NEW YORK — One of the High Line’s latest inhabitants — albeit a subterranean one — is Chamber, a Studio Job-selected design and art boutique now open in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
Just steps from the elevated park’s West 23rd Street entrance, the MOS-designed space’s location isn’t its only art-infused attribute. Founder Juan Garcia Mosqueda has planted his Renaissance “Cabinet of Curiosities”-inspired shop in Neil Denari’s HL23 luxury condo building. Mosqueda sharpened his eye at Moss, Murray Moss’ design emporium which closed its Greene Street doors in 2012 after an 18-year run.
During a walkthrough of the gallerylike Chamber, Mosqueda said he first developed the concept two years ago and has been finessing it ever since. Surrounded by a mélange of such limited-editions as a Viktor & Rolf doll, a Tom Dixon fire-resistant cake stand and a Studio Job horse bust, the founder said the post-financial market fallout left art enthusiasts expecting more from this hypercompetitive market. “They are a lot more thorough about the entire process than they were before 2008. They just take it more seriously. They don’t purchase anything without analyzing the provenance, the designers and their entire careers. They are influenced by the entire experience and the space,” he said.
Instead of shopping around for select pieces, he wound up collaborating with 60 percent of the designers and artists whose one-offs are being sold. With Job Smeets of Studio Job serving as the first curator in what became a very labor-intensive project, sketches were reviewed, designers were teed up with manufacturers and proposals were weeded out. All the elbow grease led to such finds as Jelle Mastenbroek’s antique china cabinet filled with a jumble of mismatched tea cups and a vending-machine coin slot. Rigged with a pulley like the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” breakfast contraption, the musical heirloom is a riff on the Dutch tradition that a china cabinet, the focal point of a home, symbolized one’s wealth. But Mastenbroek’s $11,800 rendition is meant to convey more of a not-my-cup-of-tea sentiment.
Dutch fashion designer Jantine van Peski provided “Lou’s Tent,” a child-size canvas that is meant to be DIY’ed. A Studio Job carpet that was once used for a Viktor & Rolf runway show and antique wooden toys from a Dutch sanatorium are a few of the more unexpected pieces at Chamber. Studio Job also designed the bottle for a customized fragrance that retails for $350. There are also two Delvaux bags, including a 1958 one that carries a $2,800 price tag.
Smeets said, as a collector himself, he enjoyed the process of collecting even though it was really difficult. “We developed hundreds of editions in one-and-a-half years. If you compare that with fashion, it’s different. But if you compare that to furniture brands, they maybe do five or four each year. I like the fact that it’s so diverse. It’s a whole spectrum. It’s fashion, graphic design, art, curiosity….
“I wanted it to be a collection that could have been collected by a private collector throughout a lifetime like an inventory of a house. If you’re a collector and let’s say that you collect for 50 years, you can never be the same person in those 50 years. What you collected in your 20s isn’t what you collect in your 70s.” Smeets said. “You dive into different theories, matters, historical references and then you start collecting, like, modernism with the Dieter Rams pieces or Flemish expressionists. Also, all of these pieces you could find in my houses in Amsterdam and Antwerp [Belgium].”
A Ravage ceramic plate from the mid-Nineties is a wink at Smeets’ younger days, working as an intern there for Viktor & Rolf, whom he continues to collaborate with but was careful not to reveal too much about their future projects. “It’s hard to tell you about that. It’s not top-secret but it’s nicer to keep that a little discreet. Of course Viktor & Rolf are supergood friends. We’ve known each other for 20 years. We met in Paris when we were all young and poor and boheme. And from that point on, we developed a friendship.
“In the mid-Nineties, they were at their highest creative peak and now they’re kind of retired. We are still in contact and we still are friends. I think it’s very important to show as much personality as possible in work, also very intimate moments that you may not see [as they happen] but only see in the work,” Smeets said. “Every piece has its own little l’histoire, its own little story and provenance, so for me that’s very important. From that moment on, you collect a collection like what is here, only through such a personal process. And it’s impossible for anyone else to create the same kind of collection.
“I’m not a museum curator. I’m not a scientist. I never studied to be a curator. With Studio Job, we did 300 shows, so we know how to put together an exhibition. For this exhibition, I could finally show all of my influences and where everything came from,” Smeets said. “There are only 55 of the 100 pieces installed here, so there are still other pieces in storage. I also wanted that. That’s why the pedestals [Studio Job designed] look like transport boxes. The idea is to get pieces out and once they are sold to put new pieces out. Everything should be connected a little bit. There’s not one piece that has a loose end. For me, that was important.”