Soft Baroque in Milan: a design exhibition around life, energy and technology

For its first solo exhibition in Milan, entitled “Sun City”, the London-based design studio uses the sun as a narrative device for a series of material and formal experiments.

Blurring the boundaries between art and design, between image and material, between physical and virtual, playing with the ideas of objectivity, surface and illusion: these are the topics explored by Saša Štucin and Nicholas Gardner, founders of Soft Baroque, designers specialising in visual communication and furniture design respectively.

Given their approach, it is curious that their first solo exhibition in Milan was inaugurated the same days in which Milan Design Week should have taken place, when most events are digital.

The “Sun City” exhibition project, curated by Pin-Up, is hosted by Marsèll, a Made in Italy footwear brand that offers a platform for exhibitions and research by young artists in its Milanese spaces. “Sun City” is a design show about life, energy and technology, using the sun as a narrative tool for the studio’s material and formal experiments.

Soft Baroque, "Sun City". Exhibition view at Marsèll, Milan, 2021

The exhibition, divided into three levels, presents three topics related to the sun: life, destruction and worship. On the ground floor we find an installation linked to the damage of materials, formed by the superimposition of a number of seats, the TAN Benches, which, starting from an elementary form, develop different variations. The objects are also characterised by bubbles, which look like imperfections in the bright yellow leather upholstery.

In the basement, with a number of works from the Vita section, Soft Baroque interprets a type of furniture that is increasingly popular but not yet formalised or recognised by official design: grow boxes, i.e. cabinets for growing marijuana at home. The furnishings, which contain plants and artificial lights inside them, are cut by hand, revealing their contents.

On the upper floor, where the subject of worship is investigated, we find Shaker-style furnishings, made of a material that looks like wood but is made of Tufnol®, a laminated plastic that when sanded seems to create the veins typical of natural material. 

Soft Baroque, "Sun City". Exhibition view at Marsèll, Milan, 2021

The three pieces described above - which are just a few of the many functional experiments presented at the Marsèll showroom - speak well of the studio's speculative approach.

Returning to the idea of the relationship between physical and digital, we can see how Soft Baroque seems to borrow certain methods and mental processes from digital culture, such as post-production, the reimagining of banal elements or the ambiguity between reality and fiction. Their works, however, are not meant to be consumed with the speed of digital contents.

The irony of their design perhaps hides the great work and technical sophistication behind each piece. Soft Baroque's works are not memes in the form of furniture, but objects designed to last and to be used in everyday life.

Sun City
Soft Baroque
Curated by:
Opening dates:
until 28 May 2021
via Paullo 12/A, Milan

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