Wonderful Ettore Sottsass exhibition at the ICA Miami “Ettore Sottsass and the Social Factory” which surveys Ettore’s work focusing on his monumental furniture, ceramics, photography and speculative drawings. Very strong, tightly focused exhibition on this maestro. Exhibition closes October 6.
Victor Vasarely Watch
Intimate and amazing exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris showcasing Diane Venet’s vision of collecting jewelry by artists on view now.
From Alexander Calder to Jeff Koons and ranging from Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Niki de Saint Phalle to César, Takis and Louise Bourgeois, a host of modern and contemporary artists have taken a close interest in jewellery. Diane Venet, who has collected artist’s jewellery for more than thirty years, is sharing her passion for these miniature artworks that often echo the artist’s formal language. Her collection of some 230 pieces, complemented by exceptional loans from galleries, collectors and the artists’ families, chronologically and thematically illustrates the work of 150 French and foreign artists. From March 7 to July 8, 2018, Diane Venet’s jewellery collection will be showcased in an exhibition designed by interior architect Antoine Plazanet and graphic designers Éricand Marie.
Great catalog is available for you if you are unable to attend in person.
Just returned from trip to Europe and made sure I stopped in Milan to see an amazing exhibition of Ettore Sottsass called “There is a Planet” at the Triennale Museum which is open thru March 11th. The title of the exhibition is that of a project that Sottsass started in the 1990’s , but never completed. The project was to show photos which he had taken over many years in 5 categories; architecture, houses, doors, people and more in general dwellings which involve the presence of humans on the planet. This forms the structure of this exhibition.
This all encompassing exhibit displayed over 6000 square feet of exhibition space includes many rare early pieces never exhibited to the public in Sottsass’ lifetime. For those of you lucky enough to have seen the exhibit-Congratulations. Those of you who will be in Milan before March 11th, this is a must highlight for any design aficionado.
For anyone not in either in the above categories, I took many photos which I am sharing with you.
The 13th edition of Design Miami (6-10 December) recently concluded. The global creative community descended on the city, all in the name of design and art. Seeing an energized focus on the expanding Design District this year, CoBo Social invited Al Eiber to share his top picks in Design Miami 2017.
89 × 117 7/10 × 1 1/5 in
226 × 299 × 3 cm Edition 2/2AP/5+2 AP
Al Eiber’s take on the work: This Le Courbusier tapestry is a rare example designed by one of the most important architects of the 20th century.
Maker Chair (Voronoi)
30 71/100 × 23 31/50 × 25 59/100 in
78 × 60 × 65 cm
Edition of 15
Al Eiber’s take on the work: Joris Laarman is probably the hottest young industrial designer. Currently Joris has a large exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.
19 × 12 1/4 × 9 1/2 in
48.3 × 31.1 × 24.1 cm
Al Eiber’s take on the work: Ettore Sottsass is one of my favorite architects. His glass pieces and his 1960’s ceramics are especially great and collectable.
Urushi Project, Chandelier
31 1/2 × 78 7/10 × 31 1/2 in
80 × 199.9 × 80 cm
Al Eiber’s take on the work: This chandelier by this brilliant Japanese architect is fantastic.
Red stretched upholstery over polyurethane foam
83 × 32 × 36 in
210.8 × 81.3 × 91.4 cm
Al Eiber’s take on the work: The Italian Radical Design work is finally receiving appropriate recognition as a historically important period. Look for pieces designed by Archizoom, Superstudio and Studio 65.
The Haas Brothers
Silverware Hex Display Case
Hex Tile, Walnut
Unique Hex Tile Display Case with Carved Walnut Top with seventy-two slots.
37”L x 30.5”W x 32”H.
The Haas Brothers
Unique sculptural silverware produced in Sterling silver, comprised of six pieces.
Al Eiber’s take on the work: The Haas Brothers made this Silverware which they named George II. It is one of the most stunning flatware sets I have ever seen.
Strolling amongst the 150-strong collection of lots included in the Living in a Material World auction is like walking through design’s hall of fame from the past century. The pioneers of Italian and Scandinavian post-war design sit beside the rebels of the Royal College of Art from the 1980s and 1990s; the Memphis stars alongside the more recent shape shifters and alchemists of the 21st Century. Anyone unfamiliar with the canon of 20th- and 21st-century design might wonder what it is that is special about all these things. Why are they collectible?
