A photo print of two black drones with gold-coloured text ”Humans since 1982”.

Art meets functional design

To date, the yearly IKEA Art Event collections have featured street art, photography, drawings, glass figurines and rugs. We met with Henrik Most to get an introduction to the sixth edition of Art Event, exploring the sweet spot between functional design and art.

Traditionally, art has been experienced and admired from a distance. That’s about to change, as it gets increasingly common for artists to also work as designers and vice versa. The crossover has a profound impact on what goes on both on the design scene and the art scene – and is the focus for IKEA Art Event 2021.

Created by artists and designers from Europe, USA and Asia, the collection features items such as a vase, a clock, a wall lamp, a torchlight – nothing you immediately relate to art. And that’s the point.

“Each item in this collection has a practical function, and at the same time it’s an art object. We want to show that the traditional idea of art being high-end and design being part of the mass culture simply isn’t relevant anymore. The two go fantastic together – that’s where the magic happens”, says Henrik Most, Creative Leader for IKEA Art Event.

Henrik Most sitting in a grey sofa with cushions, with the Mona Lisa and other framed art prints on the wall behind him.

So, what makes a vase more than a vase? In this case, the answer is the underlying concept – it’s the idea behind the vase that makes it what it is.

“To me, that’s what makes this collection so fascinating. The artists use the uniqueness of their signature and incorporate it into a functional design.”

If it’s the meeting and merging of art and functional design that makes each item in IKEA Art Event 2021 unique, it’s the artists’ varying backgrounds, aesthetics and methods that signify the collection as a whole.

“Working with people from different parts of the world gives us a chance to capture the richness and diversity of both the art scene and the design scene”, Henrik concludes.

A photo print of two black drones with gold-coloured text, on a white wall above a white ledge.

A black fabric with large white lettering on it.

IKEA Art Event 2021 at a glance

Sabine Marcelis, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Educated in industrial design Sabine Marcelis is best known for her work in resin, but also in neon, glass and marble. She works with product, installation and spatial design and is always on the search of magical moments within materiality and manufacturing processes – to create unexpected experiences. For IKEA Art Event she’s made a wall lamp in two different sizes, inspired by Lucio Fontana’s cut paintings.

Gelchop, Tokyo, Japan
Gelchop is a 3D-design group that deconstructs no-name design products and transforms them into readymade art objects. The quirky, photogenic attitude is there to make you smile and wonder about the purpose. For IKEA Art Event Gelchop has created a torch and a lamp inspired by the IKEA Allen key:
“The Allen key symbolizes the essence of IKEA, but it’s rarely at the centre of attention. We want to raise the value by exploring its possibilities as an art piece. Also, we want to create something that is fun to use even for those who don’t normally find assembling furniture much fun.”

Humans since 1982, Stockholm, Sweden
Humans since 1982 were established in 2009 by German Bastian Bischoff and Swedish Per Emanuelsson. Their work spans art, design and technology, defying easy categorization, but are driven by a shared curiosity and desire to make sense of the world. For IKEA Art Event the duo has created a drone wall piece:
“It resembles a butterfly collection cabinet, but instead of butterflies, it has drones pinned to the backdrop. We play with this visual similarity. At the same time, the piece plays with the contrast between technology and nature, by placing tech in a whole new context.”

Stefan Marx, Berlin, Germany
German artist and illustrator Stefan Marx uses his distinct style to capture and portray the mundane of everyday life. He draws inspiration from different subcultures, like graffiti and techno, to create art in various media, including skateboard designs, large-scale oil paintings, and porcelain vases. For IKEA Art Event, Marx has made a vase and a throw, with a typographic message each:
“I love the vase as an object, how it has no beginning and no end – it’s like a 360-degrees canvas. The typography says ‘I’m sorry’, which is a really nice message, I think. The throw says ‘I wait here for you forever, as long as it takes’. I saw that phrase on a wall in London many years ago, and it’s been with me ever since.”

Daniel Arsham, New York, USA
Daniel Arsham is a multidisciplinary American artist combining art, architecture, and performance. He has extensive experience collaborating with other creative leaders in the areas of stage production, fashion, interior design, and architecture. Arsham is the co-founder of Snarkitecture. For IKEA Art Event 2021, he has created a draped, moving wall clock:
“It appears to be in a frozen state where it’s manipulating the idea of architecture. It’s almost as the clock has peeled itself off the wall and brought a little bit of the surface with it.”