He claims that his website contains 10,000 creations that are “complete or still to come”. Some of them already form part of the interior landscape of millions of homes and design manuals around the world. Philippe Starck (Paris, 1949) has put a juice extractor in the MoMA gallery in New York and his signature is on bikes, chairs, tables, restaurants and luxury yachts. The designer answered questions put to him by SUR, prior to his visit to Malaga this week.
What will visitors be able to see at the Centre Pompidou in Malaga?
Visitors, through this exhibition, can understand that everybody can be creative. Four thousand private sketches show ideas, but above all they show work, a lifetime of work, a life concentrated on creativity to help the community have a better life. These sketches are interesting because they show that any idea can be expressed in a few sketches on one page. That means creativity comes before anything else in your entire life, created by curiosity, generosity, vision and rigour. And after 30 years, 10 years, 5 years - never less - of “cooking”, the sketch is just the printing of the finalised concept. These sketches clearly show that there is no aesthetic or cultural process, only logic and functional structure, away from any trend, with only one goal which is to give the right service with the minimum of materiality. These sketches will also show that humour, one of the most beautiful symptoms of human intelligence, is always present, even in the relationship with your team, which, what’s more, gives a permanent surrealistic position.
After a career of nearly four decades, how has your approach to designing an article changed?
Four decades of experience have changed strictly nothing: I use the same paper pad, the same pencil, never a computer. My obsessions are always the same: our evolution. It’s just that you become more rigorous because you want to be more rigorous and also because you can be more rigorous. When you are young your duty is to work to exist, to survive; when you are less young, your duty is to forget yourself and to serve your community.
What role does the beauty of the object play in its creative process?
Beauty does not interest me because beauty does not exist. Beauty is just a personal opinion which can change with time, weather, mood. Beauty is not a strong enough parameter to build on. Beauty can be beautiful today and ugly tomorrow and beautiful again tomorrow. It is not serious. Only the search of harmony is useful and timeless. I hope we shall understand that in front of a painting we shall replace the “Oh my God, it is so beautiful” with “What perfect harmony!”
You have claimed that an object designed by you must provide a functional and emotional service. Is one more important than the other?
If you have the honour and the luck to be visited by something which can be a good idea, you have to follow a rigorous process. First you have to ask yourself if this project is needed and if it deserves to exist. You have to ask yourself if before the product there was a vision and a concept. If that is the case, you have to try to give this service without materiality. If you cannot, you have to do it with less materiality and the right materiality which involves some parameters like ecology, economy, politics and sexuality. If you succeed, you will have a creative and honest product which can be good to live with.
Your work has been exhibited in museums around the world and at the same time is part of millions of homes. Where do you prefer to see it?
Being in a museum is a great honour and it is a global thanks from a global community. It is abstract. Being in the bathroom of the community is the real goal, the real result of your work and it is a personal recognition. I never appreciate that people tell me how what I do is beautiful, it is useless. I am deeply touched when people I meet in the street just say “thank you” and sometimes “thank you for what you do for us”. I feel exceptionally proud.
What do you think when you find an imitation of your work?
I am sad for society and sometimes for civilisation. Copying or repeating is a waste of time, a waste of energy and proof of laziness and avidity. Everybody has a duty to work and participate in the beautiful story of our evolution. Someone who copies does not take part, and even causes a regression of creativity which is a shame and a negation of our DNA as creators.
You have a residence in Spain. What does Formentera (Balearics) give you?
The definitive taste, even vocation, for the minimum. I arrived in Formentera when I was 16. There were no cars, no motorcycles, ten bicycles, no electricity, no running water, no fishing boats and nothing to eat. I was living on the beach with half a euro a day and I remember one day for a birthday I wanted to buy five very small cakes at the bakery; the man told me buying five was too much as I had to leave some cakes for other people. Formentera was a permanent lesson of the elegance of minimum.