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PARIS — The French government has dug into its vast collection of contemporary furniture and bric-a-brac for an exhibition dubbed “Culture Design” at the Palais de la Porte Dorée here.

This story first appeared in the October 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The exhibit covers a sprawling 25,830 square feet and showcases a boggling assortment of 2,000 designs dating from the Fifties to the present. It is organized by the Ministry of Culture.

“The exhibit is categorized by 13 themes, such as color, use, materials, manufacturer or designers, in order to illustrate the magnitude of acquisitions made by the state in this domain,” said curator Christine Collin, who noted that another 3,000 objects still remain in storage.

The government arm, which also buys contemporary art, began collecting design objects 20 years ago. Visitors to the exhibit, created by industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, meander through metallic passageways elevated above objects housed in cages.

“Following the exhibit is like going through a three-dimensional catalogue of objects,” Grcic explained. “People can discover the works like at an archaeological site.”

Highlights include a selection of iconic chairs from designers such as Carlo Mollino —?a wooden armchair covered with burgundy fabric —?and Verner Panton — shaped like an ice cream cone. A dressing table by Michael Graves for Memphis is shown in the Eighties section, and there are also rows of objects ranging from bathroom brushes and pots and pans to running shoes. Also on display are about 100 design objects commissioned by the government over the past 40 years, including Pierre Paulin’s smoking salon furniture for the presidential palace, chairs designed by Sylvain Dubuisson in 1991 for administrative offices and a conference table by Kristian Gavoille for a French ministry.

Gavoille’s table, commissioned nine years ago, was never used for its intended purpose because the minister who ordered it lost his reelection bid. It was only recently removed from its crate by the French Association of Artistic Actions.

“Unlike the ministers, the furniture never changes,” he said.

The exhibition will run through Jan. 16.

— Emilie Marsh and Laurent Folcher