India Mahdavi Achromia on display at the Carwan Gallery in Athens

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India Mahdavi renders her most iconic piece in white for Athens’ Carwan Gallery

At Athens’ Carwan Gallery, India Mahdavi explores uncharted territory with a new all-white marble collection (on view until August 13, 2022)

It was above all a magazine article that gave birth to the idea that led to the latest exhibition of designer India Mahdavi. In 2018, the new yorker published a sprawling report on ongoing research into ruins uncovered at Greek and Roman archaeological sites. The conclusion these archaeologists had come to after decades of investigation is that the milky white marble forms that define antiquity are not what they appear to be. That at the time of their creation they were richly painted – the buildings were awash in vibrant decorative patterns while the human forms wore brightly patterned clothing and had many shades of pigmented skin – but the dye had disintegrated and eroded over time, leaving the pure white forms we now associate with Greek and Roman sculpture and architecture. Thousands of years ago, the built environment was not really a seamless white, they concluded, but in fact, drenched in color.

“Their clothes were a bit like Missoni, right? Mahdavi jokes as he explains the concept on a damp spring evening in the rough, stone-walled gallery enclosure of the Piraeus area of ​​Carwan, an industrial area-turned-arts district a stone’s throw from the docks and the Athens’ busy ferry terminal. “This purity of whiteness is a false idea that we have of Greek sculpture. Everything was colorful. They were all painted with very strong pigments,” she explains. This little-known fact served as the conceptual basis for “Achromia”, his latest exhibition with Carwan (on view until August 13, 2022), a re-imagining of some of his most iconic pieces of furniture totally stripped of color. “When Nicolas invited me,” she says, referring to the founder of Carwan, Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, who commissioned the project, “he said to me: ‘You are so famous for color, that would we do if we took it away from you?”

As followers of the prolific work of furniture and interior designer know, color is the driving force behind most of his designs. His concept for London restaurant Sketch, for example, first sprayed the Mayfair dining room with bubblegum pink (making it the most Instagrammed spot in all of London), then in hues of saffron and gold. for its 2022 redesign. Or its luscious wallpapers for De Gournay, which reference the mind-blowing canvases of surrealist painter de Chirico and figurative scenes inspired by The Persian Book of Kings. “Color, to me, is a way to create a vibe,” she says of her style. “It creates a feeling of light.”

“Color, for me, is a way to create a vibration, it creates a feeling of light” – India Mahdavi

For the exhibition, Mahdavi rendered the pieces only in white marble. Among them, the three-tier “Bishop” stool, which she regularly reinvents in new colors and patterns, the asymmetrical two-piece “Alber” table, originally designed for fashion designer Alber Elbaz, and two versions of the “Diagonal” table. , a long dining table and a smaller circular version, which was originally produced in pigmented ceramic. In addition to the material makeover, she added diagonal fluting to the edges of each piece as a nod to traditional Greek columns. “I love the way they catch light,” she explains, “it creates a vibration even without color.”

The pieces were made from Pentelic marble quarried from the slopes of Mount Pentelikon just outside the city, the same stone used to build the Parthenon. “I think it was also very interesting to do this project here in Athens because it’s a material that belongs here,” she says. “Parts are made locally – they work well here.” The actual manufacturing was carried out by the local company Delta Marble. However, during the development of the project, Mahdavi and his team used a 3D printer to build 1:1 scale models in his Paris studio. Although the forms were taken from his own archives, the new material required a total reworking of proportions and scale. “Marble is very prescriptive,” she notes of the process. “It took a lot of experimentation to find the right shape.”

But according to Mahdavi, developing this collection wasn’t as simple as laundering the vibrancy of these well-known designs. “It was very difficult,” she reveals. “It took me ages to get used to the idea. You’d think it was a really easy show to create, but it was such a mentally difficult exercise for me to let go of my usual language. And even if the absence of color is the central concept of the show, for Mahdavi, color is impossible to escape.“It’s funny, even if the whole exhibition speaks of achromia, of discoloration”, she observes. “At the end of the day, that’s the only thing we talk about.”§

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