Maarten Baas at Contrasts Gallery



Shanghai Riddle, an exhibition of new work by Dutch designer Maarten Baas, will open at Contrasts Gallery in Shanghai next month.


The show will present work produced by Baas while on the gallery's residency programme in China, as well as new pieces from Baas' existing collections.


The exhibition runs from August 15 to September 4.


Here's some info from Contrasts Gallery:


AUGUST 15 – September 4, 2008

No. 133 Middle Sichuan Road, 5/F / Shanghai, China 200002
Vernissage: August 15, 2008 / 6pm-8pm


SHANGHAI - Contrasts Gallery will present The Shanghai Riddle, Dutch designer Maarten Baas’ first solo exhibition in China from August 11 – 30, 2008 (TBC). Featuring works inspired by the designer’s experiences in China, the exhibition will include the latest iterations of his Sculpt, “Hey, chair, be a bookshelf!” and Smoke series, as well as new versions of his carved wood interpretations of plastic furniture. The exhibition will be on view at Contrasts’ Sichuan Road gallery (No. 133 Middle Sichuan Road, 5/F) and will open with a vernissage on August 15, 2008, from 6pm – 8pm.


While participating in Contrasts’ residency program, which brings Western artists to China to study local artistic and cultural practices, Baas became fascinated with traditional Chinese woodcarving; this exhibition is dominated by the results of this interest. His work pushes the boundaries of this time-honored Chinese craft, while also revealing the designer’s playful imagination.

“Shanghai is a city full of contradictions: old/new, high-tech/low-tech, tradition/revolution, fake/real, cheap/expensive, original/copy, etc. Together, all these contradictions seem to form a big and interesting paradox, the complexity of which you can't exactly define. What you can feel is the atmosphere, the energy coming from it, a kind of chemical reaction to what's happening. This was what encouraged me to develop the exhibition ‘The Shanghai Riddle,’ also full of paradoxes and experiments, inspired by a city in which everything seems possible.”

The intersection of traditional craft and China’s contemporary culture of mass production are addressed with Baas’ wood carved furniture. Pieces like Plastic Chair In Wood, which reproduces a basic plastic lawn chair in luxurious hand-carved elm, reference the contrast between disposable, mass-produced goods and treasured, handcrafted objects. Baas’ Transformation installation plays with traditional Chinese furniture forms; handcrafted elm and camphor wood furniture look like they are melting into a wooden pool.

Baas’ original “Hey, chair…” series consists of found furniture and other objects assembled to form sculptures that act as multi-functional bookshelves. Baas made a unique piece from this series especially for Contrasts Gallery. The piece is made up of various objects, handpicked by Baas from the streets of Shanghai during his visits, and finished with traditional Chinese red lacquer.

Chinese Objects Object is based on the “Hey, chair…” series. Baas made an assemblage of different kinds of wooden Chinese objects, which was then carved out of solid wood by local Chinese craftsmen.

The lighthearted, purposefully imperfect Sculpt series, which Baas began in his Netherlands studio in 2007, has evolved in China with the addition of two new works. The concept behind the series is to capture the spontaneity and roughness of a sketch in a fully realized, life-sized object. The Sculpt concept, which was initially applied to furniture, has expanded to include two musical instruments: a typical Chinese “pipa” and a western piano. Baas hopes the instruments can be played during the exhibition.

Mutation is a surreal carved wood installation, derived from Odds & Ends, Baas’ first collaboration with Contrasts Gallery. In Mutation, everyday objects seem to have mysteriously mutated—a comb is rendered useless when it sprouts a second row of extra teeth that point every which way, wooden clothes hangers appear to be cloning themselves by growing out of each other and chairs protect themselves with spiky clothespin armor.

New additions to the designer’s celebrated Smoke series will also be on view. The series, which began as Baas’ graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven, consists of pieces of wooden furniture that have been set alight. The remained charcoaled pieces are preserved in a clear epoxy.

