Murray Moss & Franklin Getchell
Get to the know the godfathers of collectible design
We have exciting news! Today, we launch Design Miami/ x MOSS, an exclusive collection of design objects from the private collection of Murray Moss and Franklin Getchell.
This charismatic duo is broadly credited with putting collectible design culture on the map, thanks in large part to MOSS, their unforgettable, highly influential gallery space in Soho, which ran from 1994 to 2012. For countless New Yorkers and in-the-know visitors to the city, MOSS was THE go-to resource for what was happening in design during that period, offering a curated selection of vanguard classics, like Achille Castiglioni’s Mezzadro Stool and Ettore Sottsass’ Shiva Vase, alongside then-brand-spanking-new limited editions from the likes of Maarten Baas, the Campana Brothers, Studio Job, and Hella Jongerius. Fewer folks would even know these names if not for MOSS.
Beyond founding MOSS, Murray and Franklin are some of the most interesting (and hilarious) men you’ll find in the design world. They both began their careers as actors. Murray went on to become a major fashion world entrepreneur, while Franklin became an Emmy-award-winning television producer and eventually the head of The Children’s Television Workshop. Though they lived through multiple professional incarnations, it’s clear to see the theatrical thread that runs through it all—and how their finely honed showmanship and cosmopolitan tastes fueled MOSS’s tremendous success and inspired so many to become design collectors.
Read on to learn more about the godfathers of collectible design—from their admiration for Tupperware Parties and Leonardo da Vinci to their very best pieces of advice.
Where are you right now, and what’s the most interesting design object in the room?
Franklin Getchell: I’m in my office, and that object would be the four Joe Colombo Birillo Stools that are usually in the background of my Zooms. They’re all that remains of Centovini, the restaurant we had with our friend Nicola Marzovilla—who just opened Nonna Dora’s, a new place in Midtown named after his mother.
Which design object(s) first inspired you to launch MOSS?
Murray Moss: Well, I don't mean to make this complicated, but I don't really think there was one particular “thing” that inspired me to open a store!
But having said that… I would say it was a small, desktop-size piece of x-ray equipment that my father designed and patented. He was an early manufacturer of x-ray equipment. Knowing that I had no interest at all in x-ray equipment, but wanting me to have this manifestation of his work, my father mounted his “sculpture” on the lid of a pickle jar and signed it. In his mind, I would now be more open, more appreciative of his life's work, as the odd x-ray tube mounted and signed now bore attributes signaling it was Art.
This split screen—first, I see a piece of machinery, but then I see Art—I think did in fact have a profound effect on how I saw both function and form; not an either/or relationship, but a duality. And for the record, I saw this duality in most (all?) industrial designs, and it inspired me to want to share that with others—to make people see and appreciate the non-function aspects of an industrial, functional object.
As someone who’s regularly consulted for your design expertise, is there a subject you wish you knew more about?
MM: Mathematics. As Paul Lockhart wrote in A Mathematician's Lament (2002): There is nothing as dreamy and poetic, nothing as radical and subversive, and psychedelic, as mathematics.
Which designer’s studio did you most enjoy visiting and why?
MM: Although not a design studio per se, I most enjoyed regularly visiting the porcelain manufactory Nymphenburg, located outside of Munich on the grounds of the summer palace of the Bavarian monarchy. This was the original manufactory established within eyesight of the monarch, producing the finest porcelain I have ever seen. And it was made in the same manner as it had always been made, painted in full by one artist. To me, it is the work done at Nymphenburg that gave credence to the words used to describe porcelain: “white gold.”
If you could visit any historic designer in their studio, who would you choose and why?
MM: Leonardo da Vinci. Because he was intolerant of categorical name-giving, of abiding by Guild rules and restrictions. He allowed himself to be an artist, engineer, architect, mathematician, philosopher, and more. He defined himself. I would like to have visited him in his “engineering” laboratory-studio. He certainly designed a mean scaffolding!
Is there an emerging designer that you currently have your eye on?
FG: I’m very aware of KAWS and how his career is zooming. We offered his work when he was designing for Kid Robot. To see a larger version of the same work floating in the harbor in Hong Kong a few years ago was hugely satisfying.
If you were new to collecting design, where would you start?
MM: I would begin by studying Tupperware (est. 1946 by Earl Tupper). Because Tupperware understood and addressed all design aspects of an object equally: function, price, general aesthetic. Just as important to the general design of the thing was the way in which the company designed how it would be presented to the public. The Tupperware Party was, for me, an important part of the model for MOSS. It taught us how to look, and what to look at.
What is your favorite memory from Design Miami/?
FG: In 2005, the first year of the fair, we’d been courted by Craig [Robins] and Ambra [Medda] to participate, which we agreed to do. But then the Gallery Committee said no. So, Craig, possibly feeling bad that he’d gotten us all revved up, gave us the ground floor of a building nearby. It was so huge—15,000 square feet! We had fully loaded it up, and it became a second focus to the fair. Everybody would go from the fair over to us. So the Committee’s concern (as we understood it)—that we would be disruptive so we shouldn’t be let in—was proven wildly correct. And at the other axis, we were much more disruptive than we’d have ever been inside.
What is the greatest professional compliment you ever received?
FG: It has nothing to do with the design industry, but I guess I’d identify my Emmy as a great compliment.
MM: Shortly after we met at his studio in Milan, where we spent hours looking at things in his cabinets and talking non-stop, Achille Castiglione sent to me a large photograph that he had taken of himself at his home. In the photo, he is holding up a big Hoberman Sphere which I had sent him for Christmas as a present, and he had written in ink on the print:
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
FG: I don’t even remember who said it, but I was young and I was advised to never take NO for an answer. And I haven’t. You shouldn’t either…
MM: I want you to go out there a chorus boy, but come back a star. ◆
Discover the Design Miami/ x MOSS collection in the Design Miami/ Shop.