Maarten Baas's surreal solo show created to
"emphasise the circus that Milan is"


Milan 2014: Dutch designer Maarten Baas' created an indoor fairground earlier this month as a critique of Milan's design week, which he likens to a circus where products are "nothing more than a snapshot to share on Facebook" (+ slideshow + interview).

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Baas's show, Baas is in Town, was installed in an empty garage in the new 5 VIE design district during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, which took place from 8 to 13 April.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Visitors followed a red carpet that led them through a presentation with fairground music and surreal objects created specifically for the event, as well as some of the designer's latest work for clients and galleries.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

"The starting point was to emphasise the circus that Milan is," Baas told Dezeen, adding that the event has become more about presenting photogenic objects for promotional purposes than retail-ready products.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

"It hardly makes sense to develop a piece from A to Z and then present it in Milan because in the end it's nothing more than a snapshot for sharing on Facebook, and the product is never sold even though it's widely published," he said.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Baas and his team spent three weeks in Milan producing pieces for the exhibition, many of which were deliberately fabricated to look good in photographs, but were, in fact, very roughly finished.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

These pieces included a chair with a randomly shaped seat upholstered in a red fabric that was held together at the back with sticky tape.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

To enhance the idea of creative freedom and that "everything was possible", Baas exhibited new limited edition works for London and Paris gallery Carpenters Workshop Gallery alongside pieces made from polystyrene that were thrown out after the fair.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

To tie in with the circus theme, Baas replaced the playful seats of rocking rides commonly found at fairgrounds or shopping malls with a range of adulterated alternatives including a welded metal box, an upholstered four-legged creature and a foil-covered blob embellished with coloured lights.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Inside two booths built against the walls of the exhibition space, actors dressed as clowns sat surrounded by everyday paraphernalia, representing Baas's recent collaborations with Dutch theatre group De Kwekerij.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

A gumball machine in Baas's cartoon-like style dispensed oversized pills instead of sweets, while chairs and lamp shades were presented on a carousel with a stripy tree at its centre.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Summarising his thoughts on the overwhelming volume of products launched by design brands in Milan and the reason for his own avant-garde presentation, Baas said: "for the visitor [to Milan], your whole critical system is kind of wobbling in the end - you kind of swallow everything and that's what I wanted to break open."

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

The exhibition was coproduced by Ventura Projects, the organisation behind the Ventura Lambrate design district. It was presented alongside a separate show dedicated to the work of designers and companies with whom Baas collaborates, including Den Herder Production, Bertjan Pot and Nightshop.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Photography is by Kazoe van den Dobbelsteen.

Maarten Baas PORTRAIT
Maarten Baas photographed outside his Circus show in Milan. Copyright: Dezeen

Here's an edited version of Dezeen's interview with Maarten Baas:

Marcus Fairs: Tell us about the show you've set up in Milan.

Maarten Baas: In the Circus there's a lot that reflects my ideas. The starting point was to emphasise the circus that Milan is and also that things are very much about showing nice pictures. It hardly makes sense to develop a piece from A to Z and then present it in Milan because in the end it's nothing more than a snapshot to share on Facebook or whatever. And then the product is never sold, even though it's widely published. So I think it's not needed to develop the product totally. So I made a lot of improvised pieces that look good from one side and are taped together from the back side in order to anticipate that way or working.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

That's one thing and another thing that was important was that it was so crazy, I wanted to get rid of all the critical voices in your head saying "This is not done!" "You cannot do this!" All the things that in the creative process are blocking your creativity. I threw it all out, all the ideas, I put bronze next to polystyrene pieces, very expensive €40,000 pieces next to things that we are going to throw in the garbage after the fair. We cut a Bambi in half and made a trophy out of it, we made a rocket going through the sky, everything was possible and I wanted to explode all those ideas.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Also for the visitor, your whole critical system is wobbling in the end. You kind of swallow everything. That's what I want to break open.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Marcus Fairs: Describe the show for people who haven't seen it.

Maarten Baas: We're here close to the Duomo, five minutes walk from the Duomo. I always like to be not in the popular zones. This is a new zone called 5VIE and it's a kind of garage. Since I've put a circus in it you could say it's a circus tent. It's an open space where I put all my pieces around a red catwalk carpet. You walk in one direction and go around all the pieces in a certain order and then you go out having seen the entertaining show.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Marcus Fairs: You have some kiosks with actors dressed as clowns in them.

Maarten Baas: I collaborated a lot this year with other artists, other designers but also theatre people. Also last year I designed a set for a theatre play in Holland. I see design in the widest sense of the word as anything that is creative in whatever way and where the creativity becomes reality or hits the market. I want to use design as a platform where everything like that can happen. So theatre and music and all kinds of things that are somehow connected.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

  • Joost

    Best SHOW in Milan!

  • jos

    I like the idea!

  • Easy

    I think his show is an ironic comment on consumerism and media (social and non-social) in general. Why limit the statement to what is going on at the fair in Milan? Only designers care about that.

  • Scott K.

    I’m not sure that I get the criticism. Industrial design makes products. Design culture makes prototypes. Milan has supported both for a long time, even if it’s a circus (isn’t all marketing something of a spectacle?)

    Perhaps this is more about surrealism as a counterpoint to functionalism as Maarten continues the marketing of his own iconography. He’s good at it!

  • AHHite

    It’s like a cross between Pee Wee’s Playhouse and a Tim Burton Nightmare. Not sure if I love it or I am frightened by it!

  • lorenzo Garofalo

    Dear Baas, you’ve completely miss the plot.

    You confuse the main Fair “Salone del Mobile” with all the activities around the city during the same period “Fuori Salone”.

    Street events haven’t got the purpose of selling product, but to involve all people to discover this field, even those who don’t care for design at all. The possibility of presenting a project outside the “commercial” field has its vantage in terms of creativity and experimentations.

    If you care about High Furniture Design Industry, see you next year in “Salone del Mobile” exhibition ;)