This website uses cookies to enhance the user experience.


01/17/24: Where a Rising Designer Finds Inspiration in Madrid

From hidden treasure troves of vintage furniture to tiny boutiques filled with delicate ceramics, the Spanish capital is a gold mine of fresh visual culture; we survey the best new exhibitions around the globe.

January 17, 2024 By THE GRAND TOURIST
New York–based interior and product designer Nicholas Obeid. Photo: PJ Mattan

You’re reading The Grand Tourist Curator, our weekly newsletter with the latest handpicked news and insights from the worlds of art, design, style, food, and travel. Sign up here to get The Curator delivered directly to your inbox.

Furniture gallery Berenis. Photo: Nicholas Obeid

Where a Rising Designer Finds Inspiration in Madrid
With a mastery of honest materials, a vaguely early modern aesthetic (Jean-Michel Frank is his patron saint), and an unfussy-yet-uncluttered vibe, Nicholas Obeid is part of a new, sophisticated generation of New York designers. In the case of Nicholas, who left Jonathan Adler after seven years to launch his own studio in 2018, has been published in titles like T Magazine and Architectural Digest, and was recently added to Elle Decor’s A-List, he enjoys a creative recharge in a cosmopolitan place that’s as unassumingly chic as his own portfolio. (He’s also had successful furniture collections with CB2 for eight seasons.) For him, that’s the city of Madrid and especially the quiet, residential Chamberí neighborhood. “If you go to France, you know what you’re going to get. It’s a bit on the nose,” Obeid says about his preference for the city, which he visits yearly with his Spanish boyfriend of four years. “In Madrid, there’s something fresh and stylish going on.” But like any good designer, there’s a more practical layer to the city’s appeal. We asked Obeid for his shortlist of places to visit and shop when in Madrid, from unassuming sources of handmade ceramics to overlooked museums. —Dan Rubinstein

“My favorite design space in the world. The original location of this shop is in El Rastro neighborhood, with all the vintage design dealers. But if you ask the owner about the lesser-known second location, they’ll take you across the street, down an unsuspecting hallway and into a massive glass atrium filled with the most tasteful curation of vintage furniture and art among their own contemporary designs. Endlessly inspiring. You may catch them in the process: during my last visit, they were compiling a range of collected vintage tiles to assemble flooring patterns for a local hotelier.”

From left: The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum; objects sourced from Tado by Obeid. Photos: Nicholas Obeid

Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum
“I spent a few hours here on my recent trip to Madrid, but one could spend the entire day. What I loved about it was how it encompasses myriad art styles. There’s a super moody sunset painting by Van Gogh, “Evening Landscape” (1885), striking geometrics by the likes of Frank Stella and El Lissitzky, and colorful Rothkos. There’s something for everyone.”

“I collect treasures from this little ceramics shop every time I visit. It’s run by a French woman who fell in love with Madrid. It’s a hidden gem, void of any tourists, with a beautifully curated mix of objects; you can’t help but walk in and begin assembling a pile to take home with you. The pieces are sourced from all over the world and reasonably valued. And the owner wraps everything with love, writing names on each tag so you can learn more about the artists.”

From left: Tristan Domecq Casa; Fundacion Juan March. Photos: Nicholas Obeid

Fundacion Juan March
“This private foundation was founded in the ’50s and also has spaces in Palma and Cuenca that host talks, performances, and exhibitions. It was recommended to me by a friend and the architecture of the building is a draw itself—in Madrid designed in the ’70s by architect José Luis Picardo in the Salamanca district—and has a few big garden sculptures I loved. While there’s no heavy hitter artists inside, it’s more about the architecture of the place and the curatorial vision. I enjoyed an exhibit there about the Pre-Columbian influences on modernism.”

Tristan Domecq Casa
“Tristan’s a friend, and he’s a designer in Madrid. Step into his world, and you just may see him—his home store offers a mix of his own collection and vintage pieces, and his design firm’s office sits right above. My favorite spotting was a vintage Italian rattan side chair.”

From left: IKB 191; Sportivo. Photo: Nicholas Obeid

“This is the second, brand-new location of an existing menswear boutique. Display tables are suspended in midair by wires, with exposed concrete and architectural columns; the design of the shop is worth a visit itself. They offer labels like A Kind of Guise and President’s—it’s like a Spanish Barneys.”

IKB 191
“The Spanish have a way of utilizing a blank canvas—crisp white walls and ivory upholstery—to envelop splashes of sumptuous color within. This shop sells a mix of mid-century furniture, brass lighting and ceramic objects. Over my past three trips to Madrid, I’ve purchased ceramic serveware here by a local artist.”

“My Olympia” (2022) by Noa Klagsbald. Photo: Courtesy the artist and New Contemporaries

A Woman’s Eye for Sports; Frank Lloyd Wright Returns to Japan; a Digital Pioneer Gets His Due; and Other Notable Openings

NEW YORK, “Harold Cohen: AARON” (Opens Feb. 3)
The Whitney Museum of American Art is adding to the craze of A.I.–generated art, but surprisingly, it’s not contemporary work. Instead, the works were created by AARON, a program conceived in the late ’60s and further developed until the death of the artist behind it, British pioneer Harold Cohen.

LOS ANGELES, “Thirty Years: Written With a Splash of Blood” (Until Mar. 3)
Taking its name from Yukio Mishima’s 1969 novel “Runaway Horses,” Blum gallery celebrates its 30th anniversary with a survey of Japanese art from the 1960s to today, co-curated by gallerist Tim Blum and Japanese art historian Mika Yoshitake, with works presented in the gallery’s locations in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and New York. Inspired by the lauded novel’s themes of national identity, the works attempt to encapsulate the impact of Japanese culture on the gallery’s history.

TOKYO, “Frank Lloyd Wright and the World” (Until Mar. 10)
The American icon of architecture Frank Lloyd Wright was deeply influenced by Japanese culture. The Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art will present a compilation of research on Wright’s work, from the original Imperial Hotel, which Wright constructed in the early 1900s, to his sketches, inspirations, and even a life-sized model of a Usonian House originally built in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1940.

PARIS, “Dear Paris” (Until Feb. 28)
The American abstract artist Stanley Whitney, whose vibrant and bold works have been shown internationally for decades since developing his current artistic style in the 1990s, is presenting his works inspired by his recent residency in Paris at the Gagosian. “There’s a history of African Americans going to Paris that dates back to after the First World War. Jazz musicians, writers, and artists like Beauford Delaney, James Baldwin, and more recently, Ed Clark, went to Paris for a creative freedom they couldn’t find in the United States,” says the artist. “In Paris, there’s a play between different periods in a long history; you just don’t have that in the States.”

LONDON, “Bloomberg New Contemporaries” (Opens Jan. 19)
Running for decades, this showcase of emerging U.K. artists is returning to the Camden Art Centre. The work of 55 talents will be on display, including that of Noa Klagsbald, a female Israeli photographer whose work centers around the cultural dynamics of sport. —Vasilisa Ioukhnovets

Meet the greats.
Listen to The Grand Tourist.

newsletter illustration