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It might seem like a sign of the times when the man who designed Bill Gates’ megamansion is rifling through scrap metal for his latest project. But French-born uberarchitect Thierry Despont, who also built Calvin Klein’s not-so-humble Southampton abode, isn’t suffering from the Wall Street meltdown. Rather, Despont deliberately chose to recycle junkyard cast-offs to produce his latest solo art show, “Through the Moon Door,” at New York’s Marlborough Chelsea Gallery.

“I like when you can see the rust,” says Despont of the materials such as worn-in tractor seats that he repurposed into the show’s motley mix of tribal masks, insect-inspired sculptures, handsome cabinets and large-scale metal installations. (There’s also a few wood-paneled paintings of planets thrown in for good measure.)

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s all bound together by imagination, evokes emotion and produces poetry,” says Despont, who was inspired by objects found in old-fashioned science museums, like New York’s American Museum of Natural History. “There was a time when they had a better sense of wonder than we had.”

Of course, this version is all man-made, a decision Despont defends. “I have such a poor imagination compared to what nature can produce,” he says. “I wouldn’t use a real butterfly.”

Certainly, Despont has made a name for himself with his man-made projects of another kind, high-profile manses and haute commercial spaces across the globe. But it’s a career the Manhattanite doesn’t consider separate from his visual art. “It’s only in this century that we’ve started to make this distinction between artist and architect. I’m a better architect because I’m an artist and vice versa,” he says. “It’s a complete continuum.”

In fact, Despont’s ideal project, a so-called “dream museum,” would merge the two disciplines, where he would be responsible for the building and the art inside.

“It will take time,” he says of the ambitious proposition, “But I’m in no rush.”

“Through the Moon Door”; Through Nov. 15; Marlborough Chelsea Gallery, 545 West 25th Street; 212-463-8634.


CLARIFICATION: Architecture firms Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and Cutler Anderson Architects designed Bill Gates’ home. Thierry Despont contributed to the interiors.

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