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See Big Ben, the Taj Mahal, and the Eiffel Tower Reimagined as Furniture

Studio Job design group brings five elaborate furniture sculptures to the Carpenters Workshop Gallery for Art Basel Miami.
December 3, 2014, 7:00pm
Taj Mahal II by Studio Job, detail. Images courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery. 

As part of this week’s Design Miami event during Art Basel, the award-winning Studio Job design group will exhibit some of their newest works at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery (CWG). The solo show consists of five elaborate sculptures which double as tables, armoires, and lamps. Entitled Landmark, the collection reimagines some of the world’s greatest feats in architecture as furniture, including Big Ben, Chartres, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Burj Khalifa.

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Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel co-founded Studio Job after graduating from the Design Academy Eindhoven. In 2000, the partners in art—decided to combine their unique, creative visions in the pursuit of a common goal: bringing decorative arts into the 21st century. In doing so, Smeets and Tynagel have become something of art world archeologists—excavators of the past, analysts of the present, and, as Smeets puts it, diggers who go “deeper than modernism.”

Over the years, the team has gathered together several more artists, expanding the original Studio Job partnership into a diverse artist collective. “Studio Job is [now] about 25 people,” Smeets explained. “We have a large and well-equipped studio where, as Loic le Gaillard [co-founder] of Carpenters Workshop Gallery mentioned, you could do safe open heart surgery.”

One look at the five works in Landmark and the necessity for such an arsenal of artistry becomes clear: the sculptures are riddled with complex details and expert craftsmanship. In any single piece from the collection, the variety of materials alone is staggering: Swarovski crystals, patinated bronze, aluminium, brass, 24K, silver plating, hand-blown glass, polished Guatemalan marble, hand painting, LED fittings, motors, and more.

The meticulous compositions of the works are matched only in their symbolic value: each sculpture is imbued with layers of meaning. Each tier of significance is intrinsically linked with the next, creating a cohesive symbology. “It might seem diverse at first sight, but […] all elements are related through context: culture, prestige, history, and propaganda,” Smeets explains.“[In Burj Khalifa], I tried to reconstruct the 1933 movie poster of King Kong. This King Kong is situated in a contemporary Middle-East urban landscape. The lower part of the sculpture is where [the] Temple [of] Petra hides its rock [and] the Burj is built on top, [just] like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is built directly on top of the Circus of Nero.”

To choose their structural subjects, Smeets and Tynagel took to the field to experience the architecture first-hand. In the case of Burj Khalifa, Smeets recounts: “We visited Petra right before the Civil War in Syria. The Burj we visited while it was constructed in 2008 and then again last winter.” In order to accurately represent these monumental structures in miniature, the team also “scanned the Internet, got blueprints, and looked at many images.” Two of the other pieces which Studio Job will be presenting at the CWG show belong to a collection of work five years in the making. Aftermath, which will be shown in full late next year, is comprised of five pieces, including Big Ben and Chartres.

Smeets has described the project as diary of “personal loss and universal destruction.” This body of work was born from a moment of global and personal crisis. “In Aftermath you can see old Europe suffering,” says Smeets, “it’s crumbling, losing strength, losing faith…and I was too.”  In 2009, in the midst of the world’s worst financial deadlock since World War II, Smeets experienced what he deems his annus horribilis—a period filled with “impending doom” where he reflected upon “the transience of life’s greatest treasures.”

In the five years since, Smeets and Tynagel have tried to recapture these fundamental fears and woes through their art. “Nynke and I grabbed hot monsters from the seething mass and selected and collected the most typical lumps from the black mush of existence,” says Smeets, “These ‘final projects’ will test people’s patience and set out a new course, they may smoulder forever in purgatory or, with a little bit of luck, be preserved for posterity.”

“Who said the devil isn’t beautiful?” Smeets adds.

In addition to Aftermath and the CWG show, Studio Job has much more in store for the months ahead: this week alone, the artists also join forces with artist collective Faena for a collection of work that operates under specific creative “guidelines” set down by the Faena group. In 2015, the artists will traverse to France, for the Design Biennial at Saint-Etienne in March, then travel to England in April for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Austria for their Wunderkammer project, and back to Miami for more collaborations with Faena…the list goes on.

With so much in store for Studio Job—the “lovely madhouse” as Smeets calls it—the artists expressed a simple yet commendable aim for themselves and their studio: “to have FUN!”

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