Within these four walls, we carry meaning. within this room, we hold memories. Within this space, we cultivate our personhood—personality, individuality, vibes. Within this chrysalis, time passes, and we grow, the bones remaining the same, but the flesh and its adornments changing. Contemporary design gallery, twentieth, announces its next phase of metamorphosis with its move to the Hollywood Hills after years on Beverly Boulevard. To introduce its new location, Twentieth has enlisted owner and curator Stefan Lawrence alongside long-time collaborator Daniele Albright to bring about the US debuts for a wealth of international designers.
The new location will open on February 13, 2023 with the group exhibition ERODE–MORPH–BLOOM, curated by Joakim Andreasson. The exhibition will showcase works from Swedish luxury carpet manufacturer Henzel Studio and its collaborations with artists Vanessa Beecroft, Nan Goldin, Kim Gordon, Katerina Jebb, Mary McCartney, and Marilyn Minter. For the collaboration, the studio worked with the artists to produce six hand-knotted rugs, designed by the artists and exhibited in tandem with the original compositions. Alongside the exhibition, and in conjunction with Frieze Week Los Angeles, Henzel Studio will present a site-specific installation of additional Henzel Studio rugs, reflection on the studio’s decade of collaboration.
We spoke with Twentieth owner and curator Stefan Lawrence and ERODE—MORPH—BLOOM curator Joakim Andreasson about design in Los Angeles, the cultivation of one’s space, the natural world, and more.
What is it about Los Angeles that inspires your curatorial perspective on design?
I moved to Los Angeles from New York slightly over 30 years ago. Similar to most artists living and working in LA, I am affected by the light and geography of the West Coast. I have been inspired by the light and space movement as well as California’s take on conceptual art. Most recently, I have been excited about the use of organic materials in contemporary design. At the same time, being an international traveler, I am aware of what is occurring in the art and design worlds globally; after all my world travels, I appreciate how unique Los Angeles is.
Twentieth has been in Los Angeles since 1999. What are the most notable changes to the city you have witnessed? Also, what never seems to change?
Twentieth was one of the first to create a space exclusively for contemporary design. While the design world’s exchange used to be a strong pipeline between New York and Europe, Twentieth puts Los Angeles and the West Coast on the international map. We debuted many international artists and designers—in effect, we charted many firsts for the city. In turn, Los Angeles has had an impact on Twentieth’s ethos. Our aesthetic sensibilities have grown and evolved along with the times and respond to contemporary moments in this city.
Twentieth has had two locations on Beverly Boulevard. In 1999, we first opened in an international-style modern building and introduced a program that had a focus on modern design and furnishings. In 1999, a revisiting of modernism was consuming Los Angeles. My collaborator Daniele Albright is an alumnus of Cal Arts and inspired me to rethink modernism; together, we cultivated a new groundbreaking program that curated designs from living and active designers and artists.
Later, we moved further up Beverly to our second location, where I commissioned LA architect Neil Denari to create its iconic bronze facade. This was not only to initiate a stand-out moment on the street that spoke to the art and design aesthetics we were committed to inside, but also to contribute an aesthetic gift to the city.
Now, the move to the Hollywood Hills also speaks to the direction our program has evolved towards. We have cultivated an aesthetic that highlights intentional materiality with a thoughtful approach to organic media. Exhibiting in the intimacy of a natural setting is an ideal experience that we believe will stimulate our clientele.
Can you speak to the architecture and relationship it has to its setting within the Hollywood Hills?
I think that what the architect, Jeff Mills, has designed is rather extraordinary. In conjunction with the landscape architect Lisa Gimmy, they have created a gesamtkunstwerk—a total work of art. The house has essentialized an indoor-outdoor relationship with Mills’ signature glass and window work, activating the interior as a reservoir of light, filtered only by the enveloping landscape. This truly unique piece of architecture, which I have taken to describing as a “postmodern Schindler” is located on a wooded acre in the Hollywood Hills and feels quite magical. There is a feeling of graciousness to entering the property—it is an inspiring environment that creates a memorable experience.
What about Sweden feels so captivating from an aesthetic standpoint, considering you are working with Joakim Andreasson as curator on this ERODE—MORPH—BLOOM project.
The exhibition ERODE–MORPH–BLOOM is a wonderful introduction to the new gallery. Blending art with design has been a basic tenet of what Henzel is all about. Ignoring traditional boundaries to encourage a crossing of genres and disciplines is what Twentieth has also been about since its inception. The exhibition and Henzel Studio curator, Joakim Andreasson, was born in Sweden, but his creative experience was also informed by his time living in Brussels, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Joakim is proudly not a purist, and that works well in our cross-disciplinary ecosystem.
