Insights / Art & Design
”Designers should work more as artists and artists should work more as designers and architects”
On the future of functional art
14 Feb 2023

Who are you?

— I’m the creative director and founder of Tableau, (a Copenhagen-based multidisciplinary studio and concept store working primarily with functional art and design).

Tableau’s exhibition Funct Feast at Älvsjö Gård during Stockholm Furniture Fair.

And functional art as a definition, what is that for you?

— A piece of furniture which is either bespoke, limited, or unique, produced by artists and not in a multi-production — something that not everyone else has and somewhat of a special piece. Functional art has been produced throughout human time, you see porcelain from China from the 17th century, or pottery from 20,000 before b.C. It’s made to have a function, to contain something, but also a decorative piece of art.

And being a gallery, you also need to sell the stuff you show, so it can’t be too ’difficult’ or either, you’re limiting the target group. What’s important to think about in order to make the pieces relevant?

— You’re right but we also see a target group of people who want more specific items that are almost dysfunctional but still have some sort of function. So, for me, it’s a combination of looks and functionality and it can either be very, very expressive and less functional or vice versa. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a very comfortable piece of furniture or an extremely functional piece of object — it can also be more or less dysfunctional, yet with some sort of function.

Have you seen a growing interest in what you’re doing?

— Definitely, yes — in Scandinavia, the interest in functional art is growing more and more. I believe that if you live with functional art, it creates somewhat of a bridge between art and functional furniture. So, quite often for me, art can be disconnected from the actual furniture in a home, whereas when you live with functional art, in my opinion, you create somewhat of a bridge between the art and the actual functional pieces. So, I think it makes it all more cohesive somehow, says Værnes Iversen.

Do the art influences make the design world more interesting and vice versa?

— Definitely. I also believe that designers should work more as artists and artists should work more as designers — and architects as well, of course.

Why is that?

— I believe that the gap between the different industries is too big. In my opinion, as an architect, you are more than welcome to produce artworks and artists should also be able to produce architecture. I think that the gap should be more invisible between the different creative industries.

You’re based in Denmark, is the art industry more relevant and interesting there now, or the design industry?

— That’s difficult for me to say, I work in both. I don’t think either is more interesting than the other, it’s very depending on the time and when it is. We have fairs only for fine art and we don’t really have fairs for functional art yet — it’s being more and more accepted. It’s also becoming more accepted within the fairs of fine art, which is really, really great. But it’s been a long journey and it’s still evolving. People are more and more understanding that a furniture piece can actually be a piece of art as well, it doesn’t necessarily hang on a wall or be a sculpture. So, I think the different industries are becoming more cohesive and more and more one industry.

And you also mentioned a special launch during 3Daysofdesign.

— Yes, we are launching a collaboration with Poul Gernes Foundation. Paul Gearnes created a lamp in the late 80s, which is called Lysblomst (Lightflower). It’s basically a piece of metal lamp which has been cut in hand by the artist himself and it’s made into a functional piece of art which is this flower hanging from the ceiling as a light piece. We’re reproducing that together with the foundation and it’s gonna be more of a design piece than an art piece because it’s not gonna be limited.

Lastly, do you lack anything in the Danish and Scandinavian art and design industries, that you’d like to see more of?

— Yes, definitely. We lack a lot of landscape art — a lot of spatial art in general. I think that there may come a boom of more spatial art, light art, and more dysfunctional, abstract art pieces. Also, botanical art is not very looked positive upon in Scandinavia — or in the world in general — so we need to create more space for botanical art as well. In Scandinavia, we have a tendency to be very narrow-minded about how we understand the different art industries. For Scandinavian people, it needs to be somewhat very functional, stating that ’this is a painting, this is a sculpture’. However, a room by itself can be an artwork. You can also create an interior design as an artwork, or why not spatial or light installation art pieces? I do believe that the Scandinavian market is opening more and more towards it which is very positive — but we have a long way to go.

Julius Værnes Iversen.