In the Mix
What’s to Come
Thoughts on the new year from our on-the-pulse design friends around the globe
As 2021 kicks off—on the heels of a year like none other—we’re all eager to reconnect and to contemplate paths forward. So we reached out to some of our favorite design thinkers, tastemakers, and tea-leaf readers from around the globe to get their thoughts on the year ahead: what they’re expecting, looking forward to, and hoping for. Read on for a dose of inspiration and determination.
Alice Stori Liechtenstein / Independent Design Curator and Founder of Schloss Hollenegg for Design / Schwanberg: I am looking forward to meeting colleagues and friends in real life again—hugging and shaking hands with them. I am expecting a more mindful way of working, doing projects that are more thought out and meaningful, with more time dedicated to discussion, research, and writing.
Asad Syrkett / Editor-in-Chief of ELLE DECOR / New York City: In 2021, I'm looking forward to the (likely slow, phased, partial) return of bigger in-person events. We've all been able to do so much virtually and remotely, but nothing beats being in the room with creatives, editors, writers, and other design minds. I'm also committing myself to continuing the momentum built in 2020 around conversations about racial equity and justice in the design world. There's lots to do—and discover.
Bobbye Tigerman / Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator of Decorative Arts & Design at LACMA / Los Angeles: I'm looking forward to change. Not just a change from our recent reality, but a more fundamental transformation in how we think about and evaluate design and how we carry out our work, in order to strive for a more just, healthy, and equitable world.
Clémence Krzentowski / Cofounder of Galerie kreo / Paris: I am looking forward to seeing the world heal from the unprecedented circumstances we were confronted with last year and to building new foundations. We are tremendously excited to launch an exhibition we have been working on with Marc Newson, which comprises new pieces, new concepts, new materials, new colors... Really something to be looking forward to!
Cindi Strauss / Sara and Bill Morgan Curator of Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design at the Museum of Fine Arts / Houston: It would be lovely to think that the world will return to "normal" in 2021, but I think that we will still be facing an altered landscape. I am looking forward to the continuation of the robust online lectures, panel discussions, exhibition tours, and studio visits that were developed as an alternative to in-person travel last year. I saw more than I normally do in any given year—a true bright spot amid the gloom. These online events broadened the reach of design practitioners, exhibitions, collections, and catalogues and offered a real-time snapshot of the field. A winning combination!
Daniella Ohad / Design Historian, Curator, and Advisor / New York City: 2020 proved that when people spend a lot of time at home, they become more conscious and passionate about their homes, and they are willing to spend on good furnishings. The post-lockdown design auctions were filled with record-breaking prices; most results were well over the forecast—particularly in French, Italian, and Nordic design. I am expecting the market to settle in 2021, and we will see whether this year has elevated the value of design or whether there was a temporary bubble. I am also looking forward to visiting design fairs, exhibitions, and events and to getting the life I know back.
Felix Burrichter / Editor, Founder, and Creative Director of PIN–UP / New York City: In numerology, 2021 represents the energy of instability—pushing boundaries, exploring, bringing in new ideas. So while everyone wants a bit of a break in 2021, I’m afraid it’s going to be another bumpy year. But that’s not necessarily negative; it just means change.
For design, I hope that there will be a tectonic shift in ethics that will carry forth a shift in aesthetics as well. I’m personally looking forward to celebrating PIN–UP's 15-year anniversary and to reevaluating the idea of legacy. 15 is the number of healing, and if you combine that with change, 2021 might shape up to be a pretty good year.
Gabrielle Ammann / Founder of ammann//gallery / Cologne: We welcome every new year with a positive view, because we have the great pleasure to work with incredibly talented artists and designers from around the globe. Their creativity inspires and motivates us anew every day. For 2021 we are looking forward to the chance for "in person" encounters with our friends, colleagues, and collectors during new fair formats.
Juan García Mosqueda / Curator and Founder of Quick Tiny Shows and Chamber Projects / Buenos Aires and worldwide: If 2020 was all about waiting patiently for things to go back to normal, 2021 will see the unfolding of many initiatives by folks who do not want to keep delaying their projects. On our end, we will double down on commissioning new objects, increasing the number of Quick Tiny Shows, and scaling up our business to include the design of residential buildings. Chamber will also be launching a new platform for visual and material culture in partnership with Milliøns, among many more exciting projects. 2021 will bring about a fully matured company ready to work on multiple levels to keep supporting architects and designers across the globe.
Maria Cristina Didero / Independent Curator / Milan: 2020 was a tough one. As our habits were forcibly—sometimes, dramatically—changed, design should likewise rethink its functionality in some cases. I look forward to seeing what designers have created during these unprecedented times.
Maria Foerlev / Owner and Director of Etage Projects / Copenhagen: I am expecting less irony and less arrogance in both general outlook and design language. But also less general mental changes than we expect—we are only human after all. Accepting that fact might be the actual change. Our homes have been our fortresses this past year, which is good for design, and I hope the realization of the importance of what we surround ourselves with continues once we are let out.
Maya Dvash / Chief Curator at Design Museum Holon / Tel Aviv: I can't wait for me and my team to be back at the museum, open to the public. Lately I find myself contemplating the question of whether museums can exist without visitors. This thought became even more apparent thanks to our new, not-yet-opened exhibition Black Box, which deals with the relationship between humans and non-humans-objects. And I truly hope that in 2021 and onward we will find a way to better support designers so they can create new objects for us.
