Tel Aviv Design Fit for a Chinese Emperor

This year’s Fresh Paint fair in presents another test for the Fresh Design pavilion.

Ran Golani

Three years ago, ceramic artist Martha Rieger traveled to the Chinese city of Jingdezhen, the porcelain capital of the world and exclusive producer of porcelain vessels for Chinese emperors. Its vessels, which preserve the ancient tradition, are sold all over the world. “Almost every home on earth has some product – porcelain for the bath, sculpture, food utensils – that was made there,” Rieger says.

Last month, Rieger’s work “My China Blues” was awarded the Special Judges’ Award at the International Ceramics Festival in Mino, Japan, one of the world’s largest and most important ceramics festivals. The work was hand-made from coarse clay, coated with a layer of porcelain and decorated in a style inspired by Chinese ornamentation.

The next phase of the project, entitled “Made in China,” will be on display next week at the Fresh Design pavilion at the Fresh Paint arts fair, which is being held for the seventh time. The pavilion will be open to the general public on Tuesday at the new municipal sports arena built on the grounds of Tel Aviv’s iconic Drive-In cinema.

Rieger came back from Jingdezhen last August to work on her current project, which she created especially for the fair and will be one of the most intriguing exhibits there. In an industrialized process that takes place in a noisy, dirty factory, in a summer where temperatures hovered at a sultry 40 degrees Celsius, as Rieger worked among a group of impoverished Chinese workers she stopped the mass-production process for a moment to remove individual items from the production line. Each item is unique as a result.

Martha Rieger, 'MADE IN CHINA blue and white'. Photo by Martha Rieger

In addition, Rieger chose to combine her own original forms with typical Chinese forms, giving all of them a new and different design. She decorated the utensils, which are different in sizes from the customary ones, in the spirit of Chinese art but from a foreign viewpoint that, to the Chinese eye, disrupts the traditional technique.

The justification for Fresh Design can be seen in Rieger’s project and in others created especially for the show. Unlike last year, its participants will not be exhibited separately from those from the art world. Instead, they will occupy an additional category within the Fresh Paint fair, as Yifat Gurion, the fair’s art director and head curator, explains.

“We decided that one fair was enough in terms of spread, space and size. The combination of both fields proved to be the right thing; there’s no need to hold two separate fairs.”

The design greenhouse, a model that continues to exist in the art fair, was cancelled this year. “The model of the artists’ greenhouse didn’t prove itself regarding the young designers’ needs and abilities,” says Gurion. “But we will be showing young designers and studios this year too. Most of them will be showing new collections, some of which were prepared especially for the fair.”

Showing alongside the young designers will be established and well-known brands such as Kastiel, Daniella Lehavi, Monkey Business, Talents, Aqua Creations and the Caesarstone Sdot Yam company, which designs kitchen surfaces.

Andrey and Shay. Photo by Andrey and Shay

Was the response of the designers you contacted different from last year?

“The designers had time to work this year, so there are more new things. Our calls didn’t take them by surprise. They were more prepared, and we felt a lot of need and a lot of desire. Our feeling that the design field needed the same shot of energy as the art world was confirmed. Designers were in touch with us throughout the year, asking when the next fair was going to be.”

What about sales?

“Like I said, the greenhouse didn’t prove itself financially, either for the designers or for us. We understood from the people who exhibited broader, fuller work last year that it wasn’t an economic success. Still, many of those who participated last year wanted to participate this year too. Everyone is still being extra-careful, afraid to spend too much and hoping that the community will get used to the idea that just as design is bought, so is art.”

Talents Design Gallery, 'Into the Wild'. Photo by Shmuel Ben-Shalom

One participant who came back to exhibit at the fair once more and enlarge his exhibition area is Asaf Weinbroom, a designer and creator of light elements made of wood. Weinbroom says that sales at the fair are not the only index he uses to judge Fresh Design’s success, and that the collaborations and contacts that he made during the fair last year proved themselves later on. That is why he decided to rent a double-size pavilion this year, where he will be showing between 15 and 20 works that combine traditional woodworking with materials such as marble, corian and various metals.

One of the new successes he will be showing is a fishing-rod lamp whose base attaches to a wall, lighting a fairly large area while retaining flexibility and a light, contemporary appearance. Weinbroom will also be showing, for the first time, work of his that has nothing to do with lighting: his dining table with a corian surface and wooden base.

The Talents Design Gallery, managed by architect Gal Gaon, will be showing its 2015 collection, entitled “Into the Wild.” Among the items to be shown for the first time is Shmuel Ben Shalom’s “Mad Horse Table” from his “Mad” collection, which also includes the “Mad Cow Sofa,” an iconic piece in the gallery.

Architect Ilan Pivko will be exhibiting his curved shelving element called “Drops,” which continues the clean design language that typifies his works; and Ilan Garibi will exhibit his cloud-shaped origami sculptures of metal, a new development in his unique technique of folding metal by hand. Garibi will exhibit an installation of clouds that play between the orderly aesthetics of the origami world and the abstract image of the cloud.

Daniella Lehavi’s brand is coming back to its roots – the industrial design that draws its inspiration from function and technology. From their meeting point, Lehavi has created a comprehensive collection that contains six kinds of bags in various forms including totes, clutches, shoulder bags and backpacks, all of them designed and made in a limited, exclusive edition for Fresh Design. The new collection, which is typified by precise patterns and complex angles, comprises two models made of a single piece of leather with no seams at all, but only machine cuts, for do-it-yourself assembly. These models are joined by a series of accessories that the customer can use to create a personal touch and divide the bag’s inner space as she chooses.

One of the fascinating projects at this year’s fair is the result of the collaboration between the Caesarstone company and curators Emmy Shahar and Salome Fakiel of Design Space Gallery. Last year, Shahar and Fakiel were part of the fair’s curating team. As part of the project, entitled “Gam ve-gam,” they asked 11 designers to use Caesarstone’s quartz surfaces, which are known in the world of kitchen and bath design, as raw materials for creating unique design items for day-to-day life such as tables, kitchen knives, rulers and mirrors.