Magazine article Artforum International

Marc Newson

Magazine article Artforum International

Marc Newson

Article excerpt

In the machine age, designers turned to the most advanced technologies of travel as sources of inspiration. Le Corbusier wrote odes to ocean liners and airplanes. Charlotte Perriand fell into raptures over automobiles. Marcel Breuer fashioned his tubular steel chairs after the handlebars of an Adler bicycle. Today, the current of influence may flow both ways: Design might influence transportation technology, too. Or so Australia-born, London-based designer Marc Newson's second solo show at Gagosian seems to suggest. "Transport" presents Newson's designs and prototypes for, primarily, private locomotion: a nickel surfboard with a mirror finish; a nonfunctional, lepidopteran jet with carbon fiber wings and an air intake styled as a gaping red mouth; a candy-colored and crisply contoured concept car for Ford. Transport here is first and foremost an aesthetic experience.

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Newson began his career focusing on furniture design, but he derived his forms and construction methods from transportation technology, contracting out fabrication to body shops and high-end aircraft factories or, in the case of a funneled table from 1988, surfboard specialists. But ever since he was hired to outfit the interior of a private jet in 1998, his attention has increasingly turned toward vehicles of transportation themselves. As the Gagosian works reveal, Newson has by now thoroughly integrated his design agenda with the technical advance of new modes of conveyance. Research and development for projects such as a space plane (for Astrium, an aerospace company entering the space tourism sector) or a personal jet pack (for BodyJet), both on view, seem to follow on and support Newson's design imagination. The "jet" on display, a purely sculptural object, pushes this trajectory to its limit. Although subjected to wind-tunnel tests and aerodynamic analysis at Onera, the French aerospace lab, it is, as Paul Virilio remarked in 2004, "no longer a vehicle for anything but its own image." Putting design first also offers a marketing advantage, as the image of a project is used to draw investors, or create a base of potential buyers. Indeed, Gagosian took on something of the quality of a showroom, or even acted as such. …

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