Archive for November, 2012

Books | Creative Salvage

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Cut & Shut: The History of Creative Salvage
Gareth Williams & Nick Wright
Published by Williams Wright
Stockists: Paul Smith, Tom Dixon, Dover Street Market,
Themes & Variations, KK Outlet, and Bonhams
Available from 4th December, 2012

In an opening essay to Ron Arad Associates, One Off Three (Artemis, 1993) the late Italian design maestro, Ettore Sottsass, described the 1983 Milan season as being very strange. ‘Ron Arad appeared in a show with that immense, rusted armchair, strange antique animal, strange fossil, probably from a generation destroyed by a meteorite.’ Sottsass went on to say that the sudden presence within the landscape of his thoughts of a being so different, of an animal that seemed to have been built by someone with large hands, working inside some dark grotto with Nordic fires, was a huge shock: ‘I was really frightened.’

I was pretty scared myself in about 1980, when, a young designer on The Sunday Times Magazine, I decided to approach Arad at his workshop – dark, forbidding, elemental, in a mews just a few hundred meters from our offices, that seemed no place for the faint-hearted – to design a trophy for The Sunday Times Young Computer Brain of the Year competition, so I waited around and grabbed him when he popped outside for a tea break. Keen to break the mould, I wanted to go for something edgy by someone new but perhaps I was naïve in not taking into account Arad’s philosophical approach and taste for ambiguity. His suggestion – the raw, amorphous lump of melted metal he brought in to show the science editor and myself a week later – as visually unimpressive as a bit of dusty moon rock – failed to emote the precious quality that was an essential requirement of the brief. Deemed unsuitable by us as an object for presentation, it was not a thing that might sit proudly on anyone’s mantlepiece. I ended up designing the trophy myself and, although it saw many years of use, it didn’t win any prizes.

Sotsass’s reaction and mine probably reflected the bulk of the design establishment’s attitude to reports of what were considered to be bizarre phenomena related to the London furniture scene at the dawn of the 80s. One of these described how Funkapolitan band members Tom Dixon and Nick Jones joined by Mark Brazier Jones, began putting on parties in pirated buildings across the city’s industrial deadlands, and how, inspired by the sparks that flew as Mark cut up cars to provide a light show and fuel-spewing wrecks were crashed, the trio came up with the idea of welding waste metal into furniture. Buying a tonne of scrap, they had it dropped into a gallery and began welding it in the window, continuing up to the moment when their exhibition was opened at the end of the week. And that was just the start…

With contributions from the main perpetrators, among others: Tom Dixon, Ron Arad, Nick Jones, Mark Brazier-Jones, André Dubreuil, Danny Lane and Nigel Coates, and with a wealth of previously unpublished picture material, Nick Wright and Gareth Williams’ new book Cut & Shut: The History of Creative Salvage, being launched at London auction house, Bonhams, on 3rd December, charts, the story of ’some of the most anarchic design ever produced’.

The potent mixture of nihilism and raw energy released in the punk explosion of the late 70s, of which the creative salvage movement was a consequence, undoubtedly threw up a lot of talent across the whole creative arena. A few of those who had the ability to grow and to develop their ideas sometimes achieved great success.

Tom Dixon, who soon began to be taken seriously on the international stage started a long term collaboration with Italian furniture company, Cappellini. Items he has designed are included in museum collections around the globe, including that of MoMA in New York. From 1997 until 2008 he was creative director of Habitat, and he has served as creative director for London’s 100% London event. He set up the Tom Dixon company in 2002 which sells products in over 60 countries.

Perhaps needless to say, Ron Arad went on to become, and remains, one of the world’s most influential and idiosynchratic designers and architects. His designs have been produced by, among others: Moroso, Swarovski and Vitra. He has completed architectural projects for clients as diverse as Yohiji Yamamoto, Maserati, and the Holon Design Museum in Israel, and had numerous one man shows at such prestigious institutions as Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou and London’s Barbican. A miniature version of Vortext, his 17m high spiral sculpture with 24,000 LEDs embedded into its surface – by day, bright red, by night, a shimmering mutli-coloured, multi-language public art piece – would certainly make a damn good trophy for something.

