Experiments by Ron Arad: Bronze podiums to Mickey Mouse inspired chairs
‘Dubito Ergo Cogito’ by Ron Arad on display at The Serpentine Summer Evening
Photo Credit: Ben Broomfield, Ben Broomfield Photography

Experiments by Ron Arad: Bronze podiums to Mickey Mouse inspired chairs

From his large body of work, STIR brings a series of his latest forays into art and design.

by STIRpad
Published on : Aug 15, 2022

British designer Ron Arad has, over the years, consistently continued myriad experimentations with industrial design materials to create items that sit well under the brackets of both art and design. Even though he doesn't necessarily believe in the distillation of creative endeavours under either of those columns, he perceives the parallels of both fields to fashion something that can sit in a gallery just as well as it can in a posh interior setting. However, he certainly feels that each of the products should be designed to subscribe to individual settings and aesthetics. The result is a body of work that is split across two channels: artistic and industrial. Arad begins his material and artistic experiments on a piece after settling on its initial concept and form, leading to a series of multifold designs.

Arad’s style perhaps is defined by the iterative process that he follows for every piece, which includes coming back to his designs again and again, sometimes even after decades, to present them in a new and refreshing manner. STIR enlists some of these adventures by the industrial designer in the realm of product design, furniture design and experimental art.

‘Dubito Ergo Cogito’ or I Doubt Therefore I Think

‘Dubito Ergo Cogito’ by Ron Arad Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad

Arad’s ‘Dubito Ergo Cogito’ or ‘I Doubt Therefore I Think’ is an amalgamation of two previous designs, one by the artist himself and the other by eminent French sculptor François Auguste René Rodin. Arad imagined the French artist’s famous Thinker sculpture seated upon his Thinker chair and began to create renditions and renderings of the same. Arad asked his friends to sit and pose on the chair, which led to further evolution of the design. In the end, he came up with a sculptural design that carries indentations of the thinker’s bottom and feet. Arad playfully quips, “Rodin’s Thinker has left, leaving us the bronze volume he was just sitting on.”

The sculpture was first showcased at the annual Serpentine Summer Party 2022, held on June 28th 2022 in London, UK. “The idea is that people will sit on it and will pose like a thinker, and each one will have a different take on it,” he says. This six piece limited edition design was prototyped in various different materials such as bronze, marble and transparent glass before the artist decided to go with the golden coloured alloy. Literally created as a spot for introspection, it almost compels the seater to expand on their thoughts and ideas. The sculpture will now be displayed at The Regent's Park during Frieze London, scheduled to take place from 12 to 16 October 2022.

Well Transparent chair

Well tempered chair Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad
Well transparent chair Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad

The Well Transparent Chair is a recent iteration of the Well Tempered Chair, designed by Arad 30 years ago using tempered steel. The steel chair was developed by the designer as a response to Vitra’s invitation to design something without any commercial constraints. Arad then sketched out a very minimalistic version of a chair and physically prototyped it in steel. “I made the Well Tempered Chair with exposed wing nuts, so that I could show how direct it is: cutting, bending and fixing,” he says. His latest addition to this series was born out of the desire to create a transparent version of the chair. For this, he used flexible plastic. The resultant polycarbonate design is comfortable and quirky, suitable for niche environments that can house artistic products with ease. Despite its uncomfortable appearance, the chair is known to function like an easy recliner, soft against one’s body and flexible against the bodily kinesics.

Don’t Fuck With The Mouse chair

DFWTM chair Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad
‘Reserved’ DFWTM Chair Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad

Initially developed as a response to Disney’s special invitation to design something for Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday, Arad took the concept of this chair and decided to create twenty different iterations of it. Every Friday, he’d go into his studio and give in to his artistic instincts. With several translucent layers of polyester paint, he fashioned a series of colourful chairs. Just like the name of the chair, which means ‘don’t mess with me’, Arad, too coloured the uniquely shaped chair with audacious expressions. One of his pieces, called ‘What Now’, themed on Brexit, bears the imprints of newspaper cuttings that feature articles around the event. It serves both as an artistic creation and as a political statement. Some of the other expressions that are imprinted on the DFWTM chairs include ‘Reserved’, ‘So Far, So Far’, ‘Supreme’, ‘Love Song’, and ‘Old, New’. These twenty unique pieces, along with monochrome industrial versions of the chair, were showcased at the recently concluded Milan Design Week 2022 under the tutelage of Qeeboo, proving thus the timelessness of Arad’s designs.

The Tom Vac Chair at Konschthal Esch’s metalworks exhibition in Luxembourg

Folded aluminium Tom Vac chair Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad
The iconic Tom Vac chair Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad

The iconic Tom Vac chair, designed by Ron Arad in 1997, is currently on display at the Konschthal Esch art museum in Luxembourg. Stationed alongside other metalwork designs by the likes of Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Tom Dixon, Konstantin Grcic, Sigve Knutson, Max Lamb, and Muller Van Severen, amongst others, Arad’s Tom Vac chair marks a prominent presence within the exhibition space. The 40 showcases at the museum are curated to represent international artists and designers who have, over the years, attempted to reconnect with traditional industrial craftsmanship and who regularly experiment with newer and fresher forms of production. The objects on display showcase the influence of current artistic languages on the metalworks industry.

The Tom Vac chair was conceived as a part of a larger totem that the designer was supposed to design for the Domus magazine during a previous edition of the Milan Design Week. The idea behind the totem was to stack the chairs one upon the other to create a tower of aluminium chairs. The designer, to suit the ideation of the totem, created a chair using the new found design technique of vacuum folding metal. The technology has been in use in the automobile industry. The chair captured the attention of the brand Vitra that industrially manufactured it, and even organised a responsive competition for design students to render their versions of the chair. To Ron, even the industrially uncut, unfinished version of the chair remains extremely appealing.

Homeware collection by Ron Arad

Nudeglass wine container Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad

Arad draws inspiration from everyday objects to create objects which are functional. “The inspiration and idea behind experimenting in homeware collections is curiosity. “Every ‘what if’ makes us think and draw inspiration from. So, in order to satisfy this curiosity, we design new things,” expresses Arad. He extends his design expertise to create everyday objects to satisfy curiosity, functionality, essential requirements and even culture. Some of his initial attempts at entering homeware design is the Nude Glass collection comprising two wine glasses and a glass decanter, all created keeping the basic functionality and beauty of the material and its content intact. A more recent launch, however, in this arena, are the ‘Infinite’ multipurpose eco-clips. It was inspired by a twirled and discarded rubber band that Arad found on the street. Deriving his initial inspiration from the form of the discarded band, he created these fun eco clips in several colours.

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