BLUE Steel Exhibition curated by Kristen de La Vallière and John Whelan at GSL Gallery in Paris
A Wry yet Appreciative Sojourn into Design’s Current Obsession with Silver Metal
Prepare to be immersed in an exhibition that evokes the bold spirit of design history’s metallurgical dalliances. “BLUE STEEL,” a group exhibition featuring a diverse array of over twenty-seven designers internationally, co-curated by say hi to Atlas founder, Kristen de La Vallière and John Whelan, who also serves as the visionary gallerist of GSL Gallery.
The exhibition emerges as an erudite testament to the current infatuation within the design realm—a symphony of steel and aluminium reminiscent of the industrial echoes that have reverberated through the ages.
BLUE STEEL – Curatorial Statement
Written by Kristen de La Vallière
You find yourself in the heart of Ancient Rome, circa 50 BC, face to face with the meticulously crafted 'Sella Curulis' – an iron-crafted folding chair reserved for high-ranking officials. Fast forward to the northern desert regions of 14th-century Peru, sipping from a figurative hand-forged silver Chimú Beaker. Now, shift scenes to a salon on Neustiftgaße in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, hosted by the avant-garde Wiener Werkstätte. Your gaze fixates on a polished silver inkwell encrusted with semi-precious stones. Or, modern-day South Korea, in a loud, haphazardly decorated local restaurant, savouring the last bites of kimchi-jjigae from an industrially manufactured stainless steel bowl, accompanied by perfectly matching steel chopsticks. It's Tokyo, 1986, and you are quizzically inspecting Shiro Kuramata's Post-Modern marvel 'How High is the Moon' – a chrome-plated, expanded mesh outline of an armchair that challenges perceptions of density and matter.
From aristocracy to the blue-collar worker, and now (re)embraced by the design elite, we as a species have been captivated by silver metal objects for millennia.
'Blue Steel' takes a wry but appreciative look at the design world's current obsession, a testament to the enduring allure of silver metals. Bringing together an international and multigenerational crop of over twenty-seven designers, artists, and artisans – the exhibition explores themes such as the overkill of brass, design history's metallurgical dalliances, social media groupthink and gender. It’s an intellectual jaunt through design’s love affair with materials that endure, redefine, and sculpt our living spaces.
Historically, metal materials like iron gained popularity with technological advancements in casting, enabling greater ease and efficiency in creative output. In the past few hundred years, Silver has not merely been coveted for its beauty and value but for its relative "softness", offering artisans diverse avenues of expression. The '60s and '70s witnessed the influence of Brutalism and Futurism, reimagining industrial materials as representatives of contemporary taste.
Now, in 2024, what sparks silver metal's grand comeback? Can we attribute it to the social media binge we're on and the subliminal influence of "the algorithm"? Is it a result of our hyperconnected world, where trends cascade down the digital influence ladder? Perhaps following the spirit of the age, questions of gender and politics move in tandem with our creativity. Industrial materials such as steel and aluminium which have been associated with strength and masculinity; are now being reinterpreted by a new garde of contemporary designers, taking on a more whimsical and poetic approach to working with these materials, shattering stereotypes and recalibrating to the present societal pulse.
Alors, Voilà – silver metal making a triumphant return, by our foresight not simply as a trend but as a canvas for a new wave of creators rewriting the script of modern heirlooms. Whether romantic and whimsical or industrial and austere, 'BLUE STEEL' showcases the duality and enduring charm of silver metal materials.
Designers in BLUE STEEL_
Nick T. Poe
Studio Benoit Lalloz
Waiting For Ideas
Yann Le Coadic