CULTURE

Starck design chronicles a crystal history

PARIS – Engraved with the Greek flag, the crystal goblet combines luxury with a patriotic sentiment. Commissioned by the great bon vivant Aristotle Onassis, it was made by the famous house of Baccarat in 1953. Today it stands alongside a plethora of historical items executed by the landmark crystal maker in Baccarat’s new museum in Paris. Situated in the former mansion of the Noailles family – where its previous owner and patron of the arts Marie-Laure de Noailles threw exquisite parties and imaginatively entertained fellow aristocrats as well as the likes of Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Man Ray, among others – the museum was designed by Philippe Starck. The celebrated designer’s mission? To rejuvenate the image of a historical, well-established brand. Thus visitors are greeted by an elaborate chandelier floating in water, a playful and gigantic crystal chair as well as bold crystal fireplaces and mirrors. Starck manages to showcase the house’s impressive history through a sense of visual bareness: In one room, visitors are invited to sit down on haystacks and observe the intricate work of the chandeliers, while next door, pieces of furniture once part of the Chateau de Ferrieres (the residence of the Rothchild family up to World War II) stand against bare walls. It was Louis XV who authorized the bishop of Metz to create a glass-making factory in Baccarat, in 1764. In 1816, Aime-Gabriel d’Artigues transformed the factory into a crystal-making establishment. After that, elements of the baroque gave way to art deco and art nouveau, which, in turn, were followed by linear and graphic motifs which paved the way for postmodern creations. At the museum Bacccarat’s creative know-how transcends time: A «Diorissimo» perfume flask created for Christian Dior in 1995 is joined by another perfume bottle, containing a more recent fragrance by the venerable fashion house, «J’Adore,» created in 2001. Also on display are a series of exceptional pieces, such as a 1905 punch bowl and a chess set designed for the Great Exhibition in Paris, in 1878. Great commissions are also on view, including the «Beauvais» set commissioned by yet another Greek, King Paul, in 1951; the «Chambord» set, commissioned by Aga Khan in 1927; a «Coco Chanel» plate motif created in 1964; a set ordered by the Vatican in 1955 and another one ordered by Josephine Baker. Over the years, Baccarat crystal masters have also been inspired by other cultures: In the museum, a Japanese-inspired vase created in 1893 lies next to Iznik motifs from a set made in 1883. In the museum’s shop, visitors can select items from the house’s homeware collections, as well as browse among perfumes, leather bags, fur accessories and a vast range of crystal jewelry – including exclusive designs by Greek artist Sophia Vari. Also part of the museum complex, the Crystal Room is currently the city’s hot dining spot. A popular luxury brand, Baccarat has a particularly strong presence in Greece – with boutiques operating in central Athens, Kifissia and Thessaloniki. ELIS KISS La Nouvelle Maison Baccarat, 11, place des Etats-Unis, Paris.