A Conversation with Deborah Colman of Pavilion

"Sometimes it is very important and refreshing to look with your eyes,
not as a dealer of design and art, but as a human being."

"My innate sense of what is avante-garde has guided us over the years, 
even if the market lagged behind."- Deborah Colman

all photos taken by Bob Coscarelli for You Have Been Here Sometime

above: Heron Floor Lamp french c 1970 signed R Broissand Santangelo, drawing by Lukas Machnik, 
Table lamp by Willy Daro; The terra cotta sculpture, USA signed F Warren, unknown artist; Dish by Georges Jouve; Polished stainless steel Plopp Stool by Oskar Zieta 

I've been speaking with Deborah Colman for the past couple months about her Chicago design gallery, Pavilion Antiques and 20th century Design in Bucktown.  We spoke of her entry into design, and in particular, the latest show at her white-cubed gallery, "Black/Noir" which includes works by Lukas Machnik, Rick Owens, Jonas Fernando Pires, & Nora Renaud. When asked about the current focus of Pavilion, she mentions "Of course we always bought Prouve, Mouille etc, but when the auctions started to drive the prices up and other economic conditions changed we started looking for other designers and also began our relationships with contemporary living designers. I am always looking!" And with this, we began a conversation about her current show, and her recent travels to Paris, as she confessed, "my eye is always traveling."  Thank you Deborah.  - David John

The beginnings of Pavilion Antiques? 

Pavilion was born out of the love of "the hunt." The hunt was for whatever pleased us: industrial, modern, folk art, beautiful objects, patina, a sense of history of the object.  Both myself and my business partner Neil Kraus come from an art background, both holding MFA’s from the Art Institute of Chicago, a sense of history was always important and also the artfulness of the object seemed to always lead the way, whether it was important attribution or not. So it was always our intention to include artists in our shop/gallery.

Our neighborhood was a pioneer and has long been known for various annual art events, Around the Coyote being the best known, which we always participated in by presenting artists we knew in collaboration with our collection.

above: Designer/Artist Lukas Machnik and Owner Deborah Colman at Pavilion

below: untitled drawings by Lukas Machnik, Georges Jouve Patte de Ours Ceramic black dish,
Rosette Bir sculpture, Maria Pergay 70's lamp on  Angelo Mangiarotti Black Marquina Eros Table.

When did Pavilion begin, and how have you seen the market change?

Pavilion has existed since 1997. Always following what we loved rather than the market from the inception has been both good and bad. Perhaps we missed out on some opportunities in the design market, although we did pioneer an interest in French 1970’s from the beginning, even before it was identified. My innate sense of what is avante-garde has guided us over the years, even if the market lagged behind.   The market has changed in that everyone is a dealer with the internet being so transparent so that being a pioneer is more and more difficult. That is why we do 2 – 3 focused shows a year on unknown artists working both in France and the United States that focus on vision, creativity and avante-garde materials.

Has your focus changed over the years of owning the store?

Pavilion’s focus changed over the years from its eclectic nature to a concentration on work by a cadre of designers and architects both French, Italian and sometimes American working outside the parameters of already established known work. Of course we always bought Prouve, Mouille etc, but when the auctions started to drive the prices up and other economic conditions changed we started looking for other designers and also began our relationships with contemporary living designers. I am always looking!

Design Fairs. Did Pavilion participate in Collective Design this year, or any other fairs? Thoughts on how these fairs are developing?

Pavilion participated in fairs across the US for many years. At this moment no fairs are of interest to us except perhaps the evolution of Collective Design.

Tell me about your recent trip to Paris and Amsterdam. What did you see?

In Paris where I was acting as a tour guide for a friends family, I revisited Versailles after 20 yrs and delighted again in the gardens and especially the architectural elegance of the Trianon and the Petit Trianon.  A special moment was our week in Paris was also a private 5 hour tour of the Louvre, the only way to see the treasures of the Louvre, such as Leonardo Da Vincis other paintings than the Mona Lisa. Stand in front of St John the Baptist and weep at the darkness of the darks and transparence of the skin. I also went back for the second time to "Dynamo" at the Grand Palais, a survey of art and the notions of space, vision and light running through the abstract art of the 20th century. The best show I have seen in a few years including artists such as Dan Flavin, Hans Haacke, James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, Jean Tinguely, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Bridget Riley, Dan Graham, Takis, as well as artistic collectives such as GRAV (Group of visual Arts research), and the Groupe Zéro. 

In Amsterdam I was fortunate to see the newly reopened after a 10 yr restoration and remounting of the collection of the Riyksmuseum Treasures of Dutch painting and culture.  Sometimes it is very very to look with your eyes not as a dealer of design and art but as a human being.There is a new market at the flea market at Clingancourt and it is composed of Habitat 1964 Vintage, Gallery Gam, and L'Eclaireur showing only art and objects, and a few pieces of clothing as object, a small cafe.   At L' Eclaireur in the flea market, the Italian artist Vincenzo de Cotiis.

Tell me about " BLACK/NOIR." and the designers included in this show? How did this show come about?

Black/Noir came about from my interest in the color black and why it holds such a strong power in the creative realms of design, art, and fashion. Plus seeing that I am drawn to materials that communicate from form, the absence of color, black, white, grey. And I only wear black.

How did you find Lukas Machnik's work? What particularly impressed you about his latest collection?

Lukas is also an interior architect/designer and we became acquainted when he became a client of mine while sourcing unusual design objects, lighting and furniture for his projects.  One day when I was making a presentation to him at his studio I saw some drawings that were remarkable. They were his and I said, I want to show these drawings at Pavilion. That was in 2012 and the show sold out. This also started a very collaborative relationship where he relied on me to advise him on important design and curating objects, furniture, lighting for his client’s homes and then starting to view it as a collection.  When this winter he showed me various processes he was working on in all black, using paper, ink, fire and wood, I immediately said, another show, now!!! And the sketches of furniture he showed me that were influenced by monumental and brutalist architecture, artists and architects such as Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Carlo Scarpa, these influences are close to mine and we found the dialogue to be very genuine and innate. So I encouraged him to build the pieces for the show and create an edition for each design. More is to follow in other materials.

I met Jonas Fernando Pires in Paris and thought here is another architect/ designer speaking the same language and he is a brother to Lukas’s work and way of thinking.  And Nora Renaud, sculptor, jeweler, artist from Paris as well, enough said, phenomenal. Plus I always want to continue my dialogue with French design at Pavilion. 

works from Black/Noir:

 above: Rick Qwens Bronze Duck Neck Vase

Monument Chair by Lukas Machnik 

What to you defines a successful design object?  Is it style, its non/function?

A successful design object for me always is grounded in its beauty, and that is a very individual definition. And in its sense of discovery.

What is the design culture like in Chicago? Is there a wealth of collectors and young designers?

There are a lot of young designers in Chicago, not a wealth. I find their thought process to be influenced heavily by experimentation and theory. Not always a great materiality. And Chicago is a tough place to be a designer in unless one has national international attention.  That does not always translate into commercial success.

What's next for Pavilion Antiques?

My eye is always traveling.

Pavilion 20th Century Design and Decorative Arts
2055 North Damen, Chicago IL 60647

All photos taken by Bob Coscarelli  for You Have Been Here Sometime. Thank you Bob!