Photo Essays

Parsing the Collective Design Fair’s Peculiar Objects

Visitors in the Memphis-Post Design Gallery booth at Collective Design
Visitors in the Memphis-Post Design Gallery booth at Collective Design (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Visiting Collective Design amid all of Frieze Week‘s art fairs is doubly refreshing: it’s an unabashed celebration of beautiful objects and you can touch (almost) all of them. With 29 exhibitors and about 20 pop-ups and special exhibitions — including a number of functioning temporary studios — the fair covers three large halls and several auxiliary areas at Skylight Clarkson Sq, a raw, Hudson-adjacent warehouse just below Houston Street on Manhattan’s far west side. The mix of showroom-style displays offering up pristine objects and areas given over to makers is a winning combination.

Isamu Noguchi, "Untitled" (1981), in the Noguchi Museum's pop-up installation in the loading dock at Collective Design.
Isamu Noguchi, “Untitled” (1981), in the Noguchi Museum’s pop-up installation in the loading dock at Collective Design. (click to enlarge)

A few exhibitors make the best of the parking lot chic aesthetic, like the Noguchi Museum, whose site-specific installation of Isamu Noguchi sculptures in a loading dock is surprisingly solemn and meditative, the low lighting and utilitarian building materials complementing the works’ rough-hewn surfaces. Tribeca’s Patrick Parrish Gallery has given over its booth to artist Cody Hoyt, who will be making his patterned, trapezoidal ceramic vessels on-site throughout the fair in a pop-up studio. The American Design Club invited artist Liz Collins to present “KNITTING NATION,” her roving textile studio performance and collaboration. In one of the venue’s loft-like mezzanines, white-clad workers are weaving thick and colorful bands of fabric into delightful rug-blanket-tapestries. And near the entrance to the fair, a special presentation of Dana Barnes Studio‘s “Endolith Casts” (2015) — rectilinear blocks of cement poured over bundles of thickly woven exotic textiles whose knots of green and yellow protrude like mold or moss — is ideally sited. The sculptures’ smooth concrete shells match the building’s poured concrete floors perfectly, as if the artworks themselves were some kind of natural outcropping.

Nucleo, "Souvenir of the Last Century" (2015) in the Ammann Gallery booth at Collective Design
Nucleo, “Souvenir of the Last Century” (2015) in the Ammann Gallery booth at Collective Design (click to enlarge)

The lion’s share of Collective Design exhibitors, however, have gone the showroom route, making for some extremely disjointed booths where oddball handcrafted objects sit beside sleek modern furniture, colorful avant-garde lights, found-object jewelry, and the occasional pre-modern artifact. Among the stainless steel coffee tables and unwieldy floor lamps, you’ll find gems like ornate animal vessels by Ardmore Ceramic Art (at R & Company), Catherine Raben Davidsen‘s terrifying ceramic face jug (at Vance Trimble), and Nucleo‘s “Souvenir of the Last Century” (2015), a stool made out of an old wooden stool encased in clear resin (at Ammann Gallery).

In this context, the exhibitors who specialize in one type or style of object stand out with their comparatively cohesive presentations, foremost among them Paris-Chicago gallery LMD/studio. If you’re furnishing a Brooklyn pied-à-terre for an aggressively hip vampire, you’ll find everything you need among their all-black, gold-accented wood, steel, and leather goods. Looking for faux-medieval sconces topped with flame-like chunks of quartz? You’re in luck! In the market for big game antlers or a sculpture of a human skull? LMD/studio has both, in one object (by Rick Owens), painted all-black. At the completely opposite end of the goth-pixie spectrum, New York’s kinder MODERN, which specializes in furniture for children, is showing objects inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphs (by Material Lust), a desk in the shape of a giant yellow chicken (by Guillaumit), and stools with tiny antlers (by Elements Optimal) in its royal blue booth. Though the objects range vastly in shape, style, and palette, the prevailing kid-friendly proportions and forms make for an agreeably unified presentation. Amid Collective Design’s rewardingly eclectic offerings, such moments of aesthetic coherence are welcome.

One of several animal vessels by South Africa's Ardmore Ceramic Art group on view in R & Company's booth at Design Collective
One of several animal vessels by South Africa’s Ardmore Ceramic Art group on view in R & Company’s booth at Design Collective
A hanging light fixture by Misha Kahn in the Friedman Benda booth at Collective Design
A hanging light fixture by Misha Kahn in the Friedman Benda booth at Collective Design
A wind-up, beetle-shaped watch in the de Vera booth at Collective Design
A wind-up, beetle-shaped watch in the de Vera booth at Collective Design
Textile workers in in Liz Collins's pop-up Knitting Nation studio at the Collective Design fair
Textile workers in in Liz Collins’s pop-up “KNITTING NATION” studio at the Collective Design fair
IN.SEK's pop-up studio, where the group is producing small, cast concrete vessels, at the Collective Design fair.
IN.SEK’s pop-up studio, where the group is producing small, cast concrete vessels, at the Collective Design fair.
Patrick Parrish Gallery's booth at the Collective Design fair is a temporary studio for sculptor Cody Hoyt.
Patrick Parrish Gallery’s booth at the Collective Design fair is a temporary studio for sculptor Cody Hoyt.
The LMD/studio booth at Collective Design
The LMD/studio booth at Collective Design
The kinder MODERN booth at Collective Design, including Guillaumit's "Chicken Desk" at left
The kinder MODERN booth at Collective Design, including Guillaumit’s “Chicken Desk” at left
Olek and Todd Merrill Custom Originals, "Swivel Thrones: #You, #Ribcage, #Regret, #Risk" (2015) in the Todd Merrill Studio Contemporary booth at Collective Design
Olek and Todd Merrill Custom Originals, “Swivel Thrones: #You, #Ribcage, #Regret, #Risk” (2015) in the Todd Merrill Studio Contemporary booth at Collective Design
Dana Barnes, "Endolith Casts" (2015), part of the Collective Features program at the Collective Design fair
Dana Barnes Studio, “Endolith Casts” (2015), part of the Collective Features program at the Collective Design fair
A ceramic container by Catherine Raben Davidson in the Vance Trimble booth at Collective Design
A ceramic container by Catherine Raben Davidsen in the Vance Trimble booth at Collective Design
Objects in the Memphis-Post Design Gallery booth at Collective Design
Objects in the Memphis-Post Design Gallery booth at Collective Design
"Pop-Up Habitat," a modular structure by People's Architecture Office, leads visitors to the entrance of the Collective Design fair. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
“Pop-Up Habitat,” a modular structure by People’s Architecture Office, installed along Washington Street outside of the Collective Design fair.

The Collective Design fair continues at Skylight Clarkson Sq (550 Washington Street, West Village, Manhattan) through May 17.

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