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Archives: April 2012

Maarten De Ceulaer’s ‘Mutation’ Furniture Bubbles Up in Milan

(Photos: Nico Neefs)

Bound for the Milan Furniture Fair yet short on time? Focus on the work of designers named Maarten! That will keep you plenty busy. Start at Ventura Lambrate, where Maarten Baas will have a bunch of new projects on display beginning tomorrow. Among them are spidery clay stools that Louise Bourgeois would have loved, a massive tablecloth woven—in a typeface called “Font of the Loom”—with the names of the inhabitants of Amsterdam (all 780,559 of them), and a still-under-wraps “kinetic object” for Laikingland. Also on view will be his Martin Puryear-esque “Empty Chair,” a 16-foot tall ladder-back seat created for Amnesty International in honor of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

The other Eindhoven-educated must-see Maarten is Maarten De Ceulaer, who’ll be exhibiting at three locations during the Salone del Mobile. Head to Rossana Orlandi and the Triennale di Milano to be charmed by his “Mutations” series (pictured). “The pieces in this series look like they weren’t made by hands, but have grown to their present form organically,” says the Brussels-based designer. “They might be the result of a mutation in cells, or the result of a chemical or nuclear reaction. Perhaps it’s a virus or bacteria that has grown dramatically out of scale.” In fact, De Ceulaer created the molecularly marvelous seating, a kind of deep-buttoned upholstery run amok, by carefully composing patterns with sections of foam spheres that are then applied to a structure. The final step is coating the entire piece in a rubbery or velvet-like finish. “It is largely impossible to ever recreate such a specific pattern,” he says, “so every piece is completely unique.”

Quote of Note | Urs Fischer

“Everybody likes objects; everybody likes different objects. It comes down to what objects you want to put in your art. [Jeff] Koons and [Claes] Oldenburg both seem to have their agendas with their objects. So do I, I guess. I like them all: high, low, used, new, whichever works. I don’t know if the Lamp/Bear has anything more to do with Koons or Oldenburg than all three of us and everyone else have to do with [Marcel] Duchamp’s liberation of the real thing. Before him, it seems objects appeared in, or maybe as, still-lives. Duchamp’s the guy, the legend, who liberated objects from being second-class citizens. Even if his greatness lies in our imagination and how he built himself to make us imagine his work as we imagine it. His objects are often not very satisfying to spend time with outside of the fictions he created for them.”

-Artist Urs Fischer, whose solo exhibition at François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi opens Sunday

New Season of Art in the Twenty-First Century Premieres Tonight on PBS

Ai Weiwei’s “Study of Perspective – Tiananmen” (1995–2003). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Art21 is back with more Art in the Twenty-First Century. The sixth season of the TV series premieres tonight on PBS (check your local listings) with “Change,” an episode featuring documentary profiles of Catherine Opie, El Anatsui, and Ai Weiwei. The latter segment proved particularly challenging to complete, as Chinese authorites arrested Ai midway through filming. He was detained for 81 days (and charged with a $2 million tax bill), and Art21 arranged one of the first on-camera interviews with him after his release. In that conversation, which took place in his Beijing studio, Ai discussed his marble sculpture of a surveillance camera, which, he says is used to “secretly monitor people’s behavior.” “But once it’s marble” he continues, “it’s only being watched. It’s not functioning anymore.” Opie’s camera is always working, and tonight’s episode follows the photographer as she works on projects in Sandusky, Ohio (her childhood hometown) and her current home base of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Anatsui and his studio assistants transform old bottle caps into amazing sculptures. Here’s a video sneak peek at the season, which will also feature artists such as Marina Abramović, Glenn Ligon, and Sarah Sze.
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Menil Collection Announces Architects Shortlisted to Design Its Drawing Institute

Michael Heizer’s “Isolated Mass/Circumflex (#2)” (1968–72), an earth sculpture embedded into the front lawn of the Menil Collection in Houston. (Photo: The Menil Collection)

In 1945, while on a business trip to New York, John de Menil picked up a souvenir—a dreamy little Cézanne watercolor sketch—and a drawing collection was born (the purplish pink mountain scene soon had good company in works by the likes of Picasso and Magritte). More than 60 years and 1,200 drawings later, the Menil Collection established the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, “dedicated solely to the collection, exhibition, and study of modernist drawing, including the medium’s role in contemporary artistic practice.” Now the museum is adding a separate facility on its Houston campus to house the growing drawing collection, and today announced a shortlist of contenders to design it: Tatiana Bilbao (Mexico City), David Chipperfield Architects (London), Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles), and SANAA (Tokyo).

“The Menil’s campus is one of the world’s most cherished cultural landscapes. We intend to move forward with respect to what exists, preserving and nurturing its spirit as we move forward in the Menil’s tradition of commissioning exceptional architecture,” said Leslie Elkins Sasser, chair of the Menil’s architecture selection committee, in a statement issued this morning. “Each of the four firms we have selected for the short list, after months of research, travel and discussion, have the potential to achieve a remarkable addition—for our campus, for our city of Houston, and for the many visitors from around the world.” Despite his London HQ, Chipperfield may have something of a home-court advantage, as he recently created the well-received master site plan for the Menil campus. A final selection is expected in June.

