In the first Young Collectors Salon of 2017, the focus was all about design. Taking place once again at the Hoxton, the salon was hosted by journalist and writer Sarah Meuleman and centred on the value of design, the difference between art and design and the thrill of collecting both.
Guests at 2017’s first Young Collectors Circle Salon included Lennart Booij – advisor design for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and longtime art and design collector, artist Nynke Koster, curator, writer and director of OBJECT Design Fair Anne van der Zwaag and art and design collector and founder of Bisou Gallery, Julien Rademakers.
In this fifth installment of the Young Collectors Circle Salon we take a closer look at how to navigate in the world of art and design, what the difference actually is between the two genres and how this effects how we interact with both.
First was Lennart Booij who has curated design exhibitions in the Municipal Museum of The Hague and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdamand is an advisor on design for the latter. Lennart also holds a PhD in Art History and has been collecting and selling design since he was a child, so was naturally the perfect person to ask the question on all of our minds: “what is the difference between art and design?” Lennart explained that art is autonomous – it exists in itself without serving a specific purpose, while design is utilitarian – it has a function. This distinction stems from around 1880 but according to Lennart, the circle is closing, meaning many artists started moving towards design and the other way around. A good example is the Dutch art and design collective Studio Job, and even earlier than that Dalí and Picasso created objects that were crossovers between art and design, such as the famous Dalí table or Picasso’s vases. As a collector and owner of the piece, you can decide what is – put it on plinth and it’s a work of art, or simply use it day-to-day and it’s design. Design, just like art, is about beauty and aesthetics and is also a way to express your identity, to distinguish yourself, to communicate with others.
Lennart went on to explain why design is important. According to him, design explains a lot about who we are and can teach us about certain time periods. That is why design also belongs in a museum. Last year Lennart curated the exhibition “Dream Out Loud” at the Stedelijk Museum, about social design. The exhibition showed a young generation of designers who were trained during the crisis (2008-2012), which was very influential on their work and on how they worked. New technologies like laser cutting and 3D allowed these designers to produce works in large amounts, whilst staying in complete control of the process. It also resulted in designers being conscious of the materials they used for their products and in their desire to work in an open source environment.
Next up was Nynke Koster whose work balances on the border between design and autonomous art. In her work, Nynke researches questions such as “when does an object become furniture?” and “when does furniture be seen as a work of art?”. In search of the answers, Nynke creates synthetic casts of architectural fragments, spaces and bodies. She doesn’t think of herself as an artist or a designer, but rather as a creator
Nynke doesn’t feel the need to just create a table or a chair but instead wants to make work that transforms them – when you look the object it’s beautiful, then when you use it, it transforms. Take for instance her series “Elements of Time”, a continuation of her graduation project “Coexist”, where she created a series of objects that can be used as stools. Made out of a contra mould from architectural ornaments, the four objects represent various architectural styles and periods as negatives of the original elements.
What was interesting was to see the different reception of these pieces during her presentations at Dutch Design Week and Art Basel Miami Beach. At DDW, people were unsure what the objects were until someone demonstrated that you could in fact sit on them. During Art Basel Miami Beach, people thought it was strange that these artworks were not presented on the traditional plinth and that you were allowed to touch them. This shows us how preconditioned we are – when you see something in the context of art it should to be on a pedestal, both literally and figuratively, while in a design context it only makes sense if it has a clear function.
Nynke also created site-specific work for an exhibition curated by our third guest, Anne van der Zwaag. Anne created a show in the Palace Soestdijk, where artists, photographers and designers were invited to make site-specific work based on the space they were working in. Nynke worked in a large space as Anne felt it was important to give a young talent a big platform. Nynke made a big impact by creating huge moulds of the curved ceiling and placing those large elements on the floors – giving the audience the opportunity to walk or sit on the ceiling.
Anne tells us how her mentor Frans Haks, former director of the Groninger Museum, taught her to let go of what she learned and to think interdisciplinary. This has become a leading strategy in Anne’s career – combining art, design, architecture and photography, and no longer holding on to the traditional barriers between disciplines. This is something that artists and collectors have embraced, and that audiences often intuitively understand but can still be met with reluctance by professionals.
One of her favorite things about her work is discovering young talent, especially at academies such as the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdamand Design Academy, Eindhoven. For collectors, these places can also be a great place to spot new talent. For example, when you want to buy a chair it is often just as expensive to scout a recent graduate and commission them to make a chair just for you then it is to buy a brand new design item. Anne encourages everyone to “become a sponge” and see as much as possible and to soak it all up – teaching yourself to develop an eye for talented and innovative artists and designers.
For Anne’s own collection she lets her personal connection to artists and designers lead her, collecting work from people she has worked with or has become friends with.
Our final guest, Julien Rademaker, is originally a graphic designer but has been an avid collector of vintage art and design for quite some time. In 2011, he founded a successful online platform around his vintage finds on the Dutch version of eBAY, Marktplaats, which resulted in a weekly column in a national newspaper and several exhibition-style salons.
His passion for collecting all began when he moved into his first real home for which he needed furniture. From a durability point of view, Julien figured there were enough new things and objects in the world and so he started looking for vintage furniture online. What he enjoyed the most was not spotting the big names, but instead it was the unique finds that caught his attention – combining them with objects from different periods and styles. Using his graphic design background, Rademaker has a natural tendency to create compositions that work well often without knowing the historical context of a piece. For Julien, art and design are only relevant in relation to interior – all items have to work together and communicate with each other.
Last year, he founded Bisou Gallery, presenting vintage artworks alongside contemporary artists, using Instagram as his main communication tool.
The difference between art and design is hardly relevant anymore. Collectors nowadays prefer to collect in an eclectic manner – combining art and design, decorative pieces with challenging artworks and of course, making it personal.