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The 40+ Best Things We Saw at IMM Cologne and Maison & Objet 2019

Our trend-spotting needle hasn't exactly gone haywire in the first few weeks of this year — and we, for one, think that might be a good thing, considering how frenetic the pace of trends has been of late. IMM Cologne and Maison & Objet, the first two big furniture fairs of the year, have also traditionally not been the first places you might go to scout for said trends, whether owing to their spot on the design calendar (just before Milan) or the regional peculiarities of each host country (Cologne, to this day, always has a preponderance of Bauhaus-inspired pieces). And yet, scrolling through our picks this year, you'll see a few things that look just different enough that they might be harbingers of things to come.
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Colorful geometric design objects by Schneid

Colorful, Geometric Designs by a German Studio On the Rise

Though Julia Mülling and Niklas Jessen of the German studio Schneid consider themselves makers of all things — from textiles to furniture to the amazing, stackable dishware set above — it’s lighting that fills the majority of their portfolio. Creating a lamp, they say, “feels very free, almost like making a piece of art — where you don’t have to follow the rules like when you design a chair.” So it’s no wonder that when we ask who their influences might be, they don’t first cite Ettore Sottsass or some other member of the Memphis Group who could have inspired their colorful, totemic Junit series, but rather light artists like James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson. “When you see their art, you realize how affected you can be by the use of light and color,” Mülling says. “That’s very inspirational to us.
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Stas Volovik, Painter

Born in Uzbekistan and now living in Berlin, Volovik didn’t pursue any formal artistic training but rather taught himself the principles of abstraction.
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Our Favorites From IMM Cologne 2015

While the furniture market seems to be enjoying a slower pace of late – with many brands safely coasting on a design language of minimal lines and adaptable colorways geared towards the notion of versatility in our homes – the international interiors show IMM Cologne brought a smattering of unexpected and pleasing discoveries. From bold, new homegrown brands and a hall designated entirely to up-and-coming designers, to the surprising use of color across the bigger, international halls ('70s-style honey beige, maroon, and green anyone?) we bring you our favorite launches from this, the first furniture trade show of the year.
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The Past Is Never Dead, by Philipp Schenk-Mischke and Matthias Klas

The Past Is Never Dead is the thesis project of Philipp Schenk-Mischke and Matthias Klas — soon to be graduates of the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany — and as such it has the required amount of critical thinking to back it up: "Taking an object and shifting the focus from form and use to the thoughts it provokes was the starting point of this project," the designers write. The shape of their Cabinets (above), they add, "comes from the metaphor of breaking conventions: parallel ash frames stand for the stuck structures of today's world while skewed lines ... try to break free from common notions to discover the new." That's all well and good, but we think all you need to understand this work is two eyeballs. We're looking forward to using them to see what the pair does next.
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Josephine Meckseper in Interview Magazine

Living in New York City, you'd think it would be easy to see world-class art nearly every weekend. But life tends to get in the way, whether it's needing a haircut or having to wait in a six-hour line just to see a 45-second exhibition. But one show we're going to do our darndest to see before it closes January 18 is the first New York solo exhibition by German-born, New York–based artist Josephine Meckseper at the Andrea Rosen Gallery. While we don't often love art that appropriates advertising imagery, Meckseper's deft combinations of that imagery with things like hand made sculpture casts and paintings speaks to us somehow. This particular show deals with Meckseper's own complicated history, having moved in the late '80s as a young adult from a sheltered, artistic European community to Valencia, California, where mall was king. We spotted this recent Q&A with the artist in Interview Magazine (which has kind of been killing it on the art front, lately, what with the epic Roberta Smith/Jerry Saltz conversation) and wanted to share a tiny excerpt below. Read on and then click through at the end for the interview in its entirety.
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Sebastian Herkner’s Pulpo Containers

