Marc Newson has designed a stainless steel kettle that’s as sensual as it is practical, a jet-powered airplane that makes engineering seem poetic and a chaise lounge, the colour of quicksilver, that looks like it was dropped from outer space. But the superstar designer’s ability to create optical illusions that imbue everyday objects with art world romanticism may be his most interesting achievement.
At a Phillips auction last year a chaise lounge designed and handmade by Marc Newson sold for $4.7 million. The price for the lounge — an industrial but sensuous silver tongue of fibreglass encased in riveted aluminium — eclipsed its own sale record,
set five years earlier, for the most expensive design object by a living designer.
Newson built the precursor to his iconic Lockheed Lounge — the LC1 — when he was 23 years old. Fabricated by hand in his Sydney backyard, the object resembled a seat — a Récamier lounge specifically — more akin to sculpture than a functional chaise. In his mind’s eye Newson had envisioned a liquid drop of mercury — fluid, metallic, and smooth. The fuselage-like, panelled surface that transpired is not what he had intended, but no matter: he had forged something that looked like it could fly.
Newson exhibited the LC1 in his first show at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in 1986 and the Art Gallery of South Australia presciently acquired it. LC1’s descendent, the Lockheed Lounge, is undeniably Newson’s most iconic design. His works of art-design are prolific, and spread throughout the world’s great public and private collections.
Newson is an industrial designer, with an asterisk. He is part of Apple’s design team, but he’s also the only designer in Larry Gagosian’s prestigious gallery stable; he’s the creative director of Qantas, but he has also had a solo show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; he designs dish racks and coat-hangers, but Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris commissioned him to build... Subscribe to read this article in full
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