Franck Sarfati 10 june 1963 – Paris

  • 1981 – 1985 Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre
  • 1985 – 1988 Studio Totem – (Brussels collective)
  • 1989 – 2016 [ s i g n ] * – graphic design studio
  • 2013 Sculpture classes
  • Lives in Brussels


In a way I’ll be sad if I sell these sculptures.

Franck Sarfati is a sculptor.

That too…?, if you weren’t yet aware of this facet of his personality you might be surprised to hear that his mother collected semi-precious stones. Sarfati could watch the light play on those crystals for hours on end. Facets.

Franck’s surname is Sarfati, you say it how you see it. Although not everyone is in agreement, far from it. For a long time Franck Sarphati, Zarfatti, Serfaty, Srarati, Sartafi,… kept the envelopes with all the weird and wonderful spellings of his surname, and things didn’t improve with the advent of the internet.

Franck – we’ll skip his surname from now on, because we’re getting to know him by now – was born in Paris in 1963. It’s interesting for him, mainly because, as a youngster, it was important for the others.

Franck is a dandy, in the sense that he dresses well. Has all the right furniture, is clean, has good taste. Even his garage, just like his shirts, is well ‘ironed’. One of the first ‘Franck’ mysteries. Indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me his sculptures have been ironed. I like the elegance of this biscuit feel. I use the finest sandpaper and jeweller’s files. So, no sign of any steam yet!

Before taking a late and well-deserved retirement, Franck’s father was a tailor. He sculpted (the chip doesn’t fall far from the block) suits for adults. He’s proud of his son, of his numerous facets, of his artistic talent, yes, but mainly of his success: “My son who set up a leading graphic design bureau all on his own – just the three of them, yes my son, I might be hard of hearing, but you’ve told me enough times and I’m not deaf.”

Graphic design involved everything I liked, synthesis, harmony, the intellectual aspect, not to mention the trash. I didn’t see myself as a scientist; I found my way in relation to a certain fulfilled spontaneity. Sign* has won more awards than Marlon Brando. Sign* was even capable of turning a simple doodle into a lasting logo.

Graphic design was also about rigour, exercises of style – I’ve always liked it when things aren’t straightforward. Franck is a graphic designer through and through: you just need to watch him, as he’s talking, unravel a piece of tinsel which has been entwined to such an extent that you and I would end up ripping it apart with impatience. Once he has finished unravelling it, it’s long and straight. And Franck hasn’t lost any of his Olympian calm.

I like working with my hands, fingers… I get pleasure from contact. It all began when I started taking a day off every Friday. I treated myself to a “sculptural Friday”. If I had the time I’d go to a cabinet maker, a Perspex manufacturer … to get away from pencils, paper and pixels. Franck is a perfectionist. He likes perfect straight lines and curves. Doesn’t feel comfortable when his super-210’s wool jacket gets creased or when his freshly pressed orange juice drips onto the wenge parquet. Everything has to be perfect, unless he decides otherwise, in the evening, sometimes, but rest assured we’ll never hear a word about it.

Facets. When Franck can’t find the furniture that he’s looking for, with an almost clinical obstinacy, he designs it with an artistic determination, and gets the items made up.

Facets. Rock was fantastic, but far too dangerous on too many levels.

Franck is a musician. At 16 he played bass in several groups which, without going so far as to provoke Franckmania, did get to support Kid Creole & the Coconuts (Cherokees), Defunkt (Happy Fews, Untouchables), Cabaret Voltaire and Pale Fountains (Supergroup).

The second ‘Franck’ mystery, because people say he’s not much of a bass player; a bass player with irreproachable design, but a lousy one.

Seductive, Franck is popular with the ladies.

With or without hair. He’s a good looking chap with an attitude, a laugh. The gift of the gab, refinement. But then it’s not every morning a woman gets to cross paths with a guy who is capable of spending two nights on a lower case ‘e’. The sculpture process is a long one. During this time, I think. I clear my head so that I can fill it with something else… Of my travels, I recall, amongst others, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, NYC… In Japan, I saw a lot of very simple, pure things and all the different variations on white. The rising sun tanned the aesthete, who, in return, loved it. Franck came back both the same and different. Full of details, visions, papers, landscapes, colossal cities and silences.

Take a look around, there’s plenty to see.

Franck has three hundred thousand friends, a minority of whom are on Facebook. When he celebrates his fiftieth birthday, he invites two hundred people and knows all two hundred names. Not all of them get along with one another, but they all get along with him. He’s the link between the opposed and the incompatible. He’s good at being worldly and personable. His friendships are sculpted in marble.

In his youth, Franck was a painter. He tried and failed to find his place in the world, so he simplified. He synthesised, he summarised. And now he is no longer young, even if he is rather well-preserved, he looks at all his facets. Rather than complaining, like so many others, of all the time that has passed, he sculpts.

So, sculptor of kaolin – the chrysalis of porcelain – but more China or Limoges?

I haven’t seen many abstract things made of porcelain. And then, I like the antinomy between its fragility and the power of its shape. The clash between chaos and structure.

And the shapes? I like the friction of imperfect forms. (After all we’re living in a world that’s full of friction, aren’t we?). I like the elegance, I aspire to harmony, but I also like it when it’s random.

Kasimir Malevitch, Jean Arp, Henri Laurens, El Lissitzky – all big names – are invited into his world of mineral, minimal sculptures, those which haunt these pages.

But it’s time for us to ask ourselves what Franck’s third mystery could be. If he had to reply, he would no doubt say that there is nothing other than desires, that what’s so special about the creative act is that you feel smarter afterwards, and that there’s no more mystery in it than there is in an apple.

As for us, our reply will be less fruity: we are looking forward to seeing Franck’s reaction when faced with the reactions of the public. Because, it might not look like it but Franck is exposing himself, maybe more than he has ever done before. So how does that make you feel, Mr Mysterious?

But let’s leave Franck to conclude, given that he doesn’t do too bad a job of it: I think I’ve had a good life up until now. And I think, even if I don’t like to say it, and without wanting to pass on any particular message… that in a certain way…

 Carl Hansenne