Mad House, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

June 8th - July 29th, 2018

Exhibits by courtesy of the Marina Gisich Gallery, Stella Art Foundation, Palisander Gallery, Artwin Gallery, Regina Gallery, Pierre Brochet and other private collectors

The Multimedia Art Museum, Москва presents the exhibition ‘Mad House’, which brings together classics of international design with predominantly Russian contemporary art, continuing the museum’s cycles ‘Design at MAMM’ and ‘Private Collections at MAMM’.

In colloquial language the term ‘mad house’ is a synonym for confusion. But here these words should be taken literally. The imaginary inhabitant of this house is a collector and fetishist, something of a sociopath. He expresses himself through his collection and feels comfortable in chaos. The master of this house does everything his way and violates the customary disposition of things. The walls are thickly carpeted with artworks selected according to his eccentric taste.

Design objects are elevated on pedestals, losing all functionality. In part this inversion shows the collector’s sensitivity to tendencies begun by the designers themselves. He clearly prefers items from the 1950s and 1980s that were created in two directions, Mid-century modern and Postmodern. Both styles changed established canons and formed new trends. The functionality of such collection furniture long ago gave way in importance to form, line, aesthetic appeal, recognisability and other attributes of art. If Mid-century — whether laconic Scandinavian design, expressive forms of Italian design, French ‘orphan’ modernism or American ‘bent plywood’ — still balances form and function, the designers of the 1980s reject the consumer approach to their works and ‘uproot’ articles from their usual applied context. Ettore Sottsass, one of the leading designers of the 20th century, and his colleagues literally imploded the art world in 1981, when they presented the Memphis collection of works that took ironic forms and bright colours and were made from unusual materials. The occupant of this mad house is a passionate collector of precisely these items of furniture whose applied function is relegated to second place.

With no less intensity of feeling he collects art, and here passion is more important than art criticism. Chronologically his art collection begins in the late 1980s. Judging by the presence in the collection of works by Kabakov, Chuikov, Bulatov and Pepperstein, our collector is clearly, albeit not too consistently, interested in Conceptualism. Most of the items date from the 1990s and 2000s and the collection is apparently set to expand. In his day the legendary Jean Paul Getty fought off accusations that his collection was inconsistent, based on his own personal taste. We know that Getty often sent the works he purchased straight to the museum founded by him, without actually setting eyes on them. Only a small part of the collection was destined for his private residence. But that is not the case with our collector. The art he amasses forms the dense environment of his dwelling. Hard to say if our collector has read director of the London Design Museum Deyan Sudjic’s book, where collecting is seen as something that allows you to take control of and organise at least a tiny part of the chaotic universe, but this approach to forming a collection would probably be similar. It is a universe whose laws may not be obvious to the outside observer, but for the creator each component has its own deeply personal meaning.