In its four years, Collective Design has corralled the biggest names in contemporary and vintage design—it has also served as a platform and incubator for some of the globe’s most experimental young creatives. As the New York fair readies to open the doors of its sprawling SoHo warehouse space on May 4th, we took a deep dive into work from the fair’s 31 exhibitors to surface 10 on-the-rise designers to look out for. They hail from Rotterdam to New York to Cape Town and their work, by and large, retools traditional materials to create objects that cleverly respond to our contemporary habits.
Buntain and Collings of the Brooklyn-based design duo Fort Standard are magicians when it comes to materials—they’ve been known to transform stone, leather, and wood into shapes you’d never expect. At Collective, they’ll unveil new pieces that mark big strides for their already buzzing practice (you might have seen their geometric brass bottle openers on your coolest friend’s home bar). As their behind-the-scenes Instagram account reveals, the collection includes a chair that looks wooden, thanks to its gleaming ochre patina, but is actually made entirely from rolled and stacked leather. The magnum opus of the group is a towering stone cabinet that fuses the aesthetic of plastic storage boxes with the weight and elegance of marble.
Collective marks Dyalvane’s first New York outing. It’s also an enticing teaser to the South African artist’s June solo show with mega New York design gallery Friedman Benda, where he’ll debut 30 clay vessels, sculptures, shelves, and screens. They all brandish Dyalvane’s distinctive marks: swooping lacerations and staccato scratches inspired by the scarification rituals of his ancestors. Rusty bolts sourced from Cape Town markets accent the patterns like workaday jewels. The works are tied tightly to South African culture and tradition, but transcend geography, too, as visceral objects that recall the human body.
Marcelis & van Nerven’s mirrors operate like Instagram filters for the physical world; gaze into one and see your surroundings bathed in a deep blue, swathed with an opalescent glow, or fractured into shards of red, magenta, and teal. The two Netherlands-based designers, who work in neighboring Rotterdam studios, have been probing the optical effects of reflective glass since 2013. Their most recent efforts—the mesmerizing “Hue Collection”—will be unveiled at Collective. Playfully updating the old axiom “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses,” the oblong, off-kilter mirrors emanate blues, grays, and yellows; resting on the floor, they feel like portals into a parallel universe.
Alex Proba, b. 1986, Luedenscheid, Germany. Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Danny Giannella, b. 1980, Paris, France. Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Tammer Hijazi, b. 1982, Washington, D.C. Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Sight Unseen, Special Installations, Booth B15
Up-and-coming studios Bower (Giannella and Hijazi) and Studio Proba (Proba) are teaming up for the first time at Sight Unseen. Proba, a polymath whose work spans graphics to textiles to furniture, first caught our eye with her delightful and wildly prolific “A Poster A Day” project. Bower, for their part, broke onto the scene with stools, mirrors, and planters with witty titles that reflect their nimble designs. Together, the three designers conceived a collection that is realized as a relaxing environment at the fair. Motivated by the urge for a moment of tranquility away from the urban hustle, their Nirvana Rug, Waterline Chair, and Pivot Fountain (all 2016) encourage lounging—and maybe even a moment of meditation.
Stone’s deconstructed rugs question the unspoken tenets (taste, quality) that often marshal the process of “decorating.” The floor pieces, which were recently shown in a two-person show with Jessi Reaves at L.A.’s del vaz projects and which make their New York debut at Collective, host bits of protruding pile, pools of paint, and frayed corners so enticing that they make you want to reach out and give them a tug. Since her graduation from RISD in 2009, the New York-based artist’s multimedia practice has probed the durability—or lack thereof—of her chosen materials. In Stone’s deft hands, objects become enticing receptacles for history and the process of decay.
Timmins is a hard-won standout at 99¢ Plus Gallery’s fantastic booth of lighting fixtures, corralled by curator Zoe Alexander Fisher of Brooklyn’s HANDJOB Gallery. The Philadelphia-based designer, a Pratt graduate, makes exuberant lamps covered in bold patterns inspired by the Memphis Group—and the Memphis-inspired 1980s children’s building kit Zolo. Some of his objects cheekily allude to sex (a lamp base constructed from two abstract, intertwined figures) or DIY design experiments (spindly side tables cobbed together from all manner of wood bits, or desk lamps formed by clamp lights and plywood). They’re all a joy to look at, not to mention turn on.
De Ganay’s 4 Piece Chair—a lounge chair made from a few slats of plywood and designed to be assembled in a flash, without screws or glue—embodies the French artist-cum-designer’s no-frills, cheeky approach to design. Two editions of the recliner come adorned with the phrases “Respite at Some Point ASAP” and “Do Not Ever Work,” conceived by conceptual art stars Lawrence Weiner and Rirkrit Tiravanija, respectively. At Collective, de Ganay shows objects that reimagine everyday materials: folded paper and cardboard. In Carton Desk (2014), the designer playfully reconfigures packing boxes, casting them in powder-coated aluminum. The work taps into the material’s many social and political connotations, from the act of relocating to the precarious working conditions of “Cartoneros,” Argentinians who recycled cardboard boxes to make ends meet during the country’s financial crisis.
Cassell’s intricately carved ceramics resemble ancient architectural ornaments, petrified flowers, or mandalas immortalized in stone. The Pakistani, UK-based artist sources clay from around the world (Israel, Pakistan, the Mississippi river) as the base of her vessels. After modeling blocks into circles or ovals, she scores the forms with geometric patterns and follows with deep carvings. The unglazed vessels that result are at once architectural and organic, animated by sinuous contours but grounded in geometric repetition and the solidity of Cassell’s primordial material.
Brooklyn-based designer Stell’s tables, chairs, and objects have been known to shape-shift with a ductility not often associated with large-scale furniture. Big Pivot (2015)—a gorgeous latticed structure that resembles something between a trellis and a fractal—transforms from a thin console to substantial dining table by simply adjusting its angle. Other pieces mutate from stool to dining chair (Femten, 2015), or from side table to long, skinny shelf (Sidewinder, 2015). “Mutability in a piece of furniture should serve a purpose, but the act of transformation should be a kind of dance,” Stell, who graduated with an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2013, has explained. Indeed, the designer serves up furniture that buoyantly expands and contracts, in turn offering a design solution for urbanites starved for space.
The Swiss, New York-based Wassmann has designed transportive environments in which visitors look at art (Lisson Gallery New York), spin records (East Village Radio), and sip tea (House of Waris Tea Room). He approaches his fixtures and furniture with an architectural eye, too. Objects like Dodecahedron Chandelier and Octahedron Shelves, both on view at Collective, are inspired by geometric forms and conceived to interact and blend with their surroundings. The chandelier, for instance, doubles as an optical device; when placed close to a window, it reflects the outside world in its many facets. In this way, exterior and interior space mingle in one small, spellbinding object.