The themes for the Subversive Design exhibition are very broad, ranging from international politics and serious social issues to questions of form and function and reflections on individual concerns. Since I had become aware of so many eloquent objects with amazing stories to tell, created by a world-wide cast of designers and makers I developed global ambitions for the show. But with a very modest budget that ruled out transport from anywhere outside the UK, how were we to get such pieces to Brighton?
Shao Fan’s King Chair is a case in point. For some years the Chinese artist/designer has been reworking Ming-style furniture forms, exploring the interface between eastern and western design. I was keen to borrow one of his stately King chairs (first designed in 1996) where an angular modern seat has been inserted into the centre of a traditional ‘yuan yi’ (round chair) creating a grand and thoughtful hybrid of ancient and modern. Unfortunately the example at the V&A was unavailable so I embarked on a global cyber-quest. Steve McIntosh, who looks after Shao Fan’s website from Santa Barbara, California, kindly put me in touch with René Meile, who runs a gallery in Lucerne, Switzerland. M. Meile recalled selling two King chairs to a private collector in London through the art consultant, Megan Connolly of ChART Contemporary, who is based in Beijing. Megan has been our Fairy Godmother and secured the current owner’s agreement to lend us a very regal Red King chair!
Individual designers have kindly offered to bring their work to Brighton at minimal cost to us. Marcus Tremonto, who is based in New York, is sending us his prototype for Sir P A Lot, an incontinent floor-lamp, while the young French designer, Benoit Ollive has agreed to bring his gruesome Bloody Meal plate from Paris. Several London galleries have been particularly generous. Carpenters Workshop Gallery of Albemarle Street represents an amazing range of international designers. They are lending important modern ‘baroque’ masterpieces by Studio Job of Antwerp and an (almost literally!) breathtaking dandelion chandelier by the Dutch design duo of Gordijn and Nauta. At Carpenters Workshop I also discovered Pablo Reinoso from Argentina; his Spaghetti Wall comprises a wooden bench whose slats appear to develop an interwoven life of their own.