Images from top
Tom Dixon, Chair, 1984
Unique. Fire grate, door hinges, wire and other found objects
Photo: Bonhams Auctioneers

Ron Arad, Big Easy Volume 2, designed 1988
Edition of twenty. Cut and welded sheet steel
Photo: Ron Arad Associates

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Architecture | Design | Objects des Architects

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain
Sotheby’s
Paris, France
Exhibition: 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 26th November, 2012
Sale: 27th November, 2012

If it isn’t a contradiction in terms, the phenomenon of modern architects creating furniture, and sometimes decorative items, for use in the buildings they design and elsewhere might well be termed a ‘tradition’. And the importance of this tradition is confirmed in the upcoming Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain sale at Sotheby’s, Paris, which features items by, among others, Le Corbusier (with Pierre Jeanneret), Gio Ponti and Tadao Ando: architects whose work overlapped in a time span stretching from early 20th century modernism, through mid-century modern to whatever label we’re currently attaching to 21st century contemporary.

Sir Norman Foster, and Foster and Partners, responsible for many of the world’s key buildings of the last 30 years have designed sofas, lamps, bookcases, door handles and even sanitary ware for a range of clients, including Knoll, Molteni & Co, Acerbis and Nomos. There’s even a Gherkin lamp available from Kundalini. If modernism hadn’t already caught up with the future, Zaha Hadid’s and Amanda Levete’s respective oeuvres might still be referred to as futuristic. Zaha Hadid ArchitectsZ-Scape Furniture, designed in 2000 and produced by Sawaya & Moroni, is an ensemble of lounge furniture, whose forms derive from geology, glaciers and natural erosion but the company has also created equally-arresting and sculptural vases, lamps and tables. At Future Systems and currently, at AL_A, Levete has produced sinuous benches for Established & Sons and, in collaboration with Phillips, lighting, notably the Edge light. Always keen to control every aspects of the furnishing of his interiors, John Pawson, too, has had several of his spare furniture pieces produced by Driade. Common amongst all of the products created by these architects is quality design and a high degree of craftsmanship.

The fine, glazed earthenware Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’ bowl included in the Sotheby’s sale was produced by him around 1924, just one year after Gio Ponti began his career as an architect, during a period when he was influenced by and associated with the Milanese, neo-classical Novecento Italiano movement. Ponti would go on to become one of his country’s most important 20th century modernist architects, industrial designers, artists and publishers – he founded and was twice editor of Domus magazine. Building offices for Fiat during the war years, the attention attracted by his Pirellone/Pirelli Tower (completed, 1960), in Milan, earned him worldwide fame and international commissions, including the Denver Art Museum, 1971. His renowned furniture designs for Cassina include the 1957 Superleggerra/Superlight chair, and he produced lights for, among others, Artemide and Fontana Arte.

Le Corbusier – still probably the most famous architect in the world, and certainly of the 20th century, his array of built work too vast and familiar to list here – and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret’s wood and partially grey lacquered free-standing cabinet, was made in 1927, having been designed for The Poplars/Maison Guiette residence. Built by the practice in Antwerp, the house is an early and classic example of the International Style. Having been joined by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret presented their new concepts in furniture design at the 1929 Paris Salone d’Automne. That same year, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whom Le Corbusier had probably met, along with Walter Gropius during a sojourn in Berlin, created the Barcelona chair for his avant garde German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition. Although only two Barcelona chairs were made for the exposition, the design was put into production and became so popular that, with the exception of a sixteen-year period, it has been continuously manufactured. Earlier, In 1908, Le Corbusier had studied architecture under Joseph Hoffman in Vienna – himself an architect who loved to design furniture – and would have been familiar with Hoffman’s designs, based famously on the square, and particularly the Kubus chair, 1910, which was almost certainly an influence on his and his co-designers’ very cubic Grand Confort armchair, albeit the construction is entirely different. Centre-piece of the Salone d’Automne show, the famous design was reissued by Cassina in 1965. The company makes some fourteen other Le Corbusier furniture items, including the equally familiar LC4 chaise longue and LC6 dining table.

