Galerie Kreo Marks Its 20th Anniversary with a New Monograph
The influential Paris gallery celebrates two decades with an illuminating tome on outstanding design
How does a pint-size Parisian gallery evolve into a design-world powerhouse? “You have to dream,” says Didier Krzentowski, who founded the influential Galerie Kreo with his wife, Clémence, in 1999. “We wanted a laboratory where designers could be free of all constraints.”
Galerie Kreo’s innovative business model allows its roster of talent—which includes Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Marc Newson, and Hella Jongerius—to experiment without being restricted by time, money, material, or scale. Working with cutting-edge manufacturers around the world, the gallery produces and displays approximately 60 limited-edition pieces each year while also staging exhibitions of furnishings by late visionaries such as Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass, and Florence Knoll.
Early success with major collectors, such as the late über-tastemakers Karl Lagerfeld and Azzedine Alaïa, prompted the Krzentowskis to relocate to a larger space in the sixth arrondissement in 2008; a London outpost followed in 2014. Now, in celebration of the gallery’s 20th anniversary, the couple and editor Clément Dirié are releasing The Design Lab: Galerie Kreo (Flammarion), which encompasses highlights from their two decades of work, including more than 100 exhibitions and their always-buzzy presence on the international design-fair circuit.
Didier’s passion for collecting, however, extends much further back than Galerie Kreo’s legacy. “I began collecting key chains and watches as a young kid,” he recalls. Later, he developed an affinity for ancient flint tools and meteorite fragments. “A collection is like a puzzle,” he explains. “When it’s finished, you go to something else.” Ultimately, the esteemed dealer zeroed in on French and Italian lighting made between 1950 and ’70—he currently presides over a cache of around 700 models, including what he estimates to be the world’s largest collection of work by the late Italian modernist Gino Sarfatti, founder of Arteluce.
In January, Galerie Kreo’s two locations will host a show by Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh, who is utilizing an uncommon type of light concrete to conjure functional design pieces. But while the Krzentowskis undoubtedly have their fingers on the pulse, they haven’t discarded the classics to capitalize on a current craze. “We don’t care about trends,” says Didier. “We care about tomorrow.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Winter Issue under the headline “Light the Way.” Subscribe to the magazine.