I started this blog as a virtual location to document ideas and organize the designers, shops and galleries that I come across, those I like and want to follow. I haven’t been as consistent with writing about collecting design and art as much as I intended to, but visually via Instagram you can get an idea of what’s trending for me personally and I try to tag makers and designers when available.
When I think about my writing and what I have published on the Empty Apartment journal, it’s interesting to see that I am still focused on some themes. I am constantly coming across new and exciting wallpapers and even though I have not had the opportunity to personally use any, I am working on an studio apartment renovation that might allow for the experience. Textiles have been on my radar for a while since table linens have always been a struggle for me. It’s difficult to find linens that I like and fit my table well and well the modo “if you can’t find it, make it” has been working out so you’ll have to wait and see what I get myself into. I think textiles should be bought in person, I have to feel a material. Not always are the descriptions so accurate as to pure linen, pre-washed linen, “the highest quality linen”. If you are going to have your skin on it you should touch it before you buy it. Ordering swatches has been my new thing to get a feel for a company’s fabrics.
There are some designers I still actively follow and new ones that are I have come across. So I hope to get into detail with some new, great stuff and where to find them.
This Spring I did not go to Salone del Mobile in Milan, which I kind of regret. There are a lot of resources online to look at featured and new products but painfully it’s never the same. Last year Max Lamb had an exhibition launching his ‘Marmoreal” product, a man-made stone which he used to build furniture and cover floor, walls and ceiling. The result was a a three-dimensional effect of the contrasting colors in the stone producing a little bit of disorientation as you stepped into his installation. Mind blowing really. This year in Milan his work was exhibited in a larger fashion as a retrospective of his seating pieces, a presentation that was much more of an introduction to his work for perhaps a new audience. Last year was also the first for TooGood Unisex Outwear, they make these very beautiful structured coats and jackets inspired in professions such as the oil rigger, the chemist, the courier. This year their 2nd collection was presented introducing new professions such as the printer, the sculptor and the curator. The new collection was made out of tough cottons and hard-wearing linens that resemble antique Japanese textiles of patch worked textiles with sashiko stitching or boro patching. These are only 2 of many many designers and makers that participate in the Fouri Salone or “Out of Salon” exhibitions and events that flood the city of Milan during Design Week.
NYC Design Week was interesting. Much more bustling than last year, it was great to have Frieze NY overlap with ICFF, Collective Design, Wanted Design and Sight Unseen OFFSITE. Frieze New York is definitely not the London version but it was more exciting or refreshing than my last few visits to the Armory Show.
The fair, which felt relatively small compared to other fairs had lots of great artworks throughout. Some of my personal favorites were works by Pierre Huyghe, Ian Cheng, Rudolf Stingel, Sam Lewitt, Jeppe Hein, Letha Wilson and Anton Alvarez. I was emotionally moved by Melanie Matranga’s pieces of cast silicone on display at Karma Gallery. She recreated a butterfly chair and a Parisian apartment’s wall surface hanging in the booth space as a type of curtain. The works were quite nostalgic as they elude to the idea of objects that had or have an existence elsewhere. Far from a pristine version of them but more in a grunge fashion as the artist has allowed for the silicone to collect dust particles and small objects giving them a used and neglected aspect.
A few thoughts on Collective Design. As my first year visiting Collective Design I was really looking forward to it. From the press I had read over the past couple years and being familiar with who the organizers are, I had pretty high standards. Not that the fair was bad but I guess I was imagining something similar to Design Miami, where a strong emphasis is placed on booth layouts and exhibition. Yes, there was some attention to display but more than a few booths looked like an overcrowded flea market stand and not in a cool way. I am a big fan of Isamu Noguchi’s work and he was featured as a Special Exhibition. A site-specific installation of the artist’s work was located in a raw loading dock, falling short, it felt like an after thought in terms of placement. “I know where we can put it, in the broom closet!”, there was no congruency with the rest of the fair and it was not beautiful. Another disappointment were some of the sponsor booths, particularly Lalique and their Damien Hirst presentation. I don’t care how much money a sponsor gives to a fair, it is the fair’s obligation to give them guidelines and direct them making sure their presentation is relevant. Lalique’s booth looked like a Lalique shop featuring works from a collaboration with Damien Hirst, everything from the black carpet, the lighting, the signage and that table was just tacky and outdated. I would have placed them in the loading dock, where no one can see them. One of the more interesting galleries participating at Collective Design was Memphis - Post Design Gallery from Milan.
Memphis is a design movement that has been making a come back over the past couple years. Appearing in fashion, interior design, product design, photography, and any other visual art form, it seems to be staying for a while or it has been on my Instagram feed. The initial movement appeared in 1980 in Milan and was a philosophy defined by communication and a way of working, where form does not follow function. Even though few pieces were created and still remain, they serve as inspiration to younger designers. In the 80s it was about mass- media and was quite popular, just like today it’s exploding via social media and the internet. Bright mix-matching colors and bold patterns are typical of Memphis aesthetics, however it can be debated if younger designers are using the same philosophy to create as the original Memphis designers did back in the 80s, doubtfully so. I’m not an avid fan since I feel the fad and much before it started I was never much of a fan of Ettore Sottsass to begin with, only few pieces have captured my interest. Personally, I don’t see much purpose in form that does not follow or at least communicate with function.