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London-based artist and designer Marc Camille Chaimowicz has his first solo museum show in America at The Jewish Museum


  • Marc Camille Chaimowicz, "Tulip Vase and Paper Bouquet," 2017. Photo: Val Castronovo

  • Marc Camille Chaimowicz, “In a Public Garden in Paris (The Tree),” 1985. Photo: Val Castronovo

  • Marc Camille Chaimowicz, "Baden-Baden (Parasol No. 3)," 2009; "Rope Vase," 2014. Photo: Val Castronovo

  • Installation view of "Marc Camille Chaimowicz: Your Place or Mine" at The Jewish Museum. Photo: Jason Mandella

  • Marc Camille Chaimowicz, "Bespoke Coat Hanger for Decorated Items," 2011. Photo: Val Castronovo

  • Marc Camille Chaimowicz, "Lamp 11," 2014; "A New Curtain for KT," 2018. Photo: Val Castronovo

  • Marc Camille Chaimowicz, "Series One, Drawing No. 9 (Agey, August 24th)." 1995. Pencil, ink and gouache on paper, 12 1/5 x 9½ in. Image courtesy of the artist and Cabinet, London

He straddles the art and design worlds and revels in pleasing pastel palettes — soft blues, greens, pinks, yellows and lavender. He’s made interior spaces and the home his subject, beginning with his own homes in London, where he currently lives and works in a 12-sided building in Vauxhall.

At The Jewish Museum, former Gilded Age home of banker Felix Warburg and his family, Marc Camille Chaimowicz (b. postwar Paris) has created environments that overlook Central Park and engage with the worlds inside and outside the French Gothic mansion.

While the exhibit is housed in The Jewish Museum, the artist is not Jewish — his Polish father was Jewish and survived the Nazi occupation of France, but Chaimowicz and his siblings were raised Catholic by their French mother. The family moved to England when the boy was 8, eventually taking up residence in London.

“I have no connection with the Jewish faith whatsoever,” the artist recently told The New York Times. In a statement to us, The Jewish Museum said: “Chaimowicz’s family background reflects an aspect of the Jewish experience in the 20th century, including surviving the Nazi Occupation of France, immigration from France to England, and assimilation. The interplay of two cultures, languages, and cities resonates across Chaimowicz’s life and work, and finds its place in the Jewish Museum exhibition.... The building provides Chaimowicz with a unique interior that relates to both his Jewish and French roots.”

The multi-disciplinary show spans five galleries that are meant to conjure up a home, a library and a park (the rooms have French names, with English translations). The contents include paintings, sculpture, drawings, collage, video, furniture, wallpaper, rugs, ceramics, textiles and curtains. Chaimowicz merges the fine arts and the applied arts to create prettily appointed interiors showcasing patterned wallpaper, collaged lampshades, bespoke hat racks and coat hangers and the like.

“Marc Camille’s embrace of disciplines deemed outside of fine art, such as decoration and design, and his questioning of Modernist, masculinist assumptions of what art should look like and who should participate in the art world, have [particularly] contributed to his, until now, low profile in the U.S.,” curator Kelly Taxter wrote in an email about his modest reputation in the States.

One of his breakout installations in 1972, “Celebration? Realife,” featured a former ballroom at Gallery House in London strewn with masks, mirrors and a glitter ball (orange knickers and a white bra, too). The artist served tea in a nearby room and invited viewer reaction. As part of the act, he slept on the premises for the duration of the show.

The performative aspect to his art is lacking here, but the spirit reigns. The exhibit title “Your Place or Mine ... ” is another invitation for visitors to step into his space. He has embraced the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) in his installations, and draws inspiration from painters like Matisse, Bonnard and Vuillard and designers like Eileen Gray and William Morris.

But the style is all his own. According to Taxter, “He’s developed his own visual language ... which pays careful attention to color, form, and the notion of the provisional. He purposefully fends off easy description or one way to see or read his artworks; rather, he finds pleasure creating objects that might be read in at least two, more often than not three or four different ways.”

The show is a variation of a 2016 presentation at London’s Serpentine Galleries in Hyde Park. The iteration at The Jewish Museum, across the street from Central Park, includes several newly commissioned works — the wallpaper “Vasque” (2018) in The Salon gallery; and curtains, “A New Curtain for KT” (2018), and mirrored doors, “end game” (2018), in The Public Garden galleries that face the park at the exhibit’s finale.

The two garden rooms make playful reference to the museum’s natural surroundings. The objects are arranged on curvilinear platforms meant to suggest the winding pathways of Central Park. Print parasols are scattered about, the kind you would take on a leisurely stroll through the park if you were living in a bygone era.

Horticultural references are rife. The curtains have a green leafy motif that speaks to the trees outside (albeit bare now). A series of painted panels, “In a Public Garden in Paris (The Tree)” (1985), hang in the first room, which an exhibit guide explains is “a panel piece that climbs up and down the wall [and] suggests the exuberant verticality of a tree in bloom.” A tulip vase with paper flowers is set beneath the panels.

The arrangements are quite deliberate, like stage sets. We are meant to “pass through, linger, double back, continue on, and finally to remember from where we came,” the guide states. We are transported back and forth in time, encouraged to dwell on objects that trigger memories and provoke our imagination.

In “end game,” the mirrored doors are colored green. Per the guide: “Visitors catch fleeting glimpses of themselves and one another, moving along together or alone, for a short time in Chaimowicz’s world.”

Before, in their imagination, passing through the doors to “somewhere else.”

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