Since the 1996 launch of his groundbreaking Knotted chair, a crocheted matrix of fibers sculpted to stand upright as an autonomous piece of furniture, the prolific Dutch designer Marcel Wanders has grown into his own personal brand, one characterized by its defiant flamboyance, fairy-tale whimsy and relentless output. In 2014, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum gathered a cross-section of Wanders’ extensive portfolio for “Pinned Up,” a sprawling retrospective that showcased 25 years of projects—from products for Flos, Droog and his own design label, Moooi, to interiors, like that of his Mondrian South Beach—all of which feature a layering of ornate patterns that approaches a modern-day baroque.
“You could look at the work and see that design for me is very positive,” says Wanders, dressed characteristically in an expertly tailored suit and strategically unbuttoned collar. “It adds value. It shares love. But it’s kind of a caricature of a person instead of a person. There’s a lot of other stuff which is in me—fear and pain—that I don’t share, because design is not the place to do it.” Seeking a platform outside of design to express these inner sentiments, he found the New York gallery Friedman Benda, where, as the antithesis of these aforementioned caricatures, he’ll show “Portraits,” his very first solo gallery presentation.