ART, DESIGN AND CULTURAL REPORTAGE: NEW YORK — LONDON
16 February 2010

This past week I took some work and travelled for the first time to Stockholm for the furniture fair. I was fortunate and thrilled to hear that Jasper Morrison was exhibiting his specimen collection of jugs, jars and pitchers, having missed it at London Design Week last September. Tucked away in the century-old, basement kitchen of  art collector Wilhelmina von Hallwyls’ antique-laden residence, the show was a great relief to the peripheral week of modern scandinavian furniture.

The kitchen seemed to be the only room in the house that wasn’t surfaced in decorative collections, appropriately so for Morrison’s ideology of “super normal”, purely function-based design.  The collection is a hand-picked group, plucked from thrift stores, flea markets and Morrison’s own home. Representing everyday life, which is the circumstance of pure function, the collection has a wonderful lack of pretention about its proposition of what makes vessels function as they do. The presentation is made without added context,  the purpose is to simply observe typologies of jugs, jars & pitchers.

As I am studying ceramic design, I found this collection to be a pop-up text book of function. An imperative question for design is why a new form should exist to serve the same purpose as millions of existing specimens are floating around in the  object stratosphere. Morrison is a designer who observes his predessesors, and offers new proposals, combining functional success and removing hindering qualities of form and material.  In the end his objects are equal in their visual anonymity, adding to the progressive timeline of industrial function. This could not be done without this level of observation.

Hallwyl Museum Kitchen

Detail

Watering Can

Teapot Specimen

To see this exhibition which is essentially pure research, without the glamour and pretention of a gallery was an interesting contrast to another show in London curated by designer Konstantin Grcic, titled ”Design Real” at the Serpentine Gallery. The work of both designers is exclusively function-based, although Grcic perhaps implies more biographical form to his work than Morrison.  The show at the Serpentine presents functional design as sterilized gallery work, by having plinths, white walls and minimal description; It proposes function by the standard of art, removing the observers inclination to get extremely close or touch. Morrison’s show on the other hand eliminates the gallery logic entirely, and uses a functional space to display functional objects- it could potentially be mistaken for the work of a neurotic house-keeper. The designer/curator is something that is being seen more and more as disciplines aggressively and publicly use one other in collaborations. Based on these two shows, what the designer, or maker, presents is seemingly more valuable in the aspect of proven observation, of what designers are competing with and what they deem successful.

Stove Detail

Specimens

Detail

Detail

Hallwyl Kitchen

Hallwyl Museum: Hamngatan 4, 111 47 Stockholm

The exhibition “Jugs, Jars & Pitchers”  is presented by Forum magazine and Henrik Nygren Design.

Forum is the Magazine for Scandinavian Architecture, Interiors and Design. Issue no.1 for 2010 includes an excellent article based on discussion with Morrison in regards to his new show.

David Chipperfield
Form Matters
&
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

by Jonathan Lee

25 November 2009

Here are a few images from two exhibitions currently on view at the Design Museum – British architect David Chipperfield’s Form Matters and Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams. Both Chipperfield and Rams are very serious in their approach to design, and both are incredibly formally oriented. I got the sense that this was an intentional scheduling decision on behalf of the museum, and found it interesting to consider and experience both shows sequentially.

Form Matters Entrance

Form Matters Entrance

The Chipperfield show seems to be a more carefully considered show, the space seemed more complex and the flow of the show seems a little more natural. I imagine the second floor gallery easier to program, than the split-up third floor galleries. The show featured video, images, drawings, and most importantly models – almost none of which are depicted here, for whatever reason I only took images of the wall graphics (the strongest part of the visual identity of the show).

Project/Wall Graphics Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Wall graphic detail

Project/Wall graphic detail

Less and More felt a lot looser in program. The products were placed in rows on long rectangular pedestals or tables, a few inset in vitrines etc. but I am not sure this was really the best method of display for the work. It did allow for a full view of the prducts in most cases, but the result seemed similar to a sidewalk sale or antique furniture shop. Another side affect of the long tables was the simplicity of movement through the space, the tables acted as long galleys that felt restrictive or too committal. I really enjoyed seeing so much of Dieter Rams’ work, but I felt the show lacked coherency or even a very clear message.

Two interesting moments occur in the show – my favorite was a sort of faux living room filled with Rams’ furniture and products. This was actually the most conventional area of the exhibition design – but it had a nice cumulative effect to be able to see all his pieces next to each other. Finally, there was a case at the very end of the exhibition, with a few pieces from the museums collection that were made by designers (Ives, Morrison, Fukasawa) of later generations whom were “influenced” by Rams’ work. I found this moment weak, and such a missed opportunity. This is precisely the argument the show wanted to make, but perhaps the process of clearing the rights and exploring the idea of inherited language and influence loomed too large a problem to address. Rams’ work of course clean, beautiful and rigorous – either way it was worth seeing first hand.

http://designmuseum.org/

Main Room

Main Room

Panels

Panels

Braun Radio

Braun Radio

P1050134

Turntable

P1050116

Tabletop Design in case with text label

P1050101

Dieter Rams life