Major Works of Art and Design Converge at the Latest Edition of Nomad St. Moritz
The design fair like no other returns with incredible spaces conjured by Pierre Yovanovitch, Dimore, Francesca Neri Antonello, and more
“When this all started in Monaco in 2017, we didn’t really know where it would lead,” says Giorgio Pace, co-founder with Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte of the Nomad Circle, which delivers boutique design fairs in fabulous locations including Venice and the South of France.
Back then, in late April 2017, the pair took over Karl Lagerfeld’s former Monte Carlo mansion, the Villa La Vigie, and invited 18 galleries to participate. Last night, however, Nomad was back at the Chesa Planta in Samerdan (a village next to St. Moritz in Switzerland’s Engadin region) for the fifth time. This astonishing house was built in 1595 and extended in 1760, and its rooms are still filled with the wood panelling, trompe l’oeil, Delft-tiled stoves, and cut-velvet wall coverings bestowed upon it over the years by its original owners, the de Salis family. (Now a museum, it is emptied of its own furniture each time the Nomad crowd moves in.)
The opening afternoon on March 1 drew quite a crowd. Gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth chatted with the Von Bartha family, who had taken a space to show 20th century Japanese paintings, and the Niarchos clan came out in support of 32-year-old Theo, who now runs a gallery in Los Angeles. Here, he had curated a clever exhibition to celebrate the beauty and complexity of this alpine setting with works by artists including Alex Katz and Brassai hung throughout the property. The Brandolinis were there, too, along with local Rolf Sachs, philanthropist Jill Ritblatt, photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas, architect Lord Foster and his wife Elena, Beatrice Trussardi, and Luisa Loro Piano. The last was making sure the collaboration between Paula Navone and Loro Piano created especially for this edition of Nomad in St. Moritz, with cushions upholstered in exquisite cream cashmere fitted perfectly over a generous mahogany seat, was looking just so. (It was.)
Nomad has two adventurous objectives: to take art and design to wherever collectors might be and to find exceptional domestic interiors in which to showcase it. St. Moritz is an obvious choice. Many of those who come to the fair already have homes nearby and several exhibitors had taken that into account and brought mountain-appropriate pieces. Milan-based Dimore, taking part in Nomad for the first time, upholstered a Charlotte Perriand sofa from 1965 in a wool tartan in soft shades. They’d also brought a radical Rationalist bar designed by Piero Bottoni in the 1930s: its dark green painted trim would certainly work in a St. Moritz home.
The French designer Pierre Yovanovitch has created an entire collection called New Alpine, which interweaves his love of art deco lines with oak polished to a matte finish. This is clean, contemporary furniture that nonetheless acknowledges its fine French antecedents. In the case of two dining chairs upholstered in a vintage 1960s tapestry, in vibrant deep pink, lilac, and turquoise, there lies an additional homage to Pierre Chareau, who loved to work with tapestry by Jean Lurçat in the 1920s. “I bought the tapestry in an auction,” Yovanovitch told me. “So there will only be these two chairs – they are unique. But I love the combination of solid oak and this beautiful textile.” (New York readers will be interested to hear that Yovanovitch is opening his first US showroom in November, in Manhattan.)
The beauty of Nomad is its tight curation. “We are often working in quite fragile places,” explains Pace, referring to estates like Chesa Planta, or the Palazzo Sorano Van Axel in Venice (built in 1473, and never before used as an event venue) where Nomad touched down in 2019. “So we have to discuss with exhibitors what they are going to bring. They have to be more flexible and practical than usual—it’s not like showing work in a tent or a white cube.”
In the case of Swiss architect Francesca Neri Antonello, flexibility was already built into her prototype piece called Beso—a 7.2-foot-wide octagon upholstered in luscious hand-printed Florentine linen. A cross between a bed and sofa (hence the name–though it also means “kiss” in Spanish), with a traditional wool stuffing, it comes in two pieces to be assembled on site. For Neri Antonello, Beso was a response to the last two years, in which we all rethought our homes. “You know that spare bedroom, that has a bed and table and is quite useless unless someone is staying in it?” she asks. This is the solution: an adaptable piece of furniture, which makes a room into a lounging, cuddling zone, and then converts to a bedroom when needed—as long as you can find octagonal sheets.
But variety also prevails here as a quick tour of the highlights might suggest. Among them is a pair of heroic vessels by Peter Schlesinger at London gallerist Tristan Hoare. One in a jug form from 1998, the other with outsized handles (2013), both demonstrate Schlesinger’s ability to be both potter and painter in his work. Once famous as Hockney’s muse and then as a photographer, ceramics is where Schlesinger, now in his 70s, seems to have found his real spirit.
Angela Weber had taken the risk of bringing her own ceramic stove to a house already packed full of them. This one by the Austrian Dagobert Peche—from the late 1910s or early ’20s, and covered in pink and green flowers, stars and leaves—is a stellar example of the artist’s work and held its own among its Swiss peers.
A completely new, ravishing, and rather ambiguous 6.5-foot-tall objet—of entwined polished steel forms—cut a dash at Etage gallery from Copenhagen and found a very early buyer too. The young Paris-based artist Chloe Royere more often works in foam and resin. But this metal piece, which sometimes shyly offers up a misty reflection in its bulbous end, is a showstopper.
Meanwhile, at the Gallery of Everything, founder James Brett was luring in the visitors with a wall of small framed images of snowflakes. Created by the American Wilson Bentley, who from the age of fifteen in 1880 started analysing the structure of snowflakes under an early microscope, the work is typical of Brett’s curiosity about the further reaches of image-making. And in this mountain scenario, his salon hang of these dainty works, on a boiserie wall, felt like the most perfect positioning.
“The important thing is that every visitor gets to see everything, and it still feels like a family affair,”Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder of Nomad Circle
Nomad will be at the Chesa Planta until Sunday, and in June it will re-emerge in Capri at the vast old monastery of San Giacomo. “It is a huge building of over 75,000 square feet, and it’s just steps from the famous Piazetta,” says Bellavance-Lecompte of this new spot. “But that doesn’t mean the fair will get bigger. The important thing is that every visitor gets to see everything, and it still feels like a family affair.”
Nomad is at Chesa Planta, Samedan, Switzerland until March 6, 2022.