The Milan furniture fair is exploding into the city this week and two UK Government-backed organisations are grabbing the opportunity to promote emerging British design talent at the event.
The British Council, in collaboration with the Design Museum, is to present an exhibition of five promising British designers during the fair. Hosted by Sir Paul Smith at his European headquarters in Milan, Great Brits: Ingenious Therapies is a platform to promote British design abroad, taking ‘the best of the UK design talent’ to an international forum.
An offshoot of The British Council’s Design & Architecture programme, the exhibition is one part of a wider scheme to ‘maintain Britain’s reputation for excellence in the advanced discourse of design and architecture’, according to its curator Emily Campbell, head of design and architecture at the British Council.
Now in its third year, the Great Brits exhibition will showcase the work of five furniture and product designers who present what the council describes as ‘a coherent body of work that shows an interesting conceptual or formal idea being pursued with rigour’.
All the designs are based around the theme of ‘ingenious therapies’, or the ‘twin imperatives of ingenious function and therapeutic action’, according to the council. Eelko Moorer’s site-specific installation In The Jungle Groove requires visitors to swing through the vines to a maze of suspended objects. Nadine Jarvis’s lightweight mini-urn, designed to scatter a portion of ashes as it moves in the wind, marries the bizarre with the practical.
The exhibition also includes Peter Marigold’s shelves and boxes, made from asymmetrically cut and quartered logs to give complex angles and irregular shapes.
Separately, the British Consulate in Milan is holding an event to promote British design in Italy, dubbed British Design Day. To be hosted at the residence of the Consul-General on the second day of the Milan furniture fair, the one-day presentation will showcase a selection of 23 up-and-coming British designers from a variety of design disciplines.
According to the head of the consulate’s fashion and design unit Marina Tremongero, the overall aim is ‘to make our guests aware of the strong presence of British design in Milan and of the potential for the local industry’. It is also supported by UK Trade & Investment, the Government body that helps UK companies to forge links globally.
Of the 23 designers participating, most are already exhibiting in Milan, either at the Salone del Mobile or the Salone Satellite, or with groups such as Designersblock and Hidden Art.
Although the consulate and British Council do collaborate – as on the Love & Money exhibition that is currently touring the Far East – they elected to present separate events this year. As Campbell explains, ‘Milan operates so hard on both levels – commercial and cultural or curatorial – that on this occasion we’re happy to pick a lane each.’
• British Design Day, 19 April at British Consul-General’s Residence, Milan
• Great Brits/ Ingenious Therapies runs from 19-23 April at the Paul Smith Showroom, Milan. For more information, visit www.britishcouncil.org
• Milan furniture fair runs from 18-23 April