This week, the New York arts and artisan cognoscente came together to celebrate the Museum of Arts and Design's MAD Ball Gala. The museum's annual fundraiser honored artist and designer Gaetano Pesce, 1stdibs founder and entrepreneur Michael Bruno, as well as MAD Board Chairman Emeritus Laura and Lewis Kruger. On the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, guests toasted the museum's mission to champion artists, designers, and artisans through a diverse program and collection.
FLAUNT spoke with MAD Ball Gala honorees Gaetano Pesce and Michael Bruno about the power of art to inspire change, the boundaries of art and design, and how they feel aligned with the Museum's mission.
How do you think about form and function as it relates to your work?
It is very important. I will tell you with a reference to history. Art was always practical. I always use the portrait as an example. If a portrait did not resemble the person it was not functional. Usually, a painter represents a person, using his or her capacity to reproduce the subject as if it were a photograph. This is the practical side of art. If the painter was an artist, then it was also art. This is what I am trying to say with design today. First thing, I am concerned with making something that can be used. If it is a chair it must be comfortable to sit in. If it is a lamp it must light the space well. After that, with the lamp I try to say that the light is opening to the future. Or the chair is an expression of a kind of affection. Or a political meaning.
Where have you been finding inspiration lately?
Everywhere. Inspiration last night was at 3:50. I woke up. I had an idea. I ran to my table to write it down because I was scared to lose it. So, this was last night. Sometimes it comes in the airplane because I’m there thinking about myself etc and so I have ideas in the airplane. Sometimes on the street looking at people. Sometimes where I work. A week ago I had an idea for a very innovative object, which is a lamp, but with a kind of form that is totally incomprehensible. And I like that, because the first step of the future, usually, is to be unrecognizable.
Do you consider your work to be an experiment or the product of experimentation?
Certain parts of my work are experiments, certain parts are not. The chair I just described is something that is mass-produced. So it is not an experiment. At certain times, an idea is strong enough to become a solid presence in reality. Other times, it’s an object we put on the shelf because it was just a test for something.
There is quite a bit of discourse nowadays about presence. How do you balance staying present with thinking about or creating for the future?
A very important activity for the human being, the best that we can do, is thinking. As soon as we become silent and think, we have ideas. And the ideas sometimes transform the present, they bring the future into the present. That has happened to me at certain times, yes. I’m very happy when I can see the future becoming present and useful. Not only an idea in the stratosphere but something in reality. And that is the best we can do. (Think of the future as a friend because that is the way to be open-minded. If you don’t like the future you are an old man even if you are young. So pay attention to this kind of thing).
How do you think about the boundaries of art, design, and architecture?
There aren’t any more boundaries. It depends on the idea. Some ideas are good for architecture, some are good for an object, some for a piece of music, and some for writing—it all depends on what you want to express.
What does this recognition from the Museum of Arts and Design mean to you? How do you feel aligned with the museum’s mission?
I was very pleased that an important cultural institution in New York City that I like very much has honored me. I must say, thank you very much. I didn’t know that I was doing something important in their eyes. I was sick, unfortunately, and I was not able to attend the event. A museum like this is very important because it puts Art and Design on the same level, as I believe they should be. (The title of the museum must be Art and Art or Design and Design because Design today is Art and Art today is also Design).
What sparked your interest in both antiques and antiquing?
It all started with beautiful homes. Having a beautiful home makes you want to fill it with beautiful things,from furniture to art to objects. Art and design has the power to allow us to see the world through a fresh perspective. Cutting edge contemporary art and design allow us to let go of the past and embrace the present moment. When you see something you have never seen before it causes you to pause to take it in. Being present has become harder and harder to do in our world of constant distractions. Great art can stop us in our tracks and that is powerful. Art and design has always blazed a path throughout the ages. It starts with the artist and the collectors and then makes its way to the masses.
There’s an interesting dynamic of visiting a flea market or antiques store which is unlike any other retail experience. How did you think about translating this into the digital realm?
While I have no interest in pursuing the online world of art and design as an enterprise these days; if I were to do it, I would make an authentic antiques shopping experience that provides a space-time reality experience inside of Meta.There’s an interesting dynamic of visiting a flea market or antiques store which is unlike any other retail experience. How did you think about translating this into the digital realm? While I have no interest in pursuing the online world of art and design as an enterprise these days; if I were to do it, I would make an authentic antiques shopping experience that provides a space-time reality experience inside of Meta.
Can you tell us about your approach to design?
I love “used” structures. From important historic homes to old barns and warehouses. They always provide some interesting form and surfaces. I like to work naturally around what is available to me. When I build from scratch I let the site dictate what gets built.
What does this recognition from the Museum of Arts and Design mean to you?
Being called a visionary by your friends and family is wonderful. Having an institution like MAD fill a ballroom with nearly 300 people and put you on stage to hand you an award for being a visionary makes you think… there might just be something to it. While I do possess visionary powers that I use very actively, I believe we all have them. Quantum physics would say it’s fundamental to life on earth. Only last December the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded for validating a theory that has been around for decades; local reality may not be real. An apple may be red or green, it does not take on definite properties until observed. Some would say that all possibilities exist until one has been chosen. As head spinning as this may seem to us at this time, what it does inform me is that everything we experience is a perception. Our perceptions are born out of our thoughts and feelings. Since we have the power to choose our thoughts we have the power to choose our perceptions. Many people forget that they are not their thoughts. Our thoughts are just a pallet of choices from which we can create.
How do you feel aligned with the museum’s mission?
I embrace it everyday. I believe in using the best quality ingredients you can get and developing the skill sets necessary to implement them into creations. For me it is a way of life, whether I am creating it or consuming it. From food to fashion and architecture.