Design, Art and Rock ‘N’ Roll

Milan’s I Salone is the biggest design explosion of the year. Close to 3,000 international exhibitors participate in the exhibition, which consists of Salone Internazionale del Mobile (the main furniture fair); Salone del Complemento d’Arredo (accessories); SaloneSatellite (student exhibition); and, this year, Euroluce (the lighting biennial). But it is really the hundreds of off-site events where the most provocative design is experienced – especially Zona Tortona, a neighbourhood of film studios, warehouses, storefronts and small pizzerias, where every possible nook and cranny is taken over by design installations and exhibits. Here in the city where style is embedded in the genetic code, cocktail parties spill out into the streets and take over local bars, celebrity designer sightings are at an all-year high, and guerrilla design attacks occur on every corner.

With a plethora of art collectors and patron-sheiks in attendance, this year’s show marked the transition from designer/rock star to rock-star designer/artist. Says Dutch design superstar Marcel Wanders: “Design is opening up and finding its way to a broader audience – for too long now we have kept the world of design small and secluded.” Wanders’ Special Editions collection featured crochet fibre and resin topiaries and polyester acrylic painted bells, all in ginormous proportions.

Like Wanders, hot Belgian/Dutch design duo Studio Job also created a big installation: Silver Ware, a collection of shimmering super-sized dishware – including a cake platter, basket and dish cover – all in white gold mosaic tile, commissioned by Italian tile manufacturer Bisazza. Also for Bisazza, rising Spanish design star Jamie Hayon created Pixel Ballet, a series of voluptuously shaped vases, mirrors and tables centred around a gigantic Pinnochio-like butler, which was “meant to explore the possibilities of mixing art forms with industrial applications,” Hayon explains.

Baas, the collection by hot designer/artist Maarten Baas – he of the ubiquitous burnt chair for Moooi – included the addition of the Clay Fan to the lanky-legged furniture series of the same name, made from hand-modelled industrial clay and lacquered in primary colours. Launched in 2005 by Alasdhair Willis, Established & Sons showed limited-edition collections with Zaha Hadid and Barber Osgerby. The U.K.-based company also introduced Wrongwoods, the first partnership within its Collaborations program, bringing together individual designers and creatives. Artist Richard Woods applied a cartoon graphic laminate to postwar modernist utility furniture designed by Sebastian Wong.

Indo-British couple Nipa Doshi’s and Jonathan Levien’s series for Moroso married handcraftsmanship with industrially produced work. The Charpoy daybed’s handmade cotton and silk mattress, embellished by handcrafted embroidery, is juxtaposed with the wood base’s black lacquer finish produced industrially in Italy. The mattress bears the embroidered names of all the women in India who have worked on it.

What is the designer’s next pursuit? “The borders are fading between design and art and design and architecture,” says Job Smeets of Studio Job, “and when borders disappear in culture, they might also disappear in the political field, and I think that would be very good.” Rock-star designer/artist/ politician, anyone?

Shauna Levy is the co-founder of the Interior Design Show