Wall text placed before the mass of booths at the newly opened Collective Design Fair in New York bears a political message from the fair’s founder, Steven Learner. Professing a mission of diversity and adaptability for an enterprise started in 2013, Learner writes: “At a time when our values of multicultural acceptance and an inclusive society are being challenged every day, I welcome this opportunity to declare myself as a member of this wonderfully diverse and driven extended family and believe that we share these common beliefs.”
Inside, glass-blowers, table-makers, sculptors, jewelers, and architects show their wares in ways that share a deep devotion to design, whatever the rest of their beliefs may be. Featuring 28 galleries and 21 “special presentations,” Collective Design—running through May 7 at Skylight Clarkson Sq on the far western edge of SoHo—showcases designers from around the world in booths that serve as slices of interiors. Work ranges from the whimsical to the serious, the movable to the site-specific, the ethereality of blown decanters from New York gallery Glass Past to the weight of cubist brass-and-marble tables by Spanish siblings Juan and Paloma Garrido.
The site-specific pieces draw the most attention. At the fair’s entrance, The LAB at Rockwell Group, a New York design studio, has constructed a tinsel tunnel illuminated from below by lights that change from blue to green to red and back again, all arched over a cobalt carpet. Inside, Brook Landscape has fashioned a garden walkway lined with greenery, made with wood salvaged from Rockaway Beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The Noguchi Museum has collaborated with designer Robert Stadler on “Waiting Room,” a site-specific installation placing Noguchi’s famous Akari lamp above Stadler’s sofas. Stickbulb, a lighting brand, has brought Ambassador, a large standing semicircle lined with LEDs and placed on top of a mirror so that standing near it is like inhabiting a giant, lit-up hamster wheel. Nearly every corner of the fair is camera-ready—enough so that an exhibitor was overheard grumbling, “If it’s not Instagram-able, it’s no good.”
Chosen as this year’s “Collective Influence” (a living designer with considerable impact and lifetime achievement), the Swiss-born, Paris-based artist and designer Mattia Bonetti inhabits his own corner of the fair. The presentation includes cabinets, sofas, side tables, and other pieces of furniture, dominated by silver and orange hues. All of them are characterized by lightness and reflectivity. “Bonetti offers us sheer joy in object form,” reads a description. “We could all use a little more of that.”