This is no longer news: the once clearly drawn boundary between art and design has seemed less permeable than in the past ten years. A little over a decade was precisely when the Flemish Muller Van Severen took to mature and impose a unique stylistic language whose porosity between the creative fields has become its signature. Saluting this decade of innovations shaking up the interior design codes, Maison&Objet names Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen “Designer(s) of the year 2023”. This distinction will be awarded to them during the upcoming edition of the show, from September 7 to 11, for which the Belgian duo is offering a “cocoon exhibition” – a unique dive into their imagination. Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen met at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. Hannes trained there in sculpture and Fien in photography. Thus nourished by the visual arts and endowed with a fundamental plastic understanding, they began collaborating in 2011. Today based in Evergem, a small town on the outskirts of Ghent, the fusional couple creates there an egalitarian design. Somewhere at the crossroad from Marcel Breuer’s radical Bauhaus and Charlotte Perriand’s visionary functionalism, Muller Van Severen merges the vocabularies of the plastic, graphic and decorative arts to blur the border of the intimate.
A walk through their teeming creative terrain, the exhibition opens the doors to the designers’ interiors and brings together a selection of iconic works from the Muller Van Severen catalogue. A tri-dimensional decor erected in the heart of Maison&Objet Paris and connected by paths allowing a triangular circulation in the couple’s cocoon, the exhibition’s scenography imprints on architectural principles and allows an exercise in creative psychology.
Bold colours and formal purity
A suspended bubble, the stand thus unfolds a panorama of Muller Van Severen’s explorations, playing with materials and colours. This distinctive approach is always clearly embodied in their “furniture sculptures”, considered as so many small independent architectures responding to each other in their formal purity, as much as they individually invite a renewed sensory experience of the object. Their striking blues, reds, greens and yellows are reminiscent of the chromatic observations of Piet Mondrian and De Stijl’s neoplasticism. These colours were repeated by touches in the Future Primitive collection, a founding series commanding the Muller Van Severen signature style: fundamental minimalism where sobriety, functionality and collectible design rhyme. For Maison&Objet Paris, the couple presents shelves of different heights and configurations, incorporating deckchairs and floor lamps into the frames. Stripped assemblies, these pieces merge yet complex functions to highlight better the essential.
Pleasant new collaborations revealed at Maison&Objet!
A joyful dexterity echoing the theme “Enjoy” of this edition of Maison&Objet is also reflected here in the naive and light lines of the nevertheless masterful steel wall cabinets of the Wire series. It is also the case of the tubular repetitions of the ALLTUBE benches and cabinets, which reconcile the look and the touch with a too-often depreciated aluminium material. These emblematic series dialogues here with brand new productions and commissions, including a series of vases for Bitossi or a floor lamp developed for Valerie Objects.
Exclusively in France, Muller Van Severen is also taking advantage of Maison&Objet Paris to present two new rugs developed for the leader in upholstery textiles, Kvadrat, which caused a sensation at the last Salone Del Mobile in Milan. Entitled “March” and “July”, the two models whose structures and surfaces are inspired by the different stages of natural shearing of a sheep, share a unique production method. Exclusively for Maison&Objet, Muller Van Severen presents new productions mainly elaborated for the Danish brand HAY, enriching an already acclaimed cooperation.
Driven by this constant concern to probe all the corners of the fields of sculpture as much as of design, free from all academicism, Muller Van Severen offers objects that are exhibited as much as they are experienced and lived, being able to find their proper place in the white cube of a gallery, as well as in the private comfort of a living room.
Are we looking at a “furniture” or an “art” piece? The answer needs to be of more importance to our “Designer(s) of the year” who pursue, like tightrope walkers, their progression on this tenuous and wavering thread suspended between the worlds of art and design. What a joyful balancing act!