As with any design week, the tentpole tradeshows and group exhibitions of London Design Festival can be a mixed bag of brands, manufacturers, collectives, independent designers, and sponsored pavilions. While the disparate exhibitors cater to different albeit overlapping audiences, the jarring juxtapositions can be chaotic if not altogether unfortunate.
Thankfully, galleries offer a rather more curated experience, while student exhibitions remain as timely and relevant as ever, and LDF did not disappoint on either front. Forgoing the debate about drawing a distinction between “collectible design” and art, we made rounds of elite galleries in Mayfair, as well as a couple of graduation shows.
Christie's collaborated with gallerist Andreas Siegfried on the exhibition Tropicana, featuring new work by the designers Anton Alvarez and Jonathan Trayte. Alvarez, a Swedish-Chilean designer currently based in Stockholm, is known for creating machines that wrap scrap materials in brightly colored thread. The top-tier auction house mixed the pieces in the three ground-floor galleries of its Mayfair location. London-based Trayte works explores and combines various materials in functional sculptures that allude to pop art, probing the psychology of consumerism. Of course, the Alvarez installation stole the show Up the street, Mazzoleni Gallery invited Milan's DimoreStudio to create a series of carefully rooms featuring objects, furniture, and artworks from the gallery's extensive, predominantly Italian inventory. At Carpenter's Workshop, Li Edelkoort's selection of "European design talent" skewed heavily toward Design Academy Eindhoven, where she served as director from 1999-2009. From left to right, works by Anton Hendrik Denys, Kathrine Barbro Bendixen, and Martin Laforet Another DAE grad, Kostas Lambridis presented his thesis project "Work in Progress," which stole the show for its sheer scale. (Full disclosure: I studied with Lambridis at the Design Academy.) The Graduate(s) also included (from left to right) Julie do Mol, Priyanka Sharma & Dushyant, and Bram van Breda, among a few others. All in all, the works were somehow totemic or elemental, unified by a kind of "prehistoric chic." On the occasion of LDF, the well-curated stationery shop Present & Correct exhibited "Cliptomania," a graphically appealing (read: highly Instagrammable) display of the humble objects. Viaduct Gallery's furniture and lighting showcase Punctuating Space included Child Studio's "In the Shadow of a Man," which debuted in Milan this year. Central St. Martin's Creative Unions featured 50 projects that broadly responded to the geopolitical upheaval since the Brexit. From a Lars von Trier-inspired design "dogme" to speculations on climate change and cartography, the exhibition showcased the full spectrum of design. Nestled in a side street of Clerkenwell, Candid Arts Trust hosted Graduated, an exhibition of student projects from Kingston University. With some 90 pieces on view, the exhibition was understandably uneven but refreshingly playful on the balance.