Art & Photography / The Art of the Week

The Art of Totems

Good Things presents a towering array of totemic art from master of the form Ettore Sottsass to Raw Color's beautiful stacks of fruit

Fruit Totem
Fruit Totem Courtesy of Raw Color: Nowness Martin Creed x Pierre Gagnaire, 2012

Totems and stacks, like towers and skyscrapers, have long fascinated humans. Arranging things skywards, to create monoliths from all manner of objects, has gone from something with spiritual significance to an aesthete's dream. Here is a stack of our favourites from recent times.

Godfather of the Memphis movement, Ettore Sottsass, created many a modern totem. Stacks of smooth, pleasing shapes finished in the most desirable of palettes. His influence is clear to see throughout a lot of more recent work.

Alain Delorme’s series Totems sees the tradesmen, and women, of Shanghai transporting their wares on the backs of bikes. Manipulated to the extreme, the results show stacks of precarious everyday items moving around the vast city.

One of our favourite collectives Raw Color have taken stacking to an art form, turning regular fruit into works of art. Their layered stones and blocks are also worth a gander.

This collection of towers by Oeuffice also functions as boxes and stools. Storage doesn’t get better than this.

We all interact with stacks of books on a daily basis, and a couple of artists are taking that familiarity to the next level with perfectly arranged tomes. Paul Octavius creates letters, numbers and symbols from candy coloured books, whilst Yarisal & Kublitz have set theirs into plaster to create beautiful geometric towers.

A table which is also a bit like a giant toy. Mia Hamborg's totem table allows you to shift it around every day. Like a brilliant kebab.