Before Kolkhoze, I was a film and television producer in France, as well as a collector of vintage furniture. For me, the leap from producing movies to producing collectible design was easy.

I met Thomas in Paris just as I was developing the Kolkhoze concept. His Cabinet of Curiosities was very inspiring for me, and he was very well known in the contemporary cultural scene. When I asked him to join me, he challenged me, saying: “If your curation is as sharp in six months, then I will be your partner.” We did it!

How do you choose the designers that you represent?

My first focus is the draft. I see design as a pure, creative process of shapes and volumes. In the heritage of the great design masters, I want our artist-designers to develop their own artistic universes and propose one-of-a-kind works of art—beyond decorative considerations. The best collections grow out of their evolution over time. The common thread they all share is that they are all unique.

Table Basse Raku Yaki by Emmanuelle Simon. Photo © Damien de Medeiros; courtesy of Kolkhoze

For those who may be new to collecting, what advice would you offer?

Emotion must be the first criteria. The emotion comes from a shape, a material, or a finish. It is a work of art that you want to live with.

The future value must also be considered. Signed, limited-edition pieces—crafted in exquisite materials by renowned workshops—will endure and gain value over time.

My final advice is to follow your gallerist. The internet has allowed untested designers and uncurated marketplaces to proliferate. The expertise of the gallerist is needed now more than ever.

How do you think the concept of home has changed in the last decade?

People have definitely become more design conscious, which has fed the growing demand for unique pieces. People want personalized interiors that reflect their way of living. At the same time, they are looking for collection-worthy furniture that will anchor their interiors. Design has become as collectible as paintings and sculptures.

I see more and more private clients accompanying their architects to the gallery to participate in the selection process. Like Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, who collaborated with interior designer Brigitte Romanek on her Montecito home, but also selected some pieces herself in direct conversation with us.

Bureau KO by Thomas Lemut. Photo © Kolkhoze

What is one design object that you enjoy everyday?

My KO Desk, designed by French artist-designer Thomas Lemut and cast entirely in brass. I love the minimalist form, which is based on the golden ratio. I recognize how lucky I am to work on a collectible design every day.

Who are some of your design heroes?

Charlotte Perriand was my first significant encounter with design. As a child, I discovered her Les Arcs ski resort and its avant-garde approach to architecture, interiors, and furniture. The way it embodied modernity helped shape my curiosity for 20th-century French masters like Jean-Michel Frank and Jean Royère as well as for contemporary artist-designers.

Guéridon Tempio by Francesco Balzano, on view in Kolkhoze's current exhibition, Le Cabinet du Collectionneur. Photo © Vincent Leroux; courtesy of Kolkhoze

Tell us about the exhibition that just opened at Kolkhoze.

Our latest exhibition, Le Cabinet du Collectionneur, brings together the work of five designers—Bogdan Ciocodeica, Francesco Balzano, Martin Massé, Milena Denis Polania, and Sophie Osterby—all of whom draw from different influences while exploring the legacy of Art Deco furniture.

Through our selection of ten resolutely contemporary pieces, we wish to honor the convergence of the new generation of designers and artisanal talents working in saddlery, stone cutting, cabinetmaking, and metalwork. These minimalist and sophisticated creations highlight the elegance of exceptional French furniture.

What’s next for Kolkhoze?

The next exhibition in May will be a solo show of French designer Isabelle Stanislas. Then, in September, we will present an exhibition of collectible pieces made only with four hands—design duos represented by Kolkhoze. We also have in the pipeline the opening of a Kolkhoze space in the United States. Stay tuned! ◆