Category Archives: What We Saw

  1. 04.15.13
    What We Saw

    If, like us, you spent the last week in Milan, catching up with old friends, meeting those with whom you’d only traded emails (hi Fredrik Paulsen, Adam Stech and Katrin Greiling!), and making new ones — well, you’re probably in a bit of withdrawal as well. Milan, despite being frequently cloudy, transportation-unfriendly, and just too darn full of things to see, showed us an excellent time this year, and we’re only just now recovering. But this post helps! It includes some of our favorite photos from the second half of our trip, but there are many, many more in our Facebook album — click here to check it out!

  2. 04.12.13
    What We Saw
    At the 2013 Milan Furniture Fair, Part I

    Greetings from Milano! Between all the Negronis and risottos, the late-night parties and the trips to Bar Basso, the Sight Unseen team has spent the past week treasure-hunting at the annual Salone del Mobile, and we’re excited to share with you our first batch of finds. This post includes our favorite photos from days 1 […]

  3. 12.10.12
    What We Saw
    At Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

    The thing about Miami is that what you see when you do head down for the annual art and design extravaganza can often be frustratingly little. Between the city’s grueling traffic, the lure of its glittering beaches, the daytime pool parties, and the later-than-usual nights, it’s a wonder anyone can make it through the entire convention center and its neighboring Design/Miami tent, much less the satellite art fairs, the Wynwood galleries, the museum shows, the new boutiques, and the odd day trip out to see new work installed in places like the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. At the same time, as a journalist, you really have seen it all before, what with the endless previews and press releases. And so you’re caught endlessly swinging back and forth between anticipation and letdown, which you conclude can only be cured by a wine-soaked lunch on a patio overlooking the ocean, or an hour spent by the pool. (Are you getting a sense of our week yet?) Of course, some work had to be done, so though a few of our favorite projects went undocumented, we managed to catch the majority of the rest on film.

  4. 11.23.12
    What We Saw
    At London’s Frieze Art Fair

    Which furniture designs do discerning art dealers truly prefer? Not to sell, but to sit in? That was the age-old question that photographer Sanna Helena Berger set out to answer while traversing the aisles of last month’s Frieze Art Fair. Her utterly unscientific answer? Four out of five discerning art dealers prefer Friso Kramer, or failing that, some variation on mid-century bentwood. Quelle surprise. A Swedish photographer based in London, Berger chose to hone in on the subject after her maiden voyage to Frieze — tagging along with a friend’s art class — proved otherwise underwhelming. “The space itself is divided into cubicles, very much like an overcrowded office, except that everything is crisp, bright, and white and within the cubicles the office wear is of a higher standard,” she explains. “Obviously I don’t claim that there was no worthwhile art there, because there certainly was, but the environment, the space, and the curation were not for me.” Instead of complaining, though, and jeopardizing her friend’s happy experience, Berger pulled out her camera and devoted the rest of the day to documenting art-booth furniture. Then she decided to share the results with usThen she decided to share the results with us, in a behind-the-scenes exposé that will no doubt put a lot of curious minds at ease, once and for all.

  5. 11.12.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Dutch Design Week

    It’s been a tough two years for Dutch design. First a newly elected right-wing government slashed the tiny country’s legendary arts funding, causing seemingly irreparable damage to its institutions and grant programs, and then a series of high-profile resignations called into question the inner workings of Eindhoven’s hallowed Design Academy. But even if there are signs that the fairy-tale may not last — that creativity and experimentalism can’t elude the death-grip of capitalism forever, even in a place where designers still benefit from squatters’ rights — we still look forward to Dutch Design Week as a reminder of the happier consequences of those values. While we couldn’t attend this year ourselves, we asked our faithful contributor Marco Tabasso, who’s second-in-command at Rossana Orlandi gallery in Milan, to report back on his experiences at the festival — from his mixed feelings about the Design Academy show to the paella dinner he and Rossana shared with Nacho Carbonell in the designer’s studio, above.

  6. 11.09.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Łódź Design Festival

    Over the past two years, there’s been an explosion of design weeks popping up on this side of the pond, in smaller, more far-flung American metropolises like Portland, St. Louis, and Baltimore. But Europe’s had a hold on this whole second-city-hosts-a-worldwide-design-event for years now. Take Lodz, the third-largest city in Poland, whose design festival is already six years strong. The Lodz Design Festival plays host to homegrown talents like Tomek Rygalik, as well as designers from abroad — both of which were a draw to our newest correspondent and dear friend Thorsten Van Elten, the London-based producer and retailer who reported on the event for us last week. But the real attraction, says Van Elten, was the city of Lodz itself. “At the beginning of this year I went to Transylvania, and I decided that I really need to travel to more places I’ve never been to. Poland was high on the list so when I saw a link on Facebook about the Łódź Design Festival, I checked for flights and hotel and managed to find two nights for just over £100. There really was no excuse not to go!”

