Art and design have been companions for centuries. In the case of furniture and product designer Alexander Lervik, art has been a constant influence since childhood, as both his mother and stepfather are successful sculptors with oeuvres that include many public commissions. His breakthrough came with a widely praised graduation show at Beckmans in 1998, where he chose to interpret the design history of the 20th century by making one object representing each decade. The show was so popular that it toured the world for six years. The ten objects were all creative interpretations of furniture classics and design idioms, tracing the way design history is interwoven through the materials, architecture, and artworks of the respective periods. The art world has continued to inspire Lervik’s thinking and influence his career. In this exhibit, art takes the center stage as Lervik confronts it with its own design.
The love story between art and design, then, goes far back. It was not until the 16th century that schools in Florence began separating the two practices, which had up until then been considered one and the same. In our 21st century, boundaries are becoming increasingly porous once again. Today, it is common to see designers exhibited at contemporary art museum, like Marc Newson who is represented by Gagosian, while artists like Olafur Eliasson run studios that focus equally on art and design and architecture practices. New digital tools have only recently come into widespread use in both fields. A new time has just begun – or is what we see the repetition of historic cycles?
The exhibition Imaginations is in part Lervik’s attempt to capture this contemporary tendency, but even more so it is a manifestation of art’s proximity to his own work. For the past couple of years he has explored the power of photography (in a group show featuring, among others, Martin Parr, Mary Ellen Mark, and Annika von Hausswolff interpreting Lervik’s chairs); music (where Swedish pop star Eva Dahlgren interpreted his glass sculptures in sound and melody); and fashion (where he collaborated with fashion
brand V Ave Shoe Repair to create the first ever European 3D printed jewelry collection). Now, he has turned to the art world proper, which thanks to his childhood formation has been a potent source of inspiration throughout his career. Today, contemporary art might be more important than ever. In the midst of the constant background noise of information and opinions, art remains that which encourages us to take a step back to question and think. In unsettled, secularized times, its refusal of functionalism has gained an even more powerful dimension as an arena for the big questions. The exhibit Imaginations builds on the encounter between art and design, as viewed from the mind of Alexander Lervik.