In anticipation of this year's NYCxDesign / NY Design Week festivities, we caught up with a few of the curators of the major satellite exhibitions that take place from May 15–20. Although they are referring specifically to their 2014 event(s), their insights apply to past, present and future exhibitions.
This article was originally published in the C77 Design Daily, Vol. 1, Issue 1, on Friday, May 16.
By Anne Quito
"Good coffee makes the difference," says Odile Hainaut, one half of the curatorial team behind WantedDesign. "Last year, a visitor stayed for half a day at our exhibit because the coffee was good. These details matter. Our goal is to create an enjoyable experience where people can relax and take their time."
With over 9,000 visitors last year, WantedDesign is one of the most popular destinations during NYCxDesign, and Hainaut and her co-founder, Claire Pijoulat, are not rushing anyone out the door. The phones were ringing off the hook during my interview with them last April, but the gracious curators didn't seem to be in a hurry.
"The curation of WantedDesign involves three components," Pijoulat says. "One-third is the design showcase. Another is the interaction with the students and the general public. And the third is the community conversation that's fostered in the space and online."
WantedDesign, in fact, started with a conversation. In 2010, Pijoulat met Hainaut through a mutual friend, who intuited their kindred sensibilities. Their initial conversation centered on what they felt was missing in New York's design community—its lack of fervor and connectedness—and their shared passion to augment it.The warm and convivial women are ideal hosts for a modern design salon. Hainaut traces her love of design to 20 years ago, when she started working at Raison Pure, a French design and branding agency. Her immersion in the world of design fairs deepened in 2007 when she and her husband, Laurent, opened New York's Gallery R'Pure, an experimental space for Raison Pure's design team, where she serves as director.
Pijoulat, on the other hand, was born into the world of design. Her parents owned a design store in Paris, and at age 15 she interned at Maison & Objet, the city's legendary interior design fair. The internship exposed her to the breadth of the European design scene at an early age, an education by osmosis.
If ICFF is a massive block party sprawled across 165,000 square feet of the Javits Center, WantedDesign is more like an intimate dinner party where the guests are served home-cooked gourmet dishes (not literally, unfortunately). "We want to put together a digestible show," Hainaut says. She and Pijoulat make a point of meeting every potential exhibitor before finalizing the list--an unusually personalized approach in a time of delegated if not altogether mechanized submission processes.
This year, however, WantedDesign is expanding its scope through a collaboration with Industry City, a historic manufacturing complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that will play host to ten days of exhibitions and events. This is in addition to Wanted's three days of programming in the Tunnel, on 11th Avenue in Manhattan, which will welcome 60-plus exhibitors, including new ones from Germany, Australia and Latin America. Other highlights include a student workshop on "The Future of Paper" and the return of Launch Pad, a platform for designers with market-ready products seeking potential manufacturers.
Hainaut compares organizing the exhibition to preparing a satisfying meal—you not only need a good recipe but quality ingredients as well. "Over the years, we've learned that there are great people behind design companies," she says. "We made only a rule only to invite people whom we enjoy working with. It's a key component to our success."