Salone del Mobile 2018
Nothing new for once
Trends, trends, trends – as an international furniture fair for the design scene, Salone del Mobile sets the course for the coming year. Creative minds and manufacturers are therefore equally at pains to present something new at the fair, something that will put them firmly in the spotlight during design week – even if this means nothing more than dressing up part of an existing collection in new colors. And people soon start looking at you strangely if you don’t have any new products to showcase. Because this is the Salone! This year, Lensvelt, a Dutch furniture manufacturer, quite literally took a stand against the hectic consumerist machinery of which the design fair in Milan represents one of the highlights – with its exhibition “Nothing New” at Milan’s Museo Diocesano. It was obvious straight away that this was something different – a slender sculpture by Joep van Lieshout, inseparably bound to a chariot-like construction, stretched out its bony hand to the visitors – who sometimes responded with a few coins, something the help seeker accepted in stoic stny silence. For van Lieshout an almost tame work – over the past year, this Dutch object artist had been the subject of debate after the Louvre in Paris rejected the idea of having his wooden sculpture “Domestikator” on show in the Jardin des Tuileries. The sculpture showed two buildings seemingly copulating and was meant to represent man’s power over animals.
Only a short distance away in the atrium of the Museo Diocesano and under a similarly undernourished sculpture we find the “AVL Workbench”, designed by Atelier van Lieshout in the mid-1990s. The fact that Lensvelt’s collection is playing only second fiddle in this installation is part of the concept, the brainchild of Anne van der Zwaag and Maarten Spruyt. Here, tables, chairs, sofas and cupboards by designers such as Marcel Wanders, Richard Hutten, Gerrit Rietveld and Weil Arets have become part of a gesamtkunstwerk. In order to underscore the theme of sustainability Lensvelt has assembled these pieces for the “Fondazione Lensvelt” with the help of loans and repurchases from trading portals. Second hand, i.e. not exactly brand new and still suitable for the platform that is the Salone – on top of them sit the stone sculptures by Sander Breure and Witte van Hulzen, with Kevin Power’s “Office Gurls” hanging like extremities and the kinetic installations by Christiaan Zwanikken and Felix Burger rattling, whistling, singing or babbling. And if an item of furniture stands alone this is usually so as to be able to inspect its wooden innards in peace – as is the case when examining the components of the recliner “AVL Lazy Modernist”.
Scattered seemingly arbitrarily around the atrium and the Museo Diocesano, these classics thus enter in on a short-lived symbiosis with the artistic works which divert them from their intended use and place them in a new light. A memento mori with a slapstick quality to it in 18 acts, from the “AVL Cloud Table” through to the “Stealth Cabinet”. With the help of a mouse skeleton brought to life mechanically, a stuffed rabbits’ head, nightmarish photographs and humanoid sculptures seemingly haunted by a deep despair, “Nothing New” calls to us from the heart of the design circus, formulating its rebellious notion – that we should appreciate the ideas that are already out there instead of constantly looking for something new and purportedly better.