Collectible status is for the most part a perception we impose on design because the design (and the designer) in question has been deemed important and the work has proven covetable. There are many reasons why. Important historical pieces in excellent condition by notable designers are collectible for obvious reasons, seen here in the works of Josef Frank, Kaare Klint and Arne Jacobsen. Based on their skill and status as pioneers, certain contemporary designers have always belonged in the collectible category: Marc Newson, Ron Arad and Zaha Hadid. Extreme craftsmanship, like the work of Pablo Reinoso and Studio Job, and extraordinary, innovative uses of material, like Joris Laarman and Oskar Zieta, fit comfortably into the mix. Sometimes poetic, intangible beauty is enough, like Kam Tin’s coffee table and Jonas Bohlin’s zinc shelves. Perhaps the simplest, universal requirement for design to be considered collectible is a compelling narrative. Stories sell, as we are so often reminded nowadays.
In the case of this auction, materiality is the narrative thread that ties the collection together. It is the particular lens through which this hall of fame has been compiled and edited by Tony Chambers, the recent editor-in-chief of Wallpaper*. In some places the material narrative is explicit. Thomas Heatherwick’s seemingly impossible Keep off the Glass Chair (2004) is a masterpiece of material impropriety. That it is a functional chair confounds our expectations. This makes the experience of sitting on it uncomfortable, though only because our preconceptions don’t allow us to relax enough to feel the comfort. In other places the material narrative is subtly charming. A set of stools by Axel Einar Hjorth or a rare rug by Marta Maas Fjetterstrom are each radical examples of early modern material craft that have quietly passed the test of time and taste, and appear all the more exquisite today as a result. They are uniquely precious, but crucially still very much functional.
Collectible design is still design, with function at its heart. Collectors of design for the most part collect pieces to live with. To live with something asks for an emotional connection from its owner. It requires an investment and a commitment, beyond the financial. The things we buy to live with we buy because we love, and because they speak to us in some way. They show something of who we are. Collectible design has a personal and emotional quality to it, which makes it intriguing.
This is why stories are so important in the realm of collectible design. Every piece in this auction tells the story of a person armed with a skill and the imagination to create something, exploring the possible limits of a material, responding to that particular moment in time. As such, they are both achievements of design and also emblems of progress. Beyond the obvious beauty of Alvar Aalto’s ethereal Savoy Vase, or the bombast of Alessandro Mendini’s Proust Chair, each piece comes to life when we understand the historical, cultural, social, economic and even political context within which they were designed. Context brings feeling to form and function. Context allows for and encourages an emotional connection beyond aesthetic appeal.
One of the most striking aspects of the collection here is the warmth and tactility of so many of the designs. This is in part due to the warmth of their material character, but also because they have soul. These are not cold museum artefacts to be looked at but never touched. They are all functional still. Thanks to their visceral materiality they beg to be touched, stroked, sat on or eaten at. They require human interaction to fully understand what makes them valuable. It is a myth that simply because a design is deemed collectible it is too precious to use.
I learned this lesson in Istanbul when I was invited to dinner at the apartment of a fairly intimidating collector. She ushered me into her penthouse salon with a panoramic view of the Bosphorus and asked me to make myself at home. She had a Big Easy chair by Ron Arad, a couple of Clay Series chairs by Maarten Baas and a Cake Stool by The Campanas all facing a comfortable sofa, on which she had made herself comfortable. Fearing it a bit odd to sit next to her on the sofa, I asked, hesitantly, if it was okay to sit on her Cake Stool. ‘What else do you think it’s for?” she asked plainly.
So began a lengthy diatribe about the nonsense that she believed was creeping into the design world, where the most interesting expressions of form and material, simply because they were deemed – in her words – “design-art” were presumed to not be fit for function: “I have not bought these pieces because I want to sell them in a decade for more money. I have not bought them just to look at. I have bought them because they are stories that mean something to me and I love them. They give me great pleasure to use,” she said.
She had hit the nail on the head. Collectible design is made up of stories that resonate with the people who collect them. It is the narrative expression and charm that captures their imagination, and on which their emotional attachment is founded. The value of collectible design, however it might be determined or defined, is not really understood by its cost at all; its value comes to life when it is lived with and loved, used and cherished. Incidentally, the Cake Stool was extremely comfortable.
I had the opportunity to recently visit one of the most breathtaking homes, studio and private gardens located about an hour from New York City by car.
On the eastern side of the Bear Mountain Bridge, where struggling backpackers on the Appalachian Trail emerge from the woods to cross the Hudson River, is nestled one of the least-known modernist monuments of landscape architecture. Manitoga (“Place of Great Spirit” in Algonquin) is the quirky, holistic minor masterpiece of Russel Wright (1904-1976), one of this century’s most influential ceramic, glass and furniture designers.Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Manitoga is a “garden of woodland paths” (Wright’s description) and is open to the public. Russel and Mary Wright acquired it in 1941 as an 80-acre weekend retreat, and it slowly evolved into their permanent home. After Mary’s death in 1952, the increasingly reclusive designer began work on the site’s central dwelling, Dragon Rock, which he completed in 1961.
