If anyone needed proof this year that Scandinavia had quietly usurped London's status as the world's hottest contemporary design scene, it could be found at the Salone del Mobile in April, where the presentation that Danish brand Hay put on, complete with a pop-up shop and an utter madhouse of a cocktail party, was pretty much the talk of the town. It's entirely thanks to the rise, in the past few years, of not just Hay but brands like Menu, Ferm Living, One Nordic, Muuto, Gubi, and Design House Stockholm, all of whom are working with emerging talents across the region. As we've watched the Nordic scene grow, we've managed to pay visits to Sweden (three times), Denmark (twice), and Finland (once, in the dead of winter, natch) — even to Iceland, for its DesignMarch festival three years ago. That left Norway as our personal holy grail, made doubly intimidating because of its famed reputation for being outrageously expensive. Two weeks ago, as you may have noticed on Instagram, we finally took the plunge.
As the summer solstice approaches, so too does a wave of graduate shows offering up the latest creative projects and design solutions from the leading sphere of design schools. In London, no show is more hotly anticipated than the Royal College of Art’s annual exhibition Show RCA, noted for its impressive arsenal of postgraduate talent. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to spot this year’s pool of emerging stars across the contemporary art and design practices. The show took place simultaneously across two campuses: Design Products in Kensington, which offered its usual heady mix of modern-day design solutions, and over at the Battersea campus, Textiles, Fine Art and Sculpture students refreshed the visual senses with investigations into color and material. Here are our top five "ones to watch" from the exhibition.
It's June, and soon we'll be heading off to places like Art Basel and the Venice Biennale, but you'll excuse us if we're still reveling in the highlights from the Best Ever New York Design Week. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention one last special exhibitor from our Sight Unseen OFFSITE exhibition: Rockwell Group, who came onto the event as a partner to show off the serious bells-and-whistles grill that the New York–based firm recently designed for Caliber Range Corporation. Like almost everything Rockwell Group creates, the grill was built around the idea of a shared experience, and in that way it was the perfect product for Sight Unseen OFFSITE, which ended up being as much a social gathering as it was a design exhibition
There was only one drawback to having a smashingly successful show of our own this year: It left us woefully little time to pound the pavement, seeing what other goodies this edition of NYCxDesign had to offer. A partial list of things we were sad to have missed: The Gourmand's fruit stand at Vitsoe, the gorgeous Alexander Girard for Herman Miller space, a dance performance at The Future Perfect the night of our own cocktail party, Anna Karlin's textile collaboration with Japanese weavers Hosoo at Atelier Courbet, the Yabu Pushelberg exhibition Rational x Intuitive Thought, and the debut of what may end up being the first and last furniture collection by Fab. But there were moments when we did manage to sneak away.
We've had a special place in our hearts for Spanish design for as long as we can remember. After all, the very first scouting trip we ever took for Sight Unseen, way back in the summer of 2009, was to sunny Barcelona. (Don't even get us started on Design in Spain, the last full issue Monica and I worked on at I.D. Magazine, and one of our personal favorites, period.) So when the Spanish trade commission in New York asked us earlier this spring if we'd be interested in curating a selection of our favorite recent Spanish designs for Sight Unseen OFFSITE, the answer was an unequivocal yes. In the end, we chose 17 items that seemed classically Spanish, ranging as they did from sweet to silly, elegant to experimental and mixing classic materials like copper and wood with those never before used in design (melted gummy bear paint wash, anyone?) Once the designs had been selected, the emerging Barcelona studio Mermelada set about designing the exhibition (now called Sight Unseen x Mermelada Estudio ♥ Spanish Design) and styling the items. Read all about the works on display here, then check out Interiors From Spain for even more information about the participating designers.
Imagine this scenario: 14 American design brands banding together to take over a large swath of the Milan Furniture Fair, all with the financial and logistical support of the US government. Sounds hilarious, right? While we can't dream of enjoying such privileges here, in one of the world's most prosperous nations, Spain has been throwing its weight behind its homegrown design industry for ages. In addition to marketing services, the Spanish trade commission — through an initiative called Interiors From Spain — has helped its local furniture manufacturers have a unified presence at ICFF for the past 10 years. This year's selection included Apavisa, Capdell, Ebir, Fama, Inalco, Isimob, Kriskadecor, Lladro, Marset, Nanimarquina, Now Carpets, RS Barcelona, Santa & Cole, and Texidors — check out our highlights from those makers after the jump, then watch our site for more coverage of the overall fair in the coming week.
