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Collectible Design. Ukraine. Fantasy


You can collect anything, everything, which you’re keen on. If you listen to yourself, then, probably, each of us could find our collectibles. I listened to myself and realized that I wanted to collect a design, but not an industrial design, but the one related to the design-art. I love collection design items and really want to have my collection. And I also hope that Ukrainian authorship items may appear in my collection. Dreaming about it. Even not so: I would like, that these items became a highlight of my collection. After all, there is, for example, modern art in Ukraine, there are world famous creators, whose works are bought by museums around the world. Sotheby’s and Phillips auction houses successfully sell Ukrainian contemporary art. Many works of Ukrainian authors are in private collections of art collectors in different countries of the world, including Ukrainian collectors. And what about collection design? Yes, nothing. Nothing.

All over the world, contemporary art and collection design have long ago entered into a tacit competition – the struggle is for attention, for collectors’ wallets, for status and prestige. Collection design items, original and unusual, limited edition, conquer new territories, which previously belonged only to art. This is because the collection design has long been on par with art for its artistic qualities. And we have nothing. Why? Is my dream a fruitless fantasy? Let’s try to figure it out. But first, a bit of history.

Ancestor of the collection design is considered the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The School of Art in Glasgow, founded by him in 1897, became a place of convergence of the craftsmanship of cabinet makers creativity of designers and decorators. In 1903, Josef Hoffmann, the trendsetter of fashion and taste in prewar Europe, came on the stage of collection design. “Vienna workshops” together with Hoffmann produced unique pieces of furniture and utensils that have equally unique prices for them. “If we can’t work for everyone, let’s work for those who can afford it,” Hoffmann stated the task of the workshop. In 1915, under the influence of Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, color and pattern became integral parts of the modern design, a breakthrough in which Bauhaus stars carry out.

Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, Alvar Aalto, Carlo Mollino, Joe Colombo designed furniture with the use of relevant materials, namely metal, artificial marble, chipboard, leather and imitation leather. The ideas did not always coincide with the capabilities of the then industry, for example, Carlo Mollino brought the technology of bending plywood to the level of art, each time producing pieces of furniture in a single copy, the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto experimented with pressed chipboard. World War II stopped all creative processes.

After the war, the industry, and design along with it, reached a new qualitative level. Industrial design began to actively develop and strengthen its position. It even seemed at one time that there would be no return to the collection design. But… Industrial design was often inferior to the collectible one in the brightness of creative solutions, and, since 1970, the active process of the emergence of collectible design items started against the background of the already developed industrial design.

In fact, there are two stages in the development of collection design. The first one was characterized by a combination of craftsmanship and designer ideas — a stage that preceded the development of the industrial design. The second stage is characterized by the designers’ desire for greater creative freedom and independence from industrial technologies and large financial investments – the stage of post-industrial design.

What is characteristic of collection design today? These are items that can serve their intended purpose, but at the same time, carry a great artistic and cultural burden. Freed from the need to think about the industrial release of their products, designers began to use a new full creative freedom approach in their work. Ron Arad, Tom Dixon, Maarten Baas abandoned mass production in favor of products created in one copy or limited edition.

For individual work, materials are often cheaper than if they were produced industrially. Self-expressing, the designer is deprived of the obligation to make an item that will have a competitive price, sell massively well and be comfortable for everyone. Creating a collection design item is a kind of professional challenge. Collection design today is a return to art and craft, as well as a synthesis of manual labor and modern technology. The names of designers working in the areas of industrial and collectible design, rarely coincide – different approaches to the “making”.

Who is the buyer and customer of the collection design and in what circulation do they produce items? Customers and ideological inspirers are gallery owners who sell collection design. Buyers are collectors of art and design and just wealthy people who want to have non-standard items in their interior. The circulation of such objects is from one to 12, not more. There is also a special order practice for a specific space.

Here, perhaps, all that we need to know at the moment about the collection design, in order to understand how soon it can appear in Ukraine. So, what we have and what we do not have. There are designers with excellent cultural and artistic base, who, by the way, are much closer to the collection “making” than to the industrial one (well, we don’t have an industrial design!). There are quite good craft workshops where people know a lot about working with wood and metal (Attention! I don’t write that this is a typical phenomenon for Ukraine, but we do have some workshops). There are galleries selling contemporary art and trying to exhibit design objects lately. There are collectors of modern art, and a few of them, as far as I know, even try to buy objects of collection design from the first pre-industrial period. There are special orders for special items in the interior, which, however, applies mainly to public interiors. There is much. So what’s the problem?

The very small market for such items. There are no professional gallery owners in the field of design, who could be the inspiration for the creation of Ukrainian collections. There is no professional environment for collection design – it can neither be seen nor bought anywhere in Ukraine.

In general, if we strengthen the chain “designer – professional gallery owner – collector” in all its links, then the matter can get off the ground. What about the price? Well, it may not be so expensive in Ukraine. And then, I suggest recall the quote by Joseph Hoffmann once again and focus on those who can afford it. Another thing is the promotion of Ukrainian collection design in Western markets. But this is a topic for another article.

Well, maybe I’m not such a fantasist.

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