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The Best of the 2016 Milan Furniture Fair, Part I

The 2016 Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone — aka the Milan furniture fair — closes today, and we were there on the ground, running around like crazy people trying to absorb a year's worth of new furniture in less than a week's time. According to our iPhones, we walked about 7.5 miles a day in our quest to scout great design. Here's the first of three posts chronicling what we found.
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Ferruccio Laviani on his Good Vibrations Series

Partly as a consequence of being based in Italy, one of the biggest furniture-making centers in the world, Ferruccio Laviani does a lot of different work for a lot of different manufacturers, from sleek plastic lamps to futuristic lounge chairs. So when he was invited to collaborate with a manufacturer of baroque furniture founded in 1928 by a craftsman making Louis XV replicas — he accepted the challenge, creating a provocative series called “F* THE CLASSICS!” that puts a contemporary twist on the company’s traditional style. The latest piece in the collection, Good Vibrations — a computer controlled robotic router-carved wooden cabinet that looks like a warped VHS video — is so striking, it went viral on over a dozen design blogs shortly after renderings of it were released in advance of the 2013 Salone del Mobile in Milan (even though it was so difficult to produce that the real cabinet, pictured after the jump, wasn't even exhibited until the 2014 fair that took place a few weeks ago). For the Lincoln Now project that Sight Unseen recently participated in, Laviani took some time to tell us how (and why) he created it.
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Week of April 14, 2014

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week, we resume the series with our last (no, really) Milan fair roundup, plus our favorite new shopping destination in L.A., two exhibitions of nominally functional furnishings, and a ghostly faded mirror that makes for a nice addition to the genre's current craze.
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At the 2014 Milan Furniture Fair: Part IV

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.
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Week of March 31, 2014

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. Today, we temporarily interrupt Seattle Week to bring yo far-reaching news from places like Sweden (clocks and tables made from rejected furniture), Milan (a preview of novelties launching at the upcoming Salone del Mobile, where we'll be reporting from next week), and the Internets (a rash of color-field abstraction on Instagram).
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Poetic Lab & Studio Shikai, Designers

As anyone who’s spent even a passing amount of time with us knows, one of our favorite games is playing “spot the next design star.” There are lots of places to look, of course — our most recent obsession being the treasure trove that is Instagram — but the granddaddy of them all is Salone Satellite, the young designers showcase that sets up shop on the edge of Milan’s fairgrounds each year. Before blogs, before ICFF Studio, before the London Design Festival even existed, there was Satellite, which in the past has been a launching pad for designers like Front, Nendo, Paul Loebach, Jonah Takagi, and Matali Crasset, to name a few.
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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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Carwan Gallery Launch: Samare

Through today, Sight Unseen is showcasing the work of half a dozen designers and design firms exhibiting together at the Milan Furniture Fair under the umbrella of the soon-to-launch Carwan Gallery in Beirut. Here, Nicolas Bellevance-Lecompte, one quarter of the Montreal and Milan–based design studio Samare and the co-founder of the Carwan gallery itself, tells us about the group's new and strikingly geometric felted-wool rugs, made in collaboration with the Belgian textile designers Antonin Bachet and Linda Topic. The project is the latest addition to Samare's ongoing Pays d’en Haut Legacy series, which investigates and then reinterprets the vernacular forms and decorative motifs of Canada's upper country, home to its logging and fur trades. Since their studio launch in 2008, they've worked with local snowshoe craftsman, weavers, and furriers in an attempt to show the world — and their fellow Canadians — how these longtime traditions and crafts can still prove relevant to contemporary culture. After the Milan fair, the rugs will travel to New York, where they'll be presented by the design store Matter during ICFF.
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Carwan Gallery Launch: Paul Loebach

Through April 15, Sight Unseen will be showcasing the work of half a dozen designers and design firms exhibiting together at the Milan Furniture Fair under the umbrella of the soon-to-launch Carwan Gallery in Beirut. When we asked Brooklynite Paul Loebach which of the four products he'll bring to the show had the most intriguing backstory, he immediately nominated his Watson table, a sandwich of carbon fiber and wood with double-helix legs that took him two and a half years to develop. Like the rest of Loebach's oeuvre, the table reinterprets historical craftsmanship techniques using cutting-edge technologies, evoking yet another novel property from a material as old and as simple as wood. "I named the table after the guy who discovered DNA," Loebach says. "I felt like a scientist doing this project, so I named it after one."
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Carwan Gallery Launch: Lindsey Adelman

Through April 15, Sight Unseen will be showcasing the work of half a dozen designers and design firms exhibiting together at the Milan Furniture Fair under the umbrella of the soon-to-launch Carwan Gallery in Beirut. Today’s subject is Lindsey Adelman, who works out of a tiny studio in the back of Manhattan design store The Future Perfect but creates her sprawling, modular chandelier series at Urban Glass, a Brooklyn atelier that’s created work for the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Eva Zeisel, and Robert Rauschenberg. “Building visual tension is a theme that’s always interested me,” says Adelman. And in her latest work Catch, which features slumping glass orbs blown through oversized brass links, it’s the tension between “the fluid fragility of the glass and the strict, flat, weighty links. Mashing together the feminine and the masculine — something interesting usually happens,” she says.
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Carwan Gallery Launch: Philippe Malouin

Through April 15, Sight Unseen will be showcasing the work of half a dozen designers and design firms exhibiting together at the Milan Furniture Fair under the umbrella of the soon-to-launch Carwan Gallery in Beirut. First up is Montreal-born, London-based Philippe Malouin, whose projects merge a highly conceptual framework with a practical, process-based approach and visually pleasing geometries. His Gridlock series, for example, shrunk the construction of architectural cross-bracing down to a domestic scale, employing it to make lamps and mobiles, while his new Yachiyo rug uses an ancient Japanese chain-mail technique to create an indestructible floor covering that takes 3,000 hours and an army of interns to produce. Here, Malouin explains how — and why — he did it.
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"I was surprised by how many people asked if I was planning on showing anything, as I’ve never thought of the trade fair as platform for international galleries," says Sellers, whose most recent show, pictured above and featuring a series by Dick van Hoff, stretched across both London Design Week and the Frieze Art Fair, affording her crucial access to collectors. "But this year there were noticeable challenges to that convention, with more galleries springing up in new areas like Lambrate and international dealers using the Salone to give further air time to their stable of designers. Given that the entire city gives itself over to one great big pop-up event, perhaps I could reconsider."

Libby Sellers, Design Gallerist

Had you peeked into London gallerist Libby Sellers's diary for the week of the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this month, you would have seen all the requisite stops on the circuit: Rossana Orlandi one afternoon, Lambrate and Tortona the next, plus a stop at Satellite and a time out for breakfast at the Four Seasons with Alice Rawsthorn, her former boss. There was time made for shopping — Sellers is a self-admitted clothes horse, having transformed most of her London apartment into a walk-in closet — and for a visit to the 10 Corso Como gallery and bookstore. But despite what you'd expect from one of the world's most respected supporters of emerging design, who for the past two years has commissioned work from and produced pop-up exhibitions with talents like Max Lamb and Julia Lohmann, Sellers did not walk away from the fair with an arsenal of new relationships to pursue. Her scouting is done before she even gets there, in graduate degree shows and over the internet, so that in Milan — unlike the rest of us — she gets to relax and enjoy the show.
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