A surefire success

Like many visitors heading for the Centre Pompidou’s latest temporary event, I had expected something along the lines of an “unveiling”, in view of the enticing title: Starck / Secret Drawings / 4,000 Sketches Unveiled.

Designed to trigger interest in an exhibition of objects already familiar to the general public through magazine articles or department store promotions, the word “secret” sparks the intended knee-jerk reaction.

Filled with must-see enthusiasm, I hopped on a number 3 bus from Pedregalejo to the Plaza de Toros stop within steps of the Malagueta, all set for an up-close glimpse at starkly framed drawings, revealing the household name designer’s creative process. The true grit of a lead pencil was what I had in mind. Yet, this was not to be. Not a sign of graphite or smudged paper in sight!   

Instead, the visitor enters a windowless lower ground-floor space, where the “4,000 sketches” are presented on the walls in wallpaper mode.  

At centre stage, a selection of Philippe Starck’s stand-out creations are displayed on white stands of various heights and widths, some of them wafer thin, others at mid-chest level. This sharp and simple mise-en-scène enables us to make eye contact with each piece of furniture, utensil or other signature Starck design, from the angle at which we would look at it or reach out for it in everyday life. 

Would it be a long shot to compare the exhibits to spruce soldiers awaiting an inspection? To my knowledge, there was no top brass in attendance on the day I saw the exhibition. The morning after the opening, which featured a question session with the designer, the contingent of museum-goers was distinctly informal: a steady stream of tourists and locals, students and youngish executive types in Friday wear. However, the military comparison is not as far off the mark as it sounds.

The line-up of design statements to be seen at Pompidou Málaga includes a striking series of brassy “gun lamps” conceived for FLOS, an Italian lighting firm, which prides itself in commissioning avant-garde concepts from leading lights such as the Castiglioni brothers, Tobia Scarpa, Antonio Citterio, and… Philippe Starck.

An online price check reveals that Starck’s Guns Collection is aimed at millennials with spending power. The bedside table version costs $1,225.00, whilst the Lounge Modern Floor Lamp model hits the $3,625.00 mark.

And, just in case, you were thinking, “Who would shell out for these? Some crackpot dictator, or Clint Eastwood, at a push…?”, adjust your sights.

“I am a designer and design is my only weapon,” asserts Starck, claiming these oh-so-bling deadly provocative halogen lamps, clad with prim butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths lampshades, mean peace. “The Guns Collection is nothing but a sign of the times. We get the symbols we deserve.”

In order to counteract potential flak from anti-gun activists, or plain ol’ peace-loving citizens taken aback by the “Happiness is a Hot Gun” inscription at the base of the lamps, FLOS donates 20% of sales revenue to a European human rights organisation.

Still not sure you buy into the idea of guns as off-kilter peace symbols? Well, I’ll let you into a secret: I’m not sure either…