Dan Thawley takes us on a tour through the more adventurous outliers at Milan's design extravaganza
Inside the sprawling warehouse spaces of Salone del Mobile outside of Milan can be found a cacophany of tables, lamps and soft furnishings, peopled by the world's design professionals who have gathered to ponder, purchase and critique the latest and greatest design feats of the year. It's an overwhelming labyrinth, which is perhaps why many outstanding designers choose to mount independent satellite projects dotted inside Milan itself. Here are a few of our favourites on view this weekend and throughout April.
Max Lamb & Soft Baroque
Down an unassuming laneway and inside the Garage San Remo, London-based designer Max Lamb has single-handedly mounted Exercises in Seating, his own impressive retrospective showing forty of his starkly elemental chair designs dating back to his RCA degree show in 2006. Laid out in a circular tableau, the designs gyrate between raw, organic and industrial shapes; wedges of grassy green Irish Connemara marble play against carved out tree trunks and copper tubes, moulded ombré plastics and perforated bronze. The show’s diversity is matched only by Lamb’s authentic and immediate mastery of his materials, a fact that ensures his pragmatic creations never waver into decorative territory, maintaining a fresh and Brutal perspective for contemporary British design.
Next door is Soft Baroque, a project by Lamb’s assistant Nicholas Gardner and his partner Saša Stucin, whose New Surface Strategies installation combines blue-screen technology and their blue-flocked wooden furniture designs for an interactive experience that questions contemporary ideas of surface. With a live feed camera focused on the couple’s pine bench and chair setup (Saša herself is a fixture too, dressed up in Anna-Sophie Berger’s system blue ensemble), a screen in the adjoining room conjures up virtual impressions of the space, as constantly evolving colour patterns play across the surfaces in an array of neon and marbled effects.
Exercises in Seating and New Surface Strategies are on show at Spazio Sanremo, Via della Zecca Vecchia 3 until Sunday April 19.
COS x Snarkitecture
Since 2007, artists Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham’s Snarkitecture project has been breathing an air of quiet calm into cross-pollinated art, design and fashion projects that perpetuate a monochromatic, often monumental sense of perspective and scale into both objects and spaces. This year COS, themselves masters of mainstream minimalism, invited Snarkitecture to transform N°2 Via Delle Erbe into a cavernous white grotto populated with tens of thousands of white ribbons floating down from the ceiling, landscaped into graduated passageways that lead towards a tiny capsule of COS product. The ribbons, made from airy tech fabric, form multiple fringed corridors that gently sway as visitors discover the ephemeral space.
COS x Snarkitecture is on show at Via Delle Erbe 2 until Sunday April 19.
A triangular collaboration between architect Luca Cipelletti, Pin-Up Magazine, and the Museo della Merda (yes, a new museum dedicated to cow poop) has produced one of Salone’s most poignant displays of ecological progress – with a satellite exhibition at POMO gallery that highlights the centuries old process of transforming bovine fecal matter into functional building blocks. Using the facilities of this as yet un-opened Museum (in fact it’s Gianantonio Locatelli’s re-purposed farm an hour South of Milan), the gallery walls are covered in odourless cow dung, with a central display of stacked, stamped bricks made from an 80/20 combination of dung and clay. With its methane gas extracted, the organic matter (lit from below by concealed halogens) cocoons the gallery space with a pleasant, earthy quality – appealing to the future-Neanderthal in all of us.
‘Shit Show’ is open at POMO Gallery on Via Giuseppe Sirtori, 6, until Friday May 8.
Astier de Villatte’s Medici Series
Inside the colourful chaos of Rosanna Orlandi’s iconic warehouse maze, you can find Astier de Villatte’s corner of Parisian porcelain, mirroring Benoit Astier de Villatte & Ivan Pericoli’s Rue Saint Honoré space stacked with white-washed plates. Amidst their myriad of subtly Surrealist collaborations with artists like John Derian and Nathalie Lété, the evolution of their ongoing Balthus project takes centre stage for Salone 2015, featuring a new series of notebooks, candles, and porcelain inspired by the Villa de Medici in Rome – where Balthus held residence between 1964 and 1977. Photos of the Villa’s romantic statues and the Carré des Niobides gardens are colour-tinted and feature across their letterpress-printed, gold-edged notepads, and a ceramic candle holder which houses a brand new scent enriched with lemon, clove, rosemary, vetiver, and patchouli, amongst other romantic, woody notes.
Spazio Rossana Orlandi is open throughout Salone 2015 at Via Matteo Bandello, 14-16. Astier de Villate Paris is located at 173 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France.
When Milan’s doyenne of design Nina Yashar began her warehouse project, in need of space to contain the sprawling contemporary and mid-century furniture collection of her Via Spiga HQ, she had no idea that it would snowball into the gargantuan, curated Nilufar Depot space that opened this week to rave reviews. A confidante of Mrs. Prada (and doted on by the rest of Milan’s culturati) Yashar is known for mixing vibrant Modernist designs from the past with cutting-edge new talent, and her new space shows that mix better than ever before, with three levels of exposed, curated rooms centering around a central courtyard space. Everything from sprawling Lindsay Andelman wall chandeliers to Nucleo’s intricate inlaid benches and Pierre-Marie Agin’s flowery cloud rugs co-exist in the sumptuous interiors, which juxtapose brilliantly with the hangar-like warehouse space.
Nilufar Depot is open to the public at Viale Lancetti 34 until April 30.