A new exhibition, Design Currents
, opening this month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases the work of three international designers under the age of 40 who are charting new territories in product, furniture, and environment design. It brings together the work of Oki Sato, Faye Toogood, and Zanini de Zanine to examine the new approaches they have taken to the use of traditional craft techniques, materials, and the important question of sustainability. Each is represented by a diverse selection of works that span their still brief, but productive careers, including furniture, lighting, products, and textiles. On November 18, Sato, Toogood, and de Zanine will receive the first Design Excellence: New Generation Award presented by Collab, the Museum’s affiliate group for modern and contemporary design.
Co-curator Colin Fanning, Curatorial Fellow, European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, notes, “This new generation of designers is devoted to innovation and united by their interests in geometry, experimentation in materials, and process, differentiating what they have created from mass-produced design.”
The work of Tokyo-based designer Oki Sato ranges from playful spins on Minimalism to riffs on popular culture. His Manga Chair
series (2016), made of polished steel, makes use of movements and emotions drawn from Japanese comics. Rejecting conventional chair-making techniques, he created his Cabbage Chair
(2008) from reclaimed waste paper produced in the fabric pleating process, while in his “Fadeout” Chair
(2009–10), he introduced an optical illusion: the chair appears to hover above the ground.
Faye Toogood brings an experimental approach to the design of furniture, clothing, and spaces. Working with a studio that represents an interdisciplinary cross-section of the design field, she takes inspiration from the history of the trades in England and the important role of manual labor in the country’s development. On view will be pieces from each of her four “Assemblages” including the “Cage for Birds”
(2011), “Element” Table
(2010), “Spade” Chair
(2011), and “Roly Poly” Chair
Zanini de Zanine’s work pays homage to midcentury Brazilian modernism while addressing contemporary needs, forms, and materials. His concern for the potential of reclaimed materials can be seen in the “Espasso” Armchair and Ottoman
(2013), while the “Flora” Pendant Lamps
(2014) reveal his use of innovative fabrication techniques.
Photographs will accompany finished objects on display in the exhibition, exploring the “culture” of each of the studios and attesting to the craftsmanship, material knowledge, and design thinking that these young designers mobilize in their practices.
In connection with the exhibition, the Collab Student Design Competition has challenged design students at colleges and universities around Philadelphia to create an object related to themes expressed in Design Currents
. The objective is to design a toy, piece of furniture, or other functional object for a child under the age of 10. On Monday, November 14, a panel of judges drawn from the region’s professional design community will gather at the Museum to identify the most successful projects submitted by the students. The designs will go on display at the Museum for one week, November 14–18, 2016, and visitors will be able to cast their votes for the “People’s Choice Award.” Winners will be presented at the Collab Design Excellence Awards Lecture on Friday, November 18. Judges for this year’s competition are Caroline Tiger (Bresslergroup), Jaime Salm (MIO –Green Design for Everyone), Lisa Mahar (Founder & CEO, Kid O Toys), Jackie Promislo (Lolli Lolli), and Caroline Kim (Paperbox).
On Friday November 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Van Pelt Auditorium, the Collab Design Excellence: New Generation Award will be presented to Sato, Toogood, and de Zanine. This new award highlights emerging trends and the work of dynamic younger designers alongside established honorees.
Colin Fanning, Curatorial Fellow, European Decorative Arts and Sculpture
Kate Higgins, Guest Curator
Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, Collab Gallery
This exhibition is made possible by Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer. Additional support is provided by Collab—a group that supports the Museum’s modern and contemporary design collection and programs. Transportation services have been provided by ESPASSO and Friedman Benda.
Collab is a collaboration of design professionals supporting the modern and contemporary design collections and programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A volunteer committee founded in 1970, Collab is dedicated to enriching the Museum’s collections with outstanding examples of mass-produced and unique designs, and to making the collections accessible to the general public, students, and the design community. Now among the most important in the country, the design collections of more than 2,500 objects range from appliances and furniture to ceramics, glass, posters, wallpapers, and lighting.
About Oki Sato
Born in Toronto in 1977, Sato studied architecture at Waseda University in Tokyo. He founded his studio, Nendo (meaning “clay” in Japanese), after an inspiring trip to the Milan Furniture Fair in 2002. Specializing in product design, the studio quickly gained a reputation for incredible prolificacy, as well as its playful take on strong traditions of minimalism in Japanese design.
About Faye Toogood
Trained in the history and theory of fine art at Bristol University, British designer Faye Toogood (born 1977) draws heavily on the practice of installation art and her earlier experiences as a magazine stylist, conceiving many of her designs as part of larger, ephemeral environments that lend meaning to individual objects. Her work with a diverse range of fabricators reveals her interest in the history of Britain’s trades, nodding to blue-collar labor and its role in Britain’s history as an economic and cultural power.
About Zanini de Zanine
Having studied industrial design at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Zanini de Zanine (born 1978) has a unique personal connection to the field of design. The son of the noted midcentury architect José Zanine Caldas (1918–2001), he was mentored in his early career by an icon of Brazilian modernist design, Sérgio Rodrigues. His work pays homage to the heritage of Brazilian modernism, particularly its focus on sustainability. The raw materials and manual processes employed by Studio Zanine reveal an interest in understanding the potential of materials and the impact of their work on the surrounding community.