Green thumbs: Collective Design Fair 2017 takes a bucolic bent

 'Lantern,' 'Segment' and 'Block' series
Apparatus Studio recreated its rust-hued set-up from Salone del Mobile, populating its booth with the industrial 'Lantern,' 'Segment' and 'Block' series. Photograpy: Clemens Kois
(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

Kicking off the frenzied next few weeks of NYCxDesign was New York’s homegrown Collective Design Fair. ‘It’s not a fair,’ says founder-director Steven Learner, ‘It’s really a platform. We are cultivating the next generation of collectors.’ Roaming on the circular path of its Skylight Clarkson Sq home, it was apparent that Collective speaks to the cognoscenti and converts alike.

Learner emphasised the educational pulse that runs through each booth, saying ‘this is not a luxury setting' but rather a ‘place where the lines blur between art and design’. The fair's range spanned large-scale presentations to small handmade crafts able to be taken home.

The eco-system of Collective is very much parallel to the design community in New York, and as Learner reminds, ‘New York is home to twice as many designers as the next two cities, Paris and LA, so we should have a preeminent homegrown event to celebrate that.’ And inside Collective, creations originating from Bushwick, Red Hook and Sunset Park run alongside Madison Avenue, Tribeca and NoMad. To put it terms outside of New York— the glamorous and the gritty sit side-by-side in harmony.

‘Ghost’ and ‘Thaw’

Fernando Mastrangelo studio launched two new collections, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Thaw’. Photography: Clemens Kois. Courtesy of Collective Design

(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

Intimate isn’t usually a word much used to describe an art fair—but with booths neatly nestled into one another, some with walls, many more with consoles dividing the lines between neighbors, Collective has a calm, convivial feel. ‘I wanted to make this feel grounded, and organic,’ says the keen-eyed Cristina Grajales, ‘With so much going on in the world, I wanted this to be the anti-chaos and very earthy.’ Her well-edited space was filled with a mesmerizing fabric-wrapped metal-spool sofa, Alloy Bench, by Turkish set-designer Betil Dagdelen, which Grajales has ‘never seen anything like it’, as well as Pedro Barrail’s tattooed-wood Breakfast Table and El Castor stools.

In fact, the impulse towards nature was palpable – over in Gallery Loupe, Jennifer Tusk debuted a collection of carved bone necklaces and wall sculptures manipulated into delicate flowers, or as Tusk puts it, ‘turning the fauna into flora’. A similar impulse existed in master ceramicist Peter Lane’s ‘Darkroom’, his largest clay installation to date: eight tonnes of hand-worked black-glazed clay panels measuring 12’x46’, which as Lane says, ‘is a complete environment that communicates just what is my practice’ that also plays with breaking down barriers between man- and earth-made spaces’.

Ceramics were in heavy demand with prime examples being Bae Sejin at J Lohmann and Roberto Lugo at Wexler Gallery. With the Stickbulb’s ‘reclaimed Redwood’ mirrored light sculpture to Haas Brother’s recent ‘Fungus Humungus’ and Fredrikson Stallard Lucite tables tables, looking around it became clear: this next generation of designers is concerned with nature and rejecting the modernist impulse toward urbanity and machine-made.

'Concept' series

As part of the fair’s 'Concept' series, Peter Lane sculpted interior panels for the presentation from eight tonnes of clay. The room also features his Albrecht Dürer-inspired 'Melencolia' table as well as the 'Cobalt' cabochon trumpet vases. Courtesy of Jeff Klapperich

(Image credit: TBC)


The design duo behind Stickbulb conceived 'Ambassador' after receiving a hot tip that a water tank tower at 200 Vesey street was being taken down – which turned out to be made of a 350-year-old Redwood tree. Photography: Joseph De Leo. Courtesy of Stickbulb

(Image credit: Joseph De Leo)

'Wasp Nest' leather-and-steel seat

R & Company’s Wonderland-esque booth included Porky Hefer’s 'Wasp Nest' leather-and-steel seat; the Haas Brother’s beaded 'Fungus Humungus'; and Katie Stout’s biomorphic form objects. Photography: Clemens Kois. Courtesy of Collective Design

(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

'Akkah Leh III' chair and 'Akkah Leh I' footstool

Ayala Serfaty's 'Akkah Leh III' chair and 'Akkah Leh I' footstool brought elegance and grandeur to the naturalist vibe. Her one-of-a-kind, handmade wool and silk pieces resemble elephant skin. Photography: Elad Sarig. Courtesy of Maison Gerard

(Image credit: Elad Sarig)


Ceramics were in heavy demand, including at J Lohmann's booth. Photography: Clemens Kois. Courtesy of Collective Design

(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

'Waiting for Godot' series

Bae Sejin meticulously hand rolls and cuts his clay into small tiles for this 'Waiting for Godot' series, which he then stamps with numbers, and lays out in a circular pattern to create vessels and vases that have both a Zen and biomorphic feel. Courtesy of J Lohmann Gallery

(Image credit: Clemens Kois.)

a range of architectural wares

Also part of Collective Concept, the design firm Pelle teamed up with jewellery designer Erie Basin to produce a range of architectural wares. The standout is the 'Lure' chandelier of bronze geometric arms fitted with delicate cotton-paper orchids spiralling down. Photography: Eric Petschek. Courtesy of Pelle

(Image credit: Eric Petschek)

Works from Fredrikson Stallard, Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield

David Gill Gallery presented work by the likes of Fredrikson Stallard, Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Gaetano Pesce. Photograpy: Clemens Kois

(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

'Antarctic' dining table

Inspired by the changing natural landscape, design duo Fredrikson Stallard studied images of ice glaciers and manipulated them through a 3D model to create the 'Antarctic' dining table, made of Lucite, and gives the feel of dining al fresco – or should we say, in the freezer. Courtesy of David Gill Gallery

(Image credit: PRESS)

Glass Past gallery

Glass Past gallery included works from Ercole Barovier, Paolo Venini and Tomaso Buzzi. Photography: Clemens Kois. Courtesy of Collective Design

(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

featured ceramic works

Mindy Solomon Gallery featured ceramic works from Glenn Barkley and Linda Lopez against a brilliant pink backdrop. Photography: Scott Rudd. Courtesy of Collective Design

(Image credit: Scott Rudd)

'Alloy' bench, screen-printed wood 'Aspen' panels; and tattoo-wood series

Cristina Grajales Gallery sought to create an 'organic and grounding' environment, with pieces including Betil Dagdelen’s 'Alloy' bench; Amanda Weil’s screen-printed wood 'Aspen' panels; and Pedro Barrail’s tattoo-wood series. Photography: Clemens Kois. Courtesy of Collective Design

(Image credit: Clemens Kois)

'Henri Samuel' petrified wood and copper side tables from 1975

Parisian gallery LeClaireur Gallery placed a great emphasis on classic French design. Take Philippe Hiquily's 'Henri Samuel' petrified wood and copper side tables from 1975, which echoed the environmental tone of the fair. Courtesy of LeClaireur Gallery

(Image credit: PRESS)


Collective Design Fair 2017 ran from 3 – 7 May. For more information, visit the website

Julie Baumgardner is an arts and culture writer, editor and journalist who's spent nearly 15 years covering all aspects of art, design, culture and travel. Julie's work has appeared in publications including Bloomberg, Cultured, Financial Times, New York magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, as well as Wallpaper*.  She has also been interviewed for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald, Observer, Vox, USA Today, as well as worked on publications with Rizzoli press and spoken at art fairs and conferences in the US, Middle East and Asia. Find her @juliewithab or