Greenwich Scene Time
Each year the London Design Festival (LDF) seems to grow in scope and aspiration. Now in its ninth year, 2011’s fest featured presentations by 280 designers and their partners and almost three hundred events about work covering twenty-five design disciplines. As well, the LDF boasted twelve commissioned design projects installed at museums and venues all over Britain’s capital. If the artistic side of your right brain is boggled by all those digits, also consider that the festival ran for only nine days, from September 17 to 25. Even the most die-hard design enthusiast needed to make hard choices on what to see.
A must stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum. The festival’s leading venue featured special exhibitions and lectures for the third year running, and was indeed the main spot to meet and pick up information. The V&A’s cynosure this year was its seminal exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990, showcasing the masters of art and design from an era that defied definition and opened the gates to the freedom designers at LDF can now enjoy.
London streets and galleries were studded with interactive interventions and installations, from the usually off-limits South West tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral—where architect and designer John Pawson placed a work called “Perspectives”—to a show of handcrafted furniture, lighting, and textiles at the Old Truman Brewery in East London.
From this wealth of offerings, we picked three rising British design stars to profile.
Phillips de Pury and Company presented the work of newcomer Faye Toogood at its Brook Street space in the hotel Claridge’s. Delicate Interference: Assemblage 3, as the exhibition was named, showcased Toogood’s third collection of furniture and sculptural pieces—her most ambitious work to date. Her designs represent a deep understanding of a broad array of artistic and design movements, from the work of Italian design masters from the 1930s through the 1970s, such as architects Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass, to the minimalist sculpture created by British artist Barbara Hepworth.
Toogood’s inspirations span all forms of design and her work is rife with historical references. A cage-like metal dressing table with toggled mirrors recalls Shiro Kuramata’s steel mesh “How High the Moon” seating pieces. A patinated bronze version of the “Spade” chair from Toogood’s first furniture collection has a minimalist purity that would please a Richard Serra or Donald Judd.
One doesn’t see Faye Toogood’s work as much as experience it. Much of her output is not functional, and she says that “there’s not always a rhyme or reason or sense to my pieces.” The boundaries between art and design are not a topic that is of concern to Toogood, though. Her work, she says, all comes “out of pure self-expression.”