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Moooi Gallery opens in Amsterdam

A life-sized black horse, a tiny fragile egg vase and a rug embroidered into a traditional Delft Blue ceramic graphic, the new Moooi Gallery fuses humour and style while bringing the best of Dutch design to the general public.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 11-12-2008

After much anticipation the Moooi Gallery has opened in Marcel Wanders’ Westerhuis complex in Amsterdam.  The enormous high-ceilinged, white space is packed with Moooi classics like “Animal Thing”, a series of lamps and tables perched on life-sized horses, pigs and rabbits, the “Egg Vase” and the “Crochet Table”.

“People don’t think they need design, but when they come here they start to understand it differently,” says store manager Johan Bak.  “They begin to see how they could use design in their own lives.”

Moooi is the brainchild of Casper Vissers and Marcel Wanders.  It is a brand that denotes an indulgent, larger-then-life, regal aesthetic that contrasts and even conflicts with the modernist silhouettes and scale that has come to saturate the design zeitgeist.  Sofas upholstered in thick linens encrusted with gold motifs, chandeliers wrapped in sheaths and ingenious chair covers that create the illusion of floating furniture.

“People can wander about, react positively or negatively to what they see, and even become an owner of a piece of design,” Bak says.  “Modernism has its place, but everybody needs something that they can really feel.”

To visually express this, evolving and rotating exhibitions will sit alongside the Moooi pieces to show how aesthetics can reflect off one another. For the opening, “Swedish Antiques: the unbearable lightness of being” opened with timelines and insights into the history of Swedish furniture design.

“You can add a Moooi object to a more streamlined or old-fashioned environment to create a humorous or dramatic statement,” Bak says, “and suddenly you’ve added heart and soul.”

The point of the juxtapositions is to make people think. “Like in a book,” Bak say.  “Some people love it, and some people hate it, but even hate can be a reaction towards something else.  Everyone is looking for that balance.”

It’s a very inclusive approach, which is at the very heart of Moooi’s ethos.  Rather than dodge the accusatory attacks of some who claim that design is devoid of meaning and its existence is a mere rip off, the company hosts the brilliantly conceived “Schizophrenic Design conversation” on its own website.

“A design gallery can just be like a tickle,” Bak says in response. “It’s good enough if it can just get people thinking so that what they like becomes clearer in their own minds.  Once they know that, the process can continue.”

A well as the Moooi products and temporary exhibitions, the Moooi Gallery will also sell a range of design gadgets hand-selected by Moooi’s team.  “High-end gadgets from Japan and around the world that are original, surprising and of a very high quality,” Bak says.

Since opening two weeks ago, the gallery’s top-seller has surprised gallery staff:  A life-sized black horse sporting a lamp on its head costing 2 500 euros. “It's a real seller,” Bak says.  “Probably because it is a clear statement about how design can work.  Minimalism is a trend but in a house devoid of ornament, add only a huge black horse and you have life.  It can have a similar effect to a grand piano.”

The adjoining Moooi Gallery Café is still waiting governmental zoning permission.

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