An interview with Philippe Decelle. A private collector of design objects manufactured in plastics made in the sixties and seventies. The collection - Plasticarium – which is the biggest in the world is situated in a three stories high art deco building in Brussels near Saint Catherine. The interview that took place at the Plasticarium in May 2010 was made by Ole Grøndahl Hansen, PVC Information Council Denmark.

Ole Grøndahl Hansen: Could you describe your collection?

Philippe Decelle: The Plasticarium is a private collection that goes from the 1960 to 1973. In the late sixties and early seventies every artist, every designer worked with plastic if he was supposed to be modern and plastics have been the material of modernity towards all the 20th century. My collection is representative for plastic design at the time. The production of plastic design objects was spread all over Europe. Not too much in the UK. Not too much in US. But surely in continental Europe. Why I limit myself to only the period between 1960-1973 is simply because I cannot collect all the plastic design objects in the world. Otherwise I would have the whole neighbourhood to put it in.

Ole Grøndahl Hansen: Why did you start to collect plastic design objects in the first place? What was the idea behind your collection and what will happen with the collection in the future?

Philippe Decelle: In the beginning I did not have any idea. I had just the idea that any generation has the right of the recognition of their own creativity. What I have lived and seen from the art nouveau and the art deco architecture and design in Brussels was that the value of this period were not appreciated at the time. Art deco houses were demolished without recognizing the value. Now art deco is fully recognized. With the time, I believe that the plastic design of the sixties and seventies will be recognized as well. So therefore I began to collect one, two and three pieces of design objects in plastics. Now I have more that 700 objects. The collection is exceptional because everything is being collected in tempo non suspecto which means that all the pieces are original.
But I don’t have space enough to show my collection. It is a problem that I am alone and my money possibillities do not give me the opportunities to have three thousand square metres which is needed for a correct museum. Here I only have five hundred square metres and everything is a little built with one plastic object above the other. The reason for this is that when I am borrowing let’s say 150 pieces to a museum I continue to collect objects which then take the place of the objects I have lend out. And when everything comes back everything is filled up. Because it is a fact that I am not eternal I would like that a museum would take over the collection.

Video fra Plasticarium

Ole Grøndahl Hansen: Do you have any personal favourites in your collection?

Philippe Decelle: My favorites are made by an Italian designer called Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi. One is the rocking chair from 1967 and the other one is the ribbon chair from 1961. The rocking chair is very pure design it has a very pure form. There only exist 13-15 copies in the world. Now they reproduce them in Munich. But it is a fantastic pure beauty. And the other one is like a continues form where you can sit inside. At the same time it is a seat and it is a sculpture. And that is what I like because you can have both approaches. When you don’t sit in it, it is really something nice to look at. For the moment being I am sitting on the desk of an office made by the French sculpturer Maurice Calka. The desk is the one that is supposed to have been bought by George Pompidou for the Palace Elysee in the sixties but when Gistard d’Estaing came to power he put it out because it was not to his taste. I am quite proud to have exactly that piece which is an exceptional piece that only exists in five copies.

Ole Grøndahl Hansen: Your objects date back to the early sixties. Have you had any problems concerning deterioration of you collected items. How do you conserve your objects?

Philippe Decelle: I know that many museums have problems with conservation of plastic objects, but personally I have never had any problems. And the reason for this is that I knew that there could be some. For me there is three reasons why I can conserve my plastic objects. I have anti UV-films on all the windows in the building. In that way I can preserve the quality and the stability of the colourful objects. The second reason is the humidity in the room and third one is: no heat. So when I don’t have any visitors to see my collection I try to maintain 10 degree centigrade in the building. It is a fact that in the17 years I have had my collection I have not had any problems with conservation of any of my plastic objects.

Ole Grøndahl Hansen: What about all the PVC inflatables? How do you handle them?

Philippe Decelle: When you keep something inflatable you have no natural folds. Originally you have the inflatable form so it is better to keep it like that. Once I accepted to lend some inflatable object to the design centre in New York near Sct Patrick. The exhibition was called “The Inflatable Moment”. I had desinflated all the objects and folded them very carefully in my luggage. But I had not made them totally empty. But I would not do that again because otherwise I would not keep my collection for the future which is what I want because it is a testimony on what has been produced in the sixties.

24 May 2010