Inviting comparisons at first glance with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Dragon Rock surrenders completely to its surroundings, a cliff-side grotto on 11 levels. As a laboratory for Wright’s late 1950s concern with domestic order and environmentalism, Dragon Rock should not be missed when touring the Hudson Valley.
As I have previously posted, Russel Wright’s industrial design is personally interesting to me and was my first collectable.
David Rago Auctions had a series of sales this past weekend including a single owner sale of Mark McDonald and a very strong sale of Modern Design. Prices remain strong and most lots did well. Check out ragoauctions.com/auctions website for the many lots including great furniture, glass, and ceramics offered.
Marc Benda: A Lifelong Passion for Design
OVER THE LAST DECADE, MARC BENDA has established himself as a discerning and deeply intelligent force in the world of contemporary design. In 2007 he joined with Barry Friedman, since retired, to open their eponymous gallery in Chelsea. This past May, an exhibition entitled dna10 looked back to the gallery’s beginnings to honor its tenth anniversary in a show that featured the work of twenty-one artists and designers from five continents—showing both historic modern objects and contemporary work and demonstrating Friedman Benda’s wide scope. In this interview, MODERN contributing editor Al Eiber speaks with Benda about his upbringing, his passion for design, and his curatorial eye.
AE: You are celebrating your tenth anniversary. Can you discuss the recent exhibition that commemorated this significant moment in the gallery’s history?
MB: Normally, our shows are monographic and developed over months, more often years, with a single designer and his or her studio. Once a year we invite an outside curator who brings a fresh vision in design to the gallery. This one time, I wanted to prepare an exhibition that is both personal and satisfies my desire to lay out our vision, to show what has been driving us to keep pushing boundaries. Perhaps we will fail and the show will end up being too chaotic, but it will have been a fun process.
AE: Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you get into the business?
MB: It happened so naturally that I cannot put a real start date to it. My parents were passionate collectors of decorative arts for many years. We spent many holidays and weekends going to flea markets and brocante, or bric-a-brac, shops that used to dot the French landscape. In those days you could find many good objects almost anywhere in Europe. My parents engaged with dealers to learn about the material they were coveting. The hunt for the objects was very exciting to me from a young age, and I was a collector at heart. From post stamps to vintage Disney toys and soccer stickers, I caught the bug early on and I have not yet found a cure.
After I graduated from high school, my mother started a gallery operating out of a warehouse in Zurich. I was living in Paris for a few months and would scour the flea markets and Left Bank galleries every weekend to find objects for her to sell. In the following few years, I became very passionate about Murano glass and started building a network of dealers and some buyers. It was in those years that I met Barry Friedman, too. He took me under his wing and simultaneously gave me the space to grow and beat my own path.
AE: I know you speak multiple languages. How many?
MB: I am able to converse in four, though I don’t have a very good accent when speaking any of them.
AE: Why did you decide to open in New York and not in Europe?
MB: When I was twenty, I visited a friend in New York, visiting by myself for the first time (and second time overall). It was such a revelation, the energy, the sheer power pulsing through the streets of this city. I wanted to live here and build my life here. New York is the place where you can do what I set out to do.
AE: How do you find your talent? How do you evaluate whether to represent a talented industrial designer?
MB: Usually our relationships grow over extended periods. I keep a dialogue with many designers and artists, sometimes over years, before we decide to collaborate. Finding the right match is very important, and usually that is based on personality as much as on the nature of the work. You want this to become a true partnership, something with room to grow and evolve over the years. As in life and in love, working relationships require understanding, patience, nurturing, and a mutual commitment.
AE: What’s more fun, working with current design or working with historical pieces?
MB: I grew up looking for historical works, and loved the hunt, the research, the excitement when something bought on a hunch turned out to be better than expected. We have handled some very important works over the years, many of which are now in museums. Sometimes you follow an object for years before it is yours.
Working with a living designer can be even more exciting, though: there are projects that take years to come to fruition. You may first see a sketch or a model for something new, have the germ of an idea explained in a conversation. Following the sometimes many and excruciating steps of a project to completion can cost you some gray hairs or make you question your sanity. However, when you stand in the room with the finished piece you only remember the beautiful parts. It is as if we constantly give birth to beautiful babies, and always forget the diaper changes and sleepless nights.
AE: If you had $1,000 to buy a design piece, what would you recommend? What if you had $100,000?
MB: I love design, and I love smart design. Often, smart objects don’t need to be very expensive. I am perhaps the wrong person to ask this question, as I value the objects I covet more highly than the money I need to spend (and first earn) to buy them. With $1,000 I would probably go for a nice piece of iconic American design. There are so many great design pieces available from eBay and countless vintage shops across the country. Objects that tell a story, have a place in history, that are relevant in their context, and have a beautiful presence in your life.