In a kind of reversal of the process, in 1924, furniture-maker, Gerrit Rietveld built the Rietveld Schröder house and filled it with objects he designed. When Eileen Gray, famous for her sumptuous Art Deco lacquered screens suddenly became a modernist convert, she built her exquisitely modern home, Villa E1027, designing for it radical, but equally luxurious pieces that required production by skilled craftsmen. Her Bibendum chair, originally created for the the rue de lota apartment in Paris, in 1925, lay largely forgotten until an original re-surfaced in a 1972 auction, which prompted a new production of the design classic. Eero Saarinen, studied sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale before working on furniture design with Norman Bel Geddes and practicing architecture with his father, Eliel. His furniture for Knoll includes dining and low tables, the Executive chair, the Tulip chair, and the Womb chair and ottoman.

During the 1980s, when Alberto Alessi took over the management of the Italian Alessi kitchen utensil company, he began collaborations with designers, and especially with architects, to produce high-end, exclusive products. Among the best known of the company’s product range from this period are Richard Sapper’s kettle with a two-tone whistle and Michael Graves‘ kettle with the bird shaped whistle.

By 1941, when future Pritzker Prize winner (1995), Japanese architect Tadao Ando was born, modern architecture was firmly on the world map. Having taken no formal training Ando travelled the world visiting buildings by Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, then established Tadao Ando Architect and Associates in Osaka, in 1968. Strongly influenced by his traditional Japanese background his architectural style emphasises empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity, placing the inner feeling of a structure before its appearance. Working primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete, from a formidable list of 154 completed projects, Ando is best known for The Church of Light in Osaka, 1989, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St Louis, 2001, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2002. Current projects include a mausoleum for fashion designer, Tom Ford. His minimal buildings are designed to contain little in the way of furniture, however he has lately collaborated with Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Son on a project to develop a prototype chair honoring the aesthetic of the late Danish designer Hans Wegner, which will be available in 2013. In 2011, to mark their 90th anniversary, he created a limited edition vase for leading Venetian glassmakers, Venini, established in Murano in 1921. At an estimated sale price of €35,000-45,000, a set of three of these vases, all signed and dated and coming from a private collection in Germany, is included in the Sotheby’s sale.

Objects included in the Sotheby’s sale, from top
Tadao Ando
Set of three coloured glass vases in anthracite, red and ochre, 2011, for Venini
Estimate €35,000-45,000

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
Wood and partially grey lacquered wood, double-sided cabinet, circa 1927
Estimate €12,00-15,000

Gio Ponti
Glazed earthenware bowl, Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’, 1924
Estimate €15,00-20,000

Photographs ©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Tokyo 1955-1970

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde
Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
18th November, 2012 – 25th February, 2013

Somewhat pushed into the sidelines these days as a result of phenomenally growing interest in the new art emerging from its mighty neighbour, China, Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde provides a timely reminder of a period where Japan enjoyed a great surge in globally-influential creativity, concurrent with its own exponential economic growth in the late 20th century.

Following the surrender of the Empire of Japan on September 2, 1945, which brought the hostilities of World War II to an abrupt end, many Japanese artists used painting, drawing and printmaking to represent and document the traumatic after effects of the apocalypse, to highlight the difficult lives of the working classes, and to point out social injustices. Surrealism, which had thrived in Japan in the 1930s, re-emerged, mutating into bizarre and sometimes abstract forms. Artists freely crossed disciplines; the 14 members of the collective Jikken Kōbō/Experimental Workshop – very active during the 1950s – comprised visual artists and music composers, a lighting designer, an engineer, and a musicologist. In reflection of the country’s increasing industrialisation, they experimented with fusing art and technology.

