The 10th Anniversary of Kartell’s Bourgie Lamp

An exclusive look at how Pharrell Williams, Rafael de Cardenas and Snarkitecture reinterpreted the iconic design

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Kartell is taking the 10th anniversary of its famed Bourgie Lamp, the classical baroque silhouette preserved ironically in plastic designed by Ferruccio Laviani, quite seriously. Earlier this year, the Italian brand tapped 14 international design heavyweights, including Philippe Starck, Nendo and Patricia Urquiola (and even Lenny Kravitz), to re-imagine the modern lamp. The unique interpretations that resulted were unveiled during Maison & Objet in Paris.

Now, in time for NYCxDesign, Kartell reveals five additional interpretations, all done by American designers who have taken up the challenge to preserve Laviani’s original intent while adding their own twist: Kelly Wearstler, Rafael de Cárdenas, Snarkitecture, assume vivid astro focus (AVAF) and Pharrell Williams. CH has an exclusive look at the initial sketches and photos from the latter three, giving a rare peek into the re-creative process.

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NYC-based Snarkitecture (made up of architect Alex Mustonen and contemporary artist Daniel Arsham) enjoy doing the unexpected—often with a subtle, humorous tone—whether it’s a cavernous pavilion made of inflated white tubes or a cabinet that looks broken, but is perfectly functional. Their version of the Bourgie Lamp sticks to their much-loved white palette and captures an interesting moment in a piece of furniture’s life: when it’s coming out of storage. The initial sketches show a lamp that’s had a soft piece of fabric draped over it, but the final product is actually made from rigid fiberglass. (It’s a similar optical illusion to their iPhone tray that resembles a cuddly pillow, but is in fact made of gypsum cement). With the hanging “fabric” as its shade, the ghostly lamp has the last laugh, as there’s nothing to reveal.

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Pharrell Williams has lent a creative hand to many products in the past year—from his own 2014 album G I R L to Moncler jackets to Uniqlo tees and now a longterm partnership with Adidas Originals—but this may be his first foray into lighting (Williams has dabbled in furniture before; you might recall the
chairs he designed for Galerie Perrotin). Viewing the artist’s pen sketch—done on a hotel notepad—the clenched, raised fist brings to mind a symbol of solidarity, a call to action, a silent protest; the addition of a lightbulb (as opposed to a grenade or a bleeding heart) adds an optimistic, hopeful note. “I used a human arm to represent the will of mankind in the daily plight of escaping the ‘shade’ and the challenges of attempting to get closer to enlightenment,” he states. “Illumination was meant to vanquish the ‘shade.’ The light will forever prevail.”

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The works of Brazilian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Eli Sudbrack, who goes by the moniker avaf, may be cartoon-colorful, but they’re often rooted in politically-charged issues like the ’80s AIDS activist movements. The artist is not afraid to whip out the phalluses and nipples to make a point, but avaf has toned things down a bit for his rendition of the Bourgie, though it’s still wildly colorful and glittery. Naming it “Disco Dunce Hat,” avaf explains, “I wanted to turn the Bourgie into a disco lamp… but then I thought it could have a twist, something maybe darker.” The lampshade is shaped to resemble a pointy dunce hat and Laviani’s baroque details in the lamp base are turned into a sad and happy face. “Then the idea was complete: turn Bourgie into a disco dunce hat—turn something usually seen as a negative bullying object into a positive action by turning the dunce hat into a disco hat to be given to people who are feeling moody, or depressed. And finally making them laugh and make them happy.” Avaf’s latest show, “Adderall Valium Ativan Focalin (Cantilevering Me)” is on view at Soho’s Suzanne Geiss Company until 21 June 2014 for those wanting more.

With two other contributions by Kelly Wearstler and Rafael de Cárdenas, the five new Bourgie lamps are now on view at Kartell’s New York flagship showroom on 39 Greene St, SoHo.

Images courtesy of Kartell