Best of CH 2020: Editors’ Favorites

From outdoor art to virtual conversations, our picks from the year that was

Browsing the thousands of stories we published on COOL HUNTING each year provides us with meaningful memories. In 2020, the many experiences we had with people and places were significant, despite being very different from any year previous. The inability to travel, visit artist’s studios, dine next to a fascinating individual, and see shows in sweaty venues led us to attempt more creative ways of exploring and connecting. From discovering new publications to virtual conversations with cult favorites, and experiencing outdoor art, here are some of our favorite stories from the year that was.

Courtesy of Deem Journal

Deem Journal Amplifies Marginalized Voices in Design

Co-founded by a trio of Black creatives, print publication Deem Journal presents design as a “social practice,” challenging its readers to reconsider its traditional boundaries. Each founder—Nu Goteh (a multi-disciplinary designer and co-founder of strategy and design studio Room for Magic), Alice Grandoit (a cultural researcher, non-profit developer and co-founder of Room for Magic) and Marquise Stillwell (the founder of Openbox, a NYC-based design studio and consultancy)—brings valuable insight to Deem’s development… Read more.

by Adrian Samson

Interview: Róisín Murphy

Cult favorite Róisín Murphy has been entrenched in dance music for 20 years, but avoids labels like “disco queen,” “electro-pop icon” and even “singer-songwriter.” The Irish artist is indeed all of the above, but those categories are also too simple. Known for conceptual looks, off-kilter shows and an almost performance art approach to pop, she has been known to call herself a “conceptor.” No matter where (whether that’s in a recording studio in Sheffield, on stage in Moscow or at home in London), Murphy seems to have a compulsion to create—something she credits to her Irish heritage and her time spent in some of the UK’s most musical cities, during their most pivotal eras… Read more.

“Storm King Wavefield” (2007-08) 2007 installation view by Jerry L Thompson, courtesy of Storm King Art Center Archives

Storm King Art Center Turns 60 Years Old

“It was seeing birds moving along the landscape,” John Stern, president of Storm King Art Center, says of his earliest memories at the picturesque outdoor museum in New York State’s Hudson Valley. Stern was born the same year that his father (H Peter Stern) and paternal grandfather (Ralph Ogden) opened the monumental sculpture park. And since that day in 1960, Storm King has welcomed wanderers, wonderers, art tourists, explorers and families into its rolling landscapes and growing collection of large-scale sculptures by the likes of Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, Isamu Noguchi and Maya Lin. It’s this destination’s particular balance of nature and art that continues to impress time and again—and that did not happen overnight… Read more.

by Josh Rubin

Tom of Finland’s Centenary, Seen Through The Artist’s Home, Foundation + Collaborations

Born 8 May 1920, homoerotic artist Tom of Finland had a multi-decade career that did not end with his passing in 1991. The legacy of Tom, born Touko Valio Laaksonen, continues to influence emerging artists and inspire members of the queer community. Tom House in LA’s Echo Park is still the center of the expanding universe that surrounds the artist and his work. The Tom of Finland Foundation maintains the home, archives and significant art collection, where Tom’s work not only lives on but also finds new life, resonating and inspiring new generations and audiences… Read more.

“The rare joy the fine hell” by Beatie Wolfe and Mark Mothersbaugh

Mark Mothersbaugh + Beatie Wolfe’s “Postcards for Democracy” Project

Equal parts political, creative, playful and practical, Mark Mothersbaugh and Beatie Wolfe’s Postcards for Democracy calls for tangible public interest and action in saving the USPS—an essential civic institution and fundamental element of the United States. Whether one sees it as sabotage or a misguided lack of funding, the demise of the postal service will lead to a catastrophic election, as millions around the country rely on mail-in ballots. For the project, Mothersbaugh (DEVO co-founder, musician, singer-songwriter, producer and artist) and Wolfe (musician, singer-songwriter and artist) challenge participants to create and send handmade postcards to a specified address in LA. The act provides funds for the USPS and the final collection of postcards will be transformed into a work of art… Read more.

