Saturday, February 22, 2014

Design at auction

It is not unusual for famous designers to collaborate on designing a collection or on a single product. But having the notoriously reclusive Jony Ive of Apple and the multifaceted Marc Newson curating a collection of one-of-a-kind coveted design objects to be auctioned off from Sotheby’s for the) Product (RED charity project of Bono was surely the design event of 2013.

No one can say that either Ive or Newson are household names. Yet they are famous for designing coveted products that are mass-produced although each one does it in a very unique and different way from the other. Ive is responsible for some of the most iconic products that came out of Apple since its re-invention by Steve Jobs on his second term there. The iPod iMac, iPhone, MacBook etc. all have his stamp on them. Now he even oversees the software division’s design.

Newson on the other hand is his own man, working as a freelancer for various companies and has designed products that range from the extremely exclusive (the Lockheed Lounge chair was an edition of ten) to the mass produced (for example his G-Star Raw collection). Both are fascinated by materials and the manufacturing process: it is the way of making the objects that infuses their design philosophies. It might come as a surprise to some, but the two men are close friends for some years now, having been introduced in Japan in the late 90s; They share a love of cars that leads them to spend time together visiting antique car fairs.

Bono, who knew Ive for years (they met when Apple released the U2 iPod in 2004), first asked Newson to design something for Product (RED) in 2007. Eventually, and after the successful art auction Damien Hirst organized for the charity, Bono decided to bring the two men together to curate a similar project on design.

Simply amassing a collection of favourite design objects was not an option: too much, too easy. Instead, they focused on a core group of about 40 objects re-imagined in one-of-a-kind versions from the design duo, some unique finds (a space shuttle glass window made by Corning), plus a pair of items they designed especially for the event: a desk produced by Neal Feay Studio that reminds one of the latest iMac model with its ultra-thin edges (but the top looks more Newson than Ive) and a camera based on the Leica Digital Rangefinder, made by the revered company as a custom object. Even an Alaia dress was added.

The whole process took almost a year and a half to finish, mostly because manufacturing most of these unique items takes such a long time – no one can hurry the making of a Hermes saddle. After all, time is the ultimate luxury and luxury objects need time to be hand-crafted carefully to their exalting standards. The collection was auctioned on November 23 at Sotheby’s in New York. The auction amassed 12,883,000$, with the Steinway piano fetching the largest price, a staggering 1,925,000$, the Leica camera in 2nd place with 1,805,000$ and the Ive/Newson table third with 1,685,000$.