You might not recognize it at first glance, but Sebastian Herkner's new ultra-shiny glass Containers for the German brand Pulpo have a serious high-low thing going on — and not just in one sense, but two. Not only are they inspired by the cheap plastic containers normally used to store things like distilled water and Cheez-Balls, they're also made using a technique that's gone from rags to riches in recent history. "Mercury glass was once used as a substitute for real silverware, which was too expensive for poor people to afford," says Herkner. "Nowadays, though, it's thought of as unique and rare; there's one company in Czech Republic which specializes in mercury glass, and Pulpo produces the Containers there." Like most of our favorite tastemakers, Herkner's appreciation of both the lowly and the luxurious extends to his personal style, too, which is why we thought it fitting that he should photograph his Containers for us amidst the landscape of his own home, just outside Frankfurt. He told us more about his process and his possessions below.
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Vitsoe’s Tumblr

If you have a particularly sprawling design-book library, or if you religiously follow things like Mondo Blogo or Herman Miller editorial director Sam Grawe's Instagram feed, you may be relatively familiar with the heaps of amazingly designed archival ephemera that original modern furniture brands tend to generate over the decades. But the rest of us still get giddy when we come upon a gem like Vitsoe's brand-new Tumblr, which the 53-year-old German stalwart launched last month to show off rarely seen bits and bobs pulled from its company files. Every couple of days, staffers dig up old invitations, promo items, photographs, and catalogs and post them alongside a snippet of information about their origins; with Dieter Rams as Vitsoe's lead designer and Wolfgang Schmidt behind its graphic identity, there's been no shortage of eye candy on the site so far. A few of our favorite examples are shown here, but we advise you to bookmark the site and visit it often — we have a feeling the Vitsoe folks are just getting started, and there's no telling what they might turn up once they really dig in.
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Axel Peemöller, the Mediterranean Sea

On gloomy New York days like today, we begin to think that Axel Peemöller might be on to something. The German-born graphic designer studied in Düsseldorf, moved to California, and eventually settled in Melbourne, but a few years ago he gave it all up for a studio at sea. Aboard a 40-foot-long 1974 Trintella — which he purchased off eBay from a Barcelona woman for a song — Peemöller lives with his girlfriend and works remotely for clients and studios, docking when he needs to visit a colleague or use power to light a photo, and flying clients in to whichever port he’s landed. And while it’s not to say that life at sea is never gloomy, Peemöller finds that a fluid perch makes for a clearer head: “To do creative work, you need to have a balance between life and work and fun,” he says. “Here I can go diving, watch dolphins, catch octopus: I guess the not-working days are like holidays for other people, but for me it’s my usual life.”
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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...
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Mike Meiré, Art Director

History isn't always kind to guys like Mike Meiré — become the poster child for a rebellious and polarizing creative movement like the "New Ugly," which rocked the graphic design world in 2007 with its stretched typography and defiantly awkward layouts, and you're practically begging for an expiration date. To achieve the kind of unqualified success that Meiré has since he started his career in Cologne 25 years ago demands two basic personal attributes: The ability to talk about even your most controversial work in a straightforward, no-bullshit manner, which helps people believe in what you're doing, and the talent to excel at a diverse range of projects just in case they don't. What you learn from reading interviews with Meiré, or in our case, sitting across from him at a dinner party hosted by Apartamento magazine during the Milan Furniture Fair, is that he's driven far less by the desire to make a statement than by an earnest ambition to offer people products that are different from all the other ones already available to them. You also realize that the same guy who made his name art-directing publications like Brand Eins and 032c — and who most recently helped Russian doyenne Dasha Zhukova launch her latest project, the art and fashion magazine Garage — is just as likely to spend his time hanging pheasants inside modern farmhouse installations for Dornbracht, or collecting and exhibiting street food carts from around the world. In other words, even with the hype surrounding 032c having long abated, and that of Garage conspicuously angling to take its place, we still think Meiré's a fundamentally interesting guy, so we asked him to share some of his favorite tools and inspirations below.
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Carwan Gallery Launch: My Bauhaus is Better Than Yours

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. Next up are designs from My Bauhaus is Better Than Yours, a loose collective of young German studios — most of whom studied at the Bauhaus University in Weimar — that banded together two years ago as a way to mount exhibitions in design hotspots like Milan and DMY Berlin. The group has since evolved into a full-fledged design label with the ability to manufacture and distribute the designs of its members, and it has plans to launch a webshop later this week. We spoke with Daniel Klapsing, one half of the Berlin-based duo 45 Kilo and de facto leader of the newly formed label, and put together a preview of designs from several of the group’s other members as well.
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