Courtesy of the Public Art Fund

Farah Al Qasimi’s Public Photography Exhibition, “Back and Forth Disco”

Abu Dhabi-born, New York-based photographer Farah Al Qasimi‘s newest exhibition, Back and Forth Disco, presents itself in the unremarkable nooks and crannies of the city, offering visual stimuli to those waiting at or passing by 100 public bus stops. NYC’s Public Art Fund commissioned the 17 new works, and installed the pieces in pairs across the five boroughs. They embody Al Qasimi’s recognizable style and aim to “isolate and highlight the beauty of seemingly inconspicuous moments amidst New York City’s visual and audible noise”… Read more.

by Josh Rubin

The Clark Art Institute’s Sprawling Outdoor Exhibition, “Ground/work”

A cultural fount set within the idyllic Berkshires, the Williamstown, Massachusetts-located Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (aka The Clark) opened its first-ever outdoor exhibition, Ground/work, this month. Commissions by six international contemporary artists comprise the non-prescriptive, non-hierarchical experience, wherein guests are welcome to explore the sculptures at their own pace—scaling hills and wandering fields and forests along the way. Guests can view all of the large-scale works in roughly an hour if they choose—or stretch each moment for true reflection. None of these works assert their presence; rather, they integrate into the picturesque surroundings. They duet with nature and dance to the seasons. Despite the diverse terrain, they’re also all ADA accessible with assistance from a vehicle dedicated to the exhibition—which will be open through October 2021, 24 hours a day, free of charge… Read more.

by Michi Lee

Capsule Parfumerie’s High-Concept Approach to Storytelling

Since launching Capsule Parfumerie in 2012, Linda Sivrican has created eight fragrance brands and opened her own perfume shop. From her inaugural natural Fiele Fragrances to her Litoralle Aromatica collection, each bottle tells a sensory story. Her namesake Capsule series pays homage to LA neighborhoods and features “Troupe” (for the night owls of North Hollywood, with notes of neroli and tequila blanco) and “Squad” (a tribute to Koreatown with citrus-infused soju and pink peppercorns). She won the 2020 Art and Olfaction Awards, Artisan Category for NIMBIS from her future-forward and unconventional Parallax collection. That conceptual scent contains notes of blue iris, vibrating violin strings and violet ozone rays, and aims to capture the scent of falling meteors… Read more.

by Josh Rubin

Test Drive: The All-New 2020 Defender

Across much of the world, the Land Rover Defender is iconic and represents the pinnacle of utility vehicles. Here in the US, however, they were only available for a brief five-year window from 1992 to 1997 and, as a result, have had more of a niche—even cult—following. When Gerry McGovern and the design team at Land Rover set out to reinvent the Defender’s look, they took on a task so complexly layered it could have crippled even the most seasoned, confident designers. A further hurdle—making a wildly capable vehicle perform even better—would make the Defender a non-starter if not nailed. We’ve just spent three days driving the result of this journey and are thrilled to report that Land Rover’s all-new 2020 Defender honors the legacy of the mark and will impress seasoned Cotswolds purists and American newcomers alike… Read more.

by David Graver

Colorful Conflict at Frieze, Felix + Art Los Angeles Contemporary Art Fairs

As four art fairs—Frieze Los Angeles, Felix Art Fair, Art Los Angeles Contemporary and SPRING/BREAK Art Show in (DTLA)—vied for attendee attention in LA, works within each outpost grappled with the role of color. Highlights of this nature were plentiful—crowned by James Turrell‘s exquisite releases at Pace Gallery and Ugo Rondinone‘s “Ten Mountains + One Sun,” both at Frieze—but certain works positioned their aesthetic value and substantive discourse in new ways. The following six pieces, drawn from three of the four fairs, triggered unmatched sensations relating to the conflict within their colors… Read more.

Hero image by Josh Rubin