Pierre Bergian: Portraits of Rooms

Eerdmans is pleased to present Pierre Bergian: Portraits of Rooms, a collection of more than 20 new paintings of iconic interiors by the Belgian artist. The exhibition runs from April 6 to May 28, 2021, with viewings by appointment in Eerdmans’s newly expanded gallery.

In Portraits of Rooms, Bergian depicts a selection of interiors from the pantheon of 20th century design, from Tony Duquette's Dawnridge to Karl Lagerfeld’s Paris apartment. And “portraits” these are: in Bergian’s hands, the rooms present as breathing, pulsing characters, their richness of personality fully rendered in the artist’s loose, impressionistic brushwork.


April 06-May 28, 2021


14 East 10th Street, Upstairs
Between Fifth Avenue and University Place

Open Hours: Tuesdays-Thursdays, Noon to 5pm and by appointment

When I’m painting a room, it’s like I’m walking around it. It’s as if I’m actually in the room.”

— Pierre Bergian

Followers of Bergian’s work will be struck by something different here: the rooms are furnished. Having built his name painting mostly empty interiors — emphasizing their architecture and play of light, inviting the viewer to imagine their past and future lives — here Bergian depicts rooms as they were actually lived in. One has the unexpected chance to see him interpret the canon of classic furniture forms, whether tracing the curve of a Louis XV bergère or limning the lacquered folds of a Coromandel screen.

Regarding this inclusion, Bergian confesses that while he loves “the empty houses,” he’s also compelled by what Italian-born art scholar Mario Praz used the term horror vacui to describe: an uneasiness with unused space (what today might be called, for better or worse, maximalism). Bergian a lifelong collector — he started with bits of broken ceramics he’d dig up as a young boy on building sites in his native Bruges — he can relate to the love of pretty things on display in each of the portraits.

“I’m seeing the room not just as an artist,” he says, “but also as a collector. I love these rooms, full of objects and furniture.”

For many of the works, like that of Lagerfeld’s and of French illustrator Pierre Le-Tan’s residences, Bergian was able to draw on his professional contacts and visit the rooms; for others, he worked from photographs. Other rooms featured in the series include those decorated by giants like John Fowler and Henri Samuel, cementing Bergian’s reputation as, among other things, a designer’s artist.

How do I choose the room? I do it emotionally. I see something and I start working.

Living Room of Mario Buatta, 120 East 80th Street, New York. The heavily layered apartment of Mario Buatta is perhaps the best example of the decorator’s philosophy of “the collected interior”. Here Buatta glazed the original wood paneled library of the 1931 townhouse originally built for George and Martha Whitney by architects Cross and Cross in a lettuce green and hung rows of dog portraits from decorative blue bows, a playful riff on collecting historical portraits, often joking these were his ancestors. Buatta lived in the apartment from 1976 until his death in 2018, constantly adding to its collections.

Portraits of Rooms started serendipitously. In January 2020, Eerdmans founder Emily Evans Eerdmans was in a car to Sotheby’s New York for “Mario Buatta: Prince of Interiors,” a three-day auction of the legendary American decorator’s personal collection — an affair she herself had mounted, and one that arguably turned out to be the design event of the year. As Eerdmans distracted herself from the momentousness of the occasion by scrolling Instagram, she spotted a drawing Bergian had posted of Buatta’s famously layered Manhattan living room — an unlikely choice for an artist known for portraying abandoned interiors. The drawing moved Eerdmans; her work to bring the auction to fruition had been immense and had engendered a close friendship with Buatta, whose passing in 2018 was still fresh. Eerdmans got in touch with Bergian, and thus began the working relationship that would lead to Portraits of Rooms.

Bergian (Bruges, Belgium, b. 1965) studied art history and archaeology at the University of Ghent. His work is in the permanent collection of the British Museum; he has exhibited internationally, including at the Purdy Hicks Gallery, London; Galerie Laurent de Puybaudet, Paris; Galerie Josine Bokhoven, Amsterdam; and Gerald Bland, New York.

The owners’ souls are really in these rooms and in the objects. The rooms are a mirror of their psyche. Even if you don’t see them, they are present.”