One of Design Miami/ Basel 2015's showstopping exhibitions was R & Company’s display of new works by German toy designer Renate Müller. The New York based gallery – founded by Evan Snyderman and Zesty Meyers in 1997 – is used to presenting audiences with the alternative purviews of its designers; last year, the Haas Brothers' 'Sex Room' – a makeshift boudoir filled with the artists' ickily anatomical bronze work – allowed visitors to immerse themselves in the humorous perversity of their designs.
But for 2015, the gallery went a little less outré, introducing the fair’s visitors to the more family-friendly practice of Müller, a designer they have worked with since discovering her work at an auction in 2005, and whose pieces it also exhibited at the gallery's New York hub in 2014.
The German designer specialises in developing and making toys for children with mental and physical disabilities, to assist with balance training and orthopedic exercise, as well as sensory coordination. Since her days studying under Helene Haeusler at the Sonnenberg Polytechnic for Toy Design in the 1960s, she has experimented with child-friendly shapes in jute and pebbled leather, hand-sewn around wooden structures. Her tactile, calming designs – imbued with a gorgeous, illustrative aesthetic – feature simple, rounded animal forms, from birds to hippos, horses to seals.
The new pieces on show in Basel include these timeless designs, as well as a series of oversized playing cubes and a modular seating system inspired by Montessori principles and delivered in the same materials as the toys. With this project and installation, R & Company and Müller remind us of how design can combine an iconic aesthetic with both humour and sensitive, integrative objectives.