NOMAD co-founder Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte on the future fair
We spoke to Nicolas Bellavance–Lecompte, co-founder of NOMAD Circle about the travelling showcase of contemporary art and design, and the future of the fair.
When the first edition of NOMAD took place in 2017 inside Karl Lagerfeld’s Villa La Vigie in Monaco, Hans Ulrich Obrist described the showcase as the ‘future of the fair.’
“It’s to go to explore unconventional destinations, not to be always in the usual big cities,” wrote the Swiss art curator in the fair’s catalogue.
Back then, NOMAD was in its seedling phase as the world’s first travelling showcase for collectible design and contemporary art.
Far from the trade show version of a white cube, NOMAD’s main draw is its beautiful locations and intimate settings in which a cohort of talented designers and artists showcase their work.
Dubbed the world’s most exclusive collectible design event, NOMAD was founded in 2016 by Giorgio Pace and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte with the aim to be more flexible than other fairs.
As well as an exciting location-changing platform, the fair is committed to hosting an eclectic cohort of exhibitors that blur the lines between art and design.
“NOMAD is the future of the fair,” says Bellavance.
“It’s a new experience and a new way to experiment.”
“There are three factors: destination, experience and location,” he explains.
“Then, of course, there is the practicality of the three of them together with factors such as airport proximity and accommodation, all of this. There are a few parameters, but we always find interesting spots and that’s the most interesting part of all of this research.”
Since 2017, the event has invited some of the best in class to exhibit within locations including the gothic Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel in Venice; during the first year of the pandemic it went online inside Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles, built by the Hungarian architect Antti Lova; and for its ninth edition more recently, it has revisited Chesa Planta, a late 16th-century aristocrat’s house with wood-panelled rooms in St. Moritz.
“I think we attract more and more galleries with our model, especially with the pandemic and how everything is shifting,” says Bellavance.
“We don’t care so much about adding 1000s and 1000s of visitors, for us what matters is having the right visitors coming, creating the right culture around collecting contemporary art and collectible design, and also in the power of buying.
Every visitor walking in is unique and creates a unique way of interacting for the galleries.”
Over 20 galleries showcased their pieces in the house museum’s beautiful, baroque interiors such as Maniera (Brussels), Karsten Greve (Cologne, Paris and St. Moritz) and Loom (Milan), to name but a few.
Some formalised fully-realised spatial concepts — like David Gill’s Nature exhibition, a showcase of works by Dutch sculptor Barbara Nanning, featuring vases and vessels in white, silver and granite hues reflecting the landscape, and milky opal glass that beautifully depicts the awakening nature in spring.
Elsewhere, in the heritage rich foyer, an eclectic display by Etage Projects, greeted visitors with Sabine Marcelis’s exquisite ‘Stacked Fountain’ (2021), an evolution, in pink resin and travertine marble, from her ‘Fendi’ series of fountains, launched at Design Miami/ in 2018.
Nearby, Dimoregallery participated for the first time with a selection of high-craft pieces including a low-slung, simple oak and jute ‘Snedkerier’ lounge chair by Pool Kjaerholm and Jorgen Hoj, from 1952, and a Charlotte Perriand sofa, from 1965, upholstered in tartan wool.
“It’s important to accommodate all exhibitors,” explains Bellavance.
“It’s about how we fit people in and where we place them—it’s like moving into a big house with a big family in a way. Everyone must be happy with the setup.”
Collectible design has taken on new significance in recent years as unique, one-of-a-kind objects straddle the worlds of art and design.
It’s here, in the cross section between the two, that NOMAD exists as an intimate affair that celebrates the array of voices in global contemporary design and art, both new and established.
When predicting design trends in the sector, Bellavance highlighted a return to the nineties minimalism and the cyclic nature of materials:
“I think we are now entering the era of the 90s in terms of last century’s collecting, and for contemporary design, in terms of trends I believe every designer or artist has their own language, research and materiality.”
“We can talk about general trends that link to materials such as marble, brass versus aluminium. Now we’re more in an era of aluminium rather than brass that was very strong in the past decade.
It’s cyclic in a way like the revival of the 60s and the 70s with the idea of gold, which is shifting now to modern 90s with something more minimal and cold like late 80s/early 90s.”
“When we talk about historic design, I think that obviously we all saw the wave of the 80s in the past that nears that was very strong and present and now we shift to a new decade that would say we saw some sign that the 90s are back now and we can see some designers such as Philippe Starck, whose work from the 90s is now subject of exhibitions in some galleries in Paris, for example.”
“However, it’s difficult to isolate trends because we are in a very eclectic moment in terms of global trends. There is a bit of everything for every taste.
There’s not only one way to see how collections should be structured or interiors in general.”
Perhaps the most obvious trend is that of the changing nature of the design fair with NOMAD leading the charge.
“This edition has been one of the most successful and I think it is the result of a growing interest and the maturity of the project,” says Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte.
“The evolution over the past years as a new format for the fair has been met with the evolution of the market in a way and the expectations of collectors and professionals from the sector.”
“Now, the concept is understood better and galleries and exhibitors see the added value of showcasing in such a specific context with all the elements controlled and with the idea to have more intimate and experiential relationship with potential new clients or established clients.”