At the 1960 World Design Conference in Tokyo, metabolism, one of the most significant movements in 20th-century architecture, would emerge with plans to tackle Tokyo’s by now urgent need for systematic urban growth and infrastructure. As its biological name suggests, the movement contended that buildings and cities should be designed in the same organic way that life grows and changes. The metabolists new ideas – that must have appeared, at the time, fantastical – envisioned flexible, expandable, and technologically advanced megastructures built along linear axes. Leading light, Tange Kenzō’s ambitious A Plan for Tokyo, 1960, a three-level megastructure that combined transportation systems, offices, and commercial and residential spaces projecting into and spanning the Tokyo Bay was never realised, however it can seen in large-scale photographic reproduction at the MoMA show.

Founded in 1958, Tokyo’s Sogetsu Art Center was an extraordinary hub of experimental arts, presenting an ongoing series of avant-garde cinema, jazz, and classical music events. From 1961 to 1964, in particular, the center functioned as a nucleus of interdisciplinary experiments and international exchanges, where numerous visiting American artists including John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg, performed or exhibited with emerging Japanese counterparts, such as Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik.

Since the pre-war era in Japan, there had been an established tradition of newspaper companies organising and sponsoring art exhibitions. By 1963 the annual Yomiuri Indépendant exhibition (1949–63), where installation and performance art featured strongly, had become so radical – with artists creating provocative, body sculpture or installations often made out of detritus – that the work of the young exhibiting artists was widely refered to as ‘Anti-Art.’ Guerilla-style art events were common; rejecting the decorum and hierarchies dictated by the mainstream art establishment, one collective, Hi Red Center – the incendiary activities of which occasionally provoked strong police reaction – sought to bring art out of institutional or commercial spaces and into the space of everyday activities. One of the better-known actions by the group was Shelter Plan, an invitation-only event at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, staged in January 1964. Guests, including Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik, were subjected to meticulous and bizarre physical examinations for the purpose of creating custom-fitted, single-person nuclear fallout shelters.

Greatly attracted to American art, in the 1960s, Ushio Shinohara along with Tateishi Kōichi (Tiger Tateishi) and Nakamura Hiroshi, were the leading figures in what is sometimes defined as Japanese pop art. Tateishi’s painting Samurai, the Watcher (Kôya no yôjinbô), 1965, and Shinohara’s sculpture Coca-Cola Plan, 1964, are included in the exhibition. But, in the final years of the decade the Mono-ha (School of Things), loose, informal group emerged, who were deeply engaged with the relationship of matter in space and experimented by combining organic and industrial materials.

Photography, a traditionally strong discipline in Japan, experienced a breakthrough in the 1960s. Modelled after the Magnum Photos collective, Vivo (The word means ‘life’ in Esperanto) was formed in 1959 by six photographers, who, though their individual styles and subject matter differed greatly, shared a belief in photography as an art form. In 1968, marking a stylistic departure, a small group of young photographers – including Moriyama Daidō – formed Provoke, with the aim of seeking a new photographic language that could adequately respond to the chaotic social and cultural changes exploding in urban Tokyo. Also traditionally important, graphic design was an extremely fertile Japanese field during this period. Experimenting with a hybrid mix of collage and montage techniques, Yokoo Tadanori (better known in the West as Tadanori Yokoo), and others, rebelled against prevailing modernist aesthetics. Crossing boundaries, painters, too, such as Nakamura Hiroshi and Tateishi Kōichi, intermingled what was be regarded as high and low art, producing a large number of graphics and illustrations.

Bringing together over 200 items, including significant loans from collections in Japan and the USA, and drawing from its own collections, the MoMa exhibition focuses on the transformation of Tokyo into a thriving centre of the avant-garde, in which cinema, too, was a vital element. In conjunction with Tokyo 1955–1970, the museum is therefore also presenting a comprehensive retrospective devoted to the Art Theater Guild, the independent film company that radically transformed Japanese cinema by producing and distributing avant-garde and experimental works from the 1960s until the early 1980s. Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960-1984, will run from 6th December, 2012, to 10th February, 2013.

