Influential London-based Italian designer Martino Gamper guest-curated a new exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Spring 2014.
‘There is no perfect design and there is no über-design. Objects talk to us personally. Some might be more functional than others, and the emotional attachment is very individual. This exhibition showcases a very personal way of collecting and gathering objects – these are pieces that tell a tale’ –Martino Gamper
In the exhibition design is a state of mind, Gamper presented a landscape of shelving systems, telling the story of design objects and their impact on our lives. The pieces of furniture, arranged around the outer walls of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, dated from the 1930s to the present day and ranged from historic design classics and one-off pieces, to industrial, utilitarian, contemporary and newly commissioned work. Renowned designers such as Ettore Sottsass, Charlotte Perriand and Giò Ponti were placed in close proximity to IKEA and Dexion industrial shelves that together represented an eclectic history of the way that we display, archive and organise our most precious possessions. The function of each piece was underlined by the collections of objects arranged on them, which were chosen by Gamper from the personal archives of his friends and colleagues. From the beauty of the mundane to the wonder of the relic, these collections gave an insight into the inspirations and obsessions of designers.
In the historic powder rooms at the heart of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Gamper devised two displays. One was an homage to iconic Italian designer Enzo Mari and included an installation of drawings, notes and designs held down by unusual paperweights collected by him over many years. The other acted as a social space, encouraging visitors to sit at Gamper’s table and on his chairs; to explore an extensive library of contemporary furniture manufacturing catalogues from around the world; and to watch Tati’s Mon Oncle and Alain Resnais’ Le Chant du Styrene (both 1958). These films, along with the earlier pieces of furniture, reveal the contrast between the future of design predicted in the late 1950s and the way it has evolved since.
Gamper’s practice encompasses exhibition design, interior design, special commissions and the design of mass-produced products for the international furniture industry. Constantly looking for new ways to engage with and activate design within our everyday lives, Gamper’s work challenges the boundaries between fine art, design, performance and curation.
A series of talks and events took place to accompany the exhibition, including a talk from Rebecca Lewin and Martino Gamper and Haim Steinbach, in conversation with Alice Rawsthorn.
design is a state of mind was produced by the Serpentine Galleries in collaboration with Museion, Bolzano, Italy and Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy.
The Serpentine Galleries, Pinacoteca Agnelli and Museion would like to thank the following lenders to the exhibition: Artek; Cassina Showroom, Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London; Galleria Rossella Colombari, Milan – Italy; Dexion Storage Systems; ercol Furniture; The Geffrye, Museum of the Home, London; David Gill Galleries; Galerie Rosemarie Jaëger, Hochheim; Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin; The Modern Institute / Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow; Källemo; Memphis; Nils Holger Moormann GMBH; Nilufar Gallery; USM U. Schärer Söhne AG; and Vitsoe.