New York Dispatch: May 2021
As spring warms New York and spirits soar, Adrian Madlener brings us the best collectible design shows to step out and see.
ENERGIES ARE HIGH as New York City seems to have staved off the Covid-19 pandemic in the past few months. With over seven million vaccinations administered throughout the megapolis, its citizens feel safe enough to get out and gather. Museums are abuzz with blockbuster shows and events like Frieze are taking up shop in iconic locales like The Shed. Major platforms like Salon 94 and foundations like Dia have unveiled their new spacious digs. With the end of April showing early summer temperatures, the hectic pace this city is famous for is slowly picking up – but in a much more considered fashion. Though a pre-pandemic normal is still a few months off, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Travel bans remain in effect, so New Yorkers are taking the opportunity to enjoy their town before the inevitable return of the tourists. Several established design galleries are showcasing playful, inventive and optimistic exhibitions. The Design Edit brings you the highlights.
Mises en Scène
Demisch Danant has carved out a place for itself in New York as one of the preeminent purveyors of twentieth-century French design, emphasising works created during the pivotal period of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Groundbreaking furnishings by Maria Pergay, Pierre Paulin, Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq join textile masterpieces by Sheila Hicks and sculptural luminaires by Jos Devriendt. Located just off Union Square in The Village, the prestigious gallery is known for its rigorous scholarship and robust exhibition programme.
Making the best of the past year, the gallery’s founders Suzanne Demisch and Stephane Danant put on a series of showcases that presented their extensive collections in a new light and made use of their physical space in clever ways. This spring, the gallery presents ‘Mises en Scène’ – a rotating series of stagings inspired by photographs of period interiors. Each vignette centres on one or two corresponding works from within Demisch Danant’s collection. The overall aim is to showcase these historical elements in a contemporary context and shed light on how an image can entice and educate a collector. Much of this material was uncovered in the 1990s at flea markets throughout Europe.
“Design books were scarce then, and primary sources were not online yet, so when you wanted to study a designer, you had to go to the library,” Demisch recalls. “Even then, it was challenging to find a library that had the documents you needed. We bought stacks of old magazines and combed every page to identify works we had seen, or new works that we were looking for. If we were lucky, we could find a designer’s archives at an auction sale. We enjoyed this discovery process and its adventures. Our libraries in New York and Paris are full of archival images and documentation.”
Currently on view is maverick sculptor César’s ‘Expansion Table’ (1977). The expressively molten cast-bronze pedestal, topped with a glass top, sits amongst other eclectic works of the era. The overall programme runs until 5th June.
‘Get a Room’ by Emily Mullin
Jack Hanley Gallery
Emily Mullin’s ‘Get a Room’ solo show draws inspiration from the still-life tradition. Her expressively formed ceramic vessels blur the lines between painting, sculpture and collage. As is evident in this particularly multi-chromatic showcase, Mullin often places these works in bespoke framings – roughly cut metal wall-mounted reliefs and Calder-esque pedestals. The overall display juxtaposes the porosity and texture of the ceramic forms with blocks of bold, seamless colour, wrangled together in visually complex yet intriguing installations.
These display elements are as much a part of the work as the vessels, which derive from folded maquettes. Embodying a playful approach, infused with humour, these plinths are CNC-milled in a fashion akin to Mattisse’s cut-out paper compositions. These integral elements were created with her husband Tony Mullin – a respected artist in his own right – and centre on recollections of shared travels to classical museums in Rome and the modernist buildings of Chandigarh. These inherently architectonic pedestals reflect the gesture of Atlas holding the globe.
The Parian white porcelain and brown groggy earthenware ceramic vessels feature a myriad of skewed archetypal components and geometric glazing. Mullin presents these flower-adorned, slab-formed vases on the altars in an almost religious fashion. However, her aim is to reference the lightness of 1950s exhibition designs carried out by Italian architect Franco Albini and curator Caterina Marcenaro. For them, the play of displaying ancient artefacts in modern museums required a sense of irreverence and dynamism. ‘Get a Room’ is on view at Lower East Side staple Jack Hanley Gallery until 8th May.
‘Recollection’ by Patrick E. Naggar
Ralph Pucci has made a name for himself in the world of mannequin production – everything from sleek fashion figures to Romanesque statues – and most recently as a prolific collectible design impresario. His vast multi-storied Chelsea loft, as well as outposts in Miami and LA, incorporates an endless array of American and European furniture designs and luminaires. Combining both sides of his business over the past few years has garnered fruitful results. Since 2017, designers have been invited to work in his workshops and experiment with Pucci’s signature plasterglass material. French designer Patrick E. Naggar was the first to do so. His latest ‘Recollection’ series, debuted earlier this month and on view through the summer, results from his return to New York in late 2020.
“My first outdoor pieces were much more obvious – a chair, a table – smooth and clean,” the designer explains. “These new pieces, I think, are more subtle complementary pieces that capture the handwork involved in making them, great to mix with furniture that might be more conventional perhaps.”
Due to the pandemic, Naggar was in New York for longer than initially planned and spent more time in the new Ralph Pucci sculpture studio developing these works. The almost clay-like tables, chairs, credenzas and lamps play on the perceptions of weight and material properties but, more importantly, reflect the designer’s fascination with ancient mythology. These organic yet discernibly functional pieces also make reference to revered twentieth-century masters of shape: Giacometti, Brancusi and Twombly. “I am not driven by mere form and style. I also try to connect my deep interest in ancient cultures and science to my work,” Naggar says. “These might seem disparate, but I try to bring those realms together in practical applications.”
The ‘Demeter’ tables and ‘Artemis’ console feature stemmed bases that reference vegetation and appear to be sprouting out of packed earth. Fabricated with a shell enclosure, the ‘Aphrodite’ floor lamp pays homage to ancient reflectors and indirectly refracts light. Left raw in their plaster form or painted in a red hue to emulate clay, the ‘Hestia’ wall sconce, ‘Lotus’ coffee table and ‘Portofino’ lounge chair are more curvilinear in typology. The latter is a contemporary play on the ubiquitous wing chair.