Sebastian Errazuriz’s works walk the line between design and art, creating difficulties for critics and curators who like to put objects into categories. His output ranges from industrial production to large-scale public art, in styles that run the gamut from sleek modernism to baroque ornament to Pop appropriation. Therefore, it’s not surprising that this year during the art fairs in Miami, Errazuriz is turning up in galleries at both Design Miami/ and at Art Basel in Miami Beach, as well as at a pop-up shop for Melissa Shoes. All three venues show work that is characteristically innovative and provocative.
At Design Miami/, Errazuriz will be showing at Cristina Grajales. The Small Bowl Coffee Table and the Wing Chaise Longue are both examples of his elegant updates of classic designs. The Bowl Table is a continuation of his family’s tradition of including a fruit bowl on the dining room table—except here the bowl is sleekly incorporated into the table itself. The Wing Chaise Longue is a beautifully balanced structure based on the keels of sailboats. With Dawn Before Time Bench, he moves stylistically in the opposite direction, with an elaborate chandelier poised over an old-fashioned park bench. Errazuriz’s pieces often come with a story; for this piece, he imagined his grandmother sitting on the bench and dreaming of the ballroom dances of her youth.
The Cabinet paintings show a less romantic, more wickedly playful side. According to Design Miami/ regulations, exhibitors are not permitted to include “art” in fair presentations, only “design”; Errazuriz tries to see how far he can bend these rules, without actually breaking them. Technically, these cabinets are design objects, fully functional and meant to be hung on the wall. When closed, however, they are also phrase paintings and protest signs that comment on the art market, poking fun at the collectors who might want to buy them.
The crossover between art and design occurs in Art Basel in Miami Beach as well, where Errazuriz will be showing with Salon 94. Here he will present Time Lapse, a fully functioning racing motorcycle that comments on the experience of riding as well as the nature of freedom. Almost completely constructed out of hand-hammered metal components, the piece is a testament to his steely precision. However, the sculpture is only truly completed when it is used, when the rider is crouched low over the handlebars. In this position, the rider’s heart is close to the tank, which houses a small, dead bird. The bird is a symbol of the fragility of life, of the vulnerability of the rider that remains no matter how glorious the machine that is ridden.
Errazuriz’s work will also be appearing outside of the art fairs, at a pop-up shop for Melissa Shoes, a firm which has collaborated in the past with a number of major designers, including Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Errazuriz’s group of 12 fantasy shoes, which rolled out during the end of November on the Tumblr 12shoesfor12lovers.com, are witty takes on very personal stories. Inspired by 12 former lovers, the shoes range from The Virgin to Hot Bitch. Mostly they provoke smiles, though apparently the women they represent have had mixed reactions: one called up Errazuriz to say, “I don’t know whether to hate you or feel honored.”
The shoes also represent a new approach to design for Errazuriz. While usually he carves his models meticulously or works up prototypes by hand, he designed these shoes on a computer and produced them on a 3D printer. The process allowed him to tweak elements that did not work in the shoe, from proportions to design details.
The willingness to take risks (even with potentially angry exes) and try new things has led to a body of work that, while indeed difficult to classify, continues to push boundaries. Errazuriz notes with satisfaction that viewers are increasingly less concerned with whether the work is design or art: “People are now enjoying the work instead of wondering to which genre it belongs,” he says. Miami this year offers three opportunities for us to do just that.