A talk with Jack Hinton
“Circus: Bouroullec Designs” has been inaugurated on November 20th at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What’s the main concept of the exhibition and how did the collaboration with the designers develop?
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a design affinity group called Collab, which has supported the museum’s efforts to exhibit and collect contemporary design for over 50 years. Collab presents an annual prize, the Design Excellence Award, to a professional whose impact on the field is inspirational: in 2021, we honor Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. The designers were pleased to accept and they’ve been fantastic partners. Also very patient, because we needed to slightly delay the exhibition during the museum expansion, and then we postponed it further because of the pandemic.
What does the name of the exhibition refear to?
The term “Circus” refers to Ronan and Erwan Bouroullecs’ creative spirit and playful sense of design. I consider it a metaphor for the magical experience of the circus and the roles of their works as performers within. It is a joyful exhibition, a look back over the past ten years or so of their work, that allows us to find some optimism after some hard times.
What kind of experience did you aim to create for the visitors?
Studio Bouroullec produced the scenography for the exhibition in collaboration with the museum, we have developed an immersive experience for our visitors. I admire the generosity of spirit and thought behind Roana and Erwan’s work, how they offer the public an interaction with the environment as well as a pleasurable experience of the space.
The term “Circus” refers to Ronan and Erwan Bouroullecs’ creative spirit and playful sense of design.
Mutina provided ceramic modules from the collections designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, which have been used for the installation. How do they dialogue with the exhibition space and the displayed pieces?
The exhibition invites to explore Studio Bouroullec’s designs across genres: there are juxtapositions between object type and media throughout, they are visually striking and rewarding from a didactic point of view. For example, we have a pedestal for a lamp fashioned from the Bloc glazed terracotta bricks, topped with a single, textured Pico tile. In another area, a vertical wall piece created with Rombini Triangle is presented with the Rope chair by Artek and AIM lamps by Flos – for me, the intense green of the module evokes a landscape or even a jungle behind the supple, organic forms of the furniture and lighting system, that resemble tangled vines.
The show features multiple visual and artistic codes, such as interior design, architecture and installation. How does ceramics fit into all these languages?
Ronan and Erwan are focused on materials and the means of manufacturing their designs, on the fundamental importance of colour and texture and their effect on the user. For example, Pico has a matte texture that emphasizes the earthy constituents of ceramic, enlivened by coloured raised or sunken dots: it’s the perfect expression of the Bouroullec’s language.
How would you describe the relationship between art and design nowadays? Do you think that they communicate and nurture each other, otherwise they are very distinct practices?
Interconnections between the two are critical, but Ronan and Erwan achieved this synthesis. In the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we bring together these creative worlds in every gallery, so it feels very natural to consider this as an ongoing, friendly conversation between the two.
When did you have your first contact with Mutina? What impressed you the most about the company?
We worked with Mutina also when we celebrated Patricia Urquiola, with our Design Excellence Award. Back then we featured Déchirer, so we were already aware of the company as an important manufacturer and partner for contemporary design.
What’s your favourite Mutina collection? Why?
As I love tiles and ceramics, I don’t think I could pick a single one! Mutina demonstrates how this material can be a fertile field of exploration for contemporary art and design, and I enjoy making interesting connections through ceramic as a medium across time and space.
Among all the works displayed for “Circus: Bouroullec Designs”, do you have a favourite piece? Why do you feel particularly drawn to it?
The exhibition features a section of architectural models, maquettes of the designers’ recent projects in Paris. They’re presented with a video that shows the finished installation, revealing an aspect of the creative process that you don’t often see. The development of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullecs’ architecture projects is fascinating to me, especially in relation to the interaction between nature and the city, which makes it – in their words – a place of enchantment.
I admire the generosity of spirit and thought behind Roana and Erwan’s work, how they offer the public an interaction with the environment as well as a pleasurable experience of the space.