Cultured Magazine

Fall 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 189 of 215

Sebastian Errazuriz isn't one to mince words—just ask his gallerist. "At our first meeting, he told me, 'You will fall in love with me.' I said, 'Ok, prove it,'" recalls Cristina Grajales, the SoHo-based dealer that represents Errazuriz. Since that 2007 encounter, the polymath designer has cast his charm over both the design and art worlds. He now has a second dealer for his art practice, a reputation for provocative wit and exacting craftsmanship and a three-part retrospective—including his first museum show—that highlights his knack for pushing the boundaries of cultural classification and propriety. "Look Again," Errazuriz's largest exhibition to date, hones in on his functional sculptures and furniture to reveal a broad expertise and a perverse, poetic humor. Shown by his respective dealers, Cristina Grajales Gallery and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn's Salon 94 in New York, and at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the retrospective suggests that with Errazuriz, there's often more than meets the eye. "The whole point of my work is its scope," he says. His New York studio, lined with some of the exhibition's highlights, offers ample proof. A coffin-shaped boat stands in one room alongside a customized motorcycle and a mirror-top desk; there's also a wood workshop staffed by expert carpenters who build the designer's elaborate cabinets. The main room overflows with drawings, clothing samples, chairs and found objects used as ready-mades. Errazuriz gleefully defies the prevalent orthodoxy that delineates art and design as separate disciplines. "That distinction is currently fabricated," he says. "It happened a long time ago, but our culture still dictates that one has to be design and the other has to be art." Refusing to limit himself to one or the other, Errazuriz aspires to become iconic without being repetitive: "Artists today simplify their work to be recognizable brands—so that you know it's a Hirst spot painting and how much it's worth. But mine is an investigative practice." He sees critical inquiry into a variety of social concerns as the goal of his multivalent creativity. "I'm not just interested in myself and my own Freudian childhood," he says. "I'm interested in myself within a society where I think a lot of things are not working." The high expectations for his creative practice come with the Errazuriz name: "Three former presidents and a couple archbishops in Chile also have it," he says. Born into a prominent Santiago family in 1977, Errazuriz grew up in London but returned to his native soil for college. In part because Juan Sebastian Errazuriz was named after a deceased uncle—and Johann Sebastian Bach—he developed a fascination with death that still dominates his creative practice. The son of an art professor, Errazuriz chose to study design when he matriculated at the capital's Universidad Católica because, he says, "I thought I already knew about art." He stayed in Chile after graduation, hosting a popular radio show, developing his design practice and blooming into a national celebrity. "But I got bored," he explains, "So I moved to New York in 2006, where nobody knew me, to do an MFA." He approached Grajales a year before finishing NYU with a Polaroid of his Piano shelf. Impressed with his attitude, she gave Errazuriz the main wall of her booth at Design Miami/Basel in 2007. "It was a risk," she admits, but the shelf, built of modular wooden slats akin to piano keys, sold immediately and garnered critical acclaim. But Errazuriz wasn't satisfied to show only at the design fair. In 2013, his work was on view at Salon 94's Art Basel Miami Beach booth and a Melissa shoes pop-up shop. His "12 Shoes for 12 Lovers," a dozen 3-D-printed heels, graced nearly every art, design and fashion publication. Putting mini-sculptures inspired by his former flames on each shoe, "Sebastian took it a step further with the narratives," explains Charles Gepp, president of the shoe company. Errazuriz's genre-bending proclivities are no less spectacular in "Look Again," even if the market hasn't yet adjusted to them. He has separate dealers for each discipline, yet his artworks bear the functionality of design, and his design the critical aesthetics of art. At Grajales' gallery, his 2013 cabinet, The Space Between the Void—its classic walnut surfaces open to reveal a kaleidoscopic interior of beveled, mirrored glass—surprises visitors by contrasting interior and exterior, but also by imploring them to kneel at its unassuming porthole, peer inside, and imagine fantastical worlds within. At Salon 94's uptown art space, a classical marble sculpture surrounded by architectural-style scaffolding doubles as shelving—more art than design, but still party to both. Meanwhile, the Carnegie Museum's Hall of Architecture contains Boat Coffin, a motorboat shaped like a coffin—for the "final journey"—and political pieces like the 2011 Occupy chairs, wooden chairs covered with the movement's slogans that fold from protest signs. Fusing genres emphasizes the wit, wisdom and craftsmanship of view. "Da Vinci was technically skilled and a great investigator—through drawings and 10 other disciplines at once. I'm not trying to make a comparison," he says, but he can't resist drawing an analogy to his own multiform practice and retrospective. "Will all my areas of exploration be equally good? I follow the best example and try to go all the way." He's hopeful, and "Look Again" suggests that there will be reason to do a double take at Errazuriz, again and again. A detail from his studio including relics from earlier works. 188 CULTURED

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cultured Magazine - Fall 2014