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Buy Weekly: OBJECTS ARE BY

Buy Weekly: OBJECTS ARE BY

May 23 2024

The latest by Rachel Berks, Gotham’s VP of Creative + Merchandising

Before I had even boarded my flight, I had read at least 15 different lists of what “not to miss” during Milan Design Week. I spent the hours leading up to my departure creating a map of various events and activations all over a city I had never visited. New lists kept popping up, and I added to my packed, 5-day itinerary, already brimming with a sense of FOMO before my feet even hit the Milanese pavement.

Luckily, I knew one person in Milan, who I met through my work at Gotham: Stefano Aschieri, of Weed’d. Weed’d is the third business from brothers Stefano + Andrea Aschieri, in which they work with notable Italian designers to create candy-colored ceramic bongs, ashtrays, and pipes, that look more like sculpture than products used to consume cannabis. Stefano had generously offered to take me around and introduce me to some artists + designers, and we went on an adventure that included a stop at the studio of Solomostry, an Italian graffiti artist, a launch for Cose Journal with an exhibit of glass pieces by Sophie Lou Jacobsen and finished with each of use polishing off a whole pizza.

In addition to the many lists I had read on sites like Dezeen, CoolHunting, Mold + T Magazine, my instagram began algorithmically feeding me #MilanDesignWeek2024 content exclusively. I saw an incredible installation from a duo called OBJECTS ARE BY that featured a gorgeous apartment in Milan with arched doorways that had been plastered with silver foil and contained a gigantic floor-to-ceiling inflatable of a silver vase. I immediately messaged Stefano (who was one of many posting photos from this sci-fi, modernist abode), and asked him to connect me with the designers. I later learned that the design team, who had created this installation in their own apartment, were not that enthusiastic about letting me visit. They’d already hosted several editors, designers, buyers in their home over the preceding few days, and had to squeeze me in before a high-profile podcast they were recording. However when I entered the space, I was immediately greeted by the very lovely, warm and friendly Jenny Pham and Phil America, the partners in life and in work as OBJECTS ARE BY.

Their exhibition space looked just as it had in photos: reflective floors, a large silver inflatable a la Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds, and what looked like concrete shelving units that were also silvered. The space was mystical and ethereal but what grounded it all were the actual objects. I soon learned that the bold, black ceramics from their first collection were all based on shapes from the Milan Metro, and were available in all the colors from the various Metro lines. There was a tray that mimicked the bench inside the train, a mug handle that referenced the emergency brake, and another vase that was shaped like the railing in all train stations. Jenny and Phil also spoke with me about their desires to create products that reflect their vegan lifestyle. In addition to the Milan Metro inspired ceramics, they also featured a blanket that looked and felt like wool, but was actually created from bamboo fiber; as well as a series of china developed without the use of bone, and embellished with airbrush flames (a collab with Baby Brusher). (And, yes, most China manufactured today actually contains ground bone!)

I immediately knew I wanted to work with Jenny and Phil. Their design sensibility is truly aligned with Gotham’s curation, and their ethics around non-extractive production and sustainable initiatives spoke to me on a very personal and deep level. When I boarded my plane home after an absolute whirlwind tour of Milan and all that Milan Design Week had to offer, I reached back out to Jenny and Phil with a somewhat insane proposition: an invitation to create an installation for NYCxDesign for Gotham’s Mezz Gallery, which was less than a month out. I assumed they’d say no, as it was a very tall ask with a very short window of time. But, they were excited by the offer and though they wouldn’t be able to create exactly what I had witnessed in Milan (as was my original proposal), they had other ideas and they were eager to create something special for our space. They invited Lukas Bentel, Chief Creative Officer of Mschf, to collaborate with them on an installation. Collaboration is an essential component of OBJECTS ARE BY, as the name evokes. In this case the objects are by, or with Lukas.

Jenny and Phil asked Lukas to create something that is very NEW YORK to him. For Lukas, his mind immediately went to the iconic Unicorn Tapestries that are housed at The Met Cloisters. Lukas reconceived these weavings with OAB, which resulted in a series of collectible design pieces, woven in Northern Italy with 100% cotton jacquard using environmentally lower-impact practices. The tapestries themselves are inspired by the original weavings, created around the year 1500, which depict the hunt and capture of a mythical unicorn. OAB took this a step further through their exhibition design, which brings the architecture of the Cloisters directly to Gotham, through trompe l'œil painting.

A bit more about the tapestries here:

“Having immersed himself in the Medieval tapestries during childhood visits and school field trips, Bentel brings an understanding and reverence for the original works. At the heart of his reinterpretation is the trapped unicorn, a beautiful yet melancholy hero. Adorned with a collar and tethered to a fence, the unicorn appears serene yet vulnerable, a symbol of the delicate balance between the natural world and human desires for control. This juxtaposition ignites a tension that resonates with themes of capture, control, and the eternal struggle between human ambitions and the untamed wilderness that has intrigued artists throughout history. Amidst the colorful foliage, new figures emerge, clad in flowery ghillie suits and armed with guns seemingly intent on shooting the harmless beast. Bentel’s reimagining provokes contemplation on the timeless allure of myth, the fragility of our ecosystems, and the intricate dance between beauty and destruction in our ever-precarious relationship with the natural world.”

As Jenny explains further:

“With OBJECTS ARE BY we like to challenge creative boundaries and recontextualize the idea of ‘home’ in unexpected ways. Gotham has a similar, refreshing approach in how they merchandise the store and activate the space, which is why we love this partnership.”

The limited, collectible series are available for purchase at $3100 each, in 3 different colorways- yellow, light lilac and green. Each tapestry is an edition of three. In addition to the tapestries, a selection of OBJECTS ARE BY’s ceramics trays and woven blankets are also available. The exhibition is open to the public in Gotham’s mezzanine-level gallery at 3 E 3rd St through June 20.

Check out the collection online and in store until July 20.