January 25-March 28, 2020
Shigeru Ban, François Bauchet, Atelier BL119, Curro Claret, Katia Jacquet, David Dubois, Bruno Munari, Lucas Maassen, Jasper Morrison, Hossie, Pierre Castignola, Andreas Brandolini
Pick an object. What do you see? A use? Shape? Ergonomics? Material? Quality manufacturing? History? Do you look at one or several of these aspects ? Do you consider all of them at the same time? ‘Economy’ is a selection of old (but not too old) and contemporary objects that will not be judged solely on the quality of the materials and their use, but also on the intelligence of their design, economy of gesture and sometimes ego. ‘Economy’ is about the means available to work. Can we work with few things, limited means? Does design, inventive design, innovative design, necessarily require expensive technical and production means? It is one aspect of design, and fortunately significant resources enable great things to be done. But another aspect of design is to examine economical means of production. How do you produce from nothing or almost nothing? The objects presented in ‘Economy’ may be simple and almost self-evident but their development and production, even from common or poor materials, is, at times, exemplary.
‘Economy’ is not therefore an exhibition about DIY. The roots of the exhibition span Rietveld, Enzo Mari’s Proposta per Autoprogettazione, Bruno Munari and emerging designers in the 90s like Jasper Morrison, Michael Marriott, Droog Design and Piet Hein Eek. ‘Economy’ owes much to emerging designers in the 90s and the start of the 2000s. Many designers wanted to move on from the exuberance, technical and decorative hedonism renowned in the 80s. A new relationship with design, production and consumerism developed among them. The idea emerged that industry could be dispensed with or at least use it purely to our advantage and perhaps even create a distribution channel rather than being dependant on one.
Among the emerging designers in the late 1980s, Jasper Morrison is one of the most successful. After discovering Memphis in 1981, and his one and only Memphis piece, Jasper Morrison entered a period that he called ‘poetic’. Design for him involves the assemblage of pre-existing objects such as flowerpots, bike handlebars, zinc pipes, etc. Jasper Morrison left this period behind him embarking upon a project that continues today, hinging on the essence of design. The Plywood chair (1988) developed in collaboration with Vitra is exemplary in this regard. The economy of the previous period is retained by using only one common material, plywood, but a design is improved upstaging it. Thanks to the quality of the design here the plywood produces an exceptionally fine and efficient object.
In the same year François Bauchet also used plywood with Cabinet Bouleau (1988) for Neotu Gallery. Based on a material hallmarked as flat and marketed in the form of planks, François Bauchet worked on the mass with tremendous formal rigour.
Plywood (also see Library Steps by Andreas Brandolini, 1993) is a material that remains exemplary in this context, but cardboard, another cost-efficient material already used in the 1970s, became a trademark for Shigeru Ban in the 1980s (Carta series for Cappellini, 1998). Used for exhibition displays, with him cardboard became houses, buildings and then furniture over time. By simplifying and merging the means of production used, design becomes a kind of game, where freedom and inventiveness play important roles.
Curro Claret appears to find manipulating as fun and pleasurable. Frutero Malla (1999), of which we are producing a new version, is a basket of fruit comprised of a steel wire base to which a mesh bag for fruit is attached. It is a very simple but especially intelligent gesture that clearly illustrates a certain vision of design that Achille Castiglioni would certainly not have shunned.
There is no need to speak of economy in the context of the work of David Dubois as it is blindingly obvious. Almost all of his work is closely associated with experimentation, toying with objects and common materials. In the Protected Vases (2018) series that we present here almost in its entirety, industrial ceramics are assembled with adhesive tape then covered in fabric and plastic film. This is all about wit and elegance with particularly disturbing results. The Protected Vases might be the answer to the question: wow do you make ceramics without the traditional work chain, without a wheel, without an oven and without enamelling?
Pierre Castignola is also a fan of using everyday objects. In the series Copytopia (2018) Pierre Castignola uses no less than the world’s best-selling chair, the monobloc chair. Like Shigeru Ban, one single material is used but as it is itself an object the work consists of cutting out, reassembling and assembling existing components, seats, feet, armrests, etc.
The dimension of pleasure and play is also prevalent with Lucas Maassen, whether associated with his children (Lucas Maassen and Sons Furniture Factory, 2013) or with Hossie (De Vrijgieterij, 2019). For Lucas Maassen it is always about considering the means of production and design. Who designs? Who produces and manufactures? At heart Lucas Maassen is a born businessman but a friendly boss with an art for generously sharing his knowledge and skills. Painted by his children, his young trainee designers, his furniture and objects are truly collaborative design productions.
Crafts also feature among the means of production used by designers. For Katia Jacquet, initially an artistic director, crafts are a means to independence. Trained in ceramics and painting, traditional and low-cost means, Katia Jacquet somewhat interprets them for use on a very humble medium, logs. In the series Lovebuch (2017), the result is highly decorative through meticulously applied colours and motifs.
With respect to Atelier BL119, if their name surfaces as industrial designers predominantly for Ligne Roset and Muuto, here it is a very distinct formal economy where anything superfluous and the ego disappear to benefit the functionality of the objects. This results in strong, economic objects that focus on the essential in the vein of Jasper Morrison.