  7. 10.22.12
    What We Saw
    At the Istanbul Design Biennial

    Last week marked the beginning of the inaugural Istanbul Design Biennial, curated by Joseph Grima and Emre Arolat and organized by the local cultural foundation IKVS — the same organization behind the city’s contemporary art biennial. We’re homebound until Design Miami but our intrepid London-based correspondent Claire Walsh bravely reported back on her maiden voyage, which included a tour of the official biennial festivities (on view until mid-December) but also the occasional foray into Istanbul’s neighborhoods to capture urban texture, like the Memphis-style painted columns above. “Istanbul’s art biennial is renowned for tackling heavy themes, so there was a lot to measure up to!” she says. “Titled Kusurluluk (or “imperfection” in plain old English), this biennial posed pivotal questions about design’s role in growing metropolises like Istanbul, archaic organization, and what we understand design to be. This wasn’t about tables and chairs. Hell no — this was cerebral. Here are some of my favorite photos and moments from my trip.”

  8. 09.26.12
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Part IV

    Less than a week after we left the London Design Festival, it already feels like a distant memory — mostly because as of yesterday, we’ve already shifted our focus to making plans for the next edition of our own design showcase, the 2013 Noho Design District. And yet to some degree, we’re also already drawing on what we saw at the LDF for inspiration: While we may not have access, in the middle of downtown Manhattan, to the kind of stunning 150,000-sqft. former mail-sorting facility that Designjunction had the luxury of spreading out in last week (incorporating multiple cafes and a pop-up version of the new online shop FAO, pictured above), we do have a few new talents on our hit list, a few schemes cooked up over drinks with old friends, and a few programming strategies to mull over. Meanwhile, we’re offering you one last chance to see what we saw at the festival, which though it was by no means everything, will hopefully give you something to mull over, too.

  9. 09.21.12
    What We Saw
    At The London Design Festival, Part III

    When you visit the show Image for a Title, curated by Study O Portable as part of the Brompton Design District, you can just about conjure the illusion that you’re in a world-class design-art gallery in some chic back alley of Paris, rather than a sunlight-starved basement at a hard-to-find address that happened to be printed incorrectly in this year’s Icon Design Trail guide. The show looks — and reads — so impressively that you start to believe what you want to believe rather than the reality, which is that many of the LDF’s visitors are likely to inadvertently miss out on seeing it, and that when it’s over many of the pieces will, shrugs co-curator Bernadette Deddens, probably just wind up in storage. Welcome to the placebo effect, or at least our crude metaphorical approximation of it: the ability of humans to bestow a pill, an object, or in this case an exhibition with the qualities they expect or desire it to have. Deddens and her partner in crime, Tetsuo Mukai, invited a handful of designers to join them in exploring the possibilities of placebo thinking, producing an installation so well resolved that we’re going to go right on insisting it’s one of the top gallery shows on offer this week. Although, being more realists than dreamers, we’ve decided to help actualize our version of events by publicizing the show here on Sight Unseen. Check out each of its five projects below, and if you still have time to go see them before it closes at the end of the weekend, make sure to map your way to 8 Edgerton Gardens Mews.

  10. 09.19.12
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Part II

    Just as everyone else is arriving in London, our time here is winding down — we have one last day today to take in the sights and sounds before flying home tomorrow, and we’ll be spending most of it at one of the more newsworthy events of the week, Designjunction. There’s going to be quite a few new releases happening at the Central London hub, but if you want to know the truth, we’re most excited about seeing the building, a 250,000-sqft. industrial complex that should make a sublime backdrop for our humble photography efforts. Meanwhile, we’ve documented the last two days’ worth of events and shows here, from a trip to the Mint gallery where we spied the marbled stools above to a plop onto the motley mix of benches arrayed around the V&A courtyard, all made by various design superstars. There’s no way we’ll make it to everything by tomorrow, but we’ve got a lot more to share, so keep coming back to visit us please!

