Oracles of Design Exhibition, Paris


Chauffeuse Orgone II by Marc Newson, 1998
Each week we send an email full of objects to inspire you and to share our love of the stories that objects tell.As reflections of our collective interests, beliefs and aspirations for generations to come, objects mark our times. And some objects tell stories that are carried through time gaining status and value. We have come to call this category collectible design.
It is a new category, still forming, and we hope that by learning about objects we all become more interested in the cultural narratives we are participating in through our acquisitions.  That said, upon entering theDesign Oracles Exhibitionat the Gaîté Lyrique last week my heart leaped when I heard (in French) a female voice (perhaps the curator, Li Edelkoort?) saying something along the lines of (I’m still working on my French … ) … “true luxury is buying and using an object that withstands time and is then handed down to be loved and enjoyed by the next generation.”
Sharing objects brings us closer together and helps us understand each other because objects fulfill a need and when that need is met there is an emotional connection formed.The connection is what it is all about. Charles Eames said: “Everything eventually connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connection is the key to quality per se.”Well, Li Edelkoort, the trend forcaster whose reputation as an oracle herself well precedes her, has curated this exhibition of objects chosen from the Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP), which not only identifies design oracles of the 20th century but classifies them in 10 categories.
The resulting connections felt through experiencing these object categories feels quite profound. It is still resonating with us!
First gallery of the exhibition:  Maarten Baas’ Black Clay Chair, in the left background, which embraces functional imperfection in post millennial design. The carbon fiber version of Ron Arad’s Big Easy Chair, 1991. MoMA’s Paola Antonelli credited him with inspiring ‘mutant’ design, which according to her is design that rebels against the ‘established modes of practice”, and is one of the 10 themes defined by Edelkoort.  Hermès’ Kelly bag, whose proyotyoe dates back to the end of the 19th century and whose iconic status was solidified in 1977 through the help of Alfred Hitchcock, Edith Head, Grace Kelly and Life Magazine!

According to the press release Edelkoort made several visits to this important collection to identify the 10 themes –  PRIMITIVE – NOMADIC – ABSTRACT – NAÏVE – CURIOUS – SIMPLE – AUDACIOUS – ORGANIC – HUMBLE – MUTANT – that weave together the stories of the objects in this exhibition. Each theme  “support[s] the story of an outlook and lifestyle … and a desire for self-expression.”

The concept of classifying lifestyles through types of objects in our opinion, alludes to the idea that we have perspective.  Perspective naturally places us at a distance from these categories – perhaps on the verge of a new way of living that has yet to be defined? As our lives become more information- based and more “nomadic” physical objects natural start to take a secondary place in our lives.  Edelkoort’s groups at once identify this idea and also magnify the power of the object to evoking emotional connection in our lives.  Furthermore, these categories underline our need for continuity through historical reference, which is balanced by the “mutant” rebellious design that creates bold new paths. 

Here are just a few highlights but we strongly encourage you to see the exhibition yourself.
If you are interested in an accompanied visit please let Susan and I know!


Archaique – We were drawn to it when it debuted at Design Miami/Basel in 2012 and spent some time with the designers then who had a workshop installed on the mezzanine of the fair. (See our post here.)  The objects from this series called Craftica, which was commissioned by Fendi, incorporate repurposed discarded leather and other natural materials like cork, marble, shell, glass and wood. The editor of this collection is Libby Sellers in London.


Mutant – Patrick Jouin’s chaise Solid C2 is in the foreground of this photo. It is one of the first pieces of furniture made from rapid prototyping. This design, along with the other objects in the group,  seems to defy the function they fill. (More on Jouin’s work in one of our previous posts here.)

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Archaïque – A Napoleon III (19th century) original version of a Confident or tête-à-tête on the left and Nacho Carbonell’s Evolution Lovers’ Chair from 2009.  There are myriad versions of this form since its invention (google it!) it’s clearly (thanks to Edelkoort’s vision) a concept that resonates with us collectively.

IMG_7393-1 IMG_7394-1

Curieux – These objects were amongst the few decorative pieces in the exhibition and even so they elude to decoration more than they actually embody it. The Amsterdam Armoire by Scholten & Baijings, 2009, pays homage to the historical ‘cabinet of curiosity’ without the real physical objects. Instead they are mainly painted on the doors.


Curieux – Birds Birds Birds Candelier by Ingo Maurer, 1992 above Méret Oppenheim’s Taccia Table from 1939 (See our earlier posts if you are interested in this table: ArtCurialFriday Finds)  bring to light the surrealist theme that transcends 20th century.

FastVase Rosenthal Studio Line, courtesy of Rosenthal Ltd. Photo Mary-Beth

Mutant – Fast Vase by Cedric Ragot, 2003/2005 is
Influenced by the Ming Dynasty vase form and Italian Futurism, which emphasized speed and technology and glorified modernity and a break from the weight of the past.

coral-vase Ted Mueling 1999

Coral Vase by Ted Mueling, 1999

Humble – This room was a moving experience with ethereal music playing and billowing curtains projected on all the walls. All of the objects were white (in contrast with the black of the first section) and we left with the feeling of truly being humbled by the vast amount of creativity and ingenuity that we had just seen in the objects themselves and their arrangement, in which we can see our life reflected. It also gave us a quiet feeling of peace and freedom to be in this room. It was an emotional experience – one that felt very relevant to the way we want to live to day – with beauty and and quieter surroundings to balance the bombardment of  daily information.  The room seemed to portend to the end of objects defining our contemporary life.  In that spirit we gave upon this Ted Mueling vase from 1999 and experienced it as an object literally evaporating in front of us.

This powerful formalized look at design objects of the recent past clearly defines the significance of collectible design in our lives.  These objects express our experiences and emotions.

We feel so very lucky to have seen this exhibition and hope to share it with many of you coming through Paris in the next few months.

Have a great weekend!


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Milan Design Week is next up on the calendar this spring: 14-19 April.  One of our favorite galleriests Nina Yasher of Nilufar Gallery will launch Nilufar Depot in conjunction with this years events. There is no website yet but you can link to the gallery site here.  The Depot is a 1,500 sf space with historical and contemporary designs on offer. Below  are some of the contemporary pieces we like so far! A NYTimes article from last fall says, “Yasher  believes in using design to tell stories, and the story her apartment tells is that of her upbringing.” You can see stunning images of her home in this inspired article by Alexia Vardinoyanni.

Fioritura Mimetica 2 carpet by Pierre Marie Agin India 2015 Handknotter polychrome wool customizable colors and size and made on demand Nilufar

Fioritura Mimetica 2 carpet by Pierre Marie Agin India 2015 Handknotter polychrome wool customizable colors and size and made on demand NilufarCherryBomb Cage ceiling lamp by Lindsey Adelman USA 2015 Customizable, Brass and blown glass

CherryBomb Cage ceiling lamp by Lindsey Adelman USA 2015 Customizable, Brass and blown glass

Nina Yasher home video

Click on the image above to see a short video tour of Nina’s house in Milan.

Might be a good idea to bookmark this gallery and visit after the storm of Design week according to British Design Critic for the International NY Times Alice Rawsthorn in her recent article for Frieze Magazine about the shifting landscape of Milan Design Week.

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