"It’s in perpetual motion, reflecting light and intensity depending on the time of day," says Sébastien Thiery. The Parisian craftsman, an expert in the art of gold leaf, is describing the ethereal object his family’s sought-after gilding studio, Atelier Thiery, recently created in collaboration with sculptor Charles Kaisin to celebrate the French cognac house Rémy Martin.
The installation comprises an irregular cloud of small, jewel-like forms. It subtly breathes and shimmers in midair, as if assembled by an unseen hand. The piece doesn’t have a front or back; as you move around it, the fine handwork on each spiky "droplet" of metal comes into focus, as does the shape they combine to form.
Rémy Martin brought Kaisin and Thiery together to make this cross-disciplinary work as a tribute to the limited edition design of Rémy’s XO decanter. It was the brand’s centuries-old emblem, the centaur of ancient Greek lore, that inspired Kaisin’s design concept. Rendered in brass and gilded with 14-karat gold leaf, a cascade of tiny centaur-shaped totems—there are 1,724, commemorating Rémy’s founding date—collectively hang in the shape of a single, gigantic centaur.
"Half human, half horse, the centaur represents peace and immortality," says Belgium-based Kaisin, whose practice spans object design, architectural installation, and stage design. He depicted the mythological beast in a sharp-angled, origami-influenced style that can be seen in some of his past works
Each piece was then carefully burnished in gold leaf by Atelier Thiery, who also gave the XO limited edition decanter a touch of precious metal using the same technique. One of the challenges in gilding the sculpture was maintaining the sharp edges of the centaurs, which necessitated great care during the finishing process.
Of the concept behind the work, Thiery says, "The centaur also symbolizes passion and patience, two essentials for the creation of a superb cognac that only reaches its full potential over time."
The singular object, titled Rémy Martin: The Centaur, is beguiling when sunlit, especially in the Rémy Martin distillery, where it was installed before going on view temporarily in the atrium of the Design Museum in London this spring. Whatever its next venue may be, the piece is sure to delight with its sparkling conflation of craftsmanship and shared myths from our past.
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