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A line of beauty

Furniture News

A line of beauty


Shelves are no longer the support act. They are now sculptural works of art in their own right writes FUNKE OSAE-BROWN


Francis Edwards is in search of a rare shelf for his new apartment. He has just moved into a new estate in Lekki. His choice is a shelf that is poised between conceptual art and domestic fixture. He wants a functional sculpture in the form of shelf that will capture the imagination of anyone who walks into his home.

He later settles for a highly polished aluminium piece by French artist, Vincent Dubourg. The shelf is decorated with his acquisitions from porcelain boxes, small sculptures, volumes on design icons, to bookends in the shape of a rhino.

Edwards says he was first introduced to the works of Dubourg’s in London by a friend. “I like Dubourg because he creates sculptural furniture with contemporary allusions to traditional methods of making cabinet. He evokes a nostalgic sense of the familiar while at the same time twisting these antiquated forms with his fresh approach to materials and technique.”

According to Edwards, Dubourg poetically fuses the crafts of glass blowing, wood-bending and metal-casting to deconstruct people’s perceptions of simple forms and breathe new life into the past.

Like Edwards, lovers of contemporary shelves are going for rare designs made of timber ribbons, shiny aluminium splinters and polyconcrete cornices. These are interesting platforms glued to the wall like art pieces on which home owners display books, photo frames and other treasures. Latest designs of shelves are often personalised representing an enduring partnership between artists and collectors.

Some of statement designs available include Piano shelves by New York based Sebastian Errazuriz. This shelf design is perfect for lovers of musical instrument who would like to decorate their house in an artistic manner and at the same time get a great storage space.

The Piano shelf is a great storage facility which imitates the structure of the keys of a piano and is adjustable for any type of object. When it is not in use, it can be folded so it doesn’t occupy space that can be freed up or put into use in other ways. What makes the shelf unique is that it is perfect for small rooms.

In addition, pieces by Italian designer, Andrea Branzi, are great works to have in the home. He uses birch trees to depict a continuation of his thinking on architecture. He creates a minimalist space of shelves, veritable pieces of micro-architecture made from aluminium that spread out in neo-plastic bursts like a Mondrian. However, through the splits in the frame, Branzi introduces trunks and twigs gathered in the wild. His strange designs question the duality of the nature-culture relationship.

Through the use of trees, Branzi adds a dimension, an extra slice of soul, as nature becomes art, a contemporary icon, an emotional window linked to the knowledge of the vital importance of this precious, common heritage.

For artists like Branzi, who have always been fascinated by nature, they continue to give off a grand expressive force through their works. They combine nature with modern, perfect and industrial materials. These are pieces that are diverse, unique, unrepeatable and with somewhat sacred presences.


Dare Alabi, a collector, who once encountered Branzi’s works in Europe says he was fascinated by his level of intelligence and creativity to combine tree with aluminium. “I find his interaction with emotion very brilliant. I love the combination of the wood and metal, the imagery of the growing tree and of the constrained shelves,” he says.

Just as artists are creating unique sculptural shelves with dual nature as artworks and showcases, collectors consider them as perfect items to have. In addition, artists are captivated by the form because it represents an intimate collaboration with those who purchase their works.

For instance, a 2010 series named ‘Painting on the Wall’ by Philip Michael is a dynamic platform, in zebrawood and red lacquer with gilded edges, that requires the additions of its owner to bring it to life.

Wolfson has been working for more than two decades. His piece, ‘RipTear’, a painted aluminium work with the elegance of a Stealth Bomber, and his piece, ‘WallCurve’ (2009), a shelf cum side table from the Line series, inspired by the movement of a hand-drawn line, are statements works to have.

The design-art shelf has a long yet rich history. Modern designs have been inspired by templates of Dear David, a 1996, Danny Lane’s epic commission for David Pears’ former home in Hampstead.

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The artist is best known for big, bold glass sculptures created on behalf of corporate clients such as Canary Wharf Group, Microsoft and British Land, as well as furniture made from glass and forged steel, but he also relishes the comparative domesticity of shelf-like installations.

Art critics believe it is the symbolism of the form that draws his artists to revisit the bookshelf. “For the artist, bookshelves are storage facility for ideas,” explains Adebola Oke, an art enthusiast. They love the metaphor of the bookshelf. If an artist pays attention to a particular thing, you can be sure collectors will pay attention, too.” According to him, artists are often intrigued to discover what their works look like once they are in use.


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