As one of the fair’s founding participants, ammann//gallery will showcase a broad selection of works by cutting-edge artists and designers, including Andrea Branzi, Alessandro Mendini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Ettore Sottsass, and Franz West. A fascinating dialogue will be established through the juxtaposition of iconic works by these historic trailblazers with prime examples by world-renowned contemporary designers and artists such as Ron Arad, Florian Borkenhagen, Shi Jianmin, Marc Newson, Studio Nucleo, Satyendra Pakhalé, Rolf Sachs, Atelier van Lieshout, Wolfs+Jung, and Abel Zavala.
Gabrielle Ammann has curated a finely tuned exhibition that pays tribute to the 1980s and these iconic protagonists of modern and contemporary design. A renowned expert in the field, she began working together with these and other incredible talents over 20 years ago, ultimately founding her gallery in Cologne in 2006 to present a permanent platform for the interconnectivity of art, design, photography, and architecture.
One of the highlights of this year’s presentation is the rare tapestry Balletto Geometrico (1980) from the Alchimia Bauhaus Collection of the Italian master architect, theoretician, and designer Andrea Branzi. The iconic Poltrona die Proust, designed by Alessandro Mendini for Alchimia in 1979, reflects the explosion of colour that became so characteristic of the international design scene in the 1980s.
In contrast, Chip on the Shoulder (1999) by the conceptual artist Rolf Sachs – a truncated classical beechwood chair weighed down by large block of roughly hewn granite – appeals to the viewer’s emotions and inevitably triggers a strong reaction. In a similarly ironic vein, Florian Borkenhagen alters the viewer’s perception of everyday objects; his Paris Chairs (2016) appropriate the same standard beechwood chair, which has then been literally branded with a logo-like depiction of the famous Eifel Tower, which in turn recalls the peace sign that became popular as a sign of protest as early as the 1950s.
The Turin-based collective Studio Nucleo makes use of various materials, including bronze, iron, and resin, to construct pieces that combine tradition and innovation. Nucleo ‘fossilised’ and thus preserved for all eternity yet another classical chair for their enigmatic piece Souvenir-Thonet Chair 02 (2016) from the series Souvenirs of the Last Century. Ron Arad’s continual experimentation with expanding the possibilities of various materials and radically rethinking the forms and structures of everyday objects places his work at the forefront of contemporary design. The mirror-polished table 38 Tables/No.15, created for the 1995 Triennale di Milano, is a prime example of his incredible talent. Equally ‘minimalist’ in tone is Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Mobile from 1989, which challenges the notion that design is functional, while fine art transcends this to appeal solely to aesthetics.
Over the years, ammann//gallery has also been instrumental in introducing Asian art and design to Europe. The Korean-Belgian duo Wolfs+Jung develops pieces that are strong and poetic, in which the familiar becomes estranged, thus opening new perspectives onto the viewer’s own living environment. The artists study nature’s forms and mimics these, resulting in the stunning Tree Study #5 (2017) from their series of Impossible Trees, seating furniture cast in bronze but evoking the warm texture of natural wood. The Chinese artist Shi Jianmin combines fine art, architecture, design, and landscape design. His highly acclaimed stainless-steel works, of which Glacier (2011) is a prime example, appear to defy states of matter. His monumental biomorphic forms have molten surfaces and oscillate between references to nature and pure abstraction.
Similarly, the recent porcelain works by the Mexican artist Abel Zavala, such as his Mineralia Floor Sculpture (2017), seem to emerge out of the floor like mineral accumulations, evoking natural processes from deep within the earth’s interior. The aim of these pieces is to find an encounter with the mineralogical, using nature as a source of inspiration and giving priority to sensorial games, the language of materials, and the intervention to the architectural space. Satyendra Pakhalé’s Kalpa Vase (2002) is likewise an homage to nature, whereby the Indian designer uses this to explore correlations between the industrial and the handmade.