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Main / 2003 / 2002 / 2001 / 2000 / 1999 / 1998
The 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 design.

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.

David Shearer
Shearer is the founder and president of Totem Design Group, 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 worldwide.

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. With shows 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 community".

Tricia Collins
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 Koons.
Copyright © 2008 David Shearer   
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