Marc Newson’s show at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea is a retrospective of Newson’s designs for transport and human locomotion since 1999.It is a fabulous show- like FAO Schwartz but only for adults. The exhibition features his most ambitious projects to date: the EADS Astrium Space Plane prototype (2007), Nickel Surfboard (2006), the jet plane Kelvin40 (2003), the Ford 021C (1999) a concept car, and some smaller works such as the Zvezdochka trainers for Nike (2004), and MN Special (2008), a lightweight carbon fiber bicycle.
While all of these objects are sleek and, oh, so sexy, they are also all practical. In fact the potential of each one of these pieces is incredible. The EADS Astrium Space Plane is the future of space tourism. The four passenger vessel (with a vibrant yellow interior) takes off like an airplane would but shoots up into space like a rocket. Two hours later you are back on Planet Earth. Newson spent half of his time on this project designing the aircraft’s aerodynamic interior and making sure that it would be a smooth ride for all involved. This isn’t the designer’s first foray into aviation design- he is also responsible for the interiors of the Qantas A380 airplane- a project with took him six years to complete during which time he redesigned absolutely every aspect of the airplane.
However, my favorite by far is the Aquariva, a boat meant for the lakes of Italy that has a respected place in history. During the 1960’s the Aquarama was the premiere luxury speedboat, and a pop icon, for all the beautiful people. Newson’s redesign is a streamlined beauty. The interior has comfortable turquoise banquettes, a shiny deck made of a phenolic textile composite instead of mahogany- Newson has previously used this material for this furniture designs in 2007- and a laminated warp-around windscreen made from a single piece of glass. The boat includes separate driver and passenger seats and a functional dining area. This attention to detail is essential to Newson and what sets his work apart from that of his colleagues.Only 22 boats have been produced and are available exclusively through the gallery for a cool $1.28 million.
We must ask ourselves, why are these objects in an art gallery? And should we perceive them as art or design? Newson doesn’t characterize them as either, in fact, he says that he doesn’t think about the art vs. design argument but just wants to create the best possible object. When put on the spot at the 92nd Street Y lecture, he says that he does not think of these pieces as art and prefers to works in a non-gallery environment- however exhibiting them at Gagosian does put them in a new context and that he likes.