September 16, 2015
Decorex 2015: LIBBY SELLERS ON THE FUTURE OF LUXURY
Preparing the Decorex 2015, the trade show team has invested some time interviewn some of the most important and iconic figures in design scene in UK. One of the iconic persons is Libby Sellers. Today, BRABBU’s blog is sharing with you Libby Sellers interview to Decorex 2015 on the “Future of Luxury”.
Since 2007, Gallery Libby Sellers supported the development of conceptual and critical design by commissioning and selling works through pop-up exhibitions, a permanent gallery and presentations at international collector’s fairs. Add to this Libby’s invaluable previous experience as Curator of the Design Museum, and it becomes fairly obvious that she is a fountain of design knowledge.
RELATED HISTORY: DECOREX 2015 – THE COMPLETE SEMINAR PROGRAMME
1. Can you tell us a little about your role and your involvement with the design market?
LB: As founder and director of a gallery that specialised in limited edition design pieces I was able to support and commission designers who chose to work outside of mainstream manufacture, hand crafting and developing small scale editions and bespoke objects. In supporting the development of this side of the design industry, we helped establish the role of design as a cultural conduit and placed all of the designers we represented in both museum and private collections. Now – as a consultant to private collectors and commissioning editor of conceptually led design I can fine-tune my many years of working in the industry to the exacting requirements of my clients.
2. How did you first become involved with the world of luxury design?
LB: My MA Degree in Design History from the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum led to a number of freelance curatorial positions. Within three years of graduating, I was offered the position as curator of the Design Museum in London. Exhibitions I curated during this period included the first UK retrospectives of Marc Newson and Peter Saville, and a celebration of the life and work of both Eileen Grey and Constance Spry. I also oversaw the annual Design Mart exhibition – a showcase of young UK based design talent presented during London’s Design Festival.
3. Is this how the Gallery came to be?
LB: Design Mart was the trigger for the gallery – the desire to create a platform for designers who chose to work outside of mainstream industry and wanted to tell stories through their works. Over the 8 years running the gallery I helped launch and establish a number of emerging designers, including Studio Formafantasma, Anton Alvarez, Peter Marigold and Nicolas le Moigne. By commissioning works directly from these designers and exhibiting these in the commercial gallery and at international art fairs, I was able to help build their portfolio of works, clients and industry contacts. However, this has all recently changed again as I have shifted the focus of my work to embrace exhibition curation, writing, client consultancy and designer representation.
4. Can you tell us a little about your involvement with Decorex this year?
LB: As one of the four Decorex Patrons, I will be hosting a talk with designer Bill Amberg and curator of contemporary furniture at the V&A, Jana Scholze, as part of this year’s seminar programme. The discussion will focus on the importance of time in the creation of the concept of luxury.
5. How do you think the concepts of time and luxury will change in the future?
LB: Ultimately, for me, time has always been and will continue to be at the epicentre of luxury – either time-honoured, time-intensive or the added value time (history) brings to an item. However the less tangible and more digital our world becomes, the more non-things like time and space become valuable to us. Interestingly, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Crafts Council have recently raised this question about the changing notions of luxury through their exhibition ‘What is Luxury?’. Their exhibition acknowledges the long history of controversy surrounding the concept of luxury and how contemporary social and political influences have always challenged perceptions of what luxury is.
6. What can the V&A exhibition tell us about the future of luxury?
LB: If, as the exhibition proposes, attitudes to luxury are shaped by cultural concerns and personal dreams – then perceptions of luxury will change in line with the culture in which they are formed and through the people who form them. It will be constantly in flux and varied from culture to culture.
7. Which products or designers have recently inspired you to think about the future of luxury?
LB: The Italian-born, Amsterdam based design studio Formafantasma recently completed a project that focussed on the culture of lava in the Mount Etna and Stromboli regions of Sicily, two of the last active volcanoes in Europe. Historically craftsmen would mould molten lava erupting from small craters into celebrated and elaborate forms. This time-honoured craft has effectively been rendered worthless as now only inexpensive souvenirs are produced. Formafantasma created a wide-ranging series of vessels, furniture, objects and textiles – all using lava – that celebrated both the ancient materials, the history of craftsmanship and the patience required in producing works from such natural sources.
8. Is the meaning of Luxury related directly perceptions of expense?
LB: An important thing to keep in mind is that discussions about the meaning of luxury are not the same as discussions about the ‘luxury market’. The latter essentially focuses on the leading corporate fashion brands, while the former is a discussion of personal taste and cultural signifiers. These do not have to relate directly to cost, however as time is an increasingly rare and valued commodity – then yes, the idea of time as luxury is abstractly related to cost.