Dezeen Magazine

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.