However, this collection has nothing to do with Sweden other than the fact of the geography of Henzel Studios’ base. Calle Henzel’s designs are informed by nature, erosion, and the harsh and sublime effects of the Scandinavian climate—a language that can sometimes appear in Henzel’s artist collaborations. The outcome of Henzel’s program is a very impressive consort of artists across disparate disciplines, backgrounds, and places.
Additionally, the idea of promoting the women artists of Henzel was an easy one since it’s been known for some time now that women artists haven’t always gotten the credit they deserve. It’s wonderful that that’s been changing, so when Joakim mentioned the idea, I loved it.
There’s also a parallel to the situation here at Twentieth, where most people are unaware of the significant contributions made by my long-term collaborator and creative partner, Daniele Albright. I’m glad that we have reached a moment when these intelligent, creative women are being recognized and celebrated. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel that novel anymore… it just feels appropriate.
What are you most excited about with this new Hollywood Hills destination?
The new location is a retreat—within the city—we can forget how much nature is in the heart of Los Angeles. Visitors have been surprised by the unwieldy verdant section of terrain that we have discovered. Here, we are fortunate to accommodate both indoor and outdoor exhibitions, with seven gallery rooms spread over 5,000 square feet in addition to our outdoor sculpture gardens. What excites me is the vision of Twentieth as a destination for artists, designers, and collectors to retreat to, relax and foster a deeper exchange.
Why is it important to cultivate interior spaces and how do they affect our lives?
Any interior is personal. Twentieth’s new location exemplifies a conscientiousness in integrating not only outdoor/indoor landscapes but speaks to how one’s surroundings can have a profound impact on day-to-day living. Our philosophy of integration brings fluidity to contemporary life, art, and design and coalesces all of these into a total environment. Twentieth’s new setting models the value of integrating fine design and art into the home and one’s lifestyle.
You are currently collaborating with quite a few high-profile artists; what goes into your process behind choosing who to collaborate with?
At Henzel’s core, we strive to embrace artists working across different media, including painting, sculpture, drawing, collages, and even conceptual art. Our first collaborating artist to confirm was Richard Prince—who, by default, set the bar very high and also made the project intriguing for others to join. He sent a design over the next day, an act that was a sign that we were on to something. The quality, both in terms of artists and execution, made it clear that it was not a one-off project but one that would continue to evolve organically and stand the test of time.
Henzel Studio is now celebrating ten years of artist collaborations, and the curatorial selection now happens organically. Selfishly, we often select artists whom we personally like and admire. That’s the subjective angle, but then there’s also the angle of how to challenge the artists and artisans and make this project have an interesting chain-reaction-like dynamic, where one synergizes and informs how we approach the next. A book encompassing this first chapter will be released later this year.
Can you talk about bringing these artists’ works to life through hand-knotted rugs? What was the artists’ involvement beyond the design, and did they have a hand in the construction of the rugs?
We approach the making of our rugs without any regard to past design movements, related principles and rules, I say that because the artists we work with are invited to freely and seamlessly translate their work and artistic ethos into the media at hand, exploring shape, volume, and finishings, where practicality is secondary to the concept. This expansive brief allows the artists to embrace the outcome as part of their main practice and body of work.
For example, with Marilyn Minter, who is also featured in our show at Twentieth, we’ve now created two rug designs that easily are some of the most complex rugs in the history of the craft. All rugs are designed in collaboration with Calle Henzel, founder of Henzel Studio, who, in terms of adaptation and implementation, translates the artists’ ideas and concepts. Once a design is solidified, the skilled artisans bring the vision to life, applying techniques dating back centuries, reminding us that even though we are continuously breaking new ground, the possibility has always been here.
ERODE—MORPH—BLOOM speaks to the natural world—eroding earth, morphing landscapes, blooming flora. How do these textiles reflect that?
These three words in isolation came to mind when observing the exhibited rugs and provoked a thematic demand or mantra… They all call for a certain natural movement and process, which in this context of textiles can be attributed to the actual artisan making of the rugs, but also be tied into each rug’s subject matter. For example, Nan Goldin’s rug is an adaptation of a photograph she took of a heart-shaped wreath of roses that dried in her Paris bedroom, which now lives on in hand-knotted wool and silk. Kim Gordon, in turn, literally morphed one of her artworks into a rug by creating an abstract from using a painted vintage dress that we based her design on.
How has the new Twentieth location cultivated a space that you may explore this exhibition?
I had the pleasure of getting a preview of Twentieth’s new space back in December, and shortly thereafter proposed to Stefan Lawrence, who I very much consider a collaborator, to do a focused exhibition of rugs also accompanied by an original work selected together with each featured artists to create a relationship. Less than two days later, I confirmed the participation of all exhibited artists—so I knew we had a solid concept at hand. The domicile layout inspired me to propose an intuitive confrontation with any preconceived notions towards the distinction between fine and applied arts as it pertains to works of the same authorship.