London Dispatch / May 2022
TDE on the ground at Eye of the Collector, London Craft Week and Artefact.
Eye of the Collector
11th-14th May 2022
London Craft Week
9th-15th May 2022
10th-15th May 2022
WITH SPRING DEFINITELY in the air, this month sees a confluence of design and art fairs in the city, from Photo London and London Gallery Weekend to London Craft Week.
The crowds visiting them last week suggest there’s a lust for discovering work new and old – and for reconnecting with artist, collectors and clients. The Design Edit highlights some favourite pieces spotted at three major fairs.
Eye of The Collector, 12th–14th May
Visitors were thronging to this event, despite intermittent downpours on preview day. Mingling art and design, Eye of the Collector was founded in 2019 by art advisor Nazy Vassegh and is now a key fixture in London’s design calendar. A big draw is its stunningly opulent, Thameside venue: the Neo-Gothic Two Temple Place, an 1890s’ building with a triple-height, mahogany-panelled staircase.
The fair has an unusual curatorial approach: the pieces are spread around its rooms, including two grand halls, rather than in discrete stands. “Our USP is a carefully curated cross-category offering, presented as if in an imaginary collector’s home,” Vassegh tells The Design Edit. “For visitors, it’s an immersive experience with a real sense of discovery and intrigue that comes from juxtaposing artworks old and new.”
Exhibitor Gallery FUMI, however, requested that its pieces be shown in the same room. “We can talk about them more easily when they’re in one space,” explains co-founder Sam Pratt. These include Lukas Wegwerth’s ‘Blankenau’ dining table, the name of which derives from the wooded area in Germany where the willow branches forming its base were sourced. These were then burnt to remove all whiskery fibres, before being coated in protective shellac. The top is made from slate quarried in Italy.
FUMI was also showing two contrasting variations of a chair by Max Lamb, both created in 2021. While the hard-edged ‘Urushi Split’ armchair has a rough-hewn aesthetic typical of Lamb, his ‘Tufted Pillow’ chair is covered in hand-dyed, pastel-coloured wool tufts and is surprisingly pretty. “For a change, this chair is comfortable,” jests Pratt.
Pierre Bonnefille’s ‘Bibliothèque Rhizome Cuprite’ bookcase, shown by Charles Burnand Gallery, also explores a rough-hewn, expressive aesthetic. The wood piece is coated with a pigment made from cuprite (an oxide mineral) mixed with resins applied with a spatula, resulting in different textures.
Katie Jones Gallery, specialists in Japanese art and design, displayed, among other works, ceramic artist Chieko Katsumata’s spectacular ‘Red Pumpkin’. This bulging, organic creation, with its highly artificial-looking, scarlet glaze is delightful. Brash it is not: it has a soft, matt finish achieved by applying a clay slip and pigments through gauze using a brush.
London Craft Week, May 9th–15th
For Guy Salter, chairman and founder of London Craft Week (LCW), this year’s jamboree repesented a mini-renaissance of craftsmanship in the capital.
Salter tells The Design Edit: “Due to Covid restrictions, the last two editions of LCW took place in the autumn. But we’re now back to spring and the buzz, confidence and joyfulness of what I call the hidden, but huge, iceberg of largely unknown creative talent in the city. Many pieces created over the past two years are seeing the light of day after long periods of enforced isolation.”
LCW’s programme included over 300 events, showcasing work by more than 765 artists, makers and designers, spanning craft, art, design, fashion, jewellery and even food. Sotheby’s hosts a selling exhibition of Brodie Neill’s work, ‘Material Consciousness’ (running until 19th May), which showcased nine new limited-edition designs with sustainability at their core. ‘Altitude’ chair, for instance, is made from reclaimed mahogany.
The LCW gallery trail also presented architectural surprises aplenty. One of these, the Tristan Hoare gallery in Fitzrovia, is found in a handsome building on Fitzroy Square, which was developed by Robert Adam. It is showing ceramic vessels by Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye (until 1st June). Inspired by ancient Anatolian artefacts, there is something very still and serene about these minimal pieces displayed in the gallery’s elegantly proportioned spaces. The vessels stand out chiefly for their colours, including ultramarine, coral pink and a beautifully luminous cornflower blue.
In Bourdon Street, a picturesque Mayfair mews, gallery Lyndsey Ingram is housed in a former Edwardian stable. Here Richard Pomeroy showed his porcelain and clay jugs, mugs, tea and coffee pots arrayed on cantilevered shelves. He hand-builds these, sometimes flattening the clay with a rolling pin to begin with. “Ceramics aren’t well known for colour,” he notes. “I started life as a painter, which is why I use it. In 2015, my daughter wanted to try out pottery. I also put my fingers in clay and couldn’t stop.” When the vessels, each in a different colour, are placed in a row, their zingy colours – a palette restricted to 18 hues, including black, white and a transparent glaze – sing all the more.
Meanwhile, at Gallery 5 in Cromwell Place, Norwegian craft, design and art were displayed in a space divided into rooms in a nod to the venue’s former incarnation as an apartment.
Artefact, 10th–15th May
Specialist craft techniques underpin many products sold at the 120 showrooms at The Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour, but the skills involved in mastering these are often taken for granted. Annual event Artefact, held in a ground-floor, open-plan space called Design Avenue, used for temporary exhibitions, sheds lights on these skills, with craftspeople, from bookbinders to glass artists, demonstrating their expertise.
This year, Gallery SEEDS presented characteristically idiosyncratic work by James Shaw, Studio Furthermore and others. One striking piece was Shaw’s table lamp with a visceral, free-form base resembling a particularly generous dollop of mustard.
Lloyd Choi Gallery exhibited South Korean Kim Dong-wan’s intriguing ‘Ottchil’ pots made of glass and lacquer which have an ambiguous quality: looking at their broken-up, matt or glossy surfaces, it’s not clear what materials they’re made of.
There’s an organic quality, too, to Senegalese designer-maker Balla Niang’s zoomorphic ‘Vertebrae (With Hoofs)’ chair made of reclaimed wood, which was shown by gallery 50 Golborne.
By contrast, there’s a symmetrical look to the sycamore Bowater chest of drawers exhibited by Jan Hendzel Studio. Its rippled front is baked in a large oven at 210°C, a temperature low enough to prevent it catching fire. During this process, the cellulose in the wood breaks down to produce a viscous yet decorative effect, which Hendzel describes as looking “caramelised”.