3 Top-Notch Design Shows to See in New York This Month
Works by Floris Wubben, the Haas Brothers, Sheila Hicks, and more go on view in thoughtful group exhibitions that bring together the best of international design
While many exhibitions and fairs are still relying heavily on virtual models to present work by established and rising talents, other galleries are stepping back into in-person viewings, creating thoughtful rooms filled with inspiring works. Some are welcoming limited numbers of viewers into their own brick-and-mortar spaces while others are repurposing striking architectural gems that enhance a dynamically curated grouping of one-of-a-kind works.
“We agreed since the very beginning to put together a scenario sitting between a gallery and a real, livable apartment,” says architect Pietro Franceschini, who is collaborating with Galerie Philia on a show inside a beautiful aerie in New York’s Walker Tower. “While objects and artworks have plenty of space to express themselves, they are nevertheless in constant communication with one another. This tension between ‘being displayed’ and ‘being functional’ shaped every decision we made and eventually set the mood of the entire exhibit. Knowing that it would be temporary, we decided to focus on the objects themselves and their interaction rather than styling the apartment.”
Here, a look at three top-tier design shows in the city opening this month.
1. “Objects: USA 2020” at R & Company
Fifty years ago, gallerist Lee Nordness organized a major survey on craft design in United States, bringing together major talents such as Anni Albers, Sheila Hicks, and George Nakashima for “Objects: USA” at the National Collection of Fine Art at the Smithsonian Institute. Now R & Company is revisiting 50 of the original exhibitors and placing their work in conversation with 50 contemporary creatives for “Objects: USA 2020,” on view February 16 through July 2021. “This exhibition is by and large the most ambitious project the gallery has ever tackled,” says R & Company principal Evan Snyderman, who curated the show alongside Glenn Adamson, James Zemaitis, and Abby Bangser. “Discussions began over two and a half years ago and culling through hundreds of artists and thousands of images was a herculean feat. We decided early on that the artists and designers to be included had to represent a diverse group of makers. Diversity in ethnicity, gender, and material and artistic choices were as paramount to us as it was in the original ‘Objects: USA’ exhibition in 1969.”
Installed at R & Company’s White Street gallery, the show include pieces by Albers, Hicks, and Nakashima as well as Wendell Castle, Sam Maloof, and Michele Oka Doner. Representing the contemporary artists will be Daniel Arsham, the Haas Brothers, Joyce Lin, Jay Sae Jung Oh, Katie Stout, and David Wiseman, among others. “One parallel is that all of the participants in the original and current exhibition share the use of one common tool: the hand,” explains Snyderman. “The hand has remained and persevered through all the technological developments of the last half a century. The desire to be unique and to express oneself through the objects that we make continues to draw the appreciation of the public and helps keep us connected to the real world.”
2. Floris Wubben at Casa Perfect New York
The sculptural ceramics formed by Amsterdam-based Studio Floris Wubben are included in some of the world’s finest museums dedicated to craft, including the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. Now a selection of the pieces, including whimsical mirrors and lightings as well as a number of works that explore a variety of creative glazes, are on view at Casa Perfect New York through February. “I’ve never worked with anyone who is as knowledgeable about the nature of ceramic as Floris,” says David Alhadeff, founder of The Future Perfect. “With this depth of knowledge and an extraordinary level of technical acumen, his use of the material is ambitious and boundary-pushing. He’s constantly reinventing his extrusion profiles and methodology; I personally love that magical dichotomy when an artist is inspired by machine-made processes to produce work that is so handmade.”
Throughout the month, works like Wubben’s gleaming gold XXL stool, playful Standing mirror, Twelve Forty chair, and Wave table will be presented in a residential-style setting. “This is Floris’s newest body of work, but it’s very subtle,” says Alhadeff. “He’s stretching himself and playing with us. He’s grandstanding by creating something perfect that just shouldn’t be perfect. In so many ways, his work shouldn’t work, but it does. One of the joys of working with Floris is that he’s always on to a new idea. He’s never fully satisfied and always driving to make his work better. That means this is just the beginning, and what an exciting beginning it is!”
3. Galerie Philia at Walker Tower
Transportive works of 21st-century European design have been installed in a beautiful apartment in Chelsea’s Walker Tower. Peppered throughout the light-filled loft are works being shown for the first time in America by French designers Elisa Uberti, Frédéric Saulou, and Jérôme Pereira; Germany’s Jojo Corväiá, and Lucas Morten of Sweden, among others. Curated by architect and designer Pietro Francheschini, this debut presentation of Galerie Philia’s roster was cultivated to “establish a dialogue between the Art Deco architecture of the building, the omnipresent skyline, and the collectible art and design pieces.”
“The majority of items speak a consistent language,” says Franceschini of the show, which is on view February 15 through May 15. “The common thread between them can be expressed in a few key words: neutral colors; minimal but not reductive; and incredible craftsmanship. Only one room is very different from the rest, bringing in a playful and eccentric touch.”