Milano Design Week

Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone 2022

Labinac, in between art and design

The design project created in Berlin by the artists Maria Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durham, winner of a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at this year’s Venice Biennial, has come to Milan. 

Entering the space where the exhibition is set up, in Via Sansovino, is enchanting. Everything is calm, elegant and interesting. Part of the enchantment is down to Durham himself who, with his cheerful manner, answered the question why he produces design objects by saying: “I like working, I can’t stop doing it, and with Thereza I share everything that isn’t art. I’d love to have her same artistic vision but... I’ve got mine!”. Jimmie Durham and Maria Thereza Alves have been a couple for many years. He speaks about his relationship with his wife: “I always cook, Thereza can’t cook, and when I tried to prepare Brazilian dishes for her that didn’t come out well, we asked her Mother for the recipe!”, and he laughs. He was telling me that with manipulation, there is a continuum between art and life, and that his life is closely related to his partner. This also contributed to the emergence of the idea of Labinac.

Labinac, Maria Theresa Alves and Jimmie Durham’s exhibition in via Sansovino 27 in Milan during the Milan Design Week. Photo Giulia Di Lenarda

The furniture created by Durham and Alvez, which uses recovered precious materials, antique woods, exotic slabs of marble and glass, is presented with irony, although these are very serious one-off pieces. The blown-glass vases by Maria Thereza Alvez are dense and organic, and hold branches and flowers chosen with a taste that recalls Ikebana, a domestic version of her interest in nature, which is always placed in relation to humans. The material consistency, the irony and the animal features  – skulls included  – of the furniture are characteristics of Durham. 
However, the project also includes other figures, it is a collective. There is Bev Koski from Thunderbay (Canada), who makes sculptural bracelets, Elisa Strinna from Padova (Italy) who makes hand-made porcelain lighting, and Jone Kvie from Stavanger (Norway) who produces shelves in olive wood. The Neapolitan artist Trude Tortora has created special woven straps for some of the gold jewellery in Durham’s collection. A number of items from Brazil are also on display.
The aim of this collective is to provide support both to the work of the artisan-designer-artists involved and to indigenous populations, of which both founders are strenuous defenders.

Maria Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durham
via Sansovino 27, Milan
Open until:
14th April 2019

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