The design world is a funny one. Each year the international community descends on Milan for the annual furniture festival of Salone del Mobile to unleash, seek out and celebrate the latest innovations and talent. There are a few collaborations here and there, sure, but often it is the success of the individual that is the toast of the town. While the spirit is a happy one, the competitive element is never far off.
Choosing to focus on the friendships behind the hullabaloo are curators Tulga Beyerle and Maria Cristina Didero, who have invited seven designers to visually demonstrate their bonds through projects created especially for 'Friends + Design', at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) at Pillnitz Palace, Dresden.
‘"Friends [+ Design"] challenges the ultra competitive system of the design world today; it is an honest, anti-sceptical exhibition that shows how another world is possible,’ says Didero defiantly. ‘It is an antidote to the cynicism of commerce, making friendship a creative engine just for the pleasure of working together.’
The seven designers chosen by Didero and Beyerle were grouped off, friends at heart but had crucially never collaborated before. 'We have invited a combination of friends – three groups of people we know are close to each other – to work together on three different commissions,' explain the co-curators. Having to reconcile quite different approaches to work and design, the idea was that this type of collaboration, rather than feeling like a committed work endeavour, would be more akin to a game.
Thus, Dutch designer Richard Hutten, Berlin-born Jerszy Seymour and British industrial designer Michael Young were asked: What would an installation or a collection of pieces look like if it was designed by the three of you together? Says Beyerle, ‘This has originated a piece made with three brains and six hands; the "Together" collection.’
Philippe Malouin and Bethan Laura Wood – both Wallpaper* Power Listers – were asked what would a design would look like if they were in each other's heads. ‘This was a big challenge because they have two totally different languages of expression,’ explains Didero. The result is a rather intimate and special piece: designer beds, titled ‘I’m here for you’.
Last but not least, Swarovski’s 2015 Designer of the Future Tomás Alonso and German-born Mathias Hahn were asked: What would a design look like if it was conceived to be a gift for your friend? ‘We were very touched by their choice, which is the gift of time; they decided to spend time together, which seems the best gift ever in the hectic world we live in today,’ says Didero. For ‘The Tailor-made Gift’, the duo have bought a Mini Cooper, which they will drive from London to Dresden, stopping off at interesting workshops and companies along the way.
In a time of uncertainty and 'cynical consumerism', as Didero puts it, it is refreshing – dare we say encouraging? – to see something being done simply for the pleasure of it.