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The Clever Design Store

Martino Gamper – Design is a State of Mind

6/04/14 2:51 AM

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.






These are the words of London-based Italian designer Martino Gamper, whose latest exhibition “use[s] design to display design”[1] in a tribute to the humble shelf and the stories told by the objects we choose to fill it with.

[1] In the words of the artist himself



Intriguingly named “Design is a State of Mind”, the show sees London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery filled with a landscape of shelves, ranging from one-off commissions to industrial floor-to-ceiling structures; democratically positioned so that an IKEA flat-pack stands next to a Franco Albini creation. Each shelving system is filled with a selection of objects curated by a friend or colleague of Gamper; collectively inviting reflection upon the emotional bond between object and collector.




It is rare to find an exhibition where the display structures are of equal importance as the objects they showcase, but here the two elements are not only balanced, but also deeply visually harmonious, whether this is achieved through colour, symmetry or simply the way in which objects are arranged.



Some carry highly personal significance (“This piece was glazed by my 9 year old niece”)[1] while others were picked up while travelling (“Weaver bird’s nest, found on Reunion Island”).[2] All compel intrigue. Lava rocks and coral stones from locations as diverse as Greece, Iceland and Cuba loll about on Gamper’s ‘Booksnake Shelf’ (2002). Jason Evans’ wooden spoon collection is arranged diagonally across USM Haller Modular Furniture, and for BBPR’s Spazio shelf, Karl Fritsch simply selected a case iron bowl and a piece of ginger cast in silver, which he gifted to Gamper, who is a big fan of the spice.

[1] Fabien Cappello  [2] Troika


The cleverness of “Design Is a State of Mind” lies in its accessibility to all, regardless of their proximity – or lack thereof – to the world of interior and furniture design. Gamper has taken seemingly perfect shelving out of the pages of pristine furniture catalogues, placed it amidst mass-produced, familiar structures from the likes of IKEA, and had it filled with cobbled-together clusters of everyday objects, from the mundane to the precious, and each the holder of a secret history. 



In creating this intrigue of such a relatable nature, Gamper invites the viewer to rethink their own relationship with both the furniture and objects that surround them in our everyday lives - from the challenge of assembling a flat-pack frame to the satisfaction garnered from arranging one’s most treasured possessions on a simple plank shelf.



If design is a state of mind, the mood evoked by Gamper’s play on the beautiful, messy cobbled-togetherness of everyday life is one of visual harmony, curiosity, and ultimately a reflection on how we reflect fragments of ourselves in the objects we gather and choose to keep.

Post by Anna Ker, London.


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