“You can have two ways of looking at traditions: on one hand, they are an act passed down generations, giving us a sense of place and belonging [and] on the other hand, tradition is usually contrasted with the goal of modernity. The collection I created for Adorno is meant to reunite the two…”
– William Bagnoli, collection curator
Diverse backgrounds, lived experiences, and understandings of contemporary design characterise the German design scene today. Emerging designers are reapproaching commonly held visions of “German design” and moulding these into personally and temporarily relevant practices. Specifically, as a design centre, Berlin has developed its own identity within this scene, creating an experimental and inspiring space for local and non-local designers alike. Individually and collaboratively, the pieces produced speak to this current moment, this multitude of identities, and this new narrative of collectable design. With the current pandemic and continuing uncertainty, new methods of reaching out to designers and developing curated collections are sought after. In the case of this collection, social media and the digital world have played an important factor for design strategist and collection curator William Bagnoli.
“This collection, discovered via social media and brought together digitally on ADORNO, is a selection of emerging creators whose undefined identity is part of their statement. Transience plays a role in their make-up; they step beyond their borders to create collaboration, crossing paths with the stories of other makers and artists resulting in new works, new narratives, and temporary collectives.” – William Bagnoli, Collection Curator
As a collection, NEW TRADITIONS explores the uncomfortable, odd, and peculiar side of contemporary German design. It encourages audiences to reconsider their understanding of such an influential design scene and encounter the diverse, experimental, and undefinable contemporary collectible design scene of today. From unique lighting, to conceptual installations, to innovative imaginings of recognisable forms, this collection spans a variety of disciplines, materials, and interpretations and includes a selection of work from Analog Glass Project, Andreas Berlin, As A Ceremony, BASIS RHO, Craig Barrow, Kreadiano Objects, Nazara Lazaro, Opt Studios, rlon, Sanghyeok Lee, Sophie Rowley, Studio Jephrim, Studio Kuhlmann, Tina Roeder, and VAUST Studio.
Interview with collection curator William Bagnoli:
Which three words would you use to describe the contemporary German design scene?
Why should I be limited to three? Germany has a long established history of autochthonous furniture and product design that still resembles quality, tradition, and innovation. These three words are the ones that people expect from German design, but I want to uncover the contemporary scene and processes that are conceptual, critical, and experimental, some qualities that [have not yet made it] into the mindset of the general public. Design has much more to offer than furniture and products and it is a much more complex process.
Top: Andreas Berlin, “American Dream” Side Table / Middle: Studio Jephrim, “petite” lamp (left) & “sole” lamp (right) / Bottom: Craig Barrow, “A Shallow and Salty Ocean” Shot Cups in White/Nebular Glaze
What approach have you taken for the curation of “NEW TRADITIONS”?
The idea of working on a new curated collection for Adorno came during the pandemic of COVID-19. Europe was in lockdown and the design world was coming up with different solutions to cope with the upcoming crisis, I [had] been observing this “process” from my phone and through the screen of my laptop. While society is already spending a great deal of time and attention in the digital world, during lockdown, suddenly everything, the whole world, moved online. [Also,] with my planned physical exhibitions being paused, it made sense to create a digital one even more than before.
Many of our traditional ways of living and behaving we saw as damaging in the last months – even the way we greet each other by shaking hands, hugging, kissing, we needed to stop. As in the world of design we saw, what we [have known for] years, that the way we keep producing is destroying our home. While humankind stood still, earth was thriving. The images of clean waters, the view of mountain chains, wildlife reappearing, we can not un-see anymore. And while we started to greet each other with our elbows and feet, I was on the search [for] changing traditions within the field of design.
You can have two ways of looking at traditions: on one hand, they are an act passed down generations, giving us a sense of place and belonging [and] on the other hand, tradition is usually contrasted with the goal of modernity. The collection I created for Adorno is meant to reunite the two: “tradition”, as in the return of, [for example], handmade objects and craftsmanship, and “the new”, to cut with old, harmful ways and implement new behaviour-patterns and routines.
“…through social media, designers can find their own public and customers and curators like me have in front of them a fertile and rich ground of unique styles and ideas.”
Can you describe what led you to use social media in the creation of “NEW TRADITIONS”? How does this differ from how you have previously curated collections?
I [have always collected] images of objects, projects, or simply what catches my attention while scrolling down my Instagram feeds or surfing the internet. I do that to keep something or someone in mind, to freeze a moment that caught my attention or triggered my inspiration and to be able to find it again the moment I need it. I used to do the same with magazines cutouts. But behind magazines, there was always a system that let you discover only a handful of designers. They were concentrating on a few big names and brands, while through social media, designers can find their own public and customers and curators like me have in front of them a fertile and rich ground of unique styles and ideas.
Top: Opt Studios, “Subjective Objects I – Custom Hand Tufted Carpet” / Bottom: As A Ceremony, “Message in a Driver”
Your first collection on Adorno, “The Berlin Collection”, featured a similar sense of spontaneity and out-of-the-box design. Why do you think this is such a strong quality of contemporary German design?
Berlin is not Germany. It might sound like a strong statement, but this is how people will answer to you if you ask them why Berlin is so different from the rest of Germany.
The pieces of both my collections do not represent contemporary German design as a whole, but rather a – in my eyes more interesting branch – of experimental collectible design. This edgy, less trend-driven, and out-of-the-box (there you go… the three words to describe design) way of working is a characteristic that started from Berlin and now influences artists all over Germany. It is connected with the city itself that is a huge playground for curious individuals.
From your point of view as a curator, what “new traditions” presented in the collection should continue to be developed over the coming years?
All of them.
Techniques, materials, [and] tools are changing everyday creating new ways of handling and using objects. The new tradition of reusing waste or cut-offs, like Sophie Rowley; the new tradition of creating objects that meander between the digital and the real world, like Nazara Lazaro; exploring the spectrum of light beyond its known limit, like RLON Studio is doing; digitalising dance moves and translating them into a material object, like ANALOG Glass…
I believe that craftsmanship will be a very important value of the future, just that the materials and tools will change. Creativity is a super power and, like all the super powers, sometimes is hard to handle. The thought I feel like sharing to all the creatives out there is: “Never stop creating and experimenting. Keep your mind open and use all of your senses”.
Top: Tina Roeder, “White Billion Chairs No. 25/33” / Second row, left to right: VAUST Studio, “TOY” Sculpture Berlin Untitled No.1; “TOY” Sculpture Berlin Untitled No.2; & “TOY” Sculpture Berlin Untitled No.3 / Third row, left to right: BASIS RHO, “VSE XY – Black/Soft Grape” & “VSE XYZ – Black/Soft Grape” / Bottom: Sophie Rowley, “Tasman Glass Platters”
To stay up to date on the release of collections, interviews, and news on global contemporary design, sign up to our newsletter below.