In a January 2020 unveiling recalling its exhibitions from the 1930s to the 1970s, Rinck will once again present a contemporary collection. A design project, from idea to execution.
It has been underway for more than six months. First it was an off-the-cuff idea mentioned over lunch. Then a brainstorming session. Then a team was formed, archives unearthed and examined, samples presented and discussed. Then came the sketches, other sketches, more sketches, and still more sketches. At last, there were complete schematics, colorized 3Ds, approved samples, myriad meetings, repeated trips between the Charleville Mézières furniture workshops and the Paris interior design agency. And then…there it was. A contemporary collection, one now receiving the finishing touches in our workshops, under the watchful, anxious eye of our furniture designers and by the expert hands of our cabinetmakers.
It cannot be said, of course, that this collection is Rinck’s first foray into contemporary design over the past decade. Since 2010, a number of creations have been added to the thousands of designs we have in our archives, including our Alabaster table, winner of the 2017 Best of Year Award by Interior Design magazine “for its innovative design in backlit alabaster and hammered bronze.” Or our Beethoven cabinet, exhibited in January 2018 at the Paris Ancien et Moderne Pop-Up. We could go on: tables in walnut burl and brushed oak, pieces graced with innovative marquetry, brass console tables. Though these projects garnered recognition, they were all single, singular articles for decorative ensembles that Rinck designed with other destinations in mind, calling upon our workshops’ many specialties: shagreen, parchment, leather sheathing, woodworking, veneers, metal, bronze, marquetry, and more.
Beethoven Cabinet : box in American walnut, inlay polished brass wire. Lightly hammered brass base patinated black. Raw slate interior, grained leather shelves. © ginko-photo.com/RINCK
This time, it’s truly a collection: a complete ensemble, designed as a set to furnish an entire room. What makes it exceptional is that it’s the product of an ensemblier décorateur, a company that designs and manufactures in-house, via its own decorating agency and workshops. And, of course, the fact that it’s a contemporary creation, one inspired by our history, by the DNA of this august company that blends 18th-century, Art Deco, and designer influences while remaining determinedly cutting-edge in how it works materials. Because, though it’s true that Rinck, soon to celebrate its 180th anniversary, has forged a reputation as a specialist in French Classical styles, that doesn’t mean it cannot or should not pursue innovation. Because the ornamental language is far from dead, as some would have liked to believe in the middle of the last century; instead, it is – and has always been – fertile creative soil.
A passion for creation is, in fact, the central theme of Rinck’s eminent history. The house was founded in 1841 and expanded substantially in the second half of the 19th century, steeped in the Napoleon III style from the start – that great moment in time when the styles of previous centuries were rediscovered and reworked with the day’s contemporary techniques born of the Industrial Revolution. That was innovation. Then, amid great fanfare, Art Deco arrived in the drafting offices and workshops, encouraged by Maurice Rinck, the young man who bought the business in the 1930s. Innovation again. Techniques evolved, the past was adjusted, dismantled, recomposed – and one more level found its place atop the style pyramid.
Rinck exhibition at Salon National des Beaux-Arts in 1938 in Paris. ©RINCK
When World War II was still a distant rumble, Rinck was an established business in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine quarter, its decorators, designers, and craftspersons laboring assiduously in a building on Le Passage de la Bonne Graine. In 1937, the house began exhibiting a collection each year, an annual habit that would continue until 1973, though intermittently in the later years. Two events in Paris served as showcases for this presentation: Le Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (SNBA) – a show presented successively on the Esplanade des Invalides, at the Palais de Tokyo, and at the Grand Palais – and Le Salon des Arts Ménagers (SAM), which was initially held at the Grand Palais and then, starting in 1961, in the newly built Centre des Nouvelles Industries et Technologies in the La Défense district. The first display record found in our archives is from the 1938 SNBA, with an Art Deco ensemble christened “Bedroom corner furnished in varnished amboyna burl. Window dressing of crisscross voile sheers. Hand-macraméd trim on curtains and bedspread.” During these exhibitions, Rinck presented – alone or collaboratively – furniture ensembles designed for modern-day Parisian life, a ubiquitous theme after the war during the long years of reconstruction, particularly in the section called Le Foyer d’Aujourd’hui (“The Modern Home”) at Le Salon des Arts Ménagers.
Rinck exhibition at Salon des Arts Ménagers in 1948 in Paris. ©RINCK
It was at the 1948 SDAM that Rinck presented “a living room suite in matte-varnished Macassar.” The event had just reopened after a long closure due to the war. Art around the ensemble included a painting by Gaston André, a decorative panel by René Alliot, a Biron Angenault Guincestre rug, and a Caillat lamp. The set was a modern, bourgeois design of great elegance and charm.
Two years later, for the same show, Rinck stayed ahead of the trends by presenting a “living room for a small apartment with bookcase and divans convertible into twin or double beds, furniture in varnished sycamore.” A feat indeed for a decorating and fine cabinetwork company, which clearly had given thought to the life of a person living alone, or a young couple, far from the traditionalist depiction of billionaire customers. Here, one conspicuous feature was the artwork on the bookcase, inspired by pre-Columbian civilizations, again showing Rinck’s strong Art-Deco penchant for arts from far-off lands. Our archive photos provide further proof of this, showing collections photographed in the 1930s with Beni Ouarain carpets, and we also know that the Rinck Rive Gauche gallery, which would open in the 1970s on Rue des Saint-Pères, sold primitive, ethnographic art alongside the contemporary designs.
Rinck exhibition at the Salon des Arts Ménagers in 1950 in Paris. ©RINCK
An illustration of these later contemporary creations has come into our possession, conspicuously influenced by the style of the early 70s: a photo of the Rinck stand from the 1973 Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. A very up-to-the-minute ensemble with a steel table, four chairs, and a sofa. Modern materials and very clean lines. The walls were decorated with contemporary tapestries, but, sadly, our archives have no trace of the names of their artists. That year was also the last time Rinck unveiled a complete collection. The SNBA would soon cease showing designs from the decorative arts to focus on the so-called fine or “major” arts, while the SAM would close for good in 1983.
Rinck exhibition at the Salon National des Beaux-Arts in 1973 in Paris. ©RINCK
In 2020, the year of its 180th anniversary, Rinck will revive a tradition of yesteryear by presenting a complete contemporary ensemble, a work embodying the passion shared by our designers and cabinetmakers: creating exceptional articles while keeping nearly 200 years of history alive.