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A COLLABORATION WITH PIN–UP MAGAZINE
Marsèll is pleased to announce SUN CITY, the first solo exhibition in Milan by London-based studio Soft Baroque, curated by New York-based architecture and design magazine PIN–UP.
Inspired by the sun, both its life-giving and destructive potential, Saša Štucin and Nicholas Gardner of Soft Baroque created SUN CITY as an immersive exhibition space, transforming Marsèll’s multi-level headquarters in Milan, Italy. SUN CITY makes reference to how the sun has been revered as a deity for millennia, recognized for its role as the ultimate source of light and energy.
The name of the exhibition makes references to the figure of the sun as it is used in contemporary resort marketing, and to the cultures of sun worship and tanning. SUN CITY is experienced in three parts, each level of the exhibition is dedicated to a particular aspect of the sun: Life, Destruction, and Worship. Before entering the exhibition, visitors pass by the limonaia in the courtyard, which functions as a prelude to the main part of SUN CITY.
“SUN CITY is an exhibition about life, energy, and technology. It references the sometimes-antithetical forces of craft, industry, style, and religion. And about the idea as the sun as a beloved enemy. Due to our dependency on hydrocarbons, we’ve lost our reliance on the sun’s power. But now we will need it again, so let’s look directly at it!” — Saša Štucin and Nicholas Gardner, Soft Baroque
Marsèll’s limonaia serves as a prelude to SUN CITY. Limonaia is the Italian term for a conservatory where lemon trees are grown, and here Soft Baroque have installed a sun lounger from their Tan series. The lounger sits on a plush carpet, as if in a suburban salon, surrounded by a bright yellow glow. The lounger’s wooden frame is covered in patches of polyurethane rubber, poured at points corresponding to where sweat would trickle from a reclining body or where a lounger’s wet swimwear would hit the seat’s surface. Marsèll’s classic yellow calfskin leather acts as an ersatz for human skin, puckering as it’s pulled tight over the undulating wood and soft rubber patches.
LIFE (basement level)
The lower level of the exhibition is dedicated to the life-giving force of the sun, Soft Baroque designed cabinets illuminated from the inside with an artificial glow, and through cutout apertures both LED grow lights and real cannabis plants are visible. These “grow cabinets” reference Donald Judd’s paneled furniture and the idea of taking a big X-acto knife to IKEA’s composite-board products. Two plinths — one clear acrylic and one stone — also house weed plants and lights while a baby blue log chair stands in contrast to the rest of the objects in the room. This chair has a strong connection to its raw material form, suggesting the tree from which it comes and an understanding of how to work productively with your environment.
DESTRUCTION (main level)
The sun melts, bubbles, bleaches, and scorches materials. Soft Baroque’s installation of stacked loungers is centered around a powerful balloon light, sitting atop a natural fiber carpet with shapes painted in chroma green. Each bench is made from a wooden frame covered in patches of polyurethane rubber to create a soft, bubble-like surface. These graphic embossments were poured at points corresponding to a reclining body. The spindly stainless-steel legs, finished in rubber caps, are kept at a minimum thickness to accentuate the bench’s upper-body volume. Originally produced by Soft Baroque in a workshop in Slovenia, the loungers were then covered with Marsèll’s classic yellow calfskin leather by artisans in the company’s Venetian factory. The leather acts as an ersatz for human skin, complete with droplets of sweat. A TV mounted on one wall plays a seven-second video on loop showing a close-up of the surface of the sun, which bubbles and writhes. Facing the TV is a metal chair, folded from a single sheet of aluminum, its form slumped, melting as if from the heat of the on-screen sun.
WORSHIP (upper level)
On the upper floor, at the highest point of SUN CITY, Soft Baroque celebrates summer solstice,a seasonal turning point honored across time and religious beliefs. Referencing the architecture of traditional sites of worship, Soft Baroque has set up a space for relaxation, where wheat grows inside wood chests and carbon fiber vases. A bookstand, metal hanger, and series of quasi-religious objects are all made from brass, bent into soft, graphic curves. A dancing armchair faces an altar, performing a trance-like wiggle. A Shaker-style chair made from Tufnol®, a pioneering laminated plastic with the vague appearance of wood, inspires a re-evaluation of how reverence is usually paid to natural materials.
Soft Baroque’s SUN CITY will be on view at Marsèll’s exhibition space in Milan, April 15 to May 28, 2021. SUN CITY was curated by PIN–UP in collaboration with Felix Burrichter, the editor and creative director of PIN–UP magazine.
“I’ve been a longtime fan of Soft Baroque’s work and we’ve featured them many times in PIN–UP. I admire the way they play with contemporary concepts of objecthood and material value while also creating beautiful work that is always a little ambiguous. I’m grateful to Marsèll for collaborating with PIN–UP to facilitate Saša and Nick’s first solo show in Milan. Marsèll is an ideal partner because they deeply care about the product and its fabrication and lend their company expertise and resources to the entire production process.” — Felix Burrichter, PIN–UP
Nicholas Gardner and Saša Štucin of Soft Baroque work simultaneously in object design and art. Their London-based practice focuses on creating work with conflicting functions and imagery, without abandoning beauty or consumer logic. They are keen to blur the boundaries between acceptable furniture typologies and conceptual representative objects. Their work has been exhibited at Swiss Institute and Friedman Benda in New York, V&A in London, Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich, Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Etage Projects in Copenhagen, Design Miami in Basel and Miami.
PIN–UP is a New York-based architecture and design magazine. It was founded in 2006 by Felix Burrichter and regularly features interviews with renowned architects as well as critical essays and photography portfolios on contemporary architecture, art, and design. In addition to its biannual print publication PIN–UP produces stories across its digital platforms and social media. PIN–UP also organizes lectures, dinners, talks, seminars, and special projects in collaboration with some of the world’s leading institutions and design companies, including Adidas, B&B Italia, Herman Miller, Thom Browne, Vitra, and Marsèll.