The Age of the
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, December 29, 2012
When good is not good
enough – even the best is not good enough.... You have the birth of a Super Star!
He or she stands alone on a pedestal. In tennis, be it Bobby Riggs, Roger
Federer or Serena Williams: Baseball’s Hall of Fame touts Babe Ruth and Jackie
Robinson while the Yankees have Derrick Jetter. American’s love affair with
Football gives us Aaron Rogers and Victor Cruz: Hillary Clinton gets it as a
Diplomat, General Patton and Eisenhower were bigger than life Soldiers. And in
Architecture, you can’t find better celebs than Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry.
Among designers it is hard to top Mark Newson or Ron Arad and Wendell Castle.
To reach the pinnacle of stardom, it takes training, courage, audacity, and good luck. Staying on top of the heap is big work…Fallen Super Stars quickly vanish into oblivion: Tiger Woods, David Petraeus, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Lance Armstrong.
Athletes become stars by their incredible performance, strenuous training, and diligent practice. Diplomats, soldiers, movie stars get there with their dazzling performances. Architects and Designers fortunately can bypass such drudgery. Super Stardom for them is achieved through daring aptitude and a willingness to explore new frontiers. The key to stardom is the importance of being different! These Stars do not play by the confining rules of their game. Logical considerations are cast aside. A good starting point is a healthy disregard for cost followed by a jaundiced approach to practical applications. The criterion for success is non-conformity. While these Stars may conceptualize their ideas on a paper napkin in a restaurant or the back of an envelope, their computers are king! They “type” their designs on a keyboard, distort their images into daring and unrecognizable shapes and create the 21st Century’s new Parthenons. It takes a genius to master these skills. Designers and architect rise to Stardom by having more bravado than their colleagues.
This astounding realization came to me on my recent travels through London and Paris. In London, I was struck by Renzo Piano’s Shard – London’s tallest tower, an impudent needle piecing the skyline. Mr. Piano, can do no wrong. His client’s blissfully underwrite his bold ideas, regardless of their practical application.
In Paris, Ron Arad’s show at
the Gallery Downtown sparked this little reminiscing. Arad is a master of
daring design. He expertly throws caution to the winds and lets his artistry
fall where he chooses. In his show there were two rooms filled floor to ceiling with trapezoid sheets of shining
stainless steel mounted on spindly black rods pretending to be tables and
selling at $5,000 a pop!
Ron Arad's wall to wall dazzling steel slab tables at the Gallery Downtown in Paris - in the window was one of Arad's famous chairs
My favorite Architect, Zaha Hadid has achieved Super Stardom by her ingenious use of the computer. (Few know that she is also a gifted painter and often first visualizes her imaginative designs as a work of art on canvas.) Her results are dazzling, but a far stretch of the imagination from the basic rule of the game: “Form follows Function”.
(You might get a bit disoriented when you walk though the interior galleries.)
Frank Gehry, another Super Star, contorts sheet-titanium slabs into malleable clay shapes that effectively camouflage the building’s interior. His buildings adorn city skylines around the world and are prime examples of “design for the fun of design”… utility be damned.
I think this is Frank Gehry's' Experience Music Museum in Seattle... but it really doesn't matter where it is - his buildings all look alike.
Furniture is a favorite playground for creative minds. My friend, Wendell Castle, is the undeniable master of the wood chisel. His current exhibit at the Barry Friedman Gallery in New York show exquisite rocking chairs that are truly works of art as long as you don’t try to sit in them.
Mark Newson is a gifted young designer, who cut his teeth in the aviation industry. His chairs and lounges are often reminiscent of their flying machine antecedents. At Sotheby’s and Christies’ they have fetched the highest prices ever paid for a piece of contemporary furniture.
A chair is a chair is a chair…. But not in the hand of these Stars: a chair is an object coincidentally for, but not necessarily for sitting. I admire their leap of imagination and the willingness of collectors to encourage and support these Super Stars.
It all comes down to the primal argument: is it Art or is it Design? The distinction evaporates!
I regret that I am earthbound designer creating furniture for the simple purpose of comfort (and hopefully attractive to live with). My designs are recognizable vessel to sit on… Alas, Super Stardom eludes me!