Images from top
Kojima Nobuaki. Untitled (Figure), 1964
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously
© 2011 Kojima Nobuaki

Yokoo Tadanori. Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Sōzōsha) (Shinjuku dorobō nikki [Sōzōsha]), 1968
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer
© 2012 Yokoo Tadanori

Nakanishi Natsuyuki. Compact Object (Konpakuto obuje), 1962
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frank Crowninshield Fund
© 2012 Nakanishi Natsuyuki

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Photography | Auctions | Portraits of Women

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Modern & Contemporary Photographs
Yann Mouel
Drout
Paris, France
Sale: 9th November, 2012

Photographies
Sotheby’s
Paris, France
Sale: 16th November, 2012

Photographies
Christie’s
Paris, France
Sale: 16th & 17th November, 2012

Modern & Contemporary Photography
Villa Grisebach
Berlin, Germany
Exhibition: 23rd–27th November, 2012
Sale: 28th November, 2012

Are real women, as portraiture subjects for photography under-represented? Maybe. A glance through the catalogue of today’s Yann Le Mouel auction of Modern & Contemporary Photographs in Paris – one of four major European photography auctions this month – reveals that of the 261 lots some 42 are portraits of well-known 20th century male figures or groups, among them: politician Fidel Castro, artists Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, musicians Johnny Hallyday, Serge Gainsbourg, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, Billy Idol, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, and photographer Donald McCullin. Although many unidentified females appear, often nude, partially-clothed or in a couple of instances, pornographic poses, famous or even identified women are rather less in evidence. Of the few labeled ladies, Princess Diana in tiara and pearls, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, Colette by Janine Niepce and Weegee’s Norma Devine at Sammy’s Bar, New York, 4 December, 1944, strike a bold presence.

To mark the 65th anniversary of Magnum Photos, Sotheby’s Paris is offering a unique set of 65 images dedicated to the nude – an unusual subject for this co-operative, whose photographers are better known for chronicling world events – a very mixed bag of works in which images by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eve Arnold are included alongside those from the younger generation of Magnum photographers, such as Paolo Pellegrin and Harry Gruyaert. Jane Mansfield and Marylin Monroe are amongst the mainly female subjects, of whom few others are identified. Elsewhere in the same sale, there’s an unusual full length photograph of Lizica Conreanu, Romanian dancer and member of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes posed in a dance position, in the artist’s studio, by sculptor Constantin Brancusi, together with a stark, asymmetrical, untitled head and shoulders portrait of a woman by Dora Maar. Diane Arbus offerings include Woman with a Briefcase and Pocketbook, N.Y.C., 1962 and topless, Waitress, Nudist Camp, N.J., 1963. Bold, explicit images from Helmut Newton’s Big Nudes series, each identified by first name only, are also on offer.

A print of Peter Lindbergh’s The Wild Ones, shot in New York in 1991 that features super-models, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patiz, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder and Stephanie Seymour is included in the Christie’s sale in Paris, next weekend. There’s a couple of pictures of Kate Moss, too, and hot American art photographer Alex Prager’s Eva, from the series Week-end, 2009. All beautiful, but do models really count as famous people? Perhaps a few, like Kate Moss, transcend their clothes-horse role and become celebrities, in the process taking on tangible personality. Striking close-ups by Man Ray of mannequins push female anonymity to the limit, however his striking, uncompromising profile of the surrealist artist, Bona, 1955 – who, with a little research, it was possible to discover is Bona de Mandiargues – has profound substance. Peter Beard’s Karen Blixen in Rungstedland for the End of the Game, Dec. 3rd, 1961 is up close and feels very personal. Here too, Cecil Beaton’s multiple-exposure, portrait of actress Beatrice Lillie, shot around 1930, makes a strong statement. Interestingly, (always referred to as ‘first wife of László Moholy-Nagy‘) Lucia Moholy’s 1926 portrait of artist Lily Hilderbrandt, is one of the few images of named women, in these four November auctions, photographed by a woman. Another is Annie Liebovitz’s remarkable Louise Bourgeois, New York, from 1997, being sold at Berlin’s Villa Grisebach, where 184 lots are on offer, varying in content from recent architectural photography by minimalist photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, Boring Photographs, 2000, 468 C-type prints by Martin Parr, and works by Daido Moriyama, to 1950s and 60s images by Will McBride and much earlier stuff from photography pioneers such as Karl Blossfeldt. Images of identifiable women, again, are few in number but there is a very sensuous, sexually-liberated, colour portrait of Marilyn Monroe, shot in 1962, from the man who surely captured her character and vivacity better than any other, Bert Stern – a snip at an estimated €1.000-1.500. There’s also a characterful and beguiling, 1976 close-up by Robert Lebeck of Romy Schneider in a tweed flat cap, smiling, with a cigarette in the corner of her mouth. Jackie Kennedy and her Sister at the Funeral of Robert Kennedy, New York, 1968, by the same photographer and showing the grieving sisters, kneeling side by side, hands clasped in prayer, draws the emotions in another direction. Milton H Greene’s 1952 portrait of Marlene Dietrich – recognisable from her swathe of blonde hair and perfectly-shaped legs – whose face isn’t shown, cleverly turns the negative aspect of anonymity on its head.

