When you have spent a hard morning putting up some shelving, or if you have just spent the day re-arranging books, ornaments and nicknacks into some kind of order, then you could be forgiven for standing back and admiring your work. Displaying collections, treasured objects or photographs of loved ones really makes your house feel like a home and could even be said to be something of an art form. At the very least it deserves tea, cake and an hour with your feet up. Although, it may also be a worthy subject for a major art exhibition.
That is certainly an emotion that Italian designer and artist Mario Gamper would concur with, especially as his most recent London show looks at that very subject. Utilising a selection of shelving from Ikea, Ercol and Gio Ponti, Gamper’s show at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens is a celebration of the art of home display and what it says about us.
With his use of shelving that ranges from the affordably mundane to outrageously expensive designer-made pieces, the designer has made his Design Is a State of Mind show into something that is at once very ordinary and extraordinary. The shelving is beautifully laid out and you know you are in a gallery space, but at the same time the work is not that far removed from what you might do at home. Gamper’s work is about how we interact with our possessions, how we display them and about how that is about personal style and taste. To this end, Gamper has chosen to show pieces of collections belonging to himself and others on the shelving.
“There is no perfect design and there is no über-design,” says Gamper. “Objects talk to us personally. Some might be more functional than others, and the emotional attachment is very individual.”
You may even get some ideas for your own shelving from the show, although it is not actually meant to be a shelving showroom. However, the show is sponsored by Italian department store, la Rinascente, so there is definitely an element of browsing built in. Some of the design classics on show will definitely inspire some to search out originals in antique shops or at least look for something that is a close imitation, with Charlotte Perriand’s 1952 Bibliothèque shelving being one of the most desirable retro pieces on show.
Gamper has form when it comes to working with everyday objects, with his 100 Chairs in 100 Days show in 2007 seeing him collection and repurposing unwanted and dumped chairs. He has also made ‘furniture while you wait’ and undertaken projects about public benches.
Showing alongside Gamper’s work is Heim Steinbach’s Once Again the World Is Flat, which also looks at ideas of domestic display, showcasing the artist’s work and collected objects on a variety of custom-made shelves.
Design Is a State of Mind is on in London until 21 April. See Serpentine Galleries for more details.
Feeling inspired to makeover your home’s decor? Get expert advice from one of our qualified and approved painters and decorators to give your home a new and artistic lease of life.