  11. 09.17.12
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Part I

    The first time we attended the London Design Festival, five years ago now, it became something of a benchmark for us — the design event against which we not only measured other design events, but would come to measure our own, the Noho Design District. That’s because when you attend the LDF, you feel like you couldn’t be anywhere else but in London; the spotlight is resolutely on emerging homegrown talents (thanks in part to the RCA) and there are always brand new projects and product launches to see (thanks in part to the fact that, unlike ICFF, the festival takes place halfway between Milan fairs). LDF has such a good reputation, in fact, that even the coalition behind New York City’s official efforts to organize an as-yet-unnamed New York design week are looking to it for inspiration — can you imagine Tom Dixon giving away 500 free lamps in the middle of Times Square? It may happen sooner than you think. In the meantime, three years after our last trip to our favorite fair, we’ve returned, and we’ll be making the rounds all week reporting on who and what we see here. After arriving on Friday morning, we had a bit of a slow start, poking around Shoreditch and hanging out with the incredibly gifted duo behind Silo Studio, whom we’ll introduce in depth in the coming weeks. Check out the images here, and stay tuned for many more.

  12. 06.20.12
    What We Saw
    At Design Miami/Basel 2012

    When Design Miami rolls around each winter, it’s hard to resist the siren’s song of sunshine in December, no matter how much you’ve decided you hate standing in line for parties or how high the hotel rates might balloon during that frenetic week. We’ve been known to pool resources with friends far and wide in order to hop on flights and hightail it out of New York on the promise of a stolen afternoon at the Standard’s pool, or even a press brunch at some Collins Avenue hotel du jour. But we’ve never made it to the event that started it all: Design Miami/Basel and its legendary accompanying art fair. Lucky for us, then, that we alighted this year on the perfect correspondent: Marco Tabasso, known in design circles as Rossana Orlandi’s right-hand man, who took advantage of a rare two-day break (the gallery sat this year out, after having debuted a massive Nacho Carbonell installation in 2011) to zip around the Swiss metropolis, capturing everything he saw for us on proverbial film.

  13. 06.14.12
    What We Saw
    At dOCUMENTA (13)

    You don’t go to Kassel, Germany (population 195,000) to eat delicious food or sightsee, and you certainly don’t go there to shop. It’s not even the kind of place that has that old-world, small-town charm. Kassel has one thing and one thing only: dOCUMENTA, the massive art show that was founded there in 1955 and takes place once every five years, pairing all the right it-names of any given half-decade’s contemporary scene with all the right coolly obscure ones plucked from modern history. Earlier this week, I ventured out to Kassel from my temporary summer roost in Berlin to visit dOCUMENTA (13), curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev; in two days, I managed to see only about a half to two-thirds of the work woven throughout the show’s two-dozen or so venues, not including a park full of sculptures and conceptual dog runs that I particularly regret missing. I took nearly 200 photographs, half of which are now posted on Facebook — check out a sampling here, then follow this link over to Sight Unseen’s page to see the rest, including an “invisible” installation by the inimitable Ryan Gander that left a very curious byproduct on the floor…

  14. 06.07.12
    What We Saw
    At Sofia Design Week

    This past weekend, Sight Unseen was invited to participate in Sofia Design Week, where I gave a lecture to the members of Bulgaria’s design community about how and why we do what we do here. (Other speakers included Stefan Sagmeister, Raw Edges, Bas van Beek, Numen/For Use, and my new faves Abäke.) Unsurprisingly, it was my first time in Bulgaria, so I couldn’t resist taking photos — both of the city’s strange and wonderful sights, and of the few design objects I had time to check out while not watching my fellow speakers hold forth in the lecture hall, like this chair by London-based Marina Dragomirova that uses traditional Bulgarian carpet-weaving techniques. We’ve just posted a photo album on Sight Unseen’s Facebook page; have a look, and don’t forget to like us while you’re at it!

  15. 06.01.12
    What We Saw
    At New York Design Week 2012, Part IV: The Rest

    At 8:15 AM on Monday, May 21, I heard it in my sleep: thunder, really loud thunder, loud enough to wake me up and send me flying to the window in a panic. The Noho Design District’s 22 Bond space had shown signs of roof leakage during setup earlier that week, and with torrential downpours seeming imminent, I threw on shoes and glasses and rushed meet Jill at the space to begin damage control. Thus went the day, as we scrambled to clean up puddles and position buckets underneath the growing indoor deluge, our dreams of making it to the rest of New York Design Week’s offsite shows slipping away from us by the hour. We’d seen Wanted Design and Matter the day before, but as fate would have it, there would be no Boffo Show House for us this year, nor would we make it to Model Citizens, despite a valiant effort which saw us sprinting up the stairs of the venue fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to close, only to find that almost everyone had packed up early. Luckily the American Design Club’s Raw + Unfiltered exhibition at Heller Gallery — part two of the Karlsson’s Unfiltered project — remained on view later that week, so we paid it a belated visit. (The Boffo house is up through June 4, though as of press time we hadn’t been able to get there quite yet; ditto for the Herman Miller pop-up shop, on until July 1.) Next year, if they haven’t quite perfected cloning technology just yet, we at least hope to nip this problem in the bud with a more foolproof modern invention: interns.

