PARIS – What I like most about my job is immersing myself in a world that is foreign to me, and recreating its essence through specific décor. Galerie Aveline–Jean-Marie Rossi recently commissioned me to produce an unexpected scenography for their exhibition, Afrique(s) – Dialogue between African Art & 18th Century Decorative Arts, held in conjunction with Sotheby’s for a few more days. My task was to recreate the study of Alexis Bonew – whose extraordinary collection of African Art will sell at Sotheby’s Paris on 10 December – in the opulent, panelled setting of their gallery that specialises in 18th-century decorative arts.

I pored over photographs of Bonew’s apartment in Brussels before making sketches. It was, of course, impossible to reproduce the venue precisely within the confined exhibition space available at Galerie Aveline, but my aim was to recapture its special atmosphere and reveal the salient features of his multifaceted character. Just like his artworks and extraordinarily rich documentation, several portraits of him intrigued me. They show Alexis Bonew in the flower of age: a fine figure of a man, whose feigned nonchalance betrayed refinement, and whose mischievous, child-like smile reflected an exceptional capacity for marvelling at things. He travelled little during his life, devoting his time to the works of art in his secret collection. I was fascinated by his personality, and hope this exhibition will enhance his reputation.


Denis Hagar is a production designer and set decorator, and member of the Association des Chefs Décorateurs de Cinéma.

Afrique(s) – Dialogue between African Art & 18th Century Decorative Arts
Galerie Aveline–Jean-Marie Rossi Antiquaire
94, rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré
75008 Paris, France

Alexis Bonew Collection
Sotheby's Paris, 10 December