Behind the Curiosities of Master Collector Thomas Erber
Next week, art exhibitor and fashion savant Thomas Erber welcomes the fourth edition of his world-influencing Le Cabinet De Curiosités series to New York. This year presented by Maison Kitsuné, the event showcases 40 prestigious international brands (ranging from shoemakers Common Projects to jeweler House of Waris), distinct in their savoir-faire and presenting one-of-a-kind pieces, specifically created for this exhibition. In honor of its first opening on American soil, we tried to uncover more about the curious man behind it.
Essential Homme: What is the back story of Le Cabinet De Curiosités—where did the ambition first come from?
Thomas Erber: I used to be a journalist, publisher, and chief editor (Lalouse, lifestyle supplement for Le Monde, Vogue Hommes, Optimum) [where] I specialized in music, trends, creators and unconventional trips [from] all over the world. I decided I wanted to continue my activity as a journalist on my own by creating a contemporary cabinet of curiosities that would permit me to explore all the fields I’ve aways loved, without the corporate obligations of a publisher. Bringing together the creatives I respect and adore, and teaming up with prestigious hosts once a year, was the perfect combination of my passions.
EH: The idea of the Wunderkammern is very traditional, very aristocratic experience. How have you been able to translate that into the contemporary world in a way that it is organic?
TE: Since [I was] a young teenager, I’ve always been fan of the antique ones. So one day, five years ago, I had the idea to create a truly unique experience that would merge all of my curiosities and make a larger statement about art and the wonderful creatives who make it. Then to follow the traditional rules I needed exceptional pieces. I asked some designers and artists to play the game with me. After curating more or less forty of them, I [requested] that they create an original one-of-a-kind piece or a very limited-edition one. I’m thrilled that the frontiers between art, design, painting are over. I’m grateful for the amazing reception we’ve had since launching; this authentic concept resonates with people. The products are rare and meticulously designed. You can see them, touch them and even purchase them, if you wish.
EH: How much do your retail partners—this time Kitsuné, but in the past colette and Browns—affect this?
TE: I have a long and rich history with all of the retail partnerships I’ve pursued thus far. Sarah (of colette) and I have been friends for many years; the same with Masaya and Gildas of Kitsuné. It seems natural to me to team up with people I truly admire and already have great chemistry with. My approach is to gather the best in every genre or industry represented. It’s truly a collective effort, in my opinion. Without the dynamic hosts and talented guest designers, the cabinet wouldn’t be nearly as captivating or compelling as it [has] become.
EH: Originally Cabinets of Curiosities laid the stones for the world’s first museums, and in many ways each edition of Le Cabinet De Curiosités is a gallery-experience. How do you balance the idea of artistic appreciation with the aspect of sales?
TE: I honestly don’t think about the sales when I curate this. If you think like that, you’re dead. It’s purely based on pleasure and passion. It is actually meant to be more of an interactive culture event than a commercial one. If we sell items, I’m happy of course, but if not, it’s still a job well done. Mission accomplished.
EH: What are some of the qualities you look for when you’re considering artists and designers to feature?
TE: Honestly, savoir-faire, history, good personality, lack of opportunism, but a real ambition to produce amazing pieces. It might sound naive, but it really works this way! It’s a personal labor of love, based on friendly relationships and a true love for beautiful craftsmanship.
EH: What does menswear mean to you today? Who are some names in particular that you think are propelling it forward?
TE: Since I discovered Vogue Homme in the late 80′s, I’ve always been a huge fan of menswear. The way [a man is] dressed really shows a lot about [him]. We’re lucky to live in such an amazing time for this. Brands like Maison Kitsuné, Maison Charvet, Visvim, Michael Bastian, Officine Generale…they’re creating thoughtful, beautifully-crafted collections. We have enough to feed our cultural and fashionable curiosities as long as we stay alive. Just follow your instinct, don’t look at ads, don’t watch TV. Just walk down the streets and open your eyes.
EH: How much of yourself is in these exhibitions? Do you curate for yourself, or for a specific group?
TE: All of me is, nothing less. I curate the entire experience myself. All the creative guests are friends, or friends of guests, or creative people I’ve met along the road. I often say that to be part of the show I require two things (totally irrational from a business perspective): I need to like them, and I need to admire what they create. I spend my year traveling the world to meet [these people], visiting their studio, and discovering them deeply to be sure they all meet those simple-yet-sincere requirements.
EH: What do you hope the New York man will take away from Le Cabinet De Curiosités?
TE: I hope he is inspired by the collective coolness, the team spirit, our optimism for the future, levity, and fun. I also hope he discovers the talented artists and designers and the products they create. Our hope is to encourage the creation of inspired art and to also encourage the bold artists who put their blood, sweat and tears into their work.
Le Cabinet De Curiosités Of Thomas Erber Hosted by Maison Kitsuné will be on display at The Avant/Garde Diaries (372 Broome St) and at Maison Kitsuné (1170 Broadway) from December 2 until December 23, with items available for purchase online until January 31.
Images courtesy of their respective brands.