Steven Learner, Collective Design Founder, Reveals What’s in Store at the Fair’s 2018 Edition | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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Steven Learner, Collective Design Founder, Reveals What’s in Store at the Fair’s 2018 Edition

Steven Learner, Collective Design Founder, Reveals What’s in Store at the Fair’s 2018 Edition
“Both Sides Now,” 2017, by Ida Wieth, Glass, Ceramic, Copper wire
(Courtesy: J. Lohmann Gallery)

As the Collective Design Fair enters its penultimate day in New York, we present a conversation with Steven Learner, the fair’s founder, who spoke to Blouin Artinfo earlier on what's in store at this edition. 

Edited excerpts:

What are the themes and highlights of Collective Design Fair 2018?

The show continues to be a platform, reflecting themes in the design and art communities where I see a blurring of the boundaries between art, design, film, and performance. This year’s show is organized as a curated exhibition more than the conventional fair, with experiential installations from galleries, independent designers, artists, and interior designers, spread throughout the expansive, day-lit space. 

Highlights include a significant work by artist and architect Alex Schweder, who will also have a piece at the Armory Show. He brings his “performance architecture” to Collective, offering visitors a moment of relaxation where they sit, two at a time, on a pair of furry, sofa-like forms. Leonidas Trampoukis and Eleni Petaloti of Objects of Common Interest and LOT office for architecture have designed a VIP Lounge with formations of glass brick furniture scattered in space on islands to form seating arrangements on a hard surface of warm, earthy color tones. A white wide-meshed net spanned around the area creates a whimsical boundary separating the fair from the lounge area, revealing glimpses of the interior at close distance. Artist Justin Morin has created an immersive installation inspired by the film “Mishima” by director Paul Shrader. Each of the four chapters of the film is represented by a series of Morin’s deeply hued, gauzy silk panels, juxtaposed against the muscular column grid of the industrial setting. Landscape designer Brook Klausing and spatial practitioner Jesse Seegers will collaborate on “Oasis,” a desert landscape populated by an environment of inhabitable inflatable spaces, furnishings, and plants.

This year, we created a new program titled “Hybrid,” for those creating work that specifically challenges the distinction between art and design. Artist Emmett Moore uses the age-old technique of weaving to create new images as tapestries that are presented by Miami gallerist Nina Johnson. New York upstart gallery Fort Gansevoort brings us Sam Stewart’s playful sculptures that question the American obsession with exercise and the functionality generally associated with design.

New exhibiting gallery ULAE, the master print studio established in 1947 in Long Island, will present works created in their studio with legendary artists Terry Winters, Richard Tuttle, Martin Puryear and 102-year-old Carmen Herrera as well as work from younger artists Wyatt Kahn, Julia Rommel, and Mark Fox.

How do you go about shortlisting the exhibitors?

I continue to meet with the original supporters of Collective Design, Caroline Baumann of the Cooper Hewitt, collector and curator Beth Rudin DeWoody, and designer David Mann. They are members of the design community that support us by sharing new designers, galleries, and trends which they have seen. These often become ideas that we incorporate into our program.

Who do you think would be the show stealers this year?

Artist and architect Alex Schweder, who will also have a piece at The Armory Show, brings ‘Davenports Yawn’ to Collective where fairgoers are offered a moment to relax and experience his furry sofa-like forms. Michael Bargo, a stylist and interior designer, has launched a brand new gallery on the LES. For his premier fair installation, he will be creating a very layered and personal interior where he is presenting several rare Pierre Chareau’s designs from 1921. Chahan, the Parisian gallerist / interior designer / designer will be returning this year with one of his notably sophisticated room environments that are luxurious and calm with accents of cast glass and commissioned artworks. In his hands, vintage works look modern and newly designed pieces have a sense of history. Fernando Mastrangelo is returning for the fourth consecutive year to create his first “completely sculpted environment.” Known for his objects cast from sand, coffee, and crushed glass, Mastrangelo is stretching his vocabulary into architectural elements and space, and as always, pushing the boundaries of how we define his work.

Have you observed any major changes or shift in the world of design since the festival’s first edition?

There is a continuing trend toward inclusivity, a blurring of the boundaries between art, design, fashion, performance and film that I fully support. We’ve encouraged new ways of presenting work, expanding our program to include galleries that present both vintage and contemporary work, both art and design.

Collective presents installations from galleries, independent designers, interior designers, filmmakers and artists, bringing together many of the voices and structures of the community today and reflecting how culturally, we see and collect art and design.

Would you like to predict how the future of design is going to be in the next five years?

I only wish I could.

The Collective Design Fair runs through March 12, 2018, at Skylight Clarkson North, 572 Washington Street, New York City.