Soft Baroque: SUN CITY
An upbeat, vibrant IRL show – bathed in yellow.
PIN–UP and Marsèll, Via Paullo, 12/A Milan, Italy
15th April – 28th May 2021
IF YOU WANT to know what it’s like to open an exhibition that not many people will get to see, then Soft Baroque can tell you. The life and work partners, Saša Štucin and Nicholas Gardner, took part in an impressive group show in Zurich, at the Museum für Gestaltung at the end of last year, and last week launched a new exhibition in the Marsèll space in Milan’s Porta Romana. “We’d already delayed it by a year, as the whole furniture fair was cancelled in 2020,” says Gardner, “so we decided to go with it.”
Ironically, for designers whose work frequently blurs the physical and digital, and who enthusiastically explore the idea of virtual objects superseding real ones, this show is very much in the IRL category. At Zurich, they had created a catalogue of fictional furniture pieces; here part of the thrill is entering the exhibition space through a limonaia (or lemon conservatory) washed with bright yellow light. On a plush suburban carpet at its centre sits a lounger from the pair’s ‘Tan’ collection, covered with classic calfskin leather in a brilliant yellow, provided by Marsèll, the Italian footwear company based near Venice, who have supported the show. (It is curated by the US design magazine Pin–Up.) The strangely skin-like surface is puckered and darkened in parts by polyurethane blobs that lie beneath it. “They look like sweat marks,” says Gardner. “There’s something quite anthropomorphic about the whole piece.”
The show’s title is ‘Sun City’ and its three parts are inspired by the sun’s capacity to give life, cause damage and be the subject of worship. An aluminium chair, part of their ‘Soft Metal’ series, sits in front of a screen showing the highest possible resolution film of the sun’s surface – a luminous bubbling orange light. The chair, made from a sheet of aluminium, cut in various places and then bent using heat from a propane torch, appears to be melting in the illusory heat.
In the basement, a pair of cabinets with gestural cut-outs, turn out to be modified with LED lights inside for growing cannabis. “It’s an homage to the way people grow plants stealthily at home,” says Gardner. “You open up a wardrobe and find it’s fitted out with lights and fans.” (It’s also appropriate here in Italy, where it’s legal to grow a couple of plants for personal usage.)
Meanwhile, the upper floor, dedicated to worship, is according to Gardner, “more like a traditional furniture exhibition. I wouldn’t push the spiritual element too hard.” It includes one of their disorienting ‘Dancing Chairs’, a piece in birch ply and veneer, that appears conventional until it’s occupied and begins to spin and wobble on its base.
Pure Soft Baroque, it’s a comical, whimsical affair, and if you can’t get there IRL, then it’s perfectly in keeping with their ethos to take a long virtual look at this latest show.
SUN CITY – the first solo exhibition in Milan by London-based studio Soft Baroque, curated by New York-based architecture and design magazine PIN–UP.