Baas’ collaboration with Contrasts Gallery began in 2006 with Odds & Ends, a collection of miscellaneous carved wood objects for the exhibition Contrasts & Contradictions Chapter 1: CROSSOVERS // beyond art & design. Designers were asked to create non-functional objects, while artists were asked to create functional works using traditional Chinese art and craft techniques. Baas’ organic piece featured ordinary objects like an apple core, a clothes hanger and a violin, all painstakingly hand carved.

About Contrasts Gallery

Contrasts Gallery is aptly named because its philosophy is to celebrate and exaggerate differences. Founded in Hong Kong in 1992, the Gallery from inception set itself the task of exploring the relationships between art, architecture, and design by fusing individual creative talents without prejudice. As the first art gallery in Asia (outside Japan and Korea) to exhibit the international avant-garde, the Gallery shows artworks from cutting-edge artists and commissions pieces from designers worldwide. The Gallery’s mission is to show artists who explore Western and Eastern influences on art by creating a new aesthetic that defines the dynamic changes of today.

About Maarten Baas

Maarten Baas was born in 1978 in Arnsberg, Germany, but grew up in the Netherlands. His graduation project at the Design Academy Eindhoven introduced his Smoke series, which resulted in commissions from Moooi and Moss Gallery. His work has been exhibited at the Groninger, Stedelijk, Victoria & Albert museums and Design Museum London. He has also participated in numerous international design fairs, including the Salone del Mobile, Design Miami/ and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Maarten Baas lives and works in Waalre, near Eindhoven, in the Southern region of the Netherlands, where he produces his handmade furniture and is continually developing new concepts and designs.

Posted on Wednesday July 23rd 2008 at 1:25 pm by Rob Ong. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Zenza

    Always the same kind of crap… geez! I mean, this guy is way too young to run out of ideas already.

  • collector


  • 知识分子

    it s stupid

  • eduardo

    boring crap!!
    perhaps the chinese nouveau riche will buy it!

  • B2om

    Pfff. He’s obviously out of ideas. This is very disspointing.

  • 大学生


  • k.rimane

    well, i’m no Marteen’s admirer but i find some pieces quite interesting. Although, i don’t think this is called design. he hasn’t invented anything.
    Marteen, time to grow up!

  • jay

    i’d want to love this guy, but he’s been disappointing me with all these pseudo chinese crap…

  • omar

    hes got nothing.

  • Xit


    You burned out

  • Azeem

    well he’s got something I don’t !! that’s why reached here!!

  • Just Do It

    You all sound very frustrated. Looking at your comments I imagine you must all be fantastic designers full of great ideas.

    But in fact, reality must be far from what I imagine…

    With all the comments some of you guys are writing on dezeen, I think the truth is that you are just bored (and probably boring) designers.


  • piero maestro

    I have never seen a lot of rubbish like this man makes !
    I can imagine the chinese will be also be offended.
    he need to consider a new job… one in their right head will buy this.

  • Magritte

    Just do it ^

    Just did it

  • Tony T

    Hey but I love kaning bad work :)

    Buts It’s true, better to design than to bitch.

  • Yes I must Agree. Baas look around you.. the dutch scene is very small and very comfortable but outside holland A LOT of other things have been done and seeing this in the shanghai gallery ( where ive been many times) there is way more innovative work to be done..

    and please.. that transformation with the plastic chair, i can find 20 other students who done something similar during their bachelors..

    but your Baas of your work.. do respect what you do .. but time for new twist..


  • leopoldo


  • yung

    These remind me of the european invasion against china in the last two centuries. Kind of sad.

  • BT

    Baas is one of the greatest designers of this moment. Smoke, Clay, Sculpt and now particularly the plastic chair in wood, are great.

  • El Greco

    Yeah, plastic chair in wood… I know… I’ll make a plastic chair out of wood… ha ha!!!!! (Bong hit gurgles in background, smoke wafts). Brilliant!

