Just before Christmas, video-artist Nam June Paik’s ironic little aluminium robot with industrial-type blinker lights was sold at a New York contemporary art auction for the reasonable sum of $1600. This cute little hominid with a red light in the centre of its chest, of which only 90 copies were made, had certainly become a totem object. But it was also, quite simply, a lamp. Digital Printed
A couple of weeks earlier, the Nino Rota plastic swivelling armchair designed by Ron Arad and produced by Cappellini in 1990 - in only about 90 pieces on account of the high production costs - went under the hammer, again for the reasonable price at 1300 Euros.
This is one indication of how two very distinct worlds - art and design - are weighing in at similar market values for products made around the same time by creators of similar distinction, and boasting the same ‘rarity index’.
Another indication is the phenomenon of important art galleries like Zurich’s Bischofberger showing works both by their ‘resident’ artists and designers. Excluded until recently from the inner sanctum of art circles, some designers - especially those whose longstanding collaboration with famous manufacturers has always generated highly crafted, complex articles - have today become the darlings of the galleries. The works of Sottsass, Arad, Pesce, Newson, the Campana brothers, Mollino, Kuramata - it’s just a question of time for Ponti - now rub shoulders with the likes of Barcelò, Basquiat, Chia, Franz West, Pardo, Atelier Van Lieshout or Rehberger.
There’s a third aspect. In these hardly booming days, when research is defensive or at best market oriented, some galleries have commissioned small series or single articles from designers, bravely stepping in to fill the gap left by manufacturers.
The bravest include Parisians Kreo and Mouvements Modernes, New Yorkers Barry Friedman and Cristina Grajales, David Gill in London, Design Gallery, Luisa Delle Piane and Post Design in Milan.
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