Amélie-Margot Chevalier, co-director of the Galerie Chevalier Parsua
Amélie-Margot Chevalier has a passion for textiles woven into her DNA. Together with her sister, this specialist knowledge in antique, modern and contemporary tapestries is the fourth generation to run the famous Galerie Chevalier Parsua. We met in her bright apartment in the 7th arrondissement to discuss her passion for textile art and combining decorative styles.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Amélie-Margot Chevalier and, together with my sister Céline Letessier, I’m co-director of the Galerie Chevalier Parsua. I deal with 20th and 21st century tapestries and contemporary textile art, while my sister manages our Parsua rug brand, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. We work hand in hand: when my sister chooses a designer, she discusses it with me, and I show her the tapestries that I wish to buy. We discuss everything together and the works that we showcase in our gallery stem from our shared tastes.
How did your occupation come about?
It’s a family affair that dates back four generations, so I’ve been immersed in it from a very early age! My parents are real enthusiasts, so tapestries and art are very familiar topics in our household. As a child, I spent a lot of time in the gallery and I accompanied my parents on their work trips. Even our family holidays were an excuse to visit exhibitions. I then went on to study art history and art philosophy while doing various work placements in galleries and auction houses. One day, my dad asked me if I’d like to work with them but I didn’t want to commit myself until I was certain that I’d enjoy working in the tapestry sector long term. So, I decided that I’d start by doing a placement at Washington Textile Museum, and a couple of weeks later I knew that I’d never get bored in this field! My sister and I therefore worked with our parents for several years before they retired.
Where do tapestries fit into the world of art today?
Tapestries, as a decorative art form, were long considered as a minor art in comparison with paintings, but nowadays they have become a real craze. They have made a real comeback, just like ceramics. People are on the lookout for handmade objects which really bear witness to the time taken to make them. They are increasingly used for decorative purposes, and with my eagle eye I keep spotting more and more of them in interior design magazines!
Do you have a particular memory of an item that you’re most proud to have found/unearthed?
There was this pre-Columbian item that my father had bought and that was sitting in a box. I wanted to include it in an exhibition, but first I had to find out its exact origin. After all, as it was an archaeological object I had to be very careful to ensure its traceability. It required some real detective work. All of a sudden, I came across an exact description of it in a book from the 1940s. There was no doubt about it: it was definitely the same object! The evidence was also admissible to lawyers, who permitted the item to be sold to an American museum. That’s the kind of memory that sticks in your mind. We have a lot of family stories like that one, and we’re lucky enough to have lots of ‘babies’ in museums that we’re very proud of.
Tell us about your apartment…
This apartment used to belong to my parents, but my husband and I bought it off them a few years ago. My parents had lived here for over 25 years, so it needed a bit of work, but we didn’t change the room layout at all as it was already perfect. The apartment is located in a 17th century building and it is very spacious. We are on the second, or historically most desirable, floor and our ceiling is almost four metres high. That’s actually what appealed to my parents because they obviously had tapestries so it was good to have a decent ceiling height!
All of the rooms are very large, and with the help of my friend Fleur Perret, we wanted to preserve the beautiful old features while adding light to enhance our collection of artefacts and ensure a smoother flow.
How would you describe your décor style?
My husband, Charles-Wesley Hourdé, has an art gallery specialising in ancient art from Africa and Oceania, and two years ago he opened a gallery called 31 Project, which is dedicated to the contemporary African scene. Art is therefore inevitably at the heart of our lives. We are both collectors and bargain hunters, and we have brought back many items from our travels. Africa has a prominent presence in our décor, as do textiles and of course tapestries. It’s a dialogue between periods, artists and places. Our apartment is also very colourful, with lots of blues and yellows as I’m particularly fond of those colours.
Tell us about your tapestries...
In the living room, we have a large tapestry by the Italian artist Julie Polidoro, which I fell in love with at first sight. It’s a planisphere in blue felt and wax, which alludes to Africa and global migration.
We also have a very graphic tapestry by Mathieu Matégot in our bedroom, above our bed, which reminds me of Africa with its black and white zebra-like motif.
In the entrance area, we have a large tapestry that I really like by Jean-René Sautour-Gaillard. When you look at it close-up you see that the elements make up a kind of collage with the pieces of textiles, but also objects from Oceania. It’s an interesting reference to both mine and Charles’ world.
Your entrance area is massive, what do you use it for?
At first, having such a large entrance area rather bothered me and that’s when USM became a revelation! We created an attractive USM sideboard which extends in an L-shape in front of the window, making a large desk. As such, this room is not just an entrance area, it has a real purpose. It’s a really pleasant place with plenty of light and I love this desk where I can keep all of my documents within easy reach, tidied away in lots of drawers. I also love the idea of having an item of furniture that I can reuse in a different way if I move house. I see it as an investment. One day, we might reconfigure it for my daughter’s studio apartment, for example!
I really like the idea of objects that you keep and pass on, because they are timeless and repairable. A bit like our Parsua rugs, which are made just as they were in the 17th century, with entirely natural and vegetable dyes, a water-based patina and no chemical products. These objects are made to last. And that’s what also appeals to me with USM: this durability and timelessness.