Michele Lupi / Men’s Collections Visionary, Tod’s Group / Milan: First of all, the priority for 2021 is to defeat the health emergency. It is clear that without safety for people—and without their serenity—the economy cannot function. In everyone's life, not everything goes well all the time. Sometimes there are periods of crisis, and this pandemic is one of them. You have to be prepared. When there is a problem this big, all other problems take a back seat. The sooner the emergency is resolved, the sooner we can get back to good work. The opposite doesn't work, despite the fact that many people are pushing to be able to reopen stores while ignoring the health situation.
Despite the seriousness of what happened, there are also positive aspects. We have returned to appreciating the small things; the small and simple things will be the protagonists of 2021. I expect to give many small things with heart and passion, that these can grow well and become big.
Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte / Curator, Design Specialist, and Cofounder of NOMAD Circle and Carwan Gallery / Milan and Athens: OK, 2020 was tragic from a health and economical perspective. But thinking about how I spent 2020 in remote and beautiful places, close to nature in Mexico, Sicily, and Egypt, I hope we will learn from the positive aspects of the global crisis. For me, 2021 will focus on cultural experiences, finding oneself, and enjoying the thrill of unknown paths.
Carpe diem should prevail: decide a few days before where you go next and where you invest time and energy; let situations shape your path without the intent on arriving anywhere specific; wander in beauty by instinct with confidence. This year should awaken the senses to natural elements in dialogue with architecture, humanity, colors, textures, and flavors. It is up to you. Would you rather have a Pasolini, Visconti, Bertolucci, Guadagnino, or Fellini year?
Pilar Viladas / Design Editor, Writer, and Consultant / New York City: I still don't know whether or not to be optimistic about 2021. One of the things I like best about going to design-world events is the face-to-face contact and the exchange of ideas that you have with people. I really missed that in 2020, and I’m not 100% sure that it will return this year. But even in the face of the challenges we face, many people are thinking about how to design for the future, which is both encouraging and inspiring. I admire the way that creative people are driven to create, and I look forward to seeing what they envision, whenever I'm able to do so.
Sam Pratt and Valerio Capo / Founders of Gallery FUMI / London: We expect 2021 to be another challenging year, but hopefully things will improve after the summer. We are poised. We are lucky enough to have our artists still working on commissions for clients despite the downward trend in the market, but everything seems to be less straightforward than it used to be. We’ve started new collaborations with young designers whom we believe are names to watch out for, and we are working on two new exhibitions that will open in the spring and in the fall.
Like many others, we have been more “socially” engaged, developing our social media presence and virtual interactions. These are times when we need to show our solidarity and strengthen our relationships with people who share the same values. Hopefully, we will be able to participate in fairs after the summer. We miss the physical interaction with our clients hugely—it is what makes our profession so special!
Tiana Webb Evans / Founder of ESP Group and Founder & Creative Director of Yard Concept / New York City: 2020 demanded an expansion in consciousness and critical thinking for many and forced the design industry to examine itself. As someone who has been in the art and design industries for 20 years, this hard and swift correction was necessary to chart a new path forward. Now that we’re here, in 2021, with a fresh perspective, there are many adventures to be had, ideas to be challenged, histories to be rewritten, and stories to be unearthed.
My 2021 is focused on building the structures and networks to support this exciting work. I am most excited about the work and stories from the Caribbean, and more specifically, Jamaica. As a Jamaican, whose family was involved in the mid-century modernist movements and is still part of cultural circles there, I have turned my sights on sharing and contributing to the island's cultural history and contemporary movements, including collaborations with experts like Rachael Barrett and Susanne Fredricks, who have been working feverishly to move the dialog forward.
Trevyn McGowan / Founder of Southern Guild and CEO of the Guild Group / Cape Town: At the start of 2021, we feel more awakened than ever to our mission of sharing the unique perspectives of African designers. Yes, there is uncertainty, but it has sharpened our artists’ vision and deepened our passion to provide them with a platform. We look forward in particular to Andile Dyalvane’s solo exhibition reaching a more global audience when it travels to Friedman Benda in May, as well as a new body of large-scale work by rising star Zizipho Poswa for her solo at the Southern Guild in March. Although both artists tell quite personal stories, their themes are ultimately about universal human connection.
Wendy Plomp / Design Director of Dutch Invertuals / Eindhoven: When the pandemic hit, we decided to start Dutch Invertuals Academy, an intensive online program. Design professionals from all around the world joined the Academy to explore the concept of True Matter, a theme chosen because the global situation prompted us to rethink thoroughly what truly matters.
This year the Academy will show an expression of the global shift from a careless, money-driven time of “hunting” towards a time of “caring,” with attention focused on our environment. We’ll be working with raw materials from local contexts and asking participants to play with their surroundings—not only in terms of resources but also techniques, craftsmanship, politics, and traditions. Because designers from Colombia to Israel, from Thailand to Chile, joined, the Academy sheds light on a diversity of local identities and gives insight into what truly matters globally.
Anna Carnick / Cofounder / Anava Projects / Berlin and Miami: And my two cents? Despite the pain and distance, throughout 2020, I was grateful to experience a powerful sense of community. So many makers, thinkers, and do-ers rose to the occasion, finding ways to connect, to support, and to push for much-needed change. I was also reminded how lucky I am to be able to do work that I love with wonderfully smart, inspiring people.
I’m hopeful that we’ll take the connectivity and responsibility forward; being more mindful of how our words, actions, and work impact the world around us. I’m looking forward to more collaborations and more conversations that add some good to the world. (And I can’t wait to hug family and friends again.) ◆
All images courtesy of Etage Projects