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BALLY BASH: Lounging on a Pierre Jeanneret-designed chair in bleached teak at the Delano, Bally’s chief executive officer Frédéric De Narp appeared relatively refreshed for someone who hosted 1,200 guests throughout the previous night there. The garden soiree had been the big reveal for the Swiss brand’s exhibit “Triangle Walks,” named for its three components of art and design that cast a wide net of interest within the creative class. Catherine Malandrino, Joseph Dirand, Marcel Wanders, Giulio Cappellini, Emmanuel Perrotin, Cameron Silver and Stacy Engman came to pay respects to Jean Prouvé whose Demountable House dating from 1944 was temporarily installed in the hotel’s orchard after its 6-month restoration by a dozen artisans.  

“There are only three of its size left in the world,” said Frédéric De Narp, of the mobile wooden cottage supported by compassed-shaped gantry cranes. “The French government commissioned them to house people who had lost everything in the war.”

This story first appeared in the December 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Bally’s biggest push yet for Art Basel Miami Beach, a product-free project no less, was part of “Function and Modernity,” its traveling series centered on Prouvé’s house that began with “Form Scratch,” during Basel in June and concludes with Shanghai Design Week in March 2015. Kolkoz, made up by French artists Samuel Boutruche and Benjamin Moreau, participated for a second time with trompe l’oeil furniture such as a non-functioning desk with raised panels that mimic drawers and papers; each of the three wood works inspired by mid century modern designs is integrated with screens that play video shot at Coral Castle, a tourist attraction south of Miami. Added to the fold for this stop, Brooklyn-based artist Zak Kitnick repurposed metal shelves as canvases for large-scale shell prints.

“The shells’ mobility theme is in keeping with the house’s concept,” said De Narp, of Prouvé’s then groundbreaking marriage between functionality and beauty. “There was only one or the other when he was among the founders of the Union des Artistes Moderne.”

A pioneer of starchitect stores, Bally goes far back with the Union. Robert Mallet-Stevens designed its Paris flagship and another in Lyons. Le Corbusier and Karl Moser also took their turn. Creative director Pablo Coppola is a big vintage fan, especially the Sixties and Seventies, and the company is constantly adding to its collection of modern design that rotates from its Milan showroom to the Delano’s backyard, where seating and tables like Mallet-Stevens’s tube chairs from 1930 were displayed during Basel.

“We collect because we have experience with it,” said De Narp, who has spent hours poring over the house’s archives, which were established from when the firm was founded in 1851. “They saved everything. How many designers can say that? It’s rare to be so ambitious from the start.”

De Narp has made it his mission to expose more people to Bally’s  rich heritage including a collection of 35,000 shoes. He hopes the Prouvé house can become a mobile museum since the Bally Shoe Museum in Schönenwerd, Switzerland remains under the radar. 

“There’s a huge demand for knowledge and meaningfulness,” said De Narp of consumers in the digital age. “They’ve been cheated, so they want to know the values, care and history behind a brand, and Bally has it all.”

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