Artist Alexandre Benjamin Navet Turned New York’s 5th Avenue Into an Immersive, Floral Sketchbook
Van Cleef & Arpels commissioned the French artist's latest installation, in partnership with the nonprofit Fifth Avenue Association.
One morning earlier this month, French artist Alexandre Benjamin Navet broadly smiled as he strolled down New York’s 5th Avenue, right through his latest work.
“It’s really emotional to see all these beautiful people taking pictures and enjoying it,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect when you start this kind of project. It’s amazing to see all the interactions and the joy that’s on everyone’s faces.”
Navet has the preppy style of a native Parisian. He wore a blue blazer, and his slim, tailored gray jeans matched his ever-present cap. He sat down at an outdoor table at a plaza. In front of him, a group of tourists posed next to a giant sculpture of a vase of flowers that was surrounded by freshly planted pink, yellow, and red begonias.
It was part of the 36-year-old’s immersive Fifth Avenue Blooms installation, running down the busy thoroughfare from 57th to 49th Street throughout the month of May.
“The idea was walking through a giant sketchbook,” Navet said of his 5th Avenue takeover, which has turned the 12 blocks into a veritable canvas for the artist’s colorful sculptures of vases and grand arches. It even encompasses an outdoor café.
Each piece is adorned with live flowers. As they grow, the sculptures’ appearances change as well. “It’s all about spring and creating surprise in the city,” Navet said.
Every project begins with Navet’s hand sketches. His oeuvre is defined by a sense of naivety, a childlike Crayola-scribble utopia that is balanced by a fine-tuned sense of scale, proportion, and adult perspective. His style is utterly distinctive, thriving on this dichotomy that embraces his two sides.
The project was made in conjunction with the nonprofit Fifth Avenue Association and Van Cleef & Arpels. Design elements of the installation are woven into 56 of the luxury jeweler’s boutiques around the world (including its 5th Avenue flagship, which serves as an anchor for the exhibition at 57th Street) and eight of its pop-up stores.
Navet has been working with Van Cleef & Arpels for some time. In 2017, he won the Grand Prix at the Design Parade Toulon, which was sponsored by the brand, and in 2020, he did the window displays of its stores. “His aesthetic and positive outlook is a perfect match for the Maison,” said Helen King, President & CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels Americas.
Navet’s style is well-suited to art projects that bridge the commercial and public realms—it’s elevated and chic, but casual observers can easily connect with his work. It’s also perfect Instagram fodder.
He is equally comfortable in traditional art spheres. The French embassy commissioned a series of Navet’s landscape paintings, currently on view at London’s French Institute.
And he will have a solo show, “Jardin,” opening at Paris’s Galerie Deroullion on June 26. “I’m actually going to do something really different from my vocabulary,” he says. “It’s going to be a discovery.”
Before embarking upon art, Navet studied industrial design at ENSCI-Les Ateliers in Paris. He earned his degree in 2011, but wasn’t sated.
“I realized that there was something missing in my life,” he said. “It was color.” He’s zealously made up for lost time.
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