letter from london | may 2012

courtesy of vitorio benedetti

by Melanie Nelson

I had planned on visiting a bunch of galleries this month, but instead May was all about design events. The first I attended was the launch of the new David Gill showroom in St. James  “Must be the world’s poshest new gallery”  (Richard Morrison- The Times). Starring the fabulously cool glacial tables and iconic shelving  by Zaha Hadid (there’s that name again).

Then from the 21st Century to the 20th Century, classic masters Eileen Gray, Jean-Michelle Frank and Pierre Chareau as represented by Ecart shown at Gotham in Notting hill (T stool 1927 pictured).

A sudden heat wave heralded the start of Clerkenwell Design Week so the place was buzzing. We primarily went to visit an event at the smart new ochre showroom (have been a fan for a few years). It was packed out, might of course have been all the champagne, beer and warm weather but good to see the recession blues being beaten.

Apart from the showrooms the event was also a great opportunity to visit some historic London buildings.

First on the list being a former Victorian glass factory, the Farmiloe Building. Centre stage, a Jaguar C-X16 concept car was being sculpted in clay by one of the iconic car manufacturers’ model makers. Jaguar being the main sponsor, which explains why there were so many sporty cars dotted about.

I liked the mix up at Farmiloe with, apart from the cars, the established European furniture brands such as Artemide and Zanotta squeezed in with small start ups like Matilda Notting Hill based Australian designers and everything in between, creating a certain level of comforting disorder.

I am sure there were some serious specifiers present, but a chunk of the audience when we were there, I imagine would be students, who’s only investment is likely to be an empty crate of beer as cutting edge furniture.

Later we made it to St. Johns Church founded by The Monastic Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John.  Great Crypt and the garden is a hidden peaceful oasis.

I was pleased to come across another West London neighbour there, Vessel with lights by Hsiao-Chi Tsai & Kimiya Yoshikawa. I am not normally a Nigel Coates fan but liked his angels falling also shown by vessel.

The Crypt mostly housed the Italian chair exhibition…not sure what it was all about but was nice and cool underground.

For the second year the House of Detention was used to showcase an interesting mix of talent from bike racks to sex toys (wonder if there is a link there?) Not sure if the building is appropriate for feelgood 21st Century design, as the site has housed some form of involuntary incarceration there since 1616. By the mid 19th Century 10,000,000 people passed through its grim cells every year and the cellars are now the haunt of ghost hunters.

Fascinating but exceedingly creepy, which kind of went well with the installation by Hubba Welcome, showing the many faces of Michael Jackson.

Peeking into the numerous cells, I thought the high fidelity docking station was a great idea and I am sure it will be a big seller La Boite Concept  and liked the concept of ceramics being made out of £10,000.00 of used bank notes by Latvian student Arthur Analts which were in fact amazingly good value considering.

And this is just the start of what looks like being a memorable summer of partying from Jubilee weekend to the Olympics. Rock on London!

Melanie Nelson is the co-founder of Addison Nelson Design and AND Furniture.  She is based in London working on a diverse range of exclusive private and commercial interiors in South East Asia and Europe.

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