As is becoming traditional the interregional initiative Belgium is Design used Milan Design Week to present a showcase of contemporary Belgian design talent. However, in a break with the tenderfoot tradition the 2015 exhibition didn’t take place in the reserved grandeur of the Triennale di Milano design museum but in the decadent marble festooned grandeur of the Sala Napoleonica of the Accademia di Brera; a venue whose almost stereotypical sumptuousness presented the perfect contrast to the reduced, serene, personal character of the objects on display. And which thus allowed one to concentrate on the objects
Staged under the title Confronting the Masters the exhibition presented the past ten winners of the Belgian Designer of the Year Award and thus featured works by designers as varied as, for example, Bram Boo, Muller Van Severen or Alain Berteau, the award’s first recipient and a designer who was represented by his ever genial Night Club lounger.
And therein lay, indirectly, the main problem with the exhibition: each designer was represented by just one object. Consequently, although Confronting the Masters presented objects which demonstrated a delightful mix of design philosophies and approaches, the viewer had absolutely no opportunity to form any sort of realistic opinion on the featured designers’ canons and so the justification for honouring them with the award and by extrapolation the value of the award.
That said the dramatic location, the high quality objects that were on show and the Milan sun made for a very entertaining and distracting showcase, and one that if visitors were to take it as incentive to do some more research on their own, to delve deeper into the featured designers’ portfolios, did and would underscore why Belgium is currently so interesting in terms of furniture design.
A few impressions.