LDF: The Auction Room 28.02.12

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I'm standing in a shed on a Sunday afternoon, waiting for the auctioneer to announce my lot: a desk by designer Alex Hellum, inspired by Gerrit Rietveld's Red Blue Chair. Finally, it's up and the bids are announced. But this isn't like any other auction – we're not bidding with money, but trading in kind. Chairs are swapped for holidays, for example, and tea sets for website designs. One bidder even offers his services as a fireman for life in exchange for Monika Piatkowski's Roomscape rug.

This unusual event was created by architect Mariana Pestana, who has a longstanding interest in narrative architecture and design. "There is an economic purpose to many of the exhibitions during the London Design Festival," Pestana explains, "and I was interested in discussing the roles of designed objects and the players who benefit."

The peculiar paradox of design festivals is that objects don't so much serve their intended purpose as close their own sales. Pestana needed a spatial concept to best express this paradox and settled on an auction, which would allow the objects to construct a space that represented the idea of selling.

She then set about getting designers involved. Working with host, Designersblock, she invited 14 designers to participate. Since the auction room itself is fake, Pestana asked the designers to create their pieces within this construct. For the piece I bid on, for instance, Hellum took the components of Rietveld's chair and combined them to make a desk that serves as the auctioneer's table. Other pieces include a Thomas Ives birch chair without a bottom and a gavel by Hugo Passos made out of a ping-pong bat.

All the designers are present at the auction and have to make snap decisions as to which offers they accept. Pestana says, "Most tended to accept more professional, less emotional offers, such as design services, exhibition opportunities and commissions. This probably says something of the difficult [economic] scenarios in which most operate."

All the pieces are sold, except the Roomscape rug, which the designer opts to hold on to instead of swapping it for a holiday to Dubai. Piatkowski explains that she is looking for an opportunity to advance her career, not her tan. Each winning bidder signs a contract to make good on their bartered offer. Pestana intends to keep track of each piece's new life and put together a publication about the event.

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Image

Crystal Bennes

 

Words

Brigitt Angst and Xavi Llarch Font

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Finally, it's up and the bids are announced. But this isn't like any other auction – we're not bidding with money, but trading in kind

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