The Serpentine Gallery has recently opened a new exhibition called Design is a State of Mind in its Sackler Galleries. This has been curated by the designer Martino Gamper, who has chosen some beautiful pieces of furniture created in the last 80 years, from the 1930s right up to the present day.
The pieces speak for themselves, they are all sets of shelves. But not Ikea’s Billy Bookcase, the staple of tens of millions of cheap rented flats. These are Shelves.
Martino Gamper is an Italian designer who lives in London and is a tutor at the Royal College of Art. His first exhibition in London was in 2007 and was entitled 100 Chairs in 100 Days. Unsurprisingly it was an exhibition of 100 chairs… and it brought him international fame. So now he’s raided his friends’ houses, and come up with twenty six sets of shelving
Some of it is extremely functional, industrial shelving. Some is irritatingly impractical, some whimsical, and some extremely practical. The exhibition includes nearly 300 catalogued objects sitting on the shelves, chosen largely to be whimsical.
Some is surely not designed to be used – indeed, that the shelves are bare suggests this to be the case. And some is barely worthy of the title ‘shelving’ – for all that ironically its practicality was proved by being used for the exhibition guides, and was popular with the tourists as a gateway. Finally there is a large collection of furniture manufacturing catalogues that you are welcome to browse, scattered across the table. One couldn’t help but feel that shelving would have been rather useful here…