  16. 06.01.12
    What We Saw
    At New York Design Week 2012, Part III: The Noho Design District

    The question we get most often about curating and producing three years’ worth of Noho Design Districts isn’t “Can you spare an invite to the VIP party” or even “How can I show my work with you?” but “How on earth do you two do it?” This year was our biggest and best event yet: We had two new hubs (the empty former print lab at 22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village hotel on Cooper Square); two new international partners (London’s Tom Dixon took over the basement of the Bleecker Street Theater while DMY Berlin hit the American circuit downstairs at 22 Bond); and exhibitions so big that one of them stretched across two different venues (The Future Perfect’s showcase busted the seams of its Great Jones flagship, continuing up the street at 2 Cooper Square).

  17. 05.30.12
    What We Saw
    At New York Design Week 2012, Part II: Hotel California

    How could we have possibly known, when we first decided to host an exhibition of California design during our third annual Noho Design District, that we would be blessed with four straight days of glorious, Los Angeles–style sunshine? (Followed, of course, by a day of downpours, but more on that tomorrow.) Springtime in New York is a fickle beast, and when we first began to plan how best to use the gorgeous second-floor terrace space we’d been given at the new Standard, East Village hotel, we said a prayer for mild climes but also engaged in fretful what-ifs with our hotel ambassadors, talking of contingencies like awnings, tarps, and the possibility of moving everything — save for a nearly 50 square foot teak and rubber fort constructed on-site by Matt Gagnon — inside.

  18. 05.29.12
    What We Saw
    At New York Design Week 2012, Part I: ICFF

    We may have spent most of our New York Design Week(end) tending to the most successful Noho Design District ever — wrap-up post coming soon! — but this year we were determined to see as much of everyone else’s presentations as possible, including spending more time walking the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits, checking in with old friends while discovering new talents. And since Roll & Hill opted not to reprise the bar they plopped in the middle of the fair last year, plying us with beers and chips as we charged our phones and completely lost track of time, we were able to do a relatively thorough sweep before racing back out into the sunshine again. We started out just snapping products we loved, but then couldn’t resist adding a Sight Unseen twist, so we asked some of the more adventurous designers and brand ambassadors to strike a pose with one of their new pieces — which turned out to be a welcome break from the tedium of spending one’s days doing business inside a windowless convention center. See our highlights here, then stay tuned for our roundup of this year’s offsite shows.

  19. 04.26.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Milan Furniture Fair, Part III

    To quote Pilar Viladas in her roundup on The Moment this week, “Another year, another Milan Furniture Fair.” Seriously. The Salone always seems so crazy and exciting while you’re actually there — if not important, depending on whether any offerings managed to impress — but looking back on it a week later, it inevitably melts into one big blur of chairs and tables that probably already existed, in one form or another, the year before. With today’s album of snapshots, some taken by Future Perfect owner and intrepid reporter Dave Alhadeff and some by the Eindhoven-based designer Max Lipsey, we offer you one last chance to relive the experience of the 2012 fair, up close and personal, before it gets written into the great furniture catalog in the sky. Maybe next year we’ll go back ourselves, and remember what the fuss is about all over again. Until then…

  20. 04.23.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Milan Furniture Fair, Part II

    We’d scarcely pressed “Post” on last week’s Milan Furniture Fair recap when another round of photos arrived in our inbox, this one featuring the jaw-droppingly amazing Sedimentation vases pictured above, which could be our favorite thing to emerge from the weeklong festivities. The fact that they’re the work of a student — the Swedish-born Royal College of Art up-and-comer Hilda Hellström — makes them even more exciting, especially when the fair can sometimes seem dominated by glitzy launches from the megabrands. “I am OBSESSED with these,” wrote The Future Perfect’s Dave Alhadeff. “The forms feel well beyond student work and the ‘on-trend’ marbling technique.” We couldn’t agree more, and Hellström’s urns were just one of the products we fell in love with by proxy; as the weekend wore on, we received picks from Mary Wallis, a designer at Lindsey Adelman’s studio, and the American designer Jonah Takagi to round out our second wrap-up from the year’s biggest furniture event. Mirrored crates, portable terrariums and zinc-coated screens are now tops on our wish lists. What’s on yours?

