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four decades of design 



by Philippe Renaud

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Agnès Kentish and Philippe Renaud©estheteplace


In 1984 a photographer, Roland Beaufre, and a draftsman, Frédéric de Luca, decided to offer amateurs the young creators who contrived to kick annoyed children in the modernist but decidedly bourgeois design codes of the time.  They will orchestrate a whimsical and poetic way, brilliantly served by the excellence of renowned French craftsmen previously under the rule of Frank, Royère, Jansen... No more admiring gaze on the Bauhaus and its avatars, but, eyes wide open on the assemblages of handyman scouts, 50s aesthetics and their small-time Hollywood imagery. The whole crossed with an eclectic culture which makes pages of the history of art declined with greed. A kind of fairy tale enchanted by the young ladies of Rochefort.

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The budding couple of Garouste and Bonetti discovered at Jansen where they presented their prehistoric furniture for the Vénus de Lespugue of the thirty glorious years is the first stroke of brilliance of Waiting for the Barbarians. We now know the importance of the artifices of these creators, from Le Privilège, the Palace VIP games room, to their presence in all the decorative arts museums in the world. Congratulations to the discoverers who were joined in 1986 by Agnès Bellebeau from the world of advertising who brought an offbeat image to the promising commercial business located near Place des Victoires. She receives customers there dressed as a nun, an ironic nod  to the inspiration of Yohji Yamamoto or Rei Kawakubo, the most cutting-edge designers of the moment. She ostensibly cleans during opening hours in a perversive maid outfit. Unforgettable, the address has become a must for the hipness of the 80s and 90s for all the mad men and women of the great French decoration finally reinvented.

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The list of revelations of Waiting for the Barbarians, these prophets of 90s taste is long and essential: another darling, the Migeon and Migeon, jewelry designers who have become the magic craftsmen of a twisting candlestick in colored resin and translucent, elected unanimously, an essential accessory for the decor of the moment. Patrick Rétif, Eric Schmitt, Christian Ghion, Arik Lévy, Jean-Philippe Gleize, Jean-Jacques Jarrigue and so many others whose history is ephemeral or are now listed in the dictionary of recognized designers.

At the time, going to the showroom of En Attendant les Barbares was a pressing desire, every Saturday, when the tour of the galleries was the obligatory rite of the weekend.

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Fortunately, perhaps, to spread and inspire future generations, good things must come to an end. A small epidemic of divorce profoundly transforms this collective adventure: Agnès and Fréderic, the first, will separate and each on their side will try to continue the adventure, one rue Visconti, the other rue de Grenelle, but the beautiful story is tired and will no longer regain the inventive vigor that had crowned them prophets of design. If Frédéric de Luca returned with a real talent to painting, Agnès Bellebeau… opened, alone, a gallery which still presents the creations of their discoveries of the time. Careful guardian of a rare and precious page in the history of taste in France, an indefatigable researcher, this born collector has the elegance to easily guide her clients and friends towards the young galleries from which she calmly awaits the next generation. after the passage of the Barbarians.

To top it all off, the now legendary duo of Elisabeth and Mattia gets tired of playing their decorative scores with four hands. Their aura remains essential, their talent is still expressed in the rue de Grenelle among other places, but in a solitaire game.

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In her role as High Priestess of Remembrance, Agnès Bellebeau-Kentish... wanted to implement with the editions of Regard and Anne Bony, a book that traces the adventure of Waiting for the Barbarians and its discoveries. The elegance of the work leads one to turn the pages with admiration and envy.

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* Philippe Renaud is director-artist, scenographer, author. He created the Galerie Travers with William Wheeler and   "Lieux" furniture publishing house in the 90s with Patrice Gruffaz. 

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