Jamie Hayon Explores the Unexplored in the Universe of Art
For artist-designer Jaime Hayon, the true value of design lies in non-conformity and inspiring others to boldly step into uncharted territories and go where no creator has explored in the great big universe of art.
Celebrated entertainers like Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey are known for their diva demands on set – Lopez has her preference for all-white studio props while Carey “doesn’t do stairs” – but for Jaime Hayon, who is very much a celebrity in the art and design worlds, all he needs is a pen and paper. “It’s like I’m possessed! I draw everywhere, all the time,” he says during the start of the interview. At the conclusion of the 40-minute long interview he’d filled three sheets of paper with various sketches and doodles.
It’s a small gesture, but provides an insight into the incredibly prolific mind of this 41-year-old artist-designer, who, in the 12 years since bursting on the scene, has created everything from bathtubs and lounge chairs to oversized sculptures and shop interiors. The irony is that he never planned to become a designer. “It just came out,” he says. “I actually wanted to be a cook. I might end up doing something else next year. I’m not looking at what’s going to happen. I just live in the moment.”
Speaking to Singapore Tatler Homes at the Republic of Fritz Hansen, situated next to W Atelier along Bukit Timah, Hayon is also taking the opportunity to introduce his latest collection designed for the lauded Danish brand. The Sammen dining chair and the Fri lounger debuted at the Milan furniture fair this year to widespread acclaim. It’s his fourth collaboration with Fritz Hansen, after 2011’s Favn sofa, 2013’s Ro armchair and 2014’s Analog dining table.
Born in Madrid to a Venezuelan mother and Spanish father, Hayon rebelled from an early age. Midway through secondary school, he took off for San Diego where he worked for a skateboard company and discovered an affinity for graffiti. The skateboarding community’s DIY culture also rubbed off on him, and he discovered a knack for making things. Back in Madrid, Hayon studied design at the Istituto Europeo di Design, and later, Paris’s L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs.
In 2003, he staged his first solo exhibition, Mediterranean Digital Baroque, in one of London’s most cutting-edge galleries, David Gill Galleries. The showcase was a headline-grabbing installation of oversized graphic doodles and otherworldly plastic sculptures. The following year, he launched a series of bathroom furniture for Spanish company ArtQuitect. Its centrepiece was a bathtub with a built-in champagne bucket, ashtray and vase. That collection, he says, is still selling “really well”, and is one of his most beloved and memorable accomplishments to date.
Never Status Quo
“My question was: why was the bathroom not a living room? Why did living rooms have all the money and colour and comfort, while the bathroom was sanitary – like a hospital – all white and (without character)? I created a bathtub which had a champagne bottle in it; and was large enough to fit two girls in! But then we had nice reviews and people started buying it – for different reasons – because it was a joyful, beautiful bathroom. There was a guy who had a beautiful villa in Capri who wanted his bath in the middle of his villa, overlooking the sea. You could have champagne and fruits in it, because I made containers for them. It was a different approach.”
That point of difference cemented Hayon’s reputation as a rebel and trendsetter, someone that brought irreverence and delight to an otherwise serious industry. He has always had a fan, though: his wife Nienke Klunder, an American/Dutch artist-photographer whom he met around the time of his debut. The couple collaborate on artistic projects from time to time, and have two sons aged four and two. “My wife likes what I’m doing. My kids don’t understand them so much, but they like that their papa is drawing a green chicken rocking chair or something like that,” he says, referring to a piece he created in 2008. “They see me in these things, which I think is good. They see the humour.”
Ro is Hayon’s update on Arne Jacobsen’s classic Egg chair, with modern proportions such as a 1 1/2-seater so that users can put their bags, iPads or children next to them.
Hayon’s first collaboration with Fritz Hansen produced the Favn sofa, noted as much for its embracing, organic shape as the use of three fabrics in its construction – one each on the shell, seat and back.
With its sculpted ceramic body resembling turned spindles and balusters, the Josephine lamp perfectly encapsulated the mid-noughties preference for neo-baroque shapes.
Crystal Candy Set
With shapes that mimicked tropical fruits, golf balls and water droplets, the Crystal Candy Set proved that even crystal could be interpreted in irreverent ways. Here, Hayon even incorporated ceramics into his designs.
Having designed a champagne holder for his bathtub for ArtQuitect in 2004, the next logical step was for Hayon to create an actual champagne bucket. And so he did, producing the Seau for Piper-Hiedsieck in late 2006.
Where Ro was designed to be a private hideaway, this year’s Fri is its more open and inviting counterpart. It also comes with a 1 1/2 seater to accommodate modern lifestyles.
Inspired by classic MGM musicals, the Showtime Collection was one of Hayon’s earliest works (circa 2006), and showcased his sense of wit and humour that was to become his trademark.
Only in Hayon’s mind can porcelain take on such whimsy and emotion: the Fantasy Collection weaves in elements of medieval Europe, circus acts and even references to Hayon’s own designs, such as the Josephine lamp for Metalarte.