Assab One’s latest show is equal to the sum of all its parts

The Heart of The Matter
The Heart of The Matter, by George Sowden.
(Image credit: Giuseppe Fanizza)

Assab One, a former printing press owned by publishing heiress Elena Quarestani is a vast industrial space which twice a year opens exhibitions. Currently on show is ‘1+1+1’, which sees an architect (Bijoy Jain, founder of Indian practice Studio Mumbai) meet a designer (Memphis founding father George Sowden) meet an artist (Korean-born, Italy-based Chung Eun-Mo).

Each participant has created new works for the show and had free reign to approach the 2500 sq m space as they wanted. For two weeks before the opening, Jain and his craftsmen transformed his section of the gallery into an in situ studio, lime washing panels made of cow dung and bamboo, and coating sculptures made of tar with coconut oil and indigo. Sowden however, with no fixed idea in mind, arrived with cups, saucers, beer mats and silicon tea pot lids – a selection of objects that he manufactures in China at his company Sowden. He installed them as objets trouvés within colourful decorative panels and new black-and-white wallpaper and paintings.

The Heart of the Matter

‘The Heart of the Matter’, by George Sowden

(Image credit: TBC)

Sowden also bought two textile hangings from the 1976, to emphasise his mantra that design has always been about decoration. ‘I was working in Ettore Sottsass’ office at that time; it was pre-Memphis and the idea that decoration could be design was unheard of,’ he explains. ‘Design was wedded to rules and dogmas and you were supposed to do things a certain way. We, as Memphis came along and said, “You can do what you want”.’

Mo too, created new canvases for the exhibition, each one a series of colourful shapes with no meaning and no title. They are similar to her highly abstract works from the 1990s, which are also on show and were made after she relocated from New York to Italy.

Curator Marco Sammicheli muses, ‘Chung Eun-Mo is always an artist, but in this show, George and Bijoy are neither designer nor architect. They too have become more like artists.’ 

Shapes and Shades

Shapes and Shades, by Chung Eun Mo.

(Image credit: Giuseppe Fanizza)

Water, Air, Light

Water, Air, Light, by Bijoy Jain.

(Image credit: Giuseppe Fanizza)

Work in progress Tazia, bamboo sticks

Work in progress Tazia, bamboo sticks by Bijoy Jain.

(Image credit: Studio Mumbai)

The Heart of The Matter

The Heart of The Matter, by George Sowden. 

(Image credit: Giuseppe Fanizza)


Interim, by Chung Eun Mo.

(Image credit: Alice Fiorilli)

Shapes and Shades

Shapes and Shades, by Chung Eun Mo.

(Image credit: Giuseppe Fanizza)


‘1+1+1’ is on view until 26 May. For more information, visit the Assab One website


Assab One
Via Privata Assab 1
20132 Milan


Emma O'Kelly is a contributing editor at Wallpaper*. She joined the magazine on issue 4 as news editor and since since then has worked in full and part time roles across many editorial departments. She is a freelance journalist based in London and works for a range of titles from Condé Nast Traveller to The Telegraph. She is currently working on a book about Scandinavian sauna culture and is renovating a mid century house in the Italian Lakes.