Totem Gallery - the dialogue of design and art
Renderings by Karim Rashid
Increasingly, artists turn to design for its ability to be relevant; they see
the power it has to be meaningful and speak to the public. Designers and architects
- greats such as Koolhaas and Gehry included - likewise plug into the respected
realm of fine art, loosening further the already faltering dichotomy of art and
Exploring these trends, David Shearer, founder of Tribeca design mecca Totem
Design, has collaborated with Tricia Collins, founder of Tricia Collins Contemporary
Art, to establish Totem Gallery. Shearer will contribute his scholarship and
knowledge of contemporary furniture by important, young designers to make a unique
and expressive arena for form-givers. Collins will add her celebrated curatorial
skills in contemporary art. The gallery, at 83 Grand Street in Soho - scheduled
to open in October of this year - will be a vehicle through which the many-faceted
dialogue between design and art will be explored. With a full schedule of exhibitions
planned for the upcoming year, the gallery will feature a stable of emerging
and established designers and artists as the marriage of art and design is celebrated
in many mediums.
Karim Rashid, one of
America's most interesting and vendible young designers, has designed the
interior of Totem Gallery. Rashid has dubbed the method used for the space's
soft and sleek look for Orgonomics, referring to the blurring between
organic form and ergonomics, as well as describing a worldwide trend of
faster and softer Rashid is a frontrunner. Orgonomics is the next step
of Rashid's self-styled sensual minimalism, which has made him the recipient
of many awards, including the Daimler Chrysler 1999 Award, USA; the George
Nelson Award 1999; The Silver IDEA Award 1999 (Oh Chair); The Philadelphia
Museum of Art Collab Award 1999; and The Brooklyn Museum of Art Designer
of the Year 1998.
Design as Art
For years, design has wanted to be art, quoting every art source it
can think of, appealing to collectors and showing up in galleries and museums.
Now, a generation of artists working and exhibiting widely is investigating
design, from residential architecture to interior and furniture design
to home renovation.
Some design is becoming influential. This has not escaped the notice of the art
world as they observe the hybridization of interior decoration and fashion design
by magazines like Wallpaper and by advertisers like Calvin Klein and Gucci. And
with the ubiquity of graphic design in music videos and on the Internet, a younger
generation will crowd a party at the Gansevoort Gallery, which exhibits design,
as quickly as it will the Gagosian Gallery, which shows art. The high-rolling
collecting market for mid-century modern furniture has helped, too.
David Shearer believes that the emergence of Charles and Ray Eames - designers
and artists who have become new American folk heroes because of the recent exhibition
of their work - and the popularity of their chairs were responsible for much
of the acceptance of design among artists. You can make an aesthetic statement
with a chair as well as a painting. Good design has become something philosophic.
The Totem Gallery will place domestic fixtures in an unlikely context and embody
conceptual thinking in furniture. The idea is not new. Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades
early in the last century and the work of sculptors like Scott Burton - who produced
chairs in the 1970s - preempted it.
Living in a time with so much demographic and technological change that is directly
affecting domestic environments, artists, designers and architects alike are
aware that here is fundamental space - domestic space - the meaning of which
can't be taken for granted.
Shearer is the founder and president of Totem Design Group, totemdesign.com
and dgsn, an innovative design magazine. Born from a mission that is nothing
less than the aestheticization of daily life through education and promotion
of good design, Shearer has created a design institution that is known
In 1995, after establishing and managing a series of design institutions, the
idea for Totem came about, and a conversation that Shearer had with the late
Ray Eames provided the name. The Eames' traveled the world and collected objects
that Ray described as meaningful symbols of particular meaning or place, in essence
a Totem (The Objects That Evoke Meaning).
Shearer's larger objective is the general rebirth of American design as
a movement. With the halcyon days of mid-century American design a good
four decades behind
us, Shearer senses that a revitalization of American design is around the corner: "From
the '30s to the '50s, there was a true American design ideology, and now it's
about to explode on the world market again." Shearer explains: during that
period designers were multi-disiplinary, designing everything from toasters and
trains to buildings and furniture. Names like Norman Bel Geddes, Donald Deskey,
Ray and Charles Eames and Russel Wright not only put design on consumers tables
but made the designers household names as well. Once again we are experiencing
an excitement and desire for design on a level that is amazing.. the ability
to marry art and design much like we do in our own environments is an exciting
and timely proposition."
With a strong history of exhibitions, Totem has established itself as a
leader in exposing to the marketplace the best design from around the world.
ranging from G7, a group of seven American industrial design studios, to Design
UK, a group of twenty young British designers, David Shearer brings a curatorial
touch to the marketing of design. "Totem is about education.' says Shearer, " Our
mission involves making design accessible on many levels and the idea of presenting
a body of work by a young designer is very exciting to me." Paola Antonelli,
Design Curator at the MOMA describes Totem as "a catalsyt in the design
Relentlessly, over the past two decades, Collins has been on the cutting
edge of noting new trends, concepts, mediums, and subsequently recognizing
emerging talent within the New York art world. The New York Times has compared
Collin's work with Gertrude Stein's early 20th century activities.
In a recent Interview in zingmagazine, Collins stated that she is, "motivated
by curiosity and my own sense of how to create meaning, whether historical or
conceptual. The assumption I make is that anyone can participate in history."
"Design is the intersection of art and life," Collins says. "I
think that is a wonderful way to look at design. I am very pleased to be doing
this project with Totem."
The exhibitions Collins has curated have included artists from the canon of modern
art such as Picasso, Mondrian, Duchamp, Pollock, Warhol and O'Keefe, as well
as a diverse selection of contemporary artists such as Ross Bleckner, Peter Halley,
Meg Webster, Robert Gober, Vik Muniz, Jonathan Lasker, Annette Lemieux and Jeff