By Angela Riechers
Founded in 2008 in Annecy, France as an art collective, Art by Friends specializes in the organization of cultural events, artist promotion, and curation of traveling exhibitions such as the Opinel Series, on display at WantedDesign during NYCxDESIGN thanks to French airline XL Airways. Of the 45 participating artists, 10 are from New York. This show began in 2015 with 30 objects on display in France; Artistic Director Camille Regnaudin hopes to finish the tour with about 200 works.
He says, “The project is meant to gather artists and a network of friends and acquaintances into a collection. There is no design brief at all: the brief is the object.” The traveling show builds on the art from the previous city, and the founders solicit the network of participating artists from each city by word-of-mouth, relying on artists they know, local contacts, and viral referrals.
For this series, artists were given Opinel knives, manufactured in the French Alps since 1890. These affordable, accessible, utilitarian and iconic objects made of wood and steel come with a strong identity that can also be seen as a blank slate for artists. “It’s a way to rethink the challenge of creativity; each concept is based on the object, its symbolic meaning alongside its basic daily use, and its ease of reshaping,” says Regnaudin.
Art by Friends is very much interested in graffiti, street art, and outsider art and much of the work on display at WantedDesign reflects that; folk art and craft-inspired pieces mingle with digital/augmented reality projects.
Participating New York artists include Charles Constantine of the experimental design studio The Principals; tattoo artist Minka Sicklinger; Fort Makers art and design studio; Sayaka Toyama of Curious Corners; MNSTR Design; and François Chambard of UM Project, who also designed the New York Opinel limited edition.
Constantine used two sizes of Opinel knives, the smaller Savoyard and the #13, a really big one that looks almost like a comically exaggerated cartoon knife, to create a mechanized Killing Machine. Sicklinger tattooed a knife onto a subject’s skin, and MNSTR contributed an augmented reality piece. Toyama created a textile based installation incorporating the Savoyard knife; reminiscent of a table setting and placemat, it also carries a hint of danger and menace.
By Angela Riechers – To provide an insight into our exhibitions, WantedDesign is proud to partner with the SVA MA Design Research program, which pairs students for future-facing careers in research, publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, and entrepreneurship or for continued studies in a design-related subject.