Anonymity itself is of course compelling and single names – probably often invented, sometimes with the intention of obscuring the the identity of the sitter or of adding exotic cachet – tantalising. Full, real names, however, lift the veil and bring the viewer into direct contact with the subject, whatever the sex, allowing us the privilege of intimacy and them the dignity of existence and perhaps a deserved place in history.

Images from top
From the Villa Griesbach sale:
Louise Bourjois, New York, 1997
Annie Leibovitz
Gelatin silver print

Marylin Monroe, From ‘The Last Sitting’, 1962
Bert Stern
C-Print, 1978. Kodak-Paper

Marlene Dietrich, 1952
Milton H Greene
Vintage gelatin silver print with gouache

From the Christie’s sale:
Karen Blixen in Rungstedland for the End of the Game, Dec. 3rd, 1961
Peter Beard
Gelatin silver print mounted on cardboard, enhanced with ink, gouache
and blood

Kate Moss, Little Nipple, 2001
Rankin
Archive Lambda print

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mouth2mouth | Mark Thomson

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

mouth2mouth | exclusive interview
mark thomson | book designer extraordinaire

Mark Thomson is based in London and is responsible for the design of the catalogue for the Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes exhibition, currently showing at the Whitechapel Gallery. Trained in fine art at Chelsea School of Art, for a period in the 90s Mark was art director of Taschen, based in Cologne, Germany, where he produced, among many other books, the definitive tome Starck (1996). Back in the UK, he began working on books directly with artists. More recently he has produced artist monographs, exhibition catalogues and text-based books with publishers Ridinghouse, as well as with the British Council and British Museum. Among other projects, Mark is currently involved in producing a monograph on the British artist and 2003 Turner Prize nominee Anya Gallaccio. Thomson, an authority on typography, occasionally writes on design-related subjects.

In a 2005 issue of Eye magazine, referring to an exhibition of Swiss books at the Design Museum, Thomson said: ‘An inescapable fact about exhibiting books is that the essential ingredient of a book – its engagement with time – is impossible to show. Sculpture you can walk around, a painting can be seen from left and right.’ The real experience of a book, he tells us, has more in common with music or architecture. Significantly, in the same article he talks about the exhibition and its catalogue, designed by Laurent Benner and Jonathan Hares, as being co-dependent and that, in this instance, ‘the catalogue itself is the star.’

When did you study at Chelsea?
1980 to 1985, studying fine art. Anthony Hill was my main tutor there. He’d corresponded with Marcel Duchamp and was a central figure in postwar British and European constructivism. He had an anarchic alter ego called Redo (as in play-doh). These things made him extremely interesting to me. His 1983 mid-career retrospective at the Hayward is still one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen: work that was totally uncompromising, industrial, practically colourless and apparently devoid of angst or expression of any kind. I loved it, and still do.