With $100,000, that is a different story. I would allocate $1,000 to buy books first. Another $4,000 to fly around and visit museums, dealers and see exhibitions, talk to people. Learn. With the remaining $95,000 I would buy the best object I could find. I would not buy a hundred things, I would buy that one object I could not live without. It would be the best piece I could ever buy.
Just like the face of Medusa in Greek mythology, a piece of jewelery attracts and troubles the person who designs it, looks at it or wears it. While it is one of the most ancient and universal forms of human expression, jewellery has an ambiguous status, mid-way between fashion and sculpture, and is rarely considered to be a work of art. Indeed, it is often perceived as too close to the body, too feminine, precious, ornamental or primitive. But it is thanks to avant-garde artists and contemporary designers that it has been reinvented, transformed and detached from its own traditions.
In the wake of the museum’s series of joint and cross-disciplinary exhibitions, such as “L’Hiver de l’Amour”, “Playback” and “Decorum”, MEDUSA questions the traditional art boundaries by reconsidering, with the complicity of artists, the questions of craftsmanship, decoration, fashion and pop culture.
The exhibition brings together over 400 pieces of jewelery: created by artists (Anni Albers, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dali, Louise Bourgeois, Lucio Fontana, Niki de Saint Phalle, Fabrice Gygi, Thomas Hirschhorn, Danny McDonald, Sylvie Auvray…), avant-garde jewelery makers and designers (René Lalique, Suzanne Belperron, Line Vautrin, Art Smith, Tony Duquette, Bless, Nervous System…), contemporary jewelery makers (Gijs Bakker, Otto Künzli, Karl Fritsch, Dorothea Prühl, Seulgi Kwon, Sophie Hanagarth…) and also high end jewelers (Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Victoire de Castellane, Buccellati…), as well as anonymous, more ancient or non-Western pieces (including prehistorical and medieval works, punk and rappers’ jewellery as well as costume jewellery etc.).
These pieces, well-known, little-known, unique, familiar, handmade, massproduced, or computer made, mix some refined, hand-wrought, amateur and even futuristic aesthetics which are rarely associated together. They sometimes go far beyond simple jewellery and explore other means of engaging with, and putting on, jewelery.
The exhibition is organized around four themes with a specific display for each: Identity, Value, Body and Instruments. Each section starts from the often negative preconceptions surrounding jewelery in order to better deconstruct them, and finally reveal jewellery’s underlying subversive and performative potential.
Fifteen works and installations by contemporary artists (Mike Kelley, Leonor Antunes, Jean-Marie Appriou, Atelier EB, Liz Craft…) dot the exhibition, echoing the themes of its various sections. The works presented question related issues of decoration and ornament, and anchor our connection to jewelery within a broadened relationship to the body and the world.
Curator: Anne Dressen
In collaboration with Michèle Heuzé and Benjamin Lignel, scientific advisors
The next segment of the exhibition series Le Stanze del Vetro is on at the Fondazione Cini in Venice from the 10th April to the 30th July 2017. It is an exhibition of Ettore Sottsass glass. Overseen by Luca Massimo Barbero (director of the Institute of Art History at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini), Ettore Sottsass: il vetro is the centennial celebration of the birth of this iconic Italian architect.
The exhibition display by Annabelle Selldorf has over 200 different pieces, all designed between 1947 and 2007. A wide selection comes from the Ernest Mourmans collection and some are exhibited for the first time in history, exactly like the sculptures which flank the staircase, made in 1999 for Qatar Sheikh Saud bin Muhammad Al Thani. One-off pieces and real works of art in glass and crystal, made for some of the most important glass manufacturers in Italy and around the world. There’re collections for Vistosi, sculptures by Toso Vetri d’Arte, iconic lamps designed in the eighties for Venini, as well as pieces made for experimental glass workshop Cirva di Marsiglia, namely just some of the brands which can claim to have worked with Ettore. And obviously, this exhibition couldn’t be complete without designs for top brands like Baccarat, Alessi, Egizia, Fontanarte, Swarovksi and Serafino Zani for whom Ettore experimented in cut glass.
Without a doubt, Ettore Sottsass: il vetro is a really unique experience (the first time an exhibition focuses entirely on Ettore Sottsass’ glass designs). Ettore’s glass designs “are more like real characters”, in fact like exhibition curator Luca Massimo Barbero points out “they are about the real world as much as an imaginary one”. Plus, glass skilfully moulded with other materials like plastics or polycarbonate turns into art which looks to the future.
Where: Fondazione Cini, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy
When: 10 April – 30 July 2017