Highlights from Melbourne Design Week

By Penny Craswell

This year’s Melbourne Design Week centred on the topic “design values”, covering furniture, objects, installations, publishing and architecture. Apart from the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), the other key venue for exhibitions and events was Watchmakers, a temporary exhibition space in Collingwood donated by the owner of Piccolina Gelateria, who will be building their kitchen and gelateria in the space following the event. Folk Architects was responsible for its transformation, stripping back the space to its original patina and applying subtle use of mirrored Laminex to provide an ideal site for the experimental exhibitions within. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s event.

1. 26 Original Fakes

This exhibition at the Watchmakers venue by young designer/curators Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan of Friends & Associates challenged 26 designers to modify a fake Jasper Morrison Hal chair as a statement on Australia’s replica industry. The resulting show explored a huge range of issues, from authenticity, to ethics, to material concerns, with a dose of humour thrown in. I was very pleased to write the accompanying exhibition text myself – see my separate post. More on 26 Original Fakes.

Tom Skeehan (left) and Dale Hardiman (right), curators of 26 Original Fakes at Watchmakers, part of Melbourne Design Week. Image: supplied
Exhibition view of 26 Original Fakes. Photo: Wayne Taylor


2. Trent Jansen’s Broached Monsters

Sydney designer Trent Jansen’s imaginative, narrative approach to this new series of Broached design art pieces focuses on two mythical creatures: the Hairy Wild Man of Botany Bay, a colonial invention, and the Pankalangu, a creature from Aboriginal legend that is invisible except in the rain when the droplets reveal its shape. This fantastical work is the produce of years of research and painstaking construction and finishing. More on Broached Monsters.

The Hairy Wild Man of Botany Bay chandelier by Trent Jansen for Broached Monsters. Image: supplied
Pankalangu wardrobe by Trent Jansen for Broached Monsters. Image: supplied


3. Creating the Contemporary Chair

This exhibition, while exploring one of the more ubiquitous aspects of design (chairs), actually presented the opportunity to buy a significant number of important Australian design pieces for the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection, and for this alone it should be commended. The works ranged in place of origin, function and aesthetics wildly, showing the diversity with which designers have approached the chair over its history. More on Creating the Contemporary Chair.

4. NGV Architecture Commission

The second architecture commission by the NGV is “Haven’t you always wanted…?”, a piece by Melbourne-based M@ STUDIO Architects that brings to life every childhood fantasy of entering the car wash, realised in startling pink and red. Playful, broad in its appeal and great for kids, this work brings architecture to life. More on NGV Architecture Commission.

The 2016 NGV Architecture Commission “Haven’t you always wanted…?” by M@STUDIO Architects. Photo: Peter Bennetts


5. The Melbourne Art Book Fair

Any fears that the publishing industry is dead are quashed with this buzzing scene, with publishers and distributors from Australia and all around the world selling up a storm in the NGV. A full program of events on the state of books, magazines and self-publishing ventures accompanied the fair. More on Melbourne Art Book Fair.

6. Undervalued

Curated by designer Nick Rennie, this exhibition asked well-known designers and design commentators in Australia to nominate their favourite object under $2 to highlight those everyday items that we often overlook. Nominations include a pencil (Emma Elizabeth), a wing nut (Adam Cornish), a peg (Adam Goodrum) and a cupcake wrapper (Helen Kontouris). Fantastic to see everyday design being celebrated in such a way. More on Undervalued.

Nick Rennie surveys the object in “Undervalued” at Watchmakers. Photo: Wayne Taylor


7. Man About the House

Combining comedy, music and reflections on architecture and design, Man About the House was performed by Tim “Rosso” Ross, who recently presented the ABC TV show on architecture Streets of Your Town, and musician Kit Warhurst, his long time best mate and all round good bloke. Performances at two different sites as part of Melbourne Design Week were just part of this show’s ongoing exploration of architecture around the world, having played around Australia and also in London, Palm Springs and more. More on Man About the House.

8. Watchmakers

There were a raft of smaller exhibitions at Watchmakers, including a fascinating photographic exploration of the ovoid by Nick Horan, a mechanised installation forming a sea of blue that moved according to an algorithm and an exhibition “The Found Object” by Hub Furniture that explored the beauty of design objects past.

Ovoid by Nick Horan at Watchmakers as part of Melbourne Design Week. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Gelato thanks to Piccolina Gelateria at Watchmakers as part of Melbourne Design Week. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Apparatus 4 by 227768c at Watchmakers as part of Melbourne Design Week. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Part of The Found Object by Hub Furniture at Watchmakers as part of Melbourne Design Week. Photo: Wayne Taylor

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