  21. 04.19.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Milan Furniture Fair

    While nothing will ever compare to the Great Ash Cloud of 2010 in terms of strange events surrounding the Milan Furniture Fair, there seems to be a fair amount of juju going on with this year’s festivities — or at least with the members of our hand-picked street team, who were meant to upload photos from their bases around the Italian metropolis all this week. Pin-Up editor Felix Burrichter reported a suddenly collapsed eardrum, which stranded him in Berlin and prevented him from attending the fair entirely, while designer Sam Baron confessed his attempts to take photos at a dinner for Fiat’s Lapo Eklann were sadly thwarted by bodyguards. Lucky for us, then, that we’ve been able to follow along on Instagram, Twitter, blogs, and a steady stream of photos arriving in our inbox from The Future Perfect’s Dave Alhadeff, who’s been firing off everything from potential products for his store to OMG moments to jealousy-inducing images of gelato. We’ll be bringing you more photos as they roll in, but for now, here’s a sampling of the first few days from one of our favorite fairgoers.

  22. 04.12.12
    What We Saw
    The Sight Unseen Shape Shop at Creatures of Comfort

    By the close of Sight Unseen’s four-day pop-up during the Noho Design District last year, we’d come to realize a few things. One: that we quite enjoy being shopkeepers — the merchandising of objects, the banter with the public, the satisfying swipe of each credit card through our handy Square readers. And two: that four days was not nearly enough. As we watched the objects we’d put so much effort into procuring move on to more permanent retail homes, we felt a vague sense of deflation, almost like a break-up, and we immediately began plotting for pop-up number two. Never, though, did we dream what would happen next: We were approached by Jade Lai, owner of the impeccably curated Creatures of Comfort store in New York and Los Angeles, to create a Sight Unseen pop-up in the gallery space of her New York store, which had previously played host to temporary outposts from the likes of Confettisystem, Textfield, and the Japanese housewares shop Playmountain. After months of planning, we finally debuted the Sight Unseen Shape Shop this Tuesday at a blowout party.

  23. 02.16.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Stockholm Design Week

    Last week, the editors of Sight Unseen toured the former Cooper Square Hotel, which is in the process of blossoming into a gorgeously rendered East Village branch of the Standard. We met with the organizers of Wanted Design to talk about New York Design Week, and a planned alliance between offsite shows including the American Design Club, Model Citizens, and our Noho Design District. We had an ungodly amount of $1 oysters, bought a new pair of Warby Parker glasses, and got into a glaring match with an Apple Genius Bar employee who refused to replace a power adapter that had met an untimely death. What we did not do, however, was attend Stockholm Design Week — we stayed put this year while our friends braved jetlag and below-freezing temperatures to experience the annual unveiling of all things new in Scandinavian design. And yet rather than totally miss out on all the action, we found a willing scout who, while she preferred to remain anonymous for various reasons, was happy to report back on the goings-on in and around the fair — all with a Sight Unseen slant, of course.

  24. 10.10.11
    What We Saw
    At Beijing Design Week

    When you live all the way around the globe, visiting China for the first time for any reason — even for work, even for an international design fair, even to a sprawling modern metropolis like Beijing — is going to be mostly about visiting China for the first time. The way the pollution shocks your system, the deliciousness of the food: These are the kinds of experiences you begin eagerly tracking the moment you leave the airport. It’s no wonder, then, that I enjoyed Beijing Design Week so much — almost all of the work, whether international or Chinese in origin, was presented in ways that made you feel like you couldn’t have been anywhere else.

  25. 09.28.11
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Via Dan Rubinstein of Surface

    We at Sight Unseen are very busy people. We have babies to nurse (congratulations, Jill!), articles to write for other publications, subjects to spend hours and hours interviewing for this publication, and designers to hassle about finishing their submissions for our still top-secret online shop, set to launch in a little over a month (trust us, it’s going to be good). Thus, we sometimes don’t have the chance to attend events like the London Design Festival, even as we cringe with regret watching invitations roll in for Established & Sons and Phillips de Pury dinners, friends’ exhibition openings, and dozens more chances to take the pulse of one of our favorite local design scenes. When that happens, we reach out to folks we trust and ask them to report back on whatever highs, lows, and drunken blurs they may have witnessed on the ground. Here, Dan Rubinstein, the intrepid editor of Surface magazine — both Jill and I are contributing editors — shares some of the details and moments he was privy to during last week’s LDF, which he somehow managed to take time out of his own busy schedule to attend. As for us, you know what they say: There’s always next year.