An L.A. gallerist curates his family home in Hancock Park with eclectic sophistication.
“I think there must have been 130 people here,” says Camilla Trigano of the dinner party following the opening of Alex Prager’s sold-out exhibition at her husband Benjamin’s gallery, M+B, this past January. It was a rowdy scene as artists and actors mingled shoulder to shoulder over aged Champagne and homemade kitcheree. The 3,200-square-foot Hancock Park duplex and its tenants are well equipped for such occasions—as a young girl, Camilla spent many years at her family’s winery near Bergerac, and her mother, who attended Le Cordon Bleu, taught her how to cook for large parties. Benjamin grew up in Paris and New York (his family started the Club Med empire) and is the cofounder of the hotel concept Mama Shelter.
The couple met at Paris’ Moulin Rouge, got married on a boat on the Seine and had Chloe and Adrian before moving to the States. Benjamin had worked in advertising in NYC after graduating from Clark University and realized the opportunities here; L.A. seemed like a great place to raise children. Their friend, designer Philippe Starck (who has designed all the Mama Shelter properties in Europe), built them a “surf shack” in Mar Vista; Benjamin set to work opening the gallery, recruiting photographers and surveying the West Coast arts scene. Camilla, meanwhile, accepted a position at Taschen’s Hollywood headquarters and is now the director of marketing at Environment Furniture.
“I never thought we would live in an apartment again,” says Camilla—the family moved to the 1920s building five years ago after outgrowing the beach cottage. Not only did the space have the energy and character they desired; the swaths of white walls sold Benjamin instantly—a blank canvas, if you will. “I think the children have counted 400 pieces hanging up,” says Camilla. It’s a mixed bag: In the living room, a Richard Avedon faces fencing masks and a brass ship sourced at flea markets; an Alex Prager hangs beside a Slavs and Tatars tapestry. In the hallway, stacked panoramic shots are met with Martin Schoeller’s portrait of the artist formerly known as Prince in the children’s room. “For me, it’s like Christmas every Sunday,” says Benjamin, who faithfully scours the Pasadena City College, Rose Bowl, Long Beach and Santa Monica airport markets with Chloe and Adrian.
He is completely at ease, whether at a private vernissage or a parking lot filling up his roller cart; a curious self-thinker, he’s excited by each new discovery. “Real collectors collect everything they’re passionate about,” Benjamin says. Look around, and his interests abound: Hundreds of record albums and books are neatly piled on the floor, Cire Trudon candles and ashtrays are scattered about, and in the garage, there are new and vintage cars, trucks and motorbikes.
“Benjamin has an incredible eye,” says Camilla, which he is also bringing to the first L.A. Mama Shelter property, slated to open at the end of the summer. The 70-room boutique hotel at the corner of Wilcox and Selma, which Benjamin likens to an “urban kibbutz,” will boast a casual, family-style restaurant by French chef Alain Senderens, a rooftop lounge and “the best desserts in the city.” He’s also launching Wax Poster, a high-end startup, with a $49 reproduction of Ai Weiwei naked in Tiananmen Square.
And while it has operated exclusively as a photo gallery since 2008, M+B is also evolving. This month, the gallery splits into M+B Art, which will include paintings and drawings, and M+B Photo. The moniker speaks to Benjamin’s general attitude about life: “I didn’t want to put my name on the gallery, so it stands for ‘Me and Benjamin.’ It’s a more collective feeling—that’s my goal.”
By Kelsey McKinnon.
Photographed by Jessica Sample.