Why the crossover from fine art to design?
After Chelsea I started writing about art, mostly reviewing exhibitions and interviewing artists I was interested in, such as Hans Haacke and Dan Graham. I did a bit of lecturing, usually on these subjects. Meanwhile the work I was making had something to do with structure and language; it was really no step at all from that to design. I started doing flyers for concerts, and gradually realised that design held a deeper mystery for me. It was not clear at all how design worked – the language was far more subtle than the idea of problem-solving that was being put about. Typography in particular became my obsession, as well as the overall language of design. The first exhibition catalogue and print material I did was for New Contemporaries in 1993. For the first time I felt that all my interests came together in a meaningful way.

How did the Taschen job come about?
At about the same time I had been working on a book about chairs for Taschen, and went to Cologne to show them what I had done. While there I worked on another book with them for a day or two, returning a couple of weeks later to do some more. Then it snowballed – we got on well and after a few months I was given the job of art director. I had my studio in London and the studio in Cologne. I went between the two for a few years.

The main task was to introduce a more international design language – although the company sold books all over the world it was still quite German-looking. I gave the typography a new direction: Scala Sans had just been released and it was readable as well as fresh, it was both new and somehow traditional, and it was perfect for the coated papers that art books are mostly printed on. Scala and Quadraat became the baseline typefaces for the company.

You’re currently based in London but do you still do work for overseas clients?
When I stopped working with Taschen I wanted to focus on working with artists and working internationally – over the last few years I’ve worked in something like 20 languages. My clients are all over – we Skype a lot.

Could you explain something about some of the other things you’ve worked on?
The work has fallen into natural categories: monographs, exhibition catalogues, writings and other text-based books. I have made monographs on artists like Simon Patterson and Chris Burden, and catalogues for recent exhibitions by John Stezaker and Josiah McElheny at the Whitechapel, on German Romantic prints and drawings at the British Museum, Nick Danziger and Yuri Gagarin for the British Council (where I also designed the exhibition, with Nick Coombe Architecture).

I work a lot with Ridinghouse, who are doing some great publishing on and around art. Recently we’ve done a series of collected writings of Michael Bracewell, Georg Baselitz and Fred Wilson, as well as a book called Unconcealed – a brilliant, incredibly detailed study of the artist, dealer and museum network around conceptual art in Europe between 1967 and 1977. The most recent catalogue is for Mel Bochner at the Whitechapel Gallery (and in 2013 at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal).

Was it very different working with an artist’s work that is often strongly typographical, as opposed to say figurative or purely abstract? How did it affect your approach?
I am only trying to find a form through which the work can speak. In my view the designer’s role here is to place the work in space, as well as it can be done, and then to get out of the picture. This applies to every aspect of the design – the editorial structure, the structure of the page, the typography and the production. The moment of interaction between eye, paper and ink is the critical one where the work can be found or lost completely. I still believe that having some kind of understanding of the work makes all the difference to the final outcome. Mel Bochner’s father was a signwriter, so his understanding of typography and lettering is very grounded.

The exhibition title, If the Colour Changes, doesn’t appear on the cover of the catalogue: what was the thinking behind this?
Only that the catalogue is almost a monograph. There is much less out there on Mel Bochner than I thought, and the scope of the exhibition is basically the scope of his career, even if a guiding theme of the show is apparently colour. This particular catalogue includes five critical texts as well as a selection of Mel Bochner’s own texts, a very detailed biography and bibliography, and of course all the works from the exhibition. That’s a lot of content.

Images from the catalogue
Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes

Published in 2012 on the occasion of the exhibition of the same title by Whitechapel Gallery and Ridinghouse in association with Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Fundação de Serralves, Porto; edited by Achim Borchardt-Hume and Doro Globus, with texts by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Briony Fer, João Fernandes, Mark Godfrey and Ulrich Wilmes

Front cover, showing:
Blah, Blah, Blah, 2011 (Detail)
Oil on velvet (ten panels)

Double page spread, showing:
Actual Size (Hand and Face), 1968/2002
Two gelatin silver prints

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