A little more than a week ago, we were eyeball-deep in preparations for our Sight Unseen OFFSITE show, which runs for two more days in New York City. We had insurance permits to apply for, electricity installations to oversee, and staffers to train, but we were still determined to drag ourselves away long enough to see two of our favorite shows of the year: the Collective Design Fair, and Frieze New York. And oh, was it worth it — Collective had nearly doubled in size since its first edition last year, and Frieze once again gathered some of the most gorgeous art we'd seen in ages under one roof (not to mention with killer food by the likes of Roberta's and the Fat Radish). See a small selection of our highlights after the jump, then head over to our Facebook page to see much, much more.
A week ago today, we spent our afternoon at the Milan fairgrounds, our evening surrounded by colleagues at a dinner hosted by Camron PR, and the wee hours of the night at Bar Basso, where we ran into just about every friend of ours who was in town from far and near. Which reminds us of two key things about the Salone del Mobile: that catching up with dozens of the designers and curators we know but never see is one of our favorite things about the fair, and that each of those friends packs their days in Milan with just as many sights and experiences as we manage to pack into ours. We figured we'd combine both ideas into the second installment of a tradition we began last December at Design/Miami, when we invited everyone we knew who attended to send us the best photo they took that week. Read on to see what folks like Faye Toogood, Felix Burrichter, and Rafael de Cardenas thought were the highlights of their trips.
The fairgrounds at the Milan Furniture Fair are a great place to see attainable designs by established companies and talents, but typically it's not the place to go when you're scouting for new names (though this year's Satellite show, as demonstrated in yesterday's post, happened to be a surprise goldmine). For that, you have to brave the long walks, aching feet, and lack of taxis that come along with trying to get to all the shows around town, from Rossana Orlandi gallery to the far-flung Lambrate district. We say this every year, but we barely saw half of what was on offer; that said, we saw a lot of nice things.
Though we're back from Milan and already knee-deep in planning for our own design fair next month (eek!), we'll be bringing you highlights from the Italian capital all this week. Today we're focusing on our favorites from the fairgrounds, like Front's beautiful chairs for Moroso (above). The fair this year was visually quite strong, with last year's obsessive booth styling taken to even greater heights. (We actually begged the Arper folks to put some of their styling pieces into production!). The fair is also where the trends we'd been thinking about began to seriously take shape. What was in this year? Though everyone still loves that pastel mint and pink palette, we saw tons of putty — yes, putty — and other assorted non-hues (most of which didn't make it into this round-up, since we're suckers for color). For more of our take, read on, then click through to our Facebook album and come back tomorrow for more from the offsite shows.
There were two huge advantages to spring's early arrival in Milan this year, which has blessed us with 70-degree weather and constant blue skies as we've been scouting the city's annual furniture fair all week. First, it made it much easier and more enjoyable to hit up dozens of shows in a row each day, walking miles and burning off all those carbohydrates and sprawling multi-course dinners (we're looking at you, Swedish Design Goes Milan). Second, it provided the optimal lighting conditions for taking photographs of all the incredible objects we saw along the way — more than 500 of them, at last count (including a cute vignette from the Discipline party, above). We'll be sharing as many of them as we can with you over the next few days, both here and on our Facebook page, but in the meantime we wanted to take a break from all the pavement-pounding to give you a quick sampling of some of our observations.
Perhaps the most telling moment regarding this year's Whitney Biennial came when we posted an image of Dutch artist Peter Schuyff's spiral-carved pencils on Instagram. "Where is this craft show?" joked Mondo Cane's Patrick Parrish. "Bedford Ave?" he asked, referring to Brooklyn's main hipster thoroughfare. Yep, this biennial feels decidedly different than years past. There are still inscrutable videos, and works we simply slid by for lack of interest, but this year had moments that felt smaller, more tactile, more intimate — and for us, more compelling — than in years past.