Salone Del Mobile Presents Design As A “superficial Stylistic Tool” Says Alice Rawsthorn

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Alice Rawsthorn portrait by Chris Moore

Milan 2015: Milan’s furnishings fair has turn into a celebration of marketing and advertising over design and style and has assisted feed the public perception of layout as a superficial discipline, in accordance to layout critic Alice Rawsthorn.

Writing in the newest situation of Frieze magazine, Rawsthorn argues that the yearly Salone del Mobile and its fringe occasions have “unintentionally reinforced the popular stereotype of style as a superficial, stylistic tool steeped in consumerism”.

The yearly April honest has turn out to be so dominated by “shameless promotional stunts, seemingly unrelated to furniture, that the British designer Jasper Morrison has suggested renaming the Salone del Mobile, the Salone del Marketing,” she wrote in her most recent By Design and style column for the art magazine.

Rawsthorn, former director of London’s Design and style Museum and the design and style critic for the Worldwide New York Occasions, argues that the fair dominates the media’s portrayal of layout, regardless of the fact that design disciplines such as technologies and support design are these days far more crucial than furnishings.

“Isn’t it odd that a furniture honest need to exert so much electrical power during design and style culture, not just in its picked area?” she asked, and stated: “The Milan honest has turn out to be 1 of these highly visible however more and more ambiguous events, like the Hay Festival in the Welsh Borders, which are sustained as significantly by their promotional prowess as by their significance inside their authentic area.”


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In her Frieze column, titled The shifting influence of Milan’s Salone del Mobile, Rawsthorn traces the historical past of the honest, which started in 1961 as a showcase for the Italian furnishings market.

At the time, Italy’s furnishings sector was an important contributor to the country’s postwar financial recovery, and furnishings continued to be the dominant cultural force amongst style disciplines for significantly of the 20th century.

“In an age when layout innovation tended to emphasis on bodily factors, the chair was an eloquent medium by means of which to trace modifications in aesthetics, engineering, demographics, social and political considerations,” she explained.

Nevertheless these days, furnishings has lost its cultural value, she argues, although designers have moved on to tackle new challenges – a theme she also addressed in her 2013 book, Hello Globe, which charts the altering role and meaning of style above the centuries.

Rawsthorn argued in the column that the rise of digital tools – mixed with a new generation of designers who are employing their capabilities to pursue self-initiated political or environmental objectives rather than the industrial goals of their clientele – signifies that chairs and tables will in no way once again have the cultural influence they accomplished with the 1981 launch of the influential Memphis group or the 1993 inauguration of Dutch conceptual design and style platform Droog.


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“A decade ago, a lot of college students seemed set on turning into mini-Starcks,” she wrote. “Now they are much more likely to aspire to curbing the environmental crisis, redefining design’s interpretation of gender identity or locating daily life-altering applications for new technologies.”

No other style honest has yet risen to challenge Milan’s dominance, Rawsthorn argues, but she lists German fair imm cologne as an emerging industrial competitor and cites the biennials in Ljubljana and Istanbul as increasingly influential generators of layout discourse.

“A lot of of the new design and style issues are explored in the fringe exhibitions and debates held in the course of the Salone,” Rawsthorn writes. “But a furniture fair is not the most empathic or efficient forum for them, raising the likelihood of their migrating elsewhere.”

The 54th edition of the Salone del Mobile takes area in Milan from 14-19 April.

Portrait of Alice Rawsthorn by Chris Moore.

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