Cultured Magazine

Summer 2012

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Page 51 of 107

They Will Come Never one to follow the pack, Murray Moss sets up his new outpost, Moss Bureau, in the most unlikely of places. If You Build It, Next stop, the Garment District. BY LINDA O'KEEFFE Above, Murray Moss; at left, Moss Bureau. When Murray Moss gut renovated a SoHo gallery in 1994 the design world sat up and watched. The resulting pristine space, with its en- cased displays of iconic tableware, blurred the distinctions between indus- trial production and craft, function and art, and transformed shopping into a thought process. Moss and his partner, Franklin Getchell, recently closed the now legendary store and within a week opened Moss Bureau, a func- tional office and design think tank in a 10th-floor loft on 36th Street. Their new advisory service offers focused retail, supports, dis- plays artifacts and officially positions Moss as a hirable curator and con- sultant. With speaking engagements lined up at Yale and Parsons, he's also in negotiations with an auction house as well as an iconic French house- wares brand and is writing a column for Design Miami's new blog, Design Log. In addition, there's a book in the works and he's weighing up the logis- tics of mentoring design students. "At the end, our tightly edited mailing list was 16,000 strong," he says. "Now I would be happy with 10 clients." When Moss opened his namesake store, he carefully did so in an area that was dominated by art galleries. Selling objects amongst art was not a given. "Back then, it was cultish to talk about an object's narrative content," he says, "because designers were thinking in practical terms. A thing was a thing and its price related to its function, so when we opened the store I knew I would have to make a point to sell $100 drinking glasses." His re- ceptive audience intrinsically knew it was possible to sit on a chair and ap- preciate its sculptural qualities. They recognized an object's art content without needing to classify it as a work of art. 50 CULTURED Moss was soon described as a "design titan," and over the years his aesthetic was so scrutinized that in 2000 in a "Bob Dylan goes electric mo- ment" he actually received hate mail after exhibiting 18th-century Rococo porcelain alongside mid-20th century industrial plastic. Five years later at Design Miami's inaugural show, he articulated his clear mandate to an in- ternational audience and sold out an inventory that included works by Maarten Baas, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Tord Boontje, Patrick Jouin and Gaetano Pesce. When SoHo's rents skyrocketed, due in part to the store's rapid ascen- sion, gallerists began their slow exodus to Chelsea, and a number of Moss' vendors—including Kartell, Alessi and Ingo Maurer—filled the void by open- ing their own flagship stores. In doing so, they ironically rendered Moss, who supplied their impetus and nucleus, redundant. He characteristically took it in stride, but after the economy then tanked and the store coasted for a few years in the guise of a free museum, Moss decided to call things quits. "I'm comforted by the fact that we never got bad," he says. Moss' first curatorial event for Bureau will be in place during the Inter- national Contemporary Furniture Fair and features installations and a per- formance by two accomplished women, Cathy McClure and Kelly McCallum. Artist and metalsmith McClure creates two zoetropic installations, The Wheel and Spinning Jenny, which can be likened to illusional carnival rides, while McCallum presents Victorian taxidermy alongside contemporary works by FormaFantasma, Julia Kunin and Johannes Nagel. Appropriately, all the pieces deal with death and rebirth.

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