“Design bores me when it is decorative …. For me, the idea in itself of function is a ‘prison,’ but perhaps I am reacting as a sculptor rather than a designer.” —Jacques Jarrige

Jacques Jarrige’s favorite compositional device, the meandering line, is a metaphor for his creative process: The French-born maker of contemporary furniture fashions prototypes with his hands, improvising as he goes. There is an element of chance in his work.

“I build as I go so that the vocabulary and the technique amplify and strengthen each other,” in the words of the artist. “It is what makes the process so stunning and captivating.”

In 2010, at the urging of a friend, the New York gallerist
Valerie Goodman visited the website of Jarrige, who had recently exhibited his work at the Hôtel de Ville, in Paris, and won plaudits for his lexicon of sensuous forms in the tradition of Constantin Brâncusi (1876–1957) or Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988).

“Cloud” Coffee Table with red interior, Jacques Jarrige, 2015.

“I thought, ‘Wow this is exactly what I want to sell,’” says Goodman, who emigrated from France in the 1980s. “These pieces transit something emotional—you really feel the hand of the artist in all the work that he produces. This is not just an artist making a piece [to suit] this or that collection. It’s about him and what he has to say.”


Torquemada console table, Jacques Jarrige, 2016.

At the time, Goodman was on the verge of opening a gallery in New York dedicated to contemporary furniture, and she arranged to meet with the artist at his studio in Paris, where she was captivated by his idiosyncratic compositions, such as a coffee table in the guise of a jewelry box (see the pair of “Cloud” coffee tables, above) or a sofa in the guise of a line drawing. So began a transatlantic partnership, with the two speaking frequently on Skype and eventually mounting the artist’s first exhibition outside of Paris: “Clouds,” at Valerie Goodman Gallery, New York, in 2010.

The artist’s furniture is never flamboyant or flashy, but manifests a “noble simplicity,” in Goodman’s view. For his openwork screens, part of the “Meanders” series, Jarrige has created a porous divide that traverses a room without imposing a barrier. The artist traces his use of the meandering line to his time as a woodworking instructor at Centre Médico-Psychologique de Saint-Maur, in Paris, where some of the patients carved irregular lines with an electric jig. This, in turn, induced Jarrige to forsake geometric forms in favor of organic compositions like this Toro coffee table, made of humble materials (honeycomb cardboard over a wood structure) and finished in hand lacquer. This sturdy table is possessed of vitality, an undulating form that “feels like it is in movement,” in the words of Goodman.

Sometimes Jarrige plays with volume, as with this stool of sculpted oak, and sometimes with line, as with these gold-plated earrings that resemble wisps of hair. But, whatever piece of furniture he is working on, he has a style all his own.

Toro coffee table, Jacques Jarrige, 2014.

Stool sculpted in oak, Jacques Jarrige, 2016.

Gold-plated earrings, Jacques Jarrige, 2016.

“It was important for me not just to be selling furniture [and] products, but promoting a voice, an artist, something deeper,” says Goodman. “I can always recognize a piece by Jacques Jarrige, whether it’s a sculpture, a piece of jewelry or anything else. With his ‘Meander’ series, it is almost like he is drawing in space. There’s simply no one else like him.”

This is the second in a series on makers of contemporary furniture.

To view more of Jacques Jarrige’s work click here