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Substitutes at Berlin-Weekly

Peer through the window of the narrow, unassuming storefront space at 160 Linienstrasse in Berlin this week — which, like Maurizio Cattelan's once perpetually shuttered Wrong Gallery, allows for little more than such a glance — and you may feel perplexed at the seemingly disparate objects scattered about its plinths. Toasters, ash trays, broomsticks, plastic spiders: not your typical fare for a gallery like Berlin-Weekly, which normally invites one artist or designer per week to create an elaborate installation piece behind its locked doors for the enjoyment of passersby. During this year's Berlin Design Week, however, owner and curator Stefanie Seidl decided to shift the proposition a bit, partnering with designer Fabian Baumann to ask 40 creatives for two personal objects exploring the theme of "Substitutes"; say, a rolled-up magazine when no fly-swatter is handy, or a spider in lieu of coffee (read on to figure out what we mean by that one). The results will be visible in the Berlin-Weekly space from June 1 to 28, but you can see a portion of its contents in the excerpt below.
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For "Achille is Watching Us," Krzykowski and Lorusso collected personal objects from 32 different European and American designers, displaying them in the ground-floor storefront of a small historical building in Milan where the marble used to make the Duomo was once polished. Each item was accompanied by a story written by the designer about how they had acquired it and why they had hung onto it. Fifteen of those stories are posted in the following slides.

Achille is Watching Us

There were thousands of exhibitions going on in Milan two weeks ago, when the annual furniture fair took over the city, stuffing its subway cars and panini shops full of hungover design tourists. But in terms of sheer number of designers represented per square foot, one emerged a clear winner: “Achille is Watching Us,” for which the young designer and journalist Matylda Krzykowski and architect Marco Gabriele Lorusso managed to corral no less than 32 marquis names — Nacho Carbonell, Peter Marigold, and Bless among them — into an empty shopfront no larger than the average New Yorker’s bedroom. That’s because the pair, after being offered the space for free by the building’s wealthy and culturally savvy owner, decided not to show any design inside it all. Instead, they asked the talents Krzykowski had befriended through her blog, Mat&Me, to each contribute one small personal belonging and tell the story behind it. “Milan is so commercial — it’s about retailing and selling,” Krzykowski explains. “You get so caught up in looking at what’s new that you get lost in it. This year we decided to turn it around, to look at the things that are really important.”
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Photo by Ari Maldonado

Sebastian Errazuriz’s Hanging Piano

The piano — an upright, the kind you see in the back of saloons in Western movies — had been gathering dust at the antique shop for years. It sounded like hell, and its price had been marked down repeatedly. The tag said $300 the day Sebastian Errazuriz saw it, which struck him as a bargain considering he had zero intention of playing the thing: He would buy it, load it into a van with his brother, then string it up from the double-height ceiling of his Brooklyn design studio as a “constant reminder of the possibility of death — a kind of personal Post-It.”
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