  • My garden-shed could use some burning.
    He should take a break.

  • Dan

    I like the pieces. Especially after I saw the fantastic show in Milan, where two of the pieces were shown already. I like the pictures, but when I saw them in real I was even more amazed by them. Beautiful.

  • sander

    to anyone who made bad comments and doesn’t seem to get it:
    Maarten Baas has created an amazing amount of works in a very short time. After smoke he created large collections as treasure, hey chair,… clay, sculpt and many more things for labels and companies. I think that there are a lot of frustrated and jealous ‘designers’. Grow up, wake up and try to be as creative, inventive and new as Maarten is with as much result and succes. If you all just like average things, then don’t complain, don’t be on such weblogs to get shocked by extraordinary things you just can’t understand.

  • mass0

    if burning other people’s furniture, making childlike wobbly furniture and now ‘melting’ chinese furniture is clever can someone please explain why? The only original pieces he did were for Established and Sons and look at those…..

  • lenny

    I like this work!

  • sander

    So Masso, I think then you just don’t get where new design is about. It’s not about creating something we already know, with a sylish twist. Personal, new and provocative, something you don’t get at first sight, surprise.
    I think you never thought of melting, burning or claying furniture, but about average, non interesting stuff.

  • Helen

    And, Masso, maybe you should do some research before judging so easily from the sideline. Apart from the fact I don’t agree with your opinion (I like almost all works of Baas), the things you say are just not true. He did more than you think. You want somebody to explain you what’s so clever about his designs. I could do that, because I think they are clever, but in the end you like it or not. And you obviously don’t like it. And I do. Fair enough…

  • Samuel

    When I see some of the responses here, I think there are a lot of freaks checking dezeen every day, but not so many who took the effort to see actually a show. Like Baas’s show in Milan this year, which prooves he’s full of ideas and makes fun of anyone who takes this design world a bit too seriously….

  • mass0

    yes Sander, I’m sure his stuff is ‘very creative’ if you like that sort of thing.
    I’m clearly in the dark about the design world, or ‘designer trying to do art

  • ming

    ooh, masso, you’re an easy complainer, but even easier to be offended! And aren’t you part of the “the police which keeps on trying to define what’s supposed to be design and art bandwagon ?”

  • Serge

    hmmm . perhaps if we view Baas’ work in terms of an artistic *continuum* – that is, he i ssculting. designing, making art, etc all at once, his work deserves more consideration, perhaps even praise. As a dealer, I find the efforts refreshing – he manages to straddle a nice line, with potential clients from the design, “craft”/furniture and “fine-art”/sculpture circles of the Venn Diagram of Art. Those of you who dismiss this work so easily – I’d like to see your works. They may be excellent in when viewed through one lens… but can they stand up to viewing through those same 3 lenses?

  • Serge

    **edited for typos**
    hmmm . perhaps if we view Baas’ work in terms of an artistic *continuum* – that is, he is sculpting. designing, making art, etc all at once, his work deserves more consideration, perhaps even praise. As a dealer, I find the efforts refreshing – he manages to straddle a nice line, with potential clients from the design, “craft”/furniture and “fine-art”/sculpture circles of the Venn Diagram of Art. Those of you who dismiss this work so easily – I’d like to see your works. They may be excellent in when viewed through one lens… but can they stand up to viewing through those same 3 lenses?

  • If you say this is a sculpture I can live with it. Well … furniture it’s not.

  • Moi Is Better Than You

    Stop bitching, get off your large behind, put those cookies away, and do something useful. This stuff is marvellous. Ta-ta :]

  • tristan

    this is the best furniture i have ever seen in my life!! maarten should be voted as the number one living designer. i want to buy everything he makes and mmost people feel the same..

  • I love the fact that many like/dislike him. Great artists always do.
    Maarten Baas is clearly on the edge of art/design.