Dating back to the radical style revolutions of the 1960s, there has been no shortage of chatter about the lines being blurred between design and art. Though surely one can at least say that the truest art is made with little or no consideration for its commercial value; whereas no one designs a chair without caring that a lot of people will want to buy it and sit in it.
Marc Newson, of course, has designed chairs that a lot of people with very good taste have sat in. Aussie by birth, his early career was spent in Tokyo and Paris, before he ultimately set up shop in London in 1997, launching his namesake design company in Blighty’s increasingly (at the time) dynamic capital. He proceeded to become one of the key figures presiding over a new generation of British hospitality design (along with the likes of Tom Dixon, Anouska Hempel and the late David Collins), which coincided with the rise of the daringly designed, art-aware boutique hotel.
In fact, it’s almost hard now to think of Newson as anything but British. And so the Gagosian Shop in London’s historic Burlington Arcade is rightly honoring him with an extended takeover event/exhibit, which is presenting his work in the artful fashion that it rightly deserves. After all, one of his three Lockheed Lounge chairs sold at auction in 2015 for £2.4 million - which still holds the record for a sale by a living designer - the sort of price usually associated with the selling of a piece of art.
"One of the really interesting things about doing what I do,” Newson explains, “and the breadth of different types of products that I design, is that they can be appropriate for a variety of different things and venues. So I’ve never necessarily seen my work living solely in an art gallery context, or conversely, in a domestic environment. Plenty of my work over the years has been showcased in retail environments because I’ve designed many consumer goods.”
Included are pieces from his striking Cloisonné series, which draws on ancient Chinese enamel techniques, as well as his Venetian influenced Murrina glass tables and chairs. On the more playful side of things is his Marc Newson x Chaos collection, especially his floral patterned iPhone cases, as well as his limited edition glass surfboards. And to give it another level of aesthetic heft, displayed alongside the design pieces are dresses by the late, lamented Azzedine Alaïa, who was a longtime friend and collaborator of Newson.
“This particular space is a really curious mixture,” he observes. “You have the feeling that once upon a time someone used to live here, despite being a historic retail space, but it also has a gallery feel, given that now Gagosian is there. This takeover really plays to what I do, because it’s all about context and changing the context of things.”
The Marc Newson takeover at the Gagosion Shop, Burlington Arcade, London will be on through September 10.