London Olympics Reject Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Breath Bubble’ Art Installation

“Take your breathing people and scram,” weren’t the words used by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games when talking to artist Olafur Eliasson about a project he’d proposed, but rejection was the basic sentiment and it seemed like a good way to start a post. After being encouraged to submit a proposal by the Committee, Eliasson requested £1 million to put together a project called “Take a Deep Breath,” which the BBC describes as an “installation would have invited people to inhale and exhale on behalf of ‘a person, a movement or a cause’ and record it on a website in a personal ‘breath bubble.’” The Committee took a look and decided that not only was the project not “particularly attractive” but also “seemed very expensive.” So, to extend our opening to this post, the organizers were essentially saying “Take your overly expensive breathing people and scram.” But again, we’re putting words into mouths. The tragedy, of course, is that this rejection, however well reasoned, means that the world may never see a functioning “personal breath bubble” unless Eliasson finds someone else with the cash to build, assemble, or however one would go about making a “personal breath bubble” in this day and age.

Sneak Peek at Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Stunning New Book

(Photos courtesy Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec)

It wouldn’t be the Milan International Furniture Fair without a slew of smashing new creations from Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. At this year’s mega-show, which kicks off next week with an eye-watering 1,400 exhibitors, the designing brothers will debut their glossy storage nooks for Vitra, a textured textile/shelving system hybrid created for Established & Sons, and assorted objects for Magis and Mattiazzi. Those who can’t make it to Milano can get their Bouroullec fix in the pages of Works, out next month from Phaidon. “Works is a comprehensive monograph featuring a wealth of images of our projects, models, drawings—that is to say all visual material we found interesting to dig out from the archives of our workshop,” said the brothers in an e-mail. “It documents what we do by proposing an intuitive understanding, a flowing journey from one project to another.” Organized thematically and designed by Sonia Dyakova, the book spotlights the Bouroullecs’ greatest hits—including collaborations with Vitra (Algue makes the cover), Flos, Alessi, Cappellini, and Kvadrat—and reveals previously unpublished images and drawings alongside text by Abitare alum Anniina Koivu. Also weighing in on the designers’ first dozen years of projects, which are all doumented in a catalogue section, are the likes of design critic Alice Rawsthorn, Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum, and Didier Krzentowski of Galerie Kreo.

This Week on the Job Board: Gilt Groupe, Nomad Editions, Runner’s World

This week, Gilt Groupe is hiring a freelance retoucher, while Nomad Editions needs an art director. Runner’s World is on the hunt for an assistant art director, and Jones Lang LaSalle is seeking a graphic designer. Get all the details below, and find more just-posted job openings on

For more job listings, go to the Mediabistro job board, and to post a job, visit our employer page. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

National Mall Redesign Competition Selects Finalists

The hunt for someone to redesign the “loved to death” sections of the National Mall in Washington D.C. has been somewhat quiet since the competition selected its all-star jury lineup back in October. That’s changed this week with the announcement that twelve finalist teams have been selected and are now on display both online and in person, though just for this week only, at the Smithsonian Castle. The finalists include the usual selection of top-name firms, including Rogers Marvel, Balmori Associates, Diller Scofido Renfro and Snohette teamed with AECOM. Strangely, no James Corner Field Operations, who we’ve grown so accustomed to being selected for this sort of project, meaning they either didn’t submit or, and this seems even more strange, that they weren’t picked as finalists. All in all, we certainly dig all of the finalists’ plans for the three spaces slotted for $350 million worth of improvements (anything’s better than the aimless stretches that permeate the area now), but with so much wide-open space and so many limitations on views that can be blocked and what can be built where, there’s part of us that speculates that the renovations will look a whole lot better from an aerial view than from the ground. We’ll have some time to wait before we can test that theory out, as winners for the three projects will be named in May, with construction estimated to be completed by sometime in 2016.

Quote of Note | Raf Simons

Looks from the spring 2012 Jil Sander collection.

“When I was at industrial-design school, we were all expected to like the Memphis Group and Philippe Starck, but I’ve always been attracted to midcentury modernism. My favorite is the French designer Jean Royère. I love the marriage between different things in his work—the aspects of kitsch, premodernism, and modernism, along with an extreme femininity—but there’s also a robustness. Royère’s designs are very eclectic, but they all come from the world he has put together. His work has had a huge impact on me, but I’ve never bought any of it—it’s unaffordable. Recently, a Royère table came up at auction; the estimate was €12,000 to €15,000. I thought, That’s mine. Then I was on the phone with the auction house wondering if I should go up to €18,000. My God! I didn’t have time to say a thing. The thing went to €120,000!”

-Raf Simons, newly appointed artistic director of Christian Dior, in a recent interview with Alice Rawsthorn for W. Among the designer’s other favorite things, lest you want to send him a congratulatory gift: art by Sterling Ruby, Valentine Schlegel‘s ceramics, the architecture of John Lautner, the Todd Haynes film Safe, and vintage Margiela., Gates Foundation Launch Online Hub for ‘Human-Centered Design’

Big news from the fledgling nonprofit has used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop HCD Connect, a new platform for people who are taking a human-centered approach to poverty-related challenges around the world. Initially focused on agricultural development, the foundation’s support of HCD (human-centered design) Connect now includes a number of issues that affect low-income communities. The still-in-beta hub for discussion about problems being tackled is designed to connect people and projects, from reimagining a Philadelphia charter school to creating business models for selling water and hygiene products in Kenya. In a few months, community members will be able to apply for microgrants to initiate or implement projects. Intrigued? Arm yourself with IDEO’s handy-dandy HCD Toolkit, geared for organizations and individuals who want to use design methodology to innovate and solve problems in the social sector.