Swiss-based gallery Objects With Narratives was founded by three Belgians to challenge the conventional gallery model with a new approach – and at the heart of each piece is a captivating story.
Wandering through the halls at last year’s COLLECTIBLE Design Fair in Brussels, collectors may have come across a rather unusual object – a chair composed of two organic, softly rounded forms seemingly balanced against each other with a light touch. In reality, however, the Two-Block Chair is crafted from enormous blocks of solid marble, weighing a hefty 450kg (992lbs). Designed by Argentinian designer and artist Eziquiel Pini of Six N. Five, it was the centrepiece of the exhibition by Belgian online gallery Objects With Narratives.
“Hundreds of people were touching it, expecting it to be made from a soft material like styrofoam,” says Nik Vandewyngaerde, who co-founded Objects With Narratives with his brother Robbe and friend Oskar Eryatmaz in 2022. “We told the story behind the piece so many times and even though it was our most expensive piece, it sold immediately. People just fell in love with it.”
It’s this focus on the fascinating story behind a piece of design – whether material, process, or form – that lies at the heart of Objects With Narratives. The narrative behind the gallery, however, is equally as intriguing as any of the pieces they sell.
We told the story behind the piece so many times and even though it was our most expensive piece, it sold immediately. People just fell in love with it.Nik Vandewyngaerde, co-founder, Objects With Narratives
Nik and Robbe are architects, with a wealth of experience working in some of the world’s most celebrated studios, from OMA to Herzog & de Meuron. Growing weary of the extended timelines associated with the projects they were working on, they founded a design studio in their spare time. Calling themselves Studio Narra, they began to create pieces of furniture that clearly expressed their intention and were quickly picked up by galleries within the world of collectible design.
Just as quickly, however, the brothers discovered the often-harsh realities of the new world they had found themselves in. “Pieces got damaged and we weren’t reimbursed, there were exclusivity clauses in the contracts that we didn’t like, and generally things weren’t communicated very well,” explains Nik. “We wanted to stay in this world, though, and so we talked with our designer friends and we decided to launch our own gallery.”
They teamed up with long-time friend Oskar, who has a background in finance and logistics that complemented the brothers’ creative talents, and launched Objects With Narratives in 2022. As designers themselves, they knew what changes needed to be made to the conventional gallery model to make it equally beneficial to the gallerists and the designers.
They describe Objects With Narratives as a “nomadic design gallery”, with an online platform and presence at design fairs and pop ups. This approach avoids the need for a physical showroom and dramatically reduces their overheads and increases their reach. Perhaps most importantly, however, the trio created a set of core values that drives everything they do.
“One of our most important values is transparency – in price, how the profits are shared, and shipping,” says Nik. “We believe we have to be open and honest with the designers we work with and our clients. The second value is equality. There is a certain hierarchy within the gallery world and we want to avoid that so that the designers and gallery share equally in profits. It might not be the best choice for us economically, but it’s ideologically ideal and will allow us to grow a healthy gallery model for the future.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s a model that is appreciated by designers, and Objects With Narratives’ distinctive portfolio reads like a ‘who’s who’ of emerging talent. Unlike so many other galleries, there isn’t a particular style that defines the work. “Our only criteria is that it has an interesting story,” says Nik. “To be honest, that’s what sells. It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s true.”
Take, for example, the translucent architectural forms created in crystalline, candy-coloured resin by Netherlands-based, Austrian designer Laurids Gallée. Alongside his signature resin pieces, he makes finely crafted timber pieces hand painted with whimsical iconography reminiscent of the folk tales of old. “We take him to every exhibition we can,” says Nik. “He’s incredible, and if I had to put my money on someone who will ‘make it’, it’s him.”
Our only criteria is that it has an interesting story. To be honest, that’s what sells. It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s true.Nik Vandewyngaerde
Lukas Cober is another designer who has been with Objects With Narratives since the beginning. A keen surfer, he has adapted the techniques used to craft surfboards from timber and fibreglass to develop a signature style driven by architectural lines, sculptural finesse and organic shapes – think gleaming black burned timber honed to an almost impossible thinness, and layered fibreglass cloth with a depth and variation that evokes the ocean. Or there’s the crumpled aluminium foil accessories crafted by Ward Wijnant that challenge conventional notions of material value.
And, testament to the brand’s origins, one of the first pieces designed by Nik and Robbe – the strikingly minimal One Curve Chair – is still part of the gallery’s collection. Three plates of 3mm-thin tempered steel are simply curved and intersected to create a strikingly simple chair.
As well as this impressive roster of designers and an ethical approach to designer relationships, Objects With Narratives offers customers transparency around price and shipping. Prices are readily available online and the retail platform provides live shipping rates, something few other galleries do.
And it’s a model that is proving successful. In just over a year, Objects With Narratives has amassed more than 30,000 followers on Instagram, significant media coverage, and a dedicated client base of collectors, interior designers and architects. Going forward, the trio hope to build on this foundation and grow the team with a view to eventually opening an atelier-like showroom, where potential clients can see artisans at work – a fitting goal for a gallery built around the idea of storytelling.
Given Nik and Robbe’s design background, there are also plans to expand the gallery’s interior design and staging offering to offer a full service. As with anyone forging a new path in an established industry, Objects With Narratives has faced some pushback from the old guard – but their designers and clients are sticking with them. “We are doing things differently,” says Nik. “We are very transparent and that might seem like an attack on the traditional gallery system. But the world is changing all the time, businesses change, and, as an industry, we need to adapt.”
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