In the Mix
Maniera hosts a very special exhibition in an iconic Belgian home
Early this summer, when it became clear that the season’s design fairs would not take place, Amaryllis Jacobs and Kwinten Lavigne of Brussels’ Maniera gallery decided to use this surreal moment to bring a dream project to life. The pair, partners in both life and work, rented out a very special space for the summer—the De Beir House, aka the Black House, a 1925 modernist home designed by avant-garde architect Huib Hoste on the Belgian coastal town of Knokke. Inside, they installed Summer Residency, an exhibition featuring, for the first time, works spanning the gallery’s entire collection to date. And, in an interesting twist, they relocated themselves and their young daughter to reside in the home as well for two months. “It’s the ideal staycation,” Jacobs observes with a laugh.
The De Beir House provides a striking backdrop; it is one of the first examples of modernism in Belgium, as well as a Belgian interpretation of the De Stijl movement. Jacobs explains: “The house was quite revolutionary for Knokke, a seaside town known for beautiful villas; all of a sudden this very strange building comes along. It has a black facade and sits on an orange terracotta pedestal.” Inside, details like colorful glass work and doors painted in primary hues call to mind Mondrian and Rietveld. The building was originally designed for a doctor; the practice was on the ground floor, while private living quarters for the family, including eight children, were on the upper floors.
The house’s size and personality make it an especially exciting setting for Maniera’s collection. The gallery, which launched in 2014, commissions architects and artists to create furniture and objects—so purposefully blurring the lines among design, art, and architecture is an approach they’re quite comfortable with. Still, the De Beir House has proven an especially meaningful experience. Works by the gallery's roster—Studio Mumbai, Jonathan Muecke, Anne Holtrop, Richard Venlet, Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, and more—fill the house, creating unique dialogues with this unusual space. “Every architect or artist we’ve ever worked with has at least one piece in the house,” Jacobs says. Describing the experience of seeing so much of their work from the past six years altogether, she observes, “It is a bit emotional, really, to see what we’ve accomplished in this time.”
In addition to pieces from their collection, Maniera invited friend and fellow Brussels standout Pierre Marie Giraud—known for his esteemed decorative arts collection—to join for part of the residency as an honored guest. Giraud responded with vibrant vases by Yoichi Ohira and Yoshiro Kimura, a blood red object d’art in bamboo and urushi lacquer by Jiro Yonezawa, elegant glass work by Ritsue Mishima, as well as ceramics by Sterling Ruby, among others. “This made the house come even more alive of course,” Jacobs says. “It's an incredibly nice marriage between us; there’s a refinement in both our collections that works well. And we share the same love of craft.”
It’s not the first time Maniera has transformed a home into an exhibition space. In 2015, the gallery presented work by Richard Venlet inside Henry Van de Velde’s modernist Hotel Wolfers, and, in 2016, designer Jonathan Muecke spent one month in Juliaan Lampens’ brutalist Van Wassenhove house to create objects that directly responded to the architecture. Nor is it, notably, the first time Maniera has inhabited the same place in which they’ve exhibited. “It’s true, before we had the gallery, we presented our very first exhibition with Office and Anne Holtrop in our home in Brussels. We have a loft-like space, and we removed almost everything to make room for it. At that time, we’d just started, so we had some visitors. But here we’ve had over 600 visitors, so it's very different today.” The Knokke residency brings them full circle in a way, offering a unique moment for reflection on their path so far as gallerists and a fresh space to imagine the road forward—an impressive response to a difficult moment.
“This place is very inspirational,” Jacobs says. “People see the work in a different way. While the gallery is a white box, here guests see the pieces with a lot of natural light and warm wood floors. And it’s very special for us to really live here with the work. Of course you do try pieces when they’re finished in the workshop or every now and then sit in a chair at an exhibition. But here it’s totally different. We play cards with our daughter on the low table by Anne Holtrop. We sleep in the exhibition, on a tatami bed in the Net Room by Studio Mumbai. We drink our coffee in the morning on the sofa by Francesca Torzo, and we have our aperitivo on the small stones by Piovenefabi. We’re very careful of course, but there's something to be said for living with the design.” ◆
Works from Maniera’s Summer Residency are available through the Design Miami/ Shop. All images courtesy of Maniera.