At first glance, the Curve Gallery at the Barbican looks as if it has been transformed into a glorified gallery gift shop.
Step inside, however, and you will notice that the objects adorning the sleek lacquered tabletop units possess an element of the surreal and idiosyncratic, including hacksaw shaped bread boards and tiny wind up music boxes.
This is the Design Den – the Barbican’s answer to a pop-up shop, keeping intact a design aesthetic befitting of its Brutalist location. Focusing on the applied arts, and in conjunction with DesignMarketo — ‘a platform that diffuses up-and-coming designers’ small or limited productions’ – the consumer cultural experience comes alive.
Homeware designers include Richard Brendon, who focuses on longevity and sustainability through a series of platinum lustre teacups that beautifully reflect and distort their vintage patterned saucers. Hackney’s own Nick Fraser, a homeware and furniture designer, is exhibiting his pipework coat rack, complete with plumbing taps as hooks.
Hato Press, a specialty printing and publishing house based near London Fields, showcase small notebooks of illustrations collated from test prints and mistakes in their studio. Their expertise in screen and Risograph print processes create beautifully constructed art books.
Elsewhere, design fuses with humour, from the Ty DIY Edition Shower Curtain with marker pen (create your perfect shower curtain) to Amandine Alessandra’s In Rainbow Veritas, a plain white bistro tablecloth that reveals a flower blossom pattern when wine, curry sauce or tea is spilt on it.
Alongside this array of 3D design gifts and novelties, is a selection of art-led design, such as Jacqui Chanarin’s series of intricate rosettes and porcelain polar explorer ornaments. The rest of the Curve Gallery is dedicated to affordable editions of Eyestorm’s contemporary art prints. Here, emerging and established artists have come together, to offer a variety of work. Bill Owens’ distorted proportions in Hillside with Toy Horse 1981 and House 421 are an atmospheric and haunting portrait of contemporary American life.
The Design Den may not be design for function’s sake, but it is very much the Barbican’s take on shopping- a minimalist den for semi-scrooges and design geeks, that manages to refrain from overkill and doesn’t pander to the festive season. It is consumer-focused innovation in the amorphous and increasingly revered pop-up shop form.
Barbican Centre, Silk Street
London, EC2Y 8DS
Until 23 December 2011
Mon – Sat 10am